When football schedules left the door open for a weekend filled with fishing promise, Mother Nature came along and slammed the door in our faces.
It wasn’t so much the cold morning from the season’s first major cold front that did it.
It was 20-25 knot north winds and the wind-driven seas that kept all but the foolhardy from venturing from launches Saturday morning.
Worse still is that winds are predicted to plague the coast most days this week. The forecast calls for 10-15 knot southeast winds beginning Monday. The only break will come Wednesday when rain and possible thunderstorms signal the approach of another very windy cold front.
The good news is that the southeast winds will refill the marshes with enough water to withstand Thursday’s 20-25 knot northeast winds, and it’s that post-front transfer of water that brings hope of first-rate trout and redfish catches in our marshes for the next two months.
Mike Gallo, who takes his Angling Adventures of Louisiana charters into the marshes in the southern reaches of the Pontchartrain Basin, knows fall and early winter fishing thrive on this exchange of water.
Gallo knows what happened last fall, a period of weeks in November that led to the coldest winter in years along the Louisiana coast.
“I don’t think last winter hampered our catches at all,” Gallo said. “The winter got gradually colder and colder and that pushed fish into deep water so that when the freezing temperatures got here the fish were in deep holes already, and we didn’t have a fish kill we sometimes see when temperatures get into the low 20s.”
Gallo knows the north winds help the fish in other ways, like pushing still-warm-from-the-summer water off the surface, a fall pattern that cools water temperatures and triggers feeding trout and redfish feeding sprees in the calmer, warmer days between the cold fronts.
And these in-between days also bring a more moderate barometric pressure. Saturday’s barometer reading hit 30.31 inches, a level that usually slows down the bite for saltwater and freshwater species.
“Fish move to deeper water on the fronts, but will move back into the flats on the warmer days,” Gallo said. “The baitfish move back onto the shallow flats, and that’s when the bigger fish want to feed. When the water warms, the fish (trout, redfish and other species) act like they’re starving, and there’s nothing like starving fish to make a day.”
Gallo also advised to look for windy shorelines, places where water is hitting the marsh grass. It’s these spots where baitfish and shrimp are pushed to the shorelines and provide gorging spots for redfish.
Live minnows and live shrimp, when available, are good choices, but so are a wide color range of soft-plastic minnow and shrimp imitations worked under a cork. The artificial minnows work on a jighead when fishing deep holes and points.
Wear those jackets
Need more proof that life jackets save lives, and reasons you need to be tied to a cut-off switch when running an outboard engine?
Col. Joey Broussard, the head of Wildlife and Fisheries’ Enforcement Division, said two 16-year-old boys from Crowley likely owe their lives to wearing life jackets after their 16-foot bateau hit a tree in a boat channel on Indian Creek. Broussard said the two youngsters were ejected from the boat. When that happened the lanyard worn by the driver cut off the engine.
“We believe that this could have been a fatal outcome had they not been wearing PFDs that kept them afloat in case they wouldn’t have been able to swim from their injuries and the cut-off switch lanyard that prevented the boat from turning into a weapon and hitting one or both of the boys,” Broussard said.
The boys were able to reach the disabled boat. A fisherman found them and got them back to the landing where they were taken by ambulance to Rapides General in Alexandria.
Both boys had taken and passed the no-fee, state-approved boating education safety class, which is required for all boat operators born after Jan. 1, 1984, and operating boats powered by an engine rated at more than 10 horsepower.
A redfish invasion
South Florida fishermen Geoff Page and Rick Murphy left Houma last Sunday with a trophy, a boat valued at $41,000 and $4,000 in cash for taking the two-day Cabela’s-sponsored IFA Redfish Tour championship.
Their 18.44 pounds on two redfish — reds must measure less than 27 inches but had to be a minimum 16 inches — to be “legal” at the scales, and those two solid, second-day reds shot them past first-day leader Kris Howell and Brett Norris, who rolled to the scales with 18.73 pounds after the first round.
The Page-Murphy team finished with 36.29 pounds for their four redfish, and the team of Howell and Norris managed 16.39 pounds the second day to finish with 35.12 pounds, or about three ounces short of the win. Second place was worth $28,279 in cash and prizes.
The winners said they ran 108 miles each day to the Venice area and found reds gorging in a bay loaded with pogey, shrimp, crabs and finger mullets.
Their heaviest fish went 9.77 and 9.67 pounds and reportedly were caught on spinnerbaits with chartreuse paddletail plastics.