Outdoor Corner: “Go with the Flow”

Lyle Johnson
Paw Paw Sonny, as he was affectionately called by his family with granddaughter Isabella Watts at an East Ascension Sportsman's League Kid's Fishing Rodeo. Photo by Lyle Johnson

(This article won 1st place for best newspaper column in Louisiana Outdoor Writer's Association’s Excellence in Craft Award in 2005)

My father-in-law, Sonny Guice, passed away last week at the age of 89. He lived a life full of adventure and loved enjoying the outdoors with his family, so here’s a tribute to one of my best friends from 2005 with one of the many adventures.

A few weeks ago, before all this rain started, I had an idea about taking off to the mouth of Lake Maurepas on a hunch. This time of the year, if the rain holds off, the water in the lake will have salinity levels for some of the saltwater species to move way up the estuary.

There were rumors of some specs being caught in Pass Manchac, so we took off (myself, Sonny, and Wesley, my son) for Blind River and Lake Maurepas. I figured at the least that we could catch some catfish.

We put in at the old public launch on Chinquapin Canal. It’s open again, only it’s private now with a $5 launch fee. Not far down Chinquapin Canal, we spotted some shad in a school on top of the water and made a few throws with the cast net and caught some. They were very small, having just recently hatched, but good enough to fish with. We already had some night crawlers and frozen shrimp, so along with the few plastics we had, we were set.

The lake was flat and it was a beautiful morning. We pulled up to a spot where the water is a little shallow and set the anchor out. Now I had specs on my mind but we weren’t foolish enough to not rig up some poles for some bottom fishing and those tasty catfish. Sonny baited up with some of the shrimp, Wesley baited his line with night crawlers and I put one of those shad on mine.

I set my rod down and picked up a spinning rod and put a jig head and plastic minnow (opening night in color) and started fan casting to keep the specs honest. The only thing that wasn’t working in our favor is that there was no current. Usually that’s bad.

Now, things don’t always go as you plan, and that means sometimes you have to adapt. This was one of those days. In a few minutes, Sonny had a crab trying to eat that small piece of shrimp, he reeled it in and Wesley dipped it and put it in the ice chest. Hey, crabs are my favorite shelled seafood, so this was a pleasant surprise.

Now Wesley came up with a great idea. “As soon as somebody catches a catfish, I’ll clean it and use the head for crab bait. It wasn’t long and I caught a keeper blue cat, Wesley cleaned it and hooked the head to a rod and threw it in to catch some crabs.

Sonny caught a couple more crabs on the shrimp as Wesley and I caught a couple more catfish, cleaned them and set out more crab lines. I quit fishing for the specs as the water was probably not right for that species and concentrated on the catfish. We had three lines out for the crabs and three out for the catfish.

The crabs kept us pretty busy which was pretty surprising because of the lack of current and the catfish were hitting only fair. The tide started going out about 8:30, and the fishing picked up a little. About 10, the catfish had just about quit biting and the crabs had slowed considerably.

I gave it some thought and said, “Hey, let’s move out to the deeper water and try it for a while.” Everybody was agreeable, and we pulled the anchor and moved out about 3 or 4 hundred yards to the channel. The depth is about 6 to 7 feet and the current was really pulling hard. I was hoping we had made the right decision.

I only had a few of those shad left but I was getting bit on just about every throw but couldn’t catch anything. The crabs were biting a little, but not like in the shallow water and they didn’t hold the bait very well either and I began to wonder about the “decision”! Then it clicked!

With five of those shad left, the catfish started to bite and I caught a blue cat on each of those precious baits. I was lamenting the fact we hadn’t caught more that morning. Like usual though, everything lined up and they began to bite the night crawlers and probably would have eaten most anything we threw.

About 10:45 it was on! We were catching a catfish on just about every throw. The fish seemed to be up off the bottom, so I started engaging the reel as soon as the bait hit the water and kept the slack out of the line and I could feel the hit before the bait even hit the bottom. The action was fast and furious. Sonny stayed with some crab lines out and caught about a dozen more crabs along with a few catfish.

We didn’t catch any specs but we did land some salt-water species. Three stingrays, yes stingrays, and a handful of croakers. So just how did our morning go? When we got back to Prairieville and separated the crabs from the catfish, the total was 44 catfish and 5 dozen crabs and we left the catfish biting!

So sometimes you have to change your plans and just go with the flow. We did and it really paid off. 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!! Thank you Sonny Guice for all those memories.

(L to R) Sonny, myself, Wesley (grandson), Nathon Williams and Goosie Guice (son) One of those many adventures on a fishing trip in Grand Isle with family and friends. Photo Provided