Steve Shook is known for two things: using live pogies to catch big speckled trout and fishing the rocks of East Timbalier Island.
Shook has notched up three 10-pound speckled trout in his life: a 10-pound, 1-ounce fish he took in December 1989 on a smoke-colored plastic shrimp on a jig; a 10-pound, 2-ounce fish caught in June 1989 on a live pogie near Belle Pass; and a 10-pound, 8-ounce fish taken with a live pogie from Fourchon Beach.
Note that none of the fish came from East Timbalier proper.
Strangely, the idea for fishing for speckled trout with live pogies came to him while he was slow-trolling with pogies on a down-rigger for king mackerel off of North Carolina. Pogies are excellent kingfish bait.
“I think that pogies are (speckled trout’s) No. 1 food source, except maybe shrimp,” Shook speculated. “But shrimp aren’t as good a food for big trout because they are small.
“And if you use shrimp for bait in the summer, you catch catfish. If you fish with pogies, you catch trout.”
Shook admitted that he wasn’t the first in the area to use pogies.
“Calvin Dufrene, the oldest fishing guide in the marsh, would fish with pogies sometimes, but his preference was jigs,” Shook said. “I turned to using pogies because that is what was available. Shrimp were expensive. Croakers, in those days, were only available if you bought them off a shrimp boat.
“Croakers are bottom fish. When I did get croakers they would dive down into the rocks and hang up. I got hung up all the time. Pogies just kind of flop on the surface.”
Shook ticked off a list of reasons why he thinks pogies are the best speckled trout live bait:
• Pogies are active swimmers.
• Pogies are readily available in good numbers and are easy to catch if you can throw a cast net.
• Pogies are slimy and give off good scent
• More can be caught to replenish your bait supply when the ones in your live tank are no longer fresh. Slime gets washed off baitfish held in a livewell, so many times by midday trout don’t seem to want your bait as much. If you catch a fresh batch of them, you start catching fish immediately.
• You can look for the size bait you want to catch the size trout you want. Three-inch pogies are good for school trout. Four- to 5-inch pogies will catch big trout. For trophy trout use at least 6-inch pogies.
• Pogies are always available near where you are speckled trout fishing if water temperatures are over 70° Fahrenheit.
• Trout prefer pogies over other live baits.