NEW ORLEANS — It's standard operating procedure in the heart of winter to crawl lures painfully slowly on the bottom to catch speckled trout in the deep-water bayous and canals along the Louisiana coast.
But on a Wednesday trip near the Chalmette Wall, Capt. Kris Robert was hopping his bait like it was June. That, he said, was because he left the dock late on a day when the water temperatures were cold but beginning to warm.
"When the sun starts to get up and the water warms up, the bait moves a lot more," he said. "In the dead of winter, you want to work your bait a lot slower, but once the sun gets up and the water temperature rises two or three degrees, those fish get a lot more active. They sense that it's time to feed. They may only get the chance to feed for a couple hours today, so they'll get aggressive."
And aggressive fish aren't necessarily looking for anything on the bottom moving like a slug.
"I need to swim that lure fast past them so I get that reaction strike," Robert said. "Their reaction is to bite it. They just know it's food. If I slow it down too much, that doesn't give the lure a chance to fool them. The little fish may not care, but the big ones do."
That will be especially important for anglers to remember if they plan on hitting the area this weekend. Highs are supposed to rise every day, and may hit 80 by Sunday. That means the fish won't be nearly as sluggish or as concentrated, Robert said.
"These fish will move out and spread out," he said. "The weekend that just passed, we had three phenomenal days. On the third day -- Sunday -- we didn't struggle, but the fish were definitely more spread out. Everywhere you went, you'd catch, like, 20 fish, and then they'd stop.
"The nights are still cool, so they'll still be deep in the mornings, but throughout the day, they'll start spreading out. If you can brave the cold weather early in the morning, you'll find them stacked up, and you can check off 25, 30 fish and then peck around for your limit. They've been real thick in the (Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet) along the rocks. As the day heats up, they'll move to those rocks."
Information from: The Times-Picayune, http://www.nola.com