For the past two weeks, fishing folks in the Lafitte area are rubbing their eyes to make sure the spots they’re seeing are real.
The spots belong to speckled trout, and the numbers showing up at places like Joe’s Landing and Bourgeois Charters are something anglers haven’t seen in maybe 10 years.
That all this is happening in March makes it even more unbelievable: Late fall and winter are the usual times specks move that far north in the Barataria Basin estuary.
There are all sorts of explanations, things like Hurricane Isaac pushing saltwater far up into this vast waterway that legend tells us gave Jean Lafitte a highway to sell his pirated goods to New Orleans markets 200 years ago.
One thing veteran charter skipper Theophile Bourgeois knows is that white shrimp continue to jump around in places like Brusle Lake, King’s Ridge and Lake Round, even down to Manila Village. It’s possible that Isaac pushed the shrimp that far north from Grand Isle and the shrimp had no reason to leave, not even when the north winds started blowing and pushed huge volumes of water from the marshes.
It’s also possible that a reduced flow from the Davis Pond Diversion that pumped freshwater into coastal systems throughout the months-long run of BP-Deepwater Horizon oil disaster was not enough to overcome Isaac’s too-long stay along the southeast Louisiana coast.
“It’s good to see the trout return,” Bourgeois said. “We’re on a good run, and it looks like it could stay for a while.”
There’s no secret what’s producing big catches: Almost any soft-plastic chartreuse lure worked on a jighead or under a poppin’ cork will yield strikes.
Most of the trout are running 13-16 inches long, and the larger trout among the catches are coming on topwater baits in colors like black/pearl, black/chartreuse head and bone with a touch of chartreuse on the back and a splash of red on the belly.
Clearer water, but not crystal clear, is more productive than the muddy water that’s the rule after a winter of north winds that move water out and southerly winds that blow water back into the marshes.
And when the winds blow, find the bank that’s catching the most wind — wind blowing into a bank pushes shrimp and baitfish against the marsh banks — and redfish and flounder are following the food into these shallow areas.
Friday’s pronouncement from the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council director Roy Crabtree was short and sweet: Louisiana’s adjusted red snapper season in federal waters will be nine days.
Louisiana’s Coastal Conservation Association’s response was not as short, nor as sweet.
CCA released its reaction within minutes of Crabtree’s announcement. Crabtree’s move “is widely viewed as retaliation for the state’s plans to go out of compliance with federal snapper regulations in 2013.”
“CCA Louisiana believes that this adjustment to the Louisiana red snapper season is outrageous and based on arbitrary and faulty estimates of the potential increased efforts,” CCA Louisiana executive director David Cresson said. “By choosing to confront the states in this way, the federal government is signaling that it is not interested in seeking meaningful solutions to this abysmal situation and is instead content to focus on punitive measures.”
In February, Department of Wildlife and Fisheries’ assistant secretary Randy Pausina offered a plan that would allow Louisiana a pilot program to try state management of federal waters off each state’s coast. It would allow states to set more flexible seasons and make quicker adjustments to daily creel limits. The plan was rejected, and Pausina inferred Crabtree lobbied against the move. Texas was other state among the five Gulf States to support the plan.
“State-based fishery management has engineered some of the greatest marine conservation victories in the country, such as red drum and speckled trout. Our own Department of Wildlife and Fisheries has earned a great deal of respect managing our wild resources, but the same cannot be said for NOAA Fisheries,” Cresson said. “Red snapper is no longer a conservation issue, it’s a management issue, and federal management is failing. We believe the states could do a far better job of ensuring not only the health of these fish stocks, but maximizing the ability of their citizens to access and enjoy them.”
Giants on Falcon
Pierre Part national touring pro bass fisherman Cliff Crochet brought in the catch of his lifetime Friday on Falcon Lake in Texas. His five-bass catch weighed 35 pounds, 3 ounces and vaulted him 46 spots into fourth place.