It’s about this time of year - in a “normal” year - when the speckled trout bite wanes in and around Breton Island, and it’s heartbreaking for die-hard seekers of big trout.
Why now? Why does this happen every late July. And why does it linger into the first week of September?
Prompted by years of personal recordkeeping - it removes at least some supposition from speculation - one likely explanation is where the Breton, Grand Gosier, Gosier and the Chandeleur islands sit.
Of course, these records don’t include 2010 when BP-Deepwater Horizon oil invaded this area and closed fishing for weeks.
These areas are wide open to the Gulf of Mexico. With prevailing winds from the southeast this area is the first along the Louisiana coast to get the increasingly warm and salty Gulf seawater pushed in by winds. Add in the fact that summer tides are the strongest in years and there’s a double push of water that brings in fish species to Breton and Chandeleur sounds that thrive in warmer, saltier conditions.
Mullet, for one. This vast stretch of water between the Mississippi River and Mississippi Sound fills with huge rafts of striped mullet. Add in menhaden (pogeys), bay anchovies and shrimp and the place becomes a buffet for hungry predator fish.
Sharks, too - by the hundreds. Bull sharks, lemon sharks, sand tigers and blacktips show up to fill their bellies along with lots of other toothy critters like bluefish, Spanish mackerel, even king mackerel.
Hefty bull redfish are there, too. (Why we continue to call these 20-pound-plus brutes “bulls” is another question, because most of these giant reds are females.)
Add in the fact that speckled trout are both predator and prey. They know when they are the eaters and when they can become the eaten, and those factors can help one understand why speckled trout, even those that hit six and seven pounds, leave these grand feeding spots for safer spots.
So, where do the trout go?
Not far, at least not as far as some of the sharks and mackerel have traveled. Look for the big trout to move to oil and gas platforms. It’s there where the structure provide them with enough comfort from summer heat and enough food - brought by currents and tides - to sustain them until they can return to the islands and the sandbar reefs when the big predators retire to the open Gulf.
One place in that area with the most platforms is a spot locals call “Central,” another open-water area on the far eastern end of Lake Borgne. While early summer is a good time to spend at the Central rigs - because the toothy fish haven’t made it there yet - late July through early September at Central is a solid choice.
Yes, sharks and bluefish move into those area, too: Fishing inside the rigs, or figuring how to gauge wind, tide and current and anchoring off the rig and drifting live or artificial baits into rig structure, can produce a memorable midsummer speckled trout haul.
How about that under-27-inch redfish Jacob Leininger and Jeff Rogers caught to win Saturday’s Dockside Bait & Tackle stop on the Louisiana Saltwater Series.
The red weighed 8.59 pounds and gave them a two-fish 16.12-pound total for the $2,150 first-place. Ray Reiser and Larry Kirby were second ($1,280) with a 15.47-pound catch.
Show Casey the money
Casey Ashley said he stayed in shallow water to take the first seed going into this coming Friday-Sunday Evan Williams Bourbon All-Star Championship on the Alabama River out of Montgomery, Ala.
Although the conventional belief is that the best bass will come from deep water in places like Lake Jordan, the reservoir the 12 Bassmaster anglers competed on last weekend, Ashley said he caught his fish shallow, sometimes in water a foot deep.
That win in the Ramada All-Star semifinals will put Ashley against California pro Skeet Reese, who claimed the last of eight spots among the 12 semifinal anglers.
This weekend’s event pits the eight qualifiers in bracket competition.
After the Ashley-Reese pair-off, the other anglers and their seeding include: Aaron Martens (3) against Edwin Evers (6); Bassmaster Rookie of the Year Ott DeFoe (2) against Michael Iaconelli (7); and Terry Scroggins (4) against hometown Alabama favorite Gerald Swindle (5).
Winners of the Ashley-Reese and Martens-Evers matches, and the winners of the DeFoe-Iaconelli and Scroggins-Swindle matches square off Saturday. Those winners will be matched Sunday in the $100,000 winner-take-all event.
Launch is at 7:30 a.m. daily from the Montgomery Riverfront and weigh-ins are set for 5 p.m. at Montgomery Union Station. There is no admission fee.
You can watch the daily weigh-ins on the Bassmaster website: www.bassmaster.com.