Say your alphabet while you read this list. It’ll get you fired up for the coming saltwater season.
It’d be impossible to give you saltwater fishing from A to Z, but here’s an alphabetical outline of some of the upcoming season’s best areas.
American Bay is one of the few areas not drastically affected by the Mississippi River during its spring rise, but still benefiting from the river’s direct geological effects.
The islands bordering the area are surrounded by shallow flats made up of river sand, giving them a tendency for holding heat early in the spring longer and faster than the surrounding mud.
“It’s also far enough from the river that it doesn’t murk up as often when the river is high,” said Capt. Charlie Thomason, who fishes the area from his Hopedale headquarters. “The river always backs up into the area, but the distance from it keeps it clean, especially when there’s an east or northeast wind.”
The barges at Fourchon Beach were placed to protect one of the state’s only road-accessible beaches, but they’ve also been fish-attracting structure ever since their placement in 1994. Despite the pummeling the area has received from tropical systems, the structures have served to build land directly behind them.
“You could troll behind them several years ago, but now it’s knee-deep water behind some of them,” said Capt. Chad Billiot.
Trolling along the Gulf side, which is much deeper, on calm days and anchoring on the corners when rougher can result in outstanding catches of specks in the summer.
Casse Tette Island
One of the structures in the Timbalier Bay area that is disturbingly washing away, Casse Tette Island holds speckled trout as they head toward the Timbalier chain for the spring and summer spawning season.
A deep hole (15-20 feet) on the western end serves as an escape for fish, but Billiot says the season’s incoming tide in the morning provides solid topwater action when the water is clean. It’s also a favorite for giant redfish.
The Dope Boat is not just a random name. This popular structure in Breton Sound was an old drug-running boat sunk by the feds many years ago.
Law enforcement has never been so appreciated, as the structure is the first stop for many summer anglers fishing out of Hopedale.
Live bait fished in some of the location’s “sweet spots” is a sure bet for a good catch of the area’s speckled trout, and many bull reds call it home as well.
East Timbalier Island
It’s been several years since the glory days for this Lafourche Parish gem, but it still gives up its share of out-sized specks when the redfish aren’t running things amongst the rocky bottom.
The interior of the islands where the fish hang out is no place for beginners, and Billiot suggests a few recon missions before tackling them in the summer.
“There are lots of rocks that are exposed when the tide is low after a front comes through during the winter and early spring,” said Billiot. “These are fish-attracting rocks and also some of the ones that you need to aware of if you’re going to go in there.”
Located far to the west of Cocodrie, Ship Shoal Block 58 is a famed speckled trout rig that sits in 20 feet of water and is a long ride from any jumping-off spot. Fast action is often the reward for one’s commitment, though sometimes in the heat of summer, night trips are much more productive.
Spanish mackerel and bluefish can wreak havoc on bait and tackle, and giant sting rays can burn fishing time, but the region’s biggest trout await adventurous anglers.
Grand Isle is the state’s only inhabited barrier island and offers outstanding spring and summer surf fishing, as well as close access to inshore fishing among reefs, rocks and rigs.
Additionally, the island is the closest to offshore angling, requiring no rides down monotonous passes or bays in getting to snapper, cobia and other deep-sea species.
The Highway 11 bridge is the best of the three Slidell-area bridges for really big speckled trout. The middle structure connecting Lake Pontchartrain’s north and south shores is best worked by casting 3/8- or ½-ounce jigs amongst the pilings and working them back along the bottom with the current.
This structure is one of a handful of areas in the state where anglers have a legitimate chance to land a trout over 10 pounds.
Accessed from any number of launches on the east side of the Mississippi River, the Iron Banks is another of those hotspots that should be enjoyed while it lasts. It now consists of three separate islands.
“It’s more of a feeding ground than a spawning ground,” said Thomason, who added that anglers should be careful of the sunken barge on the northeastern side. “If there’s no bait present on the surface, don’t bother to fish it.”
Johnson Bayou rocks
The beach located just west of Holly Beach and around seven or eight miles from the Cameron Jetties is a consistent speckled trout producer when the incoming tide brings in clean Gulf water.
“After the tide plays out, the fish generally pull off of the beach,” said Capt. Erik Rue.
OK, so we cheated a little. The Chef area east of Lake Pontchartrain is underrated for speckled trout, and provides easy trips for New Orleans and northshore residents.
Live shiners (menhaden) get the most bites in this popular locale for good numbers of speckled trout and flounder.
One of the more-famous Big Lake spots, Long Point is a large reef on the western edge of the lake in an area that can support a large number of anglers working it, according to Rue.
Just about any way you can catch trout — numbers and the lake’s exceptionally large fish — works here.
“I’ve seen it where there were over a hundred boats fishing and just about every one of them was catching,” said Rue. “The problem comes when people start running around. If people would just get there and stay put and fish, when the place gets right it would be a lot better.”
Not be confused with the Midnight Lump of offshore fame, the South Pass Mud Lumps are another of the handful of places where one has a good chance at catching a trout of a lifetime.
Fishing the varying numbers of mucky subsurface structures also requires attention to where one’s boat is if not anchored. Anglers are in the Gulf of Mexico at this spot, at the mercy of wind, current and tide that can toss them dangerously close to the breaking waves.
Topwaters are unbeatable for big trout on calm days, while 3/8-ounce jigs (for current) and Rat-L-Traps (for the murk) deliver the goods on days considered more “sporty.”
Fish on the upcurrent side on weaker current days and downcurrent side on days with stronger flow.
Redfish of all sizes also infest the randomly placed hills of compacted sediment, sometimes making it difficult to get to the spotted trophies.
New Cut is not so new anymore, but remains a hotspot for anglers out of Cocodrie. Carved by Hurricane Juan in 1985, the ideal speckled trout habitat in the Isles Dernieres chain has become a mainstay especially for surf anglers.
Boaters are in luck as well, though cautioned to be aware of the constantly changing sandbars and tumultuous Gulf swells.
Ocean Concord is one of the numerous submersible oil rigs dotting the landscape off of our coast, providing structure for anglers favoring pelagic species.
Also called floaters, these structures don’t go all the way to the bottom — 7,000 feet down or more — but attract bait and game fish nonetheless for the adventurous types. After sunset, the huge structures light up the night and attract hordes of tuna for fishermen willing to spend the night.
The Picketts is a string of wells situated several miles west of the last spit of land in the Isles Dernieres chain. Offshore anglers and workers use this speckled trout hotspot as a “picket fence” reference point when heading north back to port.
Also included is a large, orange “mother rig” that, on summer Saturdays, looks like an in-water boat show. Like most areas, this one has its sweet spots, but there are times when every boat will be hauling in trout after trout.
Quatre Bayou Pass
Part of a string of passes accessible from Grand Isle, Port Sulphur, Lafitte and Empire, Four Bayous is known for large numbers of trout as well as monster redfish patrolling its ever-changing series of sandbars.
The area can be dangerous even on calm days when the tide is running strong. This is another speckled trout hotspot that can support a large number of boats, provided at least a minimum amount of courtesy is displayed.
The offshore waters are awash in currents, and the rip is what occurs when two of them collide. Its location is the first thought among offshore fishermen planning summer trips, and the current line often situates itself just a few miles from South or Southwest Pass out of Venice.
Often, there is dirty green water on one side and cobalt blue on the other, providing a shockingly beautiful contrast. It also results in floating objects — sargassum, wooden pallets, trash and even coconuts — accumulating on the surface of the deep water, drawing bait and pelagics such as dolphin, wahoo and marlin.
The bridge the area is named after is located in the New Orleans city limits, but it’s the shell reef and bait-pushing current to and from the Industrial Canal that makes it one of the most productive spots in the state for spring, summer and even fall speckled trout.
The area is famously fickle relative to boat position and fishing success, but not as strange as fishing close enough to boats to know what kind of beverage they’re drinking. And that’s on a slow day.
Turner’s Bay is a large section on the north shoreline of Big Lake that has become a year round spot for the area’s large speckled trout.
“It’s the first place where fish are caught in the late winter or early spring,” said Rue.
Though the lake is renowned for its topwater action, Rue says anglers are much better off working the shell-covered bottom with subsurface baits.
Redfish populate the area as well, but are much more prevalent on the shoreline than the reefs.
Ursa is another semi-submersible structure, and distinguishes itself as being one of the largest floaters in the world, seen on a clear day from more than 20 miles away.
Ursa isn’t known for just being big. It, along with the nearby Mars floater, is one of the most productive spots for tuna and marlin, and the pair’s proximity to each other makes them a good trolling target.
The floater can also be incredibly productive at night when yellowfin and blackfin tuna follow baitfish attracted by the lights of the massive structure.
Viosca Knoll 989
Keeping with the offshore theme, Viosca Knoll 989 has taken a backseat to the floaters in the offshore scene, but the rig far to the east of South Pass still holds its share of pelagics.
A variety of artificials will boat tuna, but many offshore anglers have taken to slow-trolling live hardtails when yellowfin are the target.
The rig is also relatively close to the Ram Powell floater, a structure more frequented by sportfishers originating out of Alabama and the Florida panhandle.
The Washout serves Big Lake as one of the main passageways to the Ship Channel, though its relatively shallow depth and oyster-covered bottom make it a dynamite speckled trout and redfish haunt.
Different than many other Big Lake structures in that it is severely affected by strong tides, it is nonetheless one of the best areas for trophy specks, especially if you know the spots within the spots and how to plan around the strong currents.
“Strong incoming tides really tend to murk it up. It’s best on really weak tides,” said Rue.
The X Factor is the presence of bait around any one of these locations. The constant theme when talking to people about the above areas is the need for mullet, pogies and shrimp in inshore areas and visible bait around the offshore structures in order to be successful. Even when faced with dirty or rough water, the presence of baitfish warrants giving the spots a try.
Yellow Cotton Bay
Though a famed fall speckled trout area, Yellow Cotton Bay in between Venice and Buras is also an outstanding redfish area in the summertime. The vast grass beds on and off the southeastern shore provide outstanding sight casting for the bronze warriors.
Zin Zin Bay
Though much more dependent on the level of the Mississippi River, Zin Zin Bay southwest of Venice is hard to beat for summer redfish action. Simply working the shoreline can provide outstanding action for sight casters and bait fishermen alike.
River levels above 5 feet or a hard rise can murk it up, but when it’s right, the hard river-sand bottom can provide outstanding wade fishing for “pushing” redfish.