Windy-Day Winners

Even in wind, Hopedale has speckled trout, redfish options.

“Hope springs eternal in the human breast.” — Alexander Pope

“Love never ends.” — The Bible

In “Essay on Man,” British poet Alexander Pope said hope would never die in the human heart. And in the Bible, Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians says that love would never end.

Down here in Southeast Louisiana, we’re beginning to wonder if we should add “wind” to this list of things that won’t die.

I can’t ever remember a time when we’ve had so many successive weeks of such powerful and unrelenting winds. I know we’re to expect both March and April to be windy, and at times even blustery. But there are usually breaks between the fronts and windows of opportunity to get out along the coast and in the lakes to enjoy the fishing action. But all the windows have been closed tight this year, and these winds have cancelled my fishing trips more times than I care to remember.

Right after my last trip cancelled due to the abominable winds, I called our esteemed editor and guru of all things fishy, Todd Masson, for some advice.

“How can I write about fishing when I can’t go fishing due to these ridiculous winds?” I asked.

“Why don’t you do an article on windy-day options?” the wise one answered. “Tap one of your captains and do a piece on where to fish when the wind is blowing.”

And that is precisely what I did. I called Glenn Sanchez over at Breton Sound Marina (504-676-1252) to see if any of his charter guides had been having any success fishing in the winds. He said his son, Jonathan, was having some success chasing redfish in the ponds and on shorelines and also picking up some trout in the process, and Jonathan agreed to take me on a windy-day excursion to see what we could find.

And wouldn’t you know it, the morning I showed up at the dock with a fishing buddy, Shane Ansardi, to go do a “windy-day options” fishing trip, the wind was as still as a corpse, the flag hung limp and unmoving and the gnats came out with a ferocious appetite for human blood! Where was the stinking wind when we needed it?

We hustled our gear aboard Sanchez’s brand-new 25-foot Privateer, and the 300-horsepower Yamaha moved us almost silently down the bayou toward our first destination for the day.

• Windy Day Option No. 1 — Fish the Dam.

We motored only five minutes from the dock to the big rock dam across the MRGO, where, surprisingly, only one boat was anchored on the inside.

As we pulled closer to the dam I could see the heads of anglers fishing on the other side of the dam, and from the sound of their voices I could tell they were catching some fish. Sanchez has a very special anchor just for use on the rock-strewn, anchor-grabbing bottom by the dam. I’d asked him about the rope attached to a cinderblock, sitting in a big square bucket on the deck.

“That’s my dam anchor,” he said, “perfect for use right here. Heavy enough to hold me, and if it gets hung up, no problem. At least I don’t lose an expensive anchor.”

There were signs of baitfish all around, mostly up close to the dam, and once the anchor was set, we started casting up close to the rocks. Live baits and plastics under corks were the ammunition, and on my first cast, I caught a nice-sized trout! We put him on ice, and had high expectations for much more of the same, but, unfortunately, the only things that bit after that were gnats and horseflies.

Conditions were good, the water wasn’t beautiful but it wasn’t ugly either, and we tried everything from live baits to topwater baits, but to no avail. A few more boats pulled up to fish the dam also, but none of them seemed to catch anything either. Most of them fished for a little while and then left, hoping to find some greener pastures.

Meanwhile the voices coming from the other side of the dam grew increasingly irritating as we heard them yelling with excitement and exchanging high fives over repeated catches. We gave our side of the dam plenty of time to produce, and then it was time to pull up the dam anchor and head elsewhere for more windy-day options.

I volunteered to pull up the anchor and quickly realized that a dry cinderblock lowered into the water may go down weighing somewhere between 25 to 30 pounds. But a soaked cinderblock (oh yes, concrete absorbs water), pulled up off the bottom, has to weigh somewhere close to 10 tons. So if you use a dam anchor, get somebody with a strong back to pull it up. Otherwise, just run the risk of losing the Danforth. Another important note: Fish both sides of the dam.

• Windy Day option No. 2 — Fish the birds.

Sanchez is not usually a big fan of fishing under the birds. He says the birds are always moving, so the action can be hard to stick with, and often what you catch under the birds is less than desirable.

“Hardheads, sailcats, small trout, sometimes jacks, needlefish, croakers — any kind of trash fish that eats shrimp will show up under the birds,” he said.

But on windy days, days when you have limited alternatives, birds are a very viable option, and one that he didn’t ignore.

The winds started to show up as we made our way through China Pass into Long Lagoon, and we saw a decent flock of gulls working over the surface, diving on jumping shrimp. Sanchez guided the boat so we were well upcurrent of the action and killed the motor far enough away so as not to spook anything. The key, he explained, is to drift into the action, and not try to approach it from the downcurrent or downwind side.

We started casting our soft-plastic baits toward the hovering flock, and soon had some good hits. The very first strike was a good-sized trout — in fact, a trout quite atypical for under the birds. A quick couple more hit the box before the birds dispersed, but we managed to catch another one or two before the action died.

The birds soon reassembled about 50 yards away, and we moved to chase them. We repeated that action for an hour or more, and each time we moved we caught one or two keeper-sized trout. We also caught junk fish — hardheads, sailcats, small white trout and plenty of undersized specks. But it was action on a windy day, and we were consistently putting fish in the box.

By this time, the winds were living up to their nefarious reputation and howling like the devil in an exorcism. I noticed as the morning wore on the flocks of birds chasing shrimp multiplied. Now we had numerous flocks to pick from. If one flock was over hardheads, we could move to another that might be over keeper-sized trout.

Only one other boat was even attempting to fish under them, and for some reason that boater kept trying to approach the diving birds from downwind. His trolling motor was wide open, and we could hear it straining against that ferocious headwind, but never gaining any ground. The whole scene made us all chuckle. Was he planning to cast into that wind if he ever got close to the birds? This guy just wasn’t thinking, but he was undeterred. I don’t think it ever dawned on him to try approaching from upwind.

We could have continued for the rest of the morning chasing birds and pecking away at them, adding to our box of fish, but we decided to pursue other windy-day options. When we left Long Lagoon, that boater was still downwind from the birds, no closer to them than when he started.

Note: The birds will be hungry and searching in all the fringe bays and lakes even on windy days, and if shrimp are to be found, they will find them. And where the shrimp are, that’s where the trout will be. Look for birds and find the fish.

And approach them from upwind.

• Windy Day Option No. 3 — Fish the backside.

Before we even left the dock, I asked Glenn Sanchez about a few good spots to fish on windy days. He said you can’t fish spots, you have to fish conditions, and of course, he’s right. A spot may be good on a subtle south wind but horrible on a strong wind from the same direction, or on a wind from another direction. So you have to let the conditions dictate to you where to fish.

“Look on your chart for areas where you can fish the backside of an island or a mass of marsh close to the outside, and fish there,” he said.

Jonathan said the typical winds at this time of year blow from the southeast or the south, so you’ll want to search for areas that allow you to fish a lee side on windy days. He has a few favorites:

• Coon Nest Island. “When the winds blow from the southeast, you can fish the whole west side of Coon Nest Island and the northeast shoreline of Lake Athanasia,” he said. “Both are great spots to fish trout with live shrimp under popping corks, and keep an eye out for birds.”

• The east side of Lake Machias. Sanchez says this is another excellent option on a southeast wind, and the birds are very active in the area as well. He says he especially likes the area just below Seven Dollar Bay, and live shrimp under a popping cork is the ticket.

• The east shoreline of Lake Eloi. Sanchez says to fish points, cuts and drains with live shrimp under a cork.

• Deadman Island. “There is still a chunk of island left, and people do get behind it and fish it on windy days, and they definitely do catch trout there,” he said.

• Cuts from LaLoutre into Treasure Bay, especially on a south wind. “It’s protected, and it’s productive. Live shrimp under a cork,” he said.

• Windy Day Option No. 4 — Fish reds in the ponds.

Sanchez says strong winds from the southeast flood the ponds, and the reds head in searching for prey. He says to keep a sharp eye on your depth because some are very shallow, but if you can get in them, you’ll find reds.

Some of his favorite ponds are in the extreme north ends of Lake Athanasia and Lake Eloi; Blind Lagoon and the Drum Hole.

Dead shrimp under a cork is the best bet, but soft plastics, spoons, spinnerbaits and even topwater baits will work also.

By the time we headed back to the dock the winds were blowing a steady 25 mph, and we passed through some gusts that felt like tornadoes.

But we had our fish!

Capt. Jonathan Sanchez can be reached at (504) 232-6227.

About Rusty Tardo 372 Articles
Rusty Tardo grew up in St. Bernard fishing the waters of Delacroix, Hopedale and Shell Beach. He and his wife, Diane, have been married over 40 years and live in Kenner.