Place: Hopedale, LA
Wind: 0 – 10 mph, started from the W, switched to N, E , and then S by the end of the day
Tide: 1 ft., low in morning, rising all day
Water Temperature: very warm to touch, hot bathwater
Water Level: pretty low
Water Clarity: generally poor, 1-2’ visibility depending on spot
Moon: two thirds, waning
Solunar period: major period 6 a.m., minor at 2 p.m.
Weather/sky: very sunny, a few high scattered clouds
Temperature: 97 F for the high (tied record) with high humidity, heat index 105 F
Time on the water: 5:40 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Water covered: ~ 8 miles
Other fishers: none
I got up about 3:30 a.m., got some breakfast and coffee, and headed to St. Bernard Parish about 4:45. My last few trips were frustrating and I really wanted to catch some fish. Today I chose to use conventional tackle because I expected the water to be clear in the weed beds and thought I might need to make longer casts to avoid spooking fish (wrong on that idea). I also packed plenty of water, Gatorade, and a Coke because of the anticipated heat and sun (good idea – drank about a gallon of fluids, stayed hydrated). I also covered up in UP50+ everything and avoided the inevitable sunburn that normally comes with a full day of fishing from a kayak on such a sunny day.
I took off from the launch and set a nice easy pace for the ponds as the sun was peeking above the horizon. I slipped into a bayou off a canal and was disappointed to see some pretty muddy water coming out of the pond down the bayou. The water was sucked out by the wind and low tide and it was all muddy everywhere I went. The water in the weed beds was a little cleaner, but not much. The low tide is good because it pulls the redfish out of the grass along the banks, making them more accessible. But it’s bad if the tide falls and rises too rapidly because it destroys the water clarity.
I spent the morning going around the shores of the large pond. Things were slow, I was not seeing any fish other that swirls that were probably made by big mullet (some over a pound) and garfish. I pulled in lots of salad in spite of using weedless spoons and in-line spinnerbaits. My optimism dimmed as it got hotter and the sun rose to the middle of the sky. It was starting to look like the fish would win the battle today.
Even though the water was muddy I decided to stand and try sight fishing. This turned out to be a good idea. The sun was really bright and was penetrating the water for a foot or two. Almost all the swirls I was seeing were indeed just big mullet and gar. But I also started seeing some redfish cruising slowly along the weedlines off the bank. They were not visible from the raised seat of my kayak. The reds were not aggressively hunting, but were just picking their way through the weeds. Many of them spooked because we were pretty close to one another by the time visual contact was made. Others spooked as soon as the lure hit the water. They seemed actually terrified of the spoon and the in line spinner. I tried a fluke rigged weedless on a big worm hook. Same result. I was wondering if these fish have seen too many anglers and fishing lures. I was becoming more frustrated. These were all nice upper slot to small bull sized fish and I could not do a thing with them.
I went up some small bayous off the pond, but the water was still draining and muddy. I saw some big sheepshead, gar, a few black drum and a stingray, but only one small redfish. So I paddled and pedaled back up to the main pond and worked the eastern side now that the sun was high. The tide was coming up and some fish were working their way back up a little cut that was starting to refill. It was too shallow and weedy to fish, so I watched for a bit. The fish that were producing the activity were not large – maybe rat reds, sheepshead, mullet, etc., so I headed on back to the more open water in the pond. I stood up and soon spied a pair of nice redfish cruising along about a foot below the surface. I froze and let them pass, quietly transitioned from paddle to rod, and put a cast about 10 feet in front of them as they were moving away. One smacked the in-line spinner and knocked the plastic bait off but somehow avoided the hook. It was that kind of day. I paddled on down the shoreline and met another redfish coming right at me. Again I froze, but the redfish spooked away as it got about a paddle’s length from the kayak. A few more paddle strokes and the same thing happened again. This event was repeated three more times over the next 5 minutes.
It was getting pretty hot now that it was about 1 p.m., but fortunately there was just enough breeze to keep the air circulating and it helped me stay cool enough to hang in there. I did not want to go home without catching at least one fish, but things were not looking good. I decided to try one more bayou off the pond that was refilling. I paddled across a mat of weeds to get into the bayou and found the water was a little cleaner. I was watching some big gar gulping air and then spooked a redfish. I heard it “drum” as it spooked, signaling its buddies to be on alert. I paddled down the bayou a little but found I was running out of water. I could see wakes of what appeared to be redfish working, so I cast and got a strong hit that again knocked the plastic bait on the spinner sideways, but the fish avoided the hook.
I turned and went back toward the pond and spotted a nice redfish that was facing away from me! I quietly swapped the paddle for the rod and put a good cast about 5 yards in front of the fish and brought the lure right by where its nose should have been, because suddenly I could no longer see the target. Bam! The fish was still there and it came in without much fight…..it was just too hot of a day to struggle much. I got the 25” redfish back in the water quickly and it swam off in good shape. I was relieved to have the skunk off my kayak.
I headed back to the truck and detoured to explore a little series of bayous and small ponds. I had not gone about 100 yards when I heard something snort at me. It made a sharp “whew!” type snort that was repeated several times at regular intervals. I could not see anything through the thick marsh grass and was wondering what it might be….gator, hog, deer? I decided it might be a gator, and so I moved on to give it some space. I went down to the little ponds but the water there was like chocolate milk, even though there were thick weedbeds everywhere. So I turned and went back past where I had heard the snorts. I was looking out across the grasses and saw the classic V shape of a deer’s head and ears just over the top of the grassline. So I guess that’s where my mystery noise came from.
I headed in, packed up, and made it to the “Last Stop” for a cold iced tea to supplement my fluid intake. Of course, the Last Stop is the first stop when you are coming from the other direction. It’s all about your perspective. I was pretty spent after a full day in the heat and slept really well after a good dinner and a cool shower.