Macaluso: Rivers fall, bait rises on east side

Freshwater folks have been waiting for this week since February.

It’s the first time in those long months that the Mississippi and Atchafalaya rivers have fallen to the point where neither will be a deterrent to fishing. And bass and sac-a-lait are busting just about everything put in front of their noses in the Atchafalaya Spillway.

Those rapidly falling water levels are important to the saltwater folks, too.

Combined with the lowest water levels since March in the Pearl River, the salinity in Lake Borgne, Breton and Chandeleur sounds and Lake Pontchartrain is on the rise.

That means the water is salty enough to allow white shrimp and lots of baitfish to push into and thrive in those areas. And where the bait goes, the big fish follow.

Weather

Another week of constantly shifting winds, only 5-10 knots this week, started from the west Wednesday, then will run southwest, back to the west, then southeast, then south and back to the southwest by Sunday. Expect 1-footer or less along the coast with a light chop inside and something less than 2 footers offshore.

The major rivers are falling fast, like more than 6 feet at Baton Rougee (down to 17.6 feet) by Monday with a fall from 8.4 to 4.9 feet during the same period at New Orleans. The Atchafalaya is predicted to fall to 2.2 feet (down from 3.8) at Morgan City by Monday.

Expect hot days, so take along lots of water.

Freshwater

First-rate sac-a-lait catches came from Old River earlier this week, but rapidly falling water levels mean the fish are on the move daily. (The Mississippi River moves in this oxbow above the 15-foot mark on the Baton Rouge gauge.) The buttonwoods along the low-water banks should hold the most sac-a-lait by the weekend. You’ll need weed guards to work down into the thick buttonwoods with black/chartreuse tube jigs on a 1/16-ounce jighead.

Bass and sac-a-lait are showing up in big numbers in the Bayou Pigeon area and out into Grand Lake. Black/chartruese and blue/white tubes are good for sac-a-lait. Bass are eating almost anything, so take along your favorite baits.

The coast

Redfish are everywhere east and west of the river, along the coast, in the marshes and passes.

Trout continue to be finicky in most places, and the latest quirk is that they prefer cocahoe minnows to shrimp and croaker along the Central Coast in the last six days. Almost no reports on folks staying in one spot or one small area and limiting on specks. Winds have kept baitfish and shrimp from piling up and that means smaller groups of trout are spread over larger areas. Moving is the key.

The best deep-water action is coming at the Green Canyon. Tuna, billfish, small wahoo, cobia and bull dolphin there.

Tarpon are cruising 6-9 miles southeast of Barataria Pass and seem to prefer live bait over artificials.