The sports term “hitting the wall” has negative overtones, but not when it comes to fishing waters south and east of New Orleans.
“The Wall” is the newest of the area’s fishing hot spots. It’s the results of billions of dollars in federal funds spent on saving the Crescent City from storm surges through the marshes of St. Bernard Parish, specifically from the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet, the Intracoastal Waterway and the Industrial Canal.
So “hitting the wall” there is good, no, make that great for 2015’s remaining weeks.
Jeff Bruhl wasn’t the first to discover the fish-holding benefits The Wall provides. Dr. Bob Weiss and Chink Dimas have been working The Wall for most of the past four years. So have inshore charters.
It’s just that Bruhl has expanded the possibilities The Wall and surrounding waters hold. It’s an area to chalk-up another in south Louisiana’s unique fishing opportunities, a chance for an “Inshore Slam.”
“There are very few places in the country where anyone has the chance to catch a limit of (speckled) trout, redfish and (largemouth) bass, and this is one, and a very good one,” Bruhl said.
He proved that in October.
Where to launch
From his Louisiana Fish Fry product-wrapped Phoenix bass boat, Bruhl and videographer Gary Krouse ran the eight or so miles from a launch at Chef Menteur Pass to The Wall.
“I prefer to put in there. I live on the north shore and it’s quicker to get to launches at Chef Pass,” Bruhl said. “You can launch at Bayou Bienvenu (off La. 47), but you have to be careful because they can close the locks (on Bayou Bienvenu). If the locks are closed, you have to run all the way around to Violet (and the Violet Canal) to get back to the launch.”
At The Wall
Fishing The Wall is a big change for the Lake Pontchartrain fishermen who claim this massive flood-control project has reduced the flow of water into the Industrial Canal and to what once was big-trout heaven at the Seabrook Bridge.
“This area is along an old travel route for speckled trout,” Bruhl said. “Basically (The Wall) is like a plug.”
Bruhl reasons that trout have used the MRGO and ICWW for fall and spring migrations — it’s mostly to follow food sources like shrimp and baitfish in the fall, and to spawning areas in the spring — trout get to the wall and find food and the just-right water depth to keep them healthy and well fed well into winter’s chill.
“Really I like fishing this area in the fall. It’s good from late October and into November and December,” Bruhl said. “I know other fishermen catch them there at other times, but colder weather seems to be the time when trout follow the food.”
There’s more to it than food.
You don’t have to be an expert to know water temperatures begin to cool during the fall, and can dip into the 40s in January. That’s when trout and redfish go to the bottom seeking the warmest water to survive the winter’s cold.
And this mass of concrete and steel help keep the surrounding water warmer.
“The concrete holds heat, and, on those clear, bluebird days between the (cold) fronts, the sun heats the wall and directs warmth into the water,” Bruhl said. “That means the water stays warmer near the wall, and all it takes is a few degrees warmer water to hold fish.
“And the warmer water keeps the trout more active.”
Bruhl said more often than not trout are not nosed up against the structure. Instead, because there’s deeper water near The Wall, trout will move to drop-offs leading to the deeper water.
“The trout are feeding along the ledges and the drop-offs. There are times when the fish will suspend, but most times they’re on the bottom and you have to work structure on the bottom,” Bruhl said. “I lost about a dozen jigheads on the last trip, but you have to hang up to catch them.”
Bruhl added that trout will move to the bottom on cold water temperatures, “and they will stay there because the sand and dirt on the bottom is almost constant at about 65 degrees in the winter. That’s why dragging baits on the bottom works.”
Try Bruhl’s tactic of rigging artificials on a half-ounce jighead to drag the bottom, and a 3?8-ounce jighead to catch fish suspended off the bottom.
His lure choice is simple: Chaz Champagne’s Matrix Shad in Shrimp Creole and Ultraviolet colors, and a variety of Berkley Gulp! baits.
“I know guides use live shrimp, and there are times when live shrimp will outdo the jigheads,” Bruhl said, “but I like the action of artificials. We caught fish on Matris and Gulp! Jerkshad and I did real well on a new bait, the Gulp! Doubletail Swimming Mullet. Those two curly tails on the back made a difference to the trout.”
Completing ‘the slam’
As if catching 2-4 pound speckled trout isn’t enough, Bruhl is one of those anglers who likes to make the most of his days on the water. And being so close to the MRGO and the bayous near “The Wall,” it’s easy to cruise to the marshes for bass and redfish.
“They live throughout the marshes in that area, and we find the bass and reds in the old bayous. During the summer these fish hang around the rocks along the MRGO, but during the fall they move to deeper water off the rocks and into the bayous,” Bruhl said, adding that this is not a trip to catch lunker bass.
“There are some nice bass in there, but most are just good catchin’ size,” he said. “I’m fishing them with spinnerbaits around pockets of grass. Most times they’re on the outside edges of the grass, and the trick is to let the spinnerbait fall along the edges of the grass beds. I’m using that old Stanley spinner I like so much.”
It’s a double spinner with a willowleaf as the back blade, and Bruhl uses a clear pearl/salt-and pepper skirt, a color that resembles the color of a shrimp.
He said swimbaits work, too, and when you get one of those warmer days the fish will take topwaters, baits like Pop-R’s.
Up this week
The sunny, windy weekend is predicted to give way to stormy, windy days Monday through early Wednesday on the approach of another cold front. The Weather Service indicated southeast Louisiana could get as much as 2-3 inches of rain from this front.