Hopedale Lagoon, 11-16-19

It was a cold morning so I decided to start late and let the fish (and me) warm up. Pushed off from Pip’s launch about 11:30 and tried the intersection of the canal and lagoon. Nada. Lots of boats were in the distance, off toward Lake Ameda, so I went that way as I pedaled and trolled my flies. I cut across to the far side of the lagoon and zig-zagged closer and further from the shore, probing for trout. Most of the boaters were dunking bait under a cork. I saw an occasional trout being caught. Nobody had any fast action. The water clarity was poor – maybe a foot of visibility – and it was about 52-55 F. Wind was about 5-10 mph from the N and the tide was dropping out fast. There was a good current along all the banks and points. I went beyond Ameda, following the eastern shoreline up to the next canal and then drifted back along the shoreline, blind casting into pockets and around the points. I passed a floating cork and there was a fish attached since it went under when I got near. So I got closer and wrapped my fly line around it and battled a 5 lb black drum, unhooked and released it. I passed a nice point with lots of water swirling around below it. Got a bite and was excited that I might have found the specks until I got the 15” redfish to the surface. I fished the area pretty hard but that was it.

I drifted down the canal where I entered the lagoon and marked some fish with the Lowrance in the deeper cut but they did not seem to be feeding. I hooked a big mullet in the mouth and it came up and spit the hook back at me. I went south, following the eastern shoreline, almost to Dow’s Ditch. Another rogue cork! This one went under and disappeared when I got close. I started to search for it but the hour was getting late. I arrived back at the truck a bit after sunset. There was lots of fishing but not much catching today. I pedaled about 8 miles and blind casted for about 5 hours with a lonely redfish to show for my efforts.

Opening day of duck season, Pearl River

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Nov. 9, 2019

Opening day in the coastal zone of Louisiana.

I had the alarm set for 3 a.m., but my natural alarm went off at 2:30 a.m. and I got up and made some coffee and breakfast. I was headed to Pearl River and got there about 3:45 a.m. – plenty of time to get set up. Wrong. I got my gear loaded on the kayak and went up and across the river to get into some duck ponds. The water level was high and there was a decent current. It was going pretty well until I had a run in with the mass of water hyacinths that had blocked the way. There was about 40 feet of them and they were thick. I moved about half a foot, or sometimes not at all, with each paddle stroke. Once moving again, I had to cross a flooded weed bed to reach my pond. Now I was moving about a foot per paddle stroke. A pink light began to appear in the east and I still had decoys to drop and a blind to make. I dropped the decoys but the high water in the pond was deeper than usual and they floated off in different directions. I re-set them a little closer to shore and pushed my kayak up into some reeds as far as I could and then set the grass mats and spread some local reeds and vegetation over them as the first shots started ringing out across the marsh.

I was really well hidden. I had a number of gallinule almost climb on top of me. Three eagles flew over and one passed directly above me. I must have moved a little because the one about 30 feet above suddenly looked spooked and veered away rapidly. Heard noises and splashing behind me and was trying to figure out what it (or they) was. Hogs? Deer? I could hear whatever it was munching on vegetation and the splashing was getting closer. I finally figured out that there were several nutria coming up behind me. They started making soft mooing noises and were 5-10 feet behind me.

I turned around and swung my shotgun into the reeds behind me to scare away the nutria. About that instant I heard the hiss from the wings of a dozen teal that flew over the decoys about 3 feet off the water’s surface. I froze and they swung around and dropped in about 30 feet away. I couldn’t see them and they couldn’t see me. So I slowly turned over and moved the shotgun 180 degrees. Well almost. As I was almost turned around the teal spooked. I got off three shots and hit one square with #4s from a modified choke, knocking a wad of feathers off. The others were luckier that my reflexes and shooting eye aren’t as good as they used to be.

That was it for the day. Other than that one flock of teal I didn’t see many ducks. A couple of grays passed over, way to high for a shot. A few small flocks, too far to identify, passed along the horizon. It was another generally slow day for me. About 9:30 some guys passed in a mud boat. They saw my decoys but didn’t see me and came right into the little pond. I stood up and waived and they left. They ran their noisy boat down the little bayou, ruining my plans for trying to jump shoot some ducks after the flying stopped. So I packed up, picked up, and headed back home with my lonely greenwing hen. I cleaned it and will toss it into the next gumbo. I also saved a few feathers for tying flies. I have hopes for better hunts this year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hopedale marsh 11-3-2019

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Wind: 10-15 mph, gusty, from NE.

Tide: high 5:30 am, Low 5 pm, range of ~ 2.5 ft. based on Shell Beach Station

Water Level: 2 ft above normal

Water Temperature: 60 F

Water Clarity: fair, found some cleaner water about 3 miles out later in the day

Water salinity: not checked

Weather/sky: clear, sunny

Temperature: ~62 F for high

Moon: half, waxing

Solunar period: major period at 6 am

Time on water: slipped the Hobie Outback in at 6 am, out at 3:30 p.m.

Water covered: ~ 6 miles

Other fishers: Solo

Gear: #8 fly rod

Lures: A chartreuse spoon fly (barb crimped) was on the fly rod.

Strategy/ patterns: look for reds to sight cast with fly in the ponds.

I wanted to get a trip in to the Hopedale duck ponds before they became filled with hunters (southern zone opens Nov. 9). The weather forecast gave me a mixed impression of how the day would go. The clear weather along with being two days post-cold front were promising, but the high tide and wind would work against me. High tide meant the reds would be “up in grass” and the wind meant potentially dirty water and difficult conditions for standing and sight casting. My assessment was pretty accurate.

I brought my fish finder because I sometimes can ID schools of speckled trout over deeper waters as I move from place to place. I did not see anything promising today and did not have any encounters with specks.

I got into the first pond by 8 o’clock and blind cast into a likely pocket. That would be my first and largest redfish of the day and it put up a great fight for a fish of its size (about 24” and ~ 5 lbs).

I went upwind through a few more bayous and ponds. I saw a couple of fish feeding in a shallow pond and decided to pass them up as it would be difficult to approach them given the wind. I would try them on the way back with the wind at my back.

As I went further, a large splash came off a bank about 50 yards away – big gator!. I passed where it dove in and went about a half mile and then turned around. I wasn’t able to see fish and they were not showing themselves. I did a lot of blind casting in vain after I turned back downwind.

I came to some shallow, broken marsh on a flat. There was a good deal of aquatic vegetation and the water was cleaner here. I saw a tail of a ~ 3lb redfish and tried to stalk it. Each time I moved closer it moved out of casting range, and it kept heading upwind of me. I gave up on it and headed downwind.

I passed by where I spooked the gator and it was back on its bank. He was a big boy – about 10 ft long with big black eyes about the size of fifty-cent coins. I passed about 30 feet from it and kept heading downwind. Mutual respect.

I left the bayou about 11 o’clock and started working a shallow bank, blind casting into little drains that were starting to empty out. Pretty soon the dropping tide would get the reds out of the weeds and into open water where I could target them. Sure enough, I hooked up on a 20” fish in one of the little drains. The water seemed to be cleaning up a bit too.

I went up another little bayou that afforded some wind protection. Bingo, the draining water was clean here and I could see shells on the bottom about three feet below. I picked up three more slot redfish here and woke up some nice ones that were resting on the bottom as I went along. Since switch back to standard time just occurred, it would be getting dark earlier, so I headed in and cleaned my fish. I usually release them, but I had instructions to bring home some for dinner and fortunately I had a decent day of fishing.

Other notes: I did not see many ducks flying – just a pair of mottled ducks and one flock of teal buzzed by. It’s not cold enough to put the alligators to bed just yet, so be careful if you are hunting with retrievers next Saturday.

Summary for the day: 5 redfish landed, all slots from 17” to 24”. Redfish on the half-shell for supper.

2019 Fall’nTide Tournament Recap, Port Sulphur, LA

The weather news preceding the tournament did not look good. A tropical depression in the Gulf was set to pass our way on Saturday. As it turned out, Saturday was a nice day of mostly sun, pleasant temperature, a bit breezy, with very high but clean water.

I don’t fish the Plaquemines Parish / highway 23 area much since the launches in St. Bernard Parish are half an hour closer to my home. I have one place “down highway 23”, Happy Jack, that I fish once or twice a year when the fall speckled trout come into the marsh. My only tool was a hammer and Happy Jack was my nail.

I turned off highway 23 and as I topped the levee there was water all over the road below. It looked like I could make it to the launch with the truck, as it appeared to be about 6” deep. The odd thing was the night herons, along with a occasional blue and whites, were lined up along the road. There must have been hundreds of them. They were hunting whatever food the tide pushed across the road by using the lights of the camps.

I eased the truck onto a hump of slightly higher ground and conveniently set my kayak into the little gulley of water next to the tailgate for the easiest launch ever. I started out fishing under the lights of the camps along the canal, tossing a white/chartreuse Gulp shrimp under a cork. I also used a Vudu shrimp fished without a cork. I got a few hits from little fish but no takes. The sun was starting to rise, so I headed for the marsh.

I went down a little bayou that I have fished for a few years. It has flats with a deep 12’-18’ cut that zig-zags across it. It wasn’t long until I came to a bend that held trout. I caught an undersized one, a small 12” one, and then a 15” one on three casts on the Gulp under the cork. Fish were showing up on the Lowrance, suspended from about 8’ down to the 15’ bottom. I dropped the Vudu shrimp down to them and the little ones were hitting it multiple times and would finally hook up. Bigger ones would come every third or fourth cast, with a range of 12 to17 inches. Should I stay here and keep fishing for a larger trout or start fishing for a redfish and flounder? I was starting to get a sore “trout thumb”, so I moved on to the redfish I heard splashing 50 yards way.

I threw the Gulp shrimp into the cut where the redfish had splashed and it struck but didn’t hang on. I made a few more casts but nada. I went to the other side of the bayou and heard the fish splashing again so I circled back and caught it. It went about 22”. I started looking for the flounder.

Flounder have always been by-catch for me. I’ve never targeted them so today would be a real challenge. I started fishing the lures very slowly, fishing the little cuts and flats off the bayou where I had caught a few of the flounder in the past. I worked the Gulp shrimp slowly and hoped for a bite that would never come. But during that time I caught three more nice redfish, including an upgrade 24”er, and a bunch of rat reds and more trout. I wanted to go to a nice hunk of marsh where I’d found some nice redfish in the past, but I consulted the clock and it said there wasn’t time for that. I headed back to the truck and noted that the water was about a foot and a half lower as I loaded up my gear.

The road leading back to highway 23 was dry now, and I headed south to the weigh in at Cypress Cove Marina in Venice. I was surprised to find water was still over the road on the way into (and out of) the marina. Cars with low clearance had to stay on the perimeter. Lots of nice fish were weighed in, including some good three fish slams. (Congratulations to the winners!). It was nice to catch up with some old friends and meet some new ones, and the fish fry was great as always. I relayed my story of the day, and then thought “It’s weird to be complaining about catching the “wrong” fish all day while hunting for a flounder”. Tournaments are fun, but I think I prefer the freedom and low pressure of a regular fishing trip.IMG_1451IMG_1452IMG_1453IMG_1454

Delacroix, LA 8-30-2019

Wind: 5-10 mph, NE.

Tide: high 3 pm, range of ~ 2 ft. based on Shell Beach Station

Water Level: above normal

Water Temperature: 84 F

Water Clarity: variable…..found cleaner water about 3 miles out from launch

Water salinity: none detected

Weather/sky: clear, bright sun

Temperature: ~95 F for high

Moon: new

Solunar period: major period at 2 – 4 pm

Time on water: slipped the Hobie Compass in at 11 am, out at 6:30 p.m.

Water covered: ~ 6 miles

Other fishers: Solo

Gear: #8 fly rod

Lures: A chartreuse spoon fly (barb crimped) was on the fly rod.

Strategy/ patterns: look for reds to sight fish with fly.

Slow start, dirty water going out, cleaned up in the broken marsh. Saw lots of sheepshead today, but they saw me too. They were super spooky. One gave my fly a look, but that was it.

Redfish were hard to find today, and they were not giving their position away by showing a back or tail. It was hard to be stealthy going upwind. I stood and drifted toward a windward shore and finally spotted a redfish cruising about 20 ft. away. I got a cast in front of it and that was all it took to get a bite. I had a few more shots at some upper slot sized redfish but somehow managed not to hook up. Then a nice fish swam by, I flipped the spoon fly out in front, and it ate. It put up a good fight. I was an unusually marked fish, with one spot on one side and several on the other. I caught another small redfish and began working my way back in.

Other notes: Saw two snakes swimming. One was headed for the kayak until I whacked it with the rod.

Summary for the day: 3 redfish landed, 2 were smaller slots and one about 27”.

Hot and Nasty (water) in the Hopedale Marsh, 8-16-19

Wind: 0-8 mph, NNW.

Tide: low 1 am, high 3:30 pm, range of ~ 1.5 ft. based on Shell Beach Station

Water Level: high and rising through the day

Water Temperature: 86 F

Water Clarity: poor…could not find clean water anywhere. Noted shrimp trawlers working the area that probably contributed to the dirty water.

Water salinity: none detected

Weather/sky: clear, some clouds as the day went on.

Temperature: started at 80 F, ~95 F for high

Moon: day after full moon

Solunar period: minor period at 8 am, major period at 2 – 4 pm

Time on water: slipped the Hobie Compass in at 6 am, out at 2:30 p.m.

Water covered: ~ 7 miles

Other fishers: Solo

Gear: #8 fly rod, bait caster

Lures: in-line spinner bait. A chartreuse spoon fly was on the fly rod. Both had crimped barbs for easy release of fish (or fisherman).

Strategy/ patterns: look for reds to sight fish with fly in the ponds. Blind cast in-line spinner.

It was surprisingly slow in the early morning. It was still early, with no bait action on top. Tide was coming in strong with water movement everywhere.

I got back into a series of duck ponds in the search for better water. It wasn’t clean, but it was very shallow and I could see some backs and tails from feeding fish. I stood up to get a better look and tried to sneak up on some fish. A group of 5 or 6 nice sized reds suddenly appeared about a rod’s length away. I tried to flip the spoon fly in front of them but they spooked and scattered. I let them settle down and they began to feed again. I worked my way over and made a 20’ cast in front of one and bit. I had an order from my wife to bring in some supper, so I put it in the fish bag.

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Some of the other reds were feeding 30 yards away, so I started over toward them. As luck would have it, the guys who owned (or held the lease) on the property came in a jon boat to check the ponds for teal season. They kindly eased by with the motor, but that killed the bite.

I waited a while for the fish to return but they didn’t, so I left the pond. On the way out I saw the back of a redfish and got the spoon fly in front of it. Another easy redfish in the bag.

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I paddled (pedaled) around to another big pond and checked the bayous and drains but found no clean water and couldn’t get a bite on the spinner bait. It was about 2 p.m. and I was fully broiled, so I started back to the launch. There was a light north wind in my face that helped to cool me a bit, but it was also working against me. The breeze plus the stiff tide coming in made me work to get home. I had to take it slow due to the heat, so it took longer to get to the truck.

Other notes: Saw a few gators – a couple were pretty large, and also saw some early blue wing teal.

Summary for the day: lots of sweating, 2 redfish landed, both about 22”.

Delacroix marsh, 8-1-2019

Wind: 0-7 mph, WNW.

Tide: high low 1 am, high 2:50 pm, range of ~ 2 ft. based on Shell Beach Station

Water Level: normal, rising through the day

Water Temperature: 84 F

Water Clarity: dirtier in open areas, cleaner in patches of islands

Water salinity: none detected

Weather/sky: clear early, giving way to more clouds as the day went on.

Temperature: started at 77 F, 86 F for high

Moon: new moon

Solunar period: minor period at 7-8 am, major period at 2 – 3:30 pm

Time on water: slipped the Hobie Compass in at 6 am, out at 1 p.m.

Water covered: ~ 5 miles

Other fishers: Solo

Gear: #8 fly rod, bait caster

 

Lures: black/chartreuse colored Vortex Matrix Shad was on a Ginger Avenger in-line spinner bait. A chartreuse spoon fly was on the fly rod. Both had crimped barbs for easy release of fish (or fisherman).

Strategy/ patterns: Redfish were holding in wind cuts between small islands and tight along banks. When standing I saw fish cruising in open areas.

In the early light there was no chance to see fish unless they came up and worked the surface, so I blind casted the in-line spinner bait around islands. I picked up two nice slot reds pretty quickly and then moved on.

I got 3 more reds, trying to work the spinner close and parallel to the bank lines.

About 9 am the sun was rising enough that I started to get enough light to see down into the water when standing. I saw a redfish working the bank and made a cast to it. The fly line spooked the fish. I watched make a circle of about 20 yards and it started coming back to me. So I cast in front of it and started to strip the spoon fly as the redfish passed by. It picked up the spoon fly and I set the hook with a firm strip of the line. After working it out of the weeds I got it into the net, lip-gripped it, slipped the hook out, and released it without ever bringing it out of the water.

I didn’t see redfish for a while for sight casting, so I picked up the bait caster and made blind casts to some shorelines. I caught a few more reds and this got my confidence up that lots of fish were still around. When the sun would peek out I’d switch back to the fly rod and stand up to sight cast. I spotted a small slot sized red cruising toward me and dropped the spoon fly in front of it for my 2nd redfish on the fly.

I also spotted several sheepshead. Most were small and they spooked about the instant I saw them. Then I came upon a nicer sized one that wasn’t looking back at me. I put the spoon fly in front of it and, as instructed by Capt. Rich Waldner, let the fly drop to the bottom and just let it sit there. The sheepshead picked it up, I strip set it, and we tussled for about 30 seconds. I had it coming to the kayak and it spit the fly back at me. Not yet being able to catch a sheepshead on a fly has been a real frustration for me. Someday I’ll get one.

I caught another redfish on the fly and a few more on the in-line spinner. It was past noon and I needed to get home to let my dog out. I made a few casts with the in-line spinner as I past little islands on the way back to the truck and picked up a couple more slot redfish. I could have caught lots more fish on the in-line spinner, but I spent most of the time casting the fly rod because it’s more challenging for me. I love to watch a redfish eat a fly.

Summary for the day: 11 redfish landed, 3 were on the fly rod. They were all in the slot, ranging from 16.5” – 26”.