September 28, 2010
There's no better time to go after a giant speckled trout than right now. Improve your chances for bringing in a double-digit fish by hitting these hotspots.
Photo by Ron Sinfelt
By Butch Thurmond
Speckled trout anglers across the Gulf Coast are making plans to spend as much time on the water as possible during the next two months. Not that they don't try to get out and fish every weekend anyway - but May and June are big trout months, and the excitement is building. The Louisiana state record of 12.38 pounds was set way back in May 1950. If the state record is going to be broken, this is a time that it could happen. The big female trout will be feeding and should be full of eggs prior to their spawning along the beaches of the coast.
If and when that record is broken, bets are that the big trout will be caught in one of three areas: Calcasieu Lake on the west boundary of the state, just north of New Orleans in Lake Pontchartrain, or the vast Mississippi River Delta south of Venice.
CALCASIEU LAKE Calcasieu is not a lake in the true sense; it's a body of water some 18 miles long and 6 miles wide at its widest spot, and it has a saltwater inlet from the Gulf of Mexico. The "lake" has plenty of deep water for the trout to move to when the weather gets cold, flats to feed on and a lot of food to stay healthy on. With all of that, a few biologists feel that there is no need for a trout to ever leave for the nearby Gulf of Mexico.
Captain Sammie Faulk - (337) 598-2001 or www.calcasieulake.com - is betting on Calcasieu to produce the record setting speckled trout. Faulk has been fishing there "since around 1967," and now guides on the lake. He says that while May and June offer the best days for trophy trout, the week of the full moon will narrow that timeframe down even more. "If you can only spend a few days each month looking for a big trout, save your vacation time for the full moon," he said.
When it comes to the best bets for trophy trout, topwater lures are Faulk's first choice. "You can cover much more water with a topwater lure, and I feel that the big fish like a bigger lure," he said. It's the difference between getting a full meal in one bite versus chasing lots of smaller bait around! Favored colors for topwater baits include chrome with a black back, gold with an orange belly and black with a chartreuse head. Some anglers feel that only the bottom color is important, but, Faulk said, "Many of the trout will hit the bait from the side or even come down on top of the bait, so color can be important."
For those times when topwater baits aren't producing, anglers in the know typically opt for soft-plastic baits fished on a jighead. Here, one color stands out above the rest. "The best cooler is a glow-white with either a chartreuse or fluorescent red tail," Faulk said. Another popular color has been the "LSU" pattern, a purple and chartreuse tail combination. Best results come from casting the bait and retrieving it using a slow, steady retrieve with a few slight twitches.
While a 1/4-ounce jighead is usually the weight of choice, go to a heavier jighead when the wind or tide demands it. "Some guys like to use a popping cork over the lure, but I have better results swimming it. That may be because I can cover more water by swimming the bait," Sammie said.
Tides play an important role in when the bite will be, and, unlike on the east side of the state, there are basically two highs and two lows during a 24-hour period. "As long as there is tide movement, the fishing can be good, and that includes a wind-driven 'tide,'" Faulk pointed out.
While big trout could be caught just about anywhere, Faulk disclosed his top choices for big trout. Points are a good place to look for trout anytime. His favorite points are Commissary Point and Long Point. There were six trout in the 10-pound range caught near Commissary Point last year alone, and the heavily fished spot is only a mile south from the most popular launch, Hebert's Marina. The Nine Mile cut and the washout area, along with the old jetties, are all in a three-mile circle in the southwest corner of the lake and rate high on Faulk's list of honeyholes. There will be plenty of other boats fishing the same spots, but he feels that if you stick with it, have patience and keep casting, your chances of catching a trophy trout are good in those spots.
LAKE PONTCHARTRAIN Across the state in New Orleans' backyard is Lake Pontchartrain. With two of the top three Louisiana record trout coming from here (11.99 pounds and 11.24 pounds, respectively) within the last three years, it is no longer a secret fishing spot. The favorite spots to fish for trout are in plain site for everyone to see as they drive across the lake on Interstate 10 or Highway 11. Those two bridge spans - along with the train trestle running alongside Highway 11 - are the structures that attract the trout.
A couple of years ago, Capt. Dudley Vandenborre - (985) 847-1924 - made a lot of waves after inventing the Deadly Dudley soft-plastic bait. Word got out about the numbers of big trout being caught on a regular basis in Lake Pontchartrain on the lure, and the once quiet waters became a mass of fishing boats.
Living on the shoreline of the lake, Vandenborre can pick his days to fish when the weather is right. He's the most popular guide on the Lake and can be found fishing with clients just about every day that the weather allows.
In early May, Vandenborre suggests fishing the area between the train trestles and the Lakefront Airport beaches. Fish the south side of the lake along the bridges, and try along the pilings until you find the fish. It's not as easy to catch the big trout from under the bridge spans as one would think, however, and many anglers give up too quickly. Fish the tides, especially the short period when the tides switch (from falling to incoming or rising to falling) for the best results. Always fish a moving tide, Vandenborre said. He prefers a tide range of less than a foot. More than that and it's impossible to keep the lure on the bottom and still feel a strike. Use a jighead that is heavy enough to get to the bottom - usually at least a 3/8-ounce head. Cast it as close to the downcurrent piling as possible, allow it to drop to the bottom and hop it toward the boat. Many bites are very subtle and go undetected, so be ready to set the hook on the slightest twitch.
One of the most overlooked, yet productive areas to fish is the stretch of shoreline from the point where the trestles reach the New Orleans side to the west near Lakefront Airport. Trolling is the preferred method, here, stopping to cast for the specks after they have struck trolled lures. The area in front of the Seabrook Bridge will produce some huge trout later in the summer in the deep hole, but is often overlooked during May and June. "The tr
out will be along the beaches on either side of the bridge," Vandenborre said.
Topwater baits are not very effective under the bridges because most of the trout hold along the bottom. Plastic lures like the Deadly Dudley and cocahoe minnows are the favorites. The most productive colors are Blue Moon, Blue Moon with chartreuse tail, avocado and salt and pepper with a chartreuse tail.
The best launch sites are on the north shore. Located in Slidell on Highway 11, Tite's Place - (985) 649-4339 - is the most convenient. They also rent small skiffs, usually have live bait and offer free advice on just where the specks are on any given day. The Rigolets Marina is located on Highway 90 at the Rigolets and also has live bait. While it is a longer boat ride to the bridges from here, it is still easily accessible.
MISSISSIPPI RIVER DELTA Venice is located "at the end of the road" alongside the mighty Mississippi and offers anglers the opportunity to fish the vast Mississippi River Delta. Anglers from across the United States fly or drive to New Orleans and down Highway 23 to enjoy the tremendous offshore fishing as well as the inland and bay fishing for specks and redfish. There are numerous guides operating out of the Venice area who can put you on fish. Venice Marina - (504) 534-9357 - offers a full service marina with lodging, maps and advice on where to find the fish.
Dick Welsh is a retired grocery store manager who has fished the Mississippi Delta system for many years. Now he runs the Hooked Up charter fishing service along with his son, Allen. "I really enjoy taking clients fishing and watching them catch these trout and redfish that we have down the river," Welch told me.
While he enjoys fishing most of the year, it's May and June that really get him excited about catching the bigger trout. "The winds are more favorable, the big trout are coming in to spawn, and the temperature down here is more comfortable during those two months than at any time of the year," he said.
Dick is one of the few guides who will go the extra mile to catch and use live bait for speckled trout. He feels there's no better method for catching big trout than using live shrimp, finger mullet or croaker. During the month of May - especially the week before and the days just after the full moon - he prefers to fish the rigs located in the Sandy Point area, just west of Red Pass. Tides are important, as usual when fishing for trout, but he prefers days that have a tide range of less than a foot, even as little range as a couple of inches. "That's because I like to get my bait to swim just under the rig. If the tide is too strong, the bait gets carried under the rig too far, and it's also difficult to keep the boat positioned properly."
If fishing the rigs isn't for you, Welch said that the east side of the river, below Main Pass, offers exceptional fishing. "Concentrate on the points located along the Gulf side of the shore line from Main Pass all the way to South Pass," he said. If you can locate an area that has an inland bay nearby, it can be a real honeyhole.
Garden Island Bay is accessible through Dennis Pass and has plenty of points to fish. Redfish Bay and Blind Bay are good bets for big trout. Anglers taking Octave Pass to the Gulf have an abundance of points from its mouth south to Pass-A-Loutre. But take this word of caution: explore the area with someone who knows it or go slow. Much of the land has been eroded away, leaving very shallow water. Just because you are "in the Gulf" doesn't mean that the water is deep.
In these spots, Welch likes to fish live bait under a popping cork. Usually, the hook is positioned only a couple of feet under the cork, as the water will be no more than 4 feet deep. Work the point from the shoreline to as much as 20 yards out from the shore; many of the visible points extended much further into the Gulf just a couple of years ago. Trout, like any other fish, are attracted to structure and that invisible point may be the ticket to a lot of trout.
Many anglers will argue that they can catch as many fish on artificial lures as others catch on live bait. By far, the best lure for big trout during the May and June period is a topwater bait. Soft-plastic lures are also favorites. With water less than 3 feet in most of these places, many anglers prefer to work the soft plastic baits under a popping cork, while others simply swim the lures.
The fishing around Cocodrie, located about 60 miles southwest of New Orleans, isn't known for trout in the 8-pound class, but Captain Scott Dufresne says that May is when the fishing really picks up. "We may not catch those huge trout, but we do catch a lot of trout in the 4- to 5-pound range," he said. "Live bait is the best way to catch the trout in May, with live croakers the best of all and live shrimp a close second," Dufresne added. He suggested concentrating on the oil well heads in 10 to 20 feet of water in the area west of Cocodrie.
Dozens of oil and gas production platforms dot the area and will harbor concentrations of speckled trout. Coon Point, the Mardi Gras area, and the Pickets are his suggestions; all are located just out of Whiskey Pass. "The beaches in that same area will also produce some nice trout. We anchor and cast right into the breakers," he explained. Cocodrie Charters - 1-800-648-2626 - offers a full service marina, charter boats, lodging and a good restaurant. Dufresne said you should be sure to purchase a map and ask for information on where to fish; they'll be more than happy to mark your map with hotspots.
Get ready for some big trout action for the next couple of months. Your best bet for maximum results may be to book a charter with a good guide - especially if you don't know the waters. Splitting the cost of a charter trip with other anglers gets the cost down and almost assures an enjoyable and productive fishing trip. If you plan to hire a guide and then use your own boat on the following days, it may be best to tell him so that he can show you some easy spots to find again!
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