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Mar/Apr 2011 Issue
Discovery in the Delta

Land the big one or sink the perfect putt at Louisiana’s Toledo Bend area.
By Deborah Reinhardt

Professional angler and fishing guide, Judy Wong, knows where the great fishing spots are in the South, and one of her favorites is Toledo Bend Lake. In fact, she and husband, Glenn, moved from Houston and built a home along the lakeshore in 2005 because the fishing is so good.

resort

Above: Play your best golf and enjoy a great meal at Cypress Bend Resort. Deborah Reinhardt photo

Below: Angler Judy Wong brings in one of the lake’s big bass. Photo courtesy Judy Wong

fishing

“Just about every species of freshwater fish are in this lake,” said Wong. “And there’s a multitude of outdoor activities–like golf–to enjoy.”

Anyone with an affinity for water will love a getaway at Toledo Bend Lake in Louisiana’s Sabine Parish. Located about 80 miles south of Shreveport along U.S. Highway 171, the lake is on the Sabine River and forms a natural 65-mile boundary between Louisiana and Texas. Covering 186,000 acres and offering 1,200 miles of shoreline, Toledo Bend is all about outdoor fun. Whether you want to sink a fishing line or a putt–or simply enjoy the area’s natural beauty–there’s something for you to enjoy here.

Big fish equals big fun

Anglers who say they fish because they enjoy the scenery and serenity are just being polite. They really want to catch fish–the bigger, the better. At Toledo Bend, landing the big fish can be a reality for many, thanks, in part, to the successful stocking program started more than 20 years ago. Since then, more than 400 largemouth bass weighing 10 pounds or more have been pulled out of Toledo Bend Lake, said Linda Curtis Sparks, director for the Sabine Parish Tourist Commission.

“That’s what the fishermen go after,” Sparks said.

Bass fishing is the most popular, but in addition to these lunkers, anglers can find crappie, bream, catfish, stripers and white bass.

Where there’s big fish, there will be tournaments, and Toledo Bend hosts about 35 annually, beginning in mid-February and continuing through October. This spring, the 2011 BASS Pro Elite Series will come to Toledo Bend Lake and the town of Many on April 14–17 for the Battle on the Bayou. More than 100 professional fishermen will compete in the tournament, and some 15,000 people are expected to visit Sabine Parish for this event, Sparks said. Activities around the tournament include an outdoor concert and children’s festival.

“And as wonderful as that is, it’s the follow up that’s important because fishermen tend to want to fish a lake that BASS has visited,” she said.

Avid anglers–like Wong–also know that spring is a great time to be on the lake. In fact, it’s her favorite season.

“The fish bite all year long, but there are times in the year they’ll bite better and be caught at different depths,” said Wong. “It’s a little easier in the spring because they move into shallow depths to spawn and they’re easier to catch.”

A getaway for golfers

For those who prefer using clubs rather than poles, the area has two 18-hole golf courses to enjoy. Cypress Bend Resort has a course that hugs the shoreline and challenges golfers with 10 holes along the water. The pro shop offers lessons, and tee times are reserved two weeks in advance at a minimum. Weekday green fees are $55; $70 on the weekend. Cypress Bend, part of Louisiana’s Audubon Golf Trail, is located just west of Many on Cypress Bend Drive off Louisiana Highway 191.
Emerald Hills Golf Resort is aptly named, as this course is set among beautiful piney hills. It’s across from Hodges Gardens State Park on Highway 171 South. A pro shop is on site, and green fees for 18 holes during the week are $30; $38 on the weekends. No tee time reservations are required.

Additional activities

North Toledo and South Toledo Bend State Parks provide plenty of outdoor recreation, including camping, hiking, fishing, swimming or bird watching. Hodges Gardens State Park has 700 acres of wild and cultivated flora, including springtime azaleas. Walking and equestrian trails are here to explore, and cabins are available to rent. It’s located in Florien, about 15 miles south of Many on Hodges Loop off Highway 171.

Another gem offering springtime blooms, the Virginia Mitchell Bailey Memorial Garden, is in a wooded area next to Cypress Bend Resort. Walk the pathways and bask in the beauty of hundreds of plant species.

Cypress Bend Resort has a new attraction, a mountain bike and hiking trail, that’s getting attention. The trail changes elevation up to 190 feet. Loops range from one to six miles. It’s free to resort guests, and non-guests can use the trail, pools, fitness center and shower facilities for a $20 day pass.

Where to stay and eat

With so many outdoor activities, you’re going to work up an appetite. This is a rural parish; with the exception of a few fast-food choices, you won’t find chain restaurants here. Don’t let this stop your sense of dining adventure.

For a fine meal, enjoy chef Tim Henderson’s talents at Cypress Bend Resort. The welcoming and comfortable dining room is a beautiful setting for steak, seafood and regional favorites.

Just about every parish has its own culinary signature, and Sabine’s is flavored with Spanish, Native American, African-American and French influences. If you visit, you have to try some of the tamales–the best I’ve ever tasted. Grab a few at the Lakefront Grocery & Deli in Zwolle.

Try the fried catfish at Country Boy Restaurant in Many. It’s Rita DeBose’s cornmeal recipe used as the coating that’s supposedly the secret here. Accommodations range from the luxurious rooms at Cypress Bend to state park campsites. Cypress Bend is a full-service resort that has indoor/outdoor pools, a spa, lounge, dining facilities and 95 beautiful guest rooms. You’ll also find plenty of family-owned lakeside cabins and motels here.

One of the largest lakes in the South, Toledo Bend is big enough for you to find a sliver of solace while you enjoy some of Mother Nature’s best work that surrounds you.

Deborah Reinhardt is managing editor of AAA Southern Traveler.

BEFORE YOU GO

For more information, contact the Sabine Parish Tourist Commission at (800) 358-7802 or www.toledobend
lakecountry.com
.

Call (318) 256-1090 for more information about Judy Wong’s fishing guide service. Read more about Wong.

To visit Sabine Parish, first stop by your nearest AAA service office for maps, reservations, TripTiks® and TourBook® guides.

Order free information about Louisiana through the Reader Service Card, found online at http://southern.ai-dsg.com.


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