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"Relive Your Childhood Fishing At Irish Bayou!"
by: Frank Davis
Relive Your Childhood Fishing At Irish Bayou!
Frank Davis / Fishing Expert
I dropped my very first line in the water when I was just a little over 5 years old—I say “dropped” because my Dad told me I wasn’t yet old enough for a rod and reel and wouldn’t be able to cast it properly. But that was just fine with me. Even though it was straight up and down fishing right alongside the boat, I was still fishing! And by the time I turned 8, I had become a master with that double drop hand-line. Croakers feared me!
And that’s the very same feeling that came over me this morning when, 60 years later, I once again dropped a line in the water at Irish Bayou, the same place I had fished as a kid. And once again I proved that the croakers still fear me!
“It’s been a real long time since I’ve caught this many croakers, and croakers this big, on just one fishing trip,” Capt. Kenny Kreeger confessed from the bow of the boat, reeling another one of the little keeper fish over the side. “See, Frank, we usta fish Irish Bayou when I was a kid, too. And while we caught trout and reds and flounder and drum back then, it was these croakers that were our main quarry. They were the mainstay of many a family fish fry!”
Of course, for years—no, probably decades—croakers had all but disappeared from the sports-fishing scene, not only at Irish Bayou but also all along the Louisiana coastline. I won’t get into the reason why at this point, but suffice it to say that man screwing around with Mother Nature biologically influenced it. That’s a story for another time, though.
Right now, let’s all be happy and thankful that Mother Nature seems to have rebounded, because my fishing buddies all over Southeast Louisiana are telling me they, too, are once again catching ‘em, maybe not in the “bull” size range that we usta haul aboard the Miss Mississippi out of Empire back in the day, but starting to catch ‘em again nonetheless.
“Here’s another thing to consider, Frank,” Capt. Kenny commented. “We’re not the only two fishermen who really loved catching these guys. From the late 40’s to the mid-70’s just about everybody I knew who fished raved over catching croakers!”
It was for good reason, too.
Croakers, both the Atlantic and Golden species, belong to the family of fishes called Sciaenidae, which includes other bay species like the spot, black drum, and red drum (redfish). And they’re relatively easy to catch. You take a single or a double drop rig (this means the sinker is at the bottom of the main line and the hook—or hooks, if fishing double—drops off the main line on a leader about a foot above the sinker in order to allow the bait to float free of the lake bottom).
“What you do,” said Capt. Kenny, “is bait up with either live shrimp or really fresh market shrimp. Then you cast out into the center of the canal—or in our case, the center of Irish Bayou—and keep a really tight line free of any slack. When the croaker finds the bait, he’s going to start nibbling on it, probably on the legs first. Don’t set the hook on the nibble, though. Wait! Then when he comes back and slams into the shrimp, kinda like he wants to break your wrist, hook him up! Bubba, you just know that there’s a fish fry a-coming!”
Most fishermen don’t fillet croakers. They scale, gut, dredge them in a good quality fishfry, and fry them whole. The meat is tender and exceptionally sweet. You just have to watch out for the belly and dorsal bones, which are not a big deal to remove as you eat.
“Look, if you ever hit one of them catfish houses on a Friday night and ordered all the whole catfish you can eat,” Capt. Kenny reminded the finicky, “you’ve eaten fish off the bone. Of course, it you don’t like to do that, it’s okay—bring home what you catch, call me, and I’ll come take all of ‘em off your hands!”
So where do you catch your share of croakers this Saturday and Sunday? Well, here’s my recommendation: Launch at Chef Harbor Marina just off Hwy 90 at Chef Pass (you can also get your live shrimp there), head out into the Pass, take a dogleg into Bayou Sauvage, hang a right into the Textron Straight Canal when you run out of bayou, and forge straight ahead until you reach the age-old settlement of Irish Bayou on the left. There are all kinds of canals, cuts, sloughs, and trainnaisses to fish into. Find the bait on the water and you’ll find the croakers.
Oh, I forgot to tell you. While you’re busy catching croakers, you’ll also catch a smorgasbord of speckled trout, white trout, flounders, redfish, stingrays, and—yep—dem ol’ standby regulars. . . hardheads. And the only thing you really gotta remember is legal size and creel limit. Keep the keepers and throw the babies back!
Now, if you got no idea how to navigate the Irish Bayou-Textron canal system, and you’d like to fish alongside Capt. Kenny, give him a call at 985-643-2944 or 985-960-3068. He knows where every single one of those croaker haunts are! Just promise that you’ll e-mail me if he takes you to my very own secret spot! Unfortunately, it’s not above him to do that, no!
Next week “The Fishin’ Game Report” heads to Coco Marina at Cocodrie. We should be right on time for the beginning of the inside fall trout season. But we’ll see. I’ll meet y’all right here next Thursday after we get back home. Until then,
Tight lines and good times,
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