The calendar might say it’s April 1, but this isn't an April Fool's joke: Specks on the east side of the Mississippi River out of Buras are staying put in more traditional wintertime patterns right now.
That means man-made canals off of Cox Bay and Bay Auguste are still holding trout, according to Capt. Cody Obiol, with Cajun Fishing Adventures.
“We’re going where they shouldn’t be, but they are,” Obiol said Monday afternoon as he weaved his way back through the canals off of Cox Bay. “By now, the fish usually start transitioning to your outer bays, shallower ponds and outer reefs. They’re really not supposed to be here right now.”
A couple of different reasons are to blame for the specks’ delayed exodus out to deeper water.
“You get a couple of late cold fronts, and it helps to keep the fish pushed back,” he said. “Plus the salinity is trapped in the canals, so while the river water is fresh, all those canals are still salty.
“So the fish just stayed in there instead of coming out into the fresher water.”
With the swollen Mississippi River expected to crest later this week above 14 feet in New Orleans, and recent steady southwest winds pushing all that freshwater into the bays and marshes to the east side, salty water is at a premium to find trout.
But Obiol uses the high river to his advantage to narrow his focus to locate specks. On this trip, he targeted pockets of salty water in the bend of the river between the Mardi Gras break and Bayou Lamoque.
“All that freshwater concentrates those fish in saltier pockets of water," Obiol said. “So if you have an island with two strips of river water and a strip of clean water, they’re going to be in that strip of clean water.
“You want to find pockets between the canals where that river water can’t swing back in. That’s a good spot. The river water can only go south, it can’t come up back north.”
Obiol kept a close eye on his wheel wash to monitor the salinity as he moved Monday afternoon.
“Fresh water won’t bubble when you’re running. It will bubble up and go back to being flat,” he said. “But when you’re running through saltwater, it causes a film behind your boat. And when you start seeing that film, that means you’re in the saltier water.
“Even if the water is dirty, if you’re running and the water is clearing up behind you in the wheel wash, that means fresh water is on top the saltwater. That’s the easiest way to do it.”
He’s been looking forward to this month, when specks typically become a bit more predictable.
“It’s more steady in April. The fish are in a pattern,” he said. “You’re still going to fish the transition canals and a lot of the close-in reefs, then gradually move to the outer islands.”
To catch fish, Obiol prefers to use artificial baits from Deadly Dudley, H&H and Z-Man on 1/4-ounce jigheads bounced along the bottom.
“That’s pretty much my three basic baits," he said. "I like the slammin Sammy for Deadly Dudley, the purple-and-chartreuse and glow-and-chartreuse for H&H, and sexy mullet with Z-man.
"As you get to the summer, you can be more aggressive with it. And you can move to a popping cork because they’re not gong to be biting as much on the bottom. They’ll be hitting popping corks during the summer months.”
The popping cork was the ticket on our last stop of the day at the Four-way at Bay Auguste, where we enjoyed a few minutes of reeling in specks on almost every cast.
“They were staging, and that’s what you’re looking for in the transition,” he said. “They’re schooling right there, and after the school gets big enough and they feed on what they want, they’re going to push out.”
The action was great - until Obiol hooked two monster bull reds back-to-back — a 42-incher followed up immediately by an even bigger 45-inch beast — that snuffed out the trout bite almost instantly.
“That happens quite often in March, April and May,” he said. “As you get out to the rigs and the outer banks, it doesn’t affect them as much because the schools are bigger. Right now the schools are real small.
“When you get 150 fish to the school, they don’t leave as quickly when the bull reds come in.”