If you have ever fished Calcasieu Lake, then you know that the waters hold populations of all sizes of mullet.
Capt. Paul Davidson Jr. said he chooses his bait carefully.
"I prefer using finger mullet that are 3 to 4 inches long when using the Carolina rig here," Davidson said. "Sure, a very good speck will eat a 5- to 6-inch finger mullet, but I find the 3- to 4-inchers to be much more manageable."
Finding live mullet at bait and tackle shops along Calcasieu Lake is not likely, so the easiest way to obtain them is to keep a casting net ready and catch your own.
But mullet aren’t the only live bait that will work.
"The live cocahoe is probably the strongest bait in terms of durability," Capt. Tim McGinnis said, "and I like to use them. You can take more than just a few fish on one live cocahoe, and it’ll remain ready to cast again.
"Some will stay alive for more than one day in a livewell."
Cocahoes can be found in the shallows and prefer brackish bayous, ditches and sloughs connected to Calcasieu Lake. They can be taken in minnow traps baited with dead shrimp or parts of cracked crab.
"We also use pogies," Davidson said. "They are not nearly as durable as cocahoes, however.
"Pogies have a tendency not to stay alive very long."
Another problem with the fish is that their use is limited.
"Using pogies is limited to the mid-summer because they’ll be a bit bigger," he said.
Pogies can be taken with a cast net, and this species prefers coves and brackish bayous where they can be found in schools.
Of course, no discussion about Carolina rigs would be complete without adding live shrimp.
Davidson and McGinns will use shrimp occasionally, and they are readily available at Calcasieu Point Landing (337-479-1536) south of Lake Charles on the east side of Calcasieu Lake, as well as Spicer’s Marina in Hackberry (337-762-3170) on the west side. Both of these marinas also feature launches with easy access to the Ship Channel.
Davidson and McGinnis also Carolina rig artificial baits at times, with 3-inch Berkley Gulp! shrimp and the minnows being their favored lures.
"You have to have a muddy bottom to move that artificial bait," Davidson said.
"It’s like bass fishing: You want to kick that mud up a little bit," he said. "Giving artificials action draws attention. You want your artificial lure to float up, and working them above mud flats allows that movement."