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Fish

I truly went from mountains to marsh this past weekend after spending last week working in West Virginia then heading on a weekend guys trip down to Grand Isle Friday afternoon.

I left Baton Rouge Friday mid-afternoon and contemplated putting the kayak in once I passed Leeville just to fish for an hour or so before it got dark.  I didn’t though, opting instead to hit a culvert where water moves under the road before I went to the camp.  Not much doing there except a few ladyfish on a clouser.  I could hear reds crashing on bait in the marsh though, man what a tease that was, I was hoping that scene would play out tomorrow.

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I met up with everyone at the camp just as they were heading down to the beach to run the crab traps.  I threw the clouser in the surf for a bit, out of curiosity more than anything, but fishing was not really the priority at this point.  We spent the evening drinking good beer and catching up.

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I was the lone kayaker in the group so on Saturday when everyone took off in boats I hit the backside of the island in the Cruise FD and went looking for redfish.  Conditions weren’t ideal when I launched, but the high tide was the biggest thing putting a dent in the sightfishing game.  I managed to fool one overslot redfish and got broken off by another.  I caught more ladyfish on the fly rod and at lunch time decided to get off the water before the thunderstorms that began to surround me closed in any further.

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After lunch I hit the beach outside the camp with some of the guys where we alternated throwing cast nets for big shrimp, running crab traps, and trying our luck surf fishing.  With the cast nets we’d catch one or two shrimp every few throws, but that added up after a few hours.  We ended up putting a nice little ice chest of palm sized shrimp together by the end of the day.  The crab traps produced as well and those began to fill an ice chest of their own.  In the surf the white trout and ladyfish were abundant and fun to catch on light tackle, our target fish however proved elusive.  No bull reds and only a few speckled trout were landed, but we had plenty of seafood for a feast that night.

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That night we ate like kings, redfish from Friday and Saturday were grilled on the half shell while the crabs and shrimp were boiled to perfection.  There was even a good bit of Best Stop boudin shared among the group.  Everything was incredible.

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After a long night of cornhole and beers most folks opted to sleep in, clean up, and head home.  The weather was too nice not to get out one last time for me so I stopped in Leeville on the way out and put in off the side of the road.  I kept a watchful eye on the thunderstorms that were off to the west and the south of me this morning, but thankfully I was far enough north to be clear of them.  The high tide again made it tough to sight fish, but I found a good spot with moving water where the fish were a bit stacked up.  In short time I caught three reds, multiple ladyfish, and had another break off (I think my leader line is finally too old to be useful).  It was almost like fishing a winter hole.

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After the bite slowed down at that spot I pedaled around the area just to explore and found another spot were water was moving over a flat and fish were present.  I caught a couple speckled trout off a point and as lunch time crept up I decided to get off the water and head home.  I didn’t want to be home late and sightfishing wasn’t going to pan out so it was an easy decision to leave.

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Truly though my wife called and didn’t flat out say it, but it was inferred that I needed to head home.  She also wanted me to pick up shrimp so I stopped at the Seafood Shed on the way out and picked up some $4/lb 16/20 sized shrimp (same size as we caught in the surf) to take home.  We made New Orleans style BBQ shrimp with a few pounds that night and she got to eat a few leftover crabs from the weekend.  I put mine over instant grits and had a poor man’s shrimp and grits, which was surprisingly very good.

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I really enjoyed hanging out with the guys this past weekend.  Fishing was what brought us down there, but it’s the camaraderie that will keep us going back.  Big thanks to Ray for letting us stay at his camp.  Grand Isle in the summer is an amazing place.  The beach won’t win any beauty contests, but it sure is bountiful in it’s seafood production.  I look forward to doing it again next year.

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I wanted to take a moment to profile one of the more unique fish found in Southeast Louisiana – the shadow bass (Ambloplites ariommus).  In Louisiana they are only found in the sandy creeks that drain the Florida parishes – you won’t find them anywhere else in the state.

Shadow Bass Range

I’ve caught maybe a handful in my life as by-catch while fishing for spotted bass or longear sunnies.  They hold real close to cover and don’t stray far from their hiding place to strike a bait.  I’ve caught them on poppers and subsurface nymphs so they are fairly aggressive eaters, like their sunfish cousins.  They are very closely related to rock bass (Ambloplites rupestris) and resemble them in appearance.  Their black-and-white mottled pattern makes them fairly easy to ID, especially when they are the only Ambloplites in the watershed like the ones here in Louisiana.  The pattern can be well defined or somewhat faint, but combined with the big dark red eye they are hard to mistake for anything else.

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They don’t get very big, a record was established in Georgia at 10 ounces, 9.25″, and I’d venture to guess that is about as big as they’ll get around here as well.

Keep an eye out for them if you do any fishing on rivers and creeks on the Northshore.  If you spend enough time on the water between Baton Rouge and Slidell I’d imagine you’ll run into one one day and now that you’ve read this post you’ll know what it is.

I’m always looking to add species to the fish page here on the site and I know there are some smaller sunfish species found locally that have eluded me thus far, so I put in a couple hours with the fly rod on a local ditch on Friday afternoon to see what I could find.

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The bream beds were thick in one stretch of the creek and I caught quite the variety of sunfish in short time.

IMG_6578Green sunfish (Lepomis cyanellus)

IMG_6577Longear sunfish (Lepomis megalotis)

IMG_6579Bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus)

IMG_6580Warmouth (Lepomis gulosus)

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The ditch was very shallow, but full of life.  There were also redear on beds and bass and gar cruising around, none of which I managed to fool with a fly.  It’s not the prettiest place in the world to fish and it’s hotter than hell right now, but you can’t beat the diversity of species.

 

 

I don’t get out much to fish anymore, but I found some time Sunday to do just that.  I loaded everything up late Saturday with plans to make the long drive to catch some redfish the next morning.  When I woke up and checked the weather it was evident that inshore fishing wasn’t an option.  The entire Gulf was covered in rain.  Everything inland looked alright though, at least for the time being, so I had to come up with plan B fast.  I decided to head down the road a bit and check out a lake in the Maurepas swamp that I’d heard good things about.  I had no idea how much time I’d have before rain chased me off or if I’d even have any success, but I had to get out.

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I arrived at the launch shortly after sunrise and was out on the water as fast as I could possibly load my boat.  I was happy to see the black water was fairly clean and the lake seemed to have a healthy amount of submerged vegetation.  I didn’t use the flex drive of the Cruise FD much today because of the grass and I couldn’t help but think on trips like this how much I missed the Kilroy.  I started out throwing a hollow body weedless topwater frog and was treated to a couple of quick hits from largemouth bass.  I connected on my second one and hoped that the trend would continue.

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As I worked the shoreline and nearshore grass I had a few more slashing hits on the frog that were more likely from gar than bass.  In time I came to a spot where the lake narrowed and a couple tributaries dumped in.  It was a beautiful spot with an obviously healthy swamp.  The water was visibly moving in the bayous as it drained into the lake.

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IMG_6461Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis)

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I rounded a bend in the bayou and heard a tremendous toilet bowl flush that made the hair on my neck stand up with excitement.  After scanning the area I was able to pinpoint the location of the activity and made a cast with the frog beyond the spot so I could run it through the area.  On my second cast I got an eat and as soon I was hooked up the fish took to the air and I could see that I had a choupique on the line.  After a nice fight and the fish getting caught in a wad of grass I was able to boat the dinosaur.  A lot of people call these things trash fish, but you know what they say about one man’s trash?  If I’m catch and release fishing I’ll take a fight from a choupique all day long.

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After the battle with the choupique, and replacing my frog, I headed back toward the lake and continued fishing topwater.  The bite began to wane so I switched things up and went to the fly rod.  I began working a popper-dropper around the trees and stumps that weren’t covered up in duckweed and soon began catching fish again.  The stumpknocker were active that morning and repeatedly hit an electric blue Boogle bug that they couldn’t possibly fit in their mouth.  Every once in a while they’d see the dropper and I’d be quick enough to set the hook.

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I continued fishing the fly rod and had a couple surprises.  The first one was a fish that I thought was going to be a big bull bluegill on hookset.  The popper slowly began to sink so I gave a little hookset and then I felt a lot more resistance than normal and the popper began going sideways.  After a nice fight with my glass 4wt double over at times I landed a bass – and a wad of grass.

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The second was a spotted gar that came after the popper and when I set the hook on the eat my popper came out and my dropper tagged him under the chin.  Not the conventional way to catch them on the fly, but it sure was easier to handle than a rope fly.

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I continued to fish the fly rod and explore the bayous that drained into the lake.  I caught a few more stumpknocker before the rain began to fall.  It was a little after noon when it began to fall hard enough that I decided enough was enough and pedaled my way back to the launch.  For being a last minute backup option the Maurepas swamp sure was a good one.  It was a beautiful place to explore and home to a good variety of hungry fish – I’m sure I’ll be back.