Fish these 10 spots on an average January day, and you might strain your back lifting the ice chest out of your boat.
To say that Capt. Charlie Thomason was fighting back misty memories might be a little too strong, but I swear I saw him wiping a tear as his Catch 5 sailed toward the broken shoreline in Cochon Bay just off Lake Amedee.
Just as quickly, he grabbled his reel handle right before the lure splashed down. He knew he better be ready because this was the exact bank where Thomason boated the largest trout he has ever caught in Louisiana.
“Ten pounds, 4 ounces,” he recalled. “It was cold as heck and windy as heck. I had been catching some decent trout here, and I had a customer with me who liked me to fish with him — try new lures and stuff. I cast a prototype Catch 2000 in this exact spot, and hooked up.”
After dismissing his customer’s offer of a net assist, Thomason soon realized that what he thought was a decent redfish was a giant speckled trout. He saw its head come out of the dirty water, and that’s when the mayhem erupted.
The giant trout eventually took its place of honor above a 7-pound trout on a wall in Thomason’s lodge in Hopedale before Hurricane Katrina. The way Thomason looks at it now, they are both still floating around out there somewhere.
After showing me where he caught his giant trout several years ago, Thomason took me around Lake Amedee and pointed out nine more spots that, along with the first one, were what he believed to be the 10 best spots to fish during January.
• No. 1: South Shoreline of Cochon Bay
(N29 46’03.05” x W89 42’10.98”)
The spot where Thomason landed his 10-pound trout, this section of Cochon Bay from the point in Amedee to the Twin Pipelines allows a lot of marsh water to pour out, which attracts lots of mullet and big trout. Thomason says this spot is good on incoming or falling tides.
“This spots holds lots of good fish, but not limits,” Thomason said. “If you’re after quality trout, this is the spot for you. There’s a channel out in Cochon that you can easily spot by the crab traps, and the south shoreline is lined with oyster shells. Those oysters keep the water here warm, and the trout like to move up out of the deep channel to eat over the shallow oysters.”
After the sun has had a chance to warm this spot even more, the trout really start eating. Thomason’s favorite baits here first thing in the morning are MirrOlure Catch 5s and topwaters. Later in the day, he switches to a soft plastic fished on bottom or a live cocaho rigged through the eyes.
“I’ve caught some really good trout on the live cocahoes fished on the bottom,” Thomason said. “But no matter what you fish, the key here are the oyster shells along this south bank.”
• No. 2: South Shore of Amedee
(N29 45’20.98” x W89 41’49.31”)
Years ago, this entire area used to be where oyster fishermen had their beds before dredging was brought to a halt. The oyster shells still remain, though, and Thomason says this entire south shore is lined with them from one end to the other.
“Again, this area heats up a little bit because of all the shells,” he said. “The water here tends to run between 2 to 4 feet, and what you want to do is drift parallel to the bank about 100 yards off the bank. Sometimes the wind won’t let you do that, though, and you’ve got to use your trolling motor. Or you could set up and make drifts in toward the bank, and pull out for another drift.”
Thomason likes to throw plastics under popping corks, Catch 5s or Mann’s Baby 1-Minuses for trout. And since he says the best way to fish it is to drift this bank, he pointed out the importance of cast speed and direction.
“Throw your bait in the same direction you’re drifting,” he recommended. “And make sure you’re not reeling too slow or too fast. Try to keep constant movement in your bait, but you want to make sure you don’t make the mistake of reeling your bait in too quickly. You’ve got to work with it to figure out what speed retrieve is going to work.
“Also, don’t pull your bait behind your boat. That will not work here because you’ll go over the fish before your bait gets to them, and you’ll spook them off because the water is so shallow here.”
• No. 3: Mouth of Bayou Robin
(N29 45’08.97” x W89 41’13.26”)
This is a popular spot for anglers because the first 300-yard stretch simply stacks up with trout when the water gets cold. While the bigger trout move out of Bayou Robin and into Amedee when it warms up, they’ll always return when the temperature drops.
“The best way to fish it is to put your boat on the north bank and cast upcurrent toward the south,” said Thomason. “You can use whatever kind of plastic you like, but the key is fishing them on a 3/8-ounce jighead. Try to let the current take the bait down, and you don’t want to move it too much — maybe 2 or 3 inches with your rod tip.”
Thomason contends it’s extremely important to maintain constant contact with your lure at all times when fishing Bayou Robin because the bites could range from solid thumps to almost imperceptible taps.
“Because the fish will move up into Amedee later in the day when it warms, this is a spot I would hit first thing in the morning,” Thomason said. “When you start catching a lot of smaller fish or you just haven’t limited yet, then you can move up and drift that south shoreline.”
• No. 4: Redfish Point
(N29 45’53.05” x W89 41’09.90”)
You won’t find Redfish Point listed by that name on any map, but Thomason says there’s no better redfish “guarantee” in all of Amedee than this small point going into Tanasia Lagoon. It has produced reds and black drum for him for the past 20 years, and it’s actually gotten better over all those years.
“It’s eroded a lot from the hurricanes,” Thomason said, “but the erosion has carved out a hump about four or five feet off the bank. On either an incoming or falling tide, all that water rolls past this point and the fish get behind it or on it to eat.”
Thomason recommended fishing live or dead shrimp a foot and a half under a popping cork. Try getting about 50 to 80 feet off the point and casting toward the east back to the point. Rather than casting directly on the bank, try aiming for a spot 4 or 5 feet off the point to hit the little hump.
“No matter if you launch out of Reggio or Hopedale, this is a spot you can come any time of the day as long as the water is moving and at least catch a fish or two,” Thomason said. “You will catch one or two, but you may catch 50.”
• No. 5: Bayou Batola Elbow
(N29 45’31.28” x W89 40’22.30”)
As you enter Bayou Batola from Lake Amedee, it will make a hard turn to your right. Thomason tells people all the time that this is a spot that the trout are either here or they’re not. However, when they’re here, he says you can get your limit in 25 casts.
“And the great thing about it is when they get in here, they’ll stick around for a week or so at a time,” he said. “And all of them will be nice-sized trout. A really good bait to use here is one a lot of people don’t fish in salt water — a 1/2-ounce Rat-L-Trap.”
Since neither side is any better than the other, Thomason likes to get on the bank on either side of the elbow, cast toward the middle and retrieve his Trap up the ledge. He added that a jig and soft plastic is also good, but some of the biggest trout he’s caught here came on live cocahoes.
“I rig them through the eyes and just let the jighead hold them on bottom,” Thomason said. “Holding them like that makes them look like they’re feeding on bottom. I’ve caught some good 3- to 5-pound trout doing this.”
• No. 6: Bayou Batola Kidney
(N29 45’12.60” x W89 40’17.38”)
Just down Bayou Batola from the elbow is a spot that, from the air, resembles a giant kidney. This is a really good spot when the water falls out and the depth along the southern bank is about 2 feet.
“You can do two things here,” Thomason said. “The first is to drift the entire stretch with the wind, and the second is to go to the east-southeast bank and fish the rounded points. The entire area has hard shell because the water rushes through here on a moving tide, and the oysters populated the area.”
When the water falls out, the trout sit on the oysters and wait on the bait to come washing by them. Thomason favors MirrOlure 52Ms here along with Mann’s Baby 1-Minuses, Catch 5s, topwaters and live or dead minnows under popping corks for the reds. If you want to throw plastics here, Thomason said to try the bigger 4-inch baits.
“There is a trough along this entire south shore because the current rips through here so hard,” he said. “Whatever you do, try to get your baits in that trough when the water is moving through. The trout here tend to be larger fish, so be ready with your net.”
• No. 7: Bayou Batola Flat
(N29 45’31.89” x W89 40’52.62”)
According to Thomason, this big flat that serves as the entrance from Lake Amedee to Bayou Batola is one of the few spots in Lake Amedee where the trout bite on an incoming tide. Although the prevailing tide is falling this time of year, Thomason says sometimes strong south or southeast winds can push water up through Bayou Batola.
“And that water is warmer,” he added. “When it moves in and across this flat, this entire flat can really turn on. There are lots of shells scattered across here, and you can just drift it over and over again and expect to pick up five to 15 fish per drift. Do that enough times, and you can have a good mess of fish before lunch.”
When drifting the Batola flat, try soft plastics fished about 2 feet below a popping cork. Thomason says the colors to try here are clear baits with tinsel in them like opening night, the silver mullet Saltwater Assassin and the firecracker H&H beetle or Cocahoe tail.
“You can also get up against the bank to the east and throw 1/2-ounce gold spoons or topwaters for some redfish,” Thomason said. “And I would never leave this flat without at least trying the Catch 5 for trout.”
• No. 8: Northeast Bank of Tanasia
(N29 46’25.12” x W89 40’36.05”)
The only thing that separates Amedee and Tanasia is an island, so Thomason considers this bank a part of the Amedee estuary. What makes this bank so attractive to trout is all the debris that blew against it during the recent hurricanes.
“Debris meaning marsh,” Thomason said. “It all got stuck on this bank, and it created a habitat inside this bay that has a whole bunch of little humps under the water that make the trout and reds feel really comfortable. Every little hump creates a good ambush point.”
Thomason fishes this stretch of bank by staying about three or four boat lengths off the bank and drift fishing. He likes to throw a Catch 5 for the trout because he considers it a big-trout spot rather than a limit hole.
“If you like to sightfish reds, then you’re going to love this spot during the winter,” Thomason said. “The water gets really clear, and you can get right up against the bank and fish soft plastics rigged on 1/8-ounce jigheads parallel to the bank. You’ll see them cruising down this bank.”
• No. 9: Redfish Cove
(N29 46’46.47” x W89 41’28.46”)
Thomason feels like this little pocket gets overlooked because it is just off the route many anglers use to run back in to Hopedale. Since the commotion is consistent, though, he says the redfish actually get used to it, and it doesn’t stop them from biting.
“Once the tide gets low, there’s a shallow flat out in the middle that redfish like to get on,” he said. “You might catch some big trout, but the majority of fish are going to be reds. This is a dark bottom that gets warm, and the redfish like to huddle up in this cove.”
Thomason explained that the middle of this cove is actually a little depression. That’s why he likes to get against the bank and throw toward the middle. His most productive lures are gold spoons and MirrOlure soft plastics. He likes colors like electric chicken, purple/chartreuse, black/chartreuse and morning glory.
“The Gulp stuff also works well because you can throw it out there and let it sit,” Thomason said. “The reds will just pick it up off the bottom. This spot is kind of like a secret guide spot since so many people think it can’t be any good with so many boats running by it.”
• No. 10: Small Boat Pass
(N29 46’46.42” x W89 41’59.30”)
This nondescript pass north of Lake Amedee is unique in that it’s a spot only anglers with shallow-water boats can get into. If you’ve got a little johnboat, a flats boat or a skiff style boat, this is the spot for you.
“No big boats allowed,” Thomason chuckled. “This area is lined with shells, and there are some mud humps in it. When the tide falls low, mullet move up in here and the bigger trout come in, too. Big trout are solitary fish, though, so there might be only 10 come in here. I’ve caught more 4- and 5-pound trout in here during the winter than anywhere else in this entire area.”
Fish this spot with the Catch 5, MirrOdine XL and regular soft plastics fished on 1/4- or 1/8-ounce jigheads. Thomason says having something that falls slowly is important because of how shallow the pass is.
“You want something that stays up high,” he added. “The normal depth will be about a foot, so corks and heavy tightlined plastics are out. If your boat drafts more than a foot, don’t even try coming in here during the winter.”
Capt. Charlie Thomason can be reached at 504-278-FISH.