After catching beaucoup speckled trout on a dozen trips this spring to near-offshore waters southwest of Houma, filling ice chest after ice chest with sac-a-lait over the summer in the Atchafalaya Basin, two local fishing buddies teamed up again Wednesday to extract speckled trout from the Vermilion Bay area, specifically Weeks Bay.
Weather conditions cooperated. It was Mother Nature’s version of a Chamber of Commerce kind of day the last week of November. Water conditions cooperated. The water was green and salty.
Most importantly, speckled trout cooperated.
Keo Khamphilavong and Craig Landry, both of New Iberia, gave thanks for all that the day before Thanksgiving. The New Iberians, both contractors, plus a guest, capitalized on the combined cooperation and put 67 speckled trout, averaging 13-15 inches, and one perfect frying-size flounder in the ice chest after launching Khamphilavong’s 24-foot long Blazer Bay at 11 a.m. from Bayou Patout Boat Landing.
“What’s nice is you don’t have too run far,” Khamphilavong said as the sun melted into the horizon about six hours later, the bountiful trip just about at an end.
That Khamphilavong, 57, and Landry, 60, and many others have been catching speckled trout since late September was a welcome variance over the past few years in the Vermilion Bay area, particularly Weeks Bay.
Actually, this past week’s trip was only Khamphilavong’s third speckled trout outing of Fall 2021. His first fall trip was in late September and his next was on Nov. 21 with Ross Landry and Mike Sinitiere.
He was deer hunting much of the time from October to the third week of November at his lease in Illinois, where he has killed four deer, and also brought down a mule deer in Wyoming.
Landry, meanwhile, has been on about half-a-dozen speckled trout trips in his 18-foot center console aluminum Express with a 90-h.p. Yamaha. His most satisfying day was on the first Sunday in November when he went alone, bounced around from The Cove to The Hammock, then on a whim went to Pavy’s Reef, where he caught 21 speckled trout, mostly 2- to 2 ½-pounders.
That was an “eerie” day, he said, because when he arrived at Quintana Canal Boat Landing there were approximately 30 tow vehicles and boat trailers but he saw zero boats in The Cove, one at the wharves along the Point and one at the Hammock. He has no idea where the other two dozen or so boats were on an ultra-calm day and his was the lone boat at Pavy’s Reef.
Judging from the bite Thursday, they might have been in Weeks Bay. First, though, Khamphilavong spent an hour in one of his favorite canals leading to the bay without any luck, despite the green water. He did catch a “doormat.”
“Ah, there he is. A flounder. See that size right there. That’s the perfect frying size. That’s my third flounder of the year,” he said after catching the fish while tightlining a lemonhead Matrix Shad on a ¼-ounce Golden Eye Jig Head.
That was the only taker there, however.
“They’re biting somewhere,” Landry said, wistfully, talking about speckled trout.
Khamphilavong, who owns Keo’s Construction, pulled up the trolling motor and made a beeline to an area far from the shoreline where he and his two fishing partners caught 47 speckled trout a week ago today.
“That water sure is pretty, prettiest water I’ve seen in Weeks Bay. This is the first time in five, six years we’ve caught fish in there. The river (Atchafalaya River) has been so high so long (each late winter/spring). We’re at the mercy over here,” he said.
Wednesday’s speckled trout slugfest didn’t start right away. Khamphilavong, bouncing the Matrix Shad off the bottom, had a swing and a miss soon after getting there.
“Ah, I had a bite. The fish was right there. Ah, I just missed another one,” he said.
He misfired on a hookset once again. Then Landry missed on a similarly colored Matrix Shad under an orange popping cork.
A few casts later, Landry had a better hookset and had a decent-sized speckled trout halfway to the boat before it disconnected. And Khamphilavong had another hit.
“Oh, damn. That slammed it. I don’t know how I missed it. It slammed that thing hard. That was a good one, best one I’ve had so far,” he said.
Their shutout ended with a 14-incher he swung in the boat. Landry followed suit with a small keeper.
The fishing buddies who have been fishing saltwater and freshwater together for nine years were getting dialed in. Khamphilavong hooked and boated two in a row, then lost the next three bites, then a fourth.
Landry, who owns Craig Landry Construction, still popped ‘em on a popping cork. Sandwiched around a smallish keeper brought in by Khamphilavong were his two “healty” fish.
As they moved into even prettier water, the veteran skipper decided to try an ultraviolet Matrix Shad under a popping cork and, sure enough, had the desired result. The ‘box was filling up as he alternated between tightlining, eventually switching that rig to an ultraviolet model, and popping cork.
Over the new few hours it was like a pinball machine with Khamphilavong in the front bringing them in, or missing occasionally, and Landry reeling them in from the back.
“They’re in here. They’re just scattered. You’ve just got to keep chipping away, one by one,” Khamphilavong said as they trolling motored 25-35 yards five times, then went back to where they started and busted them.
“The lemonhead works when the water’s just a little dingier. But ultraviolet, look at the water, it’s green. That’s good for ultraviolet,” he said, adding it resembles a shrimp, which they saw a few times, as well as a shad.
“That color made a big difference. I was too lazy. I didn’t want to change to ultraviolet (on his tightline rig),” he said.
Both anglers believe the speckled trout fishing will continue to be at least fair to good probably well into December. There have been many winters when the bite is still on somewhere in the system even up to between Christmas and New Year’s Day.
“Usually until the first big, big cold front. After than big freeze, they’re usually gone after that,” Landry said.
“I don’t think they all leave,” Khamphilavong said.