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Got out again in the Kilroy this past weekend and with favorable conditions on the coast I made the long drive south to fish for reds.  I hit an area that is new to me, but was recommended by a friend at Paddlepalooza.  Another benefit to an already long list of reasons to attend a BCKFC tournament and stay through the weigh-in is just talking to and learning from your peers.  There is a lot that is lost in translation if all your research and knowledge-base comes solely from the internet.

I arrived at sunrise and worked a topwater early, but to no avail.  I was hoping to stumble upon a few trout, but that wouldn’t be the case as the day progressed.  Working Gulp under a cork began producing small redfish.  They were tagged and released and hopefully in the future Tag Louisiana will give me an update on these fish.

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Conditions were pretty good throughout the day.  As you can see, winds were calm and it was very overcast – seemingly perfect conditions to walk the dog, but I didn’t have any luck.  It didn’t much matter as the water clarity was pretty good in the grassy areas and I was able to sight fish reds with either the fly rod or on spinning tackle using a good ‘ol tight lined Matrix shad.

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The reds went from 13″ up to 23″, so no big upper slot reds or junior bulls were had, but it was a lot of fun just catching consistent fish throughout the day.  Most of the fish I caught came on the fringes of the grass or around cuts and points, I didn’t mess around with any of the thick grass.  A few of the fish I caught were pulled from schools, which are always fun to see and hear.  You’ll just be minding your own business when all of the sudden around a point comes a wave of red terror, with bait popping out of the water in front of it, looking for any escape.  It doesn’t matter what you throw in front of the red mass, it just matters that you throw something.  It was a lot of fun trying to pull of the double by throwing the fly rod first, getting a hook set, then picking up the paddle tail and pitching it in the area.  I wasn’t able to connect this time around, but it is always a hoot to have the opportunity.

The boys from Alabama made their annual trip to Grand Isle the weekend before Thanksgiving and I was able to join them for a couple of days of fishing and fraternizing.  The forecast looked bleak before I made the drive down and I was fighting a bit of sinusitis, but I knew that they would be having a good time no matter the weather and I hadn’t gotten a chance to see them last year so I was in no matter what.  Luckily for us the forecasters were wrong that weekend and we had two days of decent fishing weather before the bottom fell out.

Day 1 had three of us, James, Matt and myself, fishing together in a spot I picked because it would be somewhat wind protected and it had been a fishy spot in the past.  Plus a good biscuit spot was on the way down – always good to know the good biscuit places to meet at.  Conditions were great considering the forecast, the only real negative was the wind.  Winds were constant, but they certainly were not the 15+ mph that was predicted.  Water clarity was good, the sun was shining and the tide was out and coming in slowly – sightfishing wouldn’t be a problem on day 1.  The other positive was cooperative, aggressive redfish.

It took me a while to get set up as I was fishing out of a new boat (more on that later) for the first time and by the time I met the other two, James was on his way to a limit of redfish on the fly rod.  James had stumbled on a spot that I’ve had success at in the past on trout, only today it was stacked with reds.  It is an area where a few different bodies of water run together and make a little deep spot with oyster bars on the shallow ledges.  James was bumping his fly on the bottom and wearing out the reds with a fiberglass fly rod.  I parked a short ways away and found a spot of my own and figured out a similar pattern with a Matrix shad on a 1/8 oz jig.  We were basically nymphing for redfish, letting the current take our baits through the hole as we fished by feel along the bottom.  In no time we pulled our two man limit of slot reds between 16-22″ with one upper slot kicker that was around 25-26″.  Matt pulled up during the slaughter and announced he had his first redfish on the fly and it was a stud too at 25.5″ – would have made a great tournament fish.  I was thrilled that we had such early success at the spot I picked for us to fish, given the conditions and the fact that I hadn’t fished saltwater since June’s Trout Challenge tournament.

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After my limit I began tagging reds and after tagging another limit I decided it was time to move on.  We made our way further into the marsh and found that pretty much anywhere you had big mounds of oysters there were redfish hanging around.  Think of redfish and oysters like peanut butter and jelly or spaghetti and meatballs or lamb and tuna fish.  I caught a few more reds before lunch including the biggest I would land on the day at 29″.  He was pretty fun to catch as he broke the hook off my jighead on hookset, I had time to reach behind and throw my popping cork rig to him, but instead of him eating the Vudu shrimp he inhaled the cork.  I gave him some slack and let him try to swallow the cork then as he spit it out I set the hook.  Somehow the plan worked and I was able to hook the outside of his jaw with the Vudu – it was a wild sequence of events!

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After lunch I did more paddling than fish catching but did end up catching a few more reds.  I have to say it was probably my best day fishing for redfish this year.  I haven’t dedicated a whole lot of time to saltwater this year so it was awesome to have a great day.  When we were tired of the relentless wind we headed back to the camp to clean some fish and tell stories with the other guys.  My one request was that someone bring some beer I haven’t had and Rhodes came through:

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Day 2’s forecast was worse than day 1 so we weren’t very optimistic about our chances, however things change when you wake up to dead calm conditions.  I imagined things would get worse as the day progressed but at least it was good now.  James and I set out for a different spot, no matter how good the day before was I just don’t have it in me to fish the same spot two days in a row if I have a say so, must be the explorer in me.  We set out for spot 2, but upon parking we realized that it wasn’t in the cards.  A private landowner moved us along, which was a first for me, but I’ve heard it is happening a lot more down here.  It is unfortunate that all natural tidal water is not available to the public, but I have no argument against the rights of landowners so move along we did.  We went further up the road to a spot I haven’t fished in a while, but have had a lot of success at in the past.  Conditions were different than yesterday.  The skies were overcast, there wasn’t a whole lot of wind, water clarity wasn’t as good here and we would find that the redfish just weren’t as opportunistic as the day before.

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It took all day for us to catch a limit, but we each got one.  The average redfish size was better too, with several upper slot reds being caught.  In fact I had a slot red that went 7.9 lbs. – talk about a tournament fish!  The sight fishing was a lot tougher, but when I did see a redfish it was because his back was out of the water, which is a lot of fun when it is like that.  It felt a little more like hunting on day 2 and what a relief to end up getting into some fish after the slow start.  It wasn’t that I didn’t see them early on, it is just that I botched all my opportunities with missed hooksets and awful casts.

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We ate well that night with Cole’s legendary deer balls and boudin from Ronnie’s in Baton Rouge.  I had some Truck Stop in a can courtesy of Tidwell and Mark.  It’s always a good time when the Alabama boys come down and this might be the first year that there wasn’t a skunk for anyone that made the trip.  The redfishing was pretty darn good given the weather forecast, but specks were non-existent, I think there was one caught in the whole group and it was undersized.  I hope that is just an enigma and not a pattern, either way I don’t think anyone left disappointed.  Can’t wait to do it again next year!

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

Tag swag

 

Got a nice package in the mail this week from the folks at the Cooperative Marine Fish Tagging Program. Apparently I’ve been active enough with my tagging over the past six months to be recognized – I hit 100 in total fish tagged to date and of that 100 I’ve had four recaptures. My limited research has shown that redfish hardly move at all, over a short period of time, lol…..all four of my reds were caught not very long after I tagged them, within a mile or two of where I caught them – none were released.