Find eroded, underwater islands to save the day
Planning the attack
“I’m telling you; it’s like finding sunken treasure. To me it’s like striking gold!”
John Davis’ intensity didn’t leave any room for disagreement or even doubt.
If you know Davis, you know that the vice-president of B&G Associates is a driven man. Goal-oriented and relentless, he approaches fishing as if it was a personal challenge to his identity.
Listen to this!
“Some people fish for sport; some people fish for food. To me, it’s us against the fish. It’s our job to catch them; it’s their job not to be caught. My favorite thing is throwing them in the bottom of the boat. Fish hard! Get them in a feeding frenzy!”
The evening before the trip, I was the second one to arrive at the camp in Snug Harbor in Slidell. The camp’s owner, Glenn “Papa” Landry was there to welcome me. Slow-talking and easy going, the CEO of Team BG and Associates invited me to put my bag upstairs and join him in the cool shade under the camp.
I admired his boat. The 26-foot Sea Fox was quite a stud boat for fishing for trout and reds. “I got it because I didn’t want to fall out of a small boat,” he joked in a rumbling voice.
After pausing for effect, he added, “Actually, I wanted a nice boat to bring my wife in.”
Landry is a speckled trout and redfish specialist in Lake Pontchartrain, Lake Catherine, Rigolets Pass, and Lake Borgne.
Next to arrive was slender and quiet Sean Kessler, district manager out of Mobile, Ala., for Harcros Chemicals. Kessler sells raw products to Team BG Associates to make automotive and marine soaps, as well as what they are best known for, their high-end fuel and oil additives.
Last to blow in was the man who invited me on the trip, John Davis. And blow in he did, with the subtlety of a tornado. Hyperactively friendly, he is one of those guys that is hard not to like.
“Mike will meet us tomorrow morning,” he informed Landry. Mike Gallo, owner of Angling Adventures of Louisiana, is an extremely popular fishing guide based out of Slidell.
Landry eyed me and observed dryly, “put this in your scrapbook. John is taking his fishing guide fishing.”
Davis and Gallo met at a Coastal Conservation Association event. Davis was chapter president and Gallo was active with the organization.
Nearly 100 percent of Davis’ fishing is done in the Delacroix area, over 35 miles one way from the camp. That explained the big boat.
What about the sunken treasure?
“Oh, tomorrow that will be the islands out in Black Bay.”
“Hmm,” I thought to myself. “Those have eroded away.
He went on to explain. “I still fish the natural outline of the sunken islands as if it were there. The structure has not changed much underneath, like most people think. So the fish will still come to hunt and feed.”
The next morning, as the boat pulled away in the inky darkness, I asked Gallo why he was here. After all, he fishes every day for work as the owner of Angling Adventures of Louisiana.
Yet here he is, on a day off, and what does he do? He fishes.
I was impressed!
“I’m relaxing this trip” he belly-laughed. “They have hired me in the past and they invited me on this trip.”
During the run in the dark, viscous lightning flashes lit up squalls in the distance all around the boat. Davis made an executive decision based on the weather.
Rather than running far out into Black Bay, we would be targeting the Comfort Island area on the far east side of the Biloxi Marsh near Morgan Harbor. At one time, he said, it was a “pretty large island,” but is now in tatters.
We would be fishing almost out of sight of the island fragment left, for all intents and purposes in the open.
When he throttled the boat down, it was as he promised. Without straining my eyes, I saw nothing but open water. But the GPS screen on Landry’s boat showed more — the clear outline beneath the boat of the island that was no more.
“On a newer GPS, like the one on my boat,” said Davis, “you wouldn’t see anything at all — no trace of the island.”
Weapons of mass destruction
This wasn’t pinpoint finesse fishing. Everyone on boat held a spinning rod in their hands. “In this open water you just don’t need as much control,” explained Davis. “With spinning tackle, you can cast further in the wind and there are no backlashes.”
“You can’t beat their ease of use,” added Gallo.
Except for Gallo, who started with soft plastics, everyone used live shrimp under scoop-faced popping corks. Davis isn’t too much of a snob to use old-style foam corks with a pin to hold them in place on the line.
“These are good for trout fishing,” he said, “because you can adjust them to different depths by simply sliding the cork. You don’t have to cut and re-tie. Everything is about time. You don’t have much time.”
“That’s right,” seconded Gallo. “The bite might only last 30 minutes.”
The other style of cork he uses is of the type more commonly seen today, with a wire leader for the cork to ride on. Davis stressed that the cork should have a titanium wire so that if it gets bent, it springs back, rather than staying bent like some do. This type of cork demands cutting and retying to adjust depth.
His terminal rig is simple. For trout, he wants the bait suspended 30 inches under the cork. His main line, which runs through the cork, is 17-pound test Berkeley Big Game monofilament. He threads a ¼-ounce barrel sinker on the line and then ties on a swivel.
Below the swivel is a 15-inch, 40-pound test monofilament shock leader. It’s topped off with a No. 4 treble hook. A live shrimp are hooked under the horn on top of its head with one of the hooks in the treble.
Swooping to victory
The rout started quickly. Davis boated the first fish at 6:45 a.m. Then everybody got in on the action. The fish were steadily hitting the deck as the men unhooked their catches and dropped them on the deck
Thump, thump, thump! What a soul-satisfying sound.
Davis egged them on, urging them to fish faster.
“Get as many in the boat as fast as you can! Ice them later! Just as fast as the bite turns on, it can turn off. Trout like to move.”
Personalities quickly emerged. Papa Landry was calm and phlegmatic. Sean Kessler was slyly quiet, doing journeyman’s work in the stern of the boat.
But the other two!
Davis and Gallo were loud and boisterous, full of jokes and anecdotes, as well as a quite a few competitive insults.
“Hey, this is a set up,” Gallo moaned loudly in faux injury at one point. “I’m catching all the small fish.”
Thump, thump, thump; the beat went on.
Spicing the speckled trout stew were more than a few white trout and channel mullet. They hit the deck too.
Two hundred shrimp didn’t last long. The final tally was 47 specks, plus a mess of white trout and channel mullet.
It was 9:10 a.m.