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Earlier this month I had an opportunity to get back out in the still-new-to-me kayak, the Crescent Crew, and settled on fishing down around Shell Beach, over in St. Bernard Parish. The wind forecast on the eastern side of the state looked a little more favorable than that of the central coast, which drove my decision to fish over there. I made it out after sunrise and paddled my way toward some familiar marsh. The water clarity was a little stained in some areas, but crystal clear over the thickly vegetated ponds. I started with one of the bigger Ron Braud stippled poppers I won last year, working it at the usual fishy looking spots – points, cuts, intersections, potholes, and the like. I caught a few cookie cutter 10-12″ largemouth bass and then decided I would start looking for redfish.

The white flowers of the arrowhead were blooming in the marsh, interrupting the sea of green of the Spartina grass. It was pretty cool to see so I stopped to snap a pic of one to help me figure out what plant was actually blooming; that’s when I realized that if I was taking pictures of flowers in the marsh than the fishing was pretty darn slow. Five hours passed, nearly the entire morning, before I caught my next fish. I caught those three bass pretty early and then had very few opportunities at redfish after that. Those opportunities I did get were all botched. Either I messed up the cast, saw the fish late and he spooked, or it just wasn’t a great situation to get a good cast off, nothing went right in that time. I did eventually put it all together and ended up catching three reds on back-to-back-to-back chances.

Those three fish all came after I tied on a new fly. I tried my darnedest to catch a fish on the awful Clouser minnow I tied at the first Flies & Flights, but it was honestly off-putting and scaring them away. I switched to a fly that David Rodgers gave me and it was just what I needed to be throwing. The flash tied in made the fly glow in the water and the slow sink rate was perfect for these grassy ponds. I took the pic above just to give anyone reading an idea of what the water looked like. The 30″ red was big fish on the day and he was one of the smartest fish I’ve ever caught. It was a hell of a fight on my 7wt! He would bulldog himself deep in the grass, I’d then have to paddle over to him and negotiate my rod trying to free him without coming up with pounds of matted grass on the leader, then when I’d get him out, he’d do all over again a little further away. It was a forearm workout for sure. I was thankful that my knot and my tippet held and I had something to post up for the fly rod category of the BCKFC Massey’s Fish Pics tourney. I failed to catch anything else after the stroke of genius I had catching those three redfish in a row. I didn’t stay out long after that, but there were more opportunities that were blown. I slowly made my way back to the launch content to call it a day.

A few observations I had on the day:

  • Gar were all over the place and the spawn was on for some of them. There were mostly spotted gar, but there were a few big alligator gar out there as well. I didn’t fool with them too much, but that’s as good a place as any to target gar.
  • I still need to figure out a better way to sight fish from the Crew. My paddle clip belt has worn itself out to the point where the paddle falls out unless it’s perfectly situated. As soon as the paddle falls out it makes a loud bang on the deck and you may as well be playing death metal underwater when that happens. Nothing will eat at that point. It seems like a long way down to drop a paddle and that deck is loud.
  • Speaking of long way down, I need to shorten the distance between the fly rod and myself while standing. In most of my Jacksons, I don’t remember that ever being an issue, but in the Crew it just seems so far away. The seat riser helps, but I’ve got to figure out how to raise up my rod without impeding my paddle stroke.

I’ve got a fix on the way, or at least ideas, for both of those situations, so hopefully I can hammer it down and be totally comfortable sight fishing out of this boat. I like it, it paddles great, but it needs a little help to turn it into a fishing machine.

Blake and I spent Election Day in his boat, fishing for redfish and bass. Hurricane Zeta had just come through southeastern Louisiana the previous week so we weren’t really sure what to expect, but we opted to make the trip anyway knowing the ramp we wanted to launch from was open.

As we drove down signs of damage from the storm increased as we went further south into St. Bernard Parish. There were power poles leaning or snapped, houses missing shingles or damaged from downed limbs and trees, the typical stuff you see after a named storm comes through, something our state has dealt with far too much this year. The real eye opener came along Hwy 46, where it’s common for folks to grab their boats and campers that they keep south of the levees and flood gates and park them on the side of the road, above the flood gates, to ride out the storm. Nearly every one of these recreational vehicles had been blown over and was on their side. Bucket trucks and linemen were everywhere working to restore power to the area and as we launched I wondered if we were down there too soon. That’s always a tough call to make.

We motored to where we wanted to start fishing and it really didn’t take too long for us to find fish. We started working some islands in a bay with no luck, then we hit a protected shoreline where Blake picked up a red.

Once we made it into a bayou that connected two larger waterbodies the action really heated up. Fishing spots in the bayou where the water was falling out of the marsh we began catching bass one right after the other. Mixed in with the bass were redfish too.

Most of my fish caught in the bayou came on a watermelon fluke I had rigged weedless. I didn’t pick up the fly rod until we got into a big pond where we could see fish. The water clarity in the pond was excellent which made seeing fish easy. The wind made casting a little tougher, but I was able to connect with a few fish. The tide was falling hard on us and the shallow pond kept getting shallower which forced us to retreat back to the bayou.

The fishing was hot and we doubled up a few times throughout the day, which is always a hoot. We didn’t know what to expect going into the day, but it ended up being a banner day. One of those days you have every so often where it seems like everything goes right and the fish cooperate. It was nice to just be back on the bow of Blake’s boat fishing, for us to have an awesome day like that was lagniappe.

I got out to the marsh on Labor Day intent on catching fish on fly. It was the first time in a long time that I made it on the water before sunrise.

Waiting for the light to get right to sightfish I started off throwing a topwater on conventional tackle. No redfish hit the frog, but I did manage a few small bass. Despite the low sun angle the first redfish was sightfished when I noticed a back out of the water on top of a grass bed. I actually thought it was a gar at first because of the lack of movement, but quickly realized after setting the hook on him that it was a red, and a decent one at that. After that fish I put my spin tackle down and focused on fly fishing. It was the right call because for about three hours there I could do no wrong. I was seeing fish with ease, casts were well placed, hooksets were tight, and fish were repeatedly brought in the boat. It was magical.

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Redfish were anywhere from 18-28″, no true bulls, but a lot of nice slot fish. Great tournament fish. I even made it a point to blind cast the fly a bit so I could catch some bass and that worked too. Anywhere water was moving through a cut made for a great spot to blind cast.

Water clarity was excellent where there was submerged vegetation and it was in most of the bayous and ponds I fished. Conditions were pretty nice too, partly cloudy with a little breeze, super hot though. Fish activity was off the charts. Baitfish, shrimp, and crabs were in abundance and that brought out all the usual predators. I even had a shot at sightfishing for a few blue cats, but I pulled the hook from one of their mouths when I got all excited.

I always enjoy exploring new water and I got to do some of that as well. Gotta love it when that new water is productive too. Days like this are why St. Bernard parish is becoming my new favorite place to fish during the summer.