Happy Jack, LA 3-26-2020

Happy Jack, LA 3/26/2020

Wind: 0 early, gradually increased to 10 mph from S by 2 p.m.

Tide: High ~ 10:30 a.m. range ~ 6 inches based on Empire Station

Water Level: normal

Water Temperature: 75 F

Water Clarity: poor

Water salinity: good salt, 6 ppt

Weather/sky: mostly sunny

Temperature: 70 degrees F, up to ~88 F for high

Moon: new sliver

Solunar period: minor 9 a.m., major period 4 p.m.

Time on water: slipped the Hobie Compass in about 6:45 am, out at 2:30 p.m.

Water covered: ~ 10 miles

Other fishers: solo trip

Gear: One #8 fly rod

Lures: Spoon fly

Strategy/ patterns: sight cast to reds with spoon fly

Once again, with no breeze the gnats and skeeters were tough at the launch. DEET and Amber Romance were applied liberally.

I wanted to try some new duck ponds west of Grand Bayou today. I figured that with low wind that the sight fishing would be good. Wrong. There was a fine suspended material (algae?) that made it impossible to see fish. So it was not a good day to assess the ponds. They looked good, though. Maybe I’ll try them again.

I got a small redfish by casting into cuts as I went out to the ponds.

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Then I caught nothing as I fished around the duck ponds. I headed down a bayou and saw a big wake in some little islands, so I stood up and poled over. I spooked a couple of redfish (heard them drum) and saw big clouds of mud as they took off. Even though I couldn’t see them it seemed that they did not go far. I just waited a minute and saw one faintly through the dirty water. I made a 20 ft. cast to it and it turned down to get the spoon fly. I stuck it hard with a strip strike and it proceeded to drag me around. It was tough to fight the fish in the broken marsh. It kept going around little islands and I tried to keep up using the push pole to keep me off the bank. The fish moved out into open water and I got a net on it, got an approximate measure of 31”, and then released it.

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I figured that after that much ruckus that there wouldn’t be any more fish for half a mile. Wrong. I went back over where I caught the first fish, started to pole, and immediately spooked more redfish. Again, they drummed, stirred up mud, but didn’t leave. So I made some short casts and hooked up again on another bull red. This one took off straight under the kayak and nearly broke my rod. It went around the little islands like the last one and eventually ended up in the open water. It was about the size of the first fish, and I released it quickly.

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I tried the little islands for a third time with the same result. This redfish was just a little shorter, maybe 29”. It was really odd that the fish insisted on hanging out there. And most of them were males because they drummed when they spooked.

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I was mixed on whether to try it again or to try a new spot where the water might be cleaner. I decided to hit one more spot to look for better water. That turned out to be wrong as well. The water in these little ponds had the same suspended material and I could only see mullet when they were on the surface. The wind was picking up and I knew the water was not going to get better, so I headed back to the truck. Not a bad day with an undersized redfish and three oversized ones on the fly rod. I saw lots of wildlife today, including bottlenose dolphin, an eagle, a pair of loons, ducks, a pair of roseate spoonbills, ducks, pelicans, terns, gulls, and an otter. Nice day on the water and now back to work tomorrow. #tforods #hobiecompass #hobiefishing #bayoucoastkayakfishingclub #neworleansflyfishingclub

Hopedale LA, 3-22-2020

Hopedale marsh 3/22/2020

Wind: variable in direction and speed. NE to start at about 7 mph, shifted to E, the N at 15 mph as a little rainstorm passed, then back to E at about 10 mph with gusts.

Tide: Low about noon, range of ~ 10 inches based on Shell Beach Station

Water Level: a bit above normal, just above grass line to start, dropped a few inches below grass line at low tide and was coming back up in the afternoon

Water Temperature: 72 F

Water Clarity: poor in most spots, but I found a pond with clean water

Water salinity: not a hint of salt

Weather/sky: went from gloomy and drizzle to mostly sunny after about 11 a.m.

Temperature: 65 degrees F, up to ~82 F for high

Moon: waning, almost new

Solunar period: major period 12-2 p.m.

Time on water: slipped the Hobie Compass in about 7:30 am, out at 4:30 p.m.

Water covered: ~ 4 miles

Other fishers: solo trip

Gear: A #8 fly rod, bait caster, spinning rod.

Lures: Spoon fly, inline spinner bait, Vudu shrimp (barbs crimped on all for easy release from the fish or from me if I accidentally hook myself)

Strategy/ patterns: Given the conditions, I brought different types of gear and would try to just move around and find whatever was biting. I’d try to sight cast to reds with spoon fly if conditions allowed it.

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Gnats and skeeters attacked as I got the kayak ready and I had to put on repellants to keep them out of my nose and eyes. I launched and trolled a bit, and stopped to fish the corner of the canal and a bayou. Lots of fish were showing up on the Lowrance. I threw the bait caster with the Vudu shrimp but made a bad initial cast and had a backlash. I got the loose line straight and picked up the slack and found the lure had snagged on bottom. Then the snag started pulling drag as it turned into a 5 lb redfish. I got it in and put it into the bag since my wife directed that this trip was supposed to get a few fish for the table. I trolled and casted the area and caught a couple of undersized specks and an undersized redfish. The bite was not very active, so I moved on.

I went about a half-mile and found a bayou that was draining into the canal. There was an obvious break in the water clarity where the bayou was dumping clean water into the dirty water in the canal. I threw the little Vudu shrimp into the edge where the two colors met, and had a tap from a fish. I repeated the cast and got an undersized speck, so I headed into the cleaner water and got a few undersized trout and a couple of 12.5” fish. I caught a small redfish and then had a sharp strike and a good pull from a fish that I thought was a red until I felt the head shake. It was a nice 20” trout that was really thick. Into the fish bag with it.

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I fished further down the bayou and the trout bite fizzled, but I caught another undersized redfish and missed a good UFO (unidentified fish object) that came loose after a few seconds. I had not planned to fish this area but the water really cleaned up as the bayou turned into a duck pond. There was already a good bit of submerged vegetation (a.k.a. grass) coming up and it kept the water clean. I started throwing the inline spinner bait since it’s good for this type of water. I got another thump on the spinner bait and picked up a marsh bass. A few minutes later I missed a hard hit from a nice redfish, so I figured this was a good choice. A few minutes later I saw three redfish working for crabs and got one on the third cast to them. I cast to a little disturbance on the surface of the water and got the biggest fish of the day, a 28” “baby bull” red. It pulled me around a bit, but mostly buried under the vegetation and then tried to break my rod by diving under the kayak several times when it got close. I released this lucky one to be caught another day.

Once the sun got high the fish got picky. They would follow or just peck at the spinner bait, but would not really strike it. Although it was windy I decided to try the fly rod with the spoon fly. I poled along the leeward bank of the pond while trying to keep an eye on the water without getting blown across the pond. I spotted several fish but could not get a cast off before they saw me. I had worked across the most of the pond, and knew there was a redfish sitting in a little pocket. I approached closer, made couple of casts, moved a little closer and repeated the process. I pushed a little closer and the fish darted about 15 feet but then stopped, so I cast to it and surprisingly it turned down to pick up the spoon fly as it wiggled by. I strip set the hook and got the 24” redfish into the kayak. That fish won the “fish of the day” award because I really had to work for it.

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I ended up with 3 trout and 3 reds in the bag, along with some undersized fish and one oversized fish that were released. I went over to Hopedale Marina to clean my fish and found it was full of trucks and trailers. Everybody and his brother were out fishing to put some meat on the table and in the freezer and to shake off the cabin fever. Fishing from a kayak is certainly a good activity when we are being asked to avoid contact with others.

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Hopedale, LA 3-15-2020

Wind: 0 early, slowly came up to 10 mph, N and shifted to E as the day progressed

Tide: Low at 4 a.m, high 6:30 p.m. range of ~ 1.5 ft. based on Shell Beach Station

Water Level: very low to start – lots of bank bottom showing – water was above normal level by about 2 p.m., coming in fast

Water Temperature: 66-75 F

Water Clarity: dirty water – 1 foot or less visibility

Water salinity: fresh

Weather/sky: lightly overcast all day with sunny periods

Temperature: 65 degrees F, up to ~82 F for high

Moon: waning, half moon

Solunar period: major period 7-9 a.m., minor period at noon

Time on water: slipped the Hobie Compass in about 7:30 a.m., out at 4:00 p.m.

Water covered: ~ 6 miles

Other fishers: solo trip

Gear: One #8 fly rod

Lures: Spoon fly (barb crimped)

Strategy/ patterns: try to sight cast to reds with spoon fly.

The forecast looked pretty good for sight fishing. Gnats and skeeters hit me hard as soon as I got out of my truck. I retaliated with Deep Woods Off and V.S. Amber Romance. The combination kept them off and I kept reapplying about every 15 minutes. I pushed the kayak off and got away from the bank in hope that the biters would not follow. The repellants sort of worked and I managed to get the kayak rigged up to fish.

I went to a favorite deep hole that is at the mouth of a bayou that intersects a canal. There was mullet activity all over the place and it looked like some fish had them surrounded. I cast out and BAM! I brought in a nice 22” redfish. This would be repeated for about the next 2 hours. I was getting a redfish on almost every cast. They were not very big, but they were plentiful and hungry. After losing count of the caught fish I decided to try some other flies and first selected a large popper. No luck on that so I switched to a large streamer and nada. I put the spoon fly back on the line and caught three more redfish, including one of 26”.

It was about noon and I went into the duck ponds. The water was of better clarity – maybe 2 feet – but the bottom was already getting weedy and grassy from the early spring. Picked up another redfish at the entrance to the pond. I stood and poled along but the fish were hard to spot. I finally saw a nice redfish and cast to it, but it slipped away. A little later I came across a ~ 30” redfish but couldn’t get a cast to it in time.

The bite shut down as the afternoon progressed. The water came up quickly and was dirty and full of floating weeds. It became hard to fish as the wind came up as well. I couldn’t see any redfish when I stood up, but I was able to cast to a few spotted gar that were hugging the bank. I scared two away but got one to eat and hooked it in the throat. It was a fantastic morning followed up with a really slow afternoon.

Hopedale, 2-23-20

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Wind: 5-10 mph, SE

Tide: Low at noon, range of ~ 1 ft. based on Shell Beach Station

Water Level: very low to start – lots of bank bottom showing – water was up to normal level about 3 p.m., being pushed in by the wind

Water Temperature: 60 F

Water Clarity: dirty water – 1 foot or less visibility

Water salinity: very fresh

Weather/sky: mostly clear and sunny

Temperature: cold start at 45 degrees F, up to ~65 F for high

Moon: waning, almost new

Solunar period: minor period 7-8 a.m., major period 1-3 p.m.

Time on water: slipped the Hobie Compass in about 7:45 am, out at 4:00 p.m.

Water covered: ~ 9 miles

Other fishers: solo trip

Gear: One #8 fly rods, and a spinning rod for blind searching

Lures: A gold spoon fly (barb crimped) was on the fly rod and a chartreuse Gulp! curly tail mullet with a ¼ oz. jig (barb crimped) was on the spinning rig. I fished it free and with a cork.

Strategy/ patterns: troll for trout when moving, and sight cast to reds with spoon fly once in the ponds.

The forecast looked fair for sight fishing. Wind was low in the morning but had increased by 11 a.m.. The dirty water made spotting fish difficult.

I tried a new duck pond to start. It was shallower than I had expected, being a foot or less in most places. There was a deeper, short, man-made canal that fed into the duck pond. The redfish were stacked at the junction of the two.

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The low water levels had the fish stacked at the mouth of pond in case they needed to get out if the water level dropped any more. This would be the pattern for the day. The fish were pretty lethargic. Most were sitting on the bottom, and the ones I did catch had leeches on their bellies. Leeches are indicative of the fishes’ inactivity, probably due the recent cold snap. I caught a redfish on the Gulp! bait and then switched to the spoon fly and caught five more. The fish were not very big; 16-22” but they were hungry and most of them took the fly deep in their mouths.

 

After playing with these guys for an hour or so I decided to try another area about a mile away.

The water in the next duck pond was worse than the first. I stood up and looked for fish but all I could see were the “clouds” of muddy water that resulted when the fish were spooked. I went into a bayou off the pond and found some action on a flat that was about a foot deep. It seemed the fish were coming out on the flat to warm up, but they were not showing themselves. There were lots more “mud clouds” and drums from the male reds as they took off. I finally got a 22” fish to take the fly. I worked my way to another pond off the bayou and then started back for the truck. I was headed upwind, so I switched to the spinning rod and cast the Gulp! rigged about a foot under a sliding cork. I caught a 24” redfish, an undersized redfish, and then a 28” redfish that turned out to be the best one of the day. It came to the kayak pretty quickly and then went wild when I had it on a short leash. The fish kept running under the kayak, with a chance to snag the line or break the rod. Fortunately, I responded quickly enough and eventually the redfish hit the net. I got the Boga grip in its mouth, slipped the hook out, and released it without it ever leaving the water.

I trolled the Gulp! down a main canal as I came in for the landing and picked up a 12” trout. Later, I cast into a cut as I passed and got another trout about the size of the others. I ended the day with seven slot redfish, with one over and two under the slot, three speckled trout, and a small bass. All were released to catch again later.

Hopedale Marsh 2-2-2020

Hopedale marsh
Wind: 5-12 mph, W, NW.
Tide: Low 7 am, range of ~ 1 ft. based on Shell Beach Station
Water Level: looowww
Water Temperature: 57 F
Water Clarity: dirty water, found a little cleaner water a few miles out on the leeward side of pond
Water salinity: did not check
Weather/sky: clear and sunny
Temperature: cold start at 40 degrees F, up to ~65 F for high
Moon: half-full, waxing
Solunar period: major period 7-9 a.m.
Time on water: slipped the Hobie Outback in about 7:30 am, out at 4:00 p.m.
Water covered: ~ 8 miles
Other fishers: solo trip
Gear: One #8 fly rods, and a spinning rod for early blind searching
Lures: A gold spoon fly (barb crimped) was on the fly rod and a chartreuse Gulp! curly tail mullet with a ¼ oz. jig was on the spinning rig. I fished it free and with a cork.
Strategy/ patterns: troll for trout when moving, and sight cast to reds with spoon fly once in the ponds.
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I left the house and stopped at the City Donut Shop for a bag of doughnut holes and a large coffee. It’s a good place to grab an early morning breakfast since it’s open all the time. Donut holes maximize sugar intake, and the black coffee should be just enough to produce an eye twitch every now and then. Now I’m ready for fishing. The forecast looked good for early sight fishing. Wind was low in the morning, picked up about 10 a.m., and was pretty strong by noon. By then I could not stand and cast on the chance of being blown out of the kayak.
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I had to drag the kayak out about 20 feet from the shoreline before I could get it in the water. The water level was down about 4 feet below normal. A big stump near the shoreline had water marks on it that showed where a normal water level should be.
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I trolled out to the ponds but the water was pretty dirty (visibility about a foot) and did not get a hit on the Gulp! Got into a big pond and headed to the leeward side, stood up, and push poled along the bank. The sun was warming up the shallow water along the bank and I figured there should be some redfish on the prowl soon. It wasn’t long until I saw a redfish coming along the bank. I made a good cast of about 30 feet and it ate the spoon fly. I strip set the hook and squatted down into my seat as the fish took line. I got it in and got a good look. It was a 25” calico redfish with about 30 spots on each side. I slipped the hook out and set it free without ever taking it from the water. There had been a recent cold snap and the fish’s belly had lots of leeches, a good indicator that the fish had recently spent some time hunkered on the bottom.
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I went a bit further and picked up a nice red of about 28” that took all the fly line out and got into the backing before I could crank down the drag. That was a fun fish. I saw more fish tailing down the bank, but by the time I worked my way to them they had disappeared. I moved on down the bank but did not encounter any more tailers.

I moved over to a drain and missed a small bass that shook loose as it danced on the surface. A few minutes later I got a 15” redfish by blind casting into the deep (6-8 ft.) trough in the middle of the drain. A few casts later another 24” redfish hit the spoon fly and I got it in. Then the action stopped.
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I decided to try the area where I saw the fish tailing so I circled back and poled down the bank. I got another tailing 24” redfish and then spooked a sheepshead. That made me frustrated because I’ve been trying to get a sheepshead on a fly for a while. I don’t see sheepshead too often and usually spook them before I can get a cast off to them. When I do get to cast to them they don’t eat my fly, and on the rare occasions when they did eat it they shook free. So…… I see a nice sheepshead and this time it does not flee, and I get a cast to it. The cast was a few feet too far left of the fish and it did not see the spoon fly. I overcompensate and go a little to far to the right on the next cast. The third cast was just right, it was well beyond the fish and I stripped it to get it closer. I used the technique that Capt. Rich Waldner told me to use when fishing the spoon fly. Once the fly was close I let it sink to the bottom and just moved it an inch, paused, and repeated. The sheepshead reacted and turned down, picked the fly off the bottom, and started off with it. I stripped the line and got a good hook set. A couple of minutes later I brought it to the net and got it into the cooler bag. Sheepshead is my favorite fish to eat among the inshore species, so I kept it and grilled it the next night.
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I went down a little bayou that fed into another small pond. There was a shallow flat where the bayou opened up. The wind was blowing across the dirty-watered flat, and I sensed it should hold some fish even though I couldn’t see them. I got an undersized redfish of about 14” and then a slot fish of about 18”. I put that one for a buddy who had requested fish. After that the spot went quiet. It was about 2 p.m. so I started back toward the truck. I decided to try that first productive stretch of bank in the big pond once again. The water was dirtier now due to the wind. I made some blind casts to a few points and cuts and hooked into a redfish of about 20”. I threw it in the bag for my buddy. I trolled the way back to the truck but had no bites on the Gulp! mullet. It wasn’t a good day for speckled trout fishing, but overall it was a surprisingly good day for redfish given the dirty water and breezy conditions later in the morning.
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I have been working on a method to facilitate catch and release with minimal impact to the fish. With this method I don’t have to touch or remove the fish from the water. I have a wide-mouth net that floats, a Boga grip, and a pointed–nose pliers that are all hooked together for easy access. I added an additional float to make sure the whole outfit stays afloat (tested it to be sure). The steps are to 1) us a fly or lure with a crimped barb, 2) bring the fish into the net but don not lift it from the water, 3) secure the Boga grip (or any fish grip) into the fish’s mouth, 4) remove fish from the the net without lifting it from the water. 5) keeping the fish in the water, use the pliers to free the hook. The hook will usually will come out easily since the barb is mashed down. 6) release the lip grip and the fish will swim away. There is usually no need to resuscitate the fish since it never left the water. Let me know if you have any additional suggestions. (Note: all fish shown out of the water were kept for the table.)

Delacroix marsh, 12-8-19

Delacroix marsh

Wind: 5-0 mph, shifting from N, E, S.

Tide: Low 10 am, range of ~ 0.6 ft. based on Shell Beach Station

Water Level: normal

Water Temperature: 60 F

Water Clarity: variable found some cleaner water about 2 miles out in the ponds

Water salinity: nada

Weather/sky: mostly clear and sunny

Temperature: ~70 F for high

Moon: ¾ of full, waxing

Solunar period: major period at 10 am

Time on water: slipped the Hobie Outback in about 7 am, out at 4:30 p.m.

Water covered: ~ 6 miles

Other fishers: Jeff W.

Gear: Two #8 fly rods, and bait caster for early blind searching

Lures: A purple/gold spoon fly (barb crimped) and a chartreuse clouser were on the fly rods. An inline spinner was on the casting rod.

Strategy/ patterns: look for trout in a few scour holes I found, and sight cast to reds with spoon fly in the ponds.

I had been watching the forecast and it was shaping up into what would be a special day. Great conditions for standing and flycasting. I ran into a couple of Bayou Coast Kayak Fishing Club guys at the Last Stop while getting ice. It turned out they were heading where I was going to fish, so I gave the newbies a few tips and wished them luck.

I started out slinging the bait caster while the light was low. It is lots of work to blind cast with a fly rod as you go along, so a bait caster does this job better. I did not catch anything so I switched to the fly rod with the clouser when I got to the first spot. The marsh where I fish is shallow, 3 ft or less, but I have found a few spots between points where the narrowing has caused some scouring that produced a deeper hole of 5-6 ft. Specks like to hang around here as bait pushes through. The breeze was blowing from the north to south, but my fly line was being pulled quickly in the opposite direction by a pretty good current. I only made a cast or two until I had a hard strike and got a small bass. Another cast, another strike and almost got a trout. Next cast, rat red. Then I got a nice trout, a smaller trout, and a bunch more rat reds.  The action slowed, so I moved down to another scour and caught several more rat reds, but not trout.

I moved out to the ponds where the bigger redfish hang out and switched to the spoon fly. The water was clean and I started searching for reds. I stood up and poled the kayak around to get a better light angle. It was about 9:30 and the sun was getting high enough to sight fish. I saw a nice sized redfish cruising the bank with its back out of the shallow water. I poled up about even to it and a nice 40 ft cast away from it. By the time I could put the stake down, pickup the rod, and strip line off for a cast the fish had moved away and I couldn’t get a cast in front of it. I started to follow the fish and then noticed another one was tailing about 20 ft. right behind me. A quick cast and I got the 24” red and released it for another angler.

It was a crazy day. Lots of redfish spotted, but they were on the move and it was hard to get in front of them. I saw a couple of fish working in a little pocket and took a short video with my phone. Then I cast to them and got a 25” redfish and released it.

I caught 4 more slot reds from 17-26”. The biggest one came right to me along with four of its buddies. They were tailing, slashing at bait, and moving right toward me. I wanted to take a picture but they were coming so quickly that there was no time. I flipped a short 20 ft. cast to them, there was a big swirl, a strip set, and I was hooked up on tough fish that spun me around a half dozen times before I got it to the net. I picked up a nice 28” redfish on the in line spinner bait while blind casting on the way back in.

Other notes: only saw a couple of small flocks of ducks flying early and very few shots fired – not a good hunting day. Saw a small gator, a roseate spoonbill, lots of other birds, and nutria – wildlife was active today.

Summary for the day: a spotted gar, four specks, two bass, a bunch of rat reds and 6 redfish landed on fly and another on the bait caster.  I kept the four specks and two of the smaller slot redfish for supper and released the rest.

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.