Thursday it took one stop for guide Dominick Ochello to put his clients on all the Lafitte redfish they could stand.
“We caught 27,” Ochello said. “They were schooled up.”
The last day of July Ochello, Colby Creppel and Casey Rojas — all guides with Griffin Fishing Charters based in Lafitte — took advantage of a day without scheduled trips to jump in a single boat for some scouting.
And they headed straight for the point sticking off the shoreline of Little Lake that was so productive for Ochello just the day before. They all expected to be greeted by a wad of hungry reds.
When they came off plane, the water was beautiful. And the current was still falling. Both were positive indications.
But a guide from another service who had beaten the Griffin Charters trio to the spot delivered disappointing news.
“Not one,” he yelled back to Creppel’s question about how many fish they’d caught.
That guide soon popped his boat on plane to move his clients to another spot, while Ochello, Creppel and Rojas whipped gold spoons toward the shallows.
There was plenty of bait, current and beautiful water. What else could happen but a smackdown?
Unfortunately, the point itself was empty of reds. But the guides, heckling each other and laughing despite the initial lack of success, moved down the bank and worked their spoons through scattered mats of grass as the sun burned through clouds just above the horizon.
Rojas was the first to strike gold, when a hefty red swallowed his lure. Creppel grabbed the net, and after a fight that lasted about five minutes, the red was in the boat.
A move farther down the bank to a cut bleeding interior marsh ponds resulted in several more bites.
It was far from hectic action, but redfish turned up just enough to keep the anglers on their toes.
The flipflop between Ochello’s crazy Thursday trip and their short scouting trip Friday shows the extremes anglers can expect when launching in Lafitte.
“If the fish are schooled up, you can catch them quick,” Ochello said. “If they’re not, you have to move around.”
But even when redfish seem disinterested in swimming in packs, there are plenty of fish to be caught.
“If we would have stayed until noon, we would have caught plenty of fish,” Ochello said after returning to the lodge.
He and Cappel said there are definitely fish to be caught during the heat of dog days going into August, but they agreed it really gets to be hard, sweaty work once the sun climbs and kicks into high gear.
“By about 9 or 10, you have to fish hard,” Cappel said.
The best bet, the guides agreed is to catch fish before that point.
“Get out early, find clean water and look for tide,” Ochello said, noting that late-afternoon trips also can be productive.
Ochello and Creppel said moving water is absolutely critical, although a falling tide presents the best-case scenario.
While they spend much of their time threading market bait onto clients’ hooks, the guides prefer fishing artificials — namely, gold spoons and black-and-chartreuse cocahoes.
Tidal direction dictates which of these can be expected to be best.
“If you’re fishing with a spoon, you can catch (redfish) on both tides, but if you’re fishing with shrimp, you’ve got to have a falling tide,” Creppel said.
So where can you go to find some summer redfish action? The guides agreed there are two no-brainer choices: Little Lake and the Rigolets.
“It’s a lot deeper out there, so the water is cooler,” Creppel said.
Ochello pointed to the entire west side of Little Lake from its upper reaches down to Coffee Bay, while Creppel said “the wall” along the Rigolets is a real redfish magnet.
Once the first cold fronts begin arriving toward the end of August or (more likely) in early September, the deeper waters of the Rigolets and Little Lake become even more important.
“If the tide is too low, you can’t get in those shallows,” Creppel said. “So the fish move deeper, which actually makes it better. All those ponds drain into that big water.”
And as the ponds empty, redfish begin to congregate in the first water deep enough for them to thrive.
This is when fishing trips can get hectic, but the colder it gets the more the guides rely on stink bait.
“That’s when you want to fish mostly dead shrimp,” Creppel said. “In the summertime they have a lot of energy; when it’s cold, they don’t have as much energy.”
But that’s really only an issue once the water temperatures really fall. Until then, you should be able to load up on the trusty gold spoons and cocahoes, the guides said.