High heat trout tactics

When the mercury rises and the temperature ramps up this month, try these tips to keep putting speckled trout on ice.

Sunscreen, wide-brim hats, those little handheld fans that blow a cool mist on your face … yeah, speckled trout will never benefit from such high-heat indulgences.

So, when summer’s swelter makes this temperature-sensitive fish uncomfortable, you may have to spend a little more time looking — but the payoff will often justify the effort.

Where to look

Working out of the Golden Meadow area, Capt. Troy Robichaux of Saltwater Guide Service has fished the Southeast Louisiana marshes for more than 30 years. The Gulf’s relentless gnawing, he said, has significantly altered his trout game plan, especially when hot months challenge the pursuit.

Inshore gas wells are one of his main options, largely because of coastal erosion. The shade and feeding opportunities are undeniably attractive to trout; but this has not always been such an obvious move.

“I’ve been guiding for 25 years and during the first 5 years, I’m not sure if I knew trout fishing on inshore rigs was an option,” Robichaux said. “That’s because it didn’t take as much knowledge and versatility as it does now to stay on the fish. I used to fish mainly islands, reefs in Timbalier Bay and the barrier islands along the Gulf.

“Other options besides these rigs are the beaches of the various barrier islands, as well as the jetties and underwater rock piles of East Timbalier Island, plus sandbars and coves on the backside of the big barrier islands.”

Capt. Anthony Randazzo, who operates Paradise Plus Guide Service in Venice, said it’s all about the food. Trout don’t feel like moving as much in the tepid brine, so fishing near the best feeding opportunities keeps him close to the specks.

“We generally know where the most bait is going to be located along the coast, which equates to about 40 miles along either side of the lower Mississippi River,” Randazzo said of his necessary recon effort. “This includes several jetties and shoals along the coast, as well as submerged rock piles and wrecks. We will search the entire coastal area day by day, looking for concentrations of mullet and menhaden.”

On the west side, Capt. Eric Rue of Calcasieu Charters targets grassy flats, rock/shell reefs and drilling rigs within the brackish body known as Big Lake. As the warm season ensues, he finds trout moving closer to the Gulf in an effort to take advantage of a baitfish and shrimp influx, and to escape decreasing salinity levels in the upper-end.

The variables

Once summer arrives, there’s no escaping the stifling heat; but savvy anglers will meet their objective by paying attention to the day’s conditions. Cloud cover helps moderate the hot stuff, while a cooling breeze makes fish and fishermen a little less burdened.

Meteorology: Robichaux regards summer storms — either the gradually building thunderheads that overtake the horizon, or those wickedly unpredictable pop-ups — as a bite killer. The main influence, he said, is the high wind that stirs up the lakes and usually puts the fish in a negative mood.

“The calmest side of the Delta is generally most productive, but sometimes we opt for the windward side when needing a little help from Mother Nature to offset weak tide movements,” Randazzo explained. “Wind can move water and make fish eat when nothing else will. The fish will usually stay closest to the moving water, and also the deepest water, in an attempt to remain comfortable.

“You can bet if a strong line of storms forms during the nighttime hours, the early morning bite will be off. We try to choose the areas that we can tell were least affected by the wind and waves based on the location of the storms, and the wind direction associated with these storms during the night.”

One thing trout anglers don’t like is storms at sunrise, as the chances of catching a box of specks those days become slim. When this happens, Randazzo said he’ll look for any weather windows that allow him to target redfish, tripletail or red snapper while he waits for the trout to regain their composure.

Lunar influence: Before each month’s full moon, Randazzo expects trout to move up shallow and find hard sandy bottoms to spawn. Most of the larger females, he said, will remain deep around offshore structures, while smaller females and males can be found from the coast to the offshore structures.

“Typically, we are targeting numbers, other than on the slack tide days on the front side of a full moon, when larger females are more likely to be caught,” Randazzo said. “Trout are generally aggressive throughout the summer. When it’s time to eat, they do so with a vengeance.

“Only the full moon can cause the trout to become finicky feeders. The remainder of each month and its moon cycle are very comparable with fish feeding aggressively at peak feeding times.”

Watch the time: “The early morning and late evening hours are generally the most productive when the water is coolest and the fish are inclined to exert energy for feeding,” Randazzo said. “The trout fight hard and come aboard spewing partially digested bait all over the deck of the boat. Once the sun is high in the sky (9:30 a.m. when it’s sunny, later on cloudy days) the bite quickly fades.”

Best baits

Artificial lures are most efficient, as they allow you to quickly cover water and find active areas. However, Robichaux said that bringing live shrimp and croakers along increases your chances for quality bites — especially during July, which he knows as a big-trout month.

“My favorite way to fish live shrimp is using the 4 Horsemen cork with 2 to 3 feet of leader and a kahle hook,” he said. “Also I will throw shrimp and croakers on a kahle hook with a small split shot weight so it sinks slowly in the water column.”

Favoring Bass Assassin Sea Shads in natural colors like opening night/chart tail or avocado/red tail, Randazzo sizes his baits to the quality of fish he’s expecting. He’ll start with 4-inch plastics and move up to a 5-inch Texas Shad (soft jerk bait) for larger trout. He’s also keen to work a Rapala Skitterwalk Jr. for explosive topwater strikes.

“Trout along the surf and barrier islands are generally shallow, so we use ⅛- and ¼-ounce jigs,” Randazzo said. “As we move out to deeper structures, we try to figure out how deep the fish are suspending in the water column with our electronics and choose the best weight to reach them.

“Sometimes ⅜-ounce jigs or heavier are needed. However, there are many days where the fish prefer a slow-sinking lighter jig — even when they’re 10 to 25 feet below the surface. If we’re using live shrimp, free-lining the bait and/or sliding corks are the preferred methods to get the bait in the strike zone. We use the same tackle as other times of the year, but may opt for 20-pound leader material (vs. 30-pound) and use longer leaders for finicky summer trout.”

Rue prefers covering water with MirrOlure Top Dogs and She Dogs, along with Norton Sand Eels on light jigheads. However, when big fish often flee summer’s discomfort by slipping into the deeper, cooler water, he’ll drift a live pogy or finger mullet under a popping cork.

When depth permits, Rue offers this tactical tip: “Get outside the zone of the boat” by silently wading or approaching from upwind. Making long casts with braided line and a 20-pound fluorocarbon leader will deliver the goods.

Notably, big trout often bite on the outer end of a long cast, so don’t nap on the retrieve — expect a bite as soon as your bait hits the water. Also, Rue said trial and error will lead you to general areas frequented by big fish, but close attention to water clarity and temperature, salinity levels and bait will help you establish consistency.

The fact of the matter is that we’re going to be saddled with the swelter until fall starts sliding its way south. Until then, drink plenty of water, lather on the sunscreen and map out your route to a hot trout bite.

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About David A. Brown 323 Articles
A full-time freelance writer specializing in sport fishing, David A. Brown splits his time between journalism and marketing communications www.tightwords.com).

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