Cabot Corso of Destrehan remembers the day long ago he and a few fishing buddies, most wearing cutoff shorts and tennis shoes, were cleaning speckled trout on Grand Isle.
Another angler dressed like he was walking off the pages of a high-class saltwater fishing magazine pulled up with a shiny Robalo, a world-class fishing boat, in tow and surveyed the scene. Oddly, the visitor didn’t ask what they used to catch their limits speckled trout. He asked what brand of boat they were in.
One of Corso’s buddies said, “Reebok! … We were surf fishing.”
Apparently, the angler felt insulted in some way and walked away without another word, Corso said.
That was 25 years ago when Corso was 34. He still chuckles at the memory and still hauls in beaucoup speckled trout from his favorite surf fishing destination, Elmer’s Island, a barrier island in Jefferson Parish along the Louisiana Gulf Coast.
Corso was catching speckled trout there in late April and has had a heckuva start to May. This is the time of year large speckled trout laden with eggs make their move to spawn.
“Around April, May, the big fish that are spawning come in to Caminada Bay and behind Grand Isle. The warmer it gets (in late spring), the more fish come in. It gets better and better,” Corso said a few weeks ago after a friend, Dylan Bordelon of Metairie, proved his point by catching a 7.38-pound speckled trout April 25 in the surf off Elmer’s Island.
Fortunately for Teche Area saltwater fishermen starving for some angling action, Corso doesn’t mind sharing his speckled trout-catching expertise with hardy souls who want to try wading while fishing, but advises it isn’t for the faint of heart. He has been hit by a stingray once, stuck in the chest by a catfish’s spine once trying to unhook it for another angler, rolled by waves a few times and rescued after stepping into troughs.
Elmer’s Island Wildlife Refuge — i.e., the whole island — was off-limits during the coronavirus pandemic closures but reopened Friday. Before then, Corso wouldn’t have advised planning a surf fishing trip there until the reopening of wildlife refuge. Some fishermen he knows crossed the island recently to get from the back bay to the surf and were told to leave, even though they were in the water fishing at the time they were confronted.
Including Grand Isle, Corso said, “We’ve got 10 miles of great fishing.”
Weather and water conditions permitting, Corso launches his Skeeter bass boat at nearby Bridge Side Marina and motors west to Elmer’s Island, where he anchors the boat, gets out and fishes. Otherwise, after the island reopens, motorists without a boat can hang a right off Louisiana 1 at Elmer’s Island Road and park at the parking area, then hike to a likely looking spot in the surf.
Corso’s favorite area, the waters of Caminada Pass, is far to the east of the parking lot, a long walk with fishing tackle, ice chest, etc., although it’s easier pulling the equipment in a wagon, as many others do. However, he doesn’t make the trek.
“Unfortunately,” Corso said Tuesday afternoon, “I like to fish 2 ½ miles from the parking lot. Yeah, it’s a long walk, but a lot of people are doing it.”
So unlike his younger days, when he and everyone else were allowed to drive the length of the spit of land, he goes by boat.
Corso, who retired as a lab worker after 35 years with Marathon Oil Co., warned against wearing waders because the current can be “treacherous” at times in Caminada Pass, plus any other cuts. He finds the bigger speckled trout in moving water.
He used to wear cutoff pants but now dons cargo pants because of their multiple pockets capable of being closed. He brings his array of MirrOlures in small plastic fishing tackle trays.
Corso wears surf shoes that range in price from $4 up. He has seen booties that come up around the knees for $50.
He doesn’t wear a life jacket but may start wearing one of those that manually inflate when you pull the cord. He was rescued once after falling into a trough by a fishing rod tip and another time with a floating stringer.
A pair of needle-nosed pliers is a must to have with you while fishing out in the surf, he said.
He handcrafts his own floating stringer to put the speckled trout on and keep the fish away from his body. The 20-foot long floating stringer is made of ¼-inch rubber-coated cable to which he attaches a float and piece of woods with two holes on one end and a pointed piece of steel on the other. (See related photos.)
He isn’t a big fan of bringing a landing net but now, because of increased competition from savvy anglers, he might start using them because he doesn’t want to lose fish.
He emphasized the water doesn’t have to be a clean green to catch speckled trout.
Remember, he confided, if the bait is there, the fish are there.
“I like to see pretty water. But they’re not always in pretty water,” he said.
Corso fishes with “old school” fishing tackle: two 4-foot Skyline Graphites and two 5-foot Skyline Graphites (that used to be 5 ½-footers) with an Ambassadeur 4500C. His favorite artificial lure is a sinking red/white MirrOlure.
“It has to be the sinking one. It’s very versatile. If you work it fast, it’s like a topwater. Or you can let it sink. You try to find a pattern,” he said recently.
Of course, soft plastics are oh-so effective for other anglers, such as Bordelon, the Metairie angler who caught the 7.38-pound speckled trout on April 25. Bordelon and his friends, Beau Lindsay and Dylan Yancey, both of Metairie, were wading nearby in the surf after towing and anchoring a dinghy near their fishin’ spot.
Corso fished the surf that day with Ryan Bourgeois of Denham Springs.
Bordelon, 28, a construction worker for his uncle’s small business, was fishing with a “Color X” Down South Lures soft plastic on a ¼-ounce Deathgrip Jig, a combo that he started using successfully last year. That he was using 10-pound test Stren Superior monofilament line spooled on a Shimano Stradic 2500 spinning real on a 6-foot-6 Shimano GLF Series spinning rod compounded his concerns while he played the big fish in the crashing surf.
After netting ol’ yellowmouth on his second try, Bordelon knew he wanted to have a taxidermist mount the beast. But the dinghy didn’t have anything to keep it in.
Corso and his anchored Skeeter bass boat, Bordelon realized, were within walking, er, wading distance, even though his friend was about 400-plus yards away in the surf. The boat had a 64-quart ice chest in it.
“Thank God he was 400 yards away. I had to run over there. Ain’t no way I could have kept the fish” with him in the water and it stay intact, Bordelon said.
Corso said they shouted at each other but their voices were difficult to hear over the waves. Bourgeois was the first to hear about the catch.
“I was farther down the beach. My buddy, Ryan, said, ‘Dylan caught a big ol’ fish.’ When he caught it, I knew he wanted to mount it. He walked down to our boat. He knew we had a 64-quart ice chest,” Corso said.
Bordelon said, “He (Cabot) shook my hand immediately. He said, ‘Dylan, that’s a fish of a lifetime.’ I said, ‘I know, man.’ We giggled about it.”
It wasn’t long after that catch that Corso, Bourgeois, Lindsay and Woody Gros of Destrahan had a field day in the surf on May 1, a Friday trip to Elmer’s Island. Their respective stringers filled with speckled trout and the cleaning operation after reminded Corso of that day 25 years ago he and some buddies busted the speckled trout in the chops while fishing in their “Reebok.”