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After finishing first in the fly division of the BCKFC/Massey’s CPR kayak fishing tourney last year I have been brainstorming ways to spend the store credit I was awarded. Without actually going to the main store in New Orleans and seeing what I could walk out with this was proving fruitless. So one rainy Sunday in late June I trekked my way to New Orleans to do a bit of shopping. The first stop though was to City Park to try and catch a Rio Grande cichlid. It had been quite some time since I last targeted them so I was a bit rough around the edges.

A distant waterspout is a sure sign of good luck, right?

I started off near the New Orleans Museum of Art and didn’t venture too far from there as I was on fish from the start. They weren’t the target species, but I was catching a LOT of bluegill, as they got bigger things got more exciting.

Fishing a popper/dropper I got into a few coppernose hammers. They were manhole covers compared to their native cousins. I caught a couple other species too, but no Rios, so I started to walk around and check out some other spots.

Eventually I did find a Rio cruising the shallows and after a well placed cast and a casual eat I had my target fish to hand. Man, these things are pretty!

At this point I needed to make my way to Massey’s before they closed. I found a few things I’d had my eye on but never wanted to spend my own money on, I walked out feeling like I robbed the place. Store credit might be the greatest thing I’ve ever won in a kayak tournament! Let me expand on that a bit and make my case below.

Big kayak tournaments typically give a kayak to the winner, sometimes awarding kayaks to the top three places. That all makes sense. It’s a big prize, has a bit of a wow factor for the crowd, but does it make that much sense? Let’s be honest, the winners of kayak tournaments already own kayaks. They likely own really nice kayaks or they paddle for one brand or another, meaning they likely HAVE to use that particular brand kayak. So what happens to the kayaks they win? Well, they hit craigslist or Facebook marketplace and get sold the next week for cold, hard cash. It’s a bad look for the local clubs and I fail to see what it does to help the local shops that sponsor these events, outside of the pub they get at the awards ceremony.

Now, I don’t know that store credit helps the shops either, that would probably depend on what gets bought as the margins are different for different items. But as someone who has won kayaks in the past, this was a very welcome change as it gave me an opportunity to upgrade some of my other gear and purchase merch I’ve been gun-shy to buy in the past. Shoot, I’ve been pedaling the same bike for the last 20 years, but not anymore, and I still have credit remaining too!

I don’t want to sound like I’m being picky, as I will always be happy and appreciative of anything I’m awarded for placing in a tournament, but I can definitely get behind store credit taking over as the main draw. Big thanks to Massey’s for continuing to sponsor the BCKFC CPR tournament, the fly division is always one I enjoy competing in.

Amanda and I took a somewhat last minute, short notice road trip over the Independence Day holiday to the Texas Hill Country, where we stayed in a cabin outside of Fredericksburg. We set out after work Wednesday evening and made it to the cabin REAL early Thursday morning, driving in the dark from about Houston westward. Over the last 1.5 hours of the drive we counted about 62 deer passed on the road, which was both exciting and a little nerve racking.

We woke up Thursday morning and stepped outside on our deck to a pretty impressive view, where we were soon joined by a couple of hungry deer. The reason we had a view was that our cabin actually sat on the ridge that separates the Pedernales and Guadalupe watersheds.

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Thursday was spent in and around Fredericksburg just playing tourist. The downtown historic district was pretty cool, but I think Amanda got the biggest kick when we got back to the cabin. We chatted with the owner who lives on site and he invited us over to come see the baby skunks and fawn they had been raising. The skunks had just been descented so they were okay to handle and the fawn had lost its mother, so they were bottle feeding it back to health. Amanda is not much of an
“animals as pets” person, she loves them at a distance, so it was fun to watch her pet the skunk and the deer. We ended the day in true American fashion with steaks on the grill. Admittedly we didn’t go see any fireworks on the 4th, opting to stay in and watch them on TV.

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On Friday I convinced Amanda to head to the South Llano with me so that I could try and catch a Guadalupe bass while I was within their native range. The state fish of Texas, they are only found in the Hill Country region, think of them like a Texas brook trout. The South Llano was a pretty river, much wider and deeper than I thought it would be, at least in parts, which made wading a little tough. It really looked like big largemouth territory though I didn’t catch any. I caught a few Guadalupe bass, 9″ was the biggest, and lots of different sunfish, which was a nod to how diverse the river is. I also got to see the Rio Grande cichlid in it’s native environment while I watched pairs of them protect their spawning beds.

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Neither of us had really ever visited the Texas Hill Country (sure I’ve been to Schlitterbahn in New Braunfels, but that hardly counts) so the landscape was a pretty stark contrast to what we were use to. The hills are covered in short, stubby Texas live oak and prickly pear cactus, it was almost like being in a different country as I walked back to the car.

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We headed back to Fredericksburg via US 290 and had to do a double take as we passed a herd of deer under some trees. They weren’t the normal white tailed deer we had been seeing, they had to be something exotic, I know the ranches have plenty of exotics. We just couldn’t put our finger on what exotic they were. Some locals tried to tell us they were Axis Deer, but their antlers looked more like Reindeer to us, I’m still not really sure what we saw, but there is a large herd of them under some trees on a ranch outside of Harper.

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We capped the day at Old Tunnel State Park, where we got to see the bat emergence. No good pictures were taken as it was close to 9pm, but imagine a swirling vortex of millions of bats leaving an old tunnel and flying downhill just over the tree tops – a pretty cool sight to behold.

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Saturday we decided to take a trip over to Enchanted Rock to do a little hiking. Enchanted Rock, like Stone Mountain in Georgia, is a huge granite batholith. Enchanted Rock though is a bit further from civilization and by default, less touristy. Don’t get me wrong there were plenty of tourists there (including us), but  Stone Mountain is like the Gatlinburg of Atlanta, you’ll just have to check it out for yourself. I like to imagine Enchanted Rock being more like Uluru out in Australia, landscape and all. We hiked to the top, then came down and made a loop around the rock. It was a nice hike that got pretty hot toward the end. I failed to mention so far that the weather was awesome the entire time we were there. Highs were in the mid 90s, but lows were mid 60s – mornings were very pleasant.

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We stopped for lunch in Fredericksburg where I had some killer enchiladas at Mahaley’s Cafe. Then we headed over to the Pedernales Brewing Company for a tour and some beer. Wore out from our hike, we napped at the cabin after that and finished the trip with another solid meal at Alamo Springs Cafe – one of the best burgers I’ve ever had.

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On the way back to the cabin I had to stop for a picture with this agave, as you can see it was a pretty impressive size. We also ran into some more deer. As we came to find out, the Hill Country has a deer problem. We counted over 260 deer during our stay there.

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Sunday we woke up and hit the road for the long trek back to Baton Rouge. We really had a lot of fun on our trip to Texas. If you are looking for lodging in the area, I can safely recommend the Walnut Canyon Cabins near Alamo Springs. Dave and Laurie were incredible hosts and the cabins were the perfect getaway for just the two of us.

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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