“Joie de Vivre,” Fishing the Cajun Coast

“Joie de Vivre,” Fishing the Cajun Coast

By John Flores

“Joie de Vivre,” Fishing the Cajun Coast Centrally located, uniquely created by nature, and deeply revered by the locals who live here, the waterways of St. Mary Parish’s Cajun Coast kiss the northern edge of the Gulf of Mexico. What’s more, perhaps nowhere else in America does such abundance and beauty exist together.

The name Atchafalaya comes from Choctaw words that mean “long river.” As the long river makes its southerly 137-mile trek from Simmesport where it, the Red and Mississippi Rivers diverge, the large stream winds its way through the Atchafalaya Basin eventually spilling into the Gulf of Mexico on St. Mary Parish’s door step. Here it forms the vast brackish water estuary known as the Atchafalaya Delta. And within this ecosystem along the Cajun Coast is an angler’s paradise.

Freshwater sportfish include sac-a-lait (a Cajun French name for crappie meaning, sack of milk for it’s beautiful meat), largemouth bass, a red-ear sunfish locals call “chinquapins,” bluegills and three species of catfish (blue, channel and flat head). Saltwater gamefish include red fish, black drum, speckled trout, and flounder.

The Cajun Coast is the Gateway to the Atchafalaya Basin. It’s the basin’s tupelo and cypress tree swamp that draws bass anglers from around the country. And it is here, back in 2003, that Pachuta, Mississippi FLW Bass Pro Paul Elias had a two-day, 10-fish catch totaling 34 pounds 2 ounces that earned him a $100,000 first place prize on the tour.

Along the coastal tributaries, canals and bayous largemouth “marsh” bass live fast and die young. Few reach three pounds as tropical weather events and living year-round in a dog-eat-dog world impact these little scrappers’ growth. But, during the late summer and early fall, a bass fisherman can sit on one drainage and catch fish after fish with artificial baits.

What’s not to like about catching palm-size Chinquapins and bluegills in the spring? Hot spots above Morgan City in the Atchafalaya Basin are Flat Lake, American Lake, Duck Lake and the Shell Oil Field Canals. A little No. 6 Aberdeen hook underneath a balsawood cork with a worm attached is all you need in these locations.

Catfish may be king in the parish simply because on any given day, when no other fish bites, you can always count on a catfish. Moreover, it’s a fish that can be caught tight-lining from boat or bank. Places out-of-towners can fish catfish from the bank are from the Morgan City wharf along the Atchafalaya River Front, the Berwick Boat Landing, Burns Point and Cypremort Point State Park. Just bring an ice chest, a folding chair, sunscreen and plenty to drink, as spring, summer and fall can be hot.

Saltwater anglers coming to the Cajun Coast have a plethora of places east to west below Morgan City and Franklin for some terrific action. In the summer, fall and winter — when the Atchafalaya River drops below flood stage — good catches of redfish can be made at Halter’s Island, Oyster Bayou, Locust Bayou on Point Au Fer, and the Atchafalaya Delta WMA sight fishing.

In July and August redfishing can be stellar around Marsh Island’s Worm and Bird Bayous, Southwest Pass and Dry Reef. As summer turns to fall, it’s a great time to catch speckled trout at the many Eugene Island offshore platforms, around Marsh Island in places like Pavy’s Reef, the Nickle, Tee Butte and in the Cove at Cypremort Point.

The French-speaking natives of this part of the state have a saying, “joie de vivre,” meaning; “The Joy of Living.” You’ll find out what they’re talking about when you make your next trip to fish the Cajun Coast.