By Steve Soule | www.ultimatedetailingllc.com
I’ve taken a few short destination fishing trips this year, trying to spend more time away from my home waters and learning new areas. New challenges and new waters, and attempting to take what I’ve learned fishing my home waters of the upper Texas Coast and apply that to other areas. This is the part of fishing that I find most interesting, putting together the pieces like a puzzle and figuring out how to catch fish in new areas. Going somewhere new is always a fun, though it can be frustrating and put your skills and knowledge to the test. The satisfaction from developing a plan and finding success is one of my greatest pleasures.
This past weekend, my wife and I spent a day and a half fishing in Southern Louisiana, Port Fourchon, to be specific. This is a tiny town in a very remote part of southern Louisiana. It is an industrial port town that primarily serves the off shore oil and gas industry. Definitely not somewhere you would end up by accident. Beyond the Industrial side, Fourchon and its neighboring Grand Isle, serve the fishing community. The entire area is like an overgrown marsh, with slightly deeper secondary bays. What makes this place spectacular is that it has extreme close proximity to the deeper gulf of Mexico on the southern end and an endless supply of fresh water coming down through rivers, bayous and swampy marsh. In all honesty, this is basically the nursery for the upper gulf of Mexico.
Though I have fished here two times in the past, it was during a different time of the year. Like any fishing location, seasons will effect the location and concentrations of fish and their food sources. Before any trip to new locations, it’s always wise to do some research. try to learn a little about the lay of the land. Study maps and arial photos, look at tides, both height and movement and try to make sense of where fish might be. We got there Saturday evening on the heels of a cold front that had way more wind and rain than expected. I knew that this would cause some lingering dirty water which didn’t go well with my plan of sight casting. Some things are well beyond our control and we just have to learn to roll with them.
From the start, this was planned as a very short trip so I had to maximize my time. I had gotten one report about potential location of our target species, Bull reds. The lingering winds and dirty water did not help there, so after some driving to look at shorelines in open water, I decided i needed to try to find some protected north shore areas that may have cleaner water draining from creeks and bayous. This is where basic fish finding skills come into play. With limited time to locate and catch fish, it doesn’t make sense to fish without seeing some evidence of life.
After our trip south to look at open shorelines, I headed back north into some more protected areas, looking for birds or bait and clearer water. We made a few short drifts in areas with some moving bait and missed two big reds on top water. The blow ups were amazing but couldn’t get either of them stuck long term. We also caught a few small trout, but this was not the area where we would be able to sight cast, though we were getting much closer. Side note, I use the top water lures as search baits when I don’t know the area well or can’t see to sight fish.
Now that we were in more protected water it was time to explore areas where outgoing tide was draining from bayous out to the secondary bays. Initially I spent some time poling the boat, but it became evident quickly that I would need to cover a little more water. We would idle along about 50-100 feet from the shoreline looking for wakes from big fish and muds and as soon as we found a fish or two go back to poling. This is where you really have to start paying attention so that you can put together the patterns. Each drain had some level of life in it, bigger drains that had more current seemed to be holding big fish. Now we have a fishable pattern.
Finding a bayou or two that would wind back north into the marsh, especially those that had wide spots where there were small shallow flats seemed to be the trick to locating fish. Now its getting interesting! I would pole slowly around the points leading into bayous and started seeing both reds and black drum. Fish were not moving very aggressive so a slow stealthy approach proved to be the best plan. Many times we were able to get the boat within 10 feet of fish and with increasing light, it was becoming much easier to see them. We missed a few as is always the case in sight casting, then the fun really got started.
Poling into a small flat at the bottom of a bigger bayou drain, we started seeing fish slowly crawling along looking shorelines feeding as they went. It didn’t take long before we were among them and getting good shots. our first fish was close to the boat and though it didn’t look huge when I cast at it, ended up being about 45 inches long. The fight with these big reds in shallow water is a little more intense than with their smaller counterparts. Several big runs and the usual level of disasters trying to maneuver a fish around the boat and we got her landed, photographed and released. First half of the mission was now accomplished, the only issue was it was supposed to be Alisha’s fish.
We spooked several fish during the fight with the first one and could still see and hear a few fish moving around the small flat. Back to the hunt! We worked our way around the flat, still struggling to see fish well. Then stumbled onto another slow crawling giant and it was her turn to shine. The fish was swimming slowly towards the boat and not yet aware of our presence. Alisha made a short cast, crossing the fish’s path and as it approached, gave the Buggs jig a few slight bounces to make the lure more visible. When she saw the lure, she attacked and the fight was on. It can all happen just that fast.
We had spent 2-3 hours of driving, looking and narrowing down our search pattern, then within a matter of 30 minutes, had found a nice flat that had multiple fish over 15 pounds, and landed two fish well over 20-25 pounds. This particular flat sat at just the right angle to the tide flow and was just large enough to stop a good quantity of fish and food in the outgoing tide. We saw numerous reds and several large black drum there. Now we had one pattern to look for in other areas and attempt to repeat.
We poled through several areas that looked similar, though none had quite the same layout. We found some smaller fish, that laughably would be considered on the bigger side back home in Galveston, but didn’t see as many big fish that would break 20 pounds. At this point it became evident that with the conditions we had, we would need to continue to find more protected and shallower water to continue to sight fish.
We checked a few shallower pond and lake areas, with some success, but finding any real concentration of feeding fish was not going well. We had our share of difficulties, dirty water and a pair of polarized glasses that got left in the truck, but we made the most of it and had a great time.
We knew that Sunday was going to be a great day as far as sun and wind conditions, and would be our best window of opportunity. Monday, would only be a half day, and weather conditions were supposed to be pretty good. As it often works out, when I woke up Monday morning, Conditions had worsened. Full cloud cover and increased wind. Nothing you can do except make the most of what you are given. Off we went, this time armed with a few places to start our hunt. Clouds, do not make sight fishing easy. And as you might imagine, we missed a lot more fish that we just couldn’t see until we were too close. We did manage a few fish and as we were nearing the end of our day, idling down shorelines working back towards the boat ramp we found a few reds and one more highly entertaining moment. I was standing on the casting platform with Alisha idling along and just looking for fish when we stumbled onto a small group of fish and the last fish of the day was sight cast with the outboard motor running. Made for a great laugh and a good ending to a short trip to the land of the giants.
Lots to be learned from trips like this. I find it fascinating how much fish act and feed in the same manner in totally different locations. Outgoing tides around marshes are always fun, they put fish on the move and create feeding situations that make for some great fishing. Moving prey species out into more open water where predators can easily attack. These tides generally move fish into areas where we can locate them and capitalize on their feeding. On incoming tides, look for fish to move farther into the reaches of the marsh and follow prey species to areas of safety. It is cool to see how much so these waters work on a parallel to the marshes closer to home for me. Though the area is vast and enormous compared to our marshes on the upper Texas coast, this place acts just like an overgrown Texas marsh, and once you start to look at it this way, becomes family easy to figure out.
With so many great destinations along the Gulf Coast, its just a matter of picking a spot where you want to go, spending a little time researching the area and go have some fun. I picked this area for its remote nature,(we only saw one other boat all day fishing similar water) and its notorious giant redfish. It only gets better on the southern fringe waters during winter if you want to go find giant redfish in relatively shallow water. There are fish there all year round, and the scenery is absolutely breathtaking. Bottlenose dolphins are a regular sight and often you can sit and they will roll and play near your boat. If it’s time for a change of pace, grab a map, do a little research and go have some fun doing something completely different.