I don’t usually fish in tournaments. I work in a pretty competitive field, so fishing is my way of relaxing and disconnecting from that part of my world. I planned to fish on Mar. 9, and this date coincided with Bayou Coast Kayak Fishing Club’s Trout Challenge. It would be held at the places I usually fish in St. Bernard Parish, so I entered. I rarely specifically target speckled trout. Usually they are by-catch when I am targeting redfish, so this would really be a “trout challenge” for me.
I combat launching off the roadside and was on the water by 6 a.m., just a bit past the legal start time of 5:45 a.m. It had been pretty cold earlier in the week. Friday it warmed up nicely, and Saturday was forecast to be warmer, with a high of 78 degrees. The catch was the wind had been blowing from the south on Friday and continued Saturday at 15-25 mph. This meant the water would likely be high (it was) and the fishing would be more difficult under these conditions. It was a bit foggy and overcast most of Saturday as well. Although it was supposed to be warm it really wasn’t. The water temperature was about 58 to start and it warmed to about 64 degrees by afternoon. The wind blowing across the cool water made me keep my jacket on most of the day.
The water was pretty green color when there was enough daylight to check it. I could see lures about 2 feet below the surface. The water got dirtier through the day as the wind picked up, with visibility declining to about a foot. There was not much tidal range so most of the water movement for the day was wind driven.
My plan was to follow a deeper canal and troll plastic baits while looking for schools of trout on the fish finder. When I came to bayous or cuts I would fish that area, working from deep to shallow to try and intercept trout as they moved up to warmer waters. I got one undersized trout trolling along the canal. When I reached the first bayou I started casting into it and immediately caught another undersized trout. I spent about an hour here catching little trout and hoping there would be some bigger ones hanging out with them. After releasing about a dozen and losing a bunch, I got a 13” trout into the net. I fished some more but couldn’t make them grow any bigger. I had a couple of false alarms when I hooked up with redfish instead of trout. I slipped an 18” redfish into my fish bag to supplement my lone trout for Saturday night supper.
I pushed on and tried a spot where I caught a rogue 19” trout on my fly rod last spring. Nobody home this time. So I went back to the main channel and trolled a bit. No luck. I saw a deep cut off the channel so I followed it to the shoreline. More redfish were caught and released off this bank. I went back to the channel and kept pushing upwind. It was now about 12:30 and about time to turn around if I wanted to make the weight in. I tried a wind blown shoreline off a bend in the main channel. The wind was pushing me hard as I was blown along a nice looking tideline headed toward the bank. I got a cast off and hooked up on a 15” speck that made it to the net. I was thinking it was “pattern solved, game on”, but that was the only speck to come off that bank.
I retraced my track, this time with help from a tailwind. I slowed to hit some shoreline structure and got another small redfish. I went up a bayou that opened into a small pond and “bingo”. Hooked up on a keeper trout but it shook free at the kayak. Cast back out and repeated the hook with premature release another three times. What’s up with this – maybe a bad hook – it looked ok. So I switched from the chartreuse matrix shad to a Vudu shrimp, but it really didn’t help much. I lost several more fish until I finally got one in the net. I managed to lose some more before getting another 12.5” fish into the bag. It was really frustrating because I easily lost enough fish to surpass the 10 fish limit for the tournament. They weren’t very big trout, but I had intended on being able to put 10 in the bag. I was pretty disappointed at missing so many fish. When I’m not trying to catch trout I usually land them.
It was getting late, a little after 2 p.m., and weigh in ended at 3. If I hustled I could make it and weigh in my 4 dinky trout. The wind was pushing hard on my back. I was doing 3.5 mph without pedaling, and almost 6 mph with pedaling the Hobie Outback – probably close to the max hull speed for the kayak. Then a little bayou off the canal caught my attention. I stopped to check it out. After a few minutes of no bites and dirty looking water I decided to call it a day and headed for the truck. I decided to clean my fish instead of racing in for the weigh in.
I checked my track when I got in. I covered about 9 miles and checked out some new spots and fished with techniques that I don’t normally use. So it was a “challenge” for me except there were not many trout. I tried several lures, with success on chartreuse Matrix shad and a natural colored Vudu shrimp fished on a tight line and when trolled. I tried them under a cork, but didn’t have luck with that. I also threw and trolled an inline spinner with a Matrix Vortex shad (black/chartreuse tail) and a ¼ oz. Aqua Dream spoon (chartreuse) but got no love with those.