Spartina Grass and Saltwater

Scouting: Finding Reefs and Eroded Points

Scouting for Speckled Trout and Redfish

Find Submerged Reefs and Eroded Points

Scouting for specks and reds may not be as fun as reeling them in, but it is a skill you must master if you want to keep catching as patterns change. Patterns fluctuate and even the best spots may stop giving up fish.

What will you do when this happens?

Read on as I show you how to Fish Smarter by finding reefs and points that hold fish.

Louisiana Marsh is Changing

The Louisiana marsh is always changing.

The process of finding new fishing spots can be hard work. If you’re the kind of fisherman that just wants to know where someone’s hotspot is, then this article is not for you. This article is for the angler who aspires to improve himself. Truth be told the reward of “finding your own fish” is greater than reeling them in.  Any schmuck can reel in a trout, but can you  find them? That is where the challenge  lies. This article will help you defeat that challenge by giving you new tools to take it on and how to identify spots speckled trout and redfish hold to.

You can do your homework before the fishing trip

Using resources on the Internet helps you find islands that have eroded into submerged reefs as well as other points of interest. Nothing beats actual fishing experience, but consider the bird’s eye view on Google Earth reveals more opportunities than what you can see at ground zero. By doing your homework, you will have an idea as to where you need to actually be casting. Out in the marsh, where everything looks the same and the terrain is flat, it may be impossible to see that perfect redfish pond around the corner. We use Google Earth’s satellite imagery for this purpose. But why would we want to fish these features in the first place? The answer is because fish like to hold to these spots as water flows around it and brings bait to them.

Google Earth is the Key

If you haven’t already, take the time to get familiarized with Google Earth. Play around with it and go over How to Create Your own GPS Routes. It is a very powerful and useful program. If you’re not sure how to use all the functions, then don’t be afraid to click on them. It isn’t like it’s going to blow your computer up.

If you listen to our inshore fishing podcast, then you know all of Louisiana’s best anglers use Google Earth to find the best fishing spots.

If you’re not part of the 21st century, then you’re only holding back your fishing potential.

NOTE: You need to be using the Google Earth Desktop (program available for desktop and laptop computers). Google Maps and the apps for mobile devices do not provide the same functionality! Remember, you can download the Google Earth program you need here:

Now that you’re familiar with Google Earth, go ahead and open it. Set Hopedale, Louisiana (or where ever it is you fish) as your starting point. Every time you boot up Google Earth it will start out at this spot. By now, you should know that you can “rewind” and “fast forward” to different points in time to view what the land looked like then. Just look for a button that looks like the one below.Screen Shot 2014-09-09 at 4.31.04 PMGoogle Earth has compiled various satellite imagery over the years. As you rewind and fast forward, note that some marsh on the outside has eroded away and that some marsh on the inside has stayed the same.

As experienced anglers know, redfish and trout love to stack up on underwater structure that water flows around. This may not necessarily mean benthic structure like a piling or gas platform, but it does mean at least some kind of small change in the underwater terrain. It can be as much as a foot of difference from the surrounding area. If there are oysters on it, then that is good, too!

Well, where are these reefs? They are everywhere, but usually not above the water where we can easily spot them. This is where Google Earth comes into play. We will look at past imagery and compare it to present imagery to find where land has eroded.

Go to these coordinates in Fox Bay and look at the imagery from 1989:

29°57’53.57″N  89°13’58.16″W

You will see an island there along with a thin stretch of land that extends to the northeast. Now fast forward and note how the land is eroding away. As it does, it goes underwater and creates lumps or reefs that fish may inhabit. There is also an oyster bed in the area to the west, at least pre-Katrina there was. Use your noggin and think about how I could have possibly figured that out without having ever been there (you can see the oyster boat dredging in 1/2004). Of course, you should know that oyster leases are marked with oyster sticks or poles. They are easy to see from a distance when on the water.

Now you understand how to  discover “lumps” of islands that used to be above water and points that have since eroded to where they are now underwater. Instead of marsh hens and nutria walking on them we now have speckled trout swimming around them! What’s great about these “unknown” fishing spots is that there is nothing to mark them. No rigs, no beaches, no islands. Nothing that stands out to scream to every other boat “Hey! Come crowd this guy’s fishing spot!”

Check out this old island near Lake Athanasio. In the past I have caught many speckled trout here.

29°43’38.14″N  89°26’47.76″W

You can see how erosion has transformed the island. Click to Enlarge

I found this old lump of an island using Google Earth. Drifting over it with the wind, I found it on the depthfinder, then was able to anchor and catch more trout. If I don’t catch a lot of trout there, I at least manage to pick up a few to start filling the cooler.

But it gets slightly more complicated. Not every rise in the seafloor holds fish nor does every island continue life underwater as a reef. Some just get flattened out and no longer exist. This is why it’s pertinent to find a lot of these points, mark them down and then make a route that hits all of them. It is not uncommon to fish as many as 20 different spots to find one that is a real winner.

Morgan Harbor Recon

This is an example of a route created to find new spots.

A quick word about fishing birds: not all birds are good birds to fish. Birds with no speckled trout underneath them are called “liar birds.” The kind of birds you are looking for are Laughing Gulls, not pelicans or terns. If you do find good trout action under birds then know it can stay that way for a few more days, but don’t depend on it!

You should also use Google Earth to find old rigs. The platform may have been removed but the shell pad could still be there.  Take a look at Comfort Island at  29.825863°N 89.253829°W and see a platform on the west side of the island. In 1998 you can clearly see the platform with all of its satellite rigs or “chair wells” around it.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

In 2007 you can see deconstruction of the platform begin.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

Fast forward to 2009 where it is nearly gone.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

In 2014 we see that the rig is completely gone. But does the shell pad remain?

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

It would be worth your time to investigate that area, especially in the spring and summer months.

Another great resource for finding gas platforms and their shell pads is the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources’ Strategic Online Natural Resources Information System.

Now you have an idea as to what to look for on Google Earth and how much of it you need to look for. But there is one more thing we would like to share with you. This last tidbit of detail makes all the difference in giving the confidence you need to effectively approach  fishing spots you have sought out on Google Earth.

It is a good idea to make a PowerPoint presentation, of each spot and print out the whole route. That way when you pull up to a fishing spot you have an aerial view of it. Take it to the next level by showing two, or maybe even three, pictures of the island/point as it has eroded over time. This gives an idea where you need to anchor and cast your line.

Using PowerPoint to help you catch more fish.It’s easy to look at your spots and route on Google Earth and assume you will know where everything is at when you arrive, but this can lead to disaster. Making the associated imagery really does give you that “warm and fuzzy” that you are doing what needs to be done to figure the spot out. You can run right past an ordinary cut that is actually a pond packed with redfish. You don’t want to do that!

Of course, you don’t have to use PowerPoint. You can use KeyNote or simply print screenshots of the imagery. Take it a step further and just save the screenshots to your phone.

Now you see how you can maximize your fishing trips to Fish Smarter. Combine this with the Louisiana Hustle and you will have a dependable circuit that will produce every time. If you have questions then please sign up at Louisiana Fishing Reports and post them in the forum.

A final note

In this article I only covered one method of finding new spots for speckled trout and redfish. Inside Inshore Fishing 101 I go into more detail and offer the complete package to successfully finding and catching fish. These details include:

  • what tackle you need to catch fish
  • how to safely navigate to the fish
  • what to do when you do not catch fish
  • and more!

You can learn more about Inshore Fishing 101 to decided if it’s a good fit for you by clicking the button below.

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