Barre Barrage

Cocodrie anglers looking for quick limits and plenty of options need only head east to Lake Barre.

The wind was blowing out of the northwest as the sun peaked over the horizon, but it wasn’t terrible. Chad Chaisson was still confident the trout would be waiting.

“The wind wasn’t blowing at all last night, but this isn’t too bad,” he said as we stepped onto the boat.

Twenty minutes later, we were working plastics back to the boat, and it didn’t take long to get the first strike. We were working a point off a small island, around which the current was sweeping, when Chaisson snapped his rod tip up.

A hefty speck about 2 pounds thrashed the water’s surface, to no avail. It was soon flopping in the ice. That was the first fish of the morning, and it wasn’t too long before the artificial bite shut down.

No problem: The Topwater Charters guide pulled out a Carolina rig, reached into the livewell and grabbed a shrimp big enough to butterfly.

Chauvin’s Randy Russon and I quickly re-rigged, adding more shrimp to the buffet.

We were all soon wrestling more trout to the boat. They were all beautiful. In fact, only one fish in the 20 or so landed during the trip had to be measured.

The day ended early, and we didn’t come near the three-man limit we were allowed, but Chaisson, Russo and I felt fortunate to have put so many trout in the box. You see, about 8:30, the wind kicked up several notches, and the water soon muddied.

That’s the only problem with Lake Barre — it’s wide open, and winds can ruin the chances of catching fish.

It’s not that the wind will ruin the visibility.

“Barre runs about 6 to 8 feet deep, so water clarity isn’t usually a big problem,” Chaisson said.

The issue is that seas simply can become unfishable when the winds howl.

But when winds aren’t an issue, the fishing is fantastic — especially during May and June.

“When that wind stops, you get that pretty green water,” Chaisson said.

In fact, the water clarity usually is incredible. But unlike shallow-water areas, the crystal-clear water doesn’t make much difference.

“As long as I’m fishing those structures in that deeper water, I don’t have a problem with water being too clear,” he said. “You’re going to be fishing 5 to 8 feet of water, so they’re not going to be spooky like when you’re fishing shallow reefs.”

However, fellow Topwater Charters guide John Pellegrin said he often doesn’t worry even if the water looks murky.

“Sometimes that water is dirty on top, but 8 feet down it’s clear and the trout can still see that bait,” Pellegrin said.

The reason trout gang up in Barre is because food chokes the waters.

“What happens is all the shrimp that are in the marshes in the winter move out, and the first bay they get to is Barre. So you get that early bite as the shrimp move through.”

That migration provides voracious trout with a smorgasbord of shellfish, and they team around the numerous structures dotting the bay.

“Barre is chock full of old wells that have been there for years, and they all have shell pads,” Chaisson said.

The first places Chaisson ambushes trout, however, are actually on the northern end of the oil fields.

“All of the islands on the northern end side of Barre hold trout,” he said.

His primary targets are the islands where Bayous Barre and Charles Theriot meet Barre.

“The water comes out of the marsh, and the trout gang up around those islands to feed,” Chaisson said.

The islands also provide a break from winds, but there are times when he has to move farther south to put his clients on fish.

If winds are still an issue, he can generally find fish around the islands below Seabreeze Pass.

“I fish all the little cuts where the water’s coming through,” Chaisson explained.

But what he really wants to do is make it out to the rigs cluttering the Lake Barre Oil and Gas Field to the southwest of the pass.

The sheer number of structures can be intimidating: They stretch all the way from Lake St. Jean Baptiste in the west to Fornation Islands and Terrebonne and Timberlier bays in the east.

However, Chaisson pares down his options by throwing out all the newer rigs.

“The older abandoned ones are best,” he said. “The shells have been there a long time, and you don’t have the boat traffic with crew boats around them.”

He said the productive structures even include those marked only with pilings.

“The old camps aren’t there anymore, but the pilings are,” Chaisson said. “But those pilings let you know where the camps were, and the shell pads are still there.”

He said the pads provide some relief to the relatively flat bottom of Barre, even though the change in depth might not be that much. That small difference, however, provides bait a break from the tide, and trout know it.

There is one caveat, however, to fishing the older, abandoned and damaged rigs.

“On the older structures, there’s sometimes a lot of stuff on the bottom,” Chaisson said. “If you start breaking off, just back out a little.”

He also said one of the big mistakes anglers make is to focus on the larger structures.

“People pass up the small rigs to try to get to all the big ones, but you can catch a lot of fish on the small ones,” Chaisson said.

Fishing in some areas is dictated by the direction of the tide, but Chaisson said Barre isn’t one of them.

“The (direction of the) tide really doesn’t matter, as long as you have movement,” he said. “It’s when there’s no tidal movement that the fish won’t bite.

“When the tide dies, the shrimp will settle down into that mud, and the fish stop feeding. When the tide starts moving again, the shrimp come up, and the fish start feeding.”

Chaisson said a strong tidal range (.8 to 1.5 feet) is best.

The real trick to putting fish in the boat is how a structure or shell pad is fished.

“Your setup is probably one of the main things that determines success or failure,” Chaisson said.

Those with trolling motors can work their way around a particular structure to locate where the fish are holding, Chaisson advised, but he generally sets up on the upcurrent side first.

“It keeps your line tight, and makes it a little easier to fish,” he said. “If you fish against the current, your boat acts crazy, and you’ve always got a little slack in your line.”

Of course, his first priority is to get into position without warning the trout.

“Ease into the area,” he said. “Don’t run the big motor in and spook the fish.”

Pellegrin said he shuts down his main motor at least 100 yards away, and trolls into position.

Because they sometimes have four clients on their boats, Pellegrin and Chaisson anchor their vessels off to one side so baits can be put on two sides of the platform.

“That way you’re working more of the structure,” Chaisson said. “You always want to optimize your setup.”

If that doesn’t work, the guides move to the other upcurrent corner.

“I always move around to make sure they aren’t in another area (around the structure),” Chaisson said. “I’ve seen where the fish are on one side and not on the others.”

Trout usually teem around the pilings of the structures, but Chaisson said he maintains some distance.

“You want to be able to cast and put it right by the pilings, but you don’t want to be right on top of it,” Chaisson said. “The shell pad might extend out a little bit, but usually they’re right up in the pilings.

“The baitfish will be on those pads, and the fish will be feeding right along that edge.”

He said there’s really no way to tell which structure fish will be on in a given day.

“The key to Barre is there are so many structures,” Chaisson said. “If you don’t get bit (at a particular structure) in five or 10 minutes, move to the next, and when you find them, you’ll really pound them.

“I use the bounce method.”

Pellegrin, however, said he’s got a list of structures that produce regularly, and those are the ones he hits first.

“I learned them through experience and trial and error,” he said. “There are a lot of the platforms over the years that just do not hold fish, and some of them hold fish just about every time I go.”

So he recommended anglers mark the rigs that produce on their GPS units so they can come back on subsequent trips.

Pellegrin also is willing to invest a little more time in a rig before moving on.

“If I don’t get a bite in 15 to 20 minutes, I’ll move,” he said. “I want to make sure that if the fish are downcurrent and see or smell my bait, they can get to it.”

Chaisson said that, once he’s gotten a couple of bites, he has his clients work to keep baits in the water.

“If you get them going, you want to keep the fish right there,” he said. “You want to alternate casts to keep them going.

“If you stop, the fish start scattering, but that action will keep them bunched up.”

If he’s got a good supply of live minnows onboard, Chaisson said he’ll sometimes sacrifice a few to help maintain the feeding frenzy.

“Every now and then, I’ll squeeze a handful of those minnows and throw them out,” he said. “It keeps the fish active.”

Live shrimp, croakers or minnows are deadly when fished on Carolina rigs, the guides agreed. Chaisson uses ¾- to 1-ounce egg weights above a 12-inch leader that’s tied to a No. 3 or 4 Kahle hook.

“A lot of people use No. 1 or 2 hooks, and they get a lot of fish caught in the throat,” he said. “If you get a small one, you can’t release it without killing it.

“That larger hook cuts down on them from being hooked so deep.”

Chaisson always fishes a leader that’s twice as heavy as his main line to help prevent break-offs.

“If I’m fishing 15-pound line, I use a 30-pound leader,” he said.

And while the majority of the trout will be schoolies (1 ½ to 2 pounds is a pretty nice fish in that system, Chaisson said), there are trout that grow much bigger.

“If you use croakers, I’ve seen some 4’s and 5’s come off those pilings,” he said. “If you’ve got a 4 or 5 (pound trout), you’ve got a nice fish.”

Although live bait is always on the boat, Chaisson said artificials can be productive at times.

“I like double rigs with avocado/red flake cocahoes,” he said.

However, he doesn’t allow his lure to hit the bottom before working it back to the boat.

“You want to get the lure right above the bottom,” Chaisson said. “I usually count four to five seconds, and then it’s just a slow, steady retrieve.”

Pellegrin said he’ll also switch to artificials, but only if he sees bait popping on the surface.

Of course, if the platforms are being stingy, Chaisson said there should be plenty of schools working bait in the bay.

“If you want good bag limits, you can work the schools under the bait,” he said. “All you have to do is look for birds, and fish under them.”

The number of throwbacks will, however, increase.

“Those are mostly small fish,” Chaisson said. “If you want some better fish, get some live bait and work those structures.”

About Andy Crawford 863 Articles
Andy Crawford has spent nearly his entire career writing about and photographing Louisiana’s hunting and fishing community. While he has written for national publications, even spending four years as a senior writer for B.A.S.S., Crawford never strayed far from the pages of Louisiana Sportsman. Learn more about his work at www.AndyCrawford.Photography.