Here I am going to show you a lot of tricks that I use and haven't published anywhere else. It's great info that will help you confidently select routes to and from your fishing spots.
However, a word of caution...
There are hazards to navigation that include, but are not limited to:
In this section I will show you how I plan for these hazards and safely navigate around them.
First off, most bayous and canals are going to be safe to travel down. Canals were dug to be deep enough for boat traffic. Main bayous tend to be deep enough because so much water moves down them they cannot possibly silt up.
So no one is confused, this is a canal and this is a bayou.
Also, most lagoons, lakes and bays are going to be safe to traverse across. The kinds of boats we fish out of draft less than 24 inches and run on plane in considerably less. For the most part you can depend on open water being safe enough to get across without becoming grounded. However, some open water was created as a result of a hurricane removing land, leaving very shallow water in its place.
So how do we know it is safe to run across? Let's go back to Google Earth and utilize the Time Slider.
Look at Caskett Bayou in Delacroix in 2015. A lot of it appears to be open water but is in fact dangerous to run in.
If you use the Time Slider to go "back in time" you will see that area was once land in 1999 (Hurricane Katrina and the diversion at Caernarvon are responsible for much of that land loss).
Using this feature of Google Earth to your advantage will help you navigate through these tough areas.
A canal famous for grounding boats is the Spoil Canal in Hopedale. It's tricky to navigate because it takes a lot of turns through open and shallow water. You can see how easy it is to lose the depth of the canal and run aground.
I can tell you that I have never had issues running it or anywhere else using the methods in this course. Because I uploaded a good route to my GPS I never ran aground and needed help getting out.
There are other things you can look for to ascertain if an area is deep or shallow.
First off, you can compare the coloration of known deep water and known shallow water to areas you want to explore. The screenshot of the MRGO provided earlier in the Finding Flats section illustrates this.
Secondly, you can look at boats running across areas to ascertain if it is safe to do so or not. The screenshot below is of a boat running down Bayou Terre aux Boeuf and I can tell you that bayou is safe to run.
An area that is rife with shallow water is the area of open water west of Venice. If you use Google Earth and its Time Slider you can see not only where the definition of canals once existed but other boats that are running across these open areas through navigable water. Look at this one boat, which is actually a tugboat pushing a barge of equipment.
Do you think your boat could float and run where this tug boat is?
Look at the trail he left behind. If he was there then surely your boat, which drafts much less, can go there, too.
There are also things you should pay attention to while you navigating your routes so you do not run aground.
Note: This is a recurring theme throughout Inshore Fishing 101: paying attention. You are leaving fish on the table if your head is down while the boat is running.
Look at the two pics below. You can tell which way the water is going and how hard it is moving.
But also one more important detail:
If the Crab Man can travel there to retrieve his crab traps then so can you! Crab boats are usually just as big if not bigger than the boat you are fishing out of, so keep that in mind.
Just keep in mind that some crab traps are derelict and were washed where they are by a storm. To be sure that you are looking at the right ones look for a row of them. Very rarely are single crab traps put down.
Last, but not least, always be sure to look behind you while the boat is running. If you see the motor kicking up mud then chances are you need to turn around or get back into deep water. But whatever you do, DO NOT STOP! Keep going and stay on plane so you don't get stuck.