Mississippi River level key for October Buras bite

Specks, reds ride saltwater wedge in if river drops low enough, guide says

The calendar might say it’s officially fall, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the Mississippi River has begun its traditional fall yet, when saltwater from the Gulf usually begins feeding into the river — bringing hungry redfish and speckled trout along with it.

“You want to see the river at about 5 feet, falling to around 3 or maybe 2 ½,” said Capt. Joe DiMarco Sr., with Cajun Fishing Adventures in Buras. “We start getting a huge push of fish into the river. If we get to the 2-foot stage, we get a saltwater wedge that moves in.

“It can go all the way up to Pointe a la Hache, and now with the new Mardi Gras Break, it might be beyond that.”

When the river drops low enough to allow the saltwater intrusion, DiMarco said it’s like an open buffet line for specks and reds, which ride in with the wedge in search of food.

“What happens is once that saltwater comes in, the Mississippi River holds so much feed, so much bait, you’ll get huge schools of redfish that will come into the river. And the longer the river stays down …with saltwater being heavier than fresh, it migrates to the bottom along the banks and the drop-offs. So you start getting speckled trout pushing in.

“If that maintains through the fall, you start getting really good trout bites at Main Pass, Cupid’s Gap and East Bay.”

DiMarco said he typically uses a 3/8-ounce jighead with a Z-Man Swimmin’ Trout Trick for specks in the river, but recommended keeping an eye on your electronics to help you decipher the bite.

“It takes time to figure them out and where they are on the drop-offs,” he said. “Some of the sandbars go from 3 to 5 feet, or 5 to 7 or 5 to 12. You just have to use your electronics, but they’ll typically be within a foot of the bottom.

“If you just kind of troll and drift down those ledges, you can pretty much see where those fish are holding on those drop-offs. You might see a cloud of fish a foot or so off the bottom, or maybe it might be 3 feet off the bottom — you need to know what you’re doing on your electronics. You can go to some of the key places that you know of, or your buddy told you about, but it’s a little hit or miss. You might catch them in a spot, or they might have moved down the river a little ways.”

For redfish, DiMarco recommended drifting downstream and targeting reds along the rocks with spinnerbaits or Chatterbaits.

Generally, the lower the river stays, the better the bite all fall long. But if an unexpected flood or other weather event causes the river to rise, DiMarco said action in the Mississippi dries up pretty quickly.

“If the river gets silty again, they’re gone,” he said. “If that happens in October or November, you never get the trout back in the river. They just can’t have that silt factor in the water column.”

For more information, contact Capt. Joe DiMarco Sr. at Cajun Fishing Adventures in Buras at 985-785-9833, or visit www.cajunfishingadventures.com.

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Patrick Bonin is the former editor of Louisiana Sportsman magazine and LouisianaSportsman.com.