Tony Accardo had a pecan tree growing in the backyard of his north Baton Rouge home.
While the legendary poppin’ bug maker, God rest his fly-fishing soul, used the pecans for all the fall holiday goodies he so dearly loved to eat, he used the mighty tree for something else, something more dear to his heart and not his stomach.
“See that tree,” he said pointing out the window of his shop that produced, packaged and shipped fly fishing equipment to points around the world. “Notice anything about it? Look at the branches. The tree is budding out ... the leaves ... it’s time to get after big bream.”
Notice anything today?
While we’ve come through several layers of green, allergy-producing pollen from oaks and pines, the pecans are just now leafing out, and for Accardo, that meant the ground finally was warm enough to tell south Louisiana panfishermen that bluegill and their sunfish kin, notably chinquapin and goggle-eye, that it was time to move to the banks.
It’s time for caterpillars to nestle in willow branches overhanging waters in canals and bayous off the big waters in the Lake Verret Basin and any of the other dozens of Verret-like spots across south Louisiana.
This wormy gathering is food for hungry bluegill and the gorging is on — any wind blowing down a canal would sweep the branches of a few caterpillars — and provides the nutrition these small members of the sunfish family need to trigger the spawn.
While the sign usually meant it was time for Accardo to dust off his fly rod and rig up his favorite poppin’ bug and his own “Bream Killer” trailer, it was also a signal for thousands to check out cane poles that had sat idle for months on end, or re-spool ultra-light reels with new line.
Add a handful of long-shanked No. 8 hooks, split shot and small corks, then check the cricket bucket to make sure some varmint hadn’t trashed it during the winter and all’s ready.
“You know life doesn’t get any better,” Accordo said that spring afternoon years ago. “You don’t have to leave all that early. Heck, some of the guys need to wait until the bait shop opens to get their crickets.”
Catching and eating followed as part of Accardo’s “life” and “better,” because if there was a bonus in all this, it was the afternoon fish fry: Like a lot of old-timers, Accardo liked them scaled, headed, cleaned and fried whole.
The early reports are that bluegill are in the first stages of moving to the banks, and the big push should come in the next two weeks just before May 14’s full moon.
Advocate videographer Gary Krouse camped out Wednesday on Toledo Bend and his early evening report is that sac-a-lait and bass are in the shallows.
“Fishermen are wearing out the crappie (sac-a-lait). It looks like the spawn is over, but the fish haven’t moved out to deeper water yet,” Krouse said.
“Bass are doing the same thing. The majority of the bass have spawned and their in the heavy grass in 2-3 feet of water and taking Flukes dead-sticked on the bottom. They want the bait laying still on the bottom,” he reported.
On the bridge
Talk about impatience and being patient. Robbie Johnson was on The Causeway earlier this week and started out jigging pilings on the north end knowing he might have been a bit impatient in hitting the 24-mile span a little too early in the season.
“We had one bite and one fish by 9 a.m., and we moved to Doc’s Reef and doubled our catch,” Johnson said.
So, he ran back to the bridge and said he noticed water temperatures had climbed to 67 and started trolling with Rat-L-Traps.
“We caught about 10 (trout) with 4 or 5 only 8 inches long. Everything was small, but a strange thing was the fish were feeding and throwing up pogies,” Johnson reported.
With high school bass fishing getting a start here, there’s increasing interest among young anglers in competitive fishing. For information about a local age-group bass-angling club, the Denham Spring-based Junior Southwest Bassmasters, call Jim Breaux at (225) 772-3026.