Tim Bye (left) and Keith Lusher with a few of the reasons crappie anglers
should look closely at Louisiana’s Tchefuncte River.
South Louisiana Sac-a-lait
by Keith Lusher
Record Rainfall Produces Bumper Crop for Tchefuncte River
Studies in the past have shown that a female crappie lays between 30,000 to 40,000 eggs every spring. Of those eggs it’s estimated that one to three percent of the fry survive their first month of life.
Tim Bye of Folsom, La fishes the Tchefuncte River in Southeast Louisiana and said,
judging by the numbers of sac-a-lait he’s seeing now, the number of fry that survived the 2021 spawn was huge.
“If you recall, in 2021 we saw a really rainy spring that ended with the wettest May on record for this area,” Bye said.
His theory is that the river was so high that it resulted in the water remaining in the woods for weeks, which allowed the fry more protection from predator fish.
One Year Later
Bye uses live-imaging sonar and said he recalled seeing small 3-inch sac-a-lait in the spring of 2022.
“That was out of the ordinary for this river,” Bye said. “To see that many small fish told me that something was up.”
The 3-inch fish that Bye witnessed lends credence to his theory that they were the result of a highly successful spawn from the previous year.
Bye said, “On average, a sac-a-lait grows three inches per year, so that means the fish I was seeing had to be the direct result of the high water on the river the previous year.
The Tchefuncte Today
Fast forward to today, Bye is not only catching quality slab sac-a-lait but said there’s enough 6-inch fish in the river to quell his worries about the river being overfished with the popularity of live-imaging sonar. In Louisiana most waters have a creel limit of 50 crappie per day and no size limit.
“I’ve fished a lot of rivers in Louisiana and can honestly say that right now the Tchefuncte River has the most fish I’ve seen in the state,” he said.
I made a trip with Bye to the river to investigate his claims. I say that tongue-in-cheek because in actuality, I never need an excuse to tag along with one of the best sac-a-lait anglers in South Louisiana.
We started our day launching north of Interstate 12 in Covington, La. At launch the water was a bit murky so Bye’s plan was to head south for cleaner water. As we rocketed down-river and passed under the interstate, we noticed that the water did indeed get cleaner just like Bye expected.
“There are three rivers that feed into the Tchefuncte to the north. Those rivers can do a number on the river with runoff from a heavy downpour,” he said.
Our first stop was a bayou just off of the main river. There was a giant mat of Pennywort Lilies extending 10 feet off of the shoreline. Underneath was 15 feet of water. Bye lowered the trolling motor then, the transducer, and eased up to the lily mat.
I heard him murmur “Yeah, they’re there.” Looking at the screen we could easily see a group of sac-a-lait underneath suspended four feet off of the bottom.
Bye’s favorite setup is a 9-foot Lew’s Wally Marshall Classic with 8-pound blue Stren mono. On the end he ties a 1/32 oz. jig head with a blue and chartreuse Scale Head tube jig threaded on.
He lowered down his jig to where the fish were. One fish turned and Bye started to raise his line to get the fish to separate from the school. The fish followed the jig up about a foot then swallowed it. Bye reeled it in and we had our fist sac-a-lait of the day, a 14-inch slab.
I joined in on the action and we picked up at least 10 fish with half of them being small fish that ran from eight to ten inches.
“I’m catching these all over the place,” Bye said. “I really do believe that these are the fish that came from the spawn of 2021.”
As we worked our way down river we made stops at similar bayous with mats and picked up more fish. Once again, we had to weed through the smaller fish for the keepers but we were able to slowly put together a very respectable box of more than 30 slabs.
As we rode back to the launch, Bye continued his reasoning. “Last year, my screen was lit up with huge schools of 3-inch fish and this year I’m just not seeing them,” he said.
With the bumper crop from 2021 well on its way to developing into keeper fish, the Tchefuncte River is looking solid as a sac-a-lait haven for South Louisiana anglers for years to come.
“I can’t wait for next year when all these fish start turning into slabs,” Bye said.
I may just have to join him again to do further investigating!
Keith Lusher is an award-winning outdoor journalist from Covington, Louisiana. He owns and operates NorthshoreFishingReport.com and writes a weekly outdoor column for the Slidell Independent Newspaper, LouisianaNorthshore.com. Lusher contributes to numerous publications both online and in print and prides himself on promoting South Louisiana’s unique fishery. He also serves on the board of the Louisiana Outdoor Writers Association.