BATON ROUGE, Louisiana — Terry St. Cyr has patrolled Louisiana's coast from the mouth of the Mississippi River west across Grand Isle to Last Island long enough to know when a red flag needs to be raised.
St. Cyr's raising one today, and it's because this well-known Lafayette speckled trout catcher isn't catching speckled trout.
He talked about his trip last weekend, an excursion with other famed trout hunters Ed Sexton and Tony Bruce, and talked about how they shed hopes of finding big trout to take advantage of slick seas in the final days of the nine-day recreational red snapper season.
"We caught our six snapper (the daily limit) in 20 minutes, then ran back in to try to catch trout," St. Cyr said. "We went out Sunday, and Ed caught one that went (6 pounds, two ounces) and we might have caught 16 trout all day."
OK, so 16 fish might be a grand haul for three fishermen anywhere else in the country, but not here, not when St. Cyr, his two sons, and Sexton and Bruce are more accustomed to country their catch in 10s and 20s per fishermen and not in single digits.
True, St. Cyr, Sexton and Bruce set out on "hawg" hunting trips. These guys have honed their trout-fishing skills to places where tackle-busting specks live. And they know what big trout eat, baits like live croaker, even live pogey.
"We made pulls (using a trawl) and caught nice croakers, and we were in a place with good water and mullet everywhere and caught very few fish, very few," St. Cyr said Saturday.
"I don't think we have any fish," he said.
Disappointment tinged his every word.
"It's been like this for three years," St. Cyr said, before tracing back three years to spring and summer following the April, 2010, BP-Deepwater Horizon oil disaster that sent millions of gallons of crude oil into Louisiana's coastal waters.
"I saw where a guy fishing with (charter skipper) Chris Wilson caught an 8.29 (pound speck) last Monday out of Venice, but those fish are very few and far between these days," St. Cyr said. "You know how many times we've made that run (from Grand Isle to Venice), but I made two trips like that last year — it costs $500 a trip to make that run — and I'm not doing it again.
"Maybe I'm just getting too old to take that pounding, but I'm not going again, not to do what we've been doing for the last three years."
Fishermen working the Central Coast for the past three days are finding much the same as St. Cyr has, even when running into the East Timbalier waters, a place that produced the best trout catches along the coast for the previous two weeks. Even the fishermen looking for smaller school trout are having trouble finding fish. Average catches are less than 10 trout per day.
Slight northwest winds that were predicted to shift to the west and southwest failed to materialize and, apparently, took trout off the bite at least through early Saturday morning.
That left coastal fishermen waiting for building tides in advance of this week's new moon phase.
Information from: The Advocate, http://theadvocate.com