Let it Blow, Let it Blow, Let it Blow

Don’t let blustery winds keep you from experiencing the redfish bonanza on the east side of the river.

Everybody knows you can’t catch fish in the wind. It’s one of those well-established and oft-repeated pearls of advice: “Stay home on windy days.”

So, being one who mostly adheres to sound advice, I usually opt to stay home on windy days. The exception, of course, is those days when the weatherman predicts relative calm, and I venture out on the water only to find huge seas and blustery winds.

And since everyone knows you can’t catch fish in the wind, you’d think the ones who fish the most would know it best.

That’s why I was so surprised that Capt. Nash Roberts, IV didn’t cancel on me. I usually call the night before a scheduled trip just to be sure we’re still on, and to confirm the time and place. Sometimes the weather changes or circumstances come up that force cancellation, and few things are worse than waiting at the dock in the wee hours of the morning for a trip that’s not going to happen.

So when I saw the weather report predicting easterly winds in the 15- to 20-knot range and seas 3 to 4 feet, I called Roberts only to confirm our cancellation. The conversation didn’t at all go as I expected.

“Yes, we’re still on for tomorrow morning,” Roberts said.

“Have you seen the weather report?” I asked. “The winds are going to be horrendous.”

“The winds won’t be a problem,” he replied. “I’ve been fishing almost every day this week in these winds, and the redfish action is excellent. See you at 7 a.m.”

At 7 a.m., I pulled up to the Reggio camp, and Roberts was ready at the dock. He tagged two of his buddies to take along on the trip — Emery Jee and Patrick Dickenson, a fellow charter guide who normally fishes out of Buras and Venice.

The wind was already blowing as we loaded my gear aboard Roberts’ new 22-foot BlackJack, and we headed toward the shallow duck ponds around Delacroix Island.

I have to admit I was somewhat skeptical. I mean, everyone knows you can’t catch fish in the wind. Were we wasting our time?

But I was also curious. I’ve known Roberts a long time and fished with him before. He’s not the type to lead you on. If the fishing is going to be tough, he’ll tell you. And this morning, he exuded confidence.

I kept my reservations to myself as we ran a winding route that brought us down Engineers into Terre aux Boeufs and from there into Bayou Gentilly. From there, we meandered off into a series of shallow ponds where the hydrilla was thick and the slime grass was thicker.

But once he killed the outboard and proceeded under trolling motor power, I looked down and saw an amazing sight — crystal-clear water! I didn’t even notice the winds as they caused only the slightest ripple on the surface.

“The winds are not a factor at all in these ponds, as long as they blow from the east or the south, or any variant of south and east,” Roberts explained. “Those winds keep the tide up and all the grass filters it, so you can almost always find some clean water in here.

“The bad winds are from the north or the west. When that blows hard, it drains the ponds and dirties up the water so bad as to almost make it un-fishable.”

Roberts’ technique is to troll through the ponds that have grass, and look for clean water. He stood on the bow platform, and would sight-cast a beetle-spin toward reds in the shallows. Dickenson mostly stood beside him and did the same thing with a gold spoon.

Jee and I fished either in the middle or on the rear platform; he with a chatter-bait, and I with a gold spoon. From my position, it wasn’t easy to actually see the fish in the water, so I mostly blind-fished, casting towards likely spots where a redfish might hide to ambush baits.

I noticed that when the sight-casters on the bow spotted fish in the pond, it was mostly in the open water and not just along the grass, so we could successfully fish throughout the ponds on all sides of the boat because the reds were just as likely to be in the open water as along the grass.

Roberts had a couple of quick hits, neither of which resulted in a hook-up, and I got hit by a brute that inhaled my spoon and made a fight of it. I had to play it in on my 12-pound-test monofilament, and after we netted, measured, weighed it and shot a few photos, we released the 26½-inch, 8½-pound fish to fight another day.

Roberts was disappointed we weren’t fishing a tournament because this was the perfect-sized fish for it, he said. Within minutes, we had another hook-up, and at times, we’d have double and triple hook-ups all at once. The fish were definitely in these ponds, and showing a preference for spoons and spinners.

As soon as one of us had a hookup, Roberts would press the button on the control he wore around his neck and the automatic Power-pole would stick us to the bottom.

Once stuck, we’d catch several fish in one spot. When the action died, he pushed the up button and we started trolling again. We followed that same technique through several areas of marsh ponds all morning, and easily caught a four-man limit.

Many of the fish were 25 inches and more, and had that bright orange-bronze color so characteristic of marsh-caught fish, as opposed to the washed-out color of those caught in high-salinity waters. We released everything over 20 inches and kept several that size and just under for the grill.

Over the course of the morning we caught at least 30 reds, and all the while the wind howled at a steady 15 to 20 knots. Incredibly, we knew the wind was blowing, but it was never a factor unless you had to cast directly into it.

“Delacroix has a lot of good grassy ponds, and you can actually fish them almost year round,” Roberts said. “The broken-up south shoreline of Lake Lery, the system to the east of Lost Lake and just south of Lost Lake, the area just past the Graveyard, the Lake John area and the pond system just north of Lake John, the area around Little Lake Batola and the ponds around Lost Lake are all excellent this month.

“November is a great month — the air gets crisp, the humidity drops and the fish get frisky. This month you’ll catch reds, bass and even trout and flounder in the ponds.”

Roberts says the great action should continue until around Christmas, but it’ll become difficult to fish the ponds by January and February, when the real hard cold winds blow in from the north, and water levels in the marsh plunge. But come March and April, the water begins to come up again, and they’ll have enough water to float a boat.

The best bait of the day was, hands down, a gold spoon. Spoons out-fished every other bait we tossed, including spinnerbaits, chatter-baits, beetle-spins and plastics.

Roberts says you just can’t beat a spoon or a spinner in clear water. He says buzz baits, topwaters and the Baby 1- Minus also work well in the ponds under most conditions.

“The problem is when you get winds from the west that dirty up the water and push it out of the ponds. You can still catch fish, but you have to change tactics,” he said.

“On those days, fish the main shorelines of the lakes, such as Grand Lake, Little Lake and Shrimp Lagoon, and concentrate on points and cuts. If the water is stained, try a buzz-bait or chatter-bait, which attract fish to their vibration, or fish with live or market shrimp, or live minnows, or something that puts a lot of scent in the water like Berkley Gulps.

“I tell people not to waste time fishing in dirty water, especially with artificial baits. Keep moving until you find clean water.

“On days with north or west winds, if the water is not too ugly, you can anchor and fish the main cuts and points with live or dead bait or Gulps. Give a spot 10 minutes or so, and if you get no hits, move on. Just follow that procedure and keep moving until you get some hits. In the low-water winter months, we catch a lot of fish that way.”

Roberts says the tide doesn’t matter much when fishing the ponds, as long as the water is up.

“I’d prefer a falling tide, but it really doesn’t matter a whole lot,” he said. “We catch plenty fish on a rising tide, and even on very low or no tide days, as long as the water is high and you have a good east or south wind. The wind will keep the water up, and the fish will stay in the ponds. Rather than being a detriment, as we’ve been led to believe, the strong east and south winds are actually an asset.”

Roberts stood on his trolling motor mount much of the time as we trolled through the ponds, looking for that little extra height advantage for sight-casting. It is a thrill to see the fish in the water and try to cast into its line of vision, but I managed to catch my share simply casting out my weedless spoon and retrieving it.

“Why stay home on a windy day?” Roberts said. “You’ll lose a whole lot of great fishing days that way. Just because you can’t get out in the big bays to catch trout on a windy day doesn’t mean you can’t go fishing. If the wind is from the east or south, go fishing, even if it’s blowing 20 m.p.h.

“This is a great time to chase reds in the ponds, and it’ll stay great until the end of the year. These fish are averaging between 20 to 30 inches right now, and you will catch some bass and probably a good many trout and flounder in the mix. Best of all, you don’t have to run far, you can fish in the wind, you don’t need live bait, and you don’t have to get out here at the crack of dawn because reds will hit all day long. All you need is enough water to float in the ponds, a trolling motor and a handful of artificials.”

 

Capt. Nash Roberts can be reached at (504) 650-1918.

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About Rusty Tardo 360 Articles
Rusty Tardo grew up in St. Bernard fishing the waters of Delacroix, Hopedale and Shell Beach. He and his wife, Diane, have been married over 40 years and live in Kenner.

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