Follow the tips from these four Lafitte guides, and you’ll catch fish throughout the spring and summer.
Maybe it’s just me, but it sure seemed like a long winter. Some of the poor folks up north dubbed it “the winter that wouldn’t die,” which sounded more like a pathetic plot in a Grade B movie than a weather condition.
And even though this winter finally lost its frosty grip on the thermometer, it left behind these blustery, nagging, unending winds specifically to pester and harass us fishermen.
But the long winter drought is over, the sun has steadily warmed up the water, the shrimp are beginning to make their annual appearance, and the trout are slamming baits all over the Southeast Louisiana coastline.
Nothing is more fun than busting trout in the spring, and few places offer a wider variety of places to fish them than Lafitte.
So to give our readers the real lowdown on Lafitte action in the spring, I tapped four of the area’s top guides, asking for their favorite May techniques and hotspots.
Here’s what they had to say:
Capt. Mike Daigle (985-331-8548) called last month and invited me to Lafitte to get in on some spring speck action. Naturally, I jumped at the chance.
Daigle fishes out of a 23-foot Sea Pro, propelled by one of Evinrude’s 225-horsepower outboards. We met at the dock, loaded our gear into his boat and headed out for some speckled adventure just as the sun was rising.
“From May on out, I head south toward the beaches,” Daigle said over the purr of the outboard. “The trout will show up all over, from Grand Isle to Four Bayou’s, Caminada Bay, West Bay Champagne, Hackberry Bay, Creole Bay, Grand Terre — just anywhere south toward the outside.
“I get an early start, and once I get out there, I start looking for birds. I know that some anglers shun the birds because they say only small fish are beneath them, but I catch some really nice trout every year under the birds.
“Kill the outboard well up-current of the birds and try to drift to within casting distance of the action. Use the trolling motor only as necessary to stay on the fringe of the birds, and cast either topwater baits or soft plastics under a popping cork.
“If you get into a school of small or undersized fish under the birds, you can move on to another flock. There’s going to be a lot of action and a lot of birds this month, so you should have no trouble finding another bunch of birds.
“Or you can switch from the cork to tightlining. I find that the larger fish are sometimes deeper than the small schoolies, so you might have to get your bait a bit deeper to get to the larger fish.
“Or you can try the exact opposite tactic, and fish a larger topwater bait like a Top Dog, which usually attracts larger fish.
“And don’t ignore sitting birds either. If you don’t find gulls working the surface — diving on shrimp — then look for birds sitting on the surface. These birds are natural hunters with tremendous feeding and survival instincts. They know where the shrimp and baitfish are. And where the bait is, you can bet the trout are, too.
“They might be sitting on the surface waiting for the trout to chase the bait up, or they might be so gorged on the shrimp that they’re trying to digest some before they resume feeding. So fish around the sitting gulls, and you might be very pleasantly surprised what you come up with.
“My normal routine is to head south, down below Bayou St. Denis, and either east toward Government Reef, Manila Village, or around Cabanash Cove, looking for birds and baitfish activity around the reefs and islands.
“Or I head west toward Hackberry Bay, Red Eye, Bassa Bassa, Creole Bay, Three Pilings and Perrin’s Point, looking for the same thing — birds and baitfish.”
Daigle’s technique is to fish up close to the islands, tossing Gene Larew High Tide shrimp in glow/chartreuse, about 18 inches under a Cajun Thunder popping cork. “The corks make a lot of noise, and they sound just like trout hitting shrimp on the surface. That’ll make any other trout in the vicinity come over to investigate.
“I usually fish with that one color all spring, but occasionally if the fish seem to avoid the glow/chartreuse, I’ll switch to a purple/chartreuse, or a plain chartreuse, or even a plain white color, just to see if it’ll make a difference,” he said. “And you have to try everything. Pull off the cork and try tightlining, because sometimes that’s what’ll work when the cork won’t.”
For spring redfish action, Daigle says he hunts along the shorelines of Bay Cray, Airplane Bay, Bay Five and all the shallow ponds surrounding those waters.
“The Chinese Graveyard and Black Shell Bay will also produce reds this month, and you might even pick up some trout in the mix,” Daigle said.
Capt. Scott Poche (504-915-0392) says he usually points his 22-foot Team Avenger straight for Barataria Bay this month, and concentrates his efforts around the various islands and structures.
“I like to fish the rocks and structure around Old St. Mary’s Point and the Saturday Island platform, and from there I might move south toward Bassa Bassa or over toward Grand Isle, and fish around Queen Bess, Independence or Bird Island,” Poche said. “I look for birds in open water, because birds mean fish. But more than anything I look for current lines around the points or just off the points of islands, and I fish there.”
Poche says in order to have consistent success fishing in the spring, you have to keep moving.
“I’ll troll or drift around an island or structure, and if I don’t get any hits, I’m gone. I move to the next island or structure,” he said. “If I catch a couple fish, I’ll troll that area again, and I’ll keep trolling it as long as I keep getting hits. But if the fish don’t hit, I don’t stay. I move around a lot in the spring.
“This time of year, the trout will average between 1 and 2 pounds, and you’ll usually have a few nicer pre-spawn fish thrown into the mix. We normally catch the larger fish this month around the full moon.
“And if you come across shrimp popping on the surface, they’re trying to escape trout. Toss a topwater bait into the fray for some real explosive action.”
Poche’s favorite baits are Bayou Chubs in smoke/white, black/chartreuse or purple/chartreuse, tightlined, or white H&H beetles fished under a popping cork under the birds.
For redfish, Poche says to troll into any duck ponds where you find enough water to float your boat, and try tossing gold spoons, beetle-spins or soft plastics up close to the shorelines.
“Redfish tend to roam, so you might have to try several ponds before you find them. And you might catch a limit in one pond one day, and nothing in the same pond the next day. Just keep looking, keep moving, keep working the ponds until you find them,” he said.
Capt. Papa Joe Bush (504-392-4409) says May speckled trout action is fast and furious in the open water, so he wastes no time piddling around elsewhere but heads straight for Barataria Bay.
“Once you get into the open water, you can chase birds if you want to, and you’ll usually see a number of flocks working along the surface. But I find that most of the birds are hovering over smaller fish, many times too small to keep. Although we do occasionally find some larger trout under the birds, I find that is the exception rather than the rule.
“Most of the traditional spring hotspots are going to produce some nice fish this month. Manila Village, Government Reef, St. Mary’s Point, Middle Bank and the island off of Cabanash Cove — there’s not much to see in any of those areas above the surface, maybe just some pilings or rocks, but all the structure is still there; it’s just underwater.
“And that underwater structure — reefs, rocks, pilings — still has good current around it, and it still holds fish.”
His technique is to fish the lee side of the islands for trout, with either live shrimp under a popping cork or Old Bayside mud minnows in glow/chartreuse, tightlined.
“And in the early mornings on calmer days, you can toss those She Dogs and Top Dog Jrs. around the islands,” he added.
“Many times in May we’ve got our limit of trout by 9 or 9:30 a.m., and we start looking for redfish. On my way in, I like to head through Red Eye Cut and fish the islands and shorelines at the bottom of Bay Dos Gris with beetle-spins.
“I use a gold No. 4 Colorado blade on a stainless wire, with either a white or a black/chartreuse Old Bayside mud minnow, and I use a 6-foot, 6-inch or 7-foot medium-light rod. For me, that’s the perfect combination for casting beetle-spins for redfish.”
Capt. Todd Dufour (504-347-8832) says he’ll start heading south to the outside passes, islands and structures, but probably not before the middle of May.
“My experience is, the fishing is usually very good outside by June, but until then it’s often spotty at best,” he said. “You can find some fish under the birds, but mostly those are small fish.
“A better bet is to head to Hackberry Bay and fish the various drains and cuts all along the shoreline for trout. Look for ponds that drain into the big bays, along Hackberry Bay and Bay Jimmy on the northeast side of Barataria Bay, and cast Bayou Chubs in smoke/white or smoke/chartreuse on a ¼-ounce jig.
“I prefer to tightline, but many other anglers prefer to fish under a popping cork, and quite frankly, it’s hard to beat a popping cork in the spring. But either way will produce this month.
“Another place that can be excellent in May is Lake Salvador. I almost hesitate to mention it because you never know what it will produce from year to year or even from month to month.
“Last year it wasn’t too good, but often you can catch just as many fish and fish just as large in Lake Salvador as you can by running all the way outside. You can try around Dry Cypress or under the Steel Towers, but it’s always a gamble. You might catch nothing, or you might limit out.”
For reds, Dufour says he heads to Bayou Dupont, and fishes along the shorelines with ½-ounce gold spoons, beetle-spins with tuxedo cocahoes in either green or black, or if the action is slow on those baits, he throws Gene Larew salt-craws on a ¼-ounce jig.
After a pleasant day on the Lafitte waters, Daigle headed us back to the dock with a nice box of trout, the biggest going 3 pounds.
You just gotta love slamming specks in the spring. And whatever tactic you choose, Lafitte is definitely the place to try it in May.