HOUMA — While other Central Coast speckled trout fishermen have struggled with day-to-day catches, the folks working Terrebonne Parish’s coastal waters have come through this summer with many fewer complaints.
It’s not that the recreational and charterboats are loading the boat with limits every day. We didn’t limit-out Friday, but 45 specks with charter skipper Ricky Brondum was as respectable a day on the water as most folks this summer, and it could have been better had early morning thunderstorms not roughed up the surf along Raccoon Island, the westernmost spit of land in the Last Islands chain.
We could have caught more trout there, but with a death knell sounding for The Pickets, one of the goals for this trip was to check out what was left of one of the most storied speckled trout-catching places off our state’s coast.
For speckled trout hunters 50 years ago, The Pickets was the fishing equivalent of prospectors’ searches for a mother lode of a gold mine. There’s no land in sight at The Pickets, a spot between Raccoon Island and Point au Fer.
The area got its name because the three-mile-long line of numerous, small platforms that looked like giant fence pickets.
It’s here that we need to be reminded there was no high-horsepower outboards, bay boats nor pinpoint electronics to make this trek back in the 1960s. A compass, a device you don’t find on most coastal boats today (it’s been replaced by GPS units), and quad maps were as important for this trip as rods and reels.
Because The Pickets were integral to petroleum production, oil-field workers knew where they were and the word spread to fishermen.
Guys packed boats as if they were off on an expedition rather than a day on the water. And everything, outboards, cranking batteries, anchors and anchor ropes were checked and double-checked. Have mechanical trouble out there and you were on your own. The only savior was a ship-to-shore radio.
And because of where they were, in water 8-12 feet deep, speckled trout — big yellowmouths — populated the area along with bull redfish, pompano, white trout, and, in late summer, Spanish mackerel, bluefish and small sharks.
The trip, and all the preparation that went with it, was worth it because The Pickets held loads of fish, and all you had to do was figure out where the current was running and how the wind was blowing to find out where the fish were located on those small platforms on that particular day.
A federal order came down a couple of years ago to remove The Pickets. Friday, we showed up in time to watch salvage crews remove the last piling from the last of the old platforms, and, with a misty eye, it was almost the same feeling you have when attending the funeral of an dear, old friend.