Dularge Redfish

After weeks of daily gales, the wind gods have sated.  My summer enrichment camp is over. I’ve spent quality time with my lovely wife.  Now it’s time to get my fish on!  I took a short trip to Bayou Dularge Monday morning to try to catch my first slot redfish on the fly.  I spent time prepping for this by practicing casting with my 8-9 wt. flyrod, by catching bass on poppers in nearby lakes and ponds, and more importantly, I spent some time tying my own salt water poppers and spoon flies.

Monday’s trip began ominously enough, as I arrived in South Houma only to find out that the Dularge Bridge was out. I had no clue how to get down to the marshes that I wanted to fish, so  I stopped at a local quick stop and asked some of the locals who kindly offered to let me follow them. I was worried that the 15 minute delay would hurt my chances of catching any redfish on the top water popper than I had already tied on my fly rod. After I arrived at the launch site, I quickly got my gear situated and got on the water.

I was treated to an awesome sunrise. There was just the right amount of breeze to keep the kayak sliding gently forward without slapping the hull of the boat and alerting the shallow-water redfish to my presence. Shortly into my paddle, I began to look for nervous water and I did see lots of mullet but no redfish. If fact, when I later slid my stakeout pole into the water, I found that the water was deeper than I had expected, which meant that the fishing was going to be tough.  The redfish were simply scattered too far apart and were not going to alert me to their presence like they would normally do in shallower circumstances.

To date, I have caught my limit of speckled trout on a fly but I am yet to catch a slot redfish on the fly. My early morning’s expectation was met with a blowup on my top water popper about 15 minutes. I gently eased a 17 inch slot redfish (the perfect eating size) to the side of the boat.  About that time, the gentle breeze that had been so pleasant early in the morning turned into a steady 10-plus-mile-per-hour breeze that turned my large top water popper into a sail.  Fly fishing for the rest of the day was going to be out of the question. I changed to my old standby spinner bait and caught another small slot sized redfish.  After a lot of blind casting to the edge of the grass and tangled fly line (my fly rod kept beckoning me to not to give up on the fly fishing for the rest of the day), I was becoming frustrated. I figured that I would try to venture into some new water that I had not fished before. After all, I had driven all the way down here and I wasn’t going to let the slow action ruin my day. During my venture into new water, I found some small and large ponds that just seemed to scream, “redfish!” However, they were full of mullet. I’m sure there were redfish in there, but they had lockjaw.

As fate would have it, I ventured about as far as I thought I could handle for the paddle back when I noticed the terrain was a little higher and had now become somewhat of a wind barrier. It was getting to be close to 11 AM and it was getting hot. I tied on a gold spoonfly and decided to give the flyrod one more try. What happened next was pure luck. I wish I could say that I made a beautiful cast to a tailing redfish and that  I finessed the fish into eating my fly.  Truth is, I made a long cast and allowed the fly to sink to the bottom as I chunked my spinnerbait to the very far reaches of the pond. About midway back to the kayak on my retrieve of the spinnerbait, I noticed the fly line was moving ever so slowly in still water where it shouldn’t be moving at all. I took up the slack and set the hook hard. The fight/ride was on! I fumbled with the kayak (the wind kept trying to blow me into the grass) and the video camera.  After about a 7 minute ride, I landed my personal best redfish on the fly…a beautiful 23 inch slot red.

I did manage to loose a couple more small reds on the spoonfly due to my obsession with trying to film everything but it didn’t matter. Oh and I did pick up one more keeper on my spinner bait.

In closing, I had fought the heat, the wind, the bridge closure, the high water, and I covered a lot of water for just four fish… and I’d do it all again in a heartbeat. I’ve enclosed my video, but it really doesn’t do it justice.

Fishing sidelined for the last two weeks

I’ve been sidelined from fishing for the past couple of weeks. First, I attended a conference with my wife in Austin. Then, when I got back to town, my car died. After car shopping for the past 5 days, we decided on a new Accord for my wife and I’ll get the Suburban.  I’ll be experimenting with ways to lift my two yaks on top of the Suburban most effectively.  Anyway, I did manage to do some hiking and explored some of the beautiful scenery around the Colorado River near Austin. Enjoy the video.

Checked my fishing barometer and it said…GO

For the past month, I’ve been writing, “it’s too windy on the coast, it’s too windy on the coast.”  Well this weekend my fishing barometer (the big flag at Tanger Outlet Mall in Gonzalez) was just barely moving Friday, as I headed down to Fourchon to my buddy’s camp. Fourchon refers actually to Port Fourchon, an oil industry port that opens to the Gulf of Mexico, which is actually west of Grand Isle.  It’s also a fishing town filled with upscale camps and lots of people who enjoy what our coastal marshes and gulf waters have to offer in sport fishing.  I pulled up to my buddy’s camp with my yellow kayak on the roof of my Saturn, and had to endure light-hearted comments like, “here comes the flying nun.”  Well, our plan was to go out in the gulf in the morning to do some early-season snapper fishing in my buddy’s big boat, but first, I wanted to test my new eight-weight salt-water fly rod and reel out on some big redfish. So, I launched my kayak in the Floatation Canal around 6:30 and paddled into some fishy flats area nearby.

Not long into my paddle, I noticed bait moving everywhere. The water was muddy and the tide was moving hard out the marsh.  I saw mullet and shrimp everywhere, and the shrimp were jumping out the water trying to elude the big yellow kayak that was trespassing on their little marsh.  That’s when I saw two huge redfish backing about thirty yards away from me.  They were chasing the shrimp that I was spooking.  In my excitement, I made some horrible casts at first, but I settled down and put some nice casts of a spoon fly I had tied.  I couldn’t get them to take it. I tried my “commie” tackle, but again, I couldn’t get them to take it. I figured I had two things going against me.  First, the water was muddy and second, there was just too much live bait all around.  I figured my scentless flies were no match for the real thing.  So, being the persistent little bugger I am, I just parked my yak in the middle of all this bait and waited for more signs of redfish…oh and I switched to a white shrimp pattern to “match the hatch.”  During the next hour or so, I did some blind casting to swirls that I thought were redfish, but they turned out to be schools of mullet. I actually foul-hooked about a 10-inch mullet and a blue crab…would have been nice if I had caught about two dozen more of them! Then, it happened! I decided to make a good cast and not strip the fly. I left it sitting until one of those redfish that I kept seeing chasing shrimp would come along and actually ambush my fly…well, truth is I made a nice long cast and I wasn’t even paying attention. I was trying to see if I could actually step out of my kayak. I figured if I could stand up I could get a better vantage point and see what I was casting to.  Well the bottom was too soft and I figured I wasn’t going to stand in that mush without sinking to my knees. That’s when I noticed a commotion around where my fly had landed just seconds earlier. I made a small strip and bam; it was on… my first big redfish on the fly rod. I tried doing everything by the textbook as it literally took off like a speedboat.  I guess the fight lasted about twenty seconds before it spit my fly back at me. I was disappointed but I’ve learned that fly-fishing isn’t always about catching fish. It’s about the experience, the pursuit, the game, the fight, and yes, sometimes, the disappointing loss.  There will be more opportunities for me. I guess my first salt-water fly rod experience, which I caught a 25-fish-limit of specs, isn’t a true barometer of what fly-fishing in the marsh is really like.

First limit of trout on the fly rod. Reds were caught on "commie" tackle

My story could end here, but there’s more. When I returned to the camp, I was treated to a steak dinner, a couple of beers and more teasing from my buddies. It didn’t matter, because in the morning we were going out in the big boat to try out luck at some big snappers. The next morning, the weatherman’s forecast of slick seas didn’t disappoint and we headed out along with a convoy of others right at sunrise. After about an hour’s boat ride (about 28 miles off shore) we were dropping cutup pogeys at a rig in 80 – 90 feet of water. We caught some monsters (see picture) that fought like big bulldogs.  They stripped off line and made grown men whence with pain as they pulled against our stiff rods, as we fought to keep them out of the rigs.  Our efforts were rewarded, however, and the snappers eventually gave in to our persistence. We quickly filled out four-man limit of big red snapper and “left them biting” at around 8:15.

My largest red snapper to date.

We piddled around and tried to catch some mangrove snapper but weren’t successful and they were real skittish.  The hookups we did have were made by fish that would come out from under the platform, grab the bait and quickly dart back into the safety of the barnacle-laden fortress around them. After an hour’s worth of frustration and one small mangrove, we decided to head back to the beach and try out luck at speckled trout before it got too late.  We were greeted at the beach with dirty water and we managed to only catch five or so specs.  We headed back to the camp to clean fish and rest up for an afternoon trip back in the broken marsh for specs.

At about 4 PM, we headed out to one of our spec spots (only a 45-minute boat ride this time) and were greeted immediately by some hungry fat specs. The bite slowed down but we persisted and ended up catching a three-man “Cormier” limit (15 instead of 25).  We left them biting there too.  What a great day!  I can honestly say that the state of our Louisiana fishery is looking good, in spite of BP and federal regulators who know absolutely nothing about our fishery. Much has been written about the recently opened, and shortest-on-record, 48-day recreational red snapper season. My own experience tells me that there are plenty of fish out there. We could have caught fish all morning. There were boats literally at every rig, large or small, and everyone was catching fish. Our limit of eight fish, ranging probably from 7 – 13 pounds provided us with a lot of meat for the grill, which reminds me…time to finish up this report and get to grillin’ 🙂

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Bull Frogs and Bream

I’m getting tired with the same old line…too windy on the coast.  Well, I’m going to make an afternoon trip to Dularge tomorrow and will probably make it to Fourchon with Scott to do some red snapper fishing this weekend, so it’s GAME ON!  In the meantime, I just can’t help but take the kayak down to the neighborhood lake for some action.  Monday, I had the best day on the lake with a popper (see previous entry)  This morning, I couldn’t get anything to hit the same popper that did so well on Monday. I did manage to catch a few bream (three nice keepers) on the old standby fluffbutt.  There were some other guys in a small bateaux catching chinquapin on worms.  I was content to catch mine on a fly that I tied myself.

More bull bream on the fly rod

While I was on the water, my son, Dustin called me, as he was making his way back home from a frogging trip.  He and a buddy caught 61 nice frogs. Looks like we’re going to have a nice fry soon!

Box shot of Dustin's frogs. (caught 61, only 23 here)