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It’s late December which means it’s time for the annual year-end review, so let’s look back at the posts of 2016 – click each pic to see more:

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Fishing-wise 2016 wasn’t a bad one, I took some nice trips, fished a lot of new water, and had plenty of run-ins with some big redfish.  Outside of fishing it was tough here in Baton Rouge and for that I’m ready to see 2016 go.  I already know 2017 is going to be better as my wife and I are expecting our second child in January.  I’m excited to see what being a dad of two is all about.  Things may slow down here at the blog, but trips are still in the works and I’m sure I’ll continue to find a good balance between family, friends, and fishing.  I want to wish everyone who reads a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year and hope you’ll find your way back next year.

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.

My cousin got married in Santa Rosa Beach, FL earlier this month which provided us a great opportunity to go on a week long beach vacation.  Baton Rouge has been pretty chaotic lately so it was nice to get out of town for a while.

Our trip started with a stop in Fairhope, AL.  It broke up the drive and we were able to visit another brewery.

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Fairhope Brewing Company has some really good beer, but two of their offerings really stood out to me.  Judge Roy Bean is an excellent coffee stout and (Take The) Causeway IPA is a solid IPA brewed with Citra and Simcoe hops.  I’m a sucker for Citra, so I really enjoyed it.

Fairhope is a pretty cool little town, but we learned that Sunday is not the best day to visit as nearly every shop was closed.  We were disappointed, but at least they have a great little community park in town with a splash pad and top notch playground equipment.  These are the things that get me excited – life is much different than it was when I started this blog – I wouldn’t have it any other way though.

Once in Florida I was able to get in a couple of half days of fishing from the kayak.  Most folks would probably fish the saltwater being so close to the beach, but I guess I’m not like most folks.  I chose to fish a couple of different freshwater spots.  The first was one of the coastal dune lakes that are unique to South Walton County.

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The water in this lake was very tannic which gave the bass and bream a very dark look, almost entirely black at times.  I ended up catching lots of small bluegill on nymphs, but only landed one skinny bass on a popper.  It felt great to get out in the kayak again, it had been a while.