This past week, we headed down to Lake Caddo for a little late summer bream fishing and to soak up the tranquility that only this huge inland swamp can provide.
Billy Carter and his wife Dottie have become great friends of my family through the years. The Carter’s roots are deeply entwined at Lake Caddo. Dottie’s family owned the famous Fly N Fish resort that was a national destination for pilots and sportsmen heading to Caddo several decades ago. Billy grew up hunting ducks and fishing this outdoor wonderland. He began guiding fishing and hunting trips there as a teenager. The Carters now own Spatterdock (spatterdock.com) which consists of several very comfortable rental lake houses.
Billy took over management of the famous Johnson’s Ranch Marina (www.johnsonsranch.net) a little over a year ago. He has brought the marina back to its rustic beauty and efficiency; it’s once again a one stop headquarters for fishermen coming to Caddo.
As blessed as Caddo is with abundant wildlife and fish, it takes someone with experience to continually remain current on patterns. The Cypress River, the lifeline to the lake, is the key player that dictates where the fish will at a given time, or, where the duck will be stopping over during their fall migration.
Thanks to an overabundance of rainfall last fall and winter, Caddo remained several feet higher in elevation than normal. Billy says that much of the invasive vegetation that has plagued the lake was flooded or washed away. In years with normal rainfall, current is usually confined to the river channel, which concentrates big schools of white and yellow bass.
“With the vast amount of water coming through the lake last year, all the fish species were scattered, not packed into the channel as they normally are. I’m looking forward to some red hot fall fishing for the whites and yellow bass. Conditions look perfect for some the usually consistent action that begins in October and lasts throughout the winter,” tips Carter.
My twin 12-year old grandsons, Trevor and Tyler, joined Carter and “Gramps” for their first trip to Caddo this past week. The boy’s eyes were as big as saucers as Billy threaded the boat through groves on ancient Cypress trees covered in their gray beards of Spanish Moss. Possibly because of the long period of high water, bream had remained on their beds throughout the summer, not in the huge bedding areas common in May, but rather in scattered pockets. Billy’s bream trips had produced consistent catches of 50-75 bream, all from water about 3-4 feet deep around beds located in isolated pockets of open water in the lily pads and cypress groves.
As Billy eased to boat up to an isolated Cypress, I snugged the bow rope to an old tree trunk and we broke out spinning rigs with slip floaters. On the tag end of line, we tied long shanked bream hooks and baited with bits of nightcrawler. Slip floaters allow the float to be near the hook and make casting much easier that attempting to cast a ‘pegged’ float situated 2 or 3 feet up from the bait.
“We seldom have to do any more from this area to catch all the big bream we want,” he said.
The twins instantly began getting bites, but from very small sunfish. They managed to boat a couple and were intent on staying put.
“Let’s roll them in, boys, something has changed here since 2 days ago. We will have to go find the bigger fish.” says Carter.
Out next stop was on the inside, shaded bend of the river, about a quarter mile from Billy’s previous ‘hot spot.’ This time, we eased the anchor into the slightly deeper water and began casting around the roots of the shaded Cypress trees.
Bingo! The twins were consistently doing battle with bream that were seldom smaller than their chubby hands. Some were as big as a grown man’s hand.
Back at the dock at Johnson’s Ranch, the big basket of bream the twins caught were quickly converted into some of the tastiest fillets in fresh water. A 6 inch bream produces two fillets that are about the size of a jumbo shrimp, and to my way of thinking, every bit as tasty!
When the twins and I arrived back at the lake house, the rest of the family was off to Jefferson sight seeing. It was lunch time and we were all craving a big platter of fried bream fillets. I know enough about feeding two 12 year olds to plan ahead. In no time, a cast iron skillet was filled with cooking oil, the bream fillets were seasoned with Louisiana Hot Sauce and Country Bobs dry seasoning, battered in a 50-50 mixture of flour and corn meal and dropped into the hot oil.
For the next few minutes, Gramps was kept busy serving the crispy fillets to his two charges for the day.
After stocking the boys up with their second helping of fried bream, I settled down to my own lunch. Life is good at Caddo!
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