Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Fishing Cajun Style, Part 1

Nice Black Drum, First Fish
Well, the big weekend finally arrived on Friday as I met my brother Steve at the airport on our way to Cameron, Louisiana.  First stop was Houston, Texas to meet up with our fishing party consisting of the both of us, Joe Stanfield, Mike Schubert, Jim Cox, Professor Doug Hopkins and Matt Davis.  After getting our rental car at the airport and loading everyone up, we headed east towards Port Arthur, Texas before turning south along the coast towards Cameron.  This area of Louisiana was hit hard by Hurricane Ike, which in 2008 cause extensive damage due to the exceptionally high water surge that occurred.  Not the strongest hurricane to hit the gulf, it ended up being one of the costliest as it changed much of the area where we fished.  Traveling between 100 yards to a mile from the Gulf of Mexico, evidence of the hurricane was all around us from slab foundations where houses sat to damage yet to be repaired.  Traveling east on Louisiana Highway 82 to Cameron it was amazing to see all of the refineries and oil related industries that went on for miles. Basically following the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, a shipping channel stretching from Brownsville, Texas to Carrabelle, Florida, I was amazed at all the barge traffic moving up and down the canal, a superhighway for ships.  In addition we drove over many very high bridges which would allow ocean going freighters to travel up to a 100 miles inland to drop off and pick up cargo destined for who knows where.  Just before getting to Cameron we had to cross one of these shipping canals that had many refineries all the way up to Lake Charles, Louisiana via a car ferry.  Prior to getting there my friend Joe called to remind me that I needed a Ferry Pass, they were $8.00 and you could buy them at the store on the right, about a mile from the ferry.  Looking for the store that didn't exist all of a sudden we were at the ferry gate. Now what?  Assuming I could buy one through the guy directing the cars onto the ferry I had rolled the window and asked "Can I get a ferry pass here?"  "You don't need one" was his answer.  Damn Joe as our waiting in line to board the ferry allowed him to catch up, he was beside us with the whole car laughing hysterically as they asked the guy if that silver car inquired about a ferry pass. Well, at least the trip was starting out on the right foot.

34 inch Redfish
A short drive via a dead end road across private land, we arrived at Camp Dilligas our home for the next 2 1/2 days.  The camp sat on the top of 12 foot pilings to prevent any severe damage against the next hurricane that might hit.  Unloading our stuff I was anxious to get fishing from their famous dock next to the water control weir, one of 4 on Calcasieu Lake.  Fish congregate at these weirs and it was up to us to catch them.   Using raw shrimp as bait, the first fish I got was this nice Black Drum.  A great eating fish, it went straight into the cooler for Saturday night's dinner.  What we were really after was Redfish, often called Red Drum.  I've caught these before for they fight like crazy and are delicious to eat, as it wasn't long before I had one on and it was a nice fish. Bringing a 6'6" medium heavy casting rod paired with a Shimano reel and 12 pound  mono, it was the perfect match for these hard fighting fish.   It's amazing how hard they hit the bait and simply run.  It took about 10 minutes before they could net this 34 inch redfish, my best ever. One of the locals figured it weighed about 10 pounds but I knew better as it was a workout to hold that fish up for the picture.  Trying to get a few nice shots, my arms would only last about a minute before I had to let it down.  Checking the internet, the weight vs length charts put the fish around 18 pounds and it felt like at least that! The fish themselves are very beautifully colored with a distinctive metallic bronze hue along the back, reddish fins and a white belly.  They are members of the drum family, related to the pictured Black Drum as well the freshwater species we call Sheephead or sometimes croakers (they make a croaking noise after you catch them).  The world record is 94 pounds, I can't imagine.  Apparently as the fish get larger they head to the ocean and once over about 30 inches are then classified as Bull Reds.  I couldn't imagine what a 60 pound fish would fight like. Together Mike, Steve, Jim, Matt and I all got a few fish on Friday night, an great way to start the weekend.

Great eating size
On Saturday we were treated to a guided trip on Sabine Lake, a brackish water lake on the Texas/Louisiana border and is known for it's speckled trout fishing.  Getting up at 4:30, we made our way across the ferry and back 45 miles west of the camp to meet the guides. Steve, Mike and I went in one boat while Matt, Joe, the Professor, and Jim went in the other.  Not unlike here in Minnesota, the weather has been unusually cold as the water temps were about 61 degrees, 5 short of when the fish really start coming into the shallows of the lake and bite.  While Matt's boat went quite a ways north, we stopped at the first small reef and about the second cast I had this nice redfish.  Although sea trout was the target, I'll take these any day.  The spot only produced this one fish so we decided to catch up to the other guys and head north to what was called "The Coffee Grounds".  Sabine Lake has a channel on the west side that supports ocean sized freighters that service the oil refineries located between the gulf and Port Arthur, Texas.  All this boat traffic along with the shallow waters creates a pretty stained water although the guide stated it was pretty clear today, you could have fooled me as I thought it was still pretty dirty.  One thing surprising was how shallow we fished with the water seldom over 4 feet deep.  Our lure of choice was a 1/4 ounce jig with a simple rubber body about 3 - 4 inches long.  One of the other fish "bonus" fish we got was flounder.  A flat fish similar to the halibut we catch in Alaska, these were quite a bit smaller and if fact was surprised we even kept them.  The guide insisted that he'd trade flounder for redfish any day for table fare.  We'll have to see! Being about 14 miles from the landing we started working our way back and ran into the other boat.  Getting closer it was apparent the guide had the net in his hands as the Professor was fighting a fish.  Not much of a fisherman I even had to borrow him a hat, the only reason I knew it was him.  Around the boat he was going as they fought that fish for a good 15 minutes.  Finally bringing it in was a huge bull red, 30 pounds.  It certainly was the largest fish Doug ever caught, maybe the only one!  It was good enough for to take the big fish prize we had funded early in the morning.   As stated, sea trout was the target fish yet we fished all day without catching one to add to the cooler until the last place we went before heading back.  In a small shallow bay Mike finally nailed one and it was a dandy hitting over 7 pounds.  The guide claimed that he has only gotten a very few this big and it was truly a trophy fish.  Having finally caught a target fish we headed back to the landing as it looked like rain was about to start.  After getting the boats loaded and parked under the main bridge as the sky opened up.  The guides cleaned the fish and quite honestly I was quite disappointed.  Leaving about 25% of the fish on the carcasses, they simply were in a hurry and did a poor job.  Being fussy I've seen this before with other guides and I guess they simply take it for granted that the cleaning of the fish is simply an option, they should know better or I should have.
The Professor's 30# Red

Mikes Trophy Sea Trout

Crawfish Heaven!
I have to admit we ate pretty well at Camp Dilligas.  Dick's Charity, The Lighthouse Charity Team, provides food for those in need such as serving over 30,000 meals to the volunteers and Emergency Responders working to help those affected by Hurricane Ike.  Food is their deal and food we had.  Friday night was an authentic crayfish feed as Dick's good friend and genuine Cajun Cook, Robert Gaspard took the reins.  Robert is a true gentleman and really knows how to cook everything in Louisiana style.  Unfortunately I am allergic to shrimp, crayfish, crab, and lobster, Robert took pains to make sure the food did not get mixed as his mom has the same problem.  Cooking 20 - 30 pounds of live crayfish, they turned a bright red the minute they hit the boiling water. Robert has a special way of cooking them with a secret process that produces the best, tenderest, flavorful crawdad's as attested to by my brother Steve.  Served in an 18" platter, everyone was given at least one of these and seconds were definitely available.  It's an art to suck crawfish out of their shell and within a short time he was an expert.  For me they cooked up some fried oysters, dipped in a special Cajun coating and deep fried to perfection.  Partnered with their homemade cocktail sauce, I must have at 20 or so.  Truly an authentic meal.  On Saturday Dick had been marinating 18 ounce ribeye steaks again with their special recipe and through them on the grill.  I'd say they were as good as anything I have had.  In the meantime Robert put on a couple of the redfish fillets on the grill, preparing them "On the Halfshell" meaning the skin and scales were left on and that side was set directly on the grill. Coated with hot sauce and salsa, the fish was fabulous.  If you were not much of an eater, this wasn't the place for you!  It's too much to write in one week so stay tuned for next week, just too many pictures and experiences.


Jeff King said...

absolutely great blog ad great fishing trip. Man oh man,I've got to get to that area some day. Did you get any of the fish on top water baits? I've seen that on TV and it looks soooooo exciting.

Dave Anderson said...


They say the best fishing is in October and the camp can hold 15 guys. I'll keep you posted.

No fish on topwater as the water temperature at 61 was still too cold for the fish to be real active.