I’ve been fortunate to go bream fishing a couple of different times recently with Dr. Ray Jones, an old friend who I haven’t seen for many years until recently. I got to witness again first hand his prowess with an Uncle Buck’s bream pole at Cheniere Lake and got to see the stark reality of how he got his nickname when the temps fell from the 80’s to the 40’s.
Yep. “Cold Front” Jones is alive and well. And we still went bream fishing. We did catch some really good fish and had a really good time. I guess the fish didn’t realize how cold it got on top of the water.
I wrote several articles with Ray back in my old newspaper days, on bream fishing, duck hunting at Wham and even the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers efforts to straighten out the Ouachita River nearly 30 years ago. Most folks today don’t even realize that almost happened, or they have forgotten and moved on. Ray was a consultant with the Corps on several projects and was one of the main opponents of that effort when he found out about it. It wouldn’t have been pretty. Obviously that part of his “career” didn’t fare too well once he helped take on that branch of the Army. But thank goodness he and others did. But back to bream fishing.
“That’s a chinquapin,” he said. It was.
“You can tell how they bite,” he said, adding “It’s kinda like a tap tap tap and then they go with it. A regular big bream will just slip the cork under slowly.”
Ray is also a retired botany professor who is also very active in the community. He’s put on more fish fry events for friends than just about anybody I know. So it is his civic duty to go fishing as often as he can and catch as many fish as he can. It’s for the community good, you know. There are a couple of drawbacks to fishing with Ray, though. For instance, when he tells you to pitch your bait over by that patch of ceratophyllum demersum. Or he points out an area isn’t going to be good to fish because of the nyssa sylvatica blooms all over the surface. What? You mean that moss in the water and those things falling out of the tupelo gum trees?
There were several boats on the lake as we slipped the boat into the water at Area 1 on Cheniere just outside West Monroe. If you’ve never fished this lake, it is an amazing maze of cypress and tupelo that seems to never end. In fact, it doesn’t end until you run out of lake. The lake is difficult to get around in for newcomers, so I’d suggest if you try it, you stay within sight of the bank or make sure the compass APP on your iphone is working. It’s only 3,600 acres, but the Ouachita Parish lake could hide you for hours if you started going in circles. There is only one fairly deep spot in the lake — Puckett Lake area — and for the most part, the rest of it is 2-5 feet deep and slam packed with trees. Fishing for chinquapins is best fishing 18-24 inches deep with red worms. A little dab will do you, not a big gob like you were trying to catch a 10-pound catfish.
Those trees are also what makes Cheniere a good fishing lake. The fish like open areas between the trees and the bank this time of year. As the weather warms, they will gravitate to little thickets in the lake. Fishing around the clumps of trees seems to be the best.
It’s also about the time of year when the worms start finding their way into the tupelo gums to feast on the freshly produced leaves. As the wind blows, the worms fall off into the lake and provide lunch for the bream. Look for trees with worms and you’ll find bream underneath.
As the weather begins to warm up and on into summer, the clumps of trees offer the best bream fishing.
I never took a botany class, but fishing with Ray is like going to breamology class and if you pay attention, you can come out with a BS in bream fishing, that’s for sure. He has everything from weedless bream hooks to a redneck bait keeper for red worms that is simply an old coffee can full of wet moss. My favorite gizmo of his is the Crocodile Dundee version of a cricket box — “that little red round thing isn’t a cricket box, this is a cricket box” — yep, he has one that holds 1,000 at a time! That’s only for when the are really biting, though.
Educational….fun…and filling (always fish for supper). That’s fishing with Ray Jones. And you better have plenty of red worms and crickets if you plan on trying to keep up with the Jones, cold front or not…