That same week I visited Lafitte NHP I found a pond where I could wet a line and hopefully fool a few fish with a fly.  The pond was in Gretna City Park and fishing was slow to say the least. In fact here was my prize for the day – a man shouldn’t be ashamed at the size of his fish:

This guy went for a wild ride as I was loading the rod for another cast – I had no idea he was on.  Mr. Microbass wasn’t really the story of the day though, the real story at Gretna City Park was the incredible amount of apple snails that were living in the pond.  This was my first experience with them, they were everywhere, along with their pink egg sacs.

Apple snails are an invasive species that have been known to be carriers of rat lungworm and they’ve also been the culprit for decimated rice fields in many Asian nations.  Oh what a joy to have them here in the US!  It has been theorized that they made their way into our local waterways thanks in part to aquarium owners who wanted to share the wonders of the apple snail with all of us.

There is no natural predator in Louisiana so I implore you to become a natural predator of the apple snail.  If you see them, kill them, if you see their pink egg sacs, knock them in the water, they won’t survive when submersed.  If you handle them with your hands common sense dictates to wash your hands after.

I had to work on the “Best Bank” earlier this Fall and found myself with a little time to kill not too far away from the Jean Lafitte NHP.  I decided to check it out and get a bit of exercise walking some of the trails.  Jean Lafitte seems like one of those places that gets forgotten about alongside all the other attractions New Orleans has to offer, I know that I’ve driven past it a few times without even thinking twice about stopping.  I’m glad I finally gave it a go because I really enjoyed my walk in the swamp.  The park boasts an incredible amount of boardwalk that winds it’s way into the Northern  Barataria estuary – the swamp was beautiful and the critters were plentiful, but I couldn’t get over the fact that I walked a few miles on boardwalk, someone had to put all that together!

 

The boys from Alabama made their annual trip to Grand Isle the weekend before Thanksgiving and I was able to join them for a couple of days of fishing and fraternizing.  The forecast looked bleak before I made the drive down and I was fighting a bit of sinusitis, but I knew that they would be having a good time no matter the weather and I hadn’t gotten a chance to see them last year so I was in no matter what.  Luckily for us the forecasters were wrong that weekend and we had two days of decent fishing weather before the bottom fell out.

Day 1 had three of us, James, Matt and myself, fishing together in a spot I picked because it would be somewhat wind protected and it had been a fishy spot in the past.  Plus a good biscuit spot was on the way down – always good to know the good biscuit places to meet at.  Conditions were great considering the forecast, the only real negative was the wind.  Winds were constant, but they certainly were not the 15+ mph that was predicted.  Water clarity was good, the sun was shining and the tide was out and coming in slowly – sightfishing wouldn’t be a problem on day 1.  The other positive was cooperative, aggressive redfish.

It took me a while to get set up as I was fishing out of a new boat (more on that later) for the first time and by the time I met the other two, James was on his way to a limit of redfish on the fly rod.  James had stumbled on a spot that I’ve had success at in the past on trout, only today it was stacked with reds.  It is an area where a few different bodies of water run together and make a little deep spot with oyster bars on the shallow ledges.  James was bumping his fly on the bottom and wearing out the reds with a fiberglass fly rod.  I parked a short ways away and found a spot of my own and figured out a similar pattern with a Matrix shad on a 1/8 oz jig.  We were basically nymphing for redfish, letting the current take our baits through the hole as we fished by feel along the bottom.  In no time we pulled our two man limit of slot reds between 16-22″ with one upper slot kicker that was around 25-26″.  Matt pulled up during the slaughter and announced he had his first redfish on the fly and it was a stud too at 25.5″ – would have made a great tournament fish.  I was thrilled that we had such early success at the spot I picked for us to fish, given the conditions and the fact that I hadn’t fished saltwater since June’s Trout Challenge tournament.

After my limit I began tagging reds and after tagging another limit I decided it was time to move on.  We made our way further into the marsh and found that pretty much anywhere you had big mounds of oysters there were redfish hanging around.  Think of redfish and oysters like peanut butter and jelly or spaghetti and meatballs or lamb and tuna fish.  I caught a few more reds before lunch including the biggest I would land on the day at 29″.  He was pretty fun to catch as he broke the hook off my jighead on hookset, I had time to reach behind and throw my popping cork rig to him, but instead of him eating the Vudu shrimp he inhaled the cork.  I gave him some slack and let him try to swallow the cork then as he spit it out I set the hook.  Somehow the plan worked and I was able to hook the outside of his jaw with the Vudu – it was a wild sequence of events!

After lunch I did more paddling than fish catching but did end up catching a few more reds.  I have to say it was probably my best day fishing for redfish this year.  I haven’t dedicated a whole lot of time to saltwater this year so it was awesome to have a great day.  When we were tired of the relentless wind we headed back to the camp to clean some fish and tell stories with the other guys.  My one request was that someone bring some beer I haven’t had and Rhodes came through:

Day 2’s forecast was worse than day 1 so we weren’t very optimistic about our chances, however things change when you wake up to dead calm conditions.  I imagined things would get worse as the day progressed but at least it was good now.  James and I set out for a different spot, no matter how good the day before was I just don’t have it in me to fish the same spot two days in a row if I have a say so, must be the explorer in me.  We set out for spot 2, but upon parking we realized that it wasn’t in the cards.  A private landowner moved us along, which was a first for me, but I’ve heard it is happening a lot more down here.  It is unfortunate that all natural tidal water is not available to the public, but I have no argument against the rights of landowners so move along we did.  We went further up the road to a spot I haven’t fished in a while, but have had a lot of success at in the past.  Conditions were different than yesterday.  The skies were overcast, there wasn’t a whole lot of wind, water clarity wasn’t as good here and we would find that the redfish just weren’t as opportunistic as the day before.

It took all day for us to catch a limit, but we each got one.  The average redfish size was better too, with several upper slot reds being caught.  In fact I had a slot red that went 7.9 lbs. – talk about a tournament fish!  The sight fishing was a lot tougher, but when I did see a redfish it was because his back was out of the water, which is a lot of fun when it is like that.  It felt a little more like hunting on day 2 and what a relief to end up getting into some fish after the slow start.  It wasn’t that I didn’t see them early on, it is just that I botched all my opportunities with missed hooksets and awful casts.

We ate well that night with Cole’s legendary deer balls and boudin from Ronnie’s in Baton Rouge.  I had some Truck Stop in a can courtesy of Tidwell and Mark.  It’s always a good time when the Alabama boys come down and this might be the first year that there wasn’t a skunk for anyone that made the trip.  The redfishing was pretty darn good given the weather forecast, but specks were non-existent, I think there was one caught in the whole group and it was undersized.  I hope that is just an enigma and not a pattern, either way I don’t think anyone left disappointed.  Can’t wait to do it again next year!