Sweet November! Ever been on a really bumpy plane ride? I mean the kind that tosses and bounces the airplane around like a yo-yo, jars open the overhead compartments, sends suitcases and stewardesses sprawling and has half the passengers screaming or spewing, and the other half praying.

I mean the kind of a flight that makes you want to kiss the ground when you get off.

That's what I mean by sweet November! Sweet, ground-kissing sweet, now that hurricane season is finally over.

It's been a long, long season, and a long time since we've seen one as violent and foreboding. Our neighbors to the east, Alabama and Florida in particular, repeatedly took the brunt of the storms' fury, and will be years, if not a decade or more, recovering.

Had we borne the brunt of four such hurricanes, we might never recover. Huge portions of Louisiana's coastline would not just flood, they'd cease to exist. Many communities, towns and cities, including New Orleans, could become uninhabitable, even permanently uninhabitable.

At least Florida can rebuild. They still have land to rebuild on. But the same might not be true for us, had those four storms hit here.

After evacuations, a flooded Shell Beach boathouse (thankfully, only minor damage), emotional upheavals and all the hurricane thrills one could endure for a season, I was ready for a thrill of a different kind. I wanted to catch something besides The Weather Channel. I wanted the thrill of a fighting fish on the end of my line. I needed the therapy that only a bent rod can provide.

I remembered a passing conversation I had with Bobby Gros, owner of Bobby Lynn's Marina in Leeville, just a short while back in which he invited me fishing.

I decided to take him up on the offer, and after a quick phone call, he had me all set up with his stepson, Capt. Jean Falgout.

Some buddies and I rendezvoused with Falgout at Bobby Lynn's Marina on a bright and beautiful fall morning. We exchanged greetings all around, loaded our gear into his 24-foot Carolina Skiff, and took off in pursuit of some of Leeville's famous bounty.

Ahh, therapy!

Falgout said the high tides pushed in by the hurricanes flooded the marsh, and drove baitfish, shrimp and trout deep into the inside marshes. That, combined with a natural instinct to migrate into deeper interior bayous, meant the fish were inside to stay.

We zipped down Bayou Lafourche, passed under the Leeville Bridge, and then meandered through a short section of canals and bayous before Falgout cut the motor and let the big skiff glide to a halt. He dropped the trolling motor over the bow, and we loaded our hooks with live minnows or plastics.

Falgout put a small, live minnow on the end of his line, while I opted for one of the new holographic minnow-like lures. My buddies tried DOAs under a Cajun Thunder popping cork, and we all went to work, casting, popping, trolling and anticipating.

Falgout trolled us out of the deep canal into a nearby shallow pond, and we began working our baits close to the points, coves and drains along the shoreline.

"Whenever the tide is high like it is now, I like to troll the ponds," he said. "Fish come in here to feed on the small crabs and minnows right along the edges of the grass, so you should try to get your bait as close to the bank as you can.

"Concentrate on the points, the small grass islands, the small coves or pockets, and the drains from the marsh.

"Look to see if you can find some good current, and for any sign of bait activity on the surface, and if you get into some action, stick your Cajun anchor over and try to sit on the fish as long as you can."

Within minutes, Falgout caught a small trout, and one of my buddies in the back of the boat whooped it up as he reeled in a rat red. You'd a thunk he'd caught a wahoo for all the noise he was making.

Falgout stabbed the anchor into the soft mud.

"It's not unusual for the trout to be this size this early in the fall, and this far up in the marsh. Twelve- and 13-inch fish are pretty common, and make for some excellent tablefare," he said.

The redfish went overboard to grow up, but the trout made the team and we put him on ice. Falgout quickly caught another, and my buddies in the back were putting some hurt on the fish as well.

Almost everything we caught was keeper size, and only a few fish had to be measured. Or maybe I should say everything they caught, because everybody was catching fish but me.

I decided to dispense with the fancy holographic lure, and try what they were using. I had a spinning rod tandem rigged with an Old Bayside shrimp on weighted hooks under a Cajun Thunder popping cork, and I was eager to try it out in the shallow water.

I fished with it unsuccessfully for about 15 minutes more, while everybody else continued to catch fish. I then noticed what was making the difference: Those guys who were fishing with plastic were tipping their hooks with a piece of shrimp.

Falgout stayed with the live minnows, and was out-catching everybody. But my buddies were using plastics with shrimp-sweetened hooks almost as successfully.

"Cheaters," I called them. But I quickly followed suit. And on my very next cast I caught a trout. After that, I kept the hook tipped with a small piece of shrimp, and I got consistent hits from both trout and redfish.

Go figure. I've never seen "tipping" your plastics make such a dramatic difference. I always catch fish with those DOAs or Old Bayside shrimp, or the High Tide shrimp cocktails on a weighted hook and fished under a popping cork, without a shrimp sweetener or the spray-on fish attractants.

And I'm also sure I'll catch some fish with those holographic minnows that simply look too good to fail. But not on this day. On this day, if you didn't tip it, they didn't take it.

And that thought got me to look a little closer at the water. It was murky. Then it dawned on me that the fish couldn't see the bait. They had to smell it.

So the great mystery was unraveled, and I settled into a satisfying rhythm of casting, popping the cork and watching a combination of trout and redfish pull my cork under, and then setting my hook into their predatory jaws. Therapy.

Over the course of the day, Falgout followed a consistent routine. He would pull up the Cajun anchor when the action died down and resume trolling. We stayed within casting distance of the shorelines, and concentrated on points, coves and drains.

Wherever we caught a few fish, he'd stick the anchor over again to see if we'd found a school, and repeat the process as necessary. Most of the fish we caught were scattered, one or two here and there, and only a couple times did we get into some significant concentrations of either trout or reds in one place.

But as the weather cools, these fish will congregate in larger numbers, so that when you do find them, you'll catch a bunch in one spot.

The captain kept mostly to the shallow ponds just off of Bayou Blue and China Bayou, in the area west of Leeville and south of Golden Meadow, all of which made for a fun, easy and fruitful trip.

But the tides won't always be high enough to work the ponds in November. Cool fronts can become genuine cold fronts as north winds blow harder and more consistently, causing tides to drop and making the already shallow ponds impassible. What does an angler do then?

"Fish all the deeper main channels, especially those with an oyster bottom," Bobby Gros said. "The fish will be migrating into the interior marshes, and these deep channels are the interstate highways. If you know a channel has a good oyster bottom, and you find some decent, moving water, anchor your boat and fish the bottom with live minnows on a sliding sinker rig."

Gros says he likes to anchor in a bayou near a drain, over an oyster reef, and he prefers to fish a falling tide, although a rising tide can be almost as good.

"I give a spot 15 minutes, or 20 if I know it to normally be a really productive area. But if I don't get any action by then, I move on.

"And while I prefer live minnows on a Carolina rig, you can catch plenty fish in the fall on plastics. I recommend Salt Water Assassins in either the woodpecker or electric chicken colors, or the standard black/chartreuse or glow/chartreuse, on a ¼- or 3/8-ounce jighead, depending on the current.

"Cast it out, let it sink all the way to the bottom, and then slowly bounce it up and down off the bottom as you work it back toward you. If you don't use a 3/8-ounce jig, you might not get all the way to the bottom on a strong current, and as the weather cools, it's going to be vital that you get to the bottom.

"And when you get to the bottom, you'll probably snag some on the oyster reefs, so bring plenty of tackle."

Gros says that in the first half of the month, before the weather turns cold, there will be plenty speckled trout and redfish action in the shallow bays, over the oyster reefs in Grey Duck and Little Grey Duck, the Palmetto Bayou area and the shell piles on the north end of the Tennessee Pipelines.

Soft plastics under a cork, Speckulizer rigs and live minnows under a popping cork should all produce, he said.

"And once the thermometer drops, Bayou Lafourche will hold some nice fish. Just anchor on the south side of the Leeville Bridge, and cast toward the bank for reds, and in the middle for specks," he said. "Both sides of the bayou will produce over the oyster reefs, and live bait on a sliding sinker or soft plastics bounced off the bottom will all attract plenty of attention."

I couldn't help recalling one of the most memorable trips I ever had, when Louisiana Sportsman Editor Todd Masson and I caught our limits of both specks and reds, just a stone's throw from that very bridge.

On a bone-chilling morning, we launched a 15-foot flatboat at Bobby Lynn's Marina, made a five-minute boat ride to the south side of the bridge, dropped the anchor, and didn't move until we both had our limits. Now that's a thrilla in Leevilla!

The action out of Leeville should be excellent from now on throughout the fall and winter. And when spring arrives, it'll be time to head over to the Timbaliers.

You just gotta love this place!

 

Capt. Jean Falgout can be reached at (985) 475-4795, (985) 637-5029 or at Bobby Lynn's (985) 396-2676.