No matter how big speckled trout might get in our dreams, the fact of the matter is Leon Mattes’ 12.38-pounder taken 65 year ago looks like it will remain as the No. 1 Louisiana speckled trout ever — at least for another year.
The spawning period for specks in Louisiana’s coastal waters pretty much ends in September, and an inspection of the state’s Top 10 trout indicates seven of them were taken in the months of April and May.
So on paper, at least, history indicates the prime time for catching a 30-inch speckled trout has passed.
But how does 2015 rank with trophy trout taken so far this spring and summer? We talked to guides across the coast to gauge their success so far this year, as well as find out what they suggest to catch a late-season lunker.
On April 15, guide Steven Bonsack and his friends had a banner day battling impressive speckled trout and a few redfish in a southwestern cove of Big Lake.
“The tide was falling, we had a northwest wind, and I found an area with massive slicks in small pockets,” he said.
Bonsack cast a Steve Brown broke-back Halloween Corky near the slicks, and a 9.5-pound trout immediately ran off with it.
“It was a very good day for us,” he said. “We also caught a 7.5-pounder and several more weighing 6 pounds. They were just full of eggs, and we released them all.”
Bonsack was fishing a few days before the new moon, the first evidence the trout spawn was on in Southwest Louisiana waters.
On April 19 — the very first day after the new moon that month— another angler scored on a confirmed 10-pound, 31-inch Calcasieu Lake behemoth.
As for more trophy trout showing in the early spring, Bonsack knew of another 10-pounder taken near the first full moon in May by guide Jared Adams.
Just six days later, Texas angler Michael Fesco caught an 8.43-pounder on the southeastern edge of the lake fishing with live bait. Fesco’s fish still leads the speckled trout west division of Louisiana CCA’s STAR tournament.
But since then, true trophies more than 28 inches have been rare, according to Bonsack. Repeated rainfall, including effects from Tropical Storm Bill, has pumped freshwater into much of the Calcasieu estuary.
“But we had a good fall and winter going into the spring,” he said. “I caught a 9-pounder in November during a wade.”
As for the rest of this summer, Bonsack advises anglers to stick with topwaters such as bone Heddon Super Spooks and white Rapala Skitterwalks. He dog-walks these baits on Sarge Custom Free Bird and Wingman rods with 30-pound PowerPro spooled onto Shimano Core reels, and will sometimes use a 25-pound fluorocarbon leader.
To reach Bosack, contact the SWLA Sportsman Lodge on Calcasieu Lake at 337-912-5966.
“Never in my life have I seen the Grand Isle area have a bigger STAR leader than the east division,” Chas Champagne, owner of Matrix Shad lures, said.
He was referring to a 6.86-pounder currently leading the STAR southeast division, compared to the 6.20 pound speck first place in the east division as of July 7.
Champagne keeps a watchful eye on Lake Pontchartrain because it’s so close to his home and business.
“I can count on one hand the legitimate 6-pounders taken in the last three years,” he said. “We haven’t had any true trophy speckled trout taken in quite a while.
“It is maybe the worst year I have ever seen.”
Champagne fondly remembers 2012, when Lake Pontchartrain delivered not one, but two 30 pound, five-fish speckled trout stringers. Unfortunately, it hasn’t happened since.
“This past fall was good, and we caught good 14- to 18-inch fish when the salinities were better,” he said.
Champagne bemoaned the constant freshwater influx into the lake, possibly the culprit in the lack of trophy trout catches there recently.
“The last three springs we have experienced a load of fresh water,” he said. “Of course, many anglers blame the MRGO, but I’m told that’s not the reason.
“I do find it interesting Mississippi records have changed three times, the most recent of which was Alex Smith’s 10 ½-pounder taken on our GoldenEye jighead and a Wedgetail Mullet,” he said. “Smith’s trout comes right under the No. 1 Mississippi trout taken in 2013.
“It really looks like all the fresh water is pushing speckled trout to saltier areas.”
As for the rest of the summer, Champagne advises anglers to fish the CFX Bridge at the mouth of the Rigolets at Lake Borgne. Carolina-rigged Matrix Shad Shrimp Creole on ¼- or ½-ounce GoldenEye jigheads are his recommended lures.
Depth and current are factors to consider when choosing jigheads, as the heavier ½-ounce weight may be more appropriate when fishing deeper in moving water.
Considering the state’s current No. 3 speckled trout was taken in September of 1999 in the Rigolets — an 11.24-pound beast by Jason Troullier — Champagne’s advice is solid. He can be contacted for questions about Matrix Shad lures or Lake Pontchartrain guides at 985-707-9049.
Capt. Brent Roy of Venice Charters Unlimited has had a good run with some 8-pound specks in Venice over the last three years.
“By now, I would usually have caught eight or 10 speckled trout over 7 pounds,” Roy said. “So far, I only know of one 8-pounder, two 7s and a handful of 6-pounders coming out of Venice.”
Roy said it may be simply just a bad cycle for trophy fish the area is experiencing for 2015.
“Some years have been good with the big specks, and others haven’t,” he said. “Last year we had more 8-pounders taken, and the last really good year here for trophies was 2013.”
The angler said freshwater is again the problem, with the Mississippi River remaining unusually high.
“It’s still flooded here, and the river continues to be filled with debris,” he said. “As a result our options are limited for trout, and we have to move to get away from the river water.”
Even the beaches are still dirty, he said.
“Recently, I had to run halfway to Delacroix to find speckled trout to fish,” he said.
For more information and guide service questions, Roy can be reached at 225-268-8420.