Archive

Monthly Archives: May 2013

kayak-logo-clear

This past weekend was the first IFA kayak tour fishing event this year for the Louisiana division. It was held in Empire at Delta Marina. There were 67 people registered for the tournament, which is the most they’ve had for an IFA event ever in Louisiana and I believe the most the IFA has had at a kayak event so far this year. I believe the weather helped create that great turnout because for the first weekend in a long time there wasn’t a big, sweeping cold front coming through the area. It really felt like summer this past weekend.

SATURDAY

Since the event is Sunday, I was able to pre-fish on Saturday. Working off a tip from a friend, I hit a spot I’ve never been to before hoping to find trout and bull reds. The IFA is a CPR (catch-photo-release) tournament that scores an aggregate length of your biggest trout and redfish combined, so I wanted to find a spot that had the possibility of providing trophy sized fish for both species.

I didn’t exactly make it out at the crack of dawn Saturday, but I wasn’t too far behind either. After a long paddle against the wind I got to the area I was told would be holding trout. It was basically an island, surrounded by oyster reef, with a steady current of semi-clear saltwater sweeping around. I parked on the island and began to wade fish. First cast into the water was a 19″ trout. He was tagged and released, fingers crossed he’d be around Sunday. I then proceeded to catch, tag, and release numerous trout, some under size, others decent keeper size, but most under that 19″ mark. Of course mixed in with the trout were hardheads and gafftops, just to prove that there is still a downside to using Gulp. The important thing gained here was that I found a trout spot for the tourney.

Then I ventured into the marsh looking for reds. With the high tides and steady winds I didn’t expect to have much success finding reds by sight fishing, but I tried anyway. It may not have been the most successful scouting method, but it did work. It worked thanks in part to the good water clarity we had. I had no problems seeing silhouettes in a few feet of water because the water was so nice – by Louisiana standards. I even managed to catch a few with the fly rod. Tagged and released all of the reds as well, the biggest I had went 27.5″. Just over the slot, so not quite the bull I was looking for. If you’re keeping score, that would have been a 46.5″ aggregate. I figured I would need at least 45″ to break into the top 10, so that was my goal for Sunday.

IMGP7942

IMGP7943

IMGP7951

IMGP7953

IMGP7954

IMGP7956

After finishing up fishing on Saturday, my mind was pretty made up that I would be headed back there Sunday. I knew I wouldn’t catch the exact same fish, but I imagined I could find similar fish and have a similar agg. score. Chatting with other guys at the captain’s meeting only strengthened my decision on fishing the same spot Sunday. There was a lot of talk about dirty water and small fish, or even no fish at all, so I was feeling pretty good.

IMGP7973

IMGP7974

SUNDAY

IMGP7962

I had hopes that Sunday would be similar to Saturday, but shortly after leaving the launch I realized it wouldn’t, the weater wouldn’t allow it. The wind was relentless on Sunday and of course where I wanted to fish was about a mile or two across open water, into the wind. After paddling at a snail’s pace for what seemed like an hour I got to my island and began fishing. Took me awhile to land a trout, but when I did it went 17.5″. Fishing was obviously going to be much slower than the day before.

IMGP7963

IMGP7966

Kept at it a little bit longer for trout, picking up one under size trout and a few catfish and after one too many hardhead, I headed into the marsh. My plan was to go into the marsh, pick up a slot red, then head back to the bay to fish for bull reds. That didn’t exactly go as planned. I thought, because of the success I had Saturday, that I’d be able to do it again, but I was struggling. I was on fire Saturday, I had osprey eyes and could cast like KVD, but Sunday I was Mr. Magoo and all my casts were crap. Well, all except one. In the last little marsh pond that I was willing to sightfish I finally put it all together, spotted a red hugging the bank and made a nice leading cast in range. It went 25.5″ and I couldn’t be more relieved. As someone who prides himself in his ability to catch redfish, not having one at a tournament weigh-in would weigh heavily on my conscience, as it did after Redfish Rumble.

IMGP7970

I still had time to go out and fish for an upgrade to either the trout or the red, and I did, but it was pretty unsuccessful. On a day like Sunday, I was really just happy to have caught one of each. My aggregate was 43″ and as it turns out, that was good enough for 7th, so I took home a check as well. Seems it was tough for pretty much everyone else as well, except for the winner, John Kay, who turned in an aggregate of 59.25″. His score was bolstered by catching the only bull red weighed in, at 39.75″. The winners are below:

IMGP7971

From left to right: Steve Neece(2nd), John Kay(1st and big red), Casey Brunning(3rd), and Marty Mood(big trout)

Congrats to the winners, having fished the same tournament I can tell you they earned it. Only 29/67 folks weighed fish, so a big credit to those who even caught fish. I’m thrilled with my 7th place finish, it’s not every day you get paid to fish. I look forward to the next Louisiana IFA event, which will be held out of Bridge Side Marina in Grand Isle August 25th.

There was no way I was missing a group 30th birthday party for some friends in New Orleans on Friday night. Ended up parlaying that trip into a weekend affair ending with Mother’s Day festivities with Amanda’s family Sunday afternoon.

Got to fish Saturday, heading to Bayou St. John for a small get together dubbed Redfish for Research. The goal was to try and catch redfish in the bayou to be turned into UNO’s Nekton Research Lab for further study. Fishing in the morning concluded with a demo day by Massey’s in the afternoon further up the bayou.

The day started off a little rough with some strong storms moving through the area. It kept folks off the water for about an hour after sunrise, but rains held off the rest of the day. I was mainly targeting bass with hopes of catching a decent one to turn into Massey’s CPR tourney. I did catch a few dinks, but nothing had any size. I didn’t land any redfish either, but neither did anyone else. We know there are redfish in the bayou, just not in great numbers. The flow of water from Lake Pontchartrain is obstructed by a few structures. Hopefully that will improve when a dam on the waterway is removed.

Water clarity in the bayou was excellent and it seemed to me like a healthy fishery. There was lots of bait and I was getting a ton of hits on the popper from bass and bream. I ended up catching a bass to turn in for both the fly and the conventional tackle category. I really enjoyed paddling Bayou St. John. BSJ and the adjacent City Park are quite the urban oases, wish we had something like that in Baton Rouge, though I’ve really enjoyed our neighborhood ponds since living here.

IMGP7934

IMGP7935

IMGP7936

IMGP7937

IMGP7938

The demo day by Massey’s was held after, though participation was pretty poor due to the weather that morning. Most of the guys that fished Redfish for Research hung around after and shot the breeze.

IMGP7939

After the demo day I headed out to some drainage canals to scout for carp. Still haven’t found a good place for them in Baton Rouge, but I’ve seen some good reports from some folks in the New Orleans area for them, so I wanted to give it a shot while I was down here. I didn’t end up seeing any until the third canal I tried, and even then I really only had a few legitimate shots. None were caught, I didn’t even get an eat, but from what I understand that’s part of the carp fishing process. Gar were everywhere and I did land one just to feel something on the end of the line.

IMG_0792

IMG_0791

A pretty good Mother’s Day weekend despite no one catching redfish in Bayou St. John. If you do catch a redfish in the bayou and wish to turn it in for research the contact info for Patrick Smith is below, he is our contact for the research being done on the bayou:

Patrick Smith
Graduate Student
Nekton Research Lab
Pontchartrain Institute for Environmental Sciences
University of New Orleans
2000 Lakeshore Dr.
New Orleans, LA 70148
patricksmith111@gmail.com

These are exciting times for fish nerds like myself. In March it was published in Lake Magazine that four new species of redeye bass have been discovered. I say “discovered”, but it’s more like “recognized”. They’ve always been there, people had always fished for them, but no one really knew they were genetically divergent from the Coosa strain redeye bass.

The same is true for the newly described Choctaw Bass. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) announced on May 7th that the spotted bass that inhabit the streams of the Florida panhandle are actually an entirely different species, though they are almost identical in appearance. They offer the name Choctaw Bass as they shared the same geographic footprint as the Native American Choctaw tribe. Example pic and map below courtesy of FWC:

choctaw bass

What peaks my interest though in the Choctaw Bass (besides the fact that they are an entirely new species – that is fascinating in it’s own right) is their proposed range map:

choctaw_bass_map

FWC seems to suggest that the bass I catch in Florida parish streams that don’t drain into the Mississippi River are possibly Choctaw bass, rather than spotted bass. I’ve long suspected that the spotted bass I catch around here are somehow different than those that lived in the Tennessee River drainages in Northern Alabama, mainly because they look different with their orange eyes and their habitat is completely different, and given the amount of time they’ve been cut off from the Mississippi River, I imagine their genetics have to be somewhat divergent. So I think it IS possible that they are Choctaw bass, but I also think it’s possible they are their own species, and the reason they aren’t already described is because no one has funded the research. The difference would most likely be genetic, just like with the Choctaw bass, and I guess that is important as it would illustrate diversity. But if it looks just like a spotted bass, acts just like a spotted bass, tastes just like a spotted bass, is it not just a spotted bass?