I'm going to combine two trips into one post this time. This year, my younger sister and her two boys came in to town from Durham, N.C. to visit us for the Thanksgiving holiday. I knew that as much as I've been talking about fishing with them, I had to get them all out on the water somehow. I briefly thought about doing a charter trip, but decided that it was too expensive, and not as personal as I wanted it to be. I wanted to share MY experience on the water - the peace, beauty and challenge of fishing out of a non-motorized watercraft in the marsh. That left me with a dilemma that meant I had to take them in separate trips because of logistics with the boats and transport.
The first trip was Tuesday, 11/24. In a borrowed canoe, I launched around 7:30am at Breton Sound Marina, with my 9 and 5 year old nephews manning the front and center of the canoe. Sort of. It took a few stern words to impart on them the importance of not suddenly shifting ones weight from one side of the boat to the other. We stopped at the first cut in the marsh and started catching fish right off the bat. The kids were excited, and I was extremely relieved and pumped that we were obviously going to have a great day of fishing without moving too far. The wind was very strong, and the high side walls of the canoe, along with the lack of an experienced (or motivated) paddler in the front of the boat was making navigating a bit tough, and with the possibility of someone getting wet, I didn't want to stray far from the launch. We eventually made our way further back in the marsh, tucking into smaller canals and staying on the lee side of the banks. Some spots were way hotter than others, but fish were found throughout most of our travels. Well, specks were found. Redfish were apparently on early Thanksgiving vacation. I really wanted to get them hooked up on a redfish, but it didn't end up happening. Regardless, we had a blast, and probably hooked around 40 fish, tossing back quite a few that might have measured 12" (didn't bring a ruler), and bringing home around 22. I also caught a small flounder and a bass or two. Despite the logistical challenges of keeping two excited boys INSIDE the small canoe, it was a really great time watching them enjoy themselves and seeing them experience the marsh for the first time. I brought along live shrimp, but Vudu shrimp were producing just fine as well. Tide was rising, and ripping along at a pretty good clip. Water temperature was around 58 degrees.
The second trip was 11/30, and was just my sister and I in my two Cuda 14's. Having been thoroughly occupied with the holidays and out of touch with any fishing reports from other spots, I chose to launch from the same location that had produced a week earlier. I knew as soon as we got out to the first couple of cuts that it wasn't going to be as hot of a day on the water. The tide was sluggish, and lots of driftwood and debris was sitting almost still on the water. There was also very little bait activity, no wind and the mosquitos and gnats were almost unbearable. On this trip I wanted to get further back into the marsh and show my sister some more of the beautiful scenery out there, but I also didn't want to run into any duck hunters too early, so we killed a little time in the spoil canal before heading into the marsh. As we worked into the marsh, the water, as it has been recently, was very, very clear. I saw a few reds as we paddled, but they spooked at even the hint of movement. I eventually got one great shot at sight fishing a nice slot red, but it absolutely took off as soon as it saw the lure, even though it was a slow presentation and a dark colored paddletail. Overall, there was little to no evidence of feeding activity. My sister, with very little coaching, was methodically working drains and banks, and caught a couple of specks and a bass. Working our way down a winding bayou, we encountered water really flushing out of a drain in the marsh, creating a lot of whirling eddies. I was curious why there was so much more water movement in that one spot, so I paddled into it a bit while standing. It was a very unusual situation - water at least 6-10' deep, very, very clear, and flowing rapidly. It was almost like a freshwater river. I could see a few black drum swimming near the bottom, but only saw one red. It could well have been the best view I've ever had of a red in the water, with the blue on the tail and the spots clearly visible, but there was no time to cast at it as we were moving towards each other and he saw the kayak. Since we were a little crunched on time and had many miles to go, I decided to mark the spot for further investigation on another trip and keep moving. A few hundred feet down the bayou we made our way into a pond that produced a number of redfish a couple of weeks ago. Water was flowing out of the pond into a narrow, winding drain, so I parked us at the mouth of it to blind cast a bit. Oddly enough, this spot deep in the marsh, in much dirtier water, way back in a pond was the best speck spot we found, producing about 6 fish on successive casts. The really odd thing to me was that they were hitting a large spinner bait that I had given my sister, thinking that was her best bet to land a red. I always think of that lure as a great producer for redfish, but the trout were loving it that day. After fishing through the pond, and once again seeing and spooking a few reds, we continued onward out of the marsh and towards home. I ended up landing two reds in the marsh, one on a paddletail, one on a spinnerbait. I was able to hand the rod off to my sister on the second one so that she could get a bit of the feel of how the reds fight. Kept one, tagged the second and continued on. The mosquitos got real bad on the homestretch, and we were moving about as fast as the Cuda's can go. Hats off to my sister, who hung tough on her first day out - I put her through about 9 miles of paddling and a lot of bugs. Not too many people I know would do that well on their first trip out. I think we brought home one red, 2 bass and 4 trout. Could have brought a few more trout, but we had so much in the freezer already it didn't make any sense to keep the 12" fish. After a lot of thought on why the bite might have been so wildly different just 6 days later, I made a few observations: a) tide was outgoing on the second trip, incoming on the first, b) water temperature had risen by 10 degrees in those 6 days, and c) I didn't take into account all the fishing pressure the area would get during the extended Thanksgiving weekend. Always something to learn and take away from any day on the water.