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I made it to Percy Quin and Lake Tangipahoa in time for the start of the big bream contest. Catch Cormier was running the show and, as I suspected, it was a very laid back, no pressure affair – just my style. “Go out and catch some bream, take some pics, and we’ll see who’s got what and afterwards there will be some prizes.”

I took off for the northern part of the lake and found shallow water with lilies and vegetation and loads of grass carp. I spent a little bit of time trying to fool one and had a rod at the ready, but I wasn’t really all that prepared for carp so I focused more on targeting bream. I started with a popper-dropper setup and things were pretty slow early on in the lake. I caught my first bluegill off some vegetation closer to the river channel and decided maybe it was best I stick to the deeper water if I wasn’t having any luck in the shallows.

I took the popper off and put on a bobber so I could fish the dropper even deeper and continued to target the vegetation and structure closer to deep water and I then started catching more fish. I had heard there were some big redear in the lake and I was really hoping to run into one, thinking I’d need at least 9″ to compete in any sort of big bream contest, but the best I could muster was a 7.75″ bluegill. Oh well, let’s go see what everyone else caught. As it turned out that 7.75″ bluegill was good enough to tie for first place, lol. The sunfish gods had rewarded me for the many years of targeting these fish!

I met up with Brian, my cabin bunkmate for the next two nights, and really enjoyed his company over the weekend. Be sure to check out his blog over at Down South Fly Fishing, he’s been putting out some great content this year. He made some bomb fajitas that night with limited resources (I totally dropped the ball on food or any cookware for the weekend) and we discussed a wide variety of things. Strategy for the next day’s big bass tourney was anyone’s best guess. The wind was howling through the chimney of that old cabin as temps began to plummet. Fish were going to be put off, there was no way around it. I had some 7wt sinking line and some streamers that I figured I’d dredge through the deepest parts of the lake to say I gave it my best shot. Being a mostly fair-weather fisherman had me pretty unprepared for the next day’s event.

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.