Three Hot Bays for Louisiana Cold Days
Three Hot Bays for Louisiana Cold Days
Buras Louisiana's 3 Best Winter Fishing Spots:
Hospital Bay, Yellow Cotton Bay, Bay Carrion Crow
For many anglers, cold weather and fishing just don't mix. After all, this is the time of year to stay home and watch football, even when you've given up on the Saints. But football is the furthest thing from the minds of some anglers. To them, when the weather turns cold, it's time to head for Buras to fish three hot bays: Hospital Bay, Yellow Cotton Bay, and Bay Carrion Crow.
Just 89 miles south of New Orleans on Hwy. 23, this is the place where the Gulf of Mexico and the Mississippi River come together to form one of the most productive estuaries on the northern Gulf Coast. And, the best part about it, you don't have to be Houdini to find it!
The prescription for cold-water fishing is simple: head east down the Buras Canal from Joshua's Marina, and within a matter of minutes you'll make the entrance to the northern section of Hospital Bay - the gateway for all three bays.
"Yellow Cotton Bay and Hospital Bay are kind of washed out, so it's like one big bay," said Mark Franichevich, 15-year- angler of Buras and owner of Joshua's Marina. This makes the bays easy to locate and fish, because when you've found one, you've found the others, too. Erosion is the primary culprit for the bays' scarcely defined borders of marsh grass and shallow-water ponds.
Several factors contribute to the area's productivity, one of which is the geographical land configuration. The landmass along the west bank of the river near these bays forms a clearly defined border that acts as a large dead end dam on incoming tides. As a result, bait fish become confined to this bend of marshland that forms a pocketlike entrapment. For speckled tout, redfish, and many other species, this spells easy pickin's.
Tides easily influence the area for the good, even with minimal movement. "Falling tide is the best tide to fish. If you got only four or five tenths of tide...the tide really falls good because there's not many outlets for water to move through," Franichevich claims.
However, unlike many other places, Buras isn't highly dependent on tides for good catches of fish. During the winter, the area flaunts a perfect combination of waters from the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico with just the right temperatures that magically draw fish - both freshwater and saltwater species. During this season, few areas along the delta can duplicate the fishing explosion as result of these water combinations.
But perhaps the most prominent asset to the area is the deep-water holes located throughout the bays and main canals. These holes, Franichevich said, are the result of excavating mud from the local waterways for road construction and the reinforcement of levees for Plaquemines Parish.
The extensive undertaking resulted in more than just better highways and levee protection. Soon after the project ended it didn't take long for anglers to discover that the holes were excellent fishing spots. "What happens," Franichevich said, "is the trout go down to deeper water to find warmer water in wintertime... they head for the holes!" And so do the anglers-making Buras a favorite fishing "hole" in a literal sense.
On the coldest days, anglers use depth finders to locate the deep holes and drop-offs. "We have holes 60-80 feet deep and some holes are 40 feet deep," Franichevich claims. Hospital Bay and Yellow Cotton Bay are favorites among most bay anglers, but don't underestimate any of the three bays, as any one of them may out produce the others on any given day.
Several hot fishing spots are located along the route to the three hotbays. For example, the L-shaped canal,3hotbays.jpg located at the northern section of Hospital Bay, also contains deep holes. "Hospital Bay has a couple of deep holes: one on the other side of the bay (south end), and they got a dredged out canal right before the bay (north end), which has 60 to 80 feet of water," Franichevich said.
Two other favorites are near the "bend" and the "stump." The bend is located at the beginning of the 90-degree southeastern extension of the L-shaped canal. The stump is located half the distance farther south down this canal, before it empties into Hospital Bay. The stump, which looks like a miniature rock boulder, is located about 30 feet from the east side of the canal and protrudes three feet above the water's surface.
Locate the bait and you'll probably find the fish hot on the trail. Such is the case at the Pumping Station Canal, located on the east side of Hospital Bay. Here lies a 30 foot drop-off just outside its mouth. Hardly a day goes by when you won't see at least one boat fishing this spot, and you won't have to guess why. On a falling tide and calm wind, it's not uncommon to see bait sporadically jumping across the opening of this canal, fleeing the hungry jaws of trout on the ambush.
Cocahoe minnow lures or sparkle beetles (clear or chartreuse/sliver flecks, 1/4 oz. heads) fished in tandem are among anglers favorite choices. Seasoning the lures with a piece of fresh shrimp, Franichevich said, can frequently increase the chances of productivity, without running the risk of catching catfish since they've moved offshore to warmer waters during this time.
The bays offers excellent shallow-water redfishing along their perimeters. "You'll catch reds, but you'll catch a lot of small ones," Franichevich explained. "However, most of the sizable reds are taken in Bay Jacques, Buras Canal, and Dry Cypress Bayou, located farther west of the bays," he noted.
For trout fishing, anglers prefer the deep holes and open-water areas of the canals and bays. In early morning specks are taken on the bottom of the deep holes and near the drop-offs. "As the day warms up, sometimes the fish will come up on the flats and you'll fish 'em shallow," Franichevich said.
The key to success, he further claims, is to fish slow and deep. After anchoring in a hole, it's important to locate the feeding zone. "When you throw your line out, let it sink to the bottom. When you retrieve the line, it's gonna come up to the right level and you're gonna feel 'em hit," he stated.
However, under the coldest conditions, strikes can be difficult to detect for the best of anglers. What happens, Franichevich said, is the trout's metabolism slows down and you'll barely feel them hit your line. Sometimes anglers don't know they've hooked a fish until it's brought to the surface.
The key is proper positioning of the boat which can aid in detecting subtle strikes. Some anglers anchor broadside to the drop-offs so that they can fish with the wind, thus reducing line bagging for better sensitivity. Two anchors are required and it's best to position the boat so that you can fish up current. This way the lures can be retrieved in the same direction as the current flows and at the same time allows them to drop slowly and deeper with minimal weight. Using too heavy of a jig head hook on the lure not only hampers sensitivity but it causes the lures to sink too quickly through the feeding zone.
The "countdown method" is another successful tactic anglers like using when fishing deep-water holes. The procedure starts by casting and then counting down after the lure contacts the water. A good countdown method, for example, would be to count 1000, 2000, 3000, and so on. The trick is to let the lure drop under a taut line without retrieving, slightly twitching the rod tip as the lure descends. When a strike is encountered, note the last count number and subsequent casts with the same count will keep the lure within the strike zone.
"Winds can be a killer in the open bays," Franichevich warned. This is because the bays cover a considerable amount of open water. Nevertheless, even with high winds, anglers have several options that will get them out of the wind and still let them catch fish. For instance, anglers can find comfortable fishing in the northern section of Bay Carrion Crow if there's high southerly winds. Likewise, the L-shaped canal and the Buras Canal, due to their angular configurations, offer continuous protection from various wind directions by fishing the lee sides of the waterways.
But whatever option you choose, one thing's for sure, when the temperature starts to plummet, head for the three hot bays.
By Jerry LaBella
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