John Williams is a lucky guy.
As owner of Pack & Paddle in Lafayette, one of the largest kayak and outdoor gear dealers in Louisiana, he gets invited by some of the state’s best kayak fishermen to fish in the coolest places.
Not that Prien Lake is a cool place from the perspective of a wilderness experience. It’s cool because it is the oddest of experiences: great speckled trout fishing in an urban environment.
On the lake’s eastern shore is the city of Lake Charles. Its western shore is heavily industrialized by petrochemical industries.
Interstate Highway 210, the Lake Charles loop of I-10, spans Prien’s northern side.
The traffic is noisy, even from high up on the elevated highway. And it seems one or another of the gambling casinos strategically situated to milk visiting Texans of their earnings is always looming in the background.
But the noise and the view are unnoticeable when you are catching fish.
When speckled trout move into their normal winter cycle of retreating away from the coast and toward low-salinity waters farther inland, Prien Lake really shines.
It’s where the Big Lake trout go for the winter.
Lee Trahan turned Williams on the lake.
Trahan, a tall 50-year-old with a flashing white smile and a neatly trimmed beard, “found” the lake eating lunch — literally. He was (and still is) a pharmaceutical sales rep with Lake Charles in his territory.
He made a habit, when in Lake Charles, of eating lunch on Prien Lake’s shores.
“Every day, I watched an old guy about 75 come in with two redfish and six trout — same thing every day,” Trahan said. “Finally, I asked him why he always had that amount of fish. He answered, ‘To feed my family.’
“He stayed on Prien, and he said that he never burned more than 1 or 2 gallons of gas. He trolled the fish. I asked him where. He said, ‘All over the lake.’ I asked him when. He said, ‘Anytime.’”
Trahan started fishing the lake four years ago while living full time in Lafayette. Now, he claims to “almost live in Lake Charles.”
This time of the year, he fishes Prien Lake three to five days a week.
“I save all my vacation days for this time of the year because fishing is so good,” Trahan said.
Even on work days, he is known to take lunch by exchanging his business suit for fishing clothes, catching a limit of fish between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. before changing back into his suit.
Trahan said Prien Lake is most productive from the end of October through March and into April, when the trout really “stack up” in the lake.
Specks are in the lake in the warmer months, but they are fewer in number and scattered.