As Mississippi River falls, fishing activity rises

Ryan Lambert has enough years under his belt to know good things happen to those who wait. When you fish near the Mississippi River, waiting is part of the game.

Lambert operates Cajun Fishing Adventures in Buras, and knows for most of the first six or seven months every year he and his charterboat staff need to run miles from Buras to find what usually are limits of redfish and speckled trout.

Not today.

Launching into the Mississippi River from Buras, Lambert’s crew ran east and fished some of the 19 of what he calls “mini-diversions” on the east side of the country’s largest river.

“The reason we wait is the river. The river is high early in the year, and fish go away from the river,” Lambert said.

“Go away” and “fish” are references that baitfish and shrimp cannot survive in the slugs of freshwater pouring from a flooded Mississippi.

“In the spring and summer, Cocodrie and Fourchon are covered up in trout, but when the river is high here — and it was at 14.5 (feet on the New Orleans gauge) — trout and reds aren’t, but when the river falls like it has in the last month, the bait filters back to the river and the big fish follow,” he said.

“We get used to that movement down here. It’s the way nature is supposed to work.”

For Lambert, those “mini-diversions” have more benefits than world-class fishing action in the fall and winter months.

The bevy of national outdoors writers invited by Traditions Media to Lambert’s lodge on Tuesday were treated to the initial wave of trout and redfish venturing back to waters near the Mighty Mississippi.

“You look at the river, and it’s at (a) 3-foot (reading) at New Orleans, and when the river stays at that level the trout will move into the river on the saltwater wedge that moves into the river,” Lambert said.

“When the river is at that level, menhaden and mullet move into the river,” Lambert said. “That means by the end of October, the action will be unbelievable, and with the way they’re moving right now, we’re set-up for one heck of a fall.”

Checking out the boats Tuesday, it was easy to know the most productive bait. Black bodies with chartreuse tails — Lambert said H&H Cocahoe Minnows and Deadly Dudley Terror Tails are his choices — were hooked on jigheads and threaded onto spinnerbaits.

“Really, I like shrimp colors with a chartreuse tail, or glow or smoke, something in a natural color, but always with a chartreuse tail because our shrimp have chartreuse tails,” Lambert said, adding that swimbaits and grubs also can work into the late fall and early winter, and always before the Mississippi starts rising again.

There’s another bonus in waiting: Lambert said the water from the 19 ‘minis” is setting him up for the duck season.

He talked about how the water running through the Ostrica Locks ran at 400 cubic feet per second through the spring and into the end of July and how that helped re-establish valuable waterfowl habitat.

That stimulated ecosystem and improved vegetation in the continued recovery from major storms during the past eight years is showing in the special September teal season.

“This is the best duck hunting of my life,” Lambert said Wednesday, a couple hours after he and four other hunters took six-per-man limit from the earliest migrating ducks.

“It was a great hunt and continues what we’ve had for most of the teal season. It’s A-plus, and we’ve got a lot of birds,” Lambert said. “The only day we were down was the day after (last week’s) full moon, and the birds moved out on their way to Central America. But we got a front the next day and more birds moved in.”

Autism change

Organizers of the Anglers Against Autism bass tournament decided to limit the fishing area for Saturday’s pick-your-partner fundraiser to the Lake Verret-Belle River area and the Atchafalaya Spillway.

Fishermen cannot venture into waters south of U.S. 90.

The tournament is set for Doiron’s Landing in Stephensville, and anglers can enter at the store before dawn Saturday.

The 100 percent payback tournament has a 3 p.m. weigh-in. The Emerge Center will reap the proceeds that will go to helping local families with children battling autism.