Happy Jack (Port Sulphur), LA, 9-23-2017

 

Wind: almost none to start, increased about 9 a.m., soon was 10-12 mph from east

Tide: falling to start, low scheduled about 8 a.m., high 11:24 p.m. at Empire Jetty station, range about 1 ft. The tide at Happy Jack lags about 2 hours behind the Empire Jetty station tide.

Water Level: a bit below the grass line to start, into grass line by afternoon

Water Temperature: ~78 F

Water Clarity: fair initially, and found some crystalline water up a bayou, but wind and incoming tide churned it up

Water salinity: a little salty, maybe 3 ppt

Weather/sky: sunny with scattered clouds

Temperature: ~ 76, going up to ~ 88 F for high

Moon: new crescent

Solunar period: major period @ 4 p.m.

Time on the water: 7:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Water covered: ~ 5 miles

Other fishers: solo trip

Game Plan: Find clean water by getting back into protected marsh, catch reds and sheepshead with the fly rod.

Gear: 2 fly rods, one spinning outfit as back up in case the wind got too strong.

Lures: Spoon fly and a small crab pattern on the fly rods. Aqua Dream spoon in chartreuse on the spinning reel.

Strategy/ patterns: I found one of my favorite patterns as I left a big pond and turned up a small bayou. The water was draining out and the further I went the water got cleaner and the redfish begin to appear everywhere. Most were 10”-16”, but there were some 24”-25” reds in there too.

I threw the spoon fly to them and they ate it up. I caught a fish every few minutes, some by blind casting and others by sight when I could see them. The water was only a foot or two deep so I could cast at wakes when I couldn’t actually see the fish. The angle of the sun was still low, but when the light was right it was like watching redfish TV. I had scads of throwbacks and scratched up six that would make the slot. The biggest was about 20”, but they were all fun on the fly rod.

I got one small speckled trout on the spoon fly off a point that usually hold fish, but the water was dirty there and couldn’t find other fish.

I left this spot and went to look for some better sized fish and went across a windy open pond to more broken marsh. I tried the spinning outfit but had no luck. I got up into some tight marsh where I could cast the fly rod. I had to pull up the fins and rudder on the Hobie Outback and paddle here. I’d seen sheepshead here before but none today. I did see some good upper slot redfish but they were at close range and I couldn’t get a cast to them. I did some blind casting and got four smaller sized reds. The water was getting dirtier so I headed back to the first bayou, but found conditions had changed. The water had come up and was dirty. I did some blind casting and threw the spoon some, but without luck. I think the fish were still there, however the conditions had changed and the bite had turned off. I threw the spoon fly some and got one more little redfish and called it a day.

Other notes: Today was stingray day. I saw half a dozen pretty big ones. I’ve heard that seeing stingrays is correlated with good presence of redfish, and this held true today. I lost track of the number of fish that I caught today, but had a limit + of smaller slot fish. All the fish caught today were released in good shape.

 

 

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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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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.

Hopedale 3-18-2017

Wind: 3-5 mph early, quickly rose to about 10-15 mph switching from the SSW, W, N, SW

Tide: Low was forecast at 2 :13 am and high was at 6:40 pm based on Shell Beach station. Range was about a foot on the chart, but it came up more like 1.5-2’. Rising all day.

Water Level: started super low, up to the grass line about 4 pm.

Water Temperature: ~70 F

Water Clarity: very dirty, clarity declined in windy areas, found some cleaner water around weed beds.

Water salinity: ?

Weather/sky: mostly sunny early, by noon a few clouds

Temperature: ~ 80 F for high

Moon: Waning, almost half moon

Solunar period: good periods @ 7 a.m. and 6:30 p.m.

Time on the water: 7:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Water covered: ~ 6 miles

Other fishers: solo

I stopped in a Gerald’s Donuts in Chalmette to load up with some fast carbs and caffeine and buzzed my way down to Hopedale. The light sugary donuts gave me the energy to literally toss my kayak off the truck. The water level was super low and I had to ease the kayak out on the bare mud for about 20’ to launch. It was supposed to be a day with light winds that would pick up a bit as afternoon came, so I brought only fly rods. I had visions of sight casting flies to redfish in clear water, but that fantasy ended after I made it to the first pond. The weatherman tricked me again. The very low tide coupled with a quickly rising wind made it a difficult day to fly fish, but I stuck it out and caught a few. It was difficult to pole along the bank with increasing wind, and hard to spot fish in the muddy water. I spooked a bunch of redfish that were resting on bottom in the pond. Even though the water was dirty, I could still see big muddy swirls and wakes as fish took off. I tried my old trick of working upwind and then drifting downwind quietly while blind casting or casting to wakes made by fish. I was slinging a gold and chartreuse spoon fly that I had tied. The wind blew me over to a bank and just as I was ready to paddle off the bank I spied a nice redfish coming right toward me down the shoreline with its back out of the water. I picked up my rod and the line tangled, so I scrambled to get ready to cast as the fish came closer. It was a little more than a flyrod’s length from the kayak when I flipped the fly in front of its nose. It immediately ate it and took off and I stuck the fly home with a strip strike. It took about 5 minutes to land the fish and when I measured it went a little under 28”. It was pretty chunky and I guessed it went about 9 lbs. It had a mark on its lower lip from a previous battle with another angler, and I’m glad I got a chance to catch this recycled redfish. I released it for another angler to have a chance at it. I fished the pond hard but could not come up with another fish even though I knew they were there.

I went to another pond and the water was still trashy and coming up fast. I drifted over some weed beds and spooked a few reds before being able to get a shot at them. I went over to a little bayou off the pond that connected to another pond about a half mile away. I spotted a few reds “bank crawling” and got a shot at a nice one but this time I muffed my chance by being a little off target with the fly. I tried a second time and spooked the fish. I got a smaller redfish of about 17” that was hanging around in the same spot. I went down to the pond and saw a number of fish working in the pond – some of the best redfish surface activity that I’ve seen in a while. The problem was that the pond was pretty shallow and the wind made it hard to be stealthy. I would try to move up to a fish to get a cast and it would disappear. I ended up empty handed when I left the pond, but I will be back there for sure when there is a little more water for maneuvering. I went back down the little bayou, switched to a natural colored clouser pattern, and made a few casts where it opened into the second pond. I spooked another nice redfish, and threw another cast and caught a small speckled trout. I would catch and release about 10 there. Unfortunately they were all small, with only about half of them being above the 12” keeper mark. The “big one” was a tad under 14”. I also got a surprise redear sunfish (shellcracker, chinquapin) on the clouser.

I went looking for more redfish but found some marsh bass, landing 4 on the clouser. I missed a few and also missed a few redfish that somehow missed the hook. It was getting late so I headed in and got to the truck about 6 p.m. I don’t like the daylight savings time shift except for the ability to fish later in the day.

 

 

Hopedale marsh, 2-12-2017

Wind: 0 early, rose to about 10 mph from the SSW

Tide: Low was forecast at 12 :23 pm based on Shell Beach station. Range was about a foot. Rising a bit in the afternoon

Water Level: started low, went even lower, started rising about 3-4 pm.

Water Temperature: 70 F

Water Clarity: dirty, about foot of visibility, clarity declined in windy areas.

Water salinity: ?

Weather/sky: started overcast, sunny by noon with few clouds

Temperature: ~ 80 F for high

Moon: Waning, almost full moon

Solunar period: good period @ 2-4 p.m.

Time on the water: 7:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Water covered: ~ 6 miles

Other fishers: Jeff W.

Gnats (midges) and mosquitoes attacked hard at the launch because there was no wind to start. I used some spray and covered up just about everything, but some slipped in under my hat. Water was low so I did a good bit of paddling today with the rudder and fins in the up position. I trolled a chartreuse Nemire spoon as I went down a canal and quickly hooked up on a decent sized trout. I fished the area a bit but did not find any more. I went down a favorite little bayou off a canal and hooked a nice trout in the hole where they meet. The trout shook loose at the kayak. I went about 50 yards and hooked into a nice 29” redfish. I decided to try the fly rod even though the water was very turbid. I got one strike on a spoon fly but I could not get the hook set in time. I went on down the little bayou and spooked a 6’ gator off the bank. It took off and I did not see it again, and it must have spooked the fish as well.

The wind picked up so I gave up on the fly rod for a while. I went over to a large pond and found some large weedy spots in it. I got a small bass as I entered, then picked up another decent speckled trout along a weed line in about 2’ of water. I had several other hits on the spoon. Probably could have caught more specks if I had used a more appropriate lure for them. I paddled across a large weed bed and found some cleaner water on the leeward side of the pond. There was space between the shore and the weed beds and that held cleaner water and fish. I spooked a few redfish and had a nice one bail out on the spoon at the last second, leaving a big wake about 10’ from the kayak. A few casts later I hooked up on what I thought was a redfish, but it turned into a nice bass. This was a chunk of a fish and was probably getting ready to spawn. Naturally it took the spoon under a gill and I worked hard to free it while doing it as little harm as possible. I caught another decent speck and decided that would do me for this trip.

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