John's Journal...

A Look at the Hurricanes Effect on Gulf Coast Fishing

Captain Jeff Poe

Click to enlargeEditor’s Note: After Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, the fishermen at Lake Calcasieu near Lake Charles, Louisiana, still had good lives and enjoyed outstanding fishing. The storm brought in plenty of speckled trout and redfish. Many of the tourist areas along the Gulf Coast had shut down, but the fishing business boomed. However, anglers knew that good times generally didn’t last, and bad times might follow. Four weeks later, Hurricane Rita jumped right in the middle of Lake Calcasieu. Although most people around the nation remember Katrina and its devastating effort on New Orleans, the anglers at Lake Calcasieu never will forget Rita. But, on the heels of Rita came some of the best trout fishing Lake Calcasieu has had in years. We’ve talked to two fishermen who guide and operate businesses on Calcasieu – Captain Jeff Poe of Big Lake Guide Service and Kirk Stansel of Hackberry Rod & Gun. Let’s listen to their stories about what happened and what you can expect this summer and fall, if you’re planning a fishing trip to Lake Calcasieu.Click to enlarge

“Hurricane Katrina occurred in August 2005, and after Katrina, the fishing was really good,” Captain Jeff Poe recalls. “We were absolutely hammering the speckled trout and the redfish. Although Katrina brought great fishing to our region all summer long before Katrina, the trout fishing in Lake Calcasieu had been tough. But, in September we were having some of the finest fishing we’d ever experienced on Lake Calcasieu. Then Hurricane Rita started our way. We’d seen what happened in New Orleans, so most of the people around Calcasieu packed-up and headed for the hills. My wife, Mary, who’s also a guide, and I had just built some lodging for our fishing guests – a brand-new duplex right on the lake and another house. Rita caused severe wind and rain damage to both, and the roofs were torn off the houses. Luckily we didn’t Click to enlargelose any pilings on the dock, although we did lose some of the decking. We lost the roof over our boat shed and all of our boat lifts, but fortunately, all the pilings were in place. All of our boats were fine because we took them inshore with us.

“The storm hit on a Saturday, and I returned to the lake on Monday to access the storm’s damage. I’d heard several rumors about people seeing large flocks of seagulls diving on baitfish out on the lake. At first, I thought the seagulls were feeding on dead baitfish. However, the gulls were diving on live baitfish with nice schools of speckled trout and redfish under them. The first day my son could get out, he and one of my guides caught 25 nice-sized trout in an aluminum Click to enlargejohnboat with no trolling motor. When I reached the lake, the birds were working, and fish were breaking the surface everywhere. There’s no doubt that Rita brought trout into the lake. We had plenty of the trout in the lake anyway. But I think the storm brought more fish in because the water got so high and washed so much bait out of the marsh and into Lake Calcasieu.
“I had a 1-acre fresh-water pond 1/2-mile from the lake, and Rita brought high water all the way up into that fresh-water lake. After the storm and the water receded, we pumped out the lake and found 10 flounder, weighing up to 5-pounds each, 20 small speckled trout, no redfish, thousands of crockers and spot baitfish, blue crabs, shrimp and mangrove snapper in it. So, I know the storm had brought all those fish inshore. The water level was about 5 feet above the normal level of the pond. The fishing was so good in Calcasieu that within a week of the storm, you already could catch limits of speckled trout.”

For more information on fishing with Captain Jeff Poe at Big Lake Guide Service, call 337-598-3268, or go to

Check back each day this week for more about " A Look at the Hurricanes Effect on Gulf Coast Fishing"

Day 1: Captain Jeff Poe
Day 2: More Louisiana Fishing with Captain Jeff Poe
Day 3: Kirk Stansel on Calcasieu Fishing
Day 4: More on Louisiana Fishing with Kirk Stansel
Day 5: Fishing Calcasieu with Kirk Stansel


Entry 359, Day 1