Ever wonder why surf fishing along the Louisiana coast is so good beginning in late May and running through October?
It’s more than warm-turning-hot temperatures, saltier water and more predictable weather conditions.
True, all those factors contribute to phenomenal action, catches of speckled trout, redfish, flounder and Spanish mackerel envied across the Gulf Coast.
Warmer waters also mean more food in shallow water, more “little” forage that attracts little fish and provides shrimp with enough to grow to eating size for larger animals, like man and predator fish.
Then check out the tides: Sometime in April, tidal movement along the state’s Central Coast turns into a more regular pattern of rising in the morning hours then falling throughout the late afternoons and into the shorter nighttime hours.
While not tied directly to moon phases, generally the strongest of these tidal movements comes in the three days before the five days after a full moon, and the three days before and the three days after a new moon.
Ask any commercial shrimper and they’ll tell you that shrimp move from Louisiana’s vast estuaries “on the moons,” a schedule shrimpers keep for pulling their nets at night during the full moon and new moon phases.
So what happens when the nets don’t trap all the shrimp?
The crustaceans move into the Gulf of Mexico, staying mostly in state waters, then getting pushed to the beaches by the morning’s rising tide to join schools of small croaker, menhaden (aka pogeys) and rafts of mullets ranging from hefty adults to smaller “finger” mullets, so named because these newly hatched next generation are about as long and as round as an adult’s index finger.
What’s important for the angler is to find out what the predators like speckled trout are eating that morning.
Last weekend, south of Cocodrie and around any of the islands in the Last Island chain, it was finger mullet and that meant using larger soft-plastic artificials on a jighead and matching the swimming motions of these small forage fish. It meant working five-inch, fish-looking plastics just under the surface, but not close to the bottom, to entire trout strikes.
Another proven on-mullet pattern is pulling the 52M18 MirrOlure from your tackle box. This hard-plastic lure has been around for more than 40 years and its color and shape mimics a small mullet. The “52M” is the size and designates it as a slowly sinking lure: The “18” is the color, mostly olive green across the back with reflective silver strip down each side.
Find a raft of mullets and cast the lure across the top of the school, making sure it sinks before starting your retrieve. Over the years, and though none admit to ever seeing it, veteran in-the-surf trout catches insist big specks swim under rafts of mullet waiting for the smaller fish in the school to show themselves.
If a trout’s pleasure is shrimp or pogeys or any of the other morsels they find to their liking, then topwaters on a calm morning is a fishing pleasure no saltwater angler can pass up. Casting any number of topwaters — some with propellers, some poppers or tubes designed for a “walk the dog” action — to the surf-to-the-beach wash can produce giant trout. The only pattern that seems to hold over the years is to use silver or chrome in clear water but go to a gold color if the water has “color” or is cloudy.
There is any number of soft-plastic baits and jigheads ranging from an one-eighth ounce to three-quarters ounce depending on current and water depth.
No matter what you choose to tie on the end of your line, the surf is where you want to be from first light until an hour before the end of the rising tide.
Meeting Ray Scott
Houma angler Francis Theriot will get a chance to fish one of the hottest bass lakes in the country and visit with B.A.S.S. founder Ray Scott after winning the Alabama Black Belt Adventures’ drawing for a two-day fishing trip to Scott’s Trophy Bass Retreat in Pintlala, Ala.
ABBA is a new group formed to increase outdoors tourism to central Alabama, an area folks there call the Black Belt region.
Theriot entered the online contest on the ABBA website and his name was drawn from among more than 1,000 entries.
Now, he has to pick a partner to accompany him on a trip that includes lodging and meals.