Does Louisiana have another big splurge of trophy trout in its waters to match the great fishing from 2013 to 2016? Just in case, take some tips from these trout masters.
In late May, CCA Louisiana’s 26th STAR tournament began, and anglers responded by fishing locations known to hold heavy trout and the possibility of tagged redfish.
This big trout-seeking behavior was spurred by April reports of quality speckled trout — and some trophies — taken in Venice, Grand Isle and Calcasieu Lake. Several trout weighing 7 and 8 pounds were reported from those waters.
Fish of that quality showing up in anglers’ creels was in stark contrast to the many 12-inch trout taken in the spring and early summer of 2019.
Anglers will recall that fisheries biologists with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries noted a drop in both population samples and recreational landings of speckled trout 3 years or older in the 2019 speckled trout stock assessment.
Would the decrease of these older trout indicate that trophy fish will no longer appear in Louisiana waters for quite some time?
“There are some older, larger fish still out there,” said Harry Blanchett, LDWF’s fisheries biologist administrator. “They’re just rare enough that we see very few of them, either in the recreational harvest or in our fishery independent sampling programs.”
Blanchet wants it known, however, that the production of trophy trout is not a goal in the public management options that were recently released and will be presented to the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission.
The last trophy trout run in Louisiana appears to have taken place from 2013 to 2016. A review of some of these catches and successful anglers’ advice on how to catch these super-sized trout may assist anglers’ efforts to catch the fish of a lifetime.
It was March 23, 2013, when Jason Ellender of Sulphur caught the eighth-largest speckled trout in the Louisiana record book.
After stepping into Sabine Lake waters and caching trout weighing 4 and 5 pounds on Corkys and Catch 2000s, Ellender’s pink saltwater Super Spook was inhaled by a huge fish.
After a rip-roaring, drag-pulling battle, Ellender’s fishing buddy, Steve Stroderd of Carlyss, put the fish on his Boga, and it showed Ellender’s fish to weigh more than 10 pounds.
The official weight of Ellender’s trophy was 10.65 pounds.
“It’s just gone downhill after that year,” Ellender said. “I actually caught a 6-pounder recently during a recent wade. That’s the best it’s been for me in the past three years.”
Ellender continues to be optimistic for this spring and summer, as storms have not been as severe as in previous years.
“These big fish also seem to be cyclical in showing up, as we experienced great years here catching big trout in 2011, 2012, and 2013, and before that during 2002 and 2003,” he said.
Ellender is fishing the STAR tournament, a real family affair involving he and his parents. Ellender’s mother, Betty, has won the STAR women’s division, not once, but twice. She has also taken a STAR-tagged redfish, winning a 22-foot boat, and then another boat with an 8.15-pound trophy trout in 2008. She also placed second in 2010 with a 7.68-pound trout.
Ellender advises anglers to fish the western coves of Calcasieu Lake as well as flats on the southeastern banks. For baits, he uses Super Spooks most of the summer, but he also enjoys casting live croakers for the lake’s huge trout.
His optimism for this year’s trophy trout hinges on the lack of major storms inundating the lakes with freshwater, as well as the continued improvement of oyster reefs throughout Calcasieu since dredging has been removed as a tool of harvest for commercial oyster anglers.
Steve Stroderd, Ellender’s fishing partner, is a noted trophy trout specialist on Sabine Lake.
Over the years, Stroderd, 43, has taken 14 trout over 9 pounds; at least 60 over 8 pounds; and many weighing 5 to 7 pounds — while staying largely out of the spotlight.
“For me, the downturn of catching these huge trout began in March 2015 when Sabine Lake began to receive tons of freshwater from the Neches and Sabine rivers due to severe storms experienced in the Sabine estuary — including Hurricane Harvey.
Stroderd believes large trout will once again return to Sabine Lake, but it will take some time.
Fishing reports from Sabine indicate anglers are finally finding fish better than 12 inches, with a few ranging up to and beyond 20 inches.
Stroderd prefers to cast plugs for these large fish — both topwaters such as Super Spooks and suspending plugs such as Corkys and slow-sinking MirrOlures.
Adam Jaynes of Just Fish Guide Service (409-988-3901) is another trophy trout specialist who concentrates his efforts on Sabine and Calcasieu lakes.
Over the years, Jaynes, 33, has taken many trophy trout: loads of 5- to 7-pounders, as well as many 8s and 9s.
“I started seeing the decline in big fish after 2010,” Jaynes said. “In fact, 2010 was so good that I recall offering anglers a $100 discount if no one on the boat caught a trout weighing 6 pounds or better.”
One of his last memorable trips occurred on Calcasieu Lake not far from West Cove in 2012.
After bypassing locations where birds were flying over small school trout and redfish feeding on shrimp, Jaynes happened to see fleeting mullet on the eastern edge of a small cove.
Casting a series of plugs including Super Spooks and slow-sinking Catch 2000s, Jaynes was able to take two trout better than 6 pounds and another two better than 7.
“I tend to stay on trout chasing mullet,” Jaynes said. “I’m not talking about the occasional mullet jumping here and there, but small schools of mullet leaping erratically with wakes sometimes following them.”
Jaynes also favors wade-fishing as a chief tactic, causing little to no disturbance when getting close to these wary fish. He will fish the Louisiana side of Sabine Lake from Johnson’s Bayou north to Coffee Ground Cove, areas near Pleasure Island on the Texas side and shallow waters on flats near the edges of the Intracoastal Waterway.
His lure arsenal includes Super Spooks in black, pink/gold and clown colors, Corky Fatboys, MirrOlure SheDogs, Yo-Zuri Crystal Minnows and One Knockers.
Brent Roy with Venice Charters (225-268-8420) was possibly the last angler to score on a huge speckled trout taken in Venice waters: a 31-inch, 9-pounder taken in March 2013.
Roy has taken several bona-fide trophy trout over the years in Venice, big fish weighing 9 and 10 pounds.
The marshes, bays and beaches in the expansive Venice area have historically delivered trophy and quality speckled trout to Louisiana anglers over the years.
In April 2000, Louisiana angler Ed Sexton scored on a trophy trout weighing 10.50 pounds in the Venice area. This fish is the current No. 10-ranked trout in Louisiana gamefish records.
Roy, 50, has seen the cyclic appearance of these big trout in the area. After he caught his 9-pounder, there were two other trout weighing 8 pounds also taken in 2013.
“With the Mississippi River so high in the last few years, speckled trout here have been pushed out and concentrated in deeper waters,” he said. “I am cautiously optimistic that we will see big fish this year especially at the end of the Passes.”
Roy was grateful that the Bonnet Carré Spillway was closed earlier this year as a sign that the river would drop and salinity levels increase as summer fishing heats up.
For larger trout, Roy recommended the Passes; the beaches between Four Bayous and the Pass; and Tiger Pass.
Roy has used an assortment of live bait, plastics and plugs to take his better trout. The 9-pound fish he caught in 2013 hit a VuDu Shrimp from Egret Baits. He will also use Deadly Dudley plastics, Egret’s Bayou Chubs and H&H Sparkle Beetles and cocahos.
Lake Pontchartrain has no finer friend and gatekeeper than Chas Champagne, 37, owner of Matrix Shad fishing lures. He probably spends more time on the waters of this huge lake just north of the Big Easy than any other angler.
Pontchartrain has delivered two monster speckled trout to the top 10 of Louisiana records: the current No. 2, an 11.99-pounder taken by Kenny Kreeger on Super Bowl Sunday 1999; and the state’s No. 10 fish, a 10.50-pound beauty taken by Dudley Vandenborre Jr. in April 2002.
“Lake Pontchartrain has basically turned into a fall and winter fishery for speckled trout,” said Champagne (985-707-9049).
He laments the most-recent opening of the Spillway, which fortunately closed in the latter part of April.
“The Pearl River is also very high, and the big trout have hit the road,” he said. “I have not caught a 7- or 8-pounder in a very long time.”
In 2012, Kris Robert and Jonathan Allen, along with Champagne, caught five lunker specks weighing 30 pounds: one of the last runs of great fish in Lake Ponchartrain.
“For fishing in June and July, anglers can expect to make a long run to Lake Borgne and all the way to the backside of the Biloxi Marsh just to find some specks to fish,” he said. “We just don’t catch big specks in the spring and summer anymore.
“I don’t even recall if a 5-pound trout was taken in Lake P. during the spring and summer in quite a while.”
Champagne is excited about his new Matrix X-Shad series, one of which imitates a croaker. As most anglers know, quality trout keep croakers high in their diet preferences.
There is also the topwater Matrix Mullet, a walk-the-dog plug that attract quality speckled trout in the summer.
Louisiana Top Ten Speckled Trout
Rank Weight Angler Location Date
- #1. 12.38 Leon Mattes Lake Hermitage May 1950
- #2. 11.99 Kenneth Kreeger Lake Pontchartrain Jan. 1999
- #3. 11.24 Jason Trouillier Rigolets (Lk. Borgne) Sept. 1999
- #4. 11.16 Timothy Mahoney, II Calcasieu Lake May 2002
- #5. 10.81 Kevin Galley Calcasieu Lake May 1997
- #6. 10.75 Randolph Green Sandy Point Aug. 1970
- #7. 10.70 Barry Terrell Calcasieu Lake May 2004
- #8. 10.65 Jason Ellender Sabine Lake March 2013
- #9. 10.63 John Kaparis Breton Sound May 1979
- #10. 10.50 Dudley Vandenborre Lake Pontchartrain April 2002
- #10. 10.50 Ed Sexton Venice – GOM April 2000