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Picking wintertime trout spots Mike McBride’s Where-When-Why

Strategies for tough conditions Only $3.95

Kevin Cochran’s methods for consistent success

February 2012



FEBRUARY 2012 VOL 21 NO 10

Amanda Berrent is our February cover angler. Amanda enjoyed a day on Christmas Bay with TSFMag’s Cade Simpson. The tale of their coastal adventure is on page 62.



REGIONAL SALES REPRESENTATIVE Patti Elkins Office: 361-785-3420 Cell: 361-649-2265



08 Spots and Flops 14 Adjusting To Extremes 20 The Painting 24  From the Old Salts 26 Keeping Pace Without Losing Track 30 The Conservation Movement 34 Ahh…Those State Water Platforms


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



DEPARTMENTS 23 40 42 46 48 50 54 56 58 62 66

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 ADDRESS CHANGED? Email

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


72 74 76 78 80 82 84

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



4 | February 2012

06 70 86 90 92

Editorial New Tackle & Gear Fishing Reports and Forecasts   Catch of the Month Gulf Coast Kitchen


DESIGN & LAYOUT Stephanie Boyd 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 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: PHOTO GALLERY: 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 SEAGRASS CONSERVATION & LIFA I have written before on the topic of user conflict on Texas bays. More specifically, a certain faction of shallow water anglers seeking to limit boater access in and around the Redfish Bay State Scientific Area. For background, seagrass can be damaged by boat propellers during shallow water take-off and sometimes when the boat is running on plane in shallow water. Seagrass is important in the grand scheme of estuarine ecology. Biologists call it the foundation of the food chain and it deserves our best conservation efforts. Also by way of background - Due to the amount of boat traffic and prop scarring on the flats between Aransas Pass, Port Aransas and Port Ingleside, the Redfish Bay State Scientific Area was established in 2001 with voluntary guidelines to protect seagrass. After five years of modest improvement, stricter measures in the form of “no uprooting” regulations were enacted. Boaters damaging seagrass could be fined. Boater compliance increased and scarring of the grassbeds diminished. The comparison of aerial photos before and after the 2006 regs went into effect shows marked recovery of the resource. Up to this point I’m OK with seagrass protection. It makes too much sense to ignore and TPWD’s approach thus far is acceptable in my view. Nobody tells me where I can or cannot run my boat – just be kind to seagrass! But here’s where the rub comes in. Some shallow water anglers still aren’t happy. Seagrass conservation isn’t good enough, now they want LIFA (Low Impact Fishing Area), a watered-down handle for what Florida calls NMz - No Motor zone. An area where you can fish but you cannot run your outboard. I call it a private fishing area for anglers who wade, paddle kayaks, or pole small skiffs. A place where they will not have to put up with every Joe Angler who might also want to fish there but, wants to access and navigate the area under outboard power. The fishing will be so much better they say…without all those roaring outboards…and there will be no damage to the seagrass. Ever so quick to slide in that threadbare skin of a conservation message. Personally, I find the whole concept of LIFA to be flawed and it chaps me the way they wrap their true agenda in a veil of conservation ethic. I do not believe it is appropriate for a tiny slice of the angling community to dictate how a million or so other users should have to play the game when the million or so are funding the show. The people seeking LIFA are wily, diligent, and well-connected. They may be small in number but have friends in high places. Joe Average Angler not so much. If Joe feels the way I do, then Joe needs to speak up. Email TPWD and tell them you support seagrass conservation through boater and angler education – not further regulation. And while you’re at it, tell them LIFA might be OK for Florida but we’d rather not have it here in Texas. Email to:

6 | February 2012

8 | February 2012


“Well how’d you guys do,”

I asked, already knowing full well where they went and also knowing an honest answer would probably include a big suck factor. “Oh there were a few scattered fish in there,” came the first anemic reply. Looking for a little more detail I poked back. “OK, in other words y’all really didn’t catch squat. So out of curiosity, can I ask why you even went there in the first place, not to mention spending half a day?” The predictable (and truthful) answer was, “Well, that spot has really been good to us in the past.” Like so many of us, these guys went “spot” fishing. By this I mean just going to a place that produced earlier with no more thought given than punching the waypoint on the GPS. A classic cause of fishing failure unless you’re just blessed right and living righter. We are certainly smarter than that. So if we absolutely have to fish like tourists, let’s at least try to figure out the best times to be there, unless all we want are a few scattered fish. I have hosted the crew mentioned here several times over the past few years. This trip they were on their own. However, and true to human form, they ushered themselves right back to where they’d caught them before. It’s just too easy to go with what we think we already know and hit those killer spots we already have confidence in. But what do we really know about them other than, “Hey, we whacked ‘em there before!” Unfortunately there’s a lot more to this fishing deal than just showing up. Before hitting the GPS’s Yellow Brick Road, did we consider comparing the conditions on that previously successful trip against what they are now? Why would we go to a low tide dump area when the water is two feet above normal, or blast into an area that only works in a stiff wind when it’s going to be dead calm all day? | 9


Prospecting for trout relies more heavily on reading signs and conditions than reading a pretty map or flowery fishing report. A major factor separating the ten percent of fishermen who catch ninety percent of the fish is not only do they make a practice of fishing where the fish are, but they fish there when they can be caught. Those same ten-percenters are usually not just good fishermen in water they know either. They have learned to read, find, decipher and conquer. And while it’s not all exactly rocket science, it isn’t as easy as it sounds either, but that’s the whole game, agree? As I have stated many times, “Knowing when to be where is everything,” which simply means matching the immediate conditions with the immediate area and activity. The stumpy part of all of this for most is “Well, just when are they where?” We can learn to identify higher percentage trout water, and one of the first questions might be, “What are they doing at this very moment?” In any 24-hour trout clock, they are usually doing one of three basic things: feeding, moving to or from feeding, or just laying up fat and happy. Feeding: If we show up at our spot and it’s going on, our plan worked and we’re all heroes. Unfortunately though, arriving at our spot doesn’t always sync with our allotted hours on the water. Aggressive feeding is probably the shortest time segment of the three, yet many of us put the most emphasis on only that part of the cycle. We spend so much time running around looking for signs of feeding fish that many of us miss other catching opportunities. If your honey hole is a traditional area and should be holding fish - but nothing’s going on when you get there - there’s a good chance you’re close but just not quite close enough. Back to the question of, “What are they doing right now?” They may not be where you want them yet, perhaps just en route or laying low off to the side, so a little move may end up being a big one. 10 | February 2012

Moving: A very basic overview would be that fish usually use sensible corridors to move between safe areas and feeding areas. Guts, tapered shelves, little funnels and seams between the bed and the table all make sense. They will be in a highway mode and will usually not hold very long, but we can be there to intercept. The movement could be temperature driven, tide influenced, or any number of other conditions, even lunar stages. An example would be a little feeder gut fueling a back lake. As always, watching bait, birds and other wonders of nature can help us tell time. Laying up: Let’s remember that while trout are super predators they are also super prey and therefore they spend most of their time on defense. When not actively feeding or traveling they will usually hold in “safe” areas. I read somewhere that most domestic dogs sleep an average of 20 hours per day and are only up and active for about four, and not necessarily four in a row. I think trout and reds do basically the same thing, and curiously, I probably catch most of my fish when those dogs are sleeping on the porch. Even though not actively feeding they are very catchable, probably because they are concentrated and will eat competitively just so their buddy does not get a shot at the morsel. Kinda like, “Hey pal, if you ain’t gonna snag that treat I will.” So just exactly where might they be laid up? We really should try to avoid the tendency to “humanize” trout and their daily activities, but I believe it’s OK to think that way just a bit. We can imagine, “Where would I be right now under these conditions? Where can I chill without wasting energy and being disturbed? Or more importantly – Where can I be the most comfortable without being eaten? Well, if it was me, I’d be right over there, right there in that little depression near that good food source, with both safe access and escape, and where the water temperature, oxygen, current and color all combine to make for a nice hang. We just have to think a little, otherwise all those good “spots” we

Good things come to those who wade, especially in February

already talked about and the technical expertise we have gained will be useless if we don’t get in there with a purpose. It’s getting more sporty out there by the day, but it’s almost comical to see everybody stacked in a certain spot just cuz it’s there. Again, we can do better, I think. What is all this fishing stuff about anyway? I’ll submit that it’s not really about food, but rather about escape, intellectual challenge and a personal goal to do well in the outdoors. I sometimes wonder what we are really escaping when we go out there and suck at fishing, and we don’t find many things remarkable when our expectations are met – only when they are exceeded. Let’s don’t be scared to be smart, so when we go with a guide or otherwise have a great day, it pays to learn and understand the pattern more than the place. If we’re not “spot on” for now, a little thinking may put us there. Also remember that good things come to those who wade, especially in February. We just have to work on the when and where.



12 | February 2012

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


956-746-6041 Three_MudSkateers.wmv


Many people prefer

to go fishing in pretty weather, with light winds, moderate temperatures and relatively clear skies. Especially on a boat, the choice to make outings in stable weather is often consciously done in the interests of greater safety and better perceived opportunity to catch more fish. Benign weather conditions definitely allow for more comfortable and pleasant excursions, and sometimes the catching is good when environmental factors are serene. On other occasions, harsher conditions can impact the potential for catching positively, if anglers adjust their strategies and methods appropriately. Various kinds of excessive or exaggerated aspects of the fishing situation necessitate modifications to basic routines, particularly when artificial lures are used exclusively. Certainly, sizzling hot conditions dictate several tactical adjustments. When water temperatures exceed 85° or so, some facets of lure fishing become predictably easier. Because hot water speeds up the fishes’ metabolism, they feed more frequently, so fewer lulls in the action can be expected. Trout and redfish are easier to catch on topwaters and other plugs fished close to the surface and are more susceptible to faster retrieves in hot water. When actively feeding, they’ll often strike lures whose 14 | February 2012

heads move sharply from side to side, in a rhythmic fashion. When they become less aggressive in hot water, starting and stopping the lures becomes more effective, especially if speed bursts are incorporated between pauses. Conversely, cold-stunned fish become lethargic, feeding less frequently and actively. When water temperatures dip down around 50° or lower, slower presentations made closer to the bottom work better. As in warmer water, active fish in cold water are willing to strike lures moving steadily, but less-aggressive ones often refuse to move and chase, striking only when a slow-moving plug pauses and drops within inches of their noses. Temperature extremes impact optimal presentation speed; they also affect the depths at which most fish will be found. In the peak of summer, many trout and redfish spend much of their time in deep basins, preferring the comfort of cooler temperatures well below the surface. Similarly, fish in winter often seek safety and warmth on the bottom in channels and holes. In both seasons, fish will occasionally move much shallower. In hot water, fish tend to move shallow to feed, doing so most readily in low light conditions during the night and early in the morning, when the shallows reach their coolest point. When temperatures are dangerously chilly, fish sometimes move shallow as a way of warming up, typically late in the afternoon and early in the evening. Thus, wadefishermen often find winter fishing easiest

Particularly in the cooler half of the year, dramatic sessions are potentially possible in the gloaming. Warming bay waters often reach their highest temperatures after dusk, when fish activity sometimes climbs to a similar peak

around dusk, while the daybreak bite is usually better in summer. Regardless of when the fishing effort is made, catching fish in extremely shallow water necessitates careful strategies. Fish found in the shallows tend to be spooky, so employing stealth is critical; wading speed should be reduced to a crawl and boat noise must be minimized or eliminated. Silent, lightweight, buoyant lures enhance stealth in the shallows; effective choices on shin-deep flats include soft plastics rigged weightless, floating Corkies and conventional topwaters without rattles. Since they are covered by a thin sheet of water, fish in the shallows are easily made aware of even tiny, quiet lures cast near them; locating fish on skinny flats involves making lots of casts and covering water laterally. On the other hand, catching fish in deep water involves more of a vertical component. Pulling fish from greater depths usually requires figuring out whether they are hugging the bottom or are suspended some distance off the bottom. If suspended, the strike zone will be in a layer of water slightly above them; the more aggressive the fish, the thicker the strike zone. Consequently, active fish in water over six or seven feet deep can sometimes be coaxed into striking floating plugs, especially bulky, noisy ones. Less-active, suspended fish in deep water are best motivated to strike lures moving closer over their heads, somewhere in the middle of the water column. If they are sitting on the bottom, heavy lures which make contact with the bay floor work best, since

they are easier to deploy at such depths and stay within reach of the fish for longer periods of time. At all temperatures and depths, the strength of the wind will affect strategy, particularly if it’s dead calm or blowing in excess of twenty knots. Calm winds generally increase the potential for catching by allowing anglers access to more types of areas, but making fish bite in such conditions isn’t always easy. Moving water is a help to anglers fishing a dead-calm lull, so focusing the effort around a strong tide movement is wise, if such a strategy is possible. In areas far removed from a tide source, other tactics will be required to generate strikes from lethargic fish in stagnant water. Slow presentations made with small, subtle, quiet lures generally work best when winds are light and the bays are quiet. Because calm conditions can make fish more spooky, long casts are often more effective. Making long casts with light lures is easier with spinning tackle than with conventional levelwind reels. On the other hand, when flags are snapping, making long casts is easy, but effectively deploying lures can be difficult. Fighting the tendency to make all casts in a direct line downwind is helpful, and using lures which give off plenty of noise, flash and/or scent is preferable too, particularly if strong winds have mucked up the water clarity. Overall, presentations with more speed and greater variation in rhythm and intensity work better when it’s windy. Frequently starting and stopping during the retrieves, varying the length of | 15

the pauses, while making plenty of noise overall, is usually the most productive plan in choppy, sloppy water. Windy weather often causes the water to lose clarity. The primary effect turbid water has on fishing strategy relates to lure choice. Large, loud, smelly lures make more sense, as they are easier for fish to locate. Moving those lures vigorously is helpful too, especially if the mucky water is also hot. In cold, muddy water, the benefits of scent are enhanced, because the overall speed of the presentation will need to be reduced. Dangling scented soft plastics under a cork can be the best system of all in dirty, cold water, allowing one to make noisy presentations with smelly lures without bringing them in too fast. Scented lures are less helpful and necessary when the water is clear, but catching fish in super clear water is not always easy. If the water is clear because it lacks the microorganisms which form the foundation of the food chain (as is typically the case in winter on the Upper Coast) catching fish in it will often be difficult or impossible, especially in the daytime. Many savvy Upper Coast anglers look for the dirtiest water they can find in winter, knowing it will hold more trout and redfish; others prefer to fish the clear water from lateevening into the night.

Trent Jackson reaching out to handle his personal best trout on a cloudy, cool December outing.

The potential for making a memorable catch in the gloaming is enhanced when cold, clear water has warmed all day under a postfront, cloudless sky. Additionally, when some other celestial event(s) such as a moonrise or moonset and/or an associated tide change coincide(s) with dusk, fish often feed voraciously. The action in such a situation frequently lingers into the dark of night. Catching fish in ultra clear water is easier to do with naturallooking lures presented in ways which effectively mimic the organisms they represent. Lures like the DOA Shrimp, the pearl/black Fat Boy, MirrOlure MirrOminnows, baby trout topwaters and other plugs which closely resemble real fish and shrimp are good choices in 16 | February 2012

clear water. Employing erratic movements in the presentations is helpful; allowing predators to take a good look at lures in clear water is counterproductive, often causing them to follow but not strike. Reaction strikes are easier to elicit by starting and stopping and through speed bursts; for these reasons, rat-tailed soft plastics are often preferable over paddletails in ultra-clear water. Catching fish in clear water is hardest to do when the sky is cloudless and a bright sun hangs directly overhead. In fact, bright skies can alter fishing strategy whatever the water clarity. Clear-blue skies dictate one thing most directly--lure color. Bright colors like chartreuse, pearl and pink work well under an azure canopy. Shiny offerings like chrome and silver do too. On the other hand, when cloudy, dark weather persists for days at a time, especially in winter, red, black, green and purple lures seem to attract the fish and trigger strikes more of the time. Some of my personal-best catches were made under dreary skies in January, while raindrops drizzled down sideways, directed by a keen, cutting breeze. Fishing in nasty weather becomes blissful when bites come frequently, particularly when the feeding fish are trout of magnum proportions. Learning how to manipulate strategies to cope with extremes can make fishing in marginal conditions pleasantly productive. In fact, it might even change one’s perception of “pretty weather”.

Chris Gibson used a black/chartreuse head She Dog to trick this trout on a cold, dreary day when the water was significantly warmer than the air.

Catching a big fish can make it much easier to tolerate marginal weather conditions.



18 | February 2012

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



That’s me on the left, Van next to the tarpon, and Len on the right.

20 | February 2012


The faces on the canvas

eighteen years. By profession he was a side-boom operator on international cross country pipe lines and he often worked for a general every time I look at it and they have done superintendent named Van Wyatt.  Van lived in Houston and fished so these many years.  It hangs on the wall five feet from me just to with us often between jobs.  As time went on the two of them bought the right of my desk.  I love to tease everyone about telling the same a house at Sea Isles on Galveston.  I’d go up there now and then and ol’ fish story over and over instead of just catching it once and then we’d fish off the beach at the cedars north of San Luis Pass.  We were getting busy catching another and bigger one.  But this fish picture is enjoying such a trip in August of 1980.  different and although there is a tarpon nearly seven feet long with two There were no molded polyethylene kayaks back then and oneshark bites out of its belly I realize that the emotions I feel aren’t about man vinyl life rafts were used to deploy shark baits.  Van was making catching the fish at all.  Instead they are about the men in the picture pretty good money and had just bought an eight foot Boston Whaler and companionship. The memory of that event floods through me and inflatable with a five horsepower rice grinder on it; so we were really takes me back and reminds me that the experience far outweighs the styling.  It was hot and still and shark fishing was as slow as it gets.  catching of a fish.  There was a sandbar about a half mile offshore of San Luis Pass and Len Decker was my best friend and fishing partner for some every now and then we noticed something really big exploding on the surface, sending big mullet fleeing in every direction. I Friends of Padre donation thought it must have been tarpon so I made up some to Friends of the ARK. heavy mono leaders, caught some nice ten inch mullet with the cast net, and had Van tie on a leader and get in the inflatable with me.  Slow trolling the area with live mullet, Van and I both got solid strikes and then cut off immediately. To this day I still don’t know why.  After this happened several times I told Van we needed to try some #12 single strand wire leader and I returned to shore to make the leaders and net more mullet.  Len was going nuts sitting on the beach watching us and there wasn’t room for three people in that little boat so Van told Len to go with me and he’d watch a while.  It was mid afternoon and I hadn’t paid any attention to the rod and reel Len had brought until we were a good ways offshore.  I had never seen it before and it was really some low-rent equipment and I asked if he’d found

haunt me | 21

it on the side of the road or at a flea market. We were bantering back and forth when the rod bent over and the reel began to unwind.  A large tarpon broke the surface but never fully jumped.  This fish was a runner, not a jumper; and man did it ever kick in the afterburners.  Len’s reel was about the size of a Penn 209 and when I asked he said it had 30# test mono on it so I gave chase with the inflatable to keep the fish from stripping the reel.  I think that reel had less than 20 turns of line on it for the next few hours.  The tarpon never wavered but headed straight offshore ALL afternoon.  He rolled regularly and it made it easier for me to follow him but we could not gain any line.  The winds and seas picked up to the point it was rough and I realized I was tired from constantly fighting that tiller in the growing seas but Len was in worse shape as the seas kept knocking him off the bucket he was sitting on and he was all wadded up in the bow hanging onto that rod for dear life.  I had been intently watching his line and the fish all afternoon and I was stunned to see how low on the horizon the sun was when I finally looked behind us.  But that wasn’t near as stunning as the fact I could see no sign of the shore whatsoever and by starring intently I could barely make out a very thin pencil line just above the horizon and I knew that had to be the San Luis Bridge. We had to be at least eight


miles offshore. Also of importance was the fact the swells had soaked all our cigarettes early on and we were out of beer.  I picked up the small fuel tank we were using and shook it, I could tell instantly that our remaining fuel would have probably fit in a coffee cup.  Len had never had the chance to catch a big tarpon before and as bad as I hated it I advised him of our choices.  If we ran out of fuel after dark there was no telling where or how far offshore we would be by daylight.  If the wind didn’t change we could get out of the inflatable in the dark and swim it in the direction we thought shore lay but it would take many hours and was dangerous as hell.  We had neither food nor drink with us.  We had less than an hour of light remaining.  He either had to lock down the drag on that hunk of junk reel and bring the fish to the inflatable or crank the inflatable to the fish – or break his line trying. As gently as I could, I told him the only other option was for me to cut his line and that seemed to rejuvenate him although he was bonetired and I could see his arms shaking from the strain as he pulled back hard, then lowering the rod and cranking line over and over.  I still don’t know if he pulled the inflatable to the tarpon or the tarpon to the inflatable but, just as the sun was setting it came alongside, fully exhausted from the long battle.  The only landing device we had was a homemade gaff about two I told you a while back of my plan “to take Billy fishing.” Well, me and this wahoo made friends on a recent offshore trip.

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feet long. The tarpon was wrapped in the leader and I had my hands on it freeing the line from its gill slits when the toothy, smiling face of what looked like an eight foot bull shark appeared and it instantly bit a chunk out of the tarpon’s belly. The tarpon went straight up and down in the water and with me holding the leader it feebly made its way to the stern where the bull shark struck it again and the leader wrapped around the lower unit of our outboard.  The sea was so rough I could barely stand but I raised the lower unit and unwrapped the leader while the shark chewed away on the tarpon.  Freeing the tarpon I dragged it back amidships and Len kept hollering, “Gaff him!  Gaff him!”  With all my remaining strength I bellowed back, “Which one you want me to gaff Len, the tarpon or the bull shark that’s eating it?”  There was a lot of water in the inflatable and the fading light had almost disappeared when I said to hell with it and pulled the tarpon’s head into the boat.  Then I struck as far down the tarpon’s flank as I could reach with the gaff and hollered for Len to help as it was more weight than I could handle.  We took on a lot of water as we pulled the tarpon into the inflatable and the boat tilted way over on its starboard side before righting itself, and the whole time I wondered if that eight foot bull was going to come right on in the boat with the tarpon. Thankfully it had disappeared. We were too exhausted to speak.  I said a little prayer when I pulled the starter cord on that outboard and it instantly roared to life.  It was fully dark now and I kept the outboard at minimum speed to conserve our tiny bit of fuel and let the following sea push us shoreward.  After some time we could faintly see the lights of the bridge and laughed and clapped hands.  Then, with us being who we were, the last fifty yards to camp I goosed it and came in like it was just another day in paradise.  Van Wyatt was concerned for us since he had better sense than we did and gleefully ran out with a lantern to help us beach the inflatable.  I remember him going on and on about what a huge fish and great catch it was by anyone’s standards - but of course with Len and me being ol’ salts we couldn’t let on it was anything extraordinary. I remember Len couldn’t stop laughing and I remember him saying, “Yes sir, now that was the real deal.”  Talk about a hoot!  Len has been dead many years now and I shook his ashes at the 25 mile beach on PINS.  Van Wyatt is living in Harlingen when he’s not chasing pipelines and I hope to visit him soon.  This article is for you, Van.  Every time I look at that painting it instantly reminds me of adventures shared and friendships that can never be forgotten.  Mark your calendar for the Big Shell Beach Cleanup – 25 February 2012. 

American Herring Gull -Larus smithsonianusUntil recently the American Herring Gull was considered a subspecies of the European Herring Gull. Winters along US and Mexico Gulf Coast, nests in Canada and Great Lakes. Abundant and spreading in number and distribution. Looms over all the other gulls and terns with which it regularly shares Texas winter beaches and lakeshores. Omnivorous feeder consuming everything from dead fish to berries and will feed on eggs and young of other bird species. Pale gray wings tipped with black; the head and under parts are white. Pale, pink legs with a red spot on its heavy, hooked, yellow bill. Does not attain adult plumage until fourth year.

If we don’t leave any there won’t be any. -Capt. Billy L. Sandifer       


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.

Length: 25” Wingspan: 58” Weight: approx 2.0-2.5 lbs

Phone 361-937-8446 Website | 23


I listened in on a

conversation of some rather senior

gentlemen anglers the other day, men who have spent their life along the Texas coast. Hearing their opinions on the state of our fishery and their suggested solutions to perceived problems was educational to say the least. One old salt was mad about he and his grandson, “almost being run down by one of those shallow running boats” on a shoreline in West Matagorda Bay. He said that the worst thing to have happened to saltwater fishing was the advent of the tunnel boat and he wished they would be outlawed. “What needs to be done is for the Texas Parks & Wildlife to set a limit on how close these boats can run to the shorelines, and I don’t mean idle up, I mean they need to stop these boats running wide open ten feet along the bank. Danged fools are running through some of the best fishing grounds because their boats can’t handle the chop out on the open water.” He had a valid point. If you’ve ever ridden in a true shallow water boat, then you know that the open bay with anything over about a 10 mph wind isn’t the most comfortable place to travel in a flatbottom tunnel boat. And I agreed partly with his statement that the boats are indeed running through some prime fishing country. Another man who has fished the bays for more years than I’ve been alive stated that, “Too many folks these days think that they own a certain stretch of water and actually get offended when someone else fishes there. The attitudes of some fishermen these days would have gotten a man rode out of town on a rail fifty years 24 | February 2012

ago. What happened to manners and respect? I’ll say this much, and you can believe what I say, back when I fished three or four times a week, we considered ourselves to be sportsmen first and fishermen second and there are just too few sportsmen left out there. Why it was nothing to stop what you were doing to help someone if they needed a hand and I can’t count the times that I’ve loaned a battery or six gallons of gas to someone and told them to leave it at such and such bait camp and not once did I lose a battery or a gas can. Now days too few fishermen would stop to help much less actually loan you a hot battery or a can of gas.” Hearing that, I remembered a trip years ago when my Dad and I took my sister and her husband on an overnight trip to the Matagorda Peninsula shoreline in West Matagorda Bay. During the night, a short in some of the wiring drained the battery in my Whaler and try as I might, I couldn’t pull start the outboard and so there we sat. A man and a woman on a scooter boat saw me waving to them as they passed by and stopped to see if they could help us. The guy had two batteries on board and loaned me one of them and asked me to leave it at Doc’s Dock in Port O’Connor. He said that he had done this before but never got his battery back and said he hoped that wouldn’t be the case this time. You can bet that his battery was right where he asked me to leave it when he got in that day and why not? The subject of live bait versus lures came up and the general consensus of the table was that there was room for both in the bay systems of our coast. One man said that he just couldn’t “plug” like he use to and that it was a lot easier for him to work a popping cork with live shrimp underneath. “I catch a lot of dinks and some big old hardheads, but it sure is easier on my arthritis than working a lure.”

every day they’d bite, but you gotta remember there weren’t nearly so many of us out there. Now days, with so many more people on the water with their new-fangled shallow running boats, well there’s no place for a fish to hide. All the old places we used to have to wade a long ways to get to look like parking lots today. It just makes sense that the more people you have trying to do something, the more rules and regulations that will have to be created to keep things in balance. The world is all about balance son, give and take, and people doing the right things more often than the wrong things, and it’s no different with fishing.” It occurred to me there was a lot of wisdom in the old salt’s words.

Martin Strarup


I asked the salty group if they fished with live croaker much years ago and surprisingly only one said that he did. “The problem with those little croaker is that we didn’t have good live bait systems back then and it was hard to keep them alive. The piggies and grunts are tougher and they’d stay alive in our bait buckets but for the most part mullet which will live for days was the best live bait.” One man stated that he’d catch more big trout on lures simply due to the fact that it was faster than fishing live bait. I had heard a real fishing legend, Earl “Hump” Humphrey, say the same thing once upon a time. These men who have seen so many changes come to the world of saltwater fishing had one thing in common, something that seems to draw the anger of fishermen today…they all agreed that more regulations were needed to insure that their grandchildren and great grandchildren would be able to enjoy fishing as they have during their lifetime. To the man they all said that they would like to see shrimp boats out of the bays and limited to the Gulf. They all agreed that they would like to see the back lakes off-limits to boats, they’d like to keep boats from using the shorelines as freeways and that they’d like to see a stricter bag limit placed on speckled trout. I was a little amazed at this and I said so, to which one replied; “Son, back in our heyday we took a many of fish out of the bays

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 | 25



to throw down a few trite and overworked phrases every month as I see some outdoor scribes doing in other publications but that’s not my style. Fishing means so much more to me. For as long as I have been writing for TSFMag I have tried to bring something new to the table, not just the same old same old. Perhaps the fact that I celebrated my 44th birthday recently has something to do with how I view things nowadays, with a different slant or perhaps a softer stance on a variety of subjects both fishing and non-fishing. I just recently came to realize that the majority of people I call really good friends were met through this wonderful sport and for that I am deeply grateful. The lessons learned from these folks about fishing, business, life in general, and all things in between have been invaluable. For an upper coast home-boy like me the thought of making a trip to a high-profile locale such as Baffin or the Lower Laguna Madre seems to be such a chore. Last time I checked there was a ton 26 | February 2012

of real estate between the Sabine and the Lower Texas Coast. I might feel differently if I lived somewhere along the Middle Coast where three to four hours of driving will take you to just about any Texas bay. I have standing invites from some great fishermen to make a trip and sample what other bays offer but for whatever reason I just can’t make time to take advantage of the opportunity. Travel time, hectic schedules, and a laundry list of excuses come to mind as I often justify my reasons for not making a road trip. I can also point to the fact that between Sabine and Calcasieu right here in my backyard there is really little reason to leave, especially this time of year when some of our biggest fish will be caught. With an eye on the calendar and the tide chart, many truly dedicated anglers will plan an assault on not only their local bay but some of the other bodies of water along the Texas and Louisiana coast. It has become very apparent lately that anglers are becoming increasingly mobile and living by the words, “No drive is too far and no mud is too deep or sticky when you are looking for a wallhanger trout.” These folks will drive to the ends of the earth to get on a good bite and Katy bar the door if they get the inkling that a lifetime speck could be waiting. Driving four hours to wade at night under a full moon on a four tide day in January with the mercury holding at 35 or 40° takes a very unique individual to say the least. The instant information afforded to anyone with a computer or smartphone goes a long way towards keeping these folks updated with the latest reports. There was a time not long ago when it took a week or two for word to leak out to the Houston Chronicle outdoors about some big fish being caught in a remote place. More often than not, unless the writer was there in person, the run would be over by the time you read about it. Now you can scan any number of websites and basically see it happen almost live. The up-to-the-minute information helps those individuals with sufficient time and means to get in while the proverbial “getting is good”. I know I am constantly amazed how quick a good bite is sniffed out by the big fish folks, it’s amazing. You can patrol some water for weeks and rarely see another fisherman, especially in the winter, until the good fish finally show themselves and suddenly the whole world shows up. One photograph on the web, one report, or one post on a big fish thread is enough to open the flood gates and just like that it’s worldwide knowledge. For this reason many big fish hunters opt to go it alone or with only a trusted few others. The quickest way to become banished from a circle of serious trophy fishermen is to be loose-lipped. One slip up may cost you invitations to future expeditions so be careful how much you

share, especially if you have been sworn to secrecy. We are now reaching the point to where a secret spot no longer exists in any Texas bay. The prime areas and big producers have long been labeled and dissected by the masses so now we are down to seeking out the last few that are not quite as well known. It’s not rocket science if you take the time to study a map of the places where much of the trophy fishing effort will be concentrated. Many people maybe somewhat familiar with the area but only a meager handful | 27

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Chuck Uzzle



have invested the effort to understand the subtleties that are the keys to consistently catching big fish. It’s no longer just fishing a reef; it’s fishing a specific spot on that reef. When fish are easy to come by anyone can get on the pattern, it’s when they get a little tougher to come by that intimate knowledge of the area will keep you ahead of the pack. I watched a very well-known tournament redfish team pick apart a section of shell on Galveston Bay using this single spot within a general area technique. At first I didn’t understand what they were doing, all I knew is they were just really doing a number on the fish. During their time on this stretch of shell they landed some incredible trout using that pattern along with a stringer of reds that was good enough to make the top five in the tournament. When I saw them later off the water we talked about the strategy and it became much clearer to me that they were indeed focusing on smaller differences in the reef itself, little holes or depressions that offered up both cover and food. The subtle changes in the shell were the key and these guys had really done their homework to locate them and fish them correctly. I’m convinced that if most anglers, me included, took the time to really study and understand an area that routinely produces big fish, the odds of catching one of these wallhangers would grow exponentially. Anyone can stumble on a big fish but the really good fishermen who consistently land trophy-class specimens take it a step farther and that is what separates them from all the others. TSF Magazine has a complete stable of some of the best big fish anglers out there, guys like Jay Watkins, Mike McBride, Kevin Cochran, David Rowsey, and of course Mickey Eastman. These guys practice what they preach and the knowledge they share can be more accurate and more valuable than anything you can dig up anywhere else. I know I enjoy the opportunity to talk with these guys each time I get a chance because they never fail to impress. The time of the year is upon us to catch one of those trout that sets the internet message boards on fire and makes you an instant celebrity. Put to use some of the knowledge you gain from the information overload that is readily accessible to us all and mix that in with tried and true Chuck fishes Sabine and Calcasieu tactics and determination. Lakes from his home in Orange, TX. The combination will pay big His specialties are light tackle and fly dividends for you in the long fishing for trout, reds, and flounder. run and certainly make you a much better angler. Phone 409-697-6111 Email Website | 29

Editor’s Note: This is the second in a series of feature stories by Joe Doggett detailing significant contributions to the Texas outdoor experience.

STORY BY JOE DOGGETT During the nolimit ‘70s big strings were common and took a toll on the redfish. Worse, commercial fishing was unregulated.

Doggett releases “keeper” trout circa late ‘70s. Lure hats were in style!

Once unheard of, releasing big trout is now widely practiced in Texas bays.

The conservation of

sport fish is widely accepted on today’s tides

but the concept is older than many anglers might realize. Consider this advice written in ‘96: You must not be too greedy in catching your said fish as in taking too much at one time... That could easily be the occasion of destroying your own sport and other men’s also. Oh, wait - that was written not in 1996, but 1496. The author was Dame Juliana Berners. Her rules of conduct were included in The Book (“Boke”) of St. Albans. Sadly, during subsequent centuries woefully few anglers paid much attention to her sentiments. When I started seriously fishing on the Texas coast during the mid-60s (yes, this time the 1960s), limits on inshore finfish virtually did not exist. Both commercial and sport fishing were wide open. 30 | February 2012

This is not to single out the Lone Star State. The same free-for-all attitude was prevalent pretty much in all regions and for all species. Atlantic salmon in the northeast, for example, took a terrible beating from commercial nets on the high seas and unrestricted sport fishing in the rivers. The plight of the Atlantic salmon inspired perhaps the most significant voice in modern finfish conservation. Angling author Lee Wulff, a salmon authority, wrote prior to World War II, “A sport fish is too valuable to be caught only once.” I paid tribute to Wulff in last month’s feature on outdoor communicators, but he deserves additional acknowledgment. He was a true visionary and understood that catch-and-release was the key to the future of quality sport fishing. That was an advanced concept back before most of today’s graybeard geezers

were even born. Wulff wrote in 1958 in his classic book, The Atlantic Salmon, “Of importance to anglers today is the ability to catch and release a salmon, unharmed. In the early thirties, to release a salmon (in a river) was considered heresy by both guides and anglers alike. The general belief was that in order to bring a salmon to shore, it had to be played to utter exhaustion and would not recover.” So what does the long-ago controversy over Atlantic salmon have to do with Texas - well, a lot when you consider that the same “would not recover” argument was parroted all along the Gulf Coast. Big speckled trout, especially, were considered goners. True, if a large trout is roughly handled or kept under duress for a prolonged period, the fish might “belly up.” Post-spawn sows during the heat of summer are most vulnerable to abuse. But if reasonable care during the landing is followed by a prompt release, the odds of survival soar. A fish hooked cleanly with a lure or circle hook (opposed to hooked deeply with a J-type bait hook) has an excellent chance. Wulff proved this by keeping fly-caught salmon for days in a holding pool near his river camp, and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department biologists proved this during the 1980s with tag returns from speckled trout - not to mention redfish. Reds practically are bulletproof. Most of the tagged specks and reds were caught by rod-and-reel, then placed in tagging trays and stabbed with dorsal tags - far more abuse than a quick catch-and-release drill. I recall one early TPWD tagging survey of trout in upper Galveston Bay; approximately 50 tags were recovered by anglers. Most were caught in the

The early conservation movement in Texas was focused on saving the shallow water redfish. Ray Fiveash takes his best shot – late ‘70s.

upper bay system but a few ranged as far as the Galveston Jetties and lower West Bay/San Luis Pass. As another example, the annual STAR Tournament sponsored each summer by the Coastal Conservation Association releases 60 tagged reds at key sites all along Texas coast; most years 10 or 12 of those tags are returned (many by unregistered anglers). Point is, the majority of sport fish will survive skillful and conscientious catch-and-release. You need only to look at the nearest reservoir to realize that the concept has worked for years on largemouth bass (first mandated in professional tournaments by BASS founder Ray Scott during the ‘70s). But Wulff championed catch-andrelease about 75 years ago. Surely other tuned anglers back then realized the validity of “putting ‘em back,” but he was the one who really spread the word. He deserves a lot of credit. As an interesting parallel, about the same time state officials in Texas actually implemented several sportfishing size limits on inshore species. Most impressive, the old Texas Game, Fish and Oyster Commission authorized in 1930 a slot-type limit of 12 to 32 inches on red drum. No bag limits were imposed, but minimum length limits on other inshore species were: speckled trout, 12 inches; flounder, 12 inches; Spanish mackerel, 14 inches; sheepshead, 8 inches; and gafftop catfish, 11 inches. Bet you didn’t know that. I certainly didn’t until tackle collector and sporting artist Ben Kocian of Houston obtained a copy of the “1930 Digest of the Fish Laws, State of Texas.” No mention was made of a general sport-fishing license but a Texas Artificial Lure License was required. Say, what? The plugger wishing to chunk hardware in saltwater or | 31

freshwater “must secure a license, the fee of which is: resident, $1.10; non-resident, $5.” You would think it would have been the other way around: a license for natural bait such as shrimp and baitfish but a free pass for the angler using artificials. It’s generally considered harder to catch large numbers of fish (opposed to trophy-class ones) on lures - especially during the pre-plastic era. In addition, it was illegal to use an artificial lure during March and April. I assume that applied in both freshwater and saltwater, since no designation was given and the time frame would protect at least a portion of the prime spawning season for black bass in lakes and speckled trout in bays. The old Texas Game, Fish and Oyster Commission gets points for attempting to protect the finfish resource but the slant was odd, out of touch with reality. You could soak a live “brownie” on a green March/April tide, but no spoons or plugs. And, no small matter, commercial fishing was wide open. Hart Stilwell, the top Texas outdoor writer of the time, fired a shot at the old agency’s procommercial stance. In his 1946 book, Hunting and Fishing in Texas, Stilwell wrote, “The huge Laguna Madre where we do most of our fishing has declined. Everybody has his own idea as to what caused this, and up to the present time the Texas Game, Fish and Oyster Commission seems entirely content to let this fishing go to hell and to continue with its passionate efforts to improve the condition of the oyster. What most of us who fish these bayshores think is that year-in and year-out drag seining has caused the change. “...if you suggest to the Texas Game, Fish and Oyster Commission that maybe the constant drag seining in the bay has something to do with it, the Game Commission will get a gleam in its collective eye and begin telling you about the love life of the oyster.” Stilwell was a pioneer light-tackle plugger and I’ve been told he was a crusty, dead-ahead kind of guy. I don’t doubt it.

Redfish caught by rod-andreel anglers were used for TPWD hatchery programs.

32 | February 2012

During the 1950s the old agency was replaced by the Texas Game and Fish Commission; however, this wasn’t necessarily a progressive move for conservation. Commercial fishing remained virtually unbridled and most of the various laws pertaining to rod-and-reel fishing were discarded. The lure license was abandoned but by the early 1960s a general $2.15 fishing license was required (fresh and salt combined). That was pretty much it. For example, in the 1962 Digest Supplement, Game and Fish Regulations, State of Texas Game and Fish Commission, only black bass, white bass, crappie and freshwater catfish were recognized: “All other fish species not specifically listed are not regulated as to season, size limit, bag or possession limit.” That utter indifference to such a valuable coastal resource is fairly mind-boggling when you think about it. The agency ultimately became the present Texas Parks and Wildlife Department/Commission, but saltwater remained wide open through the ‘60s and into the mid-’70s. The lack of regulations combined with increases in commercial/sport pressure triggered the decline of redfish and speckled trout that led to the sweeping reforms of the late ‘70s and ‘80s. Coastal anglers were, on the whole, slow to accept the proposals of bag and size limits. After all - and with some justification - they argued that as long as commercial pressure was uncontrolled, why should rod-and-reel fishing be restricted. The supercharger was the founding of the old Gulf Coast Conservation Association during 1977 by a group of Houston-area anglers. I detailed the chronology of GCCA (now CCA) and the “Save the Redfish” campaign in the second part of a three-part series last year, Plugging the Texas Coast (Texas Saltwater Fishing, June 2011), and don’t want to repeat or, as they say, wade through used water. Suffice to say, that pivotal period saw the first length and bag limits of the modern era, the commercial ban on “sport fish” such as speckled trout and redfish, and the introduction of saltwater hatcheries. All three factors were huge in the rebound of our inshore fishing. During the past 25 years TPWD has done an outstanding job of protecting and promoting the coastal resource. Regulations on trout and reds have continued to tighten and there’s no need to detail the current laws here. That’s why the free booklet, 2011-2012 Texas Parks and Wildlife Hunting and Fishing Regulations, is available. Progressive limits are in place and a strong catch-and-release ethic continues to gain momentum on the Texas tides. Fortunately, strict catch-and-release is not necessary along the Gulf Coast. Specks and reds are prolific and resilient; both species can absorb reasonable catch-and-keep. And this is good. Both are excellent on the table (especially smaller trout). And, after you cut through all the fluff and hype, the true and primal goal of fishing is to catch a fish to eat. But, having said that, it’s very nice to open your hands on a trout or red - not just a “dink” but a fish of consequence. Watching that gleaming beauty swim free on a green tide makes the day better. And, laws aside, I do believe most dedicated coastal anglers sincerely support the concept of not being “too greedy in catching your said fish as in taking too much at one time.” Of course, it took us more than 500 years to get there.

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lIKe rodney dangerfIeld,

Gulf of Mexico production platforms scattered along the Texas coast within sight of land, in state waters, don’t get much respect. The bluewater crowd disdains them, blowing past when headed for deeper water. Many of these structures sit in remote areas and are seldom visited or even known. That’s a good thing, for guys like me. And so far, unlike so many platforms in federal waters, they’ve escaped “deconstruction” now mandated by the U.S. Department of Interior. We fished about 18 of these structures last summer, some still standing since the mid-1970s. Years ago we fished them out of necessity, back when boats were small and gas was 30 cents. Like anglers today we yearned for green tides, because chocolate water was useless when slinging artificial baits all day. Back then, stuck with a near-hopeless situation, I was known to climb jetty navigation towers above granite rocks, hoping for a glimpse of dark water on a milky horizon. Sometimes I let out a whoop and clambered back down, and we were soon picking our way

34 | February 2012

offshore even in afternoon chops. We knew that dark water, with 10 to 20 feet of water visibility, could yield an epic day. And I can’t say we ever had another boat in our way, when we got there…We had this nine-mile belt of coastal water all to ourselves. (Today, you might see one other boat on the horizon). One such trip: After wasting time sloshing up and down jetties awash in bad water, and spotting a promising green streak farther out, coastal artist Sam Caldwell and I soon found ourselves bobbing offshore in 40 feet of water, hooked to a 40-pound ling. There wasn’t room in the boat to subdue or ice the fish, so Sam put it on a trout stringer, whereby it made a run and tried to cut off his hand. Sam said the picture I took should some day be put on his gravestone…It was an epic day. Our total was two ling and a fair pile of Spanish mackerel. Out there then and now, we mostly jig; it still has the feel of “red reel” country, where baitcasting tackle tossing jigs and spoons can do serious work on ling, Spanish mackerel, pompano, big trout, legal snapper, slot redfish, tripletail and sheepshead. Today we carry a nice assortment of jigs and spoons, thanks to the Internet and bigger variety in the stores. Back then jigs were scarce in Texas so we improvised. A few “tick birds,” the invasive cattle egrets, fell

Come to Papa…Author juggles a feisty pompano that hit his homemade, 2-ounce, bucktail jig used for general purpose work at statewater platforms just off the coast.

Tripletail in fine green water during summer, beneath a shallow platform.

to our repeater .22 rifle and their best feathers were colored with Rit brand dye, and then wrapped around a leadhead jig. Catch a box full of solid trout with those homemade jigs, and you were a believer. Jigs cover the entire water column. Gold spoons too, lowered and fluttered down 30 feet to be doodle-socked, like our plastic worms up at Sam Rayburn Lake. Or cast to the sides for mid-depth, fast retrieves. That’s all summer and autumn fishing, of course. During winter and early spring it’s a different ballgame. At these “short rig” platforms, as we call them, the winter drill is bait up a few small circle hooks with a piece of white squid on a boat rod with 40-pound line. Hit bottom, set the reel in gear and leave it in a rod holder, while attending to other matters. When the rod stop jiggling and takes a bow, reel up and see what came calling. Three hooks might yield three species, usually snapper and white trout with maybe a big whiting, bluefish, croaker or slot redfish thrown in. If you run low on squid or target bigger snapper and bull redfish, fillet a sand trout and re-bait. Even the head works. Catching a 10-pound snapper in state waters would be a real bonus, something to wave at your buddies as Acres of red snapper float away dead, you return through the jetties. after being dynamited during platform Back in the day snapper were removal in deeper federal waters off Packery Channel south of Port Aransas.

Federal Water Platforms Platforms in federal waters have lately been disappearing at an alarming rate. Following the BP Deepwater Horizon spill, the U.S. Department of Interior ordered that all non-producing rigs be plugged and removed if they haven’t produced in the past five years, leading up to Oct. 15, 2010. There are approximately 3,500 offshore structures remaining in the Gulf of Mexico. The Department of Interior directive, known as the Idle Iron Policy, may impact about 650 structures. By “decommisioned” they are cut off below the sand with dynamite. The platform’s main leg structure is then lifted onto a barge and hauled away. Circular saws can be used, but setting off dynamite inside each steel leg (in a series) is quicker and cheaper. The process is wasteful and plainly kills acres of fish at times. Only fish with air bladders float to the top, while the rest (like mackerels, sharks, flounder) sink to the bottom. Even bottom debris is removed, destroying all fish habitat. The process is incredibly wasteful and short-sighted. And unfortunately the process has been speeded up, with many landmark platforms removed in the past year and more on the docket. However, The Rigs to Reefs Habitat Protection Act of 2011, introduced by Louisiana Sen. David Vitter, seeks to allow structures to remain in the Gulf as artificial reefs. “More than ever, we need to create habitat for marine life in the Gulf, not dispose of it,” Sen. Vitter said. “These idle rigs are serving a valuable purpose by supporting our fisheries, and it just doesn’t make sense to remove them.” CCA National Government Relations Committee Chairman Chester Brown says the reefs are vital to maintaining the populations of numerous offshore species. “The structures are generally regarded as the largest manmade artificial reef in the world, providing habitat to dozens of species of fish and marine life, many of which are structuredependent,” Brewer said. “Sen. Vitter, like all fishermen, realizes the critical connection between habitat and healthy fisheries, and we are grateful for his efforts to have those structures stay in the water as habitat and as popular fishing destinations for recreational anglers. If nothing is done, a tremendous amount of habitat will be lost and the negative impact would be massive. In the aftermath of the oil spill disaster, it is understandable that the federal government felt the need to be seen taking action, but this directive could create far more problems than it solves.” According to news reports, the Rigs to Reefs Habitat Protection Act would not allow platforms to be removed until an assessment has been completed to determine whether there are coral populations or other protected species in the vicinity of the platform, and to identify species with recreational or commercial value using the structure. If it is determined there is a substantial reef ecosystem around the structure, the decommissioning of the platform would be halted until it can be determined that removing it would not harm the reef ecosystem. Vitter’s bill sounds like the best idea since sliced bread, and we can only hope common sense prevails here. Rig losses so far have been almost tragic, and the loss of fish around each one can only be imagined, since sharks eventually clean up the evidence. Angler Daren Pickering encountered acres of floating snapper after a rig demolition, about 20 miles offshore of Packery Channel south of Port Aransas during the summer of 2010, and took perhaps the best pictures yet of the carnage. It shows acres of dead red snapper, a species regulated so carefully by the Feds that only a 6-week recreational fishing season exists today. | 35

A shallow-running bay boat out of Port O’Connor explores the 526 rig in good weather.

The venerable 526 rig off the Port O’Connor jetties seems to be the biggest platform in state waters.

Pete Churton with a nice tripletail, caught from a storm-battered old platform at least 35 years old, in state waters.

36 | February 2012

more scarce; we were pleased with even a three-pounder. Today you never know; the water might turn crimson with red beauties within sight of land. Most of these structures are rusty junk today, whitened with generations of bird guano, but still relentless fish-attractors in green water. After all, the fish don’t care about paint jobs, navigational lights, horns and twisted structure. (However you don’t want to run through these areas in fog or darkness, and they should be approached with caution). Last summer off Matagorda Island we were startled to see a 6-foot section of steel catwalk twisting in a light wind, ready to snap off and plunge 18 feet to the water. We made sure the boat didn’t quite get underneath. A school of big Spanish mackerel kept us busy, you see, and we limited out between glances overhead. Some platform clusters earned their own titles over the years, the most obvious being the Sadler Rigs straight off Sabine, nicknamed after Port Arthur’s mayor, who tried to annex these structures eight miles offshore. For a time the five main platforms offered great action. Some of those rigs are gone now and others remain. Last summer we stopped there and pulled out a few good trout and slot redfish. We couldn’t find a much-anticipated tripletail in the structures, but did so about halfway home, spotting a handy weedline with floating logs and tree stumps these fish favor. Tripletail are a tasty treat mostly found in state waters, again missed by the bluewater crowd. As are pompano, which also attack our small jigs. On our most recent trip, hoping for baked pompano, I brought some finely-crafted Florida pompano jigs just for that purpose, working them at the platforms off Matagorda Island. However, big Spanish mackerel kept darting in and cutting them off with ease. We could only chip away at the pompano with spoons and bigger 2-ounce jigs rigged with short wire leaders. Fortunately pompano, when feeling feisty, will grab either one. This summer we’ll be back. Protected from federal demolition, these state water platforms make ideal artificial reefs within sight of land, at a time when gas is no longer 30 cents a gallon.

Science and the Sea

Boat Chris Mapp’s Tips Maintenance TM

Arctic Ice in Hot Water There’s a massive meltdown happening in the Arctic – and it’s not just polar bears who will feel the effects. Since satellite monitoring began in 1979, sea ice in the Arctic has been on the decline, shrinking by about 10 to 12 percent per decade. In the summer of 2007, Arctic sea ice cover shrank to an unprecedented low. At this rate, researchers project that the Arctic may experience a summer completely devoid of ice by the end of the century. What’s causing the thaw? A major culprit is greenhouse gas emissions from human activities, like burning fossil fuels. Greenhouse gases trap thermal energy that would otherwise dissipate into space. This results in warmer air temperatures which prevent Arctic ice from freezing in the fall and cause the ice to melt earlier in the spring. Snow and ice reflect sunlight and help to keep polar sea temperatures cool, but with less of the sea covered by ice and snow, the ocean absorbs more heat from the sun – raising the water temperature and making it even harder for ice to form. Shrinking ice masses disrupt the life cycles of Arctic animals like seals, walruses, polar bears and seabirds, which depend on ice for places to travel, hunt, and raise young. But a warming Arctic affects the rest of the globe, too. Melting ice means rising sea levels, which can lead to storm surges, flooding and erosion, disrupting delicate coastal ecosystems as well as human communities. A cold Arctic also is essential for the system of wind and ocean currents that regulates Earth’s climate. Computer models suggest that, if Arctic warming is curbed, sea ice can recover in the future. That leaves it up to humans to keep climate change in check.

The University of Texas

Marine Science Institute © The University of Texas Marine Science Institute

38 | February 2012

I love to talk about outboard engine maintenance and oil changing is one of my favorite topics. All four stroke outboard motors have a common denominator; every one has a crankcase that holds oil that is circulated throughout the engine for lubrication of all the internal moving parts. The crankcase should always hold the right amount of the correct type of four stroke marine oil. There are differences! Engine oils do much more than just lubricate. There are three organizations that classify and rate marine engine lubricants. API – American Petroleum Institute, SAE – Society of Automotive Engineers, NMMA –National Marine Manufacturers Association. For the best performance and protection, four stoke outboards should have the NMMA FC-W® rating. The advantages of FC-W® rated four stroke engine oils are: • Far superior rust and corrosion protection, thanks to additives not available in today’s passenger car oils. • High levels of bearing protection, far more than in passenger car oils. • High resistance to foaming under high engine speeds, foaming that can break down the oil’s ability to provide the required lubricity. • Superior lubrication even when fuel dilution potential is present. This is particularly important when boating in cold water under lowspeed trolling conditions. • Designed and tested by the marine industry for the marine industry. (Courtesy of Yamaha Marine USA). The first oil and filter change is at 20 hours of operation, with the next one being 80 hours later and then every 100 hours thereafter. Each manufacturer has their own specification for viscosity (i.e. 10w30, 10w40, etc.) and each has their own recommendations for quantities. When changing oil always change the filter, service the lower unit fluid, use a new crush washer on the crankcase drain plug, pull the prop to check for fishing line behind the prop forward thrust washer, lube all grease fittings on the engine, and always ask for an engine history report. Reset the engine oil reminder on models so equipped. Four stroke outboard engines are highly sophisticated, precision machines that will service your boating needs for a long time with just a little maintenance. Automotive oils are based on emissions standards and marine oils are formulated more for lubricity. Most four stroke outboards are designed to run 6000 rpm’s, way more than your car, so for long engine life we stress using the correct oil. Let’s have a great season. Chris Mapp 361-983-4841

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Just shy of nine pounds, released immediately after photo. The end of a successful chase!



First let me say thanks for all the comments I received on last month’s article. Your comical responses and the personal “C’mon Man” moments you shared were great medicine. This month we’re going back to the meat and potatoes of chasing trophy trout. I chose this topic solely because February is prime time for the chase. Chase is the correct term here because that is what it has been since day one for me. I doubt any of us will ever figure out the entire puzzle but I hope and plan to chase it as long as I can. For whatever reason trophy speckled trout are one of the most coveted of all species and it is impossible to describe the excitement and adrenalin rush when a careerbest trout is at the end of your string. Every experience is unique to the area you catch the fish; the circumstances that led to the chase and the execution of the game plan you had laid out for the day are all pieces of the reward. You see, being consistently successful on trophy trout requires a special mindset that one must acquire in order to tip the odds in your favor. We must be able to visualize the entire day and then be dedicated to allowing it to play out. I believe that most anglers eliminate themselves from the game before kickoff without even knowing it. So back to the old 90/10 rule – If 10% of the trout fishermen catch 90% of the trophy fish, that means 90% are simply not getting it done. I have spent a lifetime trying to raise 40 | February 2012

the 90% group to the 10% level of performance. Early in my career I did not realize the importance of teaching my anglers how to identify and use the clues, nor visualize the possible outcomes beforehand. Instead I said, “Look here - use what I use, throw where I throw, and try to make your lure do this.” That’s not truly teaching but it will put fish on the end of the line many days. I now realize some thirty-three years later that unless the lessons are presented clearly and in great detail, only the truly dedicated will reach the level of expertise necessary to consistently catch trophysize trout because they targeted them. These few will achieve their goal with practice, patience, persistence and a positive attitude. One thing ALL successful trophy trout fishermen possess is the ability to visualize the entire sequence of the day in their mind before it actually happens. With this said, let me tell you how I see it in my mind’s eye before I make the first cast, and with each successive cast, not just the first. I go as far as mentally rehearsing trash talking at the dock after showing pictures of the fish released that day. Mind you now I am not cocky, I am confident. Huge difference! When in trophy trout mode I try to see the entire picture in my mind before it actually happens. You might think that’s a bunch of BS but I actually see it. If it doesn’t happen

Steve Henriksen with career best. Has the vision and skills to get the job done consistently.

May your fishing always be catching. -Guide Jay Watkins


then that’s just the way fishing goes. But when it does happen, it typically plays out quite the way I envisioned. A positive attitude wins far more for you than it causes you to lose. As my boat comes off plane I am already scanning for signs of activity: any amount of baitfish movement, an osprey soaring or sitting nearby, a brown pelican gliding parallel to the shoreline, grassline, or some other structure. These two birds seldom lie. I know my chosen area well, every grassbed and every depression in its bottom. I ease along on a line that will allow my cast to cross bait and structure at slight angles. I aim the lure beyond the structure that I see the fish on in my mental picture. I watch in my mind the action I am putting on the lure as it swims toward the target. I speed up and create an erratic action as the bait approaches the zone. I envision the fish eyeing the bait as it approaches. Now a short pause, allowing the bait to flutter on the edge. Now another sequence of sharp erratic movement and a longer fall. I see her bristle up and arch her back to strike…KaThump! A sudden jerk here could cost you the trout of a lifetime. Don’t do it! Crank down on the reel to gather slack created by the strike and then quickly point the rod in the direction of fish. This has to become an instinctive act executed with speed and precision. When the line and rod start to load, hit her with a quick, sharp upward motion. The loading of the line and rod help keep the line tight following the hookset. Now I am watching the line as I maintain a heavy, steady pressure. I want to be prepared to react when the line starts to rise. Here it comes, get your rod tip down and try and prevent the trout from breaking the surface. As beautiful as it may be on film, this is not what we want a big fish to be able to do. Here she comes to the top, get the rod tip in the water and crank her back down. A violet thrashing eruption but the inability of the fish to be able to get her body entirely clear of the water indicates a truly heavy fish. Now keep heavy, steady pressure, no long heavy pumps on the rod and certainly no jerking back when she decides to run off some line. My drag is heavy but silky smooth, an absolute must for trophy trout. She is starting to circle. Now we’ll play tug-of-war with a few feet of line being stripped with each burst of energy. She turns left and I roll my wrist only and apply pressure from the right. This tug of war lasts only a few minutes as she tires. Be prepared for a final run right at your feet if you get the rod too high on her. I like my rod more parallel to the water when I get the fish in tight. When close enough, I slide my hand along her side and get her in position to place the Boga Grip on an extended lip when she opens her mouth. The Boga trick can be tricky so go easy and be careful not to get it tangled in the line. Once on the Boga I lift her up and discover she is just shy of nine pounds but due to her short length of only twenty-nine inches she looks huge. Quick photos and hand slaps from Jay Ray and Ryan and back she goes to someday reward another angler who has put in the time and effort needed for this chase. I hope you enjoyed reading about the visual and mental aspects of the big trout game. As always my vision is mine alone and works great for me because I believe with vision, skill, a little luck and the power of positive Jay Watkins has been a full-time fishing guide at Rockport, TX, for more than 20 thinking everything years. Jay specializes in wading year-round for trout and redfish with artificial is possible. lures. Jay covers the Texas coast from San Antonio Bay to Corpus Christi Bay. Telephone Email Website


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LET IT BE On a dreary December morning several months ago I stepped aboard Captain Scott Sommerlatte’s skiff for a day of fly fishing. Although Scott often ventures into thin water in search of cruising reds and trout, we were going to try something different. A week earlier, Scott had phoned me with an invitation. “This will be low-key fishing. Let’s just take the skiff, work some deep holes along the channel, and see what happens.” It sounded good to me. In reality, neither of us was sure if we would catch a darn thing, and frankly it didn’t really matter if we did. We just wanted to get on the water. The skies were heavy and a damp breeze gently pushed across the coastal scrub as we pulled away from the boat ramp and motored down the intracoastal waterway. We soon met a large barge and eased aside to let it pass. I watched as group of gulls hovered above the barge’s massive prop wash, squawking as they always do over the churned up bits of possible food. We pushed on, and after a short drive Scott idled down the motor and positioned the boat to make a


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42 | February 2012

slow drift down a steep oyster-lined shoreline. The banks along this stretch of channel were particularly unforgiving. Riddled with driftwood and carved by storms and surges of water, they had clearly been shaped by powerful natural forces. Where the steep banks leveled off to flat ground, broad pools of standing water left little doubt that any warm blooded creature venturing across them would quickly be covered in biting insects. It was the type of country that really made you pity the Indians who once lived in it and the explorers who landed on it. As the tide began to ebb we quietly drifted on the shoulders of the incoming current. I punched casts at scattered mullet flicking on the surface, imagining unseen predators below. Over the next few hours I hooked a couple of small reds, traded flies a few times, and missed a strike or two that telegraphed up from the deep green water. We eventually motored down the shoreline a bit farther, and as a light rain began to fall Scott took a turn on the bow. Up ahead, I could see a bend in the shoreline and several abrupt sandbars.

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The deep troughs running next to them had a look that would compel almost any angler to make a cast. As Scott’s boat silently approached the bars, I heard a tell-tale, “Oh yeah,” and turned to see him hooked up on a solid fish. The fish made a few deep runs and then swirled at the surface. When it did, we both saw the charcoal and silver flashes of a big trout. Scott fought the trout for a few minutes and then carefully eased it up to the side of the boat. The trout was fat… really fat, and looked like it easily weighed 5 pounds. It had a beautiful metallic color, strangely like a big steelhead in the cold wet air. I snapped a few photographs and Scott revived the trout, letting it slip out of his hands as it burst back into the frigid water. Scott and I took a break from fishing, had a bite to eat, and watched waves of doves buzz across the water, bound for their scrubby roosts. As I watched the birds whiz past, I thought back to a time years ago when I worked as a hunting guide. It was one of the most difficult and rewarding jobs I have ever had. I learned a lot about people and a lot about myself during those years. I also learned many lessons about the outdoors. One lesson, though, has stuck with me more than all the rest- it is often better to let things happen than to try to make them happen. The man who vividly illustrated this to me was a Viet Nam veteran- a sniper. Although he did not discuss his past, I knew he had survived unimaginable and unspeakable events. But what I remember most about this gentleman was what he taught me about the power of observation. Like no hunter I have ever met, he could position himself and stay motionless for hours at a time. And he was quite comfortable doing it. I remember days where we crawled under the cover of a tree or brush pile in the pre-dawn darkness and stayed there until dusk without moving… at all. From our observation points we would watch deer, coyotes, bobcats, turkeys and all sorts of other animals come and go. Woodpeckers hammered away at their trees, and squirrels squabbled and dug for buried acorns. Those trips were physically challenging, but some of the most fulfilling I ever had. But in all the time we hunted together this man never fired a shot. It was clear he didn’t want to. One evening I asked him why and he said, “Because I want to see what’s going to happen next.” That idea has stayed with me over the years, and has brought me some unforgettable experiences. It has made me realize so many things I subconsciously knew about the outdoors and the power it has to connect you to your past, affirm the future, and put your soul at ease. And so as I sat on the bow of the Scott’s boat taking a break from fishing, the rewards were all around us- the sounds of the marsh, the flights of birds overhead, and the opportunity to catch a trout and watch it swim away. Once again I was keenly aware that sometimes nature has a better gift in store for you than the one you came for. You just have to let it happen.

44 | February 2012

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



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By Josh Harper | Natural Resource Specialist | Palacios Field Station | Palacios, TX


WHAT’S IN A FISH NAME? So a Texan, a Cajun, and a Mexican go fishing together, and pretty soon the Texan catches a large croaking fish with black stripes and whiskers. Tex drawls, “Pards, I caught a drum.” Boudreaux says, “Mon ami, that’s a gaspergou.” Juan disagrees, “No senõr, that’s a tambor.” About that time, a biologist pulls up and says, “I see you have captured a Pogonias cromis.” It sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, but it’s something fisheries biologists deal with on a regular basis. In the example above, everyone is indeed talking about the exact same fish. Most coastal Texans will call the fish a “drum” which comes from the official common name, black drum. The drum refers to the deep croaking or “drumming” sound that the fish makes. Unfortunately, inland residents not familiar with saltwater fish lingo are just as likely to call a red drum a “drum” instead of “redfish” or “red” like the locals do. The Cajun name, “gaspergou” is a corruption of the French “casseburgau” which means mussel breaker referring to the black drum’s diet of 46 | February 2012

bivalve mussels. Unfortunately, “gaspergou” is more often applied to the freshwater drum, an altogether different species. And “tambor,” is simply the Spanish word for drum. Confused? It’s no wonder. With Texas’s amazing cultural diversity, making sure everyone is talking about the same critter is a daunting task. I never truly appreciated the importance of the scientific (or Latin) name until I moved to Texas. When I worked in the Appalachian Mountains, any given fish had a scientific name, a common name, and maybe one regional name. However on the Texas coast, a fish is likely to have at least three local names plus the official common and Latin names. The Latin name is an age old solution to the global version of our fish argument. In the 1730’s, Carl Linnaeus developed a standardized naming system to avoid confusion amongst scientists. Now known as binomial (bi- = two; -nomial = name) nomenclature, each organism gets two names. The first name gives the organism’s genus and should always

be capitalized. The second name gives the species and should always be lower case. So, the black drum, Pogonias cromis, is a fish in the genus Pogonias with the specific name of cromis to distinguish it from other fish in the same genus. But why Latin? Nobody has grown up as a native Latin speaker since the ninth century A.D.! However, when Linnaeus developed his binomial nomenclature system, every educated person in the Western world understood Latin and this persisted until the last century. Much as English is the international language of aviation and every air traffic controller the world over is expected to speak English, Latin was the international language of science and any scientist was expected to understand it. So a biologist who came across a reference to Pogonias cromis would recognize that Pogonias meant bearded. This refers to the fish’s chin barbels which he uses to locate food on the seafloor. He would also know that cromis had to do with color, probably referring to the coloration of the black drum. A colored fish with whiskers would be an accurate way to describe a black drum and would be understood by anyone with a classical education which included Latin. Now that you’ve got the lingo down on black drum, try a couple of more fish name conundrums. Southern kingfish - Menticirrhus americanus. This is a rather grandiose name for a tasty little bait stealer with one barbel on his chin. You probably know them as “whiting.” Unfortunately, there are a number of fish that have “whiting” in their official common name and none of them are caught on the Texas coast. But isn’t a kingfish the big offshore gamefish that all the tournament anglers target? Nope. Sorry, but that’s a king mackerel (Scomberomorus cavalla). If only we all spoke Latin, the Southern kingfish’s name is quite descriptive and there would be little confusion. Menti- refers to the point of the chin. –cirrhus means barbel. An American fish with a barbel on his chin. Red drum - Sciaenops ocellatus. The red drum, or “red,” is a popular gamefish with a large spot on his tail and is colored…orange. Again, the uninitiated often confuse these with red snapper which is more widely known due to its popularity as restaurant fare. Sciaenops come from the Greek word skiaina which roughly means “shadowy fish.” Ocellatus refers to the eyespot, or ocellus, on the fish’s tail. But isn’t it a “Latin” name? To add another twist to the name game, many of the names are Latinized versions of Greek words. TPWD Coastal Fisheries biologists routinely use the American Fisheries Society ( publication Common and Scientific Names of Fishes from the United States, Canada, and Mexico for the “official” common names for North American fishes. Those of you who find etymology and phylogeny fascinating, the Integrated Taxonomic Information System ( is a multi-nation collaboration to make sure we’re all using the same names for all species (not just fish.) Finally, if you are interested in learning more about local coastal species, check out the TPWD home page

Check the TPWD Outdoor Annual, your local TPWD Law Enforcement office, or for more information. | 47



OF THE RESOURCE? As we move into 2012 our minds begin shifting from the deer and duck blinds and grain fields to the coastal waters. As we begin to get our fishing gear into shape, it is a good time for each of us to sit and think, “What can I do to become a better steward of the wonderful coastal resources that the Texas coast has to offer?” As saltwater enthusiasts, opportunities are plentiful up and down the entire Texas coastline to enjoy these resources. As the population along the coast and families that travel to the coast continue to grow at a rapid pace, we must put our best foot forward to continue to educate ourselves and other users in the importance of the conservation of our bountiful coast and put our best foot forward to individually take the next step in securing them for the future. The populations of speckled trout and redfish are doing well according to the recent resource surveys by Texas Parks Wildlife Department (TPWD). This is great news for recreational fisherman, but as the number of fish stocks appears to be in good shape we must keep a constant vigil to make sure we sustain these valuable resources. Speckled trout in the middle Texas coast specifically are still under the watchful eye of TPWD biologists after some down years as well as flounder, which appear to be rebounding after significant regulation changes and some favorable winters the last few years. Texas’s coastal estuaries seem to be under constant attacks from continued coastal development and the continuous loss of vital freshwater inflows due to drought and water-starved population and industry inland of the Texas coast. In addition to the growth of our coastal-area towns, the number of licensed recreational fishermen is expected to continue climbing, and the primary charge we have as stewards of the resource is to instill a conservation ethic into future fishermen as well as our current fishing buddies. This conservation ethic can come in many forms including keeping only the fish we need, picking up trash and other items while we fish and disposing of them properly, working with a conservation organization to help better the resource through fundraising efforts for projects and management initiatives, and educating young and old about the importance of respect for the resource. TPWD, Coastal Bend Bays and Estuaries Program (CBBEP), Galveston Bay Foundation (GBF), CCA Texas and other like organizations offer many ways to instill 48 | February 2012

a stewardship mentality into the general fishing population and at the same time sharpen that of those that are already active conservationists. All of these organizations offer many educational opportunities in not only literature but also hands on experiences such as hatchery tours, volunteer grass plantings, fishery surveys, beach cleanups and much more. Non-profit groups such as CCA Texas are always looking for new volunteers to work with local chapters in the day to day operations of the chapters and the fundraising process for the organization. The fundraising process provides the necessary funds to help advocate proper fisheries and habitat management, provide invaluable college education funds for future marine biologists, insuring research is current and cutting edge, provide necessary equipment for local game wardens and much more. CCA Texas is proud to help provide these important dollars and to work with other organizations in the fight to insure coastal bounty for future generations. In the end, conservation and stewardship is so much more than not keeping all the fish you can keep in a day. It is teaching our families, friends and peers to care for a resource that has been given to us and why we have to take care of it now for the future. Many of us fall into the routine of fishing with our buddies, staying on the always elusive trophy fish hunt or fulfilling that internal competitive fire by fishing every tournament we can. Take some time every so often and take your kids, family and others out and let the beauty of the coastal resource soak in. You never know what you might see or learn that you have routinely overlooked. Education and individual action is the key to the future and if it’s overlooked our resources will decline, our efforts will be lost and we stand the chance to become overly regulated in the use of our resources. In closing, take a moment to think about the last time or two you have been on the water and what you could have done differently. Could you have picked up a floating plastic bag that you just ran by, maybe explained to your fishing partners why the marsh they were fishing is so important, pointed out shallow seagrass beds to avoid to someone fishing with you that may be new to the area, inform the local game wardens or local biologists of any unusual activity you may have seen, or maybe only kept a couple of fish for dinner that night instead of boxing a full limit on a day that was on fire with bites.

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RUSHING TIDES & WARM SUNSHINE Sitting here on a cold and blustery January night I’m having a hard time getting stoked about going for a paddle. Sure I’ve got the good ol’ Simms gear in the rack that would keep me comfortable and the big momma trout are in their typical winter haunts, but I’m just not feeling it. I’ve already grown weary of slow-bumping the bottom or twitching a Corky while waiting for that one subtle bite. My mind keeps wandering back to the recent autumn days of schooling reds going crazy on piles of shrimp. Those final days before the marsh water got too cold and the shrimp moved out with the ultra low tides of a blowing norther were simply nuts. Fat reds were eager to jump all over my fly so long as it landed in the same zip code. I much prefer the visual pleasures of active shallow fish over the mysteries of the unseen. For now I’m staring down the barrel of February, my least favorite month on the calendar. And to top it off it’s even got an extra day this year. Guess I’ve got the winter kayak blues. What I’m looking forward to is that first predawn trip out to the truck when the warm humid air hits me. It’s hard to describe, but I know it when I feel it. That morning will certainly be followed by a few more cold snaps, however it will signal the certain coming of another 50 | February 2012

season for chasing the shallow water fish I crave. The recent start of a new year got me to thinking of all the trips I’d like to make happen in the coming months. The last couple years I’ve been too much of a homebody, rarely getting too far away from my upper coastal marshes surrounding the Galveston Bay complex. Some trips are to old familiar places I haven’t visited in a while; others have remained unchecked on my bucket list for far too long. Somewhere between guided trips and chores I’m going to make time to knock a few of these off. First off, I need to slip off into the Light House Lakes with my old buddies Dean Thomas and Joe Poole for a couple days of cruising through the maze of mangroves. Some of my fondest memories in a kayak have been spent paddling alongside these two as we worked on solving the problems of the world. It really doesn’t even matter if I catch a bunch of fish - so long as it is one more than they get. If you’ve never visited the paddling trails through the lakes you really need to add it to your to-do list. If I were forced to choose a single place on the Texas coast to fish for the rest of my life this just might get the nod. There is nothing like sliding into the seclusion of the mangroves at dawn, rounding a blind corner and sighting a wad of waggling tails. If that sounds like something you’d like to experience give Dean or Joe a call at Slowride Guide Service and they’ll hook you up. | 51

Tops on my list for places I haven’t yet fished would have to be down at the southern tip of Texas. South Bay, to be exact. I really can’t fully explain why I’ve never dipped a paddle into these waters. I’ve fished the jetties, the nearby grass flats and even in the Brownsville ship channel, but never ventured into this little jewel of a bay. If I could manage to snag a snook while I’m there I can cross two things off my bucket list. I’ve caught plenty of them in Florida, but still don’t have my first Lone Star snook. From what I hear, I need to set aside a couple

nights for drifting slowly across the flats tossing a big topwater into the darkness. I can almost hear the smack now. Another place I’ve never paddled is Baffin. I’ve fished it from a powerboat, but I’d really like to mothership a kayak into some of the more remote areas and go exploring. More than a few hours of my time has been spent on Google Earth looking at the waters off the main bay and daydreaming of poling my Ride among fish that rarely ever see an angler. Everyone associates Baffin with big trout and they tend to forget about the reds. I’m betting I could give my fly rod a workout on some really fat redfish in some really skinny water. The uninhabited shorelines of this big bay have always been a draw for me. Fishing there is like going back to a time when there weren’t so many

52 | February 2012

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people living at the water’s edge. Yep, gotta make this happen sooner rather than later. Hopefully this summer will bring about some more lengthy periods of calm weather. For the last couple years the brief windows haven’t coincided with my free time, thus I haven’t had the chance to paddle off the beach in search of kingfish and other pelagics. I’ve missed the screaming run of a freshly hooked king and the rush of adrenaline that comes from being pulled through the water faster than I can paddle. Heading several miles straight off the beach at sunrise in a small plastic boat isn’t for everybody, but with proper planning it isn’t as risky as it first sounds. Going with a group of capable and experienced paddlers is a must. Everyone in the group needs to be self-sufficient as the party is only as strong as the weakest link. Three miles off the sand is not where you want to find out that your partner can’t do a deepwater re-entry or is physically not up to the task of paddling that far. My goal this year is a king on the fly from my kayak. Speaking of endurance paddling, another trip I’ve been meaning to do for several years is to paddle the Port O’Connor kayak trail. I want to make it a multi-day paddling, fishing and camping excursion. This trail leads through some very productive shallow backwaters over to the old Army base on Matagorda Island. Four days should be about right in order to get in plenty of fishing time. My plan is to push through the first half of the route and then slow down to a leisurely pace while fishing through Mule Slough and Lighthouse Cove before arriving at the camping area on the island. The next couple days will be forays into Pringle and along the south shoreline of Espiritu Santo. The final day will be a reverse of the first. My “one of these days” trip starts off in the same manner, but instead of returning to POC I’d like to keep relocating camp each day as I work my way around Espiritu Bay winding up at Charlie’s. I should probably work on getting that one done before I get too old to make it. All this daydreaming and scheming must be good for the soul because I’m starting to feel the “shacknasties” retreating. See y’all next month, gotta go start tying up some flies and prepping equipment. Spring is coming, I can feel it.

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

281-450-2206 | 53



WHAT IS A WATERMAN? Somebody recently asked me where the term “waterman” came from. Having never seen the topic covered in TSFMag, I thought it would be a good subject to hash out so… The simplest and most commonly referenced definition of waterman today seems to be simply that of a boatman or one who operates a boat. I personally find this definition lacking and much prefer what I find in MerriamWebster’s Collegiate Dictionary - “One who works or lives on the water, a man who makes his living from the water (as by fishing), one who plies for hire usually on inland waters or harbors.” I think of it more as a title than a mere description of an occupation - a moniker to be earned. In regards to the history of the term, the word waterman was originally used as far back as the eleventh century to describe smugglers who used small boats for transportation on waterways in England. These smugglers were men of great skill on the water. When the Chesapeake Bay of Virginia was settled by the English, the word took on a new meaning. It was given to the men and women who made a living by harvesting the bounty of the bay and its many estuaries for sustenance and also for income. During the warmer months the watermen of the Chesapeake harvested crabs and finfish and during the colder months 54 | February 2012

they would harvest oysters and shoot ducks for market. And many, to supplement their livelihood, guided wealthy individuals to sport and adventure. To this day the title of waterman is still widely used in the Chesapeake region but you seldom hear it used in Texas. Regardless, there have been watermen working the waterways, bays and estuaries of Texas since the beginning of time. Of course the first watermen in Texas were the Native Americans known as the Karankawa. The Karankawa were greatly skilled at harvesting the bounty of the bays and estuaries which can easily be seen by artifacts found at any one of a number of Indian mounds uncovered by archeologists up and down the coast. They were of course followed by the settlers of this great state. Many who arrived by way of the Gulf made their home near the coast and before long had taken to the water and developed the skills to feed their families and to earn a living and some, like their Chesapeake Bay contemporaries, became guides. Over the years, I have read numerous accounts in old journals and collections of letters from sportsmen regaling the tales of the Texas watermen that would depart Corpus Christi by sail, navigating through the bays to reach Matagorda Bay. Once there, they would guide sports on

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the grandest of outdoor experience which not only included hunting the bountiful waterfowl of the time, but also quail and deer. At night the sports would sit down to the finest meals prepared by their guides that included not only game from their hunts but of fresh fish, shrimp and oysters that were harvested along the way. To read these stories you would think that these individuals were sitting down at the finest of modern sporting lodges and not on an old wooden boat that pitched frantically in a gale or that leaked gallons of water in a driving rain. By all accounts, not every person that makes their living on the water can or should be considered a waterman. For example, just look at the commercial fishing industry. When you see a shrimp or oyster boat out working a reef or hauling their nets, some of the men on deck are nothing more than hired hands and strong backs. It is highly likely though, someone on that boat, usually the captain, has learned the skills to get the job done and get his ship and crew back to port in the most dire of conditions. What sets the true waterman apart is his or her skills. In the old days, these skills ranged from not only being able to safely operate a boat or skiff in the harshest of conditions but also to having an intimate knowledge of the waters they worked and the ability to care for their catch or harvest. In addition, many watermen built their own boats, mended sails and nets and some were even masters at carving waterfowl decoys. And, once the age of machine and mechanism arrived, many learned how to make effective repairs on the water allowing them to make it back no matter what the circumstance. As we all know, over time, things change and that could not be more evident than if you look at the people who make their living on the water in the 21st century. There are of course those, like myself, who are trying to hold on to some of the older traditions but, find it difficult as technology invades our lives. Over the years the role of the waterman has shifted. Where before, most that worked on the water did so to harvest and sell their catch - now days the true commercial fisherman is being replaced by the fishing and hunting guide. The skills of most modern-day watermen would likely not even begin to compare to the watermen of the past. The modern waterman’s, if they even deserve the honor of being called such, lack of knowledge is supplemented by technology and commerce. The intimate knowledge and ability to read the water and navigate safely has been replaced by GPS and sonar as well as by computer maps and satellite imagery that can be pulled up on a cellular telephone. Sails, oars and push poles have been replaced by powerful and efficient outboard motors and electric trolling motors. As for the equipment necessary to perform a specific job, there is no longer a need to be able to make anything. We have mail order catalogs and the internet. And, unlike the days way back when, there is almost no fear of being stranded by weather or mechanical failure and being alone on the water for possibly days before another boat comes along to provide assistance. Now days there are boats everywhere and if one does not come by soon enough, just pick up the cell phone. We who make our living on the water today have it easy. But like those who came before us, we love the water and choose to make our lives here. Hopefully enough will recognize the need to preserve the traditions of old and in turn, it will make us better watermen. Scott Sommerlatte is a full time fly fishing and light tackle guide, freelance writer and photographer. Telephone Email Website

979-415-4379 | 55



COOK WHAT YOU KEEP! The questions that always will arise when I start to get into a group of fish: “Are we keeping them?” “Do we need more fish in the freezer to eat in the near future?” The next thought that comes to my mind after that is, “Do we have sufficient amounts of ice on the boat?” Fish, plain and simple, taste better if it is iced down properly. A half a bag of ice won’t cut the mustard either. The right amount of ice should be enough to completely submerge all the fish. This time of year it’s easier than in the hot months to keep a well-stocked cooler of ice. If the stars line up just right, you might be able to keep enough to feed all at the dinner table. As soon as I get done fishing, I clean and put away the boat, clean my reel, and finally, clean my fish. To me, there’s nothing better at the dinner table than a plate of fresh fish. With a little preparation and planning you can create your very own fish dinner. If I plan on frying my catch of the day, I like to go 56 | February 2012

ahead and cut them up in small pieces. Then, once the fish is cut, immediately put the meat in a bag and back into the ice. Once you get where you’re going to cook the fish, I like to wash the fillets off with water and go over them to look for bones. After you pull out any bones you missed the first time around, you can prepare your breading mixture. I like to start with a healthy amount of flour and only a little bit of cornmeal. I know these aren’t exact measurements here, but that’s how good cooks cook, right? Anyways, I like more flour because it sticks better to the fish. Next, I’ll mix in some seasonings; I like to use paprika, and also some Tony’s seasoning for more flavor. Now that you have your breading mixture, put oil in the pan. I use a fairly large cast iron skillet and blended canola oil, only putting about a half inch of oil in the pan. Set the heat to about medium-high. I prefer to use a pan rather than a frying pot. I think that the fish taste better when cooked in a small amount of oil. Both

work great, but I like to use the pan. There are two common choices of things to dip the fish in before you bread them. You can use either milk or eggs. After dipping the fish in the milk or eggs, coat them evenly with your breading. Once the oil reaches the right temperature, place them in the pan. You can test the temperature of the oil by rolling up a little breading and throwing it in the pan. If it doesn’t immediately sizzle and bubble, it’s not hot enough. While that round of fish are frying you can get another batch ready. After you have all of your fish cooked, you need to make a good cocktail sauce to dip the fish in. It can be very simple to do; just mix in a spoonful of horseradish with a cup of ketchup. This really adds to the flavor of the fish. Lastly, you need to prepare a few sides and you are ready to feed a table full of hungry fishermen. Preparing the food I catch for dinner is very rewarding and enjoyable. We have a rule: Don’t keep any fish, shoot any ducks, deer, etc. that you don’t plan to eat. It’s un-sportsmanlike and should not be practiced. On the plus side, for those young male sportsmen out there, every girl likes a guy that’s a good cook! | 57

Dad with a big dorado.



LIGHTING THE WAY With the holidays behind us and hunting seasons nearly over, I doubt I’m the only one with thoughts turning toward the warmer days of spring and more frequent ventures offshore. Recent reports of a solid wahoo bite along the continental shelf and tuna being found with some consistency makes me want to jump in the boat and go join the action. As I think about the upcoming summer fishing season, I can’t help but recall the numerous times that I have written here and mentioned at countless seminars, about learning lessons through your own experiences and then applying those lessons (some learned the hard way) to your next fishing trip. 58 | February 2012

Sometimes we learn as much or more from our mistakes as we do our successes. Well - never did I think that fishing would end up teaching me a truly hard life-lesson. I lost my father very unexpectedly the day after Mom and Dad with a great pair of amberjack.

Family snapper trip.

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Thanksgiving, exactly two days before we were to leave on a weeklong mule deer hunt in Western Kansas. We were very close and rarely a day passed that we did not speak on the telephone. Some of our conversations were chit-chat and some were serious business but, the point is, we talked a lot. Losing him so suddenly threw my world into a panic. Needless to say all of this has set me to reminiscing all the good times, all those wonderful days we spent together on the water and in the field. Losing my dad has led me to consider the full impact and influence of all those experiences we shared. How they shaped me personally and professionally and how one generation sheds light onto the path of the next. This has been tough to deal with but knowing that his light is still shining on me and through me has been a great comfort. We all work hard to be able enjoy the things in life that bring us joy. Sharing those things with others can be some of the greatest gifts we will ever give. My dad certainly shared a lot with me. Whether it might be an all-day offshore fishing excursion or something as simple as a couple of hours sitting on the bank of Dad helping my a pond with a son or daughter, son Jacob about friend or loved one; time ten years ago. spent with those close to us is precious and even the simplest endeavors can end up some of the most enjoyable and memorable in their lifetime. I have also come to realize as I hope you do too; we owe these things to those that follow us. When put in that perspective, the allure of the entire outdoor experience takes on so much more meaning, more than simply a pastime for our own enjoyment alone. The older I get the better I understand that there is so much more to our sport than just throwing fish on the dock.

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just spending that quality time together around a campfire that we hear spoken of so often. As I sit here at this desk I find myself reliving a lifetime of great memories. His silly jokes and that comforting smile that just seemed to always set my heart at ease, but the fact remains that he took an impressionable young boy and raised him in a turbulent world that could have easily led him astray. His tools were love, a gun, and a fishing rod. Those simple things were all it took to see that boy to adulthood and down a path that never gave him time to get into any kind of measurable trouble. What better legacy can we leave our children or those that just simply look to each of us for a little guidance in life? Where better to do it that in the outdoors, passing on our knowledge and love for the sport of fishing? I cant think of a better way to teach the most important of life’s lessons.


My father was my teacher and my Dad assisting a guide, he was my biggest fan and the one young client on that always encouraged me to pursue my a charter. with a great pair of dreams. Even gambling on me, with his amberjack. hard-earned money to help me launch the very career that I now enjoy. It was only later in life that I realized my dreams were his dreams for me. This is what each and every one of us has the opportunity to be to someone in our lives, and what better place to do it than in the outdoors. I personally can’t think of a better place or a better way to teach a youngster patience than through our sport of fishing. It also offers them the opportunity to be rewarded with success through hard work achieved over something that they can’t control. These victories following a string of failures will teach perseverance better than any method that we could manufacture. The size of these victories really doesn’t matter. It could be as big as a tournament winning fish or as simple as my kids filling the livewell with a batch of stubborn blue runners. It’s all about their pride and sense of accomplishment. With the New Year well underway, some us may have already forgotten our resolutions for 2012. Personally I have not. Mine was to do my very best to continue to pass on the lessons that were taught me by my father. Not so much the obvious ones that come around every day, what I’m talking about are the ones in the great outdoors that you have to put some effort into. Hunting, fishing, camping and

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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


Hi, I’m Cade. I’m just your everyday do it yourself kind of guy with a great 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 HookN-Line Fishing map and follow me each month as I travel along the Texas coast, learning the ins and outs of fishing the saltwater along the way. Where Christmas Bay is one of the last decently large bodies of water comprising the Galveston Bay system. The bay is surrounded by marshland and Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge. One can approach Christmas Bay from the northeast, driving down from Galveston; otherwise drive up the coast a short way from the Freeport/Surfside 62 | February 2012

area. For this outing I chose Surfside as my home base. When and Weather The online reports as well as my fishing maps indicate Christmas Bay to be best from the spring through the fall. However, I wanted to try my luck at some winter

kayak fishing. To wrap up the holiday season, I thought to myself “what better body of water to fish than Christmas Bay?” The forecast had called for high chances of rain right until it was time to head off for the weekend, thankfully it let up and the skies were partly cloudy at the most. The one big hindrance was the wind blowing a steady 15mph, with gusts above 20mph. Day time temps stayed in the low 50s, night time temps dipped into the 40s. Tackle and Gear ROD: Allstar 7’ M REEL: Shimano Curado LINE: Suffix 15lb monofilament, clear LURE: DOA Shrimp, Gold Glitter 3” I needed to rent an extra kayak for this trip because my girlfriend

would be joining me for her first ever kayak adventure. Austin Canoe and Kayak of Houston, is my go-to kayak resource. They are very friendly and knowledgeable and got us set up perfectly. For bait, stop in either Saltgrass Bait Shop or Denver’s Bait Camp. Both are located on Hwy 332 just before the bridge as you approach Surfside. Hitting the water Before leaving ACK, they gave me a business card with the website From the link you can download a cell phone app that allows you to find kayak launch points for various bodies of water. It immediately came in handy for this trip and will be useful for those to come. I found Christmas Bay is set up quite well for kayaks. The launch points are easy to find. Also, much of the water is never deeper than a foot or so around the marshy banks. We beached the kayaks a couple of times and did some wading as well. Referring to my Hook-N-Line map, we launched from location K23 and paddled northeast directly into the wind. Once we reached the pass we paddled a few hundred yards up the pass to a post structure

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in the water. From here we let the wind do the rest, drifting us back towards the launch, casting and trolling along the way. The next morning was a repeat of paddling into the wind, though it was stronger and coming more out of the east. We drifted a cut in the marsh for a while then paddled and casted along the leeward side of the northeast bank of the bay as we made our way back to the launch. My Hook-N-Line map shows a couple of sunken boats in the bay that I wish I had had time to fish around. Also, the northern most shore of the bay is a supposed hot spot. When launching further south in the bay, I recommend fishing the oyster reefs that lead into Drum Bay. From what I have read and heard and now experienced, for the majority of the year gold spoons, top water lures, and jigging artificial minnows will yield good results.

64 | February 2012

Where to eat and where to sleep Choosing Surfside as my home base involved a deeper factor than just close proximity to the water. I grew up playing on the beach in Surfside when my family came to visit my late great-grandmother who lived in the area. Coming back to Surfside after having not been there in nearly 10 years was quite heartwarming. Any who, if you have been to the town, you know that Surfside does not offer much in the way of accommodations; Hurricane Ike certainly did not help the matter. Pitching a tent on the beach is an easy solution for you primitive campers. If traveling in an RV is your cup of tea, The Breeze Hotel and RV Park, offer convenient services. If you are looking for a hotel or motel, the Anchor Motel and Ocean Village Hotel are other options. I chose the Ocean Village Hotel to get a room for the night. In conjunction with the hotel is Pirates Alley CafĂŠ, making a tasty and

hundred yards of the launch point. I was also impressed to see the number of kayakers. Kayaks vastly outnumbered the boats, and the only boaters were duck hunters traveling to and from their blinds. You won’t find any piers on the bay and the only real bank fishing opportunity is fishing from the launch points, but it isn’t very ideal unless you are wading out a bit. Of course, you could walk across the road and find yourself on the beach surf fishing. Wrap up Less wind would have been nice, but most times you have to deal with nature in some way shape or form. Christmas Bay is an easy body of water to get to. I also like its manageable size; with enough time and energy, one could cover a lot of water from just a paddle boat. The Contacts: If you would like more information on the Surfside area, visit Austin Canoe & Kayak(Houston) –, 713-660-7000 Ocean Village Hotel –, 979-239-1213 Red Snapper Inn Restaurant –, 979-239-3226

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convenient breakfast. For a nice sit down meal, The Red Snapper Inn is the choice seafood restaurant of the community. Located literally at the end of the driveway to the Ocean Village Hotel, The Red Snapper Inn put a big smile on a couple of very hungry and worn out kayakers. Hammerhead Bar is a where you need to go if you are in the mood for a nice cold one after a long day of fishing. The Other Angles As mentioned before, Christmas Bay is really a great spot for kayakers and wade fisherman. When wrapping up the first evening of fishing, there was a half dozen wade fisherman just kicking the night off. They were casting as soon as they stepped in the water from the launch area. The same goes for the wade fisherman I saw when launching the next morning, at least four guys were wade fishing within a couple

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OYSTERS Texas waters primarily host the Eastern oyster, Crassostrea virginica, also called the American oyster, Atlantic oyster, common oyster, and Viriginia oyster. The Eastern oyster is a bivalve mollusk, a type of shellfish with two bilaterally symmetrical shells hinged together at one end and closed by a large muscle, called the adductor muscle, at the other end. Though small, a three-four inch oyster requires a pull of over twenty pounds to open.1 C. virginica can be found in in Corpus Christi Bay and all bays north, and the south end of the Laguna Madre near Brownsville. They are often found growing in large piles known as beds, or reefs, in both lower and upper bay areas.2 Oysters spawn in warm weather, usually late spring to early fall. Temperature prompts the first oyster to spawn, and that oyster releases pheromones which triggers an oyster orgy. Usually, the majority of oysters in a bed will spawn simultaneously, guaranteeing the most encounters between egg and sperm. Even with this synchronized spawning, only a fraction of the eggs become fertile. But as each female can release five million eggs, and each male produces over two billion sperm, a fraction is still a tremendous amount. Of these fertilized eggs, however, only one in a million will survive to adulthood.3 66 | February 2012

A fertilized egg soon develops into a free-swimming, shell-bearing larva called a veliger. During this stage, which lasts two to three weeks, larvae are carried throughout the bay by tidal currents while they search for suitable places to settle. Many will become dinner for something else. Some will be swept into waters too fresh, too salty, or too polluted. Oysters need a hard surface (cultch) to grow on; they can’t survive if buried. They often settle on oyster shell, but any hard substrate will do. Bacteria and algae growing on suitable cultch give off chemical cues that may trigger a wandering veliger to settle.1 When settling, veligers change into small oysters, called spat (presumably because of their resemblance to specks of tobacco juice), about the size of pepper grains. Spat are gregarious and tend to settle at the nearest spat party. Wherever a spat settles is where it stays for the rest of its life. All Eastern oysters spend the first part of their life as males. Eventually, they all turn into females. Why? We’re not sure. Perhaps an evolutionary advantage. Perhaps more energy is needed to produce the large eggs than the small sperm. Growth in Texas waters is fairly fast and occurs throughout the year.2 Oysters can reach sexual maturity in four weeks after settling, and most reach the legal market size of three inches by twenty months.1

The oyster builds its shell continuously, secreting new layers successively in all directions. Sometimes a shell fragment, sand grain, or other irritant becomes stuck in the soft tissue. The oyster just continues to secrete around it, creating a pearl. The commercial Eastern oyster, however, lacks the special ingredient to form the mother-of-pearl coating, which gives the desirable pearls their luster. So while their pearls are interesting, they’re not valuable, monetarily.2 Thankfully, oysters have considerable value beyond their pearls. Oyster reefs create habitat for over three-hundred different species, providing both food and protection. Coral reefs serve a similar purpose; however, unlike a coral reef ecosystem, which can loose several species of coral and still function, an oyster reef ecosystem will deteriorate without a healthy population of oysters.4 Oysters fill another important role as filter feeders. A single oyster can filter up to six gallons of water an hour, and a large population can influence the clarity of an entire bay. Because oysters, like vegetation, can reflect the recent past environmental conditions of the area they live in, the health of a bay can be ascertained through the study of oysters and other filter-feeding organisms. After oysters settle, they cannot move if the area in which they live undergoes a change in water quality, and so are at the mercy of their changing environment. Since they are filter feeders, their bodies absorb any nutrients, or pollutants, that flow through them. Therefore, if the oysters are healthy and thriving, it is a good assumption that the bay is at least relatively healthy. If, on the other hand, the oysters are declining, it is logical to assume that their environment is changing, either naturally or by human activity.5

Besides being significant ecological features of Texas bays, oysters support an important commercial fishery. Unlike most other seafood, oysters are eaten in their entirety, sometimes with no preparation. Though there are several edible mollusks found along the coast, most live singly, scattered along the seabed, making their harvest a tedious process. Oyster harvest is much more appealing because of the oysters’ colonial living habits. Special dredges can quickly scoop up a multitude of oysters, from which small oysters and empty shells are culled.2 Ninety percent of the public reefs dredged by commercial and recreational fishermen are located in Galveston, Matagorda, and San Antonio Bays (but especially Galveston). Prior to Hurricane Ike, eighty percent of commercial oyster landings came from Galveston Bay, and it is still the top producer.5 All oysters sold in Texas must be harvested, handled, processed, and stored in accordance with state and federal mandates. The old warning “never eat oysters in months without an ‘R’ in them” dates back prior to the development of efficient refrigeration. Actually, oysters are edible year-round, assuming they don’t accumulate any contaminates; though after spawning, they tend to be less meaty. The best oysters are harvested in winter and early spring.2 Appropriately, the public harvest season, both commercial and recreational, runs from November 1 through April 30, with a recreational daily bag limit of two bushels.1 The Texas Department of State Health Services (DHDS) may close certain oystering areas during the harvest season, depending on the sanitary conditions of the population. Always check the maps provided by the DHDS for closed or polluted areas and call their 24/7 hotline for current closures (800-685-0361). In the past, oysters were harvested for industrial purposes as | 67

well as food. Oyster shells have been used in cement, poultry feed supplements, plaster, mortar, road building, dry ice production, paper manufacturing, and magnesium refining. To preserve the oyster population, regulations were eventually imposed to limit dredging near living reefs, and portions of the harvested shell were returned to the bays to encourage new reef growth. In addition, an experiment using condensed balls of fly ash from power plant smoke stacks as spat substrate resulted in several new reefs from upper Trinity to lower West Bay that are still viable and producing today (except the ones in Trinity, which never got a good start due to the very low salinity). Oyster transplanting is also used to create new harvestable reefs. Since oysters affected by bacterial contamination can flush their systems and be safe to eat in fourteen days, oysters are sometimes transplanted from waters designated as polluted by the DHDS to leases in approved waters.4 Being estuarine in nature, oysters can tolerate fairly broad changes in siltation, temperature, salinity, tidal fluctuations, etc., and they can weather extreme changes in their environment for short periods of time by tightly closing their shells. However, they must eventually open their shells or risk drowning in their own waste, and if conditions have not improved, the oysters will die.2 They must also contend with predators such as black drum, blue crabs, oyster drills (snails that drill a hole through the oyster’s shell to reach its flesh), and birds (at low tide) as well as parasites, such as dermo. The prolific nature of the Eastern oyster is enough to combat these detriments, as long as the population is not overfished or exposed to a wideranging permanent, extreme change in the environment.4

68 | February 2012

Fun facts: * Oysters don’t have eyes, but they do have pigmented spots that are light sensitive; no one tells these guys not to fear shadows! * Oysters are blue-blooded, as they have copper rather than iron to carry oxygen and carbon dioxide.3 * Sometimes, the freshly shucked oyster houses a brownish “worm” within the oyster’s body. This worm is actually an enzyme complex created by the oyster when it feeds. Some consider it a mark of freshness.2 * Oysters are sometimes cited as aphrodisiacs because they’re rich in amino acids that trigger increased levels of sex hormones. Also, they have a high zinc content, which increases the production of testosterone. Oysters Rockefeller, anyone?

Footnotes 1

Lance Robinson, “Oysters in Texas Coastal Waters,” Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, 20 December 2011 < phtml>. 2 Robert Hofstetter, “Oysters,” HuntStats, 20 December 2011 < oysters.html>. 3 Robert Owens, The Franklin Institute, 20 December 2011 < fellow7/dec98/oysters/index.html>. 4 “Galveston Bay Oysters,” BetterBay, 20 December 2011 < galbay_oyster.html>. 5 Jim Lester & Lisa Gonzalez, “Galveston Bay Status & Trends,” Houston Advanced Research Center, 20 December 2011 < Default.aspx>.



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Remember, when someone sees you with our logo, they will know you have something in common. At Salt Water Soul, "WE LIVE IT EVERYDAY…SWS4L! | 71


DICKIE ColBuRn’s Sabine Scene


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

72 | February 2012

We may have officially closed the books on 2011 but the exceptional bite that began in early October has slowed very little if any thus far into the New Year. Abnormally high salinity levels in the rivers have given the fish no reason to retreat to the lake or even the ship channel. We have yet to see a return of the winds that blew out the first five months of last year, but if the river bite stays this consistent you won’t hear much complaining when the open lake is unfishable. Given the option of fishing the rivers or the lake, it is dealer’s choice most days as both venues are kicking out numbers and size as well. Depending on your penchant for targeting only the sow trout that cruise the shallow flats this time of the year, you may not appreciate the fact that hordes of redfish are already on the scene. We had the same problem, if you view that as a problem, last year and finally figured out that the trout had taken up residence in a little deeper water. While we are wading less due to the slightly deeper bite, fishing that same pattern has been just as productive this year. We have already caught more trout in the 5 to 7-pound class than we did all last winter.

Because the bottom consistency is not as important when making these slightly deeper drifts, the critical factor each day is determining whether the fish are on the bottom or feeding in the top of the water column. When they are feeding higher everything from a She Dog to a five-inch tail will work for you. When fishing the tails we are using nothing heavier than an eighth ounce head. Even when the best bite is nearer bottom we generate more strikes by simply slowing down our

Andrew Hoyland doesn't view too many redfish to be a problem!

retrieve rather than switching to a heavier head. Slowly swimming an Assassin Die Dapper or a TTF Killer Flats Minnow XL will usually keep you in the game regardless of whatever else they may be biting. The biggest mistake you can make with these larger profile plastics is swimming them too fast and not taking advantage of the vibration of the big paddle tail. I will be forever addicted to the entire line-up of Corkys and that unmistakable “thump” they can solicit on a cold winter’s day, but Tidal Surge’s Maniac Mullet has recently earned a lot of playing time for me as well. It fishes very much like the Corky Devil but sinks significantly faster. While I think that will limit the bait’s effectiveness once the water gets really cold and the trout feed less aggressively, it has been an asset when fishing water 55° and warmer. I recently fished a prototype of the new slow sinking version and, as expected, it was far more effective in colder water. The only flat that has not been really good for me thus far has been that stretch of shoreline from Madam Johnson’s to the Gator Hole. Much of the grass has finally washed out and the bait is not as concentrated as it has been over the past two years. The Neches flat

and the flats behind both Stewt’s and Sidney have been great afternoon spots Joe Norman on an incoming tide. with nice trout It could and should all change by the caught drifting time you read this, but the bite in both deeper water. the Neches and Sabine Rivers is still every bit as good as the one in the lake. Not only are the numbers there, but an above average number of 25 to 28-inch fish as well. The key has been to slow down and fish deeper. The most dependable program has been crawling a Corky Devil or Fat Boy, a Maniac Mullet or 5-inch tail along the 12 to 15-foot breaks. Getting a tail down quickly is not difficult as you can simply opt for a heavier head, but getting one of the mullet imitations to the bottom can be more of a problem, especially on a strong tide change. I am losing a lot of baits to rocks and debris, but I have minimized that problem by fishing all three baits on a Carolina rig with a 1/4 ounce worm weight and a three foot leader. When they are eating the scented Die Dapper I lose fewer baits as it will hover above the bottom when threaded on an exposed 4/0 Mustad wide gap hook. We have had to do some serious adapting, but the bite on Sabine is about as good as it gets right now!


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mICKEY Eastman

mICKEY On 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

74 | February 2012

Howdy folks, Capt. Mickey Eastman bringing you an update on wintertime fishing around the Galveston area bays and taking a look at what we might expect during the month of February. Hunting seasons are all behind us and unless you’ve been fishing you could break out in a bad case of cabin fever. I would really hate to see that happen so I’m going to do my best to talk you into getting your rods and reels and other gear tuned up and hitting the bay soon and often. If you have been reading my column regularly you probably think I’m either full of baloney or I’m going off like a broken record for the umpteenth month in a row but, neither would be true. Galveston area anglers are still enjoying some truly uncommon fishing. We keep thinking we’ll wake up any day and the dream will have come to an end but so far there is no end in sight. We are having somewhat of a mild winter and we just have a lot of fish and it is pretty easy to catch them when the weather is right. We have had a few slow days during the northers and lower tides but during the warm-ups they are really jumping all over

the Maniac Mullets and 52M MirrOlure. Good solid trout too! I cannot remember the last time we got stranded in a big school of dinks and couldn’t move around a little and find some good ones. Personally I haven’t caught any legitimate seven to eight pounders but I know some folks and have seen photos from guys that have. They are few and far between but there are some true heavyweights out there. Trout get hefty this time of year and I had a 25-incher the other day that went an honest six and a half pounds. That is pretty much what we call a Trinity Bay Football. Now during the rest of January and throughout February, fishing success – good weights and good numbers – will be pretty much a matter of timing. You pick your weather right, meaning a day or two after a front, and get out there at daylight on a good concentration of bait and if you stay with it you’ll get into them at some point during a day of fishing. Good places to try here in the Trinity Bay area are Anahuac Pocket, Jack’s Pocket and over some of the reefs. Right now that old clam shell and mud

structure is working real good in depths of three to six feet. That is where the Maniac Mullet really comes into its own. We jig it real hard to put lots of action on it, let it fall, bring it back up, let it fall again, etc. They are bumping it hard and sucking it all the way down on the fall. You’re not going to miss many and most of the ones you land will be hooked real solid, not just in the edge of the lip. They are gobbling it up pretty good on that deep fall after jigging it toward the surface real hard. Finding fish has not been terribly difficult. I just look for offcolor streaky water with some flipping mullet in it over scattered oyster, clam, and muddy bottom. That has been the pattern for several weeks now and I expect unless we get some big shake-up in the weather pattern it will continue to hold. Another classic winter pattern is brown pelicans dive bombing shad that trout and redfish have pushed to the surface. We have been seeing some of this and it makes it super easy to locate the action. Even after the pelicans have given up or drifted away, an occasional slick here and there in the area is all you need to get right back on top of the bite. I have seen many times when a few pelicans would give us the tip early in the day and we would then be able to work the pattern steadily into the afternoon - using the trolling motor to hop to the next slick or muddy streak that pops. I have not been up in the rivers but I am hearing some of my buddies are catching fish up there. I have been sticking to the bays hoping I can pop me a double digit fish because I know they are here. That is what my customers want to do and you will never hear an argument from me.

Trinity and all the back bays like, San Jacinto, Crystal, Scott and Burnet have been holding fish and the drift fisherman have been doing pretty good. There has been some occasional wade-fishing success up there and that’s likely your best bet for a really big one. East Bay is giving up lots of good fish in the east end around the Refuge area and if you can catch a good tide behind a norther you have a good combination to catch some good fish especially wading or kayaking that back flat over that soft mud bottom. No secret stuff or tricks of the trade needed at this time, lots of folks are catching lots of fish in lots of places. I think with the quality of the tackle, clothing and other gear we have now days and the technology such as braided line, sensitive rods, and reels that’ll cast a mile, it is definitely easier to catch fish. I can remember back in the day, shivering to death with a rod in your hand that was as sensitive as a ball bat and weighed about a pound and a half, we had a lot of trouble feeling that soft little wintertime tap on the end of the line, not so today. Heck, I tell people if a finicky trout swims by my lure today I can feel him looking at it. They just laugh and say, “Mick you’ve always been full of the bull.” But it’s true, it certainly is a lot easier than it was years ago. Redfish are spotty right now and flounder run has slowed quite a bit. February could prove to be a whole new ball game for these two species, and if it doesn’t, we’ll just go catch a bunch of nice trout. Be sure to catch me on 610 Sports Radio Outdoors Show every Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday morning.

The perfect gift | 75

BIll PustEJoVsKY

CaPt. BIll’s Fish Talk


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 Website

76 | February 2012

February is known as a great month for big trout up and down our Texas coast. It also has the distinction of being the coldest month with the coldest water temperatures out of the whole year. February fishing requires some preplanning in terms of picking best days which typically are a day or two before and the second and third days after the cold fronts. Hopefully, we will be spared from extreme cold temperatures this February. Within the last two months a lot of five to seven pound trout were caught by hardcore wade fishermen with a handful of eight pounders as well. From what I understand, all these fish were released. Bink Grimes of Matagorda Sunrise Lodge took out for East Matagorda Bay one afternoon in late December after a morning goose hunt. His party caught and released six trout in the five to seven pound range while drifting over shell in the middle of the bay. That picture in and of itself proves that our little bay is staging up for a great February. We have big fish on our shorelines and in the middle of the bay which is a real good scenario. Tactics for February fishing include fishing smart and doing your homework. Personally, my focus is going to be on days when we will be getting an

incoming tide in the morning or at least earlier in the day. Remember that our winter tides do not often exert that big push of water like we see in the fall or in the spring. They are usually noticeably weaker but still have a very positive effect on feeding behavior. Like I said above - try fishing before a cold front and about two days after for best results. You’ll want to fish shell and mud close to deep water and, if possible, close to a cut or pass coming off Intracoastal Waterway. Also, even though the spot may have been a solid producer in the past, budget your fishing time carefully. If I have not seen bait activity or received a bite in fifteen or twenty minutes, I will be back in the boat searching for another spot. Finding mullet is the single most important thing during these colder months. Now along with those mullet I’m going to be looking for slicks. A slick made by a trout feeding on mullet has a very distinct and very strong smell to it – extra sweet smelling. You can bet on big trout being in the area if you come up on three or four strong smelling slicks. This normally occurs while drifting as you are covering a wider swath of structure than you can by wading. When you find this, if the water depth will allow, get out of the boat

Joe Gandy with a gorgeous thirty-three inch redfish caught on a Bass Assassin in East Matagorda with Captain Bill.

and wade slowly and carefully. On your falling tides, try to fish the little sloughs and guts coming from the south shoreline. Look for a muddy bottom mixed with some shell along with baitfish in the vicinity for best fishing. You more than likely won’t see a lot of mullet and they may not be active at the surface but three to four “flashes” of submerged bait in the immediate

area should be a good sign. Don’t forget those polarized glasses. Fishermen get the idea that they only need good polarized lens to protect their eyes from glaring sun but that’s not true. We need them just as much on overcast days in winter to find bait and also to see the fish we’re going to catch. On a really cold morning you might wait until around 10:00 AM to leave the dock and then fish until dark to take advantage of the warming afternoon sun. After the sun has been out a while, the surface temperatures will heat up a bit allowing the fish to become more aggressive. When fishing for that big girl, understand you’re not after limits and you may only get a handful of bites during a full day of fishing. That’s normal for a cold day in February. I have also seen February temps in the middle 70° range when the fish went crazy. We will just need to wait and see what 2012 has in store. My bait selection will not change that much from last month: MirrOlures, original Corkys, and those awesome Floating Fat Boys. You can bet I’ll also be packing my trusty Bass Assassins and the Eddie Douglas Broken Back Special. Just remember to be patient and fish slowly. See ya on the water. Until next time, God bless! -Capt. Bill | 77


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 Website

Wow, Jay Watkin’s January article had me laughing out loud. As a fishing guide I hear the exact things from some of my clients. The majority of the guys I fish with are experienced but I occasionally hear some of the comments Jay mentioned from folks just getting started. Funny stuff! I want to talk about lure color. Clients who have fished with me know I am not generally a “have to use this exact color” type of fishing guide. As a rule, I am good to go if the color I’m using is somewhere close to what should work in the conditions - unless of course somebody starts putting a whippin’ on me. And trust me, if that happens I’m not bashful about borrowing the color that is working until we get back to the boat. Wintertime though is one season when I place great emphasis on lure color. I have waded side by side with some talented fishermen and seen many days when one color consistently out-fishes all the others. You better be throwing the right color when the water gets cold

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and clear around the reefs in San Antonio Bay in late winter. And color is not the only thing that matters. Size and shape of the plastic will also make or break you on cold days. I have noticed that fish on the reefs seem to get extra finicky when the water temperature gets below fifty degrees, and if we do not adjust we do not catch them. Granted, there will still be days when you can do no wrong, but do not expect it too regularly in February. Typically, we find small baits of soft texture

Steve Conley with a quality wintertime redfish.

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78 | February 2012

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in light colors work the best. And as far as I’m concerned Bass Assassin has this corner of the market sewed up. Their 4” Sea Shad in glow/ chartreuse and limetreuse ghost are longtime favorites and I look for their two newest colors (violet moon and green moon) to work equally well in the cold and clear February tides. I like to rig these baits on 1/16 ounce Assassin jigs. While I have one shirt pocket filled with the 4” Sea Shad, the other will be bulging with the new Die Dapper in glow/chartreuse and chartreuse dog. Yes, these are a good deal larger and I rig them with a weedless hook and no weight, and fish them very differently. This lure is easy to cast when rigged this way and will have a very natural fall to it because of its buoyancy, similar to a standard Corky. As far as the 4” Sea Shad on the 1/16 jig, I let it fall very close to

David Wibbenmeyer’s crew had a great day catching redfish.

the bottom whether over the reef itself or the muddy edge, hopping and twitching just enough to prevent it hanging up. This is where soft and supple lure texture comes into play, allowing the lure’s paddletail to wiggle and wobble to draw the strike. I also believe that soft texture encourages the fish to hold onto the bait longer as it no doubt feels more natural in their mouth than a stiffer compound. I will fish this lure in this manner eighty percent of the time during the month of February. Now like I said earlier, the weightless Die-Dapper is fished more like a Corky. I like to rig it weedless as well as weightless to provide the extra margin of safety against snagging bottom whether I’m work reefs or in a slough or back lake where it can hang on endless sources of bottom clutter. A little twitch of the rod tip will send it back towards the surface and all you have to do is keep track of the slack as it slowly falls back down the water column, that paddletail wiggling all the way. This slow motion capability makes the Die Dapper an exceptionally useful lure for sluggish wintertime fish. These are tried and true methods and techniques that I have learned over the years fishing the reefs in San Antonio, Ayers and Mesquite Bays and I would think that the same scenarios can be utilized successfully anywhere along the coast in a shallow bay system such as we have here. Yes, there are other wintertime options available locally, like jumping on the bandwagon that leaves every morning and heading up the Victoria Barge Canal. But I would rather do my own thing and not fight the same old crowd I fought all summer for a spot to catch a few wintertime trout. Fish hard, fish smart! | 79


hooKED uP WIth Rowsey

As the deer feeders stopped spinning and tripods came down, the boat traffic picked up almost immediately around here. Everyone seems to have trophy trout on their minds as deer and other Upper hunting seasons have come to a close. Starting Laguna/ in December the big trout really started showing Baffin themselves and it has been a lot of fun to be on the water - catching quality trout always adds excitement. By the time y’all get this article in February, we David Rowsey has 20 years will have already released a trout over 10 pounds, experience in the Laguna/Baffin not to mention a host of others over seven pounds. region; trophy trout with artificial It is starting out kind of quick around here, and I am lures is his specialty. David has a certain it will only get better. great passion for conservation February is one of the most heavily participated and encourages catch and months among dedicated big trout enthusiasts release of trophy fish. and it is a pretty safe bet that every trip brings a Telephone legitimate shot at a personal best fish. By now, the 361-960-0340 coldest of fronts will have passed, but there will still Website be many cool mornings on the water, only to be Email followed by southeast winds to really get the bite turned on. The water in Baffin and the Laguna is so clear during this time period that southeast wind

80 | February 2012

mucking it up is a blessing more than it is deterrent. This year it may take 40 mph winds to put any stain on the water, as the Laguna has more grass on the bay bottom than I have ever witnessed. The grass acts as a filtration system, and keeps the water super clear. As a fisherman, I like to see a good mix of both sand and grass, but so far it is mostly grass, and hopefully, the potholes will come. As more and more fishermen arrive to try to catch their giant, some community holes in Baffin will get a bit congested on the weekends. I understand the mentality of going back to where you “nailed” them before, but spot fishing this time of year usually results in average days at best. The bottom line is that big trout are going to be found on all structure types this month. Potholes, rock formations, muddy bottom and hard bottom are all going to produce fish. Of course we have all of these bottom types and structures down here, but one thing sets them apart on any given day - bait! A few flipping mullet will often be the only indicator you need to let you know that you are in their house. There have been so many days on the

water with clients where I have pulled into an area, shut the motor down and just looked at the horizon for signs of life, only to fire the Mercury back up and move on. “Dang, Captain, I heard ol’ so and so killed them around here a week ago. Shouldn’t we give it a shot?” My reply to this is always the same…”Did the ones they caught have tails or not? Let’s go find some bait.” Folks, finding bait this time of year really is that important. The 5” Bass Assassin is still my find ‘em lure and continually produces big trout for us. The Corky bite has improved dramatically over the past month and is just a lot of fun to fish when the floating grass is not too bad. Days when we find lots of off-colored water get me to reaching a little deeper into the wade box and plastic inventory. MirrOlure’s Catch 5 and Lipped Crankbait (L29 MR) have been flat out nasty on some big trout when the conditions are less than ideal. The Die Dapper, also by Bass Assassin, with its oversize and aggressive paddletail has also been a huge producer for us has also earned goto status on my lure list. Something about that vibration that turns those big girls on.

Nineteen year old Cody Moon with a personal best eight pounder caught on a Die Dapper Bass Assassin.

“Set ‘em loose.” -Capt. David Rowsey

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B | 81

tRICIa’s Mansfield Report CaPt. tRICIa

Greetings from Port Mansfield. As of this writing our weather has been rather mild with sunburns and lots of stingrays still roaming the flats the greatest threats. As might be expected our cold-water fish patterns were slow developing but certainly worth the wait once they came together. With the right mix of northers and recovery periods February has potential Port to deliver some awesome catching for numbers as well Mansfield as quality. Water clarity has been incredible every time the winds lay for a few days. Being able to see and count fish while running depths as great as five to six feet Capt. Tricia’s Skinny Water will always be remarkable to me, and of course it’s Adventures operates out of always more encouraging to fish where you know fish Port Mansfield, specializing in are holding, regardless of whether the extreme clarity wadefishing with artificial lures. allows for steady catching. Seeing scores of fish and not getting them to respond can be frustrating but Telephone it is truly inspiring to see just how much life exists in 956-642-7298 these waters. Email When conditions turn “finicky” some impressive fi sh can still be picked off with accurate casts and Website slow determined wades. Sight-casting to visible trout and reds and blind-casting to likely structure can be very rewarding if you have the patience for the stalk. Speaking of accurate casts, the new rubber-

82 | February 2012

engrained cork handles on our FTU Green Rods have sure made “getting a handle on things” a lot easier. The mixture of rubber and cork offers a great grip, even with wet hands. Some very impressive trout have been holding along sandy edges of shallow grass beds during the warm-ups. Good lure choices for targeting them have been natural-colored tails, and when the feeding turns aggressive they’ll take Fat Boys and small topwaters. Along with hefty trout, redfish have also been sucking up plastics throughout the day and crushing topwaters late in the evening. Mullet are the primary forage this time of year so larger profile baits can often make sense, especially in off-colored water. During colder morning wades or extended periods of low sunlight, we find the fish holding deeper and wanting lures presented lower and just a tad slower. Things can change fairly quickly though, and if you can wait them out you might find some excellent late afternoon action via the slow-stalk in the shallows. The animated performances of pelicans, seagulls and baitfish can be a pretty obvious clue where you need to be. Like it or not February’s fishing success will always hinge on weather as much as anything else. “Hunker

down” fronts and lingering cold up on a topwater in that beautiful spells can come at any time during late-afternoon sunlight. So if you the month with the greatest rate your trophies strictly in terms probability for tough weather of weight you surely do not want occurring during the first two to miss a single late-February weeks. If you have the right gear opportunity. With the new moon and enough grit you can find some coming on the 21st I look for that whole week to be on fire. surprising feeding activity right in As mentioned above there are the middle of a three or four day lots of stingrays on the flats and cold snap. The trout especially may for whatever reason they seem not be concentrated or feeding more belligerent than ever. Even on the first or second day of such though popular wisdom says an event but by the third or fourth your chances of being hit are slim day it can be very different as they to none in late winter I have to begin to slide up out of the guts disagree. Whether these guys are and other depressions where they cold and sluggish or just being rode out the storm and resume unusually stubborn to yield rightfeeding along the edges of the of-way, I highly recommend that depth breaks. you wear protective gear. Check March is said to come in like out Foreverlast’s Ray-Guard wading a lion and go out like a lamb in Take a few minutes before releasing to swish them back and forth, forcing lots of water through the boots with the sewn-on shields many places but here along the gills so she can find her second wind. as they seem to offer the most Lower Texas Coast we often get protection. a little taste of spring during the Always remember the fish you release today could grow up to final days of February. Our trout will be as winter-fat as they’re going become tomorrow’s trophy. Keep an eye on the long-range forecast to get and it is not unusual to see egg development beginning to and get down here. February is gonna be awesome! occur. I just love the way they flash those big bellies when they roll

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1/11/12 8:55 AM

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

84 | February 2012

February is the coldest fishing month here on the Lower Laguna and unpredictable weather can catch you out in the open water in tough conditions if you are not watchful. And although we have enjoyed a rather mild winter so far, there have been a few chilly days. Staying warm and dry should never be overlooked in the rush of pursuing your passion. Good winter fishing apparel is worth its weight in gold. I say this because I constantly see fishermen underestimating the elements. Remember, it’s better to over-layer than to not have enough warm clothes on your back. I recommend Simms apparel for maximum waterproof and wind protection. Go to simmsfishing. com, I’m sure you will find everything you will need for comfortable and safe winter fishing. As unpredictable as February’s weather can be, the catching on the Lower Laguna has been just the opposite. Even on the most miserable days we are finding excellent catches. An important factor to being successful is learning which protected areas will hold fishable clarity during windy conditions. For example, right before cold fronts we encounter strong south wind. During southerly blows most

of the western shore will remain fishable and so will the extreme east side of the bay along the sand and grass transition. Finding fishable water in extreme weather will take some exploring and burning some fuel but the dividends will surely justify the effort. On a recent trip the wind was howling out of the south at 37 mph and we were still able to find good fishable water. Because of the strong wind and wave action our Kelley Wigglers were coming up high in the water column, too high for the fish that were hugging bottom. To counteract this I borrowed a trick from Mr. Paul Brown and weighted our lures with a small piece of solder wire that I keep handy during winter for our Corky baits. It takes a little experimenting to find the

Here's the solder wire trick mentioned in this article.

right amount but we soon had our lures in the strike zone without having to switch to heavy jigs. A small piece of solder wire inserted where the hook point exits the lure is all it takes. I also like to wrap it on the split ring of my Corky’s to work them lower in the water column. The neat thing about solder wire is that you can apply it in seconds and it is easy to adjust to any desired weight. I reiterate what I said last month, our Lower Laguna trout population is better than I have seen in twenty years. We are catching solid trout in impressive numbers and we are seeing increasing numbers of trout running twenty-five to twenty-nine inches, more than we ever saw before the new regulations took Here's Cindy with a effect. Recently, three days after a front, brute of a redfish on I cruised a flat that held the biggest an epic winter trip. concentration of trophy trout I have seen since the early 90’s. It’s experiences like these along with the number and quality of trout we are catching that has me excited. We are finding solid trout throughout the Laguna. During colder periods or right after a front, Kelley Wigglers and Corky Fat Boys have been sure hitters.

On warmer days or usually two to three days after a front is when we have found the fish up shallow. This is when the Corky floaters become very effective. Redfish action has been very consistent north of Three Island’s all the way up to the East Cut. It seems redfish have been scarcer south of Three Island’s all the way to the Queen Isabella Causeway including both sides of the ICW. That’s not to say there are none to be caught but they have been easier to locate and catch further north. We have had a few sporadic days Matt proudly displays where topwaters is what they want, but his best-ever trout. for the most part lots of blow-ups and few hook ups have occurred on top. Personal best fish have brought smiles for many anglers lately and February promises to be no different. Our water is in great shape, but be sure to use caution as the tides will continue to be extremely low this month. Look for fish to be deeper on colder days. On warmer days following fronts they will be feeding on the flats or sunning on shallow shorelines. Always keep a sharp eye for bait activity and remember it’s the challenge of the chase that makes it all worth it. | 85


ORECASTS F from Big Lake to Boca Chica


Lake Calcasieu Louisiana Jeff and Mary Poe - Big Lake Guide Service - 337.598.3268 February is gonna be on this year! Very little rainfall and a rather mild winter should make for some awesome fishing. Look for numbers of trout to be scattered throughout the whole estuary. Most of the big trout will be on the northern end of Calcasieu around the Turners Bay area. Fish flats around the island and on nearby shorelines. If you are fishing from a boat, a Power Pole is a wonderful tool to slow and stop the drift. Be careful with it though; if it drags on oysters it'll scare fish all around the boat. I prefer Corky Fat Boys, but Devils and Originals are also very effective. Devils seem to produce more bites, but Fat Boys and Originals seem to catch bigger fish. Fish them slowly. If they move six inches, they‘ve probably moved too much. Redfish should be at the weirs as usual. Fishing for them from the rocks has been tough this year because the water is way too clear, causing most of the fish to spook far out of casting range. Best bite is on Gulp! products rigged on quarter ounce jigheads. Trinity Bay - East Bay - Galveston Bay | James Plaag Silver King Adventures - - 409.935.7242 “This has been the best run of fishing I’ve seen since the fall of 1983,” James says. “We’re catching incredible numbers of trout consistently, and the size is impressive too. I just finished a run of fishing where I averaged almost 40 trout per day for three months. Caught dozens and dozens of four to six pound fish, with a good number of bigger ones

too. Most of our fishing has been done drifting, tossing 52 MirrOlures and Catch 5s in pink/chartreuse and pink/yellow. We’ve been catching better numbers out of the boat, and a little bigger fish when we wade. In February, I plan to wade as much as possible, and we should be catching some of the biggest trout in recent memory if we have some luck. The water is still salty well into the backs of all the bays. Heavy rains over the last couple of days might make it a little sweet for a while, but it should come right back around. The fish have been where they are for a good long time, so if they move, it won’t likely be far. I expect to see some impressive fish caught from now through April.” Jimmy West - Bolivar Guide Service - 409.996.3054 “This is one of the best winters of fishing I can remember in the Galveston area,” Jim emphatically states. “The fish piled up in the back parts of all the area bays this fall, and they’ve never had any reason to move much. Overall, it’s been dry and the amount of runoff has been minimal. Because of that, we’re still catching plenty of trout and redfish in the bayous, mostly keying on depths of six to eight feet and using soft plastics. When the tide is high enough for good wading on the shorelines, we’re catching plenty of fish there too. The average size of the trout is impressive; there are lots of three to five pound fish. When wading, we’re doing better with slow sinking twitch baits like Corkies and Catch 2000s. These patterns should hold through February, especially if we continue to have warm and dry weather. I’m getting ready to put the shotguns away and get after the fish in

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86 | February 2012

earnest. I’m also doing a seminar focused on fishing East Bay on the 25th of February at Stingaree Marina. Anyone interested can call me for more details.” West Galveston - Bastrop - Christmas - Chocolate Bays Randall Groves - Groves Guide Service - 979.849.7019 - 979.864.9323 Randall was busy working the boat show when we talked. “I stepped out of the boat yesterday wanting to get some good fish for the show and the first three trout I caught weighed a total of fourteen pounds, so it turned out great! That’s been fairly typical of the fishing lately; we’re catching lots of solid trout in the three to five pound class. When tides are right and we’re wading, we’re using Fat Boys and topwaters. As usual, pink has been a good color on those. When we’re not wading the soft, muddy areas, we’re drifting in deeper water and keying on scattered shell, throwing Norton Sand Eels. The salty chicken color has been hot.” He mentions a couple of new sources for the Norton products. “Roscoe’s in Clute has started carrying them, and also the Buccee’s store in Surfside. As for February, it sets up great. The wading should be good for bigger than average trout, for those who don’t mind the mud. For those who prefer drifting, the dirty streaks of water out in the open bay should be holding plenty of fish.” Matagorda | Tommy Countz Bay Guide Service -979.863.7553 cell 281.450.4037 Many potentially productive patterns exist in the Matagorda area in February, according to Tommy. “One of my favorite drills this time of year is to drift the west end of East Bay, keying on dirty streaks of water. The fish will be in the dirty water. The easiest way to catch them is with soft plastics on jigheads weighing at least a quarter ounce; the heavier heads make it easier to maintain contact with the bottom. Colors like chicken on a chain and tequila sunrise are good bets. 52 MirrOlures worked low and slow will catch some good trout

out of the boat too. I like to work them with short snaps of the rod tip made to the side, to keep the lure moving just over the shell. Wading the coves in West Bay is another productive idea this month. We’ve got lots of reds in that area and they stack up in the guts when the tide is really low. The Matagorda River has potential in February too, though it hasn’t really produced like it can so far this winter. If we get some decent run off from these January rains, it might chase some fish into West Bay.” Palacios | Capt. Aaron Wollam - 979.240.8204 Fishing has remained pretty consistent in our area. Lately, water temperatures have been in the fifties with all the cool weather. Drifting scattered shell in four to six feet of water has worked best for locating keeper trout. Plum/green and pumpkinseed/chartreuse Assassins rigged on quarter ounce lead heads worked slowly over the bottom have been the best soft plastics. A few bigger trout have started to show up on area mud flats and we have been targeting those fish with Paul Brown Fat Boys in pearl/chartreuse and pearl/ black. We have had some nice ones up to twenty four inches. The redfish bite has slowed a little, with lots of fish just under the slot showing up. The few keepers we have been finding have been in deep holes in area bayous. Flounder fishing is still good. Not all the fish have left the bays, and we have been catching a few on Gulp! shrimp out in front of drains and bayous. February is a good big trout month; fishing Corkies around jumping mullet and other active bait is usually a good strategy for targeting them. | 87

Port O’Connor | Lynn Smith - Back Bay Guide Service - 361.983.4434 Deer season was winding down for Lynn, and he said he’s itching to get back on the water and start fishing regularly. “I’ve been getting good fishing reports from up and down the coast; the fishing is definitely good this winter in lots of places. I’ll be doing my typical winter drill in February, starting my day late, usually around ten o’clock, and fishing into the first hour or so of darkness. I like to take advantage of the daily heating of the flats and target the fish when they’re most aggressive, which is generally late in the day this time of year. I’ll mainly focus on muddy flats with some scattered shell on them, particularly the ones adjacent to drop offs with deep water close by. I like to throw soft plastics and sinking Fat Boys a lot, and of course, I’m always watching the water temperatures and bait activity to help me know the topwaters will work too. When it’s on the warm side and I see plenty of jumping mullet and fish swirling on the surface, I won’t hesitate to bring out the Super Spook Juniors.” Rockport | Blake Muirhead Gator Trout Guide Service - 361.790.5203 - 361.441.3894 Duck season’s over, and Blake is back to the full-time pursuit of trout and redfish. “I’ll be fishing in all or most of the area bays, trying to stay where the fishing is good and productive. Lately, the fishing for reds has been easy, since we are able to locate them by sight with the airboat in the back lakes. Throughout February, we’ll keep catching the reds, though the pattern for locating and catching them will change. We’ll start keying on shorelines in area bays with a mix of mud and grass, and throwing Corkies, Sand Eels and Gulp! products when the going gets tough. We’ll also find the trout in the same kinds of places, and catch them right along with the reds. February is a really good month for topwaters on the middle Texas coast too. I don’t really care what I catch the fish on; whatever kind of lure works

88 | February 2012

best is what I’ll be throwing. Still, catching them on top is fun, and I’ll be taking advantage of that when I can. As of this report, it’s been a warm winter, and if the weather stays the same, there should be plenty of topwater action.” Upper Laguna Madre - Baffin Bay - Land Cut Robert Zapata – - 361.563.1160 The month of February is a notorious month for producing trophy trout in the Laguna Madre and in Baffin Bay. We lost some of the water clarity in the Baffin Bay area, and this will make it a little bit tougher to find the big trout. The water temperatures during February should be cold enough to send the trout into deeper water with muddy bottoms during the cold nights and then back into shallow water around midday and through the afternoons. The fish will start in water depths of five feet or more in the mornings, and as the sun warms the surface and shallow flats, the trout will move into water depths of three feet or less. I will still be fishing with scented baits like Bass Assassin Die Dappers in colors like chartreuse dog (one of my new favorite colors), and also plum/chartreuse and morning glory/limetreuse. Another one of my favorite baits this time of the year is the Berkley Gulp! Ripple Mullet, the black with chartreuse tail. Rig these baits on eighth ounce Assassin Screw Lock jigheads on calm days and quarter ounce ones on windy days. Corpus Christi | Joe Mendez – - 361.937.5961 Joe has been having good success lately fishing in crystal clear water in the northern parts of the Upper Laguna Madre. “I’m still working some of the channels and drop offs both north and south of the bridge, and catching plenty of trout and redfish on most trips. We’ve had a pretty warm winter so far, so I think the patterns will stay pretty much the same in February. I’ll be targeting fish on the edges of the channels, throwing soft plastics most of the time, but I also plan to

spend some hours along the King Ranch and on the big mid-bay flats too. With this clear water, opportunities for sightcasting are frequent. Some of the time, the fish are really aggressive, and it’s a blast to watch them come after the bait. Just the other day, we were looking around for something, and I saw this big redfish coming toward the boat. The customer made a decent cast, not great, but the fish just charged right over from about seven or eight feet away and attacked. It was cool to watch. We should have opportunities like that in abundance if the weather holds.” Padre Island National Seashore Billy Sandifer - Padre Island Safaris - 361.937.8446 February tends to be a “wild card” for fishing the PINS surf. This year’s lingering red tide could make it even more unpredictable than normal. Without red tide we typically have productive fishing for redfish, black drum, whiting, pompano and sheepshead. These species are all bottom feeders and can be targeted with “Fishbites” and fresh, peeled, dead shrimp. Cut bait is usually very effective on the redfish. Several shark species are possible during February but in general shark abundance varies year to year. Shark fishermen are typically more successful with kayaked baits in the late wintertime. Large speckled trout are usually possible on 51 M MirrOlures and other artificials but it can be a slow grind. During the past few years sargassum has made its appearance in February so check the latest reports on fishingcorpus. com or Extreme Coast World Wide Fishing Forums for the latest news prior to planning your trip. Beware of northeast winds, they push tides high on the beach forcing you to drive among all the fish carcasses including hardheads left by the red tide. Port Mansfield | Terry Neal – 956.944.2559 It's amazing how the weather can change from one day to the next

and how greatly it can affect the fishing but, that is what we have to live with this time of year. Overall tide level also changes dramatically this time of year on short notice. This not only affects how the fish will use an area; you can really get yourself in trouble trying to run over a sand bar. When in doubt be safe and go around. February should give us some exceptional fishing if you can locate some bait. The bait along with the predators are still looking for cover, find that and half the battle is over. Our fishery is in great shape in general and juvenile game fish are everywhere. I cannot remember ever seeing so many and I do believe this is a very good sign for the future of the resource. I know we don't like changes in our fishing laws but being a conservationist contributes toward keeping those numbers up. Keep only what you will eat, release the rest. Lower Laguna Madre - South Padre - Port Isabel Janie and Fred Petty – – 956.943.2747 This time of year, it’s all about dressing for the weather. You know it’s a winter drift on the LLM when your back is freezing and your face is sunburned. Freddy says, “We tell customers to wear layers; when it gets hot you can always take something off.” The fish are still in shallow water, but they don’t move as fast as they do the rest of the year, so presentations need adjustment. We like to throw Berkley Gulp! three inch shrimp rigged on a quarter ounce jighead below Cajun Thunder round corks with about a fifteen inch leader. Usually, the lighter colors are best when conditions are calm. The ability to suspend the bait over a hole or to allow it to sit on the bottom is definitely a plus when water temperatures drop. Predators will be moving to the shallows as daylight warms things up, or hanging in sandy potholes. Moving slowly and giving them plenty of time to pick up the lure will prove most successful. We’ve been having good luck limiting on reds, with the occasional oversized fish, also flounder most trips, but the real story is big trout. | 89

Richard Farnsworth Galveston Jetties - 35” 20lb redfish

Kenneth Fabian Galveston Jetties - 43” 31lb redfish

John Petrie Galveston Jetties - 45” 33lb redfish

Kyle Fabian Galveston Jetties - 46” 38lb redfish

Lauren Hennecke 28” redfish

90 | February 2012

Carlos Garza Lower Laguna Madre - 30” red CPR

Mary Kosanke Oyster Lake - 23” red, first fish!

Christopher Diaz Galveston - redfish John Gladstein Tres Palacious Bay - black drum

Bora and Ardacan Guzel Clearlake - 28" red

Anthony Longoria Port Mansfield - 28” redfish

Phil Kellen Copano Bay - 24” redfish

Jennifer Greer Trinity Bay - 27” first redfish!

Grzegorz Mentelis San Luis Pass - redfish

Gloria Robinson Port A Jetties - 28” first red!

Luke Mitchell Trinity Bay - first speck!

Brian Garza Lower Laguna Madre - first redfish!

Shane Okrasinski Copano Bay - 29” red-biggest to date!

Shannon Smith Copano Bay - 30” black drum

Sal Sanchez W Galveston Bay - 26” speck

McCoy Seal & Capt Terry Neal Port Mansfield - 28” trout

Kirk Slavik POC - 25” red-personal best! Jake Sommers San Luis Pass - first sheepshead!

Adam Torres Burnet Bay - redfish

Alex Torres Burnet Bay 8lb sheepshead

Please do not write on the back of photos.

Email photos with a description of your Catch of the Month to:

Theresa Slocum Rockport - 34.75” redfish

Destaine Speers Trinity Bay - black tip shark & sheepshead

Mail photos to: TSFMag P.O. Box 429, Seadrift, TX 77983 | 91

Pam Johnson

Gulf Coast Kitchen Crab and Avocado


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

¼ cup chopped onion ¼ cup chopped black olives ¼ cup sliced fresh mushrooms 2 Tbsp butter 10 oz. crabmeat fresh or canned 1 tsp chicken base Dash of pepper Crushed red pepper flakes to taste 4oz. can of green chili peppers

Mix together and set aside. 1 ripe avocado, mashed 1 ½ cups sour cream

Sauté onion, chopped olives, and mushrooms in butter. Remove from heat and stir in crabmeat, chicken base, pepper, and red pepper, green chili peppers, add 1 cup of sour cream and avocado mixture.

12 corn tortillas 1 cup vegetable oil

Dip each tortilla in hot oil and drain on absorbent paper. Fill each tortilla with some of the crab mixture, roll, and place seam side down in a butter 9x11 casserole. Cover with remaining sour cream, and sprinkle with cheese and sliced olives. Bake at 350% for 20 minutes and serve immediately.

1 cup grated cheddar cheese ½ cup sliced ripe olives

Serving tip: We spooned salsa casera on the enchiladas and served with Mexican-style rice and charro beans.

Green Chili-Crab Enchiladas From the kitchen of Patti Elkins

1/2 cup finely chopped onion 2 Tbsp butter 1 Tbsp chicken base 1 jar Cookwell’s Green Chili Stew

Cayenne pepper or minced serrano pepper to taste 1 cup grated cheddar/jack cheese blend 1½ cups sour cream 10 oz. crabmeat fresh or canned

12 corn tortillas 1 cup grated cheddar/jack cheese blend (additional) Cilantro sprigs, sliced serrano peppers or diced tomatoes for garnish Sauté onion in butter. Remove from heat and stir in, chicken base, cayenne and Cookwell’s Green Chili Stew. Add sour cream and 1 cup cheese. Mix well and reserve 1 cup mixture without crabmeat. Add crabmeat to other. Heat tortillas in microwave with wet paper towel between each tortilla for approximately 1 minute. Fill each tortilla with some of the crab mixture, roll, and place seam side down in a buttered 9x11 casserole. Cover with remaining sour cream and cheese mixture, and sprinkle with remaining 1 cup cheese. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes and garnish. Serve immediately.

92 | February 2012

Cooks Tip: Pour a small amount of half and half or cream around edges of pan before baking. This will keep the edges of the tortillas from becoming dry and crusty. | 93

Give the gift of Great Gulf Coast Recipes for Christmas this year!



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GALVESTON TIDES & SOLUNAR TABLE Texas Saltwater Fishing Magazine FEBRUARY 2012

The BEST Choice… Any Place, Anytime!

To find a location near you, please visit us at

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

February 2012  

The February 2012 issue of Texas Saltwater Fishing Magazine

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