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.

Avoiding the skunk

Near Skunk!

One of the reasons I usually don’t “skunk” on fishing trips is I pick a day when the weather will be favorable for fishing. This usually begins with winds: they have to be under 10 mph. Next, there should be some descent tide movement. Finally, I don’t really enjoy fishing in rain, dodging water-spouts, etc. so I usually check the rain forecast too. This past weekend looked like the stars would line up for me, so I decided to make a trip down LA 1 on Sunday morning.

I joined fellow fly fishermen, Mike and Victor, down at the “Telephone Post Hole,” a sand pit off of the highway that was dug out to build the road. This spot is a well-known wintertime honey-hole for speckled trout. We enjoyed a beautiful morning of fishing with a gorgeous sunrise. Mike actually hooked about a four-foot alligator garfish but he lost it at the boat. We fished some of the deep holes there with clousers and were rewarded with a few small redfish for our efforts. I tagged and released two of them, while Victor tagged five or more. Mike isn’t in the tagging program but I believe he also caught and released a few undersized, “rat” reds too.

I decided to pick up and head back up north to Forcheon. I had been down there a month ago and I had experienced similar conditions…cold with no water in the marsh. The difference today was that the water was going to be rising all day, as well as the thermometer. I found myself to be the only guy at the public launch. Talk about ominous! Well, I paddled out to some spots that I’ve fished during the spring and summer and was shocked to see mounds of oyster bed where there was once water! I will check my route on Googlemaps, but arms feel like I push poled and paddled six miles in very shallow water. The disappointing part is; I paddled all that distance and didn’t see the first tail or pumpkin color of a redfish. The only thing I saw other than small schools of baitfish was a lone stingray.

At around 1 PM, I was thinking about heading in, getting a bite to eat, and launching again further north, toward Golden Meadow when I decided to try a shallow area near the launch that had been productive in the past. I finally spotted my first redfish, but as expected, I spooked it in the shallow water. This was encouraging though, so I push-poled a little further. I was rewarded with a beautiful sight…two redfish were heading down a little cut in the marsh over some very clear water on top of a bunch of oysters. I put a fly I call the “black and gold Charlie” about 2 feet in front of the lead fish. I watched its predatory instincts kick in as it stalked and chased down the block and gold-looking piece of baitfish. The dog-gone fish whiffed and missed on its first attempt. I made another cast out two feet in front of it a second time and WAM, textbook eat! I had to horse the fish in more than I’d like to due to the abundance of oyster shells in the area but my leader and tippet held and I was able to land a nice fat redfish. It measured right under 24 inches so it was going in the ice chest.

I had great expectations of battling with a few more redfish in the same area but I couldn’t get any to eat. I spooked a few and a few more said no to the fly. :(

Overall, it was a great trip. I REALLY got some exercise in with all that paddling, I caught a fish to enter into the Massey’s Tournament, and I brought home some fish for ceviche` for supper! I also got some neat video that I will be processing in the next couple of weeks.  I did learn a few things about the area I was fishing. I made a mental note of where all the oyster reefs are and can’t wait until the water comes up in the spring…along with a new crop of young redfish willing to play. :)

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Today’s trip map. Nearly 6 miles, not including the paddling I did at the TPH.

 

Finally went bass fishing.

With the warmer temperatures we’ve had the past two days, I was itching to get on the water. Obligations with work and church had me in a position where I couldn’t get on the water until 4:30 PM so I decided to make a quick run to the Arena pond. I picked up 6 small bass and two decent bluegill on the sr71 wooly bugger. I tried fishing with a popper too but didn’t have any success. Looks like we have more rain and cold forecast for this week. I’m hoping the weekend weather will hold up because right now, I’m free Saturday and Sunday. I’ll be keeping a running total on bass, redfish, and speckled trout for the year and will post totals on this blog.

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First Marsh Trip of 2014

I made my first marsh trip of the year yesterday down in Forcheon. I had thought about entering the Minimalist Challenge Tournament, sponsored by the Bayou Coast Kayak Fishing Club down in Cocodrie, but poor reports from that area combined with great reports from a buddy of mine and his wife who own a camp down in Forcheon steered me away from the other 79 anglers to fish with him and his wife.

The morning started off very cold (28 degrees in Baton Rouge when I left my house) When I got down to Leeville, I stopped by my favorite launching spot only to find that there was NO water. I don’t know if you can tell by this picture.Image

Well I headed further south and checked out a few possibilities that I had seen on Google Earth earlier during the week that led to some deeper, fishable water. Again, I was greeted with little or no water and lots of exposed oyster shells. My launching choices were dwindling and I called my buddy who offered me coffee, scrambled eggs, biscuits, and sausage. My choice was to launch my kayak and get muddy up to my knees in marsh mud while scratching the bottom of my yak all up with oyster shells or eat breakfast in the warmth of their camp and fish with them later. Oh, and by now, the wind had picked up a bit and was blowing 7 – 10 mph.

SOOOO….after breakfast….we fished all the areas around his pier in a deep canal that had been holding lots of speckled trout and redfish for the past month. We enjoyed our day, taking breaks during the fishing to get a bite to eat or drink a bit of “antifreeze.” The fishing was very slow. Between three of us we put four specs and one redfish in the ice chest. I caught 6 (two keepers over the slot) and one on the fly rod on a grey and white closer minnow. BTW, I heard that the fishing was tough all over south Louisiana. It’s just a tough time of he year. Until the tides start to not fall as hard and we get a break from the cold northerly winds, I’m going to put my efforts more toward freshwater trips (bass and sacalait).

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