Midwestern winters can do weird things to a person. Call it cabin fever or seasonal affective disorder. (SAD for short, plus its easy to remember) Some of us can embrace the season with tip ups and bratwurst and snomobiles, others follow the geese south to warmer lands. I went with option B this winter. It would be 5 days with the wife and my parents in New Orleans, with an impromptu roadie to Pensacola. (no fishing done there, I regret) just a cool beach and some rum. Pops and I had only a day to sneak away to fish, so we had to make it count. I called my fishing buddy and New Orleans local Mark with a tall order of fish species I'd like to catch, and was informed Delacroix highway would be our best bet. Its a raised road that cuts its way south through the swamps and bayous of Southeast Louisiana almost clear to the brackish marshes of the gulf. Along the road runs a canal home to alligator and spotted gar, blue cats, any number of sunfish, bass, eels, and brackish water fish like mullet, redfish and speckled trout.
We set off to overcast skies the next morning, picked up Mark, and got to our first spot quickly. My first approach would be small crawler pieces for panfish to use for cutbait, While Mark got busy with the cast net. No mullet with the net, but he did manage a nice bass. I don't know why, but this was hilarious to me.
Nothing caught here, so we drove another mile or so down the road to bridge, and were surprised to find an area with current. Here, we got busy catching bluegills and these cool redspotted sunfish in near full spawning colors.
My first fish of 2018!!
Man, it felt good to be catching fish in open water. In the flurry of action, I found my lifer redear sunfish too. The excitement of catching and holding a new species never gets old to me.
Now that we had some cut bait, it was time to reaally get down to the business at hand. Gar. I rigged up my heavy rod with a good leader, sharp hook, and good chunk of sunfish and hucked it out into a calm pool along the opposite bank. Waiting time. I remember looking down at the mud under my feet and remarking internally to myself how the mud of the lower Mississippi delta is more than Louisiana. This rested silt came from the Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois and Missouri rivers and Mixed in the Miss before being deposited right where I was standing. A single click of my baitfeeder brought me back to reality, then another and another. In my excitement, I cranked back on that rod, felt a few tugs, then nothing. "Too soon." I heard Mark say with just a hint of annoyance in his voice. My bait was gone. I re-rigged, this time with 2 hooks on my leader. Not a minute later my line was moving again. I gave him maybe 30 seconds and set the hook, successfully this time. A big letter V formed on the water's surface and took off like a banshee bending my rod and pulling drag zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz... pop. Never got to see him but there's only one fish here that can do that.. An alligator gar. I had a fish I've wanted to catch since I was little kid on my line for all of 30 seconds before he broke my 50 lb braid like it was nothing.. Heart beating like crazy, I ran back to the truck to re-rig. I didn't know it yet, but this would be my only shot an gator gar. (That's OK though. I know where they are now, and I'll be back). On the way I hear my dad going nuts over something on his line. He pulls this up.
An eel. It pretty much unhooked itself and slithered over land right back in the water. Fishing slowed way down after this and we packed up. I drove back to New Orleans both disappointed over blowing my shot at a monster, and grateful to have caught some fish, including a lifer for myself (redear) and Dad. (eel)
Luckily, I got another chance to go back out fishing a couple of evenings later. We fished closer to home base this time, Bayou St John in the heart of New Orleans. We caught bluegill, channel cats, and yellow bass. Another fishing buddy pulled a warmouth from under a bridge as I was packing up to leave. Witnessing yet again someone catching a fish I've never caught gave me a serious case of one more cast syndrome. I decided to give it some more time and it paid off with an eel of my own. It took some doing to get him to stop squiming and behave for the picture, but we eventually got it. This would be my last fish of trip before flying back home.
That slime never quite washed out of my shirt, and I don't care.