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Lower Laguna giving up

BIG TROUT

Up-to-date info from Capt. Tricia, McBride, and Ernest Cisneros.

Get ready for

SPRING LING

Joe Richard shares tips and ideas.

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ABOUT THE COVER Jeff Ferguson poses for a quick picture before releasing a 7-1/4 pound Lake Calcasieu seatrout. (Will Drost photo)

EDITOR AND PuBLISHER Everett Johnson Everett@tsfmag.com vICE PRESIDENT PRODuCTION & ADvERTISING DIRECTOR Pam Johnson Pam@tsfmag.com Office: 361-785-3420 Cell: 361-550-9918 NATIONAL SALES REPRESENTATIvE Bart Manganiello Bartalm@optonline.net

CONTENTS

REGIONAL SALES REPRESENTATIvE

APRIL 2012 VOL 21 NO 12

FEATURES

Mike McBride Kevin Cochran Billy Sandifer Martin Strarup Chuck uzzle Joe Doggett Joe Richard

Donna Boyd Donna@tsfmag.com BuSINESS / ACCOuNTING MANAGER Shirley Elliott

38

Shirley@tsfmag.com CIRCuLATION SuBSCRIPTION – PRODuCT SALES Linda Curry

DEPARTMENTS 25 48 52 56 58 60 64 66 68 72 78

Coastal Birding Let’s Ask The Pro Fly Fishing TPWD Field Notes Conservation Kayak Fishing According to Scott Youth Fishing Texas Nearshore & Offshore Cade’s Coastal Chronicles Fishy Facts

Cir@tsfmag.com ADDRESS CHANGED? Email Store@tsfmag.com

Billy Sandifer Jay Watkins   Casey Smartt     Lillian Gasca CCA Texas Scott Null Scott Sommerlatte Jake Haddock Mike Jennings Cade Simpson Stephanie Boyd

WHAT OUR GUIDES HAVE TO SAY

84 86 88 90 92 94 96

Dickie Colburn’s Sabine Scene Mickey on Galveston Capt. Bill’s Fish Talk Mid-Coast Bays with the Grays Hooked up with Rowsey Capt. Tricia’s Port Mansfield Report South Padre Fishing Scene

Dickie Colburn Mickey Eastman Bill Pustejovsky Gary Gray David Rowsey Capt. Tricia Ernest Cisneros

REGULARS

4 | April 2012

104

Office: 361-785-3420 Cell: 361-649-2265 PRODuCTION COORDINATOR

08 Conventional, highly-subscribed... 16 One Among Many 22 “Retreat, Hell…We Just Got Here!” 26  Boat Trailers 30 MPF= Miles Per Fish 34 The Spotted Grail 38 Contemplating Cobia

68

Patti Elkins Patti@tsfmag.com

06 Editorial 82 New Tackle & Gear 98 Fishing Reports and Forecasts   102 Catch of the Month 104 Gulf Coast Kitchen

90

DESIGN & LAYOuT Stephanie Boyd stephanie@tsfmag.com Texas Saltwater Fishing Magazine is published monthly. Subscription Rates: One Year (Free Emag with Hard Copy Subscription) $25.00, Two Year $45.00 E-MAG (electronic version) is available for $12.00 per year. Order on-line: WWW.TSFMAG.COM MAKE CHECKS PAYABLE TO: Texas Saltwater Fishing Magazine Attn: Subscriptions P.O. Box 429, Seadrift, Texas 77983 * Subscribers are responsible for submitting all address changes and renewals by the 10th of the prior month’s issue. Email store@tsfmag.com for all address changes or please call 361-785-3420 from 8am - 4:30pm. The U.S. Postal Service does not guarantee magazines will be forwarded .

HOW TO CONTACT TSFMAG: PHONE: 361-785-3420 FAX: 361-785-2844 MAILING ADDRESS: P.O. Box 429, Seadrift, Texas 77983 PHYSICAL ADDRESS: 58 Fisherman’s Lane, Seadrift, TX 77983 WEB: www.TSFMAG.com PHOTO GALLERY: photos@tsfmag.com PRINTED IN THE USA. Texas Saltwater Fishing Magazine (ISSN 1935-9586) is published monthly by Texas Saltwater Fishing Magazine, Inc., 58 Fisherman’s Lane, Seadrift, Texas 77983 l P. O. Box 429, Seadrift, TX 77983 © Copyright 1990 All rights reserved. Positively nothing in this publication may be reprinted or reproduced. *views expressed by Texas Saltwater Fishing Magazine contributors do not necessarily express the views of Texas Saltwater Fishing Magazine. Periodical class permit (uSPS# 024353) paid at victoria, TX 77901 and additional offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Texas Saltwater Fishing Magazine, Inc., P. O. Box 429, Seadrift, TX 77983.


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EDITORIAL

CCA TEXAS STEPS UP

Word of this development is traveling fast but if you haven’t heard; CCA Texas dropped a long-awaited bomb a few weeks ago with their pledge of $500,000 to assist in the opening of Cedar Bayou and vincent’s Slough. I say long-awaited because proponents of opening this historic pass have been praying for more than a decade that somebody - some organization or agency - would step up and grab this bull by the horns. Cedar Bayou is located between Matagorda and San Jose Islands on the middle coast, and is believed by many to be a vital migration corridor to species that spawn in the Gulf, move into the bays as larvae, and then live to adulthood in the nearby Guadalupe estuary of Aransas and San Antonio Bays. Down through time, the coming and going of Cedar Bayou and its tributary, vincent’s Slough, are nothing new if you dig into Texas Mid-Coast history. Some records indicate Cedar Bayou silting shut as early as 1913 and being blasted open again by a powerful tropical storm in 1915. Texas Parks and Wildlife made four attempts over a period of nearly sixty years to keep this pass flowing, dredging it in 1939, 1959, 1987 and 1995. The event that perhaps stands out most boldly in the history of Cedar Bayou is that is was bulldozed shut in 1979 in the wake of the famous Ixtoc oil spill – an event similar to the more recent BP Deepwater Horizon rig disaster and spill. Given the location of the runaway Ixtoc-10 well and prevailing currents, it appeared the plume of crude would wash up on Matagorda and San Jose Islands and be swept into local bays. Lots of folks claim Cedar Bayou was never restored correctly during the 1987 and 1995 dredging as these did not include re-establishing the connection between Cedar Bayou and vincent’s Slough. If and when the intervention and financial assistance of CCA Texas can ever help bring about another dredging project, the question of the Ixtoc closure will finally wash away as the new permit sought by the Aransas County Commissioners and granted by the Corps of Engineers last August includes re-establishing the connection between the Bayou and vincent’s. Aransas County Judge C.H. Mills says the $500,000 pledge from CCA is a great start and will be used to fund the final engineering and permitting phases of the project. Still, the dredging work itself will likely run into the neighborhood of $6,000,000; the source of which has yet to be identified. CCA has offered to partner with Aransas County officials in providing additional funds to secure the services of professional fund raisers who specialize in assisting municipalities in such matters. Cedar Bayou is not flowing yet – but thanks to the dedicated members and volunteers of CCA Texas – it is closer right now than it has been in a very long time. Donations to this project can be made by contacting Aransas County Commissioners Court Judge C.H. Mills. If you are not already a member of CCA Texas, I cannot think of a better reason or time to join the team and put your hard-earned Texas dollars to work restoring and conserving Texas coastal resources.

6 | April 2012


8 | April 2012


STORY BY MIKE MCBRIDE

It’s interesting how

some of the little things we learn while fishing can

grow into much bigger things. It’s also interesting that some of our greatest revelations come by pure accident. One small discovery can become a little maxim of instruction and might even dramatically change our whole fishing philosophy. It is spring and it looks like it’s going to be another good one, and thinking back on it all, I can well remember one of those particular lessons that might help point me towards where I want to be tomorrow – and that would be in the highest potential area I can find for upper-class fish. We might learn by accident, or we can learn on purpose, either way what we are

hoping to learn is finding and catching better fish in areas where they are not “supposed” to be – that is, if you buy into so-called “popular” fishing logic. One particular spring wade, many years ago in Galveston’s West Bay, Mother Nature urgently suggested a little side-trip to the bank. It had been a classic waist-deep morning, throwing topwaters over two to three pounders aggressively harassing balls of mullet riding an outgoing tide. Back then the only topwater to throw was a Rebel Jumpin’ Minnow, a truly deadly lure in original form but unfortunately far different from what is on the racks today. While doing a quickie two-step towards the shoreline, I pitched what was originally a black and silver plug that had been mauled by lots of toothy trout and at TSFMAG.com | 9


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the time showed mostly bare, bone-colored plastic, right on the bank next to some flooded cord grass. I stopped to adjust the brakes, (back then we had to take the reel apart) and seconds later I heard a flush and looked up to learn the plug had vanished. Scrambling to put the reel back together, a six-pound trout ended up being on the end of that slack line. It was a light bulb moment and further investigation would be in order, but at that precise moment that urgent nature call was still calling. Relieved, literally, to be back in the water, I stayed close to the bank this time and tried for a repeat. Sure enough, by letting that plug just basically sit and rock in the waves, it got nailed twice more within an hour by fish twice the size of those we had been catching. That session

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was one of the first to start an insatiable drive to find, and catch, better fish shallower than I had ever caught before. Over the years fish have shown up in many other shallower-than-expected areas, but we wouldn’t find many of them if we don’t have the confidence to look. As opposed to happily banging on sure-thing three-pounders, this type of fishing is much more deliberate. Most of us have played pool to some capacity, and fishing the extreme shallows looking for a few good bites is the difference between hitting hard and hoping, or calling precise shots made with a dab of English. Man started out fishing for food, now men fish mostly for challenge. Here are a few more examples that might encourage some searching this spring. During one of those typical, pre-programmed marches out to beyond the beachfront breakers, somebody pitched a MirrOlure into the first bit of water lapping the shore. Right there, in that first little swale next to the sand, a big trout suddenly came out of nowhere and to our collective amazement nailed that plug with a frothy vengeance. From then on, while most other “enthusiasts” automatically waded up to their fool necks for those three pounders, we would catch bigger fish almost every time the conditions allowed by standing on dry sand twitching a 7M floater. Shallow themes kept re-emerging, and this was another precision “bank shot” if you will. San Luis Pass brought yet more confirming evidence. Most folks fish the deeper drops along its many bars and guts. However, the larger fish we all covet can often be behind us. During one of the earlier Troutmasters, I got lucky and won by standing a little more than bootie deep and letting a clear Corky bounce along an incoming tide barely six inches deeper than where I was standing. It was a large, very shallow flat, but the current will cut small arteries through most of them, and this

12 | April 2012


14 | April 2012

humans trying to hide from other humans and fish trying to hide from all sorts of opportunistic predators, some of which are human. Getting up way shallow can qualify, and a big bonus is a much reduced chance of getting run over by other boats. Big fish, often many big fish, can be found lying just about anywhere at anytime, but the “why” is often where our understanding stops. Sometimes we find them where there is not a stick of bait to be seen, which only adds to the mystery. We just have to be willing to look, and often that means walking away from a sure thing. Stalking fish like this is really not much different than a bow hunter who can spend all day waiting to draw on that one opportunity, but here we can draw and release many more times throughout the day. It’s slowing down and fishing at an economical pace, absorbing and enjoying all of nature around us. Pretty cool stuff unless we’re just looking for a fish fry, and hey, that’s cool too! But there just might be more worthy and exciting things to look for.

Mike McBride

Contact

one was full of big bull glass minnows. Better trout were just sitting on the bottom facing into the current, basically being spoon-fed by the flow. Three of those bigger “snackers” found hooks in their morsels and made me proud at the scales. Down here in the Laguna Madre, but certainly not just exclusively here, there can be miles of shallow sand behind the grass lines with all sorts of interesting little humps, bumps and fish hiding swales. I have really enjoyed our “Ask the Pro” Jay Watkins being down here this winter, and during one of our many talks (if you can call it that, as you really don’t talk to Jay, you listen), he said he guesses our fish just live shallow. I think they do most everywhere else too, it’s just that we miss a lot of them. With our Lower Laguna fishery being as healthy as it is, we can see more of what they do because we just flat out have so many to see, and we often see them where they – “not supposed to be” according to all that widely subscribed expert fishing logic. A prime example occurred last August 21 and, was purely an accidental experience. Taking a shortcut to get a client on a homebound flight at 2:00 PM, under a blazing sun and with only an occasional puff of a breeze, we ran across two hundred yards literally stacked full of upper-class trout just sitting there in about a foot of crystal clear water. According to the Garmin, the water temp was 93.6°F, and that goes against most everything we have been “trained” to believe. So let’s quit reading and believing all that so-called expert stuff about how fish always do this or do that – like going deep in bright sunlight because they have no eyelids, or that silly-magical 70° water thing. These days we all seem to be looking for better places to hide –

Mike McBride is a full time fishing guide based in Port Mansfield, TX, specializing in wadefishing with artificial lures.

Skinny Water Adventures Phone Email Web

956-746-6041 McTrout@Granderiver.net Skinnywateradventures.com/ Three_MudSkateers.wmv


STORY BY KEVIN COCHRAN

Mists hanging in the air and reducing visibility make navigating in Baffin Bay a treacherous proposition.

16 | April 2012


Since the turn of the millennium

, I’ve witnessed many frightening and disturbing examples of frivolous boating behavior while fishing regularly in Baffin Bay. Rock formations stud the grassy meadows and stand next to shallow sand bars in this famous estuary, presenting a serious threat to safety. I assume everyone steering a boat through these waters is aware of the risks, but it seems some of these captains are relying on bad or incomplete information. Modern GPS technology has made navigating all waterways easier and safer, provided the users of the equipment recognize its limitations. For instance, I am not aware of any currently available GPS charts which show all the rocks in Baffin Bay, nor do I believe such a data base exists. Some people apparently believe their GPS units do reveal all the rocks. At least their behavior in some treacherous areas leads me to this conclusion. I’ve seen people run extremely close to and/or directly over rocks numerous times. I’m sure some of these people have the rocks marked on their GPS units and know exactly where they are. Without getting into specifically where and why, I acknowledge the “need“, in some places, to run within twenty or thirty feet of shallow rocks. In other cases, doing so is too risky to justify, given the presence of better and safer alternatives nearby. This piece is not intended to scold people who have many rocks and other obstructions marked in their units and who choose to run close to some of those things. It’s intended instead to warn others who are ignorant of the incomplete and potentially misleading nature of current GPS maps in the area around Baffin Bay. The evidence suggests the maps were created by people who had various kinds of information with which to work. Some major rock formations and virtually all the individual rocks within those formations have accurately located icons denoting them, probably because the map makers were provided exact coordinates for them. Other major formations have just one icon located somewhat centrally in them, creating an inaccurate sense of the size of the hazard. In one case, a line of rocks perhaps a quarter of a mile long is indicated through the placement of a single icon, approximately in the middle of the line. A cautious but unknowing captain might swing well wide of the mark and still smack right into something solid. Marking large sets of rocks with one icon is bad enough, but GPS map makers also spawn uncertainty in other, more insidious ways. In some cases, they apparently believe rocks exist in general areas, but they don’t have exact coordinates for them, so they place icons in the area randomly. The problem with such a plan is obvious; boaters who run through the area do so with a fraudulent sense of safety. TSFMAG.com | 17


Catching large specks provides a satisfying thrill to many. Sterling Frank surely seems to have enjoyed landing this one!

Slick calm conditions created a smooth surface for this attractive reflection. These conditions also take away the ability to see dangerous obstructions covered by shallow water.

In some of those places, rocks do indeed exist. Someone navigating through the area and avoiding the icons might be steered toward the boulders. In my opinion, the map makers should not randomly place icons in this manner. A safer plan would be to indicate the presence of rocks in the area without using icons, but they didn’t do it this way, and the damage is done. Consequently, all inexperienced boaters should avoid running in areas where numerous icons designate scattered rocks. unfortunately, some individual rocks and rocky areas aren’t indicated in any way on the maps. Though I certainly don’t claim to know where all the unmarked boulders are, I have discovered many in areas commonly thought to be rock-free. While wading through these places numerous times, I often find multiple rocks after I find the first one. Some of these are “bottom huggers”, though others reach up fairly close to the surface, particularly on low tides. Admittedly, shallowdraft boats running on plane with their motors jacked fully up will safely pass over many of the rocks in Baffin most of 18 | April 2012

the time. Those same boats might not bump bottom huggers when planing off either, if the tide is sufficiently high. But any boat scraping the bottom while planing off runs the risk of impacting rocks, and many boats can contact some of them while proceeding on plane, particularly on low tides. Running into rocks is obviously bad for boats and people. In a worst-case scenario, colliding with shallow ones at high speed can bring a boat to a dead stop and throw passengers around the deck or even overboard. More commonly, when rapidly spinning propeller blades encounter unforgiving surfaces, the lower units responsible for turning those blades become damaged beyond repair. Sometimes, captains who wreck into rocks make it back to the dock before their motors become completely disabled, and sometimes they don’t. If This region of rare rocks is a harsh encounter occurs a kind of Mecca to many; late in the afternoon on a legions of hopeful anglers day in which boat traffic is make pilgrimages here, light in an area far removed buoyed by images and tales from a shoreline or some of its storied past. other form of safe haven like one of the many cabins in Baffin Bay, the boaters might wind up spending the night bobbing among the waves. Without extra water, food, clothing and


other safety equipment, doing so is at least uncomfortable, perhaps life-threatening, depending on the weather conditions. Running into rocks with boats is bad for the rocks too. These fossilized remains of extinct marine-worm colonies are valuable not only because of their rarity, but because they provide a basis for the food chain. Consequently, they are excellent places to target trout, reds, and other species of fish. According to locals who’ve been fishing this area for many decades, Baffin Bay’s serpulid rocks are gradually eroding. I suspect this deterioration partly results from the naturally-scouring effects of time, wind and waves. I presume it’s accelerated by increased human activity, specifically people walking around on top of rocks and crashing into them with boats. All people choosing to navigate and fish the waters of Baffin Bay should accept both the danger posed by rock formations and the need to preserve them. Waders should avoid walking over rocks, and boaters should not run over them. Zipping around in an oblivious, cavalier manner with the motor jacked up and hoping for the best is foolish. Relying on the GPS to reveal all the risks is naive. The best way to proceed in these treacherous waters is to use all available resources to locate as many rocks as possible, and to create and use safe running lanes. To aid in that effort, I’ve included two pictures with this piece to show some significant rocks lying in a hightraffic area. These boulders are not accurately indicated on any GPS map I’ve ever seen, but they are expansive and covered by shallow water, especially on low tides. The image labeled Map 1 shows the general area, with the Point of Rocks in the upper left of the image, Compuerta Pass in the upper center and the ICW running more or less vertically through the right half. This area is traversed by many boaters on their way to the north shoreline of Baffin Bay. Over the years, I’ve seen dozens of captains run through the most precarious part of the area, some apparently unaware of the prominent rocks which provide the peril. Map 2 shows the locations of five rocks I’ve identified in the middle of the flat between the Point of Rocks and the spoil bank to its east. As indicated on the map, these rocks lie basically east and southeast of the old pier on the shoreline (not to be confused with the bigger pier about a quarter of a mile to the north). The largest of these rocks, Rock 20 | April 2012

Map 2

4 and Rock 5, are outlined on the map. Running and/or planing off near these formations puts boaters in real jeopardy. Most experienced captains run on one side of this rocky ridge or the other, staying close to the mainland shoreline and running in the deeper water with bare bottom to the west, or running to the east, in a gut among the floating cabins. Less-experienced captains should be aware of misplaced rock icons scattered about on the screen in the gut on the east side. To restate, I’ve generated this piece to specify some of the general threats to safe navigation in the Baffin Bay area for those who may have underestimated them. I’ve included the maps to show one location where I’ve personally observed potentially disastrous behavior on a regular basis. This piece is not intended to give anyone a specific plan for navigating anywhere. I hope readers who realize they’ve been running over rocks in the area shown on the maps will stop doing so and will figure out a way to proceed in a safer, more ethical manner. Most likely, they are unwittingly taking unnecessary risks in other places. The mapped area is just one among many in Baffin Bay where unforgiving features lie in wait, always ready to ruin expensive equipment and disrupt the lives of the people with whom they make contact. This region of rare rocks is a kind of Mecca to many; legions of hopeful anglers make pilgrimages here, buoyed by images and tales of its storied past. An integral part of the mystique of the place, the unique serpulid rocks sing like Sirens in an odyssey, calling captains close, promising treasured fish of heroic proportions; they also lure unwary travelers toward tangible danger.

Kevin Cochran

Contact

Map 1

Kevin Cochran is a full-time fishing guide at Corpus Christi (Padre Island), TX. Kevin is a speckled trout fanatic and has created several books and dvds on the subject. Kevin’s home waters stretch from Corpus Christi Bay to the Land Cut.

Trout Tracker Guide Service Phone Email Web

361-688-3714 kevxlr8@mygrande.net www.FishBaffinBay.com


. L E E R W NE It’s not just a

It’s a

Photo courtesy of Panama Sport Fishing Lodge

t o Y A NEW W

FISH.


STORY BY BILLY SANDIFER

22 | April 2012


thIs tItle, a lIne from the scI-fI moVIe

Battlefield Los Angeles, describes last Saturday’s Seventeenth Annual Big Shell Beach Cleanup better than any words I can think of. I never sleep much for several nights before the Cleanup and last Friday night I went to bed at 9:30 and awoke at 12:15 AM. unable to fall back to sleep I spent the rest of the night in front of the television evaluating the radar images of the incoming storm – thinking and scheming till time to head down to Malaquite. For a while it seemed the heaviest of the rain was going in far to our south but about 3:30 the intensity of the rain increased dramatically as it headed straight for us.

Prior to freaking out I went into a different mental mode I acquired in combat in South vietnam. When you reach the point of knowing things are going to be really bad you totally quit worrying and slow everything down in your mind. You forget about buts, what-ifs, and maybes, and become acutely alert and calm and take it as it comes. You watch things unfold and act appropriately while calculating each move. All our section leaders and coordinators arrived at 5:30 AM to insure we had time to prepare before volunteers arrived needing instructions. At 5:10 the rain became heavy and there was a lot of indecision going around. Realizing any action at this time would be

TSFMAG.com | 23


futile and counterproductive, I instructed everyone to get in their vehicles and wait it out as attempting to send out sections or even get them supplies and lined out in the darkness in the cold, heavy rain would hurt the event. Sitting in my suburban I was fascinated to see more and more volunteer headlights arriving continuously in my rearview mirror. Todd Neahr ran this cleanup event while I supervised and gave suggestions. It’s time for someone to learn to run the event and now is the time and Todd is the man. He drove around in the parking lot and told newcomers of our intention of waiting till daylight. Then we sat back and peacefully waited till daylight. By first good light the wind had laid to about 18-20 mph and the rain had subsided to a heavy drizzle. In other words - conditions had improved from catastrophic to merely brutal. Within minutes the event was in full swim like a well-oiled machine. EvERYONE appeared totally oblivious to the rain and the cold wind and carried out their duties effectively and cheerfully. In past years I’ve told you this event has the ability to become a living thing within itself; taking strength from the love and dedication of the volunteers and I watched it happen right in front of me as we lined up sections, gave them their supplies and sent them on their way. This was the most committed and cheerful group of volunteers I’ve ever seen although they were faced with the harshest conditions we’ve had to endure in the seventeen prior cleanups and they took it in stride and went on with their duties. Several times I heard bursts of laughter when somebody said words to the effect, “Well, we’ve been hoping and praying for rain all these months and all we had to do was have a beach cleanup to make it happen.” Each time I heard that remark I replied, “Yeah - Be careful what you pray for from now on.” And then we’d all have a good laugh. Joe Escoto, Park Superintendant of Padre Island National Seashore, walked up and stood beside me with rain running off his ball cap and sleeves. I said, “Joe, you don’t have to stand out here in this stuff.” He smiled and said, “Well, actually Billy I WANT to be out here.

The MOST

I’m fine.” I said, “Joe, you can’t tell me of another national park in the world that has this kind of visitor support.” He agreed and said this event had always stood out above all others. Soaking wet and shivering, park rangers worked tirelessly helping organize the volunteers just like the rest of us. I told Superintendent Escoto, “You know Joe, if this event never accomplishes anything else except letting the world know there are still people who care about the natural environment and our national parks and their condition and are willing to do something about it then all of the effort has been worth it.” He agreed. Todd and I had scouted the entire beach on Wednesday prior to the event and knew ahead of time that there was less trash on the beach than at any other time in the past seventeen years. It’s OK to give some of the credit for that to the Big Shell and other cleanup efforts but it’s also important to look at the overall picture, and when doing so one realizes we had no hurricanes cross the Gulf of Mexico from the south to the north in the past year. Just one hurricane crossing the Gulf can stack the beach high with debris. As the trash was spread thin rather than piled up, the volunteers had to spread out and walk greater distances for smaller amounts of trash while soaking wet and freezing to death. As such we gathered only twenty tons. This tonnage brings the all-time total amount of trash removed from the beach by this event, south of the 15-Mile Marker of PINS, to 2,158,000 pounds. That is 1079 tons, folks. We had three hundred bulletproof volunteers that braved the rotten weather and I was reminded of the three hundred Spartans that held off the entire Persian army in a narrow pass for almost three days before being finally overrun and killed to the man during the Battle of Thermopylae. Todd and I had known from our Wednesday scout trip that IF we had good weather and a big turnout of volunteers we’d have the opportunity to clean more miles of beach than had ever been accomplished but it just wasn’t meant to be – not this time anyway.

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t-top boat ConsoLe CoVeRs


On the beach you take it like it comes and I could not be more satisfied with the volunteers, the amount of trash collected and they entire event overall. As Dr. David McKee said, “Today is the stuff legends are made of.” To those who didn’t go due to the horrible conditions - don’t worry about it one bit. We know you were there with us in spirit and there will be other years. Once the weather situation became known prior to the cleanup I told several folks who were feeling sickly not to dare get out there and get bad sick - so no one should feel bad about passing on this one. To those who did come and stuck it out, I’d be proud to have any of you covering my back anywhere anytime and we all know I go to some awful tough places. Ha! You all should be remembered as the legends; not me. The ladies who turned out were the ones who really got to a lot of us. Late in the event I came upon a woman who appeared to be in her late-50s or early60s working alone picking up trash. She looked so miserable. I stopped and asked if she was alright to which she replied, “I’m soaking wet, I’m freezing to death and I’m having a ball, so you go on and leave me alone.” Says a lot, doesn’t it? Ace Leal was busy with his camera capturing a bunch of video footage of the event and it should be available soon at www. FriendsofPadre.com or www.billysandifer.com. The volunteers are the heart and soul of this event but our sponsors mean the world to use too and I’d like to acknowledge them although I’m sure I’ll miss someone as I always do so I’ll apologize in advance. A big thanks to outdoor writer David Sikes and the Corpus Christi Caller-Times, Ron Behnke and the Saltwater Angler, Everett and Pam Johnson of Texas Saltwater Fishing Magazine and the Padre Moon for their promotion of the event. Thanks also to the board of Friends of Padre and all the coordinators and section leaders. I cannot say enough about the great folks at PINS NPS, Coastal Bend Audubon Society, Sharkathon, C2Mhill and Laura Paul, David Webb and Spooner Lures, Ben Beaty, and Mr. David Ainsworth and the continued invaluable help of Ainsworth Trucking Co. Mr. Leon McNinch and Jim Mayo of the Ruth Parr Sparks Foundation, CCA Corpus Christi Chapter, Daniel Dain and Domino’s Pizza, Smart Shield Sunscreen, H. E. B. and “Fishbites” as well as Gambler Graphics. Citgo and Team Industrial Services stepped up for the second year as did Michael Laskowski Sr. and Jr. of Trac-Work Inc. Railroad Maintenance of San Antonio who again furnished volunteers with work gloves. Remember the speed limit on PINS changes from 25 to 15 mph on March 1. Now if we can just figure out what to do with all them left over, high-dollar event tee shirts. What a hoot.

Burrowing Owl ~Alhene Cunicularia ~ Slightly larger than American Robin. A long-legged, boldly spotted and barred ground dweller, uses abandoned burrows of other animals. Lives in open country, frequently seen in daylight, although hunts mostly at night. Perches during the day at the entrance to its burrow nest or on a low post. When disturbed it imitates the sound of a rattlesnake. Present in Texas November through February.

“If we don’t leave any there won’t be any.” –Capt. Billy L. Sandifer

Contact

Billy Sandifer Billy Sandifer operates Padre Island Safaris offering surf fishing for sharks to specks and nature tours of the Padre Island National Seashore. Billy also offers bay and near-shore fishing adventures in his 25 foot Panga for many big game and gamefish species.

Photo credit: Petra Hockey

Length: 10 inches Wingspan: 21 inches Weight: 6 ounces

Phone 361-937-8446 Website www.billysandifer.com

TSFMAG.com | 25


Bearing Buddy, eight years old and still going strong.

Like new inside!

STORY BY MARTIN STRARUP

I saw a truck, boat, and trailer

on the side of the highway the other day. It looked like the left wheel bearing on the boat trailer had called it quits. I would have stopped to help but others had already done so. It did make me wonder, though; did the owner of the boat trailer grease the hubs before he left for his fishing trip? Trailer maintenance should be right up there with your boat maintenance habits. Unless your boat is in a sling or a wet slip you need that trailer to get your boat into the water, so let’s talk about trailer maintenance for a moment. I see a lot of trailers in the boat ramp parking areas that are not equipped with some type of after-market hub accessory fittings and I do not understand why. Bearing Buddy, Pilot, and other companies make wheel bearing lube kits and protectors that are easily affordable 26 | April 2012

and will save you a lot of grief in the long run - it simply makes no sense not to have some device of this type on your trailer hubs. We have Bearing Buddy adapters on the hubs of our boat trailer and we give them a shot of grease every trip before we leave home – just to make sure. We also check them and apply grease as needed at the ramp when we pull the boat out of the water before heading home. The Bearing Buddy has a built-in tell-tale indicator that lets you see at a glance if the hub is full or needs grease and it usually takes but a few seconds and one or two pumps from the grease gun - cheap insurance and great peace of mind while on the highway. Now Mr. Murphy may pay me a visit for stating this but I have not lost a bearing on the road since we started this routine. Remember to go easy with the grease gun so as not to overfill the


hub cavity and blow out the hub seals. Seals can be damaged very easily if you get a little too pump happy. Every winter we remove the bearings from the hubs to check them for wear and rust and we also examine the races, spindle and seals at the same time. If everything checks out we pack the wheel bearings with marine grade grease and replace the wheel. Every other year we replace the bearings and the races in each hub whether they need replacing or not. Again, peace of mind is a wonderful thing. My personal preference for marine grade grease is Mystik JT-6 High Performance Marine Grease No. 2. There are other brands that probably work very well but this is the brand that is readily available at my local dealer and I like it. In the toolbox on my truck I carry a spare wheel hub - complete with bearings, races, seals, wheel studs and lug nuts. I also have a grease gun loaded with marine grade grease and a tub of marine grade grease for hand-packing bearings and other uses if needed. If Mr. Murphy does show up some day all I have to do is remove the hub with the bad bearings from the trailer and replace it with the complete new unit, pump it full of grease, and drive on. I have seen the complete hub kits at Academy and other stores. Your local automotive parts store or marine dealership should have them as well. You will need to know the size of the wheel spindles on your trailer before heading out to purchase a hub kit. Perhaps the best plan would be to take your trailer to your marine dealer and let him select the hub for you. Another tool that I always have with me is a small portable floor jack that comes in its own carrying case. It’s invaluable if you have tire problems or bearing problems while towing your boat down the highway. Wal-Mart, Harbor Freight Tools, Northern Tools or your local parts house will have these. They don’t take up much room in a truck tool box or in the trunk of a car and they are so much easier to use than a scissor jack or hydraulic jack. Speaking of tools to change tires…do you have the right size wrench to remove the lug nuts from your boat trailer wheels? Odds are that the manufacturer supplied lug nut wrench that came with your car or truck will not fit the lug nuts on your trailer, so check it before you hit the road. You can buy a 4-way lug nut wrench at the same places that I mentioned above where you can locate a jack and they are a lot easier

to use than the one that came with your vehicle. The 4-way wrench will remove four different size lug nuts and will more than likely fit your vehicle and your trailer. With a price tag of less than $25 this tool is a great investment. I hate to even mention springs or torsion axles because I know that the torsion axles on our boat trailer will need to be replaced within the next couple of years and it’s not an easy job. But none of the above tips will help you if you break a spring or a wheel spindle on the road. You should have someone who is qualified to work on the trailer springs, axles and spindles examine your trailer every year to make sure they are still safe and roadworthy. Most of the time, and especially if your trailer has springs, rust is your worst and most common enemy. Springs rust through and break and I have seen the results of a broken spring on the highway; a piece of leaf spring that came from a trailer ahead went through the radiator of a truck that was ahead of me on Highway 35 one morning. If it would have been a car in front of me the piece of spring would have gone through the windshield on the driver’s side. So have your springs, torsion bars, spindles and hangers checked at least once a year and replace them at the first signs of excessive rust or wear. Also, it is a good idea to have the alignment of the axles checked. If a hanger or plate gets loose the axle can become misaligned just a tad and you’ll find yourself buying tires much more frequently that you want to. These days the majority of bay boats have drive-on trailers and the winch is used simply to snug the bow up against the trailer bow stop. But have you checked the winch cable or strap lately for rust and wear? Have you checked the hook that fits through the bow eye on the boat? Years ago my dad was winching his boat up the trailer when the winch cable hook broke and the cable and what was left of the hook came back like a bullet and went through the back of his hand and out the palm breaking bones and cutting blood vessels. Had he checked the hook he could have avoided some expensive hospital, doctor and pharmacy bills as well as a few months of rehabilitation. Winch cables rust, straps wear at the stitching and the bow hooks rust so take a moment to check yours before you head to the ramp. Have you checked the air pressure in your trailer tires lately or taken a look at the tires for wear and for cracking? Trailer tires come TSFMAG.com | 27


28 | April 2012

and out the bottom then across the deck and over the bow to plug into a tow vehicle’s trailer light plug. I have never had to replace a set of lights by rigging them this way except to make a new set for a new boat. We spend a lot of time and money on our boats but none of that care and expense really matters if we can’t get the boat to the water, so spend some time and some money and make sure your trailer will get you to the ramp and home again. Be Safe.

Martin Strarup

Contact

in two different varieties; junk tires and good tires and there really is no in between. I won’t get into a discussion of brands but as a general rule “more is better” when it comes to tires. Spend the money on good quality trailer tires and keep them inflated to manufacturer’s specifications. I bet a lot of you think that the air pressure in your trailer tires is about the same as what you keep in your truck and cars; it’s not. Read the recommendation. If your trailer lights aren’t working, odds are that you will be stopped on the highway by the DPS or other law enforcement branch and they will let you know about it. Saltwater just loves to eat up trailer lights and wiring and no matter how much you spend on waterproof LED lights, you will eventually have problems if those lights are submerged in saltwater. I got tired of dealing with trailer lights not working twenty years ago and we now rig our lights so that no part of the light, including the wiring, gets into the water. You can accomplish this by mounting the lights on your PVC guide stakes but the lights get a good shaking going down the highway or back and forth while not loaded from the ramp to the parking lot. Our solution which my son gets credit for was to mount the trailer lights on PVC pipe that fits into the rod holders on the stern of the boat. We mount a PVC T on top of the pipe and mount the lights to the T. The wiring runs down through the pipe

Martin Strarup is a lifelong saltwater enthusiast and outdoorsman. Martin is also a collector and dealer of vintage fishing tackle and lures, especially those made in Texas. Email

Trouthunter@swbell.net


STORY BY CHUCK UZZLE

Early risers will benefit from light winds during the spring months.

30 | April 2012


In the busIness world, traVel Is a necessItY

that comes with the territory and can be both a blessing and a curse. Most of us are familiar with the term “frequent flyer miles” - a program that tracks miles flown by an individual that usually includes a rewards system. During the spring months most saltwater fishermen would dearly love to be able to participate in such a program because travel will be a major part of most any pattern, especially here on Sabine. Now anyone who has spent some time on this end of the coast knows how fickle and changeable the weather and fishing conditions can get from one day to another. The spring months are notorious for throwing curves and wrecking the best patterns overnight with a variety of problems. unlike our fishing brothers to the south, the biggest obstacle Sabine anglers have to overcome is freshwater runoff. The watershed from both the Sabine and Neches rivers can be enormous at times and virtually render the entire northern half of the lake unfishable for days at a time. So far it appears this spring will be much more “normal” than the previous years due to our part of the state finally getting some much needed rain. The months of January and February saw some big rains fall over the state with some of the biggest falling in northeast Texas. Seemingly overnight both Toledo Bend and Sam Rayburn went from record lows to within a few feet of normal pool, that’s a ton of water by any stretch of them imagination. Fortunately for Sabine anglers both lakes were low enough they absorbed the brunt

of the runoff. Had both lakes been near pool level we probably would have been jigging minnows at the Sabine jetties for crappie instead of chasing trout and redfish. Even with the big lakes to the north offering some help from the runoff, Sabine has still been much different than it was all winter and that means anglers are now going to have to hunt much harder for their fish. During periods like this it’s not uncommon to find fish heavily concentrated in one small area, it’s finding that one small area that’s tough. Factors such as structure, bait, water temperatures, and tide are always high on the list of variables and will definitely help you locate fish but they aren’t the only way to find fish. Another excellent method to help you find fish is to watch the crabbers and where they place their crab traps. These guys are a great barometer for salinity in deeper water since they have to adjust where they fish on a daily basis. In deeper areas like the rivers and ship channels you can rule out plenty of water by just finding the crab traps before you start fishing. As simple as this sounds you would be surprised at how many anglers never tried this method. Okay, now we have established the fact that we are covering some water and looking for some signs to put us in areas that are holding fishable water. Without a doubt the center of the fishing world on Sabine when conditions get like this is the Causeway Reef. The Causeway

Probing the protected water near the jetties is a spring time favorite.

Redfish will be patrolling the shorelines in search of an eas

y meal.

TSFMAG.com | 31


Flounder fishermen will shy away from the crowds and take advantage of the many marsh drains on Sabine.

Reef offers up another great barometer for water conditions due to its proximity to the gulf and the depth of the water. The deepest water in the entire lake is at the Causeway Reef and that makes it a main staging area for fish. Many anglers will begin their day at the reef and branch out from there depending on conditions. Early birds will make the seven mile trip south to the Sabine jetties when the wind is calm in order to take advantage of a big fish bite that usually happens from about an hour or so before sunrise to just after sunrise. If this bite doesn’t materialize it’s often back to the reef to start probing the oyster shell and figure out the pattern for the day. The Causeway Reef isn’t the only game in town but it’s often the most consistent and that will be sure to draw a crowd. Anglers who are less than enthusiastic about sharing the shell with a crowd will often head for the Louisiana shoreline and protected water where they will either jump out and wade or start covering shorelines on a trolling motor. The shallow bite along the shorelines is a staple for Sabine fishermen since the population of flounder here is what made Sabine famous. Probing shoreline cover and breaks with small jigs or grubs is a great way to catch flounder and also find the occasional redfish or big trout. More than once I can remember being pinned down to a small stretch of water that was either protected or showed signs of life while flounder fishing only to have a school of really good trout or redfish show up and start eating every shad or mullet they could find. The spring is unpredictable and it can leave you scratching your head one day or begging for more the next. As the weather and fish struggle to get on a consistent pattern a new factor appears to be coming more and more into play and that’s the rising cost of fuel. Estimates of $4.00 a gallon and beyond will certainly begin to limit many fishermen, especially the offshore crowd. The inshore bay boat folks will also be less apt to just take off and go scout or make a pass just to “go see.” Smaller boats and kayaks will become more and more prevalent in the meantime as will trailering to a launch closer to your fishing area. There will always be a few who are going to run all over the world even if gas is $10.00 a gallon but they will certainly be in the minority. The traffic closer to launch areas will increase and those who decide to make the big runs will be rewarded with less competition for prime fishing areas. There is no doubt that the cost of fuel will be a major factor in the upcoming weeks and months. With all the uncertainty the spring presents to anglers it’s one of the most anticipated times of the year because some of the best fish of the year are taken during this period. Chuck fishes Sabine and Calcasieu Despite all the factors that Lakes from his home in Orange, TX. seem to stacked against His specialties are light tackle and fly the fishermen, most of us fishing for trout, reds, and flounder. wouldn’t have it any other way because that next Phone 409-697-6111 Email cuzzle@gt.rr.com bite may be the one you Website www.chucksguideservice.net have been waiting for all your life.

CONTACT

CHuCK uZZLE

32 | April 2012


TSFMAG.com | 33


STORY BY JOE DOGGETT

green-swellIng tIde was comIng In

as silver-headed Casey was going out, which was just the way he liked it. After five decades of wading the surf, he could read the movements to a fraction. The breeze was light, from the sweet southeast, and the spring currents felt sharp in the dawning air. The first steps always were cool then, after the washing of a few waves, the temperature was tolerable even exhilarating. Casey bobbled across the inside gut, turning sideways to block each tumble of foam, and reached the waist-deep shelf of the third sandbar. The outside bar was his special place; it was, literally, as far as a 34 | April 2012

fisherman on foot could go. All the clutter and confusion of the land was at his back; in front, beckoning for the next cast, stretched the restless promise of the open Gulf. The sun broke above squall clouds far over the horizon and the water sparkled. The incoming swells were riffled with schools of passing mullet. Black-headed laughing gulls wheeled and hovered. An occasional surface flurry telegraphed the nervousness of massed baitfish on a dangerous tide. Killers ran amid the heaving shadows of green and gray and gold. Casey toed forward, feeling the clean surge against the sand, and fired his first level-wind cast. The two-handed rod flexed and spray shot like smoke from the Curado as the MirrOlure climbed across the breeze.


The cast carried like a well-driven golf ball. Nobody ever said that Casey didn’t know how to chunk. The low profile of the bridge marked the sprawl of San Luis Pass. Beach traffic already was moving at a regular interval, much of it from the growing infestation of condominiums. As to changes, Casey had witnessed a multitude. What great wade fishing he, Biff and Ed enjoyed in the late 60s, back when they were cutting classes at the University of Houston, back when the beach was new and fresh and the green tides of spring and summer always seemed to produce heavy stringers. It was back when Casey did not ache; back when M.D. Anderson was not a lifeline, but just another building in the Medical Center. The three friends enjoyed wading the bay shore behind the pass, “free shrimping” with light lines and No. 8 Eagle Claw “triple strength” trebles to catch speckled trout, redfish, sheepshead, ladyfish, and flounder in the deep gut behind Rooster’s Camp. Now and then, somebody would hook a jackfish or a Spanish mackerel. And on those crystal days when the surf ran green and full of life Like now! - How they loved to plow into the foam and cast Tony 5H’s and Dixie Jets and 52M MirrOlures. The surf-run specks always seemed larger and stronger than the bay fish. The three friends agreed that wading and plugging were the ultimate extension of the sport. It was their school of fishing, the classic Gulf Coast approach honed by the old masters such as Rudy Grigar, Felix Stagno, and Anton Stettner. The fast reels, light lines, and whippy rods had a correctness that heavy boat and pier tackle could not equal, and the oneon-one contact of a sharp strike at the end of a long cast was supreme. You planted your feet into the sand and savored the first powerful surge of the running fish as the tide tugged at your khakis and the salty sun burned into your face. And the big speckled trout was the spotted grail. The only lighttackle fish on a plug that could rival a sow speck was a snook, but you had to go to Deep South Texas or, better, Florida or Mexico to catch snook. The wonderful trout were within reach of a tank of gas on the next green tide. The three friends fished hard through graduation and, with Vietnam raging, left fate to chance with the draft lottery. It was understood that anybody holding a number less than 150 was “West-Pac bound.” Ed’s number, based on his drawn birthdate, was a bulletproof 348. Barring thermo-nuclear war he wasn’t going anywhere except San Luis Pass. Casey and Biff were goners, both drawing double-digit numbers. Casey joined the Marines; following six months at Camp Pendleton he was on a troop transport to Vietnam. Biff joined the Navy and was accepted into officer candidate school; after the four-month training in Newport he was assigned to an aircraft carrier in the Gulf of Tonkin. They agreed that Ed had used up every fraction of luck for big trout and hot babes and anything else that mattered. In May of 1969, a guy on the Flagship Pier caught the state-record 13-pound, 2-ounce speckled trout. Casey got word of the huge surfrunner when Ed’s FPO letter caught up with him at the Tan Son Nhut air base. He promptly relayed the news to the USS Hancock on Yankee Station. The pier fish subsequently was beaten by several trout from the Baffin Bay/Laguna Madre complex, but the documented catch proved that the surf can yield rhino-class specks. Casey returned stateside in 1971. He had a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart - and he was ready for a Red Reel and a Green Tide. He seldom spoke of his experiences “over there,” but allowed that the greatest

hardship endured by Ensign Biff no doubt was a sore butt from sitting in CVA 19’s wardroom and reading Field & Stream and Playboy. During the early ‘70s the three friends began fishing together again. The efforts were intense but the returns were mixed. Even the most promising tides often yielded meager results; unregulated gill netting and beach seining for the commercial market was draining the coastal finfish resource. The Gulf Coast Conservation Association was formed in Houston in 1977 and the three friends were enthusiastic supporters. Casey remembered the big banquets at the old Emerald Ballroom, when they would bid on framed Cowan prints and exotic fishing trips. A good one was the snook fishing trip to the Everglades. The laws were passed and the nets were outlawed and the fishing along the Texas coast began to rebound. The freeze of ‘83 was a major setback but the tide for conservation was turning and, now and then, something grand would happen. Casey cast again, jumping the smack of a curling wave, and recalled the morning in 1984 when he caught his career-best trout, a 31-inch fish that weighed 10-4 on certified grocery scales. The surf was much like today. Biff strung a 9 and an 8 on the on the same tide. The surf was alive with fish and the two pluggers stood side-by-side and caught their limits. It was their greatest session. Ed was back in Houston, arguing with his future ex-fiancée, a fact that two of the three friends took great pleasure in reconstructing whenever they reunited at the beach house - partial payback for 348. Casey shuffled to the right, angling with the prevailing wind. Another smooth cast arced and dropped. He was alone in perfect surf, a magical experience savored by anglers and wave riders. But he missed the two distinctive silhouettes bobbling along the bar - Biff in his ratty straw hat and Ed under the Styrofoam helmet. Both were stuck inside the 610 Loop. Conflicting schedules and busy cell phones seemed to unravel most of their trips in recent years. The lone angler shrugged. It was fun with your friends even when it was semi-right, even when the whipping wind cut the water to sandy chops. Some of the fondest memories were of “fiasco” expeditions, like the time the tent blew down on Curlew Island over on the Chandeleurs. Or when the buggy got stuck south of Sixth Pass down in Mexico. Case-hardened companions make it work. That, and maybe a bottle of aged rum. Casey retrieved a long cast, using the practiced stuttered cadence, and regretted that his two sons did not feel the oneness with a green tide. They took more after Sally, never caring for the “real outdoors.” David uses weekends for golf and Niles does whatever it is they do in Montrose. Casey wished he could share the special days with his boys but some things just don’t work out. He flexed the rod and punched the 52M28 across the warm wind. His mind wandered but subconscious training directed the long arc beyond a rippling mat of mullet. He seldom cast without purpose. Fish follow bait. When the strike came, Casey thought, “Jackfish!” A vicious weight slammed into the lure and the limber rod swept down as line tore from the reel. A stud jack, he confirmed. Too much fish for a trout. Casey leaned against the straining rod and thumbed the power in the running spool. Or maybe it’s a king mackerel - the big ones sometimes ride the green water onto the beach. The initial run carried 40 or 50 yards and slowed. The 12-pound monofilament line lifted across the water, indicating that the fish was TSFMAG.com | 35


stalling near the surface. The long line plucked through a humping swell, hanging briefly on a golden wad of sargassum weed, then pulled free and angled up the beach. Casey clamped down and pulled back. The line stretched tighter and he felt a sudden and familiar head-shake. He knew! An immense speckled trout wallowed on the surface. It was a speckled trout beyond belief. It was larger than any of the Baffin Bay fish. Baffin Bay, hell - Jurassic Bay. The great sow kicked with a crash of spray and bore for deeper water. Casey shuffled along the bar, using his thumb on the spool, fearful of being “stripped.” The second run faltered and stopped. Less than 15 yards remained on the reel. He began pumping and reeling. The trout made a short dash, then stalled and turned. Casey regained most of the line and the fish glided past, finning through a gathering swell. The apparition was brief, first a fleeting image of gray, then a long flash of silver amid the sun-sparkle of green. The trout was impossibly long - 37 or 38 inches. Casey saw the black spots and the bold eye. The red-and-gold four-inch plug pinned to the jaw was strangely small, out of register. The tired head bucked and the fish turned, fading into the green as the rod tip dipped and line turned slowly from the reel. The spotted fan of waving tail looked as wide as two spread hands. Casey loosened the star drag and gave line under a gracious thumb. This was no time to snub the fish or rush the landing. He worked the trout around in a slow circle, turning to keep the rod square with the angle of the line cutting the water. Casey got another big look. He judged the trout against five decades of experience - without hesitation, 15 or 16 pounds. Maybe closer to 18. It was as awesome as an Everglades snook. The rod lifted with authority and the ponderous sow yielded, sliding close on its side. One hook - the rear treble - was hung in the upper jaw, well back near the hinge. The standard across-the-shoulder hand grab was out of the question with such a massive fish, but the flared gill covers would provide a clutch hold under the throat. Casey paused, realizing the magnitude of the fish. Somehow, against preposterous odds, the trout had survived, dodging freezes and diseases and who knows how many assaults. Then Casey had cast. Ten years ago, Casey would have strung the trout and raced to the scales and the camera and the record book. But this fish, which had come from nowhere and after so long, was a statement against the changes and pressures that were squeezing the tides. It represented the promise that ever-beckons in fishing. Perhaps that was reward enough. Casey knew that, for him, it was slipping away. He did not have many magic tides left. But he had seen the best of it and it had marked his life and for that he was grateful. His friends - what a shame Biff and Ed weren’t wading alongside to share the moment. But they would believe him. The speckled trout floated in glorious submission against the high rod. The tilted head with its two snout teeth was as cruel as a barracuda’s. The fine scales of the long body were iridescent, glowing silver and green and lavender. The clear current washed over the shining fish and stirred the fins. The life flexed through the rod. Casey reached and placed a hand on the slab side. He gave it a soft pat. Then he reached with the crusty needle-nosed pliers that had grabbed so many hooks, and with a quick twist popped the treble free. He gave the tail a push, a silent salute, and the trout was gone. 36 | April 2012


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STORY BY JOE RICHARD

Juvenile undersized ling show up even in the bays, and they should be carefully released. This fish can grow up to 135 pounds.

38 | April 2012


The winds of April herald the annual run

of ling along the Texas coast, with water temp of 70° a key factor. On a typical windy weekend, they’re out there cruising around the platforms offshore without hindrance, running deep below wave chops of five to six feet. However, when the wind lays for a few hours or even days in good years, these fish rise to prowl boldly on the surface, a rare prize and target seen from stationary boats and gawking anglers. What follows is often comical, people tripping over themselves to get a bait in the water. Ling, also known as cobia, are usually curious enough for just one pass or circle around the boat, and you have to react quickly. Often they’ll follow a hooked bottom fish to the boat, or even grab one, before heading back down. The angler armed with a secondary rod, ready to cast within seconds, has the best chance at these fish. Groping around in the live well or cooler for fresh bait may be futile; the fish may dive within 10 seconds—unless a quick hand feeds them chum, keeping them interested. That still doesn’t guarantee a hookup, however. Once, during a tournament, we found a lonely 40-pounder skulking behind a lone anchored shrimpboat on a glassy Gulf, the only fish in sight. It refused anything with a hook hidden inside, even a leaderless hook slyly hidden inside a fine cigar minnow. However, he wasn’t above slurping 20 freebie TSFMAG.com | 39


Sam Caldwell with a 40-pounder, taken from a jonboat just beyond sight of land. Clear, green water is the ticket here.

chunks of same. This went on for some time, until we finally grabbed our only live bait in the well, a difficult task after losing the dipnet off the transom many hours before. It was a slippery little devil of a banded rudderfish (they resemble baby amberjack) that had been hiding in the well since the previous day. Now, with an 7/0 hook pinned to his tail, he landed in blue water and shot away from the ling, who spun and lathered the water while trying to grab him. That hapless baitfish soon vanished and on 60-pound line, hundreds of yards from the shrimpboat, the ling was easily caught. Back in Galveston, people were shocked we’d once again caught a decent kingfish and ling, along with a required red snapper, to win the three-fish combo tournament. All because we’d had one live bait hiding in the well, and caught the only ling we’d seen in three days. Other magical baits or techniques have coaxed ling into biting. One partyboat angler in Mississippi finally hid his hook inside his lunch, a hardboiled egg, and a circling 65-pound “lemonfish,” as they’re locally known, inhaled it. Another angler hid Alka-Seltzer in the mouth of a dead sand trout, and that worked. You just never know what will tempt ling. It’s maddening to have a huge prize fish cruising boldly around the boat, unwilling to eat. A number of ling have even been free-gaffed into boats, not an easy job when a strong fish, completely rested, is galvanized into action. One bored deckhand, from a crewboat moored to a platform, tried the free-gaffing trick and was yanked overboard. The captain sounded the man overboard alarm, the crew came running and retrieved the guy, who still clung to gaff and ling. They landed the fish but

Ling with a typical bucktail jig, the go-to lure for cobia fishermen in many lands, since they’re found around the world.

40 | April 2012


Ben Maroquin struggles to weigh a lip-gaffed ling estimated at 90 pounds in about 1985 off Sabine Pass. They had no room in Pete Churton’s aluminum boat for this brute, so they pushed it overboard to fight another day.

lIng back then

the guy lost his job. (Apparently they don’t want potlickers on the crewboats offshore.) Or so the story went. Ling are indeed powerful big, growing up to 135 pounds or so. The biggest I ever saw, in 1973, cruised by with several others, making just one pass, while we sat and fished from a platform 35 miles off Sabine. We were dumbfounded, and wanted no part of him. A little over six feet long, with a head at least 18 inches across. None of the guys would cast to him. Smaller puppy-sized ling grow very quickly, and should be handled carefully and released, since they’re now a prize fish, a bonus in today’s offshore arena. We often encountered schools of small ling during late summer. You could catch and tag 30 on trout tackle, and they hit any spoons or jigs. Before size limits were imposed in the early

Terry Webb of Austin admires an undersized ling, before releasing it.

We don’t see schools of ling like those of years ago. In the 1970s, in April, the first boats reaching green water often found dozens of ling prowling around a single platform, setting the stage for a long day of action. I’ve personally seen perhaps 50 ling at a single small platform only 15 miles off Sabine, each weighing from 20 to 60 pounds. They wore us out, busted rods, trashed the boat’s interior. As rookies we first beat on them (once in the boat) with fire extinguishers, then Louisville Sluggers, then used single-shot .22 rifles, since gaffing fish into small boats was something of a threat—if not to life, then certainly limb. A big ling has a powerful tail. And unlike most fish, a hooked ling may swim right to the boat, still full of fight. Few fish will fight on a gaff, as hard as this one. We got used to shooting our ling, like they do with halibut in Alaska, because they behaved so well while removing the hook and sliding them into an ice chest. However, using firearms in a boat is not without hazards; even Ernest Hemingway managed to shoot himself in the leg with a .22 when a gaff broke on a fish, swung back and struck the rifle, setting it off. Doh! The bullet ricocheted around the boat and lodged in his calf. For Papa it was no big deal after two wars and many hunts in Africa. You can bet he didn’t miss happy hour that evening. Years of catching these fish resulted in a growing respect and a new perspective; in 1987 we tagged and released 107 of these fish, winning the AFTCO tag award that year for ling, for the Atlantic and Gulf.

Today, climbing on a Gulf platform with a rifle is frowned upon. In 1978 we simply climbed up, went to a work on a dozen ling below, and shot them before landing. Otherwise they would have flipped back in the water.

42 | April 2012

1980s, some boat crews kept boxes of these small fish like so many trout, a wasteful practice that had to stop. Many of these early-season, April ling act like they’ve never seen hooked bait before. Instead of circling warily with beady eyes like the ling of late summer, these fish may charge right in, grabbing a bait repeatedly even when an angler overreacts, snatching hook and bait from greedy lips two or three times. Ling can appear at any time in blue or clear green water along the entire length of the Texas coast. However, we’ve always found them more plentiful from Galveston east, with Sabine even better. Louisiana must have a far better


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Beaumont. The Eastern Gulf often has opposite weather conditions from the western half, and with a light breeze and calm green water, it’s a cinch they’re catching cobia in April. You can’t launch a boat within 20 miles of this 1,600-foot pier, but kayaks are dragged into the surf within 100 feet of this structure. The pier has a small store, breakfast and burger bar, sizeable Tiki bar outside, kayak rentals for about $40, and live music on the weekends, so there are worse places to spend a few days fishing. Call the pier for cobia numbers landed that day at (850) 939-2188. This time of year, the place may be out-ofcontrol with spring breakers, however. I plan on being there anyway; old habits die hard.

Colorful jigs are an art form on the Florida Panhandle, where the spring run of ling is taken more seriously than anywhere else.

Good-sized cobia beside the boat. Keep a colorful 2-ounce jig close at hand, in cobia waters.

population, because there you can expect to see ling on a typical day offshore. By comparison, I didn’t see a single ling off Port O’Connor during an entire summer of guiding there, years ago. That’s unheard of, off Sabine Pass. Texas offshore tournaments often require a ling in a combined mix catch, or a side pot. That’s always a risk, because there’s no guarantee you’ll even see one they’re here today and gone tomorrow. It’s fun, however, targeting them in a tournament instead of hoping for incidental catch. In tournaments we typically work 2-ounce jigs deep, keep a sharp eye for surface fish, and maybe set out a live bait. Catch a calm weekend in April or May, and it can happen. It’s a tough row to hoe, however, compared to the Florida Panhandle, where these same fish migrate from east to west, waddling along in six or eight feet of lime-green water. Anglers there are nuts over their “cobia” and hold big, month-long tournaments each April. Many boatless anglers there take shots from a half dozen tall piers that reach 1,600 feet offshore, paying just $3 bucks a day…While in Texas we load up the offshore boat and hope waves at the jetty aren’t too punishing, the Gulf not too cruel, before heading out 20 or 30 miles. If Texas winds persist and you have an itch for spring cobia, click on the beach cam at Navarre Pier east of Pensacola, and check out their conditions, at http://navarrebeachpiercam.com/. Conditions may be ripe for a road trip, since Pensacola is only seven hours east of 44 | April 2012

Author with ling last April, while visiting South Florida. Anglers there cruise up and down the beach, watching for tell-tale brown shapes. This one instantly attacked the jig.


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Science and the Sea

TM

Nature’s Antifreeze Life in the extreme environment of a polar ocean certainly is a survival challenge, but some Antarctic fish manage with ice water in their veins – literally. In Antarctica’s coastal waters, a group of perchlike fish called icefish dominates. The water column in these frigid seas is filled with tiny ice crystals, and fish are constantly exposed to ice through their gills and skin. They even ingest ice crystals when they eat and drink. All of this ice exposure would be enough to chill the fish down to the point of freezing to death – if not for a remarkable adaptation that stops the ice from doing damage. Icefish don’t freeze thanks to glycoproteins in their blood that act as antifreeze. These specialized molecules bind to ice crystals that form in the fish’s body and stop the crystals from growing. Antifreeze glycoproteins work by covering the surface of ice crystals and blocking new water molecules from attaching to the crystal, thus preventing the ice from expanding. Produced in the pancreas, the glycoproteins circulate in the fish’s blood, gut, and other bodily fluids, including the fluid surrounding the brain. Scientists believe icefish developed these antifreeze proteins between 5 million and 14 million years ago, at a time when Antarctic waters cooled dramatically and fish that did not adapt died out. And what a successful adaptation it was! Icefish now account for 55 percent of the fish species found off Antarctica’s coast, enjoying a comfy living in an inhospitable environment.

The University of Texas

Marine Science Institute www.ScienceAndTheSea.org © The University of Texas Marine Science Institute

46 | April 2012

PFL-PRESIDENTAD-Texas Saltwater Fishing.indd 1

1/23/12 1:23 PM


TSFMAG.com | 47


J AY WAT K I N S

ASK THE PRO

I am finally home after spending the last two months fishing in Port Mansfield with my fishing club members. I would like to commend ALL of them on their contribution to the continued success of this fishery by practicing catch and release. I believe I only cleaned about a dozen redfish and maybe half a dozen trout for the 50 plus trips I took while there. Port Mansfield is a special place with some of the best trout fishing there is right now so we wanted to do our part to ensure that we keep it that way. Back home in Rockport, I will have to go to work getting back on the pattern for spring. Lucky for me I saved most every day’s conditions and areas that produced over the past 33 years so I have a pretty good ideal of where to start. Spring will bring with it wind - serious wind - in between the last few fronts of the year. Lucky are those of us fishing the middle Texas Coast because we have some serious miles of barrier islands that create some of the most ideal spawning habitat on the coast. Hard sand with submerged grass beds is the key to finding and catching throughout the next few months. We also have a large expanse of back water marsh that seldom dirties up too 48 | April 2012

much for sight fishing to actually fish or the structures that hold them. Add to this the many coves and large points that jut out into the bay off the barrier islands and you have water that you can fish when winds blow constantly at 20 to 25 mph. Wind at 20-plus mph SE is pretty much the norm so plan on having a stiff breeze on most days. The positive side of higher winds along our leeward shorelines is often a very distinct water change that makes up off the shoreline about 100 yards. When this water change covers up the outside submerged grass beds along the drop-off it is game on. The bait and predators alike see the change as camouflage and seek cover within. I have always said that in a shallow clear water fishery the wind is your friend and this belief still holds true today. More times than not, the winds aid us in the catching part of our day. Game planning for me is based on water temperatures, solunar tables, tides and the arrival of baitfish, especially menhaden. Planning your day around a location where bottom structure, water movement and bait is available is critical but not the only ingredient needed to increase the odds of success. When dealing with mature spawning


Seadrift

C ontact

class trout, major and minor moon rises and sets become extremely important. Over the years I have become a huge believer in the value of being in the right place at the exact right time. Too many are the times to count that I have witness a major feeding surge as the day reaches one of the major or minor feeding periods. I prefer the minor moon rises and sets. This hour period can produce a more defined and aggressive feed due to the reduction in the feeding period verses a two hour major feeding period. The winter of 2012 has further proven to me that this feed is more often than not the strongest of the day. Some other keys that will help many of you not on the water all the time is the presence of slicks and brown pelican activity. Where you find these two together there will be bait, trout and preferred bottom structure. One seldom exists without the other and all are proof positive of what lies below. I actually mark daily the movements of the baitfish along the barrier islands on my GPS. Where the food goes the predators go as well. I know many of you grow tired of the simplicity in my thinking but it has worked for me for many years so I think I’ll stick with this program and leave the big thinking to the bigger brains. Lure selection for me changes very little from year to year but over the past two years there have been a few new things that I have become confident in throwing. Of course the Bass Assassin in the 5” shad rigged with a 1/16 ounce 2/0 short-shank leadhead is always my go to fish finder. This year I have been throwing the 5’’ Die Dapper by Bass Assassin but rigging it with a Mustad 3/0 1/16 or 1/8 ounce flutter hook. I attach a screw-loc spring to the eye of the hook. This allows me to screw the plastic onto the spring and then place the hook through the slot, coming out the back and then slightly covering the point by pinching the plastic over the point. This makes the lure totally weedless and also creates a very level-running presentation when swimming through the water. The 1/8 ounce provides a slightly better action from the swimming tail due to the increased weight. This rig has proven to be deadly on larger trout in slightly off-colored water. MirrOlure’s MirrOdine XLs, Catch 2000 Jr and the MirrOmullet work best for me when trout are feeding shallow on mullet or menhaden over shallow grass beds. The Top Dog series of surface plugs are also great choices during the spring months in our waters. I prefer any combination of bone, silver, blue and chartreuse. I do appreciate those that relate to my simple approach to finding and catching fish. Catching fish is mostly dependant on going fishing. The more you fish the more you learn. The more you learn the more you catch. Jay Watkins has been a full-time fishing guide at Rockport, TX, for Put the ones back you don’t more than 20 years. Jay specializes in wading year-round for trout need so someone else can and redfish with artificial lures. Jay covers the Texas coast from San enjoy them. Antonio Bay to Corpus Christi Bay. May your fishing always Telephone 361-729-9596 be catching. Email Jay@jaywatkins.com -Guide Jay Watkins Website www.jaywatkins.com

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Let’s Talk

Boat Chris Mapp’s enance Tips nt ai M at Bo s p’ s ap M ip T ris Ch e c n a Mainten

BATTERIES

April is a great month to blow the dust off the boat and get her ready to go. Before we put the boat in storage at the end of last season, we washed it, fogged and flushed the engine, sprayed everything we should with Corrosion-X Red and Green, turned the battery switch off and raised the bow up. Now let’s turn the key and see if she’ll crank. Click-click-click-click! Should we put the charger on it or just go ahead and get new batteries? We need more information before we can make that decision. We recommend changing out traditional, non-gel cell marine batteries every 24 months. If your boat is equipped with two batteries we recommend changing both at the same time. Wipe the battery case real clean and check for the date of manufacture – this will be etched or stamped into the case or sometimes a small sticker is used. This is not to be confused with the date of installation which is usually a year/month punch-out tag. Some manufacturers use month/year coding (08/09) and others use an alphanumeric system (A=January, 2=2012, etc.) As a general rule, most outboard engine manufacturers suggest using batteries rated 1000 MCA (Marine Cranking Amps) for starting their larger fuel-injected outboards. Don’t forget your boat’s batteries

are used for multiple other functions such as navigation lights, live wells, stereos, Power Poles and Talon shallow water anchor systems, and many other accessories. You can learn more at http://www.interstatebatteries.com/ cs_eStore/content/product_info/marine_f.asp. There is a lot of valuable information on this page with definitions as well. The main thing is to choose the right battery for the intended purpose or application. Deep-cycle batteries have a slow release of energy and slow recharge rate, (smooth and steady out and back in). Starting requires quick release of energy and a rapid recharge rate, (quick out and quick in). Two batteries are always better than one and if your boat is not equipped with a battery selector switch to turn off the power when stored, it would be a great idea to put one on. Always use locknuts on terminal connections and keep them clean and tight. A dab of grease or protective spray is a must on all battery terminals. Have a great and safe season, Chris Mapp

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Small reefs make perfect edges for redfish to feed on

CASEY SMARTT

F LY F I S H I N G

MAKING THE MOST

OF SPRING

After an unusually wet and warm winter, spring is upon us. And although the long-term weather outlook for 2012 is still predicting below average rainfall, the recent influx of freshwater from winter rains will hopefully create favorable inland brooding conditions. If you haven’t already dusted off your tackle and sharpened your hooks, the time is now. The strong tides and warming waters of spring can provide great fishing. This month we’ll take a look at tackle, flies, and strategies to help make the most of spring fishing. Tackle My typical inshore arsenal consists of fly rods in two sizes: 6-wt and 8-wt. The 6-wt rods are great for stalking the flats and picking off fish when the winds are calm and the targets are clearly visible. These rods are nimble, accurate, and a pleasure to cast all day long. But in spring, formidable southeast winds prevail and create casting conditions ranging from challenging to outright difficult. They can quickly sap the life out of a 6-wt rod. This is where the power of 8-wt really shines. The 8-wt rods have

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backbone and strength to get the job done in a variety of windy and/or awkward inshore fishing situations. They are good for punching flies in a stout breeze and making long blind casts with either floating or sinking lines. When in doubt go with an 8-wt. I outfit my fly rods with several different lines. The first, of course, is a weight-forward floating line. This is the most common fly line used by Texas inshore anglers and it is a great match for flats fishing or working potholes in water less than 5 or 6 feet deep. Two of my favorite lines in this category are the Scientific Anglers Mastery Series Redfish Line, and the Royal Wulff Triangle Taper Saltwater Floating line. The SA line loads quickly and is a good choice for short casting situations while the Royal Wulff has a taper for smooth long casts. A second group of lines that are useful are the sinking lines. If you have read a few of my previous articles you know I am a fan of sinking lines. Sinking lines can get flies down to strike zones on channel edges, drops, or deep reefs and structure - especially when a strong current is present. The option to reach into deep water is important


during spring because fish are often staged near drop-offs waiting for the opportunity to venture into shallower water and again when a falling tide pours off the flats. Sinking lines are available in either steady sink (entire line sinks at constant rate) or sink tip (tip sinks, running line floats or sinks more slowly than tip). The sink rate of these lines ranges from intermediate (1-2 inches per second) to fast (4-6 inches per second). The intermediate lines are perhaps the most versatile. I have had great results using intermediate lines to fish large slow-moving streamers over potholes, structure, and drops. Two of my favorites are the Scientific Anglers Clear Intermediate Bonefish Line and the Royal Wulff Clear Triangle Taper Intermediate Line. Both of these lines make long smooth casts. Flies In my experience, spring is one of the few times redfish can become quite selective in what flies they are willing to bite. Small critters (surprisingly small), like juvenile shrimp, crabs, and baitfish are normally present on the flats in the Spring and this is what the redfish are often after. This is not to say a springtime redfish won’t crack a big bright fly tossed out in front of him, but in general very small offerings in natural colors are a better choice than large bold ones. For the past few years, my springtime pick is a root beer colored #6 Smartt’s Shrimp (tying instructions are in Jan. 2012 TSFM). I have had a lot of success with this fly. Another good choice is the tiny East Cut Redfish Popper, also in root beer. Small shrimp or crab sliders in natural brown or olive colors, small Seaducers and bead chain Clousers will also work well. Again… size and color are important on these flies. They should be small (#4 to #6 hooks), unobtrusive, and look like what the redfish are eating. If you don’t have any small natural looking flies, simply tie on the smallest fly in your box and give it a shot. My observations have been that picky redfish are more likely to mistake a small fly for food than a large one. For trout, I will likely be throwing suspending craft fur patterns like a Meaty Minnows or Toad flies. These are relatively large flies (#1 to 3/0 hooks) with a lot of fluid action. They should be fished slow and steady. Toad flies have wide profiles when viewed from below and fluid actions during the retrieve. I have been experimenting

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and presentation on any of these large flies. Chartreuse, tan, or white are safe bets, with a slow, enticing presentation being the key. A large white Toad fly fished slow and twitchy on a floating line with a long leader is a deadly combination.

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54 | April 2012

Jon Fisher with a banged-up Toad fly

Strategy As during any other season, temperature and currents are key pieces of the Spring fishing puzzle. Fish are no different than any other creatures- they seek out safety/ stability and avoid extremes. In the Spring, this means fish might wait for hours after sun-up for the flats to warm before venturing into the unknowns of shallow water. When they do, they sometimes eat like crazy. Likewise, during overcast or blustery days, fish lay low in the comfort of deep water. Understanding this simple behavior is important when planning when and where you will fish. Currents are perhaps the single

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with some craft fur versions of Toad flies tied on large 60-degree jig hooks outfitted with stainless bead chain eyes. They are fast becoming one of my favorite flies for blind casting and working deep structure. These flies look great, cast great, and the 60-degree jig hook is extremely resistant to snags. I believe color is a bit less important than size

Very small flies, like this Smartt’s Shrimp and Glass Minnow are good choices for springtime redfish.

most important fish-finding factor throughout the year. But learning to use currents to your advantage is far more than simply knowing what time high tide is. What you should understand about currents is how they interact with structure to create ambush points and feeding opportunities. For example- celestial forces and winds both move


of currents cannot be overlooked. If you pay close attention to when and where the currents flow you will quickly become better at predicting and spotting waiting fish. I encourage you to get out on the water this Spring. You may have to fight the wind, but the temperatures will be mild, the tides will be strong, and the fishing can be very good.

C O N TA C T

water. This moving water flows around points, through bottlenecks and over/across submerged structure. It floods and drains marshes, mediates temperatures and creates mud/debris lines. Sometimes water movement is subtle, other times it is very pronounced. As the water moves, it carries shrimp, crabs, minnows and bits of food. Regardless of how currents are created, predators respond to the moving water. They position themselves in the cover of small potholes, corners, points, drops, and fluvial areas where they wait for prey to wash past. This accounts for why “edges” are such good places to fish. The importance

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Casey Smartt has been fly fishing and tying flies for 30 years. When he cannot make it to the coast he is happy chasing fish on Texas inland lakes and rivers. Telephone Email Website

830-237-6886 caseysmartt@att.net www.caseysmartt.com

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No washing machines in MY marsh!

By Lillian Gasca A q u a r i u m R o c k p o r t H a r b o r | R o c k p o r t , Te x a s

FIELD NOTES

NO WASHING MACHINE IN MY MARSH! A washing machine in the marsh! A washing machine in MY marsh! As I drove north on highway FM 136 toward Bayside, I became aware of the washing machines that had be dumped along the highway right-of-way. These two white hulks were the crowning blow of litter that already scarred the roadside and had blown into the marsh vegetation: beer cans, beer bottles, plastic bags, plastic plates, cups, food wrappers, lumber, diapers, tires and so much more. These eye sores on the beauty of the marsh disturbed me. I volunteer at the Welder Wildlife Foundation in Sinton. I tend the sea life at the Aquarium at Rockport Harbor. I volunteer at the ARK at University of Texas Marine Science Institute in Port Aransas in caring for injured wildlife. I am a Texas Master Naturalist. I love this earth and its creatures. I had to take action. I began researching the area of Egery Flats. I talked 56 | April 2012

Volunteers picking up litter along the highway near Egery Flats.


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to my neighbors and friends. I talked to my colleagues where I work and volunteer. I made phone calls. I wrote letters. I contacted city, county, state and federal agencies and non-government conservation groups that I thought could help solve the problem of habitat abuse at Egery Flats. I might have even written the Texas governor. I have heard my friends call this “Lillie’s Crusade.” Egery Flats is located in Aransas County on the east side of highway FM 136 just before the highway crosses the bridge and enters Refugio County. The Flats are part of the complex estuarine marsh created by the Aransas River delta where it enters southwest Copano Bay. A variety of different landowners own the Flats and adjacent lands on either side of the highway. Egery Flats is a tidally influenced shallow marsh with dense cordgrass along its perimeter and the islands throughout its rich mud bottom. It serves as a nursery ground for shrimp and larval fish and harbors an abundance of resident shorebirds as well as flocks of migratory birds. Despite many existing laws, many users of this remote stretch of narrow highway have abused the natural esthetics of the area by littering, habitat destruction, and taking shrimp illegally. My letters and phone calls have been successful. The first organized litter pickup in 2010 resulted in over 9,000 pounds of litter being trucked away by Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT). Master Naturalists have continued to have regular litter pickups. TxDOT has installed highway barriers along the highway by the culverts to protect persons that continue to access the water’s edge. The U.S Fish and Wildlife Service purchased the signs that Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Coastal Fisheries Division installed to remind bay users that taking shrimp from the nursery area is illegal. The Mission Aransas National Estuarine Research Reserve (MA-NERR) Stewardship Committee is installing an informational sign purchased by the Coastal Bend Bays and Estuaries Program. The collaborative efforts by these and other organizations and many individuals, has made a visible and positive impact to the Egery Flats area. I hope that our awareness and call to action in Egery Flats can be an inspiration to others who care about the environment to take an active role in its stewardship.

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C O N S E R V AT I O N

CCA TEXAS TAKES BOLD STEP

IN OPENING CEDAR BAYOU $500,000 pledge kicks off multi-million dollar fundraising campaign The Coastal Conservation Association Texas recently announced a $500,000 matching grant to initiate a new push in generating the funding to open Aransas County’s Cedar Bayou and Vincent Slough. After decades of negative impacts from siltation and low water flows, an estimated $6.5M effort will be required to open the vital connection from Mesquite and Aransas Bays to the Gulf of Mexico. “It is not often that there is an opportunity to reopen a vital and iconic pass,” said Robby Byers, CCA Texas executive director. “There is still a lot of money to be raised and a lot of work to do, but CCA Texas kicked off a critical next step with this financial support.” Cedar Bayou is a natural pass that separates St. Joseph’s Island from Matagorda Island. Dredging efforts date back to the 1930s, but partial efforts, siltation and misplacement of spoil materials have eventually led to the pass and adjacent Vincent Slough being sealed. Along with the kick-off funding, CCA Texas will partner with Aransas County in providing funds to secure a professional fundraiser to pursue the needed dollars to complete the dredging project. To date, Aransas County has already secured $500,000 in Coastal Impact Assistance Program funds for the project. “This is a tremendous opportunity for the economic and environmental future of Aransas County and the State of Texas,” said Judge C.H. Mills. “Our partnership with CCA in this important effort is a much-needed boost to push this initiative forward.” After a protracted application and approval process, Judge Mills signed the dredging permit for Cedar Bayou and Vincent Slough on August 3 of 2011. Although the pass has been dredged numerous times through history, this is the largest and most comprehensive effort slated to date. “Anytime you can open a pass between the Gulf and bay, you are creating a tremendous benefit for the bay and the anglers who enjoy it,” said Mark Ray, CCA Texas Chairman. “CCA Texas has supported this important effort for decades and this new support will hopefully reopen this vital pass for generations to come.”

58 | April 2012

CCA Texas expands commitment to nearshore artificial reefing along Texas coast in Corpus Latest commitment brings artificial reef funding total to $400,000 in Texas CCA Texas recently expanded the organizations commitment to nearshore reefing along the Texas coast with a $100,000 commitment to the new 160 acre nearshore reefing site located between Packery Channel (Corpus Christi) and Port Aransas. This new Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) reefing site, MU-775, is located in Texas state waters in 70 feet of water and once reefed will offer easily accessible nearshore reefing for anglers out of Corpus Christi and Port Aransas. “Due to the “Idle Iron” Program, 3 out of 10 near shore rigs out of Packery Channel have been removed in the past 9 months. These rigs represent essential fish habitat that has been needlessly removed, which has drastically affected fishery habitat for this area,” commented Jay Gardner, CCA Texas Habitat Today for Fish Tomorrow committee chairman. Gardner commented further, “CCA Texas is proud to partner with TPWD and others on this project to replace this critical habitat, and provide fishing opportunities within State waters for this section of the Texas Coast.  The Habitat Today for Fish Tomorrow Program is dedicated to exactly these types of causes that benefit current and future Texas anglers all along the coast.” “This project emphasizes CCA Texas’ ongoing commitment to our member anglers, coastal fishery habitat and in fact all Texas anglers,” commented Mark Ray, CCA Texas Chairman. “While CCA Texas has long been the premier advocate for coastal Texas resources, thru Habitat Today for Fish Tomorrow (HTFT), CCA Texas members are putting their money where their mouth is.” CCA Texas’s Habitat Today for Fish Tomorrow (HTFT) program has now committed $400,000 to nearshore reefing in Texas to date. This commitment will continue as new sites become available or old sites are added to. TPWD is currently in the bidding process to begin reefing the new Matagorda nearshore site and hopes to begin the bidding process for this new Corpus Christi site mid year this year and begin reefing late this year or early 2013. With nearshore sites already reefed out of Freeport and Port Mansfield, the Corpus Christi and Matagorda sites will offer much needed structure along the Texas coast and easily accessible fishing grounds for the everyday fisherman in these areas.


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TSFMAG.com | 59


While we’ve been sold for quite a while on covering up with clothing and sunscreen to protect skin, it is only recently that anglers have begun using better shades to protect their eyes.

C A P T. S COT T N U L L

K AYA K F I S H I N G

EYE PROTECTION, ESSENTIAL FISHING TOOL, OR BOTH? Sunglasses. It sounds so simple. You know you need some shades when you’re out on the water in the bright sunshine. But which ones are best? Ask that question among a group of fishermen and you’re liable to get a bunch of different answers. Most hardcore anglers have a favorite brand, style, and lens color. And everyone knows you need polarized lenses to see into the water. But can you explain why you’ve made those choices? I thought I had a pretty good handle on the subject. That is, until I was asked to write about it. I started my research early one evening and the next thing I knew it was two o’clock in the morning and I was still reading. The amount of information available on this subject was staggering. First, the scary part. We all know the dangers of UV (ultraviolet radiation) to our skin. It’s been hammered into our thick skulls for years and now I see even the most hard-headed lathering on the sunscreen. Who does not know a fisherman who’s had a few “suspicious” spots removed or even lost a slice off their ear. Not much has been said though about the damage UV does to our 60 | April 2012

eyes. There’s lots of eye diseases including glaucoma, macular degeneration, and cancer that are thought to be directly related to UV. And on exceptionally bright days the amount of UV entering your eyes can cause photokeratitis, - sunburn of the retina - causing temporary and possibly permanent loss of sight. A recent study found UV exposure at its peak in the early morning and late afternoon during certain times of the year. I always figured it was worse with the sun high overhead. But according to the study, the amount of UV-B reaching our eyes during these times was nearly twice that of the mid-day periods in the spring, summer, and fall. At the time of the Autumnal Equinox the greatest exposure was found to be at 9:00 am and between 2:00 and 3:00 pm. During winter the peak exposure moved back towards the middle of the day. Now for the good news. Sunglasses can be coated to prevent UV penetration into your eyes. The sun’s UV rays are grouped into three classifications based on their respective wavelengths and frequencies; UV-A, UV-B, and UV-C. We are mainly concerned with the first


Kayak anglers especially need good eyewear. The inherent lowangle perspective of a seated angler complicates sight-fishing more than you might imagine.

two as the UV-C rays are absorbed by our atmosphere and do not reach the earth’s surface. UV-B has been found to be the main culprit in causing eye disease while the effect of UV-A on our eyes has not been definitively answered. Thus, it is important to make sure your lenses block these two classes of UV. This is easily done by purchasing sunglasses labeled as blocking “99 – 100% of UV light” or “UV absorption up to 400nm” which would be equal to 100%. Do not settle for anything less. Also, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) has provided a standard for non-prescriptive eyewear referred to as ANSI / Z80.3. If your glasses have the ANSI rating you can rest assured that they meet or exceed these minimum safety requirements. However, ANSI is a voluntary organization so it is possible that glasses meet the requirements without having the ANSI label. The next thing to look for is the “polarized” label. Unfortunately not all sunglasses that claim to be polarized actually are, but there is a simple way to determine this. First, it helps to understand what the term means. The physics sites made my head spin a bit, but I think I’ve managed to boil it down to this: Sunlight is an electromagnetic wave with electric and magnetic vibrations occurring in multiple planes. This is referred to as unpolarized light meaning it is vibrating in a variety of directions. There are several ways in which light becomes polarized. What we are concerned with is polarized light caused by reflection. When the unpolarized light strikes a non-metallic surface, such as water, a percentage of the waves become polarized along a horizontal plane. The angle at which the light strikes the water’s surface determines the degree to which the vibrations become polarized. The lower the sun’s angle the greater the reflection, or glare. We see the reflection as white glare when the intensity of the light is above the level our eyes can absorb. Light is measured in lumens. TSFMAG.com | 61


Mirrored lenses probably offer a better fashion statement than actual protection over traditional lens coatings.

Average Indoor light is around 500 lumens. In the shade it is around 1000 lumens. We start to get uncomfortable around 3500 lumens and see white glare when the level reaches 4000. Again, depending on the sun’s angle, we’re looking at upwards of 6000 lumens on the water. Prolonged exposure above 10,000 lumens can cause temporary or permanent blindness. The magic of polarized sunglasses occurs because they have a layer of vertically oriented long-chain molecules applied to the lens. These molecules completely block out any light waves that

62 | April 2012 124380_CDM-11154.2011_Texas Saltwater Fishing.indd

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are perpendicular to their alignment, thus the horizontally polarized glare is erased. Other light waves are allowed to pass through as visible light. Perfectly vertical light waves pass through at full strength while other angles pass through at varying degrees. Polarized lenses will be most effective when the sun is between 30 and 60 degrees above the horizon with 37 degrees being the absolute optimum. And keep in mind that we are talking about flat water. Ripples and waves will change the angles of light wave polarization and thus change the effectiveness of your glasses Now don’t you feel all educated? So, if you want to know whether your sunglasses are polarized you need to perform a simple test. Hold your glasses in front of you aligned as if you were wearing them and look at the glare on the water or any other non-metallic horizontal surface. The glare should be mostly blocked. Slowly rotate the glasses and watch what happens to the glare. If you have polarized lenses the glare and brightness should increase and max out when the glasses are perpendicular to the glare-producing surface. If you notice no change then they are not polarized and they’re not doing you any good out on the water. Perhaps the most debated option on sunglasses is lens color. It can make a huge difference in how effective your glasses are for different applications. The myriad tints and hues available greatly affect the way you see the world. Grey is likely the most popular

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selling tint for all-purpose sunglasses across the United States. Being a neutral color, grey provides for nearly natural color perception throughout the light spectrum. Depending on the degree of tint, it can also provide the most overall darkening effect in very bright conditions. This is generally the preferred color for offshore anglers and for driving. Green and blue tints also fall into this same category, though to a lesser extent than grey. While offshore guys are most often concerned with dimming the overall light intensity, inshore anglers are generally more concerned with seeing through the water to locate underwater structure and fish. For this you need a lens that increases your perception of contrast. There is a huge range of lenses that fit the bill for this. Every manufacturer has a different name for the various colors covering this spectrum. Rose, amber, copper, and vermillion are but a few. All of these filter varying amounts of different light waves. The increased contrast provided by these lenses really does improve your perceived visual acuity. They can literally make a redfish appear to pop out from its surroundings. If you like to sight-fish in shallow water, these are the colors you need to check out. From my non-scientific research over the years I’ve found that what works best for one angler isn’t necessarily the optimum color for the next guy. Some studies indicate that it relates to individual eye color and seems to make sense when you think about it. People with light blue eyes perform best with the darker hues while those with dark brown eyes prefer the lighter tints. Folks in the middle generally report that they don’t see much difference. Another point of debate is mirrored lenses. Some folks say they make no difference while others swear by them. Tests prove that mirrors do make a small difference in the amount of light transmission through the lens. The vast majority of light is already being filtered by the polarization and tint, so it stands to reason that it might be difficult for some people to realize that the mirror is making a difference. I feel that mirrors are generally a matter of personal preference regarding style more so than function. However, if your goal is to eliminate as much light as possible then you might want to go this route. Most of the higher-end manufacturers will provide a light transmission value. This number represents the percentage of light allowed through the lens and generally falls between 8 and 20. When shopping for your glasses, remember that the light outdoors will be much different than inside the store. Ask to take a couple pair outside to test the differences. And perhaps the most contentious aspect of sunglasses – price. There is a huge difference in price points with some selling for as little as $15 while the upper end can put you over three bills. Then again, most of the equipment we buy to pursue our favorite pastimes fall into this trap as well. And generally speaking you get what you pay for. I tend to gravitate towards buying quality equipment. Days in the field or on the water are too special for me to go bargain and risk disappointment. But with sunglasses it stands out as even more important. We’re talking about the health of our eyes.

Capt. Scott Null is a devout shallow water fisherman offering guided adventues via kayak, poled skiff, and wading. Telephone Email Website

281-450-2206 scott@tsfmag.com www.captainscottnull.com

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S C O T T S O M M E R L AT T E

ACCORDING TO SCOT T

FISHING BUSINESS As a rule, I find consumer outdoor shows a waste of my time and my money. From a business standpoint, all I end up doing is sitting in a booth for days on end, hoping to book enough trips to pay for the debacle. In short, I better serve my business interests by staying home and trying to get some trips out and make money rather than sitting in the city spending it. And, while I can tell you the above is true, it is in fact only mostly true. Each year the Houston Fishing Show is held in early March, which happens to usually coincide with crappy weather which means, no matter how much I want to be on the water every day, chances are, I am going to have at least a day or two that I cannot fish. The long and short of it is - every year I usually make it out to the show at least one day to, if nothing else, spend time with friends that also work in the world of fishing. Unfortunately, this year the weather ended up being unfavorable for fly-fishing for three of the four days of the show and, I had such a great time on the first day, I went back for a second. As usual, I got to hang out and talk fishing with a couple of my customers that I ran into and again, lots of my friends. What a great time! Like every year, Fishing Tackle Unlimited had a strong presence by not only having an incredible display of 64 | April 2012

top-quality equipment, but by having some great show specials for the consumer to take advantage of. In addition, they had Eric Kraimer from Simms there to help promote the brand that seems to be taking Texas by storm as well as several of the FTU pro-staff fishing guides to help answer questions about the latest and greatest tackle and to talk fishing with the masses. As always, the Shimano booth was a buzz of activity as folks came by to check out the latest and greatest. For you inshore anglers, the new Sustain spinning reel is pretty damned awesome and for those of you who like heading to the blue-water…wait until you see the TranX low-profile level-wind. The ultimate for chunking topwaters offshore or for pitching live baits for blackfin or cobia under a shrimp boat. Wow, cannot wait to get my hands on both. I also got to spend some time with my friends from Waterloo Rods and as usual they had steady traffic and were moving some sticks. And, I of course got to spend some time with many members of the TSF Magazine Team which is always a blast. All in and all done, it seemed to me like there was more traffic at this show than I had seen in the past few years and from a sales standpoint, I hear that it was a good show. Anyway, I guess it is time to get to the point of where


Be good and stuff like that…

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this is all going so here it is... It is a good thing to see the fishing business doing so well because it ultimately means good things for the fish that we all love so much. As I mentioned in a piece I did last year, I do not like to think of fishing as a business as much as a lifestyle. However, after spending last week walking around the Houston Fishing Show, I came to a realization- fishing is, no matter how I want to look at it, a business. In fact, it is such a big business that none of us can afford to see it fail. That means manufacturers, retailers, guides and everyday anglers alike. Too much is at stake. In regards to the business of fishing, I often walk a double edge sword. You see, in my opinion, our resources are being stretched to the limits by poor management and, from a social perspective, there are way too many people on the bay, almost to the point of not being fun some times. As for the mismanagement of the resource, I will jump up on my soapbox only briefly to say- we are taking way too many fish. There is no reason any one angler needs to keep more than five fish a trip. And, I am not just talking five trout. Five fish- period! And, there is no reason any guide should be able to contribute to a customer’s stringer- period! I have more thoughts on this but will save them for another time. Another example of poor resource management is that it is ridiculous that we have to fight so hard to keep freshwater flowing to the bays. Who gives a rat’s behind whether or not some rich dude has water for his swimming pool or if his manicured lawn dies because of drought? The bays need the water and in the beginning the bays got all the water! Now let me shift gears and touch on one of the many social issues resulting from the number of people on the bay. Here is where my thoughts and opinions become conflicted. You see, nothing is more aggravating to me than to have another boat run into, over or through the area that I am fishing and I am quite certain that none of you do either. Even those of you who do it to others get quite hacked when someone does it to you. Unfortunately, I believe the day is coming where we will need to have someone out there directing traffic because, and I cannot believe I am going to say this... we need more people fishing in order to ultimately protect what we love. This is a cold, hard, unfortunate truth that we, as anglers, must live with. Without bringing new people into the sport we love and cherish so dearly, we do not have the numbers of people necessary to fight for and protect the resource and for the right to fish from the extreme left-wing liberal tree huggers. Here are a couple of simple, but good examples… The bays need fresh water to sustain life and remain healthy. If the golfers outnumber the fisherman (both commercial and recreational) then the freshwater gets diverted from the rivers to water the golf courses. Some might argue that there is an equitable way to divide the resource. I say B.S. to that! The bays and the life they support are far more important to the overall health of our economy and our nation. A golf ball will roll on dirt but redfish and trout cannot live without shrimp and baitfish and they cannot in turn survive without freshwater. Or how about this one? In a nut-shell, our current administration has ordered the removal of all of the old, non-producing wells in the Gulf of Mexico. The cheapest way for companies to remove these platforms is to blast the legs with dynamite. The result, millions of fish that utilized these man-made, artificial reefs are being killed by the blast. Who has stepped up to condemn the killing and waste of the resource? Well it is not the PETA, tree hugging bastards; it was people like you and me who support conservation organizations like the CCA. Now, I will be honest with you, the above writing is not well organized, meaning that it is more random thoughts loosely put together to get to this simple conclusion- The resource needs conservation efforts which in turn needs both new people (votes) and the fishing industry (finance). The fishing industry needs new people in order to thrive and grow so they can help support conservation efforts. The new people coming into the sport need fish to catch so that they will fall in love with the sport and spend money with business that support conservation and at conservation fundraising events. In order for there to be fish, there needs to be a healthy ecosystem and good management. At this point I hope you recognize the pattern and how it all comes full circle- While I do hate the fact that fishing has become Scott Sommerlatte is a full time fly fishing and light tackle guide, big business, I do realize it is a freelance writer and photographer. necessary evil. Telephone Email Website

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What to look for this spring on the flats.

JAKE HADDOCK

YO U T H F I S H I N G

WAITING ON THE SUNSHINE Waiting on the sunshine, that has been the game lately. As fishermen, I feel we always try to rush the glorious heat of summer time, but Mother Nature usually has different plans. So, what is it that we like about fishing in the warm months so much? Is it how fast paced the fishing is, the vast variety of fishing in these months, or is it the explosive topwater bite that you can guarantee every morning? I would have to answer, (d), all of the above. There’s no doubt the fisheries seem to be much more alive as the waters warm up in the spring. Along with more fishing opportunity on the water, soon approaching, there will also be a lot of boat traffic. I seem to have problems with other boaters when navigating to back ponds and lakes. To get to these areas, you often have to pass through narrow canals and channels. The issue is that some people like to fish here, anchoring up in these passage ways. I always try to be courteous by slowing down and idling by as far on 66 | April 2012

the other side of the channel as possible. Some of these fishermen are nice, and appreciate that I’m not blowing by them at 5,000 rpm’s. When you wave at this type he will usually wave back. On the other hand, some of the others that I have passed by stare me down as if I’m in the wrong for trying to get by them. I don’t dislike people that set up to fish with bait on tight lines in channels, but these guys just need to understand that those are the highways of the bay system, and people will be traveling through those passageways regularly. Often, when wading in these “busy” months, some people just assume to cruise the main shorelines to look for you bowed up on a fish with your stringer already out. Once they key in on this, they will get as close to you as they dare and try to get in on some of the fish you found for them. I got a very big laugh while reading Capt. McBride’s article last month when he discussed his tricks of how he would get at people like this. One trick a


Releasing another good spring red.

tournament fisherman taught me is that when people are driving by on a boat and your stringer is out, you just pull it in real quick and step on the float. Out of sight, out of mind, right? My luck typically happens to be that as soon as a boat comes by, I get a bite from a big boy redfish. I try to make it unnoticeable by pointing my rod at the water and reeling. Many times I have lost good fish like this, but at least I still had the spot to myself. Growing up, most of the fishing trips I got to go on were usually

in these coming months of April to September. Of course, with school letting out in late spring there will soon be freed schedules of our ever so busy angling youth. You will start to see more pint size figures bobbing around out in the water once school lets out. There’s something about being the youngest on the boat that makes you want to try harder than everyone else to catch the biggest and most fish. I know from first hand, believe me, it was not so long ago I was rocking my youth-sized Columbia fishing shirt, equipped with a baitcasting reel that I would often backlash. These are cherished memories with many more to be made. Don’t take these times for granted because not too long from now you will be paying for your own boat gas, and finding your own fish. Hopefully, by the time your reading this article you will be able to jump in waist deep water without getting frostbite. I think maybe even next time I’m out on the water, some new sea grass will be growing, and I will see some tiny shrimp in the marsh. It’s now only a matter of waiting on the sun to heat everything up to just the right temperature. Then once again there will be hungry redfish prowling all around the flats in search of their favorite crustacean to eat. You know I will be taking advantage of this event big-time. Pay attention to what the fish are eating when you go out this Spring. Make your adjustments tackle wise and you too will stay hooked up.

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MIKE JENNINGS

TEXAS NEARSHORE & OFFSHORE

ADD NEW TOOLS TO YOUR

BAG OF TRICKS It seems that talking to lots of fishermen on a daily basis is part of my job. Conversations range from topics as simple as recent fishing reports to the more complex issues of how our fisheries have changed and the effects of strict management policies. Just about every day along the dock someone will bring up the subject of regulations, limits, days lost due to our ever-changing weather, etc, etc. Discussions about fuel prices, smaller limits and closures, not to mention concerns over the number of days we’ll get for red snapper seem to make many fishermen want to just throw in the towel and take up golf. One of the most common comments I hear among anglers is that it just isn’t worth going out there anymore for only two fish. While I certainly understand the frustration and share many of the sentiments, I have to take exception to the thought that low bag limits on a single species of snapper, would be a reason to simply abandon a lifelong passion. While I do understand that their frustrations are a result of many factors that combine to look as if opportunity isn’t equal to the overall expense; I take every one of these 68 | April 2012

conversations as an opportunity to practice what I have always preached as a professional fisherman. That is the opportunity to teach. As a young fishing guide I was once told by someone that had spent more days fishing than I had been alive – “There are lots of good fisherman and anybody can take someone fishing. But a good fishing guide has to do both as well as be a good teacher.” I’ve never forgotten that and I do my very best to keep that in mind as I work with clients on the water. As I grow older I realize that this isn’t limited to the finer aspects on being a successful angler. I realize that the changes I have made in my business to stay successful throughout this ever changing fishery, may well be the best remedy for someone’s loss of enthusiasm for our sport. As our open seasons became shorter I began seeing these same concerns among my clients. They were asking more questions about fishing opportunity and what we could fish for at a given time of year. This made me rethink the way I was approaching a fishing trip outside of the


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your time is too valuable to trust any other line. red snapper season, and that I had come accustom to basing a lot of my trips on one fish. I may be growing older but I am far from a dinosaur and I was determined not to share their fate. It made me work to hone my skills on a few fish that I didn’t regularly target. This has all come full circle for me, to the guy standing on the dock concerned if it is worth continuing to spend the money it takes to fish offshore considering the limits on what he can bring home for dinner. My answer to him is that as our fisheries change we have to change with them. Don’t dwell on one species, there are so many more out there to take advantage of. If you like snapper fishing there are the vermillion snapper and gray snapper that can be targeted on a daily basis. Although they are not as easily caught as the Gulf red snapper, they are just as tasty and have liberal bag limits. Kingfish are another species that is present year round, although they are in larger numbers and closer to shore in the summer – the bonus side of king mackerel being that they can be targeted year round with no seasonal closures. Amberjack are open (season-wise) right now and even closer to shore than they will be by time most of us are looking for the red snapper opener. These fish may be limited to one per person, but their sheer size makes them a freezer filler. Not to mention that their brute strength and “fight all the way to the boat” reputation makes them a fan favorite. Right now the wahoo have just moved in off the shelf and can be targeted as shallow at 140 feet or so. This is one fish that most fail to take advantage of, simply from lack of knowledge on their migration patterns and where to target them at any given time of the year. Cobia are another great fish that we will see showing up within the next month. In the late

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summer we have dorado and sailfish joining the mix followed by the tuna behind the deepwater shrimp boats. For the more adventurous anglers who are willing to travel a little further, we are sitting on a great swordfish fishery. Dropping baits on deepwater humps regularly yields multiple species of grouper, tilefish and barrelfish. There are plenty fish to chase throughout the year so don’t get discouraged. Take a day on the water as a challenge. Work on targeting something that you may have minimal experience at. Move out of that comfort zone and past the feeling that you need to target only what is easiest. Go just a little further, fish just a little deeper, think just outside that proverbial box we all hear bout. I can guarantee that you will experience some failure along the way. You will feel a little regret in passing up something that you felt was a sure thing, to chase a fish that was a maybe. I can also guarantee that you will find some successes in places and times you never expected, and it will make you a better fisherman. It will make you that multi-species fisherman that really doesn’t need one single fish to make his day a success. That fisherman equipped with a broad set of skills that would never get discouraged over a closed season on one species of snapper. I have spent a lifetime tweaking my approach to our ever-changing fishery and have seen more than my fair share of failures along the way, but when I find that tactic that works and a plan that comes together it gives me just one more tool to add to my box of tricks. As I tell people all the time, I would like to claim that it was a result of superior skill and knowledge. Truth of the matter is that it was most likely just a long string of dumb luck. Luck or not I have learned that the western Gulf of Mexico is home to more species than many other areas of the world and I for one am not going to let a short season on one fish discourage me or alter my desire to take advantage of a world-class fishery.

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C A D E ’ S C O A S TA L C H R O N I C L E S

CADE SIMPSON

Hi, I’m Cade. I’m just your everyday do it yourself kind of guy with a passion for the outdoors. Like many of you, I have often found myself a little lost when planning a fishing trip to a new area. Well, break out your Hook-NLine Fishing map and follow me each month as I travel along the Texas coast, learning the ins and outs of fishing the salt waters along the way.

fishing territory that comprises Espiritu Santo Bay and its smaller surrounding bays and lakes, one can find a prime area to fish practically all year long. In my initial scouting for my early spring trip, the word was that redfish were moving through The Lagoon and Shoalwater in schools. Temps were in the mid to upper 60s, skies sunny, the wind a steady 25mph.

Where In this month’s edition, I am fishing near Seadrift, near Port O’Connor. Seadrift is nestled against the north shore of San Antonio Bay. For my outing, however, nearby Espiritu Santo Bay was my target water. Access to Espiritu is only a few miles out of downtown Seadrift. Hook N Line map F135 is the most appropriate map for referencing my report.

Tackle and Gear ROD: Castaway Skeleton 7’ M REEL: Shimano Citica 200g6 LINE: Suffix 15lb clear monofilament LURE: TTF Killer Flats Minnow – pumpkinseed chartreuse

When and Weather We visited Seadrift over the weekend of February 18-19, 2012 and as luck would have it we were greeted with a strong norther moving through the area. With the abundance of 72 | April 2012

Barkett's


Bubba's

– rigged on 1/4 ounce jig. With matters of convenience in mind, Charlie’s Bait Camp (#8 on your Hook-N-Line Fishing Map), should have everything you need for live, fresh dead, and frozen bait. Charlie’s, as well as Bayside Express convenience store in Seadrift, both carry a small selection of terminal tackle if you find yourself short a few items. Hitting the water There is great fishing available on the San Antonio Bay shoreline right on the bay front in “downtown” Seadrift and Charlie’s Bait Camp is a great launch spot for bay boats and kayaks to access Espiritu Santo, The Lagoon, Shoalwater Bay, and Welder’s Flats given that is right on the ICW. Charlie’s is located at the end of Lane Road. Turn onto Lane from TX-185, then proceed 4.1 miles to the dead end at the ICW. Turn right at the Charlie’s sign and follow the blacktop into the parking lot. To access Espiritu Santo Bay, you will paddle northeast “up” the ICW about 250 yards. There is a large cut to the bay known variously

Hours Monday: Closed • Tues-Thurs: 11am-9:30pm Fri & Sat: 11am-10pm • Sunday: 11am-9pm Stop in and enjoy our fresh seafood prepared to order or call for a reservation. Banquet room available for large parties and special occasions.

as Fulghum’s Cut, Charlie’s Cut and also Shoalwater Cut. When you turn into this cut you are already in great fishing territory although there is a lot of boat traffic. Turning left will lead into the Lagoon, a right turn takes you into Shoalwater Bay. Continuing through the main cut will take you out to the north shoreline of Espiritu Santo Bay. Dewberry Island lies to the north of the cut and Long Island stretches to the south. The shorelines of these islands offer excellent shallow water wade and drift fishing and the numerous “cuts” into the Lagoon and Shoalwater Bay are fish magnets. The excellent launch facility and relatively short paddling distances to excellent fishing makes this area a great spot for rookie and novice kayakers in my opinion. More experienced paddlers can opt to head southwest – down

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the ICW from Charlie’s – to the famed Welder’s Flats area. Welder’s Flats is chock full of coves, sloughs, and small lagoons that are famous for holding fish year round. Public fish cleaning stations are located at Charlie’s and there are also cleaning tables in the Seadrift harbor if you are fishing the bay front area. Charlie's

Where to eat and where to sleep I always enjoy the eating part of my trips; who doesn’t like good food? Seadrift is home to two very good seafood restaurants, Barketts and Bubba’s. Barkett’s offers a full traditional menu of fried, baked and grilled seafood while Bubba’s injects a spicy Cajun flair. Ask to speak to Bubba himself, but only if you want a friendly conversation and a fishing tip or two. The staff at both establishments will go out of their way to make you feel welcome and the food will have you coming back for more. For all of your fuel, fishing snacks, ice and beverage needs, Bayside

Castaways Resale shop “Eco-Friendly Shopping” Open Thursday – Saturday 10 am – 5 pm 361-648-6781 407 Main Street Downtown – Seadrift, Texas 74 | April 2012

High Quality Fishing Rods Open 7 Days a Week

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Express, the Shell Convenience Store in Seadrift, is open 24/7. Charlie’s has ice, gas, beer, sodas and snacks. Like most coastal towns I have visited, RV parks are not hard to come by. In particular, Breezy Palms Cottages caught my attention by the way of having separate cabins in addition to their RV spots. The grounds and facilities here are all well kept. Beacon 7 is another nice RV facility with quick access to San Antonio Bay. I got a room at Captains Quarters, a modern motel on the north side of town. The room was clean and comfortable, the rates are fair and the a/c blew cold - a winner all the way around in my book. The Other Angles It’s no secret that I enjoy kayak angling, but I do my best to look

at each location I visit from all angling perspectives. With that said, Espiritu Santo (when launching from Charlie’s) is another great spot for what kayaks are made to do. If any of you have a shallow water skiff, you could also navigate the lagoon and flats given the tide is right. For those of you wanting to make a family trip to Seadrift, the seawall area on the edge of town against San Antonio Bay is set up like a park. Fishing from the bank is common place for locals and visitors alike. There are picnic tables and a covered seating area for picnicking or relaxing. The City of Seadrift has received a grant for the construction of a new public fishing pier on the bayfront. Construction is scheduled to start soon. Something to look forward to. Wrap up If you are not already aware, Seadrift is the home of TSFMag. On that note - I want to thank all of the local businesses who have supported TSFMag through the years. Strong local support as well as that all across Texas, along with dedicated readers, keeps TSFMag going strong.

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TSFMAG.com | 75


76 | April 2012

Clothing) -Port O’Connor Rods (custom rods and tackle - 20 minutes away in Port O’Connor) -First National Bank – (Seadrift and Port O’Connor Branches) -Seadrift Chamber of Commerce (hosting Shrimpfest June 8-9 and Centennial Dec 01) -Coastline Trailers, (owned and operated by Marty Strakos)

C O N TA C T

Seadrift businesses for you to consider when you visit: -Barkett’s Seafood Restaurant – (longtime landmark establishment, great food.) -Bubba’s Cajun Seafood Restaurant – (popular with locals and visitors, great food.) -Chunky Monkey’s (seafood market - fresh oysters, shrimp and crab.) -DMS Catering (Executive Chef Dean Schroeder caters dinner parties or even -Bayside Express (groceries, gas, drinks, beer and fishing tackle.) -Pooley Land & Realty (Kathleen Lambright - many listings around Seadrift area.) -Castaway’s (Thrift & resale shop; furniture, knick-knacks, clothing.) -Saltwater Cowgirl (Unique nautical gifts, antiques Piscavore Fishing

Telephone Email

936-776-7028 Cademan11@sbcglobal.net

Find me on Facebook to follow along in my outdoor adventures


TSFMAG.com | 77


Photo credits: Tripp Davenport

STEPHANIE BOYD

F I S H Y FA C T S

FIDDLER CRABS As I revisited my high school in last month’s article, it’s only fair I pay tribute to my middle school as well: the Fiddler Crabs. Uca rapax, the mudflat fiddler crab, is a small, semiterrestrial crab characterized by a thick, squarish body; a reduced tail fan; tall, stalked eyes set close together; sideways movement rather than backwards or forwards; and extreme claw asymmetry in males (females’ claws being equal in size).1 The shell of U. rapax is one to two inches in length and light tan or occasionally greenish blue. Most individuals’ claws are gray to greenish-yellow, sometimes with orange or white tips; females and males are similar in color.2 Fiddler crabs are one of the most conspicuous tenants of marsh and intertidal zones and are often seen foraging in large groups when the tide is out.2 They can be found in soft sand or mud, this being good substrate for digging burrows and finding food. Fiddlers burrow for mating, avoidance of extreme temperature and floods, and escape from predators. During high tide, they clog burrow entrances until the tide recedes.3 Most burrows are L-shaped with a single entrance. As burrows are excavated during low tide, fiddlers push sediments to the surface in small balls. Sand or mud pellets piled around the entrance to a burrow means it’s someone’s home.1 Fiddlers have a “musical” mating ritual. Males line up 78 | April 2012

beside the burrows they’ve dug and move their large claws back and forth in a fiddling motion to attract females. In Spanish, the fiddler crab is called cangrejo violinist, literally “violinist crab.”3 While no string repertoire accompanies this display, it is not silent. Males produce acoustic drumming with their claws and legs to further entice the passing females. Displays can include over thirty distinct moves and can last up to thirteen seconds each. If a male catches a female’s eye, he will tap the ground with his claw, and if she is amenable, she will follow him into his burrow to mate. There she will remain for about two weeks until her eggs are ready to release. Female mudflats can carry up to 30,000 eggs at a time; once they’ve hatched, she releases the larvae into a large nocturnal ebb tide which transports them to Gulf waters, away from estuarine predators. The young pass through a number of planktonic larval stages, similar to the blue crab’s development. As they mature from drifting zoeal to free-swimming megalopae and finally to juvenile crabs, they travel back to the estuary and look for settlement cues, such as established neighborhoods of their species. Once they’ve claimed a territory, the life process begins again; a mudflat fiddler lives about 1.5 years1 As the male fiddler matures, the weight of it’s large claw changes from 2 percent to 65 percent of its total


body weight. Either claw, right or left, can become the characteristic large claw, and the percentage in a population is usually about 50/50 (unlike the disproportionate percentage of left-handed vs. righthanded humans). In all fiddler species, fights between males of the same handedness differ from those between opposite-handed males. Just imagine arm wrestling between two right-handed men vs. a righthanded man and a left-handed man. It may be easier for different handed (or clawed) fiddlers to judge each other’s size, but it’s probably easier to interlock claws when they face in opposite directions.2 As you can surmise, claws aren’t only used to attract females, but also in territory disputes with other crabs. Territory includes one’s burrow and possibly some surrounding land. How much surrounding land depends on how many neighbors you have. Scuffles between male neighbors can range from no contact at all to use of the large claw in pushing, gripping, and/or flipping of opponents. These fights usually

arise during attempted home invasions or between males of similar size for mating rights.1 Like other crabs, fiddlers molt their hard exoskeleton to grow larger and/or to replace missing limbs. To escape predators, fiddler crabs can autotomize, or spontaneously and purposefully cast off a body part. New limbs grow in a folded position under the shell until the next molting. Multiple autotomy or the removal of eyestalks can trigger an unscheduled molt. Under these conditions, the crab may even decrease in size as energy is used to replace several missing limbs.1 If a male’s large claw is lost, he will soon regenerate a new one, but in the meantime, the remaining claw grows larger. Other factors that affect molting include food abundance, temperature, and pollution.3 Though sometimes cannibalistic, the fiddler crab mainly subsists on a diet of detritus, bacteria, and algae. The small claws transfer sediment to the mouthparts where edible material is cleaned off sand and other undesirable particles. As the male has only one small claw, he must work twice as hard as the female to get the same amount of nutrients. The foodstuffs are swallowed while the remaining sediment is rolled into tiny balls and deposited back on the ground. These balls are much smaller than those created during burrow excavation. The mouthparts of each fiddler species are specialized for a specific size range of sediment, thus partially influencing the local habitat selection of a population and the geographic distribution of a species. The mudflat fiddler is adapted for medium-sized sediment and will wander about 6.5 feet from its burrow in the act of foraging.1 Though not economically important per se, the fiddler crab is the most common crab in a salt marsh community and fills some important ecological roles. Fiddlers are scavengers, eating detritus and cleaning

TSFMAG.com | 79


up after the local populace, and are themselves food for many wetland species including herons, egrets, raccoons, blue crabs, fish, turtles, etc. In their burrowing, they aerate soils; bring organic matter to the surface, inducing microbial growth; and stimulate the turnover and mineralization of nutrients, creating favorable conditions for marsh grasses and underwater seagrass meadows.3 Their population densities are an indicator of productivity in coastal marshes and wetlands. They are also good indicators for pollution, especially pesticides, as they concentrate such toxins as polychlorinated biphenyls and Dieldrin, which can result in impaired locomotion and reduced populations. Fiddlers are also sensitive to heavy metals, such as mercury, copper, and zinc, all of which are toxic to fiddler crab larvae and can cause significant developmental delay and deformities.2 In addition, the contaminants can be passed along in the food web when the crabs are preyed upon by fishes, birds, and small mammals. Just like the old domino effect, an inevitable total collapse… As you know, sometimes the small and common play big roles, and really, what fun would it be to walk through the wetlands without scattering crowds of fiddlers? Footnotes 1

LH Sweat, “Uca rapax,” Smithsonian Marine Station at Fort Pierce, 20 February 2012 <http://www.sms.si.edu/irlspec/Uca_rapax.htm>.

2

Elizabeth Wenner, Ph.D., “Fiddler Crabs,” (Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy, 2006). 3

“Fiddler Crab (Uca rapax),” Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, 20 February 2012 <http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/huntwild/wild/species/fiddler/>.

80 | April 2012


TSFMAG.com | 81


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82 | April 2012

Double Haul

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For over 50 years Yo-Zuri has been recognized as the fishing tackle industry’s leading manufacturer of quality fishing products. For more information, visit www.yo-zuri.com

TSFMAG.com | 83


DICKIE ColBuRn

DICKIE ColBuRn’s Sabine Scene

Sabine

Dickie Colburn is a full time guide out of Orange, Texas. Dickie has 37 years experience guiding on Sabine and Calcasieu Lakes.

Telephone 409-883-0723 Website www.sabineconnection.com

84 | April 2012

Gas prices and salinity levels passed each other headed in opposite directions recently and the result was that we were doing a lot more fishing than catching on Sabine. While the fish were on the move due to all the fresh water, fewer local anglers and guides were eager to track them down given the rising price of gas. Surprisingly, while the river bite has slowed to a crawl, the bite in the ICW and ship channel is recovering quickly. Birds should start working over schools of trout and redfish on the south end of the lake this month and the Causeway oyster reefs will deservedly get a lot of attention. To best take advantage of what I call “scratching the wall”, rather than randomly fishing miles of shoreline with identical structure, keep your eyes on your depth finder and target suspended bait. Fish slow enough to take advantage of the tide and fish vertically as much as possible. Color choice depends on water clarity, but the Die Dapper with its big paddletail is lethal for this type fishing. When the fish are a little more finicky, usually after the transition to a shrimp diet, the smaller Sea Shad is a more productive choice and will still dupe the larger trout. This is also the time to use a heavier jig as there is no benefit in waiting for a tail to sink 12

to 20 feet deep. Both the Corky Devil and Maniac Mullet are also excellent choices for fooling the largest of the trout hanging on these deep breaks. Simply lower them and drift through these suspended fish. Pink and glowchartreuse have been very good options of late. Depending on wind direction, the revetment walls can get red hot for limits of solid trout this month and it is a bite than can often last all day long. The mistake that many folks make is parking on top of the fish and casting to the rocks. While they are drawing blanks, the folks walking those rocks are casting in their direction and catching fish! When the fish are hustling shad and mullet against the wall, everything from topwaters to tails will work. She Dogs in bone-silver and the new Geaux Daley color are consistent producers. When they won’t eat a topwater, shallow diving crankbaits like the Swimming Image or Strike Pro Bubba are hard to beat. They only dive 3 to 5 feet deep, but they are effective even on fish holding well off the shoreline. I haven’t done as well with the Corky fishing the rocks, but Catch V’s and 2000’s in green or black back w/ white sides can be devastating even during the hottest hours of the day.


Eric Ronning caught this 27" trout "scratching the wall" with an Assassin Die Dapper.

It is far too early to put away any of the suspending baits when fishing the shallow flats on the north end or what is left of the grass between Madam Johnson’s and Greens. The larger trout and redfish are still running mullet in 2 to 5 feet of water and there are no better imitations. For that same reason we also score better with the longer 5-inch tails rigged on 1/16 ounce heads. After abandoning jerkbaits like the Bomber Long A and Cordell Redfin for years, I have come full circle and done well lately with newer versions like the MirrOlip and Arc Minnow. More often than not, when the trout won’t totally commit to a noisier She Dog they will just crush a jerk bait as it floats back up to the surface. When fishing the open lake, at least one of us will be fishing a tail under a cork. That is the one setup that not only catches fish year round for me, but keeps even the most inexperienced fishermen in the game. A 2 to 3-foot leader and a 4-inch Sea Shad or Flats Minnow completes the rig. I don’t think the lion’s share of our flounder population ever migrated this year. The bite never slowed down and we are already catching about as many flounder as redfish when pounding the cuts and Louisiana shoreline with everything from Gulp Mullets to spinner baits. While every angler hopes to never need this service, I am pleased to inform that we now have a 24-hour towing service on Sabine. SeaTex Marine Service, located under the Rainbow Bridge, will respond to your call any time night or day and will do everything from hauling you back to safe harbor to simply bringing you gas or jumper cables. Their phone number is 409-724-7288. Load up the kids and come catch fish on Sabine Lake with us!

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TSFMAG.com | 85


mICKEY Eastman

mICKEY On Galveston

Galveston

Mickey Eastman is a full-time fishing guide out of Baytown, TX. Mickey has 26 years guiding experience on the Galveston area bays and is the founder of Gulf Coast Troutmasters, the largest speckled trout tournament series of all time

Telephone 281-383-2032

86 | April 2012

Howdy anglers! Capt. Mickey again, live from Baytown. March is melting into the rearview and April is stretching ahead with promises of better weather and more great fishing. I want to take a minute and thank everybody that came out to the 37th Annual Houston Fishing Show. Dave Holder and his team put on a great show every year and I always enjoy meeting and chatting with all the folks who come out to enjoy it. This show is truly a highlight of the fishing year and if you missed it you really need to try harder next year. Fishing across the Galveston Complex has been fairly steady – maybe not the best I’ve ever seen - but not too bad for this time of year. We are catching solid fish on average but no giants…yet. Word is circulating of a few trout up to seven pounds. There are lots of three to four pound trout being caught, with a couple of fives mixed in on a good day. I’d say it running sort of like a yo-yo, I mean one day you can wade a flat and catch 50 to 60 fish and next day go back and catch 10 or 12. Sometimes just 5. There seems to be lots of fish and you can get a lot of bites some days but the feeding patterns are not consistent. That’s just the way it is; we go through these transitions of winter to spring every year.

Let’s start out with Trinity Bay. It’s been an awful long time but the north end is pretty messed up. We got a lot of that local rain of the past several weeks plus the gates at Livingston were opened and that flooded the back of the bays. I think the highest release rate at the dam was around 38,000 cubic feet per second. Now after about two and a half weeks like that, they have cut it back to around 3,000 or so. It is gonna take time to clean that water up back there. I really don’t think it has moved those fish around a whole lot, though. I have been fishing ahead of the freshwater, working the edges and fringes and just looking for indications of bait if you can find them. You know it has been so foggy and cloudy that the baitfish are not coming to the surface like they do on the sunny days and warmer days. It has just been kind of cold, dreary and cloudy and you just got to put your jacket and waders on and flip your hood up. The fog and mist is heavy enough that you get that little bit of moisture dripping from the bill of you cap. Not exactly postcard weather but it could be a lot worse. East Bay is pretty much the same as it has been. Most of the fish over there are up in the far upper end around Anahuac Wildlife Refuge and they are pretty


much oriented on soft mud bottom. Over here in Trinity Bay when you do find them, they are usually over scattered clam shell or oyster shell off of points and in drains and ridges and any kind of bottom changes. That has kind of been the pattern in 2.5 to 5.5 feet of water. We have been getting a lot of northeast wind so that has kind of put a damper on things but that is good for the back East Bay. Redfish are real spotty right now. On occasion you will fall into a good school of them but for the most part trout is definitely the ticket. All the baits we have been using like the MirrOlure slow-sinkers and Lil John soft plastic are still producing real good. The Tidal Surge Maniac Mullet is working well, the Corky is working OK. Topwaters haven’t been too good, some days you will get a lot of blow ups, but you just don’t connect on a lot of fish. The best key to finding the bite has been brown pelicans. They are usually working over schools of shad. If I find a couple in the area, I will shut ‘er down and look it over real good. If you see a shad or two flip here or there, you better get a lure in there because there is definitely fish roaming that flat. As far as finding mullet - that is where the white pelican comes into play. Occasional slicks popping has also been a good sign. The bite window has been kind of crazy, though. You know one day you will catch them kind of early and then the next day you will go back and nothing, nothing, nothing and then from 11:00 to 1:30 in the middle of the day you will get a decent bite. That is the key to catching them this time of year - being where the fish are and sitting on them until they decide to turn it on. What I mean by crazy is you will look at a spot and it is dead. I know they’re there because they’ve been for days. Then bingo! You are on the fish all over the place. It is just trial and error this time of year and you just have to work at it. On

the calmer days you can catch the fish out of the boat but the edge goes to the wade fisherman this time of year when the wind gives you a bunch of hull slap. I have not ventured upstream much of late but I have been getting some reports of fairly steady redfish in Burnett Bay. Other than that it is kind of slow up that way. Not a whole lot of fish being caught, they are having to work for their fish also. Then down the west side over there, it has been rather slow down towards Texas City and Eagle Point area and all that area. The only really decent reports I have been receiving have been from around the Sylvan Beach area. Those old grinders working the pier pilings and other structure over there with Corkys, MirrOLures, and soft plastics. Those guys can go out and find the bite, you can bet on that. Our water temperature has stayed right around 60° for quite awhile now. I think once we get up around that 64° to 66° degree range and let it stabilize and hold there, we will start getting our drum run coming through the jetties and Texas City Channel and all that area. That is really a good indication when spring is going to kick in. Once that drum run starts, it sets everything in motion and the trout will get more consistent. That is just what we go through. We just love February and March hoping for those bigger trout to show and we are real lucky to be catching what we have been catching. There are some very good signs right now and if they’re any indication of what is to come we should have a really great spring season through April and May. Don’t be foolish with the spring weather – pick your days and remember to play it safe on the water.

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BIll PustEJoVsKY

CaPt. BIll’s Fish Talk

Matagorda

Bill Pustejovsky is a full-time guide at Matagorda, TX. Bill fishes year-round for trout and redfish in all the Matagorda Bays. Wading and drifting for trophy trout and reds are his specialty.

Telephone 979-863-7353 Email CaptBill@GoldTipGuideService.com Website www.goldtipguideservice.com

88 | April 2012

Even though some of us really diehard (or maybe it’s hardheaded) fishermen keep our lines intermittently wet during the winter months, April showers and spring flowers initiate the fishing season for most Gulf Coast anglers and what a great month it is going to be in both East and West Matagorda Bay systems. And why do I say that? Well for starters - both bays are loaded with fish right now. Let me explain a bit further. With the milder than usual winter weather we were blessed to enjoy, most of our bait species such as the glass minnows, piggy perch, etc, seem to have grown a tad larger than we normally expect to see them at this time of the season. This in turn has allowed our local trout and redfish populations to get butterball fat, like footballs, because of all the rich forage that is available to them. In other words, our bays are in real good shape and anticipation is up there for some great fishing on the horizon. My normal routine for April is to spend most of my time in East Matagorda Bay where I focus on scattered shell and mud along leeward shorelines and also on the many mid-bay reefs when the wind and water conditions will allow. Personal records indicate that most of the fish should still be on mud and shell throughout much of the month.

Some days, depending who I’m taking fishing and what their personal preference might be, and also on those sweet weather days when everybody and their Uncle heads to East Matagorda, I’ll scoot on over to West Matagorda Bay. My strategy in West is to cruise the south shoreline searching for schools of glass minnows working along the various sandbars and shallow grassbeds. Given the average set of weather and fishing conditions, April happens to be one of the best months of the year to fish West Matagorda Bay. An incoming tide is normally most opportune, but be on the watch for sharks in your wading area because they like to hunt on an incoming tide too. If you are intent on taking a few fish home for dinner, remember you’ll need a shark bucket or frequent trips to the boat to drop them in the icebox. It seems that every time I get around a bunch of new or relatively inexperienced fishermen they want to talk about the baits I happen to be using at that specific time. I guess that it is only natural for them to believe the magic is all in the bait, not in how you use it. I have always said that the best bait is probably the one you have the greatest confidence in throwing, provided of course that it is a reasonable match to the current conditions.


Truth of the matter is, I too have my own confidence baits, and introduced a new umbrella bait called the Armed Assassin. This apart from mixing in a few seasonal favorites for colder conditions contraption (literally) swims five baits in a cluster. I can only imagine such as Corkys or other slow sinkers, what havoc this bait will wreak Capt. Bill’s favorite baits for springtime. Note the E.D. my arsenal really doesn’t really under birds. Broken-Back Special; next to bottom right-hand column. change all that much. If you fish Another favorite of mine is with me or read my reports you the “tuned up” version of the old probably already know I am a big standby Rebel Jointed Minnow fan of MirrOlure hardbaits. Even from local big trout aficiando though our average baitfish might Eddie Douglas – the E.D. Broken be a tad larger than normal this Back Special. This bait takes a little spring, I will still be casting smaller practice to become proficient but baits. MirrOlure She Pups when I believe me, the trout absolutely slam think a topwater is needed and the this thing. Look for it at Johnny’s Catch 2000 for subsurface work are Sport Shop over in Eagle Lake. two of my favorites. I am also very It’s April and fishing season has partial to the Super Spook Jr this kicked off. We’re switching gears time of the year. from cold-weather mode to warmer In the soft bait department I am spring tactics. If you haven’t already a died-in-the-wool Bass Assassin done so, get your outboard tuned man. During April the 4” Sea Shad and serviced and give your trailer’s will be a good pick in Hot Chicken, wheel bearings a little TLC. Good Chicken-on-a-Chain, and Roach. luck and good fishing; remember Bass Assassins also came out with to practice patience and good some new colors for us to try sportsmanship when the water Slammin’ Chicken, Morning Dawn, gets crowded. Albino Ghost, Pink Ghost, and Until next time; God Bless! -Capt. Bill Limetreuse Ghost. Bass Assassin has also

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CaPt. GaRY GRaY

mID-Coast BaYs With the Grays

Port O'Connor Seadrift

Captain Gary and Captain Shellie Gray fish year-round for trout and redfish in the Port O’Connor/ Seadrift area. Gary started his Bay Rat Guide Service 20 years ago. The Grays specialize in wade and drift fishing with artificial lures. Gary and Shellie also team up to fish many tournaments.

Telephone 361-785-6708 Email Gary@BayRat.com Website www.bayratguideservice.com

March fishing around Seadrift-Port O’Connor was about good as I’ve ever seen. Our winter was mild, especially if you compare it to the last couple, and we are already seeing fish where they normally wouldn’t show until sometime around mid-April. What all this means to me is that while I was running duck and redfish combo trips in the marsh, I was probably missing some excellent wintertime trophy trout fishing. While we have been catching good numbers of solid trout since last fall, depending where you fish this time of year, you can run into lots of schoolies. Please be gentle when removing hooks and releasing the future of our trout fishery. Too many times I see people cussing the schoolies and chunking them over their shoulder and casting right back to the same area. After about five small trout (I’m talking 6” to 10” trout here) you really need to be moving on. These little guys fight for their life when hooked and dropping them in the boat or tossing them over your shoulder is unnecessary. Okay, I’m sure you get the message - enough of the soapbox. Everybody has their favorite places and type of structure for the various seasons.

During the month April mine are coves, back lake entrance creeks and back lake openings, and I would like to discuss my approach to fishing each of these. Coves- As the name implies, these are shallow indentations along shorelines that interrupt current flow and give the bait, trout and redfish a place to get away from the hustle and bustle of boat traffic, and major predators such as dolphins and sharks. My usual approach to fishing a cove is to enter from the bay side and wade in slowly, fanning casts to obvious structure

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such as guts, grassbeds or reefs, and of course any sign of bait. I do not like to wade all the way to the back of a cove. Stop as soon as you reach the back shoreline with a long cast. Quite often the best fish are in the very back and wading all the way in will likely spook them. Back Lake Creeks- A good example of what I call a back lake creek would be Cottonwood Bayou located along the north shore of Matagorda Island, a bit north of Ayres Point. Some people refer to these as drains. Depending width and depth, I either wade into these creeks from the bay side or walk along the banks. I concentrate my casts toward deeper water, ledges and points, all the while casting up the creek toward undisturbed water.

Back Lake Openings- Some of these were originally creeks that washed ever wider during storms over the years and now leave a back lake partially exposed to the open bay. The back lake is still its own shallow estuary system of sorts because the original land mass between it and the bay is now a shallow sand bar that discourages boat traffic and large predators from entering. A good example is the front of Cedar Lake in San Antonio Bay. I like to park the boat upwind whenever possible and wade the general contour of the shorelines, casting to the various grassbeds and other structure. The bait will usually tell us where the trout and reds are concentrated. In most back lake openings you will find some remnant of the original drain that connected the lake to the bay and these are often fish magnets by virtue of depth. As much as I would like to go further, we have some other exciting developments here at Bay Rat Guide Service and more news to share. At the request of many of our customers, Shellie and I will be setting up a new subscription website we are calling “Grays’ Strategies” that you can join and get up-to-date info concerning the where, when and how we are fishing. If you might be interested you can shoot me an e-mail at gary@bayrat.com for more information. In closing I would like to thank John and Tracey Melnar of Piscavore Sportswear for helping Shellie and I find some comfortable fishing shirts that are suited for the rugged life of an angler but also stylish enough for any social gathering. You can see their line of clothing at www.piscavore.com or at a dealer near you. Fish hard, fish smart!

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DaVID RoWsEY

hooKED uP WIth Rowsey

The month of April brings a lot to the proverbial table, figuratively, and literally. Brown shrimp and baitfish have been moving up and down the Intra-coastal waterway (ICW) for a month now, and their numbers Upper will only grow larger throughout this month as spring Laguna/ tides first start showing themselves. On most years, Baffin the full moon of April will send a surge of water from the Gulf into the bays, and this will begin to dilute some of the hyper-salinity we have experienced during the recent drought. Rains throughout the winter and David Rowsey has 20 years early spring have helped a ton, but we still have a experience in the Laguna/Baffin ways to go before we hit some measure of normality. region; trophy trout with artificial The full moon hits on April 6, and experience has lures is his specialty. David has a taught me the that the biggest push of water great passion for conservation usually comes with the full moon closest to the and encourages catch and end of April and beginning of May. I guess we release of trophy fish. will just have to wait and find out if my record Telephone keeping and observations hold true to form. 361-960-0340 Regardless, we will be seeing tides filled with new Website life in the form of predator and prey alike. www.DavidRowsey.com Email Can y’all remember the day you became david.rowsey@yahoo.com hooked on fishing? I can easily remember mine from early childhood, and although a story

92 | April 2012

worth hearing, I’ll tell you about it another time as it is a freshwater tale. Instead, I’ll tell you the one that caused me to become a Corky fanatic. It was in April 1996, and Jim Wallace had just set the new state record on a Corky that previous February. I was fortunate enough to have a few in my box that a friend had brought down to me from Houston. My longtime salt fishing buddy, David A. Murray, and I were in the back of Baffin after the spring tide had come in, and having a decent morning on topwaters, but the bite had just spiraled down miserably. I was on my way to get the boat, and noticed “David A” bowed up on a good trout.

Mark Holt and David Rowsey - First place in the SCB Baffin Cup - $20,000 Payday!


Joe Moon with a 8.5# trout caught on a Morning Glory Bass Assassin – Released!

I got the boat a little closer and asked him what he caught it on, and he held up a Corky. Now we had been throwing these things for a while over the previous months, but were just not having the luck on them, so I was a bit surprised that he had gone to that lure. I was not convinced the fish were still there, so I rudely brought the boat on in at a drift, and dang if he did not do it again, only this one was bigger.

I set the anchor and tied on an amber with chartreuse tail, and moved off to the side of David A. Best I can remember, David’s first trout on the Corky was around 10:30 in the morning, and mine soon thereafter. We stayed on that flat all day long, dang near ‘til dark, and must have caught two hundred solid fish until our four Corkys were rendered useless. I’ll never forget that day, and the thought of it always brings a smile to my face when April rolls around. As we push into April there will be an influx of new gamefish coming through the Land Cut, heading north to Baffin. With Port Mansfield’s trout population booming from the five trout limit, we should see a great increase in catching as compared to what the winter and early spring gave us. Don’t get me wrong, we had a decent year, but the numbers seemed to be smaller and the work a little harder. My money is on April being one of the best months of 2012 and May coming in a close second. Exposed spoil islands along the ICW, north and south of Baffin, are going to be hotspots throughout the next two months for these migratory fish. Resident fish will be making their final push to spawn and will be scattered throughout areas holding lots of grass. These will be the fish that will make your jaw drop in awe at their size, and the ones most of my clientele will want to focus on. One little hint for you is to not walk away from grunting/croaking male trout this month. If you are catching a bunch of them, one after the other, it is most likely because they are shadowing a big female trout and waiting for the opportunity to procreate. Hang in there and you might have a chance of getting your Bass Assassin in front of the trout of dreams. “Set ‘em loose.” -Capt David Rowsey

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tRICIa’s Mansfield Report CaPt. tRICIa

I have been very busy on the water lately, a wonderful thing, but quite demanding physically and mentally. The saving grace of long busy stretches is that the fishery of the Lower Laguna remains so generous. Even when I’m dead-dog-tired Mother Nature continues to bless us with so much opportunity in so many places. Just knowing that the next cast could Port bring a lifetime fish for a client, or for me, is a big part Mansfield of what keeps me going. Given an unusually mild winter, our spring patterns are coming into play about a full month ahead of schedule. Knowing where the fish Capt. Tricia’s Skinny Water are is always a big leg up but, no matter how Adventures operates out of many fish might be available, the catching is Port Mansfield, specializing in always highly dependent on weather and the wadefishing with artificial lures. way in which it affects their feeding behavior. You should probably also throw in some Telephone good planning and a bit of luck to insure 956-642-7298 consistent success. Email Speaking of planning, doing your shell@granderiver.net homework to develop a game plan before Website www.SkinnyWaterAdventures.com launching is always the best place to start. This time of year, wind direction, wind velocity, atmospheric pressure and temperature must all be considered. Down here we live and

die by the wind, and when the forecast says “10 to 15 mph” we pretty well know to just add them together to get an idea of what to expect. Picking an area that might hold good water longer will save a lot of running around and help maximize fish time. The seagrasses have changed since the flood of 2010, so if you haven’t been here in a while there may be a few surprises awaiting. There are plenty of productive acres out there though that can hold decent clarity despite strong winds, but there is a huge difference between south, southeast, and a south-southeast

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blow. Just a few degrees difference on the compass can wreck a lot of areas, so we need to choose areas wisely unless we simply like to burn fuel. Surface plugs have been producing here and there and I’m sure this will improve steadily as we make our way into spring but for now my Kelly Wigglers and Texas Tackle Factory plastics are still the money baits. Having a few MirrOlure Die Dappers in your pocket is also a good idea. Speaking of Kelly Wigglers, owner Wayne Davis has re-introduced some quality tail dips and dies and it’s been fun tweaking lures with personalized color. April usually means small craft advisory flags flying daily. No doubt this keeps some folks in port but we take these into consideration and we go anyway. We can also expect to see higher water levels, which gives us many more areas to fish, but also gives the fish more places to hide so it works both ways. Redfish have already started their concentrated move to the clear shallow sandy zones and we have also seen large trout using the extreme shallows under the right conditions. Small, natural colored topwaters worked very gently can be effective here and, as always, slow-rolled paddletails are also top performers for us.

April will offer challenges with higher winds and water but can also offer some of the heaviest fish of the year. Many fish will still be sporting their winter girth along with newly developing roe, and a twentyeight inch trout here can often push nine pounds. It’s not uncommon to see a legal red threaten the ten-pound mark during April, so it’s certainly an exciting time to get in the water. Let me tell you another reason I’m excited. By the time this issue hits the newsstands I will be sporting a beautiful new custom boat-motor-trailer rig. After much personal debate and lots of research I pulled the trigger on a deal with Chris’s Marine in Aransas Pass and will be burning up the water with an awesome 23’ Haynie Cat, reliably pushed by a Mercury Pro XS 225. The catamaran technology makes perfect sense for our waters where we have to do it all to the extreme. Not only do we need to work ridiculously shallow, but we often have to get there with long runs and rough conditions. I think this rig is going to be a real game changer for me and my clients. Here’s hoping your April will be as fun and productive as your wildest dreams. Good Luck! And as David Rowsey says, “Set ‘em loose!”

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CaPt. ERnEst CIsnERos

south PaDRE Fishing Scene

A rr oyo C olorado t o Port I sabel

A Brownsville-area native, Capt. Ernest Cisneros fishes the Lower Laguna Madre from Port Mansfield to Port Isabel. Ernest specializes in wading and poled skiff adventures for snook, trout, and redfish.

Cell 956-266-6454 Website www.tightlinescharters.com

96 | April 2012

Many wonder who is the best fisherman on the water today. Without a doubt, I cast my vote for the osprey. I was recently wading during a slow bite period and found myself watching an osprey searching for its next meal; slowly soaring and wheeling, very patient and very focused. There was no bait visible on the surface; everything seemed to be down in the water column. Discouragement and doubts about the productivity of the spot were starting to set in as I watched the bird dive. Rising with clenched talons it struggled to its nearby roost atop an old piling to eat a fat mullet. That osprey gave me the inspiration I needed to continue and it wasn’t long until our dismal no-fish period turned into an epic bite. It goes to show that not all valuable fishing clues come from the water. Be observant of all your surroundings. Staying mentally sharp can payoff big when the fish start their feed. I have lots of BIG news. I have been reporting a solid trout bite with some exceptional fish for the last two months and I am happy to report that it has become nothing short of phenomenal. The warm weather seems to have the trout setting up in spring patterns earlier than normal and I have been able to pattern a school of large trout like nothing I have ever found before. Most of the biggest ones we are

catching have had big mullet sticking out of their mouth, and on a couple of occasions small trout. That’s right – small trout! Like I said, these large trout have been showing on the shallow flats with consistency, but getting them to bite wasn’t easy. For several weeks, we tried every lure I could think of with only moderate success, spooking them in that clear, shallow water far more than encouraging a strike. Even though we knew where they were and fished the prime feed times, our few successes were limited to low light periods very early and then again late in the afternoon. Reeves Craig with a beautiful eight and a half pounder.


Victor's effort following the osprey lesson paid off with this nine pounder.

Fishing like an osprey helped me take this fat nine and a half pounder.

Finally in desperation I decided to try a tiny topwater. My first cast with the 3” Zara Puppy produced what we were hoping for; an eightand-a-half pounder just annihilated that tiny bait. With a bit more learning and finesse, my client’s success ratio on those big sows that had been lock-jawed for weeks shot up like a rocket. This month the topwater bite should heat up on the shallow grass flats and also on the sand. If your desire is to land a trophy, it may mean grinding all day until they decide to eat. Sometimes that feed may occur right before sunset. Remember the osprey and stay patient and sharp when chasing the big ones. With spring soon in full swing, the back bays north and

south of the Arroyo Colorado will start to hold good concentrations of redfish. The two main things that will attract these redfish to the back lakes are higher tides and the brown shrimp. Windy conditions will be typical this time of the year, but the arrival of the wind can sometimes aid fishermen. For example feeding redfish tend to stir up the bottom looking for tiny crustaceans. Their aggressive feed causes shrimp to jump and skip on the surface which easily attracts the attention of opportunistic sea gulls that cleverly use the wind to hover over redfish and eat what they can snatch as they try to escape the hungry red monsters. Even with the wind masking noise in the water your approach must be very quiet. I can assure you stalking tailing redfish can be a blast and the action can spoil you very quickly. This time of the year anglers need to keep an eye on the weather, especially the daily wind forecast, and don’t be afraid to try something new if your “same-old” approach is not working. I can recall the reason I gave up on hunting was because I could never figure out the deer or whatever I was hunting. It didn’t aid the cause that I once missed a deer at thirty yards or the time I bird hunted in Mexico, using a case of shotgun shells and shooting only two birds while my son shot eighty birds right next to me. However, when it comes to fishing, I strive to be just like an osprey: keen, patient, and determined to figure out the fish that I pursue. Now, that’s what makes fishing extremely fun. Wanna join the chase? Come on; let’s go fish like an osprey.

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FISHING REPORTS

Lake Calcasieu Louisiana Jeff and Mary Poe - Big Lake Guide Service - 337.598.3268 This April will be different than the last few. With the rains we've gotten the last few weeks, our trout won't be scattered all the way up the Calcasieu River. We are looking for them to be stacked on the southern end of the lake. As water temperatures rise, trout will become more and more active. Therefore, topwaters will become more regularly productive, and they work well in stained water, especially loud ones like One Knockers and SheDogs. Soft plastics dangled under rattling, popping corks will also catch a lot of fish in stained water. The noisy rig calls fish from a distance and results in more bites. Use fluorocarbon leaders with eighth to quarter ounce heads. Try colors like pink, chartreuse, black, or glow in dirty water, natural colors like opening night, golden bream, and avocado in clear water. Slowing down and using the anchor and/or Power Pole is wise, as is fishing all around the boat, giving each setup ten minutes or so, longer if bites are coming. If they aren’t, it’s better to start moving again. Trinity Bay - East Bay - Galveston Bay | James Plaag Silver King Adventures - silverkingadventures.com - 409.935.7242 James says the fishing in the Galveston area remains excellent, especially for trout in the four to six pound class. “We are catching plenty of solid trout. Not getting them real good every day, but we’ll hit ‘em hard for a day or two, then miss ‘em for a couple after that. On the best days, we might catch 20 or more over 25 inches. I’ve been fishing in several places, some protected water, some mid-bay areas, some windblown shorelines, but it’s all wading. Best lures for the clients have been Paul Brown’s Original Lures and Fat Boys.

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The red head/glow color has been working best. I’ve been catching on other things. I like to throw my Bass Assassins on H&H Flutter jigheads. And, of course, I’m catching some on pink 51M MirrOlures. I’m thinking we will continue to have the same kind of fishing throughout the spring. When the fish are feeding good, it’s fantastic. After they feed good for a day or two, it gets tougher, but we’re still managing to catch enough solid trout on the slow days to justify the effort.” Jimmy West - Bolivar Guide Service - 409.996.3054 Jim’s report echoes others from the Galveston area, and it indicates great fishing at times, though the action is inconsistent. “We were really catching for a couple of weeks there. Lots of four and five pound trout, with a few bigger ones. The tides were pretty high and the fish were shallow. All of the best action was wading. Then we get a strong front with a lot of west in the wind behind it, and the tide goes out. The fishing on the super low tides isn’t nearly as good. It’s typical spring stuff, really. You catch ‘em really good for a while, then it changes on you. Some days, the bite is very short lived, and right at the crack of dawn or at dusk. Other days, you can catch all day. We’ve been doing well on soft plastics and twitch baits too, and getting some topwater bite at times. The topwater bite should become more consistent in April, and the catch rate should smooth out some too, meaning the action won’t start and stop quite as bad. As always, the best potential will be on lighter wind days when the tides are ripping too strong.”

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West Galveston - Bastrop - Christmas - Chocolate Bays Randall Groves - Groves Guide Service - 979.849.7019 - 979.864.9323 Randall will be looking to hide from the spring winds and key on shallow areas with a sandy bottom. “We’ll be focusing on trying to stay in contact with the schools of bait as they move in, since the trout and redfish will be trickling in with them. Glass minnows will, of course, be one of the key species. It’s sometimes possible to find them by watching the diving terns. Rafts of mullet will also key us in to locations where we might find some big trout and schools of reds. And last, but certainly not least, we’ll be looking for the ribbonfish. When we find schools of young ribbonfish, it’s a sure bet there are some big trout around trying to feed on them. Pearl Skitterwalks are productive when thrown around those long, shiny ribbonfish.” He also mentions he’s using a new model boat that JH Performance boats is about to introduce into the market. “I love my new Outlaw boat. The other day I picked up a customer in ankle-deep water. Had no problem getting to him, or taking back off and leaving once he was in the boat. It’s great.” Matagorda | Tommy Countz Bay Guide Service -979.863.7553 cell 281.450.4037 Tommy mentions the usual variety of options for Matagorda in April. “If we have fairly strong winds from the south, I’ll head to West Bay mostly. I like to fish the shallow shorelines around the coves on the south shoreline, starting out early throwing topwaters around the grass beds along the bank. If the bite slows on top, I’ll switch over to soft plastics in dark colors rigged on eighth ounce heads. Eventually, I’ll move away from the shoreline and fish the deeper guts. On lower tides, the fish tend to hang on the outside, but when the tide is really high, they move to the backs of the coves more. If winds are light, I like to wade the reefs in the middle of East Bay. We’ll throw topwaters early and for as long as we can, then switch over to Paul Brown’s Lures later, walking on the reef and throwing to the deeper water. It’s a great time of the year for that. If I’m fishing out of the boat, I’ll be making long drifts in the west end of East Bay, looking for muddy streaks in the water, especially in areas with scattered shell and mud on the bottom.”

Palacios | Capt. Aaron Wollam www.palaciosguideservice.com - 979.240.8204 The recent rains falling over the area have reignited fishing in our local waters. We have been on a good run of fishing lately, probably as a result of all the rains sweetening the bays a bit. A variety of fish, including reds, trout, drum and flounder have been absolutely hammering our baits in water over scattered shell in three to four foot depths. Drifting has worked better than wading, with Gulp! shrimp in pearl and nuclear chicken rigged under corks being the best baits. I know it seems a little early in the year, but we have seen lots of grass shrimp jumping and are spotting plenty of small fry in our local waters already. This tells me we are probably going to have one heck of a spring! The presence of lots of forage species in the spring usually means excellent fishing. April will be a good month for focusing on shorelines with a good mix of sand, grass and shell. Top lures I like to use this time of year are Super Spooks in bone flash and paddletails in pumpkinseed/ chartreuse and pearl/chartreuse. Port O’Connor | Lynn Smith - Back Bay Guide Service - 361.983.4434 Lynn likes to fish in areas like San Antonio, Mesquite and Ayers Bays in the spring. “I like to wade the shallows along shorelines with lots of depth variation, grass and sandy pockets. If the tide is high, this pattern is great; if it gets too low, it’s often not even worth trying. On another note, if it gets low, it can be treacherous to run the shorelines in these bays. In some areas, they have sanded in pretty badly over the last decade or so, and boaters should be careful. When the tide is high, we’ll catch plenty of trout and reds and even good numbers of flounder. The keys are to stay tight to the shorelines and focus on the sandy pockets and edges of the guts. If the tide is high enough, most of the fish will be on top of the bars. The flounder in particular like to sit on top of the shallow sandy parts when there’s plenty of water. I like to throw a lot of soft plastics and small topwaters like Super Spook Jrs. and the small Skitterwalks when working this pattern. When the tide is lower, we’ll probably be fishing the edges of reefs and other open-water structures.”

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Rockport | Blake Muirhead Gator Trout Guide Service - 361.790.5203 or 361.441.3894 Blake expects good fishing in the Rockport area in April, and he says he’ll be trying to locate migrating bait as a way of locating schools of trout and redfish. “I like to key on schools of shad and glass minnows if I can in the spring. Normally, I find the schools of bait by looking for diving pelicans and other birds. Also, the presence of lots of slicks in an area can give away the presence of the bait, especially the shad, which are oily. As far as the patterns I like, it’s mostly shallow water along shorelines with lots of sandy bottom and grass beds. We have shorelines like those in most of the bays around here, notably Aransas, Corpus Christi, Mesquite and San Antonio Bays. In most years, some of the reefs will start to produce good catches in April as well, so I’ll be targeting reefs too, if I see the right things, meaning slicks around them and some bait and bird activity. I’ll be throwing topwaters most every day, since they work well this time of year, but if and when they stop working, I’ll be quick to switch back to my trusty Norton Sand Eels.”

100 | April 2012

Upper Laguna Madre - Baffin Bay - Land Cut Robert Zapata – rz1528@grandecom.net - 361.563.1160 Yahoo! April is here, and that means spring is here. So many things change. For instance, there are fewer of those depressing, cloudy and windy days. More sunshine, higher air temperatures and less wind means the fish are moving into shallower water. My fishing logs remind me the fish are moving shallower. Trout are spawning, so they are now loaded with eggs, as evidenced by the bruises on the females’ bellies and bottom fins. This is also the month when the average weight of speckled trout is heaviest, so odds improve for catching the next state record. I will be looking for trout along shallow, grassy shorelines, around rock formations, in pot holes and near shallow grass lines. I’ll search for signs that trout can be in the area, like jumping or flipping mullet, shad, working seagulls or popping slicks. This is a great time to fish with bone colored MirrOlure SheDogs. I am still loving the Bass Assassin Die Dappers in colors like chartreuse dog and plum/chartreuse rigged on sixteenth ounce Assassin Screw Lock jigheads.


Corpus Christi | Joe Mendez – www.sightcast1.com - 361.937.5961 April is a great month to head south to the Land Cut area, Joe reports. “The best month of all for fishing in the Land Cut itself is normally April. The shrimp show up in abundance there and the trout and reds take advantage of the opportunity to fatten up. Most of the time, the west side of the ditch is more productive than the east side. South and southeast winds make fishing it the easiest. The key is to use a drift sock or two to slow the boat down, and use the trolling motor to keep the boat positioned far enough away from the drop off where casts will send lures right to the ledge. Working the lures in the water over the drop off is critical to consistent catching. Topwaters work well at times. If soft plastics are used, the jighead size is critical. Heavier jigheads work better when it’s windy, allowing the lure to stay closer to the wall on the fall. Other areas which should produce in April will be Nine Mile Hole, Rocky Slough and Summer House. All of this will work best if we get a push of clear water from the Lower Laguna into our area.” Padre Island National Seashore Billy Sandifer - Padre Island Safaris - 361.937.8446 Tides can continue at high levels during April and it is important to plan your travel time accordingly. Sargassum is usually present in varying amounts from little to so much it is prohibitive to angling. Large jack crevalle, redfish, black drum, whiting and sheepshead should be in good supply with a few scattered pompano and bluefish. Lesser blacktipped and bull sharks are available and this is the best month of the year for male scalloped hammerheads averaging 7.5 feet in length. The hammerheads often come within casting range of the beach. High winds are common and will cause the current to be quite strong. Lure fishing will usually only produce jack crevalle, bluefish and an occasional redfish. The majority of the fishing will be bottom fishing with cut bait, fresh dead shrimp and/or “Fishbites.” The speed limit on PINS beaches will be 15 miles per hour and the first Kemp’s ridley sea turtle nests are usually found in April. Do not disturb nesting turtles and report to 361-949-8173 ext. 226. Watch out for turtle patrollers, their focus is on turtles; not vehicles.

Port Mansfield | Terry Neal www.terrynealcharters.com – 956.944.2559 This is the time of year we find mature trout carrying several extra pounds – being winter fat and also full of eggs as they are about to begin spawning. This causes many otherwise sane fishermen to make up all kinds of excuses for missing work in April and May, hoping they can land a lifetime trophy specimen. Given the warming water temperatures and the start of the spawning season, trout have been known to go on some exceptional feeding binges. Weather patterns can be short-lived and you probably have about only a 40% chance of perfect fishing conditions, but the fishing can be good when the weather isn’t. Late northers and strong spring winds increase the level of difficulty. Don't let off-colored water deter your efforts. If there is bait and/or slicks showing, tie on a big, noisy topwater or one of the many scented soft plastic baits under a Mauler or rattling cork. Be gentle as you handle your trophy and prepare to release her, she is carrying precious cargo. Keep what you can eat fresh; release the rest. Lower Laguna Madre - South Padre - Port Isabel Janie and Fred Petty – www.fishingwithpettys.com – 956.943.2747 Wind is a big factor in fishing this time of year. The southwest winds that are sucked towards an approaching norther’ tend to be even stronger than the front itself, and they can blast for two or three days. We’re dealing with extremely cloudy, muddy conditions every spring; even the shallows lose clarity with the incoming tide and heavy winds. Freddy says, “The freshwater flooding that filled the LLM two summers ago killed the grasses that filter the water and hold down sediment. When you add the silt from dredging that’s covering the bay, it takes only about 20 mph wind speeds to completely block out the sunlight needed for seasonal growth to begin.” When visibility is limited, Cajun Thunder round corks over quarter ounce jigheads and Gulp! three inch shrimp in darker colors like camo and molting give off scent, vibration, splashes and clicks to help the fish find the bait and react. We’re still catching limits of trout and reds when elements are favorable, but working harder and using slower retrieves when it’s blowing day and night.

Port Mansfield

38th Annual

Fishing Tournament July 26th – 29th, 2012

Registration: 26th at the pavilion. Awards: 29th

Please visit website for info. Website: Phone Number: Fax Number: E-mail Address: Mailing Address: Event Center:

portmansfieldchamber.org 956-944-2354 956-944-2515 pmft@granderiver.net P.O. Box 75 Port Mansfield, TX 78598 101 E. Port Drive Port Mansfield, TX 78598

TSFMAG.com | 101


McCoy Wolthoff Laguna Madre - 25” redfish

Lonnie Taylor Port Mansfield - 30” 10lb trout

Edward Tillman Boca Chica Beach - 36” 8lb yellowfin

Diego Garcia Baffin Bay - first redfish!

Kelly Kolodziejcyk Aransas Bay - 19” tripletail 102 | April 2012

Sergio Puga South Padre - grand slam

Ron Stowe, Jr. & Ron Stowe, Sr. Redfish Bay - 20” trout & 25” reds

Britt Epley Matagorda - 60lb black drum

Greg Stone POC - 29” 9lb trout

Blake first wading trip - 28.5” 6.75lb trout

Justin 28” first black drum

Breana Banda Bayou Vista - 24” redfish

Robert Comez Packery Channel - 27.5” trout


Justin Ducharme Baffin Bay - slot red

Matt Epley Matagorda - 50lb black drum

Anne Lockwood speckled trout

Camber Holland and mom Port Aransas - first trout!

Matthew Montemayor Dave McKee Carey Ramone Lower Laguna - 29.5” personal best trout! Surfside Beach - 26” speckled trout Christmas Bay - first redfish!

Gibby Lambert Lake Calcasieu - 22” redfish

Mike Montalvo Laguna Madre - 40” bull red Jose Ribeiro Surfside jetties - 3.5’ 28lb red

Jillian Tanner Indianola - first fish! CPR

Please do not write on the back of photos.

Jake Wittnebert Port O’Connor - 44lb cobia

Tyler Moore Port Mansfield - trout

Email photos with a description of your Catch of the Month to: Photos@tsfmag.com Mail photos to: TSFMag P.O. Box 429, Seadrift, TX 77983 TSFMAG.com | 103


Pam Johnson

Gulf Coast Kitchen

Got ideas, hints or recipes you’d like to share? Email them to pam@tsfmag.com or send by fax: 361-785-2844

Crab and Shrimp Macaroni Stew Place in stew pot; 1 pound shrimp – peeled, deveined, chopped 1 pound crab (rinsed and drained) 4 cups chicken broth 2 can (10 ¾ oz) cream of chicken soup 1 can (10 ¾ oz) Cream of celery soup Sauté in skillet until tender then add to stew pot; 2 sticks margarine 1 diced onion

This recipe has been shared by Donna Chance and we hope you like it as much as we do.

1 large can (14 ½ oz) diced tomatoes 1 quart half and half 1 cups whipping cream 1 can/jar white salsa con queso Salt and white pepper to taste

Hearty enough for an entrée and a definite guest pleaser as an hors d’oeuvre.

1/2 package matchstick carrots 4 ribs of celery chopped

Cook on low for one hour Then add 2 cups cooked and drained macaroni shells Cook another 15 minutes

Spicey Crackers 1 box saltine crackers 2 cups canola oil (Wesson) 1 package of dry Ranch Salad & Dressing Mix 3 Tbls red pepper flakes

104 | April 2012

Line each sleeve of crackers in a row in a large container with a tight fitting lid. Wisk the oil, ranch dressing and red pepper flakes together and pour evenly over each row of crackers. You can add more red pepper flakes for spicier crackers. Put a lid on container and flip

the container every 30 minutes, let them sit over night. -If the crackers are too oily, you can lay them on a cookie sheet and bake them for a few minutes but watch closely, they will become too toasted.


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TSFMAG.com | 105


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Call 361.983.4434 (cell 361.935.6833) Email lynn@tisd.net (tswf.com/lynnsmith) TSFMAG.com | 107


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GALVESTON TIDES & SOLUNAR TABLE Texas Saltwater Fishing Magazine APRIL 2012


The BEST Choice… Any Place, Anytime!

To find a location near you, please visit us at www.speedystop.com

TIDAL CORRECTIONS Location Calcasieu Pass, La. Sabine Bank Lighthouse Sabine Pass (jetty) Sabine Pass Mesquite Point Galveston Bay (S. jetty) Port Bolivar Texas City, Turning Basin Eagle Point Clear Lake Morgans Point Round Point, Trinity Bay Point Barrow, Trinity Bay Gilchrist, East Bay Jamaica Beach, Trinity Bay Christmas Point Galveston Pleasure Pier San Luis Pass Freeport Harbor

High -2:14 -1:46 -1:26 -1:00 -0:04 -0:39 +0:14 +0:33 +3:54 +6:05 +10:21 +10:39 +5:48 +3:16 +2:38 +2:39 +2:32 -0:09 -0:44

Low -1:24 -1:31 -1:31 -1:15 -0:25 -1:05 -0:06 +0:41 +4:15 +6:40 +5:19 +5:15 +4:43 +4:18 +3:31 +2:38 +2:33 +2:31 -0:09

For other locations, i.e. Port O’Connor, Port Aransas, Corpus Christi and Port Isabel please refer to the charts displayed below.

Please note that the tides listed in this table are for the Galveston Channel. The Tidal Corrections can be applied to the areas affected by the Galveston tide.

Minor Feeding Periods are in green, coinciding with the moon on the horizon, and the last from 1.0 to 1.5 hrs after the moon rise or before moon set. Major Feeding Periods are in orange, about 1.0 to 1.5 hrs either side of the moon directly overhead or underfoot. Many variables encourage active feeding current flow (whether wind or tidal driven), changes in water temp & weather, moon phases, etc. Combine as many as possible for a better chance at an exceptional day. Find concentrations of bait set up during a good time frame, and enjoy the results.


Te x a s S a l t w a t e r F i s h i n g M a g a z i n e l

w w w. t e x a s s a l t w a t e r f i s h i n g m a g a z i n e . c o m

April 2012  

The April 2012 issue of Texas Saltwater Fishing Magazine.

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