Monday, January 23, 2012

The Big not so Easy

A couple weekends ago, my roommate Aaron and I loaded up the kayaks at dawn and headed over to Hopedale, Louisiana, in the middle of the marsh.  Hopedale is only 30 miles southeast of New Orleans, but it is a whole different world.  You actually have to drive through a gate in the levee to get there.

The Highway 46 Floodgate
The levee is great for those people living on the inside, but not so great those on the outside.  I'm imagining the residents of Hopedale racing down the highway as the storm surge is rising and the floodgates are about to close.  That will probably be in a movie at some point.

Anyway, once you get through the levee, the highway is surrounded by marsh.  There are mobile homes on stilts on one side of the road and boats lining a canal on the other.  Duck hunters and fishermen abound.  We came with a specific goal in mind: to sight fish for redfish.  The weather forecast was for a sunny day in the mid-60s.  On warm winter days, the sun heats up the black mud bottom of the shallows, and redfish abandon the depths to prowl the warmer shallow water in search of crabs and baitfish.  At least thats what is supposed to happen...  We kayaked around the edges of a lagoon searching for redfish for several hours, but I didn't see a thing.  Aaron saw one tail, but it spooked as soon as he cast.  The only fish of the day was a speckled trout Aaron caught while drifting.

The highlights of the day for me were seeing a great horned owl in a tree on the way to the launch, watching a sharp-shinned hawk swoop around hunting small birds, and kayaking with a pod of dolphins.

Objects in picture are closer than they appear...
In the end it didn't get much over 60 degrees, which may have kept most of the fish deep, and the wind picked up, making it harder to spot surface disturbances.  On the way back to the launch, 6 flats boats zoomed by at about 40 mph.  All occupants were covered from head to toe, with buffs and sunglasses preventing any skin from seeing daylight.  I would understand this in the midsummer sun or on a cold day, but it was kind of overkill for that day.  I think it's more about trying to look the part.  Each boat had a poling platform, casting platform, and about 4 inches of freeboard and probably cost 75 times more than my kayak ($30,000 vs $400?).  I managed to talk to one of them back at the launch, and he said it had been a slow day, which for him meant just a few fish brought to the boat, and less fish spotted than usual.  He seemed to think the fish would be tough to spot from a kayak since they weren't tailing - the height of a poling platform provides a much better angle for seeing into the water.  I know that sight fishing for redfish can be done from a kayak - it may just take a little more patience.  I've got my eyes on one of those flats boats, but for now I'm going to stick with the kayak.

If there's one thing I've learned while fishing the past few months, it's that sight fishing for redfish is not easy.  Its actually quite difficult.  Fortunately, kayaking around the marsh is very pleasant on its own.  In fact, being able to do that comfortably in January is quite a luxury, and any fish is just a bonus.


  1. I love sightfishing for reds. I've done it twice in the last few months and have had a blast both times.

    1. Sounds like I need you to show me how its done!