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I recently revisited that old brownline from last year to see how the fish were doing. As Spring progresses into Summer there are still a few local species I can add to my catch list for the 2022 edition of the Red Stick Fly Fishers Jambalaya Challenge, and I was hoping to do that here.

The water in the ditch was low and clear and made for some exciting and challenging sight fishing. We’ve had drastically less rainfall this year when compared with last. We had the wettest year I’ve ever seen in Baton Rouge last year, but this Spring we’ve been dealing it’s been a mild drought. A mild drought here just means more of these ditches are fishable as the water isn’t super dirty from runoff, so in terms of my local fishing a drought is not the worst thing.

When I walked up to the first “hole” I could see the male sunfish actively protecting their beds. You could see the blues, greens, reds, and orange flanks of sunfish flash through the water as they swam in circles around their nest. These fish will do this all summer as they spawn multiple times in a year. Here in south Louisiana we have a much longer spawning season than locations to the north, so you may see male fish on their bed from March through September, depending on the species of sunfish. I’ve noticed they don’t all spawn at the time. As they are doing this the bass are not far away. They patrol the periphery and show up when they see an opportunity to prey on a weakened fish. The bass have already spawned this Spring, so they’re ready to eat. I targeted the bass first, catching a few small ones, but really today was a sunfish-fest. They are so aggressive this time of year it’s hard keeping them off the hook.

Largemouth bass
Redspotted sunfish
Bluegill

When I call it a sunfish-fest, it was really the longear sunfish-fest. They were the stars of the show today and I love them for it. They are arguably the most attractive fish in any body of water at any time, but right now, in full spawning regalia, they really are putting on a show. Their variability, even within the same stretch of stream, is impressive. Some are more blue or turquoise while others have more reds and oranges. The size of their opercle is never consistent; on some fish they are quite large, and others they are not. The forehead too. They don’t have a massive cranium like a Rio Grande cichlid, but they can develop a case of fivehead and make for interesting looking fish. I sometimes catch longear, especially the larger ones, with long black tendril-like tips on their pelvic fins. There is just so much to look at on a longear and I think it’s cool how no two look the same.

I was having a great time catching longear and seeing how different they were from fish to fish, but I had yet to catch a species I had not logged this year to up my Jambalaya challenge tally. I made it to a bit bigger “hole” where I found a few spotted gar. They looked like they were busy doing the spawning thing too and really weren’t interested in flies. Soon after I found one tucked up next to the bank I was standing on and ran a blind Clouser minnow (a poorly tied Clouser that lost his lead eyes) and had a strike and a hookup. I quickly muscled him onto the bank where the fly broke off and the fish began to flop. I took a quick pic and got him back in the water. Not ideal, but like Charlie Kelly, gar are wildcards.

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