Trout photo

Mandeville attorney Bubby Douglas, a regular to the Lake Hermitage area, caught this speckled trout and a bunch of other fish during a recent fishing trip to the area.

Most road-improvement projects fill residents with glee.

Sure, commuters might curse the delays in the midst of the project, days lingering into months when traffic funnels to one lane or asphalt-caked rocks stick to tires and ping off quarter panels, but once the project is done and traffic flows better than ever, residents almost always don’t mind the inconvenience or paying their local tax bills.

But, Mandeville attorney Bubby Douglas absolutely hates one south Louisiana road repair.

It was completed earlier this year, and was desperately needed. Workers in Plaquemines Parish blacktopped the five-mile road that twists and winds from La. 23 down to a rare hidden gem along the Louisiana coast — Lake Hermitage.

For years the road was an ungraded amalgamation of rock, shell and dirt, and passage down it felt like a dip into a lithotripsy tank. Traversing those five miles would take Douglas 20 to 30 minutes, depending on how recently it had rained, and was a major headache.

But Douglas was willing to do it — and most others weren’t — so it kept the waters around Lake Hermitage about as pressured as the frozen oceans on Mars. He would frequently find he had the place almost entirely to himself.

That’s changed now that the road repair is complete, but the Lake Hermitage area is still remarkably productive.

Douglas fished it Friday, but didn’t actually wet a line in the lake itself. Douglas’ modus operandi is to fish the canals and ponds surrounding the lake, targeting redfish and always bumping into some speckled trout along the way.

He and a guest caught redfish after redfish, as well as several white trout and speckled trout, the latter of which were hitting Top Dog Jrs. The ponds the anglers fished held more white shrimp than any seafood market. The crustaceans popped in rhythmic waves whenever the boat moved in any direction.

That’s a normal fall occurrence in and near Lake Hermitage, said Clay Boudreaux, owner of Bayou Log Cabins.

“Our lake is a sanctuary; you can’t commercially trawl in it,” he said. “The shrimp stack up in there in the fall before the really cold weather hits, and of course, the predator fish are going to follow the bait. That’s why we get so many trout in our lake.

“This is the time of year we just get hundreds of thousands of specks that inundate us back here.”

That run got started late this year, thanks to the extended summer that stretched right through September and into the first week of October. But now that water temperatures have fallen, the action has gone through the roof.

Boudreaux said anglers are regularly bringing in full ice chests.

“What makes this place unique more than any other place along the peninsula of Plaquemines Parish is the fact we have more of an estuary back here than a lot of places,” he said. “If you were to look at the 30,000-foot view of this Hermitage area, it’s just a vast estuary.”

Lake Hermitage regulars are catching plenty of fish on soft-plastics under corks, but Boudreaux said he always recommends bringing live shrimp just to be sure.

“I’m going to fish live shrimp under a cork until we get a hard front,” he said. “As long as there are shrimp here, you’re not going to ever get me to fish anything different.

“Now, of course, if trout are eating, they’ll hit Teflon tape on a hook, but if you’re going to really try to turn them on, live shrimp under a cork is the best way to go,” Boudreaux said, adding that where to fish them depends on wind direction.

"When these northerners blow through, we always try to get on that northwest shoreline,” he said. “It’s a lee shore with this north wind, and that’s where they tend to stack up.”

Some fronts, however, can actually shut down the bite.

“When the wind blows out the north at 25 miles an hour, it’ll get dirty, just like any place, but as soon as that wind lays down, the sediment falls out because it’s heavier than the water,” Boudreaux said.

The only place on the lake newcomers need to avoid is the southern shore, Boudreaux said.

“The lake is stump-free, other than the right-hand shoreline as you go out into the lake,” he said. “It’s inundated with trees that have fallen over and petrified. They didn’t rot. They fell over, and they just got hard.”

The rest of the lake is about four feet deep and free of obstructions, Boudreaux said. It’s almost as easy to traverse as the new road to Lake Hermitage, which has brought a smile to Boudreaux’s face.

“Business has almost doubled since last year,” he said. “The paved road has really brought some folks back here.”

Douglas’ loss has been Boudreaux’s gain.