Tangipahoa River Kayak Trip

Low Water in the Creeks

South Louisiana is currently going through quite a dry spell, with no measurable rain in the Baton Rouge area for the last 30 days! The early part of the dry spell made for some good creek fishing opportunities, but the last time I checked out the Comite it was full of green algae from the persistent low flows. The algae was growing in the shallow sections but was floating in the water as well. I still caught a bass or two, but the floating algae was kind of annoying and would get on my fly every cast. Hopefully we get some rain soon to flush it all out.

Comite River full of algae
Comite River Spotted Bass that fell for a Murdich Minnow

Paddling Opportunities in the Rivers

The flip side is that the larger streams are very low as well, but they are still moving enough water to not have any algae problems. The Tangipahoa River and Bogue Chitto river are two beautiful rivers that can be fished by kayak when the water is down, but are still a bit too fast and deep to wade fish. I did a float trip down the Bogue Chitto earlier in the summer, and want to do another one some day, but the tubing company that offered a kayak shuttle service is shut down for the year. I knew of a couple spots with access along the Tangipahoa River and figured the water being so low, it might not be too difficult to paddle up stream a bit and then float back down to the launch.

Low water readings for the Tangipahoa River

Satellite maps of this stretch of river showed some relatively straight sections of river upstream from the launch before some big bends around one mile up river. My goal was to paddle the mile up to those bends. While the water is low and clear, there is still a pretty strong current, and paddling upstream required a fair amount of effort. Luckily we have been getting some cooler weather lately and the paddle felt more like getting some good exercise in rather than risking heat exhaustion. I also learned from my prior trip to the Bogue Chitto that bringing an anchor might be a good idea. With the anchor I was able to stop from time to time and fish good looking water, which gave my arms and back some periodic rest as I made the arduous paddle upstream.

The launch
Beach break. Steep clay banks, such as the ones pictured here on the far side of the river usually hold fish, especially in little indentations which break the current

It took me a little while to find some willing fish as I cycled through flies. After trying the Murdich Minnow and then a popper with no strikes on either, I tried a larger weighted streamer. The first sign of any fish came when a saw a bass following the streamer out of a log-jam, but he turned away without eating. At least I knew I was getting their attention. The first couple of fish came from right up against a steep clay bank at the end of the first large bend that I had finally reached. With the skunk off and a pattern starting to emerge I kept moving upstream.

First fish of the day
Wide open spaces

The bendy section of river delivered some absolutely beautiful landscapes, with huge sandy beaches and plenty of downed timber in the clear water. I watched a large Osprey circle overhead, saw plenty of deer and raccoon tracks, and soaked in the clear blue skies. The long paddle was worth it for the isolation and beautiful scenery alone. Unfortunately, some great looking water in the deepest bend didn’t yield any fish, and despite the urge to keep working my way up, I was ready for the leisurely float back down stream.

I was able to do some drifting and casting on the way down, and managed to hook a couple bass that both got off near the kayak. Both were holding tight up against the bank, similar to the first two fish of the day. In hindsight I probably spent too much effort on casting to log jams and lay downs, and not enough on the small pockets in the banks. Drifting and fishing allowed me to fish all types of structure and just continuously beat the banks, whereas on the way up, I was only deciding to stop and anchor at spots I (wrongly) thought would produce.

The best and last fish of the day came from a large indentation in a hard clay bank, which formed a large eddy. I had gotten a follow at a smaller eddy just upstream so I was pretty confident I could pick up a fish when I saw the bigger eddy coming. I cast my streamer up against the bank and started a slow jerky retrieve, letting it pause and sink when it got to the middle of the eddy, then I saw a flash as a good looking bass came up and inhaled it. It looked to be decent size when it came up, but when I felt it pull I knew it was a good bit larger than the creek bass I usually catch. Luckily this one was hooked well and I was able to land it while trying not to drift in to any of the log jams I was eying down stream.

Overall it was a great early-Fall day on the water, and I’m glad I hooked into at least one nice fish. Kayak fishing is tricky in the swift current, and you don’t get to fish each potential holding spot as thoroughly as you do when wade fishing, but I feel like I made a big improvement over my last river trip. In hindsight, I didn’t really need to paddle all the way up to the big bends in the river to find the best fishing. That’s another difference in the rivers versus the creeks; the rivers are so much deeper over all, there are plenty of nooks and crannies where the bass can hide even in the straight sections, whereas in the creeks the only deep water might be in the bends. Hopefully I can get back out to the Tangipahoa again this year, as the water should remain low through the fall and into winter. Next time I’ll fish the first half mile more thoroughly and see if I cant do a little better.

Thanks for reading and tight lines!

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