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Scouting

Got out in the kayak a couple times in the past two weeks with a new friend, Hays from Little Rock.  Like any good man Hays is a fly fisherman, so our goal was to catch some reds on the fly.  With it being winter, our hopes were for bull reds on the fly – they tend to migrate into the marsh this time of year.

The first time we got together conditions were terrible.  It was cold, windy, rainy, and the water was high in the marsh.  Sightfishing was brutal, but we were stubborn and tried to force the issue the whole day.  Redfish were seen, but by the time we saw them we were on top of them and we either couldn’t make a cast or they spooked.  We may have covered 18-20 miles of water in 12 hours – it was a long day.  Fish were caught early and late with a whole lot of nothing in between.  I got on a trout bite as the wind and tide swept the water from a bay around a point and into an outlet.  I probably could have sat there and worked my way to a limit, but trout weren’t what we were after.

We didn’t catch another fish until late in the day when we were headed back to the launch and in the deep corner of a bayou I saw some nervous bait.  I cast toward the area and missed a fish, then cast back and had my first red of the day, it wasn’t big, but it sure was pretty.

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After that it was on.  Redfish were stacked in a deep hole.  It was too cold for those fish to be on the flats and we were morons for thinking there would be a few holdouts.  Hays was blind casting into the hole and pulling out reds while I opted for the trusty Matrix shad.

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Most were small, some filled the slot – I worked my way through a limit but never caught any with any size to brag about.  I did have a nice bass on the line once, but he got off before I could get him in the boat, who, no doubt, was taking advantage of whatever warmer water was down there.  Hays finally tied into a really nice fish and got to experience a how much better redfish fight in deeper water.

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That was a good way to end the day, unfortunately we still had quite the paddle to get back and we didn’t make it back until after dark – which was when the heavier rain started to fall.  With extremities frozen we parted ways until next time.

Well “next time” happened the next weekend, this time conditions were a little more favorable.  It wasn’t windy or nearly as cold, but a fog hung over us for the entire day and made seeing fish a little tough.  The good news was the tide wasn’t as high as it was the first time we fished and the water wasn’t nearly as cold, so redfish would be on the flats.  We picked an entirely different area, with a lot more oyster beds and I think it would prove to be a good move.

Hays got into the action first when he connected with a slob who was crawling around on a tidal shelf.

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This red had some serious head trauma at some point in his life, but seemed to come out of it alright.  It was an odd looking fish for sure, it wouldn’t take long for me to catch a better example of what a bull redfish should look like.  Just around a marsh island from Hays’ fish was a crawler of my own.

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Nearly 36″, biggest redfish I’ve caught in a while on a fly rod.  What a good feeling.

We continued sight fishing and eventually parted ways for a short while.  I saw a few more nice fish but never had a good shot at any until I had a picture perfect set up.  A monster red was in shallow water swimming toward me, I flubbed the first cast, but laid the second one in front of him and as he went to eat I got excited and pulled it from his mouth.  A huge mistake as he disappeared into the adjacent, deeper water.

I caught back up to Hays and heard he had caught a second bull and we decided we should start heading back to the launch so we wouldn’t be as late as we were the first time we fished together.  We covered a lot of ground this trip as well, not nearly as much as the first trip, maybe 10-12 miles.  Lucky for me we hit a good flat on the way back and I was able to stick another red before nearly running him over.

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Hays had an opportunity to double as he hooked up soon after I did, but that fish unfortunately came unbuttoned.  That would have been the cherry on top of an already great day.

I was really glad we were able to have some success with some bigger reds on our second trip after a rough first outing.  Hopefully Hays and I will get to fish again next time he makes it down from Arkansas.  He already told me he’s having withdrawals, so maybe it will be sooner, rather than later.

2015 is over so here’s a look back at my (outdoor) year in pictures.  Click on any pic to read more from that day.

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The year started off solid, with my first ski trip with a big group of friends.  It was a ton of fun and really set the bar high for a non-fishing trip.  Then came a personal best brown from Memorial Day weekend, which was actually the same pb brown I caught last year – what are the odds?  I think the high point though will be the Wyoming Cutt Slam trip in August.  Five days of incredible dry fly fishing with a great friend is tough to beat.  It was a fine year and like any other year it had its share of ups and downs, but I’m ready to see what 2016 brings.

 

 

 

Blake and I finally got the opportunity to take a trip together in his “new” boat and it did not disappoint.  The weather was nice with temps comfortable, winds fairly light and cloud cover pretty patchy – conditions to sight fish were excellent.  The only thing working against us was the tide – water was high in the marsh.  Thankfully though, clarity was great, so we still did a pretty good job of spotting fish.  Blake gave me an ample supply of bow time and I can safely say that I was able to connect on a majority of my chances.

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Things were pretty slow very early on but got better as the sun kept rising.  I had one good fish break me off, but the 7wt ended up getting a pretty good workout on upper slot and baby bull redfish throughout the morning.

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Blake eventually let me get up on the platform and I feel like I did a good job knocking off the rust – it’s been a LONG time since I poled a boat around.  I’m still not very good at it, but I’m happy to report that Blake was able to land his first red on the fly from the bow of his boat, which is hopefully just the first of many more to come.

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The boat should open up a lot of new water for us and it’s going to be a blast exploring it with him.

 

BCKFC held a tournament this past weekend and that can only mean one thing, well two things really, conditions were brutal and good times were had by all.  These things still hold true in the seven or eight years I’ve been fishing their events.  If you are a kayak fisher and you’ve yet to make a Paddlepalooza or a Fall N Tide, you are truly doing yourself a disservice.  Yeah the weather is bound to be crappy, but the food, the friends, the fishing, and the overall atmosphere is rivaled by no other kayak tournament, at least that I’ve been to.

Fall N Tide was Saturday down at Cypress Cove Marina and I fished the lower Plaquemines area on both Friday and Saturday.  I did my best in the constant 20+ mph winds and sketchy low water conditions and managed a 4th place finish in the leopard red division.  Not my best, but no complaints here after a tough Saturday on the water.  Although conditions on both days were very similar, I could not replicate the success I had on Friday, and I heard that same story from many kayak anglers at the weigh-in on Saturday.

Friday was a scouting day for me, but when I say scouting I mean fishing, as scouting isn’t that much different than a regular day on the water for me.  What made it a scouting trip was I got to fish a new area I hadn’t before and despite the poor conditions I really hammered the redfish in the morning, with pretty much all of them caught sightfishing.

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I arrived at my roadside launch shortly after sunrise on Friday and was greeted with a stiff wind, bright blue skies, and low water.  Water clarity, as I’d come to find out, was good near the launch, but not so much as I began to venture further away.  I picked a spot to explore where I could be protected from the relentless Northeast wind that was predicted for both Friday and Saturday – which ended up being a good call as I was able to do a lot of fishing without being blown all over the place.  I started fishing as soon as I launched and was into redfish in a matter of minutes.

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The marsh was full of small shrimp and minnows and redfish and gar were blowing up schools of bait along the thick stands of cane.  It was a beautiful sight to see and I was happy to toss a Matrix shad into the mix and wait my turn.  Unfortunately due to the forecast I left the fly rods at home, figuring the wind would have me frustrated, and brought only tournament tackle.  The shore grass at this spot however was tall enough to provide plenty of wind protection and I was kicking my self for not at least having one fly rod to have fun with.  I’m only kicking myself in retrospect, it was still a blast, no matter the tackle.

In an attempt to avoid any pre-fishing juju I didn’t keep a single fish and used whatever available tags I had on me at the time.  Afterwards I thought about it and wondered what would be said if I did end up weighing in a fish on Saturday that I had tagged on Friday, it would probably raise some eyebrows but also amuse at the same time.  This scenario didn’t play out, but I certainly would have loved to have the 9 spot red I tagged on Friday pay me another visit on Saturday.

Besides the 9 spot red I managed to catch a red on the other end of the spotted-spectrum.  It was spotless.  It’s rare, but it does happen, and I’ve caught them before.  Redfish look naked without their spots.

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As the morning progressed the reds quit blowing up the bait, but that didn’t stop them from giving themselves away in other ways.  I started to see backs and tails as they crawled along the shallow flats, no doubt looking for crabs, which were also in abundance (bait was everywhere!).

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Although the redfishing was outstanding, they weren’t necessarily great tourney reds, they were low to mid slot fish, great to eat, but not much to weigh-in.  The biggest I caught on Friday went 25.5″, which is not necessarily a keeper red at Fall N Tide.  It would be a good red to have though in the slam division, but probably wouldn’t sniff the big red division so I had to make decision whether or not to fish the same spot on Saturday.  Not catching a single trout or flounder wasn’t making that spot promising either.  I picked up after lunch and headed up the road to hit an old standby and see what was happening up there.  As it turned out, not much was happening up there.  Water clarity was better, but fishing was not.  I caught a few more reds, none bigger than what I had already caught.

With no trout and no flounder at the two spots I hit on Friday I decided to head to a different spot on Saturday a little further up the road.  I’d love to tell you I had an outstanding day and things couldn’t have been better, but it downright sucked.  I launched just before sunrise and made my way to a marsh drain as the sun was peeking above the horizon.  There I hooked a fish under a popping cork and promptly broke him off cork and all.  Typically when this happens the cork comes up and you just chase after the bobbing cork to try and land the fish – a hilarious and entertaining situation when viewed from an outsider’s perspective.  It is a bit maddening when it happens to you on a tournament day, especially when the cork never surfaces.  IT NEVER SURFACED!  What did I catch, the Lochness Monster?

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The rest of the day at this spot was ho-hum, not a single bite.  I take that back, I caught the smallest rat red ever in the middle of a bay looking for trout.  I picked up at lunch time with nothing to show for my troubles and was left with another decision to make, pick up and head somewhere else where I may have a chance to catch a slam or hit the tried-and-true redfish spot I found on Friday.  I conceded the slam and headed to catch some reds.

I got to the spot and talked to a couple guys who were picking up, one had a small slot red and a trout(!) and had caught a couple bull reds as well.  He did say the water had dropped significantly though and things were getting worse.  I launched anyway and headed to the ponds that produced for me the day before – I really just wanted to catch some fish.

The water had dropped and places that I had no problems navigating the day before were big mud flats on Saturday.  There also weren’t redfish blowing up schools of bait like there was on Friday.  The gar were still there, some even doing their best redfish impersonations, teasing me, but eventually I did luck into a 21″ red.

I hit the rest of the spots that worked for me on Friday without success.  I then decided to go check out some interesting looking water (on an aerial) that was across a shallow bay.  I almost couldn’t get there and probably wouldn’t have in a pedal drive yak, but I made it and sure enough as soon as I arrived I saw a crawler.  I somehow kept my cool, waited for my chance to make a good cast to him (he was in a bunch of cane) and connected with him once I got my shot.  He went 23.5″ and had a more spots than two, I didn’t make an effort to count them at the time, I just wanted to get him in the bag.  Anything was better than what I had at this point.  Not long after I connected again on a 22″ red and suddenly I was on some redfish, only problem was that this spot had run out of fishable water and I had to head back across the bay.

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I slowed everything down and began trying my luck for flounder, but it just wasn’t in the cards.  I was tired, hungry, and ready to get off the water.  So I packed it in, called it a day, and headed back to the cabin to take a shower.

The first thing I noticed at the weigh-in was that the line to weigh fish was not very long.  Out of a total of 138 paid anglers, I believe less than half turned in fish.  In fact only three folks turned in complete slams and in our rules three fish slams of any weight will always trump a two fish slam.  My redfish went 5.51 lbs and had a total of six spots – good enough to net me a 4th place finish in the leopard red category.  After a long day of fishing and only bringing four fish to hand, it was nice to take home a plaque and a gift card.

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One cool story from Fall N Tide was that the overall winner was Vlad’s brother from Romania.  He was in town visiting family and Vlad told him “fish the bank for reds, the bay for trout, and the bottom for flounder” and wouldn’t you know it worked.  It just goes to show that everyone has a shot to win a tournament, you just got to get out there and give it your all.

I posted the final results below.  The one category that was really impressive to me was the Big Redfish category.  An 8.93 and an 8.77 lb slot redfish is no joke – those things are hammers that would compete in redfish series tournaments.  Congrats to Rick and Eric for finding those stud reds.  Really, congrats to everyone that made it to the leaderboard, it was a tough day on the water and every placing was well earned and deserved.  Looking forward to Paddlepalooza in April of 2016!

Final Results:

Cajun Slam 
1 Fernando Mihalieseu 10.23 – 3 fish slam
2 Chris Weaver 8.51 – 3 fish slam
3 Rick Jarreau 5.23 – 3 fish slam
4 Steve Neece 9.94
5 Eugene Cortez 8.33
6 Kirk Hess 8.05
7 Lee Wolfe 7.9
8 Brendan Bayard 7.68

Big Redfish
1 Rick Dembrun 8.93
2 Eric Stacey 8.77
3 Craig Brown 7.81
4 Elliot Stevens 7.23
5 Vlad Moldovemu 6.89

Mule Trout
1 Eric Muhoberac 2.49
2 Marty Mood 1.51
3 Jason Powers 1.44
4 Cristine Phillips 1.44
5 Tommy Eubanks 1.43

Saddle Flounder
1 Brian Carson 2.32
2 Chris Cox 1.99
3 Luke Beslin 1.86
4 Stacey Martin 1.18
5 Jared Leroy 1.04

Leopard Red
1 Donny Elliot (9)
2 Tyler Drude (7)
3 Mark Eubanks (7)
4 Ben Roussel (6)
5 Michael Ethridge (5)

Got out again in the Kilroy this past weekend and with favorable conditions on the coast I made the long drive south to fish for reds.  I hit an area that is new to me, but was recommended by a friend at Paddlepalooza.  Another benefit to an already long list of reasons to attend a BCKFC tournament and stay through the weigh-in is just talking to and learning from your peers.  There is a lot that is lost in translation if all your research and knowledge-base comes solely from the internet.

I arrived at sunrise and worked a topwater early, but to no avail.  I was hoping to stumble upon a few trout, but that wouldn’t be the case as the day progressed.  Working Gulp under a cork began producing small redfish.  They were tagged and released and hopefully in the future Tag Louisiana will give me an update on these fish.

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Conditions were pretty good throughout the day.  As you can see, winds were calm and it was very overcast – seemingly perfect conditions to walk the dog, but I didn’t have any luck.  It didn’t much matter as the water clarity was pretty good in the grassy areas and I was able to sight fish reds with either the fly rod or on spinning tackle using a good ‘ol tight lined Matrix shad.

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The reds went from 13″ up to 23″, so no big upper slot reds or junior bulls were had, but it was a lot of fun just catching consistent fish throughout the day.  Most of the fish I caught came on the fringes of the grass or around cuts and points, I didn’t mess around with any of the thick grass.  A few of the fish I caught were pulled from schools, which are always fun to see and hear.  You’ll just be minding your own business when all of the sudden around a point comes a wave of red terror, with bait popping out of the water in front of it, looking for any escape.  It doesn’t matter what you throw in front of the red mass, it just matters that you throw something.  It was a lot of fun trying to pull of the double by throwing the fly rod first, getting a hook set, then picking up the paddle tail and pitching it in the area.  I wasn’t able to connect this time around, but it is always a hoot to have the opportunity.