Now available at the OIFC Sent from my iPhone
- Dick Belk
Address: 65 Causeway Drive, Ocean Isle Beach, NC
Page 108 of 426
Wednesday I was business as usual, running around putting out fires and making more of them. Capt. Barrett calls me from Louisiana and says the Wing and Fish Company is out of fish. So, I decided to take a stand. Thursday was to be the last day of Winter, and there was a small window from mid afternoon to night of good weather. I decided since it was to be the last official day of Winter, I would help encourage it to get gone by defying the enjoyment of keeping me off the water.
I recommend you take a look at a site called Fish Weather -- it is phone app and it is usually very good at predicting hourly wind forecasts. I saw 15 knot West winds until 2pm and then laying down to near calm the remainder of the day. I called OIFC staffers Sean Morris and Terry Johnson to join. Brayden caught wind of the trip and there was no way he wasn't coming- the boy is fishing crazy. We loaded up Sea Bass, Deep drop bottom and trolling gear. I was hoping the wind might die sooner than expected and we could get off to the break to deep drop for Tilefish and then do some Wahoo fishing. It was not to be. We left the dock on a 10kt West wind which according to the Tower buoy then blew 15-19kts until noon. It was sloppy, but I was determined to make something of the day - at least bringing some fresh fish back to the Wing & Fish. We found very cold water and thus few and small Sea Bass all the way out to 35 miles. However, once we got into the 90+ foot depth range and 40 miles out, we found the 55+ degree water and big Bass. Everyone worked like a machine as we "up and downed" Sea Bass on 4 hook rigs. The majority of the fish were in the 13-16 inch range, but we certainly caught some that were much bigger, pushing 4-5 pounds I'd say. I kept pushing out a little at a time in the 3-5 foot seas, all in hopes that it might lay down. Finally at 1pm the wind died and the seas backed off to where we could run. I asked the crew if they had anything to do that night, and with that, we struck out another 30 miles to look for some Tilefish. At 2:30pm we pulled up and began looking. It has proven a difficult fish for me to figure, but I see pictures, so I know they are out there. Tilefish is a commercial fishery almost exclusively as the recreational limits are so low its typically not considered worth the 20+ more miles one has to travel past the break to get to where they live. As for eating though, that is definitely worth doing. Anyway, we worked hard into the dusk. We fished until 7:45 pm and made it back to the dock at 10:05pm. My crew were champs and now we hope you can enjoy some fresh Tilefish, Grouper and Sea Bass at the Wing & Fish Company. Check out photos and video
~~ of my first HT Redfish Tournament is in the books. Man, I was having flashbacks at check this morning to my younger days in kingfish tournaments. I can remember looking around at the Fountains and Hydra Sports and seeing my hero's like Clayton Kirby, Larry Fowler, Chip Maree and many other kingfish highliners and thinking how those guys had it all figured out. I'm not sure if intimadation is the right word but there was definitely a feeling of uncertainty then just as there was this morning when I stacked up against these redfish tournament pros. Names like Manny Perez, Charlie Thomason, and Clark Jordan among others are the highliners of the redfish tournament game. Nearly every angler fishing this series is highly accomplished in the redfish world that is except me! Like I said before, I got em right where I want em! Yeah right.
With an on-the-water police escort all the anglers filed out one by one for checkout at safe light this morning at 7am. The flag was dropped and it was on. This part I know how to do. A great boat race ensued down the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet from the checkout at Chalmette down to Hopedale. At Hopedale every single boat in the tournament took a right headed to the inner marsh in Hopedale and Delacroix. Every boat that is except me. Go figure. Some things never change whether it's kingfish or redfish. The truth of the matter is I know so little about the area I was uncertain on the navigation around the inner marsh so I was left to go places where I've been this week. I wanted to make sure I'd make it home tonight instead of sleeping on a mud flat somewhere.
I made a 70 mile run to the outer parts of the Biloxi marsh to an area where I caught some fish a couple days before. When I arrived the water was totally different as the wind had dirtied the lagoon I was fishing. Apparently it didn't matter too much as it was on as soon as I got there. In the first 30 minutes I put 4 keeper fish in the boat. I know right. I was shocked as anyone but when you're fishing by yourself there's no one to discuss the situation with so I just kept fishing. I fished all week and didn't catch a fish small enough to fit in the slot. Today every fish I caught was in slot. The rules of the tournament are you can weigh up to 5 redfish between 16 and 27 inches. I had 4 in the boat immediately. My 5th fish came about an hour later and it was an excruciating 27.5incher. I had to let her go. I hit a lull for a couple hours then made a move for my last 30 minutes of fishing. I ended up landing on a whole covey of slot reds on this stop and got my 5th fish and culled a couple more in the last 30 minutes. By this time in the day the weather had calmed, the water was clearer and I was sight fishing all these fish. Talk about fun.
I knew my bag of fish wasn't anything too impressive compared to what it would take to do well in the tournament but considering my expectations and level of experience I was very pleased with being able to weigh my 5 fish. As it would turn out, fishing for the rest of the fleet was a little tough. The leader for the day had 5 fish that weighed just over 35lbs. My 5 fish went just over 26lbs and I'm currently in 8th place. Not last!
Tomorrow I'm sticking with the same game plan as today. Not by choice but more by necessity. I don't know how to get anywhere else yet! Maybe it'll work out, maybe it won't. Several things I know for sure though, these guys who do this are very good what they do, I have a lot of work to get this sport figured out, heading to the scales with a fish in the bag or in this case fishes in the well is what it's all about. Tune into the weigh in again tomorrow at 4pm eastern www.theredfishseries.com. The top 5 after tomorrow will fish Saturday.
Barrett weighing in at Venice La Redfish tourney. www.theredfishseries.com
click on media
Finally it's tournament time. I've had a great time this week and learned a lot about redfishing in Louisiana but I'll go ahead and say it, I'm ready for this one to be over with!
I fished out of Venice this morning in hopes of stumbling across the fish I've been searching out all week. I tried thinking outside the box and went at redfish from an angle that probably gets overlooked most times. I went out into the gulf and fished around the inshore oil rigs. My hunch was right as I immediately found redfish. The downside was all the fish I caught were way too big for the tournament. I need the heaviest fish possible under 27"'s. All of these fish were 20-25lbs which is like a 35" fish. Lots of fun but not the objective today.
Around lunch I put the boat on the trailer and made my way back across the river and headed north to Chalmette, LA where the tournament is being held. This tournament is what they are calling an Open event basically kind of like a preseason tournament. It's being held in conjunction with the Chalmette crawfish festival- kind of a big deal down here. I'll be competing against 24 of the top redfishermen in the country tomorrow and Friday. The top five after the two days of fishing will go again on Saturday. This tournament series is unique in that it is one man per boat format. Also we'll be weighing the LA creel limit which is 5 fish per boat. I have my work cut out for me to say the least.
I've caught a ton of redfish this week but catching the right size fish has been a difficult challenge. My plan tomorrow is to make a long run out to the Biloxi marsh. It's the only area where I found fish small enough that I can weigh in the tournament. It's not an ideal situation but it's the best option I have at this point. It's fishing though. You never know what I'll find when I get there. Truthfully just navigating from Chalmette to my destination will be a job in itself. Navigating these waters offers a whole new set of challenges that we don't get at home.
I think this redfish tournament series has a live weigh in broadcast on their website. If you're interested, tune into www.theredfishseries.com tomorrow around 3pm central/4pm eastern and click on the media button then watch live. Don't expect me to make a strong showing on there but at least you can see how these live fish weigh in's work. Everything is ready to go and it's time to hit the sack. Tomorrow is going to be a long one!
Now I get it.
After several days of tough weather and lackluster fishing, the world changed today. The wind was out of the northwest this morning about 10-15 knots and no rain in the forecast. I needed to make the most of this weather window for my prefishing agenda. I've been struggling to find fish in the dirty water around the tributaries of the Mississippi River this week so today I had it on my mind to change zip codes.
I crossed the River and headed northeast into a 2ft sea towards the Biloxi marsh. This is an absolutely beautiful set of uninhabited islands between Louisiana and Mississippi in the Mississippi sound. After a long run I made it to my desitnation that I picked off a map. It didn't take long until the payoff came. The water was much clearer, still a brown color but definitely clearer. As began to work my way into the back of a pond I started to see redfish pushing down the bank. Once I made it to the back I came up on my first gulf school of redfish. It was picture perfect. They were just laying on a mud flat kind of milling around and when my spinner bait crossed their nose it was on. I picked at the fish all morning in several locations around the Biloxi marsh and had a ball sight fishing them. It's a rush to see a redfish before he sees you as you quickly and quietly try to present a bait to him before he spooks.
The Biloxi marsh produced fish but still not the size I need for the tournament. I'm looking for a 26" 8lb fish. I caught 5lbers and 10lbers but nothing in between. Go figure. On my pre fishing agenda for the day I had planned to also fish the Chandelieur island chain. This is a chain of islands out in the middle of the gulf that stretch about 30 miles long. I made a few stops along the island chain and didn't have any success. Time was getting short so I had one more stop towards the end of the islands before it was time to head in. I came off plane and never even had to put the trolling motor down. This is what gives this area the legendary repuation for redfish. I sat in one place literally watched thousands of redfish swim around, into and over my boat. And man were they hungry! As soon as lure hit the water it was on. I took out some frustrations on about 20 fish before I called it a day. The good news is I found plenty of fish today, the bad news is I'm still in search of the right fish for the tournament. Oh well, keep hunting. Today was a good time and exactly why I came here to chase redfish. There's no where else like it.
Tomorrow I will try a few more spots nearby in the morning and then I will put the boat on the trailer and head north to Chalmette. The Captains meeting is tomorrow night and day one of the tournament the next day. At this point my tournament prospects aren't looking too good but I'm going to give it another shot tomorrow. If all else fails I'll go back to the islands and have fun catching 30 inchers all day!
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Last week Nolan Newell, Edwin Newell, and Keith Harrison (Houston TX) & Bob Newell left the cold USA for Pacific side of Guatemala looking for the hot Sailfish bite. They were aboard Captain Mike Webb's 28' Panga the Sea Angel. They had to run 30 miles to find the bluewater but boy was it ever worth it! Captain Mike put them on the fish and we went to work. Over 3 days of fishing, we raised 65 Sails and one very angry Blue Marlin, circle hooked 35 of them and released 29. Pretty good work from a Panga-Report by Bob Newell.
And the grind continues. Boy I'm starting to miss home! Woke up this morning to temperatures in the upper 40's, drizzling rain and 20 knot northwest wind. It was tough to drag myself out of bed when I saw those conditions out the window. But, I'm on a mission to find redfish and I still have a long way to go on that mission.
I ventured out alone this morning hoping to fish the area north west of Venice on the east side of the River. As I said before the most difficult part about this whole deal is navigation. It's one thing to be offshore fishing in a new area and not know where the fish are. It's a totally different thing to be in a new area and not know where the fish are but also not know where the water is! With water that looks like chocolate milk you don't know if you're in 6 feet or 6" until it's too late. Once I poked my head out of the pass it was clear I wasn't going to make it where I had planned due to the wave conditions. I altered course and headed south out of the pass and tried to navigate around into pockets on the back side of the bayou where maybe there was a fish.
I finally found an area with water deep enough that I could get near the shoreline and shallow enough and protected enough that I could actually fish. It's hard to have confidence when you're fishing totally blind like this. After about 30 minutes I finally started seeing bait fish and soon after I missed a fish. A few minutes later and a huge wake appeared behind my spinner bait and I hooked up. An epic battle ensued on super lightweight rod, by myself in 2' of water. After 15 minutes of chasing this fish through the rose oaks and cane patches I finally got a net under a bull red approximately 40lbs. I tried to take a selfie pic but it was pretty difficult holding the fish and camera!
After regrouping from that I promptly caught one more fish closer to the desired size of 27" but this one was just over. I fished a few more minutes and headed in to warm up and dry off before the afternoon mission.
This afternoon I hooked up with a local and we did make it the area northwest of Venice. Unfortunately it wasn't happening up there as we struck out.
Tomorrow the weather is supposed to shape up and I will have a long day on the water. My plan is to head to an area tomorrow where I believe there should be fish. I've never fished the area so I don't know exactly what I'll be dealing with but expectations are high.
The redfish action has been pretty normal for this time of year. You can get frustrated with it to say the least. We spent the better half of my trip Friday afternoon looking at fish that would not bite anything. Scented soft plastics, live minnows under a cork, on a jig head, fresh crab chunks...you name it we tossed it in front of them without even getting a sniff. I finally headed to another spot and immediately caught 4 reds...one on live mud minnows and the others on blue crab chunks. That bite ended as quickly as it started, so I headed back to an area that has been getting hammered this year. The fish were still willing to cooperate despite the pressure those fish are getting. It just amazes me how one group of fish will feed without hesitation and yet another group will have lock jaw. We made a long ride to the Lockwood Folly River on Saturday afternoon trying to give our area a break and found several redfish ranging from 17 to 25 inches. It is a long boat ride, but lots of good water up there. See ya on the water!
After a long day in Delacroix yesterday I stayed the night in my buddies fish camp. This morning I awoke to thunderstorms, a steady downpour of rain and winds around 25knots. We made a joint decision there just wasn't going to be a lot accomplished today. So, I packed it up and headed back south down the levy, jumped the River on the ferry and made my way back to Venice.
At this point in the game I need to start narrowing down the water that I might actually fish in the tournament. I feel like fishing out of Venice for the next few days will allow me to further narrow my search area and hopefully hone in on the fish I'm looking for.
I was hoping to get out this afternoon but the weather just won't quit. The wind tapered off but it was quickly replaced by more thunderstorms, even more rain and pea soup fog. Crossing the Mississippi River when you can barely see the bow of your own boat is not a wise move. Hopefully I'll be able to tee it up again tomorrow.
I did make it to a cool tackle shop today in Meraux, LA and found a bunch of the local preferred baits. I stocked up and when I get home, I'm going to have to give it a shot on our fish. They do fish different baits down here and catch the heck out of the fish.
Back at it tomorrow and hope to have a better report.
Just in case you forgot, our Spring Kick off was yesterday. There was a steady flow of people enjoying the bargins and seminars. It proved to be a good time, taking advantage of great fishing line & spoolling sales, seeing all our old friends, catching up on winter adventures, learning about new boats being bought & sharing fishing stories. Below ar a couple of pictures I took.
The adventure/saga continues.... Today I woke up in Venice early and hit the road again with the 24' Yellowfin in tow. I headed north up to the West Point La Hatche ferry and squeezed the boat and truck on just barely. A short jump across the Mississippi River and I was off again riding up the levy to Delacroix, LA. I met up with a buddy who has a camp in Delacroix and knows the waters very well. It's hard to explain Delacroix. I sort of think this is probably what coastal Mexico looked like 30 years ago. I thought Venice was the end of the world. Delacroix is in another solar system. Wow.
The tournament I'm fishing is out of Chalmette which is just north of Delacroix so the idea was to work this area in hopes of finding some fish a littler closer to the actual tournament site. According to the legend and lore of redfish, Delacroix is the holy grail of redfish. Unfortunately today the redfish didn't read the manual. We literally fished 100+ spots today and it just wasn't happening. The water was pretty silted up but still I expected a lot more. It was proof these fish just aren't everywhere. I'm learning this is actually a really tough time of year to fish redfish down here. Apparently the muddy river water has a major impact on the inshore waters. As I learned yesterday, finding the warmer, cleaner water is key. We did manage to catch one nice red today and a few rats but nothing that is going to help the tournament mission.
Tomorrow we're going to see how the weather is and either will fish around here in Delacroix again but in a different area than today or if it's bad I'll pack up and head back to Venice. I still have a lot of water to cover and a few days to get it done. The goal is to find good numbers of heavy slot redfish in multiple areas so I can have plan a, b, c. This game is much like king mackerel tournament fishing it seems to me. Whenver we prefish we go everywhere we want the fish to be but don't really focus on where we know they are. After prefishing it seems like there aren't any fish in the ocean and then on tournament day there are giant kingfish all over the dock. I have a feeling redfish tournaments may be the same. As bad as things seem right now, I know the leaderboard will be filled with stud redfish when game time comes around.
For now, it's back to the drawing board.
Today was my first day on the water. I can't begin to explain how much inshore fishable water there is down here. At home we have the ICW, Tubbs, Shallotte River and a few creeks here and there. Down here there are literally thousands of bayous, passes, flats, oyster flats, rivers, and everything in between. You could spend your entire life down here and I don't think you could cover all the water. I have one week to figure it out before tournament time. Yehaww!
I struck out this morning with the mission of looking at the water west of Venice. I had an area in mind called the Wagon Wheel so that's where I headed. The biggest obstacle I face down here has little to do with actual fishing. It's getting around and knowing which creeks, rivers, and ditches have enough water to run in. I started off running down a pass with plenty of water, no problem. I made the turn off the channel to the wagon wheel and things began to narrow. In a matter of 100 yards I found myself running 40mph down a ditch I'm pretty sure I could've jumped across. Finally it opened up and I got the nerve to come off plane. Once I did, I settle directly into a pluff mud hole. I tried using the trolling motor to get around and I did for about an hour. I literally stopped in the middle of nowhere and began searching for fish. Talk about feeling like you're out to lunch. What was amazing though was within 5 minutes I was seeing redfish. I didn't catch any but at least I was seeing them. By the way, the water looked like chocolate milk. I didn't feel very confident. After beating my way through the mud and oysters for a while I was ready to move on as I had to find some deeper water so I could maneuver better. I found a 10 yd hole that gave me an opportunity to get back on plane and run out of that area.
Next I decided to think outside the box and run out into the Gulf and check some inshore oil rigs. I came across a guy fishing one of the rigs and turns out he was a local fishing by himself and he offered to ride with me to show me around. This was my biggest catch of the day for sure.
Louis, who is one of the ring leaders for the Hell Diver's (Google it, Insane!) club down here, got on board with me proceeded to take me through some of the most secluded areas you could imagine. It's possible those waters had never been traveled upon as far as I'm concerned. We ran at least 80 miles today and I was able to learn a lot of water. We did stop several times to fish and we did fairly well on reds from 5 to 30lbs. We didn't catch any tournament quality fish but at least we were catching. For the tournament I'm looking for the heaviest redfish under 27". A good weight is 8+ lbs for a fish this size.
Apparently this time of year the snow and ice begins to melt way up north and makes it way down the Mississippi River which muddies the River and surrounding waters. The key is finding the pockets of clearer water. When we found clear water today we caught fish.
Tomorrow I head back north up to Delacroix, LA and meet another buddy of mine who is going to show me around that area for a couple days. We'll basically be doing a lot of riding and some fishing trying to locate good water, learn where I can and can't run due to depth of water and hopefully find the right size tournament redfish. This is one heck of a learning misssion for me. My brain is tired from trying to remember all the paths we traveled today. The fishing is the easy part. These fish down here aren't very shy. So far from what I've seen is if you get around them they're going to eat. Sure wish the fish at home were like these in that regard. Back at it again tomorrow. Not sure if I'll have service tomorrow night but I will post a report as soon as possible.