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Everett Johnson





08 Fat Bottom Corkys 12 Etching New Truths 14  Time of the Starving Moon 20  There is a Stillness About It 22 “How Mad Are You?” 26 Thoughts on Groundwater... 30 TPWD Says It’s Time to Talk About...  

Mike McBride Kevin Cochran Billy Sandifer Martin Strarup Chuck Uzzle Mike Mecke Everett Johnson

Coastal Birding Science and the Sea Let’s Ask The Pro Fly Fishing TPWD Field Notes Conservation Kayak Fishing According to Scott Youth Fishing Texas Nearshore and Offshore


06 Editorial 52 New Tackle & Gear 68 Fishing Reports and Forecasts   72 Catch of the Month 76 Gulf Coast Kitchen 80 Index of Advertisers

BUSINESS / ACCOUNTING MANAGER Shirley Elliott CIRCULATION SUBSCRIPTION – PRODUCT SALES Linda Curry ADDRESS CHANGED? Email DESIGN & LAYOUT Stephanie Boyd Office: 361-785-4282 Texas Saltwater Fishing Magazine is published monthly.

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


Bart Manganiello

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

Billy Sandifer UT-Marine Science Institute Jay Watkins   Casey Smartt     Kenneth Wethington CCA Texas Scott Null Scott Sommerlatte Jake Haddock Mike Jennings

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


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Office: 361-785-3420 Cell: 361-550-9918

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Pam Johnson

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.

$%2877+(&29(5 This month’s cover angler is Rick Knight with a hefty sixpound flounder he caught November 13, 2010 in the Lower Laguna Madre fishing with Capt. Mike McBride – Skinny Water Adventures. Rick’s big flattie fell for a Texas Tackle Factory – Trout Killer II following the passage of a strong norther. Mike McBride photo. 4 January 2011 /


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Texas Saltwater Fishing



POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Texas Saltwater Fishing Magazine, Inc., P. O. Box 429, Seadrift, TX 77983.

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Tougher aluminum alloy body and an added 7th layer of SaltGuardâ&#x201E;˘ II corrosion protection

Retooled, hard chrome plated clutch system for durability as rock solid as your hooksets

Unbreakable TiMagâ&#x201E;˘ bail, ultra smooth multistack ceramic drag and a ďŹ stful of advanced PT components give you the edge

The new Cabo PT. Frankly, weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re running out of things to upgrade.

6 January 2011 /





When I was younger I felt compelled to make New Year resolutions. I would start with enthusiasm to change my habits but it didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t take long to backslide on most of the promises. Before long I was just back to being me. I rationalized that some of the promises were silly anyway and nobody would think ill of me for quitting. Older and wiser I no longer lie to myself that way. I am therefore promising no weight loss or exercise campaigns for 2011. Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll simply promise to be more active in the outdoors. If this doesnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t work Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll buy new jeans and bigger waders. I will however promise to fish more and Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m definitely going to hunt more. I gave up guiding last year, not for New Years, but because I wanted to concentrate on publishing and fishing for fun. I did fairly well maintaining a somewhat regular presence in the office but I became lazy in my fishing. I doubt I got a hundred days in and I need to be more diligent. I no longer need my camper at the deer lease so it is now at Port Mansfield. Pam wasnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t thrilled but sheâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s finally calmed down about her boat being stored down there. This is not a New Year resolution mind you; but I promise I will fish at least fifty days in the Lower Laguna. Baffinâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s got a hold on me too so Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m allotting twenty days. I am ashamed to admit I did not spend a single day chasing spring turkey last year and I hope to fix that. Therefore Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m allotting at least a four day weekend, probably to coincide with the San Antonio CCA banquet. I mean what the heck, Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll be halfway to Sonora. Neither did I make a trip to Lake Calcasieu last year to decipher whether Capt. Bruce Baugh has been fibbing that Big Lake trout fight harder and taste spicier. So letâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s pencil in six or eight days for this. I did keep my promise last year to fish Port Isabel with Capt. Ernest Cisneros and beat my best-ever snook. However since Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m planning to expand my outdoor program Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m going to double my commitment â&#x20AC;&#x201C; six days this year. I barely got one limit of doves in 2010 and thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a horrible thing to have to admit. So in my plan to fix this debacle I joined three friends in purchasing a February dove trip to Argentina at the POC CCA banquet. Got a heck of deal! They tell me all you need is a tennis racket down there. Pam has us lined up with four couples to fish the Chandeleur Islands in June. The oil spill knocked us out last year and Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve had trouble sleeping since. Sure hated to miss it. Pam has also planned a Chesapeake striper trip. She has never fished there and it has been nearly twenty-five years for me. I cannot wait until she hooks into a twenty pounder. With all this going on I still need to keep an eye on San Antonio Bay and I need to leave tracks in the Matagorda Island surf. I have not fished with Billy Sandifer in a few years and I really need to spend a few days on Trinity Bay with Mickey Eastman. Before you know it the 2011 deer season will be in full swing and Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll be right back at this same computer writing my resolutions, I mean plans, for 2012. Happy New Yearr and God Bless!

Texas Saltwater Fishing

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Oh boy, here we go again, another “expert” article on that alreadybeaten-to-death chunk of magical plastic – the Corky Fat Boy. Even though many pluggers rely on this tool with fanatic allegiance, I have purposely avoided the topic for years. There’s just too many opinions already circulating. But alas, it may be due, and perhaps for a few very good reasons. For one, it’s the perceived primetime to thump a big fish on one. But for an even bigger reason; there seems to be even more confusion now that they are suddenly available in nearly every sporting goods and coastal grocery. No, they are still not for everybody and likely never will be, and they sure weren’t for me in the beginning. However, if you might envision the average size of your catch getting bigger, and with some interactive fun mixed in, keep reading.

It’s fishing for big fish on purpose, and who can put a price on that?

8 January 2011 /

They will always be Corkys to us.

I was one of the latecomers compared to an earlier group of sports fans. Although the bait had been around in a tight circle of Galveston hardcores since about ’88 I think, (a salty bunch of which hung out at the old Pine Plaza Tackle in League City), I didn’t get hold of it till about ’90 or ’91. I absolutely hated it for about two years. I didn’t understand it and didn’t want to. It spun like a drunk on a dance floor, the hooks tangled in my line, or it basically just sat there like a lazy blob. How was I supposed to work the thing anyway? And if it has to be ridiculously slow, I’ll just do something else. “Just gimme a topwater and a 51 MirrOlure and y’all can have that stupid thing,” I thought. One day Rowland Williams, one of the original Baytown guides and champion competition caster, who by the way had significant influence upon many of today’s higher-profile players, offered some very good and simple advice about how he had been decimating Hodges Reef with it. “Well,” he began, “I’m just wading and twitching it outside pods of mullet and the better fish keep picking it up.” That was enough to get me started but my old tournament partner Mark Holt got me going. (Truly, we do little of this stuff completely by ourselves as no good fisherman is an island.) In earlier years we fished almost exclusively at night. With jobs and kids you did what you had to do to live large and, nighttime was the right time when it came to self-perceived family balance, even if it upset the family at times. One night Mark was wading one sandbar and I was walking another, doing the standard deal of working topwaters under a shimmering moon. Despite a decent but slow bite for me, I kept hearing him splash around in the otherwise quiet distance. When we finally met back up, his string made mine look quite touristy. “When they started swirling my topwater I put that Corky on and just twitched it in the current. We need to get radios,” he deadpanned in signature Holt-speak. Yeah, we need radios alright, and tune them to the Corky frequency. That night started an obsession, especially after I soon started catching bigger fish on them early, late and often, but mostly because I started giving them a chance. Later I won a Galveston Troutmasters with one, and in almost every tournament I have won since a Corky has been responsible for at least one kicker fish if

Texas Saltwater Fishing

Please use our Texas spotted seatrout resource wisely!

not all of them. When Mark and I won the Galveston Best-of-the-Best Plugger two years in a row, it was Corky time. I never looked back. If you are unfamiliar with this bait, perhaps you can look forward. Winter is here, when most folks assume that the Corky rules for big trout. (True, but perhaps we can visit about the warmer months later.) MirrOlure has it now and is doing a great job. Although it says Paul Brown’s Original on the package, they will always be Corkys to us. Several have tried to imitate but all have failed in one way or another. Either the wire is too soft, the sink rate is wrong, the rattles are too wimpy, or maybe it is just plain bad karma to copy other folk’s hard work. Whatever; accept no substitutes if you are serious about upping your game. Understandably, many new folks are not sure which ones to grab or how to even start working one, except for that worn out “slow and slower” internet fishing site mantra. We can talk about the whole family of Corkys, what they do, what they are good for and when, but that would take up several chapters in a big book. (One day maybe!) For now, let’s just look at the Fat Boy; an effective and easy bait for anybody with a good stick, especially in water thigh-deep or less. The beauty of this bait (and all other Corkys for that matter) is that it is a very interactive tool. That’s the key word, interactive, as you not only have to stay on to make it run true, but have the unique ability to tweak it to run where it needs to be for the moment. In other words, you become a “bend” expert, especially after a big redfish destroys your precise work. Maybe some day they’ll offer an industrial strength model for reds. Imagine ailerons on an airplane, just the slightest adjustment will make it do things, good and bad. Keep the spine perfectly straight for controlling it at a certain depth during shallow work, bend the tail down slightly for deeper applications, and banana it up just a bit to

I never looked back.

Please use our Texas spotted seatrout resource wisely!

Texas Saltwater Fishing / January 2011 9

anything presented at the right place and time, but the beauty of a Fat Boy is that you can often make them eat when they really don’t want to. A disposable lure for $8.00 a pop seems outrageous, but hey... what’s this really worth? It’s fishing for big fish on purpose, and who can put a price on that?

Mike Mcbride


run slightly below the surface. Asking the best way to fish a Corky is about the same as asking, “What’s the best way to have sex?” There are tons of expert advice available, widespread confusion, and about sixty-four thousand so-called correct ways to get it done. Bottom line is that you make it do what your quarry wants for the moment. But in keeping things simple, as Roland said; start with “walking the dog” beneath the surface at whatever depth and speed the fish will respond. I like a lot of pauses, but I hear I pause excessively on a lot of things. The thing I like best about the Fat Boy is that it casts like it has wings and I can keep it at whatever depth I want. It’s side-to-side motion is easy to master and instead of jigging it up and down, I can either walk it just above the grass, just below the surface, and anywhere in-between. It has been said that it’s not a fish-finding bait but, well…Ok then. If you are where bigger fish should be, it will find them, promise. You have to have confidence in your area first, but that larger profile zigzagging with a big rattle is evidently hard to refuse. I feel like I’m fishing for big fish on purpose when I’m throwing one and confidence is everything. A few tips: Tie a loop knot. Snaps, swivels and other gadgets serve only to upset balance and/or catch grass. Blowups can be easily transformed into hookups with a Fat Boy, (Tournament Fishing 101). Slide a tiny finishing nail into the nose along the underside of the wire for deeper work and when they want it low but fast. Restore stained Corkys to near new condition by soaking in citric acid. Repair tears and tooth marks by dipping into 50/50 mix of PVC glue and MEK. Which color to throw? Gee whiz, pick one. Basically anything semi-clear with lots of flash for clean water, opaque and dark colors for dirty. Twitch and they will come. True, there are times when solid trout will eat most

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

Contact Skinny Water Adventures Telephone 956-746-6041

Email Website Three_MudSkateers.wmv

Just another Fat Boy fish... 10 January 2011 /

Texas Saltwater Fishing

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All consistently successful anglers rely on established tenets when making decisions about where, when and how to fish. Like commandments etched in stone, these principles pass from mouth to ear in the fishing community. Wise fishermen accept the premises behind this secular “gospel”, but blindly placing faith in some of the assertions is foolish. My experience leads me to conclude that some of the most-widely accepted “truths” about fishing are not in fact truths at all; they are the products of self-perpetuating behaviors. I strongly disagree with at least three well-heeded rules on which many established experts base their decisions of when and how to target trout. One commonly espoused mantra is that floating plugs are effective “early and late, under low light conditions, when winds are relatively calm.” The idea that topwater lures only work well in such conditions is readily accepted by many trout fishermen, but I‘m not one of them. I’ve often proved it’s possible to tease trout into rising to the plugs when others won‘t try. On many occasions, primarily during the warm months, when water temperatures exceed 80° F, I’ve been able to catch trout on topwaters all day. I start off virtually every day fishing with floating plugs from about April through October, assuming I can trigger some blow ups. Sometimes, the early morning topwater bite is poor, and I switch to other offerings for a while, but even on those days, I frequently switch back to the floaters and catch plenty of trout in the middle of the day, with the sun high overhead. Since many of the best topwater sessions I’ve experienced occurred from mid-morning to mid-afternoon on bright, hot summer days, I believe that abundant sunlight has no negative effect on a topwater bite. Trout are naturally built to feed at the surface, and when they are in an aggressive feeding mood, floating plugs can be used to catch them, providing the appropriate plug is presented to them in an enticing manner. In summer, I find that small lures work better than large ones. Super Spook Juniors are particularly useful, probably because it’s so easy to make them dance and wiggle erratically. Spastic movement patterns, with frequent pauses and variable speeds, often generate plenty of blow ups when slower, steadier retrieves will elicit nearly none, especially in windy, sunny summer weather. In winter, when cloudless skies usually coincide with a ballooned barometer, light winds and finicky fish, topwaters become basically useless. The best winter topwater sessions mostly happen under cloudy skies, when relatively low barometric pressure has promoted onshore winds and allowed tide levels and temperatures to rise. An uplift in the feeding mood of the fish typically occurs in such conditions, making them susceptible to floaters for a while, particularly in the hour or so before and after dusk, when water temperatures are highest. The low-light period surrounding sunset is a good time to catch trout in winter. Some experts assert that “it’s smart to sleep in and fish 12 January 2011 /

Texas Saltwater Fishing

the afternoon all winter, since cold mornings make the fish sluggish and hard to catch.” While I do adjust my fishing schedule to include dusk on occasion, years of guiding and tournament fishing have led me to reject the notion that trout are always sluggish on cold winter mornings. An early bird by nature, I like to leave the dock in pre-dawn darkness, even on the coldest days of the year. I do this for several reasons, mostly because I’ve learned that early morning is one of the best times to catch trout,

regardless of water temperatures. Keeping an accurate log over years of fishing has helped forge my belief in the The bite is often good in the middle productivity of the day around full moons. Other of the early a.m. productive times include dawn, hours. Events this when the moon is setting, and dusk, when the moon is rising. past winter, a long, bitter one by South Texas’ standards, reinforced the concept. On several outings, we caught our best trout early, though our hands were still numb in the morning chill. Fishing from dawn until mid-afternoon in winter takes me off the water during one of each day’s best times (dusk), but we’re on the water during one of the consistently most productive times too. It’s a choice I consciously make, partly to avoid arriving on the water in the middle of the day and dealing with crowds of people standing where I want to fish. The ability to fish exactly where I want to fish is more important than any other factor in the equation. One thing that regularly eliminates competition for prime spots is the monthly arrival of a full moon. According to conventional wisdom, “fishing during daylight hours on the days immediately following a full moon is tough.” Those making such a claim assert that the bright light reflecting off the pale orb in the sky allows fish to see and feed all night, so they’re less motivated to eat Please use our Texas spotted seatrout resource wisely!


during the day. This eight-plus pound Again, experience has led me trout was just one of to snicker at such a theory. I’ve several big ones the captain caught and documented numerous exceptional released on the two catches, indeed some of my best ever, days following the full one and two days after full moons. I moon at the end of frequently find it’s possible to catch January, 2010. fish all day long just after the full moon peaks. These benchmark outings happened in all seasons and under highly variable conditions; they include ridiculously high numbers of fish caught and memorably big fish. I believe strong moon phases (both new and full) make all life forms more active. I suspect trout do feed well at night on most full moons; they also gorge during the day during the same time frames. The myth of the dead bite after a full moon probably gained favor among anglers living in areas in which the catching of fish is highly dependent on tidal patterns, which are exaggerated during strong moons, creating sharp peaks and valleys in the catching. It’s easy to barely miss out on a bonanza in such situations and blame the bright moon. Maybe crazy-good catches around a full moon come easier in areas which have meager tide movement, like the hyper-saline lagoons where I usually fish. My experience might lead me to misinterpret the veracity of a concept as it relates to another angler in another place. In my opinion, fishing experts are faced with a conundrum; we are forced to generate conclusions about factors which affect our ability to catch fish and plan our efforts based on our belief in those conclusions. By doing so, we potentially place too much faith in our beliefs and run the risk of establishing self-perpetuating behavior patterns. People in other sports are similarly affected. Golfers, for instance, once thought that lifting weights and building muscle mass would ruin a swing; football coaches for decades believed that the forward pass was too risky a play on which to build an offense. Both those ideas have now been rendered completely obsolete. Those who doggedly adhere to accepted principles sometimes fall behind forward-thinking innovators in sports. Anglers who always put their topwaters away once the sun comes up won’t know if fish can be caught on them later in the day. Similarly, captains who eat a late breakfast before leaving the dock all winter won’t know what can be caught at the crack of dawn, nor will those sitting at home for a couple of days after the full moon have any idea whether the fish are biting. I won’t become a couch potato every time the moon grows bright; I’ll be trying to take advantage of the enhanced opportunity a big moon creates. And I’ll probably leave the dock before sunrise, even when wearing five layers under my waders. Kevin Cochran If it’s warm, I might sling a small topwater all Kevin Cochran is a full-time fishing guide at Corpus Christi (Padre day to catch trout my Island), TX. Kevin is a speckled favorite way. I know trout fanatic and has authored these strategies fly in two books on the subject. Kevin’s the face of conventional home waters stretch from Corpus wisdom, but that’s okay. Christi Bay to the Land Cut. I won’t hesitate to etch a Trout Tracker Guide Service Email few new truths into my Telephone 361-688-3714 Website own stone. Please use our Texas spotted seatrout resource wisely!

Texas Saltwater Fishing / January 2011 13


When you mention jack crevalle to saltwater fishermen you can rest assured you will get an immediate reaction but till you do you can never be sure what that reaction will be. Seems like nowadays more folks love them than hate them and that is a change, for years ago the great majority hated them. That was due to the fact they fought so hard, tore up tackle and weren’t considered edible. The attitude of my customers has changed over the years. They aren’t grocery shopping; they want their string stretched and if jack crevalle aren’t sportfish I can’t imagine what is. I like that. Sight-casting one from the surf on a fly has became quite the feather in the cap of Texas fly fishermen. Fishing the surf twelve months a year is interesting as techniques and species sought (available) change from month to month. The jack crevalle thin out by December and few will be seen after about the tenth of the month. Pompano, Spanish mackerel, Atlantic bluefish, sandbar sharks and other species will peak in numbers and then in March it will all change again in the never-ending cycle of life in the surf zone. I never have had many charters in the winter and spring and have always called it, “the time of the starving moon.” But there was always a positive side to this time of year. One that I dearly loved for many years and I find it hard to let it go even though I might as well because I know it is gone. It was such a big part of my life and I loved it so. For as far back as anyone alive can remember we have had the only winter surf fishing for trout in Texas on the PINS beaches. I can’t tell you why; that’s just the way it was. There was a very small group of anglers who knew the necessary techniques of catching these fish with any regularity. They all knew each other and when not helping

Brooke Vestal receiving fishing instruction from Jeff Wolda.

each other they spent their time playing tricks on each other to throw everyone else off the fish. 51M MirrOlures were the lure of choice. The trout first showed in mid-October but December and January brought the peak numbers and best fishing. I’ve caught as many as one hundred sixty in two days by myself and the smallest would be three and one half pounds and the largest over nine pounds. Mr. Ralph Wade took me under his wing and showed me the ropes and it was through him that I became accepted into this small group I lovingly referred to as “the clan.” They were furiously defensive of PINS and this wondrous fishery they had enjoyed for many years and I

Chad hanging on as jack crevalle makes its first run.

14 January 2011 /

Texas Saltwater Fishing

Please use our Texas spotted seatrout resource wisely!

Brooke Vestal throwing cast net in surf.

was surprised that they would include a fulltime fishing guide among their number. Then I it dawned on me they did so because Ralph vouched for me as being trustworthy; guide or not. I was extremely selective whom I brought on winter trout fishing trips and kept the number of charters I did for these fish at an absolute minimum – just enough to survive the winter. I had promised myself when I started guiding that I would not let my personal gain take precedence over the wellbeing of the resource. That’s why I’m broke. Then in 1993, I noticed a significant drop in the population of winter trout and every year for the past seventeen the number of these

Please use our Texas spotted seatrout resource wisely!

fish has steadily declined annually. For the past five years the fish simply are no longer present in numbers to justify targeting them. While working with Harte Institute this past winter, five trips resulted in one trout caught and two missed on the strike. That is a lot of fish to just disappear. The simple fact is that the timeframe of this decline coincides with the great increase in the use of live finfish as bait for trout and also in the number of guides working saltwater in Texas. Interesting; isn’t it? What troubles me, if I understand it right, TPWD doesn’t include any numbers on surf trout in their surveys of trout population. If this is true it means there are a lot fewer trout in all of the systems (when including the surf ) than TPWD realizes. Others considered me to be the master of this winter surf trout fishery and it’s heartbreaking to me that it is now just a historical footnote. There are so very many of you who eat, breathe and sleep chasing big trout in the winter. Can you visualize waking up some morning and it no longer being possible? Well, that’s what happened to me. I can imagine it but I also have no doubt proper resource management can inure this never happens. It’s funny but even as I write this I know good and well I will be down that beach freezing to death looking for those trout this winter just as I always have even though I know they aren’t there. Guess I’ll bring the wife home some pompano to justify going. Had a ball recently. I knew the jack crevalle were going to be thick so I called my friend, Jimmy Jackson, of Beeville and he, his daughter and son and law and three other daughters went fishing with me the next day. I also called my pal, Jeff Wolda, from Bulverde and told

Texas Saltwater Fishing / January 2011 15

Chad Winkelmann with his first jack crevalle, sight-cast on fly; twenty pounder!



%LUGLQJ Caspian Tern -Sterna caspia-

The Caspian Tern is the world’s largest tern. Present year round in Texas. Breeds in spring and summer. Colonial nester, quite often mixed with royal tern and other tern species, favors spoil islands. Generally bulky in appearance with a black cap and white head and neck. Adults have black legs and feet. Bill is thick and red-orange with small black tip. Upper wings and back are pale grey, wing tips black on underside. Tail is less forked in flight than other terns. Dives for fish and occasionally eats insects and young of various avian and rodent species. him if he wanted one last day of the jacks he needed to get on the road. We all met up down south of the Big Shell and shortly thereafter all the adults had fought all the jack crevalle they required for the day. Next thing I know Jeff is teaching 10-year-old Brooke Vestal to throw a cast net and she is doing fine at it and then she finished it off by catching a twenty-one pound jack crevalle by herself on 10-pound test. I was touched at the whole scene. Complete strangers one minute and all having the best time of their lives as if they are lifelong friends the next. More laughing and hollering and whooping than at a New Year party. That’s what I call fishing and I think that is what most folks go fishing for. Man, what am I going to do with thirty years worth of 51 MirrOlures? What a hoot. If we don’t leave any there won’t be any. - Billy Sandifer

Length: 21 inches Wingspan: 50 inches Weight: 1.4 pounds


Capt. 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. Telephone 361-937-8446


16 January 2011 /

Caspian tern with royal tern in background

Photo by Jimmy Jackson

Texas Saltwater Fishing

Please use our Texas spotted seatrout resource wisely!

Mark your calendars! Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has announced the dates for its 2011 Abandoned Crab Trap Removal Program (ACTRP). The tenth anniversary run of this all-volunteer effort will take place coast-wide, February 18-27, 2011, consistent with the proclamation of the closure of the commercial crabbing season as mandated by the Texas legislature. Each year since 2001, thousands of conservation-minded coastal anglers have rolled up their sleeves to remove abandoned crabbing gear from Texas bays. Crab traps, even when abandoned, continue their work. Even without periodic baiting, small finfish, crabs and other organisms find their way into the traps. It’s called “ghost fishing” as the hapless finfish held by the trap, sometimes small speckled trout, redfish

18 January 2011 /

Texas Saltwater Fishing

and flounder, become the bait that attracts crabs, and so the cycle continues and precious marine resources are wasted. A list of ACTRP facilitated sites for disposal of the abandoned gear on the various Texas bays and waterways will be coming soon. Get your fishing clan together, make plans, and donate a day or two to improve and conserve our coastal resources. Gloves, tarpaulins and grappling hooks are available at some facilitated sites but it is a good idea to bring your own just in case. A 3’x3’ piece of plywood or similar device to protect the boat deck when crushing traps is advised. As a reminder; it is illegal to retain crabs found in abandoned gear. Handle with care and return them to the water as soon as possible.

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I love this time of year. Deer season, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day…and fishing in between. The water is cold, the fish always seem stronger and hungrier than during the summer and there are no mosquitoes to fight, on or off of the water. Oh and it’s not hot enough to fry an egg on the deck of the boat. There is just something special about winter wade fishing. Like in the warmer months the water can be crystal clear or muddy as a farm pond but there is a sense of excitement from the moment I slip into the water that isn’t quite the same as it is when the water is 80-plus degrees. Even with insulated underwear and warm-ups on I could feel the cold as the water squeezed my breathable waders tight against my legs. We’d had a cold boat ride in foggy conditions and I had completely lost my bearings but our captain knew where we were and so did the GPS. It was one of those rare pre-frontal mornings when there wasn’t a breath of wind and the water was like a mirror that reflected both the fisherman and the gear that he was wearing. My lure sent out ripples that I watched expand outward until the mist caught them and removed them from my view. On that morning the mist got heavier before it vanished with the rising sun and I couldn’t see the ripples much less see my lure hit the water. On mornings like that in Baffin Bay, there is always the chance that the trout of a lifetime will be near. One of those ledger moving fish that you know is there and, that you hope will find the lure you’re casting worthy of a meal. We covered the area, canvassed it really well but no double digit fish was home so the

20 January 2011 /

captain told us to load up and we’d head to the next spot. Once in the boat he was checking the weather and I noticed a concerned look on his face. The front that wasn’t suppose to get to our area until noontime was moving faster than had been forecast so we needed to hurry as our window was getting smaller. At the second stop of the morning, the fog and mist had broken up and we could see familiar shorelines and landmarks. We all spread out and started casting and picked up a fish or two but they just weren’t there and the northern horizon was starting to turn darker than we would have liked. Captain Black loaded us up and headed in; the front hit us at the ramp with the cold blast of arctic air that it carried with it. I think we were all happy to have the boat on the trailer and to be heading to a warm house and a hot cup of coffee, but I hated that the beautiful day had been cut short. I think about that special morning often and there haven’t been but a couple of days since that the weather was like that during the winter when I was able to go. But those days were special too and I have a picture of a beautiful sunrise on one of those clear cold days that I use as wallpaper on my laptop. On those rare cold and still days when the water is like a mirror that reflects the fisherman and the gear that he or she is wearing, there is a stillness about it that appeals to me. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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With an Apology to Clement Clarke Moore Twas the morning before Christmas and all through the bay There were no boats running, no wakes being made. So my son and I thought that we might slip away To catch a few trout before Christmas Day. The reels were all oiled with the drags set just right And the She Dogs and Super Spooks were all shining bright. The outboard hummed it’s own Christmas Carol And we pushed off from the dock with good lucks and farewells. We eased the boat up to a favorite shoreline And Sterling was out pulling anchor and line He said to me “Dad, it’s set good and tight” And we both started fishing before the dawn’s light. The lure had landed not quite where I’d planned But I worked it and reeled it and watched as it swam. When all of a sudden there came such a clatter That I looked over at Sterling to see what was the matter.


His rod was bent with the drag singing sweet As he set both of his shoulders and planted his feet. The trout was a good one of that I was sure, Just one more victim for the She Devil lure.


My son played the fish until she rolled on her side And he picked her up gently and said with a sigh, “Dad she’s a good one at least seven pounds” And he let the trout go with not so much as a sound.


He looked up at me and I said with a smile, “She fought a good fight and you showed some great style.” Then he checked his line and he let go a cast And I thought to myself man they sure grow up fast. And so went the morning and most of the day Catching not keeping and then, on our way. And I couldn’t help thinking that all was just right As we made the drive home on that Christmas Eve night.



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Martin Strarup 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.

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͞ZĞĞů^ƚƵīĨŽƌtŽŵĞŶ͟ / January 2011 21


As the boat coasted to a stop all eyes scanned the calm protected flat for signs of life, a telltale ripple of nervous water that could give away a big fish’s location or simply a raft of bait bunched up along a piece of structure. After a brief moment of observation it was plain to see that this stretch of water was alive and definitely worthy of a much closer look. The anchor was set and three anxious anglers went over the gunnels in unison with high hopes of tangling with some big fish until they felt the bottom. The beautiful flat they had so wanted to fish just minutes earlier now seemed to be the reincarnation of the Bataan Death March or Trail of Tears. It’s funny how sinking in soft mud to your crotch has that affect on people. Even the most diehard of anglers has a point at which they cry “uncle” and it usually coincides with deep “suck the life out of you” mud. Like a punch line from the famous comedian R.D. Mercer who so frequently asks, “Just how big an ol’ boy are you?” You must ask yourself, “How mad at those fish are you?” For years there was no mud too deep, no water too cold, or no climate too nasty if it meant a shot a stud trout. The early morning treks into places most sane individuals would never even entertain fishing let alone go

22 January 2011 /

there on purpose and be excited about it are much fewer and farther between now. I still completely embrace the opportunity and love the thrill of the pursuit but that drive has become somewhat tempered. I promise I will be last to admit that age has anything to do with this because vanity will not allow me to go there. Either way you go, adjustments have to be made and I have already begun that phase of my fishing career. One of the coolest concepts I have begun to employ came from my son Hunter and his passion for shooting ducks. For those of you have never met my son he is absolutely consumed with hunting and fishing, particularly waterfowl hunting. On our duck lease in Louisiana we have some water that was holding a good amount of birds but it was difficult to hunt. Hunter’s solution was a camo float tube, the perfect blend of stealth and comfort. He has employed that technique with loads of success and I have since taken the same technique to the bay. The float tube is the perfect answer to the boggy bottoms that make the long hours of wading miserable.

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Pic of the guy wadingJacob Wilson of Gulf Coast Waders with a fat 27-incher from East Matagorda.

If the bottom is firm enough to walk in you can simply drag the tube behind you and use it for storage. If the bottom gets bad you simply ease into the seat and continue to enjoy your time on the water with much less effort. It’s a tremendous tool for fishermen and is extremely under utilized. The comfort you are afforded is ridiculous not mention the safety aspects that go along with it. A float tube could be a lifesaver, especially during these cold weather months. That’s a winwin situation in my book. Now another creature comfort that I have found recently are my new breathable waders from Gulf Coast Waders. The first pair I tried on I fell in love with, similar to finding shoes that really fit. The big difference with these waders is the cut; they are tapered in a way that allows for nearly three more inches at the top. Now for some of you that may not be a big deal but for those of us who are vertically challenged it’s a nice bonus. The extra cut and taper of the waders also allows for more room to layer up during cold months without sacrificing movement or comfort. The extra room also helps the folks who may have packed on a few pounds over the holiday, a category that I certainly fall into. Probably the best thing in the equation is the good folks at Gulf Coast Waders are Texas fishermen just like all of us so they have a particular interest in the products they make. I have been really happy with their waders and service along with their willingness to listen to ideas about how to make their stuff even better. Their waders make a really nice addition to any fisherman’s arsenal. Learn more at Now that we have tried to make your life on the water a little easier and a lot more comfortable I want to take just a minute to remind everyone about cold water safety. Several years ago I wrote about a really close friend of mine who miraculously was saved after his boat capsized one winter day. There are some Please use our Texas spotted seatrout resource wisely!

Texas Saltwater Fishing / January 2011 23

24 January 2011 /

in any camping section. Perhaps one of the smallest yet most important items is a whistle. Put one on your life jacket or maybe wear one around your neck, they are worth their weight in gold if you need to get someone’s attention or signal for help. My friend who capsized told me how close he was to not being picked up due to the fact that nobody could hear him holler from his over turned boat. As a matter of fact several boats passed him by without ever noticing him. A whistle is a no nonsense and very effective tool that will certainly get the job done under these circumstances. I hope some of the information and techniques that I have described help you throughout the winter and for years to come. My family and I wish each of you a Merry Christmas and Blessed New Year.

Texas Saltwater Fishing

Chuck Uzzle


really serious precautions everyone should take during this time of the year. The most obvious precaution is a Personal Floatation Device. The new styles that are self inflating are extremely comfortable and make it easy to wear all day long. Older styles should still be worn every time the big motor is running How mad are you? and the driver needs to have the “kill” switch connected. Other very good items to have in your possession are extra clothes or a slicker suit in case someone gets wet along with a thermal safety blanket that can be purchased

Chuck fishes Sabine and Calcasieu Lakes from his home in Orange, TX. His specialties are light tackle and fly fishing for trout, reds, and flounder.

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The University of Texas

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Texas Saltwater Fishing / January 2011 25


2ULJLQDOO\SXEOLVKHGLQSDUWLQ5DQFK 5XUDO/LYLQJ0DJD]LQH1RYHPEHU I am a stakeholder on the Guadalupe River-San Antonio Bay-Basin Environmental Flows Stakeholder Committee as is your editor, Everett Johnson. Although I live upstream at the headwaters of the Guadalupe, I represent Texas Soil & Water Conservation Districts across the basin. My largely agricultural background fitted me for that slot. Everett thought this article about how excessive groundwater pumping in one region can affect rivers and then fresh-water flows into Gulf estuaries is important for all to recognize. Saltwater fishermen and coastal residents often come from upstream areas and maybe can influence what happens there. No one, whether a Texas farmer or a Texas fisherman, ever wants to hurt our resources. Water is a given and will always be there, right? We just turn on the faucets or get the windmills pumping or turn on the irrigation pumps â&#x20AC;&#x201C; no big deal. I know from my work across Texas that this fallacy of taking water for granted is not just among city dwellers either. We all do! Not always does the water flow, my friend! Hmmm, remember THE drought of the fifties, or even some of the short intense droughts in the 80s, 90s and more recently 2008-09? Water was not always there for all of us! The combination of population growth, high water use and drought all are working against us now. Many in Kerr County had to have water hauled to them in 2009 as wells and the Guadalupe dried up. Well folks, if you have been involved in your regionsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; water planning which is on a five year plan rotation, then you are well aware of the impending population explosion occurring in our state. This morning I was reading the new AAA Texas Journey and almost choked on my coffee â&#x20AC;&#x201C; â&#x20AC;&#x153;More than a thousand people move to Texas every day.â&#x20AC;? I guess that is just the legal immigrantsâ&#x20AC;ŚWow! We may need a wall or fence all the way around us! Where will we get the water was my second thought. Well, you with homes, farms and ranches across rural areas of our state better not think you are safe because you are hundreds of miles from a big city or you think groundwater (aquifer water) is your protected property right. Ask folks in the Panhandle, or around Ft.

26 January 2011 /

Stockton, or on the coastal rice farms or other areas how protected they feel. Or just ask East Texas farmers who in the 90s went clear to the Texas Supreme Court when their wells were pumped dry by a neighbor, Ozarka Spring Water Co. The farmers lost and groundwater was bottled and shipped off. Read this section from a 2005 article in The Cattleman: â&#x20AC;&#x153;The 101 year-old Rule of Capture provides that, absent malice or willful Mike Mecke waste, landowners have the right to take all the water they can capture under their land and do with it what they please. Neighboring landowners have no legal recourse if the water supply under their ground is affected. â&#x20AC;&#x153;First, letâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s get rid of a misconception about the Rule of Capture. The Rule of Capture does not â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;giveâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; anyone a right to do anything,â&#x20AC;? says Greg Ellis, League City attorney and former Edwards Aquifer Authority general manager. â&#x20AC;&#x153;The right to seek and capture groundwater, minerals and other property from land is granted through ownership of the land. The State of Texas adopted the English common law that included both the Absolute Ownership Doctrine (each landowner owns everything above and below their property) and the Rule of Capture (no liability to adjoining landowners for depleting minerals or water). So where property law gives everyone the right to seek groundwater, tort law (Rule of Capture) seems to prohibit anyone from protecting that right by filing a trespass lawsuit.â&#x20AC;? Still think this archaic Texas groundwater law protects your water? Well, maybe it did 100 years ago when there were fewer Texans and no one had the ability or need to pump huge amounts of groundwater. Well, that changed when we got more people, irrigated

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farms, big cities, large thirsty lawns, golf courses, swimming pools, vanity ponds and much bigger, deeper water wells. Water uses and “needs” shot up. The Rule of Capture in Texas became known as “The Rule of the Biggest Pump.” I hope you will want to read and learn more of other examples across not just Texas, but the nation. Years ago when working in West Texas, I attended a water meeting at nearby New Mexico State University in Las Cruces. A key speaker was Robert Glennon, a law professor at U. of Arizona who had just written Water Follies, discussing numerous case studies of water issues across the USA, including Texas. I could not lay the book down that night – it was an eye opener even to me as a water professional. Seems Arizona is doing many very good things, including water! Buy a copy, give it as Christmas gift to family, friends, water utility managers or needy politicians – it is reasonable. Texas has lost most of its large springs, few by natural causes, mostly due to heavy groundwater pumping. Heavy well pumping dries up springs and then our creeks and rivers may cease to flow. Loss of river flow can affect drinking water for Texans hundreds of miles away from the groundwater pumping which lowered the aquifers, thus reducing or stopping springflows. When rivers are dried up, reservoirs drop drastically or go dry. Think of the 2008-09 drought and how many central, west and north Texas lakes dropped to record

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low levels. What would a repeat of the long and intense 50s drought do with current or future population levels? Low or dry rivers cause estuaries and bays in the Gulf of Mexico to become much saltier and this causes problems, including poor reproduction, up and down the food chain – from micro-organisms to shrimp, oysters, crabs and fish. Recreation fishing and commercial fishing are damaged and not only does your local seafood dinner go up in price, but valuable jobs and income from the Texas Gulf coast suffers. Oil spills and pollution are not the only causes of coastal disasters – sometimes the causes are hundreds of miles upstream on an over-pumped aquifer(s). At the same time, valuable, high quality riparian or bottomland vegetation along rivers may dry up and cattle and wildlife lose forage. River and lake recreation and fishing goes downhill. Or maybe, river water for valuable farm crops downstream is not there and farms cannot irrigate, affecting not only farmers and rural communities, but the state economy as well. Remember, all of our water is linked. Our well pumping can produce negative reactions we often never contemplated. It is not uncommon for waters in rivers and groundwater to move back and forth recharging each other. As an old Pogo cartoon said, “I have seen the enemy and it is us!”

Texas Saltwater Fishing / January 2011 27

7KLQNLQJRIDQHZERDW" Purchasing and rigging advice from Chris Mapp – Coastal Bend Marine January is here and it is boat show time. You want to buy a boat and you know what you like. You know what you want the boat to do and you like the way it looks on the outside but, do you know what to look for on the inside? The marketplace for new boats, motors and trailers is very competitive and price should not be your only consideration. The rigging process used on your boat is the key to either years of trouble-free enjoyment or years of gremlins in your hull. Rigging done right will add a little more in price but much less in aggravation. Name-brand liquid cell batteries are all of generally good quality but only good for 24 to 30 months maximum. Gel cell batteries cost more but last longer. The size and type of wire used and the way your batteries are connected to the boat’s electrical system are very important. There should be no splices between the battery switch and the engine, one long continuous run of the appropriate gauge wire for the distance required. Marine tinned wiring only should be used for battery wiring as well as all other circuits on the boat. Stainless steel locknuts should be used on the battery terminals – NO WING NUTS! The MCA (Marine Cranking Amps) rating of the batteries should be what is suggested by the manufacturer. Battery lugs should be covered with heat-shrink and all other electrical connections should

be crimped w/heat-shrink connectors. In the tunnel hull center console world we like to install all pumps, batteries and filtration under the console whenever possible. We recommend twin batteries with a one, two and all “Perko” selector switch. This is a redundant safety system and is worth its weight in gold when all you hear is “click, click, click” while turning the key twenty miles from the ramp. Engine mounting bolts should be stainless with stainless or brass lock nuts. Non-locking nuts are acceptable but should be doubled to create a jam-nut effect. Fuel line should be of good quality and appropriate size for the engine. Engines of 115 hp and up should use 3/8 diameter; clamps should be stainless steel compression type. A fuel/water separator should be installed where the manufacture recommends. Choose the right jackplate and hydraulic steering. Never skimp on the prop. Ask questions, do you homework, and enjoy your new boat. Coastal Bend Marine PO Box 301 – 1808 W. Adams – Port O’Connor TX 77982 Phone: 361-983-4841 Fax: 361-983-4676 Email:

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Texas Saltwater Fishing / January 2011 29




The spotted seatrout is the most highly sought of all saltwater species in Texas. No fish that swims in saltwater is held dearer in the heart of the majority of coastal anglers. The pursuit of seatrout in Texas generates by far the greatest slice of economic impact derived from recreational saltwater fishing. Red drum ranks second, but distantly. It should come as no surprise then, when fishing discussion turns to management and regulation of the stateâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s seatrout fisheries, opinions abound and tempers can flair. The management of seatrout in Texas began in 1978 when the first bag limit of 20 per day at 12 inches minimum length was established, although in Galveston Bay and part of San Antonio Bay, county government disputed state authority and the limits that applied elsewhere were not enforced there. The next landmarks in regulation came in 1979 with the banning of monofilament gill nets and another measure in 1980 banned all types of gill nets in all state waters. In 1981 the Texas Legislature designated trout and reds as gamefish species, prohibiting commercial fishing and sale. In 1983 the Texas Legislature passed the Uniform Wildlife Conservation Act prohibiting county government override of TPWD regulations and all state waters came under the 20 fish-12 inch rule. Texasâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; seatrout were dealt a cruel blow in December 1983 when Old Man Winter visited the coast. Hoping to jumpstart recovery of the fisheries, TPWD reduced the daily bag to 10 fish and upped the minimum size of keepers to 14 inches in 1984. But Old Man Winter visited again in 1989, twice in fact; February and December. TPWDâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s response came by way of increasing the minimum legal length to

30 January 2011 /

15 inches, intending to allow young spawning seatrout the ability to make a full spawning season contribution before becoming eligible for harvest. With signs that the fishery was beginning to again show the effect of over-harvest in some areas, seatrout regs were overhauled in 2003. Captains (guides) and crew (deckhands) were no longer allowed to retain a personal limit while fishing for hire. Additionally, anglers were limited to only one trout per day greater than 25 inches length. The basic 10 fish bag and 15 inch minimum remained. The most recent change to seatrout regulations, and the first-ever regional management plan, was enacted in the Lower Laguna Madre in 2007 with the limit cut to 5 fish per day â&#x20AC;&#x201C; 15 inches minimum length. It is of great importance to note that this regulation chronology was begun in response to sportsmen demanding that something be done to eliminate commercial overfishing of the resource. The impact of fish-killing freezes had to be addressed, and finally because recreational harvest was cited as the cause of decline in the Lower Laguna Madre. The decade of the 1990s was a golden era for seatrout. Coast wide, relative abundance increased nearly 50% while the population in some bays doubled and even tripled. Rec anglers enjoyed excellent catches and participation grew by leaps and bounds. Fishing efficiency increased too. A wave of technology brought more reliable boats that ran faster and shallower. The GPS unit became a common fixture on bay boats and cellular telephones enabled anglers to network on the water. The internet was becoming a source of fishing information. The quality of rods, reels, fishing line and lures made a quantum leap. The use of live, juvenile Atlantic croaker as bait for

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seatrout became hugely popular coast wide. Last but not least, Old Man Winter did not visit the Texas coast. And so we entered the 21st century on a roll. Anglers were still enjoying excellent trout fishing coast wide. TPWD says saltwater license sales grew 25% during the years 2001-2006 and 1.2 million stamps were sold in 2008. Saltwater fishing guide services continued to spring up and guided fishing effort increased rapidly. Coastal communities that once had a handful of guides suddenly had scores, hundreds in some cases. Now we’re staring down the barrel of 2011. The bloom has been off middle coast trout fishing for several years. In San Antonio Bay, traditionally one of Texas’ most productive estuaries, the trout population peaked in 1998 and has since declined by more than 50%. Population surveys indicate the fishery has fallen nearly to post-89 freeze levels. Neighboring West Matagorda and Aransas Bay have declined similarly, although West Matty showed a giant spike in the spring 2010 survey. Down in the Lower Laguna, TPWD says anglers are catching bigger trout on average although the desired increase in relative abundance they expected has yet to register in the data. Still though, anglers are Please use our Texas spotted seatrout resource wisely!

flocking to the Lower Laguna to cash in on the opportunity to land larger trout. TPWD now wants to hear from us. Coastal Fisheries Division will conduct a series of scoping meetings in coastal communities and also in San Antonio in early January. In general coast wide terms, we are told, there is not yet cause for great alarm. However, TPWD says we definitely have some problems in the middle coast bays. Anglers will have a chance to tell TPWD what they want from their fishery. Options include reducing bag limits to conserve the fishery and also increasing the minimum legal length to boost spawning biomass. Making no changes and continuing to monitor the situation is also an option. However, this would not guarantee the population will not continue to decline with marked periods of poor fishing dominating the trend. Science and user expectation are the two largest components that drive fisheries management decisions. The “science” can be found on the accompanying slides. The public scoping process is designed to better understand how the general fishing public would like to see their fishery managed. I encourage all anglers to attend the meetings and participate in the discussions.

Texas Saltwater Fishing / January 2011 31


With water temperatures in the 50s on average during January, my main focus is locating bait somewhere near or over my selected structure for the day. You have to i water temperature almost hourly to gain a really good monitor perspective of what the fish will be doing and, most importantly, when they will be doing it. The period in the day when betterthan-average trout move from deepwater structure to rapidly warming shallow structure can be the ideal time to ambush them, provided of course you understand the type of structure they will seek and already have it located. Patience and the knowledge to not impede the travel area weigh heavily toward your success in tricking fish of this size into taking your offering. I commonly refer to these travel areas as the ZONE. I strongly believe that mature trout definitely know when something new has been added to the familiar surroundings of the zone. Run your boat through this zone and you don’t need to worry about anything else written in these lines, you’re done, just stay in the boat and try to conserve some body heat. We can locate these zones quite easily during periods of low tide and clear water. Most often the zone will be some distinct depth change that connects deepwater structure to shallow water structure. The characteristics of this zone need to include some type of bottom structure within the depth change. This allows the fish to slip between the two areas unnoticed to predation from above while remaining the aggressor in the zone. Never think that osprey, pelicans and gulls do not make a lasting impression on fish of all species. My thought is that fish have no way of knowing how big they have grown and to which avian predators they might still be vulnerable – so they probably never lose the fear of a shadow cast from above. Personally, I have found the best way to truly gain the mental picture needed to work such areas is by wading around and through them in the off-season. This month is the time when the fish using such zones have a little more meat to them and obviously these are not the times to be stomping around and learning your zone. It is the slight difference in bottom texture

and contour that create the zone. In previous issues I have talked of my fondness for guts that have submerged grass or scattered shell and grass scattered about their length. It is my belief that the added structure aids in the camouflage factor as well as creating ambush points for feeding opportunities. Being able to recognize such zones is an absolute must when trying to pattern winter trout. I always imagine that I am the fish and as I leave my warmer deepwater haven in search of food I work toward the shallows where the rising sun is providing a quick warm up to the day. I suspect the trout know the bait is operating in the same mode, so as the trout begin to ease their way into the zone, concentration becomes very keen. As she eases around structure she is anticipating spooking a meal from the safety of the very same structure she is also using. I can totally see the entire picture coming into focus. A dark long bulky silhouette slowly appears from the depths, sort of like a submarine rising from the ocean floor as it approaches a reef. As she makes her way from one grass bed to the next she hopes to flush a meal from the cover this structure provides. In winter months bait can be scarce; the predator learns to avail itself to opportunity. When a baitfish flickers nearby they strike it immediately. This very instinct is what gives us the upper hand during the harshest times of winter. Being able to visualize this scenario in your mind prepares you for the strike on your lure. Seasoned trout anglers often anticipate the strike with great accuracy due to the ability to see all of this through their mind’s eye. I remind myself constantly that on the next twitch I’ll have a strike. This is due to knowing exactly where the zone is and where the lure is in association to the bottom structure in the zone at all times. I have said this many times but it warrants repeating due to the importance. YOU MUST NOT ENTER THE ZONE! Try to setup in a position where your longest cast will reach the opposite side of the zone in which you are fishing. This should

This is the zone the trout in the photo on the top right was using viewed from near the shore looking into deeper water. Fish are most vulnerable when occupying the intermediate portions of the zone.

32 January 2011 /

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A solid Aransas Bay trout taken from a wintertime zone.

In closing I have to say that the fishing in the Rockport area was extremely good as we closed out 2010. I suspect that 2011, with ample rainfall, will show a significant increase in the numbers of speckled trout willing to tug on our lines. Add to this the possibility of seeing Cedar Bayou re-opened and a possible limit reduction to five speckled trout per day and we could be well on our way to a full recovery. May your fishing always be catching. - Guide Jay Watkins

& 2 1 7$ & 7

This is a side-on view of the zone the trout in the photo to the right was using. Note the dark grassbeds, there’s shell in there too.


allow you to fish the entire width of the zone. It is also important to fish at slight angles when working from one side of the zone to the next. The angle allows the lure to be presented out in front of the fish versus coming in through the back door. I like throwing into a light breeze whenever possible, believing that fish tend to face into the current, and quite often in the shallows the current is generated by wind. Always remember that baitfish, on the other hand, tend to roll with the current. Fishing parallel to the edges of the zone can also be effective. By working from a greater distance and presenting your lure at slight angles you will discover which side of the zone is being traveled and then make your adjustment. True, it is easier said than done but not a pattern that requires anything skill-wise that most of you do not already possess. The lack of mental pictures and the mindset to stay and work the zone is probably the biggest downfall for most.

Jay Watkins has been a full-time fishing guide at Rockport, TX, for more than 20 years. Jay specializes in wading yearround for trout and redfish with artificial lures. Jay covers the Texas coast from San Antonio Bay to Corpus Christi Bay. Phone Email Website


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For the past few years I have been trying to figure out if eyes really make flies more attractive to fish. My experience has been that sometimes eyes help and sometimes they don’t. But one thing I have learned for certain – fishermen will pick a fly with eyes over one without nearly every time. The lifelike appearance of eyes builds confidence in fishermen, and confidence helps them catch fish. So I suppose, even if only indirectly, eyes do make a difference. This month we’ll review the selection of eyes available to fly tyers and take a look at how/when they can be used on fly patterns. Stick-on eyes Probably the first type of manufactured eyes were the “sticker” type developed for spoons and plugs. These peel-andstick eyes were applied to the heads of conventional lures to enhance their appearance and to provide a bulls-eye for predators. Fly tyers soon caught on and began sticking them on large streamer patterns. Stick-on eyes are now available in many different colors and sizes, and are the most inexpensive of all. They are commonly used in applications where a highly visible eye with a thin profile is needed. Surf Candy flies, spoons, and poppers are fitted with stick-on eyes. The adhesive on stick-on eyes is fairly weak and is used only to position the eyes until they can be coated with epoxy, clear polyurethane, or UV-activated resin. Once coated, these eyes are bold and durable. 3D eyes Three dimensional eyes are basically stick-on eyes that have a clear plastic lens permanently molded over them. These eyes are highly lifelike and range from slightly flexible to rigid. They are available in a wide range of sizes, colors, and pearlescent sheens. Typically, 3D eyes are used on large baitfish patterns and they are not coated with epoxy or other hard resins. Like the stick-on eyes, the adhesive on the back of 3D eyes is not adequate to permanently secure them. They are traditionally glued to flies with a small drop of epoxy, super glue, polyurethane gel, or dimensional fabric paint.


Plastic Molded eyes Plastic molded eyes are extremely lifelike hard plastic eyes with a short stem molded to the back of the eye. They have no adhesive backing. The stem on the back of the eye provides a “root” for the eye and extra surface area for gluing. It is generally trimmed down to an appropriate length, coated with adhesive, and poked into the head fibers on a wide-bodied fly like a deer hair diver, soft popper, or EP baitfish pattern. Plastic molded eyes look great, but their small size and slippery nature make them difficult to work with. Barbell/dumbbell eyes Barbell and dumbbell eyes are designed to add weight to flies. Dumbbell eyes have an hourglass shape and are available in aluminum, brass, nickel-plated steel, stainless steel, tungsten, and lead. Sometimes these eyes are painted to make them look more lifelike. Dumbbell eyes are lashed to the hook shank with thread wraps and coated with cement or adhesive. They are the classic eyes for Clouser Deep Minnows, assorted crab patterns, and shrimp patterns, where their key feature is to invert and sink the fly. They are moderately durable, but tend to deform and break if they impact a solid object like a rock or a boat. They also can break a fly rod (and your skull) if they hit it at high speed! Bead Chain eyes Bead chain eyes are similar in form and function to dumbbell eyes, but they are lighter and more durable. Bead chain was originally used to attach stoppers to sinks and bathtubs, and as pull cords on light fixtures. A crafty fly tyer discovered its use as a tying material and the rest is history. Bead chain is available in nickel plated steel, painted steel, brass, stainless steel, and strung plastic. Bead chain is highly durable, inexpensive, and very useful in fly tying. Fly tyers simply clip pairs of eyes from the chain using wire snips and tie them to the hook shank with thread wraps. Bead chain

Check out Casey’s Fly Fishing Video Library at

34 January 2011 /

Texas Saltwater Fishing

Please use our Texas spotted seatrout resource wisely!


Mono eyes Mono eyes are formed from short strands of monofilament that have rounded bulbs (pupils) formed on the ends. There are essentially 3 types of mono eyes- molded, burned, and strung. Molded mono eyes are manufactured from plastic with small pupils heat-formed into the ends. They are usually black and come in several sizes. Burned mono eyes are similar, and are created by burning the ends of a short piece of monofilament line (from 12 to 60 lb test) to form a small ball on the end. The ball is then usually colored with a black permanent marker, paint, or quick-melt powder. Strung mono eyes are most realistic of the three. They are formed by stringing small glass or plastic beads onto a piece of monofilament and dipping the ends in clear epoxy or adhesive. Mono eyes are used almost exclusively on crustacean patterns. They are attached to the fly with thread wraps which are then coated with cement. Mono eyes are lightweight, lifelike, and durable.

Paint eyes There are two types of fly eyes made from paint. The first type of paint eyes are made by literally painting the eyes directly on to the fly, usually on the thread wraps at the head of streamer patterns, or on the cork/foam body of popping bugs. Once applied the paint is coated with a clear lacquer to improve durability. This is the way fly tyers originally put eyes on poppers, Bendbacks, Deceivers and tarpon flies. Painted eyes give these flies a classic nostalgic look. The second way to create eyes from paint is to use Tulip Slick Fabric paint. Small dollops of paint are placed on a smooth plastic surface (butter tub lid is perfect). Slightly smaller drops of black paint are then dropped on the center of the background color. The lid is then tapped from the bottom causing the pointed shaped eyes to flatten and round out. Once dry the eyes can be removed with a needle and glued onto the fly with more fabric paint or any waterproof adhesive. 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. Phone Email Website


Introducing the John Oliverio Signature Series Power-Pole速. The original shallow water anchor just kicked it up a notch.

Please use our Texas spotted seatrout resource wisely!

Texas Saltwater Fishing / January 2011 35

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eyes are less dense than solid barbell eyes and provide a slower sink rate to flies. They are commonly used on Clouser Minnows, shrimp and crab patterns, and assorted baitfish flies.

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:LH*LU[LY;L_HZ By Kenneth Wethington | Summer Intern | Lake Jackson, Texas

Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s early in the morning, the dew is falling off the grass and the sun has begun its slow ascent across the summer sky. As we are driving away from the hatchery building to sample a pond of fish we hear a squawking sound. We turn and to see the black-necked stilt (Himantopus mexicanus) attempt to lead us away from her nest. This description illustrates the beginning of a typical day at Sea Center Texas (SCT) in Lake Jackson, Texas. SCT is one of three Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) coastal fish hatcheries whose mission is to stock hatchery-reared red drum, spotted seatrout, southern flounder fingerlings to supplement wild populations along the Texas Gulf coast. Each day on the job holds different challenges and adventures at SCT. Every morning at 7:00 a.m. hatchery staff meet to discuss operations and assignments. A few of the routine tasks that are first on the agenda include counting zooplankton, pulling ichthyoplankton tows, and caring for captive broodfish and aquarium displays. Feeding the aquarium fishes and hatchery broodfish (adult fishes captured in the wild used at the hatchery to produce fertilized eggs) are part of the work assignments on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings. The broodfish are fed three percent of their body weight. The fish are served chopped mackerel, shrimp, and squid. Additionally, they are fed beef liver

to provide them with essential nutrients they would typically acquire from eating crabs or other prey in the wild. Some of the weekly highlights at SCT occur on Wednesdays and Fridays about 10:30 a.m. when the public is invited to gather around the visitor centerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s aquariums to view the feeding ritual. This was one of my favorite activities I did this summer. Other assignments I performed included: monitoring water quality parameters in outdoor culture ponds and aquariums, harvesting fish rearing ponds, stocking hatcheryreared fish into bays, conducting routine equipment maintenance, and cleaning culture ponds. I also did some outdoor facility maintenance and landscaping.

The majority of work conducted at SCT is based on out-of-doors activities, mostly taking place in the ponds. The primary challenges dealing with the practice of pond culture involve seawater quality, algae blooms, zooplankton abundances, and fish survival/growth. Zooplankton are microscopic organisms that occur in seawater and live their entire life cycles drifting in water currents. These organisms are a primary source of food for developing fish larvae and are important prey items even in an aquaculture pond setting such as SCT. Along with hatchery staff, I closely monitored zooplankton abundances in the ponds. Another important task I performed was to sample survival of larvae released into culture ponds. A few days after fish larvae are released into a culture pond for a 30-day grow-out period, it is customary to estimate the survival rate of that stocking effort. A plankton net designed to capture larval fish is 36 January 2011 /

Texas Saltwater Fishing

Please use our Texas spotted seatrout resource wisely!

Please use our Texas spotted seatrout resource wisely!


pulled across the surface of the ponds. Usually a significant number of larval fish are collected indicating that the stocking was successful. If low numbers are obtained, the pond is quickly reworked to be restocked as soon as possible. As the fish larvae develop in the ponds during the grow-out period, their diet is supplemented with pelleted dry-feed. Specific amounts of fish feed are weighed and placed into plastic buckets. It is distributed by hand to the ponds. I had the opportunity to sling many pounds of feed to the fish and I think that I will probably remember the smell of that fish meal for many years to come. It has a good distinct aroma that reminds me of the hot Texas sun, coastal waters, and the hard work required to rear fishes. After about a month, the fish reach a size of approximately 1.5 inches (35 millimeters)

in length which is considered the proper size for their release into bays. I feel fortunate to have participated in the rearing of thousands of fish that were released into coastal waters. I can take pride in knowing that I had a hand in contributing to Texas’ saltwater fishing. The non-profit Coastal Conservation Association is the largest marine conservation group in North America established to conserve, promote, and enhance the present and future availability of coastal resources for the benefit and enjoyment of the general public. As a Coastal Conservation Association (CCA Texas) intern assigned to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s coastal hatcheries at Sea Center Texas, I spent ninety days of my summer internship working alongside staff. I had great opportunities to learn about procedures that are required to raise red drum and spotted seatrout fingerlings on a largescale basis. The CCA’s internship program provides tomorrow’s biologists and scientists with unique hands on experiences in coastal fishery management and related programs. I am grateful for the wealth of knowledge that I gained during my internship which would have been impossible to achieve without the cooperation of TPWD and the funding support of CCA Texas.

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

Texas Saltwater Fishing / January 2011 37


CCA Texas and its volunteers welcome the New Year with optimistic enthusiasm. CCA Texas volunteers and supporters stepped up in 2010 to make it a very successful year for the conservation of Texas’s coastal resources. As the organization moves forward in 2011, it will continue to support the restoration and creation of Texas coastal habitat; take an active role in the fisheries management process for Texas; educate the general public on the importance of Texas’s coastal resources and the need to conserve them for the benefit of the resource and the general public; support Texas Parks Wildlife Department (TPWD) research and law enforcement; support future marine biologists through the CCA Texas graduate scholarships and the TPWD internship program; and will be active participant in the 2011 legislative process in the state of Texas for coastal fisheries issues, including freshwater inflows. The ability to carry out the CCA Texas mission and objectives is due to the success of local chapter banquets and unmatched dedication by CCA Texas volunteers and supporters. Volunteers and supporters took unprecedented steps in 2010 to ensure the success of CCA Texas and will once again rise to the occasion in 2011. CCA Texas closed the 2010 year with the approval of five projects at the November Executive Board meeting. CCA Texas has long supported the TPWD Game Wardens and most recently paid for the construction of an outpost cabin at the southern end of Land Cut. At the November meeting, CCA Texas approved $5,100 funding to replace the flotation material on the TPWD Game Warden cabin in Baffin Bay. Included in the funding will be the replacement of necessary amenities to the cabin which have deteriorated beyond use over its thirteen year life. These outpost cabins provide the wardens with the ability to effectively enforce TPWD game laws in these remote areas for extended periods of time and are long-term cost-saving tools. CCA Texas has a longstanding history supporting the TPWD summer internship program. CCA Texas has been involved in this program since the beginning and at the November meeting approved $45,500 in funding for seven internships in 2011. These internships will take place in Brownsville, Corpus Christi, Rockport, Port O’Connor, Palacios, Dickinson and Port Arthur. This program provides valuable hands on training and experience and allows TPWD to get a first hand look at potential future employees. “This internship has provided me with a greater knowledge, understanding, education, and field experience of the 38 January 2011 /

Texas Saltwater Fishing

significance and invaluable importance of coastal fisheries. I appreciate the wonderful opportunity that CCA and TPWD has bestowed upon me this summer,” commented 2010 intern Lindsey Staszak in a letter to TPWD and CCA Texas. Habitat Today for Fish Tomorrow (HTFT) had a successful year in 2010 with the approval and completion of several habitat projects. In addition to welcoming proposals from different agencies, organizations and academia, HTFT has also reached out to these groups looking for projects to support and take part in. One such project is a black mangrove study in the Lower Laguna Madre being conducted by Dr. Rod Summy at The University of Texas – Pan American. Black mangrove is recognized as shoreline stabilizer in the Lower Laguna Madre in addition to providing potentially critical habitat for fish and wildlife. CCA Texas has funded $5,000 for this initial study and it will be conducted to develop planting strategies on the eastern shores of spoil islands in the Lower Laguna Madre. Many of the existing islands have flourishing mangrove stands on the western edges of these islands, but prevailing winds do not allow the mangrove roots systems to take necessary hold on the eastern sides. The end result of this study will provide a necessary planting strategy that will provide a long term solution for the prevention and/or mitigation of the effects of shoreline erosion along these islands and in turn creating clearer water with less turbidity. CCA Texas looks forward to the results of this study and the potential long-term effects. CCA Texas has taken an active and leadership role in the management of southern flounder. Beaumont area columnist Chester Moore, a long time advocate for the conservation of southern flounder in Texas, is the host of the Flounder Revolution website. This site promotes the conservation of southern flounder, donation of brood stock to TPWD hatcheries and the release of flounder for future enjoyment and growth. The Flounder Revolution Replica program awards a fiberglass replica to the fisherman that releases the largest flounder 20” or larger for each month between March and November. CCA Texas once again has approved $1,000 in funding to this program in an effort to further educate the angling public about the status and efforts to bring southern flounder back to historic levels. CCA Texas looks forward to 2011. If you are out and about during the boat show season, please stop by our booths to renew your membership or join for the first time. You will also have the opportunity to sign up for the 2011 STAR tournament at these events as well. See you there. Please use our Texas spotted seatrout resource wisely!

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In fishing circles you often hear, “He’s a damn good fisherman.” The other day sitting in a deer stand I got to thinking about that phrase. What does it really refer to and how does one get that honor bestowed upon them? We’ve all said it, usually in reference to someone who consistently catches fish when others don’t or always seems to be on top end specimens. We know who they are, but what makes them different. Due to a serious lack of game movement under the influence of the full moon I had plenty of time to mull it over. I thought of all the really fine fishermen I have been blessed to share a tide with. I thought of how they approach this game of angling. I pondered their actions on the water and their abilities with a rod and reel. I also considered the many rookies who I’ve taken fishing as well as a good many more who I’ve shared a boat with who had a great deal of experience but were, how shall I say this…below average. One thing I arrived at fairly early on is that there is no way to judge rank based on uniform or equipment. In fact, the opposite seems to be true quite often. Those dressed like they just stepped out of a catalog with top line rods and reels don’t necessarily have it all together. No doubt we’ve all seen the yahoo with the $40,000 bay boat potlicking off of those who really know what they’re doing. Yet one of the best fishermen I’ve had the pleasure to fish with, a guy who consistently stays on solid fish year round, paddles a kayak and often shows up with nothing more than a plastic baggie full of soft plastics a couple beat up topwaters and a reel that sounds like a pepper grinder. I’m not really sure he could tell you what brand rod he uses, but the dude catches fish

40 January 2011 /

Texas Saltwater Fishing

like nobody’s business. Don’t get me wrong, most of the really solid anglers own quality equipment that is often treated better than any of their other possessions. I know one who’s so meticulous that he cleans his reels even when they don’t need it. That’s just crazy in my book, but knowing your rods and reels are solid and won’t fail on you helps clear your mind to focus on the business at hand. Just don’t fall into the trap of thinking that the guy with the best gear is the best fisherman in the group. Regardless of the chosen gear, top anglers are extremely proficient; wielding their rod and reel as if it were an extension of their body. Another area of equipment does tend to lend a clue, however. And that is the tackle box. Almost without exception the best anglers I’ve run across carry a fairly small box of lures. They are by no means the same from angler to angler, but these weapons are carefully selected and narrowed down to the essentials in which the angler has extreme confidence. You’ll also notice that the really good anglers aren’t constantly tying on different lures. They know that if the fish are present and feeding they can usually get them to eat what they’re throwing. They aren’t necessarily against trying something new, but you’ll seldom see them jumping on the latest greatest gotta-have lure. So after eliminating the “looks good” factor I started thinking about anything else that could tie these folks together. One would think that age could be a determining factor as the total level of experience would surely tilt the odds. However, as that thought came to me I began realizing that I’ve come to know a whole bunch of relatively young guns who are pretty dang

Please use our Texas spotted seatrout resource wisely!

see in pictures are being held by waders and kayakers. Poling skiffs are another method gaining popularity that fit this same mold. All of these allow the angler to quietly enter an area and thoroughly work it over. It is an advantage that often leads to a quality bite. This isn’t to say that the salty dog is married to one particular spot all day. No doubt the best anglers have a carefully thought out second, third or fourth option based on conditions, experience and that all important hunch. If location number one isn’t going to work the move will be made and the next stop will receive the same quiet, methodical approach. But as I sat staring at the empty brush country in front of me there was something else nagging at my thoughts about what it takes to achieve “damn good fisherman.” It is too obvious that the solid fishermen will know how to use their equipment, formulate an educated plan and have the ability to execute that plan. Given enough time and effort these skills can be learned and can put you in that “10 percent of fishermen who catch 90 percent of the fish”, but what is the thing that puts an angler in the elite status? As I stated at the start of this rambling, I fish with a variety of people. Quite often it is with

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good. What they lack in years they make up for with ability and intelligence. With the addition of experience they’ll be among the best on the water if they aren’t already. Years on the water will teach you what to do in order to catch fish when the going gets tough and therefore cannot be totally discounted, but I’ve also known some salty old guys who still don’t get it. So it’s not age. Methods do seem to play a part, though it might not be what you think. A common denominator among the “damn good fisherman” I know is their preferred methods for working an area. They’ve chosen the area they want to fish based on experience and a hunch that their targeted species will be there. So upon arriving at their destination they are going to take their time to thoroughly work the area. They have confidence and are in no rush to try something else on the other side of the bay. Given this, it is no surprise that their methods often include wading or kayaking. Think about it, most of the quality fish I


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someone I’ve never been on the water with. They have a wide range of experience from pure rookies to folks with years under their belt, yet within the first thirty minutes I can usually sense how successful they’ll be. Sometimes it is based simply on their casting skills, but more often it is in how they react to the clues they are presented with. If you can see the wheels turning trying to figure out where to cast when a red blows up a shoreline, it’s going to be a long day. However, if they turn and cast without thinking you know they’ve got it. It hit me that this is the point where anglers arrive at the most important fork in the road to angling success. I think it is a predator’s instinct, something you either have or you don’t. It is the innate ability to know that the baitfish are bunching up because a sow trout is lurking and dropping a Corky into the right position to draw a strike without spooking her. Knowing that the splash you heard behind you was an attack by a redfish and then immediately dropping a cast on the spot without thinking about it. Understanding subconsciously

42 January 2011 /

Texas Saltwater Fishing


Hands-free pedal-power of the Hobie Pro-Angler allows focusing all faculties on becoming a better fisherman.

how the predator fish will orient to a piece of structure to ambush their prey. Basically, it is the ability to tune in to the surroundings and have a clear understanding of what is going on in the world of predator and prey without having to think too hard about it. It is something we are all born with. It’s in our DNA to be predators, but I think many of us have become so domesticated through the generations of easy living that it sometimes gets suppressed. When we get hungry we just walk over to the fridge instead of having to chase down our next meal. People who are lucky enough to spend large chunks of time outdoors are more likely to cultivate and hone that instinct. I know that I can feel it when I get to spend multiple days on the water or in the field. The longer I’m out the easier it is to reconnect, but when work or other obligations keep me in civilization for an extended period there is something missing. Perhaps that is why we who call ourselves outdoorsmen will do most anything to dodge other obligations in favor of kayaking deep into a marsh or sitting for hours in a deer stand. And now that this bit of deep thinking is complete, I believe I’ll slip back out to the tripod. My instincts are telling me the deer will be on the move after this cold front. Get yourself outdoors and get reconnected, it’s good for the spirit.

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

Phone 281-450-2206 Website

Please use our Texas spotted seatrout resource wisely!

Please use our Texas spotted seatrout resource wisely!

Texas Saltwater Fishing / January 2011 43



It is an undisd puted fact that I am a gearhead. In fact, for me, it is all about the stuff! There is no doubt that one of the best parts of my job is playing with all of, what I like to call, the tools of the trade. And, where better to do that than in the garage. It is the place that, incidentally, I feel most at home when I am not on the water or in the field. But, I am sure that can be said of most outdoorsmen. In fact, I think it would be a safe bet to say that to get a true look into the life of any outdoorsman, all one must do is look at his garage. Walk into a garage and see duck decoys hanging from the rafters or sitting on shelves and it is a pretty safe bet that there are waders and shotgun nearby and that you have entered the lair of a waterfowl hunter. Or one might find a flats skiff, bay boat or kayak in there with rod and reels organized in some unique fashion along the wall or hanging from the ceiling. For me, it is a combination of all of the above, plus the addition of an ATV and half assembled tri-pods and tree-stands that support my other habit, bow hunting. Of course, because my garage is much smaller than it really

44 January 2011 /

Texas Saltwater Fishing

needs to be and my needs vary at different times of the year, the contents can vary from time to time. Right now, because it is hunting season, the four-wheeler is sitting on a trailer ready to back up to and head to the woods on a whim that the deer might be moving that day while my skiffs live a lonely existence nestled into stalls at the boat barn. In addition to the aforementioned, one has to think of all the other important little items that help make the world turn. For example, many might equate my garage to more of sporting goods store or showroom of sorts with the latest and greatest from brands like G Loomis, Shimano, Waterloo and Yeti strewn about. Add to that the fact that I really take pride in having the right tool for the job and apparently have purchased stock in Craftsman and DeWalt tools, and it is obvious how serious I am about working on and maintaining my equipment in such a manner that it always ready to go. There are other little things that make my garage special. Things like having hot water piped to a faucet to connect a hose for giving the pooch a warm bath after retrieving birds in the cold, muddy marsh. Or, even better yet, the near future plans to install a stainless steel sink that I acquired years ago that will provide me a great place for cleaning and packaging game. I am really looking forward to that. But seriously, while my garage is the envy of several friends who are stuck with having to stow the wifeâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s car in theirs, I too get envious of friends that have either a bigger garage or, even worsethey have more stuff. In fact, I have one friend whose garage is probably the greatest ever. It is what I will call a â&#x20AC;&#x153;largeâ&#x20AC;? two-car space that has never had a car parked in it a single day. It does however contain a flats skiff, an airboat, several canoes, more rods,

Please use our Texas spotted seatrout resource wisely!

hog skulls and you have the â&#x20AC;&#x153;ultimateâ&#x20AC;? garage. Heck, just give me a cot and I could be happy living there. A lot can be said about having the space to work on and organize gear for the next trip. And, fortunately for me, I have nobody to place demands on my time so, rather than seeking temporary refuge there like so many of my friends, I obviously get to spend a great deal of my time in the garage. It is almost the perfect place to start and finish almost any adventure into the great outdoors. However, I will be the first to admit that there is just not enough space. I am of course working on this. My plans- to someday build the ultimate home that will have one bed, one bath and a five boat, I mean car, garage. Here is to wishing you all a happy and prosperous New Year and stuff like that! Scott Sommerlatte is a full time fly fishing and light tackle guide, freelance writer and photographer.


reels and duck decoys than any one person could ever possibly fathom and my two favorite little items, a layout boat for ducking and an outside shower with hot and cold water. What more could a person ask for? How about a bottle of Polo cologne sitting on the drill press for the instances when the wife sticks her head out the door yelling, â&#x20AC;&#x153;Are you Ready?â&#x20AC;?, while interrupting a work session? Seriously folks, true story, he keeps a bottle of â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;fu-fuâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; juice sitting on the drill press to mask the scent of gun oil or reel-lubricant in case of an emergency. Add to all of that a Harley and a wall covered with deer antlers and

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A Fishy Surprise Just when you think you have seen it all, fish will surprise you. Recently, I was fishing in Port O’ Connor. I was finally back on my favorite fishing grounds. Although the weather was nice, the fish weren’t cooperating. I was starting to get frustrated and thinking about going back to get the boat while everyone else finished the wade. Then my older brother hooked into a decent trout so I thought maybe there were fish here after all. I made a long cast and let my Corky slightly sink below the surface before I began my retrieve. On my third turn of the handle something crushed it. I set the hook hard and the fish immediately took off in the opposite direction. My first thought was, it’s got to be a big redfish. After a five minute fight the fish gave up. I was right, it was a big redfish. As I netted the fish, I realized how thick it was. It was built like a freight train. In length the fish was twenty eight inches with its tail pinched. My first thought was to release it, but my curiosity got the best of me. I wanted to

see what that monster had eaten. The next day at the cleaning table after cutting the first fillet off of the monster red, I could see its stomach bulging with something inside. When I cut it open, I couldn’t believe my eyes. The specimen inside was half digested, covered in a thick slime, and was 28 inches in length (the same length as the fish). Some have suggested that it was an eel, but the body wasn’t tapered towards the tail, it was rounded all the way; which has led to my conclusion that it was a snake. It was impossible to correctly identify the species because it was eaten down to the raw flesh. I’m not sure what kind of snakes are available to a redfish living in saltwater, except maybe rattlesnakes. Although I don’t remember seeing a small rattle on the specimen, it could have been digested. I have seen other types of snakes in the saltwater before, but I am not quite sure what the correct species names were. The next reason that I think it was snake is that the head was somewhat triangular, which

Snake-eating red!

46 January 2011 /

Texas Saltwater Fishing

Please use our Texas spotted seatrout resource wisely!

Big trout can show up when you least expect.

Please use our Texas spotted seatrout resource wisely!

suggests that it was poisonous. Another recent fishing trip led to a big surprise. That big trout you’ve been trying to catch may not come from an area that you might expect. When I think trophy trout fishing I’m going to head somewhere with little to no pressure and put on a Corky and slowly fish over some mud and oysters. However, the other day I was on an exploratory trip with a friend and his dad on their new BoatRight 17 foot scooter. We were running around the Galveston area trying to break-in the motor and stopped in an area to fish a while. The spot we were fishing has had its fair share of boat pressure recently. There were even other boats there while we were fishing. In other words, it wasn’t anywhere I would expect to catch a big trout. So we had already made a few drifts and picked up a few trout and small reds and decided to make one more drift. We were approaching a color change where we had caught most of the fish. I made a long cast with my B&L shad tail and started my retrieve. About midway through my retrieve something just inhaled it. I set the hook and all I saw was a big yellow mouth come up to the surface. I was not expecting that at all. The trout measured twenty-five inches and weighed five and a half pounds. By no means is it a trophy of a lifetime but day in and day out that’s a solid fish. That just goes to show, fish will surprise you.

Texas Saltwater Fishing / January 2011 47



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MYVT-SV^LY.HYKLUZ January brings thoughts of long range trips for tuna or the staging of large numbers of wahoo along the shelf. For the latter, one of the more popular destinations is the Flower Garden Banks. As most know, the Flower Gardens are a National Marine Sanctuary. There are many laws in place that are set to protect the coral cap and the marine inhabitants in and about the Flower Gardens. Among a few are no anchoring, no spearfishing and a multitude of regulations affecting the shipping and oil industries. For now, recreational hook and line fishing is allowed within the FGBNMS (Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary) but that may soon not be the case. What would essentially be the first No Fishing Zones in our little piece of the globe is a real and present possibility. The Sanctuary Advisory Council (SAC) is currently working on a required review of the 1991 Management Plan and there are many revisions being considered. The Flower Garden Banks are Located in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico, 70 to 115 miles off the coast of Texas. The Flower

48 January 2011 /

Texas Saltwater Fishing

Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary (FGBNMS or sanctuary) includes three separate undersea features; the East Flower Garden Bank, West Flower Garden Bank and Stetson Bank. The Banks range in depth from fifty-five feet to nearly five hundred feet and are underwater hills formed by rising domes of ancient salt. The Banks provide a wide range of habitat conditions that support several distinct biological communities, including the northernmost coral reefs in the continental United States. These and similar formations throughout the northern Gulf of Mexico provide the foundation for essential habitat for a variety of species. The combination of location and geology makes the FGBNMS extremely productive and diverse, and presents a unique set of challenges for managing and protecting its natural wonders. East and West Flower Garden Banks were designated a national marine sanctuary in 1992 for the purpose of protecting and managing the conservation, resources and qualities of these areas. Stetson Bank was added to the sanctuary in 1996. The management plan for FGBNMS was originally developed in 1991 as part of the National Marine Sanctuary designation process.

Please use our Texas spotted seatrout resource wisely!

Please use our Texas spotted seatrout resource wisely!

activities on the natural resource by fisherman and divers alike. Most fishermen and divers that have testified in front of the council have voiced concerns that closures just move the process one step closer to nothing more than a Marine Protected Area (MPA) , permanently closing the area to all such activities. Many of the concerns are that the council is moving forward in light of little or nonexistent data showing that recreational activities have any impact at all. They have also questioned the need for such closures due to the perception that the fishing effort is minimal simply because of the distance from shore. The Draft Management Plan (DMP) itself simply sets up the process to explore these options and nothing within the DMP is currently set in stone. We often expect science to influence managers in their decision making, and while that is the one of the necessary components, we must remember that the decisionmaking body is made up of many different stakeholders that are working for one common goal, the protection of our natural marine resources. With that said, another crucial component is the user groups, the very public that owns the resource. The one thing that has been lacking in this process has been public involvement. While the entire process is done in a public manner, there has just been very little interest from the major user groups to speak out or show up for the meetings. Your opinion on this and future actions is necessary for the council to understand how to best use the science without leaving the users out in the cold. The SAC will be taking public comment on the DMP until January 20, 2011. I would like to encourage everyone to take a closer look

Texas Saltwater Fishing / January 2011 49


The Office of National Marine Sanctuaries (ONMS) is required to periodically review sanctuary management plans to ensure that sanctuary sites continue to best conserve, protect and enhance their nationally significant living and cultural resources. Upon such review, NOAA has decided to update and revise the 1991 Flower Garden Banks management plan to address recent scientific discoveries, advancements in managing marine resources, and new resource management issues. In September 2006, the sanctuary embarked on its first Management Plan Review (MPR). This was a public process to examine the original designation documents, management plan and regulations. The review was also to evaluate them for the future. The sanctuary missionâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; revised with review of this management planâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; is to identify, protect, conserve, and enhance the natural and cultural resources, values, and qualities of FGBNMS and its regional environment for this and future generations. As part of this Review and Revision process, the Sanctuary Advisory Council has recently released a Draft Management Plan or (DMP). This Draft includes many proposed changes such as Sanctuary Expansion to take in new areas outside the current sanctuary boundaries that have been defined as unique or unusual structural features that may be ecologically linked to each other. Another of the more controversial issues would be the proposed recreational fishing and diving closures. The Council is looking at closing all or part of the FGBNMS to recreational fishing and diving in conjunction with expanding the sanctuary boundaries. The closures are being considered for the purposes of studying the impacts of these

at the DMP. It can be found on the FGBNMS website flowergarden. . If you would like to make a written comment you can do so via email at or through snail mail by writing to: George Schmahl - Superintendent Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary 4700 Avenue U - Building 216 Galveston, TX 77551 Remember that the FGBNMS is your resource and you can have your voice heard. You can be a factor in how it is managed.


Captain Mike Jennings of Cowboy Charters is a member of the Flower Gardens Banks National Marine Sanctuary Advisory Council representing the charter-for-hire industry and a regular contributor to Texas Saltwater Fishing Magazine.

Captain Mike Jennings is a professional charter captain with more than 25 years offshore experience. Mike is the owner/ operator of Cowboy Charters in Freeport TX and is known locally for running further and fishing harder for his clients. Telephone Email Website


50 January 2011 /

Texas Saltwater Fishing

Please use our Texas spotted seatrout resource wisely!

Here is a product we came across recently that is so simple and efficient that we just had to pass it along. Skeggpro has to be the simplest and easiest-to-use device of its type we have ever found. While most contraptions designed to protect your outboardâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s skeg and gearcase from potential damage should the lower unit contact uneven roadway surfaces are complicated to install and/or require elastic cords or cinch straps to help hold them in place, installing the Skeggpro is as simple as licking an ice cream cone. Simply tilt the engine up to expose the dual trim hydraulic cylinder rams, slip the Skeggpro into position over the rams, and lower the engine until it contacts the device. Installation is accomplished in mere seconds and your lower unit is now in a very safe position for trailering. Worry that your skeg will scrape the pavement as you

enter or exit parking lots such as those commonly found at convenience stores or other places where a gutter is formed into the access ramp is gone forever. Skeggpro is manufactured of super strong, fiber-filled, engineering-grade resin and is guaranteed not to damage or leave even the tiniest mark on any of the surfaces it contacts. Skeggpro is designed to work on most dual ram trim cylinder outboards; Yamaha, Mercury, Evinrude, Johnson, Suzuki, etc. Clearance issues may require the Skeggpro to be inverted on some Suzukis. A handy installation instruction

video demonstrating this technique is included on their website. Check out skeggpro. com to learn more or to purchase online.

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Texas Saltwater Fishing / January 2011 51



3RZHU3ROH Power-Pole is the original shallow water anchor. The John Oliverio Signature Series offers the ultimate in lightweight design and style. Our patented hydraulic technology gives quick, virtually silent

Heavy Duty Split Ring Plier (FTU-LQ20) • High Grade 316 Stainless Steel Jaws and Cutter • Anodized Aluminum handle • Tangle-Free Lanyard • Sheath • Will Cut Braid! • $79.99 Available at both Fishing Tackle Unlimited store locations and online at

deployment that holds your boat securely even in rough conditions. Only the Signature Series is available in a 4-foot length for extremely shallow boats. Installation is easy and you can add remote control or foot switch. Choose from 4 colors and each poles comes standard with our neoprene Travel Glove protective cover.


Sea Fox Boat Company introduces the Pro Series 220XT Bay Fox. This 22’ precision cut CAD-design has the right amount of freeboard for low wind profile without sacrificing safety. The boat’s reverse transom and wide beam make it stylish and stable. The downward progressive strakes and Carolina flair offer a dry ride, while the low bow rise and quick plane time can be attributed to the integrated planing pods. A stepped hull helps achieve fuel efficiency and horsepower maximization. It’s loaded with standard features, and offers an extensive list of options. Sea Fox boats are NMMA certified; meet or exceed USCG standard; covered by a Lifetime Hull Warranty and offer Yamaha power. For more information on the 220XT, visit

52 January 2011 /

Texas Saltwater Fishing

Please use our Texas spotted seatrout resource wisely!


'HVLJQHGWRÀW\RXU ERDW·VFRROHUEUDFNHWV Per angler and boater request, YETI Coolers introduces a new 75-quart Tundra Series model specifically designed to fit in the pre-fabricated, factory-mounted cooler brackets of many boats. The Tundra 75 has the same overall outside dimensions (33-1/2” L x 18” W x 17-7/8” H) as traditional marine coolers commonly found on small to mid-size boats. The 75 Tundra is perfect for the serious fisherman or boater who desires a cooler upgrade without the worry and hassle of making adjustments to their mounting systems. MSRP $379.99. Visit to learn more and find a YETI dealer.


The Yo-Zuri Sashimi Jerkbait is now available in a new 2-3/4” size to compliment the successful 3-1/2” size. The two new Chameleon Bleeding Shad and Chameleon Bleeding Ghost colors look like injured baits and are an easy target to predators. The Yo-Zuri SASHIMI SERIES incorporate Yo-Zuri’s Patented Color change technology. These lures actually change color every time the lure moves.


• No assembly required...just add rod & reel, tools and baits! • Hold your catch inside the attached net catch bag (net doubles as your landing net). You won’t lose your fish accidently and your fish stay alive longer, allowing you to choose which to keep and which to release. • There is only one gear tether. No more tangles. No more stringer of fish around your legs. • Orange safety flag (included) has its own holder; makes you highly visible to other boaters; can also be used to signal for assistance! Website: Email: Telephone: 979-871-8700

The SASHIMI JERKBAIT is a suspending lure with an irresistible minnow shape that imitates many different types of forage, which game fish feed upon. Use this lure with stop and go retrieve and/or twitching motion. For more information, visit

Please use our Texas spotted seatrout resource wisely!

Texas Saltwater Fishing / January 2011 53

',&.,(&2/%851·66DELQH6FHQH I know that before this month is done the wind will howl at least every other day, the water clarity on Sabine will be reduced to six inches ',&.,(&2/%851 of visibility or less and the largest females in our trout population will Dickie Colburn is a full time guide eat Corkys. Thus far, however, the out of Orange, Texas. Dickie has wind has not been a daily problem, 37 years experience guiding on the water is as clear as I have seen Sabine and Calcasieu Lakes. it in years and our larger trout currently prefer a 5-inch Assassin Shad Telephone 409-883-0723 over a suspending lure. Website We have caught a handful of trout in the seven-pound class on both Corkys and Catch V’s, but the quality bite on tails has made it difficult to continue grinding away with suspending baits. If we were only catching better numbers, I would opt for the slower bite, but that has not been the case. We are catching just as many big trout both swimming the 5” shad on a 1/8 ounce head and hanging it two feet under a Kwik Cork as we are on the mullet imitations. This is not the norm and I expect it to change each morning, but I am

not cutting one off the end of my line until it does. While there is still some fishing under the gulls, the more coveted trout are stalking the flats for larger prey and the longer plastics apparently mimic the desired entree. While the change in tactics has worked well thus far, I would still sooner leave home without my waders than to not pack along a box full of Corkys, Catch V’s and MirrOdine XL’s. I have no idea how long this unexpected tail bite will last, but some of the hotter colors are morning glory, roach, and red shad. I am going to assume that the weather and water conditions will continue to deteriorate and that dirtier water will dictate a return to more traditional patterns. Should that happen, the Corky and hard plastic mullet imitations will once again rule the roost. I have done better The redfish will do their thing all winter long.

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54 January 2011 /

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The NRX rods are truly a paradigm shifting product. Named “Best of Show” at ICAST and “Best New Fly Rod” at the European EFTTEX Fishing Show. Simply put, nothing like the G Loomis NRX rods have ever been made before. “Amazing” just doesn’t begin to describe the rods Steve Rajeff and his design crew have created here.

Texas Saltwater Fishing

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6$%, 1( with the XL than the Catch V of late, but only because it fishes a little differently and has been getting more Howard Wolfe playing time. fooled this nice trout with a 5” Many local folks prefer Assassin and to drift the shallow flats this put her back! time of year and they do very well at times, but the wade fishermen still enjoy the most consistent bite. Both groups are forced to share a very limited amount of potentially productive real estate and a slow wade is a more efficient approach. Unlike some other venues, trying to cover a lot of water wading on Sabine is not the best option. It may take you a trip or two to ferret out key areas, but we do much better targeting isolated shell or small changes in bottom structure and simply waiting on the fish to come to us. No one will have to suggest that you might want to slow down after dealing with the knee deep mud bordering some of the most productive spots. The easier wade is on hard bottom flats bordering the ICW on the north end of the lake. While equally productive, the mud bottom on the Louisiana shoreline makes it a more difficult. Small marsh drains and bayous draw the most attention, but small isolated patches of shell are the trout magnets.

Please use our Texas spotted seatrout resource wisely!

I have always done much better fishing incoming tide on the north end than I have on the Louisiana flats igh throughout the colder months. A big high ur odds. tide in the afternoon only enhances your f It is also not at all unusual to never see any surface activity until the last thirty minutes of daylight so don’t bail on good structure too quickly. While we tend to curse their intrusion when waiting out trophy trout, you can expect redfish to crash the party at some point most days. They will hit anything and invariably lay a good trout bite to waste. This time of the year most of our redfish are on the upper end of the slot or larger so expect to be locked up in a tug of war. It is not a bite worthy of hanging your hat on, but on colder days we will spend the morning chasing stripers and redfish in the river while waiting for it to warm up. At least for me, jigging a Hoginar off the bottom at depths of 15 to 25 feet is the most productive tactic. When we are fortunate enough to find the water pouring out of the drains and bayous we can catch them on everything from tails to topwaters. A silver sided Catch V with a green back is a deadly option should you find yourself in the midst of a school of surface feeding stripers. Never count on that bite lasting very long and don’t ever bank on it happening two days in a row. It only takes one cast to fulfill a dream!

Texas Saltwater Fishing / January 2011 55


0,&.(<($670$1 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

Let me fill you in on the great fishing up here: when the weather conditions are right, itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s just crazy! We had a good summer and are still wondering where all the fish came from. East Bay and Trinity Bay are fantastic! Even in upper Galveston Bay, around Sylvan Beach and Seabrook, the pier fishermen are catching a lot of good trout and redfish, especially at night under the lights. Good fish are popping up just about everywhere.

Contact Mickey Eastmanâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Guide Service Telephone 281-383-2032

Upper-North Minor Bays Starting out on the upper end: it is that time of the year that the back bays up to the north end of the complex, such as Scott Bay, Burnet Bay, and San Jacinto Bay, are producing a lot better catches of trout and redfish now that the water temperatures have dropped significantly. Mostly 52M MirrOlures and Corkys are catching the nice trout and redfish. The best way to find the better fish is drifting over soft mud and shell bottoms in 6 to 8 feet of

56 January 2011 /

water under mullet. Water conditions are good: pure salt and real clean and protected. The water temperatures stay a little warmer in those smaller bays because they are surrounded by so much land. As you know, we had a pretty good front come in the other day and drop the temperature about 10 degrees, but in those back bays, it only dropped about 5 degrees, so that tells you how protected they are. Trinity Bay The north end of this big bay is still producing good solid bird trout up to 20 inches. For easy limits, just draw a line from Double Bayou over to North Point and all the waters north of there. After a big front comes in, and the next day has that calm weather and high pressure sliding over, there are flocks of birds working everywhere. But the shrimp crop is shrinking after each one of these fronts. Low tides come out of the marsh and bring these micro-sized juvenile shrimp out. You can barely see them jump they are so tiny, but the trout and reds continue to school up real hard on them. Under birds, we are catching the better fish using MirrOlures, slow rolling the 52-M near the bottom. The closer you get your bait to the bottom and the bigger baits you throw, the better fish you will catch as you avoid all the smaller specks and sand trout off. The MirrOlure swimbaits, the shad-tail type, are doing real good, too. Water conditions are excellent, especially on post-front patterns and calm days. For the better trout, stick on the south end or east shoreline and wade fish. It seems the better fish are coming over shell anywhere

Texas Saltwater Fishing

Please use our Texas spotted seatrout resource wisely!

* $ / 9 ( 6 72 21 1 from 2 to 6 feet of water. Some days you have to get in and wade to stay on them, other days you can find great action while drifting. East Bay Canâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t say enough about this bay. It is crammed full of fish. I havenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t been fishing East Bay behind northers, but before northers, with those prefront pumping south winds, weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve been doing real good wade fishing along the south shoreline near drains, drop offs, and points in 2 to 3 feet of water. An area with mud and shell mixed bottom is where youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll find the better bite, especially using Corkys and swimbaits on an outgoing tide. The north side of the bay is good on post-frontal conditions, when the skies are clear and sunny and you have an incoming tide bringing water back up on those flats. The bigger fish are moving up on those flats. Corkys and Catch 2000s are doing pretty good for the better bite. Some pretty large flounders are also showing up behind the drains on the north side after fronts. West Bay West Bayâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s starting to click pretty good also. Trout fishing is good over the shell, and for the red fishermen using soft plastics and 52-Ms out of the boats, the key is drifting those streaking reefs along the old Intracoastal Waterway behind north and south Deer Island and Carancahua. That streaking water is usually found on a tide change, incoming or outgoing, and you can catch a good amount fish this time of year in those streaks, especially right behind a front. Wade fishermen


have been doing real good in the Deer Island area, wading all those towheads and using Corkys and swimbaits. The waterr temperature is finally consistent in the oes its 50s, and the upper 50s is when West Bay does best. The fish congregate all along the old ICW channel channel, especially over shell. Galveston Channel I donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t usually talk about flounder. I understand that the population is down, and they are generally hard to find in the spring and summer because they are so scattered. But this time of year, when they all migrate toward the jetties, they stack up hard in the Galveston Channel, and there are people down there catching 20 and 30 a day, including 8 pounders, really solid doormats. They can only keep two during November but the limit returns to five in December. The better flatfish are coming on finger mullet, jigs, and soft plastics along the drop offs in 6 to 12 feet of water. During the migration they are stacked along the channel like cordwood before they head offshore to spawn. Flounder fishing is very good right now; even with 20-25 mph wind during the fronts people are still catching them. Well thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s it in a nutshell folks. On a scale of 1 to 10, I give it a 10! The bays are just full of fish, and I sure hope we donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t get a big freeze or anything because next year could be unreal.

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Texas Saltwater Fishing

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=PJ[VYPH 5)LU>PSZVU / January 2011 57


&$37%,//3867(-296.< 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

Looking back to the first part of 2010, fishing around the Matagorda bays wasn’t too bueno. The weather had a lot to do with it and you can only play the hand you are dealt, so we muddled our way through it. However, my fishing log says that January can be a great month for big specks. One just never knows how weather and water conditions will play out. Typically all shrimp are gone from the bays come January and fish are eating eels and finfish for the most part. If we have a mild January, chances are ripe for catching trout twenty-three inches and up. MirrOlures and

Corkys will be the best bet. Slowing your retrieve will be important, especially during cold spells and days with lots of cloud cover when the sun cannot warm the water. Taking it to a crawl is the best practice for the conditions

58 January 2011 /

Chandler Faickney and Cole Aplin with twin twenty-sixes, trout and redfish, wading mud in East Matagorda chunking “Chicken-on-aChain” Bass Assassins.

mentioned but it takes lots of patience. I know you’re tired of hearing me say this but the presence of bait in the area you have chosen to fish is always important, ultra-critical this time of year. Preferred areas will be thigh-deep flats with mud and shell bottom that tapers off to deep water. Your fish will pull up on the flat to feed, get full, and then drift back into deep protected waters. Tidal flow is typically not strong this time of the year but it pays to be informed. Check your tide schedule for peak currents

Texas Saltwater Fishing

Please use our Texas spotted seatrout resource wisely!

0 $ 7$ * 2 5 ' '$ $ whether incoming and outgoing. I always say By the way since the stronger the better. As a matter of fact, your I brought it up, Texas Saltwater Fishing Magazine Tide and Solumy wife finally con-n of a nar Chart is an excellent resource. ceded to the notion n looking at If wade fishing is not your bag it doesn’t mean new boat. I’ve been you’re out of the game this month. You can still boats all year long and pondering what would do some good drifting drop-offs and scattered be the right fit for me. Dargel Boats down in shell. The areas in and around Boiler Bayou and Donna, Texas has been in the boat making busiRaymond’s Reefs are two of my favorites when I ness for 70 years. All boats are foam injected have wintertime drifters on my boat. All this area hulls just like the Boston Whaler. I have ordered is mud and shell and has proven to be producDargel’s new space-age 250 HDX Kat and will be tive over the years. Jumping mullet and slicks running it shortly after the first of the year. This are dead giveaways for locating quality fish while boat is projected to be a humdinger of a hull, 25 drifting. When you find trout eating mullet, ft in length, 8 feet-6 inches beam, with a speed you’ll notice a distinct slick along with a smell of 60 mph, and will be rigged with a 250 Suzuki resembling that of watermelon. Plastics such as SS. I can’t wait to hop in. You’ll be able to see Bobby Elmore drifting East Matagorda Bay with this very same boat as it will be displayed at the Bass Assassin’s Chicken-on-a-Chain, 10W40, Hot Capt. Bill throwing “Hot Chicken” Bass Assassins. Chicken, and the Woodpecker will be good picks. 2011 Houston International Boat, Sport, & Travel Colorado River fishing may be an option on wind-torn days. This Show January 7 through 16 at Coastal Backwater Marine booth 8050. area, as well as the Diversion Channel, can provide quality fishing Hope to see you there. given that we are lucky to miss out on major flooding. The Farmer’s I’ll be working the Bass Assassin booth along with Charlie ParaAlmanac says that we are destined for a normal and dry winter. I doski, Bink Grimes, Mark Talasek, and Tommy Alexander. Hope all hope they are on target. enjoyed a blessed holiday season and pray that 2011 will bring good Just want to remind those of you who park your boat to take on tidings of great joy. God Bless! some deer hunting the importance of winterizing your equipment.

Please use our Texas spotted seatrout resource wisely!

Texas Saltwater Fishing / January 2011 59

0,'&2$67%$<6:LWKWKH*UD\V November and early December fishing here on the mid-coast was the best we had all year. The &$376+(//,(*5$< redfish bite was “off-the-hook Captain Gary and Captain Shellie fantastic” whether we were using Gray fish year-round for trout bait or lures. Speckled trout were and redfish in the Port O’Connor/ just as cooperative but many Seadrift area. Gary started his Bay days the winds that came with Rat Guide Service 20 years ago. The Grays specialize in wade and each norther kept us out of our drift fishing with artificial lures. favorite holes in San Antonio Gary and Shellie also team up to Bay. There were days when we fish many tournaments. couldn’t get out of the trout but unfortunately most were less Telephone than 15 or barely on the mark. 361-785-6708 There has been lots of talk Email about mid-coast trout numbers slowly declining. TPWD has Website already addressed this situation in the Lower Laguna Madre by enacting a five fish daily limit in 2007. If you can believe the grapevine we might soon have a five fish limit here on the middle coast and I

60 January 2011 /

This flounder, while still too small, is one of many we have been catching lately. Flounder populations on the rise? Hope so!

support it fully. While we are still catching good numbers of trout when the weather allows, and especially this past fall season, I have to admit that the catching in general seems to be on the downward trend. There are many anglers already practicing “Just Keep Five” and there are even more keeping only a few for dinner and releasing the rest. I enjoy seeing this mentality among local anglers but I can tell you there are still too many anglers judging a day by how full their coolers can get. I completely understand those who don’t get to fish often stocking up when they can and I have some customers that enjoy taking a limit home. But the anglers I am referring to are the ones that are fortunate to

Texas Saltwater Fishing

Please use our Texas spotted seatrout resource wisely!

Lindsey Kahn shows off her first San Antonio Bay redfish of the day.

3 2 5 7 2 · & 2 1 1 2 5  6 ( $ ' 5 , ) 7

fish a couple of times per week and still feel the need to fill their ice chest on every trip. Technology makes it possible for anglers to catch more fish while floods and drought are both hard on the trout. Something has to give. Besides, if five trout isn’t enough to take home, what’s wrong with targeting black drum? They’re darn good eating too. Speaking of changing limits, I have to mention flounder. TPWD reduced the bag limit to five per recreational angler and thirty for commercial fishermen effective September 2009. During November the only method allowed is rod and reel with a two fish limit. I know it has only been one year but I have to say we are already catching more flounder. And even though the flounder are on the small side I am encouraged what next year will bring. It would be great to start catching flounder “accidently” more often. January fishing can be very rewarding if you fish the right areas. Moving off the sandy shorelines into the softer bottom back lakes is a must this time of year. We are lucky here on the mid-coast that we have many back lakes. Use caution when fishing lakes like Shoalwater, Post or Fifth Lake because our water levels are typically lower this time

Please use our Texas spotted seatrout resource wisely!

of year and are best suited for flats boatss or kayaks. Wading these lakes can be dif-ms ficult in places due to the muddy bottoms ng is out but usually well worth the effort. If wading h option. i of the question for you, drift fishing is another One recommendation I would like to mention is the use of a trolling motor. If you don’t already have one you should surely invest in one. I use mine on a daily basis and would be totally lost without it whether I am wading or not. Electric motors allow anglers to move quietly from one area to another without disturbing the fish. I almost always run close to a spot I intend to fish and then shut down and use just my trolling motor to get closer. Choose lures that are more natural in color for this time of year since the water tends to be clearer. Pumpkin-chartreuse and salt and pepper Silver Phantom Bass Assassins will always be my top choices when throwing plastic. Berkley’s Gulp jerkshad in the smelt color will come in a close second. Rigging a popping cork above your soft plastics sometimes yields better results because it slows down the presentation and also makes the right kind of “noise” to attract more fish. If you prefer hard baits, Mann’s Bait Waker lure is hard to beat when it comes to catching redfish, they cannot resist the wobble. May this New Year fill your heart with new hopes, open new horizons and bring for you promises of brighter tomorrows. May you have a great New Year. Happy Fishing!

Texas Saltwater Fishing / January 2011 61

+22.('83:,7+5RZVH\ As predicted, cold weather fishing has been good to great south of the JFK Causeway. We have been blessed with some great trout that look like they have swallowed a football. '$9,'52:6(< Some are so fat that it just David Rowsey has 20 years amazes me that they are still experience in the Laguna/Baffin feeding, but winter is a time region; trophy trout with artificial of survival, and whatever they lures is his specialty. David has perceive as an easy meal will be a great passion for conservain their crosshairs. tion and encourages catch and release of trophy fish. Water conditions in the Upper Laguna are extremely Telephone clear, in fact, they are just too 361-960-0340 clear in my opinion. You can Website catch fish in it, but you had better be making a stealthy wade, and long casts. About the only time it turns milky green is after a blistering north wind, but that usually has high barometric pressure associated with it, and a tendency to lock the bite down. Baffin is more stained, and more fishable in my opinion. Each front seems to clear the water more and more, but it still has that green algae look where the trout will not be spooked too easily. These conditions will

62 January 2011 /

prevail throughout January and into early February. As the southeast wind returns, the Upper Laguna will take on take on that classic “trout green” look, and Hell should break loose in both the Upper Laguna and Baffin. I was recently fishing a windy day with some senior gentlemen, and the bite was better than good. The depth of the wade required us to cast crosswind to potholes. All of the gents could make the proper cast, but could not account for the loop that would build in their line on the release of the cast. They were missing fish on about every fifth cast, and the fish caught were mostly hooked deep due their not being able to feel the bite. The problem was that they insisted on using mono versus braid, although I had reels with braid rigged up for them. We had to wade single file, I was the last in line, and barking out structure points to cast to that would almost insure a solid ka-thunk from a trout slurping down a plastic lure. Many times during the day one would call out, “Captain, there are no fish in that sand hole.” And in almost every case I would follow them up from the rear and catch a good trout off of the piece of structure that they had been casting to and missing fish. I am convinced that the only difference is that they could not detect the strike with their superstretchy mono. One of the gentlemen finally caved, and decided to try the braid. The results were immediate, and I spent the rest of the day taking his picture, while he took jabs at his buddies. I have people ask me all of the time, “What can I do to become

Texas Saltwater Fishing

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833(5/$*81$ %$)),1 a better fisherman?” There is always the obvious response of time on the water, paying attention, quality gear, etc., but the ONLY thing I can think of that delivers instant results is switching from mono to braid. The attributes of braid are huge; instant feel when you get a strike, the detection of the most subtle hits, no line memory, no line twist, much stronger, small diameter, super long shelf life, and seconds as a great dental floss option after a cold BBQ sandwich or a barbacoa taco on the boat. (Bet you weren’t expecting that.) Trout are in full-on winter mode now, fat, and in hiding as Trent “T-Bone” Childress with a twenty-nine fronts blow through. Short of inch, eight pound winter trout that he released. Five inch “Copper Juice” Bass Assassin. printing their pictures on the back of milk cartons, we have been hard on the hunt everyday, when the weather allows, to stay “Set ‘em loose.” on top of them. The hard work has paid off, the pattern has been

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Texas Saltwater Fishing

set, and we are now being rewarded with some big opportunitiess in the catching part of fishing. I love this time of year, and the hardcore crowd that shows up to take part of Baffin’s bounty. If winter fishing for giant trout is not something you are familiar with, it needs to be, and I invite you down to partake in what I consider the best kind of trophy hunt. My favorite tools of the trade for January are the 6’6” Waterloo HP Slam Mag 2, Daiwa Steez reel, 30# braided line, 25# fluorocarbon shock leader (uni to uni connection knot, 5” Bass Assassins in dark colors such as plum and morning glory rigged on the new 1/8 oz. ProElite jighead, a wide array of Paul Brown Original Fatboys by MirrOlure, and dressed for the elements in Simms layering and G3 waders. “In communities where men build ships for their sons to fish or fight from, quality is never a problem.” J. A. Denver Capt. David Rowsey / January 2011 63

75,&,$¡60DQVĂ&#x20AC;HOG5HSRUW Just when we thought Mother Nature had forsaken us, she turned right around and answered our prayers. The recovery from last summerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s flood is &$3775,&,$ in full bloom and the Laguna Capt. Triciaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Skinny Water Advenis going to be much better for tures operates out of Port Mansit, perhaps even earlier than field, specializing in wadefishing imagined. Barring horrible with artificial lures. winter weather, January should mark the beginning another Telephone incredibly â&#x20AC;&#x153;fishyâ&#x20AC;? year. 956-642-7298 Almost overnight, heavy Email algal blooms triggered by Website last summerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s tropical storm runoff were miraculously gone. When the water temps dropped below 60° the greenish algae began to disappear. Suddenly we could begin seeing our grass beds again, and thankfully, they are already showing signs of recovery. We learned from Dr. Greg Stunz of Harte Institute that the turtle grass was hit hardest by the extended freshwater inundation; the more prevalent shoal grass is still there and rebounding just fine. Now that we have better water conditions,

the fishing we all want is rebounding quickly as well throughout the system. The predominant pattern for the late fall season Although we has been generally over havenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t caught nice, hard-packed bottoms many true trowith scattered grass and phy-class trout yet, three to five active baitfish showing. The pounders have depth at which to begin become fairly your search for the day was consistent. almost constantly a puzzle, though. As always, reading your water was critical. Calm conditions made it easy to spot bait presence and gamefish wakes but calm days arenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t something you can bank on. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s usually the fisherman with a good eye peeled for all the subtle signals that will consistently enjoy the best catching. We had many excellent topwater days and the Heddon â&#x20AC;&#x153;One Knockerâ&#x20AC;? in Okie shad caught lots of fish. Plastics were good too on either 1/16 or 1/8 ounce jigs depending how deep they were holding and how they wanted it. The old standby pumpkinchartreuse in cleaner water and plum-chartreuse in the murky stuff


+5*+0)1740#/'06 7.;FL6*hGE56XFNEE .'#5'8+5+69'$5+6'(14+0(1T :HEVLWH 3KRQH1XPEHU )D[1XPEHU (PDLO$GGUHVV 0DLOLQJ $GGUHVV (YHQW &HQWHU


64 January 2011 /

Texas Saltwater Fishing

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32570$16),(/' were as reliable as any. Although we haven’t caught many true trophy-class trout yet, the three to five pounders have been coming fairly consistently with a few kicker eights in the mix. Rod-bending redfish have been right in there with the trout and the same baits worked for both species. No surprise here as getting on them in the first place is always the toughest piece of the puzzle. As we move into January, one of the most common questions on the boat will be, “Why here captain? How do you know?” I enjoy teaching and these are exactly the kind of people I love having on my boat. It is a genuine pleasure guiding folks hungry for knowledge and willing to invest the effort to learn – way more rewarding for a guide than a crew whose primary focus is filling the box with no regard for how to pattern their quarry or respect for the resource they are enjoying. How do you know? Well - that’s not an easy one to answer, especially when trying to guess around the fickle conditions of winter, and especially in an area like here with relatively little structure. Anyway - here’s what I’ll be looking for this January. Of course the presence of baitfish is high on the list in any season but even more important in winter. Just because you have found bait

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does not necessarily mean you have her found fish, neither u can catch does it mean you them if they are there. However, and having said that, finding bait is still the best place to start. Other good indicators are color changes, temperature changes, and water movement. Put these three together with some bait and you should be close. Here is a common example of what we might see in January. Lets pretend a strong norther has been blowing for two days, dropping both temperature and water levels. As the front passes the water will begin to flow back. There’s your current, especially where it’s pouring off a warming, skinny flat. Somewhere in the area the water clarity will change from clear to murky to muddy. In my experience, better fish are most often caught in that murky zone. Find an area like this with flipping bait and a few curious birds, and your fishing life may soon be large. Above all, let’s all appreciate whatever Mother Nature gives us, keeping only what we need and leaving the rest. You never know when she will turn on us again, so enjoy what we have and remember to always be courteous to your fellow fisherman. Fisheries scientist Megan Robillard of Harte Institute conducting Dietary Preference of Spotted Seatrout research at Port Mansfield.

Texas Saltwater Fishing / January 2011 65

6287+3$'5()LVKLQJ6FHQH Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s hard to believe another year has flown by. 2010 brought some unexpected challenges as Mother Nature &$37(51(67&,61(526 gave us the mother of all A Brownsville-area native, freshwater inflows. The efCapt. Ernest Cisneros fishes fect on fishing was immedithe Lower Laguna Madre from ate and widespread and we Port Mansfield to Port Isabel. had to learn new techniques Ernest specializes in wading and fish our way through it and poled skiff adventures for but, in the long run, weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll be snook, trout, and redfish. better for having received Cell it. Today, five months later, 956-266-6454 we are already reaping the Website reward. The future looks tremely bright for our fisheries, barring of course a deep freeze in the coming months. A topic that has captured my interest yet will have little effect on my fishing is the discussion over reducing seatrout bag limits for the middle coast. My knowledge and experience here in the Lower Laguna and the results I have already seen in our fishery since the five fish limit was implemented in September 2007 tells me this will be a good thing for both the mid-coast fishery and the anglers.

66 January 2011 /

With all that said, our trout fishing is currently off the top of the chart. Even though I am writing this in early December I am predicting it will be the best December we have ever had. Trout numbers and weights will only get bigger and better as the water temperatures continue to cool down in January. Our trout have begun to station themselves in their wintry holes like warmer, muddy areas near spoil islands and narrow guts near the ICW. Hard sand areas near deeper water have also been strong producers. Sandy potholes a couple of days after a front have been hard to beat. Also, small muddy humps that you can only find with your feet have been producing very well. These humps offer a slight change in depth that trout favor. Our eyes and ears gather lots of information but our feet often tell us why they are there. I mentioned last month that birds give us vital clues in winter

Texas Saltwater Fishing

Our water is in great shape and winter fishing is coming on strong.

Please use our Texas spotted seatrout resource wisely!

$ 5 5 2 < 2  & 2 / 2 5 $ ' 2  72  3 2 5 7 , 6 $ % ( (/ / but failed to mention groups of feeding dolphins. When I find an area that is frequently visited by feeding dolphins I make a mental note. Dolphins sometimes push fish to us and these areas are often productive later in the day when the dolphins are gone. This technique has allowed us to get on some quality trout. Redfish have been numerous and the quality is impressive. Slot fish have acquired their â&#x20AC;&#x153;winter shouldersâ&#x20AC;? and we are catching quite a few oversize specimens. Schools have been fairly easy to find in areas that have had lots of bait active on the surface. The magic depth seems to be waist deep over a variety of mud, soft sand and muddy pothole bottom. Seeing mud boils while running a flat can be a sure sign of redfish. Many boils in a small area tells you they are thick. Even if they wonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t bite you know they are there and the spot is worth visiting later when they are feeding. Winter mornings often mean cold water temps and even though youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re on fish you might have to slow your retrieve to catch them. Sometimes barely dragging your bait along the bottom will be the key in hooking up. And donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t expect a big thump, sometimes a light tap or a heavy line is the only signal youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll get. A sensitive rod (like

the FTU Green Rod XL1) helps sly. tremendously. essed many I have witnessed times my line of wading anglers where one is crawling bottom and hooking up and his buddy is working his bait just a bit faster, above the strike zone. At times like these I remind everybody to slow down. Look to those that are having success and try to mimic their retrieve. It will make a fishy difference. Another important factor in winter fishing is learning to recognize the presence of bait when it is not active at the surface. Careful observation is required to dial into the telltale subsurface flashes and flickers. Believe me; the baitfish are still there. They are just avoiding the colder water at the surface. Being observant and patient can make a big difference when the signs are few and far between. In closing; winter fishing is no fun without the right gear. I trust the Simms line of genuine Gore-Tex waders, jackets and moisture wicking fleece and WaderWick undergarments. They have what you need from the crown of your head to the soles of your feet. May the New Year bring you fishing memories of a lifetime. These guys were all smiles after getting into a good bunch of reds.


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Texas Saltwater Fishing / January 2011 67

)LVKLQJ5HSRUWVDQG)RUHFDVWV Lake Calcasieu Louisiana Jeff and Mary Poe - Big Lake Guide Service - 337 598 3268 January is a great month to catch a big speckled trout while wadefishing. The only trouble is picking the right days. I’ve never had much luck in extreme cold, but that’s not to say it can’t be done. The trout will be on the flats and shallow reefs. I like to fish during the warmest part of the day in very shallow water. Also look for mullet; if you see a few in the area, it’s probably worth fishing. Bait is not active during cold temperatures. Any fish movement on the flat is worth casting to. We have been doing well this fall on MirrOlure MirrOdine XL’s in white/green back, white/black back, black and gold, green and gold, and pink. Paul Brown’s Original Lures are also a good choice. Let the fish make decisions for you. Seems like there are plenty of big trout in the lake this year. We have caught several fish over seven pounds lately under the birds, so January should be interesting. As long as salinities remain high, the shallow reefs and flats on the north end of the estuary will often the best potential for the biggest trout. Trinity Bay - East Bay - Galveston Bay - James Plaag Silver King Adventures - - 409 935 7242 “Trinity Bay is salty and the fish are still there in the north end,” James says. “As we get further into winter, the big reefs on the Baytown side should have plenty of trout. We’ve been catching trout and reds in a variety of places lately. There have been a few birds working in East

Bay and West Bay is just starting to kick off too. We should see the typical winter pattern set up there real soon, meaning we’ll see mud streaks out in the middle with lots of fish in them. People who know where the sweet shell humps are can catch plenty of trout without working the mud streaks too. The area off Green’s and Mecom’s Cuts will be the best place to start looking for the streaks, and for drifting scattered shell. We’ll try wading when the tide is high, and get in the boat when the tide goes out, no matter which bay we’re fishing. Mostly, we’re throwing MirrOlures in gold/chartreuse and black/gold/ orange. Bass Assassins are working too, as usual. It’s not lock and load like it was, but it sets up for a steady winter of fishing.” Jimmy West - Bolivar Guide Service - 409 996 3054 Jim was on a tractor readying another field for duck hunting when we talked. “The recent cold weather has really set us up for great duck hunting. We already had a bunch of birds, but now it’s good and cold up north and there are more every day. It’s going to be a great second half. Got plenty of doves too. The short season in January should be great shooting. As far as fishing goes, we’re coming off the best run of the year. Lots of days lately, we’re taking limits of both trout and redfish. You can catch them in lots of places, like drains, over reefs, under birds, on shorelines, you name it. And you can catch ‘em wading or out of the boat. It has been tremendous. Throwing Stanley Wedge Tails and Bass Assassins mostly, but you can catch ‘em lots of different ways. That will likely change in January. Once


68 January 2011 /

Texas Saltwater Fishing


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)URP%LJ/DNHWR%RFD&KLFD the water gets into the forties, the pattern will switch over to late afternoon and night. I like to leave the dock in the middle of the day and work deep bayous for a while, then wade as it starts getting dark and stay into the night.” West Galveston - Bastrop - Christmas - Chocolate Bays Randall Groves - Groves Guide Service - 979 849 7019 - 979 864 9323 “Fishing has been outstanding,” Randall says. “There are more redfish in our area than I’ve ever seen. We are sight casting them on most days. We’ve had low tides, so it’s been easy to spot the fish. When they are feeding actively, you can cull all you want out of the schools and they won’t even spook. Mostly, we’re throwing Sand Eels in salty chicken and Baffin magic. Trout fishing has been easy most of the time too. There are fish in lots of places, birds working too. We’ll see a change in coming days as it gets colder. We’ve got plenty of shrimp in the bays right now, but the strong fronts between now and Christmas will likely flush everything out. Once we get colder water temperatures and the shrimp are all gone, we’ll start focusing on deeper water in the open bay, especially areas with a muddy bottom and scattered shell. It won’t be the fast and furious action like we’ve had lately, but it’s steady and the potential for big trout is there.” Randall also says to come see him in booth 719 at the Dave Holder Fishing Show this month.

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Matagorda - Charlie Paradoski Bay Guide Service - 713 725 2401 Charlie reports a recent run of easy fishing in the Matagorda area. “We’re coming off a three month run of lots of limits. The fish have been easy to catch out in the middle of the bays, under birds at times, keying on slicks at other times and just fishing spots around the shell humps at other times. We’ve been throwing soft plastics mostly. The size of the fish has been solid, with lots of three to six pound trout coming in. January will offer better potential for true trophy trout, especially for those who like to wade. We get away from the soft plastics and favor MirrOlures and Paul Brown’s Original Lures in the middle of winter. In the Corkys, we throw a lot of pearl/chartreuse and silver/chartreuse tail. When we are throwing soft plastics, it’s usually a bright color like space guppy. Colder days will stack the fish up closer to the intracoastal, while warmer weather will make the shoreline coves better. Those fishing out of the boat should focus on reefs and scattered shell in the west half of East Bay.” Palacios - Capt. Aaron Wollam - 979 240 8204 Fishing is as good as I can remember right now. Trout are everywhere, under the birds, over shell mixed with mud on shorelines and out around deep rigs in the bay. The size of most of the trout ranges from sixteen to nineteen inches and most of

Texas Saltwater Fishing / January 2011 69

the fish are fat, solid fish. Redfish numbers are still amazing to me, seems like any shoreline with a drain or slough on it has fish around it. Tides moving in and out with still quite a bit of bait in the bay has the whole bay system teeming with fish. January should produce some bigger trout. Last year, January was our best month for big trout. Paul Brown’s Original Lures in pearl/chartreuse and pearl/ black accounted for most of these trout. The main key to catching solid trout this time of the year is to be patient and work areas that have bait present. Super slow coverage of mudflats that are strongly believed to be holding fish is a key to catching big trout in winter. Grinding hard in the best areas often eventually produces the telltale THUMP of a big trout on the end of the line.

lately too. We’ve got lots of solid keeper trout and plenty of reds as well. I’ll be targeting the reds first and foremost after the shooting is over, but we always manage to catch some big trout when fishing the muddy backwater areas that are on my air boat trail. If the back lakes aren’t working, or if we limit out on reds, we’ll move to grassy shorelines to target the trout. Best bite lately is on Norton Sand Eels. My favorite colors are working fine, meaning purple/chartreuse and pumpkinseed/chartreuse. I also anticipate some good topwater days this time of year. If I see a lot of mullet jumping, I’ll give them a try. It’s not an every day thing, but some of the best topwater days of the year come in winter.”

Port O’Connor - Lynn Smith - Back Bay Guide Service - 361 983 4434 Lynn was busy dealing with feral hogs in a trap at the time of his report. In January, he plans to be busy with hogs of a different species, the spotted, swimming kind! “January is a good month for catching some big trout. The keys are timing, location and method, of course. I like to fish later in the day during the coldest part of the year. Fishing is better in the afternoon hours, especially on sunny days when the sun warms the flats for a while. Flats with a variety of stuff on the bottom are best, particularly those with mud, grass and shell. Close proximity to deep water is a must too. The trout want that security blanket of deep water nearby. Finding bait on the right flats is critical as well. Doesn’t have to be rafted bait, but there needs to be some present. We’ll be throwing lots of dark soft plastics, like always, but we will also use a lot of slow sinking twitch baits too. I like Paul Brown’s Original Lures and other MirrOlure baits like Catch 2000s too. They work great when moved slowly around thick, dark grass beds on the flats.”

Padre Island National Seashore Billy Sandifer - Padre Island Safaris - 361 937 8446 January is something of a wild card for fishing the PINS surf. If the cold fronts come in from the north or northwest the water will typically be clear and calm enough for productive fishing and fair beach driving. Northeast wind will make the tides high, the water muddy and seas rough with the current often unfishable. Planning your trip around the weather forecast is paramount throughout the month and will make or break your trip. Driving in Big Shell has been very soft and treacherous on high tides for some time and is to be avoided. Sandbar sharks are typically available with the lesser chance of bull, blacktipped and mako sharks. The majority of sharks will be caught on kayaked baits. Florida pompano, whiting, slot and oversized reds, black drum and sheepshead will be the targets of bottom fishers with fresh, dead shrimp and Fishbites working well on all species and cut bait also working well on the reds. Historically this is winter surf trout season with 51M MirrOlures but be ready for a long grind between strikes.

Rockport - Blake Muirhead Gator Trout Guide Service - 361 790 5203 - 361 441 3894 Cast and blast season will still be going strong for Blake in January. “We’ve had pretty good duck hunting so far, and the recent cold weather has pushed some new birds in. It should give us a little better variety. I’ll also be hunting doves in the short season that kicks off right after Christmas. Fishing has been good to great in this area

Upper Laguna Madre - Baffin Bay - Land Cut Robert Zapata – - 563 1160 January will be a quiet time on the Upper Laguna Madre. The deer hunters will be going after that elusive, monster buck before the season ends, while the rest of us are going after the elusive, monster speckled trout. The water temperatures will be going down during the passage of the cold fronts and so will the trout as they look

70 January 2011 /

Texas Saltwater Fishing

Please use our Texas spotted seatrout resource wisely!

for deeper water with muddy bottoms. But, as the sun warms the shallow water a couple of days after the fronts pass, the bait fish and the trout will be coming up to the shallower water as well. Soft plastics will be my biggest producers, like Texas Assassins in plum/ chartreuse, bone diamond or pumpkinseed/chartreuse, also four inch Berkley Gulp shrimp in new penny and pearl white. If we get three to five warm days in a row, I would not be surprised to find many reds and black drum cruising in ultra shallow water twelve inches deep or less. This is when a good set of polarized sunglasses will be valuable for sight casting with five inch Assassin Blurp shads or three inch Berkley Gulp shrimp on sixteenth ounce jigheads. Corpus Christi - Joe Mendez – - 361 937 5961 The water remains crystal clear in the northern parts of the Upper Laguna Madre and the trout have begun to relate well to the main channels with the cooler weather, Joe reports. “I’ll be staying up north a lot this winter if the water stays clear like this. I like to fish the channel edges once the water gets down into the fifties and stays there a while. The birds are picking for a couple of miles south of the JFK already and the ICW is full of trout. On the colder days, it pays to work the main channel ledges, throwing from deeper water onto the shelf and letting the lure flutter down as close to the wall as possible. Adjusting jighead size helps make this drill work; heavier jigheads work better in stronger winds and current. When temperatures warm some, the flats adjacent to the channels can hold plenty of fish, particularly the bigger trout and slot reds. When drifting flats on the warm days, the drill is to throw at the sand pockets, which show up as bright spots in the darker grassy meadows.”

reds that have been feeding on the small newly hatched crabs, eels, mullet and lots of shrimp. The bay system is full of bait. Weather permitting, snapper fishing is still good, just need to catch the seas right. There has been reports of several flounder being caught. Just remember to keep only what you will eat, release the rest. We have future generations that need to enjoy what we enjoy. Pass it on to the next generation. Lower Laguna Madre - South Padre - Port Isabel The Pettys – – (956) 943 2747 When the wind is high and tides low…even a little traffic can make things tough, but we’ve been limiting on both target species more often than not and getting some healthy trout over twenty five inches and occasional flounder. Through this holiday season, we’re counting on Berkley Gulp three inch shrimp in pearl white and new penny under Cajun Thunder corks to attract trout and reds in less than perfect water conditions. Best bet is to let the lure sink to the bottom of a pot hole then popping occasionally, but staying in the hole as long as possible. The colder the water, the slower the action should be. Try to avoid running around and work over likely spots thoroughly, taking more time than usual; you can’t see fish by driving anyway. Freddy says, “Fishing the LLM in winter can be a challenge…you should be prepared for cold, damp weather, especially in the morning, then increasing winds. When it’s clear, on our famous sunburned face, cold back, wind out of the north drifts; dress in layers, you can always take stuff off.”

Port Mansfield - Terry Neal – (956) 944 2559 Hope everyone had a Merry Christmas filled with blessings and a Happy New Year to you! Where else but South Texas can it be 90° on Thanksgiving and 40° the next day? Water temperatures in the low-60s have made us put our waders on early this year in order to stay comfortable. A couple of early strong cold fronts have moved through and has cooled the bay off. If the past couple of months are any indication; January and February should be a good time to be on the water. Fish continue to follow the bait, we have cleaned several

Please use our Texas spotted seatrout resource wisely!

Texas Saltwater Fishing / January 2011 71

ez Joell Domingu um dr ” 18 ay B o Copan

Carolyn Dell Arroyo City - 19” trout

Paris Buchanan POC - 27.5” redfish

Nick laus Brawner Woodlands - first trout!

Ramiro Alejos Intercoastal Waterway 36” 24lb drum

Jillian Smith Port O’Connor - 40” red

Au stin Be nne tt A Dana Cove - rat red

Kelsey Cudwor th Copano Bay - first speckled trout!

Chen Chiang - 22” sea trout Galveston Bay

Allegra Canttu Key Allegro - flounder

Cliff Copeland Baffin Bay - 28.5” 6.5# trout

72 January 2011 /

Gabi De La Fuente, proud Daddy, & Kiko Carancahua Bay 14.5” first fish-flounder!

Austin Dean East Matagorda - 29.5” red C&R

Texas Saltwater Fishing

O bur n harlles Og Ch t trout thu s far! ges lar y Ba Redfi sh

Owen Cartwright POC - 20.5” first slot redfish!

Please use our Texas spotted seatrout resource wisely!

Dawn Johnston POC - 42â&#x20AC;? drum

Rhett Fields San Jose Island - redfish

Alvin Steelman Galveston Jetties - 22lb redfish

Philip Krull Red fish Bay - 24â&#x20AC;? & 23â&#x20AC;? reds

Garrett McLeod Galveston Bay - 27â&#x20AC;? redfish

Leigh Ann Stumfoll POC - 40â&#x20AC;? drum

Stacy, Rhe tt, & Rhyan McCaffety Surfside Beach - 27â&#x20AC;? redfi sh

Homer Ramirez III P.I.N.S. - 25â&#x20AC;? redfish

George Barajas Arroyo City - 25â&#x20AC;? speckled trout

Rub R ben Flores Copano Bay - 26â&#x20AC;?

Debra Steelman Roel Martinez Galveston Jetties - 10lb redfish fish red 45â&#x20AC;? Malaquite Beach red

Max Yzaguir re SPI - 12.25lb redfish C&R



harlles Fr itz Ch red fish Bay - 28 .75â&#x20AC;? 11lb st Ea da Matagor Please use our Texas spotted seatrout resource wisely!

Stevie Martinez II Allynâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Point - bull drum Texas Saltwater Fishing

0DLOSKRWRVWR76)0DJ 32%R[6HDGULIW7; / January 2011 73


You have heard it at least a hundred times, “Wear your kill switch.” And even though a terrible tale circulates every couple of years of operators and passengers being thrown from boats and drowning or being horribly injured as the boat careens wildly with nobody at the helm, we still do not wear our engine kill switches as faithfully as we should. Tragically, people sometimes lose their lives this way. I will be the first to admit that I sometimes fail to don the very cord that could prevent a horrible accident. When my wife catches me she reaches over and switches off the engine. Trouble is; she’s not there all the time. Hooking up your kill switch takes at least two or three seconds, and we’re in a hurry, right? Wrong! Or what about this one – “But I need to be able to move around a little bit and the cord is too short.” Another lame excuse! Well guess what – now we have Autotether. Autotether is a wireless/remote engine kill system that makes the old-fashioned kill switch lanyard as obsolete as it can get. The best part is that it mounts on the dash of your boat, installs in less than two minutes, and allows you to leave the helm and walk around with the engine running, (out of gear, of course, and not making way.) Here’s how it works. First of all, the operator of

74 January 2011 /

the boat pins a device called a “fob” to their shirt or belt loop or perhaps places it in their pocket. The fob contains a transmitter. And there is a “host” device that gets mounted via double-sided sticky tape to the dashboard, which makes it easy to move from boat to boat. The host contains a receiver that is in constant radio contact with the fob. Unless the operator falls overboard, in which case the radio signal ceases because radio signals cannot be transmitted through water. When signal is lost, the host pulls the pin on the engine kill switch. The host, you see, also includes a cord with a spring-loaded actuator that attaches to your engine kill switch mechanism. Just about as simple as it can get. One of the greatest attributes of the Autotether, in my mind, is that when the Autotether system is in use the boat can only be started and/ or operated with the captain aboard. The captain wears the fob, the fob tells the host device it’s okay for the engine to be started or running. No captain, no power, nobody gets hurt. I like that! But that’s not all! Autotether can also protect your passengers. An accessory kit can allow for up to three passengers to also wear fobs, except these fobs do not kill the engine, they trigger an alarm. Should a fob-wearing passenger somehow slip or lose their balance and fall overboard, the captain is notified immediately by a screaming alarm. The captain knows instantly he needs to shut down and circle back to retrieve his passenger. Who, if wearing a PFD, will only be wet and embarrassed for their experience. Learn more about Autotether at or visit the Breakwater Marine booth at the Houston Boat Show January 7-16, 2011 at the Reliant Center. Tell ‘em you read about it in TSFMag!

Texas Saltwater Fishing

Please use our Texas spotted seatrout resource wisely!

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4$4LKP\Tc3$3HYNLc?3$?3HYNLc??3$??3HYNL MVY??3 Longsleeve: X\HU[P[`ZPaL FISHING CAPS $5.00 LH 8\HU[P[`! orange: ________ green: ________ 6SP]L6YHUNL2OHRP5H]` burgundy: ________ white (red hot): _______ gray: ________ white (trout): ________ DECALS $3.00 LH 8\HU[P[`! white (anniversary redďŹ sh): ________ >OP[L@LSSV^.YLLU Shipping and Handling: $3.00 Shortsleeve: X\HU[P[`ZPaL white: ________ orange: ________ gray: ________

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Contributed by Master Chef Joe Braman – Braman Winery Joe’s passion for excellent wine and the art of pairing is a hereditary skill for charting new ground. It’s a life compass that has guided Joe through culinary school and some of the finest kitchens in the world.

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

10 pieces of bacon ¼ tsp fresh ground black pepper 2 c. diced onion 1 qt clam broth 1c. diced celery 3 cans Campbell’s tomato soup 1 c. diced carrots 3 cups red potatoes 2 cloves garlic, minced 4 cups of boneless fish fillets, 1/2” chunks 1 Tbsp fresh thyme 1 tsp Italian seasoning In heavy pot, render bacon and remove, add onions, celery, carrots and garlic. Cook until onions are tender. Be sure to continue to stir to prevent burning. Add thyme, Italian seasoning, black pepper and clam broth. Simmer 30 minutes over medium heat. Add tomato soup and diced red potatoes. Continue simmering over medium heat until potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes. Add fish pieces and continuing simmer for 5 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat. Cover and let stand for 15 minutes.

Serve with white rice. Chef Joe recommends Braman Winery C10 Chardonnay or Sparkles Sparkling White as a compliment. Drop by the Braman Winery tasting room anytime to enjoy some wine samples. The tasting room is open Thursday-Saturday, noon-7:00pm and is located at: 424 FM 774 Refugio, TX 78377 For more recipes, visit

76 January 2011 /

Texas Saltwater Fishing

Please use our Texas spotted seatrout resource wisely!

3RVDGD'HO&RORUDGR'UXP6WHZ Thank you, John, for sending this recipe even if you did steal it from your mom, Christine Spencer!

> ove at

2 onions chopped 3 stalks celery chopped 1 green bell pepper chopped 2 to 3 bunches carrots, skin on, chopped 3 cloves garlic, minced olive oil 2 cans tomatoes 1 tsp salt pepper Tabasco to taste 2-3 lbs. black drum fillets, cut into 1â&#x20AC;? strips 1-2 cups white wine (Braman wine recommended) 1 tbsp basil 1 tbsp thyme

first sip

Braman Wines Available Online



SautĂŠ onions, celery, green peppers and garlic in oil over low heat about 15 minutes. Add wine, carrots, tomatoes, basil, salt, pepper and thyme and continue to cook covered 20-30 minutes. Add fish, simmer 10-15 minutes Serve over steamed rice.



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7URSK\7URXW 5HGÂżVK 78 January 2011 /

Texas Saltwater Fishing

Please use our Texas spotted seatrout resource wisely!











Please use our Texas spotted seatrout resource wisely!

Texas Saltwater Fishing / January 2011 79

, 1 '( ;  2)  $ '9 ( 5 7 , 6 ( 5 6 For more information about these advertisers visit:


Marshall Marine . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 60

Fish-N-Hunt . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 48

Big Country Outdoors . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 61

Mt. Houston Marine . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 42

Roy’s Bait & Tackle . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 54

Cabo Magic Sportfishing . . . . . . . . . . . . 70

Sail & Ski Center . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 50

Seaworthy Marine Supply . . . . . . . . . . . 51

Sea Fox Boat Co, Inc. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3

Speedy Stop Solunar . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Solunar


Shallow Sport Boats. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Cover, 1

Peligac Offshore Gear . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 70

Texas Marine . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 56


Pink Marlin . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21

The Sportsman . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Cover, 1

Texas Select Seasonings - Wild Bill’s . . 63

Salt Water Soul . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 43

Tropical Marine . . . . . . . . . . . . Inside Back Cover



Eichhorn, Gonzales & Miller. . . . . . . . . . 67

Chrysler- Dodge Ram. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11

Building Products Plus . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 37

Fishing Jewelry . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 71

General Motors Communications . . . . 5

Eco Vantage Wood . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25

Mac Haik Ford . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33

Legacy Lifts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23


Marine Lift and Dock Supply LLC . . . . . 18

Bluff’s Landing Marina Bait & Tackle . . 59

Boat Lift Distributors . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 68



Breakwater Marine Electronics . . . . . . . 71

Austin Boat, Sport & Outdoor Show . . 47

2Cool Fishing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 43

Coastline Trailer Mfg., Inc. . . . . . . . . . . . 39

Bash Tournament . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29

Aventura - Jewelry . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 56

Coveralls . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13

Port Mansfield Chamber . . . . . . . . . . . . 64

Braman Winery . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 77



Daniel Holt . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 69

Fibertex & Supply . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 60 Gulf Coast Trolling Motor . . . . . . . . . . . . 69


House of Fiberglass . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 62

Brown Lures-JB Outdoors . . . . . . . . . . . 50

Power Pole . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35

D.O.A.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 67


Safe Floor Company . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 71

EZ Drainer. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 70

Baffin on the Rocks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 79

South Texas Trolling Motors . . . . . . . . . 68

Fishing Tackle Unlimited Green Rods . 45

Bentley’s ICW House Rental . . . . . . . . . . 79

Specialty Aluminum Works . . . . . . . . . . 66

ForEverlast Hunting/Fishing Products 41

Floating Cabin Rentals . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 78

Specialty Aluminum Works Trailers . . . 24, 66

Marsh Works . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 64

Serena Residences . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 49

Tops-N-Towers. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Cover, 1

Mud Hole Tackle . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 69

The Inn At Clarks. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 79

TSFMag Subscription Form . . . . . . . . . . 75

Reaction Strike . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 61


REC Components . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 63


Bernie’s Boats . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 55

Rods by Pepper . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 71

Rick BonGiovanni- Condo 4Sale . . . . . . 79

Busha Boat Works. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15

Russelures . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Solunar

Coastal Backwater Marine . . . . . . . . . . . 68

Simms Fishing Products . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7


Coastal Bend Marine . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2

Texas Tackle Factory . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27

Kevin Severance Insurance . . . . . . . . . . 65

Coastline Marine. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Cover, 1

Third Stone Software . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Solunar

West Point Boat Works . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 79

Dargel Boat Works . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17

Waterloo Rods . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 58

West Point Boat Works . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 70

El Campo Boating Center . . . . . . . . . . . . 29

Yeti Coolers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9

Art Republic of Texas . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 74

Flatstalker Boat . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 65

Your Fishing Pal . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 62

Gulf Coast Marine . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Cover, 1

Zebco . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6

SPONSORSHIPS Costa Del Mar- Sponsorship . . . . . . . . . 38

Hobie Cat - Sponsorship . . . . . . . . . . . . 40 Kresta’s Boats & Motors . . . . . . . . . . . . . 57


Kroll’s Marine. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 66

Academy Sports + Outdoors . . . . . . . . . 19


Majek Boats . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 39

Fishing Tackle Unlimited . . . . . . . . . . Back Cover

The Chupacabra Outdoors . . . . . . . . . . . 28

80 January 2011 /

Texas Saltwater Fishing

Please use our Texas spotted seatrout resource wisely!

TALON ™ SHALLOW WATER ANCHOR Talon doesn’t just anchor quicker, it anchors better. Even in currents and high winds, Talon holds steady. Key features of Talon include: 

Auto-Drive for automatic anchoring Rough Water Mode continues the anchor ing sequence to assure a secure hold in any conditions  Built-in wireless remote comes standard  Easy, less expensive installation  Vertical and tilt adjustments for mounting flexibility  LED indicator lights show when spike is deployed and at what depth  Deployment Notification Alarm can be wired to the ignition to sound an alarm when the key is turned and the spike is still deployed 

Two-Stage Deployment



Rugged Anchoring Spike

Versatile Adjustments

Come See our A OT selection of MINNKInt ernational ton us Ho the at ts produc ow Sh l ve Tra d an Boat Sport Jan. 7-16, 2011 Reliant Center, Houston

WIRELESS GPS TROLLING SYSTEM Accessory available for Riptide® ST and Riptide SP bow-mount trolling motors.

12800 Gulf Freeway @ Fuqua Houston, Texas 77034 281-481-6838

For more event information: Lay-A-Way and Gift Certificates Available

8933 Katy Freeway Houston, Texas 77024 713-827-7762



GALVESTON TIDES & SOLUNAR TABLE Texas Saltwater Fishing Magazine JANUARY 2011











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January 2011  

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