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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.

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It has been a short while since I’ve fished in the kayak and was able to remedy that this past weekend.  I didn’t make the decision to fish until mid-week as I was weighing my options between the Zapp’s International Beerfest and BCKFC‘s Redfish Rumble.  I finally decided to fish since the weather forecast looked decent enough and after all the rain we’ve had I was really itching to get out.

That initial weather forecast called for 15 mph winds and as any veteran saltwater angler can attest, you can add 10 mph to that when fishing the marsh, so by that logic the forecast was spot on.

I woke up at 3:00 am, hit the road by 3:45 am and was on the water no later than 6:00 am.  The tournament started at 5:00 am, but the sun didn’t rise until after I launched, so I wasn’t bothered by my late start.

The tournament objective, which is one that I really like, was the heaviest combined weight of three redfish and one bass.  Having this style of tournament in St. Bernard Parish makes this format achievable as there is seemingly endless amount of water where you can catch both redfish and largemouth bass.

As is typical for any tournament my original plan was scraped at the last minute as the steady N to NW winds really put a damper on where I wanted to head.  So I hit up plan B, an area I’d never fished and only looked at on Google Earth, but looked like somewhere I could do well and maybe even get some protection from the wind.

I started my day paddling into the wind, stopping to blind cast at points, islands, and cuts.  I picked up a mid slot red doing this on a weedless Zoom swimming super fluke jr. (that’s a mouthful).  There is so much submerged vegetation in St. Bernard Parish that fishing weedless baits is a requirement and this is one I like to throw in the grass.

Eventually though I was getting tired of pulling grass from my “weedless” jig head and tied on the smallest gold spoon I had, which I believe was a 1/16th oz Johnson Silver Minnow, though it may have been an 1/8th oz.  The idea for going with the small spoon was that I wanted to swim it over the grass, I really didn’t want it to sink too far and redfish love gold spoons.  The area I was in didn’t have the big grass mats that went all the way to the water surface, but the bottom was still covered, leaving varying depths of clean water on top.

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Soon enough I picked up a 13.25″ bass blind casting with the spoon, which was a welcome addition to the fish bag.  I spent the next two hours or so trying to emulate my early success, but having no luck.  I decided that conditions were good enough for me to to stand up and try my luck sight fishing.  The cloudy skies that we had in the morning had parted.  The water clarity was very excellent where I was at.  The only negative was the steady wind, which was something I thought I could work around.

After another two hours of not seeing or even spooking redfish I was getting pretty frustrated.  I  knew that I had to start heading back toward the launch soon as I was miles away and two fish just wasn’t going to cut it, so I sat down and began to come up with another strategy as I let the wind blow me back where I came from.  By the way, I should mention that at this point, I was under the impression this is a five fish stringer tournament of four reds and one bass, so my bag seemed that much worse than what it actually was.

As I’m seated, speed drifting through a pond thanks to the wind, blind casting my gold spoon wherever looked good, I see a flash of red just below the surface some distance off.  I knew exactly what it was and headed that way.  As I stood up I could see it was two reds cruising through the pond, making their way toward me.  I made a cast past the fish and pulled it at back at an angle toward them, in a flash one of the reds saw and attacked the spoon. With no time to react I never got a hook-set in him and the spoon was spit.  I was lucky because he didn’t spook either, just kept moving along, and I put another cast in front of them and this time got a solid eat.

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I could tell during the fight that it was a solid fish.  It was too solid of a fish, at 28.5″, he was 1.5″ over the slot and no good for our tourney.  I tagged him and sent him back into the water to give someone else a thrill, a little disappointed he was too big.

As I’m releasing him though I glance up into the area you see above in the picture and catch another flash of red.  What are the odds?  I move up a little bit and tuck myself along the right bank once I realize it’s not just one fish but a few reds moving through the cut.

I make a cast in front of that group and pull out a 24-25″ fish that went somewhere around 5-6 lbs.  I’m feeling a bit more optimistic at this point – I went from seeing no activity to seeing two different groups of redfish in a matter of minutes.  I was a little nervous about time as my alarm to start heading back to the truck had already gone off, though it was set pretty conservatively in the first place.  So I set another alarm for when I absolutely had to start heading back and kept fishing.

I drifted my way through that cut and into another pond, at this point I was in full blown sightfishing mode as that’s how I spotted the last two fish I caught – I just happened to be seated at the time.  It didn’t take long to see another fish, who was just chilling on top of some thick grass, I actually thought he was over the slot when I saw him but decided to try and catch him anyway as I’m always down to fight a big fish.

After an accurate cast with the spoon and an awesome eat (so cool to see the whole process in crystal clear water) I got him in the boat and put him on the board – a hair over 27″.  I was stoked, but knew he had to shrink a little for me to be able to use him.  I didn’t have a whole lot of ice in my fish bag so I was going to have make sure to get a fresh bag when I got off the water.  I threw him in there and hoped for the best. (For anyone not familiar, fish put on ice will shrink as much as 1/4″.)

At this point I’ve got three reds and a bass, exactly what I need to weigh in, but for some reason I still think I need four redfish so I keep press on.  At some point during the next thirty minutes I reach a point of clarity and remember I only needed three reds which is precisely what I had and suddenly relief sets in.  Still though, the first redfish I caught was not a stud by any stretch of the imagination so I kept fishing.

I farmed it on the next pair of reds I saw and was kicking myself big time since time was winding down.  I soon made it out of my nice crystal clear water and into the dirtier water that was found closer to the launch (I was still drifting back to the launch).  Luckily for me soon after hitting that dirty water, I spot the faint colors of a red in a shallow pond and made another good cast and fooled him to eat.  It was a near clone of my earlier 24-25″ fish and I was happy to put him in the bag as an upgrade from the early redfish.

I was feeling good at this point, not because I thought I would win, but because I accomplished what I had set out to do – put four mid to upper slot reds and one bass in the bag.  It took all day to do it and was a lot of work in the wind, but I was glad I stuck it out.  I headed back to the launch and heard my alarm go off just as I began pulling the Kraken out of the water.

About the Kraken – I was really pleased with how well the boat did in the conditions I fished in on Saturday.  I went further than I thought I would be able to and was able to fish some really incredible water because of it.  I did it without complaint too –  I spent far less time bitching about the wind and more time fishing and there is something to be said for that.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again the combination of speed and stability in the 13.5 is impressive, I’ve never seen another boat quite like it.

The weigh-in was held just up the road in Meraux at the Meraux Tackle Box, where the owner went out of the way to make us feel at home with a great big tent set up out back.  He runs a good shop too with a great selection of baits for fishing down in St. Bernard.  I’ll be back for sure next time I fish down that way.

Out of the 91 folks registered, 30 showed up to weigh fish and no one had more weight than the first person in line.  Rick Dembrun, a fellow Jackson teamer for Massey’s Outfitters, fellow Kraken 13.5 paddler, and a local to the area, set the gold standard at 24.65 lbs.

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My big red that I was slightly nervous about on the water wasn’t even that close to being 27″ when measured by Todd on the official board.  I must have been overzealous when I measured it on the water, so I was happy to retain his 8+ lb weight and come in 2nd at 21.07 lbs, the pic above is my four fish at the weigh-in table.

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I really didn’t expect to come in 2nd when I was on the water, I always assume everyone else did better than me when I’m out there, but it was pretty evident at the weigh in as folks trickled in that it was a tough day for most and 20 lbs was holding steady.

To round out the top 5, my friend Steve came in 3rd with 18.04 lbs, Michael Ethridge was 4th with 17.98 lbs and Kalon Johnson was 5th with 14.41 lbs.  There were two side pots for the tournament that you could sign up for $5 each – big fish and leopard red.  Big fish went to Wayne Lobb with a monster 8.41 lb slot red.  Leopard red went to Kevin May with 10 spots.  I declined entry into both and almost made a mistake as my big fish was not too far off from Wayne’s.  No sleep was lost over the decision.

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I’m happy that things played out the way they did and that I decided to not go to the Beerfest.  Any day that I go fishing and get paid to do is a great day.  Here’s to more great days!

On Saturday I fished in the 2nd annual UP21 foundation Fishing for a Cause tournament, which was held out of Fort Beauregard Estates, down in St. Bernard Parish. The event is a fundraiser for the foundation; whose mission is to provide support, resources and education to families of individuals with Down syndrome and the community to foster an environment in which individuals with Down syndrome achieve their full potential in their community.  Fishing a charity event like this is a no brainer – I get to fish and my money is donated to a great cause, t’s really a win-win for everyone involved.

Fellow Jackson teammate Cole Landry and the UP21 fishing team help to organize the event and in their second year met their goal and had just over 100 folks registered!  They really put on a first class event too.  After a long day on the water it was nice to be greeted with a bowl of shrimp creole and a cold beer.

I haven’t spent a whole lot of time fishing in St. Bernard Parish, opting to usually fish down La. 1, but all that may change after the day I had Saturday.  On a recommendation from a friend I headed to an area I had never fished and hoped for the best.  This is not a new thing for me, I love to explore when I’m out on the water, I just usually don’t do it while fishing a tournament, but I honestly didn’t have that tournament mindset when I set out to fish on Saturday, I just wanted to fish some new water and try to get on to a few fish.  It was no pressure fishing and it paid off.

I got on the water just as the sun was rising, which was later than I probably should have been on the water, but I’m not much on paddling in the dark.  The weather was perfect, wind wasn’t a factor and cloud cover was scant.  The water clarity was excellent as well, submerged vegetation had a lot to do with that, but I think it would have been good had their been no grass either. I began my trek to a spot I thought may hold some trout and stopped to fish several good looking spots on the way.

I picked up my first fish working a She Dog alongside a cut in some rocks when a 21.5″ redfish sucked it down.  I threw him in the fish bag in case I didn’t catch another red all day – it was a tournament after all.  The tournament had three categories to place – biggest slot redfish, biggest trout, and leopard red.  I continued on my way and while navigating my Kilroy through a bayou I made a cast into a cut that opened up into a big pond, as soon as my Matrix Shad hit the water I had a fish on, must have landed in his mouth.  To my surprise it was a decent bass.

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I knew it was possible to catch bass and redfish in the same spot in certain areas of St. Bernard Parish, but I still had yet to do it from a kayak, so it was a bit of a surprise to me.

After that bass I continued my paddle toward the supposed trout spot. As I got there I discovered that this spot was pretty popular with th boaters.  To say it was crowded would be putting it lightly.  So I made a few casts and  then decided to suck off into a nearby pond.

The pond had a large mud flat at it’s entrance and it didn’t take long to spot an out of place redfish.  His back was completely out of the water, after a well placed cast and a short fight he was in the boat. With 6 spots he went in the fish bag too – I’ve seen leopard red categories taken with less, so he was coming with me.

Continuing into the pond the clarity began to increase as the amount of grass increased as well.  With mats of vegetation along the shoreline, I decided to work the edges of the grass with the Matrix shad and not bother to go totally weedless with my rig just yet.  Not too long into the float I stuck a good fish I thought was a red.  When it jumped out of the water though I was clearly wrong, it was a big marsh bass!

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At 18″ and very fat, it was the biggest bass I had caught from a kayak all year.  I was definitely stoked to catch this beast of a marsh bass.  These things are like footballs, short and fat.

This pattern of working the edge of the mats of grass continued to produce for me throughout the day on both bass and redfish.

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If I didn’t feel the redfish we’re going to make the grade for the weigh-in they got tagged and released.  Bass that were big enough to get a good fillet off of were harvested.

It wasn’t all blind casting either, I was able to sight fish for both redfish and bass and had an interesting moment when trying to pick off a bass the lure got nailed by another fish, an 11″ trout!  That got me thinking, there can’t be a whole lot of places where you can catch bass, redfish and trout in the same pond.  To take it further on my way out of the pond I paddled over a flounder at the inlet.  Gotta love St. Bernard!

I continued to sight fish reds as the bass bite slowed down.  The biggest red I could muster was about 24″, I didn’t think I had much of a shot at big red so I left the pond in search of trout.  I had spent nearly all my time in one big pond and had a blast doing it, but it didn’t leave me much time to catch anything else.

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By now the trout spot was empty so I tried my luck and quickly picked up a 13″ trout and a couple throwbacks.  It wasn’t much, but at least I had a trout in the bag and could weigh-in a fish in each category – if I could make it back in time.  I pushed it to the limit because the fishing was so good and didn’t leave myself much time to pack up.

I made the long paddle back to the launch, loaded everything up in record time and arrived at the weigh-in with five minutes to spare.  Looking back at the day now I covered at least eight miles, tagged and released nine fish, kept six and released many more.  It was a really productive day on the water.

The weigh-in atmosphere was great, lots of folks enjoying a beautiful summer day in South Louisiana.  The food and drink hit the spot for a tired angler like myself.  It didn’t take long to get the final results tallyed and Cole did a great job addressing the crowd after it was all said and done.

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As it turns out the fish that put me on the leaderboard was the little ‘ol 13″ trout caught late in the day, that weighed in at a massive 0.76 lbs – 3rd place trout never looked better!

I had an awesome time at UP21’s Fishing for a Cause tournament and plan to do it again next year.  Summer time is a great time to fish St. Bernard parish, looking forward to getting back out there.

Made it back on the water this past Saturday for BCKFC’s Redfish Rumble – the second tournament in their five tournament series. The event was held out of Sweetwater Marina in Delacroix but was open to all publicly accessible waters in St. Bernard and East Plaquemines parishes. The winner would be the person with the heaviest stringer of five slot redfish and one bass. In the past this event had always been held in West Plaquemines parish and never included a bass. I think the change was a good one; some of the prettiest water for redfishing is found in St. Bernard Parish and it is one of the few places I know of where you have the ability to catch bass and redfish on alternating casts. I love the fact that we now have a tournament that incorporates bass.

The tournament start time was 5:00am, which is a wee bit early when the sun doesn’t show itself until around 7:00am; so I started my trek down from Baton Rouge at 3:00am. I have not done a whole lot of fishing in St. Bernard or East Plaquemines so all of my scouting was done on Google Earth. Nothing new there, I do that for every trip whether it is somewhere new or not. I knew where a majority of folks would be launching and I wanted to fish somewhere different, somewhere without a big crowd, so I had a couple launch options in mind on the drive down. Option #1 didn’t work out. It was a pump station, but access to the pump station was gated so not wanting to trespass I headed to option #2. At option #2 there were a couple other guys launching, but that wouldn’t be a problem as there was plenty of water for the three of us – I was just looking to avoid the crowds. Water clarity at the launch was pretty good, even with the low tide, so I wasn’t looking to go anywhere else anyway.

I paddled out behind the two other guys and as they took the first cut I continued on, giving them ample room to fish. I made my way into the first pond and saw tails everywhere, for a second I thought, holy hell I’ve reached Valhalla! The horizon was just starting to light up as I began to fish so it was tough to see, but it didn’t take long to figure out that they were all gar. The pond was fairly shallow and covered in grass, the salinity couldn’t have been very high. I moved slowly through the area working weedless baits thinking maybe I’d get my bass. Then I saw a different tail and rather than move along the surface, it bobbed in place, I knew immediately it was a redfish, so I pitched a texas rigged Zoom super fluke jr. that way and it got hammered. I made a rookie mistake though, for some reason my drag was set super tight which made for a short fight and a green fish. I ended up reeling him too close to the tip top of the rod and as I got him in the net he flipped a few times and broke the tip section of my rod off. Not that big of deal since I had a few other rods, but still a bummer, at least I was on the board with a real deep copper colored 22.5″ red. I forgot how pretty the reds are when they come from the grass.

I kept at it in the same pond and soon saw another redfish tail dancing. This time I threw a 1/4oz gold spoon his way. The cast was way off, probably because I can’t think of the last time I threw a spoon, but it wasn’t too far off that I blew it. It was beyond him and way out in front, so I brought it back and dropped it dead in his path as he got close I gave it a twitch and started a slow reel, the redfish saw it and charged and soon after I had my second redfish in the boat. At 23.5″ it was a small improvement, but I was hoping for a little bigger.

I made my way out of the pond and into a bayou. There was no shortage of good water here, everything was covered in grass which made for pretty good clarity throughout. Blind casting I picked up a third redfish. Pretty fish too, he had 8 spots. At 20″ he went on the stringer, I was hoping to cull him later in the day. One word on stingers and redfish, if you run it through their lower lip and not through their gills they will stay alive.

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Moving through the bayou I was almost at a big bay when I see an entire redfish back out the water. He looked to be a pretty good size, maybe upper slot, maybe too big, it didn’t matter anyway because after making what I thought to be a good cast he spooked on the retrieve.

I worked the grass beds in the bay and came upon a redfish working the shoreline. This time when I made a good cast I was rewarded with another eat. This fish had some size to him too. After peeling drag a few times I brought him in the boat. At 28.5″ he was too big for the tournament. A real nice redfish, lots of fun to catch, but not the size I was after.

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After a short talking to we parted ways. The bay failed to produce any more fish and I had drifted quite a ways. Rather than backtrack I sought out the same type of area I had caught them earlier in the day. I was already past the half way point so I started circling back to the launch, hoping I could finish out a limit and pick up a bass along the way. After a good paddle back up the bay and into a different cut I made it to a sting of ponds that were promising. A cast into fleeing baitfish landed me my fourth redfish. He went 22″ and I started to think my 23.5″ might be the biggest I would turn in – which usually isn’t how to break into the top five.

I continued my route through ponds and bayous blind casting to every likely spot, just trying to finish out a limit. Thankfully that fifth redfish didn’t make me sweat it out too long. He was caught on a 1/4oz gold spoon, just like the previous three fish. It was the best bait I had tied on for the conditions. I tried an inline spinner for awhile but it kept getting hung up on itself or tangling in weeds. Topwater failed to produce early on, so that got set aside the rest of the day.

The paddle back to the launch was pretty slow going, the tide had switched on me and I was fighting it all the way back. I picked up my stuff and hit the road to head to the weigh-in and made it there with 15 minutes to spare. My limit of reds came in at just over 21lbs, so they averaged around 4lbs each, but without a bass I had no shot at the top five. I ended up placing 9th (21.89 lbs), which isn’t bad considering we had around 70 people fishing the tournament. After the first two series tournaments I’m still in the mix, sitting at third, but it’s going to be tough to beat out those usual suspects.

2014 Redfish Rumble results:

1. Steve Lessard – 26.24 lbs

2. Casey Brunning – 25.82 lbs

3. Clayton Shilling – 25.76 lbs

4. Johnny Bergeron – 24.85 lbs

5. Rick Dembrun – 24.64 lbs

A lot of familiar names in that top five, it always amazes me how these guys can consistently produce. There is no doubt about it, we’ve got some great fishermen in BCKFC. Steve took first thanks in part to a really nice bass, I think it was the biggest weighed in, a very fat marsh bass. At 6th place Eric Muhoberac’s stringer was also very impressive as it was only four redfish. Of course with a stringer like that he ended up being big fish winner as well with a 7+ lb red. Big congrats to the winners and a huge thanks to everyone in the club that made it happen and to all the sponsors that donated prizes.

After the tournament a group of us headed to Rocky & Carlo’s for supper. Health nuts be advised, here’s my meal:

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Veal cutlet and baked mac with brown gravy on top and a side of fried green beans for the table – yes, all of it was very good. It was my first Rocky & Carlo’s experience and it won’t be my last. In case you were wondering, catching a limit of reds and then having a meal with friends makes for a really great day.