Southwest Louisiana Day-Tripping: Toledo Bend Spillway and Kisatchie National Forest

With the day off for Mardi Gras, some unseasonably warm weather for February, and an itch to explore some new water, I planned a lengthy day-trip to southwest Louisiana. The plan was to head to the spillway below the Toledo Bend dam, and then back through the Calcasieu District of the Kisatchie National Forest before making the drive back to Baton Rouge. These are two places I had never been to, and after a couple months of winter and not making many trips outside of southeast Louisiana, the allure of some new watersheds was too much to pass up. I ended up leaving the house around 6 am and returning at 6 pm, a long day, but broken up nicely and included some beautiful scenery along the state highways.

Toledo Bend Spillway

Very interesting topography, lots of good bank fishing spots, and there is a kayak launch downstream a bit

Toledo Bend is a huge reservoir on the Louisiana-Texas border, and the Sabine River flows in and out of it. The water coming out of the top-release spillway is super clear, and mostly a constant flow. I had recently seen some old fishing videos and reports showing nice Spotted Bass, White Bass, and Redbreast Sunfish being caught there. Predictably clear flowing water and some “exotic” fish species, sounds like a fly fishers dream doesn’t it? Well, the water did look great, but no fish were seen or caught, I guess it is only February. I did foul-hook a blacktail shiner, and saw a couple small bass sunning in a shallow backwater, but did not have any luck fishing a Clouser or any other streamers deep in the main channel. I tried for a couple hours for bass and sunfish before deciding that it was time to head to the hills. I hope to return during the summer, as this area is one of the very few waterways the Redbreast Sunfish inhabit in Louisiana. Apparently they were stocked in the reservoir some time ago, as they are native to the east coast of the US. They are one of the species on the GCC-FFI Suncatch list, which has a restricted range of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida (west of the Apalachicola River), so for me this is the closest place to find them in that range.

Foulhooked shiner

Kisatchie National Forest – Calcasieu District

Watershed map

The Kisatchie National Forest is the only national forest in Louisiana and is divided into multiple separate districts. I have driven through the Kisatchie District and the eastern section of the Calcasieu District (right outside of Alexandria), but had never been to the western section of the Calcasieu District (near Leesville, and circled in red on the map above). This section of the forest contains several small to medium size creeks that eventually flow into the Calcasieu River (highlighted in purple on the map). Since these creeks are basically headwaters, and are surrounded by mostly undeveloped forestland, the water runs clear and tannic. These are prime conditions for some exotic species such as Flier and Grass Pickerel. The RSFF club recently brought in a biologist from the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, Robby Maxwell, to give a presentation on the inland fishes of Louisiana (click the link for a YouTube video of the presentation). It was a great overview of different fish species, as well as the habitats in which certain ones may be found, and I saw a lot of examples of those on this trip.

Creek habitat
This creek looks big enough to hold some nice bass

The fishing was pretty slow, but I landed a Warmouth, a Longear Sunfish, and a couple Bluegill. The creeks looked great, and the access is good, you can pull off and fish one, then bounce over to the next. I didn’t do any wading, as the water was a little high from recent rain, and there were some deep pools. Some of them did seem wadable during the right conditions, but there was a lot of downed timber from hurricanes over the last couple years. I have no doubt that you could rack up on a bunch of different fish species in this area during the summer.

Warmouth, with a very bright red dot on its opercular flap
Longear Sunfish, supposedly these ones from the Calcasieu drainage are a different sub-species than the ones in the Florida Parishes
Bluegill with a melanistic-blotch

Driving through all this beautiful public land had me daydreaming and wishing there was a similar national forest in the Washington Parish piney woods. Sure, Pushepatapa Creek is a designated scenic river and has decent access, but there are so many other small creeks up there that are blocked off with barbed wire and posted signs.

Gravel roads and Longleaf Pine forest

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s