Outdoor Corner with Lyle Johnson

Springtime is always a good time for fishing in fresh water as they are preparing to spawn in order to keep the species prospering. Catfish are one of the highlights as they are somewhat easy to catch.

My dad, Jerry loved to catch catfish for a couple of reasons. The first was to help feed his eight hungry kids (six boys and two girls). This scenario allowed him to fish out of responsibility, but it was very much fun for him.

The second reason was to provide income for him and mama later on in life. Hoop nets and slat traps were used occasionally, but the trot line was usually the method of choice for him to provide for our family and sell some later on is his life. He and I usually found a way to do this together on the weekends or when I wasn’t working.

We caught plenty of catfish over the years using that method. We caught our fair share on a rod and reel as well. One of our favorite spots to catch them was at the mouth of Blind River at Lake Maurepas. Later on in his life, he and mama used to do that quite often.

Living on the Diversion Canal gives me the opportunity to keep a couple of rods baited up on my pier most of the time. The Canal is loaded with catfish and it’s where dad and I kept 10 trot lines with about 250 hooks baited. I live about 8 miles upstream of where we used to fish. Thirty or so years later, there are still plenty of fish to go around.

There is another technique for catching catfish that has been around for a while that seems to have cemented itself a top spot amongst the hardiest of catfish aficionados. That would be fishing under a cork in the cypress trees in at least two popular lakes, Lake Verret and Lake des Allemands, that have been on fire for the last few years.

This technique is very popular for husband and wife teams as well as the kids too. It’s not terribly technical like bass fishing. No need to spend a couple of hours the night before rigging 10 or 15 rods with baits you’ll probably change a time or two before making your final decision.

Everybody can actually use the same rig up while bait selection is not too difficult either. Choose your favorite rod and reel and tie just about any hook to the end of the line. A circle hook works really well for those that are not developed at setting the hook. Place a cork around 18” up the line with a split shot (lead weight) about two or three inches above the hook.

Now for the bait; night crawlers (worms) are probably the top choice for most anglers fishing this way. They are easy to attain at most bait shops and convenience stores anywhere near the water. Chicken livers work pretty well and can be bought at any store. Shad and crawfish work really well but a little time and effort has to be put in to get them. Shad are usually obtained with a cast net while crawfish need to be dipped in a ditch.

The list of the technical parts of this fishing operation is short. Location is the first. Not everywhere you pull over will hold catfish so sometimes it takes trying a few locations to find the concentrations of fish. Your cork distance could factor in to the success rate as well. Experiment with the depth of your bait to obtain the maximum catch.

There are a few choices about which hook to use to increase your chances for hook up rates. A normal 1/0 hook works really well but if you have someone in the boat that is inexperienced in setting the hook, a circle hook is the way to go. The hook is designed to bury the hook in the fish’s mouth without setting the hook. They work very well.

The cypress trees in Lake Verret and Lake des Allemands also offer great panfish action in the late spring (right now) as well. So the potential for catching more than one species of fish is highly possible.

The same bait (night crawlers) is one bait choice that will catch them along with crickets. Your hook size will have to change for the smaller mouth that bluegill have. They will be in different locations as well.

The good thing about those “bigger that your hand-sized” fish is that they are spawning right now. When bream spawn, the males make a bed for as many females that they can attract. So you could actually find one spot that literally has hundreds of fish. The females will be preparing to lay her eggs and the males will be guarding the nest or getting ready to fertilize the eggs that the females lay.

Last week we talked about the importance of water safety while out boating. Unfortunately a young man lost his life while on an outing with his dad on the Amite River.

The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries enforcement agents are investigating a fatal single vessel boating incident involving a father and son in Ascension Parish. A 20-foot aluminum vessel being operated by Patrick White, 53, of Sorrento, with Caleb White, 27, of Sorrento, as a passenger hit a bulkhead on the Amite River around 9 p.m. on May 12. Patrick White sustained minor injuries whereas Caleb White sustained fatal injuries.

According to Patrick White, the two left to go boating in the morning and were returning from their trip when he hit a bulkhead. It is believed that Caleb White was ejected from the boat and hit the bulkhead before ricocheting back into the boat.

An agent on patrol in the area found the vessel up against the bulkhead and was able to get the father and son into his vessel and call for an ambulance. Both father and son were responsive at this time. The agent was able to get the men to the Hilltop Landing where Acadian Ambulance was waiting. Caleb White died on the way to the hospital.

Agents performed a field sobriety and breathalyzer test on Patrick White and he was found over the legal limit for alcohol. Agents arrested Patrick White for vehicular homicide, operating or driving a vessel while intoxicated (DWI) and reckless operation.

Nobody ever leaves home thinking about not returning at the end of the day. But if you’re not careful, unfortunate things can happen. Remember to keep the slack out and set the hook hard. Have fun in the outdoors, please be safe and may God truly bless you!!

Lyle Johnson is President of the Louisiana Outdoor Writers Association