How to catch wintertime speckled trout in the Geoghegan Canal

The simplicity of fishing Geoghegan Canal makes it the perfect spot for anglers with small boats.
The simplicity of fishing Geoghegan Canal makes it the perfect spot for anglers with small boats.

There might be sexier places to fish this winter, but this nondescript stretch of water near Rigolets Marina is hard to beat for consistent speckled trout action.

Theodore Roosevelt once said that nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain or difficulty.

Well, the Trust Buster must not have ever fished Geoghegan Canal (pronounced go-HAY-gun) during the winter.

That’s because the nondescript, straight stretch of water that runs parallel to Highway 90 on the north side of the Rigolets in Slidell requires little effort, no pain — and has a very low degree of difficulty to fish.

And if you’ve ever targeted the man-made canal during winter, you know without a shadow of a doubt that Geoghegan is definitely worth fishing during this time of the year.

“It’s the perfect spot for somebody with a small boat or kayak,” said Capt. John Falterman with Therapy Charters (985-649-FISH). “A lot of people fish it during the winter because it’s a protected place to fish to catch a pile of specks or white trout. “If you’re looking for something to pull your string, this is the place.”

Although there isn’t a magic water temperature that sends trout to the deep holes in Geoghegan, Falterman said he’s found them stacked up best when the water temperature is below 60 degrees.

“You’ll be able to tell when they’re on in there because the trollers will go in first,” he said. “It’s kind of like fishing The Trestle in that regard. They start fishing it, then everybody else will follow.”

Capt. Claude Jolicoeur with Strictly Business Charters (985-774-4517) said he’s had his best days in Geoghegan when the water temperature was below 50 — and all the way down to 43 degrees. Because fishing Geoghegan is so easy, Jolicoeur said it’s important to get there early in the morning to claim a spot before the rest of the boats pile in.

“It’s literally the first left turn coming out of Rigolets Marina,” he said. “You don’t even have to crank the big motor if you don’t want to. Just troll or paddle about halfway up the canal and start fishing. I may idle out if a lot of boats are launching, but there’s definitely no reason to get up on plane.”

Get the ‘ledge edge’

A shrimp creole Matrix Shad (close-up below) is a great color to start with when fishing for Geoghegan trout.
A shrimp creole Matrix Shad is a great color to start with when fishing for Geoghegan trout.

Why the trout stack up in Geoghegan during the winter is anybody’s question, but Falterman thinks it might have something to do with them just trying to stay warm.

“There’s bait all over the Rigolets,” he said. “It’s not like the bait is just concentrated in Geoghegan. I know there are some deep ledges back there, so maybe they’re just setting up on those ledges trying to ambush bait when the tide is moving.”

For the speckled trout fishing, it is all about the ledges —where the shallow edges drop into the deep water in the middle of the canal. Sometimes the fish are sitting right on the bottom of the ledge, and sometimes they are suspended off of it.

Being able to figure out where they are is the key to loading the boat versus going home with just a few fish.

Jolicoeur believes the trick to fishing the ledge correctly is to position your boat right against the bank and cast out to deep water.

“This way you’re sure to cover the entire ledge because you’re fishing down the ledge then back up toward the bank,” he said.

Both captains agreed that it isn’t necessary to bring any live bait with you to fish Geoghegan Canal.

In fact, one time Jolicoeur had a customer bring some live shrimp with him but only wound up using five of them. The rest wound up in a shrimp fettuccine later that night.

Shrimp creole Matrix Shad
Shrimp creole Matrix Shad

Just about any soft plastic on a ¼- or 3/8-ounce jighead will work, but Jolicoeur said a shrimp creole-colored Matrix Shad is as simple and effective as it gets.

On the other hand, Falterman has been using the Crappie Physic Trout Trailer on a drop-shot rig with great success.

“I use glow or pink and just thread the little ball part onto my treble hook,” Falterman said. “This allows it to work freely in the current, and it just looks so natural. It flutters around and has a lot of built-in action, which is great on a drop shot. It kind of does all the work for you.”

Because he uses a drop shot most of the time, Falterman bucks the conventional wisdom of positioning his boat on the bank and casting out toward deep water.

“For me, I’ve caught them better back there when they were up on the ledge,” he said. “With my Humminbird GPS linked to my Minn Kota trolling motor, I can set it to follow whatever contour depth I want it to. Set up like this, I can consistently keep my drop shot in the most productive zone without having to worry about it.”

‘Bank’ on it

Since Jolicoeur pretty much sticks with positioning his boat on the bank, he has figured out a few tricks for putting more trout in the boat.

“You might be able to catch some slowly working a jig on bottom, but I’ve had way better luck ripping my baits off the bottom and letting them fall,” he said. “I try to jerk my bait about 3 or 4 feet off the bottom and let it drop straight back down on a slack line.”

Because he basically lets his bait free-line on the fall, Jolicoeur said a lot of times a trout will already be on his bait when he rips it again.

“Strangely enough, the more violently I pop the bait off the bottom the more bites I get,” he said. “Other people might get bit fishing it another way, but the easier I pop it the fewer bites I get.”

Jolicoeur also strips out a few feet of line after each cast to make sure his bait falls straight to the bottom.

Otherwise he feels like his bait will pendulum in toward him — which would prevent it from landing right on top of the ledge that runs the length of the canal.

Quantity over quality

Putting your boat near the bank and casting to deep water works well for covering the deep ledge.
Putting your boat near the bank and casting to deep water works well for covering the deep ledge.

While there are some decent-size trout that call Geoghegan home during the winter months, Falterman said he would approach fishing the canal more with an eye on quantity rather than quality.

“You’ll probably have to pick through some shorts every now and then, but if you’re looking for a bite, catch and release until you  get a keeper is better than no catch at all,” he said. “I’d say a good trout back there would be about 1 1/2 pounds, but it’s definitely not the place I would go to try to catch a 3- to 5- pounder.”

Although both anglers felt getting there early would ensure you get a good spot to fish, the best speckled trout bite in Geoghegan seems to be a little bit later in the morning the larger the gap between the sun and the horizon grows.

“That’s not to say you can’t get on them before the sun comes up,” Jolicoeur said, “but you’ll generally just be picking on them one here and one there. Then all of a sudden they’ll turn on and you’ll hit a stretch of some pretty fast action.”

Location, location

Captain Claude Joliceur lands a typical Geoghegan Canal trout on a cold winter morning.
Captain Claude Joliceur lands a typical Geoghegan Canal trout on a cold winter morning.

And it’s not the end of the world if all the best spots seem to be taken once you get to the canal. There are a few hotspots at the points of the cuts leading into some marsh ponds, but trout could be anywhere up and down the canal.

Jolicoeur said that he has caught them from about half way up the canal to about 100 yards from Rigolets Marina.

“It seems like the farther north you go in the canal the more you get into redfish,” he added. “But that’s not a bad thing either, especially if the trout aren’t biting. In fact, if the trout aren’t biting, the reds and white trout could still provide for a lot of fun.”

Falterman agreed, and added that some of the ponds off Geoghegan have some 30-foot holes in the back of them where white trout will stack up as thick as he’s ever seen.

“You can catch them ‘til you’re blue in the face,” he said. “For some reason it seems like the whites like the deep holes in the ponds, while the specks like the ledge in the main canal. You could limit out on specks in Geoghegan, but if you’re looking to do a fish fry it’s hard to beat fresh-caught white trout.

“Just don’t freeze them and try to cook them later.”

There might be sexier places to fish this winter, but there are few spots that will be as consistent as Geoghegan Canal.

Trout will linger in the canal until February or March, and Falterman suggested they’ll likely be there longer than that.

“I’m not too sure if we’re the ones that leave the canal first just to go fish other areas,” he said. “It’s definitely worth fishing during December, because it’s a straight shot to some really good cold-weather fishing.”

Chris Ginn
About Chris Ginn 782 Articles
Chris Ginn has been covering hunting and fishing in Louisiana since 1998. He lives with his wife Jennifer and children Matthew and Rebecca along the Bogue Chitto River in rural Washington Parish. His blog can be found at chrisginn.com.