Outdoor Corner: A Magical Zone

Lyle Johnson

In the early 1800s, the Pirate and smuggler Jean Lafitte used the route from New Orleans up the Mississippi River to Bayou Manchac. He then navigated through the Amite River, Lake Maurepas, Lake Ponchartrain out to the Gulf of Mexico.

My son Wesley with a very nice bass and redfish we caught on one of our trips to Dularge and the Lake Decade area.

Then Louisiana’s Governor Claiborne had the mouth of the Mississippi so locked up against him that Lafitte began using this route to smuggle his treasure robbed from Spanish ships to sell in New Orleans to eager buyers to avoid tariffs.

Along this same route from Bayou Manchac to the Gulf of Mexico, nature has provided a treasure of its own that actually takes place all along what we call “south of Interstate 10 or I-10.”

The first part of the treasure is the fresh waters that are teeming with fish just waiting to be caught. There are bass: largemouth, spotted, white and yellow. They are joined with catfish: blue, channel, bullhead and flathead along with panfish: bluegill, chinquapin, goggle-eye and crappie or our french version, sac-a-lait.

The second part of the treasure begins at the Gulf and heads north. This section of the treasure is loaded with a multitude of species of its own. Speckled trout, redfish, flounder, black drum and sheepshead, just to name a few.

The saltwater’s path inland starts at the big bays that flow into smaller bays and ponds, then further inland through the many lakes, canals and bayous. It is here in these abounding estuaries where fertilized brown and white shrimp eggs hatch to start the food chain.

The eggs of the many species of fish that inhabit the Gulf find their way to these same estuaries where this cycle of life has its start. Tidal movements and wind push some of these fish and shrimp on a northward path.

The path that Lafitte took from Bayou Manchac to the Amite River quickly turns into cypress/tupelo swamp that holds only freshwater fish. As the Amite flows into Lake Maurepas the water turns what is called brackish. It has very minute parts of saltwater, certainly undetectable by taste.

From Maurepas to Lake Ponchartrain, the salt levels increase where it can sustain some saltwater species while low enough for freshwater species to tolerate it as well. This is where things start to get magical with the opportunity to catch multiple species of fish, both fresh and salt water.

Sometimes it takes place by happenstance as an angler might be after bass and catches a redfish or two. The opposite might take place as the target is redfish and specs, then an encounter with some bass take place.

Through the years while fishing in Blind River my family has caught many species of saltwater fish between the Diversion and out toward Lake Maurepas. Those species include flounder, (more that you would think) speckled trout, redfish, sheepshead, black drum, stingrays (8 in one day) and a hardhead catfish. I’ve even caught a gafftop catfish and a skate off my pier in the Diversion.

Back about 15 or 20 years ago we had some dry summers that allowed the saltwater to come up farther than I can remember in my lifetime. Catching redfish in Lake Maurepas was pretty common and for 2 or 3 years there were a fair amount of specs at the mouth of Blind River.

There is a line, not a straight one but nevertheless, a line that travels east to west where the magic takes place where anglers can target both freshwater and saltwater. It happens below New Orleans at Lake Ponchartrain, Venice, Dularge, Delacroix, Chalmette, below Lafayette all the way to Lake Charles. There’s no place quite like it.

I’ve had the pleasure of catching plenty of bass in Venice with our catches sprinkled with redfish on just about every trip in the same spots using the same baits. I’m just starting to learn the area below Chalmette in Bayou Bienvenue where redfish are mixed in with the bass.

But my favorite spot is down in Dularge fishing out of Falgoust Canal and Lake Decade. Of course, it’s also a favorite place because my usual fishing partner there was my son, Wesley.

One of our most memorable trips was a day when we caught a limit of redfish and over 100 bass using spinner baits, a lunker lure and pitching plastics. We even added a big blue catfish to the catch as well. Nobody does it like Louisiana in the outdoors!

Leavitt Hamilton and his fishing partner for the day, Christy Sawyer with a sampling of their catch in the Lake Decade area.

Just a reminder about the annual Dreams Come True Fundraiser that will take place on April 24 at two locations. Galvez Hardware will host the Crawfish Boiling Contest. The entry fee is $250 and covers the crawfish supplied by DCT and your registration. Cooks need to bring everything you need to boil one sack of crawfish plus table and tent. Also bring a garden hose with a wash bucket.

Fred’s on the River will host the remainder of events. There will be a Jambalaya Cook-Off with an Entry fee of $150. A Crackling Cook-Off with an entry fee $50 is on the agenda. Cooks may set up 7:00 am pick up for judging will begin at noon.

Compete in a Mini-Pot Jambalaya Cook-Off: Entry fee is $25. Bring your own supplies. Cooking from 10 a.m. to noon, pick-up at 12:15 p.m. for judging. There will also be a team corn-hole tournament with a $25 entry fee. There will also be a silent auction. Donations to the auction are still being accepted and well as sponsorships are still being sought.

Live Bands will also perform at Fred’s on the River that include NaNaSha along with Chris LeBlanc & Zydeco Mike. A Cajun Classic Car Show will take place and a 50/50 raffle will be available.

For all the competitions or sponsorships, you can sign up by mail, or at Galvez Hardware. For more information call Rodney with Cajun Livin N Cookin (225) 328-6735 or Galvez Hardware (225) 622-1114. Mail to: Dreams Come True P.O. Box 445, French Settlement La. 70733.

After all the rain we’ve had it will be great to enjoy an event like this in the sunshine! So, until next time, remember to keep the slack out and set the hook hard. Have fun in the outdoors, be safe and may God truly bless you!