April 7, 2015

How to locate and fish oyster beds in Louisiana


The best speckled trout fishing can be had over oyster beds, but do you know how to find them?

How to Find Oyster Beds in Louisiana

Bill Murray playing Captain Devin in "Nutria Day".

Some days I wonder if I am Bill Murray in Groundhog Day.

It just happens that most questions I am asked on charters are often questions I had just answered the day before.

It's almost like the day is choreographed and everything is well rehearsed. I know what's on the customer's mind long before he does. And when I see him lock eyes with those oyster sticks, I know exactly what's happening next!

"Hey Cap, what are those? Who put them there?"

This experience has given me a perspective that may help you in your quest for speckled trout.

So what are they?

I call them "oyster sticks". I have heard others call them "pickets".

They can be PVC pipes, bamboo sticks or willow branches. They are used to mark things underwater.

In this case: oyster leases.

What is an oyster lease?

An oyster lease is a section of real estate, beneath the surface, leased to an oysterman who uses it to grow an oyster reef (or bed) to harvest oysters from.

Have you seen the monster oyster boats laden with gravel? That gravel is used as a surface for growing oysters, or "cultch".

When eating oysters you may have seen a piece of gravel stuck to the hinge of the shell. That oyster grew on that piece of gravel.

Not always an oyster bed.

Not every oyster stick is marking oysters. PVC pipes (or willow branches, bamboo, etc.) are used to mark other underwater points of interest.

You will eventually see workers on gas platforms marking pipes pertinent to their workplace. Just use your common sense.

An area covered by river water isn't going to be home to an oyster reef. Any markers you see are probably not marking an oyster lease and possibly something you don't want to hit.

Why are oyster sticks important to locating speckled trout?

They make locating oyster beds easy. We want to find oyster beds because trout love to stack there for the following reasons:

  • small finfish and shrimp use the oyster bed for cover and food
  • trout love eating these small finfish and shrimp
  • oyster beds break the current, providing a location trout can ambush their prey

Trout aren't the only denizens of oyster beds. Sheepshead and black drum are patrons as well.

oyster lease leases oysters poles sticks bamboo willow

The kind of oyster bed I prefer.

Spend a little time in the Louisiana marsh and you will see oyster leases everywhere. So which ones are most productive?

I fish oyster beds that have tidelines running across them and especially any that have deeper water nearby. I have caught untold amounts of fish on oyster reefs that fit this description during every season of the year.

Are there exceptions? Always. Remember there is no harm in trying.

How to fish an oyster bed.

I fish oyster beds just like any other spot. I focus on good boat positioning with one exception:

I avoid using a heavy anchor like a Danforth. This is because heavy anchors can damage the oyster reef, causing irreparable harm to someone's lease and, ultimately, how they put food on the table.

Cajun anchors and Power Poles are better for the oyster lease and easier to use.

I will also drift my boat over oyster beds, especially if the bed is new to me. This way I cover more real estate and learn where trout like to hold.

How do I find oyster beds without launching the boat?

Finding oyster beds is easy enough if you are on the water. But what if you're not?

You can't use satellite imagery because you cannot see the PVC pipes from space. They're just too small.

Inshore Fishing 101

There is advanced knowledge I use to overcome this and plan successful fishing trips to oyster beds in virgin territory. This knowledge, and more, is what I teach in Inshore Fishing 101.

Captain Devin

About the Author

Devin is a former fishing guide and lifelong inshore angler. He founded Louisiana Fishing Blog in 2012 to share his ideas as a charter captain and still writes in it today. Since then he's created a fishing university — LAFB Elite — where he teaches inshore anglers how to safely navigate Louisiana's coast and catch more fish.

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