Due to soon-to-be Hurricane Rita has forced the cancellation of the FLW Redfish Series, originally scheduled for Venice, Western qualifying event in Rockport, TX.
The FLW Redfish Championship, originally scheduled for Mobile, AL, will be held out of Orange Beach, AL on Oct. 27-29.
Louisiana teams qualified for the championship are Troy and Thad Robichaux, Brennan Head and Brandon Garrison, Trent Brady and Eddie Callais, Peter Young and Matt Morel, Ron Price and Mike Charron, Darren Angelo and Blair Rittiner, Anthony Randazzo and Billy Wallbaum Travis and Brian Holeman and Ross Barkhurst and Lloyd Landry.
Congrats to all qualifiers!
Just got a call from Capt. Gordon Matherne (the master of fly fishing for sac-a-lait) in Des Allemands. He reports that the Des Allemands marshes are swarming with thousands of teal.
"It's probably some re-distribution from the Venice area. We've had some pretty poor teal hunting lately, but this morning we were done by 7:00," said Matherne.
Limiting early on the first day isn't unusual, but Matherne reports that the numbers of birds is truly impressive and he expects great action to continue to a large degree.
"We've also got wood ducks galore - you've got to be careful about that - and plenty of mottled ducks, too," said Matherne, who's offering hunts at $200/per man.
Matherne can be reached at 1-877-600-3967.
Capts. Chad Dufrene and Chris Moran reported good news in their respective areas of Golden Meadow and Leeville/Fourchon. Dufrene is up in the Mississippi pine country around Hattiesburg, but says things came through quite well above the floodgates in Lafourche parish.
Well be ready to go shortly. The Leeville area took a big hit, but youll be able to fish out of Golden Meadow pretty soon and Ive got people calling and checking on their trips for October, said Dufrene.
Moran reports that though his place in Leeville located at Bobby Lynns South was cut in half by Katrina, his other place in Fourchon near the public launch suffered much less damage and that his charter operations will be ready to go around September 20.
We got the power on at (Charlie) Hardisons (and Sons) place the other day and they should be ready to go soon as well.
Dufrene can be reached at 225 931-7306 and Moran can be reached at 985 637-6357.
Hey Guys - please email and update me. I can be reached at 225 927-6657 (parent's house) or by email.
Also, if anyone's got a rental house, I'll put your picture in the magazine for the next few months ;) Seriously, I'm looking. Good luck to us all.
At the south end of the Empire bridge
Consistency once again paid off in a big way for the Oh Boy! Oberto Redfish Cup championship team. Rick Murphy and Scott Guthrie put together a two fish bag of 13.31 lbs, a weight within two thirds of a pound of their previous two days total. Fellow Floridians Mike Friday and Danny Latham came in a little over two pounds behind them with 11.29 pounds.
Murphy and Guthrie pocketed a $40,000 check for the win by sight-fishing Berkley Gulp Shrimp in the Golden Bream color, matching the hatch in the roughly 1,000 acre pond forty five minutes from Lake Charles.
"That's what we do. When we can see the fish, we usually do pretty good. When we can't we're usually in the middle of the pack," said Murphy, a television show host and captain in Miami, FL. "The area was full of shrimp, so it was an easy choice. Usually one of us fishes with a Gulp shrimp and one with a Gulp crab."
The Redfish Cup points race heated up with three Louisiana teams making strong runs for the Team of the Year title before the fishing territory shifts decidedly. Peter Young and John Korzeniowski placed a heart-breaking sixth - they were fishing the same productive water as Guthrie/Murphy - just outside looking in of the final day's competition, but jumped to second in the points race and just a single place out of first. Charlie Thomasson and Eric Taylor moved to third in the TOY race and Brandon and Brent Ballay sit in fourth.
The remaining events are in Clearwater, FL (Tampa area) Sept. 8-10 and South Padre Island, TX (shallow Laguna Madre fishing) at the end of September, tough venues for those used to Louisiana angling.
The winners also used Rapala Skitterwalks early in the morning and later in the day when the fish moved off the flats, which were extraordinarily hot. While fishing is generally tougher on the third day, the early blast off - Thursday and Friday's start was at 8:00 AM - helped tremendously.
"The final day was actually a great day of fishing. We got to our spot before the water heated up," said Murphy. "The other two days, we didn't start fishing until 9:30 or 9:45."
The Catalpa colored Ribbit frog had barely had time to get its legs gurgling when a three inch wake streaked from a bed of water celery. The two pound bass still managed to "pop" the frog, Reaction Lure's runaway hit with state bassers, from below with shocking ferocity. The new color, not yet available to the public, was proving itself again in one of the most beautiful marshes I's ever seen.
While planning my route through the Calcasieu estuary system during the Redfish Cup downtime, the first thing that came to my mind was reversing the curse on my bass fishing fortune. Capt. Ronny Doucet's Cardinal Club (337 762-3135), I knew, was a good place to do it. If I couldn't shake the memories of the Des Allemands nightmare at the hands of Louisiana Sportsman circulation extraorduinaire Ricky Naquin at the Cardinal Club, I couldn't do it anywhere.
In addition to taking customers' fishing on Big Lake, Doucet's passion is maintaining the Cardinal Club's extensive marsh north of Hackberry for the best sixty days of the year. Painstaking management of water levels and salinity, which would take an advanced degree in hydro-dynamics - or at least a lot of time doing the dirty work associated with the job - to understand, help keep the duck habitat second to none.
Fishermen benefit as well, with superb bass fishing in the freshwater impoundment, which serves mostly as a resting place for ducks. This past spring, a few eight pounders were caught and released from the impoundment, evidence that the addition of a few F-1 Florida bass hybrids were mixing well with the native Northern largemouths.
"We want to make this a place where our customers, who might not have a lot of experience, can catch plenty of fish and have a shot at a big one," said Doucet. "Pure Florida (bass) can be so spooky, so we're not really worried about the real trophies."
This time, I fought the "Get him!" instinct and waited the requisite two count and let the fish get the bait in its mouth. I crossed his eyes and let the forty pound braid do its job. The fish pushed to the left for the marsh grass, but was soon overwhelmed. It was the first of many and I was cautiously optimistic that the hex was over.
Redfish roam the shallow flats of the brackish water "duck marsh" as well as Brown's Lake, taking up reidence on the vast widgeon grass flats.
"We've worked really hard to make this property what it is. I think it's really going to hold a lot of birds," said Doucet, lodge manager and new leaseholder of the property. "We need some rain just like everybody else around here, but there are plenty of birds already."
Hundreds of bluewing teal, mottled ducks and "squealers",the Mexican whistling ducks which make southwest Louisiana home, could be seen in the distance as we rode through the duck marsh in an airboat. The redfish were in far too shallow water to make an approach with a super skinny flats skiff and push pole, but were fun to watch regardless as they pushed wakes that looked like they could pass for those of tugboats.
Later in the day, after escaping the searing heat of late morning, one of Doucet's guides came in from a morning of Big Lake fishing with a three man crew. Seventy speckled trout and eight reds were bursting from the ice chest and stories of frantic action under the birds filled the air.
"October is one of my favorite months to fish the lake with a lot of bird fishing like they had today," said Doucet.
Congrats to Floridians Scott Guthrie and Rick Murphy on the win at the Lake Charles Oh Boy! Oberto Redfish Cup. They put together 13.31 lbs to outgun Mike Friday and Danny Latham (11.29) Both teams will have a tough time getting home through the traffic, but it'll have been worth it.
Full details tonight.
God bless all those with family and property in the southeast region. Hope it tunrms out OK.
It's been a tough summer, quite frankly, for people like Capt. Jeff Poe of Big Lake Guide Service (337 598-3268). Used to long stringers of quality trout and a few "kickers" often approaching seven or eight pounds during the warm weather months, ever since May, the lake has been inundated with small fish. And not just small keepers, but a lot of fish not even making the 12 inch minimum regulated by the state.
Thankfully, Poe says, they're just now getting back to numbers of the bread and butter 15-18 inch fish in the ice chest on an average day's fishing. And while the true trophy fish's numbers have remained disappointing according to the lake's high standards, Poe says there's reason to be hopeful for the coming fall.
"They caught that nine point one, I think, the other day and then I heard the other day a trotliner caught one a little over eleven pounds," said Poe of one of the ten or so licensed commercial fishemen who take black drum from the lake..
"No kidding? What do they use for bait on them," I queried.
"Crab claws. That's just about all they ever use for them," said Poe, chuckling in amazement as he lined up another reef with objects on land finely tuned with years of experience.
We had put a few nice trout, including a three pounder that looked like it had a lot of white trout in his blood, in the boat at our first spot and were looking to add a few more before embarking on the long journey to the Cameron jetties and close-in rigs.
Poe talked about his theory on what made one of the Gulf's premier trophy trout fisheries into a school trout paradise.
"In May, they started doing a lot of seismograph work in the middle of the lake. You could hardly run a boat across the lake from the house there were so many cane poles out there," said Poe, who recently opened a beautiful new lodge on the eastern shoreline of the lake north of Hebert's Marina.
"I think that had a lot to do with our fishing being so poor. And everything moved out of here as well. There wasn't a single crab trap or trotline in the area, either."
We found a good group of decent fish on a reef on the south end of the lake and began picking away at the fish on a combination of glow Norton Sand Eel, Jrs. and glow sparkle beetles, a great bait this time of year according to Poe.
"A lot of times, I'll catch myself saying 'Look at that shrimp' and it'll be a customer's glow beetle," said Poe. "It's a good looking bait and it's got that great darting action to it."
Storms chased us from the Gulf later on in the day and the lake calmed considerably from the chop earlier in the morning. Poe began doing what many say is what he's best at: looking for slicks.
"A few years ago, this was THE technique for finding fish. And I've found a lot of great reefs by fish around slicks that have popped up," said Poe. "It hasn't been near as consistent as recent years, but it still locates a lot of fish."
We eventaully found a few fresh ones that held some more speckled trout and added more to the box before Poe spied one that ws accompanied by numerous "busts" that signalled redfish.
"If those are trout, we've really got something," said Poe.
It was, in fact, redfish. Poe muscled in a 27 incher while I played with a thirty inch fish that made the runs of a twenty pounder. Both were released back into the lake and we scampered north to the boathouse ahead of another storm and into the air conditioning.
Though the temperatures and terrain were dead-on, it sure didn't feel like Louisiana to most teams at the first day of the Oh Boy! Oberto Redfish Cup qualifying event in Lake Charles. Thirty five teams did not weigh a legal redfish and small weights dominated the leaderboard. Four of the top teams were from Florida, teams accustomed to tough bites.
Brothers Charlie and Jack Barton from Port Lavaca, TX, however, bucked the trend and took the first day lead with 14.73 lbs. The Texas Tackle Factory pro team battled heat, muddy water and equipment adversity to put a little over a quarter pound between them and Mike Tindal and Artie Price, Jr. (14.45 lbs)
Rounding out the top five were Mike Friday and Danny Latham (14.21), Scott Guthrie and Rick Murphy (13.55) and Sam Arcure, Jr. and Keith Rainwater (13.52)
The team only had five bites for the day, pulling the hooks on one and having two over-sized - the first two fish of the day. Despite being in shallow water, the water was muddy, making sight-fishing nearly impossible. All of their fish were caught on Texas Tackle Factory Texas Red Killers in Texas Bone color.
"It's a big lake in the marsh. We're in the same water with a few other boats," said Charlie Barton, who teamed with his brother to finish 15th in the Redfish Cup Championship in Lake Charles last October.
Just outside of the top five - the top five after day two go back to zero and fish for the championship - is Ross Barkhurst and Lloyd Landry, currently in 21st place in the points race. The top 25 go to the championship in Biloxi, MS on Oct. 20-22.
The Bartons, despite having company in relatively close quarters, are confident they can win the tournament in their water.
"We only saw one fish today, but there are plenty of fish in there. Once you find the fish here, there are no problems getting them to eat."
Weigh-in tomorrow is set for 5:30 with the Stihl Timber Sports series, the premier lumberjacking competition in the world, beginning at noon.
After a summer of fantastic speckled trout action in the Black Bay area, it's seems like an aberration when boxes of fish don't come back to the dock. Captain Brian Epstein of Captain Brian's Bayou Adventures (504 278-3316) says the late season and the moon phase is to blame for recent troubles, but that everything is lining up for a good weekend.
"Going into the new moon, there were plenty of fish," said Epstein, who pushes off from Delacroix each morning. "Things just came to a halt the past three or four days. This past weekend I had guys - not guides, but regulars who know their stuff and get out there early and everything - say they didn't have a bite."
"With the full moon coming up on the nineteenth, we should see a really good feed by these fish."
Epstein says the fish are significantly smaller than the ones even a month ago, but says it's common to see an influx of 14-18 inch trout in the late season. What they lack in size is generally more than made up for in tenacity.
"It really was some of the best action of the year before this weekend. The three or four days before this little dry spell, it was about as good as it gets. You're not going to get the big numbers of three to five pounders, but generally you'll get a few of them every once in a while."
"It's typical late summer fishing. You can still get some nicer fish, especially around the islands, but you've got to work for them," said Epstein.
The veteran guide believes that many of the fish which were not big enough to spawn at the beginning of the season are now doing so, another reason for the big numbers of fish a few grades smaller than earlier in the year.
Another key to Epstein boxing late season trout has been fishing his live bait deep. Always a creful observer of where the fish are holding in the water column, he's been seeing a common theme of late with the searing heat that takes hold of the lower St. Bernard and upper Plaquemines parish open water very early in the day.
"Just about everything has been either on the bottom with a Carolina rig or deep under a slip cork," said Epstein. "However deep the water is, you want to fish the sliding corks near the bottom for the most part."
Though he was willing to predict a solid bite this weekend, Epstein says that it's kind of up in the air regarding what will take place as the moon makes its way back to the new moon phase.
"The later in the season, the harder it is to predict," said Epstein.
The outstanding speckled trout fishing throughout the barrier islands bordering Terrebonne parish has been enjoyed by many this summer, but perhaps no one has enjoyed it as much as Capt. Bill Lake of Bayou Guide Service (985 851-6015). Trout and plenty of them have filled the box this month in stark contrast to recent years.
"Last year, we didn't even have a speckled trout season in August. Usually by this time, we're bull redfishing at Coon Point. But I haven't had a bull red trip yet," said Lake. "This has been the best late season run we've had since I've been fishing."
Lake says that he expects the party to end shortly after the full moon on the 19th, but until then, fish deep and enjoy it while it lasts.
"As good as the fishing is right now, I wouldn't be surprised if I was wrong, but I think that once these trout spawn - and most of them are full of eggs right now - you'll see things slow to a crawl later this month," said Lake.
The suffocating heat definitely has an effect on the bigger fish accordig to Lake. While there are no shortage of small trout in the surf "You've got to go through a bunch of them," at Last Island, the bigger class of fish are present in good numbers at the deeper Ship Shoal structures.
"You've got to fish the deep - up to thirty feet - structures right now. The good news is that there are plenty of days where plastic is all you need," said Lake. "I'd say this year I've had 75% of the fish caught on tandem rigged Bayou Chubs. In years past, it's been 50/50 croakers to plastic. That may not sem like a big difference, but it really is."
Lake says that it's pretty apparent why the fish are so susceptible to artificial baits this year.
"There have been plenty of fish caught at the islands out of Cocodrie. When you don't have a couple of boats from Coco Marina at every corner of a rig using live bait, it makes a big difference," said Lake. "Those big boats haven't had to go out west.
The mid August heat has been borderline unbearable at times, but Capt. Chad Dufrene of Dufrene's Guide Service (985 637-6357) will take it when it brings the kind of calm conditions needed to fish for trout in the Timbalier Bay system.
"We've been doing real well at the islands in the bay such as Caillou, Bruch and Casse Tete," said Dufrene. "There have also been a good number of fish at East Timbalier Island, though you fish for those a lot different than the other islands."
Dufrene says the key to fishing the rocky barrier island is having live bait, the kind which is not largely available in Golden Meadow. Live croakers and live shrimp are more commonly found in Fourchon and Grand Isle and tend to make a big difference at east Timbalier.
"Really, all you've got to do is loook for the boats out there. The fish are in the middle of the island over those subemerged rocks," said Dufrene.
Two things work against the artificial-only crowd here: a) there is usually a huge amount of bait present at the island and b) there are also lots of boats originating from places where live shrimp and croakers are readily available.
The interior islands, on the other hand, are much more tolerant of anglers using the fake stuff. Dufrene says a productive pattern lately has been working slicks around the islands, a sure sin of feeding fish.
"Like always, you want to be looking for bait, but the slicks, especially the ones that are really small, popping up are the places where you know fish are feeding," said Dufrene. "We've been finding them on the flats off of the islands mainly on the lee side."
Soft plastics under a cork is a good way to "call them up" from wherever part of the water column they're feeding.
Redfish action has been good as well, though not in the same places many have become accustomed to fishing for them in Golden Meadow area. Open water areas south of Little Lake have been most productive for finding gangs of fish, which Dufrene believes are getting away from the heat.
"The ponds around Catfish Lake are so hot right now, I think the fish are just trying to get away from it," said Dufrene. "I've been fishing the bigger lakes on a falling tide aound a cut leading into the marsh. All you've got to do is find a cut when the water's coming out and troll not too far down either side of it. Those fish are staging, waiting to get back into the marsh when the tide goes back in and they'll be cruising back and forth around the cut."
Redfish tournaments, in the past, have been known for dramatic shifts in the leaderboard from day to day. The redfish's nomadic nature and the 27 inch maximum length with which these tournaments operate almost mandate it. But Anthony Randazzo and Rich Tudor became the third consecutive team to lead wire to wire in taking the IFA Redfish Tour Pro event in Venice. The Skeeter pro team bested the rest of the teams with a two day weight of 40.46, a total surpassed slightly and only once in redfish tournament history.
The team took home the keys to a Ranger 191 Cayman flats boat. The win was Randazzo's second in a major redfish tournament this year. He and regular partner Billy Wallbaum, with whom he fishes in the Redfish Cup and FLW Redfish Series, won the Redfish Cup in Mobile three months ago.
Yesterday's incredible 21.25 lb. two fish bag was similarly just short of the all-time record. Both marks are held by Greg and Bill Devault and were caught in the 2003 Redfish Tour Championship in Lafitte (21.52 lbs and 40.62), though the fish were caught in Venice. The IFA measures fish with a spread tail, whereas the Redfish Cup and FLW measure by pinching the tail.
"We feel like we're lucky to be on stage here the way we fished today," said Randazzo. "Whereas yesterday everything went right, today was the total opposite. We broke off two fish, pulled the hooks on one right at the boat. We missed strikes today. We really felt like opportunity was slipping through our fingers."
The team's weight fell dramatically on Saturday, though the fish were still the beefy specimens - 9.52 and 9.67 lbs - for which Venice is known.
Tudor, an inshore guide from the Florida Keys, added that the fishing was much different than Friday, compounding the execution problems they had on the second day.
"The fish were extremely spooky. Normally, Venice fish will come from ten feet to eat the bait. Today, you had to lead them just right to get them to hit," said Tudor.
Randazzo was quick to give credit to Tudor in schooling him on some finer points of sight fishing. It's a technique Randazzo normally doesn't do much in competition in his home waters, choosing to find large concentrations of hefty fish and culling through them to get two of the right length and weight. Tudor's Florida background and fresh perspective on the Venice area served the team well.
"We found some fish in places that Anthony said he's never even been before. We checked out spot after spot after spot with no fish and then we found this beautiful area," said Tudor. "We really didn't know what we had until we caught those fish on Friday morning."
The team reported that their best bait proved to be a Strike King Redfish Magic spinnerbait.
"It's really a dynamic combination. It's got a real good jighead and strong spinner and it's made with their 3X plastic, which doesn't come apart," said Randazzo. "I've never been a big believer in colored jigheads, but these last two tournaments have got me believing in it more and more. This week, it was a red head. Last week ago in Galveston (FLW) it was a chartreuse head."
The Redfish Tour Pro series ends Oct. 7-8 in Sarasota, FL, after which the Pro championship will take place in Grand Isle on November 5-6.
The Gulf Councils meeting tonight resulted in a 7-7 vote, so the motion to change the grouper closure to only red grouper - and leaving the gags, warsaws, snowy's, yellowedges, etc. alone - was defeated.
The Florida people are still fighting mad and talking lawsuit. It's not over yet, but your support is needed. Help fight this unjust Gulfwide closure to protect one predominantly Florida fish.
Congratulations to Brennan Head and Brandon Garrison for their victory in Galveston yesterday. The Lafayette duo bested 108 mostly Texas teams to take home the $25,000 first prize.
Anthony Randazzo and Billy Wallbaum finished a strong 15th. I'll have the full story sometime today.
I'm not a bass fisherman. Let's make that perfectly clear right from the start. I am continually fascinated at the quantum leaps the sport has made in the past several years, especially on the tournament level. And it makes you wonder just how good those guys are. Well, yesterday I found out and never in my wildest dreams did I think they were THAT good.
Louisiana Publishing Circulation Manager Ricky Naquin and I had been trying to get together for months on an outing for green trout. Most of my experiences with largemouths have been either incidental while redfishing or in private ponds. I was about to find out what a difference there was in "pet fish" and the real deal.
Naquin is a regular on a few local tournament trails and just put the first skin on the wall in his new Nitro bass boat with a victory in the Media Bass Circuit. Tough summertime conditions set in many weeks ago and the 13.62 lb. total weight for five fish was enough to take the win. I wanted to see the process - with a few distractions - of a tournament day.
After a fifteen minute winding ride from Des Allemands, we brought the 901 Nitro off pad and settled into the process of jerking a few bass worthy of photographs. We were both throwing V & M frogs on the edge of the thick duckweed when Naquin spied a bass crashing a shad in the middle of the canal. Like a snake, he fired a quick cast just past the disturbance and began bringing it back to boat.
Naquin firmly believes in the frog's prowess as a baitfish imitator and had full confidence in tossing it to the active fish despite having a Zara Spook tied on a rod at his feet. That confidece was rewarded with a smashing strike. Naquin waited what seemed like five minutes - really only about a second and a half, if that - and then sharply torqued his upper body into the hookset with precision that comes only from thousands of thrilling reps.
The bass, a beautifully colored two pound chunk, thrashed fruitlessly on the surface before digging for a second before being efficiently winched aboard. I expressed a sense of satisfaction that the day was a success already, but Naquin was far from satisfied.
"We can do better than that in here. This place holds some good fish," said Naquin. It was, indeed, the start of a great day of fishing or, in my case, observing. I knew I would be way out of my league if we flipped the heavy laydown structure peppering the bank, but this was frog fishing, pretty much cast and wind stuff.
It was the next fish, a four and a quarter pound beauty taken from an isolated piece of grass just off the bank and the next one, a two and a half pounder a few casts down the line, when I knew I had a long way to go and Naquin had a nice tournament day working.
"Right now, I've got around eight or nine pounds going. I've got a ways to go - I need some more big bites and I need to get that first fish out of there - but I'd be feeling pretty good," said Naquin.
Myself, I had decidedly mixed emotions. There were a few beautifully marked and chunky - by summertime standards where fish are definitely not the weight they were in the spring -fish for pictures, but had only a few blow-ups to show for a whole lot of casts.
"You've got to let those fish take that frog. What happens is he'll hit it and take it down and then he'll gulp it again as he's going down. That's when you set the hook. We're going to get you one soon enough," said Naquin.
When I finally did do as instructed, the eleven inch fish went skittering across the water enough to allow the 40 lb. Power Pro to wrap around the tip a half dozen times. The Mustad Ultra Point hook held firm and we laughed about the love/hate relationship with braided line (OK, I laughed a little later on).
"Before braid came out, I used to lip in all of this heavy stuff with 20 or 30 pound mono," said Naquin. "Now, I've got 50 lb. braid on my frog rod and 65 lb. on my flipping sticks. The newer tungsten ounce and half weights from Bass Pro Shops make a big difference in being able to really punch through that heavy grass."
We left the first spot with around thirteen pounds of fish in the livewell. A few more stops allowed the culling of the first two pounder and as the high noon sun found its dehydrating rhythm, Naquin pulled up to a bank and promptly pulled in five quick fish, including another four pounder to get him up to around seventeen pounds.
"If someone beat that on a day like today, I'd shake his hand. I'll take seventeen pounds and run with it any day at this time of year," said Naquin.
I was hanging in there physically, but mentally, I was in the fetal position. The day ended soon thereafter, a success on most fronts. I had my pictures, an education and the promise of a rematch. Hopefully, it won't require a trip to a psychiatrist.
Hope this story is true! 184 lb. wahoo caught out of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico by a fifteen year old girl.
If you follow inshore saltwater fishing, you've most likely heard it before. It goes something like this: the one place in the state guaranteed to produce redfish on any given day is the mouth of Southwest Pass out of Venice. Perhaps it's just me - though I tend to doubt it - but I've had plenty of scratches down there.
Blown out offshore trips and location-specific outings alike, there have been just as many disappointments as meat hauls at the rock jetties where the Mississippi River meets the Gulf of Mexico. Last week's outing began there as well and, aside from a few snip-offs from toothy critters, some lost jack crevalle in the swift current and numerous lost jigheads, there was a big goose egg on board when we bailed on the rocks an hour and a half later.
Yesterday was well on its way to the same result. Darren Angelo's "money hole" in Buras dried up, almost literally, with a lower than expected tide. Fish were there, but spooky and I had a bad case of the yips on a potential qualifier for the redfish - under 27 inches this year - category for the Faux Pas Invitational rodeo.
With the low water, we headed south and eventually ended up at the rocks with a mean-looking storm in hot pursuit. As we were approaching a set of pilings to tie to on the river side of the east jetty, Angelo saw something that he liked.
"Boy, that's a pile of fish there," said Angelo, looking at his fishfinder. Angelo is a firm believer in paying attention to one's electronics is critical to success in even the most reliable spot. "I don't know if we can reach them, but that was a good school of fish."
After forty minutes and one large speckled trout later - a 5.65 lber caught on Berkely Gulp grub under a school of rain minnows - we made a move as the brunt of the storm passed thankfully to the north. No luck locating the fish again, but we marked another pod on the Gulf side, holding tight to the bottom in twenty four feet of water.
One of the many pitfalls of this trip - a miscalulation on the tide, no sunscreen on board, hitting and pushing off of the sandbar at the second spillway, the missed fish - was Angelo leaving his tackle box at the house, which held the heavy jigheads needed to reach the fish. Angelo had a solution in a bag of ¼ ounce heads. Simply cutting off the hook on one and making it a glorified - and expensive - sliding sinker was the answer.
"That's what I usually do when fishing down here. I'll slide an egg sinker above a jighead. This isn't the most technical fishing. It's really a matter of getting the jig to the bottom and being in the right spot," said Angelo. "I'll always work the good holes I know of in the rocks, even if I don't mark fish - but otherwise, it's too hard to anchor around here without having an idea of what's down there."
Having securely anchored the 223 Cayman, Ranger's largest flats boat, we set about jigging up a few redfish as time ticked away until the scales closed. By letting the chartreuse Gulp-tipped jighead down directly behind the boat, it wasn't long before Angelo had a 29 inch red digging for the rocks.
I hadn't even given my bait the first drop before Angelo was hooked up again. Before grabbing the net, I let it down to the bottom and inquired as to what kind of guarantee I could secure on the holdholders on the poling platform. Satisfied, I began walking to where the net was, but before I could take two steps, the Challenger Titanium series was bent double.
And so it went with about a dozen reds, plus one hardtail, hitting the deck. We culled two under twenty seven inches - pinched tail - on ice, where they were summarily kicked off the leaderboard before they had a chance to sit on it. Most were tantalizingly close to the mark, but over nonetheless. The trout vaulted to first place upon entry, a placing I fully expect it not to hold as the rodeo winds down on Saturday.
Check out tomorrow night on Fox 8 (Cox cable Ch. 9) at around quarter til ten for the videeo of this report.
Looking at the overcast sky in what could barely be called predawn, I knew this morning would be a good time for it. I hadn't been on a good topwater bite in far too long and knew that Capt. Charlie Thomason of Bayou Charters (504 278-3474) regularly worked over the islands on the edge of Black Bay for hefty trout on everybody's favorite lures.
But the man's mind, well tuned to the whims of speckled trout and redfish in and around the Hopedale and Delacroix marsh, was made up and he immediately shot down my, ahem, observation.
"We've been doing a lot better on the rigs lately. There are some fish over there, but these rigs have been red-hot," said Thomason, directing his new 24 foot Triton bay boat through the maze of PVC pipes, most of which held a roosting frigate bird.
The topwater bite seemingly would have to wait at least another trip, though Shane and Pat Pescay each had one of their rods rigged with a Mirrolure Top Dog, Jr. or She Dog. Fox 8 cameraman Ed Matthews was also along for the ride, assigned to film Thomason's weekly fishing report for the 9:00 PM Thursday and 5:00 AM Friday news.
Our first stop at a rig in Breton Sound had Thomason scrambling a bit, as another boat was already in his preferred spot. A move to the other side resulted in a bull red for Shane in the midst of a pack of ladyfish. A concentration of trout lay beneath them, but were way too finicky for Thomason's taste, so we were on the move again.
To say the third time was the charm would redefine the word understatement.
"What we'll do y'all, is throw our baits on either side of this little rig and let the tide work them back," said Thomason as we baited up with live croakers on a plain 1/4 oz jighead and tossed them into the rich green water. Mine didn't get four feet down before a hungry trout inhaled it and churned the surface. Everybody else was right behind me - some landed, some lost - with fat fish of their own.
"All of these rigs will hold fish at one time or another. You've got to just jump around until you find them," said Thomason.
On the way back from the ice chest, I spied a bag of new fat bodied Saltwater Assassin Swimmin' Shads on the seat and decided to do a little experiment. Like most, Ive heard for years how one absolutely HAD to have live bait for success in the warm months in the Hopedale/Delacroix region. I slipped a soft plastic on and, just as I had anticipated, got a jarring strike as I swam it back to the boat.
Shane, on the other hand, had the right idea. After depositing his fish into the ice chest, he very quietly picked up his rod with a black/chrome She Dog. I was trying to come tight with my jig fish when I saw his rod bent double and a huge boil where his bait had been.
Immediatley, my thought process went something along these lines: get this fish in the boat and find the nearest topwater plug in one of the many cavernous dry storage compartments in the Triton 240 LTS.
Thomason had the same idea and in between swipes with the landing net, shots and sound bites with a rapidly progressing TV show and two guests attempting - as politely as possible - to set the record for number of times asking where the topwaters were in a one minute time period, he passed out baits. We grabbed them like nine-year-olds grab McDonald's french fries.
What followed was a topwater free-for-all bite the likes of which I've never seen. The slightest of swells and solid overcast provided an ideal situation and the trout agreed wholeheartedly heart-stopping strike after strike. For thirty minutes, it was mayhem. Seventeen to twenty three inch trout threw all of their energy at the plugs with full bodied flushes followed by sharp, audible "zips" of the line as the fish rocketed to the left or right of the point of impact.
I didn't even notice Thomason had place Matthews on the small platform in order to film the entire boat's action. The action was so fast that it was as if everybody exhaled heavily when the bite ended.
The rest of the morning's proceedings - which ended at 9:30 with around ninety trout - showcased a little of everything: croakers, jigs thrown behind a topwater being worked by somebody else and more topwater action in the midmorning haze.
On the way in, we marveled at the dense schools mullet jumping as far as the eye could see, leaving little doubt as to why there was the fishery that there is. Truth be known, the fish out there probably could be caught on artificials if everyone would do it, but there were times even on this day when a wriggling croaker resulted in an immediate strike while a jig or plug went untouched.