Luke St. Pierre is the 2014 Louisiana Speckled Trout Master Angler.
He earned that glorious title Sunday when he followed Friday’s 3.46-pound trout with a hefty 6.94-pounder Saturday, and capped off the weekend’s Grand Isle Speckled Trout Rodeo by weighing a 5.04-pound trout Sunday.
His three-day total was 15.44 pounds, and the Lafayette angler outweighed his dad, Wayne, to lay claim to the coveted title.
But he and his dad, and lots of other speckled trout aficionados, left Grand Isle shaking their heads after the national holiday weekend.
Big trout, like the ones the St. Pierres brought to the scales at Bridge Side Marina, usually are females, and, at this time of year, have roe.
Yes, the St. Pierres said, none of the fish had roe. None. Nada. And they wondered why.
As with all fisheries questions like this, there is no simple answer, except that the fish just might have come through a recent spawn, and didn’t have a day or two to begin developing their next batch of eggs.
As staggering as it sounds, a mature, female speckled trout can produced as many as 20 million eggs from the late spring through summer.
Reading the literature, these females can spawn every 10 days, so it’s not 20 million eggs all at one time as are the spawning rituals of female sunfish, species like bass, sac-a-lait and bluegill.
Water temperatures and salinity levels are determining factors in the trout spawn. So is tidal movement.
The simple explanation is that this ritual begins in the spring. Male trout, which can tolerate lower salinity levels than the heavier females, begin moving from the interior marshes to spawning locations near the bays and lakes close to the Gulf of Mexico.
When the factors are right, the females release well-developed eggs and the male release milt to fertilize the eggs.
While it’s not definite, a possible explanation for the lack of roe development is the colder-than-normal fall, winter and spring all coastal fish species endured from November into early May.
While there appears to be abundant food sources now — anglers are reporting seeing vast schools of bait fish — shrimp appear to be in short supply, especially the larger shrimp that can supply the fat females need to develop eggs.
The spring inshore shrimp season along the Central Coast opened Monday, the latest opening day for this area in more than two decades. This late season is because brown shrimp, which move into inshore waters during the late winter and spring, were so small in early May that state Wildlife and Fisheries biologists estimate the brown shrimp would not reach “marketable” size, that’s 100 to the pound, until late May.
The inshore spring season east of the Mississippi River and west in the Mermentau and Calcasieu areas doesn’t open until June 2, again traced to the abundance of very small shrimp in those waters.
Back on Grand Isle, the St. Pierres and other anglers were dismayed by the size of live croakers at baitshops and marinas along La. 1.
Veteran trout catcher and Lafayette legend Terry St. Cyr knows how powerful a 5-6 inch-long croaker can be when it comes to attracting strikes from rodeo-sized trout. St. Cyr calls them “Grand Isle croaker” because this baitfish from the Barataria Basin is larger than croaker in other locations.
This year even the croakers are on the small side, and they had to take out ultralight tackle and catch their own bait.
Wayne St. Pierre, who had the trout leader after Friday’s first day, a 4.48 pounder, was third Saturday at 4.44, and second Sunday at 4.48 to finish second in the Trout Master Angler race with a 13.4-pound total.
Mike Mitchell was the only other angler to place among the top eight in trout all three days. He finished with an 11.88 total.
Among the other reports, is that big trout finally have showed up at South Pass and along the beaches and the nearshore rigs off the mouth of the Mississippi River.