Pass a Good Time

Coastal passes are gold mines for trout during the heat of the summer, but there are tricks to catching limits. Here are three guides’ tips for putting fish in the boat.

The tide was slack when C.J. Rojas reached Barataria Bay, and the results of the first several hours of fishing were predictable.

Only a handful of trout were cooling in the chest, and those fish had been nabbed while barely nipping the live shrimp thrown out around the platforms.

But Rojas wasn’t worried.

“We’ll find some fish,” the Griffin Fishing Charters guide said. “When that tide turns around, they’ll start biting.”

After several moves, Rojas decided to run closer to a channel, and that’s when he noticed water pouring around the point of a small island.

Soon, he and his guest were pulling trout out of the water on a consistent basis.

And one more move filled the day’s limits.

That’s why Rojas likes fishing around passes — because that’s where the tide is exaggerated, as water rushes through the deeper opening.

So trout trips frequently take him from his Lafitte headquarters to destinations on the southern end of Barataria Bay, such as Four Bayous, Coup Abel, and Barataria and Caminada passes.

That’s not a surprise: Passes have long been recognized for their fish-producing qualities.

But how do guides consistently produce limits for their clients at the passes?

It’s all a matter of understanding how fish relate to the structure provided in a pass.

So we provided Rojas and two other guides with a map of a fictional pass to discover their attack strategies. Here’s what we learned:


Capt. C.J. Rojas

Ideally, Rojas would want to fish this pass on a rising tide.

“What happens is the current rolls along the coastline, and it filters through the pass,” said Rojas (800-741-1340). “The fish will do the same thing.”

Although the clean water should be hitting the outside beaches first, Rojas said he probably wouldn’t go straight through the pass.

“Considering I would be coming from up north, I would still check that island first, but I would fish the south side (of the island),” he said.

Rojas would target the south side because of his firm belief trout hold on the up-current side of islands.

“That’s where the current is hitting, and I think the trout set up there to ambush bait,” he explained.

Of course, exactly how long he fishes the island would be dictated by how clean the water was when he arrived.

“Water clarity overrules current,” Rojas said. “If the water wasn’t clean, I wouldn’t stay very long.”

Once he decided to leave that island, he would go ahead and run through the pass to the eastern beach.

“For some reason, I like the east side better than the west,” he said. “Most of the time in Coup Abel and Four Bayous, the current is running east to west,” Rojas said.

That should mean clean water sweeping in from the east, so focusing his efforts on that side of the pass should provide him with good fishing during the earliest part of the rising tide.

Rojas said he would stay to the outside of the sandbars, mainly because of the dangers of getting too close in his boat. although he would ease in far enough to work the waters between the large bar that borders the channel and the bars parelleling the coast.

After thoroughly working the outside sandbars on that side, Rojas said he would flip over and fish the outer edges of the sandbars on the west.

“I would work down the coast, away from the pass,” he said.

And he could even find cleaner water on that side.

“The thing about a pass, depending on how big it is, is that one side can be clean and the other side can be dirty,” Rojas said.

How far he works down the western beach would be determined by water clarity, how many fish he’s picking up and his overall confidence.

“I might work a ways down the coast,” he said.

His last options would be the three oyster reefs behind the pass, with no real preference for any particular one.

“I always check the reefs,” Rojas said. “I might not fish all three of them, but I would try one or two.

“Then I would make a decision based on what I found.”

His approach would be pretty basic — ease in from the up-current side and drift over the middle of the reef.

“Usually, if they’re not right on top of the reef, they’ll be on the outside edge,” Rojas said. “So I can work everything as I make my drift.”

On an outgoing tide, Rojas said he would still stop at the island first. But he would work the northern end.

“Maybe that cove on the northwest side might hold some fish,” he said.

But he would look for any breaks in the island or, if the island is large enough, any trenasses draining interior ponds.

“That’s the first place I would target,” Rojas said. “The fish like that current, with the water sweeping through those cuts.

“On a rising tide, I wouldn’t fish those cuts, but with the water pulling out of the island, those fish will be waiting for the baitfish to be washed out of the island.”

Next on his list would be the oyster reefs, probably starting with the one between the island and the channel because it is farthest north.

Again, he would simply make a drift right over the top of the reef to get a feel for what was holding there.

How long he spends on the reefs is again dictated by how many fish he catches on his first couple of passes.

Leaving the reefs would mean heading for the gut between the rocks and large sandbar on the eastern point of the pass.

“It’s going to make a funnel there, where the bait will be swept out of the pass,” he said.

And the fish will follow that bait.

The key, however, is just how much water is in that depression.

“If it’s real shallow, I wouldn’t be real excited, but if it had a lot of water, I would definitely check it out,” Rojas said.

If he still hadn’t filled out his limit, the veteran guide would skip across the pass to the western point.

But, in contrast to his approach on a falling tide, he would work as far into sandbars as possible.

“If there are a few fish on the outside, I would check inside the guts,” Rojas said. “Sometimes they hang on the outside, and sometimes they hang on the inside of the guts.”

The one caveat for fishing the actual pass, however, would be the strength of the tidal flow.

“What happens sometimes is the current is too fast,” Rojas said. “You can’t get a lure down.”

And it probably wouldn’t matter anyway.

“Most of the time when the current is so hard in there, those fish can’t stay in there,” he said. “They’re not going to fight that current.”

When that happens, he simply eases farther out of the pass.

“You just move down the coast,” Rojas said.

What he would rather, however, is to work the first and las hour or so of the tidal cycle.

“When the tide just starts moving, or when it slows down, you can really work the fish,” Rojas explained.


Capt. Jeff Fuscia

Jeff Fuscia (504-382-5488) said passes are vitally important to the area in which he makes his living.

“They feed bait into all the areas of Venice,” he said.

So Fuscia believes in working nearby these lifelines to catch mules.

And he, too, believes an incoming tide is best.

“Down in Venice, the best days for us are when we have an incoming tide,” Fuscia said. “You’ve got that good, clean water coming in.”

And that sparks some serious fishing opportunities.

“In the summertime, I think that incoming tide sets up the trout to spawn and brings in the bait, and sets up the fish to feed,” he said.

But he also likes to target the front and back ends of the tidal range.

“I like about an hour or so after it starts rising and when it starts slowing down when it’s getting ready to turn,” Fuscia said. “I like a light tide, as long as it’s moving.”

The first place he wants to be on a pass situation would be the beach.

“I mean actually throwing your bait right up on the beach or right at the water’s edge,” Fuscia said.

Therefore, he would position his boat on the western side of the pass, right over the sandbars.

He would then work his way out, probing the guts in search of big trout.

“For some reason, it seems that these fish will be in there tight early in the morning, and then move out as the sun comes up,” Fuscia said.

But he said the key to success in that shallow water is to make as little noise as possible.

“Shut down there on the outside, and ease in there with your trolling motor,” he said. “When you’re trying to catch big trout, if you make a lot of noise, those trout are going to be gone.”

After thoroughly working the western sandbars, Fuscia would then move back to the oyster reefs closest to the channel.

“There’s going to be more current there,” he explained.

His preference is always to fish the downcurrent side of structure.

“You have an eddy where the bait can get out of the current,” Fuscia said. “Wherever the current is, that’s where the fish will be.”

Therefore, he would ease toward the reefs from the north, throwing up onto the oyster beds and working his lures off the little drop.

Next would be the island to the northeast of the pass.

“They would possibly be in that cove on the backside,” he said.

But Fuscia said he would move to the western and eastern corners of the island after that.

“I wouldn’t forget about those points,” he said. “I like fishing the points, where the current is pushing across.”

The last of his choices would be the rocks behind the eastern point of the pass.

“You’d have the bait flushing through the center of the channel, and anywhere back behind there where you have the water going slack would be a good choice,” Fuscia said. “The baitfish will be looking for that slack water, and the trout will follow.”

The key would be seeing a lot of bait.

“I would look for mullets and pogies, and I would look for anything that’s moving them, busting them or making them nervous,” he said.

His strategy really wouldn’t change that much for a falling tide.

Fuscia would begin right on the beach to the west of the pass.

“You’re going to have that bait flushing through there, trying to get out of the flow of the current,” he explained.

And as the day progresses, and the sun heats up the water, Fuscia will simply follow the trout back into the second gut.

His third option would be back at the oyster reefs nearest the channel, again focusing on the downcurrent ends of the beds.

“I would set up where the oyster reef drops off,” Fuscia said.

After thoroughly working the small ledges there, he would head to the island.

But he wouldn’t necessarily focus his attention on the downcurrent side. Instead, he would target the points on the eastern and western ends.

“I like spots like that, where the tide’s moving across those points,” Fuscia explained.

If that failed, he would head back to the western side of the pass and give the marsh and look.

“On a falling tide, if you have a cut coming out of that marsh, I would think the fish will concentrate there or on a flat at the mouth of that cut,” he said.


Capt. Mike Guidry

Mike Guidry (985-637-4292) firmly believes that trout situate on the downcurrent side of any obstacle in the water, so he leaves the front beaches alone during an incoming tide.

Instead, his first choice would be between the rocks on the eastern point of the pass and the southernmost oyster reef.

“I know my water’s going to be better right there: That’s the first place that clean water’s going to get as it comes through the pass,” Guidry said.

And as this water pulls through the pass and around the point, baitfish will be swept in.

“A lot of times, you’ll see those mullet hanging right in that current line, and the trout will be in that slack water ready to come up and feed on them,” Guidry said.

He said if the water eddies and provides slack conditions against the rocks, he would tie on a topwater before using plastics.

Next, he would run to the two northernmost reefs, working the edges of the oyster shells.

“Those fish will be hanging off the reef, waiting to move up on them,” Guidry said. “If they’re not staging on top of the oyster reef, they’ll be staged on the edge, on that drop.”

And he would be certain to retrieve his baits with the current.

“They’re not going to attack something swimming by them: They’re going to attack something swimming toward them,” Guidry said.

The island would be his third choice, and his approach would be completely different than that on the reefs.

“I would basically fish where the water’s breaking on the island, and then if I don’t do anything there, I would fish around to the other side,” he said. “With the oyster reefs, you have all that water flowing completely over them, but with the island, it’s flowing around.

And the current break provided by the island produces eddies on the front and backside of the island.

“The fish will be right in that slack water,” Guidry said.

Guidry’s approach to an outgoing tide would be very simple — fish the beaches on either side of the pass.

His first choice would be the gut between the rocks and the sandbars on the front of the eastern point.

“That current will be pulling around the point, and a lot of baitfish will be pulled around that sandbar,” Guidry said. “You’ve got that calm water, where the fish will be sitting and waiting for that baitfish.”

If that fails, he’ll switch to the western side of the pass and fish the sandbars down the beach.

“Depending on the wave height, I would prefer to fish between that first sandbar and the beach,” he said.

In fact, Guidry said he often gets his boat into water wadefishermen pass up.

“We’ll be shallower than some of them,” he said. “A lot of people will fish between the first and second sandbars, but a lot of big trout will be hanging right up in that shallow water on the beach.”

But anglers should be very cautious when working these sandbars out of a boat.

“You don’t want to get in there and get in a bind, and not be able to get out,” Guidry said.

That’s a particular concern if there are rollers on the beach, when a boat could hit bottom and be swamped.

If the water is too shallow to get right up to the beach, Guidry would then work the second gut.

And if he did make it to the first gut, he would work the second ditch on his way out.

But when fishing either side of the pass, Guidry said he would stay away from the funnel of water.

“I want to be away from that main channel because there’s going to be just too much current there,” he explained.

The only other option he would explore during a falling tide would be centered around any nearby platforms on the outside of the pass.

“If they had any satellites around there, I would definitely fish that,” Guidry said.

But he would probably stay away from the inside reefs and islands because the water would likely be muddy.

“Once that tide really gets rolling, you’ll have a whole lot of dirty water,” he said.

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.

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