This year has really been different and sort of weird.

It's been a while, but I think it's time for a state of the pier address. I know the State of the Union Addresses given by our president are very important, but folks need to know what's going on in the water as well. So here goes.

When traveling through Louisiana, you can hardly go around the block without running across an eating establishment. Whether it be a mom & pop dive, a diner, a hole in the wall joint, or a five star restaurant, all of them feature fried catfish on the menu. As a matter of fact, there are lots of places where the whiskery fish are the star attraction.

But as serious as us Louisianans are about eating our catfish, we are probably more serious about catching them. It's one of my favorite pastimes, and I am blessed enough to live on the Diversion which makes it pretty easy to accomplish.

At this stage of my life tight lining is my method of choice and provides a pretty good chance of being successful. All one might need is a rod armed with a spinning, spin-cast or bait casting reel with at least 14 lb test line.

The tackle would include a weight and a hook that is cast out and fished on the bottom. Although known as "bottom-feeders" (that's why this application is the most popular) they can be caught throughout the water column.

My favorite rig is a sinker attached to the end of the line, and then the hook is tied up the line from 12" to 4 or 5 feet depending on the current speed and warmth of the water. The less the current or higher the temperature of the water, the higher off the bottom I tie my hook.

You can buy these already made up at most tackle outlets or you can make them yourself. I like making my own. Tie the sinker (1/2 oz to 3 oz depending on current speed) to the line. Come up to the distance you want the bait off the bottom and double the line to about 4" and tie a knot, making a short loop. Put a swivel on the end of the loop, then tie a 6" piece of mono to the swivel with a 1/0 catfish circle hook.

Catfish will eat just about anything, so bait is not too hard to pick out. Worms are easy to obtain and work well, but I prefer to catch shad with a cast net or dip some crawfish out of a ditch. Wieners work well too, but I have a problem eating them myself and running out of bait. Most tackle outlets have some manufactured bait as well.

Usually in the summer time, the catfish production goes down a little in our area. The water is really hot so the fish probably do like we do and just try to keep cool. They do have to eat to survive, but that takes a lot of effort. So laziness might have a role in the slower production rate. The size of the fish usually takes a nose dive as well.

But this year has really been different and sort of weird. Everything sort of happened a little later than usual although the weather patterns seemed pretty normal. The catfish are still biting pretty good, and the average size is really nice. In the last two weeks I've been fortunate enough to catch 30 or 40 blue cats, which is very unusual. I'm not complaining as a mess of them made the lunch table Sunday after church.

Under a cork: another favorite in the south is using the same rods and reels as above but using a cork to suspend the bait from 18" to 24" below the cork. This method works well in our cypress studded lakes in the late spring to early summer when the catfish are spawning.

Lakes such as Caddo Lake on the border of north Louisiana and Texas as well as Lakes Verret and Des Allemands in south Louisiana are loaded with cypress trees. The cypresses are the perfect location for the fish to feed prior to spawning while attracting both males as well as the females for easy catching.

It doesn't take a lot of expertise to watch a cork, so this style of catching the whiskered critters appeals to the novice and children as well. Under the trees one can generally find some shade as the day heats up, so it's a great outing for family and friends. Night crawlers and worms are the best bait to catch a mess for frying.

This year has been a banner year for panfish everywhere in the Blind River and Amite River basins. It's been pretty easy to catch bream, goggle-eye, chinquapin and sac-a-lait using just about any method and bait your heart desires.

The most popular method is live bait in the form of worms and crickets. A number 6 hook under a cork about 18" to 24" works really well. Another favorite is tying a jig head under the same cork at the same distance. A black with a chartreuse tail usually does the trick. Your favorite colors will probably work just as well.

Bass fishing has been just about as good as it gets. We've been quite a while since the last event (I'm not going to say the name) that caused a fish kill so the bass population has grown in numbers and size as well.

So good in fact that there are afternoon bass tournaments at St. James Boat Club on Blind River on Tuesday. The Canal Bank tournament launches in the Diversion Canal on Wednesday, and a Friday afternoon tournament out of Fred's on the River got started this year.

Layne Gautreau and I snuck out last Friday morning for a short trip of bayou therapy. The water was a little high and muddy from last weeks rain, but we managed to find five bass that were hungry enough to bite and three goggle-eye that fell victim to plastic baits.

So the State of the Pier is pretty good for sure and the outlook for the future is stellar. So until next time, remember to keep the slack out and set the hook hard, be safe in the outdoors and may God truly bless you!

Lyle Johnson is a free-lance writer, co-host of Ascension Outdoors TV and Curator of the Louisiana State Fish Records. He can be contacted at reelman@eatel.net.

Outdoor Calendar

EASL Monthly Meeting: 3rd Monday every month, East Ascension Sportsman's League meeting held at Gonzales Fire Dept on Orice Roth Rd. starting at 7:00 p.m. A meal served and special speaker will be in attendance.

Wednesday Evening Bass Tourney: Every Wednesday at Canal Bank from 5:00 p.m. until dark. Fee $40/boat, one time registration fee of $40 going toward the Classic Tournament. Weekly event through spring, summer. Call Canal Bank for information. 225-695-9074

CCA Louisiana S.T.A.R. Fishing Rodeo: May 25 thru Sept 2 summer-long CCA Louisiana saltwater fishing event. Tagged Redfish, Offshore, Inshore, Ladies & Children's divisions. Registration required. Must be CCA member. Website: ccastar.com.

Speck & Redfish Cup Kayak Tournament: 9/7/19 on Saturday-All open Louisiana waters. Weigh-in deadline 5 p.m., Pack & Paddle, Lafayette. Entry fee $25. Heaviest combination of 2 slot reds & 2 speckled trout. Optional flounder Calcutta. Lafayette Kayak Fishing Club event. Website: lafayettekayakfishing.com.

Anything Outdoors Fall Fest: September 14 @ 9:00 a.m. located at the KC hall 43472 Black Bayou Rd. Fundraiser for Anything Outdoor Helping Kids with food, fun, Jambalaya and rib cook off, silent auction and bands starting at 11:00 a.m. $5.00 entry fee. Get all the info @ www.AnythingOutdoorsHelpingKids.com.

Need an event publicized? Contact Lyle at reelman@eatel.net