Barataria Bay’s Big Six

Fish these six spots in May, and you won’t be disappointed.

March anglers curse the wind.But really, March is supposed to be windy.

It is, statistically, our windiest month of the year.

That’s of little comfort, though, to anglers who’ve spent the winter in front of the tube watching Mark

Sosin reel in fish after fish on sunny Florida flats.

But March is a tease. She offers us glimpses of warmth — alluring windows of summer — only to turn frigid once we’re seduced. Her early morning calm and gentleness are lies; they’re a clever trap that only the strong can resist.

In the time it takes to leave a boat launch and arrive at a fishing spot, March reveals her true character. She is fierce, effusive and relentless. Anglers beware!

But as evil and deceptive as March is, May is worse. By the fifth month of the year, the trout are in the bays, they’re on the reefs, they’re on the beaches, they’re on the points.

And they’re hungry. They’ll eat topwaters, beetles, cocahoes, shrimp, mullet, croakers, pogies, stickbaits or just about anything else you chunk in the water.

And they’re big. Four of the state’s top 10 speckled trout were caught in the month of May.

And they’re active. May’s long photoperiods allow water temperatures to shoot out of winter’s depths, making a speckled trout’s metabolism soar. But the air temperatures aren’t yet stifling and humidity levels aren’t yet on the level of a dog’s breath.

Everything’s perfect, and anglers chomp at the bit to get out on the water.

But the wind blows…, and it blows…, and it blows. Our pent-up aggression, our drive to watch a trout erupt on a topwater plug, our curious need to feel that distinctive tap as yet another fish inhales a soft-plastic bait — these emotions stay bottled up, with the pressure building and the cork beginning to moan and creak.

By May, every angler needs a fishing fix. Even if he fished all throughout the winter, there’s just something in the May air that beckons him to the water. It’s as palpable as it is universal.

But ugh, that forsaken wind! We want May to be the start of June, and all it wants to be is the end of April. Only wind stands in the way of an angler and his trout.

But alas, there are windows. They’re small, granted, but they stay open longer than those in March that snap down when only our noses are through.

For anglers who can pick their days, the fishing in May can be downright unbeatable, and one of the most consistently productive systems along the coast this month is Barataria Bay.

This giant estuary is eroding fast, making it even more susceptible to May’s persistent winds, but on the days between blows, it still delivers the goods like no place else.

Here is a list of the annual May producers, and the techniques the guides use to fish them.

1) The Beaches

This is a no-brainer. It’s sort of like saying a blacktop road will be hot if you walk on it barefoot at noon on a clear July day.

But many anglers overlook the beaches in May in favor of the more surefire reefs. They’re making a big mistake, according to veteran Lafitte captain Theophile Bourgeois.

“I love the beaches in May,” he said. “I’ll fish (the beaches) from Grand Isle all the way down to Empire.”

Bourgeois tries to get to the beaches before daylight, and he throws topwater plugs to active 5-pound-plus trout. One of the keys to success, he says, is to work the lures in shallow water.

“I fish as close to the shoreline as possible. My baits will be hitting the sand. I’m the guy on the back side of all the wade fishermen,” he said, adding that he caught nearly all of his big beach fish last year in a foot or less of water.

Since beaches are at the mercy of the currents and wave action of the Gulf, they’re in a constant state of flux. What was a bar last month may be a gully this month, and vice versa. Consequently, it’s impossible to predict what specific spots along a beach will be productive. Even the guides don’t know until they get there.

But Bourgeois does watch the water diligently for signs of mullet, which frequently get pounded by beach-holding specks.

Because these baitfish are so important, Bourgeois prefers a rising tide when fishing the beaches.

“That incoming water pushes the baitfish up against the shoreline, where they get disoriented,” he said.

Bourgeois likes to get to the beaches as early as possible, and under these low-light conditions, he throws virtually nothing other than a chartreuse Top Dog. Once the sun starts to get high in the sky, he switches to a chrome Top Dog, which he fishes until the action quits, usually around 10 a.m.

“The earlier you can get there, the better. You’ll catch most of your fish first thing in the morning,” he said.

Bourgeois prefers a tidal range of at least 6/10-foot, and to avoid wasting his time, he watches the wind conditions for the three days prior to his trip. If winds are strong, he’ll avoid going to the beaches, even if the day he wants to go is calm.

2) Cabanash Cove

Sometimes anglers overlook those things that are most obvious.

“Everybody knows about this spot, but everybody passes it up,” said Barataria Bay veteran Mike Daigle.

Daigle, for one, is glad they do. He loves Cabanash Cove in May because it stacks up with school trout.

What anglers call the cove is actually a fairly linear shoreline on the southeast side of a triangular island. Daigle likes that entire shoreline, but he concentrates on the points, especially the one on the south end with the oil-company pumping station.

“I don’t too often anchor there. I just drift it. If you ever see me with my anchor down, you know I’m really on fish,” he said.

Daigle tight-lines a glow/chartreuse High Tide grub, but he rigs the same bait for his clients 18 inches under a popping cork.

“They probably catch more fish than I do with those corks, but I just like tight-lining a bait,” he said.

In addition to the pumping-station point, Daigle also fishes the same baits at a submerged oyster reef that is northeast of the island and at an area of submerged rocks that is north of the island’s southern point near a pipeline sign.

The rocks jut out to the east, and then turn almost due north, making a backwards “L” shape.

He cautions anglers to be careful of these rocks, however.

“On low tide, you can maybe see the tips of one of the rocks. The rest of them are still submerged. I’ve seen them take a lower unit off,” he said.

They’ve also eaten a few jig heads. Sometimes anglers can find the rocks easily because of all of the popping corks floating above them, Daigle said.

3) Manila Village

This area is a May staple. Speckled trout have kicked off their summer run here since the days when the only way to get to them was in one of those new-fangled tri-hulls.

The marsh here is vanishing faster than a David Copperfield assistant, but the area is still productive, thanks largely to the never-ending sea of shrimp that calls northern Barataria Bay home in May.

If winds are calm to moderate and the water clarity is at least decent, catching fish here is about as challenging as shooting ducks on the water.

Bourgeois starts off by looking for current lines coming off of points. When he finds one, he begins casting, but he keeps a constant eye out for bait — either mullet or popping shrimp.

When he finds both a current line and bait, he knows he’s going to catch fish.

“That’s really all there is to it,” he said.

Bourgeois throws Deadly Dudley Terror Tails in glow and smoke/chartreuse and Bass Assassins in silver mullet.

“Glow is going to be your No. 1 color this time of year,” he said confidently.

He rigs the soft-plastic lures on 1/4-ounce jig heads.

Bourgeois suggested that anglers fishing the area should frequently check the horizon for any bird activity.

“Look for the big, black-headed, laughing sea gulls. If you see those little terns diving, just ignore them,” he said.

Bourgeois said the best action in the area is sometimes well away from any land masses.

“This area has eroded so much that you might be 300 yards away from an island, and the bottom’s covered with oysters and the water’s still only 2 feet deep,” he said.

4) Bird Reef

For newcomers, this perennial hotspot isn’t easy to locate, but it’s worth going through the trouble to find.

It’s located only about a mile north of Queen Bess Island, which is very easy to find. But the one or two PVC poles that mark Bird Reef generally get pulled up by oyster fishermen by the time the speckled trout run begins.

Veteran Grand Isle captain Mark Scardino doesn’t have any trouble finding Bird Reef, however, because he fishes it every chance he gets. He loves the area in May because it consistently holds school trout.

“I like to drift the whole reef with an artificial under a popping cork. It seems to always hold fish,” he said.

His two favorite Bird Reef colors are smoke and burgundy/white, he said.

Scardino’s strategy is to drift the reef with the artificial baits until he finds the fish. Then he lowers his anchor and casts Carolina-rigged live shrimp or croakers.

“I think those bigger fish hold on the bottom where the water’s a little bit cooler,” he said. “You can keep a bait in front of them better with a Carolina rig.”

The Carolina rig also allows Scardino to fish his beloved live bait.

“I’m a live-bait fisherman. I really think live bait works best this time of year. I never leave the dock with fewer than 300 live shrimp or croakers,” he said. “I like to position myself upcurrent of the reef and throw downcurrent so that the bait is holding over the reef.”

Because Bird Reef is in exposed water, it’s only fishable on calm days and is best when winds have been calm to moderate for two or three days.

5) Three Pilings

Though the name of this area used to fit it, it no longer does. Only one of the original three pilings remains, but the area continues to surrender speckled trout.

“The trout there may not be as plentiful as at Cabanash Cove, but they’re bigger. I’ve caught some really nice trout there,” Daigle said.

The area has a small island near it that holds fish, and it also has a series of larger islands off to the west and north on the borders of Redfish Bay and Bayou Cholas.

Just like in the Cabanash area, Daigle throws glow/chartreuse High Tide grubs on 1/4-ounce jig heads. He also likes purple/chartreuse in the Three Pilings area. He finds he catches bigger fish here when he tight-lines the baits, rather than fishing them under a popping cork.

When fishing the area, Daigle starts his approach at least 50 yards out from the actual piling area.

“You can catch them anywhere around there,” he said.

For anglers who have fished Three Pilings in the past, Daigle said you can forget about the reef that existed 50 yards south of the area.

“It seems to be washing out. It’s just not there anymore,” he said.

But the good news is that the water bottoms to the west of the area are solid oyster reefs for as far as the eye can see, Daigle said.

“You need to always be looking over there for birds, and when you see them, go fish them. That’s when you can really catch some fish,” he said.

6) Queen Bess Island

This island is known across Louisiana for being the one on which brown pelicans began their comeback.

But speckled trout anglers know it as a spot that seldom fails to deliver the goods.

“Queen Bess is one of those spots that you just can’t ever pass up in May,” Scardino said.

Though he’ll fish the entire island, Scardino said the northeast corner is by far the best spot.

“You can anchor off that point, and you don’t have to move,” he said.

When Scardino says “off the point,” he means it. Though some anglers position themselves within flipping distance of the island, Scardino likes to be about 50 yards off the point. And even then, he sometimes catches fish while casting in the opposite direction of the island.

An added attraction of Queen Bess for the fish is that the water around it gets as deep as 10 feet. Scardino feels that the fish get in that deeper water to rest and cool off.

Despite the depths, Scardino fishes the island only with live bait rigged under a popping cork.

“I’ll let the current drag the bait across the point, and if a fish is there, he’ll hit it,” he said.

And the trout will be there in May — if the wind will let you get to them.

Capt. Theophile Bourgeois can be reached at (504) 341-5614; Capt. Mike Daigle can be reached at (985) 331-8548; Capt. Mark Scardino can be reached at (985) 787-3529.

About Todd Masson 741 Articles
Todd Masson has covered outdoors in Louisiana for a quarter century, and is host of the Marsh Man Masson channel on YouTube.