Outdoors 7/5/20

Josh Hughes, left, and his father-in-law, Gene Andre, show off the heaviest four among the 55 sac-a-lait they caught with Steve Fontana on a trip to the Stephensville area early last week. The fish are hiding in heavy cover under the summer sun and appear to be resting comfortably in 'dark' areas.

Summertime and, unlike the song, the living ain’t so easy these days.

It’s hot. The Sahara dust keeps coming. This COVID thing just ain’t going away. And, just in time for any Fourth of July fishing trip, a cold front brought heavy winds to south Louisiana, heavier than any the Baton Rouge area experienced from Tropical Storm Cristobal.

Yet, if you’re Gene Andre and his son-in-law Josh Hughes, well, you’re living on the right side of life these days.

“Everybody knows what Gene been through these last many months,” longtime fishing buddy Steve Fontana said Friday. Everybody in bass fishing around these parts anyway — Andre has come through round-after-round of cancer treatments and only in the past weeks has considered a return to his favorite fishing haunts.

“He called Monday, and I told him, ‘Let’s go Tuesday,’ and I can’t tell you how excited he was,” Fontana said.

Andre was even more excited by 11 a.m. Tuesday when he and Hughes knew they had plenty for a Fourth of July family fish fry after the sac-a-lait trip to the Stephensville area.

“We ended up with 55,” Fontana said, “and some good ones.”

Yes, a sac-a-lait fry is something fit for a king, or for us colonists celebrating liberation from a king.

But catching, in this instance, is only half the story.

It’s just about this time of year when these finicky-feeding freshwater fish go deep and seek the darkest shade they can find under a bright summer sun.

At this time of year, this species — Louisiana has two species named “black” and “white” — usually looks for larger prey. Shad have grown larger since the spring spawn and provide all the food a hungry sac-a-lait needs.

Not this year.

For most of the last month, the guys and gals using artificial baits — any number of colors of tube and hard-bodied jigs and Beetle Spins — have found the sac-a-lait are turning up their collective noses to the two-and-a-half inch long offerings and have had to go smaller to entice strikes.

Tuesday’s crew found the same thing with live bait, the always preferred offering of shiners.

“Don’t know why, but that’s what they wanted. Something small,” Fontana said. “Even the big sac-a-lait, the ones we’ve been targeting with big shiners for the last few years, wanted small shiners.”

And that’s not confined to the Verret Basin. The same thing is happening in the Florida Parishes rivers and bayous, and even into the big reservoirs like Toledo Bend.

The second hint is to work baits at various depths to find where the sac-a-lait are living that day. Cloud cover usually means the fish are away from heavy cover. When the sun gets high in the sky, these fish will seek the darkness under a walkway or the end of a pier, or the biggest lay-down along a stretch of bank, or in the heaviest brushpile.

• It’s still no-wake runnings under the continued high water in the Stephensville area.

• If sac-a-lait isn’t your thing but panfish are, then the Atchafalaya Basin is low enough now to consider getting in on the chinquapin run in the Flat Lake area. This redear sunfish prefers to feed in nightcrawlers. Crickets with attract bluegill and longear sunfish, but aren’t the best for chinquapin.

Fishing licenses

Remember, your 2019-2020 fishing license expired last week, and you need a current basic license, and a saltwater one, too, if you’re heading to the coast.

Snapper update

Through June 21, LA Creel data shows Louisiana’s private recreational red snapper anglers have caught 368,920 pounds, an increase of nearly 130,000 pounds from the previous week. This total is through June 21 and represents five weekend seasons.

It means private and state charter-boat operations have taken 47% of the state’s annual allocation of 784,332 pounds. For a detailed breakdown, go to the Wildlife and Fisheries website: wlf.louisiana.gov/page/red-snapper.

Commission agenda

Thursday’s 9:30 a.m. Wildlife and Fisheries Commission meeting will be the first for newly appointed member Andrew Blanchard.

Main agenda items include:

• A presentation on the 2020 Waterfowl Hunter Survey. The focus is on the 2021-2025 duck-hunting seasons. The state must submit to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service a plan for zones and splits.

• The harvest report from this year’s spring turkey season. It’s expected to mirror other states showing increased harvest because hunters took to the woods in greater numbers due to the COVID out break.

• A report on the recent Gulf of Mexico Fisheries Management Council meeting.

Seating is limited to 25 in the Joe Herring Room at state Wildlife and Fisheries headquarters in Baton Rouge. If you want to comment on any item, you can send emails to: comments@wlf.la.gov. The deadline is 11:59 p.m. Wednesday.

The meeting will be streamed on Zoom. You need to register at: https://wlf-la.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_Zgx8jb90QzimhoW-Zg2QSg. You will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

Volunteering

LDWF staff will hold, via Zoom, a virtual Aquatic Volunteer Instructor Workshop come Wednesday. The course is designed around gaining the information and skills needed to teach fishing and fisheries-related topics. The class is limited to 10. For details, go to: wlf.louisiana.gov/ldwf-volunteer-programs.