Local fishing and hunting guru Don Dubuc gets a lot of questions from outdoor enthusiasts, but none more frequent than this one: Where can we go fishing without a boat? "I get that one every week," Dubuc says. "A lot from single moms or just people without boats. I think Louisiana doesn't do nearly enough to create and promote spots like that, because once people get started fishing from a pier or shoreline, they're going to move up and get more licenses, boats, etc."
He's right, of course.
So, to get you land-lubbing fishermen started, here's a list and description of Dubuc's hottest land-based freshwater and saltwater spots. All are absolutely free and readily accessible by car. Be advised, however, that everyone age 16 or older needs a Louisiana basic fishing license ($9.50) for freshwater angling, and an additional saltwater license ($5.50) for brackish or saltwater fishing. Licenses are available from most sporting goods stores or via the Internet from the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (www.wlf.louisiana.gov).
Elmer's Island Refuge — The state recently opened some 250 acres of public land at Elmer's Island near Grand Isle and hopes to expand the offering. "This is one of the few barrier islands remaining off the Louisiana coast," Dubuc says. "And, it's the only sand beach in Louisiana that you can drive on." To get there, take Hwy. 1 toward Grand Isle. Just before Caminada Pass, look on the right-hand side for a sign denoting Elmer's Island Road. There are regulations posted on the sign. Here you'll catch all saltwater species — specks and white trout, red and black drum, flounder — and there's good crabbing as well. The island also has ponds on the inside, and there are ample opportunities for alternative activities such as bird-watching and swimming on the beautiful sand beach. Day trips only, no overnight camping. Getting there takes almost two hours from New Orleans, but it's well worth the drive. Live bait works best, and supplies are available from Bridgeside Marina just across the Pass. Fish on the bottom or under a cork. Plastic, live or topwater baits all work well.
The Frank Davis Fishing Pier — Located near New Orleans Lakefront Airport, on Lakeshore Drive beneath the west side of the Sen. Ted Hickey (Seabrook) Bridge. The pier is actually on the pass of the Industrial Canal at the lake, where a tremendous amount of bait, including live shrimp, passes through the narrow confines of the canal at the Seabrook. Fishing is best April to September, but it's good all year 'round. Best results are on the bottom. This is urban fishing at its finest — and you can fish here 24/7, a boon for night anglers.
The Mandeville Fishing Pier — Officially called the Sunset Point Fishing Pier, it's known to locals as the Mandeville pier. Go across the Causeway and veer to your right, and turn right at the first stoplight (Monroe Street). As fishing piers go, it's an upscale structure. It's open 24/7, with good parking, restrooms, fish-cleaning tables and even covered walkways on some piers. It's very well lit at night, which attracts bait and trout. Here you can catch anything Lake Pontchartrain has to offer, but the best conditions are when there's a light south or southeast wind, or a light north wind. Don't go if the wind is strong from the south, southwest or west. Crabbing is good, too.
City Park Lagoon — This is the No. 1 underrated spot in the metro area. City Park's lagoons are very child-friendly, clean and generally have lots of space. The top species right now is the Rio Grande perch, which is easy to catch. The best baits are crickets, breadballs and live worms for perch and bream. For bass anglers, look for the restocked Florida bass, which grow large. Several bass clubs donated excellent native strains as well. Most all lagoons are excellent for fishing, but the most popular spots are near the City Park Casino. Freshwater catfish also can be caught, as well as sac-au-lait (white perch). City Park does not currently require a special permit to fish, but you still need a basic fishing license.
Bayou St. John — The bayou offers a good mix of fresh and brackish species. You can fish along the many long stretches of bank on the western shore, and you can fish from kayaks or other paddle craft. You'll find all freshwater species in the areas located closer to downtown, and you'll find redfish and drum near the lake end. Market shrimp on the bottom work best for saltwater species. For freshwater angling, try plastic worms and spinner bait for bass; live worms and crickets for bream. From the bank, use a cork with live bait.
Bogue Chitto Wildlife Refuge — Located in St. Tammany Parish near the state line off I-59 at the "Pearl River Turnaround," this is a very underutilized freshwater spot. The turnaround exit puts you on a service road, which leads to a pond. Every year the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service stocks the pond for a one-day national fishing event for kids in June. The rest of the time, the uncaught fish take over the pond, which offers the same species as City Park's lagoons — catfish, bass, bream, sac-au-lait. Note that there are no bathrooms or services, but this is still a great fishing spot. Bring lawn chairs and ice chests and enjoy country fishing here. — Clancy DuBos
Catch Don Dubuc on one of his many radio and TV programs — Outdoors with Don Dubuc, Saturdays at 5 a.m. to 7 a.m. on WWL AM/FM; More Outdoors, Saturdays 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. on ESPN 1350 AM; Fish & Game Forecast, Fridays at 6:40 a.m. and 7:40 a.m. on WWL AM/FM; Outdoors with Don Dubuc Television, Tuesdays at 10 p.m. and Wednesdays at 6:30 p.m. on WGNO ABC 26; and Paradise Louisiana, Thursdays at 10 p.m. and Sundays at 7 a.m. on Cox Sports TV.