Lyle Johnson, President of the Louisiana Outdoors Writers Association
I’m enjoying a little R&R fly fishing out of my Kajun Kustom Kayak.

We really had a whopper of a winter, certainly none like I can remember in my 64 years. It snowed twice, one of the times our community looked like a post card from up north. There were snowmen everywhere you went. We also had six days in a row where the low temperatures were in the 20’s. Man, that was cold.

One of the official first signs that spring has officially arrived is the swamp maples begin to bloom. Those are the trees with beautiful, deep red blossoms that almost take your breath away. This year I looked out my front door I noticed those familiar red blossoms just across the street from our house.

Usually next in line are the willow trees and hardwoods. The cypress trees round out the top three. But this year was different. As cold as it got far as long as it stayed, it seemed that everything bloomed at once. Even the wildlife came alive as well. Dark and dreary winter turned into vivid color and life all at once.

The deep red color, yellow of the willow and bright green of the cypress; wow, we sort of get fall in reverse. This display is much more attractive in the spring than in the fall. Of course, all the old people say that you can bet the house that when the pecan trees blossom there is no chance of a frost. That hasn’t happened yet, so hold on to your coat.

But my sure fire sign that spring has made its official arrival is the folks that begin to line the side of the highway to fish from the bank. The “Bucket Brigade,” as I call them, begin to arrive in small numbers at first but it doesn’t take long for others to follow. They participate in the annual roadside harvest of our fish population.

My first memories fishing as a young boy was done from the bank long before I got my shot at fishing from a boat with the adults. Three young boys spent most of their summer on bicycles with a cane pole in one hand and a box of worms in the other. The gang was my brother Cliff and my cousin Jeff Bourque. We would spend our day fishing in Bayou Francois and New River along with a few ponds in Gonzales.

Daylight to dark was usually our time limit for a day of fishing if we could get out of doing any chores. Our quest was to catch enough fish for a fish fry, hoping that either my momma or aunt Cat would look at those six puppy dog eyes and feel sorry enough for us to cook our catch. It usually worked out.

Bank fishing is a very simple but relaxing way to spend a little time in the outdoors. First, it is affordable; much less expensive that the purchase of a boat and motor that you have to fill with gas and spend more money on fuel to pull it to a boat launch somewhere.

With a little planning you can spend as little as an hour or so up to an all day excursion, even enjoying a picnic lunch. It’s a great way to introduce a youngster to the art of fishing as well. If they get bored or impatient there’s plenty of exploring they can take part in right at their feet.

What could one expect to catch? Let’s start with panfish. Bluegill, bream or whatever you want to call them are beginning to eat so they can put on some weight for the spawn. There are plenty of ways to catch them right now. Night crawlers are always worth bringing along; they’re easy to obtain, and usually work well. Small jigs under a cork usually catch a few and Sac-a-lait are moving in to spawn right now and feeding as well to beef up for their springtime ritual. Shiners are always a sure bet for the delicious tasting slabs.

Catfish can easily be caught in the spring, but if you’re going to target catfish moving water is a better place to make your attempt. Current can be tidal movement or current provided by rain causing a rise in the water and we’ve had plenty of rain lately. The water is still a little cold so fishing on the bottom using a sinker is the best way to make this attempt.

Salt water fishing has become a very popular way to fish without a boat as well. La 1 between Leeville and Grand Isle is the most popular as it’s easy to find a place to fish as well as plenty of fish to be had. Artificial baits as well as live bait will catch fish but market shrimp will usually provide plenty of action.

I guess we could add kayak fishing to the list of ways to “bank” fish as you launch your boat from the bank. It’s become very popular and can be very affordable as well. “What’s the best kayak for me to start with?” is a question I get asked a lot.

Here’s my advice. If you’re not 100% sure about how it will go for you, start off with a plastic one that you could get for around $200. Take it out to see if it works for you and if you like it you haven’t invested an arm and a leg and you can upgrade to a better “Yak” that is better suited for fishing. Whatever gets you in the water is the best one for you to start with. You’ll like it.

One of the most enjoyable things for me is even if you don’t have a lot of success in an attempt to do some bank fishing, an excursion to the outdoors is very relaxing and provides lot’s of opportunities to see some sort of wildlife. Get out and give it a try. Remember to keep the slack out and set the hook hard. So until next time have fun in the outdoors, be safe and may God truly bless you!!