This trip was with Diane Huhn, Volunteer Coordinator for Bayou Grace, and their hurricane recovery efforts on the five bayous. Diane is an avid freshwater fisherman from Michigan, and I feel fortunate to have made her acquaintance and now call her friend.
Armed with artificial lures only–no shrimp, no crabs–we headed out one morning at “Red fish Breakfast Time”. And believe it or not, folks, that time is not the crack of dawn! That’s another thing I love about reds–they like to sleep in!
Diane was the first to snag a nice red. What a beauty! If memory serves, this was only her second time to target redfish.
And then on the same lure, she caught a little bass, which she released. After catching her second red of the morning, she announced that the score was “2 to 0”. I mentally asked “who’s counting?” as I heard myself say “There’s no competing on this boat.” See, when I’m behind there will be NO competing on my boat! That’s one of the perks of being a captain–I can make up my own rules as I go!
The dark marsh waters gave up so many reds in such a short time, that we enjoyed a little CNR–Catch ‘n Release–for you rookies out there! Diane held this red loosely until it got its gills going and swam quickly out of her hands. What a great feeling!
And then I got to do a little of this. . . fish tagging!
Do you see the white strip about two inches long sticking out just below the dorsal fin? That tag is marked with a La. Department of Wildlife and Fisheries number. This tag number is associated with an information card I filled out about this particular fish–its length, weight, species, where caught, what kind of lure, etc. The measuring and tagging must be done quickly so the fish can be returned to the water alive.
The next person who catches this fish will call LDWF, give them the number and all the new stats on the fish, and then LDWF can compare the new stats with the old. This gives some idea of growth rate and travel distance. Pretty cool, huh? Oh, and they can let me know where the fish was caught and how much it grew so there will be a continuum and hopefully more nerds like me will want to tag fish.
After we reached our limit, with other reds still wanting breakfast, I decided to test a theory.
I took the most raggedy looking plastic bait off my console and put it on the rustiest jighead and tied it to my line.
On about the third cast, the lure produced this nice specimen!
Here’s the theory: When the fish are biting, does it really matter what you cast at them? Finding: In this case, the answer was a resounding NO! This fish was promptly returned to the water to live to a ripe old age.
We gave the fish a rest on Friday, while we got some real work done at Camp Dularge. Yes, that’s right. We did something other than go fishing!
On Saturday, even though the sky was dark and streaked with rain off to the south, we pushed on to the same honey hole to try our luck one last time. After a week of temperatures that reached 100, it was blissful fishing in cool rain. That posed yet one more theory to test–whether or not the reds bite in the rain.
Diane tested this theory right away and came up with this gorgeous fish.
Finding: This day, the reds bit better during the rain than after the rain. However, this ended up being the slowest morning of the week, with only six keepers hitting the deck.
We had a great time fishing this week, and I’d like to think we were good sports and conservationists. We left our environment better than we found it. We kept our trash in the boat. We retrieved snagged lures when we could. We let the big ones and small ones go back, keeping only what we knew we could use or give away.
BB took her catch home to feed her family in Mississippi. Diane took fillets for a fish fry for her family in Michigan. Three widows on this bayou had fresh fish this week. My family ate well and still has redfish fillets in the freezer, which I will share with others.
For me, fishing is the all around ideal sport. First, there is the challenge of reading all the signs of a good fishing day. On the boat ride to the honey hole, we are embraced by the sights, sounds, and smells of the natural setting. There is the mystique of knowing which lure the fish will want under that day’s conditions. There is the honing of one’s skills and the fun of guessing what kind of fish is on the end of your line by the way it feels. We take pause to admire the beauty of the color and markings of each fish, and take a minute to photograph each others catch. We enjoy the camaraderie of a good joke and the swapping of fish tales. It’s the satisfying feeling of following good conservation by releasing the undersized or very large fish.
Afterward, there is the reward of bragging rights back at the landing, where a box full of reds puts women and men on equal footing. The rewards continue on as the fish are cleaned and shared with others, or taken home and prepared many ways for one’s family.
If you’re looking for a sport that is fulfilling on just about every level, you’d be hard pressed to find a sport better than fishing.
Let’s go fishing!