Speckled trout were our first target of the morning, so we headed toward the Gulf coast in hopes of catching them feeding on bait fish and shrimp as the tide fell from the marshes into the bayous and channels. As we crossed Sister Lake, we kept a vigilant watch for flocks of seagulls feeding on surface shrimp, knowing that the trout would be doing the same from below the surface of the water. Seeing no big collections of birds feeding, we continued our journey down Bayou Grand Caillou to the coast.
Having scouted a couple times last week and finding schools of small trout, I was hoping we would find large concentrations of trout feeding at daybreak. At our first stop, we joined the diving gulls as they enjoyed their breakfast of fish and shrimp.
We got on the edge of a huge school of hungry white and juvenile speckled trout. As fast as the double-rigged lines hit the water, the trout inhaled them and were reeled in only to be released to grow to keeper size. There was such a feeding frenzy going on, that tending to my fishing clients kept me hopping, making it nearly impossible to take photos, but here is a shot of the youngest in the crew–an excited eight-year old I dubbed “L.J.”.
The Chemist kept his position on the stern of the boat and hardly said a word as he caught numbers of small trout and threw them back. Once I was able to talk with him, he revealed to me that he is a fly fisherman and conservationist and practices catch and release only. Well, that worked great, because there were very few keepers in the crowd.
Then there was Big T.O., whom I jokingly nick named Foghorn Leghorn. Once I built up the courage to tell him that is who he reminded me of, we were not lacking for entertainment. He kept us in stitches pretty much the whole trip after that! What a great guy to have on board–never a dull moment with Big T.O. around. He helped keep L.J. occupied, too, which was a plus when I was busy elsewhere.
We drifted out into the bay and fished under another flock of birds with no results and then returned to the inlet where we first started fishing. This time, we anchored between two points and soon enough the fish were back feeding again. At one point, no one was even casting–just dropping the double-rigged hooks down beside the boat and jerking up two trout at a time. L. J. was having a blast, and I was having a blast watching him.
But before everyone had their fill of the feisty juvenile trout, a big shrimp boat idled into the little bayou with us and anchored about a hundred yards away. It seemed as though the sound of the engine’s hum scared away the shrimp, bait fish, and trout. Just like someone had flipped the “off” switch, the bite turned off, and that is no exaggeration.
Our next and final stop brought us to the mouth of Bayou Grand Caillou where we anchored in the deepwater to soak some small blue crab on bottom in search of bull reds, black drum, and sheephead. Even though gafftopsail catfish are a slimy nuisance, and we don’t keep them, they do put up a good fight, making them fun to catch. We NEVER NET A CATFISH, because they, especially gafftop, exude a sticky slime that coats everything. To avoid the slime, they are removed at the gunwhale and dropped back into the water quickly. The other reason we don’t net them or handle them is because of a poisonous spine on the dorsal fin. A prick from that fin can send a nasty infection down to the bone and you to the hospital. They are nothing to mess with. The Chemist caught so many hardhead catfish that he soon got the nick name Catfish Bob, but he was a good sport about it. I got the impression that as long as he was fishing, he was happy!
Fishing on anchor got a little boring for L.J., and he really wasn’t interested in the slow action of fishing on the bottom and waiting for a bite. He changed his mind, though, when Foghorn or Catfish Bob hooked a big fish and then handed him the rod so he could practice his “deep-sea reeling skills”! And boy did he have it going on! We shouted the cadence for him until he got the rhythm:
“Puuuuul, reeluptheslack, puuuuuul, reeluptheslack”, over and over until he had the big fish to the side of the boat.
After a while of doing that, he asked me if he might have his own rig, so I chose a medium-action rod, with 12-pound test line, and a one-ounce-weight Carolina rig baited with half a small crab and then cast it out behind the boat for him. I then gave him a quick lesson on how to watch the tip for action or how to feel for a bite. He preferred to watch the tip and soon set the hook on his first fish. It was a hardhead catfish, as were the next two fish he caught, but he had his technique down and could easily set the hook and reel in his catch solo.
His third bite found him shouting, “It’s a bull red! It’s a bull red! I just know it’s a bull red!” We all stopped what we were doing to watch this little fisherman give it all he had. Five men in a nearby boat even stopped what they were doing to watch L.J. land his big catch.
He reeled and reeled, and when he grew tired, the fish peeled off more line, diving down to the bottom while L.J. rested before reeling again. I don’t know how much time it took, but he battled the fish without complaint, and there was no way he was letting that fish get away from him.
This little guy’s endurance paid off with the biggest fish of the day . . .
a black drum almost as big as he was. I’ve never heard as much whooping and hollering as when this young man landed his big fish. It was a long, hard fight and because the fish was showing signs of stress, we quickly snapped the pics and returned him to the water so he could live to tell the story of the little boy who caught him and let him go.
We didn’t have time to measure or weigh this huge fish; but you can see from the photo how long it was, and the man holding the gaff said it seemed to weigh between 30 and 40 pounds.
BAB and I were third boat in a three-boat, twelve-man charter. She handled well, took the seas well, drifted well in the NE winds, and there was plenty or room to move around and tend to my fishing customers. These guys were a great bunch to fish with, and I hope they had as great a time fishing as I did guiding them.
If you haven’t been out fishing for a while, what are you waiting for? The weather is cooling off and the fish are biting.
The first of many fall fishing reports,