Marsh fishing in St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana
Chris Holmes

Fresh or Salt? Try St. Bernard Parish and You Won't Have to Choose

 

Southeast Louisiana offers a unique fishing experience where kayak anglers do not have to choose between pursuing fresh or saltwater fish species.  

In St. Bernard Parish, they can do both. As a result of various hurricane protection and coastal restoration projects, the surrounding marshes have reverted from salty to more brackish, allowing fresh and saltwater species to commingle and thrive.

Following the massive flooding from Hurricane Katrina, new and fortified levees and structures have lessened saltwater intrusion. Additionally, freshwater introduction from the Mississippi River, both through natural and man-made diversions has combined to produce a unique fishery that is particularly beneficial to kayak anglers.

St. Bernard lies just a few miles south of New Orleans and bills itself as “New Orleans’ Most Historic Neighbor.” Steeped in history, the Chalmette Battlefield is the location of the Battle of New Orleans that ended the War of 1812. Known for its Isleno’s settlers and fantastic food, “Da Parish,” as it is fondly referred to by locals, is also a fishing paradise.

Unlimited miles of protected marshes and direct access to Lake Borgne, allow kayak anglers to target freshwater species such as largemouth bass, bream, and catfish as well as their saltwater cousins, speckled trout, redfish, flounder, sheepshead and black drum. The unique part is that all of these species are regularly caught in the same areas, on a single trip.

Bass fishing in the marsh in St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana.

Marsh fishing for bass.

Kayak fishing in St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana

Catch bass, drum and speckled trout.

The marsh looks fishy. However, what isn’t visually apparent is the diversity of fish that ply these waters Healthy stands of submerged aquatic vegetation have flourished as a result of the freshwater introduction. In addition to providing structure and cover for bait and young fish, the grass beds filter out the river’s silt and keep the water fairly clear. Kayak anglers are astonished at the quantity and diversity of the available species.

In the Bayou Bienvenue marsh complex mid-Parish, bass have particularly flourished. A Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries stocking program recently introduced 1,500 Florida strain bass fingerlings into the area. Phase one of a three-year program to introduce 50,000 such bass into the waters of St. Bernard. No doubt this effort will produce trophy size bass in a short few years.

There are four commercial marinas along Paris Road that offer launch facilities.

“Down the Road” in the eastern end of the Parish are the historic fishing communities of Shell Beach, Hopedale, and Delacroix Island. All offer commercial marinas that are kayak friendly and great fishing literally within sight of each facility. Hopedale Marina has a dedicated floating kayak launch that makes getting launched and loaded quick and easy.

The fishing in each location is similar and equally fantastic. Shell Beach offers direct access to the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (MRGO) a large shipping channel that is now closed to ship and barge traffic. The MRGO itself provides great fishing along its rocked shoreline, but also provides entrance to the nearby shallow marsh. Traveling north, Bayou Yscloskey terminates at the south shore of Lake Borgne near the remnants of Fort Beauregard.

Hopedale offers a short paddle to the MRGO and the large rock dam constructed post-Hurricane Katrina to close the channel. “The Dam” is a year-round hotspot. Nearby marshes across from the marina provide endless ponds and canals for kayak fishing.

Delacroix is generally the freshest of these areas in light of its closer proximity to the Caernarvon Freshwater Diversion. Bass and freshwater catfish abound, but the saltier species like trout and reds are also abundant.

The good news is that there really isn’t a big learning curve. If you know how to catch bass, you can catch reds and trout and vise versa. The same gear, the same lures, and the same techniques work on all. It is not uncommon to catch a red on one cast, bass on the next and a trout on the next. Perhaps even a freshwater catfish on the next.

A wide variety of overnight accommodations are available. Hotels, camps, cabins, and RV’s are available to suit every need. The beautifully wooded St. Bernard State Park is just a few miles from all the popular fishing locations and offers tent, camper, and RV camping in this quiet, secluded area.

While many anglers pride themselves in their particular species prowess, others simply want to catch fish. Launch your kayak in the waters of St. Bernard Parish, cast your favorite lure, and revel at the smorgasbord of species that await.