Giving Thanks in November

By Jay Potter

November is a month for giving thanks, and after the truly important gifts like family and friends, there is plenty of room to appreciate the pursuit of fishing, kayaking and quiet moments outdoors.

Unfortunately I was doing more working and fishing than writing in November so I have to fit it all into one massive six-course feast of fish tales.

The cornucopia that is the South Louisiana marsh produces its full bounty in the second to last month of the year. Cold fronts blast in from the north without cooling the water to it’s chilly dead-of-winter temperatures. Like the weather, the fish are in transition and have been great in size and number.

I’ve been lucky enough to sample the harvest-time wares all across the state, and as they say, “variety is the spice of life.”

11/1: Port Fourchon. The start. I decided to go hit our spot in Fourchon, a place I did great last winter, but a place from which I had been taking a break. It was a truly awesome day and on the drive down, I started really getting jacked once the sun rose, breaking through some thin clouds. I was ready for November fishing. A cold front had come through just a couple days prior, and there was extremely low water with a huge tide swing and a rising tide all day.

I launched about 9 am and went straight to a deep point where a high volume of water pushes through. While waited for the sun to get all the way up and turn on the redfish, I got into some white trout and decent flounder on the LSU Cocahoe, but no specks would hit that. Switching up baits provided me no luck, and once the sun rose a little more I headed off after the real target. It didn’t take long.

As I came around a tall grass point I saw four bronze backs inches out of the water on a shallow mudflat. While drifting into position, I merely sat and watched in amazement. It’s productive to just watch these awesome fish sometimes, to see how they move helps me know what kind of ripples might betray a fish on a cloudier day. A moment later, I flipped my plastic in front of the group. One fish broke the formation and grabbed it, signaling  the start of November with the sing of my reel.

I sight-fished my limit in the next hour and spend the following hour watching and catching reds grouped up everywhere. Cruising shallow banks, and shallow ponds, groups of two to ten were easy to spot and in full feasting mode. These fish were active and they were  simply destroying the H&H LSU Cocahoe.

It was the kind of day where I look around seeing if there’s anyone else watching this. After releasing several more fish, I left them biting and headed back to the trout hole. After changing baits a few more times, I finally got bites from four nice specks on a glow and chartreuse Norton Sand Eel. Whites and flounder before noon, reds everywhere in the middle and specks in the afternoon. Great day.

11/10: Venice, the Wagon Wheel. An overcast and windy day, it didn’t look like Corey, his fiancee Katherine and I were in for a great one. We left Baton Rouge around very early and hit the water about 7:30. We launched off of Tidewater Road and picked up a couple reds jigging Gulp! among some cypress knees on the way into the Wagon Wheel. A thick cloud cover made me think a black/chartreuse Mirrolure She-Dog might be fun. I started working the topwater through the calm water on the backside of a small grass island. As a red surfaced and slurped at the lure, I forced myself to freeze, waiting not for the strike, but for the pull. We all saw him get it on the second try, and things were immediately looking up.

Being mostly unable to sight fish, we were lucky enough to haul in reds on Gulp! all day, both in the depths and the shallows. It was right before a front and we were working with a small rising tide, so fish were active all day. I snagged a bigger red on topwater in a deep cut, and some in the shallows, but I couldn’t find fish in the football field-sized area I saw them on 10-

Fighting the wind, the three of us posted up behind some Roseau Cane on the edge of the wheel and began casting out into the open. Immediately, trout were slamming Gulp! of all colors. The only problem was Katherine seemed to be catching them all. As we fished this one spot, we picked up 20 very nice specks with only one throwback. To boot, casting closer to the bank in the piece of calm water on the backside of a point resulted in very nice 25″-27″ reds. Even drum and flounder were pulled out of this spot.We saw the sun once, but fish were everywhere and we stopped by about 2pm once trout began escaping from the cooler.

11/16: Shell Beach/Hopedale. My fishing buddy, fly fisherman William Salzer, took me to his closest-to-New Orleans spot. The tide was ripping past the rock jettis as we paddled across the MR GO (Mississippi River Gulf Outlet) canal and into the broken marsh backing up to Lake Borgne. I managed a few reds and a bass on the LSU cocahoe and Grey/White Gulp! shrimp. We saw the smoke clouds and wakes caused by spooking fish, but with deeper water and high wind, sight fishing was not overly productive. We ended up with two nice keepers for dinner though, and a bad day on the water is better than a good day at work.

One reason the Leeville Reds weren't overly aggressive... They had been gorging on shrimp in the marsh.

11/18: Leeville. This day, Will’s brother Stephen took us to one of his favorite spots in the marsh on the other side of the Hwy 1 Expressway. Though not a huge swing, the tide was rising throughout the day, and we hit the water about 9.

Straight away, Stephen and Cody snagged a couple of big trout on the H&H LSU cochaoe in a deep channel passing through the middle of a big marsh island.  We found a pond 2-5 feet deep that was full of spooky reds. I cruised through there several times, unable to get a bite, even with several plastics placed on fishes noses. However, Stephen showed us the “Redfish Highway,” a long mudflat where I was able to sight cast a couple reds. We saw a few more on some oysters-filled flats. Some fish inhaled New Penny/Chartreuse Gulp! and some ran way from it.

11/23: Wagon Wheel II: I Pulled up on Tidewater road about 7 am with my buddy Cody. The wind had laid down the day before, and it was extremely foggy on the way down from Baton Rouge. We launched into the four foot deep green water under a thick cloud cover, but I was optimistic because of the front coming through the next day. I cruised and casted some open water and tried cypress knees while Cody worked a shallower cypress area and the edges of some cane. We both promptly picked up fish on Grey/white and New Penny/Chartreuse Gulp! I got a black drum on a H&H LSU Cocahoe in open water before I snagged my first red, a decent fish I saw patrolling a shallow point.
The water was clear and the sun came out, but most of the fish were able to see us about the same time we were able to see them. Cruising along I saw some big fish, including a monstrous black drum. We tried some trout spots, but no tide and no trout. Still, we fished hard for a few hours and put together a nice box of 22-26″ reds, just short of our limit. Then it happened.

Cody was sitting on the edge of some cane facing a point that, about 10 feet away, opened into the bay. I came across a channel on his left and we were about 15 feet apart.

I looked down and saw, in the two or three feet of water below us, a fat bronze beauty gliding up between us from behind Cody. Still having my paddle in my hand, I wasn’t ready to cast and I
whispered at Cody did he see it. He had just finished a retrieve and happened to be ready for a cast, but he answered no. So I pointed at  the fish as it sunk out of sight and he dropped a Gulp! in what looked like a great spot. As he slowly cranked down he said “OK I feel him,” and he got ready to set the hook.

The next few moments were some of the most amazing and hilarious I will surely every experience in a kayak. When Cody set the hook, a huge red missile exploded forth from under some dead cane, loudly stripping drag at a rate I would need a mathematician to calculate.

At first sight I could tell it was a nice fish, but my glimpse of it fleeing and Cody’s reel told me this would be that 30-34″ bull I wanted to put him on. When the fish left the cane however, he pulled Cody’s K12 nose in, while at the same time getting the line caught over or under three or four pieces of dead cane. Cody had to hand off his rod while he freed himself, and I did my best to keep the line taught.

He then began removing the cane from the line, but we both were afraid it had caused enough slack in the line to let the red free himself. “We probly lost him?” Cody asked as he pulled off the last thick stalk. I reeled down quickly and felt a hoss of a fish pull back. “Nope!” and I handed the rod back.

Using a 1/8 oz jighead with a three inch Gulp! and an ultralight reel with two half spools of 15 lb monofilament line connected by an apparently sturdy mono-to-mono knot, Cody wrangled this fish for the better part of 15 minutes. We believe it was the 7 foot Ugly Stick rod that saved him. Even when he got the monster next to the boat, he couldn’t pull him off the bottom, the tip of his rod bending almost to the water. I only got one glimpse of the tail… it was huge.

Once we finally wore this fish down enough to net it, Cody pulled it from under his boat. As the fish’s head entered the net, I yelled; its head filled almost the entire net. We hauled it out for pictures, just laughing at the size of this saltwater eating machine. Our tape only measured 36″ so we put him at about 42″. We didn’t have a scale but this was easily a 20+ pound fish. Grabbing the base of his tail was like grabbing someone’s wrist, except that thickness was pure muscle. He was damn near too heavy to hold at all, and I tried getting a picture with him above the KC Logo but had to drop him and revive him. Setting him free made us feel almost as good as catching him, but we left that day in awe of the biggest kayak redfish catch we have ever seen.

We agreed that though it was Cody's fish it was a team effort. And there was no way I wasn't cashing in this photo op.

11/25: Port Sulphur. Fresh off Big Fish Friday, I was ready for more, but was lazy and didn’t feel like heading all the way down to Venice. A small front blew through the day before, but there was supposed to be a good tide, low tide before sunrise, and it would rise nicely throughout the day.

Also, I’m an optimist (this has become a running joke.) My buddy Brad and I launched and shortly found some very deep water. I fished around a little with no bites, then I headed over toward a deep bank with a wide cut flowing through. I found a dropoff 25 yards off the cut where the water went to about 8 feet deep. About 9:30 I flipped an LSU Cocahoe into the depths and started bouncing the rocky bottom. WHAM! Mike Trout victimized my plastic, shaking all the way to the boat before entering the cooler. Brad and I kept getting hard bites, putting great trout in the boat.

The bite died suddenly and nothing else I threw down there would work. I checked the box and we had seven +16″ speckled trout.

Proud of my trout. Always good to find a new spot and showcase your skills (what I mean is get lucky.)

Sun high in the sky, we decided it was time to chase reds. Fish were all over points and mudflats, and in shallow cuts and back ponds. With the hot trout bite, I figured reds would be hungry too. However, they were super spooky and simply wouldn’t eat, no matter what we threw or how close to them we did or didn’t put it. Still, we got a couple reds, saw lots of fish and had a great time capping the end of an incredible month of South Louisiana KC Kayak fishing.

Stray the Course

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