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.

 

Redfish Rumble!

No, I didn’t fish the Bayou Coast Kayak Fishing Club’s tournament, “Redfish Rumble” this weekend, but I did have a rumble of my own down Highway 1.  After several trips lately to Cocodrie, Hopedale, and Reggio, I was determined to hit some of my “old stompin’ grounds” to get some of the “skunk” off me and to once again feel the pull of some redfish on my fly rod.

This morning was just what I needed. I was determined to experience that “thrill.”  My adversary, the poisson rouge, is a very worthy opponent. This apex predator of the shallows feeds on shrimp, small crabs and unsuspecting baitfish in our vast Louisiana marsh. The “thrill” is to be able to push pole my way through the marsh among ducks, shorebirds, otters, and nutria while I look for signs of my adversary. Sometimes it’s as subtle as shrimp making a dash as they try to elude that king predator. Sometimes it’s just a dark shadow that looks out of place in the shallow water among the clumps of oysters. Other times, it’s being able to actually spot the pumpkin-colored mass of gills and scales before it spots me. To be able to sneak up on this predator without being noticed, cast a fly about the size of my fingernail to it, and then watch it turn and eat it is the “thrill” I seek. Nothing else in sport makes my heartbeat rush or causes my knees to shake like the moment I put that fly six inches in front of a redfish and watch him eat.

Back to this morning’s fishing report. I fished today with one of my lifetime fishing partners, my brother, Keith. We were greeted with one of God’s most beautiful mornings! I think the temperature was 58 degrees when we launched. The wind was blowing just enough to keep the gnats off us and the cloudless sky was something to behold. However, things looked bleak a first because it looked like someone had pulled the plug on the water out there. The water was lower than I’ve ever seen it and it was dirty. I went to a couple of my trout spots and managed to pick up two 11 inch disks on a chartreuse Charlie under a VOSI.

So, with the dirty water, I figured it just wasn’t going to be a “trout” day. I began poling around, looking for signs of redfish. There’s nothing like that first one to get your groove going. I imagine it’s the same for a big league pitcher when he gets through his first inning without giving up a run. I saw my first redfish of the day around 8 AM. The sun was up and casting a shadow over the marsh grass and all I saw was a dark shadow moving ever so slowly parallel to the bank. I cast my gold spoon fly about four inches in front of it and watched it eat! GOPR3596.jpg
It was a perfect eating-sized redfish so it went in the cooler. You can see the small ripples in the water in the background and you can tell that the wind still was light.

My next redfish sighting was in a cut a little further down and like a rookie, I set the hook on it too hard and broke my tippet. I hate loosing fish, but I hate loosing flies even more. I had just lost one of my hand-tied gold spoon flies. No problem! I had several! Or so I thought. Yikes! I only had 2 gold spoon flies in my box. 😦 After I quickly retied, I  was soon on the prowl, looking for more fish. Experience and this blog, which serves as my fishing journal, has told me that the redfish would be hanging out by oyster beds and grass looking for an easy meal. I began thoroughly scanning every oyster flat and grass flat I could find. The grass wasn’t thick but there were oysters everywhere. Soon, I had redfish #2 on and it it too, was a perfect eating size. GOPR3602.jpg
Say ahhhh 🙂

Redfish number three ended up being the fish of the day. It seemed like every spot that should yield a fish, did yield a fish. This one was facing away from me and my adrenaline started pumping fast when I saw how big it was. I put a couple errant casts toward it but the third one ended up with a textbook EAT! The fish ran several times and I thought for a while that it was going to take me into my backing. After a good long fight,   I was able to guide it into my net. The fish measured just a tad bit over 29 inches. I estimated it weighted around 10 pounds. Anyway, it was returned to go make babies. GOPR3610.jpg
Notice I took my white rubber boots off and went bare footed this trip 🙂

I made a call to my brother to see how he was doing and he was struggling with his bait caster. He caught several redfish but they were all undersized (except for one) and he was mostly blind casting. I spoke with him twice while I was fishing and both times, I had to hang up on him because I saw a redfish either tailing or with its back out of the shallow water. I picked up another 26-inch fish.GOPR3624.JPG
Notice this one ate one of my odd colored spoon flies. I lost both of my gold spoon flies so I tried this one and I caught two on it before it got crushed by redfish teeth and had to be retired.

The morning kept going like it started, even when the wind picked up. I caught another.GOPR3627.jpg

Then anotherGOPR3629.JPG
Shoes were optional 🙂 Don’t try this at home unless you put on sunscreen. 🙂

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And yet, another. I landed 9 redfish today. I had 3 break my tippet and I lost another one because of a poor hook-set.

I wish I could say my brother had a good day but he ended up with just one 16-inch redfish. Today was just one of those days when I could do no wrong. I probably spooked another 20 fish or so. There were some that refused to eat, but of the 13 redfish I hooked today, all were sight fished, meaning I saw them and put my fly within their reach…the “thrill” I spoke of earlier! Because of the dirty water, I had to put the fly about 4 to 6 inches from their mouths. I had a lot of fish that I spooked because I actually hit on the head with my fly.  A couple of those got a second chance and I got them to eat. Hopefully, those that I spooked will be back in the area the next time I go and they too will want to play.

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And here’s the latest Musicdoc video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SfKRiuqxrBc&t=39s

 

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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Fall fishing has begun!

I finally got to get some productive marsh fishing in. I actually made a trip down to Hopedale a couple of weeks ago with a buddy of mine but we both skunked so there was nothing to report. Sunday, I got a late start but was on the water near Bay Laurier by about 9:30 AM. The weatherman had predicted 5-10 mile per hour winds but it was already close to 10-15 when I launched and it remained steady until around 1 PM.

I love fishing the fall because when the weather cools a bit and the first few cool fronts blow through, the water begins to drop in the marsh. Usually this means the water gets clearer (remember, clear water favors the fly fisherman), and the redfish seem to sense that in a few weeks, the water will drop so low that the bait will leave the shallows for deeper canals and bayous. This in turn starts a feeding frenzy that I don’t see throughout the winter, spring, and summer.

I began push-poling my way through the marsh when I heard the sound of a feeding fish. I located the commotion and I began casting to that area of marsh. I assume it was a lone sheepshead because I didn’t see or hear anything after that. Just then, I heard another larger splash just ahead of me around a point. I saw the wake from the area where I hear the sound and then I saw what I believe is one of the most beautiful sights a fly fisherman can see. There was a pod of about a dozen feeding redfish heading toward me.

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I placed a cast right in the middle of the pod and watched as three redfish all made an attempt to devour the shiny, gold spoon fly. Naturally, the smallest of the three actually ate it and I had my first fish of the day on. The pod broke up but one larger redfish stuck around and followed my hooked fish. I tried to get another fly on him with my backup rod but I couldn’t get it out the rod holder and cast it in time to get a double. No worries, because I had a great 19-inch redfish in the kayak and I was taking fish home for dinner.

I debated whether or not to try to locate the pod of fish that had now broken up and dispersed but I chose to try another spot that has been “money” for me the past few years. I wasn’t disappointed. As I was poling my way through the flats, I spotted a couple redfish that were swimming away from me.The wind was pushing me too fast and I ended up spooking them. Deciding not to fight the wind, I stuck my push-pole in the water and decided to anchor up and wait for some more redfish to pass my way. A couple minutes later, I was hooked up and a nice redfish. Ugh, it spit my hook. No problem, I knew I was in a fishy spot so I just would have to be patient. I started blind casting over the flats because I knew there were redfish cruising the area. Within ten minutes, I was hooked up again and this one had shoulders!  It started taking line out so fast that I was quickly into my backing. Then everything went limp. It too had gotten off.

Now it was redfish 2, Musicdoc 1. I spotted another redfish heading my way and I put a perfect cast out in front of it. It ate and when I set the hook, I watched it shake its head violently and spit my fly back at me. Redfish – 3, Doc 1. This happened once more before I said, “enough is enough” and I made a move out of that area to try to locate some more fish. I spooked a bunch of reds along the way (the wind was absolutely brutal) before I got to one of my favorite oyster-laden cuts in the marsh. I quickly hooked up on a fish but right away I knew it wasn’t much. I did land this one, an 8-inch sand trout. I caught another sand trout before I hooked a nice speckled trout. I fished that cut for a while longer but didn’t get anymore bites.

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It was getting close to my predetermined “quitting” time when I spotted a stationary dark shadow that didn’t quite look like the marsh grass around it. As I got closer, I identified it as Mr. Poisson Rouge. I got within about 40 feet of it with the wind in my face and I knew I hadn’t spooked it. My dilemma was: “how do I get close enough to put a good cast on it without spooking it?” The fish wasn’t moving and it was nosed up in the marsh grass. I decided to creep up a little closer, stick my park-and-pole in the sand, and hold myself stationary by putting it under my left arm. I made a practice cast about 5 feet to the right of the fish to judge my distance and then I let my gold spoon rip. It landed with a quiet splash about 8 inches to the left of the fish. When the fish sensed something else was nearby in the water, it turned away from the grass just in time to see my spoon fly flutter down in the water column. It made one quick lunge at my fly and then I watched as its gills flared open and it inhaled my fly. The fight lasted at least five minutes and I took care to do everything by the book. I wasn’t going to be denied this time and I was able to land another “perfect for the grill” sized redfish to finish my afternoon trip.FILE0002.jpgIMG_0263.JPG

On a sad note, the lake where I had been catching those hybrid stripers this past summer suffered a massive fish kill during the great flood of 2016. On the bright side, now there will be less competition for food so the largemouth bass should hit a major growth spurt. 🙂

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Enjoying South Louisiana’s Bounty

I’m actually combining three recent outdoors adventures into one. After two weeks of teaching camps, I was finally in the mood to do some serious fishing. I cancelled a kayak trip Saturday because my son wanted to take me frogging to celebrate Father’s Day. I have to admit, fried frog legs are probably my favorite meal! I was super excited to spend some quality time with my 26-year-old son and one of his buddies in the Atchafalaya Spillway.

We launched the surface drive boat around 10 PM and after about a 10 minute drive, my son was pulling the boat over and pointing out a big fat frog. I was apprehensive about using my right hand (my wrist is still broken) so I was using my less dominant (left hand). First attempt as a lefty…bingo! First frog in the box. This went on for quite some time with only a few missed frogs. Actually more misses came because I frankly didn’t seen the darned things and we would cruise right over them.  The evening was absolutely gorgeous! There was a near full moon in the swamp and the the light show from a very distant thunderstorm lit up the sky every now and then. Although it was warm and humid, it wasn’t totally unbearable and I made sure to take in all the sights and sounds that were around me. Now, let me say right now that my son frogs in style, in his surface drive custom aluminum boat with country music blaring on the speakers. I don’t guess the music scares the frogs because they caught 298 of them in two boats on opening night 🙂  Every now and then we would stop the motor and turn the music off to listen to the swamp. That’s some kind of music! To hear the symphony of sounds of the swamp (the deep thumps of bull frogs, crickets, owls, and thousands of tree frogs) is something I hope everyone can experience at least once!

Anyway, we frogged until 2 AM and ended up with 35 nice toads! People ask me if we use gigs. Frankly, my favorite way is to use my hands. Sure, I’ll miss a few and I have to keep a watchful eye out for alligators and snakes but that makes it fun. Here’s a picture we took of a few of them adorning our ProDrive motor:
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I have to say, that my son, Dustin, has a knack for spotting bull frogs. He was able to distinguish frog eyes from all the other little rays of light that you see at night with a Q-beam on our heads. That includes all kinds of floating spiders, baby green tree frogs, and of course all sizes of alligators. By the way, we easily saw over 100 of those that evening! Dustin has a gift. I think being a little color blind makes him able to distinguish a bull frog eye from everything else in the swamp. His buddies agree with me. They have never seen anything like it. I tell you, I won’t go frogging without him! I bet we wouldn’t have even caught a dozen had he not been there to spot them for us.

Anyway, my second excursion of the week had me hoping to make a trip up to Central Louisiana to fish with a buddy of mine but when my iPhone suddenly died Sunday, and the only reservation I could make with the Apple Store was for Tuesday afternoon. It was a good thing I didn’t procrastinate because unbeknown to me, I only had two days remaining on my warranty. I was able to get a brand new phone without being charged! 🙂

So, my fishing options meant that I would have to remain close to home. No problem because I have a couple of productive lakes in my neighborhood and I have students and former students who have invited me to fish their lakes. I took a trip Tuesday to what has become my favorite fresh-water fishery. I’ve been making a bunch of crease flies lately and the fish have been more than willing to come out and play. I’ve even made some to pattern some fingerling bass because I think these bass are feeding on fry from this year’s early spawn. Between the crease flies and my shad fly, I caught and released 15 nice bass. Ten of those were 14 inches or bigger and three of them were 17.5.

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Crease fly bass

Here are some more pictures from that trip:

I think about half were caught on the crease fly popper and the other half were caught on the shad fly. I did notice that I had more hookups and fewer misses on the shad fly. I love to watch a bass explode on a popper but it causes me to react too soon and results in plenty missed opportunities. Other times, when I to hook one, it heads toward me so fast I cannot get a good hook set in it. When I’m fishing a streamer, I feel the fish on first and I’m able to strip set, thus making my chance of landing the fish much better.

At about 9:30 I decided to see if any of the hybrid bass would be willing to come out to play.  I replaced that shad fly with a chartreuse and black Clouser minnow. I cast the fly out in deep water and counted to ten to let the fly get down deep enough. On my first strip, I felt weight and set the hook. I knew right away it wasn’t a largemouth bass because this fish had some extra power. I was right! It was a hybrid striper!

I tried to catch another one for about another half hour before calling it a morning. There was no need to stay out there in the hot June heat past 10 o’clock!

Well that afternoon, I got a new iPhone and saw all my missed calls and texts. There were the expected Happy Fathers Day messages but I got a four-word text from my cousin’s husband that got my interest. It was, “Can you fish tomorrow?” My cousin has a 24-foot bay boat and I suspected that he was itching to do some fishing in the Gulf for some speckled trout. A quick phone call confirmed my suspicions and we found ourselves heading to his camp in Theriot after supper. We left at 5 AM Wednesday morning and headed to one of the barrier islands off the coast of Dularge. I brought my fly rod but the wind was blowing just a bit too much (forecasts were 5-10 but the morning started off closer to 10) to risk hooking my partner in the back of the head so I just stuck to my conventional tackle.

The morning was absolutely perfect. A near full moon gave way to a beautiful sunrise. The ride out to the barrier island was a bit choppy but both of us had fished in higher seas than that. On my second cast of the morning, I got a nice blowup on topwater. A few casts later and I was slinging a nice chunky trout in the boat. Meanwhile, my buddy, Neil, had put 3 or 4 nice ones in the boat on soft plastics. The big girls had definitely come out to play! I decided to make the switch and for a couple of hours we put some nice fish in the ice chest. It wasn’t gang busters but the bite was just consistent enough to keep us from moving from our spot. We saw a couple of guide boats in the area and one of them stopped pretty close to us. They caught only one and then left. By then we had twenty-eight trout that measured between 15-18 inches each on ice. The bite had slowed down considerably so we hopped decided to hit a couple more rock jetties. We were just about ready to call it a morning when the bite picked up again. This time, the fish were considerably smaller and we had to cull out a few 11 inch trout but by the time we called it a morning at 11 AM, we had boxed up 44 speckled trout. The ride back in was less choppy and we both had a celebratory beer! I couldn’t have asked for a better day…great company, great weather, and great fishing! We cleaned fish (two full gallon bags of fish fillets), cleaned the boat, and took a nap before making the drive back to Baton Rouge. The only regret I had was in my haste to leave the house, I forgot to pack my cameras so I didn’t get any pictures. Uh, NO, I didn’t bring my new iPhone and risk getting it wet 🙂
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