It was the only explanation I had why the Chamber of Commerce weather I saw out my work window during the week was more often than not replaced by howling winds and freezing temperatures sometime around Friday night.
I've since learned that these punishing weather changes had absolutely nothing to do with me spending a Sunday morning on the deck of a bass boat because I haven't fished a tournament in more than two years, and the foul weather still has a way of keeping up with my every move.
Take a trip I made to Calcasieu Lake recently to fish with Jeff Poe of Big Lake Guide Service. I kept up with the extended forecast for several days prior to the trip. Clear skies and light winds were predicted for the exact day I needed them.
Like clockwork, the forecast changed the night before my trip. It seems the weatherman changed his mind about that particular Tuesday, and he replaced picture perfect with unpleasantly unsettled. Twenty-m.p.h. winds and thunderstorms weren't looking too good considering we'd be fishing wide-open Big Lake.
Thankfully, the weatherman missed his mark. Poe and I pulled away from his pier and headed out on the lake under cloudy skies and spitting rain, but the wind was almost dead calm.
"Just perfect," Poe said. "This is the kind of day we hope for over here. It may not be great for taking pictures, but it doesn't get any better for catching fish."
Calcasieu Lake has been under the gun recently. The trophy trout parade of a few years ago has died down and has been replaced by a parade of words by some calling for a reduction of the trout limit on the lake. Some folks are concerned about the fact they just can't catch them like they used to.
I'm not an ichthyologist, and I'm not a politician, but what I saw during my trip was enough to convince me there are plenty big trout left in the lake, and that catching a limit might not be as difficult as some are claiming it to be. Then again, perhaps I had an unfair advantage by fishing with one of the top guides on the lake.
"The lake is still loaded with fish," Poe said as we idled north from his pier. "As far as the fishery goes, we haven't lost anything. The number of big ones has gone down in the last few years, but you've got to realize that the numbers of big trout go up and down. There's plenty of fish in the lake, but right now we're seeing more small fish.
"Four years ago, it was almost impossible to catch an undersized fish. That cycle has reversed the past few years, but we're starting to swing back to those trophy trout days. We're seeing them grow now, and I think they'll take off in a year or two."
Poe eased his boat over to the mouth of a cut on the east side of the lake. I immediately began tossing a glow/chartreuse Norton Sand Eel Jr. on a 1/8-ounce jighead into the cut. We were after big trout, but I wasn't averse to hooking up with a flatfish or two.
My first cast was rewarded with a tap so light I would have sworn that a sac-a-lait had found its way into the lake. I began reeling in a 2-pound trout against the protests of Poe, who felt that I might have messed up the entire trip by catching one on the first cast.
"Not a trophy," Poe said, "but it's a start. Even though there aren't as many big trout being caught out here as there used to be, we're still catching enough to make it interesting. I would consider a trophy trout anything over 8 pounds.
"Consider this: A 10-pound trout would be like a Boone and Crocket deer, an 8-pounder would be a 150, and even a 7 would equal about a 135 it's still a fine son of a gun. And, you're talking freak status with anything over 10 "
Poe's words were cut short by a big trout that had inhaled his Storm Thunderstick. He fought the fish as I dug around for my camera bag. I brought the camera to my eye just in time to snap a picture of a dejected Poe. The trout unbuttoned itself about half way to the boat.
As we continued pelting the flat with jigs and jerkbaits, Poe mentioned just how off the weatherman was. The clouds never broke, and the rain never stopped, but the wind didn't blow. And, according to Poe, we were about to have a banner day on the water because he considered the conditions to be ideal.
"What we've got here is the perfect conditions for fishing Calcasieu," Poe said. "This light, drizzling rain and light wind just makes them want to bite. You can see everything going on in the water so much better as far as slicks, moving fish or jumping shrimp."
Of course, the key to doing well during rainy days is hoping that it doesn't rain too hard or too long. As most saltwater anglers know, too much rain can throw off the salinity of an inland lake or bay.
According to Mike Harbison, LDWF marine fisheries biologist supervisor, speckled trout prefer a high salinity of about 28 parts per thousand for spawning, and, since trout are looking to spawn in Big Lake during May, the dry winter has the salinities in the north part of the lake just about right.
"If we have high salinity inshore, there's going to be more spawning inshore," Harbison said. "Of course, it all depends on the conditions. If the inshore area is set up right, which it seems to be now, there's going to be more larger trout inshore, and anglers stand a better chance of catching one."
Salinities are typically lower than what trout prefer way inshore during the winter and early spring because Louisiana winters and springs are usually the wettest months of the year.
"That's so — with the exception of the middle of summer," Harbison said. "A heavy thunderstorm right over the lake or just north of the lake can make the salinity plummet. Of course, we've been pretty dry since the hurricanes, and salinities are up all over the place. That means more trout are going to be moving in to spawn this year."
Take the high salinity at Calcasieu into account and couple it with Poe's theory that trout are the heaviest they will be all year long during May, and you can see that this particular May is shaping up as a perfect trophy month.
"Trout are as heavy as they're going to get during May," Poe said. "You can catch a big, long fish almost any time of year. I've caught 28- to 30-inch fish at other times of year that just didn't weigh as much as they would in May. I've heard that trout will take in a lot of water right before they spawn for the first time. That water-weight gain will add an extra pound or two to a trout that's already full of eggs."
Poe recalled one of the largest trout he's ever caught during May as being only 26 inches but weighing almost 9 1/2 pounds.
"It was just a huge fish," he said. "If you figure that a 26-inch fish usually weighs about 6 pounds, and a 27-inch fish weighs around 7 you can tell that this particular 9-pound trout had something extra going on."
Even with all the variables coming together to make this particular May an angling version of the "Perfect Storm," Poe still believes that big trout are hard to target specifically. A big trout could come at any time, on anything, and anywhere.
"You can catch big fish from West Cove to Grand Bayou to Turner's Bay," Poe said. "Location doesn't matter as much as salinity and food.
"The whole lake is subject to giving up a big fish this year with the salinity up. That includes the ship channel, Nine Mile Cut, Long Point and Joe's Cove. The only general rule is that you typically don't catch as many big ones above the Intracoastal Waterway."
While a big trout could come on any day, Poe favors cloudy days with light drizzle because those conditions allow him to see the slicks better. Fishing the slicks became our primary pattern during our trip, and Poe gave me a clinic on deciphering their meanings.
"Slicks are formed from the oil coming off the fish," Poe said while motioning to an obvious oily spot on the surface of the water. "The story that everybody says, and that I agree with, is that slicks are formed by fish leaking and regurgitating what they've been eating. I think you see them mainly when the trout have been eating thin fish like pogies more so than shrimp."
It was obvious that slicks reveal the location of trout as we began getting bit on almost every cast we made just upcurrent of the slick Poe had pointed out. While this slick sealed the fate of several fat, 2- to 4-pound trout, Poe cautioned that a slick could be made by any kind of fish — black drum, reds or even hardheads.
"I always fish them because you never know," he said. "I've caught some giant trout by fishing off to the side of a slick created by a bunch of black drum. They'll cozy up there about 50 to 100 yards away from the drum."
While slicks can give away the location of fish, they also reveal fish depth and distance from the shoreline. Poe gets really excited when he sees small slicks popping up in shallow water.
"I love finding slicks that have just popped up," he said. "That's when they're the freshest. Two or three small slicks in the shallows are a good sign that big fish are around.
"The small slicks are also best to fish on a windy day or in a strong tide because the slicks will eventually blow away from the fish in those conditions. A small slick that just popped up means it's practically right over the fish that made it."
Poe added that anglers fishing a series of slicks should always go to the smallest one. The slicks give away the direction of movement with the smallest being the freshest.
Although Poe begins May fishing suspending baits like a Catch 2000 or a Corky, he usually switches over to a topwater plug later in the month because of the rising water temperature.
"When the water's still a little cool, I do better fishing just under the surface," Poe said. "But once it warms on up, I switch over to baits like a Super Spook, She Dog, Top Dog or Ghost. All of those have a little bit different action, and I use whichever one they show me they like. When the water warms up, those big fish are more willing to come up and eat."
The other primary variable that can affect the big fish bite at Big Lake in May is the moon phase. Although Harbison said there isn't any scientific correlation showing a connection between trophy trout and the spawn, Poe believes the days leading up to the full moon in May could peak the May trophy potential.
"Three or four days before the full moon could be prime time to catch a big fish," Poe said. "I can't directly tie trophy trout to a particular moon phase because I've caught big trout on all the moon phases.
"But I'm sure the potential is there right before the full moon because the fish are feeding heavily. That means they could be just a little bit heavier and just a little bit easier to catch."