While Mardi Gras certainly attracts hundreds of thousands to the streets and byways across south Louisiana, there’s a fair number of outdoors-minded folks who take this Louisiana-only holiday to spend in the fields or on the water.
Odd this year is the small-game seasons — hunting squirrels, rabbits and wild quail, and for migrating snipe — end Mardi Gras Day, so you can count on some folks taking time to enjoy an upper-60s morning and a warming afternoon to get in those last shots in forest, field, swamp and marsh.
Yet it’s fishing drawing the most attention, and lots of anglers will spend some time trying to figure out how to get away to their favorite launch to avoid the traffic streaming from those late morning-to-early afternoon parades. (There’s not all that much traffic in the predawn trip to most landings.)
Couldn’t be much better than a forecast of clear skies and cool days through Sunday. We need the sunshine to break up the spell of the recent run of cloudy days and warm the waters to help spur the spawn in freshwater and get the coastal areas ready to welcome baby brown shrimp.
Here’s the deal: A cold front is due in late Friday and will drop morning lows to near 60 with afternoon highs in the upper 60s.
The problem with a late-winter front is wind, and the forecast is for Friday’s light south winds and seas to build to 15-20 knots from the north Saturday and push coastal swells to 3-5 feet and 4-7 footers offshore before winds switch to the east Sunday at 10-15 knots with seas conditions moderating.
Lake Pontchartrain’s forecast is for 5-10 south winds and 1-2 footers Friday, 15-20 knot north winds and 3-5 footers Saturday, then 10-15 know east winds and 1-2 footers Sunday.
There’s a chance of rain Monday along the I-10/I-12 corridor (but not along the coast).
So, if you’re looking to make a red snapper trip, plan it for Monday and Tuesday before the next round of sweeping rain moves Wednesday into south Louisiana.
The cold front should keep some trout in the interior marshes.
Once again, respect Saturday’s strong north winds and the water-lowering effects it has on our coastal marshes. Spending hours of our holiday on a mud flat is no way to enjoy Mardi Gras.
The initial reports from the first weeks of the state’s recreational red snapper season is most of the fish in the legally accessible waters are running on the small side. The biggest report is a 12-pounder taken from the rig within sight of Grand Isle. Most of the snapper are running 4-6 pounds.
Remember the limit is two per day. The fish must measure at least 16 inches long, and anglers are required to have a fee-free Recreational Offshore Landing Permit to bring snapper among other species (including tuna) back to any dock.
What’s happened recently is, when weather allows, trips are planned to take advantage of the run on yellowfin tuna in relatively close proximity to the coast, and take the two-per-fisherman snapper on the way back to the dock.
Freshwater fishermen have a problem these days, not with catching fish, but where to catch them.
There continues to be a run on sac-a-lait and some chinquapin along with productive bass catches in the marshes south of U.S. 90 from Bob’s Bayou Black landing in Gibson.
Patterns are holding, which means using black/chartreuse and chartreuse/silver glitter tubes and artificial minnows under a cork in canals for the panfish, and topwaters and soft-plastic creature baits for the bass. Largemouths are moving to the banks, and it’s not too early to try pitching tubes to bedding bass.
Then there’s the report from Jim Breaux after the Junior Southwest Bassmasters-Denham Springs held its tournament Saturday with 43 young anglers having the option to fish the Verret or Atchafalaya basins.
Breaux said 20 youngsters came back with five-bass limits and 32 of the youngsters (the club is for ages 7-18) weighed at least one fish. The winning stringers came from the Lake Verret side and “most of the fish were caught on spinnerbaits, crankbaits, ocho worms, flukes and some creature baits like the Speedcraw.”
If you want to know more about this club, call Breaux at (225) 772-3026.
His report was in marked contrast from a report about a Friday bass tournament held in the Atchafalaya.
Jeff Bruhl talked about The Bass Federation's state qualifying tournament held last Friday from Adam’s Landing at Belle River.
Bruhl reported 17 anglers competed for spots on the Louisiana Bass Federation State Team.
"Tom Goins bested the field with more than 14 pounds of Atchafalaya Basin bass. Tom reported a spinnerbait around grass in areas with mixing water proved to be the best tactic. With a river that was falling hard during the week and a post-spawn wave hitting the area, anglers struggled to find fish. The top three stringers came from the Basin side. Rogues and spinnerbaits were top producers for the leading anglers," Bruhl said.
"The next challenge for TBF anglers will be the semifinals at Lake D’Arbonne near Farmerville during Labor Day weekend. Anglers from Texas and Louisiana will compete for a spot in the TBF National Championships," he said. "Anglers compete for a chance at the 'Living the Dream' package which includes a wrapped boat, expenses and a spot in the Forest Wood Cup.
"As a team, Team Louisiana competes against Team Texas for bragging rights," Bruhl said. "The TBF offers anglers a low-cost tournament route to big money tournaments and events at some of the best bass waters in the country."
If you need other places, then it looks like the Florida Parishes rivers, from the Tickfaw east to Bayou LaCombe, are starting to produce sac-a-lait and other panfish.