Launch Sequence

For Lafitte anglers, the countdown has begun to some of the best fall fishing along the coast.

Generally, when anglers think of fishing the Lafitte area this month, they automatically think redfish. And for good reason. Lafitte is well known for its production of the hard-fighting bronze brutes throughout the fall and winter months, and October is considered the normal kick-off of the season. But if you’re not thinking about also targeting speckled trout this month, you are definitely making a mistake, according to long-time Lafitte guide Capt. Mike Daigle (985-331-8548).

“We’ve had an excellent summer this year,” he said, “and the speckled trout action has been outstanding. The outside waters have been thick with birds over schools of trout, and the islands, reefs and structures have been very productive all summer long.”

After hearing a report like that, how could I decline an invitation to fish with Daigle and check out the action for myself?

I arrived at the dock of the SeaWay Marina (formerly C-Way Marina) just before daylight, and noticed the first evidence of its new ownership — the spelling of its name. Manager Kim LeBlanc says the new owner has done a lot of Katrina-related clean-up around the marina, torn down dilapidated boat sheds, rebuilt more than 100 new boat sheds, dredged around the perimeter, installed all new fuel pumps and new bulkheads are under construction.

The captain and an old friend of his, Garry LeBlanc, already had Daigle’s 24-foot SeaPro in the water, and once I tossed my gear aboard, we got under way.

It was late in the summer, and it was taking longer each morning for daylight to peek over the horizon. Our daylight hours were growing noticeably shorter, yet the heat of summer lingered on, as though reluctant to loosen its oppressive grip.

But there was a definite change brewing in the air. This was that transition time, when summer initially begins its switch into fall, when the first cool fronts begin to make it all the way down to our region, and when fishing action can become spotty and inconsistent.

Daigle said there was plenty of good speckled trout action remaining in the outside spots that produced so well over the summer. Grand Island Point, Four Bayou Pass, Government Reef and Manila Village all were yielding some great catches, and still attracting a lot of attention from anglers out of Lafitte, Port Sulphur and Grand Isle.

But this time of year also presented some unique challenges. Those cool fronts from the north were consistently colliding with the heat from the south, and the result was tumultuous weather — severe thunderstorms with their accompanying high winds and dangerous lightning. The forecast advised caution. We knew we’d have to keep a wary eye on the weather.

Daigle pointed the bow toward those outside waters, and we settled in for the ride.

Daigle chose to bypass Manila Village, and headed straight to Government Reef, where he’d been on some excellent action. The large shell reef is entirely submerged, and unless you know precisely where it is or have it marked on your GPS, you’ll likely miss it. But the fish know exactly where it is. In fact, once they found it, they set up housekeeping and stayed.

Daigle likes to fish this area with soft plastics tightlined. He uses either a 3/16- or a ¼-ounce jig, and a curl-tail Old Bayside grub in glow/chartreuse.

“This particular grub is large and heavy, so I use a light 3/16-ounce jig. With a lighter plastic, I’d use the heavier ¼-ounce jig,” he said.

For the next hour or so, we fished on all sides of the boat, and put some very nice trout in the box until the dolphin moved in and chased everything away. When it became apparent that the dolphin weren’t going to leave, we did.

Daigle wanted to go over to Four Bayous anyway, but a mass of nasty-looking weather had been hovering over the area all morning, keeping us away. Now we seemed to have a break in the clouds, and we made a quick, short run to the camps in the area.

Daigle dropped the trolling motor over the bow, and we started catching trout immediately. Almost every cast got a thump, and while some of these trout were throwbacks, more were keeper-sized, and some were downright hefty.

“We’re not generally known for big trout here in Lafitte,” Daigle said. “Venice, Breton Sound and Lake Pontchartrain are the places you normally think of when it comes to big trout, 3 pounds on up. But we have had a great year for big specks this season. I’ve caught more 3-, 4- and 5-pound specks this year in Lafitte than any year in recent memory.”

And while we didn’t catch any trout that big on this trip, we caught plenty in the 1½- to 2-pound range.

“Now you have to remember, at this time of year all of the conditions are changing rapidly,” Daigle said. “We’re fishing right now in a very late summer pattern, but we’re at the very end of it, and this won’t hold out much longer. By the time this article goes to press, the trout will be transitioned into a firm fall pattern, and you won’t have to run nearly this far to find good fish.

“In fact, some of the best fishing of the year will be in full swing; you’ll be able to catch both specks and reds in the same spots, and you’ll only have to make a short run to get into all the action.”

Easy-to-learn Lafitte

Lafitte is a gateway into the whole Barataria system, and as such, it encompasses a whole lot of territory. Lafitte anglers have access to fishing grounds all the way to Grand Isle, and the vastness of the area is intimidating to some. But if you’ve never launched at Lafitte before, the fall is the time to do it.

Capt. Papa Joe Bush (504-689-3728) says learning Lafitte in the fall is as simple as it gets.

“Everywhere you want to go in the fall is easily accessible from any of the launches, and all you need is a chart of the area or a GPS with a map feature,” he said. “The hotspots this time of year are Bayou Rigolets, Bayou Perot, the Pen, Lake Salvador and if you want to you can run Bayou Perot to the end and then fish down at Little Lake. But that’s as far as you’d ever have to go in the fall.

“Actually, that area has not really changed since Katrina, so the charts are good, the water is good, there’s no shallow reefs to look out for, and no underwater obstacles with the exception of the submerged rocks in Bayou Perot, but they are marked with signs. Just read the signs, and you’ll be OK.”

Best, worst conditions

“Under optimum conditions, you’d have a 5-m.p.h. breeze out of the northeast, which makes fishing comfortable and pleasant, and you can fish virtually anywhere,” Daigle said. “And you’d fish either just before a front moves through, or three days after a front. You can catch fish before a front right up until the time it arrives, and the action is excellent.

“Changes in the weather instinctively drive them to feed just before a front, and then hunger drives them to feed right afterwards. The first and second day after a front is an acclimation period for the fish, and generally the fishing action is poor. But on the third day after a front, it’s on!

“The worst conditions down here are any winds out of the west, especially blustery winds. West winds always muddy up the water all over down here real quick. The only possible exception is the Pen, which is often still fishable on a west wind if it’s not blowing too hard.”

Fall hotspots

• Lake Salvador.

“Lake Salvador is red hot this month, and there are several great areas in the big lake to work your baits,” Daigle said. “I like to fish along the Christmas Trees, Dry Cypress, the northeast corner around Couba Island, the southeast corner and the shoreline just below Bayou Villars. You can fish tightline or under a popping cork, and you’ll likely catch a good mix of both trout and redfish.

“The key to success is not to run up to a spot and anchor, but to drift through the area as you work your baits, fanning out your casts to cover all sides of the boat. I’ll fish soft plastics this month in only three colors — black/chartreuse, purple/chartreuse or smoke/chartreuse, and I’ll use either the Old Bayside curl-tail grub or a High Tide minnow.

Once I get a hit or two, I’ll stick the Power-Pole down, and try to stay on the action as long as possible. When the action fades, I move on and continue drifting, or go back and drift the same area again.

“Keep a sharp eye out for schools of mullet or pogies this month. If you find them, you can bet there will be redfish under them, and you’ll likely run into a whole school of reds under those baitfish.

“Follow this same technique throughout Lake Salvador, with one exception. There are some deep holes along the Christmas trees, and both trout and reds like to congregate in those holes. Look for them on your depth finder, and be sure to work them over thoroughly before moving on.”

• The Pen.

“The Pen has to be one of my favorite places to fish this month because it’s just so close to the dock and so easy to fish. The whole area produces fish, so you can virtually fish it anywhere and catch fish, but I like to focus on a few main spots,” Daigle said. “The whole north area from Goose Bayou on the west over to the shoreline along the northeast side; the southwest corner around the cut into the main waterway; the southeast corner at Bayou Dupont; and I also like to just drift anywhere in the middle of the Pen. You’d be surprised at the nice fish we pick up that way, both specks and reds.

“The action in the Pen will be excellent all the way until December unless we really have a prematurely cold winter. Once the thermometer plunges, the fish will move into the Texaco Canals, but that’s a story for a winter article. Right now, there are two things to look for when fishing the Pen: 1) baitfish activity in the water, and 2) boats on the water. Both will lead you to the fish.

“Fish the Pen just like you’d fish Lake Salvador. Drift the areas I mentioned, and cast your plastic lures both tightlined and under a popping cork. If you get into some action, anchor or stick your Cajun anchor over, and try to stay on the bite for as long as it lasts. When the bite stops, resume drifting or re-drift the same area.

“If you find baitfish in the water, especially mullet, fish that area thoroughly because you’ll probably find redfish there, too.

“When you drift the middle, try to stay around the crab traps. The bait in the traps produces a chum line, and puts a lot of scent in the water, so you usually find some good trout and redfish action around them.

“And there are two sets of pilings out in the middle that provide some structure, and the fish generally hang around them as well.

“Of course, the easy method is to simply look for the boats, and go fish outside of them. If you see a bunch of boats anchored on a shoreline or all in one area, you can be sure there’s a reason. They’re on fish. Don’t crowd them, but slowly and quietly make your way to the outside of them and anchor. There are fish all around those areas, and you can get into the action without encroaching on anybody else.”

• Bayou Perot and Bayou Rigolets.

“I usually focus on two areas in Bayou Perot,” Daigle said. “The very tip-top of the northeast corner by all the cuts is a good place to fish both reds and specks, and you can fish almost the whole length of the east shoreline for some good redfish action. The eastern shoreline of Bayou Rigolets is also good for reds and specks, and the pilings along the eastern midsection of the bayou are good, too.

“Drift these bayous or troll, and use the same baits, either tightlined or under a popping cork. And if you are especially targeting redfish, try switching to a spinnerbait or a gold spoon. We catch a lot of nice fish along the rocks in Bayou Rigolets with those spinner-baits, and not just reds. Big trout and flounder eat them up too.”

If you do choose to make the run to Little Lake, Bush says the rocks on the west side, the Windmill area, and the shell reef in the middle of the lake are the hotspots.

We were hitting the clicker every time we put another trout in the boat, and by the time the clicker hit 60, the weather had turned downright nasty. We hated to leave because the trout were eating everything we threw at them, and we’d caught fish at every stop we made all day long. We knew we could limit out in just a few more minutes.

But Daigle was persuaded by the roar of thunder and those ever-closer flashes of lightning to head back to the dock. I concurred with his decision.

“Live to fish another day,” seems like a pretty good motto to me.

Capt. Mike Daigle can be reached at (985) 331-8548.

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About Rusty Tardo 360 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.

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