Laissez les bons temps rouler Pt 2

It’s been a minute since I wrote my last report from here at Cast Away Cove and a lot has happened during that minute. Since my last report our cat got clogged up with cat treats and had to endure a few enemas and some cat hospital time to get that straightened out. She’s doing great now, and by the way, I’d like to thank everyone for the thoughts and prayers. Big Sis is our rescue cat and follows me around everywhere like my sidekick so she’s pretty special.

I was pretty relieved to see Sis getting better because a week ago myself and 5 others from our Thursday night taco group embarked on a journey south to my old stomping grounds, the Louisiana marsh. We left last Thursday morning and arrived at our destination, the Venice Lodge, around mid-afternoon. We had to stop for a late lunch at Salvo’s Seafood in Belle Chase and this year I noticed that Salvo’s wasn’t as crowded as normal, and it got me to wondering what was going on. I later learned that the oil business down there was slowing some and business wasn’t as good as it would normally be in that area. For the rest of the drive down highway 23 I wondered what would become of this area if there was major cutback in the oil business down there due to moving away from fossil fuels and tougher restrictions on the fishing industry. What would the landscape look like then?

We arrived safely at the lodge around mid-afternoon and LJ led the way into the kitchen where our cook was hanging out and waiting on our arrival. Right away LJ made our cooks comfortable with our group and had them laughing within the first minute or two of our arrival. The 6 of us chatted with our new cook and her helper for a few minutes and then we found our bunks that were two to a room. We had some down time before dinner so we kicked back and played a little pool and chatted with one of our guides about what we would be doing in the marsh.

It’s always a crap shoot with the weather down there but we hit a nice little weather pattern for some good fishing, so we split up into groups of two in a boat and last Friday morning we set out for our first of 2 fishing days in the marsh. I fished with Jimmy S., LJ was with Morgan with Scott and Tom in the 3rd boat. I saw there were coastal flood warnings for the area and our guide Chris told us that Venice marina had some minor flooding the day before. The Mississippi river was very high from the spring runoff and the tide was very active which meant the redfish would be way up in the grass during the high tide. On Friday we happen to hit it just right and the tide was moving out early in the morning. The first stop that Jimmy and I hit, I caught a nice keeper red on a popping cork on the edge of the marsh cane on the first cast. There was a little open area surrounded by cane and it produced 9 redfish for Jimmy and I before letting another guide from the lodge and his crew have the area. We later heard that they caught 13 more reds out of that hole. I guessed that there was an oyster bed there in that open area to hold so many redfish like that. We moved on and I told our guide Chris about Lisa’s first bull redfish coming from the rock jetty at the southwest pass of the Mississippi. One of the reasons I told him that is because I knew we were somewhat close to it so Chris decided that we would take a ride out to the pass and see if we could find a nice bull red to add to our collection. The water was very muddy at the pass and we were in some steady rollers fishing right off the jetty, so we bailed on the southwest pass. There were no bulls to be had but I did snap one picture of a tanker coming into the mouth of the river as we were heading back into the marsh from the SW pass to finish our limit.

It didn’t take long before Jimmy and I finished our limit of 5 reds apiece and shortly after lunch we called it a day. When we pulled back into the Venice marina, and while our guide loaded the boat, Jimmy and I walked over to the cleaning station to look at some of the yellowfin tuna that were brought in for the day. It reminded me of a few tuna trips from years past. Tuna trips are fun, but you need to be prepared for the amount of tuna you could possibly bring back home. I prefer my tuna prepared fresh and I think it is somewhat of an injustice to freeze tuna and eat it later. I believe it just doesn’t ever taste the same as it did when it was fresh. Here’s a few pictures from my last tuna trip. It was Super Bowl Sunday, and the Saints won the Super Bowl that evening. My son Derek and I watched it down in Venice that year. I actually wrote a story about my last tuna trip to Venice.

Here’s a link:

We met up with the other guys back at the Venice Lodge and we compared notes on how everyone’s day went. LJ and Morgan caught over 40 speckled trout as well as limiting on redfish. Tom and Scott limited on redfish and Scott caught the biggest bull redfish for the trip at 32 inches. They limited out of redfish as well. Back at the lodge we relaxed before dinner and talked with the guides about our day and plans for the next day. On Saturday we had a little overnight rain, but we had about a 5-hour window to limit out again before some storms rolled into the area. Once again everyone limited on redfish on day two, and we had a mix of speckled trout, sheepshead and black drum with the redfish limits. We kicked back for the rest of the day on Saturday and Sunday morning the cook came in and made us breakfast before we departed for home. We had a lot of filets in the cooler and the accommodations at the Venice Lodge were top notch. If you want to dip your toes in the Louisiana marsh and red fishing, make it easy for yourself and stay at the Venice Lodge. They take care of everything for you from the time you show up till the time you leave.

The ride back was uneventful, and it takes about 9-10 hours from door to door from my house. We all got quite a few pounds of fish filets out of the trip and I was able to restock my seafood freezer for the next year. We’ve already had redfish twice since I got back, and it was delicious. If you check the recipe section of my blog you can find some of my favorite Louisiana cuisine the way I like to prepare it. Here’s a couple of redfish dishes from this week.

So, it was back to Lanier this week and I did get a chance to fish a few days. I usually just fished from early morning till lunchtime and ended my days of fishing this week shortly after noon. I threw a lot of baits to start the week, but I already had an idea of what I would be using. If you watch the wildlife around the lake, you can figure out a lot and one important thing, I noticed this week was the presence of Great Blue Herons wading the shorelines. For the last few months most of our Heron population has been hanging out around blowdowns and overhanging branches just waiting for an opportunity for a meal to swim by. This time of year, when the shad start to spawn along the shoreline the Heron becomes a more aggressive predator and starts standing and wading knee deep looking for shallow shade around the shore. When I see this I like to start throwing the shad stuff. My little 1.5 Shad crank shines this time of year but to be honest, just about any medium diving crankbait in a shade pattern will work. It is not entirely necessary for the crankbait to make contact with the bottom and I don’t think my crankbait touches the bottom once this week. My little shad crank dives to 8-9 feet in depth and I almost always made casts that started at 8-9 in depth. The fish were usually suspended and just below the depth that the crankbait was running so it was as simple as a cast and steady retrieve to get bit on the crankbait. The crankbait bite was pretty forgiving, and I had success over and around brush in deeper water this week. The second bait I used this week with a lot of success was the little SpotSticker Mini-Me spinnerbait. It’s spring and these fish are aggressive around the bank, especially as we near the shad spawn. These shallow bass will move on anything, and I caught some good ones this week once the wind kicked up around lunchtime. My biggest fish this week was caught over a brushpile on the end of a point is 22 feet of water. She passed on a topwater bait, a fluke and a swimbait but slammed the spinnerbait out in the wind.

On Thursday morning I took our pastor out for a morning of fishing and we had lunch at the marina. At one point in the morning my pastor asked how I knew what baits to use, and I told him about my gut pile on the floorboard of the boat just 24 hours earlier. The fact is that there were no less than 15-20 baits lying on the floorboard a day earlier and that was the ones that didn’t work. We were using the two baits that worked the best during my week. We were down to the shad crank and the spinnerbait for the week and that’s pretty much all I used. I caught fish on both all week and I think the two baits are a good choice right now. Don’t get me wrong, there are a ton of baits that will work right now because the fish are aggressive and in every stage of spawning. One of our fish on Thursday spawned on my hand as well as the floorboard of my boat so there are a lot of aggressive shallow fish as the water warms. Topwater is coming into play and only going to get better in the coming weeks and there are a variety of moving bait that will work. Lisa caught most of her fish this week on an underspin and little swimbait with mine being caught on the 3/4 ounce Mini-Me and a medium diving shad pattern bait. The water temps are in the mid to upper 60’s right now around the creek and the lake is just above full pool. It looks like the corps has been generating about 12 hours a day so there is some water moving through the lake right now. It’s just about time to get those flukes, hard swimmers and topwater ready because there’s a lot of hungry fish on Lanier right now. Here’s some pictures from my week on the lake and while I’m at it, I want to give a shout out about the little BBQ place at Bald Ridge Marine. My pastor and I had lunch there after fishing in the morning and it was great food and a nice day to sit out on the outdoor area. We just parked at the courtesy dock and walked up for lunch.

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