It’s April my friends. We finally made it to the time when the trout are cruising the barrier island grass flats and troughs.
One of my most epic days of trout fishing happened last summer while fishing one of our barrier islands with friends, Capt. Glenn Ellis and Patrick Martino.
We caught trout on back-to-back casts countless times and had several doubles and triples. We found a long shallow bar adjacent to a large grass flat on one side and a deep trough on the other.
Bars and grass can shift year-to-year so that spot may not be there this year when we get back out there.
Knowing what to look for when you get there is key.
Local angler and charter member of the Cal Cossich Reel Priorities Fishing Team, Cal himself, sat down with me at Mikey’s on the Bayou recently to discuss his techniques for fishing our barrier islands.
“I’m looking for grass beds, troughs, any kind of inlet coming out of the island, and bait,” Cossich said.
“Bait comes out of those inlets and trout are always waiting on them. On a good falling tide trout will wait in those grass beds and rush out to eat the bait.
“That’s when I throw a lot of topwater lures over the grass by those cuts; any inlets close to deeper holes.
“By April all those trout are out of those deeper holes and close by running the flats. I’m wading out there chasing those trout running the flats along the island.”
Wading is not my first choice but after last year’s day of catching I’m a much bigger fan. Had we stayed in the boat there’s no way we would’ve caught the number of fish we did.
I shared my thoughts with Cal and he concurred.
“I like to be on the level of the fish,” Cossich said. “I like to be in that environment and think like a trout.
“It can be kind of dangerous with the sharks and stingrays but you just have to be careful.
“I like being out there; I can walk a mile down the island and cover a good bit of area.”
Wading allows you to quietly traverse the shallow bars, ease around the grass, and skirt the troughs while fishing each area more thoroughly, and much quieter than in a boat.
If you’re in the boat you’re throwing out the anchor scaring off fish,” Cossich said. “When you’re trolling it’s not so bad, especially if it’s calm out.
“Wading is definitely more stealthy when you’re fishing the islands. When you’re in the water you can see the edges of the grass flats, the edges of holes and the darker spots.”
As I stated earlier, bars and troughs can shift throughout the year so be prepared to do some scouting.
“I look for 2-to-5 feet of water,” Cossich said. “I’ve caught big trout in water shallower than that (2 feet); it just depends on where the bait’s at. If I see that bait by the bank I’ll cast over there.”
Cossich said that studying the moon phases and how it affects tide movement and aggressiveness of trout has been a big key to his success.
Knowing where to focus when, based on what the tide is doing comes through time on the water and studying your quarry.
“I like to fish for trout on a strong tide; whether it’s falling hard or rising hard,” Cossich said.
“When the tide is falling hard I tend to catch trout in deeper water where they are waiting on baitfish to get flushed out, and just the opposite with rising tides.
Topwater baits are Cal’s go-to at the islands for catching big trout.
“I use Egret Baits (egretbaits.com),” Cossich said. “I got in with them because I know they have good quality lures.
“The topwaters are the Zombie Ghost Walkers. I use the black back with flash sides (F08), I use that a lot. I use the chartreuse with flash sides (F03) Zombie as well.
“I use the Wedgetail when I’m not throwing a top water or more concerned with quantity.”
Wade fishing can be unnerving for an old guy whgo grew up bass fishing like I did. The ponds and creeks of Clarke County had turtles and snakes, not sharks, stingrays, crabs and who knows what else manner of kraken cruising nearby.
If you’re new to wading the island, stick close to the beach and grow accustomed to shuffling your feet across the bottom and keeping a keen eye open to your surroundings.
You’ll get more and more comfortable wading and will be able to move further and further from the beach in search of those wonderful spotted beauties.
Check out Reel Priorities Fishing Team’s Instagram account (reelprioritiesfishingteam) for more pictures of the size fish they catch at our barrier islands.