I missed the first clue when I made a dark-thirty drive to Shell Beach to meet Captain Jacques “Jakamo” Laboureur and Robert Campo for an early-morning trout excursion.
I got behind a line of trucks towing boats that I figured would turn toward Hopedale after crossing the Yscloskey bridge. But, they turned toward Campo's Marina in Shell Beach and slowed my progress to the dock.
At the dock, the the launch was bustling with activity. Boats were coming and going, and the guys were busy counting out live shrimp. I asked Campo if it was a Saturday, and he assured me it was not — that was the second clue.
Once the mad rush slowed, Campo was able to grab a rod and jump aboard Jakamo’s 24-foot Skeeter which had been idling at the dock, and we departed.
“Where we headed, Captain Jacques?” I asked, figuring he'd say, “Biloxi Marsh.”
“Into the lake. We won't have to run far to catch fish today,” said Laboureur, who owns Jakamo South Fishing Adventures. “The trout are stacking up along the drains and cuts and mouths on both the east and west side of Lake Borgne, so we're going to do the shore thing this morning.”
And that was the third clue.
Now it all added up: No wonder so many boats were launching at Shell Beach. The word was out — the fish were biting all along the shoreline in Lake Borgne — and savvy anglers were jumping on the action.
“All that strong east wind we had from Hurricane Patricia pushed a lot of good salty water into the lake, and its full of bait right now, along with all the critters that eat them: trout, reds, sheepshead, drum and junk fish,” Campo said.
“The best action is on the east side at all the bayous, from St. Malo, Sue, Cut Off, False Mouth, Grande... all the way up,” Laboureur said.
“But,” Campo chimed in, “My Grandpa Blackie used to tell us, ‘The west side of Lake Borgne will produce fish around the time they play the World Series.’
“And sure enough, the west side is flush with salty water and the trout are in there right now.”
So, while most of the traffic headed east, we headed toward the west side of Lake Borgne. Winds were slight, the seas were almost calm and while a huge bank of fog hung close to the ground, it wasn't thick. The worst factor of the day was very slight tide movement.
Our first stop at the mouth of a drain produced one good trout and dozens of bait-stealing needlefish. Ditto the second stop.
Jakamo simply moved from one drain to another, approached to within a long cast of the shore, and set the Power-Pole. We fished all around the boat in a full circle to see where the fish were hiding.
We caught several dinks at every stop, but we'd pick up a few keepers, too. Then we'd get a flurry of activity and put a quick half-dozen or so in the box, along with an occasional red and sheepshead. When the action stopped, we'd move along to the next stop, and our box started filling up.
The best bait by far was live shrimp about 2 feet under a popping cork. I did toss a Vudu shrimp and put a few on ice using it, but the live stuff outfished me 3 to 1.
Needlefish were present at every stop and they stole a lot of good bait, so if you head to Shell Beach to do the “shore thing,” bring plenty along. It'll definitely be worth it.