Tommy Vidrine is known around Grand Isle for targeting big specks by free-lining live shrimp, croakers and pogies — so he frequents spots like the Caminada Pass jetties and the Fourchon barges in search of fat trout.
Typically, he doesn’t focus much on the beaches — but that changed last week when Vidrine enjoyed some vacation time and located hammer specks in his boat near Gorillaville on Elmer’s Island.
“The fish in the surf are much bigger than normal,” Vidrine said. “Most of the time, I don’t fish the beach a lot because the fish are usually 15 or 16 inches at the biggest, but last week me and Robert Vegas were fishing side-by-side and they were running 16 to 20 inches.
“And I caught one that was 24 (inches), and that hadn’t happened in a long time.”
Vidrine said the action happened near the big sandbar just west of Caminada Pass off of Elmer's Island known as Gorillaville.
“I think the fish are all around Elmer’s Island,” he said. “All you have to do is look for breaking waves, of course, or a current that’s moving weird, and some bait. The spot I pulled up to had a load of mullet running around in it, so I knew there was going to be some trout there feeding.”
Even though you might take somewhat of a beating in your boat, Vidrine said being able to cast into the breaking waves is key.
“That’s where the big fish are. A lot of people don’t understand that — they want to throw into the smooth water,” he said. “But the smooth water is not where the big fish are. They’ll swim in that crazy water in the waves and just tear up on that bait that can’t run from them.
“So when you throw that live bait in there and it’s just wiggling and shaking, they spank it.”
A long rope and a good anchor that bites in sand are key in positioning your boat, Vidrine said. He typically points his bow south, and fishes out of the back of the boat toward the beach.
“Throw it as far as you can. If you can reach the first trough up by the beach, do it,” he said. “A lot of peoples’ mistake is fishing too much in the deep water with no breaking waves. Those fish are in that trough or on that sandbar, or just on the edge of the sandbar where the water washes back toward the Gulf.”
He prefers free-lining the live bait and letting it swim for a natural presentation, but a popping cork or a Carolina rig are also effective, Vidrine said.
“If you’re fishing with a croaker, a lot of people use a Carolina rig with a light slip weight and a swivel, and about 2 feet of fluorocarbon leader with a 2- or 3/0 kahle hook,” he said. “When you get a hit, it’s most likely going to be a redfish, trout or catfish.”
Vidrine prefers days with a 5 to 10 mph wind from the south, southwest or southeast for fishing the beach at Elmer’s Island.
“When you get a little south wind, it’s going to create wave action,” he said. “It’s not as comfortable as a flat beautiful day, but there’s more activity on bigger fish when those waves are breaking.”
Even with all that wave action, Vidrine said you’ll definitely know it when a big speck slams your bait.
“The wave action will pull it a little bit, but when a trout hits it, it’s like a thump,” he said. “When he puts that croaker in his mouth, you feel that thump and then it starts taking off. Give it a few seconds and set the hook. If you set the hook right away, a lot of times he doesn’t have the hook in his mouth yet.”
From the Elmer’s Island beaches to the jetties over to the Fourchon barges, Vidrine enjoyed an extra-special week featuring some big-time specks.
“I released six fish that were 25 inches and above,” he said. “People keep saying Grand Isle isn’t a ‘big trout’ destination, but I watch a lot of fishing shows and I don’t see them pulling up the trout I’m catching here right now. A big fish is 3 pounds — lots of people around the state would go crazy for that.
“If you use bigger bait, you can catch bigger fish on Grand Isle — especially this year.”