Archive

Tag Archives: Jambalaya Challenge

It happens every year. When the azaleas start blooming the desire in me to fish a creek is at it’s strongest. The creeks are calling, beckoning me to wet my legs in the cool water, and tease some poppers around fallen timber in search of spotted bass and longear sunfish. This year that flame was fanned a bit more by my friend Brian, who had just recently taken a trip to Arkansas in search of smallmouth bass. His pictures were inspiring and as soon as I had a chance to hit a local creek I did.

It didn’t take long for me to catch my first spotted bass of the year, that happened right under the bridge where I accessed the creek, it fell for a little black Clouser minnow. I soon switched up to a popper-dropper so I could target the bass and the sunfish at once and eventually I coaxed a little largemouth from a lazy side channel with one of Ron Braud’s beautiful stippled poppers that I had won from last year’s Red Stick Flyfishers’s Jambalaya Challenge. That same lazy side channel then produced a couple beautiful longear.

There’s been recent research to suggest that the longear sunfish complex are comprised of more than just the two species that we currently recognize; Lepomis megalotis(longear sunfish) and Lepomis peltastes(northern sunfish). It’s been proposed that there are as many as six ancient lineages of longear sunfish (that includes northern sunfish). According to the paper, the longear we catch in the Amite River watershed, like the ones above, are suggested to be Lepomis solis.

The variability in the appearance of longear sunfish across their range has been pretty obvious to the discerning fisherman for quite some time, hell, there’s even a Facebook group dedicated to this observation: Lepomis Megalotis Morphology Project. When you see specimens from totally different watersheds side by side it’s easier to note the differences. The longears I’ve caught in Bayou Sara or Thompson Creek, which both drain into the Mississippi River, certainly look different than the ones we catch in the Amite, or any other northshore river, so this research doesn’t come as much of a surprise. Call me a splitter, but this research is very welcome, I’m definitely all for it.

I continued my way through the stream catching bluegill, shiner, more longear, and eventually another spotted bass. I swear I use to catch more spotted bass in these streams when I first started fishing them, but then again that was pretty much the only species I targeted. These days I’m trying to catch everything I see, which has me doing a lot of switching of flies from poppers to nymphs to streamers to size 26 micro-nymphs. It takes away from the time my fly is in the water, but I find it pretty rewarding to catch a wider variety of fish.

On my way back to the vehicle I found another lazy side channel that was loaded up with topminnow, some looked large enough to catch with a fly, so I re-rigged and spent some time dapping for them. It’s a little tougher to do it with a 6wt than a 1wt, but I got the job done and hooked one of the bigger ones. I made it back to the bridge and tied a popper back on to work the pools that formed behind the stacked up debris that clings to the pylons underneath seemingly every bridge around here I walk under. I don’t think there is a big budget for debris cleanup on our waterways, which is probably not the best thing for flooding, but it does increase the fish habitat within a river, so I’m not really complaining. Sure enough the best bass of the day was happy to explode on my black BoogleBug and I was as happy as a river clam when it happened.

The creek was calling and I’m glad I listened, it was a great day on the water, experiencing nature. No cool agate finds on this trip, but I was pretty happy with the diversity of fish that came to hand. I always tell myself that I shouldn’t wait so long before my next creek fishing trip, but then life always finds a way to interject. Hopefully this post will inspire someone out there, the way Brian’s pictures inspired me, to hit up a local creek and spend half a day on the water just taking it all in.

Back in October as the RSFF Jambalaya Challenge was beginning to wind down, Chris Williams and I made it out on a creek in search of shadow bass. Shadow bass are not a species you can directly target IMO, but we at least made it out somewhere that I’ve caught them before, so I figured our odds of seeing one were at least a little better there. This was the first time Chris and I had fished together and I was glad we were able to make it happen.

We got an early start that morning and had an unseasonably Fall-like chill in the air when we first stepped in the water. It was cold enough that it took a little bit of time for the fish to warm up and become active.

The first fish I came across was a blacktail shiner, a fish I had come across earlier in the year and a common catch on the creeks that I wade fish here in south Louisiana. I caught a striped shiner soon after that and unfortunately for me he came off the hook before I could get a photo. That would have been another species on the list so a bit of a bummer. Soon enough the normal targeted species began to show up as well; the longear sunfish and spotted bass.

The fishing remained pretty slow for most of the morning into the afternoon, but Chris did well to add three species to his list; striped shiner, blacktail shiner, and spotted bass and put a little distance on his Jambalaya Challenge lead.

Unfortunately we didn’t turn up any shadow bass on our trip, which was not wholly unexpected. Like I said before, they are difficult to target directly. They are always bycatch for me and I certainly don’t catch one every time I fish a creek. As my mom would say “maybe we just weren’t holding our mouth right”.

I enjoyed my day on the water with Chris and I know we will do it again soon. We still have to track down a shadow bass for him and he knows where to go to catch chain pickerel in Louisiana, which is something I’ve yet to do.

Just before things got serious with Hurricane Ida I was able to squeeze in a last minute scouting trip to a few roadside spots north of Lake Pontchartrain. This trip was supposed to be a wade fishing trip to one of my favorite streams with a brief roadside stop on the way to try and catch a new species to me, but the weather that day made me call an audible.

I pulled up at my first stop as the skies opened up and began casting my fly into a hole where a tannic stream poured out of a set of culverts that ran under the highway. I worked the hot head damsel fly from one side of the hole to the other and I tried to work it from the top down because in some spots the deeper I let it drop the easier it was to get hung up. Here’s what I found:

Goggle-eye (Warmouth)
Grass pickerel – the target species
Bluegill
Juvenile goggle-eye
Flier

The grass pickerel was the species I was after so I was pretty pumped to catch one at the first stop. The flier was a surprise bonus catch and as an unabashed sunfish nerd I was thrilled to land it as well. I knew they existed in South Louisiana somewhere, but I really had no idea where I needed to go to target them because I never hear anything from other anglers about them. In the Freshwater Fishes of Louisiana book by Dr. Neil H. Douglas, their range map says they exist statewide, but that to me is extremely vague and unhelpful. I may be asking too much of a nearly 50 year old book. I ended up catching three flier which tells me that they are at least established at this spot and should be a clue as to what type of habitat I should have been looking for them in all along.

I ended up fishing here longer than I thought I would because I was catching fish in the rain and frankly that’s better than not catching fish in the rain. All good things come to an end though and when things shut down I moved on to spot two. Spot two came on the recommendation of Chris Williams as the place I needed to go to target the grass pickerel and my whole reason for making a side trip here in the first place. He had added them to his species list for the RSFF Jambalaya Challenge and never having seen one before I was curious about them, so he passed on the knowledge to me. For that I’m very appreciative – anglers helping anglers, got to love it.

This spot was very similar to the first as it was a deep spot in a tributary, right off the highway. I worked it similarly and soon was rewarded with fish.

Dollar sunfish

Another mixed bag, no flier this time, but a few more grass pickerel, with the last one being pretty respectable, trending toward the max of their length. You got to watch those pickerel as they do have teeth and if they hit a fly up toward the line you may not get that fly back. I lost a couple flies to teeth while targeting them on this trip. They hit a fly like any Esox, they T-bone it, and I had a little trouble securing the hook up early on with them. I caught enough of them though that I wasn’t kicking myself over it.

After getting my fill of pickerel I picked up and moved on down the road. The rain wasn’t letting up and I spent a little too much time at each of these first two stops to go wade fish a stream now, especially one that may or may not get blown out with all the rain, so I opted to keep on spot hopping and scout a few more different roadside spots in the area.

The rain had made the day’s fishing tougher than it had to be and by the time I was ready to drive home I was sufficiently soaked. I caught a few fish here and there, no more new species to report, but found some good looking water. No spot was as productive as the first two. Also the more time I spent listening to the radio in the truck between spots the bleaker the forecast looked with Hurricane Ida. The track continued to jog westward toward Baton Rouge so I eventually decided I needed to head home. We needed to make a family decision as to what our plan was in regards to riding out the storm.

I’ll have more on that in another post, but know that our household and family made it through Hurricane Ida just fine. We were very lucky as there were many people in south Louisiana that were impacted and continue to be impacted by that storm to this day. It was a monster and one of those life changing events for some folks.