Farmers might be bemoaning a lack of rain in Southwest Louisiana, but Capt. Erik Rue sure isn't complaining. That's because low rainfall levels have allowed salinity in his home waters to soar.
And that means redfish and trout are able to thrive in the entire Big Lake system.
"The fishing right now has been the best of the season," Rue said.
The owner of Calcasieu Charter Service said trout can be found as far north as Lake Charles, while redfish actually have moved all the way to the saltwater barrier north of the city.
But he usually turns the bow of his boat south.
"There's good action along the coast — on the beaches, the jetties and in the lower (ship) channel," Rue said.
The star of the summer show has been the hordes of redfish.
"The redfishing has been good over here all year," he said. "That's been the staple for the charter boats."
In fact, trout fishing has, sadly, been subpar.
"For trout, it's really been a spotty summer, bordering on OK," Rue said. "It's never reached the level where you leave the dock and know you're going to smoke them."
That said, the veteran guide targets redfish exactly as he would trout — so he catches both species.
While his personal preference is to use artificial baits, he said he never gets caught without live bait on the boat.
"Live bait is the staple now," he said. "In July, August and early September, live bait is better."
He said it's normal for guides to head out early enough to cast net pogies, finger mullet and shrimp.
"Mullet keep the trash fish off," Rue said. "Ladyfish will stay on your shrimp. You'll still catch catfish (with mullet), but you might get a couple more minutes in the water for trout to bite."
Carolina rigs are best bets right now, since there's no schooling of which to speak.
"In the lake itself, there are still fish when the conditions are good, but the mass of fish move to the channel in the summer," Rue explained.
So he's usually dragging Carolina rigs off the shelf along the ship channel. Unless he runs down to the jetties and beaches.
"When the fish are along the beaches and the Gulf, they can go from 20 feet of water to 4 feet of water with no problem," Rue said.
So, while Carolina rigs still play a significant part in his plan, he'll start with topwaters early because reds and trout could be prowling shallower waters.
One of the big keys is to be mobile and cover a lot of water. That way, even if you don't hammer fish in any one spot, you'll build a nice box of groceries to take home.