I do love this time of year!

I do love this time of year!

I sent a few pictures to a buddy of mine who is in my opinion, THE fish whisperer, and he commented back, “Don’t you just love this time of year?” With commitments these past three weekends, it has left me stuck in my neighborhood to do some quick fishing. That means, when my schedule allows, I am only 10 minutes from literally being on the water. I’ve been testing those waters these past three weeks or so and I have caught a few bass, here and there, with that one Saturday morning where I caught the 3.5 and the 4.1 pound bass. Other than that, I’ve caught a bass or two on nearly every outing but nothing really big…and the elusive sacalait (aka crappie or white perch) have been non existent. That is, until this weekend.

I heard from one of my students that a few people had been catching sacalait at a nearby lake so I loaded up my kayak and made the 7 minutes drive to my spot. I checked on Google Earth and it’s about a half mile hike to get to the lake, while carting my kayak on a crushed limestone path. With that kind of effort, I was not going to do a half-hearted morning trip. I worked my tail off and I caught 4 bass and four big sacalait for my efforts. I got home a little after noon and after a quick lunch and a few chores around the house, I was ready for another trip to my neighborhood lake, which is only 1 tenth of a mile to and from my house 🙂 I was using my fluff butt under a vosi and on my third or fourth cast, my cork slipped under the dark clear water. Enough for “catch and release.” That one was going to get released into a skillet with hot grease…and the next one and the next. By the time the bite stopped I had caught 20 (I only kept 13 of the nicer ones)

Going to have a nice fish fry with these
Two of the bigger ones from the day

So Sunday afternoon, I was itching to get back on the water but I wanted to try a new spot, also in my neighborhood. This lake is deeper than the first and it seems to hold larger fish (especially the bass) but they are much harder to find because there is so much cover. It took some doing but I found a few big sacalait that wanted to play (the biggest going a pound and a half). I only caught six before I snagged the sunken tree that they were holding next to and that ended the bite. I searched the rest of my “spots” in that lake but I had no luck. So, I carted my kayak to the lake where I had caught 20 just the day before. I was greeted with a nice fatty and ended up catching four more before I called it an evening.

This one had shoulders 🙂
Only 9 but everyone was filleted.

Take a close look at these next two pictures. One was taken on Saturday (I’m wearing jeans and tennis shoes) and the other is Sunday afternoon (in the sandals and shorts). I didn’t adjust the fly for the picture. It’s exactly where the fly was lodged in the fish’s mouth. I think nearly ALL my fish were hooked in exactly the same place.

Another thing I learned this weekend is, you can never have enough fluff butts and VOSIs in your box 🙂 I lost several over the past two days. I see we have rain forecast in the days ahead so I’m going to get on my vice and tie a few more of the chartreuse and black up. I think the fishing should be great for the next two weeks leading up to the next full moon. Tight loops and tight lines 🙂

Putting the “Fat” into Fat Tuesday, part 2

Part two actually begins Monday evening Lundi Gras when Glen and I pulled up to a local restaurant, Tunks Cypress Inn, to drink a celebratory beer and chow down on some hot boiled crawfish. The placemats there have a map of Kincade Lake. We planned strategy as we ate and noted the weather report for Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday) was calling for very high winds from the south. After hashing over it for a while, we decided to launch our kayaks in Kincade the next morning and target big chinquapin (red-ear sunfish) and sacalait (crappie). The hills and big camps on the lake should provide us a little relief from the high winds.

We began our morning by chunking small poppers in shallow water. Surprisingly, we caught lots of bream early on. I managed a couple chinquapin that were around the 8-inch mark and I decided to put some on a stringer to have a fish fry for Ash Wednesday. The morning was actually slow for me and I tried to keep close to Catch so we could communicate but I kept going back to this one spot where I caught a nice big fat bluegill, knowing there had to be some more there. At about 11:30, Catch whistled over to me and I saw that he was heading back to the launch. I figured he was tired of fighting the wind and he had had enough. I had five fish on a stringer, including a pretty nice sac alit that I caught on a hare’s ear nymph. When I got back to the launch site, Catch was excited and mumbled something about me staying there to watch his kayak while he went to buy ice. He said,”I found ’em, I left ’em biting, and I’ll be back with some ice.” I went over to take a peek in his fish bag and I was blown away by the huge bream (chinquapin) and sacalait he had in there.

Let me tell you something about Glen. People don’t just call him “Catch” for nothing. He has caught more fish on a fly-rod than any one else I’ve ever met. Now, I haven’t met Lefty Kreh yet, but Lefty is 92 and Glen is only…well, I won’t tell. 🙂 Catch tells me what fly he was using (a green fluff butt in a size 10). Naturally, I don’t have any of those but Catch gives me a couple and says he’ll be back shortly.

When he got back, we proceeded to head back into the wind to the little secluded finger lake, or protected cove and we started fishing where he had caught his earlier. I was stripping an olive colored fluff butt without a strike indicator when I got my first hit. It felt like a speckled trout bite and not like any bream I’ve ever caught. When I asked Catch why he wasn’t using a strike indicator, he said the fish wouldn’t hit it with the indicator on. He figured the water was too clear (we had about 5 feet of visibility) and the fish were spooked by the strike indicator. Once again, I had to sit there and watch Glen catch fish after fish, while I caught one or two every now and then. My luck soon improved and I was landing fish like this:GOPR3541.jpg

and even some like this:GOPR3542.JPG

We both remarked at how these strong fighting fish would actually pull our kayaks! We called it the Kisatchie Sleigh Ride. Not only did they pull us around, but they pulled us agains the wind too. It was a ton of fun on my five weight!

Meanwhile, Catch kept on with some more like thisIMG_0711.JPG

and even a monster crappie that measured 16.5 inches! (sorry, the picture was taken on his camera and I don’t currently have a picture of it)

When the day was over, we had iced down about 15 fat sacalait, about a dozen fat chinquapin and about another dozen fat bluegill. This is a large 48-quart ice chest. IMG_0725.JPG

My stringer looked like this. That’s minus the 5 I had put in the ice chest in the car before we left out for a second time. IMG_0714.jpg

My largest chinquapin was over 10 inches and was bigger than my hand. IMG_0722.jpg

And here are a couple of Fat Tuesday slabs:IMG_0719.JPG

This was definitely the most productive fishing I’ve done in the Kisatchie area with Glen. I’m already looking forward to another chance to not only fish these waters but to fish them with such a fun-loving, nice, gentleman, who has a zest for life and a passion for fishing like I do.

Spent the morning with a good friend

Well, the weatherman heard my complaints and provided us with a simply fabulous morning. It felt like spring with a sun-filled sky that started off at about 45 degrees. Things quickly warmed up in the mid 50’s by the time I arrived a a good friend’s house with 18 shiners, an ultra light rod and reel, and my 3 wt.

For several years now, I’ve been telling my friend that he is sitting on a gold mine of a fishery, for in his back yard lies the best sacalait fishing per acre that I have ever fished! I usually fish there once a year during my spring break and I’ve caught some of the most beautiful slabs within a hundred yards of his back door!

Merriam-Webster gives this explanation of the word sacalait,  “Louisiana French sac-à-lait, by folk etymology (influence of French sac bag, French à to, for, and French lait milk) from Choctaw saki trout”) So the literal translation is bag of milk. This refers to the white fillets of these fish, which make it some of the best-eating fish in fresh water. The rest of the country just calls them crappie.

This morning, I set out to teach my buddy how to catch these fish on ultra-light tackle and on the fly rod. You know the old adage, give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach him how to fish and…his wife can get rid of him for weekends at a time. 🙂  After about 45 minutes of explanation about flies, strike indicators, knots, hook sizes, depth, and many other things to consider (like is it too early to bring beer with us) we set out in his two-man $50 john boat. My plan was to find them with the live shiners and then catch them with flies. It should be easy enough. Right?

Well he goes and breaks the ice by catching one on a beetle spin. It was lots of fun on his little ultra-light and we estimated the fish to be about a 14-inch slab!  Meanwhile, I figured we had found them and I began chunking my fly rod and he puts another one in the boat on the beetle spin. I actually had a live shiner in the water while I fished with my fly rod and right about then, my cork disappeared. We had three nice slabs flapping on the bottom of the boat and no bucket, stringer, or anything to put them in. No problem, since we are still about 50 yards from his back door. After getting a stringer, we got back on them and I caught another one before he hooked some structure where we were catching them and the bite shut down. We paddled down about 20 yards from our initial honey hole and I started catching more on shiners. So, off with the beetle spin and on with a hook, lead split-shot, and a cork and my buddy was soon catching fish. Things slowed down a bit until we eased on over where that structure was and we put three more big ones on the stringer.

So the morning’s catch looked like this:FullSizeRender

13 nice slabs. By the way, I weighed the stringer and we had over 12 pounds of fish there! We enjoyed a beautiful morning on the water. The camaraderie was great and my friend was ecstatic that he now knows how to target those gamefish in his back yard. He and I plan on hitting some water south of Houma soon to target some more of these “bags of milk.” Stay tuned!