Prior to a recent mangrove snapper trip, Capt. Ross Montet loaded up with fresh pogies he cast-netted in the West Delta. He started in open water, but found he was chasing fast-moving schools that were outrunning his net in the 10- to 12-foot depths.
On a hunch, Montet ran in toward Schoefield Beach where we found birds diving and multiple oil slicks indicating a gold mine of smelly baitfish. Fortunately, the baits on the beach were the right size — about a third of the length of the few adult pogies we had gathered in deeper water. These juvenile “peanut” pogies are highly effective baits for a variety of coastal and offshore fish, including snappers.
Throughout the bait gathering process, Montet shared a few technique pointers:
• Hunting pogies may require a lot of idling and looking, so keep the net ready and watch/listen for telltale surface pops.
• Because Louisiana limits recreational anglers to 8-foot cast nets, accuracy is particularly important. Judge your approach speed and watch out for sneaky waves that can shift your balance and send the net off course.
• Whenever possible, try to avoid throwing into the wind, as the oncoming blow will stall your net in the air and give fast-swimming pogies a head start on escaping.
• Dropping fresh baits into a laundry basket or a 5-gallon bucket keeps them in better shape than dumping them on a hard deck and scooping them with a dip net.
• When shrimp and glass minnows show up amid your pogy netting, keep the former for bait diversity and the latter for chumming.