Outdoor Corner: It's a most wonderful time of the year

Lyle Johnson
The specs that Jeff Lee along with his wife Cheri and their son Zack caught in Lafitte last Saturday morning.

Although there's already some Christmas stuff in the stores (and it's a great holiday), that's not exactly what I'm talking about in the title. We've had two cold fronts (if that's what you want to call them) along with some welcome cool weather. Santa and his elves are a ways away. I'm sure they're working overtime about now.

Most of the photos we are getting for Ascension Outdoors TV center around hunting. Lots of teal, squirrels, and deer have become the norm. I've made a couple of squirrel hunts myself, so hunting is sort of in the air.

As most folks' focus turns towards the woods, fall and early winter have always been my favorite time of the year for fishing for quite a few reasons. Reason number one: the temperatures have gone from oven-baking to cool or even slightly cold, which is comfortable for the angler and affects the fish in a positive way as well.

But my favorite thing about fishing in the fall and winter is the lack of company there is on the water. School is back in session, the temperatures are falling, and folks are heading to the woods so there is way more peace and quiet out on our waterways. Just dress for the weather so you don't freeze when it gets really cold.

Humans are warm-blooded. Fish are cold-blooded, so the temperature has a great effect on their metabolism. In the summer when the temperatures are high they have to expend a lot of energy chasing their food for very little return, and their body mass tends to shrink. Barometric pressure does, as well and much more as it gets colder.

As the water cools they have to spend less energy to catch their prey so the weight gain rises as January and February roll around. An angler's opportunity to catch larger fish, even in the salt water gets really good. The activity of larger fish decreases when the water temperatures are high.

Instead of roaming around and searching for food, a bass is sort of like a person sitting in a recliner. He's not going to get out of the chair and go looking around the pantry, the kitchen, or refrigerator to see if there's any food. He'll just wait for his wife to bring him something to eat. He gets good and fat.

That makes it a little easier to pinpoint their location. All an angler needs to do is find all the recliners in the water. That can be a slough or run-out, a point of a canal, a fallen tree in the water, or a water depth change. They become much more structure related and easier to find.

Occasionally you can find them schooling and in a feeding frenzy as they gorge themselves on a school of shad. It's sort of like a good pig-out at your favorite buffet location. You eat a plateful of food, but it never runs out. So, unfortunately you just go back for more. It takes much longer to get out of the place than it took for you to get in, you're so full.

As the water temperature cools, the fat just piles on. So because of the more weight added coupled with cooler water temperatures, anglers need to slow down their presentation of the lures as well. Fat, lazy bass won't move as much to catch their food as they know another offering might be coming along that's a little easier to catch.

Redfish and speckled trout somewhat follow the same routine. They've been in their late spring and summer haunts near the coast and offshore as well. They go there to spawn and remain until their food heads into the marsh because of cooler temperatures.

Saltwater fish are different than their freshwater counterparts. They always roam around looking for food. That only changes when the water gets so cold that it causes them to find the deepest spots to stay as warm as they can. That's where the bait goes as well.

Live bait is usually the ticket when the fish are near the coast in the warmer months. As the temperature starts to cool and the fish move into the marsh, artificial baits become the go-to method of catching them. That does away with the hassle of using live bait and the enormous cost as well.

Slower presentations and fishing on the bottom comes into play. A popping cork is still a great way to catch them when they first move in but as it gets colder, a bottom (tight lining and jigging) or a slow retrieve works pretty well.

One of my favorite areas to fish in the fall and early winter is down in Dularge below Houma in Theriot, La. The weather has to get a little cooler for the specs to turn on, but the opportunities for redfish and bass are off the charts this time of year.

A good fishing buddy and friend, Leavitt Hamilton, and his son Dayton made a trip last weekend to Dularge. The pair used bass baits in the form of a rattle-trap and a bladed jig on points to put a hurtin' on a limit of redfish and nearly a limit of bass.

Another friend, Jeff Lee along with his wife Cheri and their son Zack took a trip down to Lafitte last Saturday morning before the LSU/Mississippi State game. They used plastic baits (color didn't matter) and caught 25 nice specs before 9:30 a.m. and got back in plenty of time to watch the Tigers put a whuppin' on the Bulldogs.

Hunting is getting in full swing but it's a great time for fishing as well. 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.

Squirrel & Rabbit Season: Oct. 5-Feb. 29, open statewide on private lands only. Daily bag limit 8 and possession limit 24.

Fishing for Ashley Bass Tournament: Oct 26 @ Doiron's Landing in Stephensville. Entry fee $130 includes boat launch, $25 big bass optional. Benefit for medical expenses for Ashley Lanoux with breast cancer. Call Thomas Lanoux 225-445-3498 or see LA-BASS on Facebook.

South La Highpower Club Match: Oct. 27 @ 8:30 a.m., Ascension Parish Sheriff's Range, St. Landry Road, Gonzales. NRA match rifle or service rifle, 200-yard/50-rounds match course. Fee $12 members, $15 nonmembers, $5 juniors. $15 annual club & Civilian Marksmanship Program membership (allows purchases from CMP). Call George Serrett 225-389-6118. Email: gserrett41@cox.net.

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