The Mississippi River isn’t going to fall anytime soon. And with so much rain falling in the Red River Basin, we can expect a continued rise in the Atchafalaya River.
That should be enough to turn off the fish in these mighty rivers and surrounding waters, and while that’s true for the freshwater folks desperate to work the Atchafalaya Spillway for bass, sac-a-lait, panfish and catfish, there are folks who continue to make trips into the far southern reaches of the Mississippi River.
Ryan Lambert’s Cajun Fishing Adventures crew is working for trout and redfish in the bays east of Buras, across the big river and into places like California Bay. And, Lambert knows, the high river is pushing trout up into the Pontchartrain Basin, a hydrological push of spring floodwaters that could account for the recent and massive run on speckled trout and redfish around Pontchartrain’s bridges and reefs.
Ed Sexton is another angler who knows he’s not wasting his time, not in May and not when the Mississippi is pushing water up onto its levees. He’s fishes for trout. He’s good at it and devotes so much time pursuing big yellowmouths that he’s got his name in the State Top 10 Fish Records for a 10-pound-plus giant he pulled from a spot near the mouth of the country’s largest river.
“Trout hang around the mouth of the river most all the time, and especially at this time of year,” Sexton said Friday on his way to Port Eads for another weekend go at big specks.
“This time of year the water is high, but that’s not that big a deal. Yes, it will get better as the river falls, but the high water doesn’t push trout away from the river.” Sexton said.
Factors of increasingly stronger spring tides and more southerly winds keeps saltwater pushing into the passes, Sexton said, adding that what becomes tougher is finding trout in the marshes.
“There are trout there, too, but it’s harder to find clear water,” Sexton said. “We all know that freshwater lays on top of the saltwater, and, generally, there’s clean saltwater under that freshwater layer, and the fish will be there as long as the water underneath (the freshwater) is salty enough and clear.”
The problem is, he said, the loss of habitat: “ We just don’t have the (roseau) canes filtering the water out as much as we used to have.”
It means that water flowing from the river through those stands of canes would come out clear into places like Blind Bay and Redfish Bay, but Sexton said deep spots in those bays continue to hold trout.
He said an easy way to find out if there’s clear water underneath dirty freshwater is to check prop wash while underway. If you see green, clear water in the wash, then the area could hold trout.
That’s now. What happens next month, and the next?
“Losing all that habitat doesn’t affect us on the summertime pattern. That’s when we’re fishing the passes and the beaches and fishing the (oil/gas) rigs, and river flow is not as critical as in these areas during the summer,” Sexton said.
“Deadly Dudleys now, but I’ll start trawling and fish live bait as summer goes on more,” Sexton said.
Sexton said his favorite colors for soft-plastic artificials are blue moon with a chartreuse tail, sometimes purple/chartreuse and “really anything with chartreuse, and something I call ‘the clown,’ a limetreuse color that I dip into pink dye. It’s ugly, but it works in off-color water.”