Lake Fausse Point, Louisiana

June 19th, 2005

Scattered
By Roger Stouff

Hurricane Rita wrecked the freshwater fishing here. My usual haunts have been completely unproductive and lack of rain has only worsened the situation.

Instead, I have been venturing far afield in search of more productive water this year. If things play out the way they did after Hurricane Andrew cut through here, it'll be three years before any decent fishing returns. But Andrew cut a 200-mile-wide path with 200-mile-per-hour winds right where I'm sitting today. Rita made landfall 150 miles from here, but her storm surge inundated my freshwater fishing locales with saltwater. Baitfish succumbed and I while I didn't see huge rafts of dead fish like after Andrew, their absence verifies their demise. Reports from most of the coastal parishes are the same. Saltwater is kicking tail, however, I'm just not set up for that kind of fishing and nobody's invited me lately!

That's not to say that there aren't a few spots that produce a few freshwater fish, but it's hit and miss, as if the fish are roaming heavily in search of food. A couple weeks ago I decided to make an exploratory trip in my bass boat for an area south of here known locally as Quintana.

It was too far for me to paddle the pinou. Quintana is a series of oilfield canals cut into the coastal marshes. I reasoned that brackish water bass and panfish might have had a higher resistance to the salt than my exclusively freshwater quarry in other areas. I have a map of Quintana from a friend and, bracing my resolve, I put the boat over into the Franklin Canal.

The map illustrates the Quintana area very well, but what it does not show is how to get there. I knew that one had to turn into the Hanson Canal from the Franklin Canal, which I did, but then I got to a three-way intersection. I was confused and unsure of myself. I idled forward and grounded out in the middle fork. I backed the boat out and went right, and grounded out again. I backed out and went left and found ample water so throttled up to travel about two miles before I chickened out and turned back, making my way back to the Hanson and Franklin Canal intersections. I got on my cell phone and called a friend and he told me I had nearly gotten to Quintana but turned around too soon.

However, he directed me to another area that was easier to find, but I had to cut through two miles of water lily accumulations. It wasn't water hyacinth, if was something we call "silver dollar" down here, a thick, matted plant that floats in great rafts. I had to stop several times to clear tons of this that accumulated between my outboard and transom, but finally got to a spot where the canal widened out and seemed promising.

I had with me a #5 Redington at eight foot. I don't fish anything lighter in these waters. I never know what I'll hook, big bass, monster catfish or bowfin, garfish. I know lots of folks who fish bluegill and the like with #4 down to #2 lines down here, but I just don't care for it. With a minimum #5, I feel I've got enough backbone to fight the unexpected and still don't feel over-gunned for panfish.

My fly of choice was the cap spider. You can find this pattern on www.laflyfish.com if you don't know it. It's tied on a micro jig head so that the hook rides up, is very "leggy" and great for getting down there to larger, deeper fish. I had only two chartreuse cap spiders with a red spot at the head, and two blacks with a red spot at the head. I fished these under an indicator.

The very first cast saw the indicator - which we here in south Louisiana call a VOSI, or Vertically Oriented Strike Indicator as so dubbed by Glen Cormier, LaFlyFish's webmaster - settle in for a split second then plunge out of view. I lifted the rod tip and something yanked back, a side-slabbing, furious red-breasted 'gill big as my hand.

"Fluke," I thought to myself. "Can't be."

I let the big fella go and cast back to the same spot. I could see there was a huge stump remnant just under the surface of the water. No sooner had the VOSI hit the surface than it darted away and within moments a thrashing, frantic and very angry orange slab came to hand.

"Hmm," I thought. "Maybe not."

This fish went to the livewell. Another cast produced the last member of the triplets and I got disheartened. I moved the boat up a little and, for the next two hours, spot-cast and spot-caught, so to speak. Ended up with 16 in the box, all beauties except one that I hooked too deeply to release conscientiously. I caught probably twice that many.

When it got too hot to bear I made my way home. It was the first good trip I had made all spring, and though that water was largely fresh it alternates with brackish throughout the year, so perhaps my theory on salt tolerance holds some merit. I have not been back to test it.

I'm estimating an 80 percent reduction in freshwater fisheries along the coastal parishes this spring by what I've been reading from other fishermen and reports in newspapers. Catches will probably continue to be spotty and roaming, as I believe these fish were also foraging for food or, at best, isolated enough and salt-tolerant enough to be a pocket of survival.

The first named hurricane of the year was supposed to hit Florida last week, luckily it turned out to be a 'tropical storm.' We along the Gulf Coast are all in need of your prayers. ~ Roger

Do you have your copy yet? It's out! And available now! Get your copy of Roger's book. Native Waters: A Few Moments in a Small Wooden Boat

Order it now from www.iuniverse.com, Amazon.com, or Barnes & Noble.com.


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