Fertile marshes flow with variety of species
By John N. Felsher
COCODRIE — With weather threatening and winds whipping the coast into
white-capped froth, we stayed near the lodge, testing our tackle on redfish
instead of venturing into the bays for speckled trout.
“Cocodrie is well known for its redfish,” said Capt. Tom Turner of Cocodrie
Charters in Terrebonne Parish south of Houma. “The marshes here are
crisscrossed with canals that feed into smaller bays and ponds near Bay La Fleur
and Bay Madison. The marshes between those two bays hold plenty redfish all year
long. The area to the west of the Houma Navigation Canal also has a lot of
redfish from Moss Bay to Grand Caillou Bayou and down to the Gulf of Mexico.”
Not far from the Cocodrie Charters Lodge on Petit Caillou Bayou off La. 56,
Turner stopped. Strong south winds pushed Gulf of Mexico brine into the marshes,
submerging large tracts of grass. With water so high, clusters of grass clumps
stood out like green, wavy reefs near an ill-defined shoreline.
On windy days, spinnerbaits work awesome for redfish. Anglers may choose
conventional “safety-pin” spinners that resemble lures bass anglers throw
with bent arms that suspend blades over a skirt- or plastic-tipped head. Anglers
may also use in-line spinners, which employ straight wires extending from
jigheads with blades rotating around the wires.
|Photo by John Felsher
Capt. Tom Turner of Cocodrie Charters
shows off a speckled trout he landed in southern Terrebonne Parish.
Turner selected a harness spinner. Also known as a beetle-type spinner, a
harness spinner resembles a safety-pin spinnerbait, but it usually consists of a
detachable wire harness temporarily fixed to a standard lead jighead. Often,
anglers tip jigheads with soft plastic minnows or shrimp tails.
“I like a spinner with a heavy wire that redfish can’t break,” Turner
explained. “It has a safety pin device that allows anglers to put any kind of
jighead on the spinner or easily change jigheads. I like a copper or gold Number
4 Colorado blade and a curled tail plastic trailer or a whale-tail trailer.”
Pushing considerable water, large Colorado blades still attract attention
when winds slash the shoreline, muffling all sounds. Turner selected a spinner
with an orange to reddish plastic trailer, which mimics a crab. A little blue on
the bait also reminds redfish of the blue on crab claws and reds love to devour
“A spinnerbait does two things,” Turner said. “Since redfish are
generally found in the shallows along the shorelines, a spinner gives the bait
more buoyancy so that it doesn’t drag the bottom and hang up on oyster shells.
A whale tail has good vibration and good action. I like something with a little
orange or red on it because legs and pinchers on crabs are generally red or
orange. Crabs are a favorite thing for redfish to eat. If a bait looks a little
like a crab, a redfish might strike it.”
As we moved along the shoreline, we picked up a redfish here and there. I
tried topwater baits, scoring a few strikes, but Turner caught the most fish
with his spinner. Ronell Smith, editor of Louisiana Game and Fish magazine and
Lisa Snuggs of the Southeastern Outdoor Press Association threw a variety of
soft-plastic swimbaits, but also switched to spinners eventually.
Winds blowing fiercely pushed water through several cuts lead from ponds to
major water bodies. The swift tidal current sucked baitfish and crabs from their
protective cover. In these cuts, redfish, specks and flounders gathered to
ambush easy meals.
“Look for baitfish swimming close to grass,” Turner said. “It’s
almost a guarantee that redfish will be near that bait. They look for the tides
to bring them shrimp, crabs and minnows. When they see something, they dart out
and grab it. Find the bait and we’ll find the fish.”
Battling against currents, schools of minnows could not escape the vicious
attacks by predators. Working our lures downstream with the tide, we simulated
bait flowing to the larger fish. Each time we hit a cut with a strong current,
we connected with several fish. Besides redfish, trout and flounders, we enticed
some sheepsheads, black drum and other species into hitting for a Cajun Super
“We get some trout in the marshes, but they are usually in the bays and large
water bodies,” Turner said. “Trout here are not as big as the trout in
Calcasieu Lake. They might run up to 5 to 6 pounds. Most are less than 2 pounds,
but we catch a lot of them when the conditions are right. It’s common for four
people to easily land a limit of 100 fish.”
|Photo by John Felsher
Capt. Tom Turner of Cocodrie Charters
holds the first redfish caught by Lisa Snuggs of Badin, N.C.
Besides the areas mentioned, anglers might also fish Little Pass, Whiskey
Pass, Wine Island Pass and near Caillou Boca behind Whiskey Island. A bit
farther west, Oyster Bayou near Four League Bay can produce great catches of
“Shrimp start arriving in the bays in early May,” Turner said. “By the
third week of May, we usually have giant schools of brown shrimp in the bays.
Trout gang up on the shrimp.”
At the north end of Oyster Bayou, some big shell reefs and mudflats hold good
fish. Anglers might also fish the marshes surrounding Lake Mechant, Lost Lake,
King Lake or Sister Lake and tributaries off Grand Caillou Bayou. Many anglers
also fish Lakes Pelto and Barre when the weather cooperates.
“Lake Barre and Lake Pelto are open bays with shallow water and oil
platforms,” Turner said. “Those two bays are inside the barrier island
chain. When the wind is from the south, we fish behind the islands because the
islands help break up the wind. When the wind is not as strong, we fish on the
Gulf side in the surf at Isle Dernieres, also known as Last Island.”
One of the few full-service lodges in the area, Cocodrie Charters offers
meals and comfortable accommodations to visiting anglers. Four suites overlook
Petit Caillou Bayou. Each suite can accommodate several anglers.
Margaret LeBouef prepares a sumptuous breakfast for the anglers before they
head into the marshes with Turner or one of the other captains who operate from
the lodge. Guests usually eat sandwiches in the boat for lunch, but return to a
wonderful meal in the evening. Margaret prepared several spicy Cajun dishes
including fried trout and shrimp for us. Tom grilled one of our redfish “on
the half shell,” scales down, sealing them into a makeshift pan.
“Many people guide out of this area,” Turner explained. “Some have
lodging or food, but not both. We specialize in a package deal where people eat,
sleep and fish with us. We do all the work, provide the tackle and fillet the
fish. People only need to show up with an ice chest and an appetite.”
To book trips, call (877) LA4 FISH (877) 524-3474. On the Internet, check out
www.rodnreel.com/cocofish or send an e-mail to email@example.com.
John N. Felsher is the 2004 Louisiana Wildlife Federation Conservation
Communicator of the Year. As the outdoors editor of the Lake Charles, La.,
American Press, his column appears every Thursday and Sunday. He’s also an
award-winning free-lance writer with credits in Outdoor Life, Field and
Stream, Sports Afield and many other publications. Send comments or fishing
reports to: American Press Outdoors, P.O. Box 2893, 4900 Highway 90 East,
Lake Charles, LA 70615. E-mail: JFelsher@americanpress.com or jFelsher@bellsouth.net.