For many Louisiana trout anglers, the thought of abandoning a perfectly good boat to get down and dirty with specks in the surf is sheer lunacy.
Getting drenched, being pounded by non-stop wave action and contending with multiple treble hooks all day long certainly isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.
But for Sammy Romano, it’s a little slice of heaven.
“I just love being on the beach. Typically there’s some amount of solitude because the wave noise is so loud you’re not really talking,” said Romano, the manager of Chag’s Sporting Goods in Metairie and an avid surf fisherman on Elmer’s Island. “Plus, it’s a challenge — you’re definitely out in the elements.
“And the fish hit and fight much harder in the surf than anywhere else I’ve ever fished. It’s like trout on steroids.”
That’s the kind of action that keeps him heading back into the surf each and every spring, from Grand Isle to Breton Island to the Chandeleur Islands.
But if you’ve never tried it before, Romano recommended some “must have” items to bring along to get the most out of your day.
1. The right rod
Romano favors a 6-foot, 8-inch medium heavy rod with either a fast or extra fast tip.
“You’ve got to have enough backbone. The fish in the surf are typically larger fish, and a lot of times there’s more current in the surf than inshore,” he said. “A 2-pound trout in the surf fights like a 5-pound trout in the marsh, so you don’t want to go out there with a little wimpy rod.
“Even more importantly, you have to be able to give that lure a pop. It’s when you snatch it that the fish typically strikes, and if you don’t get enough twitch on the lure — if your rod is loading up and not moving that bait violently enough — I’ve seen guys go out there with the wrong soft rod and they just can’t get the right action. That’s the biggest thing.”
2. The right lures
Romano favors hard baits in the surf, throwing mostly topwaters and suspending jerkbaits. But he also keeps a few jigheads and soft plastic lures in his tackle box just in case conditions dictate a change.
His go-to topwater bait is Rapala’s Skitter Walk in chrome and blue, but he has two favorite suspending baits for varying surf conditions.
“With the MirrOlure TTR-26, you can fish it fast and make it fish shallower, or fish it slow to go deeper,” he said.
His other favorite suspending bait is Unfair Lures’ Rip-N-Slash 90 in natural or chrome color.
“It’s kind of a hybrid between a topwater and the MirrOlure,” he said. “I’ve caught my better trout on that bait at the beginning or tail-end of a tide. If it’s not too rough, it’s poison. You can let it hang there. When I feel like my MirrOlure is hitting the bottom too easy, I’ll switch to that and it’s ridiculous.”
3. A good net
There are pros and cons to having a net by your side all day long, Romano said. If your treble hooks get hung up in one, you’ll be wishing you left it at the beach. But if you happen to hook up with a big trout, you’ll be thanking your lucky stars you brought it along.
“I think the average person who goes out there should probably have a net, because if they’re grabbing fish, they’re going to end up with a treble hook in their hand,” he said.
His favorite is a Pro Floating Net by Fish-N-Hunt Pro Gear that retails for $29.99.
4. A good stringer
Romano favors a 15-foot stringer, also by Fish-N-Hunt Pro Gear, with a real cork buoy. That’s key, because he uses the cork for an additional purpose.
“You can actually stick the hooks of your lures in it and use it as a tackle box,” he said.
And the 15-foot length keeps your trout a good distance away if a shark happens to stop in for a snack.
“Sharks aren’t a constant bother, and they’re not out there to eat you,” he said. “But you don’t want them to make a mistake and swim through your fish and hit you, too.”
5. A good pair of pliers
If you’re fishing with treble hooks, this one is key.
“Pliers will save you valuable time out there trying to get hooks out,” he said. “I would suggest something stainless or maybe even titanium. If you buy a cheap pair and lose them, it doesn’t really matter. But if you manage to keep them for a while, they’ll just rust up because you’re sitting in salt water the whole time.”
Romano reels up his Shimano Stradic spinning reel with PowerPro Super Slick 20-pound braid and uses a reverse Albright knot to tie on a 20-pound Frenzy fluorocarbon leader. He exclusively uses a Palomar knot to tie on his lures. He also recommends a good pair of polarized sunglasses, as well as wading shoes, diving boots or old sneakers to protect your feet in the surf.