Fish in a barrel — Top cold-water tactics for Delacroix trout and redfish

Yeah, fronts can shut down the bite this time of year, but this Delacroix charter captain knows December also is one of the best times of the year to load the boat with reds and trout. Here’s his approach.

During the fall, Ol’ Man Winter lazily throws a few cold fronts in our general direction, and we appreciate the cooler temperatures and lower humidity.

It actually makes it pleasant to be outside in our brief visit by the autumn. For a very short time we all feel like Goldilocks — it’s not too hot or too cold, but just right.

To be sure some colder-than-pleasant days sneak down (hey, this is the South. If you like cold move to Minnesota), but not usually anything too serious.

That changes this month.

December is when Ol’ Man Winter usually starts getting serious about waking up and doing his job.

This year, winter officially begins on Dec. 21 — the third Sunday of the month — but its already putting the fall season behind and fast-forwarding us into the coldest months of the year.

But according to Delacroix Island fishing guide Nick Rando (504-281-8287) it’s a great time to be no the water.

“It’s not all bad. In fact, the opposite is true,” Rando said. “It’s almost all good when winter arrives down here in Southeast Louisiana.”

Rando, who has been a professional charter captain for about nine years, makes Delacroix his home base. He invited me aboard his 24-foot Blazer Bay recently on a trip with his dad to see if we could put a dent in the trout and redfish population down at “da Island.”

Rando keeps his boat in a sling just past Sweetwater Marina in Delacroix Island, where he bought some live shrimp to take along on our trip.

I’d never fished with young Rando before, but I’d asked him on the phone if he was related to one of my former co-workers and fellow Chalmette High School graduate, Cyril Rando.

“That’s my dad — and he’s going to be fishing with us,” he said.

So our trip was not only an opportunity to fish some prime Louisiana waters, but also to reminisce with an old friend I hadn’t seen in more than 40 years.

Rando cranked up the 225-horsepower outboard and pointed the bow into the Delacroix interior.

“I look forward to fishing during the colder months of the year,” Rando said as we wound our way through a section of marsh locals call the Graveyard. “The fish school up — both trout and reds — and, when the water levels drop as the north winds blow through, the fish will congregate in the deeper water.

“That’s when I’ll fish Oak River (a perennial winter hotspot), False River, the Twin Pipelines and any other deep holes that will hold fish when it gets cold.”

However, this day’s weather was moderate, so not only was our cold-weather gear unnecessary, but we knew the trout would not yet be hunkered down in the deeper water.

That meant we’d be fishing fall patterns, when fish congregate in shallower water anywhere from the fringes of the big water to the mid-range interior lakes.

“Right now we’re experiencing some excellent fall action, and it’s just getting better as we move into mid- to late fall,” he said. “This is when you want to fish Pointe Fienne, Bay Jack, Skippy Lake, Bakers Bay, Grand Point Bay and Bay Lafourche.

“Launch your boat in Delacroix Island and head to any of these places right now, and you’ll catch fish.”

Rando moved us to within casting distance of a point in one of the prime lakes and cut the outboard. Each of us loaded up with either a Vudu shrimp or a live one under a cork and began casting.

Initially, the action seemed slow. Live shrimp dangling under a cork near a cut or point usually attracts the immediate attention of subsurface predators, but for five or 10 minutes nothing happened.

“Be patient,” the younger Rando instructed. “The bite has been starting slow lately. Maybe the fish are extra-spooky right now, but after we let things settle down for a few minutes they’ll start up.”

And start-up they did: In short order we had some hefty redfish on the ends of our lines, and we put several in the boat before the action played out.

Rando fishes with Penn spinning reels mounted on Denali rods and strung up with 30-pound Fins braid, a combo he said has worked well for him in virtually all fishing situations for both trout and redfish.

He does, however, suggest that you use a fluorocarbon leader whether you are tight-lining or fishing under a cork.

“The fluorocarbon leader will definitely make a difference on those days when the fish are spooky or finicky,” he said. “Most days you’ll get away with tying your hook or jig directly to the braid, but on those iffy days, when the fish are reluctant to bite, you better have a mono or fluorocarbon leader to get the strike.

“I’ll use a 20-, 25- or 30-pound leader 2 to 3 feet under a cork.”

We moved to another nearby point with no success, and then on to another where some good current was moving, forming a current line behind it.

Rando positioned the boat so the wind was at our back, and we could toss just into and outside of the current.

Bingo!

The trout were there, waiting to ambush any baitfish or shrimp that got swept along with the current and into their path.

Rando went on to share his routine for moderate weather days.

“This would be the milder days before, between or after the cold fronts,” he said. “Always the best action is the day before and two days after a front.”

• Pointe Fienne —“This section of water has been a magnet for fish for decades,” Rando said. “Water flows through it from the Pencil Canal, from all the surrounding lakes, bays and marsh, and from Oak River.

“It has some diverse bottom features, and this time of year it is the place to be.”

He said all of Pointe Fienne is fishable, but he prefers the south bank on the east and west sides of the Pencil Canal.

“You can … drift, just using your trolling motor slightly to control the drift, staying a long casting distance from the south shore,” Rando said. “Cast your bait, live or plastic, about 24 to 36 inches under a popping cork.

“When you catch a fish, stop there and keep fishing until the bite stops. Either stick the Power Pole or Cajun anchor and see if you can put some numbers in the box.”

• Skippy Lake — “This is another late-fall hotspot that you don’t want to ignore,” he said. “I like to drift the whole northwest corner of Skippy, casting live bait or plastic under a cork.

“This is drift-and-stick style of fishing, and wherever you fish follow this tactic on milder days.”

• Bay Jack Nevette, Bay Ponton, etc. — “I’ll drift and troll the northwest and southeast pockets of Bay Jack, depending on the winds,” Rando said. “In Ponton, I focus on the prominent points; troll slowly around them and stick when you catch fish.

“Or I’ll fish the northwest corner at the cuts and drains on a falling tide.”

Rando said all of these bays will produce fish this month. Add to the list Lake John, Four Horse Lake, Lake Batola, Lake Fausan, Bay Andrew and Grand Pointe Bay.

“The key is to drift near points or pockets where you see good water movement,” he said. “Trout will be around those current lines and just on the outside of them, looking to ambush bait. Your job is to toss them something to ambush.

“I like the Matrix Shad in the shrimp creole color when I’m drift fishing, or the Egret wedgetails.”

• Bakers Bay, Bay Lafourche — “These bigger bays will definitely hold plenty of trout this month, and you’ll basically fish them the same way,” Rando said. “The biggest difference in the big bays is the condition of the water. This is a windy time of year, and the surface can quickly get choppy and dirty looking.

“The key to success is to find clean water, and that is going to be on the lee side. Drift those lee banks near points or cuts and coves, and you’ll catch some fish.”

He also has a routine for putting reds in the boat.

“If redfish are your target, you should have no trouble finding them this month,” Rando said. “For bait, the best bet is always live or dead shrimp under a cork, or Berkley Gulp shrimp under a cork. We also catch quite a few on the Vudu shrimp in the natural or glow color.

“My favorite setup is a 1/8- or ¼-ounce jighead with a live or dead shrimp about 24 inches of leader under a Bomber Paradise Popper cork. That is a dynamite redfish rig, and it will definitely produce for you.”

Reds will be in the same areas as trout, but if you specifically want to focus on reds, then hotspots will be the southwest shoreline of Lake Batola, the north shoreline of Four Horse Lake (from the Twin Pipelines east), the lee shoreline of Lake John and the whole west and north shoreline of Grand Lake, the young captain said.

“If you like to troll, try trolling these banks using gold spoons, spinnerbaits and topwater baits when conditions allow,” Rando said.

Editor’s note: Capt. Nick “Fishaholic Charters” Rando can be reached at 504-281-8287.

About Rusty Tardo 371 Articles
Rusty Tardo grew up in St. Bernard fishing the waters of Delacroix, Hopedale and Shell Beach. He and his wife, Diane, have been married over 40 years and live in Kenner.