Three fantastic fisherwomen from Lafayette participated in the most recent fishing Bayou Woman Adventure (BWA). Having read impressive reports by a premiere guide of local red fish blasts the previous week, and in anticipation of their arrival, I had asked him if he might share his secret spot with me for this occasion. He generously did so in great detail, and because I had not had time to scout, I was very grateful.
The first morning found us waiting anxiously for the rain to stop, causing us to miss the early-morning bite. Once we arrived at the sacred spot, we were greeted by waterways clogged with the non-native, invasive water hyacinth. However, those floating plants weren’t the only deterrents to catching reds–the twelve-foot alligator lurking nearby would certainly scare even the biggest red fish away.
After we finally managed to find a place to pull up and anchor, we threw out the sure-fire prescription of the day for hungry reds–cracked crab on the bottom. The surface of the water rippled all around the boat with tell-tale fish activities. We were certain there must be some very brave and hungry reds circling our crab, waiting for the kill.
Not long after all four lines were in the water, blue crab resting on the bottom, a welcome breakfast for hungry fishes, we heard, “FISH ON!” and the fight began. Renee`, the youngest of the crew and an avid fisherwoman, held her own while the strong fish zipped line off the reel, swimming away from its captor. We cheered her on as she woman-handled that fish until its energy was spent.
What is it?” echoed the question. As the fish surfaced, the lack of glistening bronze hinted that this was not our target red fish. As I netted the fish, I recognized it as a black-tip shark, an unwelcome visitor here in these brackish waters. This is the second black-tip shark caught from my boat in the past three months and not a very good sign. My fear is they are adapting to the less saline environment and preying upon those fish that we target; namely, red drum and speckled trout.
With the shark returned to the water and our lines back on the bottom, we were joined by a boat full of fishermen with the same plan in mind. Not long after they got settled, we heard “Fish on!” from across the way. Watching with great anticipation of a nice red, our hopes sank with the netting of yet another black-tip.
“That’s it, ladies. Between the gator and sharks, there will be no red fish here this morning.” With that, we pulled up anchor and headed south. The second spot produced a nice red fish for me, but the water hyacinth quickly hemmed us in, preventing us from casting freely.
So, on to spot number three which also held invasive aquatics, just not quick as thick. The bite was going pretty good until three alligator hunters rode right over the fish to get to nearby lines. The sounds of .22 caliber gunshot told us they had gators on their lines, even though their passage shut down the bite for us. Fortunately, we had pulled out some nice fish before they scattered, making the total for that morning four keeper reds and a channel catfish.
The second day found us following the tip an old man had given my guests at the landing the morning before. They say all fishermen are liars, so you just never know whether or not to believe the stories you hear at the marina. But this fisherman said he had caught limits of reds–a fish almost every cast–at a spot not far from the landing, which is just my kind of trip. After picking up another couple dozen bait crab, I joined the ladies, and we were on our way.
It only took a couple of test casts to find the spot where we needed to anchor. Putting the wind at our backs, it wasn’t long before those sumptuous reds starting gobbling up our offering of breakfast crab. At one point, fisherwoman Jane hooked on to something that really gave her a run for her money. Having caught her share of reds already that morning, she wasn’t sure what she had on the line. After a good long fight, the mystery ended with the netting of a huge twenty-pound black drum (which went back in to live a longer life).
By the time Renee` and Jane had each landed several reds, it concerned me that our third fisherwoman, Joy, wasn’t having the same luck. Although she was a great sport about it, saying how much she enjoyed being out on the water with good friends, that wasn’t good enough for me.
Sitting down beside her at the back of the boat, I watched her technique for a few minutes. The day before, I had given them a brief lesson on how to fish on the bottom using the Carolina rig, but maybe in all the excitement, Joy didn’t hear the most important detail of all–to watch the tip of the rod. The trick is to keep the rod parallel to the water and watch the tip. When it starts to twitch, that means the fish is taking the bait off the bottom–sucking it in–and once the twitching stops, it’s time to set the hook, HARD!
Being a quick study, it wasn’t long before she mastered the right technique–the tip twitched, she jerked, and the result was a rush of adrenalin and a beautiful red in the net for Joy. Sure, it’s great being out on the water with good friends, but fighting and catching a hefty red fish brings being on the water to whole new level of great. And then, at that moment, she understood why we were all so addicted to fishing.
Joy became so adept at setting the hook, that she foul hooked a croaker, which went into the bait box to be used as cut bait when we ran out of blue crab. Just before the last piece of croaker was gone, the wind shifted and the bite died down. It was about 11 A.M., and breakfast was officially over for the reds in Lake Decade.
The old man at the landing told the truth. We caught fish after fish, with each woman catching her limit of reds in just a couple of hours. With sixteen reds, a black drum, and a sheepshead in the box, it was time for three happy fisherwomen to call it a day and head back to the camp.
There’s a lot to be said for shiny topwater baits, sparkly spinner baits, and weedless spoons, but sometimes, the flashiest thing of all is to flash back to a simpler time when a couple of little blue crabs, a hook and a sinker provided enough fish for the table and enough excitement to last a lifetime. Well, maybe not for a lifetime, but just enough until the next fishing trip.
Tight lines and twitching tips,
Capt. Wendy aka Bayou Woman