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Want to have a thrill ride without going to an amusement park this summer? Then head to Grand Isle for the next two months and ride some bulls. They’re close, hungry and an all-out blast to catch in a kayak.
In the late-summer months, bull redfish will congregate in large schools close to shore for spawning. Areas with high tidal current and salinity are perfect places to find bull reds in a kayak. Grand Isle has Barataria Pass and Caminada Pass. However, the current in Barataria Pass is often treacherous and not safe for kayak fishing.
“There are some 160-foot holes in Barataria Pass, and I’ve seen whirlpools strong enough to suck a kayak under,” said Capt. Danny Wray, who lives and charters on Grand Isle. “As far as I’m concerned, Barataria Pass is off-limits to kayak fishing.”
However, Caminada Pass offers great fishing for bull redfish, and is much more kayak friendly. Launching at Bridge Side Marina will have you fishing in less than 10 minutes.
The best spots are in the pass from the bridge out to the end of the rock jetties. Incoming or outgoing tides will produce, as long as the water is moving. Anchor in the current, soak some bait on the bottom and the bulls will come to you. When the current is running too strong, move closer to the shore and look for eddies and current breaks where the big reds prefer to hold.
Bull reds aren’t very picky, and will quickly scoop up a variety of dead baits as they cruise along the bottom of the pass. Chunks of cut mullet, pogie, shrimp or cracked blue crab will all attract a hungry bull. While crab is a favorite bait of bull reds, it also attracts throngs of smaller fish, and can quickly be picked clean before you get a chance for a bite.
“I prefer cut mullet, but don’t overlook sending down a 5-inch live croaker,” Wray said.
Pre-made “redfish rigs” in various weights are available at Bridge Side and are all you need to catch bulls.
Bull reds aren’t leader-shy and will bite equally well on heavy mono or steel leader. Although they don’t have teeth, their rough mouths and crusher plates can easily fray thinner lines. Mono leaders should be at least 60- to 80-pound-test. Conventional or spinning gear with heavy mono or braid and a stout rod will help bring these hard-fighting fish under control.
A 12/0 circle hook will keep from hooking the fish deep in the throat, and is much better for a healthy release. A typical bottom-fishing rig with 1 to 6 ounces of lead sinker will keep the bait on the bottom; adjust the amount of weight depending on how strong the tide is running. Just remember to not “set” the hook when using circles. Once the red starts swimming with your bait, begin steady reeling, and the circle hook will “magically” anchor in the corner of the fish’s mouth.
Typical bull reds found in the pass will be 25-plus pounds and 3 feet long, although larger ones are routinely caught. The fight can last for an hour or more and tow a kayaker quite a distance. Bull reds are not great table fare and are generally released.
Proper revival techniques will help ensure that the big red gets to take another ‘yak angler for a ride. After carefully removing the hook, tow the fish alongside the kayak to revive. A good lip-grip tool will allow you to hold the fish with one hand and easily release the big red when it’s ready.
The tidal flow in Caminada Pass is often too strong for a typical kayak anchor. A short length of chain and an anchor made for holding in sand will help keep you put. On windy days, letting out more anchor line will keep the bobbing of the ‘yak from pulling the anchor free.
While bull reds can be fought on anchor, most experienced ‘yakers prefer to turn the anchor loose and allow the fish to tow the angler and kayak around the pass. It’s much more fun that way, and the extra drag of towing the kayak helps to subdue the fish quicker. A big float made from a crab trap cork or empty plastic jug and clipped to the anchor line allows for quick detachment. After the fight, you can return back to your exact spot.
Oftentimes, the red will dictate where you go, and all you can do is hang on and enjoy. A cut-off tool should be kept handy in case the fish heads you for trouble, like the Grand Isle Bridge, or turns you into the path of a power boat. This is especially important when using braided lines that cannot easily be broken.
A bull red in a kayak is likely the largest fish many coastal kayakers will catch. Grand Isle is a perfect location to saddle up your kayak and go for a “bull ride.”