Thursday photo

Charter guide Casey Brunning got his daughter, Payton, in on the fun of landing a hefty marsh battler during what locals call 'Delacroix's historic redfish run' last week. The action on hard-fighting reds heats up during the cold weather of late fall and catches usually last well into January.

In the south Louisiana fishing scene, Casey Brunning has won so many boat and kayak tournaments that Kevin VanDam would be impressed.

This year, in fact, Brunning and his tournament partner snatched both national and regional Team of the Year plaques in the prestigious Inshore Fishing Association tournament trail.

So when the Delacroix fishing guide says he’s currently experiencing the best fishing he’s ever seen, the claim carries significant weight. Brunning said the marshes surrounding his home port are simply crawling with redfish.

“It’s been really crazy,” he said. “I had this conversation with a friend the other day, and I told him, ‘This is hands down the best redfish action I’ve ever seen in my life.’ Last year’s winter fishing was pretty good, but it wasn’t this good.

“Right now, no matter when you find them or where you find them, there’s literally 100 to 200 of them sitting right there.”

Brunning has been experiencing his greatest success lately in Grand Lake, Shell Lake, Lake Robin and Grand Point Bay, but the strong bite certainly hasn’t been limited to those areas.

“They’re literally everywhere,” he said.

It’s no mystery why the fish are there and why they’re all so fat, Brunning said. They’re like football linemen who plan to get their money’s worth at an all-you-can-eat buffet.

“I’m seeing just a ton of bait in the water,” Brunning said. “That’s a big thing. You can go slow and just ride around, especially on the calm days, and just look for pogies. If you see them along a shoreline, just shut it down. You’re going to catch them.”

That’s especially true along wind-blown shorelines. In fact, Brunning has been all but ignoring lee shorelines.

“The wind pushes the smaller baitfish that can’t battle the tide or the wind along that grass line, and it creates a wall for the fish,” he said. “They’re just cruising up and down it. If all that is on a point, there might be 400 fish sitting right there. You can just sit there and catch as many as you want.”

Finding that grass hasn’t been as important as finding the bait, Brunning said, but it definitely helps. Throughout the area, the vegetation was knocked back by a salty surge that preceded Hurricane Michael’s landfall in Florida early this fall.

“All the grass has not come back yet, but there is a lot of new growth in some of the bigger bays,” Brunning said. “If I were fishing by myself, I would just get on the windy side of it, run down it and start slinging spinnerbaits.

His words also carry a warning: state regs limit anglers to five redfish per day, and the reds must be 16 inches long and only one of those “keeper” redfish can measure more than 27 inches long.

“With my clients, it’s been dead shrimp under a popping cork. To put fish in the box, you can’t beat that rig,” he said.

Brunning has been threading those shrimp on quarter-ounce jigheads. He’s running the hook through the center of the tail meat, and is pushing the shrimp past the bait keeper on the jighead. That way, his clients get four or five casts with each shrimp.

The fish that are sniffing those offerings and taking advantage of what they think is a free meal have almost all been keepers in recent days, Brunning said.

“The past three weeks, I bet we haven’t had to throw back 10 fish,” he said. “Five weeks ago, you’d take five pounds of bait, and you’d go through three (pounds) of it on rat reds. I don’t know what happened, but the smaller fish have moved somewhere else, and the bigger fish took their place. They’re not the 16- to 17-inch fish. They’re all 20 to 27 (inches).”

Anglers who head down to Delacroix to take advantage of this generationally good bite shouldn’t expect to find pristine water. The region is being influenced by the sediment-laden Mississippi River flow pushing through Mardi Gras Pass, so the water is definitely stained.

“The water clarity is not horrible, but you can’t see the foot of your trolling motor,” Brunning said. “A lot of people will search around for that clean water, but for the redfish, it just doesn’t matter.”

Delacroix details

Located at the end of La. Highway 300 in St. Bernard Parish, Delacroix’s two boat launches, Sweetwater and Serigne’s, offer fuel, ice, snacks, drinks and live bait. Sweetwater also features lodging and boat sheds available for rent.

For more information, call Sweetwater (504) 342-2368 or Serigne’s (504) 265-0007. Charter guide Casey Brunning can be reached at (985) 966-1735.