Fishing is BACK in Louisiana!
I’ll admit I am biased about my Louisiana fishing! I have lived most of my life in southern Louisiana and do so, in large part, for 2 main reasons. The first is my family. My entire family lives here and it seems no one ever leaves. But the 2nd big reason is access to the outdoors – namely the water (since I’m not a hunter).
Last year, I was among the many locals who gave up on our prospects of enjoying the fishing we’ve come to love after watching the oil spill unfold on TV. Towards the end of the year we finally got out on the water and were surprised to not find any oil in the areas where we were. By the winter, we had heard enough local chatter that there was in fact very little oil to be found and the fishing was better than ever but I had not seen it yet with my own eyes.
Time to get back on the water
Fast forward to this February 2011. I decided it was time to get back in the game and lined up a charter trip with Frank Moore, locally known as “The King” who I had fished with many times in the past. Frank and his guides fish out of Shell Beach in St. Bernard Parish (about 20 minutes from New Orleans) and have always shown us a great time with both warm hospitality and big boxes of fish.
But in spite of my past history of success fishing with local captains, I kept my expectations low because February is traditionally a tough month to catch fish in southern Louisiana (oil or no oil). And not having been out in a year, I wasn’t sure whether or not there would be oil or other side effects from the spill that might impact our trip.
Chatting with the locals
Once we arrived in Shell Beach, I was interested to find out for myself what the impact of the oil spill has been on the local fishing community. And suffice to say it was not good. The guides we spoke to admitted that their bookings were down significantly from this year as compared to “normal years” and many had concerns about when people might start booking trips again. Perhaps the biggest frustration I heard is that they think people aren’t booking trips because of concerns about the oil when there really isn’t any in the water to worry about that anyone can find. The other opinion most seemed to share was that once news of the spill hit, people sort of “forgot” about coming to fish in Louisiana and haven’t really been given any reason to think about it since.
The marina owners are dealing with similar issues. When we arrived at the dock to get fuel and bait, there were only 2 other boats there despite it being a nice Friday morning when you would normally expect a crowd. But in spite of these issues the locals remain optimistic that things will eventually turn around.
Where’s the oil?
The other thing I was curious to find out for myself is where all this oil went and what shape would the marsh be in? And I have to admit that after our trip was over I have to wonder what all the fuss was about. The water in the canal and marshes looked as normal as ever, and the marsh itself looked the same as I remember it from years past save for a small patch of marsh that was burning probably from a rabbit hunt.
And once we were out in the open water I would actually say that the water looked better than ever. During our run through Breton Sound the water was a light, clear green – almost the blue you would see in deep blue ocean water. Frankly it was the nicest I’ve ever seen it in Breton Sound.
Now I’ve been on the water enough of my life to know that this can change from day to day and area to area, so the water may not have looked as nice the next day for all I know. But the real point is that there were no apparent side effects – and definitely no oil sheen anywhere to be found. And both of the guides we fished with said that they see very little, if any oil, on a daily basis on their fishing trips throughout the area.
Our fishing report – big fish, fast!
As Friday morning broke, the fog was heavy due to the weather warming up. And while mild springs are one of the reasons people like living in the south, they can often bring dense fog early in the morning and this was no exception. Our captains, concerned about safety, decided to wait a few hours until the fog broke up enough to safely head out to the fishing grounds.
Once the fog broke, the weather couldn’t have been nicer for fishing. The temperature was in the mid-60s, the sun was shining and the water was dead flat calm – perfect for making a longer than usual run out to a group of rigs in Breton Sound where they had caught a lot of big fish in recent days.
On the way out, we stopped at a few spots along the way hoping to maybe save some gas without the longer run but with no luck. So after about 10 minutes at each spot checking them out, we made the 40 minute run out to the “Central Rig” area.
One Stop Fishing
Once we arrived at the group of rigs the captains had targeted we experienced the “one stop shopping” version of fishing. Almost as soon as the lines went in the water, they were bent over – and bent over HARD with big sheepshead, drum and redfish just waiting for our next cast. Just about all of our fish were caught on dead “market bait” shrimp when hooked up to the rigs and fishing straight down.
Over the next few hours, everyone on the boat took turns putting fish in the boat. And they weren’t just fish – they were big fish. Sheepshead, drum and redfish all put up a great fight especially on lighter tackle and taste great when cooked in a variety of ways.
This would be an ideal trip for those who don’t fish on a regular basis as rig fishing in shallow water is somewhat simple. There is little casting involved, and because these fish hit your bait so hard, it’s pretty easy to see when you have a fish on the line. Also because you are fishing in about 20 feet of water there isn’t a lot of line to reel in like when fishing for other species in deeper water.
Lots of similar opportunities to fish across Louisiana
The good news is that my report looks like the norm if you believe the other fishing reports appearing all over the internet. A quick check of popular sites like LouisianaSportsman.com and RodNReel.com uncover lots of fishing stories with similar reports about big fish, pretty water and lots of fun being had.
So while I highly recommend fishing with Frank Moore and his guides because I have fished with them over the years, there are plenty of great guides in coastal Louisiana ready to take you fishing. And trust me; they will never appreciate your business more than they would right now. Louisiana’s fishing community is fighting hard to survive just like when Hurricane Katrina came through and they could use your support now more than ever. So get out and enjoy this nice spring weather and take your changes with a guided fishing trip along the Louisiana coast.