It's not so much that the trout disappear; it's just that they very rarely bite well during February. The problem with the February trout bite is the prevailing conditions. If Mother Nature is feeling a little bitchy, she will bring you to your knees.
On the other hand, during those few days that she decides to smile upon you, the trout fishing out of Cocodrie this time of year can be pretty darn good.
The problem, according to Captain Olden Rodrigue with Coastal Charter Services, is that, "One, maybe two, days out of any seven-day period is worth fishing."
Both captains say the key to having successful February trout trips is picking the right day to fish.
"The problem with February is the weather," said Scheer. "In any given year, the water temperature is down really low, and their metabolisms slow down. They get sluggish, and they don't really eat or move around that much."
Scheer pointed out that another problem with February is that the water is usually really dirty from all the cold fronts that blow through the area. The water around Cocodrie is so shallow that it tends to stay dirty and low most of the winter, and that makes trout fishing tough.
"Clear water is an absolute must," Scheer insisted. "If you don't have clear water, you just aren't going to catch them in this zone. Maybe you will one trip out of 100, but it's rare. Water temperature, dirty water and low water are our three big issues during February. If any of those aren't right, you'll struggle. If you can catch them all right, you can catch trout."
Scheer has determined over his approximately 10,000 trips that his customers want to catch fish as easily and quickly as possible without getting beat up by the weather. They're not after trophies, and they don't want to cast a popping cork or topwater all day long to try to catch a couple fish.
His entire operation is geared on this principle, and he has come up with a very basic and elementary three-step plan that works just as well during February as it does during May. If you're heading out of Cocodrie this month, and you're interested in catching trout, you would be advised to get with his program.
Step 1: Fish where the fish are
Scheer admits that Step 1 sounds stupid and basic, but it's the most important step in catching Cocodrie trout during February — or any other month for that matter. However, the problem with February is that the fish could be in a variety of places depending on the weather.
That's why Scheer likes to fish areas that give him solid choices no matter Mother Nature's mood.
"We could have good fishing in some of the inner lakes in 2 to 3 feet of water if we don't get a bad winter," Scheer said. "Then again, if we have sustained cold, they'll run out of the lakes and into the dead-end canals and pipelines where the water is maybe 6 to 8 feet deep."
Scheer pointed out Lake Boudreaux as one of the hottest lakes in the area, and he rates it as maybe one of the best inland winter lakes along the entire Louisiana coastline. And as long as you don't fish the extreme northeast or northwest corners, Scheer said you would be in decent water.
"The entire east side of Boudreaux is good, and it has a lot of oyster reefs," he said. "This is one of the best spots for open-water fishing when the weather is right. You've got to just drift through there and anchor up when you hit a fish or two. Other than the east side, the south end and west side can be good, too."
Just on the east side of Highway 56 lies another of Scheer's top picks for February fishing. Madison Bay can be just as good a Boudreaux at times, and it fishes much the same with lots of drifting and anchoring after catching a few fish.
The great thing about Boudreaux and Madison is that they both have numerous dead-end canals and pipelines that hold trout when the water has been blown out of the shallow bays. Most of these canals are unnamed, so Scheer suggested trying several different ones until you find one holding fish.
"Probably one of the most consistent places to fish during the winter that is also close is the locks on Bayou Terrebonne," Scheer said. "They're at the mouth of Madison Canal and Bayou Terrebonne, but you have to leave early to get a spot. The best fishing is on the south side of the locks."
Also, don't discount running out to Lake Pelto. Scheer has made some great catches there during mild winters after two or three very warm days in a row with temperatures in the 60s and 70s. It also has to be dead calm with clear water. Anglers can catch trout out at the old Sulfur Mine down there, according to Scheer, but conditions have to be absolutely perfect.
Step 2: Fish the right conditions
When conditions aren't right at Cocodrie, Scheer says speckled trout will just hunker down and not bite for three or four days. He equates it to a semi-hibernation state.
While trout can be caught by very patient anglers fishing the canals when the weather is cold, those who want the fastest action available should wait for all the stars to align.
"If I could pick a day to fish during February," Scheer said, "I would want to fish after two or three days of temperatures in the 70s with water temperatures in the high 50s to low 60s.
"I would want it to be dead calm after at least a day or two of low winds. At the worst, I would want a south or maybe a southeast wind that wasn't over 10 or 12 mph. That's the kind of days you can do well in Boudreaux and Madison."
In other words, like Rodrigue pointed out, "You definitely don't want to go right after a front." As he explained, the first few post-front days are the worst time to launch your boat.
"You want to give it time to let the water come back up because the low-water days aren't nearly as productive if you don't know where you're going," said Rodrigue. "If you can wait a few days for the south wind to push some of that green water back inside, you'll be a lot better off in the bays."
While fishing Cocodrie during the winter may seem daunting at first, Scheer says it's really basic and simple. You can't fish when the wind is blowing 20 to 30 mph from the west or northwest and expect to catch fish because in his words, "It ain't gonna happen."
Step 3: The fish have to bite
If Step 1 wasn't elementary enough for you, Scheer pointed out the fact that anglers can't dictate what the fish do on any given day. If the fish aren't biting, you simply aren't going to catch them.
Step 2 has a lot to do with whether the fish are going to bite or not, but Scheer also points out that throwing something that you know the fish will bite puts the odds in your favor of catching fish when they decide to bite.
Scheer, who worked with H&H to help develop the original Cocahoe minnow, has been using that particular lure almost exclusively for almost 25 years, and he has so much confidence in it that he doesn't carry live bait.
"And I only use one color," he said. "I use the motor oil with red flake in it seven days a week 12 months a year. I never change. The only change I make is to fish the smaller junior size with a smaller head in winter because I don't want it to sink as fast as I do in spring and summer.
"I use the exact same bait on about 250 trips a year that I personally run, and I probably limit out on it 225 times out of that. I don't have any control over when the fish decide to bite, but, when they do, I know they'll bite my motor-oil H&H."
The key to getting bit on any bait during the winter, though, is to fish it slowly near the bottom. If he's fishing it at the bottom of the canals, Scheer just barely turns his reel handle to keep his Cocahoe barely moving on the bottom. In the bays, he fishes only slightly faster if the fish will allow.
Having trouble catching trout out of Cocodrie in February? Scheer's advice can help you change that. And those of you who think his three-step plan is too simplistic and elementary, just remember that most of everything you know today you learned in elementary school when you still thought school was cool.
Contact Capt. Stu Scheer at 800-906-5484 and Capt. Olden Rodrigue at 985-856-6494.