Fishing Easter Monday…a day of Firsts

When I look at my YTD column and see that I’ve only caught 5 redfish this year, it really reflects the fact that I’ve been extremely busy and the weather has been crazy! The Easter Triduum is one of my favorite times of the year when I get to spend a lot of time in prayer and reflection. I usually do some fishing on Good Friday before I go to church, a tradition that was started many years ago with my family in Thibodaux and Labadieville. This year, I played horn for four services beginning Saturday and ending at about 1:15 on Easter Sunday, so…I was happy to see that 1) the winds were going to be down Monday 2) I was off of work 3) I had a yard pass because Lisa did have to work and I wasn’t going to be missed!  The “honey-dos” could wait another day!  I tried to contact my usual fishing buddies but none of them could make it so I went out on my own to an old reliable spot in Leeville.

The morning started out dead calm and the gnats were out in force. I found that the Amber Romance worked well today and I didn’t get eaten up! I started the morning off with a large popper but didn’t get a hit. I was hoping to catch some nice speckled trout or a redfish on the popper but I couldn’t entice anything to hit. I think I missed the spring migration of speckled trout further south to spawn. Oh well, I’ll have to target redfish. 

I’m not one to continue with a fly if it doesn’t produce to I switched to a time-proven gold spoon-fly. The water was high and fairly muddy and by now the wind had picked up but it was only blowing 5-8 and was easily fishable. I concentrated on the lee side of the wind-blown marsh and looked for signs of fish. It’s really hard to sight fish for redfish when the water is this muddy so it’s important to be very observant and stealthy. The kayak lends itself well to this kind of fishing. 

I had push-poled my way across a lot of water without seeing a thing when I noticed some tiny baitfish jumping out of the water. It wasn’t much. Just a couple but it got my attention and there I saw redfish number 1′s back working in the grass. I positioned my kayak in a way where I could work the bank and made a couple good casts as close to the grass as I could. The old adage about two-feet ahead and two-feet past the fish was definitely not going to work here. I was just going to have to put the fly as close to him as I could just to get his attention. I think it was after the third cast that the fish came out of the grass to see what was the commotion. The very next cast and he pounced upon it. It was text-book and I landed my first redfish of the morning. I noticed it was a bit different though. It was wearing something.

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I had caught my first tagged redfish. Well, I take that back. I did catch a tagged redfish some 30 years ago but this was one that I had tagged last November that had grown 2 inches and had travelled a mere quarter mile from where I had originally tagged it. 

An 18 inch redfish is perfect table fare so this one was released into my ice chest! I didn’t even pull up my stake-out pole and made a couple of casts with the spoon-fly over some oysters that have held redfish for me in the past. Two casts later and I’m hooked up again. This fish fought differently though. Could it be? Yes it was my first flounder on a fly! The flounder is the coveted species that makes up the saltwater cajun slam that can put you in the money in the BCKFC’s Paddle Pallooza tournament. It was a good one too at 15 inches.

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So, I had caught my first tagged redfish and my first flounder on a fly rod! What a great morning. I pounded my usual spots looking for  a speckled trout to complete my slam but couldn’t get one for the life of my. I did get a slam of sorts by way of a black drum though.

On the way in, I fished an area I remembered that stays dry during the winter but does get water in it during high tide conditions and it usually has clear water in it. I spooked a nice redfish and was mad at myself for not being more careful. I put my stakeout pole in and decided to cast to the spot where the fish dashed off to. Well I wasn’t paying attention and was startled by a commotion in the water where I had cast. The fish had slammed my fly and I didn’t strip set. I pulled back like I was bass fishing and broke the tippet off at the fly. Now I was really mad at myself but I saw that the commotion had alerted another big fish and I saw the direction of its wake. I looked in my box of flies and decided to tie on my black and gold charlie. Two casts later and I had a nice 22 inch redfish on. 

Overall it was a great day! I saw reports of guys catching limits of redfish just a few miles north of my location. I do want to fish some new water this summer. Oh well, it’s off to Disney with my band. No more marsh fishing until after graduation in May.Image

A Very Good Friday and a Happy Easter

We are all creatures of habit, so when my alarm clock went off at 5:15 this Good Friday morning I just couldn’t believe that I had set it, knowing that I didn’t have to go in to work today. Well, after tossing and turning for about a half hour I realized that I wasn’t going back to sleep. So I took the 2-block walk down to the neighborhood lake to do some fishing before my wife woke up. The morning was quiet and beautiful. It’s so pretty down here during the spring and the Louisiana Irises are in full regal beauty!
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I missed an early strike due to poor positioning of my kayak but I was able to land my first bass of the morning about 15 minutes into my paddle on a fire-tiger popper.
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It was a good start and measured 13 inches.  A short while later, I caught bass number 2 at 14 inches.
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After another missed strike, I picked up my big bass of the season at 18.75 inches, pretty close to a personal best on the fly rod. It weighed in at 3.43 lbs!
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I was truly blessed to be able to enjoy the beauty that God provides. The Canada geese are on their nests now and are very protective. I did manage one on the GoPro though :)
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Happy Easter!

Quality time on the water with my wife!

I had planned on fishing our Paddlepalooza Kayak Tournament when I received a better offer from my wife on Thursday morning. We were invited to my cousin’s camp in Dularge for some well-need R and R. I knew that I would have to bring my kayak along for good measure :)  We drove down Friday after work and were treated to a delicious fried speckled trout dinner and a gorgeous sunset over the marsh from the back of their camp. The plan was to take the ladies out on their Ranger and do some scouting or a “soft trip,” as we like to call it. We knew the winds were forecast to blow 15 – 20 mph and there would be little or no tide.  I knew that the girls wouldn’t be getting up at the crack of dawn so I decided to paddle out to some grass flats behind their camp to do a little scouting of my own for redfish.

The minute I eased into the area I was going to fish, I saw a couple of large “backs” cruising within a hundred feet of me. The wind was surprising flat so I pulled out my fly rod and began stalking them. They disappeared into some deeper water but I was able to track one down by the slight ripple its tail made every now and then. A couple of close casts, and I finally put one 2 feet in front of the redfish…Bam! Fish on! The redfish took off like a freight train and stripped line off my reel. However, it was too much for me and it broke my tippet. :(

I push-poled my way around the area and didn’t see any more fish. I was treated to some of the beauty that gets overlooked by so many who live here. I wish I would have taken pictures…I know, next time, I promise! There were the usual gulls, great white egrets, grey herons, coots, and a pair of wood ducks and another pair of blue-winged teal. As I rounded one small corner, I heard a weird sound and located its source as a very young alligator tried to hide from me. I thought to myself, “How cute,” but then thought, “What if his mommy comes barreling out of the marsh grass?” I quickly vacated the spot and continued my search for redfish. I didn’t see any more redfish in that particular area but there were garfish everywhere! And, they were spawning!  I did see a couple of redfish blow up on some bait in the outer perimeter of the grass flats that I was fishing and I proceeded to cast a plastic ribbit frog through the area. I got one HUGE blowup and a miss before I received a call from the camp saying that breakfast was hot and the wives were ready to get on the water. I didn’t need to be told twice, as I really wanted to spend time on the water WITH my wife this trip.

After a ten-minute paddle back to the camp, I was boarding my cousin’s 23 ft. Ranger bay boat. We took the half hour ride to lake Mechant and took in all that the marsh has to offer. (I also saw numerous alligators). By now the predicted winds were picking up. We had a hard time positioning the boat so everyone int he boat could cast by Neil did a great job and was rewarded with the first speckled trout! I followed with a nice slot-sized black drum. We fought the wind and finished the morning with 13 nice trout in the 15-17 inch range and two drum.

After a terrific lunch, we relaxed and watched the LSU baseball game. When the Tigers had put away with the Arkansas Razorbacks in the 9th inning, I headed back to my redfish flats spot in my kayak. I push-poled around looking for fish for about an hour before I saw my first tail…and boy was it huge! By now the wind was whipping close to 20 mph and I would have to cast toward the fish INTO the wind! I decided to pole around the area where I last saw the tail and come at it with the wind and sun to my back. Well in the process I managed to loose it completely. So I figured the redfish were only working the edge of the grass flats so I stuck my push-pole in the water and anchored myself in an area where I could fan-cast the edge of the flats. I managed to catch, tag, and release a 16-inch redfish on the ribbit frog. I was getting ready to call it a day when I saw the big tail again! It was at the edge of my casting range but I didn’t want to lose it by relocating and moving closer to it. I put about three casts in the area, which was very difficult in a stiff crosswind, but the third cast produced a strike that looked like someone had dropped a hippo in the water! I felt the fish on and slammed the hook home. The line stretched. My rod bent. I was determined not to lose this fish. I held my rod tip up and released the kayak from the stake-out pole to get ready for the cajun sleigh ride of the century! Not long into the fight though, the redfish dug into some of the thick vegetation and got off, leaving me with about 6 pounds of salad and no fish!

Oh well. Can’t catch them all. I paddled back so I could clean the fish we caught from earlier in the day before the sun went down. We had a delicious grilled chicken dinner and we turned in for the night with great memories and a full stomach.

Sorry, the only picture we got was one of Lisa and me and that beautiful sunset on the marsh.
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Warmwater slam

I received a text from my cousin’s husband that he caught three sacalait and a couple of bream on some fluff butts that I tied for him a while back. He asked me for some more because he was down to his last fly and it was pretty ragged. I told him I would tie a few more for him and I’d throw in a few chartreuse and black crappie candy flies if I could go over to his house and field test them with him. :)

I showed up at his house around 5 PM and after a short visit with them, I launched my kayak in their pond/lake and proceeded to educate some fish to the fly rod!   I then proceded to catch a warm water slam…a bass, a sacalait (crappie for you guys not from south Louisiana), and a red-ear sunfish (chinquapin). Also, for good measure, I managed to catch a bluegill too. All were caught on the fire tiger popper or the crappie candy. My totals for the day were 7 bass, one sacalait, 6 chinquapin, and a bluegill.  I probably lost about five bass due to poor hook sets and fumbling with the camera. What a great afternoon of relaxation and fishing. After we fished we were treated to some awesome New Orleans red beans and rice.

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Big bass of the day

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The only female (I think)

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chinquapin

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sacalait

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Neil’s big sacalait

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Pond Hopping, 2014

I was able to make an afternoon trip, thanks to an abbreviated school work schedule and spent a couple of hours at a friend’s pond. I caught and released 11 bass, 2 catfish, and four big bream. The bass at my friend’s pond have always been very skinny and malnourished-looking. This concerns me, especially during the spawn. I’m thinking we have to harvest some of the big catfish and many of the bass so that we can get a healthier, larger population of bass in this pond. The pond is a couple of acres and gets down to 12 feet deep. If any of my followers have any suggestions to make this a better fishery, please chime in!

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Doing a little bit better

The weather was beautiful, my after-school rehearsal was cancelled, I got most of my “honey-dos” done this past weekend, so the temptation to get on the water was too much for me to bear. I took the Tarpon down to the neighborhood lake again and caught two on the fire-tiger popper. The fish of the day was 15 and a half inches. The second one was a 14-inch chunk. I did miss two strikes though so the score was even at bass – 2. Doc – 2 :)  I really don’t think these fish aren’t on beds yet. They are holding next to structure as every hit I got today was tight up against structure; either a dock or limbs in the water.

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Bass…2 – Doc….1

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With my extra-busy teaching and performing schedule this spring, I have not had a chance to hit the water for bass and bream. That ended this afternoon when I took the opportunity to sneak in an afternoon trip. I loaded my Wilderness Tarpon on my kayak cart, packed my crate, my 5 wt., and my 3 wt., and made the two-block walk to the lake in my neighborhood. The water has finally warmed up and I just knew the bass should be willing to play.

I got on the water around 5:45 and fished poppers and a slow sinking spider until around 7:30. There was bait jumping everywhere. I believe they were baby shad. I didn’t see anything chasing the minnows though, which was kind of disappointing. Around 6:15 I caught my first bass on a fire tiger popper that I make. It seems like whenever I catch fish on this lake, I attract company and just like that, I had another boat in my area. They were in one of those little bass trackers and I watched one of the guys catch about a 2 pound bass with a plastic lizard. I worked my way around and away from them and hit all my usual spots. The fishing was really kind of slow. I did get a couple of monster misses though. That’s why I titled this Bass – 2.  Doc – 1. The first miss was on the fire tiger popper. I actually saw the wake as the big bass approached my popper. It was the kind of wake that a large redfish makes! Bam! Huge eat!  But, in my excitement, I set the hook on it too soon :(

As the sun began to set, I switched to a very large, weedless, black frog fly. I have fond memories of my youth as I fished dusk and evening hours with a black jitterbug. I created this fly to imitate the popping and gurgling noise of the old jitterbug from way back when. ImageWell, I was easing my way down a bank where I was going to pull my kayak out of the water that had some lights by it and there was a sound like someone tossed a small dog into the lake. I quickly realized it was a big fish trying to eat my black night frog. I set the hook but the darned thing came toward me and I didn’t get a real good hook set and it got off right under my yak.

Well, at least I know where they are hanging out so I’ll be back to catch them later this spring.