Looking for hot speckled trout action? Then cast your gaze to the nearshore areas, where love-struck trout gather for their summer-long party.
Two terms come to mind when anglers think about South Louisiana saltwater fishing — inshore and offshore. That’s about the only two places you can fish isn’t it? If you’re inshore, you’re definitely not offshore. And if you’re offshore you’re definitely not inshore. The only problem with this line of thinking is that it leaves a huge gap that is just full of hungry speckled trout that would be only too happy to bite your bait this summer if you could only find them. The key to finding them is to be a little nearsighted.
Capt. Bill Lake with Bayou Guide Service gets a little nearsighted himself this time of year. There might be a few small trout biting in the lakes and ponds around Bayou DuLarge, but he’d rather not spend his time chasing them. And although he keeps up with what’s going on offshore, his boat isn’t big enough to make it there.
That’s why Lake fishes a zone along coastal Louisiana that could best be described as nearshore. Lake indicated that this zone along the coast is anywhere from the coastal beaches and bays to the shallow rigs about 6 miles out.
“Everybody knows that all the trout migrate south for the summer,” said Lake. “They come out of their inshore winter spots and bays to find better salinity to spawn. Trout won’t lay their eggs in fresh water.
“They have to have the right salt content so their eggs can float properly with the current into the inshore marshes. The salinity has to be right, and that’s the main reason they move toward the saltier water. And in this part of the state below Terrebonne Parish, they find that needed salinity nearshore.”
Since there isn’t anything buffeting the winds in this zone along the coast, Lake is at the mercy of Mother Nature for the entire time trout are along the coast. Any south wind more than 10 m.p.h. forces him to stay on the inside and fish the reds. On top of making it difficult to fish, a south wind will also make the water too muddy to fish because of the soft bottoms.
“We’re not like the barrier islands with the real sandy bottoms,” said Lake. “Twelve- to 15-m.p.h. winds will mess up places like Pelican Pass, Taylor Bayou and Bay Round.”
Given the right conditions, though, Lake leaves the dock with one thing in mind — getting nearshore as quickly as he can. He normally makes a quick stop somewhere along the coast to see what’s happening before heading out a little farther.
“We’re fishing shell reefs most of the time when there’s current moving across the passes,” Lake said. “It’s nothing to pull up to a reef in the morning and see 60 birds diving and jumbo shrimp jumping out of the water. I pulled up to one spot recently, and there was so much action the trout were literally jumping out of the water. It was incredible.”
Lake says one of the keys to finding productive reefs is to stay on the lookout for big, circular slicks that indicate actively feeding fish and diving birds. And don’t be so quick to associate diving birds on the coast with small trout because that isn’t the case.
“There are usually 2- to 4-pound trout under the birds on the coast,” Lake explained. “It’s very unlike fishing birds in the inshore areas like Mechant or Sister Lake. Those are all small, but on the coast you can catch some nice fish under the birds.”
Over the years, Lake has discovered three or four oyster shell reefs that have produced loads of trout for him. He explained that these oyster bottoms have been born from coastal erosion. Land and grasses have been washed away leaving nothing but oysters behind.
The good news is that new fishing spots are being created every day. The bad news is that it’s at the expenses of rapid land loss. As Lake said, “Unfortunately, we’re getting way too many new spots to fish.”
“Another good spot to look for is a sandy-bottom area because that’s where trout are going to want to lay their eggs,” Lake explained. “That’s where they’ll be around the full moon each month, and you’ll get a natural congregation of trout about four or five days before the full moon.”
Anglers who don’t have much experience finding fishing holes like this should let the bait, birds and slicks point the way. Other than that, Lake said finding a lot of bull reds on the surface is another way to find some good big-trout spots because the big trout won’t be too far away from the reds because of the bait that’s available.
Lake always starts off drift-fishing the reefs with his trolling motor until he hits a couple quick doubles or triples. When that happens, he’ll immediately get his anchor in the water so he can sit there and wear them out.
“Once we get a couple quick hook-ups, we don’t normally have to move too much after that,” he said. “The fish will feed fast and furious for about an hour to an hour and a half.”
While Lake is famous for fishing his LSU Bayou Chubs almost every day he’s on the water, he did say that he usually brings along some live bait, even though he rarely has to resort to it.
“I like to take live croakers,” he said, “or maybe some live shrimp. But it’s usually just the LSU Chubs fished on a tandem rig so we can catch them two at a time. You can double all summer long out there on some nice fish.”
To rig his tandem rigs, Lake first cuts a 36-inch piece of 30-pound-test mono. Then he ties a 1/4-ounce jig to each end of the length of mono. He then drops the top jig half way down the length of line and finishes with a double knot to which he ties his main line. This way he has one jig half as high as the jig that works along the bottom.
“I always make several beforehand and keep them in a Ziploc bag,” he said. “That way I can just open it up and be back in business in no time.”
Lake doesn’t use swivels or rings when he fishes the tandem rig on the coast. Rather, he ties directly to the double knot, and he has very little trouble fishing them this way. More often than not, the rig comes back in with the baits swimming perfectly, and they rarely tangle up.
“I throw this rig out and let it sink all the way to the bottom,” Lake explained. “Most of the time they’re going to hit it on this first fall, but if they don’t I pick it up off bottom a little and reel it back in with a steady, medium-speed retrieve. We’re talking water that is only 4 feet deep, so it’s already on bottom by the time you make your first crank.”
Lake pointed out some of the best coastline places to fish are Bay Round, Pass Wilson, the mouth of Grand Bayou DuLarge and Taylor Bayou. Keep in mind, though, that any area along the coast from Oyster Bayou to Pass Wilson can be good anywhere the tide has a place to come in and go out.
“You can also shoot over to the 16 sets of rock jetties on the backside of Raccoon Island,” Lake added. “Those things are like magnets for the fish. Sometimes there will be 20 boats there, but all 20 boats will be catching fish.”
After working his coastal areas, Lake sometimes makes a move out to the rigs in the Ship Shoal blocks. The only thing different about fishing the rigs is that he’s fishing deeper water. Instead of 4 feet, he’s fishing 15 feet.
“When you get to the rigs, you’re not going to see any slicks or birds to help you out,” said Lake. “The key to fishing the rigs is learning which corner on a particular rig is most productive. Whatever the reason, all of these rigs have a hot corner. Sometimes the key to the summer nearshore bite is beating all the other boats to a particular corner of a particular rig.”
Lake believes that one advantage he has over a bigger boat is his trolling motor. Rather than having to drop anchor or use a rig hook, he simply drops his trolling motor when it’s calm enough to use effectively and trolls the entire rig if he’s looking for fish.
The thing to understand about fishing the rigs is that they’re either going to be there or they’re not. If you get there and find good, clean water with a little current, though, Lake said you could catch them on the rigs every day that’s like that.
“Now, if the current is ripping through there with a 2-foot tidal range, you may have a tough day because the fish just don’t bite well with all that tide,” he said. “And you really can’t predict what the tide will be like out there. You can look at all the charts in the world, but you still won’t know unless you go.”
Lake generally stays with is tandem Bayou Chub rig on the rigs with one exception. Rather than reeling them back in with a steady medium-speed retrieve, he lets the rig hit bottom then lets it roll around in the current. And if the current is a little too fast, he threads a 1/2-ounce sinker onto his main line before tying on the tandem rig.
“We occasionally throw live croakers on the rigs, too,” Lake added. “I normally rig a croaker on a Carolina rig with a 1/2- to 3/4-ounce weight and a No. 5 kahle hook. My general rule of thumb is that if I have to use a 1-ounce weight, I’m probably not going to catch much anyway.”
Lake explained that fishing the rigs isn’t a secret at all. Everybody heading to the rigs tries to be the first to get to the Enstar Platform 2 miles off Raccoon Point, Ship Shoal 26, Ship Shoal 28, Ship Shoal 33 or Ship Shoal 35. The key is to get there early enough to get the choice spots on the rigs.
The coast below Terrebonne Parish isn’t the only place where anglers can find nearshore bliss this summer. Capt. Lloyd Landry runs out of Buras, and he believes in the nearshore theory just as much as Lake does.
“It’s not much different over here at all,” said Landry. “You can go out and fish the beaches out of Buras, or you can run out to the rigs in the east or west side of the river. It’s the age-old adage of just following the fish. I’ve been doing it since I was a little boy.”
During the summer, Landry typically fishes the rigs first, and he concentrates on the Sandy Point rigs, Battledore, and all the rigs heading out to Breton Island.
“If it’s calm enough, I run to the rigs,” Landry added. “A lot of those rigs have a shell pad under them, and you’ll find everything from tiny bait to bull reds on those pads.
“I try to fish the upcurrent side where the fish should be facing into the current waiting on something to eat. Of course, things don’t always go according to plan, so I frequently troll around the rigs if I have to find them.”
Like the Ship Shoal rigs, Landry has found that trout tend to favor certain corners of the rigs around the river. But, as Landry quipped, “Have tail will travel,” so sometimes they’re not where they’re supposed to be.
“What I do during the summer on the coast has a lot to do with what I did the day before,” Landry said. “If I smoked them at the Green Monster today, I’m going to try to be one of the first boats there tomorrow morning. And I’ll generally stay on the fish during the summer and work them over until they stop biting rather than not trying to beat them up too bad.”
Landry favors fishing sand-eel imitators in this nearshore zone during the summer, and the Slug-Go and Norton Sand Eel are two of his favorites. And if he gets to a rig where somebody is already wearing them out on live shrimp, he makes sure to thread on a white bait.
“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve fished a white bait around guys already throwing live shrimp and put the spanking on them,” he added. “I guess the fish are already a little fired up from all the shrimp in the water, and they get going on that white bait.”
Landry and Taylor are only two of the many anglers who take advantage of the loads of trout stacked along Louisiana’s coast during the summer. If you want to stay on the trout like these two guides, get a little nearsighted and work the coastal zone and the close rigs. One thing’s for sure — you’ll definitely be near fish.
For more information, contact Capt. Bill Lake at 985-851-6015 and Capt. Lloyd Landry at 504-912-8291.
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