John's Journal... Entry 252, Day 1
FLEET FISHING EQUALS MORE FISH IN THE BOX
What Is Fleet Fishing?
Editor's Note: This past week I fished at the Hackberry Rod and Gun Club in Hackberry, Louisiana, just outside Lake Charles. While fishing there, I met Captain Bobby Stansel, who has odds 16-times greater for finding and catching speckled trout than other anglers who fish Lake Calcasieu. The reason is quite simple. Stansel has developed a highly-effective technique called fleet fishing to locate and take inshore species.
When I asked Captain Bobby Stansel how fleet fishing worked, he explained that, "We have 16 boats on the water almost every day. Each boat and each captain have a radio and a cell phone. We use a frequency that's not used by other fishermen so they can't hear us talking. All of our cell phones and services are Sprint, so we can call each other during the day without any extra charges.
"Every captain carries the same kind and amount of tackle on his boat as the other boats in the fleet. When we leave the marina each morning, each captain travels to a different area of the lake to look for fish. Using this system, we can cover miles of water. By having 16 pairs of eyes and ears looking for and trying to catch fish, we're 16 times as effective at locating and producing fish as one captain will be. When a captain finds a school of speckled trout or redfish, he contacts the other captains by radio if he's within range, or by cell phone if he's out of radio range. Then if the other captains haven't pinpointed any fish, they can quickly and easily motor to the place where someone has pinpointed the fish. I've seen as many as 20 boats fishing one school of speckled trout at one time."
Too, fleet fishing works well because the captains know how to approach each other when one captain is catching fish and another captain is coming to fish that same school. "If I'm running to another captain's spot, when I'm 100-yards away from that captain's fishing location, I'll shut down my motor," Stansel says. "Then I'll either wind drift or let the tide, if it's running, carry me to the place where the fish are biting. We make sure we don't spook the school of fish as we approach the area where one of our boats is fishing. Also by using the fleet-fishing technique, the captain who has found the fishing spot can tell the other captains what kind and color lures and what type retrieve are most effective to get bites. With this knowledge, we can rig our fishermen with the right baits in the right colors so they can begin to catch fish."
Close to the Mississippi River, Lake Calcasieu can become muddy when winds, rains or storms blow in the region. "Because we have 16 pairs of eyes running their boats all over the lake and all our captains are experienced guides, we often can find clean water where fish are biting quicker than one guide can," Stansel explains. "Also, because we often have captains and parties fishing on all sections of the lake, when a storm front moves on the lake, the captain who encounters that storm first warns the rest of us so we can take appropriate precautions. If we have a breakdown, one of our fishermen breaks a rod or any other emergency occurs on the water, we have 15 other captains ready to help."
During the morning I fished with Stansel, we checked seven different reefs looking for fish. While we were checking those reefs, each of the other guides were checking five to seven reefs to try to find fish. "If a guide finds fish on a reef and only catches one or two fish and the fish stop biting, he can let the other guides know that he caught a few fish there, but the bite is over," Stansel says. "One of the guides may want to go by that same reef later in the day and see if the fish have started biting again. When one guide leaves a reef where fish are biting to take his party in, he'll tell the other guides where he's found fish, and what kind and color lures he's used. This type of fleet system of fishing enables all of us to find and catch more speckled trout, redfish and flounder every day we fish."
To learn more about how to catch more speckled trout, redfish and flounder at Lake Calcasieu or to book a trip, go to www.hackberryrodandgun.com, or call (337) 762-3391.
TOMORROW: CAPTAIN RONNIE BIDDY ON HOW TO FIND FISH