Water - mostly trout green, 3ish ft visibility. Chocolate milk at the lake.
Wind - South-ish and pretty high but protected in the bayou
Tide/ current - seemed to be rising all day and moving fast (ripples at the surface) - I was on the north side though so could have been the wind effect.
Sky - lot of cloud cover in the AM, cleared up around lunch and then rebuilt later. At one point looked like a storm was building but it past me by.
Water temps about 61deg everywhere per my fish finder
Freeport Bouy Weather
Started out the day by launching my kayak from the Swan Lake boat ramp. Took me about 20 mins to launch which was a speed improvement from the last time, but I'm still probably taking too much junk. My plan was to head from the dock to Essex, cruise the bayou to the fork and fish the fork, head to the lake to hit the incoming tide and see if I could sight fish for some reds, head back to the fork then up the bayou all the way to the 2.5 mile paddle to the big X looking area where the bayou opens up. That was the plan but of course I'm horrible at executing plans
While launching two other guys with kayaks pulled up. I talked briefly with them, they said they were going to a bayou, I thought it might have been Essex so I wanted to check cause I wanted to try to avoid getting in their way cause I still don't know what I'm doing heh - I was going to head the opposite direction of them at the fork. But it turns out they said they were going further down the ICWW so I figured it might have been to slop bowl, so that meant I had Essex to myself.
I launch shortly after and went to the mouth of the swan lake boat launch. Here started mistake number one of the day - I saw a big barge coming so I backed up and thought while I waited I might as well test the water for fish since there was some good current flowing out of the launch. I started casting my jig head with cocohoe minnow. Was also using gulp under a removable cork (with and without cork on Carolina rig) I got what I thought might be a bite on the 1st cast so I kept at it. Got snagged fairly quickly and had to get myself unstuck. I tried again and thought I had another bite. I saw all sorts of gulls working the wash of the barge as it passed by so thought this must be a good sign. Unfortunately all that happened was I kept getting snagged and had to cut my line and retie a few times. This went on for a bit then the two guys from earlier paddled by me and said "what happened." I looked at my clock and holy crap, I just wasted 45 minutes!
So off I go, but I thought (stupidly) there must be fish here, so I beached my yak and walked up to the top of the rocks and cast a bit more. I ended up foul hooking I think some type of drum (it had a spot on it’s gill I think). It shook loose before I could set it free. I said this isn't working so I went back to the yak and then realized I forgot my fish bag with the ice. Arg! Back to the dock, get my ice, and I'm out of the boat launch an hour+ later than I had planned… I've got to get better at time management!
So I head straight to the bayou (after waiting again for another barge). Get to the mouth of the bayou. The current flow is coming into the bayou at a very fast rate. Wind is blowing me faster that I can handle so I anchor up next to an abandoned partially sunken boat that didn't have much luck (maybe I should have taken the sunken boat as an omen). Fish the mouth a bit, might have had a bite or two but I was now getting snagged on oysters instead of boulders from earlier. Tried to cast a Manns minus 1 bait and gulp under a cork, but the fish didn't want top water (which it was moving way too fast I think to work properly).
I think it's around 8:45 now. I started trolling my Manns into the bayou and get a little ways in. Cast around at the 1st island and hook up something! There was no tugs back though so I thought I caught a stick. I ended up reeling this in!
Catch of the day - The marsh witches, which Mr Cuervo has often hinted about, offered me up a barnacle encrusted Penn Spinfisher 440 SSg with Tournament choice rod, and some sort of hard bait!!!
I wondered if this item was enchanted with a +1 fish catching modifier, but I'd have to wait till I got back to town to have it identified. I think it identified itself though as the day went on… I put my "prize" into a spare rod holder slot (I was fully encumbered now) and continued on my quest.
Kept working over cuts in the oyster beds - or at least tried to. The current was going so fast and wind so hard that I could barely make 1 cast before I zipped past the area. No way to properly work them over without anchoring or beaching myself. Kept getting hung up so I just let my manns troll behind me. Got to the fork; tried to work the area bit but the current was still pretty bad there. All the hang-ups made me switch to casting out the manns. Here the 1st curse of the Barnacle Encrusted Penn of "Sadness?" struck - my manns got hopelessly snagged on my kayak tow rope up front. I tried in vain for a few minutes to get it unstuck, and there was no way I was getting in the water to try to free it with all the oyster all over and switch current. It was my only manns too, so I regretfully cut the line and said time to move on. I burned too much time by now The oysters were exposed slightly but I knew I probably missed the good low tide fishing in the lake.
Got to the lake and alas, it was as I feared, water was fairly high in the lake so sight fishing might be out. Still I paddled the perimeter hoping. I think the depth was around 1' or less though - my paddle had to be used shallowly to avoid brushing the mud. Tons of bait jumping all over but as I cast my jighead around no fish from what I could tell. A this point, the Barnacle Encrusted Penn of "Vileness?" unleashed curse number two - my rudder raise control was jammed and so the stupid thing was dragging mud the whole time! Arg!
Saw an egret on the north side sitting in the water waiting for food to come to him, so I leisurely made my way over there. Before I got there he caught a fish then flew on. I tried to work his area with a chicken boy plum chart lure on a jig head. Think I got a few bites but nothing would set on my hook. Wind was very bad on the north so I paddled back to the entrance with the thought to drift fish a bit. Got out my drift sock and tried one drift. Got a bite somewhere so went back but couldn't get anything to bite again. I'll note my drift sock didn't seem to be slowing my drift enough, I was still going pretty fast. Not sure if I needed to use something else or learn to cast and retrieve faster? Would a drift chain have helped slow me more??
I started seeing mud streaks pop up in the middle of the lake. I went up current of them to try to catch fish, but man, by the time I'd get over to the mud, I suspect the fish were long gone. It was just so windy and it takes a long time to reposition a kayak to make the right presentation to where you think the head of the fish are. I caught nothing in the lake.
Went back to the entrance, hopped out of my yak in the somewhat firm mud at the entrance and retrieved my Manns from the tow rope. I realized after I hopped out that I never checked for sting rays. Luckily none got me but I heard the Barnacle Encrusted Penn of "Dark Humor?" cackling in the background. Fished the entrance a bit (waaaaay to long) and caught nothing.
Got back in the yak - started trying to work over the bends of the bayou. Misplaced a cast into the weeds and a freaking snake jumps out and starts swimming past me. Not sure what type of snake but I didn't want to get close enough to find out. Waited for him to zig zag swim away then stared cast a bit more. Finally caught my 1st fish!! On the chicken boy lure. He was a rat though, but the cool thing was he had two spots. That's my 1st multi spotted red!
He was somewhere around 12" I tossed him back and tried to catch anything else in the area. I probably should have moved though cause I hear little fish don't hang out with big fish - cause said little fish soon become the big fish's dinner.
Slowly made my way back to the cut. I think it was around 12 at this point - I had burned a lot of time getting to this point so I figured there is no way I'm going to make it up to the big area in the bayou in time now. So I proceeded to work over the fork area. By this time all the oysters were covered up and the current was still ripping in. Man I kept getting hung up like no one's business. I think I figured out how to work my lures free most of the time though. Don't just jerk your rod when you hit a snag, try to slowly apply force, kind of jiggle the rod tip, and slowly reel it in. That got me freed maybe 3 times out of 4. I tried a cork with a gulp to keep my bait off the bottom. The fish were just not interested in top water I guess. I removed the cork and casted the gulp Carolina style. A few cast later and I land my second fish of the day. Rat #2 of about 16" this time, so back into the water he goes. He was more silvery than the 1st fish. I think Karstoppo mentioned there are two types of reds in the area.
I burnt maybe another hour at the spot (yes, I spend way to long in spots, I really need to fix this!). In my defense, the fish were jumping all over the place. I'm almost positive they were not mullets, but I couldn't say for certain. I'm sure I kept seeing trouts jump right in front of me. They didn't want my gulps or random jig head plastics though, and didn't want my Manns. So I finally decided it's time to move on and head up the left fork. I was trying to drift with my rudder which was working ok, but at one point I snag my line on oyster and the kayak goes over the line so the rudder had the line pinned. I tried to raise my rudder to free the line and now the Barnacle Encrusted Penn of "Despair?" strikes again - my rudder pops it's rivets and comes lose!!! Now it's stuck in the left position and I can't do a darn thing about it! I just start yanking on my pull chain, and moving the foot pedals and get it to at least come out of the water so I'm not having to fight that the whole way, but damn, I just lost my ability to control my drift (however slight)!!
I seriously thought about calling it a day at that point, it was about 1PM and I thought I'd head home around 3. But my shear frustration at the day pushes me on. I keep cruising along trying to cast into cuts between oysters. I'm moving so fast though that whenever I get some nice bites every so often, by the time I stop (and or untangle myself) and get back to work an area the fish are gone. Water levels very high now - water had flooded onto some side draws with about 6" or less of clearance. I check it out hoping to see redfish. I see birds but no excitement going on so move on (and get stuck in the mud, burn time getting out). On my way I see an awesome sight of a ton of ibis flying overhead. That was cool. Wish I was quicker with my camera, I would have got a picture of them.
It hits about 2 PM and I decided to head back. On the way back the current is flowing against me. I actually find it easier to work the bayou now because I can paddle, build up speed, the make a few casts while the current slows me then starts to push me back. Maybe that is the ticket to fishing a fast moving bayou?
I round a bend, make a cast with my gulp on Carolina rig and hook up a fish that takes the bait! He's fighting me well so I know he's a good size. Shaking his head too so I think he's a trout. Get him close to the boat and try to figure out how to land him. In the split second of hesitation he shakes free and I see the dorsal fin sticking straight up as he waves goodbye with his tail. I think he was a keeper too, and off he goes! Arg!!! Maybe I ought to take my net next time instead of my boga grips. I stake out and frantically try to catch him again but it's in vain.
I dejectedly make my way back to the fork. Try the area for a little while longer and then I see a wake forming on the edge of the bayou behind oyster shell. I get excited thinking it might be a redfish making his way down the stream. I paddle quick to get in position. Since it's over oyster shell I grab my Manns. Bring my hand back and rip forward to cast annnnnd… the Barnacle Encrusted Penn of "Eternal Damnation" strikes a final time and has snagged my manns treble hook!!!!!!!!! I put the rod down quickly and try to cast another with a jig head - miss the cast and straight into the oyster shell to get immediately hung up. The wake is gone and the Barnacle Encrusted Penn of "Mirth?" almost gets chucked back into the water to return to the marsh witches.
The rest of the trip was fairly uneventful. More of the same. Make my way back to the launch, snag up on the rocks at the launch again while trolling. Cut the line one final time and curse the day, pack up, and head home.
Overall the day wasn't my worst (that spot is reserved for my day at Palacios oyster lake - which I don't think I ever shared - long story short there, I fought 15 - 20 mph headwinds, caught nothing and was rewarded with a flat tire when I came back to my truck which took me two tries to change out the spare).
If I had caught that trout it probably would have lessened the sting. My wife was disappointed I didn't bring home dinner (she calls my fishing days pizza night…).
I was happy to catch the two reds which lets me know I'm maybe on the right track. I've got a lot more learning to do and experience to have in order to improve. I really really need to move faster and stay focused on my game plan.
As a bonus though, I took home that cursed rod, and cleaned it up. The freaking thing had barnacles growing on it AND IT STILL CASTS!!!! What the heck!? Maybe the marsh witches wanted me to use it during the trip and catch the bull red of a lifetime??
I'm going to clean up that penn reel and use it my next go. I have no idea how it could still be working after laying submerged for so long. There is a great sales pitch for Penn reels The bail gear/ bearing is a tad rusty looking but it still rolls, and one of the caps was missing. An internet search reveals I can still get spare parts for the reel. The rod seems to be fine as well - a tournament choice (academy brand) special edition - barnacles on the graphite but the guides are clear and smooth. Have no idea what the hard bait is, but all that's needed there is to replace the split rings and treble hooks. So I scored a free rig that requires a little TLC.
Assuming the curse is lifted once I clean it up, I'll be happy and actually scored a pretty cool parting gift. Or maybe I'm inviting catastrophe upon myself and this is all part of the marsh witches diabolical plan???