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I was able to get out and fish for the fourth weekend in a row, which is surely some sort of a record for toddler dads.  I can’t thank my wife enough for that.  Sunday’s forecast was too good to pass up so I headed to the coast for more bull red action.  What has been nice about each one of these trips is that I’ve been able to explore new areas, fish new water, and still find some success at each new spot.

There was frost on the truck and the yak as I left the driveway early yesterday morning, temps had made it in to the 40s though by the time I arrived at the launch.  It was chilly to start, but with a nearly three mile paddle ahead of me to get to where I wanted to fish, it never really felt that cold.  I was appropriately dressed and was taking off layers before I even got in the kayak.

On my paddle I couldn’t help but notice that the marsh in January, despite the cold, is so full of life.  Nutria, otter, dolphin, and countless numbers of birds had their morning activities interrupted as I glided through their habitat.

The tide was very low and the water was much dirtier than it was last weekend, but winds were light and it was a bluebird sky, so conditions would be favorable for some sightfishing, I just needed the sun to get up and warm up the flats.  Surprisingly, it did not take long for me to see some activity.

I was in a canal making my way toward a large bay when I noticed a lot of nervous baitfish near the opening of a marsh drain.  There was a big red chasing bait in some super skinny water along the bank of the canal.  I had a rod in front of me still rigged from last week’s Minimalist Challenge and was able to flip a Vortex shad in front of the red and he inhaled it.  This was a fairly narrow canal an without much of an area to run the fight was actually much shorter than you’d imagine, maybe just 5-10 minutes.

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This red measured just over 42″ and I was back in the 40s for the first time in a long time.  This red had to be fresh from the Gulf as it was covered in sea lice.

I put the spinning rod down for the rest of the day and picked up the fly rod.  The next few hours were pretty quiet.  Not many fish spotted and quite a few rejections from those I did see and was able to lay a cast in front of.  Conditions were at their best about mid-day and things started to pick up.  I made it to a point in a bay that was surrounded by shallow flats.  The flats were loaded with skittish redfish.  I caught a few fish, but had dozens of refusals, it was a very humbling experience to say the least.

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I began the long paddle back to the launch and was a little bummed that I didn’t tie into any bigger bulls with the fly rod while conditions were at their best (Biggest I had caught on the fly so far was 31.75″).  I had a few chances, but just couldn’t connect.  As I made it back into the same canal I caught the big red to start the day, a chance at redemption floated to the surface.  After a good cast and a slow twitch, the line came tight and I had caught another bull.

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This fish was a fat 35.5″, which is the same length as the big red I had caught on my trip with Hays. I think this fish was probably heavier though, he had a full belly.

It was a great way to end the day and really made that three mile paddle back to the launch much easier.

That just may be my favorite music video.

I fished a tournament this past weekend, Bayou Coast’s Minimalist Challenge.  It’s got a unique format as they provide you with the tackle you’ll use for the day. Five soft plastics, five jigheads and a topwater is what was provided. The goal is to catch and weigh as many legal trout, redfish and flounder as you possibly can.

This has never been my favorite tournament, not because of the provided tackle part, I actually like that – it simplifies things.  Rather, I hate that I may actually have to keep forty fish, which will likely never happen, but I hate the idea – that would be some day though right!

We had a shotgun launch at 6:00am from Leeville and 125 kayak anglers spread out across the adjacent marsh.  I knew early on I wanted to put some distance between myself and the launch because frankly I don’t like fishing with a crowd.

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I made my first stop on the backside of an island where a trenasse emptied into a larger bayou.  Clear, moving water was being swept around both sides of the island and my first cast toward the island was inhaled by a junior bull of about 32″.  It took a while for me to figure that out though because he shook his head like a big trout and nearly gave me a heart attack.

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After a good fight and a few quick pics I sent him on his way (can only keep slot reds for BCKFC tourneys).  A few more casts and I soon began catching trout.  In short time I had six in the boat, from 14-16″, and then I found out I hadn’t put enough distance between myself and the launch.  Some dude had the nerve to paddle right through the spot I was catching fish even after I told him to come around behind me.  I was displeased so I pushed further.  As I got further I decided to sabotage my tournament plans and target bull reds.  The weather was too nice not to.  Winds were light, water was clear, the tide was right, and we’d have plenty of chances for bright sun.

I paddle-poled my way through a lot of good looking water looking for redfish sign, but really wasn’t seeing much of anything.  Finally as I was working the flat of a long, wide bayou I started to see some activity.  At the mouth of a smaller trenasse I caught one that went about 33″.

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Then later I spotted a pair of bulls cruising the shore and was able to pick off the closer one with a good cast.  He went about 35″.

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Each of these fish I tagged and sent on their way.  They weren’t tournament fish, but I didn’t really care.  When conditions allow for sightfishing bull reds, that’s what I want to be doing, so that’s what I did.  I hooked up with another fish after I rounded the corner into a cut and saw him cruising down the shoreline toward me.  I didn’t get him to the boat though as he eventually spit the hook.  He was another junior bull, not a monster like I was hoping.

I finally decided enough had been enough and I may as well weigh what I had, so I made my way back toward the weigh-in, figuring I might be able to run into some slot fish along the way.

I did run into slot fish, that were way up in the skinny water ponds, but they were the spookiest fish I’ve ever encountered, I couldn’t get them to bite to save my life.  It is a strange day when sightfishing bull reds is easier than catching slot fish.

I picked up a few more trout under the Leeville bridge along the way, but really I had already conceded the tournament.  It was a sabotage and a successful one at that and I would do it again if given the opportunity – it was a lot of fun.

 

Last weekends weather forecast was too juicy to pass up.  Friday, Saturday and Sunday all looked good on paper for the kayak fisher.  I managed to get away on Saturday and fish with my buddy Steve – the 2014 Hobie Fishing Worlds champion who lives right down the road in Prairieville.  Steve had big trout on his mind and I was listening.  I can readily admit that I don’t know enough about catching trout, so getting the opportunity to fish with Steve and learn a bit about trout was worth it.

We had a plan of attack before heading down, but a slight change in the wind direction made Steve call an audible.  I was game for the change, it meant more paddling, but the forecast allowed for it and I didn’t have a deadline to be home so I was uniquely prepared for a long day.  I didn’t know it would be a 12 hours on the water type day, but it ended up being well worth it.

We set out from the launch at sunrise and were hardly out of sight before Steve spots the first redfish working some bait out in front of a cut.  He made a perfect cast with a topwater plug and soon we got to see what happens when a redfish sucks down a floating lure.  It was a great start to what would be an incredible day.

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Redfish weren’t really a morning target for us, partly because we were focused on trout, but also because the tide was high and incoming, we thought it would be better to wait until the afternoon to target reds, but when an opportunity presents itself you take advantage.  No sane kayak fisher can pass up a tailing redfish.

We pushed on to speckled trout water, ignoring cuts into the marsh that no doubt led to redfish Valhalla.  Not really, but sometimes it feels that way when passing good water to hopefully get to better water.  On the way we see gulls working some bait.  Some of the birds are sitting on the water, Steve mentions that can be a good sign, so I head over to investigate, while he checks out another spot.  After a few boils under a topwater I finally hook a 12″ trout.  The birds dispersed shortly after and I moved on – it was worth investigating, but we were after a better quality trout.

I met back up with Steve as he was fishing around a small island.  We met up at the back side of the island where water was being swept around and converged.  A few casts into the moving water and my She Dog was nailed.  A fat 17″ trout joined me in the Kilroy.  We caught a few more trout behind that island and missed a few more we should have caught as well.

We moved on after the action cooled.  Steve had no shortage of places to try and at each stop we ended up catching at least one trout, sometimes we’d catch more than that.  We were catching them a variety of ways too.  Topwater plugs worked, so did suspending lures, shrimp imitations under a popping cork, and even my trusty Matrix shad were producing the occasional trout.

By mid morning I was ready to change it up so I started sight fishing for reds along the shore.  The tide was still up and the water was high way up into the grass.  It was making things tough, but eventually one red gave up the ghost.

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While I wasted my time looking for reds, Steve was busy fishing points and pockets for trout and having some success.  It caught my attention when he landed one that was near 20″.  I joined him and was rewarded shortly with a solid fish as well.  Steve was keenly aware of what has happening beneath the water and I was starting to pick up on it.  He was seeing things that I just didn’t notice, or had never really thought to notice until that day.  We had a blast for the next hour or so, leapfrogging each other fishing points and pockets in the marsh with topwater lures and catching quality trout.

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The action slowed down and eventually Steve and I parted ways.  I wanted to try and sightfish reds on the falling tide in some of the areas we had passed up heading to fish trout.  I’m a sucker for exploring new territory and I spotted some ponds I had never fished before that were calling my name.  The action was slow at first, but as that tide kept dropping and the shoreline kept receding the redfish began getting more aggressive and you began to hear them crushing bait on shorelines.  One bayou I entered had redfish cruising the shoreline like ants in a line.  Me, being the glutton I am, couldn’t help myself and I had to attempt to double up.  I had a popper tied up on the fly rod, thinking I might fool a speck with it, but I never really committed to using it while speck fishing.  It wasn’t ideal for reds, but I put a good cast in front of the first fish and he crushed it.  I laid a solid hookset on him, tightened my drag and put my fly rod between my legs, picked up the Matrix shad (I typically have both rods ready in front of me when sightfishing) and put a cast on the second fish.  It was a terrible cast and he paid no attention to it, no big deal, I’ll try again with the third red.  This time my aim was true and he pounced on the lure – the double was on.

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What I didn’t realize at the time was that the first fish I hooked was a good 24.5″, a fair fight in his own right.  The second fish though ended up being 27.5″, I couldn’t help but laugh out loud as I fought a fish in each hand.  I’ve caught doubles before but I had not caught one with two mid-upper slot reds like this.  It was a riot!  As you could imagine, both lines tangled in each other, I missed netting the fish once or twice, just a massive cluster.  I did get them in the boat once they wore down though and decided I didn’t have to do that again that day.

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The hot and heavy redfish action continued as they continued to cruise the shoreline with backs out of the water.  That is exciting in itself, throw in getting to watch them eat a popper fly and you’ve got some Ebert & Roeper approved action.  Gotta love redfish!

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As you can imagine it was hard to call it a day I was having so much fun.  It is gonna be really hard to top a day like that, but that certainly won’t stop me from trying.  Big thanks to Steve for letting me tag along and teaching me a good bit about trout fishing.  Hopefully I’ll be able to better spot productive water and establish reliable patterns to catching more fish.  I’ve still got a long way to go to become a good trout fisherman, but I think it is safe to say he helped shorten the learning curve.