Hopedale, LA, January 27, 2023

Winds: 5-10 mph, SE

Tide: ebb, neap tide at Shell Beach Station

Water Level: 1ft. below normal, came up a little due to wind.

Water Temperature: ~ 52 F

Water Clarity: dirty

Water salinity: did not check

Weather/sky: mostly sunny

Temperature: 56 F for high

Moon: 1/2 waxing

Solunar period: minor period at 11 a.m.

Launch: slipped the Hobie Compass in about 10:30 a.m., out at 5 p.m.

Water covered: ~ 8 miles

Other fishers: solo

Gear: 9-wt fly rod w/ Waldner’s spoon fly

I’ve been busy and have not updated my trips for January. I went fishing a couple of times during the first two weeks of the month. Conditions for sight fishing were not great on either day and I got 3 reds and a flounder, and one redfish on the respective trips.

I noticed the first signs of spring on the drive down. The willows had a faint tinge of green and the swamp maples were breaking out their crimson blossoms. It was a cold morning, so I started late and hoped that the sun would warm up the shallows. I saw a couple of redfish at the mouth of a pond and, although I didn’t get a good shot at them, it was a promising start.  

The wind was stronger than the forecast predicted today, but it turned out pretty well. I was having difficulty seeing fish in the dirty water, however, the fish were helpful. They were getting shallow and showing some tails and backs. There was a good density of redfish on a protected weedy bank and the water was a shade cleaner here as well. I caught five fish and saw several more. I would move the kayak about the length of a cast, stop, and spot another fish. The best fish of the day was about 32” long. I spotted it in shallow water that was just deep enough to cover it. It took several casts to get the bite. I’m not sure if my casts were too far away or if the fish was not spotting the spoon fly in the dirty water. I tried not to cast too close to the fish because I did not want to “line” the fish. Finally, I saw the fish dip down for my fly and I strip set when I felt the line become taut. I did not realize the size of the fish until I got it near the kayak, and it took some time before it gave up and slid into the net.

I released all the fish today. They were all upper-slot fish or larger. There are good numbers of redfish around in the duck ponds. If the conditions are favorable, then there could be some good spring fishing in the future. 

Hopedale, LA, Jan. 7, 2023

Tried some new water east of the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet – Lena Lagoon, lee shore. The water was clean, about 60 degrees, not too windy, and I saw good numbers of baitfish and crabs – but I did not see a redfish for over 2 miles of poling. Nothing on the fly rod.

I headed over to the MRGO dam and trolled a white Gulp! Picked up a 13″ speck and 2 big blue catfish of about 8 lbs. each. Tough day on the water.

Hopedale, LA 12-28-2022

Winds: 8-12 mph, SE

Tide: falling, low 3:30 p.m. at Shell Beach Station

Water Level: 1ft. above normal to start, dropped to around normal level.

Water Temperature: ~ 48 F

Water Clarity: dirty in canals, cleaner in leeward sides of the ponds

Water salinity: did not check

Weather/sky: mostly sunny

Temperature: 65 F for high

Moon: 1/3 waxing

Solunar period: major at 4 p.m.

Launch: slipped the Hobie Compass in about 7:30 a.m., out at 4 p.m.

Water covered: ~ 8 miles

Other fishers: solo

Gear: 8-wt fly rod w/spoon fly, spinning rod with Vudu shrimp

Fished the mouth of the first pond, but no action. There may have been hunters in there, so I went elsewhere.

Went to a deep bayou and jigged a Vudu shrimp trailed behind me, watching the fish finder for schools. Today the Lowrance was pointing out the speckled trout pretty well, and I often hooked up when a school passed. They were small trout, with half being big enough to keep. I caught 10 and then the bait fishers started closing in. I decided to try the fly rod on some redfish.

I’d stood and poled for a hundred yards or so and then spotted my first redfish. It was close and appeared to be after a crab. I cast to it but there was a muddy cloud around it as it was chasing whatever. The fish could not see the fly. I kept casting and eventually lined the fish, sending it speeding away.

I had gone another 50 yards when three large redfish came quickly toward me. I bent to pick up my rod and realized if I stood to cast that they would spook. So, I stayed bent down until they were past me and then flipped the spoon fly ahead and hopped it back to them. The lead fish at it and took off on a strong run. It was about a 30” fish when it got to the net.

Things seemed to slow down in this area, so I went over to another leeward shoreline that was around 2-3 feet deep. The redfish were congregated here, probably because the water was warmer and a little cleaner. I caught another brute of a redfish, and it pulled me around for a while before getting in my net. I let it go, got everything readjusted, went down the bank another 50 yards, and hooked into the brother of the last fish. As it pulled me around, we passed near other redfish that left big clouds of mud as they took off. Sometimes they would come up and swim alongside the hooked redfish. I netted and released this one and went back to the area where the other fish had been disturbed. I only made a few blind casts until I was hooked up again.

I headed up a little bayou and ran into several more redfish there. I started blind casting in the direction that the fish might have gone and pretty soon I was connected again with another 25” redfish. After releasing this fish, I went back to the mouth of the bayou and caught a couple nicer sized redfish. I probably could have stayed and caught more, but I was happy with my day and so I headed back to the truck and home. Today was a good ending to the 2022 fishing year.

Hopedale, LA 12-22-2022

Winds: 0-5 mph, SW to W

Tide: falling, low 11:30 a.m. at Shell Beach Station

Water Level: 1ft. above normal to start, dropped to about -1 ft.

Water Temperature: ~ 52 F

Water Clarity: fair in canals to start, got dirty as the tide dropped out, cleaner in the ponds

Water salinity: did not check

Weather/sky: some high clouds, mostly sunny

Temperature: 62 F for high

Moon:  first quarter

Solunar period: major at 11:30 a.m.

Launch: slipped the Hobie Compass in about 8 a.m., out at 4 p.m.

Water covered: ~ 8 miles

Other fishers: solo

Gear: 9-wt fly rod w/ Andry’s spoon fly, bait caster with Vudoo shrimp

Duck season is open again, so I had to pay attention to where I was fishing today.

The tide was dropping out and I reasoned that fish would be congregating around the draining areas. The first mouth of a bayou that I fished indicated this idea was sound. I caught 5 trout (not big, but over 12”), a nice blue catfish, a 14” bass, and a 20” redfish on the Vudoo shrimp here. Shooting from duck hunters in a nearby pond told me to cross that spot off the list.

I went to another narrow bayou that was draining and found beautiful clean water. I stood and poled for several hundred yards but all I saw were some small bass and one little redfish. Beautiful water, but maybe the cooler weather had moved fish to other areas.

It was about 1 p.m. when I decided to try a duck pond that often held redfish. I went up a little bayou and poled up the shallow side of the pond without seeing any fish. The water was about a foot deep and very clear, and with the sun I could have seen a fish at least 50 feet out. I heard a redfish crashing on the other side of the pond. That side has a deeper 4-foot gut that the duck hunters use for access when the water is low. I barely made it across the pond because it was only 3 inches deep in the middle. My buddy Kevin had made some epoxy spoon flies for me to try, so I tossed one of those this afternoon. I first caught a small redfish, fought and lost another one, and then landed an upper slot redfish on the spoon fly. I caught two bass and then got three more redfish. Kevin’s spoon flies had the mojo working today. All the fish were released. I was happy to get in a good day of fishing before the big freeze hit.

I hope all my fishing friends get their wishes for mo’ fishes in 2023. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Delacroix, LA 12-10-2022

Winds: 0-10 mph, N, switching to E

Tide: falling 2’, low 2 p.m.

Water Level: 1ft. above normal to start, dropped to about -0.5 ft.

Water Temperature: ~ 70 F

Water Clarity: surprisingly poor

Water salinity: did not check

Weather/sky: heavy fog burned off about 10 a.m., mixed clouds and sun

Temperature: 74 F for high

Moon:  waning, 3/4

Solunar period: major at 2 p.m.

Launch: slipped the Hobie Compass in about 7:30 a.m., out at 4 p.m.

Water covered: ~ 7 miles

Other fishers: solo

Gear: 9-wt fly rod w/ Waldner’s spoon fly, 6-wt with a shrimpy-looking #6 white gotcha

Visibility in the fog was a few hundred feet, so I picked a safe combat launch at Delacroix that would not have boat traffic. I made it out to some islands and found a couple of smaller slot redfish in a cut with a breeze pushing through it. They hit on the spoon fly.

The fog lifted and I started to cover more water. I picked up a third redfish at the intersection of a canal and bayou. I decided to try for some trout with the gotcha on the 6 wt. and got a decent speckled trout off a point.

I had drifted over to the shore to unhook the trout when a big redfish came feeding vigorously down the bank. There was no way to put the trout down and get a cast to the fish, so I let the redfish pass by. I unhooked the trout and got back to casting in case there were more around. The trout was a loner, so I moved back into the mouth of the bayou, made a cast, and hooked into something large. It was probably the same redfish that had passed a few minutes earlier. I had a problem because I was using the willowy little 6 wt. rod. There was a lot of submerged vegetation around, and the fish started weaving the line through it. After a good run, the fish worked some of the weeds free. I used the reverse on the pedal drive and backed the fish out to more open water. I was wondering if the tippet of 12# fluoro and my knots would hold. I had the fly line just outside the guides, so there were about 10 feet of line between me and the fish. I would lift it to the surface, and it would swim back down – again and again. The redfish pulled me about 200 yards over the period of about 20 minutes before I finally got it into the net. I got the fish on the measuring board for a quick photo and then pulled it around through the water for several minutes to be sure it was resuscitated. Once the fish started to pull on the Boga grip, I released it. It swam off and seemed to be in good shape after our tug-of-war.   

I worked my way through some thick mats of vegetation as the tide dropped out. There was some open water along the shoreline of a large pond where I hoped to find more redfish. Fish were probably there, but the water was too dirty to spot them. I caught another small redfish on the spoon fly and then noticed that the sun was getting low. I fished my way back in but didn’t get any bites. It was tricky getting out of the kayak because the low tide had left a soft 5’ mud flat between me and the bank. I worked the kayak around to a deeper spot, dismounted, and then pulled it up a steep bank.

It is the split between periods of the duck season. There have not been many ducks migrating through this area over the past six seasons or so. Delacroix was once a favorite spot for duck hunting, but there has been a change that has left eastern LA without many ducks. There is a drought in the midwestern area along the central flyway this year. With less water, the ducks may be migrating farther south. Today, I saw more ducks than I’ve seen in several years. There were several nice rafts of scaup (dos gris) and good flocks of green and blue wing teal. I saw several pairs of mottled ducks and a few groups of gadwall and redheads. While my observation is limited, it gives me some inspiration to try a duck hunt.  

Hopedale, LA 11-23-2022

Winds: 10 mph, NE

Tide: falling 2’, low 11 a.m.

Water Level: 1.5 ft. above normal to start, dropped to about -0.5 ft.

Water Temperature: ~ 54 F

Water Clarity: fairly clean to start, deteriorated quickly as the tide switched

Water salinity: did not check

Weather/sky: passing clouds, turned to sunny

Temperature: 74 F for high

Moon:  waxing, last sliver before new

Solunar period: major at 11 a.m.

Launch: slipped the Hobie Compass in about 7 a.m., out at 4 p.m.

Water covered: ~ 7 miles

Other fishers: solo

Gear: 9-wt fly rod w/ Waldner’s spoon fly, spinning reel with a white Gulp! shrimp for trolling canals for trout while on the move.

I trolled the main canal without any luck. I stopped to cast at a bayou that was pouring out into the canal and got 5 nice specks of about 15” (all released). The school moved on and so did I.  

I met a gang of anglers where a mouth of a bayou meets a large pond. They were mainly fishing with shrimp or plastic jigs under corks for trout. I slipped by them and stood up to pole my kayak around the leeward side of the pond. The redfish started to show up after about a quarter of a mile of poling. I usually spooked them as they were resting on the bottom. They saw me before I spotted them. The reds got more active as the sun warmed the shallow water. A few redfish met me head-on and veered off before I could make a cast.

I was poling upwind and saw a redfish coming slowly toward me. Finally, I did something smart and let the kayak drift backward in the wind without scaring the fish. I staked the kayak and waited for the redfish to get in range. I made a series of casts, each one bringing the spoon fly a little closer to the fish. On the fourth cast – bingo! The redfish pounced on the spoon fly and shot away like a rocket when it felt the hook on the strip set. It ran about 80’ and then I slowly began to gain line. The fish ran into some weed beds but eventually made it to the net. I slipped the barbless hook out of its jaw, took a few pictures while holding it with the Boga grip, and then released it. The redfish weighed about 8 lb and was at the edge of slot size. That was the only fish on the fly rod for today. The water quickly became muddy as the tide pushed in and spotting redfish became nearly impossible.

I found a cork floating in the pond, and when I reached for it the cork disappeared under the water. I waited and when it came up again, I wrapped my line around it and pulled in a speckled trout. I released it and kept the cork. Later, the same thing happened, and I freed another trout. A few weeks ago, I released a large redfish that I found under a rogue cork in the marsh. I’m getting a nice collection of popping corks and plastic lures.

I tried to find some spots with better water for sight fishing but had no luck. On the way in I stopped at another pond and threw a Vudu shrimp with the spinning rod. I caught 2 small bass and a 15” redfish at a drain off a duck pond and then headed in. Dark comes early these days, and I didn’t want to be late getting back.

As I started up the truck, I noticed some little boxes on my windshield. A buddy had gifted me 3 boxes of Mustad hooks. These hooks are favorites of saltwater fly tiers, and now I can make 150 more redfish flies. Thanks, Scott!

Hopedale, LA, Oct. 28, 2022

Winds: 5-15 mph, Easterly

Tide: falling 2’, low 2 p.m.

Water Level: 2’ above normal to start

Water Temperature: ~ 66 F

Water Clarity: dirty everywhere, clear water by drains as the tide dropped out

Water salinity: maybe 2-3 ppt

Weather/sky: overcast

Temperature: 74 F for high

Moon:  new waxing

Solunar period: major 2 p.m.

Launch: slipped the Hobie Compass in about 7:45 a.m., out at 4:30 p.m.

Water covered: ~ 7 miles

Solo trip

Gear: 9-wt fly rod w/ Waldner’s spoon fly, 6-wt fly rod w/ a shrimp fly, light weight spinning reel with a white Gulp! shrimp for trolling canals

I trolled the main canal, and headed to the ponds to sight fish for redfish. I stopped to cast and got a nice 14” speck and a puppy drum at a drain off the canal where the clean water hit the dirty water.

I went into a big pond just as the cloud layer drifted in to block out the sun and the wind picked up. Though conditions were declining, I put away the spinning outfit and moved the fly rods forward. I hugged the lee shorelines and went up the little bayous to stay out of the wind. It was difficult to spot fish, but occasionally I’d get a glimpse of a redfish. I went up a little bayou and found the redfish in about a foot of water looking for the crabs. I saw lots of big fat blue crabs, and I thought about dipping a few and bringing them home for a boil but decided to stick with fishing. I caught a fat nice 25” that ate the spoon fly and then proceeded to miss three more fish that ate the fly. Somehow, I missed on getting a good hookset. I seemed to strip set it out of their mouths.

I saw a surface disturbance, made a cast, and felt a bite. I made a hard strip set and raised the fly rod, sending a poor red-eared sunfish sailing over the kayak. A few minutes later I cast to some surface activity and got a small, speckled trout. I started heading back to the truck and cast the Gulp! shrimp into a drain. I thought the shrimp was dragging in some weeds. Then the weeds started to pull back and I realized it was a flounder. I only catch about 1 flounder per year, so it was a nice surprise after a difficult day of fishing.

Hopedale, LA, Oct. 22, 2022

Poling along in search of redfish

Hopedale, Oct. 22, 2022

Water Temperature: ~ 74 F

Water Clarity: Bad, with a few spots that were a little better than bad.

Water salinity: did not check

Temperature: ~ 78 F for high

Moon: 1/8th waning

Launch: slipped the Hobie Compass in about 7:30 a.m., out at 5 p.m.

Water covered: ~ 10 miles

Other fishers: Kevin A.

Gear: 8-wt fly rod with a spoon fly, 6-wt fly rod w/ a shrimp fly, light spinning rod with a Voodoo shrimp for trolling.

Kevin and I headed to the ponds, checking a few cuts off the canal for speckled trout. No trout today. We got to a big pond, and he went right, and I went left. I went up a little bayou off the pond and eventually got to some shallow water that had some visibility. I spooked several fish and then had a chance at a redfish about 40 feet away. I hooked up and thought it would be a quick battle, but the fish was resistant. I got the net under it and then realized it was larger than I thought. It was a bit over 28” and stout. I released it and went looking for more. I met Kevin and he had the same luck – an oversized redfish, and then the conditions declined. We would have to look elsewhere.

Kevin and I made the upwind trek to a more distant pond in hope of finding clean water. We were moving toward the leeward end when a mud boat came past and beat us to our destination. They did not stay long but did their best to stir things up. Frustrating! It was about 1 p.m. and Kevin needed to head back in. I put in a few more miles and tried a couple of new ponds, but the water was dirty there too. Along the way, I got a small bass, a needlefish, and another undersized redfish by blind casting.

I’m not sure why the water has been so dirty lately. It is likely due to multiple factors. The submerged weeds are dying out, and they usually afford protection from wind and the influx of dirty water. I know that shrimp trawlers stir up the mud, and that sweeps into the bayous and ponds with the tide. The tides have been running high and are pushing over the weed beds that remain. The wind also stirs the mud from the bottoms of open ponds. Until the general quality of the water improves, it will be good to time fishing trips with a falling tide. The water that is flooded into the grasses along the shore is filtered, so when it drains out the clarity improves. Water clarity is key for fly fishing in general and is required for sight fishing. Days like today are made for the anglers who use bait and depend on a fish’s sense of smell to direct feeding behavior.

Hopedale, LA 10-14-22

Winds: 5-10 mph, NE shifting to SE

Tide: falling until 3 p.m.

Water Level: a foot above normal to start

Water Temperature: ~ 74 F

Water Clarity: dirty everywhere, with drains pouring out gin clear water as the tide dropped out

Water salinity: n.a.

Weather/sky: sunny with a few passing clouds

Temperature: 80 F for high

Moon:  ¾ waning

Solunar period: minor period around 11 a.m., major 4 p.m.

Launch: slipped the Hobie Compass in about 8 a.m., out at 6 p.m.

Water covered: ~ 7 miles

Other fishers: solo

Gear: 8-wt fly rod w/ Waldner’s spoon fly, 6-wt fly rod w/ a shrimp fly, lightweight spinning reel with a Voodoo shrimp for trolling canals

I trolled the main canals as headed to the ponds for redfish but had no luck. It’s early and the trout are just arriving in the interior marsh. I passed some boat anglers who were catching some small specks and white trout using live shrimp and jigs.

I got into some duck ponds and started seeing redfish around the drains. I ended up with 6 and lost 3 more. The biggest was about 28” and the smallest was about 20”. One nice redfish ran under the kayak and managed to break the line on the fins even though they were flat against the bottom of the yak. Sight fishing was pretty good today thanks to the falling tide.

I also got a 10” largemouth bass and picked up a surprise speckled trout – the first of the fall – as I was casting to a redfish with the shrimp fly. An even bigger surprise was 2 orange spotted sunfish that struck the little shrimp fly. Fall fishing is the best!

Hopedale, LA, 10-8-2022

Winds: 0-10 mph, North

Tide: neap

Water Level: a foot above normal

Water Temperature: ~ 70 F

Water Clarity: poor almost everywhere, eventually found some fair water for sight fishing on the lee side of a distant pond.

Water salinity: n.a.

Weather/sky: sunny with a few passing clouds

Temperature: 80 F for high

Moon:  ¾ waxing

Solunar period: major period around 12 p.m.

Launch: slipped the Hobie Compass in about 7 a.m., out at 5 p.m.

Water covered: ~ 10 miles

Other fishers: solo

Gear: 9-wt fly rod w/ Waldner’s spoon fly, 6-wt fly rod w/ a shrimp fly

I started out tossing the shrimp fly until the sun got higher and I saw the bad water quality. I headed for some duck ponds and went about a mile through a series of them. I did not spot any fish, and the water never became clearer. This was a bust, so I started heading back. I cast into a drain on my way out and got a nice 22” fish on the spoon fly.

It was about a 2-mile paddle to get to an area where I might find better water, so I took off with best speed. I went around the edge of the pond and started to see redfish. I got a glimpse of a flash orange and made a cast to it. It was a pretty 28” fish. I finally started to spot some nice fish and got three more slot fish. At one point I was casting to a fish that disappeared. Another fish appeared on the other side of me, and as I moved my line to cast to the new fish the one behind me grabbed the fly. I tried to set the hook, the line went taught, and the fish popped the fly off. I’ll have to get a replacement spoon fly from Rich Waldner. I think the spoon fly was still under warranty :).

I made a few casts into a drain off a main canal as I was headed to the truck. A redfish splashed and came out of the flooded grass next to the drain. I made a few blind casts and tried to guess where it went. I was retrieving the line and was ready to move on when it struck. It was fun to do battle in more open water where the fish could run in the current of the canal.