If you are looking to tussle with genuine bull red drum, the Mississippi Delta in Louisiana is no doubt one of the finest places to start your quest. In this episode, "Hook Shots" host Joe Cermele dukes it out with bulls in the shallows, gets too close for comfort with some bayou 'gators, and takes his chances with some low-country ghosts.
The Deal: No matter what your preferred method for chasing redfish happens to be - fly, light-tackle, live-bait - the Mississippi Delta in Southern Louisiana is just like heaven. Reds from 8 to 15 pounds thrive up the river near the towns of Port Sulfur and Buras, while bulls to 40-plus-pounds make theie way into the shallow duck ponds and back coves in these areas during the late summer, fall, and winter. Sight-fishing is the name of the game. But if you run to the mouth of the river or any other pass that meets the Gulf south of Venice, you can hook bruiser fish pretty much year-round in the murky waters along the jetties and near-shore oil rigs.
When to Go: There really isn't a wrong time to visit the Mississippi Delta, but the calmest weather is going to occur in the late spring and summer, even though these times may not coincide with peak runs of true bull reds. October through December marks the height of hog time, with the heaviest fish stacked from the river mouth practically all the way up to the New Orleans city limits. If you're visiting during these months, or earlier in the spring, book some extra days and count on the wind robbing you of some fishing time.
What to Bring: If you're into throwing artificials, 7-foot medium-action spinning or baitcasting rods get the nod. You want an outfit with plenty of backbone, but enough tip flexibility to counteract a red's brutal head shakes and smoking runs. Most area guides opt for 20- or 30-pound braided line, and they use reels that hold plenty of it. Soft-plastic shrimp or mullet imitations under a popping cork are utterly deadly, as are crankbaits when the fish are holding in more than five feet of water. Spinnerbaits have their place, too, especially along the cane banks. But when in doubt, a fresh shrimp worked slowly across the bottom on a jighead is rarely refused.
How to Fish: During our film shoot, we noticed something interesting: If you casually popped your cork, you'd catch reds in the 20- to 25-pound range. If you chugged that cork with all your might, suddenly 30-plus-pounders were fighting to attack the lure. According to Captain Keith Kennedy, this was no odd coincidence. Redfish key in on the noise projected by injured or fleeing mullet. The louder the "pop," the bigger the baitfish. We rarely fished our plastics more than 18 inches below the cork, even in 7 to 10 feet of water.
Where to Fish: The amount of ponds, cuts, channels, and creeks in the Mississippi Delta is mind-boggling to say the least. You can rent a boat in the town of Venice, but unless you know these waters well, we'd recommend hiring a guide to avoid getting lost or potentially running over a partially submerged gas or oil well. But if you insist on going it alone, make it easy on yourself and follow the Old Miss all the way to the Gulf. Here you'll find two jetties at the river mouth. Redfish stack up in the eddies at the tip of the rocks or anywhere along their length where a break or section of lower rocks allows current to pass between the river and the Gulf. Redfish love current, so find a good piece of moving water and it's likely you'll find fish.
Where to Stay: We had the luxury of staying at historic Woodland Plantation near Port Sulfur during our visit. The plantation house is spectacular, the view is exquiste and the food is to die for...but it may not fit the budget of every angler. If you're looking to save some cash, check out either the Venice Inn or Lighthouse Lodge in Venice.