NEW ORLEANS (AP) — If variety is the spice of life, the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway is more seasoned right now than a batch of Al Scramuzza's crawfish.
The 24-mile twin bridges that connect Metairie to Mandeville are holding more speckled trout than a week's worth of commuters, but those fish are sharing space with a litany of saltwater denizens that are slightly less sought-after but no less fun to catch or eat.
Last week, Jeff Bruhl backed his bass boat into the mouth of the Tchefuncte River at a public launch in Madisonville, and took a medieval beating running into the teeth of a 15-knot southeast wind that swirled out of a high-pressure system to the east.
This despite a forecast of 5-10 and flags in Covington that seemed glued to their poles.
"The lake is funny," Bruhl said. "Some days it'll blow in the morning and then get calm; other days it'll be calm in the morning and then get rough."
Fortunately, this day would prove to trend more to the former.
Bruhl dropped off of plane in the mid-lake area just as hints of the morning's sunrise were beginning to curl over the unsettled water along the horizon.
He reached into his tackle bag and pulled out a lure that's popular along most of the coast, but not so much at the Causeway.
"On Sunday, we were catching a few fish, but we switched over to Gulps, and they really bit," Bruhl said.
Bruhl slid the stinky, slimy lure onto his jighead and commenced to beating the two-stanchioned south-bound span.
The bites came almost immediately. The first was from a keeper speckled trout that would somewhat belie the eventual results of the trip. Of the next dozen or so fish that went in the box, not a single one would be a keeper trout.
Bruhl caught three keeper black drum, one oversized black drum, seven flounder, three redfish and six bull croakers.
Along the way, he also boated several undersized speckled trout, and all the while, Bruhl was putting together a puzzle in his head. He noticed that nearly all of his trout bites came from between the two stanchions. If he cast on the backside of the far stanchion or in front of the nearest one, he might catch a drum, flounder, redfish or croaker, but between the stanchions, it was all trout.
Bruhl likes variety, but he loves speckled trout. So he reached into his tackle bag and pulled out a handful of ultraviolet-colored Matrix Shads. He threaded one on, and his first cast between the stanchions resulted in his second keeper trout.
"OK, that's where the trout are today," he said.
From that point on, Bruhl got a hit -- sometimes multiple hits -- on just about every cast. The Lake Pontchartrain Causeway is absolutely loaded with speckled trout right now. Unfortunately, the vast majority of them are a few shrimp meals short of the legal limit.
They'd smack Bruhl's bait like bream attacking a bass worm, but only one out of every four hits or so would result in a hook-up. Among the unlucky fish that took a quick trip to the surface, only about four in 10 were big enough to keep.
But with action that fast, Bruhl quickly put together a heavy box.
There were a few things that proved remarkable about the day. The first -- and it's always dumbfounding to anglers who don't fish the Causeway very much -- was how pattern-specific the speckled trout were. For a couple of hours, they were all bunched up between the two stanchions on the southbound bridge, and they were nowhere else.
Cracking that code each trip is what keeps Bruhl coming back for more.
"I just like trying to figure out the bite," he said. "I explain it like this: Remember the old cartoons where the coyote had the liquid hole, and the roadrunner could pick it up and move it around?
"Well, that's what you're looking for is that liquid hole. One day you'll come out here, and it's going to be on one piling. The next time, you might catch them all on the other span.
"The fun is figuring out where that one little spot is where you're going to catch them every cast."
Information from: The Times-Picayune, http://www.nola.com