Charter captains help anglers catch more fish

One of the tricks is to match the hatch by using the right bait that mimics what the fish are eating. (Submitted Photo/Courtesy of John K. Flores)

By JOHN K. FLORES

There’s an old adage that states 90 percent of the fish are caught by 10 percent of the anglers. What’s more, if this weren’t true, there probably wouldn’t be a need for charter guide services. The fact is these guys catch fish – lots of them.
The Delacroix, Hopedale, Shell Beach and Biloxi Marsh areas in St. Bernard Parish might arguably be the most productive inland fishery in the state. The surrounding estuaries simply have incredible biomass consisting mainly of crustaceans and baitfish that supports the sport fish angler’s target.
Literally, report after report coming in this fall that I’ve been getting reveals four-man charter trips coming in with limits or near limits of speckled trout. Toss in a few redfish, black drum, flounder and the occasional sheepshead, and these trips are a fisherman’s nirvana.
This past weekend, I had the opportunity to spend time in a boat with three charter boat captains based out of Hopedale.
With more than 50 years of experience guiding and a thorough knowledge of the surrounding marshes, they held nothing back when it came to sharing their “how-to” tactics, preferred baits and even the whereabouts of their bounty.
Captain Sal Fontana Sr. is owner and operator of Gotcha Hooked Guide Service. The 56-year-old guide lives in Kenner and almost daily makes the 45-minute drive to Hopedale to take clients out. The weekend prior to our trip, he took a family from Colorado into the Biloxi marsh where they filled the fish box with limits of spotted sea trout.
Moreover, Fontana says never in their lives had they seen such abundance.
Fontana says one of the biggest mistakes anglers make is driving around in their bay boats trying to find fish instead of just fishing. He also mentions all they have to do is ask for help.
“A lot of people are simply weekend fishermen,” Fontana said. “They come down here and do a lot of running around looking. A lot of times, we’ll be on a bite and they’ll go zooming by and mess up the fishing. It then takes 20 minutes or so for the fish to start back up again. We tell guys all the time to just ask. We’ll tell them where to go, what they’re biting on, how to do it and sometimes to tag up with us and follow along – there’s plenty of fish to go around.”
Fontana also says guys go out and spend 10s of thousands of dollars on new bay boats where they have expensive monthly notes. He mentions for the cost of one monthly boat note, fuel, ice, bait, food and drinks, they might consider letting him take them out before buying a boat.
For one thing, Fontana says it’s a whole lot cheaper in the long run. And secondly, the guide says he can teach them how to fish properly and where to go. Then, if they decide to purchase a boat, they’ll have more successful outings.
Fontana’s son, Sal Jr., is owner and operator of Muddy Waters Guide Service. The 30-year-old captain is U.S. Coast Guard licensed and specializes in coastal inland fishing. He is sound tactically and knows the intricacies of successfully putting his clients on fish.
One tactic Sal Jr. employed on our trip was to take a perfectly good 4-inch H&H cocahoe minnow and literally cut it in half. We were on a decent speck bite when he caught one, tipped it on end and emptied the fish’s stomach contents to show me what it was eating. Little 1-1/2 to 2 inches long minnows came pouring out.
We used the 2-inch tail section of the H&H cocahoe to mimic the bite that was on.
After I fastened it to the hook I was using, I had bite after bite. It was a trick he learned from his father concerning using baits that “match the hatch,” as they say.
Captain Ted DeAgano III is owner and operator of Scales-N-Tales Charters. DeAgano is a master at reading waters.
Guides are supposed to catch fish, and the better ones will tell potential clients when they call what the fish are doing. If there is no bite, they are and should be reluctant to take groups out.
However, when the bite is on, charter captains have no choice but to fish if they wish to stay in business.
As such, never can they control the day-to-day weather forecasts.
The conditions were pretty windy last weekend when we fished.
In the ponds we fished in the Biloxi Marsh, the wind pushed waves crashing against the opposite bank and quite often over the points we were trying to fish.
I told DeAgano that I never would have thought some of the best fishing could occur when fishing the shallow waters along the edge of the grass with waves smashing into it. I became a believer and an acolyte of DeAgano’s when I hooked a bull red in the waves along the shoreline.
I fought the fish for the better part of 10 minutes before getting it into the net. It turned out to be my personal best in terms of length, taping 36-1/2 inches.
Some great fishing is occurring right now, not just in the Hopedale area, but also along the entire Louisiana coastline.
If you’re struggling to catch your share of the fish, you might try a guide just to learn some new tricks or what you’re doing wrong. No doubt, guides like the Fontanas and DeAgano will be glad to help.
For more information and how to contact Gotcha Hooked Guide Service, call 504-812-7773.
For more information and how to contact Muddy Waters Guide Service, call 504-872-7586.
For more information and how to contact Scales-N-Tales Charters, call 504-858-9306.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Flores is The Daily Review’s Outdoor Writer. If you wish to make a comment or have an anecdote, recipe or story to share, you can contact him at 985-395-5586 or gowiththeflo@cox.net or visit his Facebook page.

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