Before the storm, Des Allemands, Lake Salvador and Lake Cataouatche had the reputation as a good place to go during the spring to catch a bunch of bass.
Today, things are different, but it's not the different that you might expect. Rather than being torn to shreds by Katrina's winds and surge, St. Charles Parish’s bass population not only survived nearly unscathed, it's actually flourishing.
Wanting to see how area was faring, I convinced Covington bass pro Jason Pittman to take me for a ride, and to see if we could stick a fish or two. It was immediately apparent after stopping at Lake Cataouatche that bass fishermen don't have much to worry about.
The area was full of lush, green hydrilla that showed promising signs of life. The water was a little tinged from a late-afternoon thunderstorm, but we could tell that the grass was full of bait and bass.
LDWF biologist Howard Rogillio said the grass is the key to the area rebounding from whatever setbacks it suffered due to Katrina.
"Stuff on the west side of the river didn't suffer near as bad as the east side," he said. "There was a group out of Baton Rouge that did some sampling at Cataouatche not too long ago, and they discovered a lot of small spawn-type bass along with several larger bass in the grass. The grass will help because it gives bass a place to spawn and hide while they're growing."
Other than there being more grass in the area than ever before, there are a couple more changes that will affect where anglers locate bass. In fact, Pittman said the area is looking more and more like it's going to be a Delacroix kind of situation, where bass and redfish have learned to coexist.
"Since the storm, bass fishermen will catch redfish if they fish long enough," said Pittman. "It's very similar to what we see in Delacroix and Carnavron. Of course, that's not a bad thing if you want something pulling on your line, but the reds will give you fits if you're looking for bass during a tournament."
Like other inland areas along the coast, water below St. Charles Parish has seen the salt line move north after the storm, and it has stayed there longer than normal. Adding to the influx of salt water was the extended drought for eight months after Katrina. This combination of factors created a salty situation in an area that relies mainly on rain for a good flushing of fresh water.
"There's really no huge freshwater influence except for rain directly into the system and the rainwater coming from pump stations that surround the area," said Pittman. "Other than that, the only option would be to open the Davis Pond diversion. You're basically looking at a bunch of brackish water that is filtered by the grass and hydrilla."
Pittman compared the salt line situation to a ball being moved on a football field with a saltwater end zone and a freshwater end zone. The salt line starts out at the 50-yard line and moves toward the freshwater end zone with the rising tide. It hits the 40-yard line and stops before the tide starts falling.
As the tide goes back out, taking the salt line back toward the 50, it will eventually stop. But, it will stop on the 45 rather than the 50. The salt stays a little farther in than last time. It gained 5 yards. The cycle continues until the freshwater starts battling back through rain or a diversion.
"In years past," Pittman added, "the salt line might get to the middle of Lake Salvador one year and never even get to Salvador the next. It's all influenced by a south wind pushing water into the marsh and a good tide range. The best bass fishing happens when the freshwater is pushing back."
Fishing a rising or falling tide is like fishing any other current situation. Moving water trumps all other variables. Bass in current don't have much of a choice where they position on a piece of cover.
They also don't have much choice on whether they're going to eat something washing toward them. If they don't eat it, it's gone. Therefore, bass positioned in current don't waste time thinking - they bite now and ask questions later.
Although moving water will affect fish position year around, it is most important in Salvador during the summer. And it doesn't really matter if it's rising or falling. As long as it's moving, it will help you catch more fish.
Bass will start bunching in the fall once the water cools a little. One of their favorite places to gang up is on the points along the west side of Lake Salvador and along the shoreline of Catahoula Bay on the south end of Lake Salvador. It's almost as if they have a sense of the approaching winter, so they're going to feed up while they can.
"Look for points that have deep water nearby," Pittman suggested. "You're always going to have resident fish in the canals, but there should be a lot of fish moving into the canals from the bays, and they're going to stop on the points."
Editor’s note: this story is an excerpt from a September feature in the Louisiana Sportsman titled Bayou Segnette.