Picture in your mind a roadside waterway, lined with
canebrakes and marsh grass, where you can catch the top two sought after
saltwater species without the use of a boat. Just drive up to it
and literally cast from the back of your vehicle.
"No such place," you say.
Then you haven't heard about Myrtle Grove Marina, a
place that a growing number are discovering to be just such a reality. Here
winter bank-side fishing for speckled trout and redfish has never been better.
Located on the west side of La. Hwy. 23 and 25 miles
south of New Orleans, is an area that bombards you with reminders of your
geographical location: Delta Bank & Trust Co., Delta Tire &
Automotive, Delta Refrigeration Service, to name a few.
Yes, "Delta" is the operative word. But to
certain anglers this word invokes thoughts of having to trailer a boat to
some far-off launch that without a can of pork-n-beans and road map would be
impossible to find. Equally disturbing may be the search for fish in unfamiliar
Not so with Myrtle Grove. Such nightmarish expeditions
have come true, however, for some who have chose to launch elsewhere along
the Delta, only to return here to find productive fishing right from the
shore and within throwing distance of the boat launch.
It's no secret that may anglers feel that the further
away from the launch, the better the fishing will be. But this particular
spot has dismissed such foolish reasoning.
How many anglers do you know that sometimes drive over
a hundred miles round trip by boat, only to come within a mile from the
launch and limit out. The reason may be that spots closest to the launch are
more often overlooked, making them more productive due to less fishing
Ironically, "less fishing pressure" isn't
exactly applicable to the waterway leading into the Myrtle Grove Marina,
situated on the dead-end of the Wilkinson
in Plaquemines Parish. For one reason, Louisiana
anglers know that when cold northers blow in, dead-end canals are the places
to be. Here is where bait and pursuing fish setup housekeeping, and the Wilkinson
Canal, naturally, is without exception.
Fishing, however, was probably the furthest thing from
their minds when the canal was originally dug during the 1920's for the
purpose of floating cypress logs to the lumber mill that sat at its northern
end and very near to where La. Hwy. 23 is today. The lumber mill eventually
saw its demise somewhere between the '30's - '40's.
According to Terry Clovan, a former marina operator in
1994, the northern end was filled with dirt some years ago, thus relocating the
dead-end section further from the highway by a block or so. Prior to this,
only a private group who had a key to the gated entrance could use the canal
and reap its fishing productivity. According to Terry, in 1988 Citrus Lands
Inc. leased the property and turned it into a marina with all the necessary
amenities for sport fishing. The marina fast became known for its easy
access to the famous Grand Isle and Barataria
via this 12-mile-long canal. For many anglers, the 25 mile boat run to Grand
Isle from the marina was a very favorable option compared to the much longer
drive by land.
Additionally, the marina's close proximity to New Orleans
also brought many boat-less anglers as word spread about the extraordinary
bank-side fishing that begins with the first cold snap in October. During
the colder months, anglers of all ages show up to line each side of the
canal like pine trees along a Mississippi
road. The best part about it, everyone was catching fish─ no matter how unskilled.
Terry admits that he never imagined bank fishing could
be so good until he was hired at the marina. He said people don't hesitate
to pay the nominal fee for a good day's fishing. Some come by the pickup
truck loads with picnic baskets and families totting anything from cane
poles to the most expensive rod and reels money can buy. At times, bait
buckets filled with live minnows, tackle boxes and various folding chairs
have peppered the banksides with just as much intensity as hungry hogs
feeding at a trough.
"The weather is the key factor right here. When it
gets cold, they (fish and bait) start busting up in here," Terry said,
while he glanced and gestured toward the water right outside the hoist area
that was boiling with various bait fish and flashing porgies fleeing on the
surface. Now and then a loud, flat plopping sound could be heard from
redfish sucking bait fish from the subsurface.
Fishing around the hoist and back-down ramps are off
limits, but customers could venture down either side of the canal as far as
the road could take them, either by vehicle or foot. "In October you
catch `em out in the grassy part, which is the shallow water on the other
side of the bulkhead─ all out through there on either
side. Once it's cold, though, they're up in here at the dead-end. Northwest
winds, northeast winds, and straight north winds are good winds. They need
to blow for about two days. After that, the fish either got to Grand Isle or
come in here. Grand Isle is a little haul for `em, so a lot of `em come
here," Terry explained. These winds cause the duck ponds and marsh to
drain off into the main canals, bring with them bait and predator fish.
Speckled trout are caught mostly out toward the middle of the canal, while
and along the edge of the grass, canebrakes, and bulkheads redfish are
"I fished about 50 times this year and limited out
40 to 42 times on speckled trout," Terry said. In between launching, fueling
boats, fetching minnows,
and getting ice for customers, Terry manages to wet his line quite
successfully from the bank side of the Wilkinson Canal.
He prefers using the half clear/half chartreuse sparkle beetle,
though he claims good catches on purple or smoke colored sparkle beetles at times.
But none of these lures would be effective if the retrieve isn't slow enough.
The cold weather slows down the fishes' metabolism, making them strike only
slow moving baits.
Though many anglers like using live cocahoe minnows, Terry sticks with
artificials baits and he don't mind showing them off. Looking into the truck
of his car, Terry discreetly pulled
out his tackle box from among a forest of various whatnots. His tackle box boasted
an arsenal of various lures in just as many colors as there were types. He
picked out a gold 1/4 oz. Crocodile spoon, held it to may face, and
explained while shaking it: "I caught 25
trout in thirty two casts one day on it!" He then placed it back into
its tackle tray with one hand, two Mirr-O-lures emerged in the other. "These
two are the best floaters, only when the water's calm; but I've caught `em on
the tiny Torpedoes," he added. His favorite Mirr-O-lures colors are
chartreuse with black and red, and black with red and gold. Rat-L-Traps, he
said, make no difference in color─ although blue with silver seem to
dominate his box.
is home to a large variety of fish that include croaker, sheepshead,
drum, speckled & white trout, striped bass, flounder, and redfish. But
Terry claims he's seen small tarpon and even a 3-ft.-long lemon fish pulled from this canal. He
explained how one day an angler disgruntled at catching a hardhead catfish tossed it out across
the water in order to free the nuisance from his line, when surprisingly a large cobia inhaled it. Also, freshwater species irregularly intrude on the
area, but usually during the summertime doldrums.
"The killer spot is from that side of the bait
tank to the second light pole," Terry pointed out, alluding to where the
majority of anglers like to congrgate along the bulkhead on the east side of the
canal, adjacent to the back-down ramp. As Terry spoke, loud cheering sporadically
erupted as someone latched into a thrashing redfish. You could see patrons
along the bulkhead meticulously balancing themselves to get a glimpse of the erupting
Most interesting to see was how some anglers would
launch their boat only to move down toward the middle of the canal, just
outside of the casting range of those fishing from the shore. Only the
oblivious ventured beyond the productive and busy dead-end section of the
Myrtle Grove Marina offers fishing fun for the entire family
without having to spend a whole lot of money fueling the boat and
going through all the other hassles associated with the cleanup afterward.
Those with pickup trucks or vans, for example, really had things under control, as they could
back right up to the water's edge and have everything needed within easy
reach, including their favorite radio station in earshot range. Some of the
female anglers, prone to being easily chilled
by the nippy northern breeze, simply jumped into the vehicle, cranked up the engine,
and turned on the heater
until they warmed up enough for a rebound.
Howard Austin, a New Orleans resident and owner of a 21
ft. open-fishing boat, pointed out why he liked coming to Myrtle Grove:
can catch fish and it doesn't take a whole lot of time in preparation as is
the case when I take my boat out. You just grab your bait bucket and aerator,
pick up some fresh shrimp and live minnows at one of the bait stands, take
your rod, reel, tackle box, and ice chest, and you're on your way."
It's not unusual, Howard said, to limit out on redfish and
to come back with a mess of speckled trout in two or three hours of morning fishing.
The only complaint he had was that so many people line up casting
popping corks that the water becomes an obstacle course of time-wasting entanglements. It can really get frustrating,
Howard likes fishing live cocahoe minnows on ultra-light tackle with six lb. test
and a 1/0 Lazer hook tied directly to the line. Once the minnow is transfixed to
the hook, he looks for a clear shot among the barrage of
annoying popping corks. After casting, he allows the minnow to swim to
the bottom and then slowly and steadily retrieves it in. It doesn't take
long before the drag breaks loose and the fight is on. In a matter of
minutes he pulled out a gleaming golden
redfish and laid it on the bankside to unhook it. Nearby cork-fishing anglers scramble
to remove their corks in imitation of his success. However, Howard claims their endeavors
are futile since the secret lies in using ultra-light