Lake off the Pearl River (White Kitchen), 6-30-19

White Kitchen Lake-Pearl River WMA

It had been a few weeks since I was able to take the kayak out and fish. I aggravated a nerve in my lower back and the muscles around it locked down tight. It was difficult to sit and to get in and out of the truck. With the help of ibuprophen and a few muscle relaxants the situation gradually improved. Today would be a test trip to see if I could load and unload the kayak, fish for several hours, and then get home without trouble. I’m writing this, so I must have made it home.

I’d loaded my truck with the usual gear, but this time there was something extra – old Christmas trees. I’d collected them back in January to sink and make some sac au lait (a.k.a. crappie) habitat. I had a bunch of twine and some window weights to sink them. I’d heard people caught sac au lait in this lake, so I’d planned to make some attractive cover with the Christmas trees. I had my depth finder with me, and would fly fish in the early morning, and then try to find some deeper spots to plant the trees. After fishing, I would use the kayak to shuttle the trees out to a good spot and sink them.

My internal alarm woke me up a little earlier than I had planned. It was about 3:30 when I made my coffee and a quick breakfast. I was driving toward Slidell at 4 and got to the launch at the lake in the Pearl River Wildlife Management area a little before 5. This was the first time I had fished the lake, so it would be a learning experience. I signed in at the check in station, pitched the trees off the truck, and started rigging up the kayak and my fly rods. I noticed several cats were coming around as I prepped to go out. I got the kayak down to the water and about that time another guy pulled up and unloaded his sit in kayak. Apparently he fishes the lake regularly, and I got some details as he spoke with his Cajun accent. He regularly caught sac au lait and other fish here, so I figured I was in the right place.

It was semi-light about 5:15 as I shoved off. The Cajun went left and I went right. I tied on a buggy looking #6 stimulator, thinking that it would be hard for pan fish and bass to resist. I would catch a few on the surface and then switch to wet flies after the sun got up. The fly looked great to me, but the fish had other ideas. I threw it right on the edge of the shoreline, out in the middle, and in between. Nada. So I switched to a leggy Chernobyl ant with a #12 nymph dropper about 18” below it. Now I had both surface and lower levels covered. Nothing. Every now and then I’d get a half-hearted swirl at the ant, but no real strike. As the sun came up higher I could ascertain two things. The first was that the water was not very clean. There was about a foot of visibility. The second was that there were casings and dead mayflies all over the surface. There must have been a huge hatch during the night, and the fish had been gorging. No wonder they weren’t hungry. Just as I had this thought a big bluegill leapt cleanly out of the water as it snagged a mayfly off the surface. I went down into a little slough and spotted a small (3 feet) alligator, and then saw a bigger 7 footer a few yards away. They appeared to be fishing too, but I didn’t see them catch anything.

I’d worked my way around the lake without even a good bite, when I saw the Cajun guy coming from the other direction. We compared our results. He had a sac au lait, a goggle eye (warmouth), and a bream. He said it was really slow. He was working quickly and about 30 minutes later he was loading up for home. It was about 8:30. I continued to try the bank, which wasn’t really a bank in most of the lake. Instead it was a lot of weeds that grew out into the water to a depth of about 4 feet. I kept thinking if I put the fly at right at the edge of the weeds there would be a fish that would come out to eat it, but still nothing happened.

The sky was clear and the sun was really beaming down hard by 9 o’clock. I needed to do something to switch things up as I watched the water temperature nudge up to 87 F. I switched to a #12 Pat’s Plus (sinking fly that imitates a leggy nymph) and tried something I rarely use – a strike indicator (a.k.a. a little cork). Since the depth of water around the weeds was about 4 feet, I set the indicator about 3 feet above the fly. I worked down the weed line a bit more, tried some “stick ups” out in the lake, and came to a little island. I swung the fly about an inch of the edge and let it sink. The cork…..er, indicator bounced a couple of times and then went down. I brought in the first fish of the day, a chunky goggle eye, after over 3 hours of solid fishing.

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I released the goggle eye and cast back out to the edge again. To my surprise, the cork…..er, indicator went down again. This was a better fish and it put a decent bend in the 4 weight rod. When I got it up the fish materialized into a spotted gar. Not a very big one, but it was very irritable and it flopped all over the place and wrapped itself in the fly line.

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I unhooked the gar and released it. I tried a few more minutes along the edge of the little island and then headed over to the far bank.This was a real bank, with some logs, earth, roots, and other structures that seemed likely to hold some fish. After a few minutes of casting the cork…..er, I mean strike indicator, went down and this time a pretty little red spotted sunfish came in on the end of the line.

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I released the sunfish and headed back toward the launch. It was about 11 am, getting really hot, and time to create some crappie spots.

I had been zigzagging all around the lake reading the depth finder, and was disappointed that I could not find anything deep (i.e. 15-20 feet). Instead, most of the lake was a steady 4 feet deep, with occasional areas that reached 5 feet and a few that were 5 and a half. It seemed the lake was generally shallow, and yet it was known to produce some nice sac au lait. I beached my kayak and unloaded my fishing gear and put a smaller sized tree across the bow and the largest one on the stern. I went out near the 5.5 foot area and tossed out a small weighted float, took a gps reading, and pushed the small tree into the water. It sank down nicely, and then I circled around to do the same with the larger tree, but it did not quite sink. Instead it floated, mostly below the surface like an iceberg. The big tree had dried out over the months and was quite buoyant. I was surprised the weights could not completely submerge it, and I watched the gentle breeze slowly carrying it over to the shore. I went back and got the two other intermediate size trees and repeated the process. They were held down by the weights, so I got 3 out of the 4 trees properly deployed and marked. Now I’ll just wait and come back about the time of teal season (September) to see whether the trees are holding any fish.

When I got back to the truck I saw the strangest thing of the day. Two women pulled up in a car, got some sacks out, and went into the woods. I heard them making noises and then realized they were calling to the cats. The woods sort of woke up, and within a couple of minutes there were about two-dozen cats around them. They were feeding the cats, and when I looked closer I could see they had made several boxes out of sheet metal and other materials so that the cats could have shelter. So these two ladies were tending this flock of feral cats out at the management area. About this time another guy stops his car, pulls out a no kill type trap and releases an armadillo. It seems this check in station is a popular release spot for animals.

I was heading back to New Orleans over the I-10 Bridge and got a look at the water. The Bonnet Carre spillway has been diverting MS River water into Lake Pontchartain for over a month, and now that it’s warm all those nutrients are producing an algae bloom that’s causing aquatic activities to be curtailed. I could see big swirls of green algae from the east to the west as I crossed the lake above the Rigolets. It’s just another sign that humans are changing and stressing the natural systems. People put their waste into the system, and the system responds by producing chemicals (i.e. algal toxins) that are toxic to people. It’s nature’s way of getting back at us.

P.S.  I recently learned the origin of the lake and the White Kitchen name from some friends. The White Kitchen comes from a restaurant that once sat at the junction of highways US 90 and 190. When the interstate highway (I-10) was built, traffic no longer passed the White Kitchen and it was closed. The lake is nicknamed Lake Katrina. It was swampy marshland until it was opened up to form the lake due to Hurricane Katrina. That likely explains why it has little structure and is a steady 4-5 feet deep.

 

Reggio, LA marsh 5-25-19

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Wind: 5-10 mph early E/SE, dropped to near 0 at noon, then back to 5+ later on.

Tide: low 4:45 am, high 5:15 range of 1 foot based on Shell Beach Station

Water Level: average, rising a little through the day

Water Temperature: 85 F

Water Clarity: fair by launch, spectacular in the ponds

Water salinity: none

Weather/sky: clear, sunny, a few clouds

Temperature: ~ 92 F for high, heat index of about 100

Moon: waning half moon

Solunar period: good period at 6-8 am, minor period at 10 am

Time on the water: slipped the Hobie Outback in at 6:15 am, out at 5:00 p.m.

Water covered: ~ 6 miles

Other fishers: Solo

Gear: #8 and #10 weight fly rods

Lures: gold “shrab”, purple/gold Rich Waldner’s spoon fly, big fiber fly for gar.

Strategy/ patterns: Find redfish, and cast to gar.

I combat launched and headed west off highway 300. Usually I fish my way to the marsh, but today I just headed straight to the ponds. I was greeted by an otter eating a fat LA blue crab when I arrived at the first stop. The water was a little lower and the weeds had grown more in the past two weeks. I spotted my first small redfish and it ate the spoon fly just like the script said. 7 am and the first fish was landed! I stalked more fish through the marsh, spotting fish and occasionally getting off a cast or two, but it would be a while before I would get another one. As usual, I spooked lots of fish. Headed downwind on the slight breeze, I came upon them and they spotted me before I could raise the rod to cast.

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After I caught 5 reds on the spoon fly, I tried a new fly that sort of looks like a crab-shrimp hybrid (“shrab”). I tied it small (#4 hook) and used some gold dubbing for the body. It looked pretty good to me, and I was hoping to get it in front of a sheepshead, but that didn’t happen. The redfish gave it mixed reviews, a few looks and a couple “hit and spits” before I finally got a nice 24” redfish to take it. It headed into to the weed beds and I pulled pretty hard the other direction and the hook pulled out. But I did manage to feed it to a plucky redear sunfish. I did see two alligator gar, but they saw me too. They just buried down in the aquatic vegetation and I didn’t get a shot at them with my gar fly.

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Afternoon came and it got pretty hot and the wind dropped. Better for sighting fish but a bit uncomfortable. About the time the biting midges (gnats) started to pick up the air force (dragon flies, a.k.a. snake doctors) came in and cleaned them up. A few even came by and snagged dinner off my shirt.

I switched back to the old reliable spoon fly. I explored some new spots, but didn’t see much action. I took a shot at a spotted gar that had its back to me. It hit the spoon fly and it stuck home. I was able to land and release it in good shape. I cut across about a hundred yards of matted weed beds to some open water and it was a good choice. In between weed beds were some open spots and there were redfish hanging out in them. I caught a few more and then finally got a nice fish of about 25”. It was a fat one, and weighed almost 7 lbs on the Boga grip when I gave it a quick lift to check it.

All in all it was a pretty good day and the conditions were about as good as possible for late May. I landed 8 reds, a sunfish, and a gar and had a lot of other chances. All were released and left to fight another day. I was covered in UPF 50 clothing from head to toe, so no sunburn today. I drank almost a gallon of water and G2 Gatorade combined. Stay hydrated out there!

 

Reggio Marsh, 5-2-2019

Reggio marsh, 5-2-2019

Wind: 10+ mph early, dropped to near 0 at noon, then back to 10+ from SE

Tide: little range using Shell Beach Station

Water Level: high

Water Temperature: ~70 F

Water Clarity: poor, but crystal clean back in the marsh

Water salinity: none

Weather/sky: clear, sunny, a few clouds

Temperature: ~ 82 F for high

Moon: waning sliver

Solunar period: good period at 4 pm

Time on the water: slipped the Hobie Outback in at 7 a.m., out at 3:30 p.m.

Water covered: ~ 4.5 miles

Other fishers: Jeff W.

Gear: 2 #8 weight fly rods

Lures: Olive rabbit zonker worm fly, bubble-head popper, brown “shrab”, purple/gold Waldner spoon fly.

Strategy/ patterns: Find redfish.

Launched off highway 300 and headed west into the shallow stuff. Water was up so getting over there was no trouble. Water was beautifully clean, but the wind was blowing enough to make standing and casting difficult. I tried to get into some tighter marsh to get some shelter from the wind. I could stand and cast if I put the stake out pole down, but it was a little tricky. I positioned myself cast to a redfish coming through a little pass between some small islands, but it wasn’t into the popper.

The spotted and alligator gar were everywhere – must have seen a thousand. The alligator gar were making lots of noise as they mated. A few of them looked like they were interested in the kayak. Most of the alligator gar were 4-5 feet, but I saw one huge one that was close to the length of the kayak.

The wind was dying down, so I started poling along through the ponds. As the wind dropped the biting gnats came out and I had to go to the Vicki’s Amber Romance to repel them. There were some brief attacks from biting flies too.

I saw several reds, sheepshead, some small bass, and some big blue catfish as I poled along. There were also lots of bream bedding in groups of 20-40. Got a 22” redfish to eat the spoon fly as I reached the end of a pond. Today the redfish were hanging out on the windward sides of the ponds and at the junctions that opened into ponds.

I worked my way through the little bayous and ponds. Caught three more upper slot fish, lost 2 more, and fought a nice 28” redfish that buried itself in the vegetation several times before coming to the net. I use a 20 lb. mono tippet to help get fish out of the grass without breaking off. The advantage of being in a kayak is that I can get over to the fish and free it from the vegetation if it buries itself. I released all my fish today, and they swam off in good condition.

I headed back in and checked with Jeff. He caught 10 redfish using conventional tackle and a few bass. One of the bass weighed about 3 lbs. I came across some good sized alligators (7-12 ft.) on the the way back to the truck, but they just sank down as I approached. Overall,  it was a pretty good day in the marsh.

VZSK3182

 

 

 

 

 

Reggio, LA 4-27-19

Reggio marsh, 4-27-2019

Wind: 10 mph SE, S

Tide: 7:30 am low, high 7:00 pm using Shell Beach Station

Water Level: average to start, getting up in the grass by evening

Water Temperature: ~70 F

Water Clarity: poor at launch, but cleaned up nicely in the marsh

Water salinity: n/a

Weather/sky: clear and sunny

Temperature: ~ 78 F for high

Moon: half, waning

Solunar period: good period 8-10 am, fair period at 2 pm

Time on the water: slipped the Hobie Outback in at 10:30 a.m., out at 6:30 p.m.

Water covered: ~ 4 miles

Other fishers: solo trip

Gear: Abu Garcia Revo/Falcon rod combo, 8 weight fly rod

Lures: in-line spinner bait with a Saltwater Assassin (chicken on a chain). Tried Waldner’s spoon fly and a new crab fly I tied.

Strategy/ patterns: Find redfish.

I fished this area last week for a short period, so I thought I’d try it again when I had more time. I went to where I caught the redfish on the last trip, and they were still there. I caught 5 in the 16”-17” range and then got a 22” fish. I could readily catch them on the spinner, but could not get a hit on a fly. I went back to the spinner and caught a few more. I decided to try to drift and fish, and I picked up a couple of 18” reds. I paddled back into some shallow marsh and tried the new crab fly I had made. I flipped the crab fly in front of a small gar, and it bit but did not get the hook. It began to swim away and was joined by an 18” redfish. Got the fly in front of the red and it ate and ran. Only fish I was able to get on the fly today.

I got into a shallow (1ft.) pond that had several redfish. It was weedy and was difficult to fly fish with the wind, but I did my best to quietly work the pond with the fly rod. Couldn’t get them to feed. I went upwind to attempt a drift, and I got very close to the fish but they were spooky by then. So I left the pond and trolled a bit in deeper water….picked up 3 more reds from 18-22”. Ended up with a dozen or more redfish. I probably could have caught several more if I had stayed with the bait caster, but I spent most of trip working on the fly rod. Nice day to be on the water in the kayak.

 

 

 

 

Reggio, LA 4-21-19

Wind: 4-10 mph SE

Tide: low 12:30 am, high 3:30 pm using Shell Beach Station

Water Level: super low

Water Temperature: ~70 F

Water Clarity: poor

Water salinity: n/a

Weather/sky: clear and sunny

Temperature: ~ 78 F for high

Moon: 2 days past full

Solunar period: fair period at 4 pm

Time on the water: slipped the Hobie Outback in at 1:30 p.m., out at 3:30 p.m.

Water covered: ~ 2.5 miles

Other fishers: solo trip

Gear: Abu Garcia Revo/Falcon rod combo looked lonely and I had been ignoring it for a while, so I brought it this trip.

Lures: in-line spinner bait with a Matrix vortex (black/chartreuse).

Strategy/ patterns: Find redfish. With the cool morning and the full moon, I figured there was no need to rush out to fish at the crack of dawn. As the sun warmed up the bottom and the tide rose with wind, I guessed the crabs would get moving about 10 am.

Tried to combat launch at Delacroix, but the water was too low. I got stuck, turned back and put the kayak back on the truck. The cold front that moved through on Thurs/Fri had some really strong winds, and I guess that blew out the water.

I drove back up highway 300 and checked out Reggio Marina. Water was pouring in through the canal, and it was very dirty. So I headed back to the canal below the marina and combat launched off the roadside.

Looked around and finally found some cleaner water. I let the wind push me along and casted. Ended up with 3 redfish on the spinner. Tough day down in da parish.

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Delacroix marsh, LA 3-24-2019

Wind: 10+ mph E-SE

Tide: low 1 a.m., high at 5 p.m. based on Shell Beach station.

Water Level: a little high, up in the grass

Water Temperature: ~72 F

Water Clarity: good (3 feet visibility) to fair.

Water salinity: nada

Weather/sky: mostly clear and sunny

Temperature: ~ 78 F for high

Moon: waning ¾ of full

Solunar period: fair period at 5 p.m.

Time on the water: Hobie Outback in the water at 9:30 a.m., driving home 6:30 p.m.

Water covered: ~ 8 miles

Other fishers: Jeff W.

Gear: two #8 weight fly rods

Lures: Waldner spoon fly (gold/chartreuse) and a popper with a shrimp dropper about 3 ft. below

Strategy/ patterns: Start looking for specks, then shift to reds. It was a cool morning with a big moon the night before. This usually means the fishing will start slow, and it did. The bite picked up in the afternoon.

I trolled and cast the popper/dropper into places where I thought there would be trout. Since it wasn’t hot, I covered some water and went across some large ponds. No trout, so I headed to the marsh for reds. It was breezy but I tried standing and poling along. I saw tons of spotted gar working on the next generation. Spotted several stingrays, a few black drum, and sheepshead. I was going through a patch of very shallow cloudy water and suddenly discovered a half dozen big redfish right under me. The wind was pushing the kayak as I tried to reach for my rod and I spooked them away one by one. They grunted as they left.

I went a bit further and saw a little island that was eroding. Current had sawed through about 20 feet at the tip, and the wind created some moving water. It seemed a likely spot and it was. First cast and a 16” red bit and was landed. I repeated this three more times, then they started to figure out something was up. I continued to cast and would catch another fish every 5-10 casts. After I caught 10, I went up to the tip of the island where I caught the fish. It was a little deeper there…..maybe 3 ft, where the rest of the area was about 2 feet deep. The fish there ranged from about 15” to 19”.

The sun was starting to slip down to the west so I headed in and hit some banks where I had caught fish before. I got a couple of better sized redfish of 22” and 24” and kept working back toward the truck. I picked up the last fish, another 16” one, in sight of the truck. All my fish were caught on the spoon fly and were released to bite another day. My buddy Jeff fished further west of me and got into some trout. He ended up with a dozen or so, but threw back about half because they were small. He also caught several undersized reds and a 24” fish using root beer Gulp! fished without a cork. It was a little windy for fly fishing, but a nice way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

 

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