Better late than never.
That’s a fitting description and a wholehearted general consensus for the status of speckled trout fishing, which has been fair to good September through October in Vermilion Bay. What’s ahead is anyone’s guess, particularly with a hard, fast, unseasonable rise of the Atchafalaya River, but for two months there were few if any complaints about the bite compared to the same time frame in 2018 and 2017.
Veteran Teche Area speckled trout fishermen like Troy Amy and Keo Khamphilavong, both of New Iberia, have enjoyed some grand and not-so-grand days on the water. The same couldn’t be said for them and so many others each of the past two or three seasons.
While speckled trout fishing success hasn’t been nearly as good as the heydays in the past, including the 2000s and early 2010s, the fish have been biting fairly consistently, at least. Amy and Khamphilaong agreed.
For sure, Amy said, speckled trout moved in late this year because the Atchafalaya River poured fresh water into the eastern side from November 2018 to August.
“It was real late this year. Our Jeanerette club (Cypremort Invitational Fishing Association’s annual tournament) starts in July,” he said.
To catch fish early in the nearly three-month long tournament, CIFA members who did well targeted Tee Butte and Diamond Reef.
“Those boys go out of the Pass. My son and I, a lot of us, wait for them (speckled trout) to come into the Bay,” Amy, 52-year-oldtoolman for Superior energy Services, said. “We used to run all over (outside). We used to chase them. Now we wait until they get in close. It took them until mid-September.”
That’s when water conditions improved for the Amys and in-laws Raymond Bonin and Ty Bonin, et al. Sometimes the boats are on top of each other with much of the action happening in The Cove.
“The first trip I took, Bo and I caught 40 (in early September) in the wharves (in front of camps along Cypremort Point). I love the wharves,” he said.
On his next trip with his wife, Keyna Bonin Amy, they caught 30. The bite was on.
“Now we’re catching because we’ve got good, clear and salty water around the wharves,” he said.
Chicken-on-a-chain-colored soft plastics have been the most consistent producers lately.
Khamphilavong’s 22-foot Blazer Bay hasn’t been out as often as previous years the past two months. Like Amy, though, he has had some memorable outings.
In late September and early part of October, we caught a lot of speckled trout,” Khamphilavong said Wednesday before leaving for a two-week deer hunting trip on his lease in Illinois.
Khamphilavong, who celebrated his 55th birthday in October, and one of his fishing buddies, Craig Landry, each caught a limit of speckled trout averaging 12 to 14 inches long on Oct. 27. They resorted to something they usually don’t do to get fish in the boat that Sunday.
“Actually, when we left, we decided to go across and get live bait. That’s the first time for us to fish with live bait ever. We love to fish soft plastics,” Khamphilavong said.
Shrimp were the main meal ticket, he said.
Khamphilavong, who owns Keo’s Construction, and another fishing buddy, Phil Haney, went two days later and caught 22 speckled trout, he reported, during a half-day trip.
The number of fish caught the past few weeks concerns him, he said, noting there are more and more days with less fish than usual.
“It seems like they’re starting to thin out. There’s little bait. I don’t know if we (Acadiana anglers) caught them all or there are some left,” he said. “It’s not like we’re in the early part of October. It looked like it’s played out.”
Amy said, “It’s not near as good as when it was in its prime.”
However, Khamphilavong said, more speckled trout could find their way into and around Vermilion Bay, weather and water conditions permitting, in November and December. He pointed out limits are being consistently caught at Tee Butte and the speckled trout mostly has been consistent “outside” the Bay.
Unfavorable water conditions in inside waters this year apparently nullified a perennial hotspot and one of his favorite places to fish — Weeks Bay. With the exception of the past two or three falls/early winters, the area has given up fish consistently to dozens of anglers.
“We haven’t done much in Weeks Bay. We’ve had so much fresh water. I think the high water we had early this year has a lot to do with this right now,” Khamphilavong said.
Unfortunately, speckled trout fishermen are dreading the effects of a rising Atchafalaya River. The river stage at Butte La Rose was forecast to be at 12 feet today at 1 p.m. after it was a 10.5 feet on Monday.
It is forecast to rise to the low 13s. Freshwater gets into the Bay, many outdoorsmen say, around 10 or 11 feet.
The good news is the 28-day forecast for the lower Ohio River/lower Mississippi River, which diverts 30 percent of its flow into the Atchafalaya River, shows a peak at 34.4 feet on Nov. 13, then falling to 27.9 feet by Nov. 29.
So there is hope among diehard speckled trout fishing as the water falls that perhaps, just perhaps, they can continue to catch the fish in late November and, hopefully, in December.