Consistent Calcasieu

If the November weather’s right, Calcasieu can produce 100 fish a day for those who know the secrets of the lake.

Drags screaming and rods bending mean bull reds diving for the bottom, a scene often interrupted by 5-, 6- and 7-pound trout exploding on surface lures that walk on water.

If you like to fish for flounder, your dream can come true on Calcasieu this month, and a multi-species fisherman on a good day in November at Calcasieu can catch a limit of flounder, speckled trout and redfish before dark.

BAIT’S THE KEY

Calcasieu Lake, one of the richest estuary regions in Louisiana, homes oysters, shrimp and zillions of pounds of baitfish and crustaceans in its marshes and the lake itself that feeds into the Gulf of Mexico.

Naturally the predators, like speckled trout, redfish and flounder, concentrate there.

To learn where to find these fish this month and how to catch them, I talked to Capt. Kirk Stansel, one of the owners of Hackberry Rod and Gun Club on the shores of Calcasieu.

Stansel named the Rat-L-Trap, a lipless crankbait with flash and vibration, as his top November bait.

“In shallow water, I’ll be fishing a 1/4-ounce Rat-L-Trap, but in deep water I prefer to fish a 1/2-ounce Rat-L-Trap,” he said. “In off-colored water, I like a gold bait with a chartreuse back, and I’ll fish a chrome/blue back or a chrome/black back Rat-L-Trap in clear water.”

When Stansel fishes the shoreline and needs to locate fish, he’ll run the Rat-L-Trap in depths of 18 inches or less by casting the lure toward the shore, reeling it back fairly quickly and twitching the bait.

Stansel recommends this technique for the south end of the lake where you can see oyster beds on the shoreline to produce redfish feeding in shallow water.

Although most shallow-water fishermen prefer a spoon or a spinnerbait for catching redfish, Stansel has found the rattling sound of the Rat-L-Trap seems to draw more strikes from shallow-water reds than either of the other two baits.

Because Stansel has learned that long casts are necessary to keep from spooking redfish, he uses a main line of 12 to 15 pounds and ties on 2 to 3 feet of 25- to 30-pound-test leader with a surgeon’s knot and then the Rat-L-Trap.

“By rigging like this, you can fish line that the oyster shells and the redfish aren’t nearly as likely to break,” Stansel explains.

Stansel also fishes the Rat-L-Trap for speckled trout and redfish in deep water.

“When I’m fishing the main reefs out in the lake or areas where the birds are diving on shrimp and baitfish being forced to the surface by schools of hungry speckled trout and redfish, I’ll still use the Rat-L-Trap,” he said.

Stansel has learned that many anglers don’t catch specks and reds under the birds because they don’t know how to approach the school of fish without spooking the school and the bait. Stansel always advances toward the birds from the upwind side, and shuts his big engine down 200 to 300 yards away.

“I use my trolling motor to move in closer and to position my boat,” Stansel says. “Then I cut my trolling motor off and wind-drift within casting range on the outer edge of the school.

“When I’m fishing the deep reefs or under birds, I like a 1/2-ounce Rat-L-Trap instead of the 1/4-ounce because that extra weight allows me to stay away from the school — 100 feet plus — and cast successfully.”

Stansel will let water color determine the Rat-L-Traps he’ll fish in deep water. When the Rat-L-Trap on the same rig he’s used for shallow-water fishing hits the water, Stansel engages his reel and keeps the lure close to the surface, reeling fast and using short twitches with his rod tip to trigger a strike.

SHE DOG

Also, this month you can enjoy some outstanding top-water action from the big speckled trout and redfish in Calcasieu Lake with a She Dog. Stansel likes the same heavy, stiff leader he uses with the Rat-L-Traps to prevent the treble hooks from becoming entangled in the line when making long casts.

“My favorite color She Dog is pearl with a chartreuse top and bottom and an orange throat,” Stansel says.

This 4-inch lure produces best early in the morning on slick water. Reds and specks will attack the She Dog.

“The best section of the lake to fish the She Dog is from the middle to the north end of the lake, particularly over shallow flats,” Stansel said. “There’s nothing more exciting than seeing a big speckled trout or redfish blow up on those She Dogs at first light.”

Once the She Dog hits the water, Stansel uses a walk-the-dog type of retrieve to bring the bait back to the boat.

“The fish will tell you what type of retrieve they prefer, but I usually work the bait for 6 or 8 feet, stop the lure and then let it sit still on the water, which is usually when the fish will attack,” he said.

At other times when Stansel finds the fish feeding more aggressively, he’ll continuously walk the dog back to the boat. However, most anglers will miss more fish than they hook because they react to the strikes when they see the fish blow up on the baits.

“The best way to fish a topwater bait is with your eyes closed,” Stansel emphasizes. “You don’t want to set the hook until you feel the fish pull on the line because specks and reds will often strike a bait three or four times trying to kill it or injure it before they actually eat it. If you attempt to set the hook when the fish is only trying to kill the bait, you generally won’t get a hook up.”

Stansel recommends when the fish strikes that you simply stop the bait, wait for another attack and then start twitching the She Dog again to keep the lure in the strike zone of the fish.

SOFT PLASTIC

Easy-to-fish soft-plastic lures, the bread and butter baits of anglers who frequent Calcasieu, don’t cost much and they’re extremely productive.

“In November, I’ll fish a 1/4-ounce and 3/8-ounce lead heads on plastic baits,” Stansel explains. “I’ll use a 1/4-ounce head if I’m fishing in shallow water and on warmer days, since the smaller head is better in water from the shoreline to where the water is about 2 feet in depth.”

On colder days and when fishing deep water, Stansel prefers the 3/8-ounce lead-head jig for his soft-plastic baits, including the Bass Assassin jigs and grubs, which look like shrimp, and the Stanley Wedge Tail.

“When I’m fishing the Bass Assassin grub, I like the Calcasieu brew color, which is avocado with a red flake belly, and the back that’s limetreuse. Calcasieu fish like chartreuse,” he said.

Stansel also fishes avocado/chartreuse Bass Assassins in clear water. On a clear, bright day with clear water, Stansel chooses a smoke-colored grub.

Also, Stansel and the other guides at Hackberry Rod and Gun will fish Stanley Wedge Tail grubs in November.

“In murky water, I like the Wedge Tail because the tail vibrates, and it has a tendency to catch more fish than the Bass Assassin does,” Stansel explains. “I prefer the pearl/chartreuse and LSU, a purple grub with blue metal flake and a chartreuse tail.”

For schooling fish, Stansel fishes the pearl with a chartreuse tail Wedge Tail grub.

“When I’m working hard for fish that are reluctant to bite, I use the LSU color,” Stansel says.

Regardless of which style grub he fishes, Stansel’s main line will consist of 12- to 15-pound-test line, and he’ll tie his main line directly to the grub. He believes he gets better action from his jigs when he doesn’t use heavier leader between the jig and the main line.

Although most of the strikes will come on the fall of the jig, once the soft plastic hits the bottom, Stansel starts a steady retrieve interrupted by a quick upward twitch to enable the lure to fall back. Then he continues the retrieve.

“I’ve found that the fish prefer the bait to be swimming up in the water rather than hopping along the bottom, except on cold days,” Stansel advises.

When Stansel discovers the bait feeding on the bottom, he keeps his lure close to the bottom, but he’ll hop the bait off the bottom and let it drop through the strike zone.

“Trial and error are the best ways to establish a pattern for catching specks and reds when they’re down close to the bottom,” he said. “Any place on Calcasieu Lake is great for fishing soft plastics in shallow, deep, muddy or clear water. They are our go-to baits.”

CATCH 2000

Stansel also likes to fish the Catch 2000, a slow-sinking MirrOlure, another of his favorite big-trout baits on Calcasieu, early in the morning or late in the evening on shallow flats.

“You have to fish slower with the Catch 2000 than you do with most other lures at Calcasieu,” Stansel explains. “I slow-retrieve the bait for 4 or 5 feet, stop the lure, allow it to sit still in the water, twitch the bait, let it sit still, slow retrieve it another 4 or 5 feet and then repeat the same action. I’ve caught a lot of big trout when the lure’s sitting still in the water and not moving at all.”

Stansel fishes the Catch 2000 when trout slap at his top-water baits but don’t eat them, and also later in the morning when the trout stop hitting the She Dog and seem to prefer an underwater bait.

The pearl white/chartreuse head Catch 2000 produces well both in murky and clear water. Stansel also fishes the Catch 2000 in bone, chrome and white belly/green back colors.

From the middle to the north end of the lake, fishing the Catch 2000 on sand flats 3 feet deep to the shoreline will produce the most and the biggest trout. Although many anglers only fish oyster reefs, Stansel targets the sand flats in the middle of the day.

“The mullet will move into the sand flats to feed since the water on the sand flats will warm up quicker than the water in the rest of the lake, especially in the middle of the day, and the trout will follow the mullet,” he said.

If you fish the sand flats, you won’t have much competition because many Calcasieu fishermen believe you won’t catch trout unless you fish over oyster reefs or under birds.

WHAT YOU’LL CATCH

At this time of the year, weather plays a major role in whether or not you’ll catch fish.

“Two anglers catching 25 to 50 trout and 10 redfish in a day of fishing Calcasieu isn’t uncommon at all,” Stansel reports. “When fishing is really good, you can catch and release redfish and trout all day.”

Stansel has had two parties in one day before, and produced a limit of specks and reds for the first two fishermen and then taken the second party out and duplicated that catch, totaling 100 speckled trout and 20 redfish for one day of fishing Calcasieu.

Not a bad haul for the fall.

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