Salvinia robbing Saline Lake of its purpose

Courtesy photo -- Cypress-studded Saline Lake has become infested with Giant Salvinia, an exotic plant that is robbing the lake of its beauty and quality fishing.

Growing up out on the rural route in Natchitoches Parish, I evolved into a thorough-bred country kid. Barefoot and bare back in summer, my brother, two cousins and I utilized every aspect of our country living to explore the woods and creeks around our country homes.

We had Molido Creek a mile behind our house where the little swimming hole nestled beneath the beeches was secluded to the point that swim trunks were optional on hot summer days. Feisty spotted bass, mudcats and toothy jackfish often ended up on the end of our fishing lines. We had it made without realizing it.

A larger stream, Saline Bayou, lay a few miles east of town and as we outgrew the seclusion of Molido, we found the larger swimming hole at the Old Landing more to our liking. Also, Saline was home to Opelousas catfish that put our little mudcats to shame.

As much fun and fulfillment as Molido and Saline Bayou provided, my brother and I would get super excited when our dad told us to take a shovel and Prince Albert can, go out to the cow barn and dig among the cow patties for earthworms that thrived in that rich environment. Why did we get so excited? Dad had announced we were about to head to Saline Lake, an 8,400-acre slice of Heaven located on the Natchitoches/Winn Parish line.

Two particular spots stand out in my memory of our trips to Saline Lake. We usually headed to either Burnt Pine or Rachal’s camp for a day of fishing.

I remember watching dad, using his Pflueger reel, steel rod and black braided line as he plopped a topwater lure, usually a Dalton Special, out next to the bole of a cypress. We’d watch intently as he waited until the ripples died down and then he’d barely twitch the lure. Sometimes nothing happened but other times, the water would explode around the lure as a big bass sucked it in. We would usually have to wait until he tired of casting for bass before we were allowed to skewer earthworms on hooks and fish for the big bluegills and chinquapins this lake was known for.

Retired Louisiana Tech professor Dr. James White owns a camp on Saline Lake and has been in love with the lake for the past 65 years he has fished there.

I love Saline Lake. It’s just a beautiful, secluded lake with thousands of cypress trees and clean water where you can get away and just enjoy being there. I’ve fished many Saturday mornings on the lake and never heard another outboard motor on the lake,” White said.

For years, people went to Saline for the white perch (crappie) that ran big and you could catch plenty of them. It’s still a good lake for them but I have evolved into a bass fisherman. I really love to go after bass on Saline and I have caught some big ones with my heaviest tipping the scales at 10 pounds,” White continued.

Saline Lake, unfortunately, has fallen victim to a malady that is threatening to suck the life from not only Saline but other lakes around the state. Giant Salvinia, a floating fern, has taken over much of the lake and as it drifts around in huge mats can make some of the best fishing spots inaccessible.

If you can find openings, maybe in a big clump, you can get a lure into the opening. Otherwise,” White said, “you have to move around the lake to find water where the Salvinia hasn’t invaded. Since 2009, for whatever reason, my fishing success has been in decline.”

If I had to guess, Dr. White, I point to Giant Salvinia as the culprit that is slowly robbing this beautiful ancient cypress-studded lake of its intended purpose, that being to allow visitors the opportunity to not only enjoy nature at its laid-back finest but to feel the tug of a bass, crappie or bluegill on the line.