Low tides that suck baitfish and shrimp from backwater marshes and force redfish to follow are as much a part of spring as clovers, pine pollen and turkey gobbles.
There are so many redfish around Delacroix right now that they’re not terribly hard to find no matter the tide level, but charter skipper Jack Payne, owner of Sweetwater Marina, has discovered a pattern that’s an absolute slam-dunk when waters flee the marshes around his popular St. Bernard Parish dock and launch.
“You know how when you’re going down a bank line, and you see a little indentation — a cove? If it has a deep, deep bank — really steep — that’s where you want to fish on a falling tide,” Payne said. “There’s usually still enough water there that the fish will be concentrated in that. In a falling tide or a low tide, that’s how I’ve been catching all my redfish lately.
“I just scan down the shorelines, and every time I see that, it’s money.”
Payne said the redfish throughout the Delacroix marsh have been mixed in size, with more throwbacks than keepers.
“You might catch 75 redfish in a day, but a bunch are going to be between 13 and 15 inches,” he said. “The fish overall aren’t quite as big as they were a month and a half ago, but there’s still tons of redfish everywhere.
“If you’re catching some undersized fish, stay there a little while. They’ll usually get a little bigger as the bite goes on. Those little ones go crazy right away, and then when you pull some of them away from the spot, the big ones get to eat.
“It’s not always that way, though. Sometimes the whole school is nothing but undersized fish, and you have to get up and move.”
Those strong, falling tides lately have been dirtying up the water, but water clarity is almost irrelevant for catching redfish using his pattern, Payne said.
That’s definitely not true with speckled trout: the speck fishing has picked up considerably around Delacroix, but the fish seem to be concentrated only in areas with the prettiest water.
“Everybody caught (trout) this weekend because the water cleared up so well,” Payne said. “When you can find the clean water, that’s where the trout will be.”
Hot areas this weekend included Lake Batola, Grand Lake and Tanasia Lagoon, which is on the Hopedale side of Bayou Terre aux Boeufs.
“The only grass beds that have been holding trout for me are in Tanasia Lagoon, just north of Lake Amadee,” Payne said. “Also, Grand Lake has some scattered grass that’s holding trout.
“Lake Batola also has grass out in the middle, and it usually holds lots of trout, but this year, it’s been more redfish than trout.”
Payne hasn’t seen any shrimp popping or birds dipping yet, but he has run across other bait in the area.
“The other day, I was fishing current lines in Grand Lake for trout, and every now and then, when you’d pop the cork, you’d see really small glass minnows — about 2 inches long — do that little flyover thing,” he said. “Right after that — whack! — the trout would hit the shrimp and your cork would go down.”
That’s been the ticket lately for Payne — live shrimp under corks. That’s true whether he’s targeting redfish or speckled trout. But with so much water rushing down from the Midwest and spilling out of every crack and crevice along the Mississippi River, keeping his bait tanks stocked has been a challenge.
“The live-shrimp situation has been tough,” Payne said. “They guy who catches them for me is based out of Buras, and there’s so much freshwater everywhere, there’s not as many brown shrimp as they normally have.”
The white shrimp crop that matures in the late summer and fall loves fresh water, but brown shrimp are averse to it.
Still, most days Sweetwater is able to stock them. Lately, they’ve been browns in the 70- to 80-count range, which is right in the sweet spot, in Payne’s opinion.
“Honestly, I hate using those big shrimp,” he said. “They die way too easily, and nothing hits them. You want one that’s the size of a Matrix Shad, or maybe a little smaller. That’s the perfect shrimp.”
And it’s especially perfect if it’s thrown toward a steep indentation during a low tide.
Set the hook! Fish on!
Located at the end of La. 300 in St. Bernard Parish, Delacroix is serviced by two marinas, Sweetwater and Serigne’s. Both feature double backdown ramps, fuel, live bait, ice, snacks, limited tackle and ample parking. Sweetwater also offers lodging and fish-cleaning stations.
For more information on Sweetwater Marina, call at (504) 342-2368 or the website: delacroixfishing.com. Serigne’s has no website, but can be reached at (504) 265-0007.