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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.

 

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Last month I got the opportunity to spend a few days working near Breaux Bridge.  In my down time I explored Lake Martin, though not by kayak on the water, but on foot at the Cypress Island Preserve, which is property around the lake owned by the Nature Conservancy.

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In two mornings I covered the entire trail system and can say with certainty that there is no better place in south Louisiana to take someone to see an alligator than Lake Martin.  The clear waters of the lake hold an abundant population of the big lizards.  The fishing for bass, bream, and sacalait can be pretty good too, from what I hear, I haven’t put in the time there to tell you from experience.  It is a beautiful lake, full of Spanish moss covered cypress and tupelo trees.  It’s a place, I imagine, that is exactly what tourists picture in their minds when they think of our part of the country.  The levee trail at Cypress Island makes for a great place to take a walk.

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IMG_4670Common blue violet (Viola sororia)

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My next trip out in the kayak would be on a spring fed creek that holds the newest member of the black bass family, the Choctaw bass.

The put-in I chose to use for access had a spring right next to the launch, amazing how clear the water was in the pool where it was bubbling in.  The creek was a beauty too.  From afar it really didn’t look all that different from a slow bayou in Louisiana, with all the cypress and gum trees.  The water clarity though, was much better than anything you’ll find in Louisiana, thanks to the numerous springs that fed the creek.  There was also a large amount of submerged vegetation too, this was a very healthy environment, full of life, and it looked bassy as hell.

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I paddled up about a mile and floated and fished back from there.  It didn’t take long to land a few fish on the fly rod.  The stumpknocker were plentiful as were the redbreasted sunfish.

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I put the fly rod down and started tossing a soft plastic around the stumps and lilies, that’s when I landed my first chain pickeral on the day.

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He wasn’t too big, but he was fun.  I’d soon find out that this creek was loaded with them and that soft plastics were a bad choice for what the locals called jackfish.  I was broken off shortly after catching my first one, then broken off again moments later.  I decided that was enough of that and tied on a buzzbait.  A wise man once said “any fat kid can catch a fish on a buzzbait” or something like that, so I decided it was time to exercise my inner fat kid.

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I was having a blast catching pickeral on the buzzbait.  They would absolutely hammer it, sometimes launching themselves out of the water like rockets!  Most were small, but a couple went over 20″.  I missed one choupique that I would have liked to have back. He nailed the buzzbait, not sure how I didn’t get a hook in him, he was every bit of 30″ though.

The fishing was going great, everything was visual, so I was enjoying myself, but the bass were eluding me to this point.  I was finally able to change that around a group of submerged cypress, catching a healthy 14.5″ Choctaw.  After the release of the Choctaw I noticed that the mother of all spiders was on my bow.  I guess he hopped on from one of the nearby cypress trees.  We’ve got fishing spiders in Louisiana, but I’m not sure we’ve got them that big.

 

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I continued throwing the buzzbait and picked up a few more pickeral, mostly in the slack water, either around cypress trees or lilies.  Just before takeout I was able to pick up a couple chunky little largemouth too.

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The mission was accomplished, I was able to land a Choctaw bass, on a beautiful stretch of river.  The real story though was catching a dozen or so chain pickeral, or southern pike as I’ve decided to start calling them.  What they lack in size they make up for in fight – what a fun fish.  I might have to check out some other spring creeks next time I’m on the panhandle, such amazing fisheries.

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.

 

 

 

I had to be up in Monroe for work a few days last week.  With my kayak and all my bass stuff still in the truck from the Yak-a-Bass tournament it became a work during the day, fish during the evening kind of trip.  There is a ton of good looking water in and around the Monroe area and it was all at my disposal but in the interest of getting the most time on the water I stayed local and fished the bayou that runs right through ULM’s campus, Bayou Desiard.

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I fished from a couple different launches, Tuesday had me closer to town.  Bayou Desiard is loaded with cypress trees and submerged vegetation so the water clarity is awesome and there is structure overload.  You can fish anywhere in the bayou and not feel like you’re in a bad spot.  I stuck to pounding the banks (and the trees closest to the banks) as that is what I know best.  With a texas rigged red shad worm (I’m old school) I ended up having a nice day on the water catching lots of small bass up to 13″.

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Wednesday I went a little further out of town and tried a different spot.  Almost immediately I actually saw a male bass near a bed.  I pitched my worm over there and felt some pressure, but I could see that the male hadn’t taken it.  I was hooked up on a fish I didn’t see that came through the grass, a slightly larger bass – a nice surprise.

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That bass went 15″.  An upgrade to my 13″ bass caught yesterday, not a monster by any stretch of the imagination.  That actually ended up being the only bass I caught that day.  The early sight fishing kind of ruined me as I tried to replicate that pattern throughout the day and failed.  That didn’t take away from the paddling though – Bayou Desiard is downright stunning, an amazing resource so close to town.

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Bayou Desiard is a beautiful place to paddle.  Big thanks to looknfishy for throwing a few launch suggestions my way.  I was able to exercise some bass demons and got a nice, scenic paddle in as well – can’t beat that.