Madisonville's Tchefuncte River in winter.The Tchefuncte River during the winter months is a place of solitude and beauty. 

Sac-a-Lait, The Favored Fish

As winter sets in on The Northshore, fishing gets tough for most freshwater anglers. With water temperatures in the 50s and barometric temperature swings happening weekly, anglers are turning their attention to what is arguably one of the best-tasting freshwater fish in existence — sac-a-lait, found in the deeper, flowing rivers that pepper The Northshore.

Much like many French words that have managed to become fluid in the language of Louisiana, the word sac-a-lait translates to “sack of milk” (referring to its milky white flesh or silvery skin) and is the English interpretation of the Cajun French name for crappie. In other places, the fish are known as white or silver perch, speckled bass, speckled perch, crappie bass, calico bass and more, indicating its universal popularity. The fish is so favored in Louisiana that our legislature declared them the official state freshwater fish.


Sac-a-lait, also known as white crappie.

Sac-a-lait Illustration by Duane Raver


Winter Fishing has its Advantages

Ray Miller of Madisonville fishes The Northshore’s rivers and tributaries for sac-a-lait year round but said wintertime is one of his favorite times to fish for sac-a-lait because of how they group up in the main rivers. Miller primarily fishes the Tchefuncte River and recommends fishing the main river during the mid-winter months. “These fish are in deeper water right now. I’ve been catching most of my fish deep-jigging brush piles in 20 feet of water,” he said. This winter he’s caught more than 30 fish on several occasions, with one trip yielding 60 sac-a-lait. In addition to numbers, Miller said the size of the fish has been good as well; he has caught several weighing at least 2 pounds.


Ray Miller fishing for sac-a-lait on the Tchefuncte River

Ray Miller nets a large sac-a-lait he caught in January on the Tchefuncte River.


Baits and Boat Launches 

Miller uses a 10-foot jig pole and 10-pound fluorocarbon fishing line. His bait of choice is a Bobby Garland jig or a Lil’ Hustler Scale Head tube jig threaded on a 1/16-ounce jig head. Just in case the fish aren’t biting on artificial lures he brings along a bucket full of shiners. If you are looking to buy shiners to fish the Tchefuncte River, two bait shops sell shiners nearby. Those locations are listed below:

  • Route 22 Gas and Bait located at 201 LA-22, Madisonville, LA 70447
  • Ramsey Grocery and Bait located at 75273 Hwy 25, Covington, LA 70435

There are several boat lunches available to anglers who want to fish the Tchefuncte River. These locations are listed below:

  • Menetre Park Public Boat Launch located at 1808 Water St. in Covington, LA 70433
  • Madisonville Boat Launch located at 2001 Main St. Madisonville, LA 70447
  • St. Tammany Parish Boat Launch located at 121 LA 22 Madisonville LA 70447


Ray Miller fishing for sac-a-lait on the Tchefuncte River.

Ray Miller slings a Tchefuncte River sac-a-lait into his boat. Miller caught this fish jigging in deep water in the main river. 



Bayou Lacombe for More Sac-a-Lait

Located just 18 miles east of the Tchefuncte River is another sac-a-lait fishing destination. Located in Lacombe, Bayou Lacombe is another tributary that begins north of Interstate 12 and empties into Lake Pontchartrain. The bayou is home to some of the best sac-a-lait fishing on the North Shore. Jim Bates lives in Lacombe and fishes the bayou weekly. Bates said wintertime is his favorite time to fish for sac-a-lait in Bayou Lacombe.  “The cold mornings with low-flying ducks whistling by is just a little piece of heaven,” Bates said. The 66-year-old sac-a-lait angler uses electronics to locate fish mid-winter by scanning the deeper water that’s located in the main bayou. “During the winter it’s easier to locate these fish because they are in larger and more pronounced groups,” he said.


Bayou Lacombe is famous for its beautiful cypress-tree-lined shoreline.Bayou Lacombe is famous for its beautiful cypress-tree-lined shoreline. These cypress trees provide structure that attracts sac-a-lait in the winter. 


Bates recommends fishing the main bayou and looking for submerged structures or the tree-tops that remain from fallen trees. He also recommends fishing the areas where the smaller canals drag into Bayou Lacombe. “I find the crappie start to group up a lot around structure near subdivision canals and cuts that lead into the main bayou,” he said. “Right now these fish are preparing for the spawn where they will head to shallower water with less water movement to nest. The crappie like places where they can go 18-20 feet deep if temperatures drop and then return to shallower waters when it warms up during the day.” 



Shiners or Just Shiny

Bates fishes with a 9-foot Lew’s Wally Marshall Classic Series jig pole and his favorite jigs to use are Pan Fish Assassin 2-inch Baby Shad in the Crystal Shad or Salt and Pepper colors. He threads them on either a 1/64 or 1/32-ounce Arkie Minnow jighead. Of course, it’s always a good idea to take along some shiners just in case the sac-a-lait aren’t in the mood for artificial lures.

There are three bait shops near Bayou Lacombe where fishermen can purchase shiners. Those locations are:

  • The Bait Shop located at 1604 Front St. Slidell, LA 70458
  • J.E.S Tackle located at 40559 Highway 190, Slidell, LA 70461
  • Bayou Stuf located at 28178 Hwy 190, Lacombe, LA 70445

And, there are two boat lunches available to anglers who want to fish Bayou Lacombe. These locations are listed below:

  • Bayou Lacombe Boat Launch located at 28275 Main St. Lacombe, LA 70445
  • Lake Road Boat Launch located at the end of Lake Rd. Lacombe, LA 70445


Story and photos contributed by Keith Lusher, Northshore Fishing Report.