For Pitre’s Sake!

Fish this marsh area once, and you’ll wonder why it took you so long.

There are numerous things in life that many people simply take for granted, or for some reason never take the time to fully explore or delve into. One of those treasures is Isle au Pitre and its accompanying marsh wonderland that sprawls southwesterly in a seemingly endless waterlogged prairie throughout Louisiana’s territories.

Although this fish-filled maze of marsh and islands belongs to the state of Louisiana, its close proximity to Mississippi’s mainland attracts good numbers of anglers from the Magnolia State. You see, Isle au Pitre forms the most northeastern tip of Louisiana’s entire marsh realm, and it’s in this region that an angler with some basic marsh-fishing skills can take a variety of popular saltwater species including speckled trout, redfish, flounder, white trout and southern kingfish a.k.a ground mullet.

September is an excellent time to venture into these waters, but great year-round angling can be experienced with a bit of knowledge of the area. An 11- to 14-mile run across the Mississippi Sound will quickly land anglers in the fish-rich waters surrounding Isle au Pitre and its neighboring marsh wonderland. This region’s make-up can satisfy the needs of many different anglers’ style of fishing. Wade fishing, poling the shallows, working birds and shorelines with a trolling motor and simply fishing points and bayous with live or fake baits are all effective methods in these waters.

Better yet, if you’re into the new wave of kayak fishing, it’s quite possible you’ve stumbled upon an Eden of skinny water. One look at an aerial photo chart, and it’s easy to see there are more out-of-the-way redfish holes than one angler could possibly fish in a lifetime. Although redfish are caught here year-round, a taste of the best fishing occurs in the fall and winter when the spottails move into the cooling shallows.

Names of recognition

When venturing to this remote marsh, there are some names that are legendary, and are usually known for producing fish on a consistent basis. For example, Isle au Pitre itself often delivers specks, reds and flounder in certain areas surrounding its shores.

The eastern face of this beautiful isle was once a huge fish-filled cove, but Hurricane Katrina erased its protective arms. Although it’s now a big shell-laden shoreline with a few mud shoals, anglers can still wade or drift along and find fish to catch.

Of course anglers who like to bottom fish can usually catch those tasty southern kingfish and white trout just off the northern or southern tips of the isle’s eastern end. Fresh, dead shrimp or squid threaded on a 1/0 Gamakatsu Octopus hook are quite effective on these fish, especially the ground mullet with its small mouth used for rooting along the bottom.

The large cove area on the south side of the isle can be productive too, and now the storm has left a nice shell bar that runs parallel from the shore creating a prime site for feeding schools of redfish and specks to gather.

At times, especially during a rising morning tide, wade fishermen are able to work this area using soft plastics or topwater baits, and locate schools of nice specks. Besides working areas of the cove where baitfish are concentrated, a sharp eye and keen nose should be kept on alert for fish slicks popping up in the protected shallows.

Feeding fish, especially speckled trout, have a tendency to regurgitate their stomach contents while on a feeding binge, and the disposed oily matter will rise up creating an oily sheen on the surface. At times, it’s possible to smell the slick before it’s spotted, an aroma that often resembles the sweet scent of watermelon or menhaden oil.

Flatboat Key is another prominent fishing site located north of the west end of Isle au Pitre. It consists of a narrow shoal composed of crushed oyster shells. Anglers can wade fish, anchor up or use a trolling motor to fish this legendary key. Here, big trout like to prowl, and excellent fishing can be anticipated on its deep west side or on its shallower eastern side, which holds numerous oyster shells. Anglers who opt to fish live croakers along this reef usually reap the rewards of hefty speckled trout.

Remember, the bottom here is extremely hard, and it can be hard to get an anchor to hold at times. Bottom line, make sure your anchor has a good hold because you don’t want to be wade fishing and see your boat drifting away in the distance. Best fishing usually occurs early in the morning or late in the afternoon on a falling tide along this noted reef.

Another area of interest is Southeast Jack Williams Bay, a body of water that offers grass-lined shores, points, coves and bayous that dump into its southern end. Although it’s relatively shallow, this big bay holds good numbers of reds and specks, and fishing under birds is generally consistent throughout its confines. To the east of Southeast Jack Williams Bay lies Door Point. The large cut between Door Point Island and Pelican Point Island is a prime area to find schooling specks too.

Here, a soft bottom mixed with grass beds attract all sorts of baitfish, and in return schools of speckled trout often prowl this gap of water on a strong tide. Plenty of bird activity can be encountered anywhere in this area, and a nice solid shell isle off Door Point’s southwest tip is prime for holding specks on an early morning rising tide.

Approximately 3 miles south of Door Point lies Brush Island, an outer isle that lost much of its landmass to Katrina, but still keeps producing specks on a regular basis. Much of the isle has a solid shell beach, and its deeper southern shore always seem to produce the most fish. Anglers fishing live croakers and shrimp haul in fine specks just off the beach, and persistent wade fishermen always seem to locate fish somewhere along this fast-shrinking isle. At times, bottom fishing with fresh, dead shrimp or squid will produce nice catches of white trout and ground mullet just off Brush Island’s shores, too.

To the west of Brush Island is Chino Bay, a large open bay that’s relatively shallow, and holds thick pods of grass beds just off its shoreline. Often, hovering gulls will give away large schools of specks hunting down bait throughout the bay, and fish slicks are common throughout the confines of the bay’s skinny waters. However, it’s the lengthy shoreline of the bay and its connecting bayous, ditches, indentions and duck ponds that attract plenty of redfish.

Anglers fishing extremely shallow-draft boats can spend an entire day just getting acquainted with its skinny water, and to their advantage, routine visitors seldom fish much of these shallows. Much of this bay offers great protection from the wind, and one look at a chart showing the northern shore illustrates its great angling potential.

Less than two miles south of Chino Bay is Elephant Point Pass Island, an extremely large marsh island that offers a diverse array of angling environs.

A large cove area on the isle’s southeast side will often attract specks, and anglers with a trolling motor can cruise about casting soft-plastic baits in search of scattered fish. In the shallows of the cove’s northern end, redfish are known to prowl, and can be sight-fished by walking the shoreline.

On the northeast side of the isle, a large cove fed by a bayou attracts reds and specks too, and on the northwest side of the isle, there are numerous shallow bayous and ponds that hold a good population of redfish.

Of course, this is just a few of the more popular sites, and there are literally hundreds more for the adventurous angler to explore. If you’re open-minded and ready for seeking out-of-the-way skinny water environs, you’ve just stumbled upon a bit of pristine fishing heaven.

Fake baits to take

Undoubtedly, soft-plastic baits catch more fish than any other style of bait in this region, but that doesn’t mean gold spoons, slow-sink jerkbaits and topwater plugs don’t catch their share of fish, too. Having made hundreds of trips to these alluring Cajun waters, there are a few baits I’ve found to be dependable time after time.

In the soft-plastic group, the ever-popular 3-inch Cocahoes are always dependable, and white baits with red tails and chartreuse baits with red tails are proven hues. When fishing extremely clear water, avocado baits with red tails are extremely effective, and purple with red or white tails or black with white or chartreuse tails are hot colors at times.

Shaped like a menhaden, a pearl-hued Norton Shad with either a pink or chartreuse tail is a killer bait in these waters as well. Also, Salt Water Assassins are proven baits, and those in the salt and pepper color with the long twirly lime-colored tail or black body with chartreuse twirly tail will drive specks and reds crazy. Soft-plastics are highly effective when fished 2 feet or so under a noise-producing cork like an Old Bay Side Paradise Popper X-Treme, Cajun Thunder or Bay Slayer.

As for spoons, a gold-colored Johnson Sprite is always a dependable lure to toss, and not only reds but also specks love to nail this wobbly spoon.

For topwater action, work plugs like MirrOlure Top Dogs and She Dogs, Yo-Zuri Banana Boats and Zara Pups using a walk-the-dog action. Of course, slow-sinking jerkbaits such as MirrOlures in the legendary 52M models will catch their share of fish too.

And don’t forget your Louisiana license. A nonresident yearly license for Mississippi anglers is $90, a one-day license is $20, or if you fish with a guide, a three-day permit is around $8. Bottom line, that’s a small price to pay for all the excitement and memories that come from venturing into this marsh wonderland.


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