Sight-fishing for Louisiana marsh redfish!

Like my last blog entry said, “Fall is my favorite time” to get to the marsh to do some sight-fishing for redfish. I often get asked how does one “sight-fish” for reds. I made a solo trip this morning (one of my favorite big-league ball players stood me up late last night) to Grand Isle to do some sight fishing for Louisiana redfish. Here are some of the prerequisites for sight-fishing:

  1. I fish out of a Jackson kayak so first of all I need winds no greater than 10 mph. (This morning’s forecast was 3-8 mph until 10 o’clock.) I can fish the lee-side of a broken marsh once the wind picks up but a light chop on the water makes it nearly impossible to see the fish before they see you and spook.
  2. I need full sun most of the morning. Clouds create a glare that makes it nearly impossible to see the fish before they see you. I had full sun nearly all morning.
  3. I need clear water, and preferably, shallow water. Dirty water makes things difficult. The day started out with clear water of about 16-18 inches of visibility. It did dirty up to about 10 inches when the tide started back up.
  4. I need a good pair of polarized sunglasses. I use Costa del Mars
  5. I need some luck and nerves of steel…really…you’ve heard of buck fever? Well can you imagine a pod of four to six redfish swimming toward you? Good thing I don’t have heart trouble 🙂 I have found myself visibly shaking at times.
  6. I need to know what to look for. This is something that I’m still working on, but here are a few important pointers. Sometimes all I see is a dark shadow that looks out of place in the shallow flats. It looks like a mini submarine slowly cruising the shallows. Other times it the tell-tale swirl and splash that a feeding redfish makes when it’s chasing food. (I don’t get to see this that often these days) Sometimes it’s the tail of a ‘tailing’ red. Then sometimes it’s just tiny shrimp and baitfish leaping out of the water near a grass line. I also located a few today just by the blue of their tails in the water. Sometimes it’s the pumpkin color you see (mostly in crystal clear water that has a lot of submerged grass).
  7. It always helps to cast about a foot in front of a moving redfish but they have a knack of turning right when I cast. Sometimes I cast a couple feed out in front of them so I don’t spook them and begin a slow retrieve when they get closer.

This morning’s trip down Highway 1 took me to my favorite water for this time of year. The tide was low, the water was clear, and the wind was a non factor until around 10 AM. Right away, I had two fish chase down my crab fly and I missed the hook set. I thought to myself “this is going to be one of THOSE days.” I got my composure and I just stuck my push-pole in the water so I could check out a feeding raccoon nearby. (sorry, I wasn’t able to get pictures). That’s when I spotted four redfish cruising within 15 feet of my kayak. I made the mistake that duck hunters make when a flock of a dozen or so teal buzz their blind. I cast to the middle of the pod, which spooked them…well all except the lone straggler which couldn’t resist my crab fly imitation. Bam, hook set and I was off on a sleigh ride. GOPR0316.jpeg
This was a perfect little eating sized fish so it went in my ice chest.

I spent the next half hour or so chasing down fish but I wasn’t having any luck. They either would not eat or I would spook them. Finally, I connected with redfish number 2.

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I did some experimenting with camera angles. This kept up for a while.GOPR0322.jpgGOPR0324.jpegGOPR0328.jpg
I was only going to keep three of the smaller fish (my self imposed limit) so I began releasing the big ones. A few of those would have been good tournament-sized fish.

By 1 PM the wind had picked up a little but the water had come up and it was dirty. A redfish was going to really have to make a big mistake for me to see it now. I did manage this leopard red (it had five spots on each side)GOPR0334.jpg

I had one break off my crab fly so I decided to tie on a “purple assault.” I caught several on that fly including the big girl of the day at over 28 inches. GOPR0337.jpg

The only fly I used that didn’t land a fish was my spoon-fly. When the water clarity got poor, I switched over to the spoon. I got a couple of eats and had both redfish break me off. Oh, well…

When I got home, my wife asked how my day went. I told her it was great. I caught 8. Of course, she commented “only 8?” Yes, dear. Eight redfish over 22 inches each and all caught on flies I tie myself is a good day! Not quite epic, but it certainly was awesome.