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.

IMG_1350

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.

IMG_1351

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”.

 

 

Delacroix, LA, July 25, 2019

Wind: 10-15 mph, NE.

Tide: high 9:50 am, range of ~ 0.8 ft. based on Shell Beach Station

Water Level: a little above normal, rising a bit through the day

Water Temperature: 84 F

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

Water salinity: none

Weather/sky: clear early, giving way to clouds

Temperature: started at 73 F, 86 F for high

Moon: waning half moon

Solunar period: good period at 7-8 am, minor period at 2 pm

Time on water: slipped the Hobie Compass (first trip in new kayak) in at 7 am, out at 3:30 p.m.

Water covered: ~ 5 miles

Other fishers: Solo

Gear: two #8 fly rods, bait caster

Lure: green hornet colored Matrix Shad on an in line spinner bait.

Also threw a white gurgler and a spoon fly with the fly rods.

Strategy/ patterns: Redfish were holding in wind blown cuts between small islands.

 

A rare July cool front came through and dropped the temperature from sweltering to almost pleasant. Risk of thunderstorms was 10%, so I threw the fishing brick. The brick landed on the ground, so that meant it was time to go fishing. The wind and stained water made the day sub-optimal for fly fishing (no sight fishing today), so I brought a bait caster along for insurance. I threw the in-line spinner bait most of the time. I picked up the best fish of the day, a 28” redfish, after about 20 minutes of fishing. When I got it in the net I saw that it had recently battled another angler as indicated by an old hook site on the opposite jaw from where I hooked it. I got the hook out (barb crushed for easy release) and let the fish go without ever taking it out of the water.

PLNN2978

I worked my way out to a big pond and then changed my plan on where to fish. The water was dirty and there were whitecaps that I didn’t want to play in considering this was my first time in the Hobie Compass. I moved over into some broken marsh islands and found a little break from the wind and cleaner water as well. I caught several more fish, but the surprising theme of the day was lost fish. About a dozen redfish would be on the line for a few seconds and then came free. I checked the hook and it was still sharp and pointed. Strange.

I started back toward the truck, heading downwind, and broke out the fly rod with the spoon fly. I couldn’t cast too far with the wind, but I could hit some cuts between the islands as I passed silently. I landed one of about 18” and again had two more shake loose.

IMG_1333

Summary for the day: 7 redfish landed, over a dozen missed.

 

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.

VLBH4964

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.

KKFN3792

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.

IMG_1260

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.