By Capt. Michael Manis
For years, seven to be exact, I’ve been chasing redfish around the state. That includes both coasts and the panhandle. I’ve even ventured into Alabama and have made the run as far as the Pascagoula River in Mississippi. This was all part of fishing three different redfish tournament series with my long time tournament partner, Captain Jay Withers. Since early on, we had heard the stories of the fishery in Louisiana and never seemed able to afford or fit it into our schedule. We finally decided to make it happen this year and put together a trip scheduled around the IFA Redfish Series Championship. Although we were going to fish the event, our goal and emphasis was simply to finally explore, fish, and experience what is regarded as the best red fishing in the country. It was a full 12 hour drive from our home in south west Florida and we were on the water the very next morning to begin what would be a nine day trip. Over the course of the trip, we split our time fishing marshes and ponds in both Venice and Delacroix. Distance is a relative term; and even though either area was not all that far from New Orleans, they’re both very remote. In fact, the vast wilderness we encountered reminded me a lot of the 10,000 Islands with marsh instead of mangroves. Although tide swings were minimal, navigation was still tricky at low tide. Because of all the ground we wanted to cover, we decided to bring a 24’ Pathfinder Bay boat. However, if you stay away from open water, a small technical skiff would be just fine and if you like to pole you could also get by without a trolling motor.
Our goal was to sight fish throwing fly and soft plastics on both spin and bait casting rods. The larger breeding stock move into the marshes from the Gulf this time of year and we wanted to spend some time targeting these fish as well as trying to find some good slot size fish. We were led to believe that Louisiana reds weren’t as spooky as Charlotte Harbor fish and that there were good numbers of oversized fish. Both these assessments were correct as there’s just too much wilderness for the fish to be pressured like home and there’s definitely no shortage of oversized stock. On fly, we threw a nine weight with a floating weight forward line. Early, gurglers worked well and as the sun got high we switched to shrimp patterns. In the marsh, long casts aren’t really necessary and a 30’ cast was all that was needed. Shoreline points produced best. Throughout the day, it wasn’t unusual to see shrimp jumping out of the water up and down the shoreline. Moreover, just like anywhere, fishing was best where mullet was thickest. Close to the Mississippi, the brackish marsh can produce some cloudy water. This combined with the competitive nature of these fish makes popping corks very popular in the marsh. That’s probably why the gurgler worked so well. The popping cork imitates a fish feeding on top and it definitely drew attention when popped a couple times then left to sit. A three inch Gulp shrimp worked well with this rig. We also threw quite a few Slayer paddle tails. It has great tail action and the vibration they put out drew some aggressive strikes.
Delacroix and Venice were a bit different but both locations sat outside the protected levee systems. They were both way out in the marsh. We spent most our time fishing out of Delacroix. It’s an interesting place where just about every building is built on very high platforms or stilts. It’s mostly fishing camps and shrimp operations with only 11 families living there full time. You’re in the marsh as soon as you load the boat. We found some of our best fish at the edge of the marsh where it met the Gulf. There are no marina facilities here; Just a few small rundown ramps. Keep in mind, hurricane Isaac had gone through over the summer and the entire town suffered through a 12 foot storm surge. The entire place was in the process of rebuilding. In 2005, hurricane Katrina leveled the entire place down to only foundations. Venice, while way down south on a peninsula into the marsh, has a fairly large marina that seems to stay busy. It has some modern conveniences and sits between the Mississippi River and the outside marsh. Here, just to the west is marsh that produces the large oversize fish that has made Louisiana famous. We fished it with the same techniques and it’s probably the best place on earth to throw a fly at giant reds in shallow water. You’d think nine days is plenty; but, it’s not. This is where I’d like to head if I ever have the chance to return.