You can find trout in a lot of places in the Louisiana marsh, but these anglers know a spot that doesn’t even require cranking the main motor. Learn how they mine Geoghegan Canal to load the boat.
I started carrying cash because of the emotional connection I have to break to give it to somebody else.
Debit card? There is no such bond.
Swipe, swipe here. Push a couple buttons. Swipe, swipe there.
The next thing you know, it’s swipe, swipe — decline!
But until then, boy, can you live high on the hog.
I also have an emotional connection to outboard motors, and I have to break that emotional connection to my gas tank and wallet every time I turn the key.
Trolling motors are the fishing version of a debit card.
Swipe it up and into the water. Push a couple buttons. Off you go.
Batteries being a finite power source, you will eventually be declined, but until then — boy, you can live high on the hog.
Especially if you set your sights on Geoghegan Canal — saltwater fishing’s version of the easy button.
Nowhere is there a more-plentiful supply of speckled trout so close to a boat ramp during December in all of Louisiana.
In fact, you could drop your trolling motor at Rigolets Marina and be on top of piles of speckled trout in just a few minutes.
That’s exactly what Claude Jolicoeur and Kris Rice do on a regular basis.
“If there’s a line on a Saturday morning, I may crank the big motor and idle just to try to beat anybody else going to the same spot,” Jolicoeur told me as we pushed away from the dock. “But I mainly just like to get here early and take my time.”
I learned that Jolicoeur and Rice had been whack-stacking the trout through Rice’s sister Taylor, who often broke the monotony of my English language arts class with stories of her brother’s fishing trips.
Since I was sometimes just as tired of transitive verbs as she was, I frequently obliged and listened to her spin some awesome fishing stories.
Sometimes her stories were a little more than I could believe, so I eventually decided I had to see it with my own eyes.
“Tell him I want to go with him,” I told his little sister one day after class.
The next thing I knew, I was idling through the predawn darkness with Rice and Jolicoeur on the way to their Geoghegan hotspot.
The story that caught my ear was that Rice and Jolicoeur had been catching increasingly higher numbers of trout over the course of three or four weeks.
“Usually I’ll come into Geoghegan when the water temperature goes below 50 degrees down to around 43,” Jolicoeur said after he threw a few early trout in the boat. “When it gets cold, they usually bite pretty heavy in Geoghegan.”
But it wasn’t cold.
Jolicoeur and Rice got stuck in a storm last year that they couldn’t get out of. A strong north wind sent them straight to Geoghegan for a little relief.
“We knocked them,” Jolicoeur recalled. “So we kept coming back, even through it wasn’t all that cold — and they just got thicker and thicker in here.”
This particular morning, Jolicoeur and Rice had us rigged up with 3-inch shrimp creole- and tiger bait-colored Matrix Shads rigged on ¼- and 3/8-ounce jigheads.
One of the first fishing lessons I ever learned was to closely observe he hot hand in a boat. When somebody in the boat with you is catching fish while you aren’t, it’s often more a case of them doing something just a little bit different than what you are doing.
This morning, I noticed that Jolicoeur and Rice were really ripping their baits hard off the bottom.
I figured I should be fishing slowly since it was December, but I was wrong.
Jolicoeur and Rice were jerking their baits so violently off the bottom that I first thought they were trying to get them unhung.
“You really want to pop it heavy,” Jolicoeur said. “If you’re slacking just a little bit, they won’t grab it. When you pop it, you want to pull it up about 3 or 4 feet and let it drop.”
As important as the violent pop seemed to be, it was the drop that was the key to the bite. Just about every trout we caught bit our baits on the way down.
And there were several times trout were just sitting on our baits as we tried to pop them off the bottom. Those were the easy fish to hook because we were literally setting the hook when we tried to make another pop.
Jolicoeur and Rice had expected that our best bite would be a little later in the morning after the sun had a chance to get up higher in the sky, so they were pleasantly surprised that we put so many trout in the boat so early.
“As the sun comes up, the bite gets a little stronger,” Jolicoeur said.
But the opposite seemed true on this trip. And for some reason, the bite picked up each time the fog thickened as it tried to maintain its stranglehold on the morning.
Now, I’ve been in enough bay boats to know that anglers don’t always have to position their boats out deep and cast toward the bank to catch fish. In fact, I’ve seen it just the opposite way too many times for me to consider it a fluke.
These anglers said there’s a good reason to throw toward the center of the canal instead of to the bank.
“There’s a shelf out toward the middle of the canal,” Jolicoeur explained. “So if you put your boat out in the middle here and cast to the bank, you’re going to be sitting right on top of the fish.”
Although we stayed put at the northern corner of Geoghegan Pond, Jolicoeur has gotten on enough piles of trout up and down the canal to know there really isn’t one magic spot.
In fact, every cold front that comes through brings in more and more fish throughout the early part of winter.
“They’re not just here at this point,” he said. “They’re scattered all the way down the canal. You’ll catch them from here all the way to within 100 yards of Rigolets Marina.”
By 8:30 a.m., we were just picking at the trout, so Jolicoeur moved us to the back of Geoghegan Pond where we found white trout stacked up so thickly that we could feel our baits bumping into them as they fell.
Of course, they didn’t fall all that far before being attacked.
“Sometimes the trout will stack up in this deep hole at the back of this pond,” Jolicoeur said, “and sometimes it will fill up with white trout. Either way, it’s a great spot to bring some kids — especially if the white trout are here, because they can yank on fish until they get tired of catching them.”
Since we weren’t ready to go home just yet, we headed to a little patch of grass just south of the Hospital Wall, where Rice wanted to get on some redfish.
After landing a nice flounder, Rice explained how he and Jolicoeur approach fishing out of Rigolets Marina during December.
“Our bite dies about 8:30 or 9,” he said. “And that’s typical of fishing in Geoghegan during the winter. If it stays cold, you might be able to stay on them over there all day long, but when it warms up, like it usually does this time of year, you can come over here and hit these reds as they start pushing around some on these little flats.”
We finished our day working on a giant school of bull reds under a flock of birds right off the Hospital Wall.
Never were we farther than two miles from Rigolets Marina, and that was only when we left Geoghegan to go try the redfish.
And that sounds like something anybody can do no matter how strong an emotional connection he or she has with their wallets.
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