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Why drive? Speckled trout are in your backyard

Capt. Ty Hibbs fishes the Delacroix marsh for work, but he fishes the south shore of Lake Pontchartrain for fun. Lately, he’s been having a lot of fun.

Though many anglers are focused on the bridges of eastern Lake Pontchartrain, where speckled trout and anglers chasing them have been thicker than refrigerated cane syrup, the artificial structures peppered along the south shore of the 630-square-mile waterbody have been quietly surrendering limits to a handful of anglers who know about the hot action.

The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries says it even busted anglers for possessing more than their limits Monday at Bonnabel Boat Launch, right in the heart of the man-made, trout-attracting structures.

That’s how good the area is right now.

Hibbs is one of those in the know. A college student and part-time fishing guide, he’s been running from his Metairie home to the public launch at Seabrook, catching as many speckled trout as he wants — releasing most — and still making it to class at UNO on time.

Most days, he sees few other boats, even though conditions have been prime for a while now.

“On the south shore, we’re so dependent on the wind,” he said during a quick morning trip Thursday. “It’s been blowing southeast for two weeks now, so that’s why we’re catching them. Also, the water temperature is right.”

Conditions have to be good for Hibbs to fish the area. His boat is an 18-foot fiberglass craft with a poling platform on the back and casting platform up front. It’s designed to run through 4 inches of water in search of tailing redfish — not to part rolling white caps on an open sea.

The lake was bumpy when Hibbs launched at 6:30 Thursday morning, but he’s fished in far rougher. From the launch, he made a five-minute run to the catwalk at the end of the Lakefront Airport runway. His plan was to troll along the catwalk and cast soft-plastics, just like many anglers do at the Causeway and Trestles this time of year, but he started at what he called a “snag” at one point along the series of pilings, and found the fish there.

On most casts, Hibbs either hooked up or was a fraction of a second late on the hookset. Furious speckled trout rose up from 17 feet down to dance on the surface and protest their loss of freedom. A few were throwbacks, but most fell easily between 13 and 15 inches.

The bite eventually played out, and Hibbs eased along the catwalk, picking up keeper-sized specks here and there before moving along to the concrete wall outside South Shore Harbor. There, he changed tactics, throwing a white/chartreuse Rapala Shadow Rap stickbait. The technique normally delivers the biggest fish of the day, but on Thursday, it produced a handful of fish out of the same mold that produced those along the catwalk.

Hibbs is a deep-water jig fisherman at heart, so he soon tired of the stickbait and went back to the holy joely-colored Matrix Shad on a 3/8-ounce jighead. That produced some good action while Hibbs and a…

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