Croaker keep Pontchartrain trout biting

Put fishing and Lake Pontchartrain into the same equation, and bridges automatically come after the equal sign, right?

Not today, well, not this week.

When Jeff Bruhl and Gary Krouse jumped at the chance to get on the state’s largest lake earlier in the week, their first inclination was to head to The Causeway. If that didn’t pay off, then the U.S. 11 bridge or the train trestle were next.

Krouse said he was wondering about all the fish that came from the artificial reefs last year. The reefs lay between the Causeway and the bridges that span the five-mile gap between north and south shores on the lake’s easternmost end.

Bruhl found the GPS coordinates for several reefs. Despite sea conditions rougher than they wanted for a bass boat, they dropped anchor and proceeded to wear out the trout.

“The seas calmed down enough, and we were able to fish all artificials (lures),” Krouse said.

They were throwing a variety of soft plastics on 3⁄8-ounce jigheads and it started with the Matrix Shad’s “Shrimp Creole” color but settled into other shrimp colors for the next minutes before Dubley’s new Green Gobie and the white curly-tailed Gulp! grub started the feeding on a new cycle.

“We put 50 (speckled) trout in the boat all 14 inches or better, 23 white trout 12-14 inches (long), 5 redfish and a flounder. We filled the boxes,” Krouse said.

The difference between the first-cast and next-used baits was better understood after cleaning the fish and restocking Bruhl’s freezer — like who’d have ever believed Jeff Bruhl was down to his last 8 trout filets? — because they found what appeared to be small croaker in the trout.

It’s about this time of year that eels start showing up in a trout’s diet in the Pontchartrain Basin.

It’s food for thought, if you’re thinking about what the trout are eating these days.

Empire’s the place

Steven Nick and Matthew Whitman combined their talents Saturday to top the 68-boat field in the the IFA Redfish Tour’s first venture in Louisiana waters this year.

Nick, from Lacombe, and Whitman, from Metairie, said they were sight-casting on reds in the Delacroix area, a 50-mile one-way trip from the Empire launch. Gold spoons were their choice of lures for their two-redfish catch weighing out a 16.76 pounds.

“The water was high and very clean,” Nick said.

As usual, the Louisiana marshes provided a tight contest: Harahan’s Josh Romig and Ponchatoula’s Paul Swett teamed to take second place with a 16.59-pound total.

The difference in what amounted to was less that three ounces was the first-place prize of a $30,000 Ranger Banshee Extreme boat and a $2,665 second-place prize.

Chad Dufrene from Purvis teamed with Alabama angler Barnie White for a 16.58-pound third-place stringer (yes, one one-hundredths of a pound from second place) and reportedly took their fish one Gulp! artificials in the Delacroix area.

The heaviest single redfish among the 68 boats was weighed in by the fourth-place team of John Stubbs and Clarence Breland. Their single red weighed 8.93 pounds.

Fishermen were limited to weighing in two redfish measuring at least 16 inches long, but less than 27 inches long.

The next day, Sunday, Texas angler John Kay boated a redfish and a speckled trout that measured 51.75 inches to win the IFA Kayak Tour stop at Empire. The kayakers battled strong winds throughout the weekend, and Kay’s 39.75-inch long redfish was the key to his win.

New Orleanian Steve Neece finished second at 51.5 inches for the $1,000 prize and took additional money for being the top angler fishing from a Hobie kayak. Neece said he traveled to the Grand Isle area for his catch.

Casey Brunning, from Madisonville, made his first IFA tournament memorable when he boated a 26.26-inch redfish and a 20.25-inch trout to take third place. He said he worked topwater baits, spoons and Flukes in the Delacroix area.

Marty Moody had the top trout, a 21-incher, to take $100 Big Trout award along with a $100 Cabela’s card.