The heat of late summer can drive bass anglers bonkers. Whether it be melting while on the water, or searching for that shade spot the bass are hiding in, late summer fishing can be challenging. On top of the challenges from the heat, many of our water bodies suffer their own challenges this time of year. Many lakes have a late summer “turn over” that can cause the bass to stay on the move seeking out more favorable water. This can make lake fishing late summer quite challenging as the fish spread out seeking cover or cooler water. In these times, many anglers in our state choose to frequent the oxbows and rivers for better fishing.
An old favorite for me is Old River. As it would seem, “Old River” seems to be a favorite of everyone, though not always the “same” waterbody. Along the Mississippi River there are many oxbow lakes and connected historical channel swings that have been jumped by the river. Many of these are known as Old River, naturally. The Old River I am talking about is located near Vidalia, LA, and is locally known as Old River at Minorca. Officially the old bend of the Great River is known as Marengo Bend, but in all my years its always just been Minorca. This old channel was an intermediate riverbed serving as the Mississippi channel after the pre 1500’s channel bed, previously located in what is now Lake Concordia, suffered the same. Between the 1500’s and the early 1900’s the river began to further alter its course, nearly cutting out the Marengo Bend portion. After heavy floods in the early 1900’s and 1920’s, it became obvious the course change was nearing finality, and in the 1930’s large projects by the Corps of Engineers were undertaken to shift the river channel permanently and provide flood protections. Through extensive dredging and levee construction, the Great River was realigned near its current path, taking in some of the area known as “Natchez Under The Hill.” This realignment cut off much of the flow through Marengo Bend, eventually transforming the waterbody to its now familiar form, known to locals simply as Old River.
September 2020, Volume 117
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This is the Old River I grew up fishing. Approximately 8 miles of generally accessible water, Old River is usually connected at the southern end to the main channel of the Mississippi River. On the northern end, the river spans out into flooded timber and small lakes, but can rejoin the main channel under high water conditions. The northern expanse is a popular hunting destination being comprised primarily of private hunting camps. During even low water conditions, down to about 14’ on the local river stage, the mouth to the Mississippi remains accessible with smaller boats. The area has long served as one of the top all around sporting waterbodies in the state.
A popular destination for sport fishing for a variety of species, the area is known for its bountiful water for crappie, catfish, and even bass. Growing up fishing the bar pits (dug out earthen voids created as “barrow pits” or “borrow pits” where soils were moved to construct the massive flood prevention levee) for crappie and bream, and later running lines and yo-yos in and along the channel, Old River has long been a favorite spot to take in the outdoors. So much so that when bit by the bass fishing bug, it served as the proving ground for my introduction to the sport. Never one to disappoint, Old River served up my first hit of the most addicting sport on my first trip out.
With over 8 miles of water, the willow lined banks provide scenic and productive fishing cover.
With many other popular fishing spots being slowly taken over with large amounts of recreational boats and jet-skis, Old River has for years been primarily sport fishing. Though like other waterbodies, some recreational traffic is occurring, along with a recent resurgence in the camps lining the southern shore of the south end of Marengo Bend/Old River. The area is quiet and has that everybody knows everybody feeling and is a great place to relax and fish.
The local area has a lot to offer in ways of outdoors. Old River is located within a 15 minute ride of both Lake Concordia and Lake St. John. With just a short drive across the levee you can visit our partners at Bryan’s Marine for any boat care needs while in the area. Be careful though, with their selection and prices you may just leave with a new ride to launch into Old River. If you find yourself in need of tackle for nearly any style fishing, but certainly bass tackle, just a short 5-10 minute ride away is The UPAK. The UPAK carries a great selection of bass fishing lures, live bait like crickets, worms, and shiners, and even some catfishing supplies.
In addition to panfishing, catfishing, bass fishing, and hunting, Old River is a go-to spot for many bowfishing anglers looking to snag a big bag of gar or even carp. With a selection like that, and conveniences nearby, it’s a wonder this jewel is still as peaceful a destination as it is. We love to spend time there at our camp with family, and enjoy our share of time on the water. If you’re looking for a getaway, have a stay nearby at Lakeview Lodge on Lake Concordia, take a short trip down the levee and Geaux Bassin’ river style on Old River.
Just outside the mouth of the oxbow looking down river of the main channel of the Mississippi River.
Late afternoon view of the willow lined channel from the mouth of the Mississippi River into Old River as the oxbow opens up.
Iconic Old River on display in this sunset. Yeah I know you're thinking you didn't catch anything so pretty sunset picture right? This trip was actually to get this specific picture which would later place in a photography contest! No fishing occurred on this trip, but when I think of Old River this is what I see.
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