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Fishing in Louisiana: A Grab Bag

I live in a suburb of New Orleans and have been writing here off and on for 10 years. I have been married 53 years to the same crazy guy.

Sunrise Over the Ship Channel


Up Early

My husband woke me at 5:00 a.m. yesterday. Neither of us slept much Sunday night, knowing we were off on an adventure soon. We had already gotten everything together and loaded the truck quickly, hitched the boat to the truck in the dark, which is a definite challenge. My job is to fasten the safety hooks and move the chocks from in front of the wheels while Joe does his duties. I was doing it blind but it worked so...

We were off to Barataria/Lafitte by 5:15 and watched a beautiful sunrise on the way. We were actually launched and in the water at 6:00. We left without a lot of expectation of great catches as the attendants at Joe's Landing said nothing was biting and even the guides were not finding fish

Shrimpers Getting Ready


The Channel

The Channel we take from Joe's Landing to get to the lakes is always filled with shrimp boats preparing to go out for the day. We often ride in their wakes as we go down the channel, rather than pass them and have to deal with the waves. Compared to them, our 19-foot boat is tiny and easily swamped if we make the wrong move. Joe's good at making those decisions, though, and I've never felt more than a mild rocking motion from passing another vessel, even a barge.

We usually fish in an area called "The Pen" and yesterday was our first time going out farther. As we passed the pen, we saw our old friend Big Bird, fishing from his pile of rocks as usual. I'm sure he did better than we did yesterday as far as catching fish.


Mild Chop

As Joe turned right, we went into open water and across an area that took us 30 minutes to cover. Our destination was about 25 miles out, toward the Gulf and is called Harvey Cut. The water had a bit of a chop, but the boat behaved beautifully and it was a pleasant ride. After having the boat for a year and making lots and lots of trips, it was the first time I wasn't afraid at all when we were going fast. Once we got to the spot where Joe's friend had told him to go, we realized he must know what he's talking about because there were boats and people fishing everywhere.

The first cast I made my cork went straight under. And when I pulled up, there was the biggest most beautiful crab I've ever seen. Getting the hook out of his mouth without getting bitten was a challenge, but I managed. I have experienced a crab bite and it's no fun. He swam happily away, none the worse for wear.

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Then we began to catch rat reds, red fish that are not quite 15/16 inches, which are keeping size. They put up a good fight and made the fishing interesting. One thing about fishing here in Louisiana as opposed to Arkansas where we sometimes go, we never know what we will pull up. Joe caught one of the biggest stingrays I've ever seen, which was a pain to get unhooked, but fun while he was still out of sight, as he fought like a huge red. We occasionally will net a flounder, which is a taste treat and the weirdest looking fish you've ever seen.

We caught 15 or so small red fish and decided to go back and try a favorite spot in The Pen, where we usually fish. The 30-minute trip back was smooth as the wind was at our backs and made for a pleasant ride. There are always birds flying along with the boat and we often see them fishing on the bank.

Birds Fly Along with Our Boat


Egrets Fish Along the Bank


The Pen

When we got back to The Pen, we fished our favorite point, which always yields something. This day, it yielded two more crabs, several shad, a croaker, and four or five more rat reds. We watched as Big Bird dove into the water every now and then and were envious of his luck. We stayed put a while, then rode to another spot we like. On the way, we passed cranes and other equipment, working on coastal restoration. They had blocked off the cuts coming into our spot, which didn't help the fishing, but we were glad to see them doing what they were doing.


Heading In

After an hour or so in our last spot, we decided to head in. The heat was such that I was pouring bottles of cold water on my head to avoid heat stroke! South Louisiana's heat is like none that I've ever experienced, like being in a sauna that's turned up far too high. The trip back was a pretty ride. It is an obstacle course during certain times of the year to maneuver around the crab traps, all colors and sizes. It always makes me uneasy to pass barges in our small boat, although Joe thinks I'm neurotic (I am) and we never have a problem.

Now home to wash the boat. We were both almost glad there were no fish to clean and made plans to watch an episode of Fargo and do nothing for the rest of the day. Another fun day outdoors in the wind and sun. I got some new wrinkles, I'm sure, because I forgot sunscreen, but I'll survive. I have plenty to go with them. Can't wait for our next trip. We plan to go to Manilla Village next time, another adventure waiting.


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