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Following my trip with Blake I met up with the Bama boys, who were in Grand Isle that weekend.  That gave me another opportunity to fish with my buddy James, the idiot lawyer as he’s affectionately known in our circle.  The weather forecast had me scratching my head on where I thought we could do best that morning, Fourchon was what I came up with, a spot we’ve fished together in the past.  When winds are stiff I tend to lean on fishing in Fourchon due to the greater presence of mangroves, which seem to provide more of a wind block than your standard marsh grass.

We made our way to the ponds we’d fish and at my first stop I ended up catching a nice upper slot red on topwater.

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A great start to the day, however, things were pretty slow going immediately after that.  We fished a few tried and true areas and had little luck, but finally there were signs of life.  I heard some crashing on a far bank and instead of being one redfish raising hell, it was a school!  Nothing gets your adrenaline pumping more than running down a school of reds.  I hollered at James that we needed to head that way and followed them as they went through a small cut onto a flat on the other side of some islands.  As I’m sitting in the cut I see them swim right in front of me – 4, 5, 6, 8, 12, damn, they just keep coming!  Not sure how many reds were in that school, but it was an awesome sight.  I threw a fly in the mix and immediately got a hookup.  While waiting on James to make his way over I decided it was a good idea to throw my Matrix shad in there too and soon I doubled up, bent rods in each hand!  Utter gluttony I know, but I couldn’t help myself.  Meanwhile those two fish kicked up enough sediment that James had a hard time spotting anything and was never able to pull another fish out.  He was left with a rod in hand as I was giggling like a schoolgirl, he got a pretty good screenshot of it from his GoPro.

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We lost the school after that and split up again.  I set up on a point for trout, and caught a few that were undersize, but kept getting distracted by reds that were crashing the shoreline at a nearby cut.  Of course I had to pull anchor and chase them down.

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After the reds things slowed down through the mid-afternoon, they weren’t crashing bait like they had been earlier and everything went quiet for a while.  James and I eventually met back up and instead of heading out we decided to fish some marsh at the far end of a big pond. That marsh led to a cut that went from the big pond to a canal.  I worked each point in that cut and finally caught a decent fish, a nearly 19″ trout.

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While I was hauling in that trout I hear James hooked up back in the cut, his reel peeling drag.  It was a big bull red and the fight was on!

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Earlier in the day James had landed his personal best redfish at 29″, this beast was about to eclipse that, if he could get it in the boat.  The red had hit a topwater that James was throwing and it came from a bank in a cut that I had just worked – right place, right time.  After some good forearm pumping runs the red had given up and James was able to slide him over the bow for a brief photo op.

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What a great way to end the day!  It always feels good when you’re not sure where to head in the morning and by the evening you know that you ended up making a pretty good decision because of the results. We paddled out as the sun was setting and made our way back to camp to meet up with the rest of the crew.  Jameson and Brooks from JK Media House would be getting in later that night, giving me an opportunity to paddle the new Cuda HD the next two days.   After the first two successful days of fishing I was hoping the action would stay hot as they were prepared to do a good bit of filming over the course of an entire week.

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So this will be the third time I will have written this report, hopefully this one sticks.  Prepare yourself for a picture dump.

I got an opportunity to spend a week working in lower St. Bernard parish back in October.  Normally work trips to rural parts of the state are not met with such enthusiasm, but I was downright excited for this one.  Mainly because the marshes of lower St. Bernard are full of life and excellent fisheries.  Redfish, speckled trout, largemouth bass, and even flounder all share the same water down that way.  I’d have some downtime during the days, so I brought my Kraken 13.5 along for the ride.  I was able to grab some much needed seat time each day exploring just what this part of Louisiana had to offer.

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What makes lower St. Bernard such a great fishery is it’s proximity to both the Mississippi River and Lake Borgne, well, really just saltwater in general.  It is right in between the two, basically where they mix together.  This mixing of salt and freshwater creates a myriad of intermediate and brackish marsh that is some of the finest inshore fishing you’ll find anywhere.  It’s hard to beat catching reds, specks, and bass out of the same ponds.

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In the above pic you can see the amount of submerged vegetation that’s found in lower St. Bernard, most of the time I had to fish weedless baits.  One of the baits I liked to throw in the really matted up areas was a Stanley Top Toad topwater frog bait.  Seeing the red below blow up on the lure was amazing, one of the best strikes I’ve ever witnessed, such fun, I’ll be throwing that lure in the weeds more often.

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I fished a lot of different places around the parish – Shell Beach, Yscloskey, Delacroix, and Hopedale.  Each spot was similar, but they also had their own unique qualities.  I found clear water and lots of submerged vegetation in Shell Beach and Yscloskey.  Submerged vegetation, but dirty water in Delacroix and Hopedale.  As you’d expect fishing was much better where the water quality was better.  Fish were still caught at each stop though.

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Baits like topwater poppers and weedless rigged flukes and other soft plastics worked well throughout the week.  Flies worked pretty well too, especially on trout.  I used an EP-style shrimp that my buddy Hays had given me way back in January to do most of my damage.  Finding clean, moving water was the ticket.  Whether it was in a deep cut or bayou or on a flat where a cut or bayou was draining into a pond or bay – finding those conditions meant finding fish.

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It was an awesome week of fishing and yes, I did manage to get what work I had to do done.  It’s too bad these kind of projects don’t come around more often.  It was SO nice to fish during the week and have every spot I fished essentially to myself.

Hmm, let’s see, only 25-30 years before I can retire…. sigh.

This is a short video to illustrate how quick and easy it is to tag speckled trout for the Tag Louisiana program, which is a joint CCA & LDWF project. Just at a minute from catch to tag to release.

Mortality increases the longer a fish is out of the water, so I try to have a tag ready to go before a fish is even in the boat. I’ll note the tag # and the fish’s length on my phone shortly after the catch. GPS coordinates are derived at home via Google Earth – A general area will suffice, but I usually remember exactly where everything was caught.

Click here to find out more about the program: http://www.ccalouisiana.com/cca11/fish-tagging-program

(I hope this song is stuck in your head the rest of the day too)

The weather on Sunday was just as nice as it was Saturday so I decided to scout another new area. This area was a “best of both worlds”, it had open water and interior marsh. I decided to stick to the open water in the morning while the tide was high and see if I couldn’t get into some nice trout or bull reds then as the tide began to fall I could sightfish the marsh.

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The water clarity was excellent here, I really felt I had a good shot at catching a bull red on the fly, I just needed one to give himself away. The water was relatively deep so I was looking for a floater or a tailer. Eventually I began to see big reds, but they were always popping up right under the boat, so I couldn’t really get a good cast off to any of them. Soon I came upon a big school of mullet that was getting attacked by predator fish underneath. I worked a topwater through the mullet, but got nary a bite. Then I threw a paddletail in the school and got a hook up almost immediately – it was a trout. I had found a school of 10-14″ trout working finger mullet. I picked up a few trout from this school and even caught a few small ones on the fly rod, but was interrupted by some recreational boaters checking crab traps, sigh. The school scattered and the bite slowed so I moved on. I decided it was about time to eat lunch and parked the Cuda 12 next to a little island. I was in a little bay and had a bayou behind me that had current moving through it from the bay. While I was eating I noticed the baitfish were pretty skittish. One cast toward them produced another trout.

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I proceeded to catch 10-14″ trout one right after another while sitting in that spot, it was a blast! I ended up keeping fifteen trout that were 13″ or above and tagged and released anything that was below. I had 20 tags on my boat and used them all! I could have easily kept my limit of trout in that one spot, something I don’t think I’ve ever been able to do.

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All those trout were caught on natural colored soft plastics that were tight lined, like the ‘Opening Night’ TTF Killer Flats Minnow above. The trout were so thick that I’d imagine any soft plastic tight lined would have worked just as well, but I went with a natural color because of the excellent water clarity and sunny skies. If you ever have a question about what color soft plastic to start with on the day, see the graph from TTF below.

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This is something I picked up from my buddy Brendan and I’ve found it to be pretty useful. I will say that when you’re sightfishing redfish it usually doesn’t matter what color you use. As long as you make an accurate cast you will generally catch that redfish. They are so aggressive they don’t have time to consider color. Sometimes, though, they are spooky, like in the video I posted the other day. I find they are spookiest when the water is low and clear. You’ll probably want to use something natural in that situation, like the graph suggests. On the flip side, they’re not spooky in muddy water, but they also can’t see shit so use a dark soft plastic. Seems like common sense, but I know a lot of folks new to artificial baits don’t yet grasp the concept.

The trout bite at that spot did eventually slow down and I decided it was time to move into the marsh. I went through one bayou where the water was moving so fast I had to stop and fish it just to see if anything was holding down there. Sure enough there were trout. One drift through the bayou produced a really solid strike. It was a really nice trout that I could tell was hooked deep. I fought him through a few runs and then the line went limp. What a heartbreak! I guess the line got cut on his teeth. Oh well, I cut my losses and headed into the marsh. The interior marsh ended up being not as productive as the marsh that was closest to open water, but redfish were certainly around.

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I kept redfish the day before, so I really wasn’t too interested in keeping any more(I hate cleaning fish), but I could have had another easy limit on reds. Catching limits on two species was definitely a first for me, Sunday ended up being one the most productive days I’ve had in the kayak. I didn’t catch the big fly rod trout I was looking for, but I had an awesome two days of fishing. I was worn out too. I had done a lot of paddling scouting new areas and it was totally worth it. Pushing it to the limit to catch limits.

With Amanda out of town for the weekend and CCA’s STAR tournament coming to a close, my goal for the weekend was to try to land a speck on the fly rod worthy enough to take the top spot. 1.62 lbs was the weight to beat and given the great weather conditions the goal seemed pretty attainable. True I had never caught a speck that size on the fly rod before but I’ve also never targeted them. The good weather gave me the confidence to explore new water that had potential for holding big specks.

It was pretty early in the morning when I hit the road on Saturday.

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Somewhere along the way my odometer hit the jackpot. Could this be a sign that luck was on my side today?

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After a brief sunrise paddle from the beach into the Gulf I was ready to do battle. As I said before conditions were excellent for a day in the Cuda 12 offshore. With bait skipping out of the water, it didn’t take long for my topwater to find it’s target.

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Fifteen minutes of forearm pumping action later this Jack found his way into my net. Well, his head found it’s way into my net. The net was far too small to fit his body and as he wiggled and squirmed to free himself he managed to shake loose the one treble that held him, slipping out of the net with ease and leaving me with a tangled mess of net and Top Dog. Not to be deterred I paddled back to the nervous water and within a few casts was hooked up with another beast. This was a shorter fight and rather than another net attempt I just dragged him into the boat trusting the braid would hold.

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The GoPro never fails to provide an interesting perspective while out on the water, I especially enjoy when it makes big fish look even bigger. The Jack Crevalle were a lot of fun, they were my first from the kayak, but they cut into prime topwater time for trout. I was throwing the Top Dog hoping to locate trout first, then once I did, I would break out the fly rod and hopefully catch what I needed. It took about thirty minutes of walking the dog, but I finally got a trout to the boat, a good one too.

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At 19.75″ this fish was over 2 lbs easy and of course it came when I wasn’t throwing the fly rod. At least I knew there were big ones around, so I began throwing the fly rod. I had one of Blake’s poppers tied on hoping to replicate the previous catch. Soon enough I got a big strike from a fish, but as it leapt from the water I could tell it was a big ladyfish. It was the biggest one I’ve ever hooked, it looked like a baby tarpon as it exploded out of the water. As I got it near the boat it made one last jump and finally threw the hook. Usually when ladyfish throw the hook I’m relieved, not a big fan of the blood and slime they leave behind, but this one was so big it would have been nice just to take it’s picture. I kept at it a bit longer, keenly aware of the big thunderhead forming not too far away. Being new to the offshore game I decided to head in when I saw a waterspout form.

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After eating a snack I decided to give the marsh a try. By now the tide was falling so I figured the redfish would be pretty active and despite the pop up thunderstorms in the area conditions were still pretty good to sightfish. That proved to be the case as I was able to catch four reds in the first pond I went into, all between 18-22″.

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I spent the rest of the day exploring marsh I had never laid eyes, a lot of it was covered in mangroves and had a hard sand bottom, which made me feel like I was back in Chokoloskee. I only wish I could have had a Havana Cafe cuban sandwich for lunch. In one mangrove lined bayou I fooled a nice red to eat my BP crab fly only to have an oyster cut my line after the brief fight. Then I found a spot where the tide was falling out of a bayou into a canal and picked up a few small ladyfish and specks on Gulp under a cork. Sightfishing for reds picked up again at the end of the day as reds began crashing bait along the shoreline of a pond I was in. I caught a nice 28.5″ red on the fly rod and had him on the measuring board lined up for a picture only to have him jump off before I could get a shot of him. I kind of abandoned taking pictures throughout the middle part of the day so it was only fitting that the first one I wanted to take a picture of gave me the slip.

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After donating the fish I had in my freezer to a buddy to cook up for United Way I decided today would be one for harvest. It’s always nice when the trout rival the redfish in size, too bad I couldn’t find any more that size and on the fly. I’d be back out Sunday to give it another shot though.