Sure, a huge speckled trout can show up anywhere along the Louisiana coast. But to up your odds of catching a genuine wall-hanger, it’s best to fish where you know big fish live.
They haunt our dreams and are the constant subjects of many Internet legends and hoaxes.
I find myself tossing and turning in my sleep, just thinking about whether or not to throw topwaters, suspending plugs or plastics for these fish on the next morning.
Of course, I am writing about fishing for Louisiana’s trophy speckled trout.
One afternoon in November, my buddy Craig Vidrine of Nuba and I were fishing for trout in Calcasieu Lake. We were catching some decent fish — not lunkers — in the 14- to 18-inch range when a group of four liar birds (aka terns) and a couple of sea gulls caught our attention.
“They’re mostly liars,” I told Vidrine in an effort to keep us focused on staying on the bite at hand.
Eventually Vidrine and I decided to give these birds a try, and I cast toward the shoreline that held the birds’ interest.
The popping cork with the VuDu shrimp under it immediately disappeared, and my reel started to sing.
A few minutes later I was holding a 24-inch speck that weighed about 5 pounds — a quality fish by most any angler’s standards.
As I was admiring the big trout, I received a text notification that significantly upstaged by the uploading photo: Lake Charles’ Capt. Bruce Baugh sent me a photo of a 9.1-pounder just taken by Dan Hassebrook south of my location. That trout measured 30 inches long.
Baugh went on to text me that Hassebrook had also caught and released a 7 pounder that morning.
And just a week earlier, Baugh and several other clients had taken other great speckled trout on broken-back Corkys during a wade trip on Calcasieu Lake: three specks over 8 pounds, three over 7 pounds, and several over 5 pounds.
And all these great trout were released back into the lake.
Trips like these are what drive speck anglers crazy and keep them hopping around the coast looking for those magic big-trout locations.
Here are some thoughts on where the odds of tying into a genuine wall-hanger are best.
When anglers talk about fishing Calcasieu Lake (aka Big Lake) south of Lake Charles, they are including not only the lake itself but the nearby ship channel.
And May is a great month to spend on the a lake: Three speckled trout taken from these waters grace the Top 10 in Louisiana Fish Records kept by the Louisiana Outdoor Writers Association.
“Last year we saw trout up to 9 ½ pounds taken here when wade-fishing,” Baugh said.
This spring already has produced some whoppers. Baugh (337-660-1814) and his clients caught many 8s, 9s and one 10. Baugh also reported another 10 pounder taken by his fishing partner, Capt. John Havens.
“That fish was long and skinny (it measured 32 inches long), and it would have gone over 12 pounds if it had been fat or with eggs,” he said. “We’ve had a great spring, although the fishing appears to be pushed back somewhat due to all the cold fronts.”
And Big Lake anglers are ready for some big fish to start showing up, especially after last year.
“Last summer was the worst summer for catching trout in the last 10 years,” Baugh said. “Long-time anglers here were scratching their heads as to why.
“We did find some good catches on the beaches, the surf and the short rigs, but it was as if the bait really didn’t turn up inside Big Lake.”
Baugh said the phenomenal spring this year should only get better this summer.
During May, June and July, Baugh’s choices of baits change from Corkys to topwaters, including clown Heddon’s Super Spooks and One Knockers along with MirrOlures’ Top Dogs and She Dogs.
As for specific locations that hold quality and trophy trout, Baugh said to look at Turner’s Bay, Long Point, West Cove, Commissary Point, the Washout and the southeastern reefs of Big Lake just north of the southern weirs.
This lake on the border of Louisiana and Texas has produced one of those rare fish — a speck large enough to make Louisiana’s Top 10 list.
Sulphur’s Jason Ellender made Sabine Lake history in March 2013 when he caught a 10.65-pound trout on a pink Heddon Super Spook while wade-fishing with Steven Stroderd.
Ellender’s fish is officially the No. 8 trout in the Louisiana Fish Records.
The current Sabine Lake record trout as recorded by Texas Parks and Wildlife was caught in March 1999 by Dr. Kelly Rising of Beaumont. This lunker weighed 11.50 pounds.
Adam Jaynes (409-988-3901) is an avid speckled trout angler and guide who also has taken many trophy trout from this lake, and he knows well the quality of trout in the lake.
Earlier this year, the Orange, Texas, guide and Aaron Hommel were in second place in the 2014 Specktacular Trout Series on the strength of the trout swimming in Sabine Lake.
“This tournament covers waters all the way from Sabine Lake to Texas’ Matagorda, and all of our fish came from Sabine Lake — indicating the quality of trout available,” Jaynes said. “Our largest trout were 7.11 and 7.33 pounds.”
Unlike nearby Calcasieu Lake, Sabine Lake has seen a slow start to the year.
“There have been some big trout reported this year, but not that many,” Jaynes said. “Overall, size is down right now. We’ve mostly seen 6s, 7s and 8s.”
In May and the rest of the summer, Jaynes strongly recommended Sabine Lake anglers dog-walk clown and black Heddon Super Spooks to increase the chances of tempting a huge trout to bite.
MirrOlure’s She Dog is another favorite of Jaynes.
“Look for surface activity accompanied by the presence of mullet, and you should find good trout,” he said.
Areas on Sabine Lake that hold great trout include Coffee Ground Cove on the northeastern end, the northwest revetment wall on the Texas side, Lighthouse Cove and the jetties.
Louisiana anglers who visit these waters are advised to check Texas and Louisiana regulations due to boundary restrictions on creel and length limits.
The most-popular access point is the Causeway Launch on Highway 82 three miles west of Johnson Bayou.
Lake Pontchartrain has a well-documented history of producing big trout. It delivered two monster specks that broke into state’s Top 10 — the current No. 2 fish weighing 11.99 pounds, caught by Capt. Kenny Kreeger on Super Bowl Sunday in 1999; and the state’s No. 10 trout, which logged in at 10.5 pounds and was caught by Capt. Dudley Vandenborre Jr. in April 2002.
Vandenborre’s catch tied for 10th in the state record books.
Chas Champagne (985-707-2105) of Dockside Bait & Tackle in Slidell takes Lake Pontchartrain’s fishing pulse daily, and said he’s hoping for a better fishing season this year than that of 2013.
“Last year, fishing for the big trout was terrible,” the 31-year-old owner of Matrix Shad Lures said. “We have experienced high rivers, lots of rain and low salinities.
“And with the closing of the MRGO, it now takes longer for the salinities to come up in the lake.”
Champagne had only to point at 2013 CCA STAR results as proof.
Last summer, a 6.9-pounder taken by Paul Monsour out of Venice won the CCA STAR records in the speckled trout east division.
By comparison, the 2012 division was won by Dr. Bob Weiss, who weighed in an 8.02-pounder at Dockside Marina.
Furthermore, during 2012 Captains Kris Robert and Jonathan Allen, along with Champagne, caught five lunker specks weighing a collective 30 pounds east of the marina.
A couple of weeks earlier, Weiss, Ricky Trahant and Chink Sumas delivered a huge five-trout stringer weighing in at 31 pounds to win a rodeo.
So certainly, this lake has to be a hotspot for any serious big-trout angler.
And dry weather, high salinities and strong moving tides are certainly positive factors in delivering Lake Pontchartrain’s trophy trout.
“The Causeway, Treasure Island Point and the Trestles are our best spots here in May,” Champagne said. “We have taken many 3- and 4-pounders (at those locations).
“These patterns change to deeper waters as the summer progresses. That’s when anglers will find good trout on the Hospital Wall, the Rigolets and L&N Train bridge.”
As for lures, Champagne recommended casting shrimp creole, lemonhead and ultraviolet Matrix Shads, as well as his Vortex Shads in kamikaze and nightruese colors.
He casts these baits on 3/8-ounce Goldeneye jigheads.
The marshes, bays and beaches in the expansive Venice area have historically delivered trophy and quality speckled trout.
In April of 2000, angler Ed Sexton fished the Mississippi River delta and scored on a 10.5-pounder that is currently tied as the No. 10-ranked trout in Louisiana Fish Records.
In May 2013, Capt. Brent Roy of Venice Charters (225-268-8420) made statewide news when he hooked and landed a speckled trout that weighed 8.25 pounds and measured at 31 inches in length.
Roy’s big trout was taken on an Egret Baits’ VuDu Shrimp.
Roy has taken five of these big Venice ladies ranging from 9 to 10.5 pounds.
He also has knowledge of two 8 pounders that were taken in 2013.
“Last year was good, as the river and waters cooperated, and it was one of my Top 5 big-trout years here,” the 43-year-old captain said. “We also caught more 5s and 6s than usual.”
And he said there’s no indication that anything will change this fishing season.
“If the weather cooperates and we don’t experience a significant flood event, there is no reason not to expect another great season here in Venice this summer,” Roy said.
As for locations, Roy recommended the beaches between Four Bayous and the pass at Empire, the Empire rocks and Tiger Pass.
“The patterns are rocks, rigs and beaches, depending on the time of the year,” he said.
As for baits, Roy and his clients throw Egret Baits’ Bayou Chubs in opening night and chartreuse. He will also use Deadly Dudley plastics, as well as H&H cocahos and Sparkle Beetles (chartreuse sparkles).
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