The "creel police" from other states wonder why there are dozens too many trout in my dock shots. It's not their fault, they just don't know the incredible fishing we have here in Louisiana.
Two men stood under the faint light of a single fluorescent lightbulb. Crowded by cobwebs, the lightbulb did its best to illuminate the boat slip underneath. They were old Marine Corps buddies and had worked together in Baghdad for a number of years, but their similarities only began there.
They both grew up fishing in Gulf Coast states, one in Louisiana, the other in Florida. Furthermore, they were both charter captains from their respective areas. After what seemed an eternity they were finally launching a boat to go fishing together.
The bone white bay boat floated under its own buoyancy as the hoist groaned to a stop. Comfortable with the moving deck of a freely floating boat, the two of them quickly loaded the cooler, fishing rods and tackle boxes before getting on plane in the morning twilight.
The Pathfinder zipped down Bayou LaLoutre at a brisk 40 miles per hour as the sun began to fully illuminate the surrounding marsh. One brother could sense the other stirring somewhat uncomfortably before asking what was the matter. "When are we going to stop and fish?!", exclaimed the Florida native.
Perplexed, the Louisiana man looked around, then back at his friend before meekly pointing out that they were not to the first fishing spot yet. "But we passed up so many good looking areas!" Assuring him everything was perfectly normal the Louisiana man continued with his plan.
The young Floridian gazed upon the endless expanse of prairie marsh, "It's just so vast."
"It's just so vast."
Those words always stuck with me. The awe on Tater's face and way he said it resonated with me in a way I would never forget.
That day was really fun and productive because we "cross trained" each other. I learned the ways of the Florida inshore angler and he learned some techniques used here in Louisiana. He was really surprised to learn of our creel limits and how they contrasted with those in Florida.
The fishing was really good and he never would have pegged Louisiana for being such a great fishery.
You can't blame him, the majority of pictures of bikini-clad babes wielding speckled trout come from Florida. When one thinks of the stereotypical "salt life" they think of places like Cocoa Beach and Tampa, not Dularge.
For whatever reason that is beyond me, whenever tourists hear "Louisiana" they think of Hurricane Katrina or the BP Oil Spill. I cringe every time someone mentions either because they are so distant in the past.
Katrina made landfall over ten years ago, has Louisiana nothing else that is noteworthy? Yes, she does. One of those things would be her fishing.
Everything from freshwater to offshore fishing she does well, but I am focused on her crown jewel: inshore fishing.
What is so great about Louisiana's inshore fishing?
There's a lot of it.
Louisiana has the most marsh of all the states on the Gulf coast and boasts the highest creel limits for speckled trout, redfish, bass, flounder and more.
It is normal to pull up to a spot in places like Delacroix and catch speckled trout, redfish, bass and more with every cast until the cooler is full. However, let's focus on specks and reds.
Comparing Creel Limits
According to regulations in Virginia, you can keep speckled trout that are 14 inches or longer. Additionally, it's illegal to keep more than one speckled trout over 24 inches and it is illegal to have a trout of any size in your possession between March 1st and July 31st (in 2014 only, apparently).
The daily bag limit for specks in Virginia is five per angler.
It's not much different in Florida, where regulations dictate that a speckled trout must be at least 15 inches in length and only one over 20 inches can be kept in a daily bag limit of 4 to 6, depending on the zone you are in.
Now compare this to Louisiana, where our minimum size limit is 12 inches, no slot size exists and our daily bag limit is 25 specks per angler.
If you grew up inshore fishing in Louisiana this is not surprising, but apparently this is not household information for inshore anglers hailing from outside the Bayou State.
It is not just speckled trout. Our generous creel limits extend to redfish, white trout, black drum and flounder.
Let me touch on a few things in the next section as to why this chasm exists between our fishery and others before every keyboard-environmentalist hits the panic button.
What makes Louisiana's inshore fishing so great?
Short answer: We have the Mississippi River.
Long answer: See, the Mississippi River has spent ages building up this massive wetland that serves as an excellent breeding ground for everything from largemouth bass to yellowfin tuna.
She would flow in one direction for a few thousand years, build a delta before abandoning it and flowing in a new direction, creating a new delta.
Knowledge Bomb Bodies of water like Bayou LaLoutre, Bayou Terre aux Beouf and Oak River are all places where the Mighty Mississippi once flowed, delivering land-building sediment.
Because of her action, we have a massive coastline with immense tidal depth to create a vast estuary with every kind of salinity. If you are not sure, then just look at Google Earth and follow along.
More Real Estate
The famed Laguna Madre in south Texas is well known for its excellent fishing opportunities. That area is roughly 609 square miles. Hopping on Google Earth and measuring off the marsh northeast of the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet in Louisiana yields an area in excess of 700 square miles.
(Go do it for yourself. I could show it to you but this is a practical exercise that will give you, the reader, a better appreciation of what Louisiana is all about.)
Guys and gals, that is just one little area in Louisiana.
That does not include Hopedale, Delacroix, Lafitte, Westwego, Grand Isle, Fourchon and much more. Louisiana's general shoreline is only slightly longer than that of Texas, coming in at 397 miles over 367 miles.
However, that's not taking in the shoreline of every lake and lagoon. When you account for tidal shoreline Texas comes in at a staggering 3,359 miles. Louisiana meets this with an astronomical 7,721 miles of shoreline. Florida, however, beats them both at 8,436 miles of tidal shoreline.
Tidal Depth is Key
So why doesn't Florida have more specks and reds? There is more to this equation than miles of tidal shoreline.
As stated earlier, our marsh has deeper tidal depth than any other place.
What is tidal depth? I use "tidal depth" to describe how far one has to go to get from solid land (read: the marina) to the Gulf of Mexico. This factor varies across Louisiana, but most places you are looking at a boat ride in excess of 45 miles.
Tidal depth is important because it creates the diverse real estate inshore denizens need to prosper in. For example, in Delacroix you can literally go from straight freshwater to all-out saltwater and still launch from the same place.
The Mighty Mississippi plays a role in slowing Louisiana's inshore tide down to a lower diurnal tide. This tide is much easier on wildlife and conducive to creating more baby specks and reds. I cover the nature of our Louisiana tide extensively in Mastering the Tide.
Turbidity is a ten dollar word describing how murky water is.
Rivers fed by runoff (i.e. Mississippi River, Pearl River, Amite, etc.) is extremely turbid, light barely penetrates it. Conversely, water in dive destinations like Cozumel, Mexico is not turbid at all and light passes freely.
I believe the moderate turbidity of our inshore waters gives juvenile specks and reds a chance at life. They can avoid being eaten pelicans and great blue herons.
So what are we to do?
Go fishing! If you live in Louisiana you should go fishing. If you don't, then come visit and go fishing with us! This is going to sound crazy, but there are not as many licensed Louisiana anglers as you would guess.
We have a population under 5 million and Florida has about four times that and nearly twice as many licensed anglers. My point is, we have plenty of room to spare! So drag your boat down, get a Louisiana fishing license, and be sure to check the latest intel on Louisiana Fishing Reports or just follow us on our Facebook.