Fall success on Calcasieu leads to great expectations

There was a very good fall run of speckled trout upward to 18 inches and better at Calcasieu Lake. Capt. Kirk Stansel hopes that the numbers of quality fish increase especially in December and January.

Specks, reds provide great action in Lake Charles area, according to guide

After a woeful spring of freshwater inundation followed by a moderately decent summer, inshore fall fishing has come on strong for speckled trout and redfish on Calcasieu Lake according to Kirk Stansel of Hackberry Rod and Gun. 

“The fishing has been really good this October and November, and conditions indicate that the action should get even better especially if we don’t have any big storms pelting the area,” said Stansel, a 61-year-old charter captain.

Limits of trout ranging upward to 17 inches were found in October and November — a welcomed respite from high numbers of 12-inch trout taken in the summer.

“I expect in late November and throughout December, our trout size should move upward to 18 inches and better as is the usual pattern we have experienced here over the years,” said Stansel (337-762-3391). “And the redfish are back now and showing up in their usual places. For most of the summer, we were scratching our heads on why the catches of redfish were just short of what we experienced in previous years. 

“But now that fall is here, the redfish are appearing in good numbers and in the usual locations we have found them year after year.”

Both speckled trout and redfish are voraciously feeding on the white shrimp and baitfish migrating into the lake from the marshes as cool fronts make their passage in the area.

“They’re just eating up the shrimp and filling themselves with menhaden and mullet,” Stansel said. 

Trout locations, tactics

West Cove is a major location offering high numbers of trout under birds into early December. As waters get colder with every passing front, the birds and shrimp will disappear, leaving trout to forage on mullet and other small baitfish.

Also, Turner’s Bay a bit farther north of West Cove just north and south of Turner’s Island, will provide good fishing. Look for bird activity in late November and early December. Again, the colder the waters get, the more bird activity diminishes, and trout will seek baitfish along the interior and edges. Area reefs may hold fish, as well as deeper water ledges along the western shoreline.

Prien Lake just north of I-210 is another hot spot of trout, as good numbers of specks will usually show up along ship-channel ledges in 18 to 22 feet of water. Look for speckled trout to make shallow runs into the eastern flats in early morning.

Baits

In late November, Lake Charles will have some fine speckled trout action on mounds and humps scattered near the deeper waters of the ship channel. In early December, trout have been known to show up right on the deeper waters just off the beachfront of Lake Charles. Trout can be taken with soft plastics such as H&H Salty Grubs, MirrOlure Lil Johns and Hackberry Hustlers under corks — if there is bird activity. When bird action wanes, trout can be taken by free-lining Lil Johns and Hustlers on spinning or baitcast equipment in all locations. 

“As the waters get colder, we’ll start using 3/8-ounce jigheads as opposed to ¼-ounce,” Stansel said. “And we’ll fish slower, as the trout will be less active in hitting the lures in colder waters.”

Recommended colors are natural and light for clear or green water and darker colors for muddy and stained water.

“In December, we will do some wade-fishing for larger trout in and near some of these same areas,” Stansel said. “The lures of choice here will be Paul Brown Corkys and MirrOlure Soft Dines.”

Craig Vidrine displays a hefty winter redfish taken at the Calcasieu River jetties. The jetties are the most popular locations on the lake to find slot redfish and bulls during the late fall and winter months.

Redfish locations, tactics

The No. 1 locations for redfish are the Calcasieu Lake jetties on the southern tip of the lake where it enters the Gulf of Mexico. Both slot reds and bulls can be taken here well into the winter. 

“The fishing for redfish stays great at the jetties all winter,” Stansel said. “Of course, it is better when the waters here are clear or lightly stained.

“We fish the inside of the jetties for redfish during weak tidal movement,” he said. “When tides push stronger, we generally find the redfish on the outside of the jetty walls.”

There are five weir structures on the southeastern section of the lower lake that hold redfish, especially when the weirs are draining water from interior marshes.

Access to the marsh on the other side of the weirs is prohibited during the waterfowl seasons, but fishing for redfish on the lake side tends to be rewarding when waters are cold.

On weekends and some weekdays, boats will often be lined up to get near the action on some of these weirs. Anglers are warned, however, there are signs indicating distances prohibited from fishing near the weirs — the most productive of which are Grand Bayou and Lambert’s. If anglers fish within the prohibited distance, they can be ticketed, which results in hefty fines.

According to Stansel, the same plastics that catch trout will work for redfish as well. Anglers here may also wish to use 3/8-ounce jigheads when tidal movement is strong coming out of the weirs.

Of course, some anglers use market shrimp and cracked crabs for bait when fishing redfish in these areas.

Boat launches

For access to the southern areas of Big Lake, including the jetties, the ferry landing on the lake’s western shore in Cameron Parish is the one to use. For access to the lake’s southeastern weirs, Hebert’s Landing is a great place to launch with ample parking.

For Turner’s Bay, the closest launch with ample parking and great fish-cleaning facilities is Calcasieu Point Landing.

When fishing Prien Lake, Prien Lake Park offers a great site to launch your boat with plenty of parking. Also, Lake Charles can be accessed from Prien Lake Park launch by traveling north along the well-marked river (ship) channel.

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