Old-timers think of the Fourth of July holiday as the early break in Louisiana’s summer.
Ask young families about our nation’s grandest celebration and you find out it’s summer’s midway point, about halfway between the end of one school term and the start of another.
It’s also a time when the state’s coastal charter skippers start thinking about what’s ahead rather than what’s past.
Overall, these fishermen cite increasing water temperatures, sustained high water outflows from the Mississippi and Atchafalaya rivers, and continuing westerly winds as the biggest obstacles for catching trout now and in the coming weeks.
So, with barely five vacation weeks left, here’s a look at three popular coastal fishing spots, what’s happened so far and keys to what’s ahead .
Frank Dreher at Laid Back Charters (www.laidbackcharter.com) said May and early June produced solid speckled trout numbers, but the “action has slowed down tremendously. We’re calling 25 trout a trip a good day.”
He said water temperatures have hit 83-84 degrees and catches slow on high water temps.
With southerly winds ahead for the next week, Dreher said action should increase in the coming week, that there’s plenty of bait along the fronts of the islands and in the back bays.
“We’re dealing with a lot of (dirty) water from Fourchon to Grand Isle to Four Bayous,” Dreher said. “Four Bayous was a go-to spot, but it’s inundated with freshwater.”
His “Plan B” lately and into the rest of July is to target the plentiful redfish and sheepshead he’s found along the reefs and points in the interior waters of Barataria Bay.
“On a windy day, and we’ve had lots of them, I’m running 10 miles north (of Grand Isle) and catching plenty of reds and sheepshead. We’re even finding some good trout that far north, too,” he said. “I’m using (live) cocahoe minnows.
“But, in the next two weeks, we should start seeing trout move to the beaches again. That’s when we switch to using (live) croakers and expect the bite to be strong on croakers.”
Mike Gallo at Angling Adventures of Louisiana (www.aaofla.com) works the lower portion of Lake Pontchartrain and into Lake Borgne and the surrounding marshes.
Gallo spent 26 days on the water in June and said trout fishing was solid throughout the spring and Louisiana’s early summer.
“Even though (Tropical Depression) Bill went to Texas, it sent tides two feet above normal and pushed in salty water that kept speckled trout in our area a little longer than usual,” Gallo said. “That’s over.”
In the past week, the push has been to target redfish.
“We catch a limit of reds (five per angler per day) quickly, then we went after trout. We found a deep channel and caught six specks and one white (trout), all on plastics, but we didn’t get on them until 11:30 (a.m.) and certainly, if we had live bait, we had the potential to catch more.”
He’s also spent time in Half Moon Bay and The Rigolets chasing tripletail, and exploring the Biloxi Marsh for first-rate redfish action.
“That push of saltwater into the marshes killed some of the submerged vegetation and has given us more access to some ponds, and from what’s happening now, expectations for the next month is that it will be easier to catch redfish and still have action on trout,” he said.
Gallo reported “lots of undersized” trout around the Pontchartrain bridges in the past week, and said boats ended up with 6-8 keeper trout.
“The fish should grow through the summer, and whether those fish will be there in two weeks or two months is anyone’s guess. Until then, we’ll rely on a good catch of mixed fish,” Gallo said, adding that live shrimp will be a key in the area.
Charlie Thomason at Bayou Charters (www.captaincharlie.com) said June started with bonanza catches — “We had all the specks and reds we wanted” — but that the Mississippi’s high water kept his group in the interior marshes instead Black Bay and Breton Sound.
“The fish stacked up where (water) salinity was high enough for them,” Thomason said. “By the middle of June, the trout slowed down, but the redfish, as always, remained extremely good. We’re still catching decent numbers of trout, but not the numbers we’re used to.”
He said he expects the trout bite to pick up in July as the river outflow slows and clearer water returns to the open-water spot. That continued high water has pushed the fishing calendar a month late, Thomason said.
“The west winds have left us with very low water in the marshes, like winter lows, but that has pushed the clear water from the marshes into the bays, and the trout have moved with that good water.” he said.
As water temperatures rise, trout go to deeper holes and sharks, especially blacktips, move in. Thomason said he targets the sharks, which came back as “legal” catch July 1.
He advised using Carolina rigs with live bait for trout, and anglers should target redfish in Lake Leary and Grand and Little lakes in Delacroix. He said the buzzbaits, frogs and Mann’s Baby 1-Minus are working on reds. He said the latest trout action is coming on MirrOlure’s new C-Eye topwaters around oil platforms and the outer islands, and the four-mile stretch of rocks along the MRGO.