Midnight Madness

Beat August’s oppressive heat by targeting monster trout under the lights.

As the blistering heat of the summer sun began its lazy retreat, shadows lurking in the background began to appear. These souls were creatures of the night, vampires and werewolves of the coast that roam these waters, hidden from sight during the light of day.

While others, who have spent the day doing battle with the sun, soothe their wounds, these nighttime phantoms can be found under lighted structures that dot the coast or in secret areas under the lights they bring with them. The experience is unlike anything found during daylight hours, and the ferocious action can best be described as Midnight Madness!

The word lunatic comes from the Latin word ‘luna,’ meaning the moon, and can mean someone who goes mad with the changes of the moon.

Some would consider those who seek these nighttime adventures to be mad. They brave the dark and its hidden dangers to have an experience that many anglers never have. For them, they would have it no other way.

One such soul has been prowling the waters of Breton Sound under the cover of darkness for more than 20 years. His name is Joe Guinta, but he goes by the name “Delacro Joe.” He owns a beautiful fishing and hunting lodge in Delacroix (www.delacrojoes.com).

I was fortunate to enter this nighttime world of adventure with Guinta on a warm summer evening. I arrived at Delacro Joe’s lodge and before heading out, Guinta gave me some advice for anyone wanting to give night fishing a try.

“Fishing the rigs in Breton Sound at night is not for the meek or timid,” he said. “This business can get very dangerous.

“The moonless nights can test the nerves of the most experienced navigator. However, the rewards can be a great experience, catching quantities of large trout and reds. This all comes with a calculated risk.

“The primary difference between daytime and nighttime fishing is at night an artificial light source is used to attract small baitfish and crabs to the surface, which provide easy meals for predator fish such as trout and redfish. Night anglers can use an existing light source such as those found on rigs and platforms, or carry their own lights and light up any area that is holding fish. I use a 1-kilowatt Honda generator and two quartz halogen lights on aluminum rods that are fitted into rod holders.

“If I’m fishing a well-lit rig, there is no need to set up the lights. The winds, tide and clarity of the water will determine your success. If you hit it right, you will see the water boiling with big specks. These trout look like salmon.”

He grinned.

“Have you ever broken the handles off of the ice chest trying to pick it up?”

With that said, we were eager to get on our way. We loaded up gear and equipment needed for the night voyage aboard the Yellowjacket, a 27-foot Intrepid fully equipped for night fishing and powered by twin 250 Yamahas. Taylor Butterworth (T-Man), a partner in the Yellowjacket, was at the helm and was our captain. We would be making our trip with another boat captained by David Pfister, a 20-year veteran of night fishing in Breton Sound.

As we approached open water, a late afternoon thunderstorm was making its way across Breton Sound kicking up 3-foot seas with whitecaps that made us detour into protected waters. As we waited for the weather to pass, our sister boat decided to don the rain suits and make the run out to “Central” (Kerr Magee facility). When they decided to “go for it,” I was reminded of what Guinta said earlier, “This is not for the meek or timid.”

Our boat took the cautious route and stayed closer in near Five Wells and the Compressor Rig. Our success was limited, but Pfister, with nerves of steal, made the long haul and had a field day.

Pfister explained how it all happened, in great detail.

“The storm made the trip out tough,” he said. “There were whitecaps and rain, but we had radar and knew that the storm was headed away from where we were going.

“We stopped at North Gosier and the Holy Cross rig, only catching a few. At around 7 p.m., we arrived at Central, where we would fish after dark. Before dark, we caught about 25 beautiful trout. At 8:30 p.m., we lit the area up by cranking up the 2-kilowatt Honda generator and two sodium vapor lights, and the trout came right under the boat. We were in about 16 feet of water.

“Using live shrimp on the bottom (Carolina-rigged), we had trout in the 2- to 5-pound range coming over the gunnels fast. It was mayhem! We caught 58 gorgeous trout and two bull reds, until we headed in around 11 p.m. The seas on the way in were dead calm, which made for an easy trip back. This was a typical night trip with big trout in a feeding frenzy.”

Although I was not able to experience the success that the other boat had, I had a great time aboard a fantastic boat equipped for night fishing with an experienced captain, and of course, the company of Guinta, who had endless stories of his escapades into the nighttime world of Breton Sound.

“We started out back in the late 1980s fishing a rig with a concrete barge north of the Ostrica Locks and not far from Iron Banks. It was all lit up and fairly easy to get to. We would climb up on the barge and fish all night with the rig workers using plastic beetles that would glow in the dark. We then bought a camp in Delacroix and started exploring the Wreck, Black Tank, Five Wells and the Dope Boat. We finally transitioned to Central, Little Gosier, Grand Gosier and Curlew Island when we got larger boats.”

Needless to say, our boat was in before Pfister’s, and it was great to have the luxuries of a hot shower and ice-cold air conditioning at the lodge. After some hot pizza, cold beverages and some second guessing of our strategy to stay close-in instead of going farther out, we retired for the night. We all slept soundly. The next morning we were up early and headed off to Black Bay.

Breton Sound is not the only place along the coast for nighttime fishing. A little farther to the west, the Cocodrie area has been long known for excellent speckled trout fishing and nighttime fishing that is nothing less than spectacular.

Another mad man of the night is Capt. Stu Scheer, who has had a fishing charter service (985-855-1846) for more than 40 years in the area, and has spent many summer nights hauling fish in from under lights at night.

“It is successful almost 100 percent of the time,” Scheer said. “If it is calm, the trout will show up 90 percent of the time.

“It is like fishing in an aquarium. You can see the trout swarming under the lights. All you have to do is drop the bait in, and you have instant and non-stop action.

“We only fish at night from May through August and concentrate on the wellheads and reefs in Terrebonne Bay, Lake Barre and Lake Pelto. We fish the same areas that we fish during the day. It doesn’t seem to matter what the tide and moon phases are because the lights are creating the right conditions by bringing the bait to the surface, and the trout will follow. It is very important that the winds are calm or light.

“We bring our own lights. We use two 500-watt lights that are powered by a portable generator on the boat. We setup on our spot about an hour before dark and do a little late-evening fishing until night sets in, then we crank up the generator and lights. The baitfish show up, and soon the trout are busting on the top of the water. We use live cochahoes, a hook and maybe a small weight and toss it into the light. We then start hauling the trout in. We usually have our limits in less than two hours.

“We really do not move much. We pick a spot where we are catching fish during the day, and if the conditions are calm, the trout almost always show up.”

These days Scheer prefers to fish during the day and lets one of his captains, Mike Ledet, handle the requests that he gets for night trips.

“On these trips, we run a 26-foot Stamas hull with twin outboards to give the customers lots of room and a seaworthy boat if unexpected storms pop up,” Scheer said.

Safety is paramount on night trips, and they only travel at night on prescribed routes that do not have obstructions and use GPS and radar.

Nighttime fishing brings a whole new dimension and sense of adventure to those who are willing to try something different from what they are used to. The excitement of arm-length trout boiling in the water around your boat as the clock strikes midnight may be all it takes to drive you to madness.

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