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.

 

A beautiful morning in Cocodrie

After fishing with a buddy a couple of weeks ago, I realized I left my 8 ft. park n’pole at the launch site. My buddy got a friend to hold it for me so I’ve been looking for a chance to get back down there to retrieve it. I did this morning and launched out of Coco Marina.

It was an absolutely gorgeous morning. There was very little wind. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, and the temperature started somewhere around 57. The gnats were a bit of a nuisance but my Amber Romance (Victoria’s Secret) worked like a charm. I was excited to explore some new water. My anticipation quickly turned sour when I got on the water and realized that the water was very dirty, with only about 6-8 inches of visibility. I found some redfish but they found me first. I wouldn’t see them until I was about 15 feet away from them and they would bolt for a quick escape.

Around 9:30 I figured that I was going to have to find a really stupid fish, one that would have to screw up pretty bad just to get a chance to cast a fly to it. Just as I was thinking this, I saw a big redfish crash some minnows up against the marsh grass only about 50 feet from me. I put my stakeout pole in a scupper and began putting the fly about 6 inches in front of its nose. No take! I couldn’t believe it. I kept casting to the spot where I last saw it knowing that it hadn’t seen me. On about my fifth cast, my line went tight and I strip set on a fish that was an upper slot or a baby bull. I felt like a bull rider. I fought it for nearly 8 seconds before it went on a lightning fast run and broke my tippet. I was so frustrated.

After that, I tied on another gold spoon and combed the banks for any more tell-tale signs of feeding redfish. By this time, it was getting close to 11 am, so I began heading back in. I stopped to fish a point where I knew there were some oyster shells and I hooked a nice 18-inch redfish. I also caught a lone speckled trout when the tide started moving.

Anyway, conditions were actually favorable today but the water was dirty and the tide didn’t begin to move until around 9:30 or so. That’s when I really got all my action. I saw a guy in a truck with a Hobie in the bed and I asked him how’d he do when we both stopped at a traffic light together. He found clear water in Point aux chenes. Looks like my next stop will have to be there. 🙂

Until then, I’ll just have to settle for this 18-inch guy who kept me from a compete skunk.

Getting on the Water in 2017

I’ve been “chomping at the bit” to get on the water in 2017 and I finally have been able to put together a couple of outings. First of all, I was able to sneak out on my neighborhood lakes to test things out. I found a few of these hungry gobules.img_0588-2

And even a few of these:

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I visited a friend’s pond and caught 14 small bass (mostly 10-inch fish) and about 2 dozen bream over 7 inches. I didn’t get any pictures of the bream but I’ll be back there to harvest a few for a fish fry in the future.

The big outing came this past weekend when I joined a friend of mine and fished the marshes of Cocodrie. We had to work hard for our fish because the wind blew and the tide was very low. Once the tide started to rise the water got very dirty. I managed on a 16.5 inch redfish and one nice trout (the same size) on flies. My buddy caught about 4 trout, two nice upper-slot redfish and a fat flounder on plastics.

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My first decent speckled trout of the year!

I’m looking forward to trying to put some sacalait fillets in my freezer in the near future. In the meantime, I’ll be tying some flies and posting pictures.

Red Stick Fall Catch and Eat

Each year, the Red Stick Fly Fishers Club hosts a fall “catch and eat” weekend. Members travel south to Leeville and have opportunities to fish from Golden Meadow south to Grand Isle. I don’t get to go every year but this year I was able to join the guys for a day of fishing and food.

After a late Friday-night playoff game, I was heading out in the dark at 4 AM to my fishing destination because I wanted to get in on what I expected to be an early morning top-water bite.  I planned on meeting up with my fishing buddy, “Catch” Cormier and see if we could put some fish in the cooler. I didn’t look, but I think we were actually on the water by 6:30 and after a short paddle, my expectations were fulfilled. I saw a couple of schools of nervous baitfish near a point and I started casting my popper. Immediately, I began getting explosive hits! The trout were going airborne to eat it. The trouble is, most of them were small. Also, if any of you have ever seen speckled trout eat top waters, they tend to try to kill the baitfish first and then come back to eat it so it’s hard to get regular hookups. This makes it a bit frustrating, but the action is so constant, it’s a lot of fun!  I landed my first trout and she was a beauty. FILE0001.jpg

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The top-water bite continued for about another 20 minutes before it shut down. I then switched to a pink Charlie tied under a strike indicator. I chose pink because in about 5 weeks, we will be welcoming into this world our first granddaughter! That fly continued to produce all day. I lost count but I conservatively caught 40 speckled trout. The only drawback was, only 12 were keeper size.

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After we cleaned up, we enjoyed a great meal with some exceptional fly fishermen. Not everyone caught fish but everyone everyone enjoyed the fried fish, fried shrimp, okra, etc.

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School is Out. Guess What?

School has been out down here in south Louisiana since last Wednesday and I’ve taken advantage of the time to get on the water. My first excursion was a trip to Grand Isle with a good friend and colleague of mine. We were able to fish only one day  (Thursday morning) because the wind picked up Friday and made it just about impossible to fish from a kayak with a fly rod. I did manage to catch three pretty speckled trout on poppers by anchoring and casting with the wind to my back to a wind-driven point. I had numerous misses and even lost a real nice one at the net but was able to land this one before the wind just got impossible. I actually foul hooked her (look under the pectoral fin) so for a while there, I thought I had Moby Dick on the end of my fly rod!
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I came back home to spend time with family, as my daughter and her husband were coming to town for the Memorial Day weekend. The whole time, I kept a watchful eye on the winds and decided there would be a window of opportunity to get some trout fishing in the surf Tuesday. The CCA STAR Tournament began Saturday and I finally decided to enter the tournament and fish it in the fly division. I caught 8 speckled trout Tuesday morning but they lacked the size of the fish I caught the previous Thursday. I had two fish that were 15.5 inches so I entered my biggest and low and behold…Screen Shot 2016-06-02 at 3.36.28 PM
I received a text from a former student of mine and I agreed to meet him early Wednesday morning to fish for a couple of hours in what has become my favorite fresh water hangout. It’s ashamed it’s a private lake but it has afforded me hours of chill time and I’ve caught 44 bass there the last two visits! I was able to sight cast for bass on crease fly poppers. I would see a wake and cast to it and then watch as the bass would explode on my popper. My largest of the morning was 2.87 pounds.
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I’m still fighting the pain of two broken wrists. I’ve had my left splint off for three weeks now but the right one is still bothering me. Here’s a copy of the X-ray:
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It doesn’t take a radiologist or a hand surgeon to see the crack on the radius bone. It will be seven weeks tomorrow and I still cannot land a fish without my wrist brace. The darned thing (the brace, not my hand) is beginning to stink now 🙂

Anyway, here’s another picture from yesterday’s bass fishing:

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My hand surgeon made me promise to keep some of the bass from the lake that were under 15 inches, so I kept these 8, filleted them and gave them to some of our custodial workers at school. They were thrilled!
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Shoulda, woulda, coulda…

The title of this report says it all…well almost. I went down to Forcheon with a good buddy of mine and the plan was to fish out of his big boat in the Gulf for mangrove snapper and maybe some chicken dolphin. I have never caught snapper or dolphin on a fly rod so I was pretty amped up to give it a try. After some great suggestions from renowned author, Pete Cooper, I tied a few flies that looked like some of the baitfish we were going to be using and was ready to catch a new species or two on my fly rod.

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We were greeted Saturday morning with a few squalls off of Belle Pass but we headed east and skirted around them. The first rig we hooked up to produced a couple of Spanish Mackerel, a few hardtails, a some very hungry sharks. The water was pretty dirty and thoughts of catching fish on my fly rod quickly faded into the murky water that seemingly contained only very mean, toothy critters that were definitely not going to be on that evening’s dinner menu.

We decided to head ten miles south to another set of rigs that had been productive for my buddy a week earlier. The water was noticeably cleaner when we pulled up to this rig (about 90 feet deep) and one of our guys quickly hooked up on the fish we were targeting, a mangrove snapper. We were using live shrimp at the time and the fish wouldn’t touch any of the cut bait (Spanish sardines) or pogies (menhaden) we were offering. For a while, it was very exciting. If we cast a live shrimp anywhere near a leg of the platform and let the bait drop around 20 feet, we were sure to get a hookup on almost every cast. Pound for pound, I think a mangrove snapper is one of the strongest fighting fish in the sea.

The five of us began loading up the ice chest with some prime table fare. I personally had a lot of big fish break me off on my medium light rod with a Calcutta reel. When a mangrove snapper eats, it usually high tails is back to the rig. If hooked and allowed to do so, it can use the barnacles on the rig to cut your line like a razor blade. So, when you get a hookup, you have to get to the back of the boat quickly to pull the fish away from the rig. Then, you’ve got to get it on the boat before the sharks could eat it. This made for some fun, but challenging fishing.

At around 10 AM, with around 35 fish in the ice chest, DCIM100GOPROI decided to try to catch one on my fly rod. I knew it was going to be a real challenge because the strongest saltwater fly rod I own is an 8 wt, which is too flimsy a rod to be able to horse a mangrove out from under its safety under an oil rig. Be that as it may, I was determined so I tied on a clouser minnow with a bit of weight on it. I was fishing with about a 15-foot leader of 20-pound fluorocarbon when I got my first strike. The fish hit my fly like a freight train and I wasn’t able to horse it back to the boat before it cut my leader like a hot knife through butter.

I tied on another fly and tried again. This time, I got a hookup but I could tell it wasn’t a mangrove. I never saw that fish before it pulled off but I think is was a hardtail and the hardtail got eaten off my line by a shark before I was able to land it.

I wish I could say that I had the patience to continue to fish with my fly rod, but the morning was getting late and hot and the rest of the crew was ready to call it a day with a total of 39 mangrove snapper and one almaco jack.

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I was OK with that decision because I knew we would be out at the same rig Sunday morning and I would not fish with live shrimp until I had caught one on the fly rod! We had caught a box full of great-eating fish and even had the thrill of catching a few sharks and a huge Jack Crevalle.

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We got back to the landing and I grabbed the fillet knife. I didn’t let go (kind of like a snapper) until I had filleted all the fish. I was looking forward to making my famous ceviche` with some of the fresh mangrove fillets. 🙂

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Well, Sunday morning was a complete wash as we were greeted at 4 AM with a mass of angry thunderstorms, some of which were producing hail. We weren’t about to mess with “Mother Nature” so we cleaned up the camp and left early for Baton Rouge. My goal of catching a snapper on my fly rod will have to wait.

Moral of the story…1) don’t wait to try fishing with the fly rod when given the opportunity to do so. I should have gotten it out when the fish were in a feeding frenzy. 2) get a heavier fly rod. An 8 wt. rod is not match for a mangrove snapper, or any other toothy critter found in our Gulf of Mexico 🙂

 

Tough Day for the First Backcast Tournament

I’ve been meaning to post a piece about our recent BCKFC fly fishing tournament, which was held last Saturday, April 30 down in Leeville. By the way, if you’re a kayak fisherman, or if you’re even remotely interested in fishing out of a kayak, I recommend you check out their forum, which I’ve placed a link to at the bottom of my blog. Anyway, this was not an “official” tournament, but more like a friendly get together of kayakers who wanted the extra angling challenge of doing it with the fly rod. Special thanks to Orvis for sponsoring us with a $100 donation of flies, which I won in the drawing at the weighin.

Flies donated from Orvis

You know the fishing has been bad when some of the most respected guides (I spoke with Bobby Gros) down at the coast are having a tough time finding fish and are even cancelling trips because of the conditions. The wind has been blowing, the water has been very dirty, and the water levels have been very high.  All three are very detrimental to the fly fisherman!  I think we had 15 anglers show up at 5:15.  Oh, did I mention that there wasn’t much tide movement either?

Well, there there isn’t much to report about the catching part of our trip, but that didn’t keep us from having fun.  Five fish were weighed in by four anglers. I personally caught a 10 inch drum on a spoon fly.  As a teacher, I am always trying to learn something from my experiences and I can say that I learned a few things from this trip.  First, after not having been on the coast since January, I needed to check my crate for the all-important SALT water flies!  I had my freshwater bugs and poppers with me.  Luckily, I had tied a few spoon flies earlier in the week and I had those with me. The other thing I learned is I can’t use 5-minute epoxy on my flies.  The stuff just doesn’t hold up  in salt water.

Notice the two flies on the right have disintegrated.

I’m going to use the 30-minute stuff from now on.  I know the UV goo is real popular right now, but I can’t justify spending $50 on the kit right now. That’s a tank of gas and a trip to the coast!

School is about to end and I hope to make some great memories fishing down in south Louisiana. Go ahead and subscribe to this blog to keep updated on south Louisiana kayak fishing adventures.