NEW ORLEANS (AP) — If Capt. Kris Robert is right, any day now, as day turns to dusk, you can expect knocks on your front door from little kids dressed like witches, ghosts and pumpkins. Give them handfuls of candy, or they'll light your mailbox on fire or pee on your rosebushes.
The calendar says April, and Halloween is in October, but the calendar is wrong. It's got to be.
Lake Pontchartrain is loaded to the gills with flounder, and that happens in the fall, not the spring. The fish move out of the estuary en masse to escape the coming cold, and the blitz in eastern Lake Pontchartrain is often legendary.
Not in 2013, though. The blitz last fall was only legendary for how bad it was.
"In October, we didn't have any flounder run -- nothing like we'd normally have in October -- but in January and February, we were catching four or five flounder on every trip," Robert said. "I remember saying I hope they stick around for the spring."
Not only have they stuck around, they seem to have multiplied. Robert said the flounder are thicker than a legislator's wallet, particularly in one section of the lake. He's been devoting most of his attention to the trestles, where the speckled trout action has really picked up, but the flounder are most concentrated at the farthest spot from either shore.
"They're not all the way north, and they're not to the south," Robert said. "They're all located dead mid-lake between 175 and 176. They're just right in that area. You'll sit on one piling and catch three or four of them before you move to the next piling."
As with most things in fishing, however, timing is critical. If you head to Robert's favorite stretch while the tide's rolling in or cruising out, you might catch some speckled trout, but the only flatfish you'll see is if you accidentally step on one of those trout.
The fish are biting almost exclusively during the change in the tide or on light-tide days. Robert said he's not fighting to get the flounder to bite when they don't want to. Rather, he waits until conditions are right to head to his honey hole.
"We've been doing real well on trout between 174 and the drawbridge, just going back and forth," he said. "As soon as I see the tide start to slow up, I'll just run back to 176 and start heading toward 175, and then by the time we're done with that drift, we'll have 10 flounder and probably miss just as many."
Anyone who's ever targeted flounder knows the fish are notoriously tough to land after they're hooked. Their mouths are full of hard cartilage and very little flesh. Hooks tend not to sink too deep, and those that do tear out easily.
That's especially true for charter clients, many of whom may not have a lot of fishing experience and aren't sure how to fight a fish to reduce the chance of losing it. So Robert, who fishes Matrix Shads along the bridges for speckled trout, switches over to a scent-enhanced bait for flounder.
"A few days ago, we missed six or seven flounder, so I went to the white curly-tail Gulp, and literally, you would set the hook in one, and if he came off while you were reeling, you could let it drop, and almost right away, you'd have another one on it," Robert said. He fishes the lures almost exclusively on 3/8-ounce jigheads.
While there's a lull in the tide, the fish will stack right up next to the bridge stanchions, Robert said, but after the tide completes the transition and begins to move again, the fish will pull away from the bridge. They can still be caught for a few moments, but when the tide starts rolling again, Robert runs to his trout stretch.
That short window limits the success anglers can have. They're not going to go out and put a four-angler limit in the boat; there simply isn't enough time. But while the tide is slack, the action is furious.
"Normally in the spring, you may catch two per trip, but if you go out right now and catch the tide right, you'll catch 10 or 12 easy," Robert said. "It's just unbelievable that that many flounder have stuck around. I'm guessing they just stayed here the whole winter."
When they leave is anyone's guess, but Robert thinks they'll likely stick around for a while.
"It's only going to get better because the water is going to get saltier, the shrimp will start (moving into the area) and the baitfish will start coming in," he said. "Those flounder will hang around and eat.
"Maybe they will stick around in the summer, and when the fall comes, that October run will just bust loose like it did two years ago."
Either that, or maybe the calendar's wrong, and it's October now.