Last of the summer reds

Ethan Emonet, left, and Joseph Bourgeois made sure their dads Mark Emonet and Ray Bourgeois took them on a fishing trip before school began in Baton Rouge last week. The two 11-year-old St. George Catholic sixth-graders took advantage of the opportunity when they took a five-redfish limit each day of their trip south of Venice. Mark Emonet said they fished the South Pass area off the Mississippi River east of the Port Eads Lighthouse with Native Adventure Charters. For the first time in nearly five years, the Mississippi River has fallen to what's become known as 'summer low,' a level where the river clears of its muddy water and the push of greenish Gulf of Mexico water pushes up river.

Checked out the Mississippi River lately?

Ol’ Man River is down for the first time this year, and for the first August in five years — “down” means something below 15 feet on the Baton Rouge gauge and south of five feet at New Orleans.

What does it mean?

In the Capital City area, it means the Mighty Mississippi no longer flows into Old River, that oxbow lake just beyond the Atchafalaya Spillway gates off La. 1. It means Old River is primed to give up bass and sac-a-lait.

Make no mistake, this oxbow lake presents special problems. Bass hold in places you’d never suspect for a south Louisiana fishing hole. Although some largemouths will linger in the shallows around off-the-bank cypress trees, the majority prefer to take to breaks and structure in deeper water. It’s up to the best bass fishermen to find those spots, because the more than seven months of high water annually, those breaks and structures change from year to year.

New fish finders can help locate this structure, then it’s up to the angler to find the just-right presentation to attract strikes. Deep-running, shad-colored crankbaits are a good first option.

Sac-a-lait present another scenario. These easy-to-pattern battlers are deep when the sun gets up. A late-summer, early-fall pattern is to work the piers (on the levee side) deep with blue/clear sparkle or black/chartreuse tube jigs, then get shallower and shallower as the sun disappears behind the trees in the late afternoon. This is one place where a trip can begin between 3-4 p.m. and end at last light.

  • Atchafalaya Basin waters benefit from a low Mississippi, too, and you’re looking for water with a greenish tint. It helps when the water moves (tide and/or wind), and light levels make a difference here, too. There are times when bass will school and chase schools of shad during all hours of the day in large lakes and larger bayous. Structure is key here and patterning bass is key. One day they’re on spinnerbaits, the next day on jigs, and the next on jerkbaits. And there’s always punching heavy mats of grass and water hyacinth with one-ounce (or heavier) jigs rigged with your favorite soft-plastic creature bait.
  • For many years, the folks who ventured down river south of the Crescent City for a day or more of fishing have come to set that five-foot reading as a trigger for the best fishing action in the lower 48 states.

The Mississippi River sheds its muddy brown color, exchanging it for a green sports coat.

It’s this green color that triggers all the action both in the big river and along and off this delta’s many distributaries.

About two decades ago, John Scavona and Gary Twigg found a piscatorial gold mine in the big river. It was October, a time when the river was at its lowest flow, a time when sea-run striped bass pushed up river to set up for the spawn (it’s because their fertilized eggs must tumble in the river’s flow to hatch).

The catch that day, and during the same conditions for the next two years, was astounding.

Casting shad-colored crankbaits and Rat-L-Traps into the main river’s rip-rap produced strikes from largemouth, spotted, striped and white bass and redfish.

Because the river is at its lowest flow rate, the Gulf of Mexico’s saltwater begins pushing a wedge up the river and brings with it speckled trout, black drum and flounder. With no heavy river traffic that day, it was possible to push across the river to a sandy point where trout, drum and flounder hit the Rat-L-Traps and soft-plastic watermelon/red glitter (Texas rigged) worms, and the three of us rode back to Baton Rouge knowing no other fishermen in the world had a better day than we did that day.

  • Even better is the long-range Mississippi River forecast. Come Wednesday the respective Baton Rouge and New Orleans gauges are predicted to stand at 10.0 and 3.4 feet, and by Sept. 10, the respective readings are projected to be 7.6 and 2.0 feet.

Snapper update

Ten weekends into the private recreational red snapper season, Louisiana’s offshore anglers have taken 529,909 pounds — 63% — of our state’s 832,493-pound allocation, which leaves enough of a balance to ensure a season through the four-day Labor Day holiday weekend. The estimates of the 10 Friday-through-Sunday seasons comes from Wildlife and Fisheries’ LA Creel survey.

For the complete week-by-week breakdown, go to the LDWF’s website:

Another 'mini' BOW

State Wildlife and Fisheries and the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Foundation have scheduled another “mini” Becoming an Outdoor Woman Workshop-Fowl Language for Oct. 2 at the Waddill Wildlife Refuge in Baton Rouge. Women must be at least 18.

This workshop will concentrate on waterfowl identification, blind building, hunting areas, safety, duck calling, wing shooting and preparing waterfowl for the table. All equipment will be provided, and there’s a $35 fee.

The reason for the advance notice is these workshops fill quickly. Go to the LDWF registration website: For more info, email Dana Norsworthy:

Cadet class

Wildlife and Fisheries has set an Aug. 22 deadline to apply for a spot in its next six-month-long Cadet Training Academy. Graduates will become Enforcement Division agents. There a 30-cadet limit.

Training will take place at the Waddill Outdoor Education Center in Baton Rouge. Successful completion of about six months of intensive physical and academic training is required to graduate.

Go to the LDWF application website:

Hunt for OGT

The Louisiana Wildlife Agents Association is raffling a guided two-day duck hunt for two on the Big Burn Marsh to benefit Louisiana Operation Game Thief, the organization dedicated to rewarding tips for reporting possible game- and fishing-laws violators.

The trip includes lodging and meals. The winner needs to provide shotshells and hunting gear.

Raffle tickets are $5 each. Make checks payable to Operation Game Thief, then mail to me at P.O. Box 53972, Lafayette, LA. 70505-3972. The drawing will be held in October.