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Specks on the Moon
Many experienced anglers find a correlation between the full moon and the prevalence of onster trout.

BY TODD MASSON

Anglers find big females at likely spawning areas during the week of the full moon. Larry Frey (left) and John Perrone caught these on April’s full moon.

At one point, it was surely a big hunk of marsh, but now it is only a little sliver of island. Just enough mud and cord grass protrude through the water’s surface to break the crested rollers that charge from Breton Sound into Black Bay.

It isn’t much to look at, but on a recent trip, Larry Frey was confident the spit of land would hold big trout.

With the full moon setting in the western sky and only hints of the rising sun glowing in the east, Frey let fly his first cast of the young day. The bone-colored Top Dog Jr. crashed down near one of the linear island’s points. Surely on many mornings the sound of the bait slapping the water would have been an assault to awakening ears, but on this day, the waves rolling into the small island drowned out the splash.

Frey, unable to combat his confidence and enthusiasm, began his retrieve instantly. Though it was early in the season, he knew the fish would be here. The full

moon always brings the fish to the spawning grounds.

His hollow bait shot to the right, then the left in classic “walk-the-dog” fashion. Five seconds into the retrieve, the water seemed to explode. Again, the eruption was all but inaudible to those on his boat, but it surely wasn’t invisible.

Frey set the hooks hard, and his C-shaped rod gave irrefutable evidence that the trebles had sunk deep into trout flesh.

His Curado 200 generously gave up line like a mob mother feeding spaghetti to her boys. The fish may have found it wise to shoot over to the oyster reef that jutted out from the island, but fortunately, it didn’t. It charged out into the bay, apparently hoping it could tow the bait, line, rod, reel, angler and boat all the way to Breton Sound.

But Frey had other ideas. He thumbed his spool to slow the fish, confident his 17-pound-test would hold, and he gained ground when the still unseen trout made a turn.

Some days during the full-moon week, likely spawning areas will be inundated with nothing but male trout.
Some days during the full-moon week, likely spawning areas will be inundated with nothing but male trout.

It soon became clear that the fish was losing the battle. A redfish has a fierce first run that is followed by a fierce second run that is followed by a fierce 18th run. But a trout has only a fierce first run. When he first realizes he’s hooked, he has big plans for getting free, but like an overweight convict, he just doesn’t have the stamina to make it over the wall.

Frey’s trout was swimming circles around the boat, refusing to give up but unable to take out more line. With each loop, Frey worked the fish closer and closer to the side of his Blue Wave bay boat.

Finally, the fish was at boatside, and one of his buddies trapped it in the landing net. The fish didn’t compare to Dudley’s or Terry’s — and certainly not to Leon’s — but at 6 pounds, it was a great start to a promising day.

Although some scientists doubt the effect the full moon has on the speckled trout spawn, there is little doubt among trophy trout fishermen that the full moons of April, May and June, and sometimes even March and July, deliver the monsters.

“That is absolutely the best time to fish,” said Venice guide Capt. Brent Roy. “For most of the week before the full moon, the big females are feeding like crazy.”

This benefits anglers in two ways: 1) the fish are gaining weight rapidly, meaning they’ll weigh more when they’re caught, and 2) since the fish are actively feeding, they’re more likely to be caught.

Roy can attest to this, and not just from years gone by. This April, he and his clients boated three fish over 8 pounds while fishing the week before the full moon.

Since he’s having the fish mounted, Roy put them directly into the freezer. He, consequently, hasn’t examined the bellies, but feels confident they were full of eggs because of the size of them.

Throughout the years, Roy has caught the big “pre-spawners” in water as shallow as 3 feet and as deep as 20 feet. But, he said, the productive 20-foot-deep water is always adjacent to a beach or sand flat to which the fish can move to carry out their spawning duties.

These spots are cherished by anglers who find them because there are certain spots out there that hold big fish while other similar spots hold nothing but numbers of smaller fish, Roy said.

So even though the full moon is approaching doesn’t mean an angler can go to any old spot with any old bait and expect to catch wall-hangers.

According to Roy, three things are necessary:

1) a big-fish spot;

2) a big-fish bait;

3) a boat-load of patience.

“You really have to fish for big fish. You have to have your mind made up that that’s all you want to catch. You have to throw a big bait in a big-fish spot, and you might have to fish all day for five to 10 bites,” he said.

When a trout takes a topwater bait this deep, you know it’s in an aggressive mood.
When a trout takes a topwater bait this deep, you know it’s in an aggressive mood.

Roy tries to increase that number by soaking his baits in a concoction he’s created called Lagniappe Juice. He feels the attractant makes big fish more aggressive and that they hold onto the bait longer because they taste fish oils rather than plastic when they bite down on a bait.

“It’s something I’ve fiddled around with for years,” he said. “I used to put it in my wife’s old hairspray bottles and spray it on my baits, and I found that it really made a difference.”

Word got out, so Roy began to mass-market it. The Juice is now available at many small retailers in southeastern Louisiana.

What Roy sprays the Lagniappe Juice on depends on how deep the water is that he’s fishing. In deep water, he likes big soft-plastics. He caught all of the big fish during April’s full-moon period on full-size Deadly Dudleys (blue moon) and Deadly Dudley Terror Tails (chartreuse, chartreuse/firetail).

During the week of the full moon, Roy always asks his customers if they want to fish for a few monsters or for numbers of smaller fish. If they want only big ones, Roy will take them to one of his big-fish spots.

“Some people get tired of that, and by 10 (a.m.), they want to go catch numbers. That’s fine, I’ve got no problem with that, but the (anglers) who catch the big fish are the ones who stick with it,” he said.

But, of course, sometimes Roy catches numbers in his big-fish spots and lunkers in his number spots.

In fact, he said, he’ll invariably have days of catching nothing but numbers in his big-fish holes during the week of the full moon.

“It’s really weird,” he said. “Last year, Bobby Warren and I fished the same spot during the (week of the) full moon in May and June. One day, my clients and I had lots of 3s and 4s, and several 5s and 6s, and Bobby caught one that weighed 8-2. The next day, he and I both went back, and between the two boats we had 150 male trout. The females were nowhere around.”

Roy theorizes that the big females dropped their eggs on the night between the two trips and moved off to recover from the spawn.

Scientific evidence seems to support that theory. A study conducted in 1993 by Michael Saucier and Donald Baltz found that speckled trout prefer to spawn in areas with high current, with the males initiating spawning activity as frequently as every night.

The males will move into a favorable area and create drumming noises with their swim bladders. This draws in females, but not as frequently as the males would like. Unlike male trout, females spawn an average of only once every 21 days.

Black Bay’s Stone Island is typical of the sandy spots that trout invade to spawn during the week of the full moon.
Black Bay’s Stone Island is typical of the sandy spots that trout invade to spawn during the week of the full moon.

During the week of the full moon, anglers are likely to find numbers of males in spawning areas, except for the days when the females move in to take their role in the act, just as Roy has experienced.

Calcasieu Lake guide Capt. Erik Rue and Capt. Billy Bucano, who fishes the Delacroix area, also like the full-moon period, but they both find it to be most productive late in the evening, at night and early in the morning.

“I don’t fish at night as much as I used to, but I’ve had some of my best trips at night under the full moon,” Bucano said.

Bucano finds that bite shuts down, though, in the mid-morning.

“They’ll hit until about 8 (a.m.), and then it can get a little tough,” he said.

Rue agreed, saying the best time to fish during the full moon is when the sun is low on the horizon or directly overhead.

“There seems to be a morning bite, a mid-day bite and then the best bite is in the afternoon,” he said.

Exactly why so many large trout seem to spawn around the full-moon cycles, scientists can’t say for sure.

“Spotted sea trout are batch-spawners,” said Mark Schexnayder, a fisheries biologist with the LSU AgCenter. “It may be that the increased light level helps them to group up and allows for more synchronicity.”

Schexnayder also said it’s conceivable that trout spawn during this time of the month so that they can take advantage of the strong tides leading up to the full moon. Those strong currents give trout a lot of time during each day to feed, which allows them to build their health and weight for the upcoming rigors of the spawn.

“But that’s just a hunch,” he said.

But even on the full moon, whether an angler has a successful trip or not is dependent on many different factors, Rue said.

“I think the most important aspect that determines the bite is the tide, then the wind, which is the deciding factor of where you are able to fish in that given tide,” he said. “If it happens to be Saturday and 10,000 bay boats are speeding all over your favorite holes, forget all of the above and go play golf.

“Unlike the moon, new or full, there is no doubting the influence of Saturday morning traffic, a 20-knot wind or a dead tide.”

For more information, call Capt. Brent Roy at (225) 268-8420, Capt. Erik Rue at (337) 598-4700 or Capt. Billy Bucano at (601) 795-0760.