Mike Mitchell didn’t have that wild-eyed look that earned him the nickname, “Mad Mike,” from his fishing friends in Baton Rouge and along The Fourchon.

That didn’t mean Mitchell wasn’t excited.

“You can tell everybody that the trout have moved to the beaches,” he said while watching his son, Grant, weigh in an 85-pound yellowfin tuna, the winner in last weekend’s 66th annual Golden Meadow-Fourchon Tarpon Rodeo.

“We saw brown shrimp jumping out of the water, and saw trout jumping after them,” the longtime Baton Rouge coastal fisherman said. “The only problem was that there were sharks in the area and they were nailing the trout.”

While coastal fishermen, especially those along the Central Coast, have been moaning about sparse speckled trout catches throughout the spring and early summer, Mitchell said one of the anglers’ problems has been solved.

“The (Sargasso) grass has finally died, and the trout are showing up,” Mitchell said.

Fishermen trying to get to the beaches and other shallow-water areas have been hampered by the mats of Sargasso across Fourchon, East Timbalier and Last Island waters for nearly two months. The grass arrives on tides and winds from the Sargasso Sea in the western Atlantic Ocean and moves into and from the Caribbean Sea into the Gulf of Mexico.

Mitchell said the welcome sight of trout in the surf and other shallow-water areas held another of fishing’s vagaries.

“We caught fish Friday from noon until about 2:30 in the afternoon, but caught them around 5:30 (a.m.) Saturday and the bite was over by 7 o’clock,” Mitchell said. “I don’t know what that means. I just know the trout are finally there, and that’s great news.”

Mitchell was the overseer for his crew’s offshore rodeo adventures, and said his son’s hefty tuna — the 85-pounder was more than 30 pounds heavier than Rustie Charpentier’s second-place 51-pounder — came from Elf, a deep-water floating oil platform.

“There are plenty of tuna out there right now, and plenty of bait,” Mitchell said.

While Mitchell took time to take limits of trout, the rodeo’s trout kingpin was Galliano veteran Eddie Callais. His 4-pound, 5-ounce trout topped the category. Callais’ competition came from rodeo legends Terry St. Cyr of Lafayette (3-10 second place) and Bootsie Toups of Marrero (3-5 third-place trout).

“I thought the fishing was real tough for big fish,” Callais said during Saturday’s final-day weigh-in. “We fished the Fourchon area, and caught maybe 60 trout the last two days.

“We were at the barges (along The Fourchon beach) and found the bigger trout wanted live pogeys ... free-lined live pogeys,” he said.

Free-lining is a method of hooking live baitfish on a hook without sinkers and without using a cork. It allows fishermen to present a more natural look to bait presentation.

About those shrimp

The spring inshore shrimp season along the Central Coast and parts of the Lake Pontchartrain Basin will close at 6 a.m. Tuesday, state Wildlife and Fisheries Department biologists announced Wednesday.

The closure covers the Barataria and Terrebonne basins, and runs from the eastern shore of South Pass of the Mississippi River west to the Atchafalaya River Ship Channel at Eugene Island.

According to the LDWF, the Pontchartrain Basin closure has several exceptions.

Those still-open exceptions include:

  • the part of Lake Borgne seaward of a line extending one-half mile from the shoreline;
  • a portion of Mississippi Sound along the western shore of Three-Mile Pass on a northeasterly line to Isle Au Pitre, or the area known to commercial shrimpers as the “double-rig line;”
  • and, the open “double-rig line” waters of Breton and Chandeleur Sounds.

Biologists routinely close the spring inshore season to protect small white shrimp moving into these areas. The closure allows the white shrimp to grow to a marketable size for the fall inshore shrimp season.

The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council announced Tuesday that shrimp trawling in federal waters off the Texas coast will open July 15.

Boat launch closed

The LDWF also announced that the Boggy Bayou boat launch inside the Spring Bayou Wildlife Management Area near Marksville will be closed from July 14-18 to install a new floating boat dock as part of an overall launch upgrade. The floating dock will help boaters during high-water periods.