I never could wrap my mind around why people would actually tune in to watch Jerry Springer.
Pushing his guests toward conflict rather than conflict resolution, Springer routinely sets the table for his revolving door of societal dregs to punch it our rather than hug it out while his studio audience of scavenging hyenas shout, “Jer-rey! Jer-rey!”
No matter the episode, Jerry Springer attracts a perfect storm of characters that just can’t stand to be around one another. The closer they get on the stage, the better their chances of fighting.
Sooner or later, Springer is bound to have folks fishing out of Bayou DuLarge as guests on his show.
“Find your own fish,” a charter captain will scream as he walks onto the stage to confront another angler portrayed as a kindly father who was just trying to put his kids on some speckled trout.
“You don’t own the water!” the father will shout back.
Next think you know, one casts his line over the other… 2-ounce sinkers fly through the air.
“Jer-rey! Jer-rey!” the crowd will begin.
This public confrontation will happen because Bayou DuLarge has become a perfect storm of reel-rage.
Captain Travis Miller, who readily admits that he nor any other charter captain own any part of public water, has been guiding out of Bayou DuLarge for more than six years, and he has seen the increased fishing pressure take a toll on general civility.
Without wanting to cast aspersions on anybody, Miller, who operates Miller Timer Fishing Charters (985-981-6434), agreed to talk about what he has seen the last few years that he believes has caused an increase in reel-rage on the water. However, rather than complain about the increased fishing pressure, Miller offered some advice on how to continue to catch speckled trout among the throng of anglers.
“We’ve got some some odds stacking up against us down here that are causing increased conflict on the water,” he said. “To put it simply, the government has played a part, Mother Nature has played a part, and human nature has played a part.”
The first two have succeeded in reducing the number of available fishing spots out of Bayou DuLarge during the summer.
Since all of the trout fishing down here is offshore during the summer, potential spots were already limited. The removal or erosion of productive spots have only increased the pressure on those that remain.
“Take the well heads for instance,” Miller said. “It used to be that you could run to some of them and catch fish after the rigs got too crowded. Well, those well-heads in federal waters are being yanked out. I’d say we’ve lost six or seven well heads in the last year, so there goes that many secondary fishing spots.”
To make matters worse, Mother Nature has been eating away at many of the islands that have been revered fishing spots for many anglers. Like the missing well heads, missing islands concentrate an increasing number of anglers in fewer spots.
“Take Coon Point for example,” Miller said. “The whole west island part of it is gone. Where people used to fish the beach is gone. There’s not nearly the activity that there used to be on an incoming tide when bait would push into the island. We don’t get that any more; the tide and bait just go straight over it.
“Last Island is in the same situation.” Miller continued. “The whole west and east sides have gaps now. It’s only a matter of time before those are gone too; I would think by next year.”
And, of course, human nature has a lot to do with increased fishing pressure. Nobody can fault anybody for wanting to go catch some speckled trout, but increased technology, bigger boats, and the instant sharing of information has contributed to more people on the water all going to the same spot.
“Everybody can tell when the bite turns on because people start posting pics on social media,” Miller said. “Then they hop in their big boats that allow them to run anywhere and follow GPS coordinates right to the hot spot. Next thing you know everybody’s fishing the same spot.”
It’s almost as if our microwave society has created a group of anglers that wait at home for some good news before loading the boat and going fishing. It’s as if some anglers are so desperate to catch a fish they’re willing to ruin a bite for everybody else, which in turn ruins it for them as well.
Miller has noticed at DuLarge that there are two main waves of boats heading out any day of the week. The early-birds leave well before daylight, then there’s a second wave that slept in and show up to the launch at midmorning.
Anybody who has ever duck hunted public lands knows exactly where this argument is headed. It seems that no matter how early you arrive at your chosen spot and get set up to be able to shoot right on time, somebody is going to show up and create a commotion coming in right on top of you at first light.
Instead of everybody shooting a few ducks, nobody shoots any ducks.
During the summer, when fishing pressure is at its peak, Miller always leaves the dock early enough to try to be at a good spot before everybody else.
“I leave early enough to be at my spot and ready to fish at daybreak,” he said. “Even then there are sometimes people leaving before me. I left early enough to be at Pickets for daylight on a Friday a while back and there were already 46 boats sitting on it when I got there. That’s a recipe for nobody to catch fish. They left at 4:00 a.m. and were sitting out there in the dark for 45 minutes. Friday is the new Saturday.
But generally speaking, if you can beat the crowd out you have a better chance of catching a lot of fish because all it takes is a hot bite for 15 or 20 minutes to really put a lot of trout in the boat.
Miller keeps a couple tricks up his sleeve to put as many fish in the boat as fast as possible.
“That’s the name of the game during the summer,” he said. “You better catch them when you get on them because somebody’s going to see you and come in on top of you, and whether they mean to or not, they’re going to shut the fishing down if they come in all hot to trot.”
To increase his chances of quickly catching lots of fish, Miller always fishes with a double rig during the summer.
“That’s the name of the game during summer,” he said. “In the grand scheme of things, even if you’re not catching doubles every time you’re still upping your odds. Say you’re catching doubles one out of five casts… that’s going to make you a lot more productive. Double rigs also increase your weight so you can get down to the bottom quicker.”
Although the color and brand of plastic isn’t as important as getting two baits out there, Miller has found that double rigged Matrix Shads in avocado, shrimp creole, or hoely Joely work really well.
“I always have an avocado on one jig and then one of the other two on the other jig,” Miller said. “Then if they start eating one over the other I switch both jigs to the hot color.”
Miller has also discovered that a trolling motor that holds him in place is an excellent tool for fishing in a crowd. Rather than have to pull up anchor and redeploy it every time he wants to move, he allows the GPS system in his motor to handle all that work for him.
“The new trolling motors are amazing,” he said. “I use the Motor Guide xi5 with the anchor lock. Both systems - Motor Guide and Minn Kota are great - work equally well as far as I’ve seen. They lock you in on a specific spot and your boat won’t move.”
Rather than play around trying to get his boat right with an anchor, Miller simply hits his anchor-lock button whenever he gets a bite.
“People that know what they are doing with these new motors can actually fish a lot closer without ruining the bite,” Miller went on. “There is no anchor slippage, no resetting the anchor, no drifting into somebody else.”
Miller uses his trolling motor to go into stealth mode whenever he’s fishing in a crowd.
“I find the only thing you can do is look at the little things,” he said. “Sometimes I might see a shrimp or two pop 80 yards away from everybody else. If the crowd doesn’t notice it, I can subtly move over there with my Motor Guide anchor lock without drawing a lot of attention.”
If the shrimp actually helped him locate a school of fish, it becomes a matter of catching as many trout as he can as fast as he can once again.
“One hot bite that lasts only 15 minutes can make a day,” he said. “You’ve got to get them quick, though, because once the crowd sees you catching fish they’re coming.”
Recognizing that charter captains do not own the water, Miller suggested that working with other boats rather than fighting with them is the way to go.
“I used to confront boats that came in on me,” he said, “but that has never worked. Yelling at a guy has never made him stop and apologize. So instead of acting out on my reel-rage, I just keep fishing and hope they don’t ruin it. If they’re open to it, I might even coach them on how to set up rather than try to run them off.”
Coaching incoming boats is one reason charter captains always seem to be able to fish together in a group without shutting down the bite.
For Miller and his fellow guides, it’s all about communication.
“A guide will coach another guide on how to approach a spot,” Miller said. “He may tell the other one to come in off the port side or out in front so many yards. Rather than run in there half cocked, the other guide moves in according to the instructions, and everybody catches fish.”
Yeah, you may have just as much right to the water as everybody else, but squawking about your rights and being bull-headed in your approach on the water is likely to turn out worse for you than it does for those upon whom you want to exert your rights.
“Just follow the Golden Rule,” Miller advised. “If you don’t want boats running in on you, don’t run in on somebody else. If you want boats to approach a hot spot quietly and efficiently, don’t go beating and banging, dragging your anchor or crossing lines as you approach somebody already fishing a spot.”
With the number of potential hot spots out of Bayou Dularge mainly limited to the rocks at Coon Point, Enstar, the Pickets reef, Mardi Gras, SS28 and some deeper well heads, fishing out of southern Terrebonne Parish means you’re going to be fishing in a crowd.
“You might could move in on the coast, but you’re going to get killed by the sand flies there,” Miller concluded. “Just accept the fact that you’re going to be fishing around other boats when you’re fishing these community holes. Keep some sense of fishing etiquette while you’re out there and you’ll be much better off at the end of the day.”
And lay off the crossing lines and throwing 2-ounce sinkers at each other.
The last thing we need is Springer-style confrontations on the water.