Old Line Sang

BY Jay Potter

Standing in the K12, I quietly paddled and peered down a canal 20 feet wide and three feet deep.

Rounding a bend that was protected from a light wind, I saw a thick red moving under the surface 15 feet ahead.  Being completely submerged, he made no ripples, and I was only able to see him because of the angle of my standing vantage.

He had that look in his eye. Apparently I did too though.

As I dropped a clear/chartreuse H&H sparkle beetle by him, he spooked slightly and gently turned away. When spooking off, redfish have two speeds: fairly calm and get-the-hell-out. When moving at the latter, it is nearly impossible to elicit a strike.

Since this one wasn’t running hard, I prepared to cast out in front of him. He hadn’t gotten too far, so there was still a chance.

As I let the line go, I spied two even bigger fish slowly cruising near the bank. I hardly had time to reconsider my target before I realized red #1 had snagged the falling beetle. Hook slamming into the corner of his mouth, the fish blasted off and my reel sang. A straight drag-busting run down the canal started my new fishing year.

Eventually, a beefy 28″ red appeared at the side of the boat, and my war whoop was the kind that guys only make when alone in nature. After snapping pics of the first fish of the year, I revived him and sent him down the canal.

Chubbs here went all out for the Sparkle Beetle.

It was around noon on my first trip of the new year. After days, the clouds had finally broken a little, and the temperature in Port Sulphur, La. sat in the mid-fifties. Clouds and rain would return soon and stay for two more weeks. This day, however, I expected active, hungry redfish.

A light, sub-10 mph NW wind figured to keep the gnats off me, without muddying the water or causing too much disturbance on the surface.

Port Sulphur sat on the edge of a huge cloud bank that ran all the way to Venice and the water was extremely low in the marsh. I wasn’t concerned about the lack of tidal movement because everything looked right for a great day of sightfishing in the K12.

A short paddle from the launch, I tried one of my trout spots to no avail. Checking the water levels to determine my route I made a beeline for the aforementioned canal, as it would lead me to the perfect sightfishing grounds.

Standing, setting my drift and working down a bank like this usually yields results. I just have to keep searching for ripples, fins or tails that might betray a redfish. When the light is right and I am standing, their bronze glow shows up from far away.

Upon hitting that canal, I quickly shifted from paddle mode to fishing mode. I’ve described this before, but that’s why I love the K12 and can’t really imagine fishing another kayak.

Sitting with the seat in the raised position, it’s easy for me to grab the rod laying below me with my left hand, stand and either set the paddle down, or use it to steer. When I can get a good drift going with the wind or in a protected area, the one-handed paddle and baitcaster combination is deadly in a K12.

The three early red sightings suggested success, and I was psyched to get to the shallow back ponds I knew would be warm. Really though, the thing that made these spots so appealing was the combination of deep water and shallow water.

A wide sprawling pond with small grass islands and scattered oysters had been a dynamite spot in warmer weather. Reds cruised all its edges in groups or alone, they fed in the middle, tails breaking the surface. Standing and fishing, I had spotted and chased them down from as far as 50 feet away.

Winter wear early. The "buff" keeps ears warm in the cold and gnats off when it warms up and the wind dies.

However, it was winter so the deeper trench that wound through this area was to be my friend this day. On a warm winter day, shallow marsh redfish prefer to reside in water a few feet deep where a shallow flat lies nearby. They can hold in the depths and come up to snatch a quick bite to eat and head back down.

Patrolling with this in mind, I saw more fish than ever before. Groups of rat reds scampered across points and oyster flats.

I set my drift a few feet off of a 20 yard section of a straight bank and as I neared its end I saw a bronze glint under the surface. Another fat red was casually checking the bottom, but he wasn’t tailing and I never would’ve seen him had I not been standing in K12. An added bonus to that standing perspective is the chance to see a rowdy red’s lit up blue tail, nearly glowing under the water.

This fish kept zig-zagging left and right, looking for food. I cast past him and waited for him to turn so I could rip the bait past his nose. As he turned back to the right, I reeled and gave my rod a quick jerk the same direction. Instinct overcame the fish and as the sparkle beetle whizzed by, he struck with a thrust of his thick tail, swirling the water. A short fight later, I had another nice red in the boat, a mere 27 incher this time.

I was able to sight-fish my limit of reds because I could see them under water. Truly an adrenaline rush.

Only a few times did I see fins break the surface. Clouds briefly covered the sun and in 15 minutes I saw several fish feeding in the extreme shallows, backs and all out of the water. Unfortunately, I could see this fish from so far away, that by the time I entered the pond, they had sunk below the surface and were nowhere to be found.

A full day and a full box sent me back to the launch. With an awesome start to 2013, everyone at KC Kayaks is looking forward to another great year.

Stray the course.

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