The Cajun Connection of Golden Meadow
The Cajun Connection of Golden Meadow
Captain Calvin Dufrene reveals his secrets to fishing Louisiana's Golden Meadow
It was 4:55 A.M.-cold, calm, and dark. The bright, yellow, illuminative roadside-sign stood out in the darkness in the distance. There it was, Rose's Cafe, the prearranged meeting place for what would turn out to be an adventurous experience, to say the least.
"Like some coffee?" the waitress uttered. "Please", I replied, checking out the wallpaper behind the bar. Must have had over 200 one dollar bills, autographed with different truckers CB handles on them.
Since I was 35 minutes early, and drawing stares as some kind of stranger, I questioned the waitress if she knew Calvin Dufrene and was this his usual meeting place? All three patrons smiled and, in an unsynchronized manner, nodded to the affirmative, bringing a relief to my uneasiness.
5:37 A.M., the Cajun connection was made. There entering the cafe door was a thin, ruddy looking man, dressed in camouflaged coveralls. "Calvin Dufrene?" I questioned.
By his audible reply, Dufrene affirmed his heritage; speech marked by the Cajun dialect common to the people born and reared in this area. And, it really didn't dawn on me until then, how an hour-and-forty-five minute drive from the metropolitan area of New Orleans can put you in another world-language and all.
During breakfast Dufrene assured me that by day's end my arms would have had a good workout. It seemed to be a bragging and undaunting way of assuring a newcomer to the area.
A short distance from the cafe, we met at Chick's Bait and Seafood, where Dufrene was busy scooping live cocahoes out of the holding tank. This place is located in Golden Meadow on Alex Plaisance Blvd., a road which partially parallels La. Hwy. 1 to the west and junctions back at both north and south points.
At the boat launch, located just behind the bait place, Dufrene wasted no time as the 18 1/2 ft. aluminum Cajun Special glided off the rusty trailer and into the canal. Prior to launching, mig welds could be observed on the underside, evidence of past battle scars from relentless pounding and use. "Never had much trouble with the motor, I use it most everyday," was his reply to my question on its dependability. One flick of the ignition key and the motor quickly came alive, as if to reassure its owner of its soundness that had been previously questioned. Still and all, skepticism lingered with regard to the hull.
"We're gonna try right here by these pipes-caught a few here the other day," Dufrene said, peering out just ahead of the boat. We had run no more than a few minutes and were upon our first spot. With the outboard silenced, he maneuvered the rest of the way with the trolling motor, then tying up to a wellhead piling.
Dufrene has fished the waters of Lafourche Parish for over 40 years and has learned that silence is very important when approaching a fishing spot. Therefore, the trolling motor has become indispensable to him as it allows for a more stealthier entrance. For added insurance, Dufrene instructs everyone aboard not to make noises when fishing.
With the boat now in position, Dufrene placed a cast near some pipes jutting from shore and into the water. While awaiting a strike, he began to relate how on one trip a person questioned him in a cautious, whispering voice, if talking would pose a problem. Dufrene, you soon find out, can humor you continuously with his many personal experiences in the charter business.
This particular day the tide was on the low side, evidenced by exposed barnacle-infested pilings and sparsely scattered oyster-covered banksides. Dufrene, though, likes it this way since it causes the fish to concentrate in the middle of canals and channels, making them easier targets.
Dufrene After coming up with an undersized redfish and thereafter a parting line, Dufrene prepared to move. Fishing too close to line-severing structure can at time be tedious. "We gonna be like a beehive," Dufrene said. "Try here a little while, try there a little while--catch four here, catch two there," he continued, as he picked up the trolling motor. Traveling Golden Meadow's marsh can be cantankerous for many, but to Dufrene it comes as second nature- the kind developed from many years of repetition. That's why he readily moves if there's no action or too many undersized fish are being caught.
Here's an area, like many others in Louisiana, that's been robbed of it pristine beauty by the local oil companies which have dug endless channels, pipelines, and canals throughout its wetlands. As a result, too many links exist between the salty Gulf of Mexico and the inside marsh-a factor contributing to extensive erosion.
During wintertime, redfish prevail in this area and are often found lurking near objects of cover. That's why Dufrene likes looking along the shorelines of dead-end canals for root stumps and other similar structures where he can catch them with the use of live cocahoes fished Carolina rigged.
Dufrene believes that fish in general don't fell pain but react to resistance. To prove his theory he hooked a redfish and as long as he pumped the rod and reeled in, it fought back, pulling out the reel drag. But when he stopped reeling in and allowed the line to slack out under a relaxed rod, the fish quit fighting. Though this was obviously his own theory, and strange as it seemed, it did demonstrate a bit of validity.
Choosing the right amount of weight to fish with can make the difference between catching and just fishing. Redfish can easily be spooked if fishing weights crash too nosily into the water. Therefore lighter weights, no more than 1/4 oz., work best since they enter the water with less disturbance.
Dufrene is one fishing guide that is very conservation minded, measuring any fish of questionable size. In some cases even when a fish met the minimal legal size it was still thrown back for future catches. School trout, particularly, seemed to be the most measured while the reds were easily over the legal size limitation.
After Dufrene caught the legal redfish limit, he headed deeper into no-mans land in pursuit of speckled trout. His trek took him westerly and across Catfish Lake. As his boat whizzed across the waterway, the infiltrating noise from the outboard motor broke the morning silence, causing nearby ducks to take flight across our path.
Soon after he made his way through a small, obstructed opening where the whole landscape changed on the other side. The area exhibited no canals, no well defined bayous, only grassy marsh-patches surrounded by water. We had entered pristine habitat, leaving the man-made canals and structures behind.
Highly skilled maneuvering came into play as Dufrene accelerate the engine and immediately steered the boat into a 300 degree right turn around one grassy marsh patch, a 180 degree left turn around another, followed by quick turns from left to right as if on some type of obstacle course with no end in sight. Simultaneously with each turn the compass indicator spun like a prop being switched from forward to reverse at high rpms. By all indications, the water he was running through was only inches deep, evidenced by muddy prop wash trailing behind.
At the end of the hair-raising ride, he made entrance into the side opening of a pipeline canal where once again the trolling motor was lowered down. Dufrene began trolling the lee side while casting to the middle and head of the boat-prime area for winter speckled trout.
The particular canal was dammed in various locations and ran as far as the eye could see. Scattered mangrove trees lined the banksides with their twisted roots reaching out through the eroded soil like tentacles from a giant octopus.
"It's not who you know, it's what you know when you're out here," Dufrene exclaimed. Though the area is quite productive, many have come back to the launch empty handed, while others more seasoned reap their limits from using techniques similar to Dufrene's.
"If I had only one lure to choose, it would be the smoke colored grub," Dufrene bellowed, as he casually reeled in a speckled trout on almost every retrieve. His productive fishing technique seemed simple: a steady, medium-speed retrieve pointing almost directly at the lure. Another of his favorite lures is the avocado with red glitter sparkle beetle on a 1/4 oz. unpainted jig head. However, Dufrene has his own idea as to how the jig hook should be placed in this lure. Instead of the typical method, which is through the split tail, he exits the hook through either side. Nonetheless, despite it's unconventional appearance, fish were eating it up as fast as it hit the water.
"See that flat up ahead," Dufrene stated, pointing ahead of the boat and to the opposite shoreline. "That's what I call a flat; fish can relate to that." Such areas of indentation and irregularities along straight-running banksides hold bait fish which draw predator fish-and who would know that any better than the Cajun connection of Golden Meadow.
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