OUTDOORS: For now anglers having to travel a bit to catch fish

As the last of the floodgates were closed on the Morganza Spillway, several weeks remain before any good fishing reports will come out of the Atchafalaya Basin. Most bass anglers generally agree, when the water in the river is above 5-feet 2-inches at Morgan City, the fishing gets a little tough around these parts.

Combine the high water conditions with the dog days of summer – when bass are generally sluggish from the heat – and what you have are challenges only the better anglers know how to cope with.

“When the river rises over the bank, the fish are scattered from here to yonder,” says Mike Walker, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries biologist, who for years has been involved in fish sampling in the Atchafalaya Basin. “No one will be catching fish in the basin till the water goes down and in Butte Larose, that’s around eleven feet. You can’t hardly find a recreational fisherman at a boat landing. There’s always a severe lack of fishermen during high water until it gets back to normal stages. This year that will probably be in July.”

Saltwater fishing is being impacted by the floodwater in the central part of the state too. Billowing cloud-like plumes of brown water extend well out into the marshes and bays along the coast right now. And, the current, wind, and wave action mixes the high-volume of silt laden freshwater with saltwater forcing saltwater game fish to either find sanctuary in the water column or clear water that’s more to their liking elsewhere.

One report I received this past week from a speck angler was he had to run nearly 50-miles offshore to find clear water and some fish. Other reports, good to great, came from parts east and west. Another angler mentioned he and a couple friends caught 61 specks and several redfish around Point-Aux Chene in inside waters.

A friend posted on Face Book that he and a buddy caught limits of red fish – and of course posted the pictures to prove it. They fished in Cocodrie. Yet, still, another report included bull reds and black drum being caught in Bayou Dularge.

The point; everyone is traveling a bit more these days to find better fishing, where the floodwater isn’t influencing the bite.

Fish can be caught offshore where the water mixes, but it’s finding them in the water column that presents the problem. Shallower water has less stratification than deeper water. But, each layer often has species of game fish associated with it. Many who fish offshore will tell you sometimes there’s a layer of murky water above clear water. And, though not often, they do find target fish and hammer them.

Freshwater fishing reports have also come from east and west, as well. A report from the Houma area mentioned evening catches of bass in and along canals close to town have been productive – sorry, unfortunately the exact locations were left undisclosed – just that he was slaying them.

To the west others were finding fish in the Exxon canals south of the Intracoastal near Bayou Sale. But, if I had to bet on catching a few fish locally, I’d have to try the Turtle Bayou, the Orange Grove or Bayou Black area. The floodwaters haven’t impacted these areas at all. However, with the heat what it has been, I’d suggest early morning and late evening excursions for best results.

Going forward the Great Flood of 2011 should have a positive impact on the local fishery.

Walker said, “Whenever you have these flood events fish spread out where predation is lower and there is more available food sources; there’s also more places for them to spawn. High water flood events do occur and have a positive impact where fish are concerned.”

Another potentially positive impact from a flood of this magnitude on the basin is it can flush organic matter or place a barrier of sand over it, thus encapsulating it. Both conditions also make the bottom better for fish to spawn.

“After the flood is all over, there’s no telling how things will have changed,” Walker speculates. “There may be a new sandbar where there never used to be, or a cypress tree may have rolled in an old location, you once fished. One thing for sure, I’d ease around areas I used to go before running in there wide open after the water goes down.”

There’s no doubt water is rapidly falling and the basin will never be better going forward. But, for the next few weeks some of the better fishing might require you traveling a bit more than normal.

If you wish to make a comment or have an anecdote, recipe or story you wish to share, you can contact John K. Flores by calling (985) 395-5586 or by e-mail: gowiththeflo@cox.net

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