Outdoor Corner: The Amite River

Lyle Johnson
One of many big bass I caught on the Amite River. This one was a few years age caught on a lunker lure.

My wife, Deborah, and I took off on our jet skis last Saturday for a short ride. We traveled up the Diversion Canal just enjoying being on the water. As usual, my mind started wondering back in time to all the experiences I’ve lived.

Brian Williams and Kelvin York were fishing lake Verret on the west side across from cracker head catching 71 bream and 10 catfish. Photo provided

As we passed all the houses that are very beautiful, I remember back to the mid '60’s and how it looked back then. I’m not sure there were any camps back then. I was a young boy, but I don’t remember seeing any. We fished trot lines for catfish and did plenty of bass fishing.

We went through the weir and that’s when the memories of the Amite River flooded my mind. The Amite has always been my favorite place in the world to fish. My experience there started with my Paw Paw Marchand (owner of Roy Marchand & Son).

He was an avid fly fisherman who loved to fish for bream with a popping bug. His normal route was to leave the camp on Chinquapin Canal and start fishing along Hwy 22 in the Old Amite River (better known as Old River) and turn right when hitting the Amite.

He fished that end of Old River, back to the camp. His average catch was 30 to 45 hand-sized bluegill along with an occasional bass or two. His largest bass came on the fly rod, when a five-pounder tried to eat a bluegill that he hooked on a popping bug.

My love for the Amite really kicked in full force when I started bass fishing with my dad, Jerry Lyle. He was a great bass angler. It was often said by his peers that “Jerry Lyle could catch a bass in a damp dish rag.”

As time went on, that love just got stronger, and I fished it from south Baton Rouge to Lake Maurepas in Clio. The first area I learned was around our camp, as the range was from French Settlement by the weir down river to Bayou Barbary. That area was “my spot” through after high school.

Later in life, the area from Bayou Barbary to Lake Maurepas was added to my repertoire. That only fueled the fire more. After getting married, I moved to Prairieville on Old Jefferson. That meant Port Vincent was only eight miles from home. When my son Wesley got old enough to fish, we learned that area, as it was close to home.

We fished from the weir northward as far as Redman Lake and learned a whole new area. My latest trek has been even farther north than I’d ever been fishing before, up to where Clay Cut Bayou ties in.

The geography changes in those four areas so the fishing does as well. Let’s take a verbal tour to explain those changes and how it’s like fishing four different bodies of water.

From Denham Springs to Redman Lake, there is a 35’ drop in sea level. Actually it’s a 415’ drop from Amite county in Mississippi to Lake Maurepas, and that’s why the water flows so fast during flood situations. The banks are steep with high bluff banks, and there are sand bars everywhere. It’s more like a mountain stream, as there is a downstream current there always.

Travel there is a bit treacherous, so being careful is a must. Drive your boat upstream as far as you want to go and fish downstream with the current. There are lots of trees and logs, so any place there is a current break is where the bass will be waiting to ambush baitfish.

Small spinner baits and crank baits along with plastics are good choices to catch the species of bass that live there. Spotted and red-eye (shoal) bass are available species here.

From Redman Lake to the weir on the Diversion Canal, the landscape changes again. There are some steep banks but no swamp yet. There are sand bars on one side and deep bank on the other side.

You can go down the deep banks fishing any bait you like and hit points and sandbar ledges with crankbaits and worms. Largemouth bass dominate the catch, but spotted bass will be in the mix as well.

The next section goes from the weir to Bayou Barbary. This section offers the most diverse selection of cover and areas to fish. So many Cypress trees that line the bank are very desirable spots along with camp piers.

Lily pads come into play. They are good spots for bait fish to hide and offer shade as well. There are some points to fish along the way while the swamp is beginning to come into play so sloughs (runouts) begin to appear. These are great congregating places for largemouth bass.

The next section runs all the way to Lake Maurepas. The land is at or below sea level and swamp dominates the scenery. Beautiful cypress trees line the shore line with a mix of tupelo gum trees. There are many sloughs (runouts) that empty from the swamp and hardly any dry bank to speak of all the way to Lake Maurepas.

It’s over 40 nautical miles from where Clay Cut Bayou hits the Amite to the mouth of Lake Maurepas. This trek is like fishing four different rivers and is one of the reasons I enjoy fishing there.

It would be pretty much impossible to fish this all in one day and do it any justice. It would be a great boat ride to enjoy all this scenery. Heck, there’s even beaches along the banks of the upper reaches of the journey that offer hard, sandy bottoms to wade and swim.

I pray everybody made it through Christobal OK and we don’t have any fish kills to worry about. So until next time, remember to keep the slack out and set the hook hard. Be safe in the outdoors, have fun and may God truly bless you!

Larry Thomas caught this 4.98 beauty that won him fishing the Amite River in the Fred’s Friday night bass tournament on a Spro Frog. Photo provided