BY JOHN McQUEEN
|Photo by TODD MASSON
|The Buras Canal loads up with fish
under low-tide conditions. When temperatures warm and tides
rise, the fish move onto the flats in Yellow Cotton Bay.
Speckled trout anglers are a curious bunch when it comes to the
whims of seasonal fishing conditions.
Most everybody loves the early topwater action, but spring breezes
make one long for calm, predictable summer patterns, which beget
the fall inshore action and so on and so forth.
But almost nobody looks forward to the year’s shortest month
and its propensity for welcoming strong cold fronts to our coast,
which push massive amounts of water out of the marsh — and all
at a time when winter is showing signs of loosening its grip.
When these fronts and the accompanying northerlies coincide
with weak tidal movements, it can prove frustrating to anglers
who just can’t see fit to put down their poles or who yearn to
wet a line again after months with gun in hand. The rapid water
loss can muddy waterways and make anglers wonder why they even
bothered to make the trip.
But, there are some sure things out there when conditions conspire
against the big bags of fillets Louisiana’s liberal limits allow
— places where the water’s flow and depth make them almost untouchable
by murk and whose close proximity to launches make dangerous marsh
runs in low-water conditions avoidable.
Bayou La Loutre
Capt. Dee Geoghegan regularly braves the Biloxi Marsh
when February’s chill makes things especially challenging. The
stretch of Bayou La Loutre in between Isaac’s Ditch and Baker’s
Canal is his ace in the hole.
“It’s the last place that gets dirty,”said Geoghegan, noting that the area
is not especially deep compared to other places around the region.
“If you look at it on a map, it’s situated right, dead center
in the marsh. It’s all about clean water and the tide actually
flushing the water on a regular basis, even on a weak-tide day.”
|Photo by TODD MASSON
|Sparkle beetles, or other baits with
minimal action, produce best in deep holes in the wintertime
because sluggish trout aren’t expecting a lot of action from
Constant water flow from the surrounding area provides two tides
a day, every day, crucial in what Geoghegan calls the three most
important things needed for an area to hold speckled trout — bait,
clean water and moving water. But, these aren’t the only things
in threes when talking about successful trout catching.
“You need those three things, and you also need to cover the
area thoroughly,” said Geoghegan. “You should position your boat
in the center of the bayou and cover the flats on the north side,
the dropoff on the south side and the channel in the middle.”
Slowly working baits such as Deadly Dudleys in this stretch
of productive water is key to success. Trout tend to be sluggish
in the cold water and often wait for a big, lazy-looking meal,
which the Deadly Dudley imitates. Also, Geoghegan stressed working
the bait with the current and working the boat with the tide.
“What you don’t want to do is work against the tide,” he said.
“The bait just works a lot more natural (with the tide).”
This stretch of bayou is no secret, and the captain stressed
not getting in a fuss when someone else muscles in on your action.
“There’s plenty of fish in that stretch of the bayou. And there’s
always another bunch of fish down the way,” he assured.
Terrebonne Parish provides more than its share of winter
speckled trout fishing. Along Highway 56 south of Houma in the
communities of Chauvin and Cocodrie, one can find a number of
charter operations and thousands of acres of fishable water.
But veteran charter skipper Mike Ledet of Sportsman’s Paradise
didn’t hesitate when posed the question, concerning best bets
for hard February speckled trout angling.
“The Montegut Locks is just phenomenal that time of year,” said
Ledet, “It’s got plenty of trout in the hole and lots of drum
and redfish along the banks.”
|Photo by AL ROGERS
|The Hump in the LNG Canal can deliver
some very large trout when the tides are too low to fish anywhere
Located north of Cocodrie on the edge of Point au Chien WMA,
the Montegut Locks is a water control structure on Bayou Terrebonne
alongside Highway 55. It has a hole on the south side, which drops
the bayou’s normal 8 feet to 12 feet in front of the structure
and extending south several hundred yards. Additionally, Baker’s
Canal feeds the bayou from the east, making for lots of water
exchange and plenty of baitfish passing through the area.
“There’s no special place around the Locks. Just find a spot
around all of the boats, cast upcurrent and make sure your bait
gets to the bottom,” said Ledet. “Many times, the trout will have
scratches on their bellies from hanging on the oyster bottom.”
Ledet uses his old faithful, double-rigged, motor oil-colored
cocahoes in the junior size with 1/8-ounce jigheads. The doubles
help greatly in getting his customers to the bottom, and the light
jighead presents the bait more naturally.
Though a bit of a run from the docks of Sportsman’s Paradise,
the best thing about the Montegut Locks is the distance from Montegut
Marina, about a half mile ride south and providing live cocahoes,
by far the most popular bait among locals. One tip to those who
choose to fish the live stuff: Use a weight heavy enough to get
to the bottom and leave it there. If you bounce it around, you
have a far greater chance of hanging bottom instead of fish. Let
fish find the bait.
In keeping with the low-maintenance theme, the fish-filled
waters around Leeville rival those of its neighbor to the east.
Boudreaux’s Marina sits less than two miles from two of the best
deep water spots in the area.
The Leeville Bridge will always be remembered for serving as
a background for a 10-pound speckled trout, caught by Steve Shook
several years back on a local fishing show. Plenty of big fish
have come from that area in Bayou Lafourche along Highway 1, and
local TV host Bob Gourges has filled many reels of tape at the
bridge and at a point about a mile to the south of the bridge
across from the Texaco docks.
“Both places are fantastic for cold-weather fishing. I’ve been
filming for many years and have never experienced the action at
what I call Redfish Point such as last year,” said Gourges. “I’m
talking about one after another for 26 minutes, and then plenty
more after that.”
The point is directly across from the Texaco docks on the east
side of the bayou and sits at the entrance of the canal leading
to the tank batteries on the west side.
Gourges explained the point’s aspects, and it echoes a common
theme: moving water, bait and clean water. The spot has all three,
and serves as almost guaranteed success when the conditions turn
“The current has sheared off the point on the north side and
has created an immediate dropoff to 8 feet right off the bank,”
said Gourges, “It drops off to around 30 feet about 4 feet off
the bank. It’s got a good bit of current and pushes a lot of bait
through the area.”
|Photo by TODD MASSON
|Winter trout, like this one caught
by David Gross of New Orleans, aren’t always big, but they’re
All fine and good, but getting back to that 10-pound trout and
the bridge. On the north side of the bridge sits a hole, which
drops down to 45 feet. Take care to bring lots of anchor rope,
as this spot is close to the main current of Bayou Lafourche.
Typical winter tactics will take these fish, though the depth
and flow dictate terminal tackle quite a bit heavier than normal.
Regular artificial baits will catch fish, and again, 3/8- and
½-ounce jigheads tend to be the rule rather than the exception.
And, bring plenty of them. The bridge has tons of old junk littering
Positioning your boat just north of the bridge will do the trick,
as will setting up directly underneath the structure. As with
all of the areas mentioned here, space will often dictate where
you may position yourself, and common sense and courtesy will
cut off unpleasantness before it can begin.
Lower Plaquemines Parish takes a backseat to no one
when it comes to offering winter fishing opportunities to hardy
anglers. Those wishing to brave cold and crowds should go to the
Buras Canal from the big curve about ¾ of a mile before the entrance
of Yellow Cotton Bay to the mouth of the bay itself, if you don’t
mind crowds by fishing the north bank of this stretch of waterway,
according to Capt. John L. Taylor.
“That bank is nice and protected from the north wind and has
a nice dropoff from 6 to around 30 feet,” said Taylor, “There’s
plenty of reds along the ledge in 3 to 6 feet of water, and lots
of trout in the water deeper than that.”
Taylor suggests putting in one’s time in finding the dropoff
and acclimating to the current in locating the bottom. Presentation
is the key to reaping the big payoff when the “bite window” is
“What we do is just pitch our baits up current, let them reach
the bottom and just hop them lightly back to the boat,” he said,
adding that patience is critical in learning to feel that 3/8-ounce
jighead on the bottom and to work it so that it stays in the strike
“You want that bait to just roll along with the current along
the bottom and then gradually drop back to the bottom,” explained
Taylor. “It generally doesn’t take but five or six little, 6-inch
hops to bring the bait back to the boat. Any bigger movement than
that, and the bait will get up in the main current and you’ll
be out of the game.”
There’s not much room for discussion when it comes to the baits
Taylor employs among him and his group of guides.
The Bayou Chub by Reaction Lures in black/chartreuse and purple/chartreuse
have brought thousands of trout to the boat for their clients,
and they are an especially effective bait in the winter months.
Taylor rigs the baits in singles, but will go to doubles when
beginners are onboard. Assured of two ¼-ounce jigheads going to
the bottom, Taylor figures at least one of the two baits will
make it in front of a trout’s nose enough to provide good action.
As for technique in the current, that can be a tricky thing,
especially when tidal range is forecast well above 1 foot and
customers are not well-schooled.
|Photo by TODD MASSON
|Bayou Lafourche south of the Leeville
Bridge gets crowded this time of year with anglers and fish,
like this 2-pound trout caught by Marty Springer.
Taylor prefers to get out on the water early, even when his instincts
and calculations tell him that the fish will not bite in earnest
for some time. Getting a feel for the conditions can pay off in
spades when the fish begin their feed.
“Patience is critical. You need to be out there early and plan
to stay late, because the ‘bite window’ is going to be much shorter
in the winter months, usually around the tidal peaks and also
just when the tide begins to go slack,” he said. “When the tide
begins to taper a bit, I’ll go and get in my best spot, get everybody
feeling the bottom and wait for the big trout to come on.”
Southwest Louisiana trout anglers are plenty spoiled
when it comes to their style of speckled trout fishing most of
the year, with Big Lake and Sabine Lake enjoying superb topwater
angling for outsized fish during the spring, summer and fall.
Winter’s chill can send the fish deep and the water low on the
normally productive flats in the lakes.
Veteran Big Lake guide Daryl McGuffee of Jeff and Mary Poe’s
Big Lake Guide Service says the very best place among many anglers
to hunker down in the elements is the LNG Canal just north of
his home waters. Reaching depths of up to 50 feet, the old turnaround
canal just off the Intracoastal Waterway is ideal in providing
the proper insulation from the cold air above.
The big-fish reputation the area enjoys is equally present in
this location, with fish up to 6 pounds regularly taken there,
especially in a spot known as “The Hump.”
“It’s an old hill on the north shore that comes up to about
12 or 14 feet and then drops right back off to about 30 feet,”
McGuffee quite drastically changes tactics when targeting these
fish, bumping the bottom of this freshwater reservoir-type structure.
Topwaters and the popular Slimy Slugs and Sand Eels are replaced
by simple sting ray grubs and plain cocahoes in glow or white.
“I like to get right up against the bank when the wind is blowing
from the north and cast back past the structure, work it up the
rise and back down to the boat,” he said.
McGuffee says that should crowds or wind force anglers to have
to anchor on the south side of The Hump, they should bring at
least 80 feet of anchor rope to successfully hold their boat in
Deep water fishing will never generate the excitement of roaming
the flats, but it can certainly scratch an itch when trout anglers
feel repressed in the year’s toughest month. Find the bottom and,
as importantly, find the crowds in these popular spots for your