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Kayak Fishing

Last month I had the opportunity to spend a couple of days in a kayak off old La 1 and sight fish for redfish and just like it’s always been it was a blast.  It was the first chance I’ve had to take out the Jackson Bite and the first time I’ve fished inshore since maybe January.  These days it takes a special occasion to motivate me to head that far south and on this particular weekend some old friends from Alabama were staying in Grand Isle and since the weather was nice and LSU beat Bama I had to make the trip.

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I headed down on the Sunday morning after LSU’s triumphant victory and got a later start than anticipated due the previous afternoon/evening’s celebration.

Conditions were decent upon arrival, with winds a tad higher than I’d prefer, but the area I was fishing had a ton of mangroves so I wasn’t bothered too much by the wind.

In the first canal I stood up to fish I came upon a large pack of reds marauding shrimp along the shoreline – exactly what you want to see when you haven’t thrown a fly at a red in months.  I was able to pick a lead fish off the pack with a good cast and a strong drag and the pack didn’t spook, they just turned around and went in the other direction.

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I released that red and continued on down the shoreline until the pack decided to turn back around and head back toward me again.  I got some grainy, Sasquatch-esque cell phone video of the reds I’ll try and attach:

Again I was able to pick off another fish, this time the pack caught wind of me though and took off.  I thought I might be able to spot them again given some time, but I never did.  Still it was a great way to start the day.

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After a brief meetup with my friend James I kept searching for redfish.  I came across some trout in the process, settling in on a school that was feeding in a cut between two larger bodies of water.  The action was hot enough to break out the fly rod and catch a few on the fly as well with a few of the fish being keepers, most were throwbacks, but it was fun to mix it up and catch some trout.

I ended up catching a couple more reds on the fly with one being a nice baby bull, coming in just under 30″.

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After that fish I decided to call it a day and paddle back.  At the launch I was able to catch up with another buddy Matt, who had a tougher day, but managed a 30″ red on the fly as well back in the skinny water.  It’s always a blast finding those over-slot sized fish in the trenasses.

The fishing was fun, but if I’m being honest the best part of weekend trips like this are the hangouts at night.  Nothing beats sitting around sharing some brews or cocktails and swapping stories of past triumphs, defeats, or anything entertaining enough for a group of fine, upstanding citizens like the group from Alabama that has assembled in Grand Isle on an annual basis for nearly ten years now.

I was hesitant about fishing the next morning because I needed to be back in time to pick the kids up from school.  I was hesitant until I saw that the weather was gorgeous.  I saw that the marsh behind the camp was glass so I quickly made plans to get back on the water.  Marcus was also planning on hitting the water that morning, so we decided on fishing from the same launch, but hitting a slightly different area, one I hadn’t had a whole lot of experience at, but should yield the same results.

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The tide was a bit lower than yesterday and was visibly ripping through the canal we launched into, which told me that the water clarity would probably be a little poorer than it was yesterday.

I covered a good bit of water, good looking water too, before I started seeing fish.  Seems like they needed the air temps to warm up before they were active.  I found a small slot with a colored up tail in a small pond to get the skunk off.

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I was only fishing until lunch time and it was already mid morning so I didn’t have much time left to make the day a success, but like I mentioned earlier as the temp warmed up so did the fish.  I got into a pipeline canal and started seeing fish and managed to catch one in the mouth of an offshoot canal.  I kept moving down that canal and as I progressed into the canal it got narrower.  As it narrowed I was spooking redfish, the water was clear and shallow in the canal and the fish were seeing me (or feeling me) coming from further away than I could get a cast off to them.  I finally made it to the end of the pipeline and the canal veered off into a ditch going in a 90 degree angle.

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In that ditch I could see two reds coming toward me, with no idea that I was even there.  I made a good cast leading them and the smaller fish looked like he inhaled the fly so I did a strip set and lucky for me pulled it out of his mouth and as I did the bigger red saw it and nailed it.  Fighting a 26″ red in a ditch you could jump across was a hoot!  He ran back under my boat a few times, I’m glad I was at the intersection so he had some room to run into the larger (6-7 ft wide).

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I was getting ready to head out after that, that was a tough fish to top, it was nearly lunch time and I needed to make it back to BR before the school bus came by the house.  I had to poke my head into one more pond because I saw a bit of nervous water and what I saw was another pack of redfish with some of the pack skittish while the others were playing it cool.  The first few casts I made were at skittish fish who just swam right on by, but the tail end of the pack was more than happy to pounce on my fly.  As I fought the fish I hooked I could tell it was a leopard red, when I got him to the boat I counted 14 spots.

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The fight may not have topped the previous fish, but this red sure had him beat in looks.

I bid Marcus adieu as he decided to make his way toward another pond before he headed out and hit the road home.  It was great to get back into the marsh and have some success.  I miss redfishing a little bit, I certainly don’t miss the drive though.

The Bite performed admirably.  It’s a slower boat than I’d like, but that’s the trade-off for the stability it offers – this thing is wide.  For the price you’d be hard pressed to find a better boat available, which is why I pulled the trigger on one.  It’s a fantastic platform to sight fish reds from and I will happily use it over the Cruise FD I’ve got collecting dust in the garage.

I saw a good weekend day to go fishing a couple weekends back and pounced on it.  The weather looked pretty cooperative and usually if you can catch mild weather in the winter luck will be on your side.  I woke up early and got on the water shortly after sunrise.

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It was a chilly start, but I knew the day would warm up so I wasn’t too bothered by the cold.  Besides, the winds were light and the clouds were nowhere to be seen, it was looking like it could be a pretty good day to sight fish.

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The tide was low, which is normally not a bad thing for sight fishing, however this tide was extremely low.  This extreme low had the water pretty dirty.  I knew it was low when I launched, but I didn’t realize that it would continue to fall throughout the morning.  There were entire flats that were exposed that I’ve never seen exposed.  The fish were nowhere to be seen and even when I did see them it was too late for me to make a cast.  Fishing was tough.

I did manage to avoid a skunk though.  Right around lunch I had made my way to a flat where I’ve always found fish.  It is off of a deep canal, so even if the flat was mostly exposed, there was still some refuge that could be taken in the canal for the fish.  Sure enough that’s where they were.  There were a handful of big black drum (they looked white in the water) with their tails up in the canal.  I moved into position and dropped my fly in the path of one of them and he vacuumed it up.  The fight was on.

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It was a hefty fish.  It gave me a couple of good strong runs and put a solid bend in the old TFO Mini Mag.  The drum was a square, nearly as heavy as it was long (35 lbs, 37 in. long).  It was a fun catch and I was glad to have caught something, even if it did slime up the boat and my pants.

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After that I tried to make my way through the marsh back to the launch, but without any water it was futile.  I headed back the way I came, through the bay, and ran into Scott from Bayou Chronicles and his neighbor on the paddle back.  We chatted and fished for a bit.  He ended up catching a beast of a redfish later in the day as I was already loading up the boat to head home.  The tide was coming back in after lunch and if  I were patient enough I probably would have had better opportunities at redfish in the afternoon.  It had been a long day on the water for me though and I packed it in.  There’s always next time I guess.

I use to preach this more, but if you are new to kayak fishing or just shopping for a new boat demo days are far and away the best opportunity to see just what style of boat or even specific boat model you are most comfortable in.  They provide the opportunity to try out as many different makes and models as you feel like getting into.  These events are always free and typically come with store specials that are being run that day or week so they also make great opportunities to purchase a new boat as well.

I helped put butts in seats this past Sunday out at a demo day for Pack & Paddle that was held at Sugar Mill Pond down in Youngsville.  We had fantastic weather and I was able to try out the Blue Sky Boatworks Angler 360 for myself – what a fantastic platform to pedal and fish from.

If you’re in the market for a new kayak do yourself a favor and call up your local kayak dealer and ask when their next demo day is.  It is the best way to narrow down the ever-expanding kayak market to something more palatable. Sometimes the kayak you like best will be a surprise, which is one reason I like to work the demo days, to see someone’s reaction to a boat they may have not even considered.

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.