I was looking for an opportunity to get down to my beloved Southeast Louisiana Marsh and the weather looked to be outstanding this past Saturday. I called my buddy, Chuck, up and we met at our favorite combat launch in Hopedale at 7 AM. A strong cold front earlier in the week had me psyched to be able to sight-fish for some redfish. As we launched, I noticed that the weatherman had finally gotten it right. We were greeted with calm winds and bright skies…perfect for sight-fishing. I really needed this trip. It’s been a busy, stressful, semester with work, health issues of loved ones and family and other “roadblocks” I’ve had to go around. I started to tell Chuck about some of it and he stopped me and said, “Relax buddy.” Thanks! I needed that!
It was a gorgeous morning. I noticed the usual suspects as we peddled our way to our first fishing spot. There were herons, kingfishers, a descent sized alligator, a few “French ducks” and a small group of teal. The teal brought back many great memories as I watched them zig zag their way over the marsh grass. It’s been at least ten years since I went duck hunting, a passion that I enjoyed for many years. Reduced limits, more posted lands, expenses, and a growing family have kept me away from my shotgun. I make up with it by fly fishing.
I got to my first spot, and I stood up to see that the water wasn’t as clean as I had wished. In fact, visibility was quite poor. I push-poled my way through the marsh and looked for action in cuts in the marsh with no luck. As I poled my way, I heard some drumming. I looked and saw that I had spooked a redfish as I saw it’s wake plow away from me. That was redfish number one. I continued to work my way along the bank, and I saw redfish number two. It too spooked before I could get my rod into a good casting position. Thank goodness it was a calm morning. I saw a large splash about 100 yards away from me. I knew it had to be a redfish, although there were a lot of large mullet in the area. One couldn’t assume that every splash or boil was a redfish. Well, I thought it was a redfish until I saw a large heron fly away from the spot. I then deducted it was just a splash from the feeding shorebird. So, I continued on. I got to some more grassy area and the water cleaned up a little bit, but nothing to get too excited over. If I was going to spot fish, they were going to have to be feeding in the very shallow areas which were clear enough for me to see them before they spotted me. That’s when I saw another large boil and the tell-tale wake of a big redfish in the same area I saw the commotion earlier. I push-poled my way over there, stopping about 60 feet in front of where I saw the commotion. I was determined NOT to spook this fish, so I patiently waited to see if it would show itself again. Water was slowly trickled out of a cut in the marsh and the water was dirty so again, I didn’t want to through away my chance by rushing in. My patience paid off because about five minutes later, I saw the tail of the fish as it chased baitfish nearby. I poled about 10 feet closer, and I waited for my shot. Then I saw it. It was moving about 40-50 feet away from me and it hadn’t seen me. I placed my spoon fly about two feet in front of it and it turned on me. Darned. I knew I didn’t spook it, so I just waited some more. A couple minutes later, I saw its tail again and I put my fly ahead of it again. No eat again. I told myself, “This is supposed to be relaxing. Come on, Doc.” I could feel my heartbeat race as I anticipated the eat. I relaxed and waited some more and about a minute later, the fish made another pass close enough for me to put my fly two feet in front of its nose. Strip. Strip. BAM! It was on! I made a good strip set and I hung on. Determined not to lose this fish, I let it get on the drag quickly and I let it do its thing. The fish angrily fought and fought, picking up grass on my line as it went. I actually thought at one point that I had foul-hooked it in its belly but that was just grass holding my line down. When the fish changed directions, the grass fell off and I was able to keep its head high enough to keep it from digging down in the grass again. About ten minutes later, I was easing the big redfish into my net, which by the way, isn’t big enough AND the weight of the fish pulled one of the rings out of the net handle. Santa Clause is going to have to get me an upgrade.
The redfish was what we call a “baby bull,” that is, one that’s over the slot limit of 27 inches. It was fat, heavy and long at 28 inches.
After a couple of pictures, I let her go because I personally don’t like to clean or eat any over about 24 inches.
That was the last redfish I would see all day. The wind picked up to a steady 12 mps and that, combined with high dirty water, made sight-fishing nearly impossible. We peddled over 8 miles, and I can tell you I’m quite sore even two days later. I got back to our combat launch around 2 and I was disgusted by what I found. I had noticed when we put in that there was a large amount of trash that had been left by bank fishermen. It’s embarrassing to have to admit that I’m from Louisiana at times. You just don’t see this in the streams in other states! I picked up enough trash to fill a crawfish sack and that didn’t even put a dent into the mounds of trash. That put a damper on what otherwise was a relaxing, fun day.