Tchefuncte River Flooding Changes Fishing Outlook

Tchefuncte River Flooding Impacts Fishing Outlook

Monday, June 19, I was amazed at the size and aggressiveness of the catfish feeding on a cup of dry dog food I had thrown into the water from my weight room balcony. There were at least a dozen fish over 2-feet long and countless smaller fish fighting each other for the dog foot. Two massive catfish would collide and they’d both make a splash similar to what you would expect to hear if you dropped a cinder block into the water from about 20 feet up in the air. It was quite a display.

Nature has a way of knowing when major weather events are imminent, and these fish were forecasting a storm and subsequent flooding that I hadn’t anticipated despite seeing the signs first-hand (the fish going crazy).

Had I realized the storm was going to cause such severe flooding I’d have gotten a hotel room so as to not be trapped inside my house. Being flooded in, I decided to take the unexpected day off from work to try and catch some of those massive catfish I had seen feeding just two nights before.

Unfortunately, the day had other plans for me. Shortly after catching my first catfish (a relatively small one), as I was removing the hook my dog Paris swallowed the wad of Magic Bait catfish bait — hook and all — that was attached to my other rod and which I was about to throw in the water.

Well, I wasn’t able to get her to throw it up and had to cut the line, leaving the hook somewhere inside my dog’s throat or stomach. Luckily, my brother was in the area and he was able to meet me after I waded through waist-high water to carry the dog to the roadway (that wasn’t flooded), and bring her to the vet for me.

Peter Egan soaking wet after wading through a flooded road

Luckily, the vet called a few hours later and said the surgery was a success and that the dog was expected to make a full recovery. My bank account likely won’t make a full recovery, but that’s a different story for a different day.

Anyway, I fished for about three hours after that. I caught five small catfish. Had I done my fishing two days prior, all my efforts chumming in order to keep catfish in the area would have resulted in quite a haul. After the flood, the effect of the chum was minimized as fish have access to new ground that’s usually dry and tend to leave their regular spaces exploring their new, temporary territory.

I’m going to try again in a few hours once it’s dark (which is when I normally see the big blue catfish – for whatever reason they won’t eat during the day, even if I throw the same food in the same spot). Hopefully, my efforts tonight will yield better results than the five 12-14 ounce catfish I caught during the day.

If you were planning on fishing the Tchefuncte the remainder of this week or this weekend, I’d suggest a change-of-plan. Everything that would normally apply in fishing the Tchefuncte can be thrown out the window in these conditions, including but not limited to there being twice the water containing the same number of fish (meaning the fish are more spread out and thus harder to catch). I would recommend booking a fishing trip where results are pretty much guaranteed. The storm system is well past the southern tip of southeast Louisiana, so offshore fishing should be close to normal if not completely normal by now.

My advice would be to call someone like Captain Troy Wetzel and ask him about the conditions in and around Venice, LA. If he’s comfortable going out in the Gulf and doing some offshore fishing, book a fishing charter with him or someone like him, depending on whether you prefer to fish offshore or inshore saltwater.

If you opt to fish inshore saltwater, make sure to do your research on the fishing captain. There are just as many bad as there are good. Not everyone with a nice bay boat has the tools to be a good charter captain. Certain guides will ensure their clients limit out every time out, while others are still trying to learn what the good ones (like Willy Serpas) have known for decades.

Offshore charters generally involve less risk because there isn’t as much nuance involved in terms of finding the fish and catching them. The oil rigs are the only structures out there. The only questions is are the fish biting that particular day. Sure, read reviews and make sure you don’t overpay or get stuck with an amateur, but generally speaking as long as you communicate your goals and establish that those goals are consistent with the captain’s strengths, there’s not as much risk when fishing offshore as compared to inshore.

To read more about offshore fishing, leaving out of Venice, LA, check out the following post: Peter Egan Enjoys Offshore Fishing Trip Out of Venice LA.

Anyway, below are some photos of the flooding, along with some photos showing what the water level normally looks like for anyone interested.

Tchefuncte River Flooding
The water in this photo is normally dry land.
Tchefuncte River Flood
The flooding actually got a lot worse than this.
House on the Tchefunce River
This is where the water level is on an average day.
House on the Tchefuncte River
Same house shown in above photos, only the ground isn’t covered by water like it was June 21, 2017.

How to Chum for Catfish

How to Chum for Catfish

Increase your catch by learning the strategies and techniques behind chumming for catfish

By: Peter Egan

Note: The instructional videos are at the bottom of the article. If you’re only here to watch the videos and learn to chum, scroll down until you see the videos.

Ever since I became an adult and started living on my own (with the exception of when I was enrolled full-time in college), there has been one constant — I’ve lived on or near the water. After Hurricane Katrina shut down Tulane’s campus, destroyed my uptown New Orleans home and forced me to take a semester off from school, I’ve resided one or near a large body of water.

From 2005-2011, I lived in a home located on a bayou just off the Tchefuncte River. From 2011-2012 I lived in a beachfront condo along the Mississippi Gulf Coast. From 2012-2014 (October of 2014 to be exact) I lived in a house three blocks from the beach about two miles from the Condo I had lived in previously.

In October of 2014, I returned to Covington and now find myself in the same house on the bayou and 150 feet from the Tchefuncte River.

The reason I have always sought out places of residence near large bodies of water is simple: I love to fish. Freshwater fishing (like the Tchefuncte, the bayou on which my home resides or the pond at my parents’ house growing up), inshore saltwater, beach fishing, marsh / brackish water, offshore — it’s all fishing to me and I enjoy it all.

Peter Egan's Fishing Store
Peter Egan's Fishing StoreOf course every form of fishing and even every species of fish when you get right down to it has its own unique challenges which require different approaches in order to achieve results. Living on the Tchefuncte River, I occasionally fish for bass, but the river has become so over-fished post-Katrina when the area’s population more than tripled that bass are pretty hard to come by. You really need a bass boat with a trolling motor and an assortment of various tackle to even have a chance at catching Power Pro Fishing Line - 20 Pound Test>more than one or two small bass on a given day in the Tchefuncte. A good day bass fishing in the Tchefuncte and all the connected bayous and lagoons would consist of maybe 3-5 bass total, perhaps one weighing over 1.5 pounds. It’s really not a good river in which to fish for bass – especially when you stop to consider the near-constant boat traffic and the fact that on some weekends, 20-25 different boats all troll down the bayou upon which I reside. Most are probably clueless to the fact that there’s already been a dozen other fishermen who’ve thrown every lure at every angle imaginable by the time they make their way down my bayou. Maybe they’re not and they just don’t care. I don’t know and don’t much care myself.

My preferred species of fish to target in this river at least are catfish.

There are several reasons for this: For one thing, catfish are far more abundant than are bass or crappie, the other two primary game fish targeted by fishermen (the river is nearly extinct of Alligator Gar, a species that thrived in the river pre-Katrina, due to over-fishing). Catfish don’t require a boat, trolling motor or tackle box full of expensive artificial lures of every texture, shape, color and size. In terms of food, catfish are delicious, and the taste of fried or broiled catfish rivals that of the other freshwater fish species commonly eaten. That said, catfish are the only freshwater fish on the menu of literally every seafood (and many non-seafood) restaurant – at least in the southeast United States.

A day of bass fishing might yield 3-5 fish on a good day. Panfish (sunfish, bream, perch, bluegill – many species with countless names but all basically the same fish) are easy to catch and taste good. However, they’re small fish and even the larger ones are only a few ounces. Crappie (aka: sac-a-lait) are the exception, as they can grow to be several pounds, but unlike other panfish, crappie can require elaborate tackle and techniques to catch. For the most part panfish are easy to catch and taste good, they’re just a lot of work to clean and there’s not a lot of meat per fish.

A day of fishing of catfish on the other hand can yield dozens of fish, hundreds if you care to catch that many. The fish can range in size from a few ounces to 50-60 pounds on the large end of the spectrum.

Channel Catfish

Channel Catfish

The maximum size of the fish varies depending upon the species. Channel Catfish, which are the most common species in the Tchefuncte (and in the southeastern United States in general), can reach a size of approximately 40 pounds, however this is extremely rare. A large channel cat is anything over 5 pounds. I’ve caught a handful in the Tchefuncte over 10-12 pounds, but just a handful out of hundreds of fish. Most will range between 1-4 pounds. They’re not huge, but are delicious and widely considered to be the tastiest of the three main species of catfish found in the Tchefuncte.

According to Wikipedia:

Channel catfish (Ictalurus punctatus) is North America’s most numerous catfish species. It is the official fish of Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, and Tennessee, and is informally referred to as a “channel cat”. In the United States, they are the most fished catfish species with approximately 8 million anglers targeting them per year. The popularity of channel catfish for food has contributed to the rapid expansion of aquaculture of this species in the United States.

A member of the Ictalurus genus of American catfishes, channel catfish have a top-end size of about 40–50 pounds (18–23 kg). The world record channel catfish weighed 58 pounds, and was taken from the Santee-Cooper Reservoir in South Carolina, on July 7, 1964. Realistically, a channel catfish over 20 lb (9 kg) is a spectacular specimen, and most catfish anglers view a 10-lb (4.5-kg) fish as a very admirable catch. Furthermore, the average size channel catfish an angler could expect to find in most waterways would be between two and four pounds.

Channel catfish will often coexist in the same waterways with its close relative, the blue catfish, which is somewhat less common, but tends to grow much larger (with several specimens confirmed to weigh above 100 lb).

Source: Wikipedia

Blue Catfish

In addition to Channel Catfish are Blue Catfish. Blue Catfish are not quite as common as Channel Catfish in the Tchefuncte, but they’re plentiful nonetheless and based on my anecdotal evidence would appear to be the second-most commonly found species in the Tchefuncte.

Blue Catfish

Blue Catfish differ from Channel Catfish in appearance and in size. Blue Catfish have a blueish tint, don’t have the spots commonly found on channel catfish, have a dorsal hump and over 30 rays on the anal fin (compared to the channel catfish, which generally has between 25-29).

More importantly, Blue Catfish can grow to over 14o pounds, with several documented cases of anglers catching blue catfish in excess of 130 pounds, and a handful over 140. Generally speaking, throughout my history of fishing the Tchefuncte, the Blue Catfish I’ve caught have been larger on average than the Channel Catfish, and most of the fish weighing over ten pounds that I’ve caught have been either Blue or Flathead Catfish, which we’ll discuss next.

Blue Catfish (underwater)

Blue catfish, like their close relative the Channel Catfish, make for great table fare. They’re slightly below the Channel Cat in terms of their taste.

Blue Catfish will eat almost anything, dead or alive, that they can fit into their mouths.

Blue Catfish (2)

According to Wikipedia:

Blue catfish are opportunistic predators and eat any species of fish they can catch, along with crawfish, freshwater mussels, frogs, and other readily available aquatic food sources. Catching their prey becomes all the more easy if it is already wounded or dead, and blue catfish are noted for feeding beneath marauding schools of striped bass in open water in reservoirs or feeding on wounded baitfish that have been washed through dam spillways or power-generation turbines.

More information on Blue Catfish: Wikipedia

Flathead Catfish

Flathead Catfish are the third primary species of catfish found in the Tchefuncte River. They can grow very large, and have an approximate maximum size that is comparable to the Blue Cat. Commonly referred to as “Tabby Cats” among south Louisiana anglers, Flathead Catfish have one distinct difference from Channel and Blue Catfish: their feeding patterns.

Flathead Catfish

Yeti CoolerYeti Cooler

Flathead Catfish prefer life prey. Whereas Channel and Blue Catfish will eat almost anything they can smell, feel or catch (and fit into their mouths), Flathead Catfish are somewhat more carnivorous and prefer to eat smaller fish, crawfish, insects and worms.

Flathead Catfish are good to eat, but their taste is not quite as delicious as Channel and Blue Cats. Flathead Cats certainly taste good enough that were you to catch a nice-sized one, it would go in the Yeti (ice chest) as opposed to being released.

Additional Information about Flathead Catfish: Wikipedia

Magic BaitGenerally when I fish for catfish in the Tchefuncte or Bogafalaya Rivers, I’ll catch all three species, Typically using live worms, nightcrawlers, occasionally liver and sometimes Magic Bait or another brand of “Stink Bait” for bait. I also chum constantly, so I don’t have to travel beyond my back porch to catch as many catfish as I so choose.

This brings us to the reason for this article. Chumming for catfish can greatly enhance your catch and make fishing trips infinitely more fun if it’s done properly. Luckily for my readers, I’ve assembled a series of videos I filed outlining the chumming techniques and strategies I personally use.

Full disclosure, I use Magic Bait’s pre-made, commercial chum as one of the main ingredients in my most common chum mixtures. I recommend buying it online, as you can get it a lot cheaper at Amazon than at Bass Pro Shops. If you click the image or the link it will take you to a page where you can buy the product. I endorse this product because it works. I use it. I pay for at least a bag a week, every single week. Sure, I mix it with various other ingredients to concoct my proprietary chum blends, but it is my genuine belief that the Dinner Bell Fish Chum from Magic Bait is an excellent starting point and a perfect base around which to build your chum.

Flathead Catfish (2)

I also explain different chumming techniques and strategies depending upon your goal. Specifically, I outline two separate strategic approaches for both short-term fishing goals (meaning a one-time fishing trip to a spot you may or may not have fished before but don’t have access to regularly enough to continuously chum the area). The other strategic approaches involve long-term chumming. This is for anglers who either live on or near a body of water, or who have easy access to the water sufficient to maintain a permanent chum bucket and change it out every week or so. Since I live on the water, I obviously prefer the latter approach, but I recognize that few people have this luxury, so I’ve included instructions for those who cannot for logistical reasons maintain a constant chum spot.

In the effort of full disclosure, the four videos combined make up more than half an hour of video recordings. However, I can promise you that if you devote the time to watching all four videos, you will not regret one moment of it, and you’ll emerge a better fisherman. Every line of dialog contained within these four videos was included for a specific reason. If you miss one line you could very well miss something very important.

In other words, pay close attention and watch the videos in order, one-through-four, from beginning to end; at least if you wish to become a better fisherman and know when and how to chum most effectively depending upon your specific goals for that particular fishing trip.

The videos are below.

Chumming for Catfish

Four-part video series featuring expert fisherman Peter Egan of PeterEgan.net.

Chumming for Catfish – Part 1 (Introduction)

How to Chum for Catfish – Part 2

How to Chum for Catfish – Part 3

How to Chum for Catfish – Part 4


Hopefully you’ve watched the above videos and learned when to chum for catfish, how to chum for catfish and which tactics to use depending upon long-and-short-term-goals.

As you can see, the techniques work. My line wasn’t in the water a minute before I caught the first fish.

I’ve been chumming consistently in the time since these videos were filmed. I’m planning on fishing the spot with a friend the weekend of May 05-07, 2o17, and I will update this post with photos of our (sure to be solid haul of catfish).

Tchefuncte River Fishing Report – April 05

Tchefuncte River Fishing Report – April 05

Following the storm that passed through the Covington/Madisonville area on Monday, April 03, the water level of the Tchefuncte River is higher than normal, and the water is very muddy.

Typically, the water is muddy from Friday afternoon through about mid-day Monday (on a weekend wherein the weather is pleasant) from all the boat traffic. Both non-fishing boat traffic and fishing have increased at least tenfold since Hurricane Katrina, and in the opinion of this author the river is being over-fished.

Tchefuncte River

I live on a bayou just off the Tchefuncte, and every day there are at least a half-dozen boats that pass up and down the bayou using their trolling motors fishing for bass mainly. I’ve counted as many as 24 boats one Saturday. Perhaps there was a tournament that day?

Every now and again I’ll see someone using live bait, which could technically put them in play for just about any species of fish found in the river. I would estimate that nine out of ten are using artificial baits, which would strongly suggest their target is largemouth bass.

The fishing report for April 05, 2017 is as follows:

Conditions:

  • Water Clarity: Poor
  • Water level: High
  • Outlook for bass: Below-average (see below for additional info)
  • Outlook for catfish: Below-average (see below for additional info)
  • Outlook in general: Poor

Largemouth Bass Outlook, Advice

If targeting bass and determined to fish today or tomorrow, I’d recommend planning the trip for early morning or late evening. Water clarity is so poor right now that sight-baits won’t bring much success. Use something that makes noise or chops up the water to alert the bass to its presence. Spinnerbaits, buzzbaits along shorelines and over lily pads, weedless top-water frogs (and any other weedless top-water bait that can be fished over lily pads), chatterbaits and even diving top-water minnows that have a rattle inside them to make some noise. If the fish can’t hear or feel the vibration of the bait, you’ve got very little chance because unless you happen to place it literally right in front of the fish’s face, it probably won’t see it.

Catfish Outlook, Advice

Catfish Chum
Click the image for more info

If fishing for catfish, I’d strongly recommend chumming your fishing spot and being patient. Fish near the chum or past the chum in whichever direction the water is moving that day. Magic Bait makes a good catfish chum that I’ve had success with before. Combine one bag of chum with one bag of their actual catfish bait into a perforated minnow bucket, add weight to the bucket and wait for the fish to arrive.

Traditional tactics like using jugs or noodles (pool flotation toys cut into pieces) may bring success due to the amount of space covered by this technique, but the degree to which the water is muddy is making it difficult for the fish to smell in addition to making it virtually impossible for them to see. If fishing with a rod and reel, I would definitely chum and wait at least an hour before declaring the day a failure. 

Tchefuncte River - Catfish Feeding

One last note: the catfish in the Tchefuncte have been more aggressive in their feeding of late right at dusk and dawn. I regularly feed them cat food in my bayou and I’ve noticed they completely ignore it if I throw it out at any point during the day when the sun is up. At dusk, or after dark, the demolish every morsel that lands in the water. Take it for what it’s worth.

As you can see in the above photo, the turtles are gorging themselves while not a single catfish is anywhere in sight. Worth noting is that this is the same spot I feed them every day. This time it just happened to be a few hours earlier than normal, and the fish were nowhere to be found.

This is a relatively new development for me. I’ve traditionally had success fishing for catfish in the Tchefuncte mid-day during all seasons of the year. I’m not sure what the reasoning is behind why they seem to be feeding less aggressively during the daylight hours, but whatever the reason that is my observation and I hope the above outlook and advice help make your next fishing trip a success.