Alabama anglers trek to Lake Concordia for big one

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 17, 2004

LAKE CONCORDIA, La. &045; The Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources manages 23 public lakes in 20 counties throughout the state.

But apparently over all 1,912 of those acres, they ain’t seen bream like the ones that swim in between the brush and cypress stumps of Lake Concordia.

For close to two decades now Alabama fishermen have made it a habit of coming over to either the Sportsman’s Lodge or the Lakeview Lodge, staying a few days and returning to the Camellia State with ice chests stocked full of the .6- to 1.5-ounce fish defined by their distinctive mouths.

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&8220;It’s actually pretty well-known,&8221; said Donald Johnson of Flomanton, Ala., who first heard about Lake Concordia from friends in Pensacola and Milton, Fla. &8220;It’s pretty over here. There’s more bream square feet than any place back home. This time of year they’re hitting on crickets and worms.&8221;

Which they were doing a lot of during last week, as Johnson and his five other fishing buddies were leaving Sue Ardoin’s Lakeview Lodge with approximately 700 bream.

Johnson and fishing buddy Sherrel Lambert of Atmore, Ala., were making somewhere between their fifth or sixth trip over to Lake Concordia.

After running Lakeview for the last five years, Ardoin has gotten accustomed to her friends two states to the east coming over as spring kicks into gear.

&8220;It’s really nice because before they leave here they book (trips) for next year,&8221; she said. &8220;Donald and his wife were here three weeks ago, and he told me he wanted to bring the whole family back. He came walking in, and it’s like, &8216;Good to see you again.’&8221;

Originally from Baton Rouge, Ardoin and her late husband had a camper stationed at the Sportsman’s Lodge for two years before he saw a for sale sign in front of Lakeview.

Five years ago the couple decided to purchase the property, and 18 months later he was gone, losing a battle with cancer.

Ardoin continues to make everyone feel right at home, however. She has another group from Alabama coming in this week, followed by more of the same all throughout the month of May.

&8220;The bream are bigger than what they are in Alabama,&8221; Ardoin said. &8220;They just enjoy coming back here. They usually stay a week at a time.&8221;

Unlike Johnson and Lambert, who stayed in the cabins that sit at the south end

of the 10-mile lake, Bart Sutton and Paul Rogers had their families in Sutton’s camper that sits caddy-corner to the Lakeview Lodge parking lot.

And different than Johnson and Lambert, who were out for bream, Sutton and Rogers, both from Denham Springs, La., were hunting the big boys, largemouth bass, on Thursday.

Although, their lines and plastic worms were struggling to find any hits late that afternoon.

&8220;We come up here for as much of the attitude as for the fish,&8221; said Sutton, decked out in black sandals, a white T-shirt, olive Columbia shorts, a cap and sunglasses held to his face by nylon cord. &8220;We don’t get up at 5 o’clock in the morning. Typically we wake up around 7 or 8 (a.m.), put on a pot of coffee and then go out. But as long as they’re biting, we’ll stay out a while.&8221;

Sutton had his left foot cocked on the pedal as he traversed the trolling motor among the shadows and Spanish moss.

When the discussion of a sunken boat, which sits some 80 yards from the pier in front of Lakeview Lodge, came up, Rogers insisted idling by:

&8220;We got a depth finder. We can find it,&8221; he said. &8220;It’s not just sac-a-lait, but bass too.&8221;

Sutton makes the trip to Concordia Parish two or three times a month, but his connections to Lake Concordia date back to his father, who had a place at the Sportsman’s Lodge for 20 years. &8220;My dad’s has been coming up here since I was knee-high to a grasshopper,&8221; Sutton said.

He’s made it a second home for the same reasons Ardoin’s visitors make an annual spring pilgrimage.

&8220;It gets a little better as the water gets lower and warmer,&8221; Lambert said. &8220;They’re biting more now on the upper end than the lower end. The lakes are a whole lot larger here.&8221;

The hospitality is cordial, of course, but it’s the same treatment Ardoin gives to everybody.

&8220;I don’t play favorites; you really can’t,&8221; she said. &8220;You try to do something special, but word gets around.&8221;