Speckled trout photo

Veteran coastal fishing guide Mike Gallo shows off the quality of speckled trout available during cold weather times. His formula is simple. Find deep water, and some of the best canals are in waterside subdivisions in the Pontchartrain Basin.

The filling station near Mike Gallo’s Slidell lodge hates his favorite fishing destination this time of year.

One of the busiest fishing guides on the coast, Gallo burns through tanks of gas like a Saints lineman chugging water in the fourth quarter. That’s because he’ll run to wherever the fish are, including the Biloxi Marsh and the Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet.

But in the late fall and winter, the fuel in Gallo’s boat runs the risk of spoiling before it gets sucked into his 300-horsepower outboard.

That’s because many of Gallo’s trips are into the Lakeshore Estates complex of canals, no more than a long baseball throw from his center of operations on Salt Bayou. The water in the canals runs deep and clean, and it almost never fails to produce fish for him.

The area is a gem, particularly on cold or windy days when other destinations just aren’t accessible. It meets all the needs of a speckled trout looking to survive and even thrive in the winter, Gallo said.

“It’s deep, and it’s consistent in its depth,” he said. “There’s not a lot of current that fish to have to work against and waste energy. They get acclimated to the temperature, and it doesn’t fluctuate as much as shallower areas or areas with more current.”

Gallo’s got so much confidence in the place that he took Don Dubuc there last week to shoot a spot for the WWL-TV news. The anglers had a successful trip, but not exactly where Gallo thought they would.

“The water was 56, 57 degrees, so I was thinking the fish would be in current, but they weren’t,” he said.

However, Gallo kept his eyes peeled and saw seagulls milling about.

“I call them search birds,” he said. “They weren’t really diving, but they know something’s there. They’re just going to hang out until it gets pushed to the surface.”

The anglers moved in the direction of the seagulls, and found feeding speckled trout in the 14- to 17-inch range.

“We fished the area where the three canals come together,” Gallo said. “As you go in, you go around P.J. Brown’s house, and then it forks off to the left. Where those three intersect, that’s where 90 percent of our fish came from.”

The area featured other signs of life as well, something a bit more prehistoric, Gallo said.

“Oddly enough, the place we caught fish, the garfish were rolling constantly,” he said. “I don’t have any kind of reason for that. I’ve got nothing. We moved to another area, and we caught no fish and saw no gar.

“We caught our fish in two different areas, and both had garfish.”

Gallo said these weren’t small gar, either, and he estimated most were at least five feet long.

The hottest lure in the area has been an ultraviolet-colored Matrix Shad, Gallo said. He discovered that three weeks ago after starting the morning of a solo trip at the train trestle. Gallo caught only four fish in two hours, and decided to duck into Lakeshore Estates. He had been throwing ultraviolet at the bridge, so that’s what he used in the canals, and the fish gobbled it up.

When Gallo got home, he discovered why.

“I cleaned the fish, and they all had pogies in their bellies,” he said.

Those baitfish had yellow accents on their bodies, so Gallo has been dipping the tails of his soft-plastics in chartreuse Dip-N-Glo to more closely mimic the pogies, and has been rigging the lures on lighter jigheads than other anglers might use.

“One of the things I like about that area is there’s not a lot of current, so a 5/16-ounce jighead will get you to the bottom, even in that depth of water,” he said. “It just takes a while to get down there.”

Other canal systems near Gallo's Angling Adventures of Louisiana lodge, include Eden Isles, Treasure Isle and Carr Drive, and those also deliver speckled trout this time of year, he said.

“They all have the same thing in common: They’re all manmade, which means they’re all going to be pretty consistent in their depth,” he said.

But Lakeshore is Gallo’s favorite.

“I pretty much watched it being built, even though it was a slow, slow process, but I know which canals are old and which canals are new,” he said. “The older canals have clam-shell beds on the bottoms.

“There are areas I could take you to, and you could just drag your sinker across the bottom, and you’ll feel it bump, bump, bump. The newer canals are just smooth. The shells haven’t formed yet. Fish love shells, no matter where they happen to be.”

Even in those areas, though, the fish will shift and move according to tide and temperature.

“It’s all 18 to 25 feet of water,” Gallo said. “You have to throw everywhere. You have to figure out what’s going on that day. A lot of times, we like to work the ledges, but sometimes they’re just scattered.”

But they’re almost always there.

And that means this time of year, so, too, is Mike Gallo.