This Rigolets hotspot draws quite a crowd because it’s so productive this time of year.
“Damn, there’s Eric!”
The anglers in the approaching boat sounded a little perturbed about having been beaten by an earlier bird. And as any veteran angler knows, driving to your hole only to find another boat already sitting there is one of the most sinking feelings in all of fishing.
But this was just the beginning. A second, third, fourth, fifth boat — on and on it went until there were 15 boats all fishing within mere feet of each other under the CSX Rigolets Pass Bridge.
There was something strangely familiar about the scene. Surrounded by steel, 15 boats wanting to knock each other the hell out, verbal taunts, splattering blood from hemorrhaging speckled trout — we were right in the middle of a good old Mid South Wrestling Steel Cage Match.
And there stood Capt. Eric Dumas like the Junkyard Dog right in the middle of the no-holds-barred brawl laying down the THUMP!
It’s not that Dumas was the only one catching trout. However, with my own eyes, I saw him catching more and larger trout than all the other boats around him. And on this particular day, Dumas was leaving with the championship belt around his waist.
Yeah, anybody can run to the CSX Rigolets Pass Bridge, tie up to one of the beams underneath it and toss out a shrimp. There’s not much special about that. But what are you going to catch?
A speckled trout here? A puppy drum there? More hardheads than you care to unhook?
Dumas has figured out how to separate himself from the pack and fill his Ranger’s fish box to overflowing with big speckled trout while all the anglers around him wind up getting knocked down and counted out.
And if you think this writer sounds a little too much like General Skandor Akbar growling about how the One Man Gang or the Missing Link is going to beat up on you if you dare fish under the CSX Rigolets Pass Bridge, that’s not the case at all.
Rather, Dumas wants you to join in on the competition. That’s why he invited www.louisianasportsman.com internet forum user Elton Rodrigue, a.k.a. Catch Dat One, and me to fish the bridge with him recently.
We met up at the Rigolets Marina before most anglers’ alarm clocks had buzzed, and that was the first lesson Dumas taught us about successfully fishing the CSX bridge. It was the first of many to come.
“You’ve got to get here early to beat the crowds,” Dumas insisted as he selected some of the largest live shrimp in the marina’s bait tanks. “We’ve only got ‘til about 7:30 or so because that’s the end of the falling tide.
“If we can pick our spot and start fishing before the sun comes up, we’ll have about two hours of good fishing. Out here, the early bird gets the worm.”
Just as he was about to drop the hammer on his 250 Yamaha outboard motor, Dumas spotted an ominous-looking cloud hanging out over the CSX bridge. He hesitated a moment and turned his Ranger bay boat back toward the marina.
We sat in open water for a few minutes to see what the cloud was going to do so we could decide what we were going to do. Flickering boat lights approaching us from the west made the decision for us. There was no way Dumas was going to let that boat beat him to the bridge.
By the time the other boat reached the bridge, we were already tied off and rigging our rods and reels with Carolina rigs using 3/4-ounce egg weights, 2-foot leaders and treble hooks.
“Damn, there’s Eric,” we heard them swear as they came off plane.
“You might be the first one here, but you definitely won’t be the only one here,” Dumas observed as the other boat politely made a wide arc around us and took their place under the bridge. “They’re not all going to be that nice, though.”
Although the second boat to arrive tied up about 100 yards from us, the third one tied up so close that there was only a few feet between us. Another boat a little while later tide up only feet from us on the other side. The other 15 boats that arrived well after daylight had no choice but to take the leftovers and tie up wherever they could find a spot.
Dumas kind of allowed his second lesson to grow on Rodrigue and me until we could hardly take it anymore. The more trout we caught, the farther to the right the charter captain in the boat to our left started casting. It got so bad that he had almost effectively cut us off from throwing straight out the back of our boat.
Both of our Carolina rigs were spending more time in this captain’s boat getting untangled than they were at the bottom of the Rigolets under the bridge. On the other hand, Dumas didn’t allow the potential powder keg to upset him. He made his point by continuing to land big trout in the midst of the mayhem.
Had I not seen it with my own two eyes, I wouldn’t have believed it. As the other captain began to cast farther to the right, Dumas started fishing out of the back port-side corner of his boat.
“I’m walking these fish over,” he explained. “When we first started fishing, these trout were right out the back of the boat. With every fish I’ve caught, I’ve started fishing a little bit farther to the right on every cast. He’s going to catch some fish behind our boat, but these fish are now out this back corner.”
What? Really? Now I was wondering if my mental comparison of Dumas to the Junkyard Dog was a little too strong. The Fish Whisperer now sounded a little bit more appropriate. Could Dumas really do some kind of Jedi mind trick on the trout to get them to do his bidding?
Based on what played out before Rodgrigue and me, it was as if Dumas had told the other captain, “These are not the fish you are looking for.” The other guy continued fishing, but Dumas continued catching.
“Look at his shrimp,” Dumas whispered while the other fellow struggled to untangle another pair of twisted lines. With both lines in his boat, we could see the size difference between his live shrimp and the shrimp we were using.
“You’ve got to have good, quality shrimp,” Dumas insisted. “These trout want big shrimp. We were out here yesterday with another guy fishing beside us, but he had little shrimp. I don’t think he ever caught a trout.”
As it was on this trip, Dumas, Rodrigue and I were out-fishing everybody around us a conservative five to one. And by progressively casting his big shrimp a little bit to one side or the other, Dumas was effectively able to steer the fish wherever he wanted them to go, which was away from everybody else.
No matter how much other boats tried to encroach on us, Dumas maintained his composure and caught fish. Only when one of the boats untied from the bottom of the bridge and anchored right in the middle of where we were fishing did Dumas engage in a little bit of verbal sparring.
Seeming to get the message that there was a difference between fishing in a crowd and just being downright stupid, the other boat backed off a little bit. However, in his attempt to get in on the bite, he had now repositioned his boat to where he was throwing into the current rather than with it.
“You’re going to do best under this bridge when the tide is falling by tying off and fishing out the back of your boat and throwing with the current,” Dumas pointed out. “That means your boat is going to pull to the east, and you’ll be casting toward Lake Borgne.”
Our bite started slowing down around 7 a.m., and I was beginning to wonder if now even Dumas was down for the count. That was when Dumas pointed out how our Carolina rigs were now bouncing back to us rather than pulling away even though the top of the water indicated the tide was still going out.
“It’s starting to come in down on bottom,” Dumas explained. “In other words, it’s over.
“We could sit here and probably catch some popcorn trout right under the bridge with the water coming in, but I’d rather catch big fish. Want to go look for some tripletails?”
Later that evening, Rodrigue posted a few pictures in the www.louisianasportsman.com inshore fishing forum. One of the images was of Dumas holding up a couple hammers with the CSX Rigolets Pass Bridge in the background.
“Hey, looks nice. Sometimes just don’t believe the pics I see on here,” read a reply to Rodrigue’s post. “I fish Rigolets often and never catch these huge specks. Not saying y’all didn’t, but they’d have to prove it to me that they did. Trout that big — sorry but has never happened for me.”
Yeah, and nobody thought the Junkyard Dog could ever slam King Kong Bundy, Kamala or The One Man Gang, but he did.
I saw that with my own eyes, too.
Contact Capt. Eric Dumas at 985-705-1244.
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