Thursday, April 14, 2016

Down in good ole' Delacroix (2016 Adventure Fishing World Championships)

Like many people, life gets in the way of a lot of the cool things we like to do.  The end of 2015 and the beginning of 2016 has been on exception.  So when 4pm on the 5th of April came around, I departed a cold and blustery Norfolk, Virginia on a trip that will always have a special place in my memory.

After meeting with my partner Joe at his house in North Carolina, we quickly load up his truck and start our journey south.  14 hours and almost 900 miles later we found our home for the next 4 nights at the Delacroix Lodge.
Photo - Delacroix Lodge

The "cabins" are nicer than you would expect for being so deep in the Louisiana Bayou.  They have twin bunks, cable TV, a full bathroom, and a decent little kitchenette.  At $150 a night they are a bit pricey, but beat any other alternative on the island.  This was our second year staying at the lodge and you can bet that when I make my next trip down, it will be where I will continue to stay.  Another consideration about the area is the necessity for both a Basic and Saltwater license.  At $5.00 and $17.50 respectively for a day licence, anything under 3 days this is your best option.  If you are going 4 or more days, the $90 seasonal option will be your best bet.  With that being said, we opted for 3 days from Thursday to Saturday, and enjoyed warm showers, cold beers, and amazing "Adult Grilled Cheese"sandwiches made by fellow competitors and friends Kris and Mark Lozier.  

On Thursday, before the sun rose my internal alarm was sounding loudly.  Some Community Coffee got the day going and we were off.  Launching right down the road at Sweetwater Marina put us on the water quickly and safely.  Joe and I launched with Mark and Kris for a trip to the "Graveyard".
Photo - Amy Angelopoulos
Not far into the trip, we started finding Redfish blowing out from under us.  I paddle a bit further to find a spot I am comfortable with, chuck a watermelon Aqua Dream spoon and proceed to hook up with my first, and largest fish of the trip at 29".
First Redfish of the Trip
Photo - Mark Lozier
While this was the only fish to come out of the graveyard for us, we worked our way further up the bayou looking for spots to mark in the GPS.  I found an area with some wood structure on a flat adjacent to deeper water.  This held reds, with schools surrounding the structure.  It didn't take to long to hook up to another red on the same watermelon spoon, so that went back into the box and I proceeded to catch more reds on copper spoons, inline spinnerbaits, Egret Baits vudu shrimp, and Power Team Lures swinging hammers rigged weightless.  I was feeling good marking spots, catching fish, and working new areas with friends.
One of many day 1 fatties
Some well fed drum
As our day ended, I was not ready to stop.  Back at the lodge, I loaded the kayak on wheels and proceeded to fish the north side of Delacroix Highway.  Lots of gators, nutria, and gar made it more of a scenic paddle until I got to a spot that held lots of reds and Speckled Trout.  My first cast with a copper spoon produced a solid thump and a massive run (in which I ended up loosing the fish to a broken Tactical Angler Clip).

a 50lb clip broke, but at least my knots held
I was struck with utter shock and disbelief at the fact that I finally managed to break a clip.  I quickly regrouped and got on a few speckled trout that fought extremely hard for their size.

Some feisty little trout.
 After an amazing dinner cooked by my teammate, it was off to sleep to prepare for day two.  In the morning, we decided to do something a little different.  We were off to either Shell Beach to fish Lake Borgne and see the old spanish fort, or over to Hopedale.  Shell Beach was blown out, so going to a spot that I have seen thousands of times in what I consider the best Fly Fishing video of all times was an amazing experience for me.


Big ass gator
Joe and the Loziers ended up finding some decent numbers of specks, while I ended up with a skunk.  It's ok though because you can guarantee that I will be back to Hopedale one day to find some Bulls on Top!  Dinner that night was made by fellow Virginia anglers Amy and Andy and consisted of some amazing carnitas tacos and the best dirty rice I think ive ever eaten.
The view across the Bayou from Sweetwater Marina
As Saturday came around, things changed big time.  Unlike other events, the Adventure Fishing World Championship is unique in the fact that it challenges you as a paddler, navigator, planner, and angler.  Some more information about last year's event can be found in my post from 2015.   Much like last year, every team received their map sheets and scorecard.  At 7am, teams were allowed to open their maps and launch.  Joe and I opted to relax, finalize our plans, and proceed with fishing the tournament.  Unlike previous years, every team was given a token in which they had to keep on them the entire time.  You could catch 4 fish before you go to any CP, with a photo of you in your yak being the proof you made the course.  If you only have proof of hitting 2 points, you could only score two fish.  Furthermore, you had to go to the manned double checkpoint in order to get the special token to score a double fish.  We were the last team out of the gate and decided to proceed to our first (and only) double checkpoint.  Checkpoint 1was our double, and our first target.  The plan was to bang out a fish quick, and work the course in one big circle.  Things change though and soon came the first obstacle.

Photo - AMONGSTiT

About 3/4 or a mile away from CP 1, we ran over reds.  Quietly but frantically, I told Joe "cast...CAST!!!"  He got the strike, and quickly slammed our first, and largest of the day at 26.5"
Fish #1
Joe with a fat multi-spotted redfish!
We were feeling good.  In just over an hour we had a good fish on board.  Just a bit further up the shoreline we found these fish in, I casted a spoon into a cut and landed a 22.5" red.
Fish #2
In only in 1:30 we managed to make it near our CP, and had 49 points.  We paddled looking for a few more fish, then went to the checkpoint at about 0900.  Almost immediately upon receiving our double token, I saw a mid 20" red tailing.  I make a beautiful cast with a spoon.  On cue I feel "tap", and slam the hook home.  Unfortunately, the hook didn't purchase and the spoon wizzed behind me.  It wasn't the end of the world at the time, but as minutes - then hours passed without as much as a follow, the early missed fish was becoming a monumental mistake that we didn't feel we could overcome.  We hit all the areas within a mile radius of the CP that we knew held fish, with no luck coming our way.

Around 1230, we had all but given up.  We were both in horrible moods knowing that our tournament was all but over.  Beaten and battered, we paddled towards CP1 when like a ray of sunshine focusing on a pot of gold I saw 3 reds tailing towards me.  We quickly staked out and I casted the old trusty watermelon spoon to the fish.  I felt "tap...THUMP".  This time the hook got purchase in the grill of this gangsta ass redfish.  The fight was less than a minute, but felt like it was over an hour.  I get the fish in the boat, sweep my legs over it, and started shaking uncontrollably.  
25.75" double points!
Finally!!!
Photo - Joe M.
I was so happy and relieved that my eyes started to well (and I expected tears of joy that never came).  Joe's attitude improved and instead of silence, we were chatting it up on the way to our next checkpoint.  Again, happiness quickly subsided as we realized that we had over 4 miles to go to reach our next checkpoint.  The thought quickly turned to "can we reach 2 more points to even qualify".  4.34 miles later, we reach CP 5 at 1400.  We were excited, but didn't spend any time fishing as we had to get moving to the next point.  
Checkpoint 5 at 1411
On the way to CP 4, we were discussing our plan.  It was along the lines of "as long as we can make it to CP 4 by 1500, the tournament is ours for the taking.  We can finish from here."

Joe was not as optimistic.

Checkpoint 4 - 1.5 miles and 29 minutes later
Checkpoint 3 - 1.3 miles and 25 minutes later
After hitting 3 checkpoints in just under an hour and 2.8 miles, we perked up knowing we had a chance.  From here it just meant catching 2 more fish and making it to the check in by 1700.  I had found some productive areas pre fishing Thursday night, and we proceeded to those spots first.  Not long into fishing, I got slammed by a nice speck at the side of the kayak.  It was a fish that would have put us 5 places higher, but like last year, we had lost a fish at the end of the day in the back.  It was a tough pill to swallow, and I still feel like slamming my head against a brick wall 4 days later.  We felt like we had a chance to break the top 10 with 3 fish, so we decided that since we were going to finish, getting all 5 checkpoints would be extremely satisfying for ourselves.
Checkpoint 2 at 1605
Checkpoint 2 marked the end of our fishing, as the focus switched to making it back to the weigh-in prior to the 5pm deadline.  Well we made it back in time, washed up and reflected on our day, one in which we made it to all 5 checkpoints and covered over 16 miles!
Fellow Werner Paddles and Astral Teammate Mark Lozier with a 29.5" Redfish on Tournament Day
Photo - Mark Lozier
Werner Paddles Pro Staff (L-R William Ragulsky, Mark Lozier, Kris Lally Lozier, Bart Swab, Jeff Herman)
Photo - Mark Lozier
At the awards ceremony we got the pleasure of watching Eric Jackson (Jackson Kayaks) doing a bootie beer.
EJ and his partner Steve Fisher ended up winning a pair of Jackson Kraken's (which they donated to the team with the largest fish, which was caught by a 14 year old).  Very classy and very cool!
WE FINISHED!
 Team Wicked Fishah took 13th place with 100.5 points.  Not the showing we wanted, but we finished and did it as a team which is all that matters.
2016 Results
Photo - AMONSGSTiT
My fishing vacation in Louisiana was over, but I still got some good ole southern fishing in down in North Carolina.  My search for redfish came up short on Monday, but I wasn't about to let that deter me from getting some pullage.
Fishing a lake off the NC ICW
After a few hour drive north, I stopped into Chasin' Tails in Atlantic Beach to get the skinny.  Much like my last trip down to Atlantic Beach, good numbers of Grey Trout were being caught in some deeper water.  I armed myself with a few Hogy Epoxy jigs, set up the fish finder, and went to work.  On the way out to a deep spot I knew of, I found a little false channel with a deep depression.  I kept this area in my back pocket.

Upon reaching my spot, I spent about an hour trying to figure out a pattern.  Against rain squalls, opposing winds and currents, and nothing on the screen (let alone the end of my line) I was feeling dejected.  As I was calling it quits, I went back to the depression I found in the false channel.  I proceeded to find a mess of pinfish (to 6"), some Hogfish just under keeper size, some bait size croaker, and a few greys.  As I was going over a area with some small bottom structure I jig and feel a tap.  When I set the hook, I was thinking I got into a nice trout.  As some stronger runs occurred, I started thinking redfish.  As I got some color, my next thought was a Black Drum.  Then I saw the tail, and knew exactly what I had found...  SHEEPSHEAD!!!

I was looking at the fish each time I brought it up to the surface to see where it was hooked.  I was unable to see, so I got it in the kayak as quick as possible.  Much to my surprise, it was fair hooked.

Fair Caught Sheepshead on a Hogy Diamond Jig
This fish optimized my vacation.  lots of work just to experience the unexpected.  With perseverance though I was rewarded with memories that will stay with me the rest of my life.

Big shout out to my partner Joe (one of the toughest SOB's I know), the Lozier's, John Grace (without him, the AFWC IS NOT POSSIBLE), my teammates and friends at Werner Paddles, and the remaining sponsors of the AFWC (Jackson Kayak, Orion Coolers, Watershed Dry Bags, and all the other supporters).  Im already excited and looking forward to AFWC #5!

2 comments:

  1. I'm glad I managed to re-stumble upon your blog. I'm also a liberal outdoorsperson. I'd been keeping it under wraps as off-topic, but there was a particularly jarring comment this morning. I've been reconsidering that secrecy in the face of losing audience. For more information visit this page. Thanks!

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  2. It is nice to take a little trip and enjoy fishing, kayaking or other outdoor sports every now and then. Those cabins do sound fairly comfortable. The cable TV should be nice when you want to relax indoors for a little while. It's interesting that the first fish you caught on that trip was actually your largest. That's a nice one.

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