Where are the trout?
In the upper reaches of the Barataria Basin and the vast Terrebonne estuary, speckled trout have provided an unbeatable fishing experience, especially when folks in the frozen north are shoveling snow and battling icy conditions.
Not today, and it’s not that specks have gone the way of the passenger pigeon or the dodo bird. Not hardly, but when the phone rings and the email buzzes, the discussion during the past six weeks centers around the abundance of redfish and bass — even blue and channel catfish — in the marshes.
There are very few folks expounding excitedly about their speckled trout catches, and their parting words beg a question about where could they be.
East of the Mississippi River, outdoors writer Todd Masson has informed readers about finding deep water — or the deepest you can find in your area — and working the bottom for trout. This is a slow, painstaking process, but it pays off in the canals in the lower Pontchartrain Basin.
The Intracoastal Waterway stretching from lower Pontchartrain to The Wall near Bayou Bienvenu and the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet are two more places to try. Again, you’re looking for deep water and there’s plenty of it to find in these two stretches.
The agony is trying to find where trout want to live and that means finding places where there’s enough food for these predators to survive the winter.
Of course weather is a factor, and these prolonged cloudy, rainy and windy periods don’t help.
Rain has been a constant problem: cold rainwater cools our marshes and keeps our tributaries higher than normal; cloud cover keep the water cooler than normal; and, wind brings the double whammy of blowing water from the marshes and inhibits warming sunlight penetration into the water.
All of which means the trout will tend to stay close to the bottom and be on the lethargic side. You’ve read many times before here, bright sunshine does wonders for winter fishing in the Louisiana marshes, and, today, we need two or three days to bring some life to our speckled trout.
There has been a few rays of hope lately: on those rare sunny, windless days, trout are showing up in catches from around big structures and heavy rip-rap lines in the bays. It’s more than it’s just where the fish are, rather that these structures and big rocks channel the sun’s warmth into the water, and that triggers baitfish movement and feeding spurts by predator species.
On the other hand
Even though the trout are more difficult to come by, the word is there’s plenty of redfish and bass for the taking in the marshes east and west of the Mississippi River.
Single-bladed, heavy-wire spinnerbaits are the trick, and some are using skirted baits with a short teaser behind the skirt, while some are using a variety of colors of soft-plastic minnow imitations. (Black/chartreuse, smoke/red glitter and, in muddy water, cream-glow/chartreuse tail appear to be the best colors.)
Here’s the trick: It appears redfish and bass are concentrating, and that means when you catch one in a place, stay there and keep casting. Heard several reports of two anglers catching five reds and as many or more keeper bass in a spot the size of a kiddie swimming pool.
Have you joined the river watchers?
You should. At 14.93 feet on the New Orleans gauge and 38.26 feet on the Baton Rouge gauge Tuesday, the Mississippi River is extra high for this time of year. (Remember, flood stage is 35 feet on the BR gauge.)
The forecast is for 15.5 feet Sunday at New Orleans — the Saints can using a “rise” Sunday, too — and a fall to below the 14-foot mark Jan. 28, the same day the river is predicted to fall from a Sunday high of 35.5 feet to a fall to near 31 feet Jan. 28.
And there’s lots of water in the Atchafalaya, Pearl and Red rivers, too.
This bears watching, with hopes of lots of crawfish for the spring, but a prayer for limited damage to the late spring shrimp season.
Pursuit & B.A.S.S.
If you went looking for The Bassmasters TV Show and couldn’t find it in its usual channel, then go to the Pursuit Channel.
B.A.S.S. and Pursuit signed a “multi-year agreement” to air 26 episodes Saturdays in the first and second quarters this year. Each show repeating the following Sunday morning.
The Bassmaster Elite Series and Bassmaster Classic will continue to air on ESPN2.