The first cool front of the autumn of 2018 has finally blown through. If you’re a deer hunter, that means your neck just swelled up, and you’re walking around the house rubbing the top of your head against door frames.
But if you’re a Southeast Louisiana speckled trout fisherman, you’re probably gassing up the boat and planning your first trip of the season to the bridges in eastern Lake Pontchartrain.
Gassing up the boat is never a bad thing, but you actually might want to hold off on pointing your tow vehicle toward the Trestle, Highway 11 or even the Causeway. Good days are coming, but they ain’t here yet, nor should they be, according to avid Lake Pontchartrain angler Chas Champagne.
That’s because the temperature just isn’t right, he said.
“Whether it’s global warming or whatever, it just takes longer for the water temperature to get into the 60s now,” he said. “It used to be Oct. 15, you could count on catching at least 10 a day on the bridges, and it would be nice fish. But I bet the water temperature was 70 degrees by then.
“It’s not even close to that now.”
Some anglers have hypothesized that speckled trout don’t move to the bridges until autumn cold fronts have pushed most of the white shrimp out of the backwaters. Champagne feels there’s some merit to that, but the biggest driver, in his opinion, is the temperature.
He says the heat that radiates from the concrete bridge stanchions ignites something in the food chain that ultimately attracts speckled trout. That’s not triggered until water temperatures fall into the low 70s or, even better, the upper 60s.
“We’re not even close to that yet,” he said.
Before the front, water temperatures were in the mid-80s.
Since he lives in Eden Isles and keeps his boat in the water, Champagne will start checking the bridges the third week of October, but he said that’s almost always jumping the gun.
“I might catch a flounder or two, but hardly any trout,” he said.
That frequently makes him doubt whether the run will even happen.
“Some years, I’ll be boo-hooing, thinking we’re not going to get any fish on the bridges this year, and then in November, overnight, the whole armada of trout shows up,” he said.
When that happens, Champagne throws an ultraviolet Matrix Shad more than any other color, and he rigs it on either a 5/16- or 3/8-ounce jighead.
He’ll pound the bridges almost every day, but he finds they’re most productive after winds have blown for a couple of days.
“If those fish haven’t been beat on for 48 hours, and you can sneak out there, the fish will act pretty crazy,” he said.
On those days, he’ll fish the train track, but he’s not afraid to move to the bridge just a little farther east if he has to.
“If you’ve got the Trestle to yourself, you might as well just stay there, but if it’s getting beat up, you can always slip over to (Highway) 11 and catch 10 or 15,” he said.