The mornings long paddle was veiled in a thick blanket of fog, so I stuck to very shallow water. I figured the bigger boats throttling up and down the main pass would run aground far before they ever became a danger to me. If I would have been fishing anywhere else, I probably would have just stayed in camp and waited for it to burn off but the spot I was heading to was special. If I could make it there by the bottom of the tide, it was looking to be a perfect day.
There are redfish all over Louisiana and there are lots of different ways to catch them. Some anglers look for murky water and cast popping corks or noisy topwater baits, and some like to float a live shrimp across a flat. The place I was paddling toward would be about 6 inches deep when I got there and every fish would have to be stealthily stalked with a precision cast dropped just in front of them.
By the time I reached my destination, the thick fog had burned off and was replaced by a buzzing swarm of biting midges. As I sprayed down with my bug spray, a far-off splash caught my attention. I could just make out the white upper lip of a redfish as it was chasing shrimp in the shallows. I stood up and turned my Jackson Kayak to intercept. As soon as I was within casting distance, I stowed my paddle and picked up the spinning rod rigged with a ‘Buggs jig’ that I had tied myself.
These jigs have a triangle head and a flat belly that makes them land almost silently and give off a “puff” of mud when they hop on the bottom. This one only got to hop once, my cast landed about 3 feet in front of the hungry red and as soon as it saw the jig it exploded. The very best thing to make you forget about a cloud of biting insects is the sound of your drag screaming!
After a couple of runs I had the red in the net and could see the jig stuck tight in its upper lip. I unhooked it, set it back into the water and watched it slowly cruise away across the flat. I dearly love a redfish fillet cooked over an open fire but today was all about the memories and not the meat. As I straightened out the hair on the tail of my jig I scanned across the flat for my next target.
A shine of copper stood out in the morning sun, but it wasn’t moving. I had almost convinced myself it was a soda can reflecting, but it was in the direction I wanted to go so I investigated closer. When I got within casting distance, I could make out the scale pattern of a redfish and I picked up the rod again. I cast and as soon as the jig hit the water I knew I had messed up, the back sticking out of the water belonged to the bigger red in the group but I must have hit one of the smaller ones square on the head.
Fish scattered in every direction including one that drydocked itself straight up on the bank. I was still in shock from the flurry of redfish but happened to see the biggest of the group headed out toward deeper water. I put everything I had in casting that 1/8th oz jig and was pleasantly surprised to see it land just about a foot in front of the big one’s nose. I didn’t see the take but it had to have been instant because I had barely closed the bail on my spinning rod when the drag started screaming!
Fighting redfish in ultra-shallow water is a messy affair, and that is if you can keep them from cutting you off on the ever-present razor sharp oyster beds. The thin, soupy mud was flying in every direction as this fish ran circles around my kayak. It did everything it could to shake that jig loose and showered me with a solid coat of thick Louisiana silt. By the time I got it unhooked and released, my kayak and I looked like we were on the losing end of a mud wrestling contest. The only benefit of that extra dirt layer is that the midges can’t bite you through it. I reached under my seat to grab my water bottle and had to rinse the thick black mud off it to get a drink. With a quick bite of jerky and an oatmeal crunch bar to recharge, I was back on the hunt again.
Looking over the flat there were lots of wakes, but none had that serious roll that a redfish makes, these were all either mullet or sheepshead. I pushed across the flat towards a creek mouth that I had found on a satellite map the night before with hopes that the fish may be flushing out of it as the tide dropped.
The “popping” sound hit me before I ever saw the water in the creek, and I knew that it was reds sucking down shrimp. When my kayak slid around the mouth of the creek it came to a hard stop in the mud.
I could see a long way up it but there was no way I could paddle any further. The popping noise started again in one of the tiny side branches and soon three redfish made their way out into the main channel. These fish were in such shallow water they were sliding on their bellies more that swimming. Each sweep of their tail pushed out a wash of silt and as they moved forward shrimp were jumping in fear along the way. I was in a predicament; I could not get any closer to them and there was no way I could cast my jig that far. I put that rod back behind my seat and picked up a soft plastic stick bait rigged with a weedless hook/belly weight combo. It is a wicked setup that I use when I am blind casting and covering a lot of water.
The center fish was considerably larger than the other two and as I watched it edged out in front by a foot or so. I launched that lure like a rocket and it landed a few feet in front of and beyond the reds. I slithered it though the silt and when the biggest was within sight of it I gave it one little hop. The water exploded in a shower of black mud and glistening scales as that fish smashed the bait! When I set the hook, the fish took off towards the deeper water with a rooster tail of mud shooting off its posterior. I was reeling like a madman trying to catch up to it as it ran towards deeper water. The exact same deeper water that my kayak was sitting in sideways at that moment! When the redfish hit the bow of my kayak it nearly threw me out from the impact, but the fish drove under through the silt and kept going. The line I had cranked so fast to get on the reel was now disappearing with the steady scream of the drag.
After a couple more runs, I was able to slide the net under the fish and bring it into my kayak. The intense copper color was beautiful, and the tail was brilliant blue with the trademark 3 black spots on it. This was a fish and a fight for the memory banks for sure. Redfish are incredibly exciting to catch just about any way they can be caught but stalking them in ultra-shallow water and sight fishing for them is simply the best of the best.
If you come to Point Aux Chenes, Louisiana; be sure to bring bug spray, polarized glasses, and the shallowest floating kayak you have. It will take you to places most people will never see; where the mud is thick, the fish are shallow, and the memories will last forever!