Unlike the last couple of years with relatively mild winters, Mother Nature brought her full force down on South Louisiana this time — and the speckled trout that endured those frigid conditions likely will take a little longer to transition out of the marsh this year.

“The last couple of winters, we stayed up in the 60s and 70s for lots of the time, and the transition was early,” said Capt. Eddie Berthelot Jr., with Spots & Specks Charters out of Grand Isle and Golden Meadow. “But this year, we’ve been in the 40s and 50s most of the last couple of months, so the water temperature is going to have to come up. 

“We’ll probably need a good three weeks of 75- or 80-degree temperatures before they’ll start moving out.”

To that end, Berthelot said he would focus his efforts on the north side of lakes and bays north of Caminada Bay out of Grand Isle, looking at exit points from moderate-sized duck ponds or where large bayous pour into bigger bays.

“They should hold some nice trout this year,” he said. “The trout we’re seeing in the marsh right now are actually a little oversized.”

And as long as the weather is cool, roadside action is also a good bet.

“Every time it gets cold, the action is great between Fourchon and Grand Isle on the highway. Those fish are there, and it’s on,” Berthelot said. “But when it warms up, they go back into a little shallower water.”

In Golden Meadow, Berthelot said oyster beds and clam reefs in Catfish Lake, as well as some big duck ponds when the tide is high enough to enter them, are where he focuses his efforts this month.

“I like using suspending twitchbaits like the MirrOdine XL, and topwater baits when it’s a little colder and the wind’s not blowing. Other than that, tightline Matrix Shad and stay away from the shrimp right now,” Berthelot said. “More or less, you’re staying with plastics. And I stay away from chartreuse and go with the more natural colors, like the browns and greens.”

Whatever you’re fishing, Berthelot said the key is to slow it down.

“You want the bait to move slow. Fish all your baits slow; drag them on the bottom with slow bumps and no fast retrieves at all,” he explained. “The fish are more on the slow lethargic side, sitting with their bellies on the bottom waiting for a bait to pass in front of them.”

Even his twitchbait is moving pretty slow.

“One small twitch at a time and then let it sink,” he said. “Everything has to be moved slow these days. One twitch about every five seconds just to make the bait move, and then it starts to fall — that’s when they usually hit it.”

Editor’s Note: Capt. Eddie Berthelot Jr. with Spots & Specks Charters can be reached at 985-637-3177, or through his website, www.spotsandspeckscharters.net