Trout Masters excerpt: Big trout at Big Lake

Jeff and Mary Poe discuss Lake Calcasieu’s annual trout cycle

Jeff and Mary Poe are veteran Big Lake speckled trout anglers.

Lake Calcasieu has long been known as home to some of the biggest specks in the state, but it’s a unique place to fish where local knowledge is key.

In this excerpt from Trout Masters: How Louisiana Anglers Catch the Lunkers, the Poes discuss Big Lake’s annual trout cycle.

The Poes describe fishing for big trout and, for that matter, any trout in Big Lake as being different from the rest of the state.

“We fish open water a lot, with no structure,” Jeff said.

Mary adds that finding fish in Big Lake depends a lot on hunting for signs of fish activity, mostly fish busting bait species on newly emerging slicks. Slicks refer to spots of water with an oily sheen on the surface. Slicks are formed from the oils in prey fish’s bodies that are released when they are attacked and chopped up by larger predator fish. Both admit that fishing slicks can be frustrating.

“The trout can be as much as 100 yards upwind or upcurrent of where the slick appears,” Jeff said.

“Other kinds of fish make slicks too; even feeding hardheads will make slicks,” Mary added.

Both agree, however, that finding and properly fishing slicks is a big part of fishing for big trout on the lake.

Bird fishing, fishing for actively feeding trout that are indicated by diving sea gulls, does not usually yield trophy-sized trout, although both say large fish can be taken under birds occasionally.

Oyster reefs are also tricky to fish in Big Lake.

“The lake isn’t paved in oysters like some people think it is,” Jeff said. “And in the areas with lots of oysters, the fish can be hard to find.

“You have to hunt hard in places like the area from the washout to the east end of the old jetties. Turner’s Bay has lots of oysters, but when the trout are there, they are all over.”

“Some of our best fishing is in areas of isolated reefs half the size of a basketball court with no other reef within miles,” Mary added. “No matter where you fish on the lake, be quiet. Big speckled trout are especially easy to spook. It’s always better to drift to the fish than it is to use a trolling motor.”

The Poes explained the annual fishing cycle for big trout in Big Lake, starting with the December to March period. During these cold months, the best fishing is in shallow waters, 3 feet or less. Also, areas with low tide flow such as West Cove and the north end of the lake are better, probably because the trout are lethargic.

During these cold months, both plugs and soft plastics are used. Topwater plugs aren’t used as often as suspending baits such as Catch 2000s and Corky Devils. Plastics are typically used with 1/8-ounce heads. At this time of year, the Poes’ favorite plastic colors are black with a chartreuse tail, chartreuse and avocado.

Some time during March, the trout begin to move into deeper water, 6 feet or more, and the Poes begin fishing over oysters. By mid-April and on into the summer, they are targeting slicks heavily.

Topwater, as well as suspending and subsurface lures, are used, and so are a lot of soft plastics. Avocado is a favorite summer color, as is chartreuse. The Poes use both H&H Salty Grubs and Norton Sand Eels to target big trout.

From July into the fall, topwater action slows, and they fish with a lot of shrimp imitations such as split-tail sparkle beetles and grubs. Glow is a popular color when trout are feeding on shrimp. Also used are suspending twitch baits and subsurface lures like Thundersticks, reeled in with a slow retrieve that leaves no surface wake.

The best months to catch big trout on Big Lake, they agree, are December to May. But they are quick to add that a person can catch big trout any time of the year, depending on weather, water temperature and salinities.

Neither Jeff nor Mary uses live bait unless a charter customer specifically requests it. And they seldom fish plastic baits under a cork. When they do, they use a D.O.A. or Cajun Thunder type cork, and put the plastic on a bare hook rather than a jig head. And both agree they will use a cork before they use live bait.

“I don’t like a cork,” Jeff said. “I like the bump. That’s why I go fishing — to feel the bump; it’s a special feel. I will do a lot of things to get that bump. I like it even better than a topwater blow-up.”

To his last statement, Mary demurs.

“I love topwater fishing more than anything, and I love a good blow-up,” she said. “I like to see fish hit it. I get so excited. Customers get a kick out of it when they see me get excited about fish on top.”

Jeff and Mary Poe’s Tips

1) Pay close attention to what is going on around you. Constantly search for agitated baitfish, slicks and muds. Muds are areas of discolored water stirred up by feeding fish.

2) Don’t run your boat to slicks without thinking. A slick is where fish have been or where the slick has moved to. The feeding fish could actually be as far as 100 yards upwind or upcurrent. Approach the area that you think produced the slick with a trolling motor or even better, drift into position.

3) Learn how to cast. People need to practice more. (The Poes hold casting contests for their guides.) Keep your reel filled properly, and don’t go fishing with a half-full spool. Get the big line off the reel, and spool up 10- or 12-pound-test line. If you get 20 more feet per cast and you make 500 casts in a day, that equals 10,000 more feet of water you cover in that day. The Poes chime in unison, “The person who covers the most water wins!”

4) Fish the right areas for the weather conditions of that day. Wind and tide affect where fishable water will be on any given day. Think before getting on the water, rather than after.

  1. You must have confidence in every cast and be persistent. With speckled trout, you are never out of it. You can have only three fish by 11 a.m., and then go home with a limit at 1 p.m.

Learn more about how the best guides and anglers across the Louisiana coast catch trout day in, day out by purchasing the Trout Masters Tool Kit, which includes a special package price for Trout Masters: How Louisiana’s Best Anglers Catch the Lunkers and Trout Masters Too: How the Pros do it.

About Jerald Horst 959 Articles
Jerald Horst is a retired Louisiana State University professor of fisheries. He is an active writer, book author and outdoorsman.