On October 8th, I lit out for southern Louisiana and the Kayak Fishing Boondoggle. The Boondoggle is a biannual event usually held in different locations every President's Day and Columbus Day weekend. The Boondoggle had evolved from a grassroots get together to a commercialized event, complete with vendors, but things have changed again. This year it was announced that the Columbus Day Boondoggle in Louisiana was going back to it's roots. There was some excitement about this change as many folks had lamented the commercialized version as a step in the wrong direction.
As I swung wide to the West, avoiding Atlanta traffic, the news on the radio warned of Hurricane Matthew swinging in on the East Coast. Many of the kayak fishing community lives along that threatened area. I'd already gotten messages from folks who were backing out of the weekend in order to board up their windows and hunker down for the storm. I hoped that the wind wouldn't affect us much on the Gulf side, and felt some pangs of guilt for thinking about it. It was going to be tough to maintain psyche with so many from our tribe facing Hurricane Matthew.
After 944 miles in 14.5 hours, I pulled up to the gate at Fontainbleau State Park in Mandeville, Louisiana. I rolled in and joined some friends, and fellow Boondogglers, for a little post-travel beverage and camaraderie. That is the central theme of the Kayak Fishing Boondoggle, the common thread. We all come for the companionship.
The next day I rejoined YakAngler's Adam Hayes, Jackson Kayak's Jameson Redding and Eric Crouse, Nocqua's EJ McCaughlin, Kentucky's own Adam Miles, plus Caleb and Chad from Canoe Kentucky.Â This became our merry band of kayak anglers. That morning we opted for a quick run to the Lake Pontchartrain breaker walls to look for jack crevalles. It didn't happen but we all had a good time drinking coffee and catching up. The new Jackson Kayak Cuda HD looked good in the morning light.
We adjourned for food, and for the second year in a row, LaLou Restaurant was amazing. If you ever find yourself in that neck of the Bayou, stop in.
Here's 'Dudes Doing Brunch'.
We hit Bayou Lacombe for a very wind blown couple of hours before stopping in at Bayou Adventures shop for their Boondoggle Meet and Greet. I finally got to shake hands with David Sandefur, from GA, who I'd "met" through the online kayak fishing community. It was a pleasure sir.
The folks at Bayou Adventures have been amazingly welcoming for two years running. Once again, stop here if you find yourself down in the area.
The entertaining and informative Mr Green gave us his run down of what the fish were eating and where to find them.
The next day we lit out for Delacroix with high hopes of tailing reds, and the kind of fishing that Mr Green affectionately called "cheating." It proved a rather uneventful day.
The wind kicked up to 15mph gusts and it seemed we were constantly paddling into it. I lead everyone back into an area of the marsh that had proven fruitful for me the previous year, but it was not to be. After a 1.5 hour paddle out, I'm not sure any of those folks will ever trust my instincts again. :)
The following day we decided to hit Hopedale with the hope that it would provide some excellent fishing. It took a bit of time to heat up, but the bites did start coming. Unfortunately the wind came on strong again as well.
And while the big reds of last year had not moved in yet, the puppy drum were chewing and everyone started getting in on the fun. I even scored a southern flounder on the day.
The Kayak Fishing Boondoggle proved a much quieter affair than past Columbus Day events. Many of our Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia compatriots stayed home, anticipating Hurricane Matthew. We were dailed in, and checking on friends all weekend from the campground in Louisiana. It was hard to get psyched to chase fish when so many of the kayak fishing family were battening down their hatches. There was a muted Boondoggle presence on social media, and I know for us, it just didn't feel right to get online pumping out a lot of psyche given the storm. The wind howled the whole time I was in Louisiana, but it was hard to complain given what was happening on the East Coast. We had it pretty good in comparison. Moments and events like Hurricane Matthew really bring to light the feeling of family prevalent in our community. Jameson, Adam, EJ and all the rest of us spent much time reporting back and forth to each other about the safety and condition of mutual friends.
Kayak fishing, like most outdoor recreational pursuits, brings together a tribe of people from so many different backgrounds. But we all find commonality in our passion for playing outside. As kids we played, unencumbered by the labels that our culture endeavors to slap on us, and instead focused on laughter and companionship. We find that same joy now, as adults, when we again strip ourselves of those culturally imposed roles, and focus on fun and fellowship. That is what I find at the Kayak Fishing Boondoggle. It's what I look for in our country.
We have a beautiful playground in these United States of America, and plenty of good people who thrive on playing outside. It's about the only thing I truly judge people on; whether or not they play. And I may throw a smidgen of shade if I detect a little intellectual laziness or lack of intellectual curiosity, but I'm not, however, going to ostracize anyone based on what they do inside a booth. I don't think that's the answer.
Events like the Kayak Fishing Boondoggle remind me of one simple truth... I'd rather build bridges. I'd rather be the good I wish to see. Let's celebrate fellowship and commonality instead of dicing up differences.