Rack ’em and stack ’em
Lake Raccourci trout are just dying to be caught. Here’s how to take grab your share of the catch.
According to Capt. T-Man Cheramie, all of the islands in Raccourci, Timbalier and Terrebone are red hot right now.
Obviously, Thoreau wasn’t from South Louisiana. Maybe up where he’s from men philosophize about why they go fishing. Is it to commune with nature or to connect with the divine soul of the universe, or some other such metaphysical nonsense?
Get real. Down here we’re out in mega-horsepower metal or fiberglass sleds, rocketing across the surface of the water at speeds wayyyy too fast to even notice nature, let alone commune with it.
And we’re equipped with a zillion bucks worth of electronics, hi-tech gadgets and fishing gear for one purpose only — to find fish, and when we find them, to smack ’em until we wear them or ourselves out. Hopefully both.
That, Mr. Thoreau, is fishing. Bottom line: We go fishing to catch fish.
And this month, few places you try will be more productive than Lake Raccourci. The big body of water is a short jump out of Leeville on Louisiana Highway 1, but is also accessible (albeit with a longer boat ride) from Port Fourchon or, as in our case, Basson’s in Galliano.
I’d set up a trip with Capt. T-Man Cheramie (985-677-6294), to make hit the big, open water where the trout were reputed to be large, thick and absolutely carnivorous. We met at daybreak at Basson’s Boat Launch, loaded our gear aboard his 22-foot Predator Bay boat and headed for Raccourci.
When we got as far south as Gray Duck, we saw numerous flocks of gulls diving over bait all over the lake. Those diving birds, especially gulls, can be hard for fishermen to resist.
"It means the shrimp are plentiful in here in Gray Duck already," Cheramie said, "but we’re not stopping until I get to where I want to go."
So, spurning the birds, we kept heading south until we broke into Lake Raccourci, and once again all over the big body of water we saw flocks of gulls diving over bait, presumably shrimp.
"I’m ignoring them," Cheramie said, "and sticking to my original game plan."
"Which is what?" I asked.
"We’re heading straight to the islands for big trout on topwater baits. We’ll work the topwater plugs early, and then we’ll switch to live minnows or plastics under a cork," Cheramie said. "Big trout today, that’s my plan."
Now, you’ve got to admire a man who sticks to his plan. I also like to plan my fishing trips. I plan them in advance, deciding ahead of time where I’ll fish, what route I’ll take to get there, and what I’ll toss at ‘em to entice a strike.
But I’m fickle, and I’ll admit it. And I hate the fact that I am. If, for instance, I stop along the way to buy ice and the guy in line ahead of me says he heard they caught fish yesterday in Katmandu Lagoon, I immediately abandon my original plan and go fish Katmandu instead.
And I always regret it.
Or, I’ll let those stupid birds distract me. I can ignore one flock of diving birds. "Just keep going right past them, don’t look," I tell myself. But then I’ll see another flock, and then another even bigger than the others, and I have to stop just to see what’s under them.
"Just 5 minutes," I tell myself, "and then I’m going back to my original plan!"
And an hour later I’m still chasing birds all over, boating a few small trout, and unhooking a zillion throwbacks and junk fish. By then it’s too late to follow my original plan, and I have to scrap the whole thing.
So, yes, I nodded in approval as Cheramie raced through the diving gulls and kept heading for those islands where visions of big trout slamming topwater baits beckoned.
Once we entered Lake Raccourci, Cheramie pointed to some rigs and structures he said also hold trout this month, but we zipped past them, as well.
"We might stop and fish them later, but right now we want to be at the islands for the early morning topwater bite," he said.
Minutes later he cut the big OptiMax outboard, dropped the trolling motor over the bow and began a slow but steady approach toward a big cluster of islands.
"These are the Fornation Islands, situated on the border between Lake Raccourci, Terrebone Bay and Timbalier Bay, and usually the trout show up out here in good numbers this month," Cheramie said as we moved closer, almost to within casting distance of a partially submerged point.
Cheramie had a MirrOlure Top Pup in a green/white-belly mullet color, while I went with a solid bone-colored She Dog. My brother, Tony, also aboard, was casting a glow DOA shrimp under a cork.
"Cast toward the point, along the bank, and also cast out away from the bank because the fish could be anywhere from just off the bank to 50 yards out or more," Cheramie advised. "We have to cast on all sides to see if we can locate them."
We didn’t have to wait long before the trout and reds started swiping at our topwater plugs. After a few fish smacked us without getting hooked, Cheramie got a nice trout hooked up, and reeled it in.
"Slow down your retrieve a little bit, and every once in a while just stop reeling for a couple seconds, and see if that makes a difference," he said.
I did, and it did.
For some reason they just wanted a slower-moving target, and we started catching some nice specks with a good number of reds thrown in the mix. These were all healthy fish, thick in girth and well fed on the vast variety of prey available to them.
And while 1 ˝ pounds was about the average, we got nailed by some whoppers over the course of the morning.
In one spot, Cheramie thought he hooked up a nice red. It pulled out line, making his drag sing after it mauled his Top Pup.
It didn’t jump up on top like a trout, so we all assumed it was a redfish, and I didn’t bother to rush to get the net. Until we saw the fish alongside the boat.
A huge speck, looking to be 5 pounds or better, with that topwater plug dangling from its lips and when it saw us it shook its head furiously in panic.
But I scooped it with the net faster than you can say Lake Raccourci, and plopped the big fish on the floor.
"That’s what we’re here for, boys," Cheramie said, holding the big trout up for some photos.
He said the action is what he expected, and the action should last for some time.
"The fish are definitely here, all around these islands, and now they’ll stay out here all summer. You’ll be able to come here and catch these fish till September," Cheramie said. "The biggest problem you’ll have is the wind. All the islands out in Raccourci, Timbalier and Terrebone are going to be red hot from now on, but this is wide open water, and the winds will whip up the seas and stir up the bottom and make the whole area unfishable.
"So you’ll have to pick your days; try to fish on days with winds under 15 knots. Under 15, you can fish anywhere out here. Over 15, you can still catch fish, but you’ll have to hunt a lee shore and clean water."
When he ventures out on breezy days, he simply plans his stops carefully.
"I usually fish the coves on the windier days; fish the west side on a west wind, and the east side on an east wind," Cheramie said. "You can usually find some decent water, and you just do what we always do: Look for bait, look for current and try around the various points.
"Or, you just focus on fishing redfish. Reds will hit baits on windy days, and water clarity isn’t as big an issue with them."
But he said he’ll actually switch his approach if he targets the hard-fighting reds.
"I like to fish the windy shoreline for them, and live bait under a cork is always the best bet," Cheramie said. "You can toss spoons and beetle spins, and we’re slamming them today on these topwater baits, but the live stuff — live shrimp and live minnows — is always a good investment."
However, Cheramie has a definite favorite when it comes to live bait.
"Actually, I prefer fishing live minnows over the live shrimp, and a trout or redfish will not hesitate to slam dunk a minnow," he said. "They’re hardier; they stay alive longer in the baitwell and on your hook, and often you can catch two or even three fish on one minnow. You definitely can’t do that with live shrimp.
"But, when the trout want live shrimp, you need to have some in the well."
Of course, tidal movement is a must.
"As far as tide, I like a good range and a rising tide for trout out here at the islands.," Cheramie said. "And when the tide slows down, before it goes slack and does a turnaround, that’s a real good time to catch trout. It’s like they get an extra burst of incentive to feed heavy before the tide quits.
"And for reds, I definitely prefer a falling tide along the coastline wherever you have a point or a cut or a drain. Soak a live shrimp or minnow under a cork, and hold on."
After we fished a while, it became obvious that Cheramie’s mullet colored topwater bait was outperforming my bone model, so I switched colors.
I should’ve switched immediately to the color that was working, but being a slow learner, I wanted to try another color. So, I tried red/white, bronze/orange belly, and blue/silver, but none produced very well.
The topwater bite slowed down as the sun got up, but it never shut down altogether.
We’d switch up, tossing plastics or live baits under a cork, and we caught fish, both reds and specks on both. Then we’d go back to the topwaters and we’d catch a fish or two before we’d have to switch back again.
The action wasn’t continual, but it was steady, and we were catching some very nice sized trout and redfish. In fact, the redfish bite around the islands was excellent. Big bronzebacks were inhaling our topwater baits, and running and fighting hard to shake those treble hooks
No matter how many times you see it, it’s a thrill to have a big fish smack your topwater bait. You get to see the big surface explosion and hear the audible smack of the fish striking the hard bait, and you feel the big pull of the fighting fish on your limber rod as it bends over, line stretched, as you wrestle the fish back toward the boat.
"All of the islands out here are red hot right now, and fish like this are all over them," Cheramie said. "Northwest Island, Philo Bruce, the Fornations, all the points jutting out along the east side from Little Lake to the south, and all the rigs and structures are holding fish.
"The structures are in deeper water, so a live minnow or shrimp on a sliding sinker rig will be effective, but you can also try under a cork around them as well."
Cheramie also said birds diving over bait out here at these islands are more likely to be over bigger fish, so that’s another thought to keep in mind.
We did stop at a couple of the structures on our way in, and tossed live minnows on the bottom. In each case we were greeted by hefty, hungry trout.
There is no doubt, the area is in its prime right now. All you need is a decent day, a topwater bait, some live stuff in the baitwell — and don’t forget the landing net. You’re gonna need it.Capt. T-Man Cheramie can be reached at (985)-677-6294.
The shortest boat ride to Lake Raccourci’s abundant islands and structures is from Leeville, about an hour and a half drive from downtown New Orleans. Take I-10 west to I-310 south, and exit on Highway 90 towards Houma. Follow 90 to either Highway 308 or Highway 1, and head toward Grand Isle. You can pick up the four lane from Larose off of Highway 1, and follow it to Leeville.
Marinas – Bobby Lynn’s is a full-service marina and has a backdown. Boudreaux’s Motel also has a backdown. There are several bait shops nearby offering live and dead bait.
Maps – Standard #38
Guides – Several excellent charter guides fish the Raccourci area, from Leeville, Fourchon, Larose and Galliano.
Accommodations – Numerous options are available on Highway 1, including Bobby Lynn’s and Boudreaux’s. Many of the Charter guides also offer accommodations.
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