Winter fishing in the northern gulf region
is a lot of waiting and some suffering but
the fish are around for those who can be flexible
and react to the few favorable situations that
pop up. You can go out and spend a lot of time
cold and miserable if you don't hit the conditions
needed or sit "alert" and respond when it gets "right."
Rich Waldner of www.fishwithrich.com called me with
the "right" conditions happening in the second week
of January, even if it looked like it would be for
only one day. "Right" conditions mean the sky cover,
winds, water temperature and tides are correct for
finding the fish. I dropped everything and ran for
my truck when he called.
Four hours later and 11:30PM found me checking
into a hotel near the Delta and six hours after
that I was up and heading for Rich's house south
of New Orleans. The "right" window was only going
to be the first half of the day as the clouds were
coming from Texas with some more wind. The day
before had been a mess with a cold front just passed.
This day it was 35 degrees with less than 10 MPH of
wind and mostly clear skies at 7 AM. The tides were
going to be incoming all day which meant clear water
on the outer edge of the flats near the gulf. We
pressed to the ramp less than five miles from Rich's
house with wild expectations but full appreciation
of the wild place we were fishing, as just about
anything can happen to make the conditions change.
Little did we know what this day was going to hold?
0830 saw us getting out of the truck to ready the
boat for backing down the ramp. "Ramp" is a relative
description along these flats and it could be a double
concrete beauty, or like this one, which was a mud and
gravel slip behind a shack. Here you need to nose up
between a garbage pile on one side and an old school
bus lying on its' side so you could change direction
and back down the ramp. Any better ramp and someone
without teeth will collect $5 for the launch.
We climbed out of the truck between the two rubble
piles and Rich noticed red fluid on the road beside
the truck. He called me to look stating that,
"someone is either leaking steering fluid or blood."
I looked at the four-inch puddle and could see it
was turning black as it dried and commented, "that
is blood and somebody got hurt here." It is a
launch for duck hunting also and there were several
trailers about. I looked at the truck nearest to
see if someone was in need of help and then saw the
blood was even thicker under our truck and a trail
led off to the left towards the bus. It took me
about a two-yard jaunt to see a body lying over
there. It did not appear to be taking a nap. I
called to Rich, to show him that somebody had
thrown away a perfectly good young man. That
started an interesting two-hour delay in us
Four other boaters were at the ramp. One twosome
was leaving and another two were trying to launch
to do some geological work. Both had made the same
maneuver we had, to either get in or out of the water,
but nobody had noticed the trail of blood. It was
easy to have pulled right over the whole blood puddle
and the man at the side of the road had a camo jacket
on so was not all that easy to see in the tall weeds.
The six of us exited the immediate area after Rich
felt for a pulse and noted he was "mighty cold and
stiff." We got the truck out of the way, but not
far enough as it turned out and we found a casing
from a pistol and put a stick to mark it without
touching it. I had seen CSI Miami and knew the drill.
It took about 25 minutes to get the first of a
dozen official vehicles to arrive after the 911
calls. There was no ambulance, as they believed
us that it was too late. The crime scene tape
(surrounded a 50' by 100' area between the poles,
trees and bus) included our truck but not the boat
so we were stuck for the duration of crime scene
processing. Eventually, each of us was interviewed
and made to write a statement of who we were, what
we were doing there and what we saw or did to the
scene. When the whole area had flash burns for the
photos, about 20 little yellow markers were laid out
marking evidence, enough people were in attendance
to almost fill the marked off area and the big
Captain of Detectives arrived they finally turned
the body over. It was a mess. The coroner did the
deed but he had waited for the big cheese also.
It was a pretty good show of CSI Port Sulfur and
judging by what we see on TV, pretty much along
the same lines except there was not one good
looking woman among all the scene processors.
The young black man was quite dead and covered
with blood. He had been on his side away from
the road with a hood on so we could not see him
before. We heard later that he had a bunch of
holes in him but the blood was everywhere including
along a three-yard trail where someone had dragged
him out of the blood puddle in the middle of the
road. The dummies had not only missed a casing
but had driven off through the blood leaving
some nice tire tracks.
We were pretty sure there was nothing more they
needed of any of us so we asked one guy near us
if we could go. The big boss let us go. The
other two parties left for home. We would have
had to drive though the hallowed yellow taped
ground so all we could do was launch and park
on that side of it. We were finally headed out
about two hours late.
The shock of the whole starting event sort of
settled in as we motored about 15 minutes to
our starting spot. When we started we had talked
it out and decided our day should go better from
here on out.
Up I jumped on the front platform of the boat
and Rich climbed on the tower to pole. It took
about five minutes until the damnedest two hours
of fishing either of us ever experienced started.
We first saw two big reds but too late to get
a fly in front of them as they bolted from the
boat. It was still cold out and they were tough
to see on the bottom where they sat. I next saw
a school of several large fish coming at us down
the bank. I pointed them out to Rich at about a
100 feet way coming at us and he noted, "They are
either fish or nutria as they are almost out of
the water." Rich stopped the boat and I tossed
a 30-foot cast to the biggest one I could see.
He turned on it but a little fish (six pound
perhaps) tried to grab it. I snatched it out
of his way and put it back in front of the big
one who was looking for the food that had gotten
away. The little one made another lunge at the
spoon but the big one beat him to it. This guy
took off and Rich tried to get down and get a
second pole out as the others tried to get my
fly out of the big one's mouth as he shook his
head. It is not an easy feat for Rich to stake out
the boat, climb down, unfurl another rod, strip
out line and then climb by me fighting a big fish
and then find another to throw to. The other fish
waited until all five events were just about
accomplished and then left as Rich stood and
looked for them. Instead, he helped me land
a very nice 13 plus pound fish.
I tried to let Rich catch the next one but he
said he would fish, "after you catch five."
It took about two minutes of poling and I
hooked another one. This was a single and
I landed him easily as he was only about 10
pounds. In another a few minutes another herd
of fish popped up coming at us. About half of
the things Rich needed to get ready to throw
at a second fish were already done when I hooked
another big one. He did the stake off and was up
on the front and hooked up almost instantaneously.
My trick, to not scare off the others when I hooked
mine, was to let off the pressure so the hooked
fish would not scare the others off. It worked
and we were both sitting with big fish on and
arguing about whom would get theirs in first. I
had a ten-weight rod and Rich had a little
seven-weight one. There was really no deciding
who should go first as I could easily get mine in
and he was going to be fighting for good while.
What we managed to do during the discussion was
let both fish come unhooked when we put the
pressure back on. Good plan but bad execution.
Not to worry, I did get Rich up front and I
started us down the flat to a corner. Less
than twenty feet of poling and Rich was tossing
at another fresh batch of fish running us down
along the shoreline. He got tight with about ten
casts. He had the fish worked up in a feeding
frenzy and pulled it out of one's mouth three
times finally hooking up. I stopped laughing
and did the trick of staking off, got down and
hooked up in one cast. Not wanting to mess this
up, I let Rich handle his fish with the little
rod and landed mine in a minute or two. Instead
of helping him, I stood back up and hooked the
third big one of the many still hanging around.
I did let Rich finish and then got my second in.
I don't think we had one less than 9-10 pounds
yet but we only weighed the two biggest and the
second was slightly over 12.
Rich took the poling back as I had done too good
a job. He needed to get his job security back.
We rounded that corner and were going into a
little bayou since named "Scud's Corner." It
was less than a hundred yards deep and about
40 wide. We would move about 20 feet and hook
another fish. If there were more around Rich
would come down. We had two on two more times
on this run. I got a shot a monster trying to
slip out of the corner up in the shallows but
my first shot at this four-foot long fish caused
him to swirl in the shallow soft muck and it made
it so he could not see the fly. I got a bunch
of shots but since neither he nor I could see,
I finally hit him with the fly and he ran off
to deep water. I was at fault for missing this
fish that wanted to eat in the worst way.
I talked Rich into going back up front and got another
10 feet of poling before a second big one
tried to slip out the same route. Rich shot
a 60 foot laser cast and landed the little fly
about three inches from the fish's nose and it
just got sucked in with a monumental splash and
a jolt that almost pulled him off the boat.
Now, he was still pulling on this fish with
the seven-weight and there were no others with
this one, so I just eased down and let him fight
his fish. The fish was taking out two for every
one yard Rich would retrieve in the beginning.
It was going to take awhile.
I stood on the front tower and noted the end
of the bayou was about 50 yards in front of me
and it was about 40 yards to the far side opposite
Rich's fight, which was still a toss up. Reds
were slashing along each shoreline throwing
minnows and shrimp three feet into the air.
I could not reach the end of the pond but
could just make the side if I reared back
and really let it rip. My best effort fell
about three feet short of the left edge and
just out of area the fish were busting. A
failure at the long cast, I decided to help
Rich. He had the fish up near the boat but
with the light rod he could not get the leader
near enough to catch without breaking my rod.
I helped and he got another 12+ to his credit.
The fish were still busting all over but just
out of range. Rich, instead of getting us moving,
decided it was time to "Marine" the boat. That
means that I had made a mess while poling and
there was some little spot of muck somewhere
that was in need of cleaning up. I frothed
watching the fish and tossing three feet short
repeatedly and he mopped out the boat, folded
the fishing rags, polished the Boga grip and
primped the feathers on the flies he would use
next winter. When he finally decide it was time
for fishing again, he did not go forward or even
to the left where the fish were, he pushed us out
of the bayou to, "get a better angle for sighting
the fish." Sighting the fish my butt! I could
see their backs out of the water for 180 degrees
behind us as we went back and started down the
far bank. Of course, he was right about the
better visibility and I had another fish on
before we got anywhere near the bank. I forced
him back up front and took him to the corner.
What happened was comic. There were so many
fish and the water so shallow that one hook up
and the rest of the fish went wild. In short
order fish were bumping into fish and the bottom
of the boat. You could not see anything but muck
and mud flying in every direction. This bayou
will be on our list of fine places to look in
the winter forever. We had spent about two hours
overall in that corner and caught what we estimated
as 15 to 18 fish. None were less than 10 pounds.
The clouds came and went through the next three
hours and we caught another 8 to 10 fish in the
two other spots we tried. There were hundreds
of fish but the tide had quit rolling in and we
could not see most of them until we were up on
them. There were some notable casts and beautiful
fish but the wild two hours in Scud's Corner could
not be topped. It may not be ever. The correct
combination of conditions and two guys who could
put the fly right in front of hungry fish all came
together making for a lifetime memory. I have been
lucky enough to have had a bunch of these so far in
many different parts of the fishing world with
several types of fish.
The last stop of the day yielded a couple of
fish but that was out of several hundred we
had running all around us throwing up water
in their wild runs for safety. One ate, of
perhaps 300, and that was just lucky as these
fish were spooked. We worked around through
some really nice little cuts only to keep on
spooking herds of fish with little chance of
getting to one before it was in full afterburner
leaving. On the way out of this little area into
a sunset that would take your breath way, we kept
on moving fish we could not see. One did almost
take our breath way as he went by. Rich thinks
it was in the 20-30 pound range. I couldn't tell,
as it was too long for me to see all of it at once
Only on the 20 minute ride back to the ramp,
having seen about 500-700 fish and catching over
a two dozen, did we think about the poor guy who
met us at the ramp some eight hours back. He missed
out on a life, not just a good day of fishing.
Arriving at the ramp, all that remained of the
scene was a camera crew from FOX News, New Orleans.
I stayed with the boat but we decided we needed
to keep our mouths shut or we would be on the
11 o'clock news. Rich walked right by the
cameraman on the way to the truck but was
stopped by the stunning news lady on the
drive to the ramp. She almost climbed in
the truck with him.
Rich stuck the trailer in the water and I drove
the boat on while the cameras rolled. Rich
pulled it out with me sitting in it with the
cameras still cooking. He stopped and we
strapped the boat down and secured for travel.
The cameras were still using up film. I tried
to get into my side but it was locked. That was
when I noticed Rich on the other side of the truck
pinned up against it with the leather flying jacket
and "fish with Rich" hat on spilling his guts out
to this much-too-pretty lady. I was still in the
background so I eased around behind the camera
just as Rich was going into his next commercial
about fishing with Rich. He did mention that he
lived nearby and they usually went several days
without a murder in this part of the world so
fishermen should not worry that much.
I was starting to make faces at Rich when they
were going into the second round of questions
and getting to subjects Rich had not thought
about since childhood. Somehow, he got around
to the fact that neither of us was upset about
dead bodies 'cuz we were trained killers in our
country's military services. This young lady
was about to faint at the chance of having to
see our dead fish let, alone being around
trained killers or a dead body. I was certain
the batteries on the camera would fail as the
history of the Marine Corp spewed forth and
when some story that included Hannibal with
elephants and mountains came out. I was making
bottoms up motions to tell Rich to give up.
I was about to puke when Rich bothered to pull
me over and introduce me as the one who had
first spotted the mort. The camera turned on me
and the fine young lady was in my face with the
mic. I manage to say something PC before telling
her to keep the riff raff from New Orleans off
our fishing ramp, especially the dead ones. The
hoods from up north can dump them in the river up
there and save us all time on the water. That
ended it. I only talked for 30 seconds. I think
she was only interested in me, as I had peed off
the far side of the boat while Rich was getting
I drove home the four and half hours with plenty
of thoughts about the day. It seems dead bodies
do not bother us so much with the current line
up of TV shows that dissect them before us nightly.
Fishing is more memorable than dead bodies. I would
drive nine hours any time in 24 hours to fish the
"wild two hours," but would not walk ten feet to
see a dead body.
The next morning a detective called to ask me what
kind of cigarette I smoked, as they found butts at
the scene. "None," says I, and then I asked who
the body was. He said he was a long time offender
on parole, 28 years old, from a town 50 miles north
and was probably brought down to "our" ramp and
executed. He had been shot about 11 PM the night
before. An arrest would probably be forthcoming.
I asked him to pass on my request for the bad guys
to quit using our ramp for their games. He said he
would pass that on.
Rich called to say I was famous as I was on the
news, both coming out of the water and they used 10
seconds of my blabbing. Rich did not get shown
at all. I asked what I was shown saying and
Rich said he could not hear as his dad was
laughing too hard. I am changing my name and
will fish with bullet-resistant underpants from
here on out.
Don't miss a chance to have your "wild two hours"
with the winter reds of the delta. You too, might
have the makings of a fine story. If Rich is busy,
Capt Brian Carter can show you these same fish;
www.voodoocharters.com. ~ Capt Scud, firstname.lastname@example.org, Jan 2005