It’s not the best of times, nor is it the worst of times for Louisiana’s coastal anglers, and it’s different for the guys fishing the Pontchartrain and Barataria basins and the Terrebonne Parish marshes bays, bayous and lakes.
For Frank Dreher and his Laid Back Charters operation at Grand Isle, fishing, or more precisely catching, has been a whatevers-gonna-bite scenario.
For Mike Gallo, operating his Angling Adventures of Louisiana near The Rigolets (south of Slidell), it’s speckled trout first, then redfish and taking advantage of the increasingly strong largemouth bass presence in the marshes around the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet, the MRGO.
For Howard Cuevas at Xspecktations Coastal Charters in Cocodrie, the days have been more about watching a continued run of foul weather and muddy water, while other charters take advantage of small — very small — windows of opportunity to chase speckled trout and redfish in Terrebonne’s usually productive bays and lakes.
“April is always a transition time for us at Grand Isle,” Dreher said. “It brings us from poor fishing in April to great fishing in May. There have been years when April is extra productive, but not this year.
“Storm damage (early April’s near hurricane force winds?) and high water have made it a struggle. Heck, it’s blowing 25 knots here (Friday).”
The occasional lull has produced first-rate trout catches, like Tuesday when a trip to the Four Bayous area yielded a near limit of specks.
“The water is cleaner over east of Grand Isle and that’s a good sign, but we’re still battling rain, winds and cold water temperatures, and that means the big bulk of (brown) shrimp are still making their way into the bays,” Dreher said. “We’re still able to get live shrimp, but these (cold) fronts and the constant change in the weather is messing up the fish.”
And it’s live shrimp that’s putting fish in his boat: the targets are redfish, black drum, sheepshead and a few flounder, but trout continue to be a mystery.
“Because the water looks like chocolate milk, it’s just easier to catch fish here on live bait rather than using artificial (lures), and we’re getting in on a good run on sheepshead,” Dreher said. “With falling tides and the reduced possibility of more cold fronts, May will have to be prime time this year.”
Over on the east side of the Mississippi River, it’s been hit and miss, one day no fish in Bay Gardene and the next day, Tom Leblanc reported, a 25-trout catch in the same bay on soft plastics.
Gallo is battling the same weather conditions as the Grand Isle and Terrebonne guides.
“Rain or wind, or both, means I’ve made one trip in the last seven days,” Gallo said. “But that one day was grand.
“We’ve been catching some trout in (Lake) Pontchartrain, and that’s a welcomed sight. Maybe it’s because for the first time in the last four years the (Bonnet Carre) spillway has not been open.” (The Bonnet Carre dumps huge volumes of Mississippi River water into the Pontchartrain Basin.)
“The lake is in my backyard, and, when the weather allows, we’re catching average-size trout on plastics around the bridges,” he said. “It’s been so long that we’ve been able to do that, I almost forgot how to do it.”
Gallo said it won’t be much longer before specks move to saltier water to spawn, and that will decrease the action in Pontchartrain’s more freshwater environs. That migration pushes trout into the lower basin, into places like Lake Borgne and out into Breton and Chandeleur sounds.
Yet, even on the days when he believed the conditions were “off,” Gallo said two days of a south wind along with warmer and sunny skies, opened the window on a two-man limit of 50 specks from the MRGO.
“That came out of nowhere, and I came back to the dock with my chest out that day,” Gallo said. “There was another day when we caught 46 and several other trips this month when we caught 20-30 trout.”
That action, Gallo said, came on soft-plastic lures, only because live bait isn’t available in his area.
“We’re catching mostly 16-19 inch trout, and a 2-plus pound trout is a nice fish,” Gallo said. “And we’re seeing more flounder, and there are plenty of redfish and freshwater catfish. We’ve caught more flounder this year than in the last three years combined. And the bass are there, too.
“We’re waiting for the shrimp to push in here. The (cold) fronts and the cold water have kept the shrimp small,” he said. “It takes water temperature in the 70s to get (brown) shrimp to grow. Cleaning a redfish taken in the Biloxi Marsh last week, there were half-inch long shrimp in the belly.
“We need the weather to settle out.”
Two to nationals
Hunter Neuville needed only one bass during Friday’s final day of the TNT Fireworks B.A.S.S. Nation Central Regional to earn a spot in November’s B.A.S.S. Nation Championship.
Neuville, who, at 18, was the youngest angler in the field, boated four bass weighing 9 pounds, 10 ounces to win the event’s Nonboater Division.
The 18-year-old high school student from New Iberia topped the other 79 anglers in his division. The event was held following Tuesday’s snowstorm over Milford Lake near Junction City, Kansas.
The Central brought 10-angler teams in both Boater and Nonboater divisions. The top angler from each state team advanced to the Nation final set Nov. 3-5 on the Ouachita River in Monroe.
Prairieville’s David Cavell moved to the championship in the Boater Division. His three-bass, 9-pound, 12-ounce total told the story of three rough days on Milford Lake.
Kris Bosley, from the New Mexico team, won Boater with a 9-bass catch weighing 23-5.
Landings & lakes
At midweek, False River was a 19.2 feet, and with more rain in Friday and Saturday, water levels should remain well above the 15-foot mark the Pointe Coupee Parish folks like to maintain on the oxbow. The lake remains closed to “all motorized boat traffic.”
It’s not any better in the Verret Basin. The big landings are closed, and a “no-wake” ban is in effect.