Sunday, April 20, 2014

Dad and Daughter....yak fishing solo

 This past weekend I took my daughter, Charlee, on her first solo kayak fishing trip.  She has been in kayaks before, but it’s always been riding shotgun in the Hobie PA.  This time was different, this time she got to captain her own vessel, a Hobie Outback, and let’s just say she took to it like a pig to mud.
The morning started out at 3 a.m. with a long ride down to Grand Isle, and while it may have seemed like I was driving down alone, I was actually accompanied by a sleeping angel.   About 20 minutes before our destination, Charlee woke up, and she was raring to go.
As I launched the yak and held it against the shoreline, she jumped in it like it was a house boat, and with worry thrown to the wind, she unlatched the paddle and moved out into deeper water.  She was almost 40 yards away before I could get my Outback to the waters edge. 
A little bit about Charlee….she just recently turned 10, has been hunting and fishing with me since she was three, she placed in her first fishing tournament when she was 6 , with almost a 5 lbs trout she landed on live shrimp in Lake Borgne, and she is my inspiration.  Almost three years ago, Charlee was diagnosed with Tourette  Syndrome, a neurological disorder that causes you to involuntarily “tic”, but don’t worry, only about 7% of people with Tourette’s blurt out curse words, she doesn’t do that.  Her tics are usually very subtle and if you weren’t paying attention, you would likely not even notice, simple head nods, spinning in circles, tapping her foot, little things.  But lately she has developed a verbal tic that sounds like a loud mouse squeak, and when she does it once, you can expect to hear it again and again until she is able to mimic the exact tone/pitch of the first squeak.  While not happy with Tourette’s, Charlee is very comfortable with herself and open to educating anyone she crosses paths with.
Now back to the day… I finally climbed into my yak and caught up with Charlee, she was still paddling, we did a little education on the mirage drive, shallow water, and the rudder operation , and then we were off.  We made it to a point with some fast moving water, but no fish were to be found.
The sky was clear, the sun was shining, but the wind was doing a solid 15 mph, not the best day for a 10 year old to get acclimated to yak fishing, but she did.  We finally made it to a large canal that allowed us time to talk about what to look for and where to cast, and before you knew it, she was off on her first solo drift.  Charlee was slinging a gulp lure with a cork leading every cast, and as she drifted the run, I couldn’t help but sit back and observe her focus and commitment to the task at hand, I couldn’t have been more proud of how she was engaged in the battle to catch a fish, it was like nothing was going to stand in her way.  As she drifted down the canal, she came upon a cut in the marsh that was draining into the canal, I  quietly watched to see how she was going to handle the opportunity.  She locked in on the current change and the water running out of the marsh, like she had done this before, she drifted past the cut and then turned around and held her place peddling as she threw right in the middle of the drain.  I was impressed to say the least. I finally eased up to her and
anchored her in with a stake out pole, she was amazed that a skinny black pole held her anchored still in the wind and current.  After about 10 minutes, and cast after cast, she was ready to move on, I couldn’t believe there wasn’t a fish there.
We continued the drift down the canal until finally we were able to hook up with a good 19 inch redfish.  She was so excited to hold the fish and observe all of the unique markings on the red, from its tail mark to the scars on its gill plate, you could feel her appreciation for what had just happened.  This fish turned out to be the only fish of the morning, but it made the start of the day a success. 
About an hour later, Charlee decided she wanted to get out the yak to explore some of the marsh, for those that don’t fish with females very often, that means take a bio break.  As I held her yak against the shoreline, she hopped out, finding out real fast that you need to get more than 5 feet in the grass before you don’t sink in mud, and began her battle of exploration against the rigid marsh grass that was almost as tall as she was.  As the exploration came to an end, so did the fishing, the wind was pushing 20 mph now and I made the suggestion of picking up and re-launching further down the road to more protected waters.
She was game, and that excited me, but this was her day, and whatever she wanted, she got.  As we approached the truck, I asked her again if she wanted to go fish some more, and she quickly replied, “if you want too, let’s go, but I would kind of like to go see the beach.”  With those words spoken, we loaded up and headed toward Elmer’s Island, for a day in the sand.

As we turned into the island, we crossed paths with Josh Thompson and his family, they invited us to their camping location at the state park, his daughter and mine have become friends over the past month.  So, our day ended with almost 3 hours of fishing and nearly 6 hours of beach time with the Thompsons, and a day I will cherish for years to come. 
With all of the obstacles that Charlee has endured over the past couple of years, she has never once let Tourette’s conquer who she really is.  She plays sports, makes good grades, loves the outdoors, and isn’t afraid to try new things.  Spending time in the outdoors with Charlee has always been a joy and she continues to amaze me daily with her attachment to wildlife, but this trip was a little different.  Charlee showed a natural focus that I am not sure I have seen in her before, she was in tune with what was going on around her, she made adjustments on her casting like a pro, her lure placement was better than mine at times, and she maneuvered through the twist and turns like she had been there before,  all while maintaining a smile the entire day.  Proud would be an understatement.
Watching your kids grow up can be challenging at times, and sometimes we get so wrapped up in our own issues that we forget the challenges that our kids face on a daily basis.  To watch your child overcome internal obstacles, like Tourette’s, really sheds a different light on what I consider problems. Watching how Charlee handles herself in different situations has taught me a lot about how to deal with life and life’s’ ignorance’s.  Charlee and I have a saying that we always share with each other when confronted with ignorance, “Just let it Geaux”.  It’s a simple phrase that’s easy to say, but to live it can  be a challenge.  If you take a minute to sit and think about what Charlee goes through on a daily basis you just might understand.  So next time you feel the need to point the finger, or share a negative opinion, or poke fun at someone, or someone shares their ignorance with you…..”Just let it Geaux”.

AND….the next time you’re on the water and you hear a loud mouse squeaking in the distance, don’t worry, it's not the Rookin coming to getchya, its probably just Charlee and me.

Until Next time, stay safe and Catch1....


Sunday, April 13, 2014

Paddle Palooza XI, the not so good, the really bad, and the ugly

The weekend of Paddle Palooza XI started out as any tournament does for me, with some solid pre-fishing a day or two before the event begins.  This year I had my eye on some long paddle locations, so I decided to save my energy and bring my boat to run to and from the furthest locations. 
Along with me for the boat fishing was Voodoo Kayak Fishings' Craig Brown, and local angler Johnny Bergeron, who always seems to be at the top of the winners list on tournament days.
The first stop we made was a favorite of mine, but unfortunately the north winds had blown all of the water out of the marsh and what used to be 4 foot water depths was now a foot or less and as fresh as the water out of your sink, but colored like a sock that your two year old just ventured out in the yard with, during a rain storm.  At one point we even grounded the boat so bad, Johnny and I had to bail out and push in waste deep mud, while Craig push poled and worked the trolling motor.
The second stop, which was about a 12 mile run, yielded cleaner water and we could actually taste the salt in it, but with the wind pushing 15-20 it was tough fishing in open water.  After a while we made it to a protected cove on the edge of a channel that ran 17-25 feet deep, and we began working the shore line and the channels edge and the rods started bending.  It was a huge relief at this point to actually be in water deep enough to hold fish. 

 After some solid trout and reds hit the deck, we decided it was time to move out.  We found this place late in the day with a solid tidal movement due to the wind.  The only way to really see its ability to produce would be to revisit it at daylight the next morning, so off we went.

Spot three was new for all of us, I have fished close to it before, but never in it.  When we arrived the winds were howling, but the water was clear and salty.  It didn't take us minutes to get on the fish, first Johnny and then Craig, it seemed like every point we came across held fish, and big fish.
 We stayed in this area as the sun began to fall, when all of sudden behind us, we could see fish tailing all over the place.  We turned the bow and began in that direction, every tail we saw was a massive black drum. 
Just for the fun of it, I laid a Seein Spots inline spinner right next to one of the beast and 15 minutes later and about 300 yards of the fish pulling the boat, we were able to land the big nasty.  It was an estimated 50lbs black drum.  My 30lbs Boga bottomed out well before the fishes gut ever left the water.  After a few pics, we decided to call it a day and regroup for the next morning.
The next morning we hit it bright and early and headed back to where we found good trout the previous day, but unfortunately the fish weren't there.  No tide, no wind, no luck, I think Craig was able to pick one red up before we decided it was time to launch the plastic fleet.

We made it back to the trucks, and decided to split up, we chose our areas, and committed to keeping each other updated on productive locations and non productive locations.  Craig hit two locations and finally found a deep hole in the middle of no where and was able to land fish after fish, Johnny hit 3 different locations with no luck to talk about, and I hit three different locations with one of them full of reds and a few specs.  I quit counting my reds after I ran through the 15 tags that I had on hand.  I was in shallow
water with some deep pockets, and it was clear enough for site casting, when I wasn't keeping an eye on a burglar that kept following me.
The next morning I woke with excitement, I knew where I could catch big reds, and I knew I could land a trout before the sun came up, after that, it was all up to finding a flounder.  Little did I know, my honey hole was going to be invaded.
As I approached my launch location, there wasn't a vehicle in site and I got excited, so excited that I paddled off without my cooler bag, and had to return to the truck to retrieve it.  When I finally made it to the area I was fishing, it was peaceful, I had 20 minutes to relax and enjoy the quiet while waiting for fishing time to begin.  When 5 a.m. struck, I was ready, I had decided I would fish for trout up and down a 200 yard stretch of water until the sun was high and then I would move to the pond full of reds.  As I made my first run down the 200 yard stretch I had several blow ups on top water and was able to land some small trout, as I turned my yak around to head back to the hole that I knew held larger fish, I could see a silhouette of someone in the distance.  As I approached I could tell it was an angler I had crossed paths with the prior day.  All was good, I knew I could still get my trout from another hole and then hit the pond.  I took my time staying within that general area, as I knew when light broke, it was on. 
During this time I was visited by two of the fasted mammals on water.  They looked like underwater jet skis shooting a spray 5 feet in the air with every thrust of their tail. Here is a short video clip that is worth a peak, talk about amazing creatures.
This scene only got me more excited, as I knew I had never been so set up to place in a tournament as I was today. 
I heard voices, and they were familiar voices.  At the sound of the louder of the dynamic duo, I knew there wasn't anytime to wait for the sun to come up, it was now or never, I had seconds to get into the pond and set up on my hole so the dynamic duo would just cruise on past. 
Yeah right, wishful thinking, as I laid my Matrix shad in the last hole before the redfish pond, I pulled in a solid 19" trout while the two watched.  As I was attempting to net the trout, I heard em yell out, "we must be in the right spot, look who's here!"  I have heard those words in my sleep every night since then. 
Still, I thought, no big deal, they will just turn left or pass me through the pond.  But that didn't happen, one them started fishing within 10 feet of me.  I then warned the other about the depths of the pond and to be careful because its 10 inches deep, I then asked if they had ever been here before, and got a reply of, "Nope, we just went south, because north didn't have any fish the previous day."  I immediately went left into the pond hoping they would follow, but they didn't, they continued to pop corks in 6-10 inches of water, yell and scream over being grounded, and sling lures only to come up with grass.  As I was rushing around the pond to make it to the other side, I was pushing redfish after redfish out of my way, my spirit was breaking with every push of my stake out pole.  When I made it to the other end, I staked out well ahead of the duo, but in less than 10 minutes, one of them was upon me, he would yell with every fish I landed, "he got another, he got another."  Finally the angler in the back, said, "come on, lets go somewhere else, it looks like we are following him," I mumbled...YEAH you could say that. 
From there I continued to fish the pond and surrounding marsh, landing somewhere around 15 reds, but the ones that would have put me on the pedestal were the early morning reds that were pushed out of the pond by me staying ahead or by the popping corks and yelling going on for an hour with no fish landed. 
This was a scenario that I have never encountered, and chose to take the high road, but given the anxiety I have endured since doing the right thing, next time will likely end in a different fashion.  I have kept the names out of this to protect the not so innocent. 
Fishing etiquette is important and that importance is only multiplied on a tournament of this caliber, and while I don't think the dynamic duo was trying to destroy this area, they did.  Venturing into unknown waters and keeping up with another angler that knows the terrain, can only end in catastrophe.  I have been fishing this one area for years, and I could draw the flats and holes on paper I know it so well.  This was the one place that I knew would yield what I needed, lesson learned,  speak up, or always have a better back up plan.

Around 10am I was contacted by Jason Austin, he had already caught a flounder and red and all he needed was a trout.  I talked him into loading up and launching near me.  As he arrived, I set him up, told him where the hole was, and to wait 15 minutes, while I left to go chase flounder.  It didn't take long for the phone call, he landed a beautiful 20 inch trout.  After that phone call, all my worries went away, I knew at that point Jason was going to place in the top and knowing he would place in one of the top tournaments in the state, made my day.
 I chased flounder until my back couldn't take it anymore and finally loaded up from my 3rd launch location and headed in for the festivities. 
As I arrived, I spent the next several hours frying fish for 250 plus, and listening to stories of what could have been.  I kept my story to myself as I am not sure I could have kept my composure after reliving that experience again and again. 
The FiN Crazy/Marsh & Bayou team had a phenomenal showing with pre-fishing partner from VooDoo Kayak Fishing, Craig Dye,
 placing in the largest red category, and Jason Austin finishing 2nd
overall along with
Elliot "the fishfinder" Stevens placing 4th overall.  First place was taken by Jeff Breaux who fished the day with dead shrimp on the bottom and under a cork, congrats to Jeff, and everyone that participated.  As usual, the Bayou Coast Kayak Fishing Club succeeded and putting on one of the best attended events in the country.

Until next time, stay safe and Catch1....