My 15-year-old son was out-fishing three grown, veteran anglers. Trout were flopping over the gunwale, and Garrett was his usual unassuming self.
He'd cast out a Carolina-rigged croaker, crawl it across the bottom and pull another fish to the side of the boat when the strike inevitably came.
He would then grin slightly, wrestle the fish under control and toss it in the ice chest before repeating the procedure. Mostly without saying a word.
Lee Newman Jr., Eddie Boettner and I were pretty happy at first. I mean, who doesn't want to see a kid catching fish?
But then signs of wear began to show. First, Newman eased over to cast his bait closer to Garrett's. Then Boettner migrated closer to that side of the 27-foot Glenn Young. I even made a cast from the far corner of the boat, trying to work the same area.
Garrett finally was forced to abandon his heretofore productive area and move to the other side of the boat, as grown men pushed him out of the way.
Still, the youngster outfished us at least three to one. He simply began catching them from a different area.
Finally, the strain on us older men burst into the open.
"Little ," Boettner muttered below his breath.
Even my fatherly pride didn't withstand the stress.
"What are you doing?" I asked.
We were all fishing croakers, so the little punk had to be doing something different.
Garrett simply shrugged, and pulled the hook into another trout's mouth.
And then he made a mistake.
"When are you going to catch some fish, Dad?" he snickered.
Boettner gave a sardonic grin, and shared some of the wisdom that came with a little age.
"Garrett, you have to be careful: Sometimes when you start bragging, God punishes you," he said.
Well, apparently God was listening. But it didn't work out exactly as Boettner expected; the bite didn't move from Garrett's line to one of ours.
Instead, with about 35 3- to 4-pound trout cooling in the chest, the bite turned off. It was like the fish just had eaten enough, or maybe they abandoned the underwater morass of steel we were fishing.
The area was located about 20 miles from the mouth of the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (MRGO), and was within sight of the Central Rig. Smaller satellite rigs dotted the view in all directions, but we were fishing an underwater obstruction the name of which Boettner guarded more closely than his Social Security number.
While summertime is the peak of the trout fishing season in Breton Sound, Newman, of the North Shore, and Boettner, of New Orleans, said it's still worth the run to open water in September.
"There are always plenty of big fish out here, year round," Boettner said. "There are hundreds of satellite rigs, and there are fish around every single one."
So when they're looking for quality trout, the pair will run to the rigs in the Central area.
The key to boating fish around any of the rigs is to take a few minutes to assess the water current and winds. Boettner illustrated that when we first arrived at the underwater obstruction we were fishing: He put the twin Mercs into neutral about 100 yards from the targeted wreck so he could gauge how the wind and tide would affect the boat.
"The first thing I want to try to do is figure out which way the wind is running and how the tide is running. How is the boat going to lay?" he said.
He then eased into position, and dropped anchor, letting out line until he was positioned.
When fishing the rigs, however, he said he often doesn't even put the anchor in the water.
"The easiest thing to do is just throw the rig hook on the rig and let the boat go downcurrent," Boettner said.
That provides easy access to the waters that normally are most-productive.
"The fish usually will be on the downcurrent side," he said. "There are shell pads around the rigs. What that shell pad does is creates a reef for the fish."
Newman said the current sweeps over the shell pads on which the satellites stand, and the trout are there waiting to feed.
"The fish are waiting behind the pads to ambush the bait," he said.
Therefore, the anglers throw their baits as close to the rigs as possible, working them off the ledges of the pads.
However, sometimes the downcurrent side of a rig won't produce a bit.
"Lots and lots of time, the fish want to be on the upcurrent side of the rig," Boettner said. "The water gets to boiling around out there when it hits the upside of the rig and shell pad, and the boat is pushing around up there."
So he recommended always moving the boat around the rig before giving up.
"While you're right there, don't burn more fuel: Try the other side of the rig," Boettner said.
That's when anchoring is necessary, but it might take some time to find just the right spot. This was just the situation in which Boettner and Newman found themselves when the fish stopped biting.
They discussed the situation, trying to decide if it was time to leave the underwater wreck or if we should just wait out the fish. It's a delicate decision, and Boettner really didn't want to leave because the wreck had produced hundreds of big trout over the preceding weeks.
Repositioning the boat to try and locate the school was an option, but the two veteran Breton Sound anglers agreed that it had to be done carefully.
"I find that, more times than not, when you reposition the boat, you're dead," Newman said. "I don't know why. I just think the fish are sensitive to the sounds."
Finally, Boettner called for more line to be let out, allowing the boat to move without having to crank up the outboards.
The tactic worked, and finally we began helping Garrett put fish in the boat.
"See, that worked because we didn't make any noise," Newman said of the repositioning.
Newman said he likes to fish plastics in the traditional Lake Pontchartrain fashion to snag bruiser trout.
"I fish with ½- to ¾-ounce jigheads," he said. "I never use less than 3/8-ounce jigs. I want that bait on the bottom."
He combines the heavy jigs with blue moon and midnight moon Dudley Terror Tails with the tails dipped in chartreuse Spike It.
"That's just a great mullet imitation," Newman said.
The baits aren't just bounced back to the boat, however.
"It's a double twitch off the bottom," Newman said. "Then you let it fall back to the bottom. You're tight-lining the lure back down because the fish will hit it on the fall."
However, live bait was the key this day.
Boettner bought 200 croakers from Campo's Marina that morning, and counseled us all to keep lively bait hooked up.
"Don't use substandard croakers," he said. "If it's not swimming, get another one."
Carolina rigs put the bait right on the bottom, but Boettner said he doesn't like to fish too heavy. The size of the weight depends on the current, however.
"You want to fish as light as you can out here," he said. "The lighter you go (with the weight), the more that croaker can move around. It's just more natural."
By 11 a.m. we had boated about 65 beautiful trout, with all but a handful fitting in that 3- to 4-pound range. But distant storms were becoming close neighbors, merging and producing grand lightning displays.
That was our cue to head to the camp.
Although that was the end of our day, the anglers agreed that it didn't have to be.
"There are plenty of trout in the bays in September," Newman said. "There's plenty of shrimp around in September: That's white-shrimp season."
However, as the month ages, more and more trout are migrating to the marshes as the numbers of shrimp peters off.
"You can still catch fish outside, but it's falling off," Newman said.
That's the beauty of the month: It's a transition period, when fishing is good outside, on the edges of the marsh and in the interior.
"A lot of the trout are moving back in the marsh looking for minnows," Boettner said.
And nowhere in the state is better suited to hold the schools of trout flooding them as the weather cools.
"We've got more inland fishing than anywhere else," Blackie Campo said back at the camp. "We've got 100,000 acres to fish."
"There are more options here than anywhere else in the state, period," he said. "In Venice you're stuck with the river, in Cocodrie you don't have as much (marsh), in Vermilion Bay you don't have as many fish."
Catching trout in the inshore waters is a cinch if storm minnows are available.
"Storm minnows come out in September, if there are storms," Newman said.
However, a calm month will make the trout look for other bait, one of the area's most-knowledgeable anglers said back at the camp.
"If you don't get no storms, you don't get no storm minnows," Campo said.
If storm minnows are available, trout can't resist them.
"You catch eight or nine fish on one bait," Boettner said. "If you've got a hunk of storm minnow, the trout will still bite them. They're going to eat them."
And while much of the interior marshes south and west of Delacroix's Bayou Terre Aux Boeufs were pummeled by Hurricane Katrina, the marshes to the northeast of the bayou remained amazingly untouched.
"You've got tremendous year-round fishing around here," said Newman, who purchased and renovated a camp in Shell Beach's Proctor Landing after Katrina. "You have so much marsh to fish."
Inshore trout action can be found over the ample reefs, with Bay Eloi, Lake Eloi, Halfmoon Pass Bay, Long Lagoon, Lake Machias and even as far inland as Lake Amadee being great areas.
"To tell you the truth, you catch speckled trout in September everywhere," Campo said.
Boettner said the wind decides which portion of a bay to fish.
"I use whatever land I can to get a lee shore," he said.
So if he's fishing Lake Eloi with a westerly breeze, Boettner concentrates on reefs on the western side of the lake.
Newman agreed, adding that the key is to hide from the wind while keeping the boat on the downcurrent side of the reef being fished.
"The bait is coming over the reef, and the trout will be on that side waiting," he said.
Both anglers cast a combination of artificials under corks and Carolina-rigged live bait onto the top of a reef, and work it over the shells to present the baits in the most natural way.
"That Speculizer is a great bait," Boettner said.
If trout aren't right at the drop of a reef, Boettner said they may be schooling farther downcurrent.
"Don't be afraid to move way back," he said. "It's easy when you're anchored to let out more line."
However, there are times when they move closer in to a reef and cast to the upcurrent side.
"If you've got a real slack tide, the trout will push on to the front side of the reef," Newman said.
Visibility is a key ingredient to a successful trip.
"If you've got chocolate-milk water, forget it," Newman said.
But he and Boettner also toss out any areas holding super-clear water.
"When the water gets gin clear, that's not good for trout," Boettner said. "I like that greenish clear water. Stained water, with about 2 feet of visibility: That's great."
The stained water doesn't prevent trout from seeing the bait, but it keeps some of the other species from finding it so easy.
"The trout can see that bait, but somehow it keeps those ladyfish, sharks and catfish from biting as much," Boettner said.
Once full limits of trout are iced, anglers can turn their attention to the swarms of redfish prowling the marshes.
While reds can be found in all of the bays, special attention should be paid to areas like Morgan Harbor and Lakes Robin and Coquille.
The key is to find reds feeding on shell reefs, and fish them with jigs, live cocahoes or dead shrimp.
However, when moving inside the marsh to the ponds, sight fishing really comes into play.
"I'm not looking for the fish: I'm looking for the wakes," Newman said. "The fish get in there, and feed on little crabs."
While a lot of submerged grass was killed during the throes of Katrina, Newman said there are still plenty of ponds in which vegetation can be found.
"Ponds deep in the Biloxi Marsh still have grass," he said. "Those redfish get ganged up in there and feed on the crabs."
But there are plenty of productive ponds only minutes from the only operating launch at Breton Sound Marina in Hopedale.
On the northern side of the MRGO between Lake Borgne and Bayou La Loutre lies a tangle of ponds and bayous that should be crowded with reds this month.
Bayous Alphonese and Musselini offer access to productive ponds, but an area just east of Musselini is one of Campo's secret holes.
"I've caught tons of redfish in that Longview area," he said. "You get in a little flat boat, and, man, I'm telling you you can catch some fish."
Longview is basically a long, shallow pond stretching all the way from Musselini in the south to Magnolia Mound in the north, and redfish crowd the waters feasting on snails and fiddler crabs.
This is an excellent place for flyrodders, Newman said.
"The mud minnows are out by that time, so you can use flies that mimic mud minnows and catch plenty of fish," he said.
Ponds scattered southeast of the MRGO also provide excellent shallow-water fishing for reds. Those off of Lake Amadee, Tanasia Lagoon and Lake Ameda are particularly productive, however.
"There are just a lot of options in there," Newman said.
Lee Newman Sr. said the key to putting numbers of reds in the boat in such shallow-water situations is to pick off finning redfish in order.
"You go to that first fish first and catch him, because if you get to that second fish first, he's going to spook all the rest of the fish," the elder Newman said. "If you catch them in order, you can catch more fish."
The younger Newman said the ponds can only be fished efficiently during an incoming tide, however.
"When you're in the ponds, you're looking for high water," he explained. "The water clears up on an incoming tide, and it muddies up on a falling tide."
Of course, the higher water allows reds to move farther into the pockets, but the Newmans simply push their way as close as they can get and hit the areas with black spoons, jigs and flies.
When fishing jigs, the younger Newman sticks with lighter versions.
"I want it just heavy enough to be able to cast to the redfish, but not heavy enough to drag in the mud," he explained.
And the younger Newman said he stays away from spinners.
"I just don't think you need them," he said. "The fish are aggressive."
When the water is falling, Lee Newman Jr. said that's when anglers should be in the main bayous.
"You can fish the cuts coming out (of the ponds) into the canals," he said. "The fish will be there to ambush bait coming out of the marsh."
This is when dead shrimp, live bait, jigs and even artificials under corks produce arm-stretching strikes.