It’s always a crap shoot trying to hit the right conditions in Louisiana in December for big bull Redfish. I’ve been going there for the past 8 years or so with a bunch of hard core Texans who understand what this fishing is all about. I’ve hit everything from cold, frost, clouds, rain, wind and sun. Fortunately it hasn’t snowed. On December 2, 2013 the conditions were absolutely perfect with bright sun and only a slight breeze. On that date I was fishing with Captain Shane Mayfield. It was my first time with Shane. He was super excited because up until then he had not been able to get outside to one of his favorite spots because of wind.
He poled along some small grass covered islands watching the shallow water as it dropped off into a deep slot. I made a good shot on the first fish we saw and after a strong fight I landed a bright 28-lb bull Redfish. Not a bad way to start the day. It wasn’t long until Shane spotted another big red cruising the slot. The fly went right where it should, about a foot in front of the big fish’s nose. He tilted up, flared his gills, and rolled away. After a strong strip-set it was on.
A bull Redfish on the prowl
You never know what a bull red is going to do after it is hooked. Some of them just try to slug it without getting into the backing while others sprint for faraway places. This guy didn’t waste any time getting deep into the bright chartreuse backing. When he finally hit the brakes I leaned on him hard. My Sage Xi-3 bucked as I applied as much side pressure I dared. It’s times like when you’re glad you have a 10 weight.
Shane and I were both surprised at the size of the fish when he netted it. It pulled the boga grip just past the 30-lb mark. Topping thirty pounds is something that happens almost every year to one or more members of our group but in all of my years this was my first bull red over 30-lbs. With such wonderful conditions I knew I wouldn’t be alone. When Shane dropped me back at the Woodland Plantation Barry Austin was sitting on the porch drinking a beer. He had that 30-lb grin on his face that I’ve seen a number of times before.
It turned out that everybody in our group landed at least one thirty pounder, the largest by Charley Pettigrew who had us all a little concerned because he didn’t show up until after dark. He was fishing with ex-marine Captain Rich Waldner who always has to try just one more spot before he brings you in so we weren’t too worried.
I finally cracked the 30 pound barrier
I took my first trip to Louisiana back in the mid-1990s. Dr. Tim Pennell, a great customer and good friend invited Sheralee and me to join him and his wife Jackie in New Orleans. We stayed downtown in the heat of it all, ate great food, and went fishing while our wives stayed in the city.
We drove about an hour south to Myrtle Grove where we met our guide, Captain Bubby Rodriquez. Bubby is known as the pioneer of Louisiana fly fishing. We had decent weather, caught lots of reds, and had a lot of fun. Most of our fish were in the 4 – 8 lb range, perfect for a 7-weight rod. We were there in mid-April and spent most of our time fishing small creeks, ponds and flats interlaced through the giant saltwater marsh.
The next time I went to Louisiana was October 2004. Some more friends from Texas, John Brent and Rusty Rose, invited me to join their small group because one guy dropped out. They said all I had to do was “git there” because everything else was already paid for. October wasn’t a good time for me to leave but….. it took be all of 5 seconds to make up my mind. I figured I’d face the consequences when I got back.
Gary Grigg with a nice Redfish near Dulac, LA
After we all met up in New Orleans we drove southwest past Houma to Dulac where we met Captain Leland Ladet. He took us to his small lodge where we spent the next four days fishing, enjoying awesome Cajun food, and great camaraderie. We caught a lot of fish and some big ones up to 20-lbs. What I enjoyed most was being right on the water. In the morning all we had to do was climb down the stairs and hop into Leland’s Hell’s Bay skiff. At the end of the day he jumped down, grabbed his “squeeze box” and entertained us with some genuine Cajun music. Sadly, Captain Ledet died almost exactly a year later of a massive heart attack, doing what he loved most, fly fishing for Louisiana Redfish.
Late this summer a good friend and customer, Gary Grigg, asked me if I would like to partner up and join him in early November to chase Redfish. At first it didn’t seem promising as I was already scheduled to fish with the Texas gang a month later. I asked Gary where he liked to go. When he told me he fished with Captain Lance Ledet with Dulac Charters I couldn’t resist. Lance stepped into the business after the death of his father to carry on the legacy and he is doing a great job. I’ve fished with a lot of guides over the years and he is as good as they get.
Bull Redfish can tip the scale at well over 30 lbs.
Our weather didn’t measure up to what we had ordered. We had clouds and wind both of the days we fished but we still managed to land some nice reds. The poor conditions weren’t right for finding large bull Redfish. I couldn’t help but notice that the wall of the lodge was covered with grinning faces of anglers holding up massive Redfish including Gary Grigg with a 35 pounder. All in all, it was great to be back at Dulac Charters. I hope to go back but the downside is Lance, like all of the great Redfish guides, is almost always booked up.
I’ve found Redfish quite different from some of the other flats species I’ve fished for like bonefish, tarpon and permit. I’ve heard they are not as spooky yet I’ve made plenty a good cast that sent a bow wake across the flats that left me quivering in my shoes. The fact is that even in the best conditions, the water in the marsh is always a little off-color. You need to get your fly close to the fish in order for them to see it. I’ve found them considerably more wary when I’ve fished for them in crystal clear water in the Florida Everglades.
Another thing I’ve found amazing is that some Redfish will still eat even after they are spooked. Sometimes they will come so close to the boat that you only need to cast the length of your rod. Barry Austin caught a monster Redfish by simply throwing his fly overboard with his hand to a fish that was almost under the boat. I’ve tried it but it has never worked but I can see how it could.
A big Redfish will kick your butt if you don't have the right equipment
Originally I used 9’ rods with a #7 or #8 weight line. They worked great until I hooked up with my first bull red. After that I switched to a #8 and #9 rod. After getting dragged around the flats a few times by a obstinate brute I now bring a #9 and #10 outfit. I almost always use the #10 and keep the #9 for back up. A floating line is essential. I like the Rio Redfish line. This is no place for light tippets. I use 30 lb backing and a leader and tippet slightly lighter so I don’t lose everything if I have a long distance break off.
Redfish normally aren’t very picky when it comes to fly pattern. They eat crabs and shrimp as well as baitfish. It’s common to them slashing through a school of mullet. This year I caught a 20-lb Redfish that had the tail of a twelve inch mullet sticking out of his mouth. Most crab and shrimp patterns in size 2 or 2/0 will work. You should also have a few Clousers. Some of the guides like spoon flies but I’ve never used them. You should also have a few poppers. On certain occasions Redfish will jump all over a popper offering some explosive top water action.
Brian Cavaretta with a nice Black Drum
Fishing is good in the Louisiana Delta a year long. I haven’t been there in the summer for obvious reasons but Captain Alec Griffin told me that if you can handle the heat there are some great opportunities in the summer months for Bull Redfish, big jacks, and even tarpon. The largest concentration of large Redfish occurs during the winter months from late November through February but you always have a shot at a big fish no matter what time of the season. Some of the best fishing is in the spring. The weather is normally a little more reliable and the Redfish are very active. You’ll likely see lots of 3 – 10 lb Redfish cruising the many creeks, ponds and channels that make up the big marsh.
There are lots of good places to go. Venice might be the most popular spot as a lot of guides headquarter there. The important thing is to make sure your guide is qualified and skilled in fly fishing. I like to go to Port Sulphur not only because there are some superb guides there but also wonderful food and accommodations. We like to stay at the Woodland Plantation. It’s not really a fishing lodge because the guides work independently from the lodge. It’s a perfect location for the guides to meet their clients. From there it’s about a half hour drive to the best boat launches.
Charley Pettigrew landed the fish of the trip, a 35 lb monster just before dark
I’ll be back again this December with my Texas buddies and we’ll be hoping for good weather. I doubt we can beat this year. We fished for three days. The weather was great the first day, superb the second day and excellent the third day. The result was that everybody in our group not only landed lots of big Bull Reds but everybody landed at least one over thirty pounds. Barry, Charley, and Barry’s son Greg even caught some big ones on bamboo rods that Barry built.
If you want more information about fishing for Redfish in Louisiana let us know. We are not an official booking agent for anybody there so we can be totally objective. If you need more information, fishing equipment, flies or anything else, please let us know.