The unusually high level of the Mississippi River was the bane of many a trout fisherman in Southeast Louisiana this summer, including anglers who found Breton Island awash in a sea of freshwater pumped in by persistent westerly winds.
But with the river now in full retreat and the summer's west winds nothing but a bad memory, green, salty water has returned to the island — and with it so have the trout.
“It was like chocolate milk out there,” said Capt. Todd Seither, who guides for Cajun Fishing Adventures out of Buras. “It all depends on the river level. The trout just got there within the last couple of weeks.”
And by all indications, it didn’t take long for the fishermen to return, either.
On a trip late last week during the Buras Marsh Media Bash, a four-day event held for fishing industry media from across the country hosted by Capt. Ryan Lambert, more than 30 boats were churning through the cove by 8 a.m. in pursuit of specks.
Fortunately, only a handful were on the beach-side of the island, so Seither piloted his 24-foot Skeeter to the south side away from the maddening crowd.
Turns out he made the right call: before we got chased off by a thunderstorm around 1 p.m., 50 specks were on ice via a combination of tight-lining soft plastic paddle-tails and a variety of LiveTarget artificial lures, including the 4 ¾-inch topwater mullet and the soft plastic rigged shrimp under a popping cork.
Not too bad considering we didn’t throw any live bait.
“For the most part, your nicer fish will usually be on the beach,” he said. “Opening night is the main color out there, along with clear-and-chartreuse, shad or the lighter colors — anything like that.
“When the river water was there, we caught them on purple.”
Fishing soft plastics tight-lined on ¼-ounce jigheads, using a popping cork or with a topwater lure are all solid options, but your exact location along the beach is dependent on conditions when you arrive, Seither said.
“It depends on the tide, really. If the tide is up with a north wind, you can get closer, say 75 to 100 yards off the beach,” he said. “Too close is not necessarily good.
“In certain spots you have to go out or in because sandbars are out a little further. You just have to kind of feel it out.”
His favorite scenario is an 8:30 to 10 a.m. high tide because it offers a couple of options, and he prefers to fish for specks in 3- to 5-feet of water.
“If they’re going to bite on the incoming, you have a few hours of it,” Seither said. “If they’re going to bite on the fall, you’ve got a couple of hours of it, too. But generally, I like a fall.”
Over on the cove side of the island, which is more protected from the wind, the key is knowing the locations of several troughs in the area, and figuring out how the fish are relating to them when you’re there.
“I know what the bottom looks like, and where the troughs are in the cove,” Seither said. “So then I’m just looking for bait.
“Sometimes they’re in the deeper troughs, and other times they’re up on the top in 3 ½ feet of water — and not in the troughs at all.”
Depending on what the river does, Seither said he expects the island bite to continue through November, until the water cools enough to push the specks into deeper water or up into back canals.
Regardless, he said a good rule of thumb is to keep close watch on your prop wash, because even if dirty river water is on top, specks could be holding in salty water down below.
“I’ll fish in that dirty water and 90 percent of the boats pass it up, but they’re not looking in their prop wash,” he said. “It’s kicking up beautiful green water. It definitely makes a big difference keeping your eyes open on the prop wash.”