Try fishing beneath the birds in Big Lake this summer
Spotting a fairly large flock of laughing gulls off in the distance, Captain Sammie Faulk motored his 23-foot bay boat towards them. Stopping just short of the birds, Faulk let down his troll motor and maneuvered the craft stealthily into position.
The birds were frantically diving onto the surface of the water, a telltale sign that speckled trout were beneath the birds feeding on baitfish. Tossing a black and silver colored Catch 2000 MirrOlure underneath the birds, I let it settle before starting the typical twitch-twitch-twitch-reel-twitch-twitch-twitch-reel motion and retrieve pattern that usually solicits a strike right away.
The solid “whumf” of a speck hit and stopped the bait halfway into my second series of twitches. Running with reckless abandon, there was no escape for the fish. The 10-pound test fish line Faulk had loaded the loaner rod I was using with was more than a match for this little scrapper that weighed no more than a couple of pounds.
Still, the fight was fun and my speck went into the fish box along with several others our group caught until the birds quit. Faulk, owner and operator of “Gotta-Go Charters,” specializes in fishing for speckled trout on Lake Calcasieu (aka Big Lake) near Lake Charles.
Faulk, in describing this common bird activity saltwater anglers know to look for, said, “If you’ve ever seen National Geographic programs on television, you may have seen where underwater cameras film large schools of bait fish and predator fish striking the school. Well, it’s the same thing here in Big Lake. The trout sort of herd up the baitfish and then feed on them. The birds hover above the school and get in on the feeding frenzy.”
I was fishing with two other outdoor writers from out of state. We were guests of the Lake Charles/Southwest Louisiana Convention and Visitors Bureau that promotes that region of the state. Just more than two hours away, both Cameron and Calcasieu parishes offer enormous opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts, fishing being one.
Faulk serves as representative of the Cameron Parish Tourist Commission as well as the chairman of the Creole Nature Trail. Truly invested in his community and region, the fishing guide’s sense of duty and public service to others spills over when he’s in his boat with clients.
With lots of action going on with four anglers casting amongst the birds in every direction, moreover, seemingly each with a different need, Faulk patiently took care of us individually.
Known for its big trout, Lake Calcasieu has a 15 speckled trout limit of which only two can be over 25-inches in length, unlike other regions of the state where the daily limit of speckled trout is 25. Most of the fish we caught were in the 2- to 3-pound range.
“One of the things that makes Big Lake so good is the diverse bottom,” Faulk says. “Some of the bottom is made up of shells. Some of it is sand. And, some of it is mud. We’ll fish shell bottoms when we’re not sight fishing looking for birds. But, we’ll also troll shell banks, as well as any riprap, and points along the banks we see.”
Redfish are also plentiful, as well as flounders. Faulk targets all three species of fish, referring to them as the Big Lake grand slam from a tournament the area hosted in the post hurricane Rita time frame, when much of the region was devastated by storm surge.
Billed as one of America’s last great wilderness roads, the Creole Trail is 180 miles of well-marked highways that pass through the remote countryside made up of bayous, marshlands and beaches. For someone who enjoys bird watching, it’s one of the top 10 regions of the country, where over 300 species of birds are present at different time periods throughout the year.
Travelers to the region can surf fish along Hwy. 82 or walk the beach in search of shells. Rutherford Beach itself is worth the trip if shelling is an activity you enjoy. Faulk is also a tour guide and can tailor a trip to your specific interests.
In providing us a solid overview of the 40,000-acre brackish water lake, we fished redfish near Grand Bayou using crabs for bait, while anchored on the lakeside of a water control structure, where the bayou flows into it. We also fished near Rabbit Island and in West Cove near Sabine National Wildlife Refuge.
Anglers going to the region can launch out of Hebert’s Marina. When anchoring for redfish like we did outside Grand Bayou, you may want to bring dead shrimp or crabs. Both are effective when fishing for redfish on the bottom.
We used exclusively artificial baits for speckled trout. Any watermelon with red flake colored 4-inch cocahoe plastic minnow attached to a ¼-ounce jig head will work. Chartreuse is another effective color. The fun part is locating birds and tossing underneath them.
St. Mary Parish has a lot to offer anglers, but sometimes it doesn’t hurt to see what’s up with our neighbors to the west. Especially since it’s just a couple hours drive.
Gotta-Go Charters’ rates are reasonable if you’re looking to book a day on Lake Calcasieu for speckled trout, redfish and flounder. To book a trip with Faulk, go to www.lakecalcasieu.com or call 337-540-2050.
For more information on the happenings around Lake Charles and southwest Louisiana, go to www.VisitLakeCharles.org or call Megan Monsour Hartman at the Lake Charles Southwest Louisiana Convention & Visitors Bureau at 337-436-9588.