Louisiana Offers Giant Redfish and Big Fun on the Bayou
About an hour’s drive south of New Orleans, the long two-lane highway called the Great River Road meanders along the western shore of the Mississippi River. Winding past shrimp boats and elevated homes on wooden stilts, it extends deep into the Mississippi River Delta before reaching the tiny coastal town of Buras, located within Plaquemines Parish. It’s one of the last points of civilization for anglers entering the vast Louisiana backcountry in search of some of the best inshore fishing found on the planet.
“They’re not like the reds you guys have in Florida,” said Captain Ryan Lambert, owner of Cajun Fishing Adventures Resort as he welcomed us into the lodge’s main room. Located just a block from the water, the perfectly-manicured property had all the amenities visiting anglers could ask for – private rooms, delicious Cajun food and of course a shimmering blue swimming pool to cool off in after a day of fishing.
Bulls on the Bayou
“You can catch bull reds, trout, flounder and largemouth bass all in one place,” he said, as we perused the lodge walls with several photos of anglers hoisting huge redfish.
While Cajun drum may not be as wary as their Florida or Texas cousins, navigating thousands of acres of coastal wetlands to find one is a challenge in itself. Daunting is the task interlopers face when exploring the endless maze of rush stands, sloughs and jig-sawed ponds while contending with the winds and tide. During late summer and fall, the large breeder bull redfish school in the deeper bays from Buras to the southernmost tip of Plaquemines Parish. By winter, descending temperatures push large rafts of pogies, mullet, and whitebait out of the deeper bays and into the shallow marshes. And on days following a warming trend, the stories are always the same – huge redfish and heart-stopping strikes.
“These are post spawned fish that feed very aggressively by gorging on the big mullet that get up in here when it’s cold,” said Lambert. “We’ve caught 30-inchers that weigh close to twenty pounds.”
The Mississippi River is usually at its lowest during this time of year, and much clearer. On days when the winds from the connecting bays lay down, big drum, along with seatrout, flounder, black drum, and yes, even largemouth bass, can be spotted sunning over mud bottoms while creeping along the roseau cane stands.
“The big reds will also suspend next to a school of mullet and just inhale one with a huge gulp every once in a while,” joked Lambert.
During fall, the deep windblown bays are murky, and popping corks are employed to attract fish to the sound where a plastic offering attached via a 30-pound fluorocarbon leader hangs below at the fish’s desired feeding depth. During winter, however, reds push into the shallow backwater marsh where sight casting with swimbaits and jigs can make for some incredible fishing.
Lambert advises anglers planning to visit in winter to practice making short casts in scenarios with less than twenty feet of clearance as quick presentations to moving fish within tight quarters will be required. Not to mention brushing up on mental control in order to calm your nerves when a monster erupts behind your lure.
“Most folks aren’t used to seeing a group of twenty-pound redfish crashing behind their swimbait while chasing it back to the boat,” said Lambert. “Even some of our most experienced clients will still clam up every once in a while.”
Resident guides prefer both spinning and conventional bait casting tackle with long stout rods and braided line in an effort to horse big fish from thick cane stands once hooked. For bait casters, fifty-pound Seaguar Smackdown braided line with a fifty-pound fluorocarbon leader spooled onto a Shimano Curado matched with a 7’3” SavageGear Black Ops medium-heavy all-purpose casting rod held up well against the bull reds.
For spinning tackle, a 7’1″ SavageGear Battletek medium-heavy all-purpose rod matched with a 2500 Shimano Stradic spooled with a fifteen-pound braided line worked well.
For artificial offerings, natural style lures like the SavageGear TPE Panic Shrimp and saltwater Sand eel worked under popping corks enticed a dozen or more big bull redfish in the bay. During wintertime, clearer crab and shrimp style patterns like the SavageGear TPE Panic Shrimp worked slowly along the bottom are ideal for finessing a strike with baitfish style swimbaits preferred on days with hard winds and cold fronts.
Cajun Fishing Adventures lodge is an all-inclusive fishing experience providing food, lodging, guides, tackle, and accommodations. Some of the best south Louisianan cuisine, from jambalaya and Boudain, to nightly entrees of boiled crab and shrimp fresh from the commercial boats next door, make this experience one-of-a-kind. Not to mention Lambert is an excellent host, ensuring all guests’ needs are taken care of from start to finish.
Dustin spent his childhood exploring the bass-rich ponds that once blanketed the Central Florida landscape. At age 16 he headed east to hone his skills on redfish and sea trout in the famous Mosquito Lagoon. After high school He graduated with a B.S. Degree in Environmental Science began his career as a Senior Environmental Engineer while also traveling the U.S. as a freelance outdoor writer in search of fishing and hunting adventures. Over the past decade hundreds of Dustin’s works have been published in numerous well known travel, fishing, hunting and outdoor publications throughout the United States, Australia, and the United Kingdom.