OUTDOOR CORNER: Nature’s plate has much to offer the angler

Lyle Johnson

I’m sitting here at my computer at 3:30 am and it is cold outside. It’s only a couple of days until May, it’s after Easter and we get a cold front. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very grateful as I know the dog days of summer will be here way too soon, but this is just a little strange.

Early spring fishing is over, but now is the time for some early summer action, and nature’s plate has much to offer to the angler that might be interested in spending a little time in pursuit of some fish to fry.

Let’s start with panfish. Bluegill, bream or whatever you want to call them is ready to spawn so they can be found ganged up for the annual love fest. They are congregated together and it might take a little while to locate a potential bedding site, but if you stick with it you’ll end up with more fish than you can handle. But that’s a good thing!

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, although smaller fish are attracted to the live bait. Cane poles are a great way to introduce a youngster for this tactic, but any rod and reel will do.

Small jigs under a cork usually catch a few, but I prefer to fish them on a spinner rig with a very small spinner. You can vary the speed of your retrieve but slower is usually better for me. The Lake Verett area is starting to produce some decent catches of bream already. Flat Lake in the Atchafalaya Basin is beginning to heat up with some really nice catches of chinquapin as well. But you better hurry as the water is about to get really high from the Mississippi River spring rise.

Sac-a-lait are moving in to spawn right now and feeding to beef up for their springtime ritual. Shiners are always a sure bet for the delicious tasting slabs. Jigs under a cork work as well. Another way to catch them is to fish a jig without a cork, trying different depths, even up to 12 or 15 feet deep. This is a real good technique when nothing else works.

Some good reports are coming in from the Lake DesAllemands area on jigs and shiners. The Atchafalaya basin is producing good catches of sac-a-lait as well on jigs and beetle spins. A little farther out, Toledo Bend is on fire with really nice catches of the delicious slabs being caught at night.

Catfish have made their way upriver to spawn also and feed ravenously this time of year. “Tight lining” is a very popular way to catch them. I like to tie a sinker on the bottom and make a loop and tie the hook up about a foot from the bottom. The whiskery fish feed mostly on smell, so just about anything will work for bait. Night crawlers work well and there is many commercial types of bait in stores that work OK. Shad are catfish cocaine, so if you can catch some with a cast net, you’re in business.

But there is one bait that can catch all the above fish and many more and it only happens this time of the year. Crawfish! Late winter and early spring is the time crawfish give birth to their young, even in small ditches. That’s where to get the ones that will make a fishing trip something to remember. All it takes is a dip-net, some rubber boots and a bucket to put them in. But not just any ole ditch will do. The ditch needs to hold some water just about year round for the crawfish to survive to the next year.

After dipping the critters, put them in a bucket with some of the grass on top to keep them cool. Water is not necessary because the temperature is cool, so just keep them damp. Small ones are perfect for perch and sac-a-lait and the larger ones are good for catfish and other bigger fish including bass. But even the small ones will catch anything.

Holding the bait upside down, insert the hook at the tail and come out just inside the head so the crawfish will hang straight. Usually there will be some of the crawfish that will have molted their shell and will be “soft-shelled”. That is fish honey, and won’t last long before some fish tries to eat it. And then get ready! It will be on. Not only will you usually catch plenty of fish, but you will have a variety of species as well.

The only reason that you may not catch any of these fish is that you are not out there fishing. This time of the year is one of the best times of the year to bring those kids fishing. The weather is very pleasant, it’s not too hot and the fish will usually co-operate enough to hold their interest.

Hey, it’s just a great time to experience the outdoors. The birds are beginning to nest and the sights and sounds are worth the trip. Wow, just writing this makes me eager to go somewhere this weekend and “get on the water”! So until next time, have fun in the outdoors, be safe and may God truly bless you.