They say it’s not how you start — it’s how you finish.
That pretty much sums up a successful speckled trout trip I took Wednesday morning with Capt. Jacques Laboureur out of Shell Beach that netted 118 specks for me and four of my high school classmates who all happen to be turning 50 in 2017.
But things definitely got off to a rocky start shortly after 6 a.m. for Laboureur, with Jakamo South Fishing Adventures, when he pulled up to Campo’s Marina to fill up his 24-foot Skeeter with gas and load up his livewell with 300 shrimp for the trip.
On an unexpectedly busy day, Campo’s was completely out of shrimp — which sent Laboureur scurrying off in the Skeeter with us to locate Zack Campo, who was in a shrimp boat nearby trawling for more live bait.
Laboureur eventually spotted him across the marsh, and we rode alongside the shrimp boat while Campo finished up a drag.
Thankfully it was a good one — and although we were now running about an hour behind, we were at least back in business.
“I was in full-on panic mode,” Laboureur admitted with a chuckle after the trip. “But it all worked out. It actually kept me from going out further. If I’d have gone out to where I caught some nice ones earlier in the week, by the time we got back there might have been boats piled up where we fished.”
With the sun rising in the sky and the wind already starting to pick up, Laboureur headed quickly for a series of flats along the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet Canal.
We hunkered down there for the better part of four hours along with several other boats, and — armed with our live shrimp about 2 feet under a popping cork — steadily put almost 100 specks on ice.
Check out a video of Laboureur detailing the MRGO bite here.
They weren’t giants, and we had to pick through dinks and some catfish, but the action was steady enough for Laboureur not to move — especially with a steady 15 mph southeast wind kicking with gusts (easily) to 20.
“April is going to be windy most days,” he said. “The MRGO is a channel where you can usually get on one side or the other and find clean water there.
“And when I say clean, it doesn’t have to be crystal clear, trout-green water. But if it’s a tinge cleaner than where it is everywhere else, that will work.”
Right now, Laboureur also likes the MRGO because it’s a good spot to locate specks transitioning out of interior marshes and heading for deeper water to spawn. He keeps a close eye on the banks to see if he can spot shells, which usually indicate an area with a hard bottom.
“I think the bait likes the bottom more than the trout do — that’s why the specks like those shells and that sand bottom,” he explained. “That’s what makes the oyster reefs so good.”
The live shrimp were pretty small, which didn’t seem to adversely affect the bite, but it did prompt Laboureur to share one of "bait master" Robbie Campo’s favorite sayings.
“Elephants eat peanuts,” he said. “It’s true. When you get those pin shrimp, use the nice ones and take the small ones and either double up on the hook with them or use them for chum.
“Don’t just throw them out.”
Laboureur compared the action this April to a typical September bite, and offered some additional spots to target depending on prevailing winds and tides.
“It’s almost like a pre-fall pattern. It’s a transition month, so I’m thinking the edges of the interior Biloxi Marsh all the way down to the edges of Black Bay. From the back side of the dam out to where were today, to Lake Campo, Lake Eloi, Lake Fortuna and Bay Gardene — those are all places right on the edge to target right now.”
Whatever you do, Laboureur said don’t delay when you’re headed to Campo’s for your live shrimp in the morning.
“Make sure you get to the bait dock early,” he said with a laugh. “Don’t assume that you can show up leisurely and get your bait.
“I was sleeping in, I guess.”