Place: Duck hunted at Reggio, then fished a few miles down the road at Delacroix, LA
Wind: 10-15 mph with gusts – North (usually pushes water out, but see Tides below)
Tide: Low was forecast at 9 a.m. based on Shell Beach station. I add + 2 hours for Delacroix and it dropped and came back up as we fished in the afternoon. The “super moon” scheduled for Monday has “king” tides running higher than normal.
Water Level: a little high and in the grass in the early morning, above grass line, dropped below the grass line about noon, and was back up later in the p.m.
Water Temperature: almost cold to touch – probably about 65 F
Water Clarity: poor, about 1 foot visibility, seemed to have a very green tinge from small algae that were suspended. Shrimp boats are still trawling the bayous and canals.
Water salinity: not tested – probably pretty fresh
Weather/sky: partly sunny, with a high thin cirrus cloud overcast. Saw a sun dog.
Temperature: ~ 55 – 72 F for high
Solunar period: weak major period @ 12 a.m.
Time on the water: Duck hunting from 5:30 to 9:30, fishing from 11-4.
Water covered kayaking: ~ 5 miles
Other hunter/fisher: Jeff W.
Duck hunt: Guide was Mitch S. with the Louisiana Marsh Guide Service. http://www.laduckhunts.com
The Daytona and Indianapolis 500s aint’ got nothing on the truck races that go on along I-10 and Paris Road heading toward the legendary duck hunting in the marshes of St. Bernard Parish on opening day of duck season. Pickups pulling trailers with boats decked out in camo and buried with marsh grasses and roseau canes jockeyed for position, skidded to stops at traffic lights, and burned rubber off the mark, all doing their best to make it to the launches in time to get out into the marsh before shooting time at half an hour before sunrise. Local police and state troopers stayed out of the way and let the race proceed.
Jeff and I arrived at Reggio about 4:30 a.m. and watched the game of musical boat trailers that was going on at the launch at Reggio. Mike, the omnipresent guy who manages the marina, was the leader of the organized chaos. We met up with the guides and it was determined that we would go with Mitch. This is an “all in the family” type of business with several brothers who guide the hunts. Jeff and I have hunted several times with these guys, and have been pleased with their professional and yet laid-back nature.
We were wondering about the conditions for this hunt for some time. It has simply been too hot to make birds migrate. Teal season, back in September, was largely a “bust” and the blue-wings came down weeks after the season ended. I did not even bother to try hunting during the early teal season. As Jeff and I had fished this area for the last weeks and not seen many flocks of ducks (usually no ducks) our chance of success was in question for this opening day. Fortunately a few cold fronts pushed through earlier in the week, and this gave us some reason for optimism.
We got to our spot and set up the decoys and then waited the half-hour until legal shooting time. As usual, there were a few premature shots fired – some guys just can’t hold it until it’s time. When 5:52 a.m. came we were ready for the ducks. The morning overcast and cooler temperature made it feel like duck hunting weather. Our day started slowly. Shots peppered out all around the marsh. Then we started to see flocks moving in the distance. Some gray ducks (gadwall) came over at high altitude, but they would not pay attention to Mitch’s calls – they probably were distracted by all the shooting in the distance. A gray duck came into the decoy spread and we got a shot at it. Jeff fired twice but did not connect, and then he and I both fired simultaneously as the duck flared off to the right. It hit the water and drifted off slowly downwind. Several times small groups of teal “bombed” us. They came in very low and 90 degrees from the left of the direction we were facing. By the time we spotted them they were over us and then out of range before we could raise our guns. One group of “teal” came in low and fast and we did pretty well, both Jeff and I knocked one down, only to discover that they were actually hooded mergansers. Later a lone green wing teal hen circled and then came in. I brought it down with a single shot. We watched some flocks in the distance, and as the morning progressed the sightings became fewer. We decided to pick up the decoys about 9:30. We ended up shooting 4 ducks and did not let any that came in shooting range escape; a so-so day of hunting but not too surprising given the warm weather. We went to collect the ducks and found that a hawk had found our gray duck and consumed most of it. The hawks migrate with the ducks, and will actually come to sounds of shooting to feed on downed and wounded ducks. Younger alligators learn this trick too.
Summary: It’s still too early in the season and not cold enough back north to push the ducks down south. I saw the national weather this (Sunday) morning and it’s in the 50s in Minnesota and 60’s along most of the Mississippi flyway. We did pass a few hunters who were cleaning birds and it looks like they had fair to good hunts, but others I spoke to had less luck. I spoke to Chris Holmes at the marina and his hunt went about like ours did. Until there are some hard freezes up north the duck hunting is going to remain spotty.
Jeff and I moved about 10 miles down highway 300 toward Delacroix. We tossed our Hobie Outbacks into the water and were disappointed to see that the water conditions were sub-par for Delacroix. The wind and algae in the water would make it tough for fly fishing. Jeff threw an Aqua Dream spoon for redfish and tried a jig under a cork for trout. He had several strikes and landed several redfish on the spoon, but could not find any trout today.
I fished for some trout using a clouser, but did not find any fish in the potholes and canal intersections where I usually get them. So I resigned myself to fishing the spoon fly for redfish. I got up against the leeward side of a an old canal and found the water to be flat enough to try to stand and sight fish. The sun was at my back and an odd tailwind that swirled in the canal worked in my favor. There were hoards of small 1-1.5” shrimp along the bank that would jump in “showers” as I passed. Fish that attacked them from beneath would also make them “shower”. I used this to help locate target fish. About 20 yards ahead I saw a big mud cloud from a resting fish that had been disturbed. The little shrimp kept jumping in the area so I sat down and eased closer and made a cast. Through the dirty water I saw a very light colored redfish. It looked like a giant white koi and I flipped my fly about 20 feet in its direction. It struck and immediately took of on a hard run and then cut straight back toward me. I did my best to keep the line tight and stay hooked up. I got the rudder up to avoid a snag as the fish passed around the kayak. After a few more hard runs I felt the slightly sickening feeling of no longer having a fish on the line. The hook had simply pulled out. *&$%#!!!
I fished some other spots, spooked lots of fish, but did not get any bites. The spoon fly would have probably had to hit the fish in the nose to get it to strike. I moved to a little chain of islands where the wind was pushing good-sized waves into them. A nice redfish voluntarily revealed its location by coming up on the leeward shoreline and belly crawling about 30 feet from me. I drifted toward it making casts. The water was really trashy from splashing waves and I did not hook up. The wind left me stranded on a little shallow shelf along the bank, so I had to reel in, lift the rudder, and paddle my way off the shelf and get back into deeper water. I swung the kayak around and saw what was probably the same redfish about 15 yards down the bank with its back halfway out of the water. I tried it again and hooked up. After about 5 minutes of a nice tug of war I got the fish in, lip gripped it, slipped the spoon fly out of its lip, and released it without ever taking it out of the water. I’m trying to do this type of release on fish to reduce the stress and damage from bringing them in the kayak.
So, it was not a spectacular day of fly fishing. But considering the wind and dirty water, I’ll take it.