A poem from the late 1700s claims variety is the spice of life.
Doing something different is what makes life, and fishing, interesting.
Bream fishing along the rivers and bayous flowing into lakes Maurepas and Pontchartrain is as spicy as fishing can be.
Panfish come in a multitude of species. Locations along the lakes have a wide array of scenery. Tactics for the tasty hand-size fish range from a simple cane pole to every day baitcasters. Perch and bream offer something during late spring and summer trips.
Perch jerking runs the gamut of freshwater fishing. A fishing trip can target a single species or be a catch-whatever-bites outing.
Black and white crappie, warmouth, bluegill, and longear and redear sunfish are a few of the species that gather to spawn and feed on each other’s fry during May and June.
Bluegill will bed along protected pockets. Warmouth usually gather around the base of tupelo gum and cypress trees. Lily pads and shoreline vegetation might hold crappie and sunfish. However, a variety of panfish is normal when fishing the waters along the Interstate 12 corridor east of Baton Rouge.
A breakdown of tactics will help any angler catch a stringer of fish for the frying pan.
The minimum tackle for a trip in this area includes baits like a Beetle Spin or Roadrunner, a few corks of various shapes, and tube jigs, bream hooks and sinkers.
A good Beetle Spin is often a good starting point for finding a pattern or stretch of bank holding active fish. Ruddock bream love black and yellow Beetle Spins.
Tangipahoa and Tickfaw warmouth (goggle-eye) may strike a bright-colored Roadrunner reeled slowly by a cypress tree. Moving baits help eliminate unproductive water.
Corks come in many shapes, materials and line-attaching styles. For shy biting sunfish, a waggler float will move when a fish touches the bait.
Fixed corks are great for fishing around trees, but when fish such as crappie gather in a sunken treetop, a sliding cork presentation is a must. For the frugal angler, a pack of Styrofoam bobbers will do the trick.
Turning an old angler into a kid again is as simple as watching a cork disappear under the pull of a bull bream.
Tubes, hooks, jig heads and sinkers are essentials, too. With numerous colors, shapes, and sizes to choose from, an angler can have too much variety in the tackle box.
A keep-it-simple tip is to have a few colors based on water conditions. Rivers in the area run the spectrum from muddy to lightly stained.
Unless you have seen lakes in the west, it is hard to describe what clear water is.
A suggestion on colors would be a black and chartreuse tube for muddy water and some bright color like pink and white or blue and white for stained water.
Hooks and sinkers are another option if the angler likes to fish live crickets, shiners, or scented baits like Gulp Crickets.
Rods and reels for panfish are another spicy option for adding variety to a trip.
Some anglers prefer long 10-foot jig poles, while other use a spinning reel or closed face spincaster.
Action for the poles are often ultralight, but a light- action rod handles bigger fish and heavier cover. With low hanging limbs and thick bushes along the banks of the local waterways, a pole about 9 or 10 feet is great for getting back behind stumps and tree trunks.
For open shorelines, a spinning reel is great for chunking the light baits.
With the basic poles and lures loaded in the boat, the hard part is deciding where to go. From Blind River along the western side of Lake Maurepas to Bayou Liberty on the eastern edge of Lake Pontchartrain, every body of water holds scenic splendor and a variety of fishing options. The Pearl River system is another option, but that river is another entirely different nut to crack.
A few suggested launches are Tickfaw public launch under La. 22 in Springfield, Manchac public launch (North Pass) on U.S. 51 or Lee’s Landing off La. 22 for the Tangipahoa and Bedico Creek tributaries.
To the east, there are several options. Heritage Park in Slidell on Front Street (U.S. 11) will drop the boat into Bonfouca which leads to Bayou Liberty.
For Bayou Lacombe, turn on Lake Road from U.S. 190 and turn right on Main Street. The Main Street launch is a treasure trove of cypress-lined banks.
The Tchefuncte River has several tributaries that feed it. The Bogue Falaya River winds through Covington and the Fourth Street launch is on Bogue Falaya. A bend or two down is the Abita Creek. At the Interstate 12 bridge, the Little Tchefuncte joins the other rivers and flows to Lake Pontchartrain.
Each tributary is a tidal body of water. This means anglers should pay attention to tides on the day of the trip. However, more important is what direction the wind blowing as anything.
East winds will push water into the lakes and rivers. A west wind means water will flow out.
As long as the water is moving, the action is good. When the tide is slack or the wind bucks the tidal flow, the water is as dead as a mosquito in a bug zapper. Panfishing on the local rivers often is as frustrating as bass fishing. Tidal-water anglers always need to pack patience.
These rivers are a combination of marsh, swamp and flooded woodland.
The abundance of hand size fish that love to pull down a cork are doing well since the past few hurricanes pushed the numbers to almost extinction. With launches close to home, scenery with wildlife in abundance and some of the best tasting panfish around, the variety of the Louisiana rivers add to the spice of life.