Blackwater River, NH in August, 2017

Every year there is a series of scientific meetings called the Gordon Research Conferences. They once met exclusively in the summers at boarding schools and small colleges in New England. Some of the meetings evolved to occur at different times of the year and are now held in swanky hotels and lodges around the world, but the one I attended is still an “old school” style meeting. I stayed in dorms (no air conditioning) in a small room with a single bed and a common bathroom across the hallway. My meeting was at a boarding school called Proctor Academy in rural Andover, New Hampshire. The idea behind this type of meeting is that everyone stays on the same campus, eats all meals together, and has time to interact and discuss their science. Breakfast is at 7:30 a.m. The conference gets rolling at 8:30 a.m. with speakers and goes until 12:30 p.m. There is a break for lunch and then participants are free until 4 p.m. During the free time people play soccer, tennis, volleyball, golf, swim, take tours, and if you are like me, take the opportunity to fly fish. At 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. the scientific posters are presented. Then comes supper and more scientific talks that end about 10 p.m. After that, the bar opens and people adjourn to drink a bit and discuss. It makes for a long day.

Before coming to the meeting I scoped out the territory on Google Earth. There were several lakes, ponds, streams and rivers in the area. So, I decided to pack my #4 weight fly rod and a fly box in my luggage. I would have a rental car and could make it to nearby fishing spots spots fairly quickly from the academy. I wished to have more time to fish, but usually took the opportunity of my free time from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. each day. The afternoon of my arrival I walked down a hill to the Blackwater River (not much more than a stream really, about as wide as a two lane road) and stood on a covered bridge surveying the water. I saw some small fish that looked to be 8”-12” in length below the bridge. Trout? Being from the south, I had never really had an opportunity to trout fish. In fact, I was seeking my first trout. So the next morning I was up at 5 a.m. and headed to the river to fish a bit before breakfast. It was a rough and steep approach to reach the water. I tied on a black foam beetle with a deer hair wing. I figured it might be a good late summer fly, and it would float and not hang up on bottom debris. I had come down to the water in a pretty rough spot with lots of trees and brush, so I was restricted to roll casting. It wasn’t long until I had a strike and briefly fought a fish until the hook came free. Promising result! I kept on roll casting, moving a little this way or that and after a few more minutes I got another solid strike. It wasn’t a big one, only about 10”. I could see it had gold sides and when I got it up the fish was disappointingly not a trout, but a large creek chub instead. I fished a bit more and tried to move down the bank, but it was really thick and difficult to walk.

After lunch I returned and tried to fish the downstream side of the bridge. From the bridge, it looked like the bank was a bit cleaner in that direction. I tried, but it was still very rough with downed trees, brush, roots, and other obstacles that again held me to roll casting. I explored a bit, and after no fish action decided to climb up a hill to the back of a baseball field. I jumped the fence and was free of the thick undergrowth. But I note see that the opposite side of the river would be a better place to try.

On Tuesday afternoon I decided to try Hopkins Pond, about a 10 acre lake that the NH Dept. of Wildlife and Fisheries said was stocked with shiner minnows and trout. I went down the bank from the parking spot and found room to cast a fly. But it was shallow there and I figured the trout would be around deeper waters. I walked the banks and once again found very restricted casting room. I was casting the beetle, and the little minnows loved it. It had a #6 hook that they avoided. After about 30 minutes of roll casting the beetle I switched to a #12 beige nymph, thinking the trout might take a deeper fly. I did not get any trout, but I did get about a dozen shiner minnows on the nymph. Maybe the stocked trout were fished out or they were out away from the shore. Anyway, it was a pretty New Hampshire lake that was surrounded by wild blueberries and had a pretty pair of loons in residence.

I took a break from fishing on Wednesday and caught up on my sleep in the afternoon. On Thursday afternoon I tried the Blackwater River again. I went down the steep bank to the better side and was able to get off some full casts. It wasn’t long until I got a couple of chubs on the nymph. Then I made a long cast toward a fallen log in the water and hooked a fish that felt a bit different and fought better. It came into view and became a trout. I was excited and as I lifted it the hook came out of it’s mouth. It was loose and flopped in the rocks and I scooped it up, took a quick photo, and revived and released it. Later I looked up it’s image and saw it was a brook trout. I always wanted to catch one, and now that fish is checked off the list. I got another chub and then noticed a big snapping turtle swimming around by the rocks. It came up to me within an arms reach and seemed to want food from me. Perhaps people had been feeding it, because it was not wary of me at all. It was time for the meeting to resume, so I hustled back to the dorm, got cleaned up and met with more researchers. This meeting was a professional and a piscatorial success. The meeting will return to this school in 2 years. Maybe then I’ll be up for some river wading to get off the bank so I can cast more. I also hope to try for some smallmouth bass on the fly. For now, I’m back to New Orleans and hoping to hook up with a jack crevalle on my #10 weight fly rod. They will be hanging out in Lake Pontchartrain until October.

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Delacroix marsh 8-10-2017

Wind: 0-3 mph from S

Tide: falling, high scheduled about 5 pm at the Shell Beach station

Water Level: a little low, just below the grass line

Water Temperature: ~85 F

Water Clarity: variable, a foot or less, but some spots were relatively clean

Water salinity: N/A

Weather/sky: sunny early, then turned to thunderstorms

Temperature: ~ 78, going up to 90 F for high

Moon: waning , half moon

Solunar period: major period @ 5 p.m.

Time on the water: 6 a.m. to 10:00 am

Water covered: ~ 5 miles

Other fishers: solo trip

Game Plan: Woke up about 4:30 am, got in the truck and headed down to Delacroix. I stopped at the drive through at Gerald’s in Chalmette for coffee and donuts to charge the battery. Combat launched off the roadside, hit the bayou, and tried some new water that I had never fished before.

Gear: 1 x spinning and 1 x fly rod.

Lures: I tied a small 1/8 oz gold Johnson weedless spoon on since the weed beds were thick and the water was shallow. I had a weedless spoon fly on the long rod.

Strategy/ patterns: Good sight fishing conditions today until the storms kicked up. I spent a good bit of the morning standing, but never got a sure sight of a redfish (did see a few large wakes). I did see a ton of gar (spotted and alligator) and mullet (some big ones) everywhere. I did hear one large redfish grunt and saw its mud trail as I paddled over it. The water was between a foot to two feet with weeds, so I paddled a good bit rather than pedaled. There was no real pattern for today since I did not really get into any fish. This happened last August too; some stretches of Delacroix marsh that previously produced well for me were totally devoid of redfish. Maybe it gets too hot/hypoxic for them and they head for better water. Mullet and gar can take the hypoxic water since they can gulp air.

Saw lots of gators in various sizes of up to about 10 ft.

A little cloud came over about 6:30 and drizzled on me. When I looked back to where it came from out of the SW there was a double rainbow. It went past and grew into a big thunderstorm, but it had moved off and was not a concern at that point. About 9 a.m. the clouds started building and I decided not to go any further. I began to work my way back in and by 9:30 it was clear I needed to haul it back to the truck. The grumbling thunder and growing black clouds got my old butt moving at a good pace.

I checked out Reggio Marina on the way back up highway 300. The little office was padlocked shut and the parking lot was empty. A big for sale sign was near the little bridge over the Reggio Canal.

Major roadwork and repairs to the rock rip-rap along the Bayou Terre aux Boeufs continue, so be careful if you travel this way. It’s easy to get down there early, but there are places that were down to one lane on the way back. There is loose gravel on the roadsides and workers have piled up rocks in some spots. This could make a combat launch difficult.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Delacroix, July 25, 2017

Wind: 5 mph picking up to about 10mph, from the W

Tide: very little water moving, starting to rise a bit later in the morning. Range over a foot, high scheduled at 4 pm at the Shell Beach station

Water Level: low, lots of bank showing.

Water Temperature: ~88 F

Water Clarity: poor, a foot or less, but some spots were relatively clean

Water salinity: N/A

Weather/sky: sunny with a haze

Temperature: ~ 78, going up to 93 F for high

Moon: new

Solunar period: minor at 9 am, major period @ 4 pm.

Time on the water: 6 a.m. to 11:30 am

Water covered: ~ 5 miles on the map, but did a lot of extra pedaling and paddling due to wind and to hold a position while casting.

Other fishers: solo trip

Game Plan: I picked Tuesday to fish because it was the first day in a long time without much chance for a thunderstorm. Woke up about 4 am, got in the truck and headed down to Delacroix, stopped for gas in Chalmette and then grabbed some coffee and donuts at Gerald’s so that I would have lots of energy for fishing. As I was flying down the highway I saw a flashing sign that said something about roadwork ahead but I was going so fast I was past it before the message finished. Good thing the message didn’t say “Bridge Out”. As I passed the last stop sign and got on the Delacroix Highway (Highway 300) I started seeing orange cones on both sides of the road and patches of new asphalt. The roadwork continued all the way to Delacroix. When I got the place I wanted to combat launch off the roadside I was stunned. Construction equipment blocked the site and the area was prepped for some paving. There was no way to launch there, so I headed to Lionel Serigne’s Marina and put it in the water. My game plan was shot and I would have to freelance it on this fishing trip. So I just pedaled the Hobie Outback down past Sweetwater Marina, turned right into Bayou Gentilly, made a quick left into the big pond, and went on until I found some fish.

Gear: 2 x spinning and 2 x bait casting outfits.

Lures: I started with a gold spoon and cast it parallel to weed beds. I had a few taps and missed a redfish that bit it and then buried itself into the weeds and came off. Later I put on a purple/chartreuse Gulp rigged on a weedless 1/16 oz weighted 2/0 worm hook and got a couple of small redfish. Then I tried the Seein’ Spots in line spinner bait with a Saltwater Assassin (plastic) in “chicken on a chain” color and it worked pretty well.

Strategy/ patterns: Not much possibility of sight fishing today. Redfish were hanging off the banks in the dirty water, waiting for the tide so they could get back up in the grass. I spotted a few feeding, but all of my fish were caught by blind casting to fishy looking spots. I passed over several redfish that were bedded down on the bottom. They spooked and drummed a bit as they took off in a big cloud of mud.

It was a good day for seeing animals. Lots of ducks and marsh hens were working the mud banks. Later I saw two otters come down the bank and quickly disappear in the water. Then some piglets came out, and a few minutes later some big hogs came out of the grass. I snapped a photo of two of the big hogs and a small 3’ alligator with its head sticking out of the water to the lower right side of the picture. As I was fishing in a shallow area I saw two really big wakes being pushed by a pair of fish swimming together, but they were moving pretty quickly and were out of casting range and going away from me. A few minutes later I see this large mullet leap really high and for an instant I think “That’s strange” and a millisecond later a big jack crevalle breached right behind it, flashing silver and yellow. I was stunned that such a big fish could have been sneaking around in such shallow water. The big wakes I had seen earlier were probably jacks rather than monster reds. I started back because it was getting hot and I had some stuff to do at work in the afternoon. As I worked my way in I cast the weedless Gulp under a cork along the weedbeds as I approached Bayou Gentilly. I was in sight of Sweetwater Marina when I got the last redfish of the day. It had 8 spots.

I ended the day with 5 redfish, 2 of them were undersized, a 20”, 22” and fat 26”er and a bass. All were released. The fish seemed to like the Gulp and the in line spinner the best today.

On the way home I stopped at the Fish Shack in Chalmette and tried the “Top Feeder”. It was great. They cook some good catfish there – highly recommended – but catfish is all that’s on the menu.

 

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Pointe aux Chene (Oak Point) marsh

 

Wind: 10 mph mostly, with an occasional lull, coming from the S then shifting to SW

Tide: very little

Water Level: a bit above normal, redfish could move up into the submerged grass.

Water Temperature: ~80 F

Water Clarity: good, 2-3 feet visibility in places, but the wind muddied open water

Water salinity: very little, maybe 1 ppt by taste test

Weather/sky: overcast, a few scattered showers around, got a little wet in the morning – breezy and overcast conditions made it comfortable but harder for fishing

Temperature: ~ 85 F for high

Moon: half, waning

Solunar period: major period @ 8 a.m.

Time on the water: 6 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Water covered: ~ 5 miles on the map, but did a lot of extra pedaling and paddling due to wind and to hold a position while casting.

Other fishers: My tournament partner was Allan Simon (pro fly tyer and bowfishing guide). There were about 20 teams participating in this event.

Special Fly Fishing Tournament hosted by Eddie and Lisa Mullen’s Point aux Chene Kayak Rentals (http://packayakrental.com) and Mission Six/Troll Squad Group (a non-profit that benefits first responders and military, https://www.facebook.com/TrollsquadKayakFishing/). About 20 2-person teams participated. Kayakers Catch Cormier and Kevin Andry won the tournament, and Kevin also had the largest slot red for the day. They beat out several teams with the fancy “flats” boats. Congratulations!

Gear: 2 x #8 weight fly rods

Lures: I fished a gold spoon fly most of the day. I also got a speck early in the morning on Clouser minnow fished as a dropper under a Pole Dancer (topwater fly that mimics a spook).

Strategy/ patterns: Redfish seemed to be working upwind to feed on crabs and shrimp. The smaller reds I caught were sometimes in groups. A couple of times I saw their backs out of the water or a tail go up as they were feeding. I worked myself upwind and planned a drift to put me in good casting distance. The fish took the spoon fly like they were supposed to do it.

I ended the day with 7 redfish: 5 were small slot sized redfish from about 16.5 to18”, and 2 were 15”, and 2 speckled trout. Most were released. One of the specks came on the Clouser dropper under the Pole Dancer. All the other fish were caught on the spoon fly. Allan had a good day too, catching several small reds.

 

 

 

Delacroix Marsh 6-10-2017

Wind: 5 mph early, 10-15 mph starting about 8 a.m., coming from the SE

Tide: High was at about 3:00 pm based on Shell Beach station. Range 1.5 ft.

Water Level: at the normal level, rising through the day.

Water Temperature: ~80 F

Water Clarity: fair, 2-3 feet visibility in places, but the wind muddied open water and visibility went to about a foot

Water salinity: not a hint

Weather/sky: sunny

Temperature: ~ 85 F for high

Moon: 1 day after full moon

Solunar period: strong major period @ 3 pm.

Time on the water: 6 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Water covered: ~ 5 miles on the map, but did a lot of extra pedaling and paddling due to wind and to hold a position while casting.

Other fishers: Sean R. Also saw David L. when coming in from fishing

Gear: 2 x #8 weight fly rods

Lures: I fished a purple and gold spoon fly most of the day. I also got a speck early in the morning on a Pole Dancer (topwater fly that mimics a spook).

Strategy/ patterns: Once again the fish were scattered along banks, but I found some small groups of fish working in more open water too. Redfish seemed to be working upwind to feed on crabs and shrimp.

Ended the day with 5 slot sized redfish from about 18” to 26” and an undersized fish, 2 surprise speckled trout (didn’t expect to find them in shallow marsh this time of year), and a gar fish.

Sean had a good day using conventional tackle with double-digit redfish, including one that went 32”. Most of his fish came on the old reliable gold spoon.

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Delacroix marsh 6-4-2017

Wind: 5 mph early, 10-15 mph starting about 8 a.m., coming from the SE

Tide: High was at about 2:00 pm based on Shell Beach station. Range 0.2 ft.

Water Level: at the normal level, rising through the day.

Water Temperature: ~75 F

Water Clarity: fair, 2-3 feet visibility, but the wind muddied open water

Water salinity: not a trace (heavy rain lately)

Weather/sky: mostly hazy, cloudy, with brief sun

Temperature: ~ 82 F for high

Moon: 2/3 waxing

Solunar period: minor @ 10 am

Time on the water: 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Water covered: ~ 5 miles, but did a lot of extra pedaling and paddling due to wind and to hold a position while casting.

Other fishers: ran into Bubby Douglas and his entourage at the launch again– hope they did well.

Gear: 2 x #8 weight fly rods –ignored the wind and stuck with flyrods.

Lures: Spoon flies did all the work today. I also unsuccessfully tried a gurgler for a while.

Strategy/ patterns: Once again the fish were scattered and sitting tight on the bank. Picked up a few fish in cuts between islands with wind blown water pushing through.

Ended the day with 2 undersized reds, 2 slot sized redfish of about 18”, a small bull red of 28”, 2 10” bass, and a gar fish.

Spotted several alligators, lots of bird life, including a pair of purple gallinule with two tiny baby chicks.

Strange event of the day: I saw a tailing redfish in front of me and it went under water for a few seconds so I let my back cast fall into the water and waited. When the redfish came up in front I tried but couldn’t make my forward cast to it. I thought my back cast was snagged but another redfish had come behind me and it bit the spoonfly. I landed it, but wished I had a shot at the larger redfish in front of me.

Delacroix Marsh 5-27-2017

Wind: 10 mph early, 15 mph later from the S and SE
Tide: High was at about 4:00 pm based on Shell Beach station. Range about 1.5 ft.
Water Level: pretty low to start and rising through the day.
Water Temperature: ~75 F
Water Clarity: fair, 2-3 feet visibility, but the wind muddied open water
Water salinity: ?
Weather/sky: mostly hazy, cloudy, with occasional sun poking through
Temperature: ~ 90 F for high
Moon: new
Solunar period: minor @ 9 am, major period @ 4 p.m.
Time on the water: 6:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Water covered: ~ 6 miles, but did a lot of extra pedaling and paddling due to wind and to hold a position while casting.
Other fishers: solo

Gear: 2 x #8 weight fly rods, did not use much due to wind – should have left them in the truck, and Revo baitcaster w Falcon rod, 15# Powerpro braided line.

Lures: I fished mostly with a Seein’ Spots in line spinnerbait rigged with a Saltwater Assassin plastic (chicken on a chain color) and caught 3 reds and a bass on it, then proceeded to lose the next 6 reds that I hooked. I had crimped the barb on the hook to reduce damage to the fish (and to me in case of accident) and am not sure if this was the reason the last 6 fish came unglued. They seemed to be hooked well and I lost them as they were coming in to be landed. I kept tension on the fish at all times. ???

Strategy/ patterns: The fish seemed to be scattered as singles and were hugging tight against the banks during the morning’s low tide. Later I got several fish (or hook ups at least) fishing parallel to weed beds, which are really starting to thicken up now that summer is coming. None of the fish were especially big. Most were around 18-20” – starting to see the more typical summer time sized fish in the marsh.