2002-11-07 Opening Weekend

Dick Pecot Catches Record Setting Redfish

Dick Pecot and his 38 lb. redfish.  This is a new "official" Pecot clan record for a red drum.
Dick Pecot and his 38 lb. redfish. This is a new “official” Pecot clan record for a red drum.

Even though it was the opening of duck season in the western zone of Louisiana, it was the tremendous redfishing that made this weekend’s headlines.

Joe Pecot and I departed New Orleans Thursday morning, November 7th, 2002 on a cool, sunny day. The temperature was in the low to mid 60’s. The trip started off on a bit of a sour note when I got my truck stuck in the mud at Gary’s house where Joe keeps his boat. With only Joe and I making the trip on Thursday (Dick would arrive on Friday), I had to tow Joe’s flatboat while Joe towed the mudboat.

With the boat fully loaded with gear, I was unable to pull it out. Joe hooked up to the rear of the boat trailer and pulled me backwards out of the hole. Then when we got to the launch, Joe forgot to disconnect a bungee cord holding the stern of the boat to the trailer and signaled me too far into the water and I was unable to pull the truck out of the launch. Joe had to pull me out again. These are rookie mistakes we normally don’t make. We shrugged it off to lack of alcohol and headed out to the campsite.

The campsite island had changed drastically since last year. Hurricane Lili carved a deep trench into the island where our fire was previously located. Luckily, many of the rocks from the fireplace were still there. Also, the table Joe and I had built several years ago was gone, completely washed away. Joe had checked on the campsite the week after the storm. Since we knew the table was gone, Dick had put together the lumber to build a new one.

We set up the tent and built the new table. After completing the table project, we had our first toddie. We finished the rest of the campsite then went fishing. We didn’t catch any fish. The water in the Gulf was too choppy. We came back to the campsite, built a fire and went to bed.

This was our new table at the campsite.  Hurricane Lili took out our old one.
This was our new table at the campsite. Hurricane Lili took out our old one.

Friday was a gorgeous day. We arose at sunrise around 6 a.m. We realized right away it was going to be a special day. It was a clear cool morning with a slight northeast breeze which was just enough to keep the gnats from being over-intrusive. We fixed coffee and headed straight out to fish. We tried the Gulf first. I caught one nice big keeper redfish but that was it. We went inside the marsh to fish the falling tide. We picked up a few “rat reds” that were just over 18 inches – perfect eating size.

As we were fishing a shoreline where two canals meet, Joe kept hearing something in the lake. Finally he realized it was redfish feeding against the bank where the lake drains into one of the canals. He manuevered the boat there and on his first cast, hooked and landed a nice 22 lb. redfish.

Joe shows off his beautiful 22 lb. redfish caught on the shore of the lake.
Joe shows off his beautiful 22 lb. redfish caught on the shore of the lake.

Joe released his big red. When they get that big, they are not very good to eat. The fish stopped biting so we headed back to camp. We started the fire and cooked ham and eggs for breakfast. Dick was to arrive around noon, so we had a little time before we were pick him up at the launch. We jumped in the mud boat and brought the pirogue to the back canal where I would hunt on Saturday. We also brought the decoy bags and placed them in both blinds in anticipation of setting them out later in the afternoon.

At noon, Joe went to get Dick at the launch. I took the time to build a proper fire pit with rocks left from the old fireplace. I dug out the pit and built the new fireplace.

When Joe & Dick returned, we all knew what we needed to do – go fishing!

There are some things you never forget. For me, certain fishing memories are entrenched in my brain. Like the time Joe first took me fishing out of Port Sulphur and brought along Evan (Williams). I ended up dancing in the bait well (and even caught a few fish). Then there’s the time Joe, Theresa and I caught 55 trout in Bay David to go along with the 14 reds we caught earlier in the day in the dammed off canals at Bayou LaMer.

Catching spanish mackerel at the mouth of Southwest Pass is a fond memory. I can still see that big mackerel jumping out of the water, grabbing my lure after I had just retrieved it and jumping over the stern of the boat, taking all my line as he went. It was a spectacle to behold!

Then there’s the time at LaMer pass when Joe and I loaded the entire boat full of trout. And catching huge speckled trout at the West Delta production platforms during teal season a few years ago. And more recently, the time Dick, Joe and I sight-fished big redfish on the sand flat in the Gulf of Mexico where I caught my 24 lb. monster.

Well, Friday afternoon on November 8th, 2002, was another one of those memorable fishing expeditions. This time it was again on the sand flats inside the reefs in the Gulf of Mexico. The wind had died down and it was calm. The weather was a warm 70 degrees on a perfectly clear and beautiful day. The water was completely flat and the tails of giant bull redfish were all over the place. It was sight fishing at it’s best.

The tail of a huge red drum.  A 30 lb. redfish waiting to be caught.
The tail of a huge red drum. A 30 lb. redfish waiting to be caught.

We started drifting in from the reefs, flowing toward shore with the rising tide. The reefs are about a mile offshore. At first we didn’t see much. But the closer we got to shore, the more tails and swirls we saw. I don’t remember how many redfish we caught that afternoon. I know Joe caught at least 5 and Dick caught at least 5. I might have caught one or two. But each one was huge and took several minutes to land. Joe was fishing with top water lures with no leader so we lost all his fish except one. But it didn’t matter, they were far too big to keep. We released all but two smaller reds, which were around 10-12 lb.

The fish were a little finicky. We had to throw the bait right on their snout in order for them to strike. Dick and I were using dead shrimp and corks. On several occasions the fish would strike the cork a few times before they found the bait. It was an awesome display of fierce redfish power.

The spectacular sight of a bull red striking the bait.
The spectacular sight of a bull red striking the bait.

As we got a few hundred feet from the shoreline, the tails were everywhere.  We could have stayed and fished for another hour or so, but it was getting late and Joe and I needed to go fix up the duck blinds. We decided to go back to the camp.  Dick headed back to the redfish while Joe and I fixed up the blinds and set out the decoys.  Dick said when he got back to the sand flat, the fish were gone.

Dick shows off another nice redfish.
Dick shows off another nice redfish.

Friday evening we ate shrimp gumbo and listened to high school football then went to bed early. I slept well that evening. We awoke around 4:30 Saturday to a warm, still morning. It didn’t take long to figure the gnats would pose a problem. We fixed coffee and headed out to the duck blinds.

Joe dropped me off at my blind on the back canal. I would be hunting alone. As it started getting light I heard Joe and Dick open the season. I would learn later that first duck was a greenhead mallard.

A little while after that I spotted a gray duck coming in low over the marsh from right to left. He was moving quite fast and I figured he would pass over the canal, then the pond and I’d have to take my shot as he passed in front of me. All of a sudden he slammed on the brakes, flared his wings, put out his feet and started to drop vertically into the canal behind an island. “Oh no!” I thought. I couldn’t let him land behind the island so I jumped up and let out one shot. It was a good shot. I quickly jumped into the pirogue to retrieve him. It was a great start to what would end up being a slow morning for me.

Joe and Dick’s blind is about a half mile away and is located straight ahead of where I sit. I watched as ducks came over them and fell with their shots.

About 30 minutes after I shot my first duck, three teal zoomed in low down the canal from behind me and dropped into the canal behind the island. As I stood up and tried to see them, I spotted two big ducks heading right into the pond from my left. I quickly sat back down. One of them came right into the pond, flared, put his feet down to land and I had an easy shot right in front of me. He fell 10 feet in front of me in the mud. It was another nice big gray duck. The other gray was out of range by then and the three teal got up and flew away from me. I was satisfied with two ducks on two shots, but that would be all that I would bag that morning.

Joe and Dick bagged 10 ducks, mostly grays and mottled ducks. They shot only one teal of three they saw. We were concerned we saw only six teal all morning.

We went back to the camp and cleaned the ducks. We then went fishing, but they weren’t biting. We came back to the camp and ate ham and eggs for breakfast. Dick decided to leave, so Joe took him back to the launch. Joe and I tried to fish, but there wasn’t any action anywhere.

That afternoon we started listening to the LSU vs. Kentucky football game. We decided to get in the blind early, drink some beer and listen to the game. With the game blaring on the radio, we had duck after duck come into the pond. We shot poorly but did manage go bag another six ducks after a short rain shower passed through. The highlight of the afternoon was listening to LSU defeat Kentucky on a last minute 75 yard Hail Mary pass.

At sunset, we went back to the campsite, ate stew for dinner, listened to more college football, drank a few toddies and went to bed early. That night the wind started blowing hard out of the south. The tide rose considerably and at one point a couple of waves crashed over the island and water flowed under the tent. Luckily Joe had brought a double sized air mattress, but we realized that perhaps we need to look for a better campsite for the future.

The next day we shot three ducks but lost two of them. Joe’s dog Annie had retrieved all of their ducks on Saturday, but Sunday she seemed tired of it all and couldn’t find two gray ducks I’d knocked down. It was a bluebird kind of day. We decided to leave early. We tore down the campsite and headed home disappointed in the lack of ducks, especially teal.

Although the hunting was not very good, catching those redfish on a perfect day Friday was enough to make the trip more than memorable. Thanks Joe for another fun time in the marsh.

Joe & I Return to the Marsh One Week Later!

The following Friday, an approaching cold front prompted me to call Joe and see if he wanted to make a morning hunt Saturday. He agreed and at 3:30 a.m. Saturday morning we met up at Gary’s to get the mudboat. We drove to Venice, launched the boat and were in the blind by 5:30. Making a morning hunt is so easy with the mudboat. No paddling!

The weather was perfect, the temperature was in the upper 50’s, there was light rain on the trip to the blind, the skies were overcast dark gray and the wind was blowing 20-30 mph. It doesn’t get any better than that! Luckily it didn’t rain on us while we were in the blind. By nine o’clock we had bagged 9 big ducks – 2 Mottled ducks, 5 Grays and 2 Widgeon I had shot. I hadn’t shot Widgeon in many years and it was nice to bag two of these beautiful ducks. We probably could have shot the limit but we decided to come in early. But it was one of those days you could have stayed out all day and shot ducks.

Joe had told me last weekend that we have to keep the eye on the weather and try to make more of these morning hunts. He was happy I called him. We had a great hunt and can’t wait for the next cold front to blow though. I didn’t bring the camera on this trip, but hope to on the next one.