Hopedale, LA 9-19-2021

Love the blue tails on the marsh redfish.

Wind: 0-10 from mostly SSE through the day.

Tide: 1.5’ range based on Shell Beach station, high at 2:17 p.m., rising all day  

Water Level: way up in the grass maybe 2.5 feet or more above normal

Water Temperature: ~ 80 F

Water Clarity: good in main canals, but poor (2/10) in the ponds

Water salinity: didn’t check  

Weather/sky: sunny early, then scattered clouds, light rain about noon

Temperature: ~ 85 F for high

Moon: almost full

Solunar period: major around noon, just before high tide.

Launch: slipped the Hobie Compass in about 7 a.m., out at 3 p.m.

Water covered: ~ 7 miles

Other fishers: Solo    

Gear: 8 weight fly rod with a spoon fly

Strategy/ patterns: blind and sight cast for redfish

Post-hurricane Ida trip #2

Lots of the gas stations and stores above the flood gates have reopened. Oyster, shrimp, and crab fishers are going again, and some of the marinas (Shell Beach, Hopedale) are open for business. I heard that the marinas on the Delacroix side are still under repairs. Mud and pooled water still cover much of the lower parish. The parking lot at Pip’s launch was unusable due to mud. I parked off the roadside and combat launched into Bayou la Loutre, headed down a canal and hit the ponds.

For the first time in a while, it was not like a sauna out in the marsh. Pretty soon it will be pleasant as fall is coming. I did not hear any shooting from teal hunters, so I watched out for decoys and eased into some favorite ponds. I was restricted to blind casting due to the dirty water, so I tried to target any little pocket, drain, intersection, or other feature that might hold a redfish. It was about 9 a.m. when caught my first redfish. I proceeded to catch a fish sporadically every hour or so. At one drain I pulled out a redfish, released it, and then caught a nice bass on the next cast. By nice bass, I mean nicer than the average marsh bass of about a foot. This one was a whopping 14.5”. I missed a few redfish that spit the hook. I ended the day with the bass and six redfish, the biggest going about 25”. Not a bad day for the very high and dirty water.

Hopedale, LA 9-11-2021

Wind: 5-10 from N, switching to SE through the day

Tide: 1’ range based on Shell Beach station, high at 6 a.m., falling hard most of the day  

Water Level: high in the grass maybe a foot above normal

Water Temperature: ~ 85 F

Water Clarity: 3/10 most places, 8/10 in one spot

Water salinity: didn’t check

Weather/sky: mostly sunny, scattered clouds

Temperature: ~ 88 F for high

Moon: quarter, waxing

Solunar period: major at 4-6 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 weight fly rod with a spoon fly

Strategy/ patterns: blind and sight cast for redfish

Post-hurricane Ida trip

Chalmette looked OK as I passed by, but things started to look rough below Violet. Lots of boats and campers were still behind the flood wall on highway 46. After I turned left at the stop sign to head to Hopedale it got really bad. The whole area had been underwater and was caked in marsh mud. Some of the buildings were destroyed but others were OK. Large mats of marsh grass were piled along the road, blocking access to the water for bank fishers and kayakers who combat launch off the highway. Hopedale Marina was open though, and a few boats were launching from there.

The water was poor at the launch spot, and it did not clear up in the canals or bayous. I found one drain on a lee shore that had about 30-40 yards of clean water. I spotted several redfish and eventually caught and released 2 medium-sized slot reds there. I lost another when it came at me, and I couldn’t keep the line taught enough. I crimp the barb on my hooks and occasionally lose a fish when it does this. Later I got a small spotted gar after casting to the disturbance it was making at the edge of some weeds.

It was opening day of teal season (I did not see any teal all day), but I did not hear any shooting. I slipped into a favorite duck pond. No hunters were there, but I did see several redfish in a school coming down the bank in about a foot of water. I cast nearby and when I stripped the spoon fly they scattered. Weird reaction. I made some blind casts without luck, and then one started feeding again. This time the fish took the fly and it put up a good battle. It was an upper slot fish of around 7 lbs. I netted and released it for another day.

I went over to a little bayou and hooked and lost what was probably a bass. A couple of minutes later I caught a bass of about 12”. Then I had another redfish bite and then charge right at me. Again, the line tension wasn’t sufficient, and the hook slipped out. There were some fish around, but it was getting late. I didn’t want to violate a curfew, so I headed home. Ended up with three reds, a bass, and a gar for the day. It wasn’t a terrible day given the poor water conditions – and I got in a much-needed fishing trip.

One unusual thing was the large number of snakes that were swimming around today. I rarely see snakes (cause the gators and redfish eat them ), but today I saw 7. They were all harmless ones, so no worries. I saw 3 alligators as well. One was a beast (12 feet?), and the other two were about 6 and 4 feet long.  

Summer Summary

I’ve been a bit lazy and worn out from the heat of this summer and have been lax in posting reports when I get home. When it isn’t hot, there has been rain and thunderstorms.  Southeast Louisiana has already surpassed the typical annual rainfall of ~62 inches and we still have 4 moths left in the year. It has been year that’s characterized by wacky weather, and the fishing has not been as easy or productive for me.  

I am adding some quick updates to the blog this afternoon.

8/21/2021 – a heat index of 105-110 F made me (again) stick close to home. I headed to City Park and walked around “Big Lake” looking for bedding bluegill sunfish. This August full moon is probably the last of the year for bedding (mating) sunfish. I started fishing at sunup but did not have much luck. The fish were not in the usual bedding spots. I finally encountered some fish that were concentrated along the bank and caught a nice 8” fish and a few smaller ones. Something large (bass, carp, or gar?) sucked my caddis fly imitation off the surface. I hauled down on the fly line and snapped the 5x tippet. I replaced it and caught a good number (20?) bluegills. As the sun rose, they seemed to make their way to the usual bedding spots and the fishing picked up despite the growing heat. I also spent some time casting to a pair of bedding Rio Grande cichlids but only got them to follow the fly.

8/15 – Bayou St. John – sticking close because of the heat. Got an early start and ended up with a small bass and a handful of bluegills on a foam popper and a caddis fly.

8/5/2021 – I made a trip to Grand Isle, LA with the intent of catching some speckled trout. I arrived before daylight and tried fishing under the lights of some camps. Fish were there, shrimp were popping, but I only caught some undersized speckled and white trout.  After daylight, I headed toward Caminada Pass and fished some of the marsh and rocky breakwaters without any success. The water was dirty, and I probably should have been fishing on the other side of highway 1 given the NE wind. I spooked a few redfish and finally caught a small one.

July 18 – Delacroix – I got out early and found a few redfish, landed 3, and then saw the dark clouds forming and heard thunder approaching. Better judgement kicked in and I headed to the truck. Water clarity was not great. It seemed the weeds were starting to die off.  

July 11- Elmer’s Island. Got on the water about 7 a.m. I fished the lagoon without any luck. Several bottlenose dolphin fished with me. I got to the gut in the beach that opens to Caminada Pass and caught a couple of small speckled trout. The water was kinda dirty. I had some shots at redfish and sheepshead. Thought I had a take from a redfish but it turned out to be a hard head catfish – a first for me on the spoon fly.

Hopedale 8-1-2021

Hopedale, LA 8/1/2021

Wind: 0-8 from the WNW

Tide: 1.2’ range based on Shell Beach station. high at 9 a.m.  

Water Level: a few inches in the grass, falling after 10 a.m.

Water Temperature: ~ 90 F

Water Clarity: 2/10 to 10/10

Water salinity: didn’t check

Weather/sky: mostly sunny, scattered clouds

Temperature: ~ 90 F for high

Moon: half, waning

Solunar period: major 6-8 a.m.

Launch: slipped the Hobie Compass in about 6:00 a.m., out at 3:30 p.m.

Water covered: ~ 7 miles

Other fishers: Dan R. and Robert B.    

Gear: 8 weight fly rod with spoon fly

Strategy/ patterns: blind and sight cast for redfish

It was going to be a hot day, so rather than try to resuscitate fish I decided to keep a few. I got some ice for the fish and for me. One of my hot day tricks is to put some ice in my hat to reduce the overheating. I was a little early getting to the launch. I met Robert there, and Dan would be there soon. I went about a mile and a half before I started fishing. I pulled a 17” redfish out of a little cut at 7 a.m. and then went another half mile. The sun was not high enough for sight fishing, so I anchored about 30 feet off a point and started blind casting. I got a bite that I thought was a small redfish and then it turned into a flounder. It was my first flounder with the fly rod, and naturally, it bit the spoon fly.

I had a redfish approaching me from behind and got off an awkward over the shoulder cast toward it. I hooked up and fought the fish for about 30 seconds before it spat the hook at me. I would lose 2 more fish like this today – each time the line was very taught, and it seemed I just pulled the hook out.

I started poling the kayak downwind and found some clean water and spooked a couple of fish. I then headed into a pond and found some redfish and sheepshead stacked along a leeward shoreline. I scared about a dozen fish and finally got a point blank take as I dropped a fly in front of a passing redfish at rod’s length. I was a nice ~ 25-26” fish. I chased a few more around the pond and then left.

I headed up a narrow bayou and was about to turn around when I saw an 18” redfish come off the bank. I cast several times to the place where it disappeared and was about to give up and then it struck. I landed the fish, put it in the bag, went about 20 yards and repeated the process with a twin redfish. I went a little further and spooked some nice redfish. I would have liked to have hung around and caught the fish, but the weather was getting bad.

I had waited too long, and a storm rapidly built up overhead. I realized I could not beat the storm to the truck, so I hunkered down for about 20 minutes while it passed. I cleaned the fish at the marina and then headed home. I ended up with 4 redfish, a flounder and 3 missed fish. Not too bad for the start of the Dog Days of August.

Summary: First half of 2021

I have been keeping semi-accurate records of my fishing trips for several years. I post the general location, conditions, equipment used, and other information to help me remember the whens, wheres, whats, and hows that make up the trips. I sort of file the data away in my head and look back to it when I consider a new outing.

So far this year, I’ve made 21 trips – some were to local ponds, but most were to the brackish marshes in St. Bernard Parish. I have mainly targeted redfish with a fly rod from my kayak, and on those trips the bass, speckled trout, and other species are usually accidental by-catch. Here are the results for the first half of the year. The “bream” category is mostly comprised of bluegill sunfish, with a few red ear, long ear, and others. Almost all of the fish were caught on fly equipment, and only artificial flies or lures were used.

redfish – 63
speckled trout – 8
bass – 22
sheepshead – 1
bream – 28
catfish – 1
Rio Grande cichlid – 1

Hopedale, LA 7/4/2021

Wind: 0-5 from the W

Tide: 1’ range based on Shell Beach station. high at 10 a.m.  

Water Level: low, rising

Water Temperature: ~85 F

Water Clarity: 2/10 to 7/10

Water salinity: didn’t check

Weather/sky: mostly overcast, some sunny breaks in the clouds

Temperature: ~ 90 F for high

Moon: half, waning

Solunar period: minor 8 a.m.

Launch: slipped the Hobie Compass in about 8:30 a.m., out at 12 p.m.

Water covered: ~ 4 miles

Other fishers: solo    

Gear: 10 weight fly rod, spoon fly

Strategy/ patterns: blind and sight cast for redfish

There was a morning window for sight fishing today, so I headed to Delacroix. The water was super low, and I did not feel like shoveling my way out to the fish. Delacroix was a no go. I turned around and headed to Hopedale, where I knew there would be more water.

I went to the first duck pond I could find because time would be a limitation today. I went to one side of the pond, but it was dirty, so I tried the other side. It was shallow and weedy, but it had redfish. I missed my first shot at a pair of smaller redfish, then moved about 10 yards down the bank and spied a tailing fish headed to me. I stuck my push pole and waited until it was about 30 feet away. It took a few casts before the fish saw the spoon fly and then it struck and shot off toward the middle of the pond. I put the brakes on the redfish and held the rod high to keep the fish out of the weeds. I got it in and released the 25″ redfish after some extra resuscitation.

I went another 10-15 yards down the bank and found a larger fish headed toward me. I repeated the process, and this time a nice 28″ fish came in.

I released the redfish and wanted to go for more, but there was thunder and a low dark cloud in the distance. It looked like rough weather was coming, so I headed in. Along the way, I met a ~ 10-foot alligator. It submerged, and I made my exit. Happy July 4!

P.S. I have purchased some new fishing clothing from a company called SHELTA (I have no affiliation). Fishing from a kayak in south Louisiana, I need clothing that’s cool and has great sun protection. I first bought a hat called the Seahawk. It has a wide brim but a rigid bill, so it doesn’t flop in my face. I liked the hat, so I got a hoodie and some gloves. The hoodie protected the sides of my head that tend to get a sunburned stripe between my Buff and the baseball type hat that I used to wear. The hoodie also has thumb and middle finger loops so that it won’t move up. The back of my hand and wrist no longer are exposed after lots of casting. I got the SHELTA gloves too – they are light and seem to be well made. So far, I have been happy with this new sun protection gear.

NEW ORLEANS – CITY PARK- JUNE 30, 2021

I went to City Park early this morning before work. It’s been stormy during the day so I tried to beat the rain by getting out and fishing from about 6:30 a.m. until 9 a.m. I started with a #8 foam popper and started getting lots of hits and misses from little fish. I moved down the bank and found some better ones that could eat the fly. The action slowed, so I switched to a soft hackle fly and caught a few more. I lost the fly when it hung in the grass on a back cast. I switched to a tadpole fly and caught a couple of bluegill and a Rio Grande cichlid, and then lost this fly as well. So I switched to a black spider and got a few more. I lost it on the backcast as well. The grass at the park is overgrown and very high, and I was using a 6x tippet that’s pretty fragile. I think that is the reason for the lost flies.

I ended the morning with ~8 bluegill, 3 bass, and a Rio Grand cichlid on various flies. None of the fish were big. The water was low and a bit on the dirty side. I think the park managers are keeping it low due to the daily heavy rains we have been getting. There is still lots of algae on the bottom, so I did not try any weighted flies today. They were hitting the popper until about 7:30 and then I went to sub-surface flies. I saw some whopper carp but they were content to eat the algae.

Hopedale, LA 6/26/2021

Wind: 10-15 from the SE

Tide: 2’ range based on Shell Beach station. high at 4 p.m.  

Water Level: high in the grass, rising all day

Water Temperature: ~85 F

Water Clarity: 2/10 to 7/10

Water salinity: didn’t check

Weather/sky: partly sunny, scattered clouds

Temperature: ~ 90 F for high

Moon: 2 days post full

Solunar period: major 3 p.m.

Launch: slipped the Hobie Compass in about 9:30 a.m., out at 6 p.m.

Water covered: ~ 8 miles

Other fishers: solo    

Gear: 10 weight fly rod, spoon fly

Strategy/ patterns: blind and sight cast for redfish

I started out with low expectations. The water was in the grass and dirty, and the wind was up. It wasn’t the right conditions for fly fishing, but I pressed on. I picked the fishing area based on advance knowledge that the wind would be up. This is one of the protected areas that I like for windy days. I was disappointed to see a shrimp trawler working in the canal, because this always stirs up the mud. The tide was pouring in hard and carrying the muddy water into all the duck ponds. I would need to find leeward shorelines with grass beds to get better water clarity and a wind break. I started by heading to the most upwind point, knowing I’d appreciate the tailwind on the way back in.

First stop was an old reliable duck pond, but it was too dirty for sight fishing. I headed to an intersection, did some blind casting, and caught and released the first redfish of the morning. I explored a little more and then left in hope of finding better water.

The next stop was a leeward shoreline. The water clarity was better here. I was moving and casting and letting the fly trail behind me at times. There was a big swirl as I picked up the fly to cast, so I flipped the spoon fly about 15 feet behind me and gave it a strip. A nice ~27” redfish ate it and put up a good fight. I resuscitated it and released the fish. I staked out in the cut and caught another undersized redfish and then moved on.

I went to a long duck pond and headed to the leeward end. It was very grassy, and the water was cleaner over the last 50 yards or so. I tossed the spoon fly into a cut that was filling and got a nice 26” fish. I worked around the end of the pond and caught its clone. The fish took off and towed me toward a 6-foot-long alligator that was floating on top of the grass bed. Fortunately, the gator decided to be nice about it and submerged.

I left and headed to another pond, but the lee shoreline was no good here. I headed up a little bayou off the pond and did some bling casting that produced the last fish of the day – a 24” redfish that was released.

The tide started to fall, the water was clearing a bit, and I tried one last pond but could not coax any bites. Despite the conditions this was one of the best days I’ve had in several months.

Delacroix, LA 6/12/2021

Wind: 5-10 from the west

Tide: 2’ range based on Shell Beach station. high at 3:30 p.m.  

Water Level: a little below normal to start, rising all day

Water Temperature: ~85 F

Water Clarity: 6/10 to 10/10

Water salinity: no salt detected on the taste-o-meter

Weather/sky: sunny day, with passing clouds

Temperature: ~ 95 F for high

Moon: new

Solunar period: major 2-4 p.m.

Launch: slipped the Hobie Compass in about 6:30 a.m., out at 5:30 p.m.

Water covered: ~ 6 miles

Other fishers: Kevin A    

Gear: 8 weight fly rod, gold spoon fly

Strategy/ patterns: blind and sight cast for redfish

I had my good fly fishing buddy with me today. Kevin needed some redfish for dinner, so we headed to Delacroix. This was the first day this year that we felt the heat and humidity of the Louisiana summer. I drank the half-gallon of water, bottle of Gatoraid, and a Coke that I brought. I also used the “Cajun air conditioner”, putting a hunk of ice on the back of my neck between my shirt and my Buff. I was covered from head to toe with light-colored sun protective clothing and wore sun gloves and a wide brimmed hat. It would be torture to stay out all day on the water in a kayak without taking these measures. I also tried out the new Bajio polarized sunglasses today. They worked well and I picked up on cruising fish pretty easily.

The fishing today was frustrating to say the least. Kevin and I headed to a cut in the marsh. I spooked some large fish and did some blind casting for them. Kevin was throwing a popper and had several hits. He caught a few small specks and a bass and missed a nicer bass. I pressed on along an open corridor in the grass mats and started to encounter redfish. I spotted several fish but just could not get the spoon fly in the strike zone. And when I did get it close the spoon fly seemed to snag the aquatic vegetation at the critical time. Kevin caught a redfish a little later and then we had a lag in the catching, even though we occasionally spotted redfish.

The action picked up and it coincided nicely with the solunar activity period. We were seeing more fish and running across them in more places. But they were really picky and spooky. I finally got a good cast in front of a redfish that was coming toward me. As it got closer, I moved the spoon fly a little. But instead of smashing the fly, the fish veered away rapidly like it had received an electric shock. And so it went. I had lots of tough casts, and when I did make them, the fish refused or dashed away. Finally, a redfish was headed my way and I got the spoon fly in front of it. It turned down to eat and the fight was on. I was pulling hard on the 5 lb fish to keep it from burying in the vegetation. As I worked it close to the kayak, the TFO TiCr V rod snapped. I managed to land the redfish, but the damage was done. There was likely damage to the rod at the break spot. I hit my rod occasionally when casting epoxy spoon flies and other flies like clousers and crabs with lead heads. I know these saltwater flies pack a whallop, because they me from time to time too. TFO makes good fly rods, and fortunately for me they have a great warranty program.

Kevin and I met up and exchanged notes. Kevin had caught another redfish and had another one break his leader. We both saw a decent number of fish, but had trouble moving them into the catch column on our scorecards. We’ll get ‘em next time.

Delacroix, LA 5-28-2021

Wind: ~15 with gusts, S -SW

Tide: 2’ range based on Shell Beach station. Low at 4 a.m., high at 4 p.m.  

Water Level: about a foot below normal, rising all day

Water Temperature: ~80 F

Water Clarity: 10/10 most places

Water salinity: did not check

Weather/sky: sunny day, with passing clouds

Temperature: ~ 90 F for high

Moon: just past full

Solunar period: major 4 p.m.

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

Water covered: ~ 5 miles

Other fishers: solo    

Gear: 8 weight fly rod, gold spoon fly

Strategy/ patterns: blind and sight cast for redfish

Time for a rant. I’ve been waiting for a day with lower winds for most of the spring. Windfinder.com and Weather.com said today’s the day with predictions of 0-8 mph. They LIED. It was blowing at about 10 mph when I arrived and only went up. By noon, any open water had whitecaps. The aquatic vegetation has formed big mats in the ponds and paddling across those in a headwind of 15-20 mph is not a fun day on the water.

The great thing about those beds of aquatic vegetation is that they filter the water, and it becomes like an aquarium. I could easily see fish and crabs on the bottom in 4-5 feet of water. I spent the morning drifting downwind and saw lots of mullet and blue crabs, a few gar, but few redfish. I had a shot at a nice sized redfish that passed close and then started swimming away. I whipped out a quick cast and then another. I didn’t realize it was following the spoon fly and it spooked away as I lifted to make a third cast.

I tried a different direction but didn’t see much, so I went back in the general direction of where I saw the first redfish. I drifted down to an open area and saw a group of redfish that were actively feeding. I somehow missed them as I got close and one spooked and left a big boil on the surface as it sped away. They didn’t go far. Soon they were on the surface again, and this time I caught and released one of the smaller ones of about 18”. The wind was getting strong, so I staked out and let the fish work their way to me. I got a couple more chances to sight cast to fish and then caught and released one of about 23”. One of the redfish I cast to had a weird reaction to the spoon fly – it dashed away as if it had seen this before and knew it was trouble. Maybe it had a previous expereince with Rich Waldner’s spoon fly.

At this point the wind was getting too strong to drift and to cast. I moved to an area that was like a funnel for the fish between a bank and a grass mat. i did some blind casting but had no luck. My only option was to head back upwind to get to the lee shore. It took about 30 minutes to go the half mile across the pond. I noticed there were lots of crabs of all sizes when I reached the destination. Surprisingly, there were no redfish – just mullet and an occasional small gar. It was tough to pole and work the bank with the wind, and after a hundred yards or so I gave up. The low grasses were not doing a great job as a windbreak. I decided to try and drift a little and it paid off. After about 50 yards, I blew into a pair of large sheepshead. They spooked away, but I had a feeling they did not go far. I got the pole planted to stop my drift and made a cast into an open area in the weed mats. I wasn’t expecting much and then I felt some resistance, I thought it was just the fly getting caught in the vegetation. But then the line pulled away, and I knew it was a fish. I was excited when I saw the silver and black bars come up. I kept the line taught because I fish a barbless spoon fly and hoped I could get the sheep into the net. It was a nice one, so I put it on the ruler for the Bayou Coast Kayak Fishing Club’s Fish Pics Contest that’s sponsored by Massey’s Outfitters. It went a tad over 18”, but the fish’s girth was impressive.

I revived and released it for another day. I tried drifting for a few more minutes and then gave up after fighting with the wind.