Triumph of the Louisiana Marsh: A Reprise
Jan S. Maizler
(Prologue- I called Captain Greg Dini for a fishing report after the Deep Water Horizon well had been killed. Greg told me that the redfishing was excellent and the habitat showed signs of producing the incredible action he and I enjoyed the prior fall.)
The Lure of New Frontiers-
When I talked to friends and colleagues in the angling travel business, I was often given the name of Captain Greg Dini. Greg’s reputation indicated an extremely high level of expertise coupled with a refreshing client-oriented approach that emphasized good-natured humor and building friendships- definitely, my kind of guide.
After deciding to fish with him, I emailed him as to available dates as well as a host of other questions I needed answers to. Amongst his courteous responses is a quote I found memorable: “As far as pressure, there is none. The Marsh is huge, so no matter what time of the year or day of the week, there is no problem with other boats.” What a rarity, compared to other American redfish destinations!
Though I had the option of staying in downtown New Orleans and be picked up there by Greg, he suggested a historic inn called Woodland Plantation. This vintage destination- conceived and restored by Foster Creppel- was barely an hour south of the “Big Easy”, smack dab in the middle of redfish country. Greg said the rooms and accommodations were excellent and highlighted by the Inn’s superb Spirits Hall restaurant, which often featured fresh oysters, seafood gumbo, steaks, gamebirds, fried bread pudding, and their famous Woodland Punch. The trio of Greg Dini, Woodland Plantation, and the nearby pleasures of New Orleans was a slam-dunk for my wife and I gobbling up this adventure.
A quick flight from Miami through good weather afforded an excellent vista below of the mosaic of greens and aqua colors that made up the marshland. Upon landing in New Orleans, we got our luggage at the carousel and went to the rental car counter to pick up the vehicle that we had waiting for us. About an hour later, we were pulling into the Woodland Plantation property. It wasn’t long before an excellent dinner was served- salad, beef, potatoes, and pudding for desert. I was quick to turn in as I had barely ten hours before Greg would pick me up to go redfishing. Sleep came easily in rooms appointed in such luxury and furnished in “living history.”
Morning arrived soon enough. Just as we were finishing our breakfast, Greg pulled into the Inn property with a fine looking skiff in tow. After we greeted each other, I walked over to his vessel. Greg said that the skiff was a 16-foot Inshore Power Boat he was using while he waited for his East Cape Canoe 19-foot Vantage to roll out of manufacturing. Greg said he generally fishes the west side of the Mississippi River when he picks up clients at Woodland Plantation. However, his general base of operations is Hopedale, Louisiana.
The ride to the ramp in his SUV took less than an hour. After a quick and effortless launch, we were underway. The habitat that lay before us was new and totally alien for this Florida flats fisherman- oil rigs dotted the distance, their hazy profiles resembling Transformer-like creatures asleep, but slightly awake. Smaller structures around the rigs as well as alongside our moving boat held pipes and gizmos briefly on the surface. I’d periodically see white cane-like poles sticking out of the water. When I nudged Greg and pointed to them, he said “oyster farms.”
In the distance, I saw a line of green pop over the horizon and grow thicker to meet our traveling boat. Greg saw my gaze and said, “ marsh grass…that’s where we’re headed.” Such new sights for this Stranger in a Strange Land, and I loved it! But the best thing was the complete absence of other flats boats. I expected that at days’ end, this luxury wouldn’t last- but I was wrong.
The Fishing Begins-
Greg slowed his skiff about fifty yards out from the marsh edge and cut his engine. As he poled towards the shoreline, he reviewed the basic ways that the redfish and black drum would reveal themselves. While he discussed the typical tailing, pushing water, cruising, and mudding, I was following with great familiarity- until he got to the term, crawling. When Greg saw my expression, he smiled and explained this was merely a term for when the reds were following food in such shallow water, that their backs popped out of the water and their momentum slowed to a crawl.
Greg instructed me to pick up one of the spinning rods and get up on the bow casting deck to be ready to spot fish and make a presentation. The outfit was light and sensitive and the 12-pound braid would be sure to afford long casts. The rig was finished with a 30-pound fluorocarbon leader and a purple body and yellow tail (weighted) plastic swimbait. In this somewhat tannic colored flats water, I could well appreciate stronger colors being optimal for helping the redfish attack the presentation.
Greg’s final advice was to make my presentation within a foot of the fish’s nose. When I expressed reservations about such a short “lead”, he explained that these fish were unpressured and struck almost anything quite reflexively. He went so far to say that he even had giant redfish wheel around at the splash of a poor cast behind them and savagely attack the fly or artificial lure. He felt that it was better for the fish to see the lure too closely than not see it at all.
With the “Marsh Way” of presenting lures to these big reds and drumfish, we eased along the edges. It wasn’t long before we both saw a big tail and ensuing hump of water coming towards the skiff. My cast seemed far too close to the nose of the fish- yet after its’ initial startled reaction, it engulfed my swimbait that I was sure to keep retrieving. My rod bent deeply and the drag veritably sang the Bayou Blues. In ten minutes we posed and released a magnificent red about 15 pounds. What a great start! The day flew by and our action was good. By midday, we’d released seven redfish from 8 to 30 pounds. Some other tasks forced me to go in around two o’ clock, but tomorrow was another day.
The next day found us further south into the Gulf of Mexico working another huge stretch of marshy grass “islands.” The redfish were aggressive as ever and struck almost any presentation they saw. Our tally of released fish were 8 redfish to 16 pounds and a fat 25-pound black drum that Greg hooked mere feet from the boat’s stern.
In retrospect, I can say that I have never seen such a prolific drum fishery with such cooperative fish and basically no intruding flats boats. The Louisiana Marsh is a paradise that promises to keep traveling anglers “tractor-beamed” to the area. I was so glad I stayed at Woodland Plantation instead of the fun-but-funky French Quarter. Foster and his staff created a five-star stay of bed, board, activities in the midst of such upscale vintage taste. And I shall never forget their wonderful cuisine that made the meals of morning, noon, and night such delicious treats seasoned sweetly with Southern hospitality.
Captain Greg Dini- Fly Water Expeditions
Greg generally fishes the east side of the Mississippi River out of Hopedale.
Web Site- www.flywaterexpeditions.com
21997 Highway 23
West Pointe a la Hache, Louisiana. 70083
Toll- Free Phone- 800-231-1514
Web Site- www.woodlandplantation.com