What: Trout, reds
How: Trout are solidly moving into the marsh. Try slow drifting or trolling in Hopedale Lagoon using light jigheads with plastic tails. Move just fast enough to keep the bait bouncing off the bottom. While moving, throw a plastic under a popping cork as a search bait. If you catch a fish, quietly stake out and fish the area thoroughly before continuing on. Dig those topwater baits out of your box and give them a try. The fall topwater bite is often fantastic. Don’t overlook fishing the MRGO rock dam a little farther down the road. With depths up to 40 feet, a variety of species congregate around the dam, especially after a couple of cold fronts. Live or dead baits fished near the bottom attract redfish, with big bulls reeled-in regularly. For trout, throw tight-lined plastic tails on 1/4- to 3/8-ounce jigheads depending on the current movement (yes, the current moves through the rock wall). Suspending baits like a MirrOdine and lipless crankbaits like a Rat-L-Trap work great along the rocks. Don’t let the baits go to the bottom or they will snag on the rocks that line the bottom of the dam structure.
Launch: For Hopedale Lagoon, launch at the old Pip’s Place on the right side of Hopedale Highway. There is a concrete ramp with an honor box ($5). Parking is just across the street. For the MRGO area, launch at Hopedale Marina on the right, at the end of Hopedale Highway. A recently installed kayak launch makes accessing the water a breeze, and secure parking is close by. There’s a $5 launch fee.
Where: Chicot Lake (Chicot State Park)
What: Bass, sac-a-lait (white perch)
How: With the changing weather comes schooling bass. Bait is penned up near points, mouths of channels and coves where the bass literally feast on them. Keep an eye out for surface action and slowly move in just close enough to cast. They will likely be feeding on shad, so throw natural-colored spinnerbaits or lipless crankbaits like a chrome or shad Rat-L-Trap. If the fish are frenzied, strikes come as soon as the lure hits the water. However, if the surface action slows, allow the lure to sink a bit before starting the retrieve. Try this at varying depths, as the fish are likely still in the area. With no freezing weather yet, the grass is still thick. Punching a jig or heavily weighted weedless plastic is the best way to get to bass hiding just under the thick cover. If your kayak is stable enough for standing, punching is a great way to get to these fish. Be careful on the hookset, as a missed or pulled fish can easily send you out the opposite side of the ‘yak. Look for sac-a-lait near brush piles ready to take live shiners or tiny tube jigs in blue/white or black-and-chartreuse.
Launch: There are three launches within the park that provide access to the myriad of coves, fingers and open water areas. Park entrance: 3469 Chicot Park Road in Ville Platte. Park entrance fee is $3. More info: www.crt.state.la.us/louisiana-state-parks/parks/chicot-state-park/.