Strong winds that just don’t seem to let up and few, if any, shrimp in the system.
The lingering effects of this year’s colder-than-usual winter, and water levels that have consistently been 8- to 10-inches above normal.
Take your pick or add a few of your own – these are just some of the reasons being thrown around as to why speckled trout action on Big Lake has been slower than normal this spring.
“The calendar says it’s May, but the fish are telling me it’s more like late March, maybe the middle of April,” said Capt. Nick Poe, with Big Lake Guide Service. “I’ve been listening to the whining and the griping and the complaining, but there’s not much you can do when it’s blowing 30 mph out of the south or 30 mph out of the north.
“We don’t have that type of estuary. There’s nowhere you can go and hide from that. It’s big and open, and where the fish want to be right now you just can’t get to when it’s blowing like that. You can get to them, but you’re going to need a helmet and a mouthpiece to get there, and when you get there, you can’t feel your bait. I believe it’s just the weather.”
Poe pointed out that of his four boats that went out Tuesday, two returned with limits of trout and two caught 25 to 30 specks each.
“I don’t think there’s a lack of fish,” Poe said. “It’s just hard to catch fish when it’s blowing 30 (mph).”
Capt. Erik Rue, with Calcasieu Charter Service, said he thinks the lack of shrimp is a big part of the problem.
“There appears to be plenty of pogies but not much shrimp in the system,” Rue said. “The bait houses here are not open or they’re barely open. They’re not getting any live shrimp.”
Although he doesn’t usually fish with shrimp now, Rue said the complete absence of the crustaceans as a food source could be partly to blame for the seeming lack of specks.
“On top of the cold weather we had, my only assumption is that a lot of these fish may have gotten driven out of the system during the winter, and with the shrimp not making a good push back in at this point, maybe the trout hadn’t followed them back.
“That’s just a guess.”
On a recent trip, some specks Rue caught spit up shrimp that sounded like you almost needed a magnifying glass to see.
“They were so small they looked like grass shrimp – little bitty, bitty, tiny stuff,” Rue said. “I’m sure that’s part of the deal.”
Randy Pausina, head of fisheries for the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, noted that this year’s shrimping season won’t be getting underway south of Big Lake until June 2, and the shrimp counts taken a couple of weeks ago were much smaller than usual throughout coastal Louisiana.
“We’re normally talking about shrimp that are 70- to 120-count this time of year,” Pausina said. “This year we’re looking at 1000- and in some cases, 2000-count shrimp.
“That’s unheard of. There’s no doubt the cold and extended winter is a factor, whether it’s Lake Borgne or Big Lake.”
Rue said while redfish have kept his clients catching fish, trout numbers have been pretty abysmal.
“This time of year you’d expect to go along the traditional shorelines and, even if you can’t catch decent numbers of fish, you should at least be able to throw some topwater baits and catch some bigger fish,” he said.
“That just hadn’t been happening the way we’re accustomed to."
For now, both guides believe conditions will steadily improve with each passing day.
“I think when it happens, it’s going to bust wide open when it does,” Poe said.
Rue, who had three boats out fishing Tuesday, said two caught more trout than they had been catching recently, a positive sign.
“It’s just part of the cycle I think,” Rue said. “Now if we get here a few weeks later and the trout fishing doesn’t pick up, then I don’t know what I’m going to think.”