“Yes, I’ll have the delicious brown shrimp off the buffet, please”
For winter-weary speckled trout, the month of April is like an oasis to a desert-dweller. During the previous months, the fish spent most days trapped in deep holes, occasionally sampling the relative crumbs — maybe a glass minnow here or a finger mullet there — that remained in Louisiana’s marshes.
But mostly they just went hungry.
In April, however, it’s like Mother Nature unlocks the door to the estuarial version of Golden Corral, and for Louisiana speckled trout, that buffet is almost entirely stocked with brown shrimp.
These endearing crustaceans have been thick in Louisiana’s marshes for weeks, but in their larval and post-larval form, they haven’t mattered much to mature speckled trout. They just haven’t been big enough to even get noticed.
Not only that, but they cling to marsh edges, flooded grass and aquatic vegetation, out of view of the prying eyes of predators.
But larval and post-larval brown shrimp are eating machines, feasting on plankton and decaying organic matter. Because of that, they grow quickly, causing their dining habits to change and that puts them on a collision course with emaciated speckled trout.
According to the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, brown shrimp move into deeper water and become more bottom-oriented as they grow. They also become more predatory, feasting on insect larvae as well as small marine invertebrates.
For them, that would be all fine and dandy — if they weren’t the rabbits of the sea. Just about every predator that exists in Louisiana’s estuaries LOVES brown shrimp, and that’s especially true of speckled trout.
In April, the shrimp aren’t even of a size yet to allow the LDWF to open the inshore harvest season, but they’re plenty big enough to get noticed by speckled trout. And the fish take advantage of the suddenly abundant resource by feasting every day.
This presents an opportunity for anglers, and makes April one of the most productive inshore fishing months of the year, especially for those more interested in taking home fillets rather than wall-hangers.
Even though the shrimp may be only 80 to 100 count in size, the specks will find them and feast on them, pushing the shrimp to the surface, where they are also easy pickings for seagulls. April begins the “bird-fishing” season for speckled trout anglers, and since the inshore trawl season isn’t yet open, water clarity is typically much better than in May.
Where to look
The best areas to look are large lakes and bays, especially near the mouths of main bayous that act as conveyor belts carrying the shrimp from the internal marshes to bigger water. Those shrimp that survive the gauntlet will move offshore, where they will spawn, lay eggs and die.
Trout feasting on shrimp in April aren’t particularly selective since they’re typically in frenzies, so a variety of artificial lures work well. If I’m just looking to have fun, I might throw a small topwater, like a Pop-R, which creates a commotion on the surface, mimicking a fleeing shrimp.
But if I really want to put some fish in the boat, my go-to is a red ice-colored TKO Shrimp under a Versamaxx Knocker cork, which allows me to adjust the depth of my lure. If I’m looking for bigger fish below the school, I’ll go with a Limbo Slice (chartreuse/blue) Matrix Shad on a 3/8-ounce Deathgrip Jighead and I’ll hop it off the bottom.
April trout aren’t typically the biggest of the year, and they’re usually pretty skinny, but they’re ravenous and a blast to catch. The fuel they get from inshore brown shrimp is what propels them to outside waters, where they’ll spend much of the spring and summer creating next year’s crop of speckled trout.