Catching Redfish in the Muddy Mississippi Marsh

A high, dirty Mississippi River couldn’t keep us from connecting with redfish while casting soft plastics out of Venice, Louisiana.

In one tiny corner of the vast tidal marsh around Venice, we cast for redfish in waters normally moderately to surprisingly clear in the fall. This year, we could only blind-cast and watch for an occasional push or wake.Adrian E. Gray /

When Bing Crosby crooned in the 1950s that “It’s a treat to beat your feet on the Mississippi Mud,” I’m not sure what he meant. But I know it’s not a treat to try to spot redfish in that same mud.

However, those were the conditions we were handed at this year's Marsh Madness in early October, an invitational fishing-media/industry event organized by Eric Cosby, who runs Top Brass Tackle. Now in its 20th year out of Venice, Louisiana, the event permits dozens of anglers the chance to fish inshore and offshore over three days, while enjoying great Cajun food and trying a variety of fishing/boating products.

I had flown into New Orleans hoping to sight-cast “the ponds” — shallow, weedy waters far back in the marsh (that only shallow-draft boats can get into). Often the river is low and clear at this time, which makes sighting big “pumpkin” orange redfish laid up in the ponds pretty easy. But the Mississippi, this October, was unseasonably high and muddy. We still gave sight-casting in shallow water our best shot, but it was an uphill battle. Even so, as the photos here show, we enjoyed action in these productive waters.

Water World: Venice is about a two-hour drive south of New Orleans.Courtesy Google Maps
Chris Schieble, a marine fisheries biologist with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and our skipper for the day, watches for redfish sign from the helm of his Majek 2200 Extreme, a very shallow-draft bay boat that Schieble calls his “redfish assault vessel.”Doug Olander / Sport Fishing
The view from above: From atop the forward tower on Schieble's boat, he points to a dark shape against the Roseau cane that could be a gar — or a redfish, as Chris Russell with Plano is poised to cast.Doug Olander / Sport Fishing
Blind-casting in the pond shown from a drone in the first photo in this gallery, Adrian Gray grasps a legal red, released moments later.Doug Olander / Sport Fishing
A marsh redfish contrasts against the black nylon mesh of a Frabill net.Doug Olander / Sport Fishing
Moment of triumph, as Chris Schieble hefts the first good redfish of the day for Chris Russell, who hooked the fish on a Z-Man Chatterbait.Doug Olander / Sport Fishing
Surprise! Largemouth join redfish in patrolling marsh shallows. This one went for a Z-Man DieZel MinnowZ in purple demon.Doug Olander / Sport Fishing
Chris Russell is at it again. The redfish-catching machine figured he wouldn’t mess with success, and stuck with his Chatterbait most of the day.Doug Olander / Sport Fishing
The same Chatterbait, with a chartreuse DieZel MinnowZ tail, fooled a black drum.Adrian E. Gray /
Capt. Mike Frenette's Triton bay boat blasts through a muddy canal in an earnest but arguably quixotic quest to find cleaner water.Adrian E. Gray /
Acrophobics beware: The tower on Mike Frenette’s Triton, from which he runs his trolling motor while searching for redfish, offers a great perspective. Here, Adrian Gray stands ready to cast.Doug Olander / Sport Fishing
Spot check: I heft a multi-spotted redfish I caught while blind-casting a Chatterbait with a tail in a sexy penny color. The other side boasted eight more spots, for a total of 15.Adrian E. Gray /
Getting the shot: Why fishing photos taken by Adrian Gray are a damn sight better’n yours or mine. Chest deep in the muddy ooze of the Louisiana marsh, he positions himself to take a photo.Doug Olander / Sport Fishing
Z-Man’s national sales manager Glenn Young reaches out for a red that went for a Z-Man tail on a TT Lures SnakelockZ weighted weedless hook.Doug Olander / Sport Fishing
"That's a bass color!" I said when I first picked up the Z-Man DieZel MinnowZ in purple demon and rigged it as a weedless swim bait. My next three fish were all bass, including this 4-pounder which, for a salty coastal largemouth, is pretty good. I also got a chance to fish St. Croix's new Legend Xtreme spinning rod, finding it very impressive.Adrian E. Gray /
Role reversal: I prepare to net a good redfish for Capt. Mike Frenette, after he hooked it on a Strike King spinnerbait.Adrian E. Gray /
I went back to throwing the Chatterbait with chartreuse tail and resumed catching reds.Adrian E. Gray /
Portrait of a redfish. That sexy penny color is one of my faves among Z-Man tails.Adrian E. Gray /

Now read about the fabulous tuna fishery offshore of Venice.