Spring Redfish Report and Redfish Rumble 2017 Recap
Starting in mid-March running through mid-June, the spring fishing window in Louisiana is one of the best times of year for getting on the water and chasing big trout, bass, and redfish. The weather becomes more consistent and the sweltering heat of the summer is not underway yet, allowing for long comfortable trips on the water.
This report will focus primarily on redfishing conditions in SE Louisiana. If you like to fish redfish out of the kayak, you most likely are a sightfishing fanatic, but in the spring the sightfishing game is not always a sure bet. A combination of environmental factors are responsible for this, the thick aquatic vegetation you find in the summer that clears the ponds in the marsh is just taking root so you aren’t going to have extensive areas with clear water. In addition, storm systems are moving through frequently with high winds and rain, also adding to the turbulence in the water. That being said, you can still find protected pockets and coves where there is thick grass and clear conditions.
One tip for finding these flats that harbor grass and clear water year around is finding areas where marshy flats are flanked by bayous that have good water movement. These deeper channels allow the water on the flat to move in and out easily, the water doesn’t become stagnant and it stays oxygenated, allowing the aquatic grasses to survive year around.
Notice here how the pockets of marsh skirt the main channel, the water in these ponds can easily drain and refill through a main bayou, allowing the water to stay fresh and not stagnated.
Everyone has heard of the old saying “match the hatch”, and during the spring, for me this has been very important. The blue crabs this year in the marsh have been quite abundant, I don’t know if that has anything to do with the new 30 day closed season for crabbing initiated by the LDWF, but I have been seeing tons of crabs lately. The best lure to imitate a crab in the marsh is a gold spoon, hands down. I prefer the Johnson gold spoon personally, but the Aqua Dream spoons are also proven in the marsh.
Some additional lures that work well in slightly grassy conditions with clear to murky water are chatterbaits and spinnerbaits. Zman makes a variety of weedless and non weedless chatterbaits and soft plastics to be used as trailers. My go to is the Zman Freedom Chatterbait, this is essentially a Texas style weedless hook with a chatter on the front.
This April the Bayou Coast Kayak Fishing Club hosted its annual Redfish Rumble tournament out of St. Bernard Parish. This is one of my favorite tournaments of the Bayou Coast series, and being on my home waters of St. Bernard Parish, I always try to be as competitive as possible at this event.
As most tournament anglers know, when there is a tournament scheduled the weather likes to play tricks on you before the event. Redfish Rumble was no different, as 20-30mph NW winds the week leading up to the event completely drained the marshes of St. Bernard Parish. Most of the prefishing I had done the weeks before was probably a wash and I knew I would just have to go to some tried and true locations to find the fish.
As it turns out, while having no water in the marsh can lead to less than ideal, low, and muddy water conditions, if you are fishing for redfish, it can also put them out on display as they tail and crawl in the shallow water trying to feed.
That was the case when tournament day came around, the water in the marsh I was fishing was less than a foot deep in most places, but the redfish were in it and easy to spot crushing bait in the shallow water. Although these fish are easy to spot and make presentations to, they can also be extremely skittish as they feel exposed in the shallow water. When these situations present themselves, I know I have to go with a more finesse approach. I put away my spoons, spinner baits, and more flashy lures, and opted for a soft plastic minnow on a 1/8oz weighted weedless hook. My choice for this application is the Mustad KVD weighted swimbait hook paired with the Zman Minnowz. The Zman elaztech adds buoyancy and in my opinion creates a softer more natural presentation:
This turned out to be the ticket and the redfish started coming over the gunwales! Redfish 1-3 were all about 30″ and had to be returned. I was in a good pocket with big fish so I power-poled down and began to fan cast the area, picking up 2 fish in the 25-27″ range, awesome, time to keep moving as I see some tails in the distance. At this point I realize my powerpole had sunken the nearly entire 8′ of itself into the soft marsh mud and the motor wasn’t strong enough to pull it out. I leaned to the back of the boat to try and muscle it out but it wouldn’t budge. After about 15min of tug of war, I finally had to detach the entire unit from the kayak, paddle over to it where I could grab it from the side of the kayak and get better leverage, finally removing it from the quicksand-like marsh mud.
Throughout the morning I was consistently picking up fish anywhere from 24″-27″, making upgrades along the way. I was feeling pretty good, but knew I had to find some bass to round out the stringer. Marsh bass can be quite tricky to pattern, most of the time just being caught randomly throughout the day. Grass is always a plus when looking for bass in the marsh as well as slight turns in banks, muddy and clear water lines, and drop-offs at times only 6″-1′ in difference.
I pulled up to a marsh island that had a depression between it and a longer bank lined with grass, seeing a redfish spook I casted into the area and a tiny marsh bass wacked the lure. This was a good sign, so I continued to fan cast the area picking up bass in the .75-1lb range. After a few minutes I got a hit that knocked a ton of slack in my line, setting the hook hard I thought it was a redfish until that big green mouth came up slapping the surface of the water. It was a 18.5″ nearly 4lb marsh bass. It was 1:00PM, with a nearly an hour paddle to the truck, I decided my bag was pretty good and headed in.
This event had nearly 90 competitors, and I believe over 50 people weighed in. You needed over 20lbs to be competitive and the top 5 places were very close, it was mainly my big bass kicker that allowed me to come away with the win on this one. Congrats to all other winners with impressive bags of fish!