So the Mississippi River is rising.
David Cavell and Corey Wheat won’t let that stop them from hitting the launches in Venice, and, being the dynamic bass-fishing duo they are, from adventures awaiting near the mouth of the country’s mightiest river.
A month ago, Cavell talked about how the river was unusually low in early spring.
“We pretty much have every option we want — north, south, east and west,” of launch ramps at either Venice or Cypress Cove marinas, and you can try Joshua’s and Fort Jackson launches.
But their choice spot, their “honey hole,” is a place most folks know: “Delta Duck” is its name, an expanse of marshes dotted with grass-filled ponds and small roseau cane-lined runs off main distributaries like Pass a Loutre and Main Pass south of Venice.
“Fishing is excellent in the main canals in Delta Duck,” Cavell said. “It’s the largest expanse of marsh that was not adversely affected by (Hurricane) Katrina.
“(Delta Duck) is not fished that hard, and even when the water is stable, sometimes even rising, the place holds the biggest concentration of fish,” he said.
And it’s more than bass. Cavell said there are enough ponds and submerged grass in those ponds to “sustain the fishery, and that includes redfish — big redfish.
“You can run straight into Black Bay out of Dead Woman’s Pass, or Batiste Collette (east of the Venice launches) into Redfish Bay,” he said.
Because the submerged grass filters some of the sediment from the muddy Mississippi’s flow, water in these places is clearer and bass and redfish are more prone to feed, and take lures, than whatever fish are living in the main passes.
“It’s not all that difficult to find a limit (10) of bass and redfish,” Cavell said. “Corey and I ran from Dockside Marina (off Lake Pontchartrain near Slidell) and came back with 19 pounds to win a (bass) tournament.”
That five-bass limit means they averaged near 4 pounds a fish, but there’s more to it than that.
It’s numbers, and it’s possible, under certain conditions, to catch as many as 30 bass per angler from these spots, and the biggest bass you’re likely to see will hit 5 pounds.
“The choice, the best lures that day, were D-Bombs, Craw Bombers and Delta Lures’ Thunder Jig, a vibrating jig,” Cavell said, mentioning the jig had a green blade in a “Delta shad” color. The best crawfish imitations’ were green-pumpkin-blue and orange-and-blue colors. The “El Diablo” color was the best for the D-Bombs.
“It’s hard to explain why we're seeing so many abnormally giant redfish in the area with a big population of bass, but Corey and I noticed that if you go 20-30 yards without a (bass) bite, then there’s a big redfish cruising that area,” Cavell said. “You throw a Thunder Jig out there and the redfish will eat it and it’ll be 15-20 pounds and totally destroy everything, the bait and, you hope not everything you’re holding.
“And he’ll be the only redfish there. We’re caught them on a frog, too.”
Cavell said the biggest population of redfish they’re finding are off Rafael Pass, “toward Redfish Bay. If there’s grass and the water is clear, then a Whopper Plopper works, too, around grass and hyacinths, but the area has to be protected from the wind, because it looks like the fish don’t want to have waves crashing in on them.”
There’s more, and Cavell’s report carries great news for old-time Venice fishermen.
“We’re starting to see good things from the Wagon Wheel, seeing fish in there we haven’t been seeing in a long time,” he said. “We didn’t catch anything in there for a few years, but last year and this year we’re finding fish.”
The “Wheel” is west from the Venice launches and is easily identifiable on a map. It’s the roundish set of canals with what looks like spokes on the inside of “the wheel.”
“But you have to be careful when you run it,” Cavell said. “Storms have changed it.”
Windy days have sent dozens, maybe more, fishermen into the canals on the east side of the river opposite Buras. Cuts in the river — in the Pointe a la Hache area — near the Ostrica Locks and points south opposite Fort Jackson’s launch are the targets.
Bass, redfish and speckled trout are there, even as late as last week, and were taking chartreuse spinnerbaits, black-blue Speed Craws and Storm’s new 360GT Searchbait.
Last Wednesday a party was anchored and fishing the cuts off the river’s east side north of Ostrica. They were working VuDu Shrimp about 18 inches under a poppin’ cork and were catching trout, redfish and drum.
Running the Mississippi River is never easy, and demands a large boat. Anyone heading to Venice with a 15-foot bateau and planning to head into the big river is asking for trouble. The river’s flow, winds and waves from the ocean-going ships are the biggest problems, not to mention the flotsam washing down from points north.
Wearing a life jacket is a must, and knowing how to traverse something as unique as the Mississippi is mandatory.
“You just have to be very careful on east side of the river,” Cavell said. “Like running Pass a Loutre, you can be a hundred yards off bank and get stuck. There aren’t a lot of buoys there. Silt gets deposited in places off the river every year, and you have to be cautious about where you’re running. There are places were the water is only a foot deep a quarter-mile off the bank.
“If you’re not comfortable about heading into these places, then go with someone who knows what’s going on,” Cavell said.
Know, too, there’s a heavy presence of Coast Guard and state Wildlife and Fisheries agents in the area, so heave all your gear checked, with the proper number of life jackets and a throwable device, a working fire extinguisher and all the other required gear for your boat.
“They’ve checked us a few times,” Cavell said. “They’re keeping tabs on everyone that’s for sure.”