Don't Blink....

You’re phone rings and on the other end of the line you hear your buddy say, “Hey man, a friend of mine just told me that Academy has all their fishing rods marked 50% off, do you want to go?”

A quick glance at your rod rack makes you realize that 12 rods aren’t nearly enough, so you excitedly say, “Sure, I’ll come pick you up.”

As you and your buddy are riding, and between discussion, you find yourself doing quick math of your bank account transactions and fabricating excuses to your spouse to justify why you needed another $80 fishing tool. You quickly settle on, “Well it was originally $160, and if I needed to I could sell it for more than what I paid.” Now with confidence and all the justification in the world you make a right at the sunglass counter and see the rods poking over the Under Armour display, as if they were neon lit arrow’s saying “Over Here.”

At this point, you turn right into the rod aisle and grab a Waterloo wader light, and visions of you setting the hook and seeing ole yella mouth shake her head, gets you as giddy as a schoolgirl. Then you look at the price…$160? I thought these were 50% off?
As you make your way to the guncounter, you hear the associate mutter those fateful words, “It ended yesterday.” There’s no way, you think to yourself, we just heard about this! Your friend who is also in disbelief, calls his bud that gave you the information, and he says “Yeah, I got mine yesterday, but I didn’t know it was going to end so soon….sorry man!”

All of us anglers have been there, if not for rods, for some other fishing or hunting related purchase. It drives you mad. What was once a sure thing, has now been snatched from your grasp. In short, what was once there, is now gone.

Targeting speckled trout during the “transition months” equates to the story aforementioned, and like the characters in the story, you feel helpless and perplexed. Patterns and justification, as to why you caught them one day, lead to more questions and elevated blood pressure, why you didn’t catch any days after. Time and time again, I’ve read articles depicting this sensitive time of year, and although I don’t possess the answers, I can give ideas and encouragement. Below are three questions and responses to hopefully help navigate through a successful transition time

  1. Where do trout go during the late winter/early spring? The cop out answer is each estuary is different, but it’s true. I’ve fished trout from the Cooper and Wando River in Charleston, SC to flats in Port Mansfield, TX, but for this blog post, I’ll stick to my bread and butter, the homewaters of LA and MS. Not only am I super familiar with these waters, but this is where I’ve gained most of my angling experiences. In LA, think of the estuary like a baking pan full of marbles. On the left side of the pan, you have the inner marsh, and on the right, the Gulf of Mexico. For points of reference, google lake hermitage, LA on the westbank of the MS river, this would represent the inner marsh. Then use Bastain Bay out of Empire, LA as the outer marsh. Now pick up the pan with a hand on each side and tilt the pan to the left. As a result, the marbles should’ve rolled to the left, the inner marsh. Trout, the marbles, typically make there way inshore to the deep parts of the estuary. They do so to follow the food source which I believe vacates the exterior bays and make there way inland for more nutrient rich water, to sustain during the harsh winter months. On the opposite side, when summer rolls around, bait and predators vacate the inner marsh and find more suitable conditions “to do their thing”. Now take my example and try to keep both of your hands as level as possible, what you’ll find is that the marbles will scatter…some on the left, some on the right and some in the middle. So to answer the question, there are no definitive spots in the spring time, because fish are all over, and more often than not, weather is the greatest precursor to success during these months. Just stick and move, think on your feet and use the saying I used in my last blog post…learn to read the water, then make the news

2.What techniques should I use to target transition trout? Personally, I believe this is the easiest question to answer, because there is no particular technique for these months. For example, I’ll use Capt Charlie Thomasson, a renown guide out of the Hopedale, LA area, who is Mr. St Bernard. He is without a doubt one, if not the best guide in the business, and knows the Breton Sound estuary better than most people know their own neighborhoods. Aside from his knowledge, he’s always the first to start catching trout in his area, but his technique is far different than most southeast LA anglers. He almost exclusively throws MirrOlure Top-Dogs or a Paul Browns original corky. His theory is that fish are coming out of a lethargic state and are feeling frisky again. As a result, they want to eat and will go to great lengths to fill their belly. He capitalizes on that friskiness to present notable big trout baits in hopes to catch more quality fish since quantity has yet to make a grand appearance.

3.What is your approach to catching transition trout? This, I believe, is the best question, not because I get to give my opinion, but because having a plan leads to consistent catches during this time of year. Kevin Van Dam, Bass Fishing legend and probably the best angler on the planet, I think has the greatest saying of all, and it totally applies to this time of transition. He says, “Don’t just plan to fish, fish your plan.” For me my plan, is to set realistic expectations…trout are hard to come by because they aren’t ganged up like summer and winter patterns, so I don’t expect to go and catch a limit before the suns comes over the horizon. Although it may happen, it’s pretty unlikely. That said, I don’t plan to get skunked either, so what I do is start targeting nicer fish, in the 2-4lb range and target areas that may produce a consistent bite. These areas are in the middle of the typical summer and winter time fishing holes. A limit in LA is 25/person/day so I try to catch 10 quality trout. In MS, the limit is 15/person/day so I try to catch 6 quality fish. By having realistic expectations, it takes the pressure off of me to try and fill the boat, but instead mentally prepares me for that “next bite” line of thought, similar to bass fishing. Additionally, I hit key areas in a spot (points, passes, oyster reefs and drop offs) and if I don’t get a bite on that first drift, I move to the next spot. The more spots you hit in the spring, the law of averages will play to your favor. Quick story to highlight my point, I was on a charter and my client, who’s also a friend of mine after exchanging dialogue on a saltwater forum, hired me to catch some trout. In typical early April fashion, it was windy and cool, which had the fish scattered. Additionally, it had my waters in Port Sulphur pretty murky. So my plan of attack was to hit every point on every island from Grand Bayou going west to Barataria bay. Long story short, it was about the 20th point we pulled up to and we started mauling nice trout, every cast. What took an hour and a half of point hopping led to us loading the boat with 50 trout in less than an hour. The law of averages…if it looks fishy, chances are in the spring, it is.

As we all know, the transition time of trout, which we are about to embark on, is an unrelenting time for anglers. One day its feast and the other day its famine. It can humble the most seasoned anglers and produce more questions than fish in the box, but hopefully, a little more understanding of the playing field will benefit you while chasing those silver wonders.

Bear in mind those three questions and get off the couch and overcome the stigma that you can’t catch fish while they are in transition. After all, if you don’t want to be left at the gun counter thinking to yourself “What If?” you have to go actively look for the greatest sale of the century.

God Bless and Tight Lines!

Chris