“The lake is on fire!”
Don’t take it literally, and, please, don’t call 911, because if you know the source, charter skipper Greg Schlumbrecht, then you know you’ll see no flames, and you’ll know there’s smokin’ hot speckled trout action.
Schlumbrecht sent along a photo of a four-angler, 100-trout limit taken Sunday from Lake Pontchartrain. To be more precise, the catch came from the railroad “trestle” bridge spanning the north and south shores of the state’s largest lake.
It’s not like these catches are unprecedented. Like the old Ray Milland baseball movie title (and among the best baseball flicks of all time), the trout run happens every spring.
It’s just that this year’s is off-the-charts good.
“This is the best I’ve seen in the lake since (Hurricane) Katrina,” Schlumbrecht said recalling the spring of 2005 just months before that storm’s ultra-destructive trek across the southeastern parishes. “Normally, we catch a lot of fish this time of year, but this year we’re catching limits and catching them early.”
“Early” means the 25 per-fisherman trout are in the boat most days before 9 a.m.
Kim Vandenborre said her husband, veteran charter guide, Dudley, said the action is so fast and furious that Dudley had his party back at the dock and headed away from Eden Isles by 11 a.m. Tuesday.
Schlumbrecht and fellow Pontchartrain Basin guide Mike Gallo added dittos on that story.
“All we’re doing is Carolina rigging live shrimp,” Schlumbrecht said.
For the novice, the Carolina rig is simple. Use an egg sinker on the line to the reel, then tie on a barrel swivel, add a length of leader to the other side of the barrel and tie on a hook to the leader’s naked end. Either a three-eighths ounce or one-half ounce sinker works as does a 1/0 Kahle hook.
Soft plastics are working, too, but trout will jump all over live shrimp and that makes it easier on the customer, and the charter captain.
“There’s no rhyme or reason to it,” Schlumbrecht said. “You just have to find an empty spot on the bridge, anchor up, and, like (Wednesday), we moved three times.”
The “empty” spots are the problem. Schlumbrecht, Vandenborre and Gallo testify it’s easier to work the fish on weekdays, and it tougher on the weekends.
“Saturdays are tough. There are so many boats, and you’ll have to bounce around until you find a nice little hole and you’re going to smoke them,” Schlumbrecht said. “You can’t be too choosy, you have to hope for a spot that’s open. Everybody is doing it right now. It’s springtime.”
Gallo was the only one of the three talking about having to measure the trout to make sure each catch measured 12 inches, and that’s only when he has to go to Plan B when the wind roughs Pontchartrain waters.
“I caught a trout over five pounds (Wednesday), and most of the fish are 14-20 inches (long). Solid keepers,” Schlumbrecht said. “Oh, yeah, we catch a few other fish, an occasional redfish, sheepshead or black drum, but mostly trout.”
Vandenborre didn’t go as far back as Katrina for a reference point, but stuck with the best-spring scenario since the 2010 BP-Deepwater Horizon oil disaster. He said the same trout rush happened last spring, but it lasted only three weeks.
“I know we’re pleased so far, and hope it runs its usual course into June when Dudley leaves the lake and heads to The Rigolets,” Kim Vandenborre said.
Wednesday’s mid-morning winds sent Gallo into Lake Borgne after catching a double handful of Pontchartrain trout.
“We’ve caught a lot of fish in the lake, and we’re done by 9 o’clock, but on the days when we can’t get in the lake, the lee shorelines in Lake Borgne are holding trout, too,” Gallo said. “You’re going to have to measure more fish, and you might have to move 10 or 15 times to catch enough trout, but the fish are there.
“Live bait works better than plastics,” Gallo continued. “We have clean water in Lake Borgne, and there’s lot of bait fish showing up on my depth finder. All the factors are here, and, when conditions allow, we’re hitting the gas wells in Lake Borgne. The good trout are there, too, and live bait works, too.
This time is golden for the three Pontchartrain veterans, and Schlumbrecht said if all goes according to form of a past generation, “that the game will be on until mid-June. At least we can hope it will last that long.”
To reach these charters, call Schlumbrecht at To Fish Charters at (985) 960-1709; Vandenborre at (985) 847-1924; and, Gallo at Angling Adventures of Louisiana at (985) 781-7811.
The snapper dates
The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council and the National Marine Fisheries Service gave private recreational fishermen nine days and 46 days to charter operations to catch red snapper in federal waters.
Both seasons will begin June 1.
The recreational season is one day less than 2015, and the charter/headboat season is two days longer than last year.
The total recreational catch limit for 2016 is 7.192 million pounds with a catch target of 5.754 million pounds. Those numbers are broken down to private-angler limit of 4.15 million pounds and a catch target of 3.32 million pounds, and for the charter/headboat subsector a catch limit of 3.042 million pounds and a catch target of 2.434 million pounds.
The commercial limit for 2016 is 6.768 million pounds.
According to the GMFMC’s announcement, “The 2016 federal red snapper recreational season will open for the private angling and federally permitted for-hire components on June 1, 2016, at 12:01 a.m., local time.” Closing dates are, for private anglers is set for 12:01 a.m. June 10 local time, and 12:01 a.m. local time July 17 for federally permitted for-hire vessels: July 17, 2016, at 12:01 a.m., local time.
The federal-water red snapper bag limit is two per person per day with a 16-inch minimum total length size limit.
DU extravaganza set
The long-awaited Ducks Unlimited Donaldsonville Chapter’s Seafood Extravaganza comes up Friday. Doors at the Lemann Center in Donaldsonville will open at 6 p.m.
Tickets at $60 for singles and $75 fore couples will be available at the door. Get there early. The place fills for the fare, like raw and fried oysters, fried shrimp and fish, grilled marinated duck breasts, and those are the appetizers. The dinner after all that is served is, alone, worth the trip.