NEW ORLEANS - It all started in earnest Tuesday morning just after sunrise and continued big time Wednesday and again Thursday.
In fact, Wednesday morning well over 100 boats of every size, shape, and description were lined up from morning to evening along the trestle that crosses Lake Pontchartrain from North Shore to South Shore. And today, my fishing team and I shared the 5-mile-long railroad bridge with no less than 75 boats.
But here’s the big deal—the saltwater anglers aboard those boats had no problem pulling a significant number of bragging-size female trout the 4 to 6 pound range—along with a bunch of lagniappe flounder—over the gunwales.
“Everybody, and I do mean everybody, Frank, has been catching specks—and flounders—the last couple of days,” Capt. Kenny Kreeger confided in me. “They’re fishing from the extreme northern shoreline all across mid-lake and over to the extreme southern shoreline. That’s really promising news at this time of year, since it’s only the onset of spring and summer.”
“Got a bunch of questions for you, Captain Kenny, if you don’t mind,” I queried.
“Not at all,” he replied. “Ask away, buddy!”
“Is the entire stretch of trestle producing fish?” I began. “Are there many throwbacks? What’s the average size? Where are they along the trestle? What bait are you guys using? What kinda rigging? Can you tell me which technique works best? When is the fishing most productive?”
“Okay, Frank. . .let’s start at the beginning,” Kreeger said.
“Your starting point should be right around railway marker 175. Make your first cast there then go north. If nothing is going on northward, reverse your field and head south. It depends on the weather—the water turbidity, the tide, the temperature, the wave height, and so forth—as to what the activity is going to be like in any particular place. So you definitely got to find out where they’re hanging out on any given day. Rest assured, though, they’re somewhere!
“Concerning throwbacks. . .not many. Every trout you catch will be 14 to 16 inches—except for the ones that go 18, 19, and 20 inches, which for the most part have been holding at the south side of the trestle. Oh, of course, you might run across a single undersize speck, but I guarantee they will be few and far between.
“And , Frank, it’s not just trout you’re gonna catch. Don’t forget the flounders in the lake right now—from centerpiece size to doormat size all the way up to garbage can cover size. You get a strike, you automatically think it’s a big trout, and you end up hauling in a big ‘ol flounder. Podnuh, that’s what I call really good lagniappe.
“Now about the bait. . .it’s all artificial. Shrimp tails, minnow-style, even hard plastics. But the color configurations are critical. Hard plastics, like the Mirr-O-Lure and the Rattl-Trap produce more catches when you use the silver and blue color combinations. I’m gonna stay out a little later today and try both colors in other plastic designs. I can tell you with certainty, though, Frank, that the hard-plastics are being used primarily for trolling (which is a popular method right now for catching some of the bigger fish). Most of the anglers fishing the trestle this past week, though, have been using cast-and-retrieve.
“What you do is ease up to the pilings, hang about 10 yards off, and then make your casts up into the spans between the stanchions.”
I interrupted Kenny at this point and asked him to describe the actual technique he uses for catching big trout and flounder.
“What I do, Frank, is make my cast. Then I wait about 6 seconds or so until I feel the leadhead jig fall to the bottom. Then I immediately begin to pop the bait—one, two, three.
Snapping it quick and hard. Then I pop it one more time. And I freeze! Just waiting for the strike to come. If it does, I set the hook hard and boat my fish. If it doesn’t come, I repeat the process again—one, two, three in succession, then the single hard pop. I keep this up all the way back to the boat or until the fish takes the bait.
“This is your soft plastic technique--what you’d use for sparkle beetles, Cocahoe tails, rubber minnows, DOA shrimp, my plastic croaker lure, and my shrimp minnow. Remember, these baits need to be rigged on a 1/2 or 5/8-ounce round, unpainted, leadhead jighead. Oh, yeah—and both the trout and the flounder are going nuts over anything chartreuse. If you don’t have any chartreuse colored plastic tails, pick up a bottle of ‘chartreuse dip’ and dip your tails. In fact, whichever bait or lure you decide to fish with, I’d dip it before you cast it. It’s worth the effort.”
Capt. Kenny’s lecture seemed to come to a pause here for a few minutes, because unconsciously he had pulled several big trout over the side of the boat without giving it much thought at all.
“If I could get some help here,” he joked, “we could go home with a couple of limits, Frank. So what else do you need to know,” he asked.
“Just one more question,” I answered, “then we’re done. Like. . .when’s the best time to come fish the trestle, Kenny.”
“That’s easy. . .whenever you got a good tide. Makes no difference whether it’s incoming or outgoing—it you got a good strong tide, like 8/10ths to maybe 1.2 feet, you’ll find them biting. Anything less than that—or stronger—is awfully iffy. So come when you got a tide and it makes no never mind if it’s in the morning or at noon or in the late evening. And wait for the tell-tale bump. You’ll feel the bite—just one thump on the line. Or all you might feel instead is like you got a snag or a clump of grass. Set the hook! Nine times out of ten that’s a fish!” Kenny concluded.
So that’s this week’s story. You know where to go, what to fish for, when to fish, and what to fish with. All you got to decide is if you wanna get out there as early as Friday. . .or maybe wait until Saturday. . .or—God forbid!—not until Sunday. But my recommendation is. . .go for sure!
By the way, Capt. Kenny does have a few openings on his calendar for the next few weeks, so if you want to fish trout like a pro with a pro, give him a call at 985-643-2944. Just don’t wait till the last minute to book a charter, because once I write and air these reports, the guides’ phones go ga-ga and their calendars fill almost overnight. I’m just saying!
Next week, if the weather holds for me, I make my first return trip to Cocodrie since before BP. Wish me luck!