Calcasieu estuary south, west of Lake Charles offers great fishing for the dream trout
They’re big, fat and sassy, and they’ll drive you crazy.
That’s about the best description of the largely impressive, yellowmouth speckled trout of the Calcasieu estuary.
Moving out of the depths of the Calcasieu Ship Channel in September, large speckled trout — in good numbers — will follow two bait primary bait species onto shallow flats, shell reefs and mounds: white shrimp and baitfish. And having survived the rigors of a spawn lasting approximately five months, the big lady trout will be in a feeding mood — quite hungry and voracious as they seek to fatten up before colder waters appear in December.
And two Calcasieu Estuary anglers will be feverishly after these hefty yellowmouths — each targeting these big ladies with different styles and lures that prove largely to be successful in September and during the fall.
White shrimp migration
“It’s all about the white shrimp,” said Ken Chaumont of Lake Charles, owner of Egret Baits, whose VuDu Shrimp is widely popular.
It is well known that white shrimp move from Louisiana estuarine marshes into lakes and bays before moving out into the Gulf as water temperatures cool. Unlike brown shrimp, white shrimp invading inland lakes and estuaries are relatively large; it’s not uncommon to find them up to 5 inches long before they head out to the Gulf.
“We catch some quality trout here in the fall, beginning in September,” Chaumont said. “I find they are really fat at this time of the year as they gorge themselves on shrimp and baitfish.”
Impressive 15-fish limits of trout ranging from 14 to 25 inches are not uncommon. Their size far exceeds the loads of smaller fish usually taken in the summer.
Using VuDu Shrimp, Chaumont will target these trout from Commissary Point and follow schools all the way north to smaller Lake Charles, running up to I-10 in the city limits as fall progresses.
In September, Chaumont will have two rods with VuDu Shrimp rigged, one a 6-foot-8, medium-light baitcasting rod with 12-pound fluorocarbon line spooled on a Shimano Chronarch for free-lining either 31/4- or 4-inch VuDu Shrimp, and the other a 7-foot, medium-light spinning rod with 12-pound fluorocarbon spooled to a Tsunami spinning reel. On the business end of this spinning equipment will be a VuDu cork set above the shrimp. VuDu Corks are densely coated and weighted with heavy, brass balls that emit a loud clacking sound, imitating feeding behavior and attracting trout according to Chaumont, who will often keep another rod nearby with a double-rigged set of VuDu Shrimp for when action gets fast and furious under the gulls.
Pick your birds
Chaumont will fish under gulls in September with some reservation.
“Smaller groups of birds are usually a sign of larger trout, and I’ll stay with them as opposed to fishing under larger numbers of birds indicating many smaller fish,” he said. “If the birds are hovering in one location for a while, I will cast VuDu Shrimp under the VuDu Cork. If the birds are moving fast, I will follow them and target trout by free-lining VuDu Shrimp.
“I will use a pop-pop-and-stop action when using a cork, and I’ll swim the VuDu Shrimp when free-lining.”
Chaumont always tries to match the size of the shrimp in the water with his artificial shrimp, moving between the 31/4- and 4-inch lures when necessary. For colors, he will throw the natural, gold or white in clear water, and root beer or magic when waters are wind-swept and murky.
Throughout the estuary, from Turner’s Bay northwards to Lake Charles, Chaumont will fish scattered structure, including shell reefs, mounds and humps. Most of the shell reefs are from just south of Turner’s Bay to Turner’s Island. The shallows around Turner’s Island will also hold good trout, especially where marsh and reeds meet the lake.
In Prien Lake and Lake Charles, anglers will locate trout at differing depths with contour variations not too far from the ship channel. In Lake Charles, there are mounds and humps scattered near the ship channel, and expansive flats on the east side and beachfront.
The best days to fish are weekdays; when small groups of birds begin working the flats and Lake Charles beachfront, the word gets out, and there is much fishing pressure on the weekends.
Baitfish are also moving out of the shallow nurseries of the Calcasieu estuary; these include pogies (Gulf menhaden), glass minnows, bay anchovies (saltwater sardines), striped mullet and in the extreme northern end of the estuary — even threadfin shad.
It’s a rich buffet for these large, lady speckled trout, as Brian Windsor of Tidal Charters LLC in Lake Charles knows all too well. It’s the reason he’ll chiefly use suspending baits and topwaters to target larger speckled trout south to north across the estuary.
“On a good day in the fall, an angler can catch a limit of 14- to 20-inch trout with a good 4- or 5-pounder in the mix,” said Windsor (337-884-9748). “I will start at Turner’s or Prien Lake and fish flats close to the ship channel. As the water temperatures get even colder in the fall, I tend to stay north all the way up to Lake Charles for the better fish.”
Windsor fishes suspending twitchbaits and topwaters on spinning equipment. His favorite September lures are suspending MirrOdines on a 30-pound mono leader attached with a Uni-Knot splice to 20-pound Daiwa J-Braid spooled on a Daiwa Fuego LT 3000 spinning reel on a 7-foot Daiwa Tatula rod.
“I can make really far casts with those MirrOdines with spinning equipment as opposed to baitcasters,” he said. “This is also very useful, as I also wade-fish for specks, on occasion, all-year long.”
Although he chiefly uses his boat when he has clients, he will wade when he is fishing for himself or scouting for trout.
It is very important that visiting anglers be aware that it is best to take up wade-fishing with experienced anglers or guides. Experienced anglers are aware of the best bottoms that can hold anglers, saving them from falls or mishaps occurring when walking over unstructured shell or soft, muddy bottoms.
“At Turner’s and Prien Lake, I will stay close to the ship channel but venture slowly out to shallower humps and flats,” he said.
“When fishing shallow waters, I will give those twitchbaits a 4 or 5 count to hover them right off the bottom. In 6 feet of water, sometimes I will just work them 2 feet under to get strikes. It depends on what the fish want.”
Windsor likes natural or white MirrOdines in clear water and black/orange when waters are stained and murky.
“I will also fish birds — especially when I see six to 10 birds working, which indicated larger trout,” he said. “Often, in the fall, you can see larger groups of birds which usually mean loads of ladyfish and white trout or small speckled trout slightly above the length limit.
As waters cools, Windsor fishes flats, humps and shallows in Lake Charles. He will also find good fishing on the beachfront using Down South Lures: basic glow and natural when waters are clear, and magic grass (avocado) when waters are stained.
Boat launch locations
- For mid-lake locations such as Commissary Point, Hebert’s Landing is a great place, with ample parking, to launch.
- For Turner’s Bay and Moss Lake, Calcasieu Point is the closest launch with ample parking and great fish-cleaning facilities.
- When fishing Prien Lake, Prien Lake Park offers a great site with plenty of parking to launch your boat. Also, Lake Charles can be accessed from Prien Lake Park launch by traveling north along the well-marked channel.
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