Monday, November 12, 2007
Kayak Fishing Paradise
"Those Florida guys come over here and fish a tournament and they'll tell you 'we got the pretty water, but ya'll got the fish'". No sooner had those words come out the mouth of our guide Danny Wray than a big redfish hit Becky's line. The reel whined with that high pitch sound of line being stripped by a big strong fish. Becky pulled up on her rod and I watched with (just a little) jealousy as it bent almost double. Her screams of delight were so fun to watch. Danny said mid-fight "you gotta quit smilin' so much!". That wasn't going to happen.
We were a couple of hours in to a guided kayak fishing trip with Danny Wray of Calmwater charters in Grand Isle. This was our first official "Pack & Paddle Staff Trip". Almost everyone was in attendance: Amy, Loren, Matt, Johnny (who had helped in our construction), Becky and I were there. All others were sitting miserably at home wishing they were there.
We had arrived at the Grand Isle camp of Danny and Kristin Wray the night before. Danny had the barbeque pit going with some huge slabs of fish on the grill. Kristin was upstairs preparing the rest of the feast for us. After supper, we headed to bed to get ready for an early start. In the morning after a great breakfast we headed for the put-in. Sworn to secrecy by Danny himself, I can't divulge the spot - but we were soon in the marsh.
After about 20 minutes, I realized I hadn't seen a motorboat (or any other boat) out here. The reason is simple. You can't drive a motorboat in the shallow waters of this marsh - leaving it all as a paradise for kayak fishermen. There was literally nobody out there but us (and a lot of reds). The day started with a good omen when I caught a flounder on my first cast. When I got it in the boat, I didn't know what to do with it. Kristin was off with Amy across the marsh. I turned back and forth with the fish, put it in the rear cargo area, then thought that wasn't a good idea. I picked it up again, turned left, then right trying to decide what to do with it and with a flip of it's tail, it was swimming free back in the waters of the Louisiana marsh - a little older and wiser.
We fished the edges of the marsh grass in the coves and pockets that the irregular surface creates. I was popping my cork, distracted by some birds flitting in the marsh grass when a redfish slammed my line and took it on an abrupt path out towards the middle of the channel - the reel screaming as the fish steamed away from my kayak. I was shocked that I was actually catching a fish. Especially a fish bigger than a bream. I am famous in my family for catching small fish. I've actually caught fish that were not a whole lot bigger than the minnow we were using for bait today! But this time, I was on the other end of the line from a the biggest fish I've ever caught in my life. I have to tell you - it was so fun. Wow.
The group came back together at a confluence of channels, then spread out again - this time Becky and I were with Danny. We fished some spots where channels came into other channels. One of these spots was where Becky caught her big fish. Then it was time to start heading back to the take-out. On the way, I spotted a school of reds swarming along the bank with their black backs out of the water. Danny and I paddled hard to get in front of them as they came up the bank. Danny said "Throw 10 yards in front of them. Whatever you do, don't throw it into the group - keep it in front" as we paddled to get ahead. I knew I would only get one throw - and my casting is not what you'll see on those fishing shows - so I hoped I wouldn't blow it. We got ahead and both casted. Danny's was perfect (of course) and mine was maybe 5 feet in front. Good enough. Both of our reels were screaming at once as the redfish dragged our kayaks around the channel. This time it was Becky who was jealous.
As we drove home, we were commenting about how people from Louisiana will travel to Colorado to hike or ski. If you want to kayak fish for reds, South Louisiana is where people come - from all over the country. We live in a paradise for kayak fishing and the possibilities are endless. Miles and miles of marsh accessible only to kayaks that are literally teeming with redfish and speckled trout compliment tons of options for bream and bass in the fresh water. Maybe the best part is getting there under your own power and being in places you can't get in a motorboat. Letting your mind drift while watching that bird in the marsh grass - until wheeeeeeee - your line is screaming and it's time to get to work.
We would like to personally thank Danny and Kristin Wray - our hosts in Grand Isle for the weekend. Their hospitality as much as their fishing expertise made our trip awesome. We ate great food, had fun hanging out with them and (of course) enjoyed our kayak fishing experience. Kristin and Danny run Calmwater Charters (www.calmwatercharters.net) - a kayak specific guiding service. Next time you're headed to Grand Isle, give them a call - and tell them the folks from Pack & Paddle sent you!