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March 2019

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ABOUT THE COVER Friends since childhood; Kyle Zaragoza, Josh Shive, and Parker Moon got together for a trip to legendary Baffin Bay. Check out Josh’s recap of the fun and fishing success on page 38.

MARCH 2019 VOL 28 NO 11



10 16 22 26 32 38

44 Let’s Ask The Pro 50 Shallow Water Fishing 54 TPWD Field Notes 58 Kayak Fishing Chronicles 60 TSFMag Conservation News 64 Fishy Facts 68 Extreme Kayak Fishing & Sharks... 72 Plastic & Water Don’t Mix 74 TPWD Special 103 Science & the Sea

How Bad Do You Want It? Searching for Greener Grass Footprints Light Years and Then Some Carry the Basics A Fishing Friendzy

Steve Hillman Kevin Cochran Martin Strarup Chuck Uzzle Joe Richard Josh Shive


Jay Watkins Scott Null Aaron Adams, Heather Biggs Dave Roberts CCA Texas Stephanie Boyd Eric Ozolins Everett Johnson Lance Robinson UT Marine Science Institute




78 80 82 84 86 88 90

Dickie Colburn’s Sabine Scene The Buzz on Galveston Bay The View from Matagorda Mid-Coast Bays with the Grays Hooked up with Rowsey Wayne’s Port Mansfield Report South Padre Fishing Scene

Dickie Colburn Caleb Harp Bink Grimes Shellie Gray David Rowsey Wayne Davis Ernest Cisneros

REGULARS 8 Editorial 76 New Tackle & Gear 92 Fishing Reports and Forecasts   96 Catch of the Month 98 Gulf Coast Kitchen


80 6 | March 2019

EDITOR AND PUBLISHER Everett Johnson VICE PRESIDENT PRODUCTION & ADVERTISING DIRECTOR Pam Johnson Office: 361-785-3420 Cell: 361-550-9918 NATIONAL SALES REPRESENTATIVE Bart Manganiello REGIONAL SALES REPRESENTATIVE Patti Elkins Office: 361-785-3420 Cell: 361-649-2265 PRODUCTION COORDINATOR Donna Boyd CIRCULATION SUBSCRIPTION – PRODUCT SALES Vicky Morgenroth DESIGN & LAYOUT Stephanie Boyd Texas Saltwater Fishing Magazine is published monthly. Subscription Rates: One Year (Free Emag with Hard Copy) Subscription $25.00 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: 361 792-4530 MAILING ADDRESS: P.O. Box 429, Seadrift, Texas 77983 PHYSICAL ADDRESS: 58 Fisherman’s Lane, Seadrift, TX 77983 WEB: PHOTO GALLERY: PRINTED IN THE USA. Texas Saltwater Fishing Magazine (ISSN 1935-9586) is published monthly by Texas Saltwater Fishing Magazine, Inc., 58 Fisherman’s Lane, Seadrift, Texas 77983 l P. O. Box 429, Seadrift, TX 77983 © Copyright 1990 All rights reserved. Positively nothing in this publication may be reprinted or reproduced. *Views expressed by Texas Saltwater Fishing Magazine contributors do not necessarily express the views of Texas Saltwater Fishing Magazine. Periodical class permit (USPS# 024353) paid at Victoria, TX 77901 and additional offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Texas Saltwater Fishing Magazine, Inc., P. O. Box 429, Seadrift, TX 77983.



Five years can pass in the blink of an eye or drag on for what seems like eternity. Like beauty, it’s all in the eye of the beholder. Five years ago, TPWD invited coastal anglers to attend public hearings to give comment on a proposal to reduce the spotted seatrout bag limit from the Lower Laguna all the way to the Louisiana border. A five trout limit had been enacted in the Lower Laguna back in 2007. Middle-coasters yanked the doors off the hinges to support. Uppercoasters mostly stonewalled. Upper-coast guides opposed vehemently. The five trout limit was enacted on the middle-coast in September 2014. The upper coast limit remained unchanged. The upper coast, Galveston mostly, was enjoying the biological rejuvenation of the region’s estuaries in the seasons following Hurricane Ike. Hence, the pushback. But Ike swung a double-edged sword. While the storm’s initial nutrient load produced phenomenal yearclasses of spotted seatrout, it also destroyed much of the historic reef habitat with blankets of sediment. Reef habitat in upper coast estuaries is often likened to the seagrass beds of the middle and lower coast – the foundation of the marine food chain. Then came three years of successive record-breaking springtime flooding in the Trinity and San Jacinto basins, capped by another monster of a hurricane named Harvey. The resulting freshening events in the Galveston system displaced millions of seatrout toward saltier environs where they “stacked like cordwood” on East Galveston Bay’s reefs. Fishermen had field days. Some longtime anglers and guides called it slaughter. The scenario on Sabine Lake played similarly.

Soon enough, the bounty began to dwindle. Smaller trout could be found everywhere but what we call “solid mid-size trout” were growing scarcer by the season and anglers were noticing. Public concern, as registered in TPWD surveys mailed randomly to upper coast anglers last summer indicated an emerging willingness to accept a reduced bag, in hope that more numerous landings of larger trout might be restored. The times are changing – again. The TPWD Commissioners have directed Coastal Fisheries to conduct more public hearings to gauge support of another proposal to expand the five trout bag limit, to include the Galveston and Sabine estuaries. Mark your calendars: Feb 26, Nessler Center – Texas City; Feb 28, Port Arthur Civic Center – Port Arthur; Mar 4, San Jacinto River Authority Board Room – Conroe. A portal has also been opened on the TPWD website through which anybody unable to attend a public hearing can still provide comment. You will also soon find the time schedule of the regional public hearings on that site. Social media has been ablaze, fishermen speaking mostly in support of this proposal, while some remain adamantly opposed. But social media isn’t where the rubber hits the road. If you want your comments and opinions to be counted you must attend a public hearing or send them via the TPWD web portal. This is your fishery. Make sure the commissioners receive your comments before the next round of Commission Hearings on March 19 – 20, 2019.

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t’s been a soggy and chilly winter of grinding but God has a funny way of changing things up just when we need it the most. For me personally, I tend to hit somewhat of a burnout period near the end of each season. However, just when I’m tired of fishing the same patterns in a lot of the same areas everything changes and I become rejuvenated. When we’re sick and tired of the wet and cold conditions warmer weather always arrives. By the end of the summer when we feel like we just can’t take the heat anymore the cool fronts start coming. The cycle repeats with every season. It’s easy to fish our way through the comfortable ice cream days when it’s so easy that anyone could catch fish, but what about the in-between times when the going gets tough? We hit a stretch during the latter part of winter when things weren’t quite so easy. It seems like a cold front blew through just about every week. The wind puffed hard out of the south for days then flipped around and ripped from the north. There were only one or two days per week when the wind blew less than 15 mph. While most folks would rather stay home, there are plenty of fish to be caught in these less than “ideal” conditions. Duck hunters hunt in some pretty nasty weather. I did it for years. Some of the biggest trout are caught in miserable conditions. It’s all about how bad you


Jeff Bearden with his personal best trout (6.75 lbs.). He showed patience, stayed put and focused while waiting on the bite to develop. Good job on the release!

want it or as I often say, “How mad at ‘em are ya?” There were many days when we waded until well past sunset after making hundreds of empty casts before finally being rewarded. There were others when the above average fish we were seeking never came to hand. It comes with the territory this time of year and, besides, it’s all about the hunt. It’s been more than nine years since I’ve harvested a trophy buck but I still crouch down in my South Texas bow blind every chance I get during the season. I’m not going to stop hunting just because I can’t kill a trophy every year. The chase is what keeps us going. While getting plenty of bites is certainly entertaining our success should never be measured in pounds of fillets. Historically, March can challenge our mental and physical fortitude. Just when we think winter is on her way out a late cold front will cause our trout to stay in limbo as is typically the case during this back-and-forth month. Stability is not a word that typically comes to mind when discussing March. “Calm” is another word that’s usually not used in the same sentence. Stiff easterly winds will often force us to wade tight to shorelines as our bays swell with more water than we’ve seen in months. The funny thing is that these areas are where we need to be anyway, especially for quality fish. My personal best trout was caught in March 2009 while wading a Baffin Bay shoreline in fairly stiff winds and high pressure. The 9.25 pound speck couldn’t resist the wiggle of my amber Corky Devil. I’ll never forget that day. I was with my old buddy Walt Kalinowski and some friends. We toughed it out in less than desirable conditions but everyone in our group was rewarded with impressive quality trout. I remember losing another one that may have been even bigger, but I got “buck fever” and forced her to hand too soon. It’s hard to stay calm when fighting a big trout, but you have to. Knowing how the elements affect fishing areas is very important. Wind and current play a major role in deciding where to fish. Salinity, water temperature, water clarity and barometric pressure are also 12 | March 2019

(top left) This one weighed a little over 8.25 pounds and was one of only three trout caught that evening. I’m not sure who was more hardheaded, us or the trout!

(top right) Staying late paid off! 8 pounds CPR!

(left) We were the only boat in West Galveston Bay this day. The high temperature was 39 degrees! That might have had something to do with it.

variables to consider when game planning for a trip. Structure, habitat and bottom undulations are some of the constants to be added to complete the equation. We can also throw in the added variable of boat traffic (fishing pressure) as well. The latter can sometimes be avoided by fishing late afternoon hours and even at night. These are frequently time periods when late winter/early spring big trout like to feed anyway. I recently had an off day due to a cancellation so I called my friend, Bob Hardy, to see if he wanted to scout a few areas for big trout with me. It was two days after a pretty strong cold front. The water temperature had risen to 56° and the barometric pressure had dropped to 1015 millibars. We had some areas in mind that set up well for the conditions and the time of day we were fishing. As we jumped out at our first stop we noticed a random mullet flipping here and there. Despite the promising signs, after more than an hour without a bite, we decided to try spot number two. This area shared some similarities with our first stop in that it consisted primarily of mud and shell. However, it was closer to a low salinity end of the bay creating the scenario of a stopping point or “stack up” situation for the trout. The tide was peaked but due to start falling within a couple of hours. The new moon major which didn’t end up being anything “major” had just ended at 3:00 PM. I was throwing a Corky Fat Boy and





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Bob was throwing his new Borboleta slow-sinking Hot Rod twitchbait. The Hot Rod is similar to the Lele but is much smaller and shaped more like a shad. Around 5:00 PM we could feel the current begin to move as mullet became more active along the gut in which we were casting. I finally stuck a really nice trout only to have it pull loose right in front of me. We both started getting more bites but they were non-committal. We were obviously standing in fish but they weren’t quite ready to feed. Bob hooked a big trout on the Hot Rod only to have it pull loose within arm’s reach. I decided to switch over to a topwater in an effort to make one mad enough to commit. The blow-ups came immediately but few hook-ups. It was now 5:45 PM and as the sun disappeared behind the horizon my pink Skitterwalk disappeared beneath the water’s surface. I knew I had a really good trout and I was praying that this one would stay connected. She did indeed and after a couple of quick photos we watched her swim away. We continued to get bites well after sunset, releasing two more quality trout before calling it a night. We ended up releasing an 8.25, 8 and 6.25 pound trout. We fished hard on into the darkness for only a few fish. Was it worth it? Hell yes it was! I hate to say it but the vast majority of fishermen don’t exhibit the patience it sometimes takes to catch trophy trout. I caught more big trout before I started guiding because I didn’t cave in to the need to get bit. I didn’t care how long I had to stand in one place or how many casts I had to make if it meant having the opportunity to catch a special fish. Sometimes you just have to dig your heels in and wait for the trout to feed. If you’ve done your homework and you have the patience then the odds are in your favor. It doesn’t hurt to have a little luck every once in a while too! I will probably never top this trout, but I’ll die trying!



14 | March 2019

Steve Hillman is a full-time fishing guide on his home waters of Galveston Bay. Steve fishes the entire Galveston Bay Complex, wading and drifting for trout, redfish, and flounder using artificial lures. Phone 409-256-7937 Email Web | 15



couple decades ago, when I competed in tournaments regularly, most of the events allowed us to launch our boats wherever we wanted, either before a fishing start-time or a designated blast-off time. While fishing, we almost always stayed within clearly defined boundaries. About the same time I stopped participating, most tournament organizers changed these rules, requiring all contestants to embark in consecutive order from the same location, and almost never defining boundaries. When this happened, I made a prescient statement. “Some guys will fall into a trap,” I mused. “They’ll think they aren’t trying hard enough unless they’re running as far from the dock as possible.” My prediction turned out true in many cases. Stories began circulating about tournaments held on the Upper Coast, won by contestants entering trout caught south of the Coastal Bend. As these stories fueled the desire of tournament anglers to fish farther and farther from the launch sites, boat manufacturers took steps to enable their obsession. In the early parts of the 21st Century and continuing to this day, folks making and selling bay boats in the Lone Star State build hulls which skim across the water at break-neck pace, without sacrificing too much shallow-running capacity or smoothness of ride. Hot-shots don helmets

and goggles, bolt three and even four hundred horsepower motors onto these skiffs and push them to speeds approaching 100 mph. Consequently, the start of a contemporary competitive angling event closely resembles a NASCAR race. I didn’t fully grasp how things would evolve, but I can draw several conclusions based on my observations of the situation at hand. Using a televised example from a Redfish Cup event helps clarify what I mean. The tournament took place in Alabama; more accurately, the rules of the event required contestants to launch from a site within the state. Without specifying a boundary for the angling activities, the threeday format allowed a pair of partners to weigh two legal-sized redfish per day. After the first two days, the field dropped from a much larger number down to five teams, who started over at zero and fished the last day to determine the winner. In this case, the team leading after the first two days revealed they’d been fishing about 75 miles from the dock, in Mississippi waters. I paraphrase the recorded remarks of one of the men: “We’re goin’ for broke tomorrow,” he said, on the eve of the final. “We’re on some big fish in The Delta, and we’re goin’ after ‘em. We’ll only have about twenty minutes to get ‘em, but if we do, we’ll win.” Amazingly, these dudes planned to forsake the area where they’d earned the lead the first two days, in favor of making a 143-mile ride from Mobile to the Mississippi River Delta, near Venice, Louisiana, where they hoped to quickly Fishing in the hours just before catch two fish, then turn around and dawn often proves effective in race back to the tournament scales. March, especially in areas holding Cameras followed their progress the water of exceptional clarity. Clayton Runyan caught this long trout in next day. Hoping to refuel about such a scenario a few years ago. two miles from their chosen spot, the contestants found a barge blocking them from the pumps. “We got no choice. We have to run on over there and hope we can make it back for gas after we get our fish,” one nervously realized. The tone of his voice changed dramatically while he put the trolling motor over the bow once they reached their destination. “Tide’s wrong, water’s all messed up,” he whined. To his credit, the fellow did make three casts, though his disgusted partner remained seated and never picked up a rod. In the end, these guys made a 286-mile boat ride to make three casts, slinking up to the scales with a skunk. While watching all this unfold on the screen, I began laughing so hard I could barely stay in my easy chair. Later, telling others about what I’d seen, I joked, “Those guys would have had a better shot at winning if they’d just dropped 18 | March 2019

a lizard behind the boat and trolled around the harbor in circles all day.” The whole thing still strikes me as hilarious, but I’m well aware the experience of these two contestants and my sarcastic comments about them do not mean others haven’t benefited handsomely from making long runs in trout and redfish tournaments. Some certainly have. With a competitive goal motivating decisions, anglers having legitimate confidence and significant recent experiences in places far from the launch-site of a tournament can enhance their chances of winning by making long runs, even though their decision will limit the amount of time they spend fishing. The key to the preceding statement involves confidence in the likelihood of recent results repeating themselves. Generally, this assumes various environmental conditions remain relatively stable. When sitting in a boat in Alabama, it’s hard to tell which way the tide rolls or how hard the wind blows in Louisiana. Sure, the cell phone or radio will provide some clues, but digital data isn’t nearly as reliable as a pair of discerning eyes on the scene. Anyone traveling scores or hundreds of miles in a boat will likely encounter changing weather and water conditions. All experienced captains know this. These truths relate specifically to anglers fishing organized events with the purpose of weighing bigger fish than those they compete against. For the average angler, out for some fun, hoping to catch a few fish, the lessons bear a different kind of significance. Kenneth Havel caught this Weekend warriors don’t leave the dock monster trout on a sinking with competitive goals in mind, but Paul Brown FatBoy during they can still fall into the trap of thinking March of 2014. This month they’ll catch more and bigger fish if they is a prime one for using the famous family of twitch baits. travel farther from the dock. The old saying sums it up best--the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. In a fisherperson’s world, this means the fish are always bigger at the other end of the lake. Similarly, when we’re wading, the best fish always lurk in water barely too deep for us to reach. If we’re standing on a jetty, the good ones swim well out away from the rocks, but when we’re in a boat working those same rocks, they hide in hissing cracks between the granite boulders. The wise adage becomes the reason some boat owners make their first choice about where to drop the anchor when they embark on their maiden journey. They run straight to that flat just across the channel from where they’d always parked the truck when fishing from the bank, having long imagined the place to be teeming with all kinds of pretty, prized fish. I jest, on some level, | 19

but a serious and relevant point does form the foundation for the fun. As human beings, we sometimes fall into a negative mindset, thinking our station in life holds us back from something better. The search for greener grass constantly motivates us to try and wiggle our necks through a hole in a metaphorical fence. If we can just get out of our current situation, everything will turn to peaches and cream. That’s how it plays out in our minds, if we give in to weakness. Truth is, our desires and perceptions alter the color of the grass on the other side of the fence as inevitably as the tide rolls in and out of the harbor. We should all remain cognizant of this and resist the urge to think making long runs from the dock will always improve our chances for success. Guides in my home waters who load clients in their boats at the JFK Causeway, then run to Port Mansfield to fish, might want to heed this advice. Some of the clients complain about their plans. “Pappy don’t want to sit on a cushion and ride 75 miles with a 50 mile per hour wind in his face to catch a few fish.” For most people, that’s really the point. Average Joes aren’t out to prove anything of significance when they choose to go fishing. They seek a relaxing, satisfying outcome, one directly related to the act of trying to convince some fish to bite at what they dangle in the water on the end of their line. This brings back the statement I made about the two dudes who spent all day racing across state lines instead of trying to catch fish. I’d venture to say their plan morphed into a form of madness, because of its extremity. Those men allowed the desire to win to push them to make a crazy decision. For sane people, spending more time experimenting with strategies like lure choice and presentation makes much more sense than passing over miles of water, looking for an angler’s version of Kathmandu. Such a place exists in our minds, our fantasies, not in the tangible world. I stand behind what I’ve written and asserted many times—knowledge of the body or bodies of water in which the angling effort takes place plays a paramount role in the success of the endeavor. Here, I don’t mean to suggest one shouldn’t study and learn as much as possible about the body of water and build an extensive catalog of spots over time. Such activities definitely increase the odds for success. But on a given day, picking a piece of the pie relatively close to the boat ramp and spending most of the allotted time wetting a line within that piece. provides more satisfaction and potential for positive results than zooming around in the boat and watching the world whiz by.



20 | March 2019

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

TROUT TRACKER GUIDE SERVICE Phone 361-688-3714 Email Web | 21


Almost fifteen years ago I wrote a piece for this magazine that I titled “Footprints.” Judging from the favorable feedback I received it evidently registered well with readers. When my Dad passed away in 2007 I used a paragraph from “Footprints” in the introduction of a short story I wrote for him. A few weeks ago I received a letter from a reader, saying he remembered the story very well, but his copy of the magazine had long since disappeared. “I would like to see a full reprint in an upcoming issue,” he urged. After discussing the request with our editor, he agreed to grant the request. For those who remember, I hope that you do not mind reading it again. For those seeing it for the first time, I hope you enjoy it. ~Martin Strarup~


ading a stretch of soft sand and shell shoreline not long ago, I noticed the faint tracks of another fisherman in about two feet of clear water. With no knowledge of how old the footprints were or who might have made them, it was pretty cool following the trail, catching an occasional fish, and wondering if he too might have enjoyed similar success. I walked where he had walked and it was easy to imagine, from the position of his footsteps, where he might have been casting. When the tracks became numerous and muddled together, whether he might have encountered a school of willing fish. The way the tracks would often turn to the right and sort of mill around a few steps made me think that he might have been landing one. I made a game of trying to do the same thing, where it looked as if he had stayed in one place for a while. I could tell when he was moving faster than normal as his stride would get longer and I could visualize when he was on some fish as the tracks would turn and face the open bay. Once, the tracks turned and faced to the rear, where I imagined him casting toward the rubble of an old boat ramp. I did the same, making several casts myself, but found no fish interested in what I was offering.

Moving along, I came to the old pier that had long ago seen its better days. Some high tide from some forgotten storm had done a lot of damage to the planking and most of the T-head had been ripped away – a victim of pounding waves. I wondered why the owner had never rebuilt the pier as it is in an excellent spot and well removed from the masses. I followed the tracks under the pier and when I bumped my head on the center joist, I wondered if he had done the same. When I came out from under the pier, the tracks took a turn toward the remnant of the T-head and I thought that was rather odd as it gets pretty deep out that way. But I followed best I could, vowing to continue his trail. He knew something that I didn’t, but that I was quick to learn about. The years of tidal movement had created a narrow sand bar of sorts, along the east side of the pier, and you could walk it all the way out to where the pier stopped. I lost his tracks in the deeper water, but I knew somehow they were still there. Casting towards the hole at the end of the pier was productive as some really nice trout were hiding in there, and this time they were hungry for the lure that I offered them. When the action slowed, I reversed my path and headed back toward the bank, hoping to pick up his trail again when the water | 23

24 | March 2019

have to make the trip back without the intrigue of following the stranger’s trail. On the walk back to my own boat, I wondered if anyone would ever follow my tracks. If they did, would they learn from them the way I had learned from those I had followed? Did I leave deep enough tracks? Was my path true or did I venture too often from the straight and narrow into the unknown? Would they hesitate at the hard places and take the easier way around, or would they put in the extra effort to follow where I had gone and succeed as I had succeeded? Would they wonder who I was, if by chance they even cared to follow where I had gone? Would they feel a twinge of sadness when my tracks ended and only theirs would continue onward? I hope I left deep enough tracks.



became shallow enough. Sure enough, there they were and once again I began following the tracks of this unknown fisherman. There are two large pipes that extend into the bay, placed there long ago to drain an inland marsh lake, and I wondered if he knew how to get around them or if he would take the easy route up along the bank until he was clear of them. He knew how to get around those pipes alright, and I wondered again who this mystery man was as I followed his tracks. Stopping where he stopped, casting where I thought he would have cast, and catching a nice strong winter trout now and then when I did. I had a birthday fish-fry in a few days and had promised fresh trout. Adding one to my stringer I wondered if he had kept any when he fished here. When I got to the concrete seawall that extends out into the bay, I looked closely at his tracks where they came out of the water to go around the barrier. The track in the sand told me the man was dragging something that I guessed to be a stringer. I tried to picture how large his fish might have been from the drag marks. My limit trout went on my stringer there at the seawall and I decided to follow his tracks a little farther, just to see where he had gone and if he knew to fish the slough that cut into the bank about 100 yards ahead. But the tracks stopped ten yards beyond the seawall. The indentions in the sand told me that a boat had been beached there, and that he had climbed aboard – the reason the trail ended. I had a mile of shoreline yet to walk before I could sit down and rest, and I envied him being in the boat and likely enjoying a refreshing drink and comfortable seat. I also felt a little sad that my adventure was over and that I would

Martin Strarup is a lifelong saltwater enthusiast and outdoorsman. Martin is also a collector and dealer of vintage fishing tackle and lures, especially those made in Texas. Email | 25

Braided lines make it possible to have exceptional line capacity and 30# strength on lighter spinning reels.



e all have certain people in our lives who are sufficiently influential that their words just naturally carry more weight. Dickie Colburn has always been one of those for me. Dickie has been a great friend and mentor for more years than I care to count and his words have always carried that something extra, regardless of the topic at hand. I can remember well sitting at his kitchen table as a young guide trying to understand how the business worked, soaking up every tidbit of information he shared. “Son, let me tell you something,” he said. “A man can make a good living with a quality spinning rod. You can make the transition from Toledo Bend to Sabine Lake from one day to the next and catch everything you need to fish for.” Those words were the product of Colburn’s many years of success on both Toledo Bend and Sabine where he had perfected his craft to the point few will understand. From “whacky worming” largemouth bass to strolling for crappie, all the way to virtually revolutionizing the way we catch flounder on Sabine, Colburn had that whole program wired with a six-and-a-half foot spinning rod in his hand. I took his advice to heart and I think about it every time I flip a lure to a redfish from my perch atop the poling platform or send a popping cork and soft plastic sailing across a flat. There is simply no denying how productive a lighter-weight set up can be. We all realize fishermen are an ever-evolving breed, much like the fish they pursue fishermen continue to get smarter and better equipped in order to be more successful. A perfect example of this phenomenon is as close as the nearest tackle box and fishing rod. Standard fare among coastal anglers for years was a levelwind reel spooled to the hilt with 17 or 20 pound monofilament. In the hands of the average angler, the reel made one feel as if there were no fish known to man that could not be tamed by this “mini-winch.” Rods resembled pool cues or the handles of garden rakes with their stiffness and diameters. These were the tools of the trade - the benchmarks by which all fishermen were judged. Anything less than a heavy-duty outfit and you were just wasting your time. In today’s angling world the fisherman has climbed out of the dark ages to embrace the new technology being offered by every major tackle manufacturer. Lighter and more responsive rods coupled with reels that would make jewelers drool are now the common weapon of coastal pluggers. The benefits of this new technology make using lighter lines and smaller tackle a new frontier for Texas anglers. Florida fishermen joke about how easy it is to tell if a fisherman’s from Texas because Texans are always the ones carrying baitcasters. The spinning rig is by far the weapon of choice in Florida’s clear waters where fish can see monofilament coming from a mile away. | 27

The spinning rig is rapidly gaining acceptance among Texas anglers who are now intoxicated with catching big fish on “lighter� tackle. Sure the newer levelwind reels will let you chunk tiny offerings on 8 or 10 pound test, but the spinning rig is much more efficient at this task. Many anglers have been converted to the legion of lighttackle lovers simply by mistake. Flounder fishermen who routinely throw 6 or 8-pound test along the shorelines often do battle with redfish or sheepshead in the same water. Invariably at the end of the My hands down go-to set Long casts with everything Florida anglers have long Everything from largemouth day the first fish story told is up. Scott Martin Series from ultra-light jigs to known the benefits of light bass to baby tarpon can be how the redfish or sheepshead Okuma rod and Okuma rattling corks are handled tackle presentations on big handled with the same size put up such an awesome fight Trio spinning reel. with ease on spinning gear. fish like this stud snook. quality spinning gear. on the small gear. Before too long the light stuff is all these folks want to throw, given that the challenge and excitement is just what they have been looking for to satisfy their sense of adventure. The natural progression to lighter tackle makes each angler a better and more complete fisherman. By being able to adapt to different conditions, an angler no longer is completely at the mercy of the fish. Trophy trout stalkers all along the coast of Texas routinely down size their line as well as their lure size in clear water. This is a perfect example of how being proficient with lighter gear will help you catch more fish. By adapting to the get down deep enough to reach the fish. It is funny to watch as other surrounding conditions an angler will always catch more fish. anglers try to figure out what is going on, how one guy is steadily Another example is during the winter months when fish may not catching and the rest of them are drawing blanks. Chalk up another be quite as aggressive. Light line allows an angler to feel more strikes one for the light-tackle angler. and in turn catch more fish. This fact is proven routinely on my home For those who just can’t dream of using lighter line, you may want waters of Sabine Lake in Texas. In the late winter and early spring it to check out one of the super lines, also referred to as braid. These is a common practice to drift soft plastics over a huge reef near the lines are incredibly tough and sensitive while maintaining ultra-thin southern end of the lake. Most fishermen use heavy line so they can diameters, much akin to smaller mono. I switched to Suffix several pull their lures free from the shell they are constantly hanging on. In years ago and I have been very pleased with the results, my favorite the past several years many of these anglers have gone to throwing lighter lines because they can feel more strikes and control their baits size is the 30-pound test in 6-pound mono equivalent diameter. The small diameter line allows me to use a smaller series spinning rod better. The lighter lines sink quicker because they are less buoyant, and reel and that translates into less weight and fatigue at the end of which means the fishermen can now get their offerings closer to the the day. The sensitivity and strength of this line and others like it will shell where most of the speckled trout tend to position themselves. Heavier lines tend to float higher in the water and will often times not completely blow you away if you have not tried it yet. For folks who 28 | March 2019

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just don’t feel comfortable with using light line, you can think of braid as “training wheels.” A nice compromise without sacrificing confidence. Going to lighter offerings in certain conditions will undoubtedly result in catching more fish and we all agree that’s the goal. Most folks will never completely relinquish their trusty baitcaster and there really is no need to do so. It’s those folks who are willing to try a lighter

approach that will appreciate all the newfound flexibility they will gain by being open to the new gear. I promise it won’t take catching many fish on the lighter gear to put a smile on your face; it’s truly addicting. Do yourself a favor. If you do not already own a quality, lightweight spinning rig, get one. You won’t be sorry.

One of Florida’s finest guides, Capt. Geoff Page, is a firm believer in the “light stuff.”



30 | March 2019

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. Phone 409-697-6111 Email Website

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In a fast current offshore, this Port Aransas boat, tired of making drifts that were too fast, is now using a rig hook to stay with this big Gulf platform. It saves gas and snapper are right under the boat.


n this high-tech age, new wonder items are introduced at the winter boat shows, designed for convenience, accuracy or safety and they certainly have their place. However, in recent years I’ve noticed an increasing number of anglers relying on new-fangled technology when a handful of tried-and-true items on the boat can make a real difference – even in one’s ability to survive mishaps that can turn into tragedy. In the past couple of years, there have been several reports of bay anglers leaving their boats to wade fish with tragic consequences. As it turns out, the boats were secured with hydraulicoperated poles stuck in bottom sediment. Unexpectedly, these boats drifted off, pulled loose in waves or wind, with someone desperately swimming after it. You can imagine the rest, because a boat drifts pretty fast in typical Texas bay gusts. It’s hard to hear about, especially when a simple traditional anchor could have provided a lot of insurance. Sailors have been using anchors since before the Greek and Roman Empires, and for good reason. When fitted with a short length of chain to flatten out the angle of the rope, an anchor is designed to dig into the bottom and hold a boat under some pretty rough conditions, even storms. A rope of appropriate length and thickness is also crucial. Worst tale: I had a neighbor from Ohio who tried to anchor offshore in the Gulf in winter with a mushroom anchor and parachute cord, in rough seas. Combined with motor trouble, he was lucky to make it home. A compass is another item frequently missing from today’s bay boats. Sure, cell phones have a compass app and that’s nice. However, navigating a boat strictly with electronics that can be knocked out from electrical problems or availability of cellular phone service leaves me uneasy. A good-sized compass won’t fail, unless you leave a pair of pliers or can of WD-40 next to it, which is easily spotted. I’ve been aboard expensive hotshot tournament boats that cost a fortune but had no compass, which gave me the

willies when the Gulf was rough. One of the boat owners didn’t know north from south; relying instead on the little arrow on his GPS screen that told him where to go. It was the worst Gulf trip I’ve ever made, which is saying something, but that’s another story. A five-gallon bucket is another must-have. I’ve heard of yachts sinking, because they didn’t have a simple five-gallon bucket aboard that would have moved hundreds of gallons of bilge water overboard in determined hands. The bilge pumps quit after a leak develops, and what are the options without a bucket? A smaller boat’s drain plug can be pulled and the water will run out, if the engine is running well. old menhaden donated from a shrimpboat. Good thing we had Of course, a boat’s bilge isn’t always Many boats could use a push that bucket, because without it there would have been no chum or accessible to a flailing bucket. In my pole of some kind. Even a 12-foot menhaden, no big kingfish, no tournament win, and no stack of Ben small boat the drain plug is right wooden dowel can be a great help. Franklins big enough to choke a horse. there but I still carry several buckets I’ve mentioned before about carrying a pushpole in shallow of different sizes. One for loose items, another for live or dead bait, water. It doesn’t have to be an expensive graphite model; even a and a one-gallon castnet bucket. A small urinal bucket can help keep 12-foot wooden dowel will push a boat across an oyster reef, without people from toppling overboard, too. tearing up the motor’s lower unit and propeller. Bolt three little Back in our offshore glory days we used to board shrimpboats, scrounging for fresh bait, and how are you going to score bait or chum blocks of wood on one end, and those extra edges will snag and retrieve duck decoy lines, crab trap buoy lines, docks, a Croc shoe out there without a bucket? We’ve won several Gulf tournaments floating away, ward off an approaching 30-foot ice floe (in Iowa), after filling buckets with chum, with some choice fresh menhaden push the boat away from jetty rocks, ease up on a shallow mixed in, which kingfish dearly love. Our This little Mako 17 boat keeps a redfish school, move the boat silently around small marsh first big Galveston tournament was clinched serious compass close at hand. islands while making a long drift—the list is endless. And with a 40-pound kingfish that ate a two-day it’s nice to explore a flat without depending on the wind or a howling motor. Be sure to coat that dowel with a few coats of polyurethane, to prevent warping. Even with restricted space in my skiff, I still carry a paddle. This may harken back to my friend’s bassboat stalled in the Sabine ship channel near jetty’s end, and an approaching Texaco tanker kept honking at us. This was in 1973, but it’s still ingrained in me, the bow of that ship looming bigger on a collision course. In that deep water only a paddle could have moved us. Fortunately the motor finally started and we scooted away, with the ship’s bow and whitewater less than 100 yards away. We’d had visions of when Amatsukaze cut PT-109 in half, throwing a future U.S. president into the water on a dark night. Years ago the rig hook was standard equipment on offshore fishing boats. It’s an 8-foot hollow aluminum pipe shaped like a candy cane, with 3/4-inch floating rope running through the tube, knotted at the curved end. That rope, 50 feet long, is connected to the boat’s bow cleat. In rough seas a rig hook is the only feasible means of mooring to an offshore platform, save for tossing a lasso. Or grabbing one of the rig’s heavy knotted swing ropes and tying to that. I’ve done all of these things, even swung aboard oil 34 | March 2019

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rigs like Tarzan over whitecaps, and tied my boat to the rig in some fashion. There are many variables of wind and tide and oil rig construction. And you never know when you will need to tie up to one of those offshore rigs. Maybe in a storm, or overnight. Or swim at midday, work on an outboard motor, wait for a tow, chum for kingfish, or drop baits to the bottom. Maybe the current is too strong to drift-fish, and you want to tie up and stay on the fish. Sea Anchor. Also called a drift sock. We fondly call mine “the parachute,” and it’s time to “hit the silk” when I ease it into the water. It slows my boat with a jolt, and we can properly make a drift without the wind shoving willy-nilly downwind. A five-gallon bucket will also work here to some extent, even offshore if a boat is broke down. Tools. A small toolbox seems like a no-brainer. Screwdrivers, pliers, spark plug wrench, several adjustable wrenches and wire snips (for crab traps) will deal with a lot of problems. Keep ‘em wrapped in an oily towel. A survival bag was added to my checklist in 1990, following Port Arthur’s Mike Spencer with a winter reports of duck hunters and fishermen who didn’t make Every boat should carry an anchor, bucket on a Bolivar shrimpboat, from jonboats up to huge yachts. it back alive. The bag is nice to have in chilly weather, when picking through fresh bait and chum. help can be scarce. If fog rolls in, who are you going to call? It might be wise to sit tight or head home at five knots. Winter’s low tides can take forever to return; we once sat aground for 17 hours before the water came up four inches and we escaped. With engine trouble or a boat run aground in frigid weather, that bag of food, new tarp and matches can be a lifesaver. When stranded, the nights are long. Build a campfire on the shoreline and don’t forget a little snakebite medicine. And some Advil. Been there, done that. We also learned long ago to keep a flashlight on the boat. None of us are guaranteed to return to port by dark, because bad things can happen out there. (Caca pasa). We have often fought tarpon until long after dark, and the first time, had to closely follow another boat back in to Port O’Connor. Much easier if we’d lit the way with a Q-beam. There’s no need to blind other boaters, however. Use a light sufficient to illuminate reflective navigation markers in the channel. Even the dilapidated markers in Port O’Connor that are knocked down to two feet or less above sea level, a constant boating hazard over the years. If you’re stuck somewhere overnight on an impromptu campout, a flashlight will come in handy. Useful for untangling These are basic, non-expensive items for the boat that have been crab trap wire wrapped tight around your prop, too. (If you brought the around for a long time, and I carry them even on my 16-foot skiff. tool kit. If not, call home, pull out survival bag and start camping). (Except for the rig hook).



Joe Richard has fished the Gulf since 1967, starting out of Port Arthur, but his adventures have taken him up and down the entire coast. He was the editor of Tide magazine for eight years, and later Florida Sportsman’s book and assistant magazine editor. He began guiding out of Port O’Connor in 1994. His specialty is big kingfish, and his latest book is The Kingfish Bible, New Revelations. Available at

36 | March 2019

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Here she is, all eight pounds and twenty-eight inches of her. All I can say is that I was blessed in late October on Baffin Bay.



t was late October when I received a call from Parker Moon, one of my old childhood friends, proposing that we make a fishing trip together. His family had recently purchased a bay house near Riviera Beach on Baffin Bay and he wanted to get a few buddies together for a weekend getaway. He already had the guide lined up, all we needed was our fishing gear. We called another of our other childhood buddies, Kyle Zaragoza, and he quickly said, “Let’s do it!” On the eve of the trip, I was scrambling on what to pack and what still needed to be done before I could leave. Excitement continued to build as I pieced my bag together. I had never been to Baffin and couldn’t wait to try my luck at the trophy trout with my longtime friends. It was hard to sleep with scenarios of catching “the big one” running through my mind. Finally, no sooner had I fallen asleep, the alarm was going off . I rolled out of bed and slowly put myself together. I kissed the wife and kids goodbye and made my way to work. I knew it was going to be a long day, but it would all be worth it in the end. I could just feel it. As the day rolled on I was getting more and more anxious. I had already received multiple phone calls asking what time I was leaving work and where we should meet. Quitting time, and time to hit the road. My parking spot was a cloud of smoke as I burned out of there like my wife heading for a kid-free trip to Target. I flew home awaiting the arrival of my buddies so we could head south. I called them repeatedly with the same question, “Where are you now?” Each time they replied, “Five minutes closer than the last time you called.” When they pulled in the driveway I was standing there like a hitchhiker waiting to be collected. I threw my gear in the bed of the pickup, kissed my wife and kids one last time, and we hit the road. The long drive consisted of a lot of catching up, reminiscing and bantering the way old friends do. An outsider looking in might have had difficulty at times deciding whether we’d ever been friends at all. We made it to the bay house a little past midnight, exhausted from the long day and even longer drive. We unpacked, got our gear together for the morning, and hit the sack. Tired but anxious for the next day of fishing. We awoke with everyone’s alarm blaring from one room to the next. We threw our clothes on, jumped into our waders, and headed to the pier. Our guide arrived right on time and within a few | 39

minutes we were underway. The boat ride was brisk to say the least on that cold and windy morning. Pulling up to our first stop, the four of us wasted no time vaulting over the gunnels, rod and reel and tackle bag in hand. We casted profusely, believing any cast could be the lucky one to bring in the trophy we had traveled so far to catch. We caught a few trout and small reds at that stop, nothing to really crow about. We unfortunately received more entertainment from Kyle than the fish. The hole in his waders had him soaked and shaking like a wet dog. Getting Kyle in some warmer clothes, we were off to our next spot. Parker and Poor Kyle liked to freeze to death twice in leaky waders Kyle’s bull red under the lights. I waded down the bank as – but he reeled ‘em in like a champ on the pier. Kyle and our guide stayed The battle seesawed several minutes, the fish would take some in the boat and drifted on the other side. After about 15 minutes, line and I’d get some back. Finally, the fish made a desperate run that Parker nailed a nice red and the fight was on. Within seconds I too was ended in a tall jump and my heart jumped with her. hooked up. After hauling in six fat and healthy reds, we decided to I don’t normally carry a net and, of all things, I had a trophy trout move on to our next spot. almost within reach, with plenty of fight left in her. All I could think We went into the shallow waters of a nearby back lake where the was if I lose this fish I will be devastated. game would be sightcasting for black drum. I had never done this Hearing my calls for a net, our guide, Parker, and Kyle all began before, but it was an interesting experience watching the drum devour scurrying in my direction to see what the commotion was about. your bait from only a few yards away. We enjoyed the drum for a while They wanted to help, but it was all in my hands, and I didn’t want to and then moved on to our final spot of the day. disappoint. We were back on the trout in the waist deep waters of Baffin. We After at least another ten minutes of back and forth, swimming her mulled around for a while, managing quite a few smaller trout and a in circles on a tight line, the guide slung me his net. The closer the fish couple more reds. We decided to call it a day and head on home. We got, the bigger she looked and the more nervous I felt. I swam her in had caught a lot of nice fish, but the trophy trout we were chasing so many circles that I feared I might get dizzy. was still at large. That night we grilled steaks and sat around the At long last she was on her side within arm’s reach and I swam table planning the next day. Drained from lack of sleep, we wasted her into the waiting net. Scooping her up in one swift motion I was no time turning in early. horrified that half her body was hanging over the rim. Note to self: The next morning, we were well rested and ready to try our luck Carry a net in trophy trout water – a big net! again. We met the guide at the pier again and made our first stop I felt instantly relieved. The fear and anxiety that she’d get away close to the banks of a cut in waist-deep water. We again jumped out left my brain in a fraction of a second. We weighed and measured the of the boat as soon as it stopped, anxiously casting in every direction. fish as quickly as we could, keeping her in the water except for brief We landed a lot of mid-size trout, nice keepers, but well-short of our seconds at a time. We whooped and hollered and high-fived at least dream fish. We fished on. a dozen times, celebrating my new personal best speckled trout…all Second stop; not much luck outside of a few small trout, and I began 28-inches and 8-pounds of her. slowly making my way deeper into the bay, almost to the top of my Photos were snapped hurriedly as we set about making certain waders. Discouragement was trying to overtake me and my focus was she was fully revived and ready to be released. In my mind I will trying to wane. One more cast, I kept telling myself. One more cast. always see that thrust of her tail as she headed off, back into Baffin Suddenly, in the middle of my daydreaming, the rod was nearly Bay. Such a beautiful creature. jerked from my hands. Awaking to the surprise of a jolting bite I The rest of the day was spent trying to get Parker and Kyle on a instinctively reared back and the fight was on. I was not sure if I had trophy, but every stop was a dead end. Kyle was lucky enough to have tied into a bull red or a trophy trout but, whatever it was, it was strong. 40 | March 2019

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another hole in his second pair of waders, and it wasn’t long before he was about frozen. We decided to call it a day and headed back to the house. We spent the night fishing off the pier and landing a few more nice trout under the lights and a bull red. We did some more reminiscing and a lot more heckling to close out the weekend. It was a long drive home, and we were all excited to tell our wives and kids the stories of our great weekend adventure. It is important to cherish the moments we have in the outdoors

with our friends. Life goes by in the blink of an eye and we all get caught up in the rat race. The friends we grew up with or made through the years are very important to our development as a person. They help you through the hard times and they are a direct ingredient of the good times. Much like family, true friendship is a bond that even though distance and responsibilities can come between, it can never be broken. I am very blessed in the friendships I have made over the years, and they have helped mold me into the husband, father, and son I am today. Never forget these moments and make time for as many journeys like this one as you possibly can. Always accept an opportunity to enjoy time fishing with friends. You just might catch your personal best, or at the very least, return home with more memories to relive the next time you can get together. One day we will all come to a point where it will no longer be possible to do the things we do today. We will regret every bit of not getting out and taking advantage of God’s Great Green Earth.

Friends since childhood, we’ve had a lot of fun together. This was at my wedding.

rch a M

Weekly Specials Week 1 | March 4-10 | Sea Striker Fillet Knife Kit Fillet Knife Kit: 4” 6” 8” Fillet Knives, Sharpener, Carrying Case.

Item No. SSFKK468 – reg. $19.99 – SALE $14.99

Week 2 | March 11-17 | Wilderness Systems Stabilizer Bar

This strong, double-walled marine-grade aluminum bar attaches to the SlideTrax™ rail on Wilderness Systems kayaks and folds flat when not in use. It comes with hardware to bolt directly to your kayak if you don’t have SlideTrax rails. The width between the mounts is 19.75 inches. The height is adjustable and can fit anglers 5’2” - 6’4”. Compatible with the following Wilderness Systems models: A.T.A.K. 140, Commander 120, Ride 115, 135, Tarpon 130X, Thresher 140, 155. Item no. 8070029 – reg. $214.99 – SALE $150.49 •

Week 3 | March 18-24 | Lew’s Mach I Speed Spin

The Mach I Speed Spin reel is a good all-purpose reel and features a lightweight yet rugged graphite body, skeletal C40 carbon rotor and smooth 10-bearing system. The stainless-steel bail is strong and balanced. The spool is double anodized ported knurled aluminum. Pinion gear is precision-cut solid brass. Zero Reverse anti-reverse is rock solid and reliable. Gear ratio is high-speed 6.2:1 that is appropriate for a broad range of fishing applications. The reel has an oversized multi-disc drag system to deliver a smooth and reliable performance. The fold-down anodized aluminum handle is fitted with a Lew’s Combat Grip knob. Item no. MH200 – reg. $59.99 – SALE $49.99 •

Week 4 | March 25-31 | Wilderness Systems 3-D Seat

Designed specifically to enhance the Wilderness Systems A.T.A.K., the AirPro 3D seat provides an elevated perch position for the angler to paddle or cast from, delivering unsurpassed visibility, stability and comfort. The folding aluminum tube frame is designed for fast and easy attachment, deployment, positioning and removal. Compatible with the following Wilderness Systems models: A.T.A.K. 120, A.T.A.K. 140, Radar 135. Item No. 8070030 – reg. $254.99 – SALE $178.49 • 42 | March 2019

Helios SX Spinning Reel

Helios SX Baitcaster Reel

Features: · Light weight C-40X carbon frame and sideplates · C-40X Cyclonic Flow Rotor for corrosion resistance · TCA: Torsion Control Armor reduces twisting · 8HPB + 1RB corrosion resistant stainless steel bearings

Features: · ALC: Rigid diecast aluminum frame and sideplates · CRC: Corrosion Resistant Coating Process · 10BB + 1RB Stainless steel bearings · Precision Japanese ABEC-5 spool bearings · 12-point adjustable Velocity Control System · Oversized Carbon Handle for maximum cranking power · Disengaging spool shaft for long distance casting · Offered in three distinct speeds | 43

Dustin Angerstien with very solid winter fish on Custom Corky Floater. CPR!



IF IT LOOKS GOOD, STAY PUT! I search continuously for little things that can help us become better anglers and my fishing philosophy is definitely old school and basic compared to most of today’s younger crowd. I believe in sticking to proven game plans, basic blocking and tackling in football terms, and then adjusting to the conditions as needed. The conditions being your opponents if you’re still thinking football. In this month’s article we will talk about two small aspects that many overlook. “If it looks good it probably is,” and, “Staying put once you’re in the right area at the proper time.” My annual two month sojourn to Port Mansfield compels me to abide by the mindset that if it looks good it probably is. Remember that what looks good includes proper bottom structure with ambush points, and an ample food supply. Another key point is that just because there are no boats in an area doesn’t mean it does not hold potential. Even though the water depths I fish here are similar to those in Rockport, the configuration of these bays is very different. Currents here are more the product of wind 44 | March 2019

than tide. While there is tide movement through the East Cut that flows between spoil islands, I honestly don’t fish this area much during winter. In my playbook the “looks good” approach applies more to working shorelines, flats, and drain mouths where it’s definitely more about wind-generated currents. I believe very strongly in the Solunar Tables but understand that to catch the right fish you must first be on the right fish. Like my home waters, northeast wind in the Lower Laguna can create false tides and strong south-southeast wind can dump a flat quicker than you can imagine. It pays huge dividends if you understand and predict the effects of these water movements. I learned much of this by having to float or push the boat out of a flat that only a few hours earlier had more than enough water to easily jump up and run out. Tough lesson, right there. But one you’re not likely to forget. Trout and redfish that live in these areas use these wind-generated currents to position themselves in deeper troughs and along the up-current sides of shallow bars on the flats for feeding opportunities under



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*while supplies last

the conditions described in the paragraph above. The features I have described can be seen on Google Earth, and I enjoyed the luxury of tutoring by Mike McBride and Tricia early in my learning curve down here to better understand what I was seeing on the screen. So, my suggestion for you is that when you see something that looks good, try it. Get a feel for the area and see what happens. Trying new areas that look promising helps us become more area-oriented in our game planning versus simply being “spot” fishermen. I am always amazed to see the flat come alive as the wind starts to move the water. It’s almost magical some days; nobody’s had a bite in an hour and suddenly we have three fish on at once. Just a few days back we were wading a flat with bait present but not active. About thirty minutes into the wade I hooked a solid 6-plus trout. Almost immediately, one of my guys on the opposite end of the line hooked up, and then the guy on my other side hooked up. We see this all the time and I suspect you have too. Another thing I see is that after shutting the boat down in an area, we have to wade about 100 to 150 yards before the fish settle in to our presence and begin the feed. In today’s highly-pressured fisheries we see this distance increasing and I believe it is due to the increase in boating pressure. Now let’s talk about staying put after receiving signals that your “looks good” area may actually turn out to be good. The knowledge I will share on this was gained over many years of guiding and tournament angling and time is of the essence in both of these worlds. As a guide you only have so many feeding hours during a day and so many hours of productive effort from your anglers. Early in my career I tried to kill my clients. Not literally, but I fished them daylight ‘til dark. We got out in areas that looked good, that had produced in the past, and went to fishing. Those endeavors demonstrated great effort but lack of knowledge on my part. If the client was trying to justify hours to dollars he was happy, but too often the production was lacking. We just wrote if off by saying, “That’s why they call it fishing and not catching.” During those long days I observed peaks and valleys in feeding activity even though I hadn’t yet learned to correlate those with the solunar table. But what might have worked on a daily guiding trip when there were no real time constraints, other than daylight and dark, did not work during tournament play. The restricted hours of fishing tournaments forced me to concentrate my efforts on much smaller areas and, due to fishing pressure from other tournament anglers, it forced us to stay in these smaller areas longer. Back in the days of the Gulf Coast Trout Master tourneys it was not uncommon to have more than 200 anglers at each event. I think one year at Rockport we had 350. To top it off, those events were held on weekends. Which meant you not only had tournament anglers vying for places to fish but the weekend fishermen as well. It forced us to scout for areas that would produce during the tournament fishing hours and also where winning fish could be found. Fish and winning fish are totally different animals. As our experience increased we discovered that working small areas VERY SLOWLY usually paid off sometime during the hours we were allowed to fish. Some feeding periods were longer than others, obviously majors and minors. As I gained success in the tournament game I always tried to identify what I had done differently than others in the field. 46 | March 2019

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48 | March 2019

Typically, I line my guys up and coach constantly to those that I feel want to learn. “Move slow and easy,” I tell them. “The first bite stops everyone.” I think aloud the whole time, mentioning everything I observe, trying to relate only to the positives, whether bait jumping or an osprey wheeling overhead. To start a day explaining why you’re not going to be successful is a defeatist attitude and leads to failure. At the end of truly tough day; if asked, I’ll give the reason or reasons why I believe the fish did not eat for us, but seldom at the start of the day. Believing in your ability to interpret what you’re seeing and then reacting with knowledge and skill is huge. If there are any in a group of clients who do not believe that it’s all about fishing smart, I put them out on the end of the line and turn them loose. The results at the end of the day usually speak for themselves. May your fishing always be catching. -Guide Jay Watkins


My dad was a coach and always told us that on Friday night we would play like we had practiced all week. I soon found that in tournament fishing I performed better on tournament day when I fished the way I’d practiced. I eventually reached an age where my want and need to fish tournaments became less important than my real source of income, which was guiding. I discovered that by fishing my clients as if we were fishing in a tournament, I fished more intelligently. I picked areas based on weather conditions, seasonal patterns, and fishing pressure. I monitored the solunar tables for every trip and paid close attention to weather forecasts and changes that would occur during the fishing day. I became a teacher of what could make our day a success based on fishing smarter, not harder. Hard and smart are different but can be deadly in tandem. My dad told me before he passed, in the early days of my career, the adage of being lucky rather good wouldn’t work in the fishing business. “Luck runs out,” he told me. “So you better work at becoming good.” I never forgot it. So becoming good takes hard work and an awareness of all that is happening around you. We cannot do this if we are sprinting across a flat or along a shoreline, hoping to cover enough water that the odds will turn in our favor. I am a huge believer in picking an area, reading what an area is trying to tell me, and devoting enough time to allow the area to develop. I heard a client of Jay Ray’s tell him the other day that he would have never given an area the amount of time that they did that day. For the record, that gentleman caught a 30-plus personal best trout that day.

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. Telephone Email Website

361-729-9596 | 49



TIME FOR A NEW SKIFF When I picked up my brand new East Cape Fury, the plan was to do the typical guide thing and flip her in about eighteen months. Well, here I am almost seven years later and she’s still sitting in the driveway. That skiff has made a whole lot of memories for me, my family, and most importantly, my customers. You don’t stay in the same boat that long if you don’t love it, particularly if you spend as much time in it as a guide does. I’ve known Brian Little for a good many years, long before he started building skiffs for a living. Even way back then he was building boats for himself and I was always impressed with the quality he turned out from his garage shop with minimal equipment. When I heard he was attempting to build a poling skiff out of aluminum I’ll admit

50 | March 2019

to being a bit skeptical. We’ve all been in a jon boat at some point. They’re inherently noisy. And noise is the enemy of poling skinny water trying to sneak up on reds. I kept an eye on his progress with this project and was impressed with what he was coming out with. I know how picky Scott Sommerlatte is about boats and when he went with a new Sabine Skiff it certainly caught my attention. As a few more friends got onboard I started asking questions of them. Everything was positive. Fit, finish and performance were all there. And yes, they really were quiet on the water. But it takes me a while to make up my mind about a boat. A couple years ago at the Houston Fishing Show, Brian had a booth with a new Sabine Versatile sitting in it. It was the first time I had laid hands on one and I went over it pretty carefully. A year later at that same show Brian showed up with two layouts of the Versatile as well as a Sabine Micro, a smaller version of the original. I spent so much time in his booth I felt like I needed to pay rent. By the end of the show we were having some serious talks about me getting into one. Life gets in the way and I put it on the back burner. Then a friend put on a fly fishing/skiff get together at his house in Bayou Vista. Brian was there with a couple of skiffs and we went for a ride through the marsh and out across a pretty damn bumpy Jones Lake. By the time we got back to the dock I was sold. We shook on it and the process began.

we’re fishing for your input! | 51

This is my fourth poling skiff in sixteen years Custom touches everywhere; ever seen and I’ve learned a lot about what I want in a engraved push pole holder brackets before? skiff. I’ve spent countless hours on the platform watching how customers move around on the boat, asking them what they liked or didn’t like about my skiff, as well as just thinking about what I could do to have a better office. One of the great things about dealing with custom builders like Sabine Skiffs and East Cape is their ability to build pretty much whatever you can imagine, within reason, of course. Brian and I went over my wish list and he showed me examples of custom touches from prior builds. My plan involved segregating my boat into a customer area in the front and my The center of operations – will be a big bonus working space aft. The less clients have to move around on the skiff, all control switches can be when I can take a the more comfortable they are. It also makes my life easier up on the activated without removing look at the satellite your hand from the grab bar. poling platform. overlay while I went with a tiller steer outboard for simplicity and weight savings. prowling around and exploring the back lakes. With that I wanted a grab bar built into the center of the boat. My Another bonus to this center helm concept is that it provides a original idea of something to just hold on to while operating the tiller backrest for the cooler seat position in front of it. So now the second morphed into a highly-functional center of operations. Brian came up angler taking a seat while his buddy is on the bow can sit comfortably with a small box to mount the switches for the jack plate, tilt/trim, trim and still see all the action. On the Fury there really wasn’t a good tabs, lights and bilge. All can be reached without moving my hand place for the second angler to relax and still see what was going on. from the grab bar. We also came up with a way to mount my very large Problem solved. Humminbird Solix 12 GPS so that it was out of the way, yet visible when With most skiffs, the under-gunnel rod tubes are set up for the rod operating the boat. I can also view it from the poling platform, which

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Extended bow deck overhang is going to come in very handy in many ways.

sent photos regularly. Several times I got calls asking exactly where or how I wanted something. Things as simple as switch placement were confirmed and adjusted. And, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the awesome Seadeck work Brian’s wife put together. Kaylor can do pretty much whatever you dream up, including a really large measuring board on the front deck for those big bull reds in Louisiana. I just got her home yesterday and couldn’t be more pleased. By the time you read this I’ll have made my shakedown runs, caught the first red off of it, and be ready to run some trips. Give me a shout and we’ll get you out there.


tips to go under the front deck. This puts the reels near the stern and necessitates the angler walking to the back of the skiff to retrieve his rod. The problem came about when it was time for the guys to switch positions. Two anglers walking back and forth along the sides of the boat tends to make the skiff a little tippy. And with some of my larger guys it could get a little uncomfortable for me up top. To solve this we simply reversed the rod tubes. Now, Under-gunnel LEDs from Plash rods can be stored or retrieved without Lights brighten the cockpit for added safety during early leaving the bow area. This will also come morning boarding. in handy when that school of marauding jacks shows up and you want to switch quickly to a heavier stick. The bow deck of the standard Versatile ends with a slight overhang, just past the front bulkhead. I had Brian build mine with an extra foot of overhang. I wanted to go as far as we could without interfering with the rod storage, for two reasons. A larger front deck is always a good thing. When I’m running trips with conventional gear I’ll often have two guys on the bow and the larger deck accommodates them much better. Also, the overhang provides a great space for clients to stow a small bag with flies, leaders, snacks and rain gear. All this is out of the way, yet easier to access than if it was inside the bow hatch. An unexpected bonus is the extended front deck also serves as a comfortable footrest for the seated angler. I can honestly say that Brian was a pleasure to work with throughout the design and build process. He kept me updated at every step and

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


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WHAT’S THAT SMELL? Are fish kills on the rise in Galveston Bay? The Upper Texas Coast has had its fair share of fish kills in 2018. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s (TPWD) Coastal Fisheries Ecosystem Resource Program staff investigated 26 different fish kills in 2018, which is more than previous years (Figure 1). These fish kills occurred between the months of May and December at 18 different locations along the upper Texas Coast. The species observed most often in the fish kills were juvenile Gulf menhaden (Brevoortia patronus). In June, millions of menhaden washed up along the shores of Kemah and Seabrook. Several canals and marinas along Clear Creek, a tributary of Galveston Bay, experienced several large-scale menhaden fish kills this summer. In August, millions of juvenile menhaden died in the San Jacinto River. The majority of the fish kills were caused by low dissolved oxygen levels in the water. Gulf menhaden are very sensitive to low dissolved oxygen (DO) levels and degrading water quality (Figure 2). Why do fish kills occur?? Fish kills can occur when water conditions become unsuitable for organisms to survive. These conditions can be caused by natural environmental fluctuations, such as temperature change, low dissolved oxygen in the water, or because of human interactions 54 | March 2019

with aquatic habitats. The first sign of this is often fish floating and washing up on the shore. What is dissolved oxygen in water you may ask? Just like humans need air with a high enough concentration of oxygen to breath, most organisms with gills need to have adequate levels of oxygen saturating the water to respire efficiently. Under normal conditions DO levels are generally between 4.0 and 8.0 mg/L. At 3.0 mg/L, many species will begin to show signs of stress such as “gasping” at the surface of the water. Below 2.0 mg/L, less resilient species of fish and invertebrates will begin to die. At less than 1.0 mg/L, even the hardier fish such as gar and catfish are impacted. Even temporary low DO conditions can stress fish where they become more susceptible to disease and parasites and result in a fish kill. The DO levels can fluctuate for several different reasons. High Temperatures and Low Circulation: High temperatures and low circulation are an issue because oxygen solubility and water temperatures have an inverse relationship. As water temperature rises, the amount of oxygen in the water decreases. This is why most naturally occurring fish kills happen during the hottest times of the year. High temperatures partnered | 55

with stagnant water conditions is a deadly combination. Oxygen penetrates the water column by interacting with the atmosphere through wave action, wind, and flowing water. Many of the fish kills occur in warmer months and in low flowing canals, marinas, ponds, or other areas with little to no mixing. Nutrient Loading and Algal Blooms: Areas of high agricultural, commercial, residential or industrial development, found along much of the Texas coast, can be contributors to nutrient runoff after heavy rains. These extra nutrients in the water act as a fertilizer to native or harmful algae resulting in massive explosions of their populations. These algae photosynthesize, removing carbon dioxide from the water column and release oxygen into the atmosphere and water. This results in high DO levels in the water when the sun is shining. However, at night, with no sunlight, algae use oxygen from the water for their respiration resulting in lower DO levels. When these algae begin to die, they sink to the bottom of the water body and begin to decay. This decomposition further reduces the DO concentration at the bottom of the water column affecting benthic communities. The majority of fish kills associated with high amounts of algae in the water occur during the early morning hours, just before sunrise, when DO levels are at their lowest.

56 | March 2019

One might ask: Are the increased number of Gulf menhaden kills due to increased populations of these fish during 2018? TPWD sampling (bag seine and bay trawl) data collected over the last 40 years, did not indicate an abnormal year for 2018. However, continuous water quality data, collected within Galveston and Trinity Bays by TPWD and the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB), confirm over the past 30 years water temperatures in the bays have been increasing. There was also a slight decrease in DO observed at one sampling station located in Trinity Bay in 2018. Although it is not clear why there were more reports of fish kills in Galveston Bay and surrounding tributaries in 2018 than in previous years, TPWD is documenting these occurrences Figure 2 and continuing to determine possible causes. Regardless of other contributors, if temperatures continue to rise, dissolved oxygen levels will continue to decline. This decline will likely contribute to an increase in fish kills, especially effecting sensitive species such as Gulf menhaden. If you observe a fish kill in your area or a pollution event, please contact TPWD’s Austin Communications hotline at 512-389-4848.

Check the TPWD Outdoor Annual, your local TPWD Law Enforcement office, or for more info. | 57



THE MARCH TRANSITION When I look back at past years, March has always been a month when fishing patterns make the seasonal transition from winter to spring and the challenge of mastering those changes gives me great motivation. With the warming temperatures, the targeted species habits change and I always tried to make adjustments accordingly. Sadly, I’m just not feeling the motivation yet this year. One of the main reasons I believe this has happened is that this past year has probably been the worst for trout fishing I have ever experienced on Sabine. Well, maybe tied with the previous year. Without a doubt, all the rain we have had locally has impacted our estuary negatively. With Toledo Bend and Sam Rayburn both dumping as much water as they can to maintain pool levels, it has dispersed most of the fish on the lake and has generally made everything very inconsistent. I have seen photos of people fishing for trout, catching bass on Corkys at the north end of the lake, and even heard reports of bass being caught as far south as Pleasure Island. Needless to say, the water in our lake is pretty fresh! However, with the poor winter trout fishing I have encountered, I continue to hold hope for things to turn around in the months ahead. Better fishing days have to be in our future, somewhere. The transition into spring may be more abrupt this year but fish will tend to stick to their usual routines. As baitfish begin to move back into the lakes and upper parts of the estuary, redfish and trout will start to congregate on the flats and bayous, waiting for their turn to feed. As the water temperature starts to rise, I like to change 58 | March 2019

my bait selection a bit from the lures that I was throwing on the colder days. Usually, the first lure I replace is my Corky that has been tied on since early December. I like to throw a topwater, usually a She Dog or a Super Spook, since the fish are coming out of their winter sluggishness and tend to be more active. However, even though I took my Corky off does not mean I will completely forget it. I learned a few years back that if trout are short striking a topwater, waste no time in tying that Corky back on. I found that the hookups would increase if you worked it at a faster pace nearer the surface. Since we are heading into springtime, I would like to pass along what I consider a helpful tip, especially for those who might have taken the winter off from fishing – you need to seriously consider spooling your reels with fresh line. March is arguably one of the best months for landing a personal best or possibly even a lifetime speckled trout, and you certainly don’t want a fish of that size and quality getting away because of weak line. A few years back, a buddy and I were out fishing and it was his first trip since fall. We started out just before daylight and we immediately started catching fish on topwaters. About the fifth fish of the morning, my buddy got a ridiculous blow-up on his Skitter Walk and we instantly knew he had a wall-hanger. As he got it closer and just out of netting range, his line broke and we watched her swim away. After being heartbroken about it, he told me “I literally told my wife last night that I needed to replace this line.” That was a mistake that won’t be made again! Other than trout, redfish this time of year are plentiful


and usually are easy to spot. Only thing is, they can be very picky when it comes to tricking one to bite. When the smaller pods of baby shad start moving in, you can see redfish crashing the shoreline, gorging on the tiny fish. At that time, it seems as though this is the only thing they want to eat and it can make for a frustrating day. I think early spring is the only time a redfish only wants to eat just one thing. I always try to throw smaller profile lures when I find picky, feeding fish. Usually smaller swimbaits or Fluke Jrs are my go-to lures. Also, a Rebel Pop-R from the bass fishing world can be extremely effective – just make sure to replace the hooks with something sturdy enough for redfish. Like I mentioned earlier, we have had a lot of rain recently and that

has made our water incredibly dirty. This has all but eliminated sightcasting for me, unless a redfish was blatantly showing himself, which has not been too often lately. So, I have had to resort to doing a lot of blindcasting. Since the water clarity has been so poor, I have switched around a few of my confident lures. Instead of throwing my gold spoon, I have taken to throwing a Chatterbait. The extra vibration in the dirty water helps redfish find it more easily than a spoon, or any other lure, I believe. Also, if you buy Chatterbaits for redfish, be sure to buy the higher-end ones; the cheaper ones are not built for the power of a redfish and the hooks will straighten out. I will be out there trying to unravel the early spring patterns, even if the prospects for heavyweight trout will be limited. There will be many opportunities to land plenty of fish and also, maybe, a chance of catching a personal best here on Sabine. If you are lucky enough to land such a fish, please practice Catch & Release and let the bigger trout swim away. The big spawners are vital in continuing to provide a healthy resource. With the warmer days coming and the shift in feeding habits, be sure to stay a step ahead and master the transition. Dave Roberts is an avid kayak-fishing enthusiast fishing primarily the inshore Upper Coast region with occasional adventures to surf and nearshore Gulf of Mexico. Email: Website: | 59

Quentin Hall from HRI discussing the benefits of the opening of Cedar Bayou with a group of community members at Cedar Bayou.

Story by John Blaha | Photos by Lisa Laskowski


PARTNERSHIPS MAKE HABITAT CCA Texas, through its habitat initiative, Habitat Today for Fish Tomorrow (HTFT), and Building Conservation Trust (BCT), CCA National’s habitat program, have been involved in thirty-seven habitat projects with a total contribution of $6,759,600 since November of 2009. CCA Texas Executive Board approved an initial funding of $500,000 at its November 2009 Executive Board meeting, and the program has grown quickly to where it is today. In 2018, the program funded over $950,000 to ten projects. CCA Texas’s partnerships with like organizations, state agencies, academic institutions and others is an important

New culverts in marsh restoration project at Egery Flats in Upper Copano Bay.

60 | March 2019

component to the efforts along the Texas gulf coast to create and restore critical habitat. CCA Texas and its partners continue to build relationships and look forward to many years of conservation work together. Coastal Bend Bays and Estuaries Program – The Coastal Bend Bays and Estuaries Program (CBBEP) marks its 20th Year Anniversary in 2019. CBBEP is dedicated to protecting and restoring the health and productivity of the bays and estuaries in the Texas Coastal Bend, while supporting continued economic growth and public use of the bays. CBBEP works with local governments, conservation groups, teachers, students and the public to raise awareness of the natural surroundings through research, restoration and recreation projects, and environmental education. CBBEP strongly believes the health, beauty, and bounty of our bays and estuaries are essential for continued enjoyment of both people and wildlife. Ray Allen, Executive Director of the Coastal Bend Bays & Estuaries Program - The overlap in our individual missions allows Coastal Bend Bays & Estuaries Program and CCA Texas to be natural partners. Working together and leveraging funds, we have been able create, enhance, and restore millions of dollars of habitats for marine species, a tremendous benefit to recreational fisheries in the Coastal Bend, something both our organizations want to see. | 61

CCA Texas and CBBEP have partnered together and with others on multiple projects in Nueces Bay, Redfish Bay, Matagorda Island, and Copano Bay. These efforts have included a water management system in the Nueces Bay delta; marsh restoration efforts on Matagorda Island, in Copano Bay (Egery Flats) and Nueces Bay; and oyster restoration efforts. CCA Texas and CBBEP continue to work closely in the conservation of ecosystems in the Coastal Bend. Galveston Bay Foundation - The Galveston Bay Foundation (GBF) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization established in 1987 under the laws of the State of Texas. The Foundation’s strength is that it involves a true cross-section of bay interests to address issues and concerns related to Galveston Bay. It is managed by a strong Board of Directors whose members represent sport and commercial fishing groups, government agencies, recreational users, environmental groups, shipping, development, and business interests. The mission of the Galveston Bay Foundation is to preserve and enhance Galveston Bay as a healthy and productive place for generations to come. Philip Smith, GBF Director of Habitat Restoration - At the Galveston Bay Foundation we work to develop and implement coastal habitat restoration projects within the Galveston Bay complex. These projects can range from restoring a small oyster reef or protecting miles of bay shoreline from erosion and re-establish marsh habitats along these now protected shorelines. No matter the scale of the restoration project we work on, one thing is always a constant, we CAN’T do it alone! It takes partners to get these projects on the ground. We are fortunate here in Texas to have strong partners, such as CCA Texas, all working toward a common goal; to protect and restore our coastal habitats. CCA Texas and GBF have been partners for many years. Shoreline protection and marsh restoration has been the focus of the projects CCA Texas has partnered with GBF on, and include projects in West Galveston Bay, Trinity Bay and Galveston Bay. These projects also offer an avenue for public education and outreach through public Marsh Mania events, and other efforts with local businesses and schools. Friends of RGV Reef – CCA Texas’s partnership with Friends of RGV Reef (FRGVR) is a success because of a strong and determined grass roots effort. FRGVR is a local 501 (c)(3) organization based in the Rio Grande Valley. Formed by an intense desire of local recreational fishermen to improve the habitat and quality of local recreational fishing, the organization came to fruition through the extensive efforts of brothers Bob and Gary Glick, Daniel Bryant and a host of other local individuals. In addition, the Port of Brownsville has provided an invaluable area for staging and loading materials that are to be deployed into the 1,600 acre nearshore reefing area. CCA Texas was involved early on in the quest for a permitted reefing area and was one of the first financial contributors to the site. CCA Texas has continued to support the reefing efforts of FRGV with multiple financial gifts, and any necessary support to help promote the effectiveness and benefits of reefing material deployments into the site. CCA Texas has contributed $461,000 to the RGV Reef to date and looks forward to continuing its support in the future. Gary Glick, Friends of RGV President - CCA immediately understood and committed to help fund the nursery reef concept as Friends of RGV Reef was gathering stakeholders to meet with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Artificial Reefing Program. CCA Texas was present in these initial meetings to encourage TPWD to secure a USACE permit for the new nearshore site. We feel strongly that CCA Texas’s early support was a large part of the reason that TPWD Artificial Reefing Program sought to permit the largest nearshore reefing site to date, and CCA Texas’s input and financial backing has played a 62 | March 2019

Marsh Restoration results at Dickinson Bayou.

Water control station for the Nueces Bay Delta.

Materials deployment in Sabine Reef.

pivotal role in the success of the project. Harte Research Institute and Texas A&M – CCA Texas was the founding partner at the Center for Sportfish Science and Conservation with a $500,000 contribution in the fall of 2012. Since that time, this partnership has continued to grow and offer an abundance of scientific research tied to habitat restoration. Greg Stunz, Ph.D. - We are proud to partner with the CCA on a variety of projects such as the Center for Sportfish Science and Conservation, ReleaSense, and others. One in particular, is our partnership in construction of nearshore artificial reefs. This project has been tremendously successful in terms of creating habitat, but also a great fishing area that is easily accessible to anglers with smaller boats to quality red snapper fishing. However, this work is expensive and often the reefing materials are limited. Thus, this partnership provides the best science to these programs in terms of reef configuration, amount, and location that will maximize fish abundance on these structures to create reefs in the most efficient way possible. This makes an ideal partnership, where we can use science to create the most successful reefing programs possible. Jennifer Pollack, Ph.D. - CCA has provided strong, visionary support to

HRI researchers.

protect and restore coastal habitats across Texas. Their investment has allowed us to build key partnerships across the Gulf of Mexico and beyond to help make habitat restoration possible. Their leadership in the field of habitat restoration has been invaluable in increasing our understanding of historic habitat loss and developing solutions to support long-term sustainability in the future Texas Parks and Wildlife Department – CCA Texas and Texas Parks and Wildlife (TPWD) have been partners in conservation, science, advocacy, and law enforcement efforts since CCA was established in 1977. Texas’s coastal resources have seen endless benefits of this partnership for over four decades. Without this partnership, recreational anglers and the general public may not have been able to enjoy the benefits the Texas coast offers today. CCA Texas has contributed millions of dollars to habitat projects, law enforcement equipment, research

equipment, and education programs through TPWD. CCA Texas and the TPWD Artificial Reefing Program exemplifies the benefits of this ongoing partnership. CCA Texas has contributed $1,800,000 to the eight nearshore reefing sites along the Texas coast. This partnership, along with others within the Artificial Reefing Program, has created over 3,000 acres of nearshore fisheries habitat combined in these eight sites. These sites provide not only critical habitat for nearshore species, but also quality, easy-to-reach fishing sites for recreational anglers. Dale Shivley, TPWD Artificial Reefing Program Leader - Coastal Conservation Association Texas has been a critical link in our ability to provide for marine habitat in Texas coastal waters. Years ago, CCA recognized that marine habitat is the foundation to sustainable fish populations. By partnering with the TPWD Artificial Reef Program, they have provided support and funding for many reef projects. Success stories range from the recent reefing of a small barge and hundreds of 1-ton quarry rocks at Sabine Nearshore Reef in the north, to countless artificial materials in the Rio Grande Valley Nearshore Reef to the south. This critical habitat conservation partnership provides extensive marine habitat for popular game fishes such as red snapper and all marine life in the Gulf of Mexico offshore of Texas. Habitat Today for Fish Tomorrow and Building Conservation Trust are key components to CCA Texas, and the efforts to restore and create habitat along the Texas coast. CCA Texas and Building Conservation Trust would not be successful without the continuous efforts of volunteers and supporters. If you would like to contribute to this effort or have any questions, please contact John Blaha at or Patrick Murray at | 63



PILOT FISH The sleek little pilot-fish, azure and slim, How alert in attendance be. From his saw-pit of mouth, from his charnel of maw They have nothing of harm to dread, But liquidly glide on his ghastly flank Or before his Gorgonian head; Or lurk in the port of serrated teeth In white triple tiers of glittering gates, And there find a haven when peril’s abroad, An asylum in jaws of the Fates! ~ Herman Melville, The Maldive Shark Pilot fish are a widely distributed marine member of the family Carangidae (jacks, pompanos, etc.) found throughout warm and tropical waters around the globe, ranging from very shallow down to almost 1000 feet. They have a long, slender body – even by carangid standards – about four times as long as it is deep, and sport the characteristic forked tail of their family. Though somewhat mackerel-like in appearance, they have a blunter, more rounded nose and smaller mouth, and their long second dorsal fin further separates them from the tribe. The first dorsal fin is only three or four short, inconspicuous spines, connected by a membrane in young fish that recedes as they grow. The second dorsal fin is a bit concave in outline and starts about midway down the back. The anal fin is basically a mirror of the second dorsal fin, but only about half as long, and is preceded by two very short spines. There is a lengthwise keel on either side of the tail base – much like the keel of a ship, it is a lateral ridge 64 | March 2019

that provides stability and support to the tail fin. The gill cover is rounded in adults, but has a spine in young fry. Of course, the pilot fish’s coloration is probably the most striking part of its anatomy. It can be recognized by its five to seven dark bands, which are normally in sharp contrast against the rest of the pale to silvery blue body. They are also known to have temporary color variations when excited or provoked; the dark-colored bars disappear, and the body turns silvery-white, with three broad blue patches on the back. Adults can grow up to about two feet in length, though they’re usually around a foot. There are a few possible etymologies for the common name, “pilot fish.” Their habit of riding the bow waves of ships led some seafaring peoples to believe that the fish was guiding their ship to safety or to its destination. It was also formerly thought to lead larger fishes to prey, due to their tendency to ride the pressure wave immediately in front of the larger fish’s snout. In Greek mythology, the god Apollo turned the sailor Pompilos into a pilot fish as Pompilos attempted to ferry a nymph fleeing from Apollo across the sea. The genus name, Naucrates, comes from the Greek naus, meaning “ship,” and kratēs, meaning “ruler” (a variation of kratos, meaning strength or power). The species name, ductor, comes from the Latin ducere, meaning “to lead.” Pilot fish hang around larger fish (also turtles, whales, fish aggregating devices, and ships) for a couple of reasons: 1) to eat leftover scraps from their host’s meals and 2) for protection. They also provide a bit of a cleaning service, eating parasites off the skin of their hosts. The

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most common hosts are sharks, and while they can be seen with all manner of sharks, the preferred species is the oceanic whitetip. It is extremely rare that a shark will eat a pilot fish, and smaller pilot fish are frequently observed swimming into sharks’ mouths to feed on fragments of food from between their teeth. Their relationship can be classified as semi-obligate commensalism (commensalism being a relationship between two organisms where one benefits and the other is not significantly harmed or helped), though sometimes the cleaning provided by the pilot fish is beneficial enough for the relationship to be considered mutualism (where both organisms benefit significantly). Pilot fish travel in a kind of a posse around their shark and are territorially protective, chasing away smaller rival pilot fish. One account from 1832 claims that pilot fish have “been known to follow a ship for six weeks after the shark to which [they] belonged was taken.” **Note: pilot fish should not be confused with remoras, who fill a similar niche but attach themselves directly to the shark. Pilot fish swim alongside sharks but do not attach themselves. Spawning extends from early summer to late autumn. Eggs are pelagic, floating about in the upper layers of the open sea. Juveniles are usually associated with jellyfish, drifting seaweed, and fish aggregating devices, where they opportunistically feed on plankton. As they mature, they graduate to larger host animals, eventually making their way up to sharks. How quickly they climb the ladder mostly depends on presence, availability, and the prevailing attitudes of incumbent pilot fish. The maximum age reached in captivity is three years; wild statistics are currently unknown. Early sexual maturity, along with a protracted spawning period might be traits favoring survival in the

highly variable pelagic environment they travel through. Pilot fish are edible and supposedly taste good, but they are difficult to land in spite of their size due to their habit of going quite insane when hooked. They are taken as bycatch in some parts of their range and are of minor commercial value. However, this is not considered a major threat to the global population. They are therefore assessed as Least Concern by the IUCN Red List. They also have some popular culture applications. A company called Sharkcamo sells rash guards and decals for surfboards and bodyboards that have stripes mimicking the pattern of poisonous fish, cleaner fish, pilot fish, and remoras — those species that sharks do not choose as prey. In the BBC science fiction series Doctor Who, pilot fish were used in analogical terms for a robotic species who congregated around more dangerous lifeforms. While pilot fish populations aren’t in danger, their preferred host, the oceanic whitetip, is in crisis. At one time, oceanic whitetips were thought to have been among the most numerous pelagic sharks on the planet. The Natural History of Sharks, written in 1969, even characterized them as “possibly the most abundant large animal (large being over 100 pounds) on the face of the Earth.” They’ve now all but disappeared because of complications with commercial fishing and the shark fin trade — with surprisingly little attention from either the scientific community or the public. On land, the effect of removing dominant predators is well understood, such as the explosion of prey species and the parasites that plague them (which incidentally sometimes end up plaguing humans). It’s unknown what effect the oceanic whitetips’ steep decline has had on ocean ecosystems because we understand so very little about them. Who knows what will happen to the pilot fish when the leader of their posse meets its demise…


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Where I learned about pilot fish, and you can too! World Register of Marine Species FishBase IUCN Red List Marine Species Identification Portal Encyclopaedia Britannica Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute Encyclopedia of Life Gulf of Maine Research Institute Reef Conservation International

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March is the earliest month we have encountered tiger sharks in the Texas surf.



MARCH OF THE GIANTS The surf zone becomes very quiet during mid-to-late winter in terms of apex predator action, but that is all about to change. March is almost here and practically any day now, like a hibernating dragon finally emerging from his winter lair, the South Texas surf will come roaring back to life. The key to this dramatic revitalization will be baitfish, mostly mullet, making their way back into the surf as the waters begin to warm. From an angler’s viewpoint, there are three basic categories of fish that inhabit the surf zone. You have the baitfish – mullet, menhaden, shad, and anchovies. Then you have what I term the middle of the gamefish class – seatrout, drum, redfish, jacks, and mackerel. Finally comes the apex predators – the sharks. Sharks are the ruling class; the only real threats to their continued survival are homo sapiens and larger sharks. With all categories of fish moving inshore in early spring, there will likewise be a host of shark species taking up residence inshore. Here in South Texas we have a few more than a dozen different shark species that can be targeted from the beach. March is also the month when multiple mako sharks have been landed from the Texas 68 | March 2019

surf. Makos are extremely rare inshore and only a few elite anglers can lay claim to having landed one from the surf. By late February the large sandbar sharks are finishing up their mating rituals. South Texas is a sandbar hotspot where mass aggregations form for mating. Tagged sandbars tell us they will return to the same stretch of beach year after year. Sandbars are considered a coolwater shark that can reach 200 pounds or more. They have a hefty appetite and will feed readily on a variety of large and small baits. Not many beach anglers have landed sandbars, given that they only inhabit our surf zone during the colder months when angler participation is generally at its lowest point. Sandbars are very aggressive swimmers and fighters, known to breach the surface when hooked. They also possess an unusual “crawling” ability when beached. This dangerous capability demands respect and they must therefore be handled with great care. Perhaps their general rarity and menacing ways is why they rank so highly with anglers. It is important to note that sandbar sharks are federally protected and must all be released. Ultimately, the weather and water conditions will THE PATRIOT

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determine how the March sharking action unfolds. As we are in this transition into spring, we have yet to endure the onslaught of the April winds and large seas. Our waters have exhibited relatively good clarity and clarity is often a prime catalyst for triggering shark activity. Aside from the scavenging bull sharks that will willingly inhabit turbid seas, most other species prefer cleaner, greener water. If present water conditions continue, March should bring lots of large blacktips to the surf and we often get our largest blacktips of the year in the spring. The large pregnant females roam the shallows taking in as much protein and other nutrients as they possibly can, and my spring charters will often include lots of blacktip action on casted baits. Usually, a whole whiting casted out beyond first main bar is money. Sometimes the blacktips become so numerous as to be pests when running larger baits for larger species. Pound for pound, though, the blacktip is one of the most impressive sharks to catch due to their acrobatic ways and speed bursts during the fight. While regarded as one of the best eating sharks, I heartily encourage releasing the blacktips (and sharks in general) if not planning on harvesting for food. Another highly sought-after species of shark for angling sport are the hammerheads. We have three different species that cruise the Texas shallows. The smallest of this family is the bonnethead. Bonnetheads can reach 4-feet length, though most mature specimens top out at 3-feet. Bonnetheads are usually encountered as by-catch for anglers trying for whiting, pompano, or drum while using shrimp or squid for bait. While not a large species, the bonnetheads are a cool fish to encounter. The biology of all the hammers is unique and a product of near perfect design after millions of years of evolution. The next species of hammers we encounter in the surf are the massive great hammerheads – the largest of the family. We typically do not see “greaters” during early spring; they typically do not begin to show until May with the arrival of tarpon and southern stingray. Another species of hammer we encounter in the surf is the scalloped hammerhead, which max out around 9-feet. With the lack of greaters this early in the year, we make up for it with the inshore abundance of the scalloped hammers. This guys are a blast to catch and much heartier in the release category than their larger cousins. Scalloped hammerheads will run very shallow and can be caught on casted baits the same as the blacktips. It is not uncommon to catch fairly large scalloped hammers while targeting blacktips. Due to their small mouth compared to body size, they will take smaller baits very readily. I have observed that the best baits for the springtime scalloped hammers are whiting, pompano, and small slabs of stingray. There’s little chance to mistake a scalloped 70 | March 2019

Curtis Mai prepares to release a large black drum from the springtime surf.

Little tunny feeding frenzy in the spring surf.

A large spring blacktip ready for release.

hammer when they pick up a bait; they are speed demons and make impressive runs. Even the largest of scalloped hammers can be turned and brought to the beach after a few determined runs which, like the bonnetheads, make them good candidates for successful release. Scalloped and greater hammers are not highly-regarded as table fare, quite poor actually, and managing the landing activities as efficiently as possible to enhance release success is greatly encouraged. Hammerheads in general are the most fragile of shark species in this regard. Perhaps the greatest beauty of seasons in transition is that you


Sandbar sharks are highly-prized for their rarity among shark species that visit our beaches.

never know what will show up next. March is the earliest month I have caught large tiger sharks. Generally speaking, if the jackfish make their inshore debut early, the larger sharks will follow. This is the reason for the rare mako and earlyseason tiger catches. Should the water warm earlier than normal, we are also likely to see the early arrival of bull sharks. The early arrivers tend to run in the 5 to 6-foot range and become steadily larger as spring trends toward summer. Whether your motivation is putting a kid on an energetic blacktip or hoping to land a bucket list sandbar, early spring is a great time to be on the beach. My charter schedule is filling up quickly with dates in August already booked. Please don’t wait. Get with me soon and I will do my best to work you into the schedule. Be safe, have fun, and live the adventure! For the past decade Eric ‘Oz’ Ozolins has been promoting shark catch and release and assisting various shark research programs. Eric offers guided shark fishing on Padre Island National Seashore. Also renowned for extreme kayak big game fishing, Eric is the owner of Catch Sharks Tackle Company. Email Websites |

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P L A S T I C & WAT E R D O N ' T M I X

Everett Johnson

TEXAS GENERAL LAND OFFICE ADOPT-A-BEACH PROGRAM - 2019 For this installment of Plastic and Water Don’t Mix we will be focusing on the Texas General Land Office (GLO) Adopt-A-Beach program. This is a coastwide initiative that does a tremendous work removing debris from gulf and bay beaches from the Louisiana border all the way down to South Padre Island. GLO launched Adopt-A-Beach in 1986, more than thirty years ago. Since that inaugural event more than 550,000 dedicated and conservation-minded volunteers have donated of their time and resources to remove an incredible 9,600 tons of debris from Texas beaches. I have no means of quantifying and comparing the accomplishments of GLO’s Adopt-A-Beach with similar

programs in other coastal states…but we all know everything’s bigger in Texas. So I’ll just leave it at that. There are myriad sources of beach debris – some of it collects there innocently enough – as in powerful tropical storms wreaking mayhem through coastal communities. Some of the debris that collects on our beaches comes from way across the oceans. Not all nations and societies are as environmentally aware as we are. Sadly, some of the clutter we find on beaches here in Texas is left behind by careless beach-goers and fishermen who just don’t give a damn. I remember my initial participation in the Billy Sandifer Big Shell Beach Cleanup. The first couple hundred yards of beach my work Calhoun County Commissioner David Hall and members of his Precinct 1 crew were instrumental in disposing of the 1,820 pounds gathered by 134 volunteers that participated in the April 2017 cleanup. Photo by Rhonda Cummins.

72 | March 2019

group was assigned to clean included no fewer than three campsites that had been disgustingly abandoned. The size of the campsites suggested more than a few people were living in them and probably for several days. Tents and pop-up shade structures, bottles, cans, food wrappers, dirty diapers, Igloo ice chests, even a porta-potty. Maybe there was a good reason for those campers beating a hasty retreat off the beach. The campsites appeared several weeks old and some might be willing to give them the benefit of doubt. But I cannot think of any reason good enough for not returning and cleaning up the mess. The haul in those first couple hundred yards filled a 12-foot utility trailer with three-foot sideboards. Adopt-A-Beach is a wonderful opportunity for friends, family, and social groups to spend a day outdoors together, accomplishing a very worthy goal. Beach debris is not only unsightly, it can be downright dangerous to beachgoers, fishermen, children, and pets – and equally importantly – the many species of birds and wildlife that inhabit

AAB site coordinator for Kingfisher Beach in Port O’Connor: Cindy Haenel and her husband Ken come down to Port O’Connor from Austin for each cleanup. They always go out to Sunday Beach, returning with a boat-full of trash bags. They are excited to show off their unusual finds like the one she is holding up last September. Photo by Roxanne Ochoa.

our beaches. I watched a video recently on Facebook of two kind fishermen rescuing a brown pelican entangled in abandoned fishing line. I have also heard reports of coyotes on Padre Island National Seashore dying a long and painful death after becoming entangled in fishing line. Participating in Adopt-A-Beach is as easy as a Google search for Texas GLO Adopt-A-Beach. Several communities along the coast have their own organized events that volunteers can join. The GLO website is loaded with ideas and opportunities for participants. If you are unable to participate in an organized clean-up event but would still like to be involved, here’s an idea for you: -Carry a box of heavy-duty trash bags in your car or truck and another in your boat, if you own one. Invite some youngsters or fishing buddies to join you for a day on the beach or a fishing trip. I guarantee that somewhere during a day’s fun and travels you will happen upon some beach debris. Break out the bags and pick it up. And, of course, always put litter in its place. | 73

Photo by Shannon Tompkins.

B y L a n c e R o b i n s o n , D e p u t y D i v i s i o n D i r e c t o r, Au s t i n


OYSTERS IN TEXAS COASTAL WATERS There are a wide variety of mollusk species found in Texas estuarine waters. Most of these species occur as single animals, but where there is little hard bottom, oysters typically grow as consolidated reefs providing important habitat for a variety of other marine organisms. Over 300 different marine aquatic species have been identified that use oyster reefs for habitat, refuge, and food. Besides providing important habitat in Texas’ bays and estuaries, oysters are among the few animals that people still eat alive and raw. Oysters support a valuable commercial fishery in Texas, being harvested from public reefs (22,760 acres) and private oyster leases (2,321 acres). Though oysters can be found in most Texas bay systems, over 90% of the public reef areas utilized by commercial and recreational fishermen are found in Galveston, Matagorda and San Antonio Bays -- bay systems with good freshwater inflows. All the oyster leases occur in Galveston Bay. Commercial landings in 2000 exceeded 3.5 million pounds of meat with a dock-side value of over $20.4 million. The public commercial oyster season runs from November 1 through April 30 coastwide. Recreational harvest is allowed during this season as well, with a daily bag limit of no more than two sacks (1 sack = 110 pounds) of three inch or larger oysters. Texas primarily harvests the Eastern 74 | March 2019

oyster, Crassostrea virginica, a shellfish having two shells joined at one end by a hinge and kept closed by the adductor muscle (the dark spots on the inside of an empty shell are the scars where the adductor muscle was attached). The size and condition of the oyster affects the power of the adductor muscle; however, a 3 to 4-inch oyster requires a pull of over 20 pounds to open the shell. Spawning occurs when waters warm above about 68° F and continues at intervals throughout the summer. Fertilization occurs in the open water and the egg soon develops into a microscopic, free-swimming larva, a stage that lasts about three weeks. Chemical cues given off by bacteria and algae growing on hard surfaces appear to trigger the free-swimming larvae to change shape into a small oyster about the size of a grain of pepper called

a spat. Spat will attach themselves to many types of hard material (cultch) but prefer mollusk shells. Oysters can reach sexual maturity in as little as four weeks after attachment, first maturing as males then changing to females after spawning. Alternation of sexes continues throughout life. Oysters are incredibly resilient. Unable to move to avoid changes in environmental conditions, they have developed a strategy to survive in shallow coastal estuaries. Oysters are capable of surviving extreme changes in the environment for short periods of time. Optimum water temperature for growth, reproduction and survival range from about 68° F to 86° F, however, adult oysters in Texas can survive at temperatures ranging from 28° F to about 97° F. The normal salinity range for oysters is 10 to 30 parts per thousand though they can tolerate salinities as low as 2 ppt and greater than 40 ppt. Oysters have few predators, however the oyster drill (a snail), blue crabs, and stone crabs are responsible for most of the deaths on oyster reefs. With specialized teeth in their throat that can crush shells, black drum are also known to eat oysters. A protozoan parasite, dermo, has also resulted in major mortalities of oyster reefs in some bay systems in recent years. Oyster drills and dermo require higher salinities to survive, raising concerns over reduced freshwater inflows into Texas’ bays and estuaries. Oysters are filter-feeders and adult oysters can filter up to fifty gallons of salt water per day. They consume plankton – tiny microscopic plants and animals found in the water - and play an

important role in maintaining good water quality in bays and estuaries. This filter method of feeding is also why some areas are closed to the harvest of oysters due to high levels of bacteria in the water. You should check with the Department of State Health Services, Seafood and Aquatic Life Group ( aspx) or 800-685-0361 to make sure you are harvesting oysters from approved waters. For more information about oysters or other coastal fisheries you can also contact the local biologist in your bay system ( | 75


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Plano Stands Up To Mother Nature More than 60 years, Plano has pioneered the industry of tackle storage solutions. This year Plano will continue to lead the way releasing the future of Stowaway boxes. Using advanced technology, Plano has engineered a tackle storage system that blocks rust and stops corrosion 5x longer than a standard tackle box or the competition

The Plano Rustrictor Stowaway is the first of its kind. Completely

infused into the storage boxes, the rust stopping compound resides throughout the entire container. Unlike competitors that use a few molded inserts to fight rust, Rustrictor provides 360 degrees of complete protection against rust for up to five times longer than competitors. Developed with Armor Protective Packaging, an industry leader in corrosion management since 1979, Plano’s Rustrictor uses the world’s best Vapor Corrosion Inhibitor.

Shimano Brings Digital Control Technology To Curado Reels Trouble Free Casting For All Anglers Utilizing a microcomputer to control brake force at every moment of the cast, Shimano brings its digital control technology (I-DC4) to a new series of Curado baitcasting reels. Built upon a reel already known for its durability, dependability, and versatility, the new Shimano Curado DC will quickly allow all anglers - from the most avid tournament angler to those who are intimidated by baitcasting reels - to cast smarter by allowing the DC’s microcomputer to monitor spool speed 1,000 times every second and apply the perfect amount of brake to prevent backlashes and maximize distance. MSRP: $249.99 76 | March 2019


ForEverlast: New for 2019 ForEverlast will be introducing several new products for fishing in 2019 including our Generation IV belt which was co-designed and is endorsed by our Pro Staffer and long-time friend Mr. Jay Watkins of Rockport. The belt offers a sleek design with a removable back support and adjustable military grade Velcro make adjustments a snap. Complete with our Aluminum G2 braid-cutter pliers included in the rugged plier and accessories pouch which also has strategically located D-loops for other tools, this belt offers all the right features without the bulk. Check these out soon at your favorite tackle retailer or always online at MSRP $44.95. “We Live Hunting & Fishing”

NewWater Carbon Fiber Willet The pursuit of the perfect balance between performance and simplicity. 18’ – 3” L.O.A. X 5’ – 2” beam 240# tiller 260# sidepod See the debut of the Willet sidepod along with other NewWater models at the Houston Fishing Show – March 6 thru 10 at the George R Brown Convention Center. (210) 648-2206

Fish Monkey Face Guards New for Spring 2019 - The most functional, lightweight, comfortable, UPF 50, face protecting product in the fishing market. Features include the latest in Sun Protection Technology, in a Feather Weight, Breathable fabric with a “Sunglass Fog” Resistant mouth pattern that’s the most Comfortable fit in the industry. Comfort Fit Design allows you to fish long hours in the baking sun while being protected. Available in 14 colors/patterns. Fish Monkey Face Guard, “Between You and the Sun.” • UPF 50+ sun protection. • Quick dry breathable fabric for all day comfort. • Superior construction and fit. • Vented mouth eliminates fogging. • Feather Weight Material. | 77



S ab i n e

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

Telephone 409-883-0723 Website

78 | March 2019

“If you don’t start launching on the Louisiana side of the lake and fishing south of the Causeway, you may not be guiding much longer.” Those words of wisdom were recently delivered out of concern by a guide that I helped get started several years back. He hung on this past year as a result of having done exactly that. Ever since the infamous “dredging bite” on the Causeway reefs played out, I have fished only sparingly south of Garrison’s Ridge. In order to compensate for the slower bite the first few months of the year, I either wade the flats on the north end targeting big trout or jig the deeper breaks in the Intracoastal and Sabine River. For years that stubborn approach resulted in refining an incredible deepwater bite that went uncontested by other fishermen. I now feel, however, like that bewildered Indian that walked out of his tepee one morning and asked, “Where the hell have all of the buffalo gone?” The good news is that we have not yet killed all of our trout. The bad news is that they are dependent on at least a little salinity and are forced to move southward as ours all but disappears. The looming question is whether this is the new normal, which

would be devastating, or nothing more than a temporary blip in the weather cycle. Over the past few years, each hurricane has been more intense than its predecessor, the reservoirs fight high levels and local flooding only adds to the problem. It is pouring here this morning, raining all the way to Dallas and both Rayburn and Toledo Bend are generating 24/7 in an effort just to maintain pool levels. Just last week I stopped at two different locations on Sam Rayburn to watch a howling north wind push white caps through the woods several hundred yards from the original shoreline. That is bad news if you are a Sabine Lake trout and have not already started following the last of the salt water southward! I have fished long enough to know that there is always someone catching fish even if the lake is dry, but I haven’t talked with one of them recently. The few guides that I have talked with are either hunting or catching a few Louisiana legal trout in the ship channel. They have enjoyed a good run on sheepshead and redfish, but a lot of that has been the result of fishing with meat rather than lures. I am certainly not above offering a fish a dead shrimp if that is the only game in town.

Redfish like this one are taking up the slack.

Because I expect it to at least temporarily get even worse before it gets better, I can only tell you that we did to catch a few trout this past week. We waded very dirty water the first few hours after dark with Catch 5s and rattail Assassins and caught seven trout on the best night. All but one of those trout was in the two to four pound class with possibly the largest pushing five pounds. We haven’t kept a single trout in months so the weight is only a guesstimate in the dark. When we were still catching trout in the daylight hours we were wading the points bordering East Pass and the south tip of Stewts and Rabbit islands. Those areas were getting most of the fishing pressure early, but it thinned out in the afternoons. Six to eight fishermen is considered pressure when the catching is taking place in one small area! At the risk of causing the last of the promising bites to vanish as well, I will predict that redfish will continue to carry the mail for us. We are still catching them on everything from frozen shrimp to topwaters and best of all…there are a lot of undersized fish in the mix. Hopefully, by the time you read this the bonus will be flounder running the shorelines with the reds chasing massive schools of immature shad. I would like to thank Chris Williamson of Laguna Rods for building me a new stick that has made catching every fish a little more enjoyable. The rod listed as a Solo is not only incredibly light but will handle a variety of lures as well. Don’t leave the youngsters at home the next time you hook up the trailer. Pay backs are invariably unpleasant and they just might leave you at home some day!

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THE BUZZ on Galveston Bay

Galve s t o n

Capt. Caleb Harp has fished the Galveston Bay System since childhood and, now a charter captain and fishing guide, he uses his knowledge to enable clients to enjoy the excellent fishing the area offers. His specialty is the yeararound pursuit for trophy trout and redfish with artificial lures

Telephone 281-753-3378 Website

80 | March 2019

Welcome to the spring transition! There will be days deal with finding fish and getting them to bite. The when you can’t make a mistake and then there will be transition is the time period when fish are moving days when nothing makes sense. March can be one from preferred winter habitat of deep mud and shell of the best months for wade fishing in Galveston Bay. to sandy shorelines and other shallow habitat as the Temperatures will be fairly mild on average but we’ll still water begins to warm. see a few northers reaching the coast. Wind is a given, With that being said, we experienced a relatively mild mostly from the east and southeast, unless a norther rolls Tyler Beasley landing in. Wade fishing is a March trout wade while fishing a usually way more protected shoreline. productive compared to staying in the boat, due to the nearconstant winds. Start up a fishing discussion this time of year and “transition” is probably going to be one of the main Sometime times you topics, and rightfully just gotta go old so, it’s a huge part school to trick ‘em. of what we have to

winter and, depending the temperature trends, we actually saw some transitioning occurring in February. Fish movements aren’t necessarily automatic, sometimes you can barely notice it. What you will notice is that their feeding will become sporadic and might not occur every day. One day you can nearly knock their heads off and the next day in the same area the bite is pitiful. However, whenever you do find yourself in a feed it can be memorable. Often times, finding a lure that is exactly what the fish are wanting can be challenging. The fish are tricky right now so you’ve got to give them what they want or present your lure with enough finesse to fool them into striking. This is part of the transition challenge. As the water temperature rises, the fish will begin forming larger schools, which makes staying on them quite a bit easier, but that is not the case so far. They’re still spread out, so covering water must remain a major part of your strategy. Topwater lures figure into this, given the amount of water a wader can cover with them. During the warming stretches of the coming weeks I’ll be using topwaters whenever bait is visibly present. Even though the Corkys aren’t my favorite lure for covering a lot of water, don’t be shy about tying one on quickly if the topwaters show you they’re there but only blowing up and not committing. Ditto your favorite soft plastic or maybe a 51 or 52 MirrOlure. Downsizing lures can pay dividends anytime smaller bait is prevalent in an area – glass minnows, small shad and smaller mullet. MirrOlure offers a great line of lures that “match the hatch” very well with their MirrOdines and the softer Corky version – the Soft-Dine. The 17MR, 27MR and Soft-Dine are great lures for this downsizing approach; their small body and shad-like profile are dynamite for getting strikes when the fish seem less interested in a big meal. When throwing plastics, I prefer to downsize my jighead weights as well. If I would normally throw an 1/8-ounce head, I drop down to the 1/16 or even a 1/32 to create a slower fall through the water column. West Galveston Bay West Bay has been the most consistent of all our bays lately, including some very good weights from time to time. Stingers of trout and redfish have been coming reliably from south shoreline coves on warmer days. Cooler days have been better on mid-bay reefs and more isolated structure. As March develops we should see more action towards sandier bottoms.

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East Galveston Bay East Bay is currently holding a lot of fish but it’s all about timing. You can be in an area where everything looks textbook but with little success. You’ve just got to grind them out. The warmer it gets, the further the fish will spread away from the back of the bay heading towards harder sand and shell. The south shoreline of East Bay is a great place to escape the hard southerly winds that dominate March weather. Upper Galveston Bay The Upper Galveston Bay region has been holding a lot of fish but fairly inconsistent after hard winds and during warming trends. The great tidal flow coming up the Houston Ship Channel will restore water clarity very quickly, which means the fishing can turn back on sooner than you expect it might. MirrOlures and Corkys have been the ticket here the past several weeks. This is an area where March’s transition period can really get you to scratching your head.


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M ata go r d a

Bink Grimes is a full-time fishing and hunting guide, freelance writer and photographer, and owner of Sunrise Lodge on Matagorda Bay.

Telephone 979-241-1705 Email Website

82 | March 2019

As I write this in early February I am wearing short sleeves and shorts. This morning I made a prosperous wade in water that checked 62° and even gave a topwater a whirl. However, the better choice was a MirrOlure Soft-Dine while my buddy Capt. Ray Sexton tossed a Magic Grass Down South Lure. It was a good morning. Punxsutawney Phil says winter is almost over and that’s fine by me. I even saw the first green buds on branches today; and, trees don’t lie. Hopefully March jumpstarts the official spring fishing season. Don’t despair when a cool wave of air rolls through the region. There will still be some cold fronts in March; we usually get at least one or two in April, too. So revert back to winter fishing strategies when the north wind blows the tide out. Move to the mouths of the sloughs that drain the lakes. The water and bait will be pouring out of the marshes and lake systems and the fish ride with the tide and bait. Camp out and wait for the redfish to come through. Redfish are usually everywhere. Spots like Lake Austin, Oyster Lake, Crab Lake and Boggy are great March hideouts. Make long drifts with live




shrimp under a popping cork, or anchor on reefs. The cool thing is we can still catch fish when the wind blows really hard. Redfish are not the only drum in abundance in March, juvenile black drum, the eating kind, frequent reefs in West Matagorda Bay. Twin Islands, Shell Island and Oyster Lake are all proven drum haunts in March. Live shrimp under a popping cork is usually the best bet. They are also known to take a slow-rolled paddletail plastic when they’re feeding heavily. Over-sized black drum, those over 30 inches, are the spawners and are catch-and-release only to protect the breeding stock, but that doesn’t mean they are any less fun to catch. Big black bruisers frequent the channels, rivers and jetties leading to the Gulf, and a cracked blue crab is the most popular offering. Regardless of the weather, we will still be chasing speckled trout and redfish along the deep shell and mud of East Bay. January was stellar and February is off to a great start for drifting with Down South Lures, Bass Assassins, Gamblers and Hogies. Some days the fish want the swimming paddletail of the Sea Shad, while other days they want the traditional 5-inch Bass Assassin rattails. Make no mistake, we expect to catch some heavy trout in March while wading and drifting. You would be surprised how many big trout we release in East Matagorda Bay while jigging soft plastics out of the boat. We never discount West Matagorda Bay this time of year. Trout hang on the edges of the guts and sloughs and we gingerly wade these areas with plastics and Corkys. West Bay’s grass shorelines hold fishable water when spring blusters blow; and, depending how mild March becomes, the first signs of glass minnows could show right around Spring Break. The quality of trout being caught in West Bay over the past five years has improved tremendously. Maybe that’s a credit to our 5-trout limit, maybe that’s a credit to five years of wet weather and freshwater inflow. Whatever the case, we love it and feel blessed to fish here. Spring Break in Matagorda comes alive with lots of families spending time together on the water and on the beach. We will run both morning and afternoon trips and we are kid and family friendly. We will be at the Houston Fishing Show, March 6-10 at the George R. Brown Convention Center. Come by and see all the Sunrise Lodge gang and say hello.





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MID-COAST BAYS With the Grays

Port O'Connor Seadrift

Captain Shellie Gray was born in Port Lavaca and has been guiding in the Seadrift/Port O’Connor area full time for the past 16 years. Shellie specializes in wading for trout and redfish year round with artificial lures.

Telephone 361-785-6708 Email Website Facebook @captsgaryandshelliegray

Winter here on the middle coast has been mostly mild compared to years past. Granted, there were some cold spells that enabled Gary to burn his fireplace more than a few times but they did not last long. It has also been a very soggy winter as well. Lucky for us, local rain, even in great amounts, does not have much effect on our bay waters. It usually takes large amounts of water flowing down the Guadalupe River from up around San Antonio to turn the bays too fresh. I personally feel our bay waters are extremely healthy at this point and look for spring fishing to be one of the best yet. March is what I consider a transitional month for fishing. This time of year our bay waters are warming and fish are starting to make the transition from muddy bottoms to hard sand shorelines. This is good news for those anglers, like me, who have spent the last couple of months wading in muddy back lakes. This doesn’t necessarily mean I'm done with mud altogether, though. March’s wind always forces us to seek protection for days at a time in the back lakes. With cold fronts being fewer and farther between, expect to have more south and southeasterly winds. Drift fishing action is usually very good in early spring


but a good drift anchor is an absolute must-have. There is nothing more frustrating than being unable to slow the boat and fish productive areas thoroughly; some days you might need two. There are many brands out there that will do the job, just make sure you buy one that is rated for the length of your boat. It is also handy to have a float attached to your drift anchor in the event it comes untied from the boat. Streaks of off-color water will be one of my targeted areas. Smaller baitfish will use murky water as camouflage from larger, predator fish. Fishing in these conditions, I will usually opt for darker plastics or one of the louder topwater plugs. Bass assassin’s four-inch Sea Shad in Magic Grass is a good producer for me. I also like to throw She Dogs when I’m fishing in choppy conditions because the noisier plugs will attract more attention than models that make less noise. I can’t say that I’m a big believer in colors when it comes to my topwater plugs. To be honest, with the greater casting distance of larger plugs, I tend to throw colors that I can see easier at the end of my cast. My personal belief is that it’s more about the sound and action than the color. Fishing plastics under a popping cork is also a


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David Denbow is giving his Waterloo Rod a good workout on a strong redfish.

good method to use under windy and/or off-color water conditions. Many times fish seem to be attracted more to the chugging sounds of the cork than what they are going to eat when they get there. The same as a topwater, sound and surface commotion of the popping cork should be adjusted with the conditions and depth of water fished. Scented soft baits are an excellent choice, especially when paired with a popping cork. I have had many trips with clients where scented baits have been more effective than live bait due to the simple fact that once you catch a fish with scented soft plastics you can usually cast right back out without having to fumble around for another bait. With scented soft plastics you also don’t have to worry as much about pesky hardheads and other bait stealers wiping out your supply. Concentrating your wade fishing along shorelines with drains and sloughs from back lakes is always a good strategy in March. These waterways will see lots of traffic as fish travel between the lakes and sandy bay shorelines. Focus on areas with plentiful mullet activity in thigh-deep water for best results.   I want to mention one more important tip before closing. Many of you have heard me say this before but with gusty spring winds on our doorstep I think it is important to remind all boaters of the importance of using multiple anchors when leaving your boat to wade. Your Power Pole is a wonderful tool but never trust it as the only means of anchoring the boat on a windy day. Even if your boat has two Power Poles, that may not be enough. A simple Stake-Out stick or traditional anchor deployed along with the Power Pole is very good insurance. Every year we have anglers drown, trying to catch a drifting boat when the Power Pole failed in strong wind. The simple task of using two methods to anchor may just save your life. | 85



Upper Laguna/ Ba f f i n

David Rowsey has over 25 years in Baffin and Upper Laguna Madre; trophy trout with artificial lures is his specialty. David has a great passion for conservation and encourages catch and release of trophy fish.

Telephone 361-960-0340 Website Email @captdavidrowsey

86 | March 2019

If you can’t get excited about trophy trout fishing during the month of March, you had just as well start selling off all your gear and taking up online clearance sales at Bass Pro for the ultimate outdoor experience. March is DEFINITIVELY the heaviest month of the year regarding trout and the favorite month to test your wits and wisdom against Mother Nature while in pursuit of big, heavy trout. I’ll be the first to admit that I have cussed March to no end while getting slapped in the back by 30mph southeast wind, only to have them shift to the northeast at 30mph by the next sunrise. I know what I am made of when it comes to fishing hard and grinding it out in tough conditions, but March never lets me get comfortable and pushes me harder every year (maybe it’s not really harder, just me getting older.) I do not mean to sound like I am complaining, as those same winds bring with them some fish catching miracles to the trained eye. Baffin and the Laguna have very little tidal flow from the gulf passes. Both bay’s water movements are primarily wind-generated. Therefore, a good blow while conducting trophy trout hunts is very much a positive. There are but two winds

that I do not like; a screaming northeaster and no wind at all. Other than those, I say let it blow. As many of you are aware, the boat ride in the Haynie is 21 miles from Bluff’s Landing Marina to the Point of Rocks where you enter Baffin. That 21 miles is known as the Upper Laguna Madre (ULM). Historically speaking, the ULM has been as productive for big trout bites as Baffin proper. My educated guess is that it will produce some quality fish this season, too. But not nearly as many as in years past. The reason is grass. Solid grass. Fewer sand holes than ever in memory (less productive structure to target) and, crystal clear water (bottom sediments held in place by grass.) Other than a few scattered pockets of sand every 100 yards or so, the bay floor is a continuous blanket of shoal grass. The once prominent sand holes that provided so many targets to cast toward, and game fish to hunt their prey around, are all but gone this season. Imagine having a deer feeder on a five acre plot with just the right amount of brush. You would be able to see all the animals come and go. Then, the next hunting season the brush suddenly became so thick

This is why we do it! CPR!

you couldn’t see the deer. That’d make for some tough hunting, right? Same for trout fishing when the sand holes become overgrown with grass. The lack of sand and grass diversity also makes for another undesirable issue, and that is crystal clear water. Yes, it is pretty to look at and drive a boat over, but it makes for some very tough fishing conditions. The abundance of grass acts as a filter during high winds and prevents silt and algae to suspend and allow the water to become “trout green” the way we like it. Trout and reds tend to be very spooky in the clear water, requiring much more stealth on the part of the angler, longer casts, and a lot of them. Unlike the Upper Laguna, the water in Baffin is looking prime for March. Whoever determined that seagrass takes a lifetime to regenerate may want to rethink their thesis for the Upper Laguna. As we roll into March, I will be focusing primarily on Baffin Bay. I will scout and hit some areas daily in the Laguna, but as long as the water remains air clear we will be headed farther south. History tells me that the big girls will be staged most reliably on windward transitions in open water and along shallow grass lines. These will therefore be my most frequently targeted areas. On the rare low-wind days during March, large rock piles in Baffin will also get a hard look for big trout. Off-colored water, rocks and subsurface lures do not make for an easy or inexpensive day of fishing. If you can’t see the rocks you are going to stay locked up on those lure thieves all day. The topwater aficionados have the advantage in that scenario. All blowups, no rock hookups. In closing, the March trout are full of eggs. Give them the chance to spawn before they hit the ice chest. Be proactive and do what is best for the health of the bay and the fishery. Keep a few small ones for a fresh dinner but release what is not truly needed. Remember the buffalo! -Capt David Rowsey | 87


WAYNE’S Mansfield Report

Port Mansfield

Captain Wayne Davis has been fishing the Lower Laguna-Port Mansfield for over 20 years. He specializes in wade fishing with lures.

Telephone 210-287-3877 Email

88 | March 2019

Greetings from Port Mansfield, where the hopes of catching “The One” still exist – at least for now. Our February weather has ranged from chilly to warm, thus far escaping any serious cold spells that could endanger our fishery. In my opinion we are setting up for an excellent spawning season and I hope the healthiest and genetically superior trout are successful in their efforts. If you know anything about trophy trout fishing, you know it could happen right now. March holds the greatest probability for landing a heavyweight speck. However, if you can’t make it today, you have about another month or so before serious spawning gets underway and the weights of the largest females begins to decline. A flash back to my last article, we did find “The One” we were after during our Trophy Trout Mission and, for the record, it took us four days to find a true trophy, (we actually found two that day). It is always challenging to land a true trophy trout. It takes planning, perseverance, timing, and a huge dose of no-quit attitude. Luckily, it finally all came together and we pulled it off.

Sandra Garza, General Manager at GetAway Lodge here in Port, lends a hand during field testing prototypes of the Lagunaflauge Willow Tail Shad.

During the quest we had to deal with high wind, no wind, very cold temperatures, lots of boat traffic, and high atmospheric pressure. However, we fished through it, making the best of the hand we were dealt and it worked out. We are compiling a video that will appear on Texas Saltwater Fishing Magazine’s Facebook page, (and others) in late February. Stay tuned! Rolling into March and continuing into May, we can expect winds averaging 20 to 25-plus, generally out of the south and southeast. We can also expect a few northers. I recall in March 2005 we were way south of Port, minding our own business, when a sneaky late-season norther rolled in. David Garza poses with “The We were fishing knee deep and One” mentioned in the story. within minutes it was ankle deep. There we were, miles from the safety of the harbor and that front was packing a punch. We were barely able to get to the boat and get out. Back then I was running a 20-foot Shallow Sport Classic with a TRP and we still struggled to get on plane. The ride was horrible, hugging the west shoreline through back bays more than 20 miles. Overall I rate our recent weeks of fishing as good, not great, the few tough days sprinkled into the mix preclude giving it higher marks. Here lately we’ve taken to targeting smaller zones of productive structure rather than broad acres of flats while focusing on big trout. Every day is different and can be challenging, which is good for a guide – it keeps him on his toes – but it can be frustrating. Be ready when the window of opportunity opens because the big trout flurries do not last for hours. We are still fishing shallow 90% of the time, and while doing so we are finding some true stud category redfish. I can’t even begin to tell you how many nine-plus-pound 27 to 28-inch reds we have caught while working this shallow water in recent weeks. Our most consistent lures for bigger trout have been soft plastics, particularly the KWigglers Willow Tail Shad. These baits are very versatile and have a profile that evidently appeals to these larger fish. We are rigging them weedless on the Willow Maker Jig when fighting grass. When grass is not a problem we opt for the 1/16 or 1/8 ounce black nickel Spring Lock jigheads. Best colors have been the new Lagunaflauge, Mansfield Margarita and Bone Diamond. Our topwater bite has been fair to decent when the water temperature edges up to 65° or so. I expect the topwater action to improve steadily as the water temps continue to rise in March. Expect water levels to start rising as we head into March and continue to rise even more during April. During March we typically expect to see bait and game fish becoming more active up on the flats. However – late season northers always have a way of interrupting movement and feeding patterns. When this happens we have no choice but to revert to the late winter pattern and just fish our way through it. The Houston Fishing Show will be held March 6-10 at the George R. Brown Convention Center. This a great opportunity to stock up on everything a fisherman needs at show-special prices. Fishing Tackle Unlimited will have their Green Rods on display along with all the latest reels, lures and apparel. I’ll be in the FTU booth the entire show so come by and say hello.

The owner of Diamond J, James Rosalis, was a partner in Circle J Enterprises at the time our office and son’s home were built by Circle J. Workmanship and attention to detail were both excellent! – Everett Johnson, Editor/Publisher, Texas Saltwater Fishing Magazine | 89


SOUTH PADRE Fishing Scene Arr o y o C ol o ra d o t o Po rt I sa bel

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

Cell 956-266-6454 Website

Over about a three-month run we were finding impressive numbers of bigger trout and limits of nice keepers were available most days. Redfish were also fairly plentiful for us. Then long about the middle of January something started to change. The big trout numbers began to dwindle and the reds scattered. The assurance of finding an easy limit of keeper-size trout turned into a daily grind. Now, I will say that most of our truly slow days occurred when tide movement was minimal during daylight hours. But, no matter how you analyze it, the fact remains that we have seen a significant drop in fishing success since the middle of January. Trying to discover where the fish went or why they won’t bite has been very challenging. We have fished virtually every structure type in varying depths of water. Despite all the head scratching and searching, we have yet to come up with a plan that yields consistent results. The only thing that seems to work with any semblance of

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90 | March 2019

reliability has been setting up in a promising area and patiently waiting for it to mature. What do I mean by mature? Well, that means knowing where the fish are likely to stage during lower than normal tides and/or where they might go as an incoming tide pushes water onto a flat or through a gut. Keep in mind that bait moves with the currents and game fish usually follow. In other words, you may want to approach and fish an area according to the tide and wind predictions, and that requires some study before you go. Once you’re out there it won’t take long for the actual conditions to prove or contradict your suspicions. It also means being (or waiting) in that place during a solunar feeding period. Lady Luck was definitely shining I’m seeing more fishing pressure on Shane Schlemeyer side as he this winter than I can ever landed this personal best beauty. remember; which might explain why the fish are scattered. I mentioned switching tactics. Just lately I have opted to fish later in the afternoon when boat traffic is lightest. This seems to have helped but our results are still subpar compared with earlier this winter and winters past. I have also noticed that significant concentrations of bait have been harder to locate. We find small areas with bait present but not the sheer numbers we are accustomed to seeing. I’m hoping that this will change as the water warms and tides rise in March. I have mentioned numerous times in this column that I believe our redfish population is lower than normal. Hopefully March’s warmer weather and bigger tides will bring a change for the better. Traditionally during springtime, the eastside flats teem with reds when early morning incoming tides sweep across this region. When the tide is low or receding, look for them to stage along the sand and grass transition, just off the flats. All winter long, mullet are the predominant forage for redfish, but this changes as the waters warm in March. Shrimp, small crabs, and pinfish become more abundant in shallow water. Rising tides push more water against back bay shorelines where reds love to roam in search of these treats. Pay attention to the gulls and terns. They will help you pinpoint the areas of greatest forage abundance. One final thought on redfish. I believe the strong numbers of 16 to 19-inch redfish we are catching is a very positive sign and good news for the future of this fishery. Switching to trout, over and over the past several weeks as we searched for big trout, the question ran through my mind, “Where could they have gone so suddenly?” What began with such great promise in late November has become a season of grinding for uncharacteristically few bites. How and why this happened may forever remain a mystery. But, I can recall other winters when trophy trout success was modest through much of winter and then blossomed in spring. So let’s dwell on the positives and look to the future. Warm spring tides rush in from the Gulf bringing waves of new life. Trout will begin to stage along grassy-bottomed shorelines and edges of sandy potholes. Both of these structure types become magnets for bait seeking to hide from predators, and predators lying in ambush. I find potholes particularly productive. Here’s a checklist for areas and conditions when targeting big trout. Avoid high boat traffic. Fish feed more readily in current – tide or wind-generated are both beneficial. Patches of bottom grass on predominantly sandy bottoms or potholes amid solid grass. Plentiful and reliable forage supply. Focus on days leading into full and new moon. Follow the solunar table.


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Lake Calcasieu Louisiana Jeff and Mary Poe - Big Lake Guide Service - 337.598.3268 March is a transitional month on Calcasieu. Trout will once again leave their winter ranges and begin a slow transition throughout the spring toward their summer haunts. Catching in March is almost completely weather dependent. Water temperatures are still chilly due to cold river water filtering through the estuary. A few late fronts will plunge south during March, which also keeps water temperatures down, but trout, redfish, and flounder are plentiful and willing to eat. Bayous act as roadways for fish, so the mouths of these drains become productive. Reds and flounder will lurk just inside the mouth of the bayou in the heart of the current, while more trout will be found on flats adjacent to the mouth of the drain. Best lures for reds and flounder are scented baits like Lil’ Johns and Gulp!. Trout will take those, but they often prefer suspending baits during this month. We always look forward to March. Trout are chunky at this time, so chances remain high for catching the trout of a lifetime. We look forward to seeing everyone fishing soon. Trinity Bay - East Bay - Galveston Bay | James Plaag Silver King Adventures - - 409.935.7242 James came off a pretty long run of charters just before giving this report. “We have been catching lots of fish, staying pretty close to deep water, but fishing shallow. We busted out a lure I hadn't used in a long time the other day and did really well with it, the pink/gold Catch 2000. I threw them a lot when we fished in Calcasieu on a regular basis. Apparently, our fish over here in Galveston like 'em too. I have also had decent luck lately on Paul Brown FatBoys in pearl/black and one of my old stand-bys, the gold/chartreuse 51M MirrOlure. Most of our fish are in water just over knee-deep, hanging around shell reefs and sand bars with even shallower water covering them. This is a typical pattern for late-winter, standing shallow and throwing at water a little deeper. We haven't had any real big fish lately, but the bite has been steady on trout about three pounds or so, with a few weighing closer to five. Normally, March will produce a few bigger trout, up to seven pounds or more, especially for folks willing to wade. And, despite the lack of a topwater bite lately, that should start up any day now and be much better as spring arrives.” Jimmy West - Bolivar Guide Service - 409.996.3054 Fishing has been good for big trout in the areas around Rollover Pass in the days and weeks prior to this report, Jim says. “They're not catching too many fish, but the average size is really impressive. Almost all of the fish I've seen are weighing over three pounds, and some are big, up to over nine pounds. I've been fishing parts of East Bay in the marshes and bayous and catching good numbers of trout and redfish. No big trout really, but lots of keepers, up to about four pounds. We've been doing well on soft plastics most of the time, and having some luck on sinking twitch baits like Catch 5s and the old-school MirrOlures like 51 and 52Ms. This time of year, weather plays a big part in the potential for a productive trip, more so than in months later in the spring and summer. On the windy days, the fish will still bite, but people who aren't willing to get out of the boat and wade will struggle, mostly. Timing the outing to take advantage of the consistent bite leading up to dusk and into the early hours of the night is a wise choice.” West Galveston - Bastrop - Christmas - Chocolate Bays Randall Groves - Groves Guide Service 979.849.7019 - 979.864.9323 92 | March 2019

ORECASTS F from Big Lake to Boca Chica


Most of Randall's fishing had been done out of the boat on the trips he made in the month or so leading up to this report. “We've been doing best in three to four feet of water, keying on areas with some color to the water. Basically, we're looking for a muddy streak in the clear water. On some of these foggy days, it's hard to locate the streaks! One way to find the fish in to key on 'liar birds', which are terns. They can usually be found looking for and finding schools of the main forage species we like to key on this month—glass minnows. Our best catching recently has been on a silver glitter/chartreuse Norton Sand Eel Junior. I'd say this lure effectively imitates the glass minnows. The MirrOlure family of small twitch baits also work well when thrown in the vicinity of the schools of migrating minnows, especially the SoftDines and MirrOdines. If we're throwing around a bunch of rafted, jumping mullet, topwater lures come more into play. One of our favorites is the pearl white SkitterWalk. We also do well on the pink one at times.” Matagorda | Charlie Paradoski Bay Guide Service - 713.725.2401 “March is a great month for catching big trout in East Matagorda Bay,” Charlie says, “but with the Colorado River running high, we've also got a bunch of fish in West Bay. People wanting to avoid the crowds can do well on the shorelines and in the coves over there. Especially when March turns out to be windy, as it usually does, hiding from it and finding clear water can be easier in West Bay. Normally, this month is a really good one for catching on slow-sinking twitch baits like SoftDines, MirrODines, Catch 5s, Catch 2000s and Paul Brown Lures. We've been having high rates of success with some of those lately. As water temperatures warm up more around Spring Break, we often see a tremendous improvement in the topwater bite. Haven't had much luck on them lately, but their time is right around the corner. The end of winter and beginning of spring are fun times to target both numbers of fish and big trout in the shallows on the shorelines of both of our bays. We are set up for a real run of excellent fishing, I think.” Palacios | Capt. Aaron Wollam - 979.240.8204 This has been one of the best winters for keeper trout in recent memory. We've been able to drift over shell in three to four feet of water and catch trout nearly every cast for several hours, so fishing is good. Our trout have not been big, but we've caught lots of limits of keepers to about eighteen inches lately. We've been doing best with quarter-ounce jigheads rigged with DSL lures in dirty tequila and chicken of the sea. Under corks, we've been throwing white three-inch Gulp! shrimp rigged on about a thirty-inch leader. Redfish have really been way back up in the marshes, giving lots of opportunity for sight-casting, which is a blast. Norton Bull Minnows in pearl/chartreuse have been the hot lures. March should continue to be great. Focusing on shell and mud lying in three to five feet of water with active bait should create consistent potential. Redfish and flounder back in the marsh should continue to bite steadily too. Most any ditch or bayou that comes out of a back-lake should provide a chance at a good bite on moving tides. Port O’Connor | Lynn Smith Back Bay Guide Service - 361.983.4434 Lynn expects to be fishing much the same areas and same patterns in March as he has been in the weeks before he gave this report. “I like to stay in the coves and back-lakes most of the time during March. Tides


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are normally high, winds can be pretty strong much of the time, so finding some protected, shallow water in the back corners of the bay makes good sense. Most of these areas have pretty soft mud on the bottom, also some scattered shell and grass beds in places. Areas with a mix of all three tend to produce best. Finding good concentrations of mullet and other small fish also helps us key in on places holding some trout and redfish. Some of the big trout seem to prefer hanging out with the reds, or at least in the same places the reds like. So, we often find ourselves culling through a few reds in our search for a big trout. As in February, slow-sinking twitch baits work really well, since they fit these areas perfectly, allowing for slow to medium-paced presentations without snagging on the bottom. With any luck, the topwater bite will kick off this month. Catching big trout and reds on top is about as good as it gets.” Rockport | Blake Muirhead Gator Trout Guide Service - 361.790.5203 or 361.441.3894 Blake expects to be fishing much the same way in March as he did in February. “Our fishing has been really steady lately. We're catching good numbers of trout, with lots of them being really nice and heavy for our area. Best bite has been on Paul Brown Lures, one of them a purple one, the other a chartreuse/pearl. We're also having decent luck with small topwaters, especially the Baby SkitterWalk. Of course, soft plastics are working too, when the bite's tougher. I'll be looking for my fish in shallow water this month, keying on shorelines and other areas with water ranging from about knee-deep to maybe waist-deep. Much of the time, I prefer a hard sandy bottom with lots of grass this time of year. The soft, muddy areas don't seem to concentrate the fish the way they do in the colder months. I will also fish some of the shell reefs out in the middle of the bays, if light winds prevail for a couple of days or so. Also, if winds get light, I might head out and try the fishing in the surf. Some years, the biggest surf trout of the year show up in March.” Upper Laguna Madre - Baffin Bay - Land Cut Robert Zapata – - 361.563.1160 March is approaching, and it brings high expectations for all kinds of good fishing. The air and water temperatures are generally increasing, as are the wind speeds. Best of all, the fish will be moving up into shallower water, and this translates into greater catching success. The Upper Laguna Madre trout are in great shape, and so are the redfish. Also, to our advantage, the water in our part of the Laguna has exceptional clarity lately. The flashy, suspending MirrOlure Catch 5 in colors like BNSBO, CHBL, #11 and BCH should be productive now. If there is too much floating and suspended dead grass, I will switch to the Bass Assassin Die Dappers in colors like sand trout, plum/chartreuse, salt & pepper, silver phantom/chartreuse or chicken on a chain, rigged on sixteenth-ounce Spring Lock jigheads. I look for areas with potholes or grass lines in three feet of water or less. All who choose to wade should be on the look out for stingrays and never leave the boat without wearing ForEverLast Ray Guards. Corpus Christi | Joe Mendez – - 361.877.1230 March is a month for targeting trout and redfish in super shallow water in the Upper Laguna Madre and Baffin Bay, according to Joe. “In the Lagoon, with the super clear water, sight-casting is more of an option, and catching fish on flies is also realistic plan on some days. On the best days, with light to medium winds, it's possible to see redfish, trout and drum milling around in water less than knee deep on some of the flats and shorelines between the JFK Causeway and Baffin. Watching these fish strike in such places is about as fun as fishing can get! In Baffin, the water isn't quite as clear most of the time, so fishing more conventional methods works better, for the most part. Historically, some giant trout mix with slot and over-sized 94 | March 2019

redfish on muddy, grassy flats in parts of Baffin this time of year. Locating them often means keying on signs of nervous baitfish. Using a stealthy approach and making lots of casts with soft plastics on light jigheads around potholes, thick grass beds and rocks on the flats can produce the trout of a lifetime.” P.I.N.S. Fishing Forecast | Eric Ozolins 361-877-3583 | With winter’s harshest weather pushed well to the east, we should expect the surf zone to warm earlier than normal as spring approaches. Red and black drum, sheepshead, whiting, and pompano will all be running the surf in different stages. Pompano action is winding, down but cool days with good water clarity could still produce. Shrimp and Fish-bites cast beyond the first bar should result in either pompano or one of these other species. Every few years, when the surf warms early, we can expect little tunny (cousin to Atlantic bonito) along our beaches. Little tunny plow the shallows, feeding on small baitfish, and are suckers for small spoons and flies. Sometimes, Spanish mackerel mix with the little tunny. Trout are typically slow this month, but still possible. On the shark side, we will still have a run of winter sandbars as other species begin to trickle in. Blacktips and scalloped hammers should be available, but you have to run baits out there to find them. March is famous for heavy fog – so be cautious when driving the beach! Port Mansfield | Ruben Garza – 832.385.1431 Getaway Adventures Lodge – 956.944.4000 March can bring favorable conditions for bay fishing and even short offshore trips. Chances for a personal best trout are very good. Floating Paul Brown Lures, Super Spook Juniors, SkitterWalks, and KWiggler Ball Tails and Willow Tails are recommended. In the Paul Brown family, I like gringo, plum nasty and double bubble colors. My favorite KWigglers are Mansfield Margarita, bone diamond, flomingo and Lagunaflauge. I run all these on eighth-ounce weedless or standard jigheads. On lighter wind days, I usually fish the west shoreline up north, especially when targeting big trout, starting with a topwater or floating FatBoy and switching to plastics according to the bite. I also like the spoil dumps along the ICW, and never pass Gladys Hole or around the game warden shack when up that way. Additional productive spots would include deep potholes near the Weather Station and Dubb’s Island. Further south, check out the area from The Saucer to Green Island. The best signs to key on are active bait – especially finger-sized mullet. Lower Laguna Madre - South Padre - Port Isabel Aaron Cisneros | – 956-639-1941 Fishing has remained consistent lately. Our most productive lure in clear water has been the KWiggler Ball Tail Shad in the sand color on eighthounce screw lock jigheads. We’ve been predominantly running slow retrieves, almost like fishing for flounder. No doubt the colder water temperatures are playing a role in this. With spring weather patterns soon to emerge, water temperatures will be rising. Periods of howling south wind will become common, and grass floating on the surface will once again complicate our efforts. Expecting this, and in anticipation of increased surface feeding, I have already begun rigging all my topwaters with single hooks. Anglers will do well to target lines of mullet and other prey species as they become more prevalent in shallow water. Look for sandy bottoms along the east side of the Laguna to hold greater numbers of fish. Schools of redfish and trout should mingle together in coming weeks. From what I have seen recently, I am predicting our fishing will get even better during March. | 95

Waylon Laguna Madre - 27” first fish!

Justin Freeman Shamrock Island - redfish

Katie Walker Padre Island - 7’ sandbar

Romero Edward black fin tuna 96 | March 2019

Analeigh Turner Bolivar - trout

Cruz Narvaez IV 23” first kayak redfish!

Devin Sadler Lavaca Bay - first kayak redfish!

Jacob Flores Ranzel Rock - red snapper

Caden Cherrington South Padre - 37” snook CPR

Keelyn Kilsby Galveston - 24” 5.5 lb flounder

Andrew Dossman Sargent - 26.5” redfish

Timmy Hervey red snapper

Annabelle Rose McCuan Redfish Bay - 10” speckled trout

Kindall Freeman first redfish in kayak!

Doug Polansky amberjack

Colton Ripple Shamrock Island - first redfish!

Phillip Freeman Shamrock Island - first redfish!

Cash Thompson Copano Bay - first trout!

Hunter Warren personal best black drum!

Brayden Vickery Baffin Bay - 36” first redfsh! CPR

Therese Vickery 49” personal best red! CPR

Don Smith Dewberry - redfish Kylee Teague Flour Bluff - 24" trout

Havier Maldonado red snapper

Colton Matthews West Galveston Bay - 28” speckled trout

First come – first published! Photos are judged on artistic merit and sporting ethic displayed. No stringer, cleaning table, or hanging board images allowed. Digital images only. Adjust camera to high or best quality. All images become property of TSFMag. Email to: Include short description of your catch with name, date, bay system, etc. | 97


Gulf Coast

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

Fancy Oyster Soup It’s oyster season! What could be better than a bowl of nourishing oyster soup to warm the soul? The first time I made this delicious dish everyone at the table was amazed with the flavor. We agreed I should have made a larger batch and served it as an entrée!



1 pint shucked oysters in their juice

1. Strain oysters in colander and reserve juice. 2. Place diced potatoes in 2 cups lightly salted water in microwave-safe bowl and microwave 3 minutes on high. Check for al dente texture – do not overcook. Cook at additional 30 second intervals until desired texture is achieved. Drain and set aside. 3. Fry bacon in large non-stick pan until crispy remove bacon and allow to cool, crumble and set aside. Reserve bacon grease. 4. Cook mushrooms until brown in reserved bacon grease. When mushrooms are almost done add fennel and shallots, salt and ground black pepper. Sauté until caramelized. 5. Add oyster juice and heavy whipping cream, reduce by half, 6 to 8 minutes. 6. Add cooked potatoes, crumbled bacon, thyme, parsley, fennel fronds, and oysters to the frying pan. Cook over medium heat until the edges of oysters just begin to curl. 7. In individual serving bowls, ladle oyster mixture over grilled ciabatta slices and serve as an hors d’oeuvre or side dish. *Makes four servings.

4 slices bacon ½ fennel bulb, trimmed, halved, and thinly sliced (about 1 cup) 3/4 teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon salt, divided 1/2 teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper 1 cup thinly sliced mushrooms 1/4 cup diced shallots 1/2 cup reserved oyster liquor 1-½ cups heavy whipping cream 1/2 cup medium-diced Yukon gold potatoes 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme 1 tablespoon chopped parsley 1 tablespoon chopped fennel fronds 4 slices grilled ciabatta bread 98 | March 2019

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WE SAVE THE FISH. Seagrass is critical to good fishing. Marine organisms depend on it for survival—for food, shelter, and oxygen. But boat propellers are destroying Texas seagrass, which is seriously impacting saltwater fishing in the coastal shallows. When boaters do not lift their propeller in shallow water, the prop cuts and uproots the seagrass beds—leaving long barren trenches or “scars” that may take years to heal ... if ever.

Stop Prop Scarring – Lift, Drift, Pole, Troll


It is ILLEGAL in Texas to uproot seagrass with a propeller. Avoid damaging seagrass – lift your prop! When in shallow waters, lift your motor and drift, pole, or troll through it. After all, there’s nothing like a redfish on light tackle in shallow water. Let’s keep it that way!

For more information visit: | 101


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Science and the



The Spiny Lobster Musician If you’re a Disney fan, you’re probably familiar with Sebastian, the lobster who sings “Under the Sea” in The Little Mermaid. Of course, lobsters don’t sing in real life—but some of them do appear to play a violin of sorts. The spiny lobster does not scuttle around with an actual tiny fiddle, but it makes sounds using a mechanism similar to pulling a soft bow across strings.

Kyle Nethery

Spiny lobsters can make sound in a manner similar to pulling a bow across violin strings. Credit: NOAA Spiny lobsters have a structure called a “file” located near their eyes. It is similar to the file crickets use to make their chirps. By moving its antennae, the lobster rubs a piece of soft tissue, known as a plectrum, across the file. The friction creates sound. The scientist who discovered this behavior used a tiny microphone and a motion detector attached to the plectrum to gather data to learn how the lobster made its sound. The sound they produce is not especially melodic. It is more like the screechy whine produced by rubbing a moist finger on a balloon. Lobsters appear to use the sound primarily to startle predators for a brief moment, giving the lobster time to scurry away to safety. Such a strategy can be particularly helpful when spiny lobsters molt. Then, their shell is too soft to protect them. So, even at their most vulnerable, spiny lobsters can use “music” to protect themselves. © The University of Texas Marine Science Institute | 103


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Profile for Texas Salwater Fishing Magazine

March 2019