The horizon was filled with black clouds gathering over the gulf and lightning
strikes were just enough to make you wonder “what am I doing out here?” A close
look at the west shore line of Calcasieu through binoculars revealed no rain but that was
just a matter of time. All of us in the boat were in agreement that we stay put
until the weather began to clear. While we waited to see if we were going to get
to fish or have to run for shelter I noticed the streams of finger mullet and
shad rolling out of this particular little drain in the marsh. While we
continued to watch the weather I caught a live well full of just perfect sized
mullet, nice shad, and croaker that were just right. The outlook was getting
better all the time.

After a short wait and with one eye on the weather we took off south down the
lake in search of some bird activity that may lead us to a school of hungry
fish. Our tour down the lake produced nothing so we rigged up a couple of rods
with popping corks and live finger mullet instead of shad and began to drift.
Our drift had just begun when suddenly a vicious strike took us totally by
surprise, a missed opportunity but it at least let us know we were in the right
spot. Before too long the corks were going under on a regular basis and we were
catching some nice speckled trout. The plague of little fish that were crushing
the shad didn’t seem to be bothering us and that was good.

After making a couple of drifts at our original stop and catching some very
respectable trout the weather really got nice while the lake flattened out like
you dream about. Just enough ripple on the water to stir the surface but not
enough to hide a jumping shrimp or a feeding trout. Our trip south was halted as
we came across a small group of gulls sitting on the water, every now and again
the gulls would get up and hover as the surface of the water opened in a wild
commotion. Finding the gulls over feeding fish was a blessing and curse, the non
stop action was a blessing while the small size of the fish we were catching was
the curse. It was incredible the amount of 10 to 12 inch trout that were in this
school, plenty of action but only a couple of keeper fish. The school of fish
finally played out and we were off to find another bunch, hopefully a better
bunch.

It didn’t take long for us to find another bunch of fish; it seemed like
everywhere you looked there were trout popping the surface and a gull or two
somewhere giving hot pursuit. Finally we stumbled upon that one good school of
fish where the keepers out numbered the dinks by a wide margin, our search
efforts had finally paid off. The better trout seemed to want the finger mullet
instead of shad, the bonus of using the mullet instead of the shad was fewer
gafftop we had to deal with. As the trout continued to feed we were fortunate
enough to spot another school of fish, this bunch was redfish and they were
crushing bait on the surface. Unfortunately for us the reds didn’t stay up long
and we only managed to boat one. By now the heat had taken a toll on all of us,
the tide had stopped moving and we decided to call it day.

The lesson learned on this day was that through trial and error we were able to
make sense of what the fish wanted and were able to find a pattern that worked.
Don’t just accept that you can only do one thing to catch fish; the trial and
error method will work wonders if you give it a chance. I have used this
technique a bunch, especially with clients in the boat. It makes life easy when
you are catching fish to start experimenting with different lures and
presentations in search of better fish. It’s amazing to see one small difference
in either a retrieve or color make a huge difference in the quality of fish that
you are catching. Even when the action is good there is still a possibility that
it could get better. The great thing is that if the experiment doesn’t work you
can go back to the original technique and catch fish, that’s a chance any of us
should be willing to take.