Shell Beach guide has answers to February fishing questions

A good fishing clinic, involving plenty of redfish and speckled trout, can cure anything that’s ailing you in February.

This is the kind of speckled trout that gets the blood pumping, even for experienced anglers like guide Eric Olsen.

One of the toughest years in memory is behind us. Most of the Christmas decorations are down, and the stress of the holiday season has been boxed up and put away. 

But it still feels like we need a little boost. 

It sure would be nice to get away from it all for a while. There’s no question: it’s time for a little therapy.

And there’s nobody better to call than Dr. Eric — sorry, that’s Capt. Eric. A day at Eric Olsen’s Louisiana coastal fishing clinic should be just what the doctor ordered.

Olsen operates Saltwater Therapy Charters out of Shell Beach, southeast of New Orleans. You can go with him or just follow his plan to have your own version of saltwater therapy this month. It’s bound to make you feel and eat better.

“With the hard times we had in 2020, it’s time to get back on the water more and enjoy catching some fish,” Olsen said. “COVID did lead to a drop-off in business last year, but we still had a lot of families who came and fished together. We make sure the boats are clean and bleached down, the rods are cleaned, and we practice social distancing. We’ll continue that as long as we need to, but it’s actually a good thing to come fishing and enjoy the good, fresh air and the amazing fishery resources we have in southeast Louisiana.”

Olsen administers two basic types of therapy this month: chasing speckled trout and bull redfish. Both offer exceptional therapeutic and dietary benefits. Both fish fight well and eat even better.

“When that north, winter wind blows, it makes fishing in the marsh tough if you don’t know where you are going, because it gets a lot shallower than normal, but the fishing is fabulous,” he said. “We will start off with some fresh shrimp … and we will look for the deeper holes and deeper bayous. With the tide changes more profound, it’s important to key on that deeper water.”

Harry Mohre and Alan Novotny are regular Shell Beach therapy seekers and this ice chest shows why.

Olsen said knowing when the tide is going to be moving is one of the keys to February fishing success.

“You definitely want to be fishing when the tide is moving; either rising or falling is okay,” he said. “The fish position differently, but they’ll still be there. You can catch fish on a slack tide, but it’s a whole lot tougher.”

Olsen likes to fish shrimp under a popping cork. If trout or reds are really stacked up or in a feeding frenzy, he’ll switch to plastics that match the size and color of the shrimp. It’s easier to fish artificials in that situation, but fish love the live bait, said Olsen, who likes to use a No. 1/0 Kahle hook for specks and a No. 3/0 for larger redfish. He prefers black, stainless steel hooks because they are harder for the fish to see, and they don’t rust. He uses several types of popping corks and said they just need to be easy to see. His favorites are the hot pink, but he doesn’t think it makes a big difference.

“Fish don’t eat the corks, they eat the bait,” he said.

The size of shrimp varies from time to time, based on what  marinas have for sale, but Olsen said the good thing about that is whatever size they are catching is probably what the fish are seeing at that time, so it’s a natural offering. Trout will usually feed up, but the reds will usually run closer to the bottom this time of year, he said. 

Olsen said the best thing a fisherman can do is to be persistent and focus on proven, fish-catching areas. 

Lots of lures and baits will draw strikes from reds and specks, but guide Eric Olsen’s favorites are, hands down. live shrimp.

“When it comes to redfish, it’s points, pockets or windward banks,” he said. “That’s where they will be. And when you catch them in one of those areas, look for more that match where you are catching that day. They’ll probably be there, too.”

Watching birds also pays off. Birds chase the schools of shrimp and baitfish, and this time of year, it’s usually trout or specks chasing the bait. In the summer, birds often lead fishermen to huge bunches of hardhead catfish.

Olsen recommends taking it easy on that trolling motor and anchor lock this time of year. Fish can be tearing it up, but too much noise or vibration will scatter them quickly.

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About Kinny Haddox 417 Articles
Kinny Haddox has been writing magazine and newspaper articles about the outdoors in Louisiana for 45 years. He publishes a daily website, lakedarbonnelife.com and is a member of the Louisiana Chapter of the Outdoor Legends Hall of Fame. He and his wife, DiAnne, live in West Monroe.

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