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Back in April I got out on a very unassuming local drainage ditch in the kayak and had a really productive panfish trip.  The ditch was in surprisingly good shape, water fairly low and clear, a sign that we had not had rain in a while.  This waterway gets loaded with trash after every storm because frankly folks around here are spoiled with water and really don’t put much thought into how their actions impact their local watersheds or what lives in them.  I had taken my kids to the adjacent park a few times to get them out of the house during the pandemic and noted that the water was in good shape and bream were starting to bed in the ditch.

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The bayou has a good variety of sunfish, something we definitely take for granted here in south Louisiana.  I was able to catch bluegill, longear sunfish, red spotted sunfish(stumpknocker), warmouth(goggle-eye), redear sunfish(shellcracker), green sunfish, and largemouth bass.  All caught on a slow sinking spider

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I had continually written off fishing here in the past, but thanks to this trip I will probably add this local option to my list of places to hit each Spring, provided the flow looks good.  I didn’t anything of size, but I love the diversity.

Last weekend I wanted to get Marin out of the house so I asked her if she wanted to go see what fish lived in the “creek” at the nearby park.  That wasn’t reason enough for her to commit to going, but then I sweetened the pot and told her that we could play on the playground after we fished which got her to immediately put her shoes on and head toward the door.

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The “creek” is a drainage ditch that runs through the park near our house.  It’s not very long, I’m not even sure it has a name.  You can jump across it and not get wet in some places, at bends it slows down and deepens enough to make a pool.  Those pools will hold fish.  On a hot, cloudy February day those fish were hungry.  We caught several species of small sunfish, some on tiny nymphs, but more on dry flies.  I brought a 1wt and had fun making bow and arrow casts to the pools and watching fish explode on the surface shortly after the fly landed.  Marin had a blast holding the fish and releasing them back into the water.

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Dollar sunfish (Lepomis marginatus)

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Redspotted sunfish (Lepomis miniatus)

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Green sunfish (Lepomis cyanellus)

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Longear sunfish (Lepomis megalotis)

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Bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus)

I was surprised at the diversity within this tiny trickle of a ditch, but really it shouldn’t come as a surprise as Louisiana is truly a melting pot for Lepomis species.  This was borderline microfishing but it was actually pretty entertaining, especially with ultralight fly tackle.  Marin loved it too, which is really all that matters.

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.

 

 

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For those readers who are fellow Baton Rouge denizens, do yourself a favor and go visit the Paddle Baton Rouge website just to see what they have been up to.  Outsiders may not appreciate what the duo are trying to accomplish, but I certainly do.  Let me just highlight their “About” page so everyone has an understanding of what they are about:

Paddle Baton Rouge was created in 2011 as a grassroots group with a mission to improve paddling in Baton Rouge.  We are hands-on people who simply figured it was time *someone* started doing *something*, and it turns out, we also seem to enjoy a good day’s hard work.

Our mission, which we heartily choose to accept, is three-fold:

  1. Recon: We go see what’s out there.
  2. Trailblazing: Where debris blocks the water, we open a path.
  3. Cleanup: We collect litter to make the view worthwhile.

(There’s also an unwritten #4.  Where and when possible, we do what we can to improve public access to the waterways we work on.  That’s more talking than doing, and we prefer to get our hands dirty in the literal sense, but it *is* on our minds.)

Take a look around at some of the work we’ve been doing, and if you find yourself thinking that you might want to join us for a day on the water, we’d be delighted to have you.

It is one thing to talk about cleaning up waterways and improving access but it is another to actually get out there and do it and that is precisely what Paddle Baton Rouge is about. For those who are unfamiliar with the waterways they choose to work on – these are litter filled drains that are chock full of natural and artificial debris.  They’ve basically been written off for any sort of recreational use by the Parish and have been largely ignored even for proper maintenance as drainage.  I’ve fished them a few times when I need a quick fix, but often prefer to travel away from Baton Rouge.

These two saw a problem and attacked it with gusto.  Here is an article from The Advocate about the group(be sure to watch the corresponding video).  As a kayaker and citizen of EBR parish it warms my heart to see this.  Kudos to Paddle Baton Rouge on all they have accomplished and here’s to them continuing their mission on improving our local waterways.  Their “Upcoming Events” page lists scheduled cleanups where you can meet the group and lend a hand – I hope to make one of these soon, until then I will post what is scheduled below and hope that word spreads about their mission:

June 13-15, 2014

Project Clearwater — Do-It-Yourself Edition

Launching: Bayou Fountain at Highland Road Park, whenever you want.

Recovering: Bayou Fountain at Highland Road Park or whatever, whenever.

Mission: Nathaniel’s out of town, so after 26 straight weeks and 30 trips out on Bayou Fountain, it seems he and his canoe(s) are going to miss a weekend.  We’re trying to get BREC out for a tour, and after all this work, we certainly don’t want them to run into any obstructions, so if you happen to paddle the bayou and could send a brief note about what you find (or even, dare we ask) a photo or few that we can use for a brief post, we would be quite grateful.


Saturday, June 21, 2014

Project Clearwater — Expedition 27

Launching: Bayou Fountain at Highland Road Park, 8am.

Recovering: Bayou Fountain at Highland Road Park, afterward.

Mission: Anyone want to spin the wheel and guess what this trip will bring? We’re pretty sure there will be water.

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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