Spring weather sends neighborhood boys to the banks of the Mississippi where on any given evening, you can find them casting their lines into the shadow pools there.
Howard, who is my favorite kid from Pigeon Town, is 11; but on account of well-placed casts and patient reeling, were it not for his slight frame and goofy smile, I might mistake him for an old fisherman.
Fishing on the river provides valuable lessons for kids like Howard. During his time there, Howard learns that some things are worth waiting for. In an age of instant gratification, that’s something we all forget.
So I understand what Danica Williams, who has worked with the Wildlife and Fisheries Department over 12 years, means when she says, “What’s important is to get these kids out of the house and to get them back outside.”
New Orleans is a metropolitan mecca of saltwater and freshwater fishing. So, if you’re living in a town that’s – pardon the obvious pun – swimming with fishing spots, and you don’t care to go, shame on you. During your time in New Orleans, it would be a waste not to experience some of these places with your family or a pack of your favorite neighborhood kids.
That’s why, along with Danica, I’ve made a list of the most accessible fishing places in the greater New Orleans area.
Speckled trout, white trout, redfish, black drum, sheepshead, croakers, catfish and flounder make their homes in Lake Ponchartrain.
Covering over 628 square miles, Lake Ponchartrain is the second-largest inland body of saltwater in America. And given its size, it is arguably the most accessible fishing area near New Orleans.
From Metairie you can access the salty waters of Ponchartrain via the public pier at Bonnabel Boat Launch (1599 Bonnabel Blvd). The park’s t-shaped pier brags 200 feet in length and 100 feet in breadth.
When you go there, don’t be surprised when the locals tell you about the time a fisherman walked 102 feet across the pier until he ran out of breadth.
Kenner folks, you can access the lake using the public pier at Williams Blvd.
For the brave of heart who dare to venture across the Causeway, Sunset Point Fishing Pier (Sassena St.) is Mandeville’s very own handicap-accessible fishing wonderland. Rumor has it that there’s even a water connection there for cleaning fish.
In New Orleans, find the lake from designated fishing areas on the Lakeshore Drive seawall. I’m not saying you can’t find it from undesignated places along the seawall, but if you do and you get in trouble, you never read this article.
Orleans Levee Board directors did something really swell when they decided to build the Frank Davis Fishing Pier. The pier is handicapped-accessible and has special lighting for night anglers, extending the hours in which you can expect to catch trout, flounder, drum, sheepshead and redfish.
Outside of lake Ponchartrain, there are other places to go saltwater fishing, such as a shipping channel 40 miles southeast of New Orleans, St.Bernard's Shell Beach. The fishing spot is near Lake Borgne. You can find it past Campo’s Marina (1301 Yscoskey Hwy).
In the heart of Mid-City lies Bayou St. John, where you can catch bass, bream and catfish if you’re near the city. On the north end of Bayou St. John, closer to the lake, expect to catch redfish, trout and hardhead catfish.
Twenty acres of lagoon wind through Lafreniere Park in Metairie. These freshwater lagoons are home to many different freshwater species.
“It’s really a neat place for kids,” says Williams. “When it starts heating up at Lafreniere, it’s really easy to catch some fish.”
The crown jewel of family fishing in New Orleans is City Park. With access to over 11 miles of lagoons, you can catch anything from bass to redear, crappie to bluegill, bream to catfish.
City Park is also home to the Big Bass Rodeo where, on March 31, Damion Frey won first place with a bass weighing in at 4.72 lbs.
The future of fishing around New Orleans is looking bright, especially in Slidell, where a new pier is being built somewhere close to an area where the Coastal Conservation Association of Louisiana and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries are using concrete from bridges that were destroyed in Katrina to make an artificial reef.