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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.

 

I had to work in Simmesport this past week, but knew that I’d have time to sneak away and do a little fishing at some point during each day so a kayak came with me. Having never been to this part of the state no matter what option I looked at would be a scouting trip. Nothing wrong with a good scouting trip, in fact they may be my favorite type of trip. I love the anticipation of fishing somewhere new; there is always that possibility of finding a hidden gem.

My first stop was in the Spring Bayou WMA where I found a nice public launch on the southern end of the WMA . I took a quick peek at the water before I launched and noted that the clarity wasn’t fantastic, but it wasn’t terrible either – definitely fishable. I launched and started working the cypress trees in the immediate area and soon enough I had my first bass.

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It was definitely nice to get the skunk off so soon and it showed me that there were bass around. Unfortunately I didn’t catch anything the rest of my time on the water, which wasn’t such a bad thing because it was a beautiful place to paddle. I found some really big cypress trees on a slough off the main channel and sitting next to them in a 12 ft boat made you really thankful that they somehow avoided the heavy timber operations that occurred back in the day. Another plus to Spring Bayou was that it was super windy out that day, but it wasn’t a bother with the tall trees and the multiple directions one could head from the launch.

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The next day I headed the other way and tried out a pond in the Richard K. Yancey WMA (Three Rivers). I was super excited after doing the clarity check at this pond. It was looking good thanks to an abundance of submerged vegetation. The sub-veg hadn’t matted yet either so it seemed like I would be hitting this pond at a great time. I launched in record time and started pounding the water with various baits. Surprisingly I wasn’t getting any hits on fly rod popper/dropper rig which is usually money this time of year. I switched over to a spinnerbait and started working just over the grass. With the clarity of the water being so excellent I was able to watch a choupique pick off my bait.

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I continued working my spinnerbait, encouraged after catching the choupique, but after awhile of no action, I had to stand up to survey the water. Sightfishing I would at least be able to spook fish and see what was out there.  The pond was covered in grass from one bank to the other and the fish species I saw were numerous, however they weren’t bass nor bream. I saw carp, buffalo, gar and choupique. I’m sure bass lived here, but I was convinced they didn’t live here in any great number. It was somewhat disappointing, but  I really didn’t mind making lemonade out of lemons and I stood up and tried to sightfish whatever I could. Although the water clarity was excellent, sightfishing was tough. The overcast skies and windy conditions weren’t helping at all. I was able to sightfish a choupique in a shallow cove, but I never got a solid hookset in him.

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Again I found a beautiful place to paddle (full of gators BTW), but the fishing proved to be tough – kind of a bittersweet experience. It was really cool to be able to sightfish a choupique, like freshwater redfishing, I only wish they were here in more numbers. The carp and buffalo I mentioned that I saw were all hanging in deep water and really didn’t lend themselves to sightfishing.

The last pond I explored was near the Old River Lock. Upon arrival the water clarity and vegetation was consistent with the last pond, however, this one had more matted veg. out in the middle. Again I started trying to target bass and bream, but that proved unfruitful. Much like the last pond standing up showed me that there was no shortage of gar. However it also showed me that this pond held more choupique and they could be sightfished. After pitching a texas rigged worm to a couple and getting eats but no solid hooksets I changed up. I decided that I was seeing enough to be able to justify tying on a redfish fly just to see if I could land one on the fly rod.

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After several spooked fish (yeah, you can spook choupique) and blown shots, I finally put it all together and got a nice one to eat. She ended up being around 23 inches and 4 lbs. It was a great fight, made tougher because you had to fight it in the salad. Pretty cool to catch a new species on the fly, but even cooler that I was able to do it sightfishing. This has huge potential in my mind. A little more challenging than redfish, but not as tough as carp – this could be a great option if the weather on the coast sucks.

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