Catfish, chinquapins and sac-a-lait galore in Lake Cataouatche
Rico Sheppard with a chinquapin, lake runner, caught in Lake Cataouatche.
With the conditions in a fisherman's favor, I ran into Roland "Goat" Champagne and Americo Sheppard Sr. at Pier 90 last weekend.
"When are we going fishing?” Goat asked. Goat and Americo were picking up their boat when we ran into each other. "We only caught four fish today!" Goat added. After some discussion about the baits they were using, we set-up a trip for the afternoon around 3 p.m.
We met at Pier 90 like we planned and headed out to Lake Cataouatche.
On this Sunday afternoon, Goat, Americo and Rico Sheppard joined me as we headed out to the grass beds in the middle of the lake. We purchased two boxes of worms from the Harbor Master from Pier 90 before heading out.
Checking the Davis Pond Diversion flow, it was running at 1,500 cubic feet per second - slower than it was during the summer. We arrived at the first cut before the La Cypress Canal and dropped the anchor in the middle of slow moving water coming out of the cut.
Rigged with ¾ ounce Carolina rigs with # 4 hooks, we baited the lines with earthworms. We quickly had a dozen catfish in the boat when Rico asked if we could try for bream and sac-a-lait.
We picked up the anchor and moved closer to the edge of the grass beds. On Rico's first cast along the lilies, his cork disappeared. He had switched to a 1/32-ounce jig head under a cork, 18 inches, and baited it with an earthworm.
He pulled in a big chinquapin. Again he threw in the same spot and repeated the catch again.
"Open the live well, we are having a fish fry tonight!" Rico commented.
Goat and Americo also switched over to catching bream and lake runners.
"You can keep all the fish allowed, but I'm not cleaning fish tonight!" I told them.
We stayed in the same spot for an hour pulling out fish after fish. The catch consisted of bream, bass, catfish, and lake runners.
"When are we going to catch sac-a-laits?" Goat asked.
We picked up the anchor and headed out to middle of the lake along the edge of the grass beds. We all rigged our lines with 1/32-ounce jig heads under a cork with a red/white/chartreuse mini jig. Within minutes I had put two big sac-a-lait in the boat.
Soon everyone was catching them.As the sun went down fish became active and were feeding. Numerous times all four of us had fish on the line.
By the end of the afternoon both live wells were full of fish.
I reminded them "I'm not cleaning fish tonight!"
Goat and Americo Sr. had caught four fish in the morning and now they were going home with two live wells full of fish.
The sac-a-lait were hit and miss. They like the red/white/chartreuse, blue & white, and black/chartreuse mini jigs 18 inches under a cork. The bream and lake runners were caught on the same mini jigs and earthworms. Catfish were caught on earthworm fishing the bottom. Bass like the mini jigs, white spinner baits, chrome rattletraps, and watermelon/red metal flake brush hogs.
The best spots are along the grass beds in the middle of the lake, the shoreline in front of the Umbrella Canal, and the cuts along the north shoreline.
With live bait and the right color lures, the falling temperature of lake water make this time of year a special time to catch fish.
Lake Cataouatche is very unique because it is located 25 miles west of New Orleans. It is part of the fresh water estuary above Lake Salvador.
The lake is 8 miles long and 4 miles wide at its widest point. The average depth is 6 to 8 feet in the middle.
Along the shoreline, water depth can be 1 foot to 3 feet. The Salvador Management Area sits on the western end of the lake and the Lafitte National Park Barataria Preserve on its eastern side.
The lake is only accessible by boat.
With the insertion of the Davis Pond project, fresh water from the Mississippi is constantly pouring into the lake. Seven cuts along the northern side of the lake allow fresh water from the river to empty into the lake.
This summer, the Corps of Engineers kept the Davis Pond Diversion open at 7,000 cubic feet per second, which pushed fresh water through the estuary.
The fresh water flow kept the oil from the BP Oil spill out Bayou Perot, Lake Salvador, and Lake Cataouatche. The benefit of having Lake Cataouatche fresh all summer has been phenomenal.
On any give day a fisherman could go out and catch fish in the lake.
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