Most fishermen talk about the “good ol’ days,” but lots of old and young fishermen only have to think to 2012 to come up with good ol’ memories.
Remember last spring? Remember how spring came early, then stayed? The cold fronts stayed up north, and the southern half of Louisiana was covered in gentle breezes and even more gentle rains. Sure, the big rivers came up on the spring floods, but the waters subsided gradually, and we didn’t have to face another catastrophe like the nation’s worst oil spill or recover from the nation’s worst storm.
Remember how speckled trout turned on in the middle of March and didn’t turn off until sometime in August? There was some speculation that catches dwindled because the fishermen were tired: August was extra hot.
Then came Isaac, and so many of our friends faced hardship, the kind that made those among us who suffered the same calamities during Katrina, Rita, Gustav and Ike feel their pain and try to help them through it.
But what about this year?
Too much wind. Too much rain. Too many cold fronts, and too much north winds that have come with the fronts.
What looked like a good start to the spring brown shrimp season — these critters move into the estuaries to grow — is a frown now.
State marine biologist Mark Schexnayder answered the question about the brown shrimp season last week with a question: “You’re wearing a jacket today?”
That answer alone is an indication that we in for a seventh-straight down brown shrimp season. Cold water temperatures means slow-growing shrimp, a delay in the opening of that much-anticipated shrimp season. Add the chill with north winds that push brown shrimp from the estuaries into the open Gulf of Mexico, and prayers are needed for a quick turnaround to more balmy conditions.
While the moans become audible when considering the lack of shrimp for a boil, a gumbo or the season’s first stuffed bell peppers, trout fishermen have a stake in the brown shrimp season, too.
It’s the brown shrimp that move speckled trout into the coastal bays. It’s that abundant food source that awakens trout for a feeding spree that lasts through the spring into the summer.
It’s why, in the first days of April, that coastal fishing reports contain the words “cocaho minnows” and not shrimp or shrimp-imitating lures are catching speckled trout.
Specks are being caught: Lake Boudreaux has been hot, and most fish there are running 2-4 pounds, and while chartreuse soft plastics are working, the biggest fish, a near 7-pounder came on a live cocaho under a cork.
When conditions allow, anglers are finding trout along the barrier islands, but those days have been few and far between. Try topwaters there and large soft-plastics on jigheads and large swimbaits.
Judging from comments from charter skippers, it’s not that trout aren’t there, but the conditions and the food sources are far from ideal and far from the good ol’ days of 2012.
Apart from Lake Boudreaux and some days along and inside the rocks lining the Last Island chain for trout, redfish are furnishing the most consistent action in the Cocodrie area. Fresh shrimp and live cocaho minnows are taking reds from 20 inchers to 25-35 pound bulls. Black drum are mixed with the reds.
The heavier reds are coming from the passes but can be found in lesser numbers around the mouths of bayous and navigation canals leading into the bays and larger coastal lakes.
Trout are showing up at the Pontchartrain bridges, but the topsy-turvy conditions mean anglers almost have to have their hands on their outboards’ switches to run there for the brief periods when waters have calmed and cleared enough for presentations of soft-plastic baits.
Folks fishing the Causeway are trolling for their trout. The 24-mile-long span is short on numbers, but make up for that with trout in the 4-5 pound range.
For this time of year, the unusually low Atchafalaya River is making the spillway very fishable, but only if you find the right water.
Upper Bayou Sorrel is clear and bass are suspending around laydowns. Use spinnerbaits.
Bayou Pigeon is dirty, but water inching from the swamp is putting clear water along some banks.
That’s putting bass on the banks, and they’re taking Baby Brush Hogs. Bass are blowing up on frogs, but it appears to be a little too early for that bait to be effective.
A banner weekend
Tennessee marksman Brian Bowling stole the show at the F-Class Regional Shoot at the Palo Alto Range last weekend.
Bowling tied a National F-Class Open single string record with a 200-18x score on Saturday.
After that, he set a range record for 60 shots with a 600-46x, then followed that with Sunday’s effort that gave him a new range 120-shot record of 1,197-93x. Those “x’s” are bulls-eyes, and he took the regional’s gold medal and won the High Master Class.
Arkansas’Jon James was close: He earned the silver medal with an 1,194-61x. Louisiana’s top shooter in the F-Open was Lanny Russell with a 1,190-64x. Mississippi’s David McLain won the Master/Master Unclassified trophy for a 1,184-55x.
There were two other competitions: Louisiana’s David Aldridge set a new range record in the F-TR with the High Master score of 1,179-48x that was worthy of the gold medal and first polace in the Expert Class.
Chris Umfress traveled from Mississippi to take silver with a 1,170-25x and Louisiana’s Chris Hebert took bronze with a 1,169-29x.
Two Louisiana shooters, Anthony Acrement and Bryan Powell, won First Master and Sharpshooter/Marksman classes, respectively.
Prone shooting made up the last round, and provided the regional with its closest match. Mississippi’s Gary Henry outshot Texas’ Stacey Tamulinas. Both tied with a 1,195 total, but Henry had a 74x total to Tamulinas’s 73x for the gold medal.
Henry took the silver, and Bill Jenkins from Louisiana took home the bronze with a 1188-61x.
Other Prone winners were Louisiana’s Harold Sightler (Master/Master Unclassified, 1,181-54x), Robert Bose (1st Expert, 1,159-29x), and Florida’s Mario Fajardo (Sharpshooter/Marksman, 1,124-24x).