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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