Memorial Day Weekend

So, it’s the first weekend of my summer break and where do you suppose I’m spending it? For the past three years or so, the end of school for us has marked the beginning of our summer fishing period. I say “our” because a colleague of mine who keeps a camper-trailer down in Grand Isle for the summer and I have spent the past three Memorial Day weekends fishing around the Grand Isle area. We usually have options…do we fish the gulf side? The bay? The marsh north of Grand Isle? Upon our arrival Thursday evening, the wind forecast didn’t look good for Friday morning. With predicted winds of 15-20 mph, I decided that the fly rod wasn’t going to be an option so I pulled out my baitcaster (I did bring one) and rigged it up to fish with live shrimp in the morning.

Well, wouldn’t you know it…the weatherman actually got it right for a change 😦 The wind was blowing hard out of the south when we purchased 50 live shrimp. We launched our kayaks on the bay side and I tied off of a navigational pvc pipe. It wasn’t long before I caught my first fish, a small sand trout. Not my targeted species, but at least I had a slight tug on my line so I wasn’t going to be shut out. About 10 minutes later, I reeled in a slightly larger fish – a croaker. OK, again not the targeted species but still some action. The entire time I’m fishing, I was thinking about what was my next plan of attack. The wind was howling and the water was dirty. There was no way I was going to be able to sight fish for reds. That’s when I hooked up on something very big and heavy. Initially, it took out drag on my reel. Then it stopped and felt like “weight.” I knew it wasn’t a redfish. Maybe it was a big drum?  When I finally got it to the side of my kayak, I saw that I had caught my personal best….STINGRAY!! Yuck! Anyway, I decided it would be prudent to cut the line and not gamble with the business end of that thing, so I re-tied and decided to move to an area where I’ve caught redfish before.

I paddled on over to my buddy and told him to follow me to a spot that might offer protection from the wind. We got there and he quickly caught two small, 15-inch redfish. I got in on the action too but it looked like all we were going to catch were the 15-inch variety. I did have an exciting blowup as a big redfish tried to eat my cork. A few casts later and I put a 17-inch redfish in my cooler. That was it for the morning because I didn’t screw the cap on my bait tube down tightly and I lost about 15 live shrimp. Oh well, when you don’t fish live bait enough, you’re bound to make mistakes. At least I hadn’t tried to put that stingray in the yak 🙂

So, Saturday morning; this morning, we woke up to very overcast and windy conditions. I guess I’m just not “mad enough” at those fish to go after them in the same conditions as yesterday. That doesn’t mean I wasn’t able to entertain myself. It’s always fun to go over to Bridgeside Marina and watch the boats come and go. There are always a mix of personalities at the marina. There are the guys who fish often, who can generally turn their boat on a dime and maneuver it just about under any condition. There are the weekend warriors, those who THINK they can turn their boat on a dime and maneuver it. There are also those who are very proud of their boat. They are just like the little boy in grade school who always had to “one up” the competition. You know…the “my boat is bigger and badder than your boat” guys. While those guys don’t impress me, their boats sure do. 🙂 Then there are the guys who always seem to  have one or two very pretty girls who dress in bikini tops and short shorts just so they can get the attention of all the older boat captains and fishermen, like myself. 🙂 Then you get the guy in the old broken down-looking boat who dons an old t-shirt and pants that just don’t fit as he bends over and moons you while he mixes oil in an old McDonald’s cup with his gasoline. Wow! Anyway, it’s quite entertaining but I do get mad at the all-to-confident young guy who pulled up this morning with his young son (looked like he was around 10-years old) who was standing on the bow of the boat without a PDF while he was trying to dock his boat. Yes, your son was probably not a rookie and he does this quite frequently. However, you can’t predict what the yahoo with the McDonalds cup is going to do when he finally gets his old Mercury cranked up, guns it so it doesn’t kill, and then bumps your boat, causing your son to fall into the water or worse.

So, although the fishing wasn’t very good (I did get a report that a friend of mine limited out in his big boat), it still was a fun way to begin my summer break.

 

Grand Isle – Feast or Famine

I joined fellow teacher and colleague, Coach Neil Borel, down in Grand Isle for a couple of days worth of fishing. I heard the water had been beautiful last week and the fishing was good in the surf on the island. Well, of course, that would all change if I went down there 🙂

I got a somewhat late start (left Baton Rouge at 5 AM) but was on the water in my kayak a bit north of Grand Isle in a new area that I wasn’t familiar with. The water was high and still rising but disturbing to me was the visibility was not very good – maybe 6 – 8 inches at best because I couldn’t see the tip of my bright yellow paddle in the water. The marsh was full of bait (mostly mullet) as I stood up and push poled my way through what looked like very “fishy” water.  After about 20 minutes I spooked something along the bank that was not a mullet. The huge torpedo-like wake was a telltale sign of what was to follow for the next 30 minutes or so. A short distance later and the morning stillness was shattered by the sound of something big crashing bait up against the bank. I spotted the redfish and noticed that it was moving parallel to the marsh grass. I quietly paddled in an effort to intercept its path but I lost the darned thing. Not a problem, because about 70 feet ahead of me was another larger commotion on the edge of the marsh. This time the reds were heading toward me. I think there were about three of them in a pod which seemed to be nosing themselves in the marsh grass, which would send shrimp scurrying out into the open where they would be picked off by the hungry redfish.

I made a well-placed cast of one of my gold and pink spoon-flies and bam, I fish on! While I was fighting the 24-inch leopard red (it had 10 spots), I noticed that the pod kept going down that stretch of marsh, so I took a mental snapshot of the direction they were heading while I took a snapshot of the pretty redfish I had just landed.

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After I iced my first fish down, I was quickly on another redfish. It measured in at 16 inches but I was still noticing several larger-sized fish working the area. So, I quickly put a tag in it, released it and continued my stealthy search for the other reds. That’s when I noticed that the area suddenly went quiet. It was like someone turned a switch on…or off in my case. I push-poled my way further down this little stretch of marsh and noticed that it was a dead end canal that got very shallow and there was grass in it. Remember, the visibility was still quite bad but in this ultra shallow water I was mesmerized by the sight of a large stingray. I curiously cast my spoon-fly in front of the stingray to see if it was interested. I definitely didn’t want to hook it…only see if it was interested in the fly. Well it wasn’t but what else came curiously by was another nice redfish. It passed me up and didn’t see me. After a couple of excited, bad casts, I was able to get the fly in the classic two feet ahead and two feet above eating zone and watched the bronzed beauty flare its gills and inhale the fly.

Now this is where I usually have to report on my fishing report about how I set the hook too hard and the fish broke off…no, NOT this time! I’ve learned to be patient, to make a short strip set, and then let the fish take off before really sending the hook-point “home.” Five minutes later and I had another 24-inch redfish in the box.

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The morning bite stopped and I think I saw only one more redfish or two (both were spooked and I didn’t even get to cast a fly at them). I did notice some gulls diving quite a bit away from me in a large bay so I decided to make that paddle over to them. I tried a topwater popper on them but not takers. I noticed that the gulls were eating small shrimp, so I switched flies to a chartreuse Charlie under a VOSI. On my third cast something big annihilated my strike indicator!  Two seconds later and I had a big fish on. I never saw the fish but when I got my fly back to me, I saw the tell-tale fish slime that meant I had had an encounter with a sail cat. I caught and released 6 undersized speckled trout before deciding to head in.

Neil and I decided to fish the Gulf side of the island by the rocks the next morning. After waiting out a rain shower we got an unusually  late start. Neil fished with live shrimp and I brought my bait caster and a fly rod. It wasn’t until around 11 AM before I got my first fish, an undersized trout on the Charlie. I continued to catch a few specs here and there and a frustrated Neil decided to call it a morning after catching a dozen nasty hardheads. I was contemplating a good lunch and an air-conditioned camper when my strike indicator (VOSI) went down. This time, I could tell that it wasn’t a “dink” trout and I was right. The trout circled my kayak before I netted it. It was a 16 inch fish and it was an upgrade to my Massey’s CPR Tournament. Image

I couldn’t catch another speckled trout over 12 inches so I decided to call it a morning a little after noon. I went out later that afternoon to make an evening trip but I got “skunked.”

I can’t complain though, because I had a wonderful time on the island with a good friend. It seems that every weekend is a “rodeo” weekend and this weekend was the Creole Classic Fishing Rodeo. There were plenty people around, plenty of food, drink, music…and, well you get the picture. I wasn’t going to be able to make the three-hour drive back home Friday night. 🙂 I got up early Saturday morning and made the trip home, making a brief visit with my mom and dad for coffee and conversation. Perfect!Image