When it comes to battling line-stripping fish, non-boaters face significantly higher barriers than boaters. If a boater tries a spot, and the fish aren’t biting, he can always go somewhere else. A non-boater might just have to go home.
That makes timing essential for non-boaters. They have to be in a certain spot when the fish also are to have any hope of connecting with one.
Fortunately, right now, there are two species of fish that are entirely predictable, and if they were any closer to land, they’d be walking.
Avid angler Josh Hall has been leaving work every day to fish along the shoreline of Lake Pontchartrain, and most fishermen would be amazed at what he’s catching while standing on terra firma.
“I’ll pretty much go out every evening, and fish the last hour-and-a-half for jack (crevalle),” he said. “If I really don’t have anything going on, I’ll grab the boat and go fish them, but most of the time, I’m fishing from land.”
Hall said the fish are a bit smaller this summer than they’ve been in years past, but he’s still seen some 25-pounders pulled up onto the lakeshore by himself and the other small group of anglers who target them.
The fish are actually least predictable when Hall is out there in the afternoon, he said. Morning anglers can almost set their watches by them.
“You can actually pattern the fish,” Hall said. “It’s easier to pattern them in the morning than the evening because the fish used to do certain things every day, and now it’s more of a crapshoot in the morning.
“They pretty much come from Seabrook, and come down the seawall every single morning, and they end up coming through West End Point. They literally run down the seawall. You could catch them with a fly rod. They push the bait up onto the step.
“They show up in July, and will do that same routine every day through the fall.”
Hall said the fish come into Lake Pontchartrain for one thing — almost endless bait stocks.
“They used to feed on just big pogies and mullet because mullet are always in the lake,” he said. “We used to have big pogies, but now we don’t. Now we have swarms of 2-inch pogies, and we have big gizzard shad.
“They’ll throw 20 of those gizzard shads up on the wall. The baitfish are doing everything they can to get away from the jacks, and they literally end up on the wall.”
The jacks aren’t particularly picky, but Hall likes to match the hatch as much as possible. He throws tuna poppers and 5-inch casting spoons on 8-foot custom spinning rods teamed with old 6000-size reels that he rebuilds. Spooled on each reel is 50-pound-test PowerPro.
As most anglers know, jack crevalle are terrible table fare, so targeting them is pure sport for Hall. But much more palatable game fish also cruise with the monster jacks.
“Redfish show up earlier than the jacks, a whole month earlier,” Hall said. “But they run in the same areas. There are always reds where there are jacks. Whenever I’m catching jacks, I’ll catch reds — not as many, but I’ve also had situations where I’m consistently getting bites from jacks, and a whole school of reds will blow up behind me.
“The jacks will be with them. They’re always together.”
Hall caught an 8-pound red while targeting jacks this week.