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Last month I got the opportunity to spend a few days working near Breaux Bridge.  In my down time I explored Lake Martin, though not by kayak on the water, but on foot at the Cypress Island Preserve, which is property around the lake owned by the Nature Conservancy.

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In two mornings I covered the entire trail system and can say with certainty that there is no better place in south Louisiana to take someone to see an alligator than Lake Martin.  The clear waters of the lake hold an abundant population of the big lizards.  The fishing for bass, bream, and sacalait can be pretty good too, from what I hear, I haven’t put in the time there to tell you from experience.  It is a beautiful lake, full of Spanish moss covered cypress and tupelo trees.  It’s a place, I imagine, that is exactly what tourists picture in their minds when they think of our part of the country.  The levee trail at Cypress Island makes for a great place to take a walk.

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IMG_4670Common blue violet (Viola sororia)

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I had to work on the “Best Bank” earlier this Fall and found myself with a little time to kill not too far away from the Jean Lafitte NHP.  I decided to check it out and get a bit of exercise walking some of the trails.  Jean Lafitte seems like one of those places that gets forgotten about alongside all the other attractions New Orleans has to offer, I know that I’ve driven past it a few times without even thinking twice about stopping.  I’m glad I finally gave it a go because I really enjoyed my walk in the swamp.  The park boasts an incredible amount of boardwalk that winds it’s way into the Northern  Barataria estuary – the swamp was beautiful and the critters were plentiful, but I couldn’t get over the fact that I walked a few miles on boardwalk, someone had to put all that together!

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Steve and I set out last Saturday in search of Largemouth bass with a penchant for topwater frogs. We’d heard from a friend that a certain swamp to the west of town held good numbers of them and was the perfect place to try our luck. So we ignored the urge to head to the marsh and went bass fishing in the swamp instead.

It was a beautiful day, winds were fairly light, and temps hovered in the low 90s, which also meant the mosquitos were out in force. We set out around sunrise and when we reached our destination we were greeted with some super fishy looking water, which always gets the adrenaline going. Steve didn’t waste any time getting onto the water. As always, I was a little slower.

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I’m almost ashamed to admit, especially living in Louisiana, but I can’t remember the last time I fished water like this. Despite being surrounded by them, I generally avoid still, swampy waters like this because they are tough to see through and there’s no telling what the oxygen levels are like. However, I was pleasantly surprised to see excellent water clarity, that is, under the duckweed. Of course the duckweed covered most of the surface like a bright green blanket – which is why we would be frog fishing.

Steve got on the board early on with an 18.5″ LMB on a frog and I followed up with a 24″ choupique on a texas rigged soft plastic, which proved to be the only fish I’d land on the day.

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I threw the soft plastic in places where the duckweed was more broken up, however where it was thick, the frog was our best bet, in fact it was the only bait that even elicited a strike from a LMB. Steve had better luck than I did throwing the frog and ended up landing a few, all around 18″ if I’m not mistaken. I came up short on the hook set on every fish that hit. Being new to frog fishing, I was under powered and over anxious, throwing medium tackle with light braid and setting the hook way too early. Still it was a lot of fun to watch the toilet bowl flush and feel a taught line, even if it was just for a few seconds.

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Each of us did have our exciting moments though. I hooked and fought a nice 18-20″ bass for a short while, only to lose him right next to the boat, in mid air – it had my heart racing. Steve, however, lost a true beast.

We were fishing parallel to each other, with some distance in between. I was on the opposite side of where he was working his frog when I heard a huge blow up. I looked over and all I see is a giant tail and a portion of his body breach the surface as the fish leaped from the water, Steve’s line went loose during the acrobatics. It was a very large bass, one of the biggest I’ve seen in public water, “dangs” and “dagnabbits” were definitely uttered.

Fishing the swamp really opened my eyes to the opportunities I often overlook. It was tough fishing and even though I only landed one fish it was still rewarding. Above average bass are certainly there. Next time I head that way I’ll be better equipped and hopefully my stories won’t be about the one that got away.

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