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January/February 2016 |

Celebrating Coastal Life


Winter Woes



Advice from the pros on winter wahoo fishing

Winter Wows

Sail To Cuba Easy Galley Recipes

The Keys to Successful Winter Redfish & Trout Fishing

Cruising The Caliber 40 LRC SE





Clear Lake Marinas Overview


Knives For Any Situation

[Letter from the Publisher]

Admiral (Publisher) Charles Milby Vice Admiral (President) Rick Clapp Rear Admiral (Editor) Mary Alys Cherry Captain (Director of Art) Brandon Rowan Commodore (Graphic Designer) Kelly Groce Sales Commodore (Director of Sales) Patty Kane Sales Crew (Advertising Executives) Alex Brett Judy Gaines Debbie Salisbury


irst and foremost, thank you for making this a successful year here at Gulf Coast Mariner Magazine. Thank you to our contributing writers and photographers. Without your stories and photos we wouldn’t be where we are today. Thank you to our graphics team and editors who put it all together and get everything to the printer on time. Thank you to our tech people who put the entire magazine online so you, the reader, can access it anytime and anywhere. Thank you to our friendly sales staff that visit with the local boating and fishing community. Thank you to our office manager who pays the bills, watches the bottom line and keeps us focused. Thank you to our advertisers and brokers; the more boats you sell means jobs and support services for everybody in the business. But most of all, thank you to our readers! Without your continuing support and encouragement, this job wouldn’t be near as much fun as it is for all of us. We like what we do and we hope you like it, too. Have a great year and make it one of your goals to get out on the water and spend some time having fun. That’s what we plan to do.

Charles Milby Publisher


Gulf Coast Mariner Magazine

January/February 2016

Editorial Capt. David Dillman Kelly Groce Patty Kane Capt. Joe Kent Betha Merit Charles Milby Brandon Rowan Capt. Steve Soule Janice Van Dyke Walden Photography Kelly Groce Patty Kane Charles Milby Jim Olive REHAB Fishing Team Brandon Rowan Debra Rueb Distribution Timothy Shinkle Company Gulf Coast Mariner Magazine P.O. Box 1032 Seabrook, TX 77586 For information on advertising: Phone: 281.474.5875 Fax: 281.474.1443


January/February 2016

10|Clear Lake Marinas

A map and overview of all the marinas, their services and accommodations.

12|The Right Tool for the Job

Knives for any situation. Exceptional blades for fillet work, boating, sailing, spearfishing, duck hunting and every day carry. By Brandon Rowan

14|Winter Woes or Winter Wows

The keys to successful winter redfish and big trout fishing. Be prepared for weather, know the signs that indicate productive fishing grounds and which lures to use this time of year. By Capt. Steve Soule

15|The Top 5 Big Winter Trout Lures

All of these lures consistently produce fish over five pounds and may help you snag that nine-pound trout this winter season. By Capt. Steve Soule

16|Trophy Trout Essentials

If you are going to be chasing trophy trout, these items are a must for your tackle bag. By Kelly Groce

18|Overview of 2015 Fishing

Autumn fishing in 2015 was excellent. Although, what happened to the runs of flounder and croaker? By Capt. Joe Kent

20|A Word on Wahoo

Advice on tactics, spread configuration, lures and wahoo behavior from some of the best captains in the game. Fill your boxes this winter.

22|Counting on Birds

Every year, thousands of volunteers take to the field to count birds in an international census supported by Audubon. By Janice Van Dyke Walden


24|Sail to Cuba

Tensions between the U.S. and Cuba have eased. New regulations allow for less restrictive travel to the island nation under 12 general licenses. By Charles Milby

26|Caliber 40 LRC SE

A look at the Nicki May, an excellent cruising boat that blends elegant accommodations and uncompromised build quality. Photography by Debra Rueb

28|The Galley

Nautical trivia Texas rainbow trout stocking schedule Nautical numbers Sailboat gear

Stick-to-your-ribs dishes for winter cruising. By Betha Merit

ON THE COVER An angler lifts a slot redfish from the waters of Galveston at late afternoon. ©Jim Olive Photography

Dress correctly this winter Photo contest winners Sailing Angels Learning from lionfish World Sailing U.S. Navy’s Zumwalt Rose’s fresh seafood Bahama Rigging Galveston Bay tides


C L E A R L A K E : W H I C H M A R I N A I S R I G H T FO R YO U ?













1. Bal Harbour Marina (Private) 2. Blue Dolphin Yachting Center





7. Marina del Sol









8. Portofino Harbour Marina





3. Clear Lake Marine Center





9. Seabrook Marina





4. Kemah Boardwalk Marina





10. South Shore Harbour Marina





5. Lakewood Yacht Club (Private)





11. Waterford Harbor Marina





6. Legend Point Marina





12. Watergate Yachting Center






Gulf Coast Mariner Magazine January/February 2016


Most large speckled trout caught are females and commonly live to be nine or 10 years of age.

2016 Rainbow Trout Stocking Schedule

Try a different trout this year. Every winter, the TPWD stocks thousands of hatchery raised rainbow trout in Texas lakes and community ponds. The daily bag is 5 fish, no minimum length.





Bane Park Lake



Jan. 15

Bates Allen Park 2



Jan. 5

Blue Ridge Park Pond

Missouri City


Jan. 6

Burke-Crenshaw Lake



Jan. 14

Burroughs Park



Jan. 15

Carl Barton Jr. Park Pond



Jan. 6

Centennial Park Lake



Feb. 3

Centennial Park Pond



Jan. 21 & Feb. 19

Dennis Johnston Park



Jan. 15

Dow Park Pool

Deer Park


Jan. 31

Eisenhower Park Pond



Jan. 7

Eldridge Park Pond

Sugar Land


Jan. 27

Herman Brown Park Pond



Jan. 27

Kitty Hollow Lake

Missouri City


Jan. 5

LNVA Barrier Pond



Jan. 13

Mary Jo Peckham Park



multiple dates

Missouri City C.P.L.

Missouri City


multiple dates

Pundt Park



Jan. 15

Seabourne Creek Park



Feb. 9

Sheldon State Park



Jan. 5

Tom Bass I



Feb. 2

View the full schedule at

15 Hurricane Ike brought 15 foot waves, much to Texas surfer’s delight, to South Padre Island in September of 2008.

20.75 The Texas state record for flounder on a fly rod is 20.75 inches and 4.30 pounds caught by Skipper Ray in Lower Laguna Madre on August 22, 2000.

48 Wahoo swim at a maximum speed of 48 miles per hour. Bullets of the ocean!


[ G EA R ]


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Light, easy-to-handle and wicked sharp, the Paramilitary 2 is a worthy knife for every day carry. The G-10 handle is tough and grippy. The blade is easy to open and has excellent edge retention. blade






Spearfishing & Diving



7” Straight Flexible Blade Fillet Knife Victorinox, makers of the original Swiss Army Knife, create some of the best value cutlery on the market today. Glide over rib bones and maximize the meat retained from your flounder, trout and redfish with this flexible knife. blade












Bird Hunting



Known for quality spearguns, Riffe also delivers great dive knives. The teflon coated Stubby has a sharp tip for subduing fish and a serrated edge to cut through rope, cable and mono.

Sailing & Rigging

Bird & Trout


Hit the blinds this duck season with a hunting knife of extreme quality on your belt. Bark River’s Bird & Trout weighs in at a mere 2.5 ounces and is perfect for field dressing birds and other light outdoor tasks. This knife can be ordered in a variety of handle materials and comes with a leather sheath.

One of the finest rigging knives available, this Myerchin offering is crafted from German marine stainless steel and titanium. Features include a serrated blade, marlin spike and lanyard loop. It’s tough, lightweight and a good addition to your race day gear.

Titanium Captain Pro: Gen 2













Gulf Coast Mariner Magazine January/February 2016

outfit your



Shift Solar-Powered Compass The Velocitek Shift helps you stay in phase with intuitive wind shift tracking. Big numbers and bold arrows make it easy to see how much you’re headed or lifted.


Aurora Hand Flares Designed to withstand exceptional environmental exposure and to perform reliably even after immersion in water, the Aurora hand flare produces a hot red flame for 60 seconds at 15,000 candela.

CREWSAVER ErgoFit 40 Pro USCG Lifejacket

The Crewsaver ErgoFit 40 Pro is completely USCG-Approved and houses a vast range of high specification safety features inside, while remaining clutter-free on the outside to offer a clean profile and reduce snagging risk. As a Fusion 3D-lifejacket with intelligent cut-away outline, it allows you total mobility so you may work unhindered. And by providing a minimum of 40 lbs. of buoyancy when inflated, it perfectly suits both coastal and offshore water users.


Clear Start Sailing Watch Clear Start™ watches and timers feature large buttons, easy to read displays and advanced intuitive programming designed specifically with the racing sailor in mind. Developed with input from some of the world’s top sailors, these watches and timers set the standard for serious sailors.


[ F I S H I N G ]

Winter woes or winter wows By Capt. Steve Soule


t’s that time of the year; the air is colder, rains are frequent and there just isn’t enough daylight in a 24 hour period. Winter weather seems to sap my energy, but there are still a few motivating fishing patterns to wake me back up. There is no doubt that winter trout fishing can be some of the best all year and the fish will be at their heaviest for any given length. When it’s cloudy and old man winter has his grips sternly upon the upper Texas Coast, this is what comes to mind first...well, right behind chilling on the couch. Yes, it takes some extra motivation to want to get out there and grind for a winter time trophy, but the months from November through February present some of the best big trout fishing of the year. This isn’t your typical fair weather fishing, so there is some preparation required.

Plan your fishing wisely Weather can change in an instant and you need to plan well and prepare even better. I don’t usually plan to fish more that just a handful of spots in a day, and when big trout are the target, the number of spots may shrink to only one or two. Make sure you know that where you intend to fish will be safe in the wind if you


fish close to a frontal passage. I’ve got too many stories about close calls and pulled anchors to relate while trying to get this right. Be prepared for the weather that you will encounter. I’m not going to say there is a weather man that I trust, but when fishing, I take the worst possible scenario as the most likely, especially if it’s a tournament day. I don’t drift fish much when fishing for big trout so I always have my Simms waders in the boat or on me. Layering clothing is the best way to go. Start with a very thin thermal layer, then add a fleece layer on very cold days, topped off with lightweight waders. This gives you great moisture wicking, warmth and protection from wind and water.

Now that you are geared up and ready, pick your favorite big trout weapons and look for some very important clues when deciding where to fish. Notice how I didn’t say look for boats or waders. There is a huge amount of water around the Texas bays and more than enough spots to go around. Numerous shorelines and shell reefs will hold fish during the winter months. Knowing which ones to fish will come with experience.

Key factors to consider It takes more than just shell to create a productive area. The combination of shell, soft mud, the presence of baitfish and reasonably good tide flow will almost always pay off. But when temps are very low, finding baitfish may not always be easy to accomplish. Let the winter natives guide you. There are two birds that I have counted on for years to help me locate concentrations of baitfish. First is the loon, a

“Big trout are not like small trout. They are at a totally different stage of their lives and simply don’t feel the need to eat voraciously every day.” ALWAYS wear a belt over your waders! It sounds simple, but it can save your life if you take water into your waders. Another obvious sounding plan is to wear a wade or waterproof jacket over the outside of your waders. If it rains or you get too deep, this will keep you dry and warm.

Gulf Coast Mariner Magazine January/February 2016

bird that spends most of the year well north of Texas, often north of the Canadian border. They are amazing divers that can swim rapidly under water and stay below the surface for several minutes while chasing down small fish. The second bird is the white pelican. Big and obvious,

whether crashing the water from above or just swimming, they are a voracious mullet eater and shouldn’t be ignored.

Choose your weapons It doesn’t matter if you prefer soft plastic, topwater or suspending baits, all can be effective. My personal preferences would be a selection of surface baits and slow sinking mullet imitations. Its an age old argument about which is more effective and the best answer that I can provide is that the lure you have most confidence in will be the effective one most days. I personally have caught more big trout on mullet imitations, both surface or sub surface, but I can say with 100% certainty that this is because that is what I have tied on more days than not. Regardless of your choice, tie a lure on and bring your patience. Big trout are not like small trout. They are at a

totally different stage of their lives and simply don’t feel the need to eat voraciously every day. Think of it like this; at seven pounds, a trout is at or near the age most of us would be retired from a working career. They are much more into the simple life of relaxing and staying safe. They would much prefer to eat a single large meal, and take two days or rest, than to get up early and chase down small meals all day. It may take ten casts and it may take a thousand casts, but if you are in the right

place you will eventually find them when it is feeding time. The other fish species of winter, and one that requires much less patience, is the redfish. If you are not a person who wants to spend solitary days standing in mud up to your ankles, casting repeatedly for one bite, give winter redfish a shot. I won’t say everyday, but on most days, redfish are cooperative fish. Where a trout over seven pounds is an older fish who likes to relax, the redfish in that same size range is just a teenager, who still has a voracious appetite. The same lures will still apply when fishing for redfish and the topwater action can be nothing short of amazing in the winter. The usual list of redfish lures work well year round. At the top of the winter list for me would have to be surface lures. Nearly anytime that you can find active mullet in shallow areas with mud and shell, this is my first choice. When they won’t eat off the surface, feed them a slow sinking hard bait like a MirrOlure® Catch 2000. If you aren’t comfortable or confident using finesse baits, the trusty Johnson Sprite spoon or swimming tail soft plastics will still get the job done well. Though winter has it’s down side with weather and temperatures that aren’t always pleasant, the upside is that fish tend to be much more concentrated in areas and when you find them, fishing can be off-thecharts good. Stay warm and hooked up!

TOP 5 WINTER TROUT LURES By Capt. Steve Soule These time proven selections consistently produce trout over five pounds and have landed me a number of top tournament finishes.

a close tie for my all-time favorite topwater. It’s a very natural color combination that works well in dirty water, but produces in clear water when others just won’t. This is not a small top water, in size or sound, but with its more natural color scheme it can be used effectively across the spectrum of conditions. Big or light chop, shallow or deep, this one does it all and I have caught more quality trout on this lure than I could possibly count.

effectively from less than a foot to depths over six feet. It’s a soft plastic wrapped, cork over wire, baitfish imitating, seductive dancing, finesse bait that has been the demise of many giant trout. Because of the construction of the lure, the Fat Boy can be tuned to swim at different depths, diving slightly up or down with different bends applied to the nose or tail. Chartreuse, gold sides, white belly has always been a favorite color combo for me.

She Dog

Paul Brown Fat Boy

The MirrOLure® She Dog 83MR in Chartreuse/Pearl is another topwater that excels in choppy conditions, but can be deadly in both dirty and clear water. It too has a single ball style rattle, but emits a much higher pitch sound than the Super Spook. I don’t necessarily turn to this one as frequently as some of the others on this list, but when conditions call for it, I always have one ready. This lure and color combination landed me my largest trout to date, a fish just over 29.5” and over nine pounds, in 2010 in Galveston.

It’s not really fair to say that there is a fifth in my top five, because it’s a repeat of number four. For many years, the Fat Boy in pink with silver sides has been my go-to for cold winter fishing. This selection is a standard answer concerning winter trout, but my tournament partners can vouch for the fact that in certain conditions, I would start and finish a nine hour day throwing this one lure. It landed me my heaviest trout that I have an accurate weight on, at 9.25 pounds, and has been the lure that led me to more top five finishes in trout tournaments than any other.

Super Spook Jr. If the wind is light or I’m fishing in shallow water, my first and often only choice for chasing a trophy would be the Heddon® Super Spook Jr.® in bone with silver sides. Its a small lure in the world of big trout, but that’s what makes it so deadly. Fish in shallow water are much more sensitive to noise and water movements and there are days when the subtle presentation of a smaller lure just works better. With a little practice and variation of the retrieve, you can make the Spook Jr. sound and appear large. The single ball rattle system can be worked gently without spooking fish, but if you work it hard, you can achieve a wide side to side motion with a rather loud clicking to draw them in.

Paul Brown Fat Boy

Super Spook When the chop gets a little bigger, it’s time to tie on a bigger bait. The Heddon® Super Spook® in Okie Shad, or as I have always called it the “Jimmy Houston,” is

When its time to probe the depths with deadly precision, I turn to the MirrOlure® Paul Brown Fat Boy, a creation of Houston mastermind Paul Brown, probably one of the greatest lure designers to ever live. This lure can take some time to get a grip on, but once you do, it can be fished

These are my choices and I’m sticking to them. Every lure on this list has produced trout over 7.5 pounds in the Galveston Bay system. There is no one single bait that suits every condition set or scenario that you will encounter, and this list may not work for you, but it’s mine and has not changed much over the past ten years. When its time for me to hunt big winter trout, you can rest assured I will have every one of these ready to go.



Gulf Coast Mariner Magazine January/February 2016


DRESS CORRECTLY THIS WINTER By Capt. David C Dillman Spec-tacular Trout Adventures


ypically, January and February are our coldest months on the upper Texas coast. Fishing can be great during these months, although the cold can be brutal. Knowing how to dress properly is crucial to enjoying your next winter outing. Lets start off with your feet and head. Keeping both of these warm helps you maintain body heat. Heavy wool socks and a stocking hat are a must. Waterproof boots or footwear add extra protection ensuring your feet stay completely dry. Full protective face and head masks keep your nose warm while blocking the wind and chill. Protecting your torso is just as important. Layering clothing is the best method for staying warm while fishing. First, start with a regular t-shirt, then add a long sleeve shirt. Over that, I personally wear a heavy sweatshirt. Finish it all off with a waterproof, windproof jacket. This blocks the wind chill and keeps you dry when running across open water. It also enables you to shed some clothing as the air temperature rises. Your legs can be protected several ways. Wearing a pair of long johns under heavy weight jeans is a good choice. Wrangler makes a pair of carpenter jeans that have a fleece lining. They provide plenty of warmth and flexibility. The use of “bibs” has become very popular for good reason. They provide extra protection from the elements, repel water and can easily be removed. I hope these suggestions help while enjoying the outstanding fishing that can happen in the dead of Winter. Tight Lines!


An overview of 2015 fall fishing and the changes that took place By Capt. Joe Kent


ow we are into

our winter fishing and behind us is fall fishing 2015. For inshore anglers, it is hardly debatable that autumn offers the best fishing of the year. One reason is that during this time fish start preparing for winter. They feed more often in attempts to add on layers of fat for a long cold winter when food supplies in the form of bait fish and crustaceans have departed to deeper and warmer waters. Two of the bigger highlights of fall fishing come in November when the golden croaker run takes place and about the same time flounder are close to the peak in their migration to the Gulf of Mexico. Trout action also is peaking, with hungry specks schooling in the bays chasing migrating shrimp. For several years now, there has been a modification in some of our fall fishing patterns and many anglers and biologists feel that it is due to a changing weather pattern resulting in warmer waters. Most notable has been the golden croaker run. Over a decade ago, large croaker, some weighing three pounds or more, would make their migration to the Gulf for spawning and offer outstanding fishing along the way. Rollover Pass was probably the most popular spot along the upper Texas Coast when

Gulf Coast Mariner Magazine January/February 2016

the run was in progress and anglers would stand shoulder to shoulder with lines in the water trying to intercept and fill an ice chest with the tasty pan fish. In recent years, there has not been a noticeable croaker run, especially of the magnitude of earlier years. Yes, there have been some spurts of activity when anglers reported catching several sizable croakers but not nearly as widespread as it used to be. Why has this occurred? There are several reasons cited. One is that there has been considerable pressure on the stocks as the demand for live bait croaker has grown. Others feel that there have not been the triggering events in recent years, such as strong cold fronts, to set things in motion. Another reason mentioned was that there are not the numbers of anglers out targeting croaker like there were in the 1960s and 70s. Regardless, the numbers of bull croaker, as the larger of the species are called, being caught are down. A threepound croaker today is an eye catcher around where anglers are fishing. According to information received from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, the stocks are in good shape, just not the quantity of large fish in among the group. The other fish, and more noticeable to anglers, has been the flounder. While flounder stocks are reported to be in healthy shape, the

big run that takes place each fall has been an overall disappointment to the average angler in recent years. Several years ago the stocks were threatened by over harvesting; however, recent regulations, such as the two-fish per person limit during their migration, has helped bring back the quality and quantity of the stocks quickly. Still, catches have been disappointing over the past couple of years during the time when the migration occurs. In 2015 lots of quality flounder, largely females, remained in the bays well into December. Did those big girls, who are the brood stock of the specie, make their spawning run? No one knows for sure at this point. Experienced flounder fishermen almost all agree that there was not any really cold weather last autumn to drive them out. If flounder continue to have adequate food supplies, many will not leave and that is what appeared to have happened this year. Artic fronts will empty the marshes and drive bait to deeper and warmer waters thus pushing flounder with them. Nothing of that magnitude occurred in the fall of 2015. While I would rate this year’s fall fishing to have been excellent, the two highlights of the season, the croaker and flounder runs, were disappointing.

Gulf Coast Mariner photo contest winners Roy Diaz with a beautiful redfish caught fly fishing in the Laguna Madre. Photo by Capt. Eric Glass. He wins a Heddon速 Super Spook Jr.速 and a MirrOlure速 Paul Brown Fat Boy. LIKE US ON FACEBOOK for information on our next photo contest. Good luck and tight lines in 2016!

Cody Dunn with a massive 82-pound ling caught out of Galveston. He wins an Iland Tracker and 8 oz. Ahi Assault Jig.


Ilander Heavy-Weights in Blue/White and Black/Plum

Owner Jasen Gast | Capt. Troy Day

Spread We run a split of Yo-Zuri Bonitas in purple/black and orange/black on the corners short and Ilander Heavy-Weights in black/red, black/purple and blue/ white with ballyhoo long on the outriggers. The Bonitas are rigged on 275# 49-strand cable and the Ilanders are rigged on 175# cable with 9/0 needle eye hooks like the Mustad 7731AD or equivalent. This is not a live bait fishery, as the sharks are too thick.

Tackle Stand up gear in the 30-pound class is the perfect tackle in our opinion. These rigs are light and fun, but still have enough strength for the occasional monster roaming out there. But, we do take the 50-pound gear along too, as they are appreciated when the wahoo are running big and for pulling bonitas on the shorts.

Tactics Target the edge of the drop off, usually 160-200 ft. depths, but move around until you mark fish on the sounder and then stay on them. If you’re not marking well, don’t be afraid to troll wide and deeper looking for them. Every once in a while the wahoo will be shallower, but most of the time kingfish and barracuda are thick shallow on top of the reef.

Also to Note:

Jasen Gast with a monster 93-pound wahoo. Photo by REHAB Fishing Team.


Gulf Coast Mariner Magazine January/February 2016

When you get a bite, keep the rest of the spread out. Many times you will get multiple hookups as the lures sink while you fight the fish.

The best bite is usually very early in the morning but can be good in the evening too towards the later part of the day.

Although you are mainly targeting wahoo in January, be prepared to catch other species as well. We have caught dorado, tuna and sailfish while trolling for wahoo.

Yo-Zuri Bonita™ in Purple/Black

Yo-Zuri Bonita™ in Orange/Black

A wahoo dances on the water’s surface. Photo by Brandon Rowan. Bad Intentions Fishing Team gaffs a solid ‘hoo. Photo by Brandon Rowan

Capt. DARRELL WEIGELT I’ve always had my best results with the Yo-Zuri Bonita in purple/black or orange/ black. Troll them fast at 10-12 knots. If fish are present they will be chasing bait. At the Flower Garden Banks, fish the up current side of the bank. The wahoo move through the current upwellings. Rig the Bonitas on six feet of multistrand cable.

Ilander in Pink/White

CAPT. KEVIN DEERMAN On the Legacy we always pull Yo-Zuri Bonitas on the flat lines and drop one of them on the down rigger when the bite is slower. Orange/black and purple/ black have always worked the best for me. We pull weighted jet heads (not any particular brand) on the left and right riggers with an Ilander/ ballyhoo on the center rigger. We pull mostly blue/white or pink/white Ilanders. We also keep a couple of spinning rods with large spoons ready to cast after we are hooked up. We have tried pitching live blue runners out after missing a bite or marking fish but sometimes ended up with big amberjack that are mixed in with the wahoo. When the bite is really on we try to keep it as simple as possible.

W I N T E R • • • •



Yo-Zuri Bonitas & Ilander/Ballyhoo in your spread Rig lures with multistrand cable like 49-strand Keep lures out after strike for multiple hook ups Best bite is very early in the morning


BIRDS By Janice Van Dyke Walden

It takes teamwork to spot, identify and count the flurry of quick bird activity at San Bernard NWR. San Bernard’s CBC is the third of four CBCs that Tad Finnell and Susan Heath will participate in this year.

Each Christmas, thousands of volunteers take to the field to count birds in the great, international census supported by Audubon. This December, Janice Van Dyke Walden joined a group at San Bernard National Wildlife Refuge, and tells how anyone can join in the count.


t’s 6:30 a.m. on Friday, December 18, 2015 at the headquarters of San Bernard National Wildlife Refuge in Texas when about 35 volunteers show up in the dark, ready to go in the field to count birds. They don’t stay long; they are here to catch the first light. That’s when the refuge’s bird life is most active. As soon as Ron Weeks marks their presence on his laptop’s list, they form groups and disappear in the dark to their designated sections within the 15-mile count radius.


WHAT: Audubon’s Annual Christmas Bird Count WHEN: December 14-January 5 each year WHERE: U.S., Canada, and countries and territories south of Texas WHO: Anyone who is interested in birds COST: Free HOW: To find a site near you and register, visit www. join-christmas-bird-count

Outside, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Biologist Jennifer Wilson is fielding questions. She and Ron are co-compilers for the event, and she’s well acquainted with the procedure, having managed many Audubon Christmas Bird Counts at the refuge. Suddenly, headquarters’ big room empties, and Ron sees me standing near him to receive my group assignment. “You go with Susan Heath to

Gulf Coast Mariner Magazine January/February 2016

Wolfweed Wetlands,” he says, barely looking up from his laptop. I get in my car, and head to the refuge’s wetland. Already the sun is coming up. The visibility is clear, the atmosphere is relatively dry, and it’s 38° degrees F. I’m wearing three layers, tall boots and fingerless gloves. When I arrive at the wetland, Susan sees me and says, “Aren’t you going to be cold?” Having been in situations like this before, I shrug off her concern, and join the four in our group: Sandy Moore, Joanna Friesen, Tad Finnell and Susan who is Avian Conservationist Biologist for the Gulf Coast Bird Observatory. Everyone in this group has put in long hours so far: Sandy woke up at 3:30 this morning to pick up Joanna for the hour-and-a-half drive from Houston; Tad and Susan woke up yesterday at 3 a.m., did the Guadalupe River Delta bird count, got home at 9 p.m. last night, and woke up early this

morning to be at San Bernard before dawn. This is their third bird count in a week, and in 48 hours they’ll do a fourth one in Freeport. If there seems to be a rush among the friendly morning chatter, there is: it’s a rush against daylight; a rush to count as many birds in the country in the season’s three-week window. Researchers and climate specialists rely on data from the annual Christmas Bird Count to understand species decline, habitat changes and migratory trends influenced by a warming world. When Ornithologist Frank M. Chapman proposed the first Christmas Bird Count in December 1900, he promoted it as an alternative to the “Side Hunts” so prevalent at the time, where teaming

has a good level of water for wading birds, waterfowl, ducks, raptors, kingfishers and flycatchers. The woods next to the wetland are alive with song from sparrows, thrushes and wrens. And, within feet of the parking lot, there’s a sudden frenzy of sightings: an American Bald Eagle swoops down, catches a Coot and flies away, a Cooper’s Hawk lands momentarily in a tree near us, three Anhinga perch in wetland scrub nearby, and seven Sandhill Cranes fly overhead, sounding their sure arrival. Everyone whips out their binoculars to look in different directions as if manning a foxhole. Tad puts his Kowa TSN-2 spotting hunters would choose sides and see how many birds they could shoot in a day. That first year, 27 volunteer observers conducted a bird census at 29 locations, from Ontario to California. A century and 15 years since, the census has grown to a major Holiday tradition with 71,531 observers in 2,369 locations (2012-2013). Between December 14th and January 5th, thousands of volunteers in all 50 states, Canada and the countries and territories south of Texas take to the field to count. In Texas, alone, 2,700 volunteers participate in the count at 108 locations, 29 of which are in the highseason migration zone of the Lower Rio Grande Valley and the Texas Gulf Coast. Success is based on location, access to land, the number of consistent volunteers and the organization behind the event. Given that, today’s count at San Bernard will again rank in the top five in the nation. This morning, Sandy, Joanna and Susan are smiling at the optimum conditions: this day last year at Wolfweed Wetlands they faced over four inches of unending rain, low bird counts, and more mosquitoes than you could take to hell. This morning, it’s cool and clear, and the wetland

“By 8:40 a.m., we’ve only covered one side of the wetland and counted 27 species, over one-third of the 63 species our group will count that day.”

scope in place on tripod, and aims deep in the wetland for a raft of Coot. He counts 50 plus two Plied-Billed Grebes. Then, in less than two minutes, he counts another 180 Coot. It’s 7:30 a.m., and the group is fixated high on the wetland’s observation deck. Nineteen White Ibis pass by, pairs and pairs of Cormorants fly in front of us, a flock of Snow Geese fly overhead, and a Red Tailed Hawk can be heard in the woods. When the flurry of activity subsides, Tad picks up his sticks, and we walk down the dike, stopping to count as more birds come in to view. We then dip into the woods off the dike, down a tall grass trail that takes us to Cocklebur Slough. There, Susan places an owl box in a Hackberry tree. Within minutes, the owl’s recorded hoot draws birds out of the brush. They begin to congregate on the Hackberry. It’s a simple and effective technique used to draw out small birds when the brush is impassable for observers. Gathering around the box and near the slough are Lincoln’s Sparrow, Swamp Sparrow, Carolina Wren, Yellowrumped Warbler, House Wren and Hermit Thrush. Again, it takes four pairs of eyes in various directions to count the quick activity. By 8:40 a.m., we’ve only covered one side of the wetland and counted 27 species, over one-third of the 63 species our group will count that day. With the field counts complete by mid-afternoon, all the groups reconvene at headquarters to report their numbers to Ron and compare notes while enjoying fabulous gumbo provided by Friends of Brazoria Wildlife Refuge. If you’d like to participate in next year’s bird count, the cost is free. Visit www. join-christmas-bird-count


Sail to Cuba By Charles Milby


hen you think of Cuba, cigars, rum and well preserved Spanish architecture come to mind. Add glorious white sand beaches and rolling mountains to that list of things to see in this beautiful country. New regulations allow for less restrictive travel to Cuba by private yachts under one of the 12 general licenses authorized by the Office of Foreign Assets Control, or OFAC. The St. Petersburg to Havana race is on my bucket list of things to do in the near future. My father was on the Texas boat that won the race in the late fifties. That story will be coming in a later issue. Do your homework and enjoy some of the best cruising in the world. If you do make it to Cuba, be sure to send us some pictures. We like to see them and publish great ones. OFAC has issued general licenses within the 12 categories of authorized travel for many travel-related transactions, subject to criteria and conditions in each general license: • Family visits • Official business of the U.S. government, foreign governments, and certain intergovernmental organizations • Journalistic activity


Gulf Coast Mariner Magazine January/February 2016

• • • • • • • • •

Professional research and professional meetings Educational activities Religious activities Public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions Support for the Cuban people Humanitarian projects Activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes Exportation, importation, or transmission of information or information materials Certain authorized export transactions

Sailing Angels takes special needs children to new heights


ave McCabe

has helped both astronauts and developmentally disabled children reach new accomplishments. Dave McCabe’s mental vault of memories includes making it possible for the first U.S. astronauts to orbit the earth and walk on the moon. For 45 years, McCabe worked on the ground floor of the U.S. space program as an aerospace engineer for several companies that subcontracted with NASA. Nowadays, empowering developmentally disabled children to experience the exhilaration of piloting a sailboat brings a smile to the Clear Lake City resident’s face. Nearly five years ago, McCabe founded the Sailing Angels Foundation, a nonprofit charitable organization that introduces sailing to developmentally disabled children and, recently, to military veterans and injured military

service people. Sailing Angels operates out of Portofino Harbour Marina, in Clear Lake Shores, teaching special needs children the ins and outs of maritime skills 360 days a year, free of charge. McCabe founded Sailing Angels because of three special needs students he met while in grade school. The students were integrated into his classroom at a time when most developmentally disabled children were kept apart from the rest of the student body. McCabe said he became the special needs students’ protector, which serves as the basis of Sailing Angels. “We’ve had well over 6,000 participations so far since we started almost five years ago,” said McCabe. “This year, we expect around 1,500, mostly special needs children, wounded warriors and veterans.” Visit for more information on the charity.

Learning from Gulf lionfish To date, over 2,600 lionfish have been observed in Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, and about 1,500 of those have been successfully removed. From those 1,500 lionfish, the sanctuary’s science team has extracted data such as genetics, size, age and food choices. All of this helps them better understand the lionfish’s life history so that better ways to combat their impacts can be developed. This process is now summarized on the new Lionfish Research page online at lionfishresearch.html

World Sailing: A Sport For Life In the latest move to bring the sport of sailing to mainstream America and the world, the ISAF, which is the governing body of the sport, has announced a name change. The International Sailing Federation will now be known as World Sailing. Not only will the federation have a refreshed look and focus, the new motto A Sport For Life also reinforces the team dedication to the whole world of sailing. The World Sailing website is full of stories on the sport. Check it out at

U.S. Navy’s largest destroyer finally at sea

The Zumwalt destroyer in Maine. Photo: U.S. Navy

The U.S. Navy’s Zumwalt destroyer, a 610-foot-long, 15,480-ton vessel, finally began sea trials in December 2015. The first of its class, the technologically advanced and stealthy destroyer spent six days at sea before returning to Bath Iron Works shipyard in Maine.


Caliber 40 LRC SE Photography by Debra Rueb


he Caliber 40LRC SE is one of the most well thought out and executed cruising boat designs that you will find, blending elegant accommodations, uncompromised build quality, abundant storage and tankage, superior load carrying capability, a well-designed ground tackle system and excellent sailing characteristics. Labor saving structural pans are not used in her construction. The bulkheads and furniture are wood and continuously tabbed to the hull for superior strength and load distribution. This is a very labor intensive method of construction but it is far superior to the pan method used on most boats. The fiberglass water and fuel tanks won’t corrode away and are optimally positioned at centerline and below the sole. This is the best place to carry the extra weight and it frees up an exceptional amount of storage area while doubling as additional watertight barriers in the unlikely event she is holed by an underwater object. The rudder is hung on a full skeg and is supported in three places. The skeg and rudder are significantly shorter than the keel for protection in case of a grounding.


Gulf Coast Mariner Magazine January/February 2016

Caliber 40 LRC SE Specs Designer: Michael McCreary LOA: 40’ 11” LWL: 32’ 6” Beam: 12’ 8” Draft: 5’ 1” Ballast: 9,500 lbs Displacement: 21,600 lbs Sail Area: 739 sq ft Fuel Tankage: 212 gallons Water Tankage: 179 gallons Ballast/Disp: 44% Disp/Length: 281 SA/Disp: 15.25



dishes for winter cruising By Betha Merit

It’s the New Year and winter here in the South. That means we can still go out on the water, although temperatures might dictate wearing jackets, hats and gloves. What it also means, is that our galley menu ideas bounce from salads and grilled fish to the cold weather desire for comfort food. The following recipes are easy to make. With ample use of potatoes, corn, and bacon, your guests and family will leave the table greatly satisfied in tummy and soul.

Easy Baked Potato Soup Ingredients: • • • • • • • • • •

1/4 cup butter 1/2 cup chopped onion (frozen or fresh) 1 TBSP freeze dried minced garlic, or one clove minced 1/4 cup all purpose flour 2 cubes chicken bouillon 3 cups water 1 (24-oz.) package frozen steam & mash cubed potatoes 2 cups half and half 2 teaspoons pepper Toppings: cooked, crumbled bacon, shredded cheddar cheese, sliced chives or green onions.

‘‘Directions: Melt butter in a large soup pan or Dutch oven over medium heat; add onion, garlic and stir often for 5 to 10 minutes until golden. Sprinkle flour over this mixture until coated. Stir in bouillon and water. Bring to a boil on medium heat while stirring often. Reduce heat to a simmer for ten minutes, stirring occasionally. During this process, you can microwave the potatoes according to package, but do not add butter or milk. When cooked, stir the potatoes, half and half, and pepper into the onion mixture. Cook on medium, stirring occasionally until thickened. Garnish with bacon, cheese and chives.


Gulf Coast Mariner Magazine January/February 2016

Tamale Pie Ingredients: • • • • • • • • • • • •

1 onion, chopped 1 pound ground beef 1 can cream style corn 1 can whole kernel corn, drained 1 can kidney beans, drained 1 small can tomato sauce 1 large can tamales 1 can black olives, drained 1 TBSP chili powder 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder Optional Toppings: shredded cheese, sour cream, jalapeños,

Directions: Brown onion and beef together. Drain excess fat. Stir chili powder, salt, and garlic powder into meat mixture. Open can of tamales, drain excess liquid, remove papers, then chop in bite size pieces. Combine all ingredients in a large baking dish. Cover with foil, bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour. Serve with desired toppings.

New England Clam Chowder Ingredients: • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

6 cups bottled clam juice 2 10 oz. cans baby clams 1 TBSP unsalted butter 8 oz. bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces 2 celery stalks, minced 1 large onion, minced 1 garlic clove, minced 2 1/2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch pieces 1 TBSP chopped fresh thyme 1 bay leaf 2 TBSP cornstarch 2 cups heavy cream Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper Chopped fresh chives

Directions: Melt butter in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, until fat is rendered and bacon begins to brown, about 8 minutes. Add celery, onion, and garlic and cook, stirring often, about 10 minutes. Add 6 cups bottled clam juice, potatoes, thyme, and bay leaf. Bring chowder base to a simmer; cook until potatoes are tender, 20-25 minutes. Whisk cornstarch and 2 tablespoons water in a small bowl. Stir into chowder base; return to a boil to thicken. Remove base from heat. Discard bay leaf. Stir in two 10-ounce cans baby clams and cream. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Divide chowder among bowls. Garnish with chives.



Gulf Coast Mariner Magazine January/February 2016


Bahama Riggings’ Top Product of the Year: Tides Marine Strong Track


he Tides Marine Strong Track was the number one product with the best customer satisfaction sold in 2015. Bahama Rigging sold a whopping 20 strong tracks and every customer was jumping up and down, high fiving after each installation. Tides Marine Strong Tracks are easy to order, have easy installations, and the foot price is the same no matter what configuration you order. Strong Track is made of UHMW with 316 stainless slides. Batten slides come in two sizes and accept flat or round battens.


Gulf Coast Mariner Magazine January/February 2016

Minimal to no modification to the mast is needed to install. Weight aloft is minimal and does not effect the curvature of the mast like aluminum track with ball bearing cars. Customers always think that they have to buy a new sail and a stack bag of some sort. This is not true. The system attaches to your existing sail. The stack height of the system may cause you to need a new sail cover, but most of the time nothing changes. After we install the track most customers start to add products like lazy jacks, stack bag, new sail, and electric winches.

Ordering and Installation Tips Follow the guide provided for ordering. Bahama Rigging orders ours longer and then cut it down. Keep in mind that if you order it short, you have to pay double. Check fit of test piece before uncoiling the track when you receive it. Plan on one hour for measurement and three hours for installation.



Gulf Coast Mariner Magazine January/February 2016


Galveston Bay Tides EAGLE POINT, TX NOAA Station Id: 8771013



Gulf Coast Mariner Magazine November/December 2015


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Gulf Coast Mariner Magazine January/February 2016  

The keys to successful winter redfish and trout fishing in Texas. The top five BIG winter trout lures, Texas winter wahoo fishing, sailing t...

Gulf Coast Mariner Magazine January/February 2016  

The keys to successful winter redfish and trout fishing in Texas. The top five BIG winter trout lures, Texas winter wahoo fishing, sailing t...