Outdoor Corner

The president of the United States every now and then gives a State of the Union address mandated by our Constitution. Our Governor gives a State of the State report on occasion, and I’ve even heard the Mayor of New Orleans give a State of the City report as well. So as I’ve done in the past, it’s time for a State of the Pier address and let you know how things are going on the pier.

The State of the Union: there is a little hope. State of the State: not as good as I’d hoped but very grateful for what we have. State of the City of New Orleans: no words needed. State of the Pier: good and it’s only gonna get better!

We had what I might consider to be the coldest that I’ve experienced in my soon-to-be-65 years. It snowed twice with nearly 5 to 6 inches in Ascension parish. We had lows in the 20’s numerous times with one stretch lasting 6 mornings in a row, not to mention a 14-degree morning that broke a long time low.

But a really weird thing happened. Once the cold weather stopped, everything got green all at once and even the water warmed up really fast. That was good for the bass spawn, and folks were catching them everywhere as Blind River had one of its best late winter/early spring runs in a long, long time.

The bass are still biting fairly well. Some are still spawning while some are transitioning from their spring time haunts laying eggs to their late spring/early summertime hangouts.

If you’re going to target the spawners, a top water bait like a Smithwick Rogue might be a good choice for the early morning. A Texas rigged plastic bait is always at the top of my list for this time of the year. Zoom’s baby brush hog in june bug or watermelon red colors do well in the stained waters around here. Of course a black/blue jig is a standard for targeting spawning bass.

If you’re going after the post-spawn fish, frog fishing the grass beds is a great choice for early morning unless it is overcast, then you could fish it all day. Spinner baits and bladed jigs are good around the cypress trees and wood as well. Run outs come back in play as the bass are trying to get back in shape looking for something to eat and put back on some fat after the rigors of replenishing the specie.

Bluegill and goggle eye are back on the radar as they are about to get on a feeding spree preparing for their spawning which is a little later than bass. Crickets and night crawlers will do the job just fine if you’re looking for something natural to fish with. Jigs and beetle spins are the artificial baits of choice that work well also. The sac-a-lait are still spawning so fishing shallow is a good way to put some in the box. Shiners are the natural bait of choice and jigs do just fine fished under a cork.

Now for what is red hot and in its prime is the catfish. The action fishing on the pier has been nothing short of amazing. In the last 10 days I’ve caught around 90 catfish with three rods.

There are several species of catfish and they don’t all spawn at the same time. This is the time of year when they come upstream and eat as much as they can in preparation for laying and fertilizing eggs to propagate the catfish world. So from now until the end of April or early part of May one of the species will be feeding relentlessly and some will be laying their eggs.

So for the average angler, tight lining is the method of choice. There’s usually some current around our waterways and rain will always add some of the needed moving water that makes them really bite. A sinker and hook on the end of just about any rod and reel combo will put you in business.

Catfish feed by sight and smell with smelling being the most used method of filling their bellies. Night crawlers are the easiest bait to get that works pretty good. You can also get some scented bait at a big box store, but I’ve not had much luck with that.

A little harder to get but well worth the effort is crawfish out of a ditch. An inexpensive dip net and a better than average effort will get you some really good bait. Not every ditch with water will have the coveted mud bugs in them so that’s where the effort comes in. You’ll have to keep trying different spots until you find them.

The best bait of all is shad and that takes the most effort. They usually have to be caught with a cast net and that can really be lots of work. Not only do you need to learn to throw it but there is usually 5 to 10 lbs. of lead on the net that can wear you down if multiple casts are needed. Again, they are worth the effort. So give it a shot!

So the State of the Pier? In my opinion it’s about 6.5 on the scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the highest rating. But it’s climbing every day, so it’s a good time to be fishing in the outdoors. Remember to have fun in the outdoors, be safe and may God truly bless you!!

Lyle Johnson is freelance writer and the President of the Louisiana Outdoor Writers Association. He can be reached at reelman@eatel.net