Clint Ward with a good crappie caught in The Burns. (Submitted Photo/Courtesy of John K. Flores)
Southwest Louisiana location is one to try this summer
Imagine a place, if you will, where you can catch five species of fish — largemouth bass, sac-alait (crappie), goggle eye (warmouth sunfish), chinquapin (redear sunfish), and bluegills — in abundance. What’s more, a place where the fishing only gets better as the dog days of summer approach.
Not many anglers can say they know a place like that. Which is not to say they don’t exist, because they do. One of those locations happens to be in southwest Louisiana in Cameron Parish below the Intracoastal Canal known simply to the locals as “The Burns.”
The Burns is owned by Miami Corporation, and for a fee that’s less than the price of one round of golf, the public can fish there from mid-March to mid-August each year. The remainder of the year it’s leased to waterfowl hunters. Essentially, The Burns is one of those quiet sleeper places, where fish are caught in abundance that few anglers in other parts of the state hear about. It’s also well off the beaten path.
In other words, it isn’t a place where someone from St. Mary Parish is going to hook up his boat, make a three-hour drive to and be home by mid-afternoon to clean his fish. Someone from our neck of the woods would have to plan ahead.
Recently, I got the opportunity to fish The Burns with Clint Ward, a 16-year Johnson Bayou Cameron District firefighter who grew up in Lake Charles.
Besides making a living as a fireman, Ward also plays Cajun music and has shared the stage with Grammy Awardwinning musician Jo-El Sonnier. He also makes and sells his own bass fishing lures.
Ward was actually the backup plan when my good friend and guide, Captain Sammie Faulk, owner/operator of Gotta Go Charters, had to cancel out on my invite.
It was all good, my buddy assured me, letting me know that Ward grew up fishing The Burns and was quite familiar with the vast open marsh we would be fishing.
Because The Burns is a three hour drive, I decided to head over the Friday evening before.
And, with a 5:30 Saturday morning wake up call to meet Ward, I knew my stay at a hotel off Prien Lake Drive was going to be short lived after a long work week and drive to Lake Charles.
None the less, I still was excited about the prospects of catching fish in a mystery location I’d never been to.
Ward filled me in on what to expect, saying The Burns is an extensive marsh with open shallow bodies of water with lots of lily pads and submerged aquatic grasses. The open bodies of water range in depth from approximately 6-inches to a couple of feet.
Ward also said The Burns contained quite a number of canals and ditches that run approximately 6-feet in depth.
We started out fishing a canal for sac-a-lait, just as the sunrise spread its light over the horizon, giving the dew-laden marsh grasses a glow along their leaf edges.
The Burns, for being so far off the beaten path, is quite enchanting, too.
Using an ultralight tackle, packed with a 6-pound test fluorocarbon line, a 1/32-ounce jig head and soft plastic tube jig, tipped with a piece of Berkley Gulp Power Wiggler, we commenced catching fish. All kinds of fish, like chunky goggle eyes, fat chinquapins, bluegills and sac-alait.
The light-tackle added sport, the jigs added the enticement and the Power Wiggler, like natural bait, closed the deal.
Ward also doesn’t fish under a float, preferring to let the jig drop through the water column.
“You’ll see boats out here, where guys are using corks,” Ward explained, “but it’s the fall I find the fish prefer. They really, really like the way the bait falls. The 1/32-ounce jig with a plastic tube jig and without a cork falls slow. If it hits the bottom without a bite, you just bounce it a couple times off the bottom. You’ll get a bite here in The Burns fishing this technique.”
Having caught too many bream to count and just to give me the full measure of the what The Burns has to offer anglers, Ward suggested we try our hand at catching a few bass. Of course, we used his CW personal spinner baits in a baby bass color.
The truth is, my guess would be any brand of white/green, watermelon/red, or white-colored spinner baits would work well in The Burns. You’re not going to catch huge Florida/ Louisiana hybrid bass in The Burns, but you will catch plenty of chunky and feisty marsh bass.
The Burns has a few rules. Besides a short 5-month season, anglers are limited to outboards only with minimum and maximum horse power ranging from 9.9 HP to 25 HP. This combination not only ensures the region isn’t over fished but limits the pressure it receives, because some people just aren’t going to bother fishing a smaller rig.
Canoes and Kayaks aren’t allowed.
Fishing is only allowed from sunrise to sunset.
And, a Miami Corporation sport fishing decal must be displayed on your boat trailer and both sides of your vessel.
The $40 public permits can be purchased at Lake Charles Tackle, Cajun Tackle, Gaspard’s Fast Stop and in Bell City at Chesson’s Grocery.
Access into the Burns is from boat launches on either side of the Gibbstown Bridge near Little Chenier in Cameron Parish.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Flores is The Daily Review’s Outdoor Editor. If you wish to make a comment or have an anecdote, recipe or story you wish to share, you can contact Flores at 985-395-5586 or at firstname.lastname@example.org or on his Facebook page Gowiththeflo Outdoors.