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Destination Fishing: Bull Reds in Port Fourchon, LA

November 4th, 2019

port fourchon redfish Destination Fishing: Bull Reds in Port Fourchon, LA

Alisha Soule with an absolute giant Port Fourchon redfish.

By Steve Soule | www.ultimatedetailingllc.com

I’ve taken a few short destination fishing trips this year, trying to spend more time away from my home waters and learning new areas. New challenges and new waters, and attempting to take what I’ve learned fishing my home waters of the upper Texas Coast and apply that to other areas. This is the part of fishing that I find most interesting, putting together the pieces like a puzzle and figuring out how to catch fish in new areas. Going somewhere new is always a fun, though it can be frustrating and put your skills and knowledge to the test. The satisfaction from developing a plan and finding success is one of my greatest pleasures.

This past weekend, my wife and I spent a day and a half fishing in Southern Louisiana, Port Fourchon, to be specific. This is a tiny town in a very remote part of southern Louisiana. It is an industrial port town that primarily serves the off shore oil and gas industry. Definitely not somewhere you would end up by accident. Beyond the Industrial side, Fourchon and its neighboring Grand Isle, serve the fishing community. The entire area is like an overgrown marsh, with slightly deeper secondary bays. What makes this place spectacular is that it has extreme close proximity to the deeper gulf of Mexico on the southern end and an endless supply of fresh water coming down through rivers, bayous and swampy marsh. In all honesty, this is basically the nursery for the upper gulf of Mexico.

Though I have fished here two times in the past, it was during a different time of the year. Like any fishing location, seasons will effect the location and concentrations of fish and their food sources. Before any trip to new locations, it’s always wise to do some research. try to learn a little about the lay of the land. Study maps and arial photos, look at tides, both height and movement and try to make sense of where fish might be. We got there Saturday evening on the heels of a cold front that had way more wind and rain than expected. I knew that this would cause some lingering dirty water which didn’t go well with my plan of sight casting. Some things are well beyond our control and we just have to learn to roll with them.

From the start, this was planned as a very short trip so I had to maximize my time. I had gotten one report about potential location of our target species, Bull reds. The lingering winds and dirty water did not help there, so after some driving to look at shorelines in open water, I decided i needed to try to find some protected north shore areas that may have cleaner water draining from creeks and bayous. This is where basic fish finding skills come into play. With limited time to locate and catch fish, it doesn’t make sense to fish without seeing some evidence of life.

After our trip south to look at open shorelines, I headed back north into some more protected areas, looking for birds or bait and clearer water. We made a few short drifts in areas with some moving bait and missed two big reds on top water. The blow ups were amazing but couldn’t get either of them stuck long term. We also caught a few small trout, but this was not the area where we would be able to sight cast, though we were getting much closer. Side note, I use the top water lures as search baits when I don’t know the area well or can’t see to sight fish.

Now that we were in more protected water it was time to explore areas where outgoing tide was draining from bayous out to the secondary bays. Initially I spent some time poling the boat, but it became evident quickly that I would need to cover a little more water. We would idle along about 50-100 feet from the shoreline looking for wakes from big fish and muds and as soon as we found a fish or two go back to poling. This is where you really have to start paying attention so that you can put together the patterns. Each drain had some level of life in it, bigger drains that had more current seemed to be holding big fish. Now we have a fishable pattern.

Finding a bayou or two that would wind back north into the marsh, especially those that had wide spots where there were small shallow flats seemed to be the trick to locating fish. Now its getting interesting! I would pole slowly around the points leading into bayous and started seeing both reds and black drum. Fish were not moving very aggressive so a slow stealthy approach proved to be the best plan. Many times we were able to get the boat within 10 feet of fish and with increasing light, it was becoming much easier to see them. We missed a few as is always the case in sight casting, then the fun really got started.

bull red soule Destination Fishing: Bull Reds in Port Fourchon, LA

Steve Soule releases a bull redfish.

Poling into a small flat at the bottom of a bigger bayou drain, we started seeing fish slowly crawling along looking shorelines feeding as they went. It didn’t take long before we were among them and getting good shots. our first fish was close to the boat and though it didn’t look huge when I cast at it, ended up being about 45 inches long. The fight with these big reds in shallow water is a little more intense than with their smaller counterparts. Several big runs and the usual level of disasters trying to maneuver a fish around the boat and we got her landed, photographed and released. First half of the mission was now accomplished, the only issue was it was supposed to be Alisha’s fish.

We spooked several fish during the fight with the first one and could still see and hear a few fish moving around the small flat. Back to the hunt! We worked our way around the flat, still struggling to see fish well. Then stumbled onto another slow crawling giant and it was her turn to shine. The fish was swimming slowly towards the boat and not yet aware of our presence. Alisha made a short cast, crossing the fish’s path and as it approached, gave the Buggs jig a few slight bounces to make the lure more visible. When she saw the lure, she attacked and the fight was on. It can all happen just that fast.

We had spent 2-3 hours of driving, looking and narrowing down our search pattern, then within a matter of 30 minutes, had found a nice flat that had multiple fish over 15 pounds, and landed two fish well over 20-25 pounds. This particular flat sat at just the right angle to the tide flow and was just large enough to stop a good quantity of fish and food in the outgoing tide. We saw numerous reds and several large black drum there. Now we had one pattern to look for in other areas and attempt to repeat.

We poled through several areas that looked similar, though none had quite the same layout. We found some smaller fish, that laughably would be considered on the bigger side back home in Galveston, but didn’t see as many big fish that would break 20 pounds. At this point it became evident that with the conditions we had, we would need to continue to find more protected and shallower water to continue to sight fish.

We checked a few shallower pond and lake areas, with some success, but finding any real concentration of feeding fish was not going well. We had our share of difficulties, dirty water and a pair of polarized glasses that got left in the truck, but we made the most of it and had a great time.

We knew that Sunday was going to be a great day as far as sun and wind conditions, and would be our best window of opportunity. Monday, would only be a half day, and weather conditions were supposed to be pretty good. As it often works out, when I woke up Monday morning, Conditions had worsened. Full cloud cover and increased wind. Nothing you can do except make the most of what you are given. Off we went, this time armed with a few places to start our hunt. Clouds, do not make sight fishing easy. And as you might imagine, we missed a lot more fish that we just couldn’t see until we were too close. We did manage a few fish and as we were nearing the end of our day, idling down shorelines working back towards the boat ramp we found a few reds and one more highly entertaining moment. I was standing on the casting platform with Alisha idling along and just looking for fish when we stumbled onto a small group of fish and the last fish of the day was sight cast with the outboard motor running. Made for a great laugh and a good ending to a short trip to the land of the giants.

Lots to be learned from trips like this. I find it fascinating how much fish act and feed in the same manner in totally different locations. Outgoing tides around marshes are always fun, they put fish on the move and create feeding situations that make for some great fishing. Moving prey species out into more open water where predators can easily attack. These tides generally move fish into areas where we can locate them and capitalize on their feeding. On incoming tides, look for fish to move farther into the reaches of the marsh and follow prey species to areas of safety. It is cool to see how much so these waters work on a parallel to the marshes closer to home for me. Though the area is vast and enormous compared to our marshes on the upper Texas coast, this place acts just like an overgrown Texas marsh, and once you start to look at it this way, becomes family easy to figure out.

With so many great destinations along the Gulf Coast, its just a matter of picking a spot where you want to go, spending a little time researching the area and go have some fun. I picked this area for its remote nature,(we only saw one other boat all day fishing similar water) and its notorious giant redfish. It only gets better on the southern fringe waters during winter if you want to go find giant redfish in relatively shallow water. There are fish there all year round, and the scenery is absolutely breathtaking. Bottlenose dolphins are a regular sight and often you can sit and they will roll and play near your boat. If it’s time for a change of pace, grab a map, do a little research and go have some fun doing something completely different.

New Year, New Beginnings

January 1st, 2019

GraceSutherland New Year, New Beginnings

Grace Sutherland with a nice red

By Capt. David C. Dillman

galvestonbaycharterfishing.com | 832-228-8012

As we usher in 2019, I always reflect on the past year. I think of the trials and tribulations that I faced in 2018, but it was also a very rewarding year. I now set my sights forward and fully embrace the challenges and rewards of this coming year.

 My January starts at the 2019 Houston Boat, Sport and Travel Show. This event takes place at the NRG Center, Jan. 4-13. If you are in the market for a new boat or RV, you should attend this event. For those looking to re-power, come check out the latest technology in outboards. I will be at the Eagle Point Fishing Camp booth, numbers 612-613 throughout the show. Stop by, and I will be there to answer all questions about boating, boat storage, and of course fishing! The rest of my January will be filled with a much needed vacation to the blue waters of the Caribbean.

The beginning of the year, is also the time to get your boat seaworthy for this coming year. If your boat needs to go to a shop for service, this is the time. Do an inventory of what is stored in your boat. It is amazing how much “stuff” one can accumulate in your boat‘s storage hatches. Discard all non-serviceable items and check your PFDs for any defects.

On the fishing scene, look for continued good action on speckled trout along with scattered redfish. The usual winter locations, Clear Lake, Kemah/Seabrook flats, and the northern areas of Galveston Bay should hold fish. West Galveston Bay is also well known for its winter fishing.

Speaking of trout, one should keep abreast of the TPWD proposal of decreasing the trout daily bag limit. They should release their recommendation sometime in January. Hopefully, the Houston/Galveston area can make it through this winter without a major freeze event. If so, this spring we should see some really great fishing according to the fall gill net surveys from the TPWD.

I hope everyone had a great holiday season this past year. I look forward to seeing you at The Houston Boat Show.

Winter Redfish Patterns

January 1st, 2019

sheward Winter Redfish Patterns

Capt. Clay Sheward with a chunky 28″ redfish on the fly.

By Capt. Steve Soule

It’s cold, damp and dreary: the kind of weather that makes it hard to find motivation to get up and going. We are deep into daylight savings time, with short days and not nearly enough sunlight to fuel my tank, but somehow there is still some motivation to be found for winter fishing.

The bright sunny days are often few and far between. Cloudy skies and damp conditions seems to dominate our weather patterns between December and February. Where is the “upside” to this? Well, fortunately for all of us fish heads, they still have to eat.

By no means does this cover the entire weather pattern spectrum of winter, but for the shallow water enthusiast, we can start with two basic condition sets that we must learn to contend with: sunny skies or cloudy skies. With these two basic conditions, there are other trends that tend to coincide with them.

Bright & Blue

Sunny skies are typically the trend after the passage of a front, and with the bright skies an initial strong wind flow and tide movement. Sunny skies are great for the sight fisher, allowing the angler to see and target the fish. Aided by the clearer waters of winter, fish can be much more easily spotted in the shallows with bright overhead skies. This is not always an indicator of our ability to catch them, but the ability to see them is the first step when sight casting.

A Stealthy Approach

Light wind, sunny skies and clear water will require a very stealthy approach from the angler as these conditions make fish much more vulnerable and aware of potential threats to their safety. Stop well short of the areas you intend to fish or believe are holding fish and work slowly and methodically until you locate them. Loud noises, boat wakes and other pressure waves that we create can alert fish to our presence. Keep in mind that when you get a bite its definitely time to slow down and work the area more thoroughly. One of the greatest parts of winter fishing is that when you find one fish, you have likely found an area holding many fish.

Dark & Stormy

So, if sunny skies and light wind make for great sight fishing, but likely only happen once every 3-5 days, what do you do when the clouds and cooler temperatures roll back in? You must learn where the fish move as the temperatures and tides drop. It may require a fair amount of knowledge of the area you’re fishing, but falling temperatures and falling tides actually generate a fairly predictable pattern from fish.

It is important to understand about how changing temperatures effect fish movement. As a general rule, during the cooler months, if the air is warming and the water is cold, fish will move shallow as soon as the air temperature exceeds the water temperature. Much the same, when the air temperatures drop below the water temperature during cooling periods, fish will tend to move towards deeper water. Knowing this basic principle will help guide you during the winter months.

Cloudy skies have settled in, seeing the fish is virtually out of the question. Temperatures are cooler and the tides are low; where have the fish moved? Here is when you need to understand the structures in the area. Contour depth changes, reefs, and bay floor make up all play a big role in where fish will move during these conditions.

Typically, open water adjacent to the shallow marsh is the first depth contour change that will allow slight insulation from cooling water. This is also where you are likely to find some added structure like oyster reefs. Look for areas with dense dark mud as it will not only hold many small food sources, but will maintain a slight advantage in warmth as well.

Sunny vs Cloudy Days 

There will be other notable differences in these two primary patterns. Periods of sunny skies, light wind and clear water will dictate the use of smaller lures and flies, stealthy approaches and much more subtle presentations to catch fish.

When the skies are cloudy and wind has returned, and especially when temperatures are falling, it often pays off greatly to increase the size of your presentation. This is when mullet imitations can bring huge catches, not just in numbers, but often in the size of the fish. Topwater “dog walking” lures and slow sinking, suspending finesse lures and twitch baits can provide rod jerking strikes that you won’t soon forget.

catch2000 Winter Redfish Patterns

MirrOlure’s Catch 2000 is a great subsurface bait for winter.

For winter sight fishing my go-to lures would be a dark colored small swim or paddle tail soft plastic rigged on 1/16th to 1/4 ounce screw lock jig heads or a hand-tied Buggs lure. When the clouds roll in, it’s tough to find me not fishing a top water like a Super Spook or Spook Jr., or a She Dog or She Pup. I like natural colors like white, bone and chrome for clear water. Use darker colors for dirtier water or cloudy conditions.

When it’s time to drop below the surface, the Catch 2000 or Corky series are hard to beat. Pink, Texas chicken and chartreuse/gold are my go-to colors. Some interesting fun can also be found with shallow running twitch or crank baits. Again, all I can say is hang on! The strikes can take your breath away.

Putting It All Together

There is so much more to winter fishing than I can possibly cover here, but understanding the basic temperature change and fish movement will get you started. Digging deeper, you will start to notice that barometric pressure also plays a huge role, and understanding tides and structures are like the interlocking pieces of the puzzle.

Don’t let winter fishing intimidate you! It’s like any other time of year and just requires a different knowledge base to create success. As an added bonus, fishing during the clear water and low tide periods during winter may also provide you with the best education you will get all year.

Take this opportunity to learn more about bay floor structures, such as shallow areas, reefs, guts and deeper channel flows. This will help your overall understanding of where and how fish move around the bays.