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MAY 2011 Volume 21 No. 1

Everett Johnson



08 Lights, Camera, Epic Action! 14 The Rest of the Story 20  No, It Ain’t All About Money 26  Weekends…Where Do I Go? 31 Recap – 2011 Abandoned Crab Trap... 32 Prospecting with a Purpose 36 Plugging the Texas Coast...  

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




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


Editorial New Tackle & Gear Fishing Reports and Forecasts   Catch of the Month Gulf Coast Kitchen Office: 361-785-3420 Cell: 361-649-2265 BUSINESS / ACCOUNTING MANAGER Shirley Elliott CIRCULATION SUBSCRIPTION – PRODUCT SALES Linda Curry ADDRESS CHANGED? Email DESIGN & LAYOUT Stephanie Boyd Office: 361-785-4282 Texas Saltwater Fishing Magazine is published monthly.

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

reGULars 06 70 86 90 92

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

Patti Elkins

Billy Sandifer UT-Marine Science Institute Jay Watkins   Casey Smartt     Noemi Matos CCA Texas Scott Null Scott Sommerlatte Jake Haddock Mike Jennings Stephanie Boyd

What oUr GUIDes haVe to saY 72 74 76 78 80 82 84


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

Pam Johnson


DepartMents 24 30 40 42 46 50 52 56 60 62 66


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

HOW TO CONTACT TSFMAG: PHONE: 361-785-3420 FAX: 361-785-2844 MAILING ADDRESS: P.O. Box 429, Seadrift, Texas 77983 PHYSICAL ADDRESS: 58 Fisherman’s Lane, Seadrift, TX 77983 WEB: PHOTO GALLERY:


aBoUt the CoVer Randi Null spent a beautiful spring afternoon recently paddling the Galveston Bay marshes with her father, Capt. Scott Null, TSFMag’s kayak fishing editor. The fishing was great, and as always, the marsh was magnificent! Scott Null photo

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.

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May 2011

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77901 and additional offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Texas Saltwater Fishing Magazine, Inc., P. O. Box 429, Seadrift, TX 77983.

4 May 2011 / 5

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Please use our Texas spotted seatrout resource wisely!

EDITORIAL UNBELIEVABLE LOWER LAGUNA In case you haven’t noticed, the Lower Laguna Madre is on fire. Anglers with local knowledge and others enlisting the services of competent guides are enjoying angling success for speckled trout many are calling epic. “Beats anything I’ve ever seen,” they say. A growing legion of accomplished and respected veteran fishermen whose experience includes all prominent seatrout venues of the Gulf coast and Florida’s Atlantic shores would no doubt comprise a valid jury. Personally, I cannot stay away. No sooner am I back at Seadrift and already I’m marking my calendar to return. On at least a dozen days recently we have landed phenomenal numbers of seatrout weighing four to six pounds. On top of that, all but a few trips have yielded at least one fish exceeding seven pounds. One especially lucky day we caught several eight pounders and a nine and a half, on video no less! When relating tales of such bounty and success to fishermen who have maybe only one such experience in say a twenty or thirty year career, disbelief is obvious until you break out the digital photos. How is this possible? Actually, several major factors are in play. Beginning with Hurricane Dolly in 2008, the Lower Laguna has received several freshwater flushes exceeding record and the East Cut was dredged in 2009. The vitality of the ecosystem is evident with shrimp and blue crabs everywhere you look, not normal in a hyper-saline lagoon. Baitfish too are thriving in uncommon abundance. And of course, in September 2007, a very conservative bag limit of five seatrout was enacted in the region. Most anyone worth their salt has an opinion as to the true origin of this phenomenon and likewise are cognizant that all great fisheries hold greatly more sub-legal than legal specimens; that’s just natural. Yet how can the Lower Laguna also hold such an incredible number of four to six pounders and where did the eights and nines come from so recently? Unless I’m all wet, (and I haven’t fished without waders since October) the greatest share of credit is due the five fish limit. Gill net population survey data has yet to show a significant spike in overall seatrout abundance in the Lower Laguna, neither are the nets coming in full of four to six pound fish. However, if seeing is believing we are seeing an incredible number of uncommon trout. And while it is true that the Lower Laguna has a longstanding reputation for producing trophy trout, honest locals will admit they had some pretty tough years back between 2000 and 2007. Which is why TPWD intervened with the new bag limit. But still unanswered is how the mid-size classes bulged so full in so few years, even if registering only on rod and reel? My guess (for whatever it is worth); lots of trout have been escaping the curse of the Igloo, and the population survey nets will confirm it soon. You really need to get down to the Lower Laguna. When you go, please wear your conservation hat. Practice catch and release. The daily bag is five trout and something many do not understand; the possession limit is also five! Here’s hoping you find outstanding fishing.

6 May 2011 / 7

Texas Saltwater Fishing

Please use our Texas spotted seatrout resource wisely!

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Story by Mike McBride

The day started off right enough. Chase Smith and I were after some footage for what we hoped might prove worthy toward a ‘‘big trout’’ documentary. No stress here (!), but we were pumped and knew we had opportunity. Chase is the man by the way, cameraman that is, once part of Keith Warren’s outdoor-TV production team. He came locked and loaded with some of the best equipment available, so all I needed were wading booties, a smooth drag and a little luck. We had some other local talent onboard, Mike Jones from Donna, and by day’s end I watched his stick morph into a magic wand. What began with a fever ended up a fantasy; going from right to absolutely righteous, something we usually only dream about unless the planets somehow all miraculously align. Some might say it was the absolute pinnacle of sport fishing for trout, and that would certainly include me. Chase’s final video mission is unknown for now so our mission was simply to make some killer film. Twenty minutes found us walking a little knee-deep green streak working alive with baitfish; Chase’s big lens shouldered and at the ready. It didn’t take long to record some antics from an impressively angry fish. Within a few feet of the boat I stuck a nice twenty-eight on a Corky. She performed on cue with jumps, head thrashes and all. We were definitely on the right track. Jones was a little farther down messing with a couple of sixes and a seven and a half. We knew what we wanted was there, which was

again confirmed when I had another heavy fish slip the hooks and yet another snap a leader. At least the camera saw both teases, or rather two harebrained fumbles! The Corky swam unmolested for a while so I decided to go on the hunt with a topwater. Chase’s lens soon saw a truly massive flush but no take. A follow-up cast got washed hard again. “OK”, I thought, “I’ve got your meal ticket right here!”, and switched rods to fire a Corky just behind the vanishing foam. About three twitches later…thump”…a classic bait and switch sales job to close the deal. (Hey, there might be a reason I bother with carrying two rods!). She felt fairly good, but after about 30 yards of wide-eyed line stripping, we began to imagine just how good after a washtub’s worth of water blew toward the heavens. Stretching only a tad over twenty-eight inches but with ridiculous girth, my knock off Boga said nine and a quarter. Heavy for sure and one of the stubbiest trout I have seen. We pulled the impostor scale against two other Bogas to the same mark, and both met exactly at the ten-pound notch. We’ll just call her a heavy nine to be safe, but what was even heavier was that everything from flush to release was on film. Three over twenty-eight so far and we had also scored specimens just a few inches less. Great morning, great video start, but when somebody mentioned tired, hungry and blown-out; we all conceded and pointed the bow towards Port. As good as it had

Chase captures close-up action as Mike Jones lands an eight-pounder.

8 May 2011 / 9

Texas Saltwater Fishing

Please use our Texas spotted seatrout resource wisely!


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already been that’s when the real deal went down. Sustained twenty-five knots worth of southeast that kicked well over thirty at times had us running tight against the bank to protect kidneys. Bordering an otherwise trashed Lagoon, right along the shore, laid a mysteriously gorgeous clear strip about thirty feet wide. Shortly I hear a yelp, then a loud, “Wow - did y’all see how big that trout was?” Before we could respond we all saw another, and then yet another, then there was a group of three. Suddenly we passed about ten more just laying there looking like black torpedoes against the hard sand. Unbelievable! Sure, we’ve all seen big trout before, but how many times do we see so many bunched together? It seemed like pure fantasy but the adrenaline said it was real. Pay dirt for the camera; the grin says it all!

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10 May 2011 / 11

To her credit, Capt. Tricia had actually found these fish a week before. She thought they were reds at first, but after believing what she was seeing, soon had her people sight-catching several trout between six and eight pounds. Incredible; and I’m sure she will mention it, but whoever imagined a repeat? Yet there they were, crystal clear water with zero visible bait, so everything we saw moving was a trout! What were they doing there? Right then it didn’t matter because we were there too. A few screams later we yanked back on the throttle and bailed out in full stalking-heron mode. Bear in mind, we had just aggressively burned these fish pushing a knee-deep wake from Hell. Unfortunate, that, but unbelievably they didn’t seem to spook. The ones that didn’t laze towards the bank just sort of sat there as if to say, “So…What are you gonna do about it?” Almost immediately Mike Jones said, “Here comes two,” with much greater composure than I could have mustered, by the way. Oh my quivering self…what to throw? I fumbled a knot onto a clear hologram Fat Boy, figuring it had good range and a low spook factor along with extreme versatility. A big single appeared to the left, and then three more materialized near the bank riding each other’s shoulders. Just like Tricia said, the bigger ones were pulling rank in the lead. What I imagined was a good cast was quickly demonized by an uncompensated, blistering side wind. A bit

Texas Saltwater Fishing

Please use our Texas spotted seatrout resource wisely!

12 May 2011 / 13

outlandish catches, although waning light made for an increasingly tougher game. That’s how many fish were in there! At first it was hard to tell what class of fish these really were. We see them quite often running the clear flats, but water and imagination can easily distort guesses. However, after we started landing them it was easier to compare against what we saw. It seemed we had only caught the average sized fish in there, pushing about twenty-eight inches. There were some a bit smaller and some looked much larger. Later on Mike calmly commented, “There was one fish in particular, and based on what we now know, could have easily gone thirty-five inches or better.” Hey, we know they exist, so why not? As we always should, every time we hit the water we learn new things and/or reinforce others. Here are a few I considered. There are many reasons why fish use areas, and it’s not always about food nor do we always have to see bait. Big trout, against The author clamps the much-published speculation, are not always grip on an incredibly heavy twenty-eight. loners and will indeed bunch together in uncommon numbers. Many think big fish in the clear skinny are basically not catchable; yet here, almost every good delivery was literally pounced upon. Yes…we can catch them! Boats always spook fish; especially big ones, right? Hmmm. We may need to rethink that one too. These fish, even though totally plowed over, hardly reacted and were immediately catchable. Are they becoming more acclimated? I also re-learned, by way of Mike Jones’ topwater, that there is a big difference between fishing and fishing well. What was also reinforced is that I perhaps only THINK I’m fishing for big fish, and that there is so much more to explore. Epic is a worthy descriptor here, and we were actually fortunate to get on these fish a few more times during the days that followed before they dissolved back into the unknown. So, thank you Tricia, and be pleased no animals were harmed during the filming of this incredible show. As it turned out, we only thought the morning was good. I can’t wait for Chase’s final deal, but we’ll get on some more, and here’s hoping you can as well. Man…there is so much left to learn!

Texas Saltwater Fishing

Mike Mcbride


too close and an epic opportunity lost! They just slowly veered off, no more than ten feet away now, probably shaking their heads at such a rookie move. I see Jones tying on a topwater. For sight-casting? Do What? “Dude,” I exclaimed. “I just spooked three huge fish with a clear Corky! Whatever makes you think a topwater won’t? We have unrealistic opportunity right here, right now, and that plug will blow it for all of us!” His calm voice came through a sly smile, “Man, this is the most unobtrusive lure ever with the right presentation.” I was nervously livid but, sure enough, he squatted for a shot and feathered a soft landing well in front of two big cruisers. Waiting until they got close, he gave it a little shake-n-bake followed by a simmering pause. WHAM! After wallowing in the shallow water like a dazed hippo his Boga confirmed a sweet eight pounder. The camera was rolling and Chase was grinning. My turn! I saw a larger group ahead and a couple of singles closer on the left. Nervous indecision, I switched to a Laguna Glass TTK II, one heck of a clear-water bait by the way. Waiting for the larger group, two apparitions suddenly turned solid not fifteen feet away, easing right to left. An underhanded flip landed a dozen feet further forward. When close, a little take-away move (like they spooked it up) triggered one to absolutely jump all over it. Another solid eight made the movies. Absolutely unreal! “Watch the back door!” Chase stuttered. “Three more coming from behind!” The scene felt surreal, akin to some type of video game, but another topwater explosion from Jones brought another loud reality pinch. Some you could see from as Mike Jones says small tops can far as thirty yards, be very effective but no matter for shallow sighthow carefully casting, even for you thought you trout. Top: Rapala Skitter Walk SW08; scanned, you might Bottom: Pradco look down to find a Spit’n Image. pair at your feet as though you were a fire hydrant. Some seemed to detect us far ahead and slowly started veering off the bank. That was actually good as it gave the outside guy a much better angle than a head-on shot. I couldn’t stand watching Jones do this with a topwater so I made the mistake of tying one on my second rod. Impatient, I began hurling it far downwind during vacant periods. It seemed every time I did, two or three would suddenly appear, close and in perfect position for another buck-fever shot. But there was my plug, seventy-five away, and no hope of switching quickly enough. Back to the high percentage tail; and this, by the way, continued to work quite well. That incredible session lasted from 4:30 till dark with many similarly

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

Contact Skinny Water Adventures Telephone 956-746-6041

Email Website Three_MudSkateers.wmv

Please use our Texas spotted seatrout resource wisely!

Story by Kevin Cochran

“Find the bait, find the fish”--a familiar and respected idea. No experienced angler in his right mind would doubt the basic truth behind this widely accepted premise, but the simple and direct connection implied in the statement is more meaningful at some times than others. When fishing inshore waters for speckled trout and redfish, the location of bait is most important during the winter months, when the number and abundance of bait species are at their lowest. After strong cold fronts drive water temperatures and tide levels down in December, many life forms flee from the bays into the Gulf of Mexico. Consequently, in January and February, mullet are the primary (perhaps only) forage available to trout and redfish in many parts of the estuaries. During these frequently frigid months, finding even small concentrations of mullet can lead anglers to schools of trout and redfish, but low water temperatures often make locating mullet difficult. Coldblooded creatures, less active in cold water, don’t move around and jump much, making them harder to spot, especially in windy conditions. Birds flying over the water can help reveal inactive schools of bait, which often spook and scatter in response to the passing shadows of the winged predators, especially under bright skies. Calm conditions make the search for bait easier, allowing one to see wakes, swirls and other subtle signs. Whatever the wind speed, patience pays when searching for relatively scarce pods of mullet in winter. Sometimes locating

them means staying in one place for several minutes and maintaining a sharp vigil, since they may pack tightly together in small areas, like the shallows immediately adjacent to grass mats on the shoreline. Conversely, during the warm period, especially from late summer through most of autumn, bait species can be found all over the bays. Finding bait from August through October isn’t nearly as meaningful as in January. During warm months, it sometimes feels like the trout and redfish are finicky because they have too much to eat. Logic leads to the question, “Why would they strike a plastic plug when they have something delicious and real right in front of their noses all the time?” Readily available food sources probably make trout and redfish less motivated to take artificial lures. Easy access to prey might also create a lazy feeding mood in the predators, making them unwilling to work for their meals, since “snacks” swim regularly within reach. Undoubtedly, when bait fish are distributed widely and abundantly throughout the bays, experienced anglers use other signs like slicks and working birds to find trout and redfish. Certainly, all bait signs are not created equal. Savvy anglers don’t rely on simply locating bait; they delve deeper into the situation when trying to determine whether the presence of the bait indicates predators nearby. Mostly, this means interpreting the movement patterns and activity level of the bait species. A mullet leaping out of the water is a promising sign, but some jumpers are more significant than others. A lazy, high, “lobbing” jump might indicate at least a slight level of fear in the mullet. Perhaps it saw a trout or redfish in its path, so it jumped to the side to avoid close contact. That’s a good

Kenny Doughty caught this 7-1/4 pound speck on top of a shallow, grassstudded sand bar covered with jumping mullet.

14 May 2011 / 15

Texas Saltwater Fishing

Please use our Texas spotted seatrout resource wisely!


–THEBESTUSETHEBEST! America’s favorite angler, Hank Parker, and his son Ben, enjoying their Exmark.

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thing for an angler to note. An even better indicator of predators is a fast-jumping mullet barely exiting the water vertically while making a long horizontal movement, in attempt to escape an attacking predator. More than promising, such activity is a dead giveaway to the precise location of an actively feeding fish.

Nervous mullet jumping over grassbeds next to the sand on the shoreline betrayed the presence of large trout, including this 8-3/4 pound specimen.

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Other signs which signal an ongoing feed include numerous mullet and other species jumping repeatedly in a small area, “dancing” on their tails and/or circling around frantically. Tightly packed schools of prey species moving quickly on the surface show their fear of impending attacks from predators, especially if they suddenly rise and appear. While searching for trout and redfish, wise anglers look for any and all signs that bait fish are not only present, but also fearful, especially in warm waters, when bait is generally abundant. If many different species of bait are present in the bays, locating the “right kind” of bait might become critical. Trout and redfish can become selective when presented opportunities to dine on temporarily available, seasonal delicacies like glass minnows, shad, shrimp or marine worms. The importance of rafted mullet is reduced in such scenarios, when schools of predators follow and feed on shoals of other species. The size of the forage is also more likely to matter when bait species are varied and abundant. Trout and redfish voraciously feeding on tiny minnows or shad can be difficult to trick on lures which poorly imitate those species. If densely packed shoals of dainty forage species are observed taking regular attacks from below, meaning they are seen “spraying” into the air, small lures which closely mimic those species might be the only ones capable of enticing strikes from the attackers. Sometimes large prey species create a similarly confounding situation. I’ve heard many novice anglers make a complaint which sounds something like this: “We found millions of mullet over there, but they were all horse mullet, so we didn’t fish it.” I generally don’t think of schools of large mullet as a bad thing and will usually fish hard around them if I find them in great numbers, especially if their activity level indicates the presence of predators. The trout I try to catch can and will eat the largest mullet, and even if the predators aren’t actively feeding on them, the mullet will still indicate their specific locations when they jump or behave erratically. In the best case scenarios, the presence of bait not only stacks the odds that predators are in the general area, it also pinpoints their exact locations. Sometimes, a trout or redfish can actually be seen attacking its prey, either because its head or entire body comes out of the water during the attack, or because it’s glimpsed as a silver flash beneath the surface. Other times, the attack Texas Saltwater Fishing

Please use our Texas spotted seatrout resource wisely!

We’re pleased to once again bring you the Dargel Owners Tournament and Customer Appreciation Banquet to be hosted at the South Padre Island Convention Center on June 24th and 25th. Your entry fee will again cover dinner for both nights, entry to the tournament and tournament goodies such as shirt and prizes.

All proceeds raised at the Dargel Owners Tournament and Customer Appreciation Banquet will go directly to Operation Spots4Tots, a nonprofit organization that provides scholarship funds for kids of fallen heroes such as all military personnel, police, fire, and all public servants.

OPEN TO ALL DARGEL, EXPLORER, AND BAYQUEST BOAT OWNERS Entry fee is $85 for 13 and older and $45 for 12 and younger and will include dinner for both nights, tournament entry, tournament goodies, raffle tickets, and a Dargel T-Shirt. Please register by June 3rd to insure that you receive a T-Shirt. Kids will compete for kid division prizes not general division. Special rates are available at the Howard Johnson and the Hilton Garden Inn, be sure to mention the Dargel Owners Tournament when booking and book early due to the summer crowds!

Full Name: ______________________________ Age: ___ Male: ___ Female: ___ Street: ______________________________ City: ______________ State: ___ Zip: ____________ Phone: _______________ Email: _________________ Captains Name: __________________________ Boat Model: ____________ Year: ________ Engine: ________________ Year: ________ $45 for kids 12 and younger., $85 entry fee required for 13 and older. Payment: Cash __ Check __ Credit Card __ Master Card __ Visa __ Discover __ CC # ________________________________ Exp Date: _____________ Security Code: ____ Amount Enclosed: $_______ I have read and agree with the terms and conditions: Yes ____

Please visit and click on owners tournament for more information.

the spot immediately. In my estimation, focusing on exactly what’s happening in the water within reach and casting to all suspicious activity will result in more fish caught. Many anglers seem content to cast randomly, even when subtle and/or obvious signs of fish are present around them. They apparently do so because of laziness, ignorance of the importance of the signs, or an inability to detect them. Inattentive anglers who ignore or fail to read the available information offered by bait fish will catch fewer predators. Intelligent anglers scan the water constantly and attempt to make sense of what they see, trying to find a reason to make every cast count, ideally by throwing to a spot where they strongly believe a fish is present. Finding bait doesn’t always mean finding fish, but fishing purposefully around plenty of nervous bait certainly enhances consistency.

Nervous mullet tight against a Baffin Bay shoreline indicated the location of this fat trout to C.R. Maher.

might be perceived indirectly through the manner in which the bait species jumps and flees. Undoubtedly, if a glass minnow completes a triple somersault where a flash and swirl are seen, then a mud stir erupts in the same space, smart anglers will get their lure to the site as soon as humanly possible. I can remember days on which such scenarios developed consistently, and I stopped casting randomly, waiting instead to see visual evidence of a feeding fish, so I could throw to

18 May 2011 / 19


Kevin Cochran

Texas Saltwater Fishing

Kevin Cochran is a full-time fishing guide at Corpus Christi (Padre Island), TX. Kevin is a speckled trout fanatic and has authored two books on the subject. Kevin’s home waters stretch from Corpus Christi Bay to the Land Cut. Trout Tracker Guide Service Telephone 361-688-3714

Email Website

Please use our Texas spotted seatrout resource wisely!

Story by Billy Sandifer


This past Saturday, March 19, 2011, a total of 501 volunteers joined together in removing forty-four tons of trash between the 16 and 26 mile marker stretch of PINS Big Shell Beach. This year’s effort pushes the all-time total amount of trash removed from the beach by this event to a whopping TWO MILLION, ONE HUNDRED EIGHTEEN THOUSAND POUNDS. Overall, the event was probably the smoothest ever and after a string of Big Shell cleanups being plagued by tough weather we finally had absolutely perfect conditions for the event. I used to think how wonderful it would be if some day we could actually pick up a million pounds of trash. It wasn’t even a goal. Sounded too grandiose. It was just a wish to be placed on that old “wouldn’t it be nice” list most of us have. As I look back over the years I am in utter awe of this cleanup and the many hardworking folks who are committed to making the environment a better place and help make it happen. This event is somehow a living being. It draws people to participate. This year we were short some long term players but they were replaced by determined first-timers that brought their own brand of excitement and dedication. Our editor, E.J., won the “hard luck” award for the second year in a row by blowing his transmission 25 miles down island and having the pleasure of Rudy from PINS NPS Maintenance Section towing him all the way back with a front-end loader. E.J. and Pam also won the prize last year as well when 20 May 2011 / 21

they pulled into Malaquite on Saturday morning with a smoking front brake caliper that prevented their participation but this calamity was so much more interesting. Although a very select few are tiring of this event it seems there is more interest in it every year and we are bound to lose a few volunteers now and then to what I call increasing maturity but they are replaced by smiling younger ones. Other vehicle causalities were low in number with only one broken leaf spring and a broken drive shaft that I know of. I lost my water pump and a charter yesterday down at the 18 mile and hated it as I was intending to attend the Bassler’s Port Mansfield clean up today. One thing I found odd this year is everyone was talking about the poor driving when I thought it was pretty good – maybe a bit bumpier than usual but still tolerable for everyone except the trailer haulers. Dragging a trailer loaded with trash through the Big Shell is never easy and that’s why we appreciate them so much. They really risk damaging their equipment more than the rest of us. Reminds me of Ralph Wade driving up to me in the Devil’s Elbow one day, he snorted and said, “Some fool asked me how the driving was in the Big Shell. I told him somewhere between hateful and impossible just as it has been for thousands of years.” Seventeen years ago when I first started this event, an occasional observer would every now and then suggest to friends of mine that my greatest motivation was to generate business for my charter service.

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Only one person ever made this reference to me personally and he learned it was poor judgment on his part, and trust me, he never brought it up again. The deal is you can’t make a living down there; you just do it because it is who you were meant to be and what you were meant to do. I know of no adult with a regular job who does not earn more money than I do. The overhead is prohibitive, and I have never managed to run more than 100 charters per year. Most bay guides hope to do 200 and often succeed in running 150. But out there on the beach there are simply too many obstacles working against you. In the bay you can almost always find a leeward shoreline but in the surf the wind is hitting you straight in the face and there is no place to hide. For the past month and a half the sargassum weed has made fishing quite tedious and sometimes impossible. Some years the sargassum will begin to be less of a handicap in March or April and

22 May 2011 / 23

other years it stays right through July. Add extended lengthy periods of high tides, winds and swells and hurricane and other tropical entities and it readily becomes clear there is no money in it; just the longest and toughest days in the charter business. And I have yet to mention that repairs and maintenance on vehicles is an absolute nightmare. But I would be nowhere else doing nothing else as this is who I am and what I do. I read in an e-mail that was forwarded to me recently in which the guy stated, “Billy Sandifer is the guy everyone wants to be without having to go through all the hardships he has to go through.” Funny yet true. As amazing as the Big Shell Cleanup is, folks would be stunned with the planning and donations necessary to carry out this event. This year Ms. Samantha Koepp of Grande Communications, in partnership with the Outdoor Channel, joined the team and were major supporters in many and much appreciated ways. Friends of Padre, Ruth Parr Sparks Foundation, David Ainsworth Trucking Co., Sharkathon, CCA Corpus Christi, Bassler Energy and Coastal Bend

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Audubon Outdoor Club continued their invaluable support. Domino’s Pizza, Smart Shield Sunscreen, HEB, Shore Fishing and Casting Club International, Fishbites and Spooners provided food and gifts. Outdoor writer, David Sikes, of the Corpus Christi Caller Times, Texas Saltwater Fishing Magazine, Saltwater Angler and Padre Island Moon all helped get the word out. The event T-shirts were designed by Ben Beaty and fabricated by Gambler Graphics. Believe it or not one of the most demanding and tedious of all the jobs concerning the cleanup is doing the never ending footwork involved with dealing with all the players and seeing that the event t-shirts are top quality and ready on cleanup morning. Longtime friend, Ace Leal, has taken on and done a wonderful job taking care of the t-shirt footwork for years – you sir are a saint. Next time you see him make sure to say thanks because he surely deserves much more than he receives.

Snowy Plover -Charadrius alexandrinusThe color of dry sand with thin dark bill and dark legs. Partial breast band and dark ear patch. Darts across the ground, stops suddenly, then sprints off again. Most common on Gulf beaches and mud flats. Present in Texas October through March. Forages on small aquatic insects, worms and other animals by probing. Led by Laura Paul, Goldston Engineering CH2MHIll showed up with volunteers from as far away as Colorado and rented their own 4-wheeldrive vehicles for this their second event. Also new this year was Team Industrial Services headed up by Clay Wernli and we hope to see them back next year. Reagan Arnold and a crew from Citgo Refineries jumped right in to get it done as did Spectra Energy of Houston. Stephen and Donna Gregory were also very supportive as they have been for years. Michael Laskowski Sr. and Jr. of Trac-Work Inc. Railroad Maintenance and Rehabilitation in San Antonio furnished gloves. Hmmm…furnishing gloves doesn’t really seem like a big deal, does it? Well figure the price of 600 pair and it changes the picture a bit, doesn’t it? I am so honored to be in some small way involved with this event. I can tell you that the Big Shell Beach is the cleanest I’ve ever seen it. I am as proud of each and every one of you as you should be of yourselves. Speed limit on PINS is now 15 mph through 5 July as we are into the Kemp’s ridley turtle nesting season. Keep an eye out and be kind to all of the Creators children. What a Hoot. If we don’t leave any; there won’t be any. Capt. Billy L. Sandifer

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Capt. Billy Sandifer Billy Sandifer operates Padre Island Safaris offering surf fishing for sharks to specks and nature tours of the Padre Island National Seashore. Billy also offers bay and near-shore fishing adventures in his 25 foot Panga for many big game and gamefish species. Telephone 361-937-8446


24 May 2011 / 25

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Photo Credit: Jimmy Jackson

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Story by Martin Strarup

A gorgeous sunrise without a boat in sight can be the reward for leaving the beaten

I’ve mentioned before that not all of us are lucky enough to pick our days to go fishing. Some of us have responsibilities that require showing up to work 8:00-5:00 Monday through Friday. The only way around that is to take vacation, which if you’re lucky, is a couple of weeks on average but with tenure, maybe four weeks. Personally, I’d really enjoy four weeks of vacation but I’m not quite there yet. Some of us are required to work weekends with staggered days off during 26 May 2011 / 27

the week, which can be a blessing to a fisherman, but still there is no guarantee that your days off will offer great fishing weather. So, whether we get weekends or week days off, when it comes to fishing days we have to take what we get. So what do we do as working class citizens who are destined and doomed to fishing on weekends unless we use our precious vacation days? Well, we fight the crowds on the highway; we fight

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the crowds at the boat ramps, all in hopes of finding a quiet spot where we can drift or wade and maybe, just maybe, pick up a few fish for our effort. Or... We go where others just don’t go very often. Away from the towns and the cafes and such; away from bait camps and places where you can get fuel. Oh they’re out there; look hard and you’ll find an oasis where you won’t get run over by other boats and where you won’t have to wait in line to unload. The ramp might not be the best in the world and you may have to pole your way out, but by gosh you’ll have your peace and your quiet and maybe, just maybe, you’ll catch some fish. There are a few places like that near me and at risk of drawing crowds I’ll tell you a little about them. Turtle Bay near Palacios, which is accessed by County Road 340, also known as Jensen Point Road, has a very primitive boat ramp or at least it was the last time I tried to unload there. I apologize for not being able to give you an update on the condition of the ramp but it’s been a while since I accessed Turtle Bay from land. Most of the time I get to Turtle Bay by boat, either from Carancahua Bay or from Palacios; an easy boat ride from either place. Turtle Bay has a lot of oyster shell reefs and sand bars which are all known to hold fish. Carancahua Bay is another bay that doesn’t see a lot of traffic. Right now the only “public” boat ramp that I’m aware of is off of Highway 35 but the last time I was at that ramp it was so shallow that about the only boat that would make it out of the channel would be an airboat. But, you can access Carancahua Bay via West Matagorda Bay, and like Turtle Bay, there are many oyster reefs and pipelines that have a lot of shell on them and deep drop-offs near Wolf Point that has a good flow of water via the Carancahua River when the tide is moving. There are also two lakes that are located on the peninsula that separates Carancahua Bay from West Matagorda Bay at Carancahua Pass; Redfish Lake and Salt Lake…both offer good fishing for redfish, trout and flounder, and with plenty of reef and scattered shell bottom. Flounder seem to love Carancahua Bay and if you’re up for some gigging you’ve found the right place. Tres Palacios Bay…gateway to West Please use our Texas spotted seatrout resource wisely!

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pleasant alternative to open water. So if you want to get away from the crowds, steer away from them or at least head for places that have a reputation for attracting fewer fishermen. Just because the crowds do not frequent a given area should never be construed as it being a poor place to fish. On the contrary, just the opposite can be true. Some are well-guarded secrets and some simply do not offer easy access. I say slip away and get off the beaten path now and then; it has a way of making those five grueling days between weekends pass a little quicker. Be safe, Martin


Matagorda Bay out of Palacios is a nice place to go. While the ramps can be busy on weekends you can still find plenty of places to fish and not have to worry about too much boat traffic. You can go by water to either of the bays above or you can fish up the river or along the miles of grassy shorelines with a multitude of oyster reefs. Oyster Lake and the wells in West Matagorda Bay are just a short boat ride away. You can avoid the ramps on Palacios and unload right at the FM 521 bridge on the Tres Palacios River… up river or down, your choice, but as long as the water is salty the redfish, trout and flounder can be there. Keller Bay used to have two decent boat ramps, one public and one private that charged to unload there. Someone recently told me that you can’t use the public ramp at low tide so check before you make plans on going. Keller Bay, while not a large body of water, has a lot of grass flats with pot holes and plenty of sand and shell along the shorelines. Wade fishing along the deeper grass beds of the eastern shoreline can be productive year round. Easy access to Lavaca Bay and Cox’s Bay allows a boater multiple choices. You can fish the spoil islands off of the Alcoa Channel or the gas wells out in West Matagorda Bay. The Lavaca River out of Lolita has a couple of nice boat ramps; one in town at Frels Landing and one off of FM 616, and while a lot of people give up fishing in the rivers in the summer months, there are usually trout, reds, flounder and drum there as long as there is saltwater up the river. It’s been a long time since I ran all the way down the river and into Lavaca Bay but it can be done. In any case, on those windy and crowded days on the bay, the rivers are a

Texas Saltwater Fishing

Martin Strarup Martin Strarup is a lifelong

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

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Texas Saltwater Fishing / May 2011 29

Science and the Sea

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Nothing Gets Away. Period


The Nose Knows When it comes to finding food and shelter on the vast open ocean, some petrels and related seabirds simply follow their noses.

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Petrels are pelagic birds, which means they spend most of their time flying over open water, only venturing onto land to raise young. Along with albatrosses and shearwaters, petrels come from an order of birds known as “tubenoses” because of their prominent, tube-shaped nostrils. Birds in this order have some of the largest olfactory bulbs − the portion of the brain involved in smelling − in the avian world. One way they use this sniffer is to find their way home during the nesting season. Researchers found that nocturnal species of petrels had a hard time finding their nests when their sense of smell was impaired, suggesting that these birds rely on scent to locate their nests. Some petrel species also sniff out their meals. Krill, a favorite prey of petrels, feed on phytoplankton. As krill gobble them up, phytoplankton emit an odiferous compound into the air. Petrels and other tubenose birds pick up on this aroma and use it to home in on patches of krill in the water. The ability to detect this odor might even help birds orient themselves at sea. Masses of phytoplankton are often found above underwater features such as seamounts and breaks in the continental shelf. If tubenose birds use their sense of smell to find these features, scientists surmise, they may be able to use them as points for navigation − another way a keen nose helps guide them on the open seas.

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By Stephanie Boyd The smell of salty bay air. The warm sun on your back. The crunch of crab traps underfoot. But after ten successful years of cleanups, volunteers of the 2011 Abandoned Crab Trap Cleanup Program found fewer traps to crunch. In fact, this year’s cleanup results show the second lowest number of traps removed since the program’s start, according to Program Coordinator Art Morris. He adds that this result, “was not totally unexpected; we are working ourselves out of a job, but that’s a good thing!” Even now, though, the positive effects are still obvious. Only one diamond-backed terrapin’s remains were discovered, and twenty-five live sheepshead were released from a single trap near the Guadalupe River mouth. One surprise in the cleanup was the new crab trap champion: Galveston Bay, which edged out San Antonio Bay in most traps removed, a position held by San Antonio since 2008. The program has come a long way from the first couple cleanups, which were necessarily limited by the fact that each boat needed a Texas Parks & Wildlife enforcement warden on board to determine the legality of the traps. TP&W Captain Rex Mayes originally provided those essential wardens, and, “their participation was the key to starting the volunteer project,” says Ronnie Luster, founder of the ACTCP. The 1600 traps collected in those first two cleanups are not counted in the total numbers since the closed season was enacted. Community awareness of the problem of abandoned crap traps has always been a huge factor in the growing number of volunteers, especially since the publishing of a CCA feature in Tide magazine detailing the cycle of death created by abandoned traps, and according to Luster, “community awareness still exists, but [the cleanup] has turned into more of a litter pickup since many of the remaining [traps] are [ones] that wash up on land and are not contributing to the cycle of death in the water.” Lucky for the local ecology! It’s estimated that a single abandoned trap, fishing only one year, can kill twenty-six blue crabs. Roughly fifty percent of the traps hauled in during cleanup are in fishing condition. That means, if each of the still-fishing traps collected during the cleanup had only been abandoned one year, cleanup volunteers have saved about 377,000 blue crabs, not to mention several other species (numbers courtesy of Morris). Noteworthy in this year’s cleanup were Seadrift Boy Scout troop 106, who hauled and cleaned traps at Charlie’s Bait Camp, and Anna Rucker (a newcomer to both the cleanup and Texas!), who counted and logged the number of crab traps and volunteers. Anna says she didn’t know what to expect at the cleanup, but she was, “really grateful to all the people who came out to help. It was really a team effort.” A couple of her favorite parts were the


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Texas Saltwater Fishing / May 2011 31

Story by Chuck Uzzle

Somewhere in there is a topwater plug!

32 May 2011 /

As I eased the truck forward up the launch ramp I noticed a blur of motion in the rearview mirror. A cat squirrel disguised as a fisherman with Costa Del Mar sunglasses and visor was racing about the deck readying all the requisite tackle and gear. I parked the truck and trailer and then waited patiently on the dock until the deck of his ultra-cool Hell’s Bay Waterman was arranged exactly as he likes it before stepping aboard. My partner for the day and the one responsible for the immaculate appearance of the boat was none other than my good friend Captain James Trimble, or as most folks know him Cap’n Trim. Trim has been severely bitten by the shallow water bug and it has infected his entire world to say the least. The guy is an extremely talented and accomplished fisherman in just about any depth of water under any set of circumstances, but chasing fish in the skinny stuff is a new and challenging concept that he has fallen deeply in love with. His enthusiasm for the sport and this style of fishing is how we became friends and it’s what makes our days on the water fishing together that much better. Our trip goal was to find fish for an upcoming tournament that Trim and his partner were entered to fish. First order of business was to formulate a game plan based on a few factors. First were weather conditions, especially wind. Since we were in Trim’s skiff, the thought of tackling Sabine Lake’s open water in high winds was nowhere on the day’s “to do” list. Calm mornings meant running as far south as possible and fishing our way back in order to have the wind and seas in our favor as the day developed. I know each of us has a goto weather source whether it be on the web, TV or radio, and mine is www. I live and die with their wind predictions. According to the website the wind was due to kick up pretty strong around noon so Please use our Texas spotted seatrout resource wisely!

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we opted for a big run at daylight and it worked perfectly. Our first stretch of water found us trying to locate fish with lures that would allow covering large spaces of water. Topwater plugs, spoons, and spinnerbaits are all perfect for this task. Once a fish or two was caught, we then began a more refined approach. Deciphering the pattern and then establishing which lure would offer the best odds of consistently catching those fish was the next goal. I have to admit that I am guilty of being reluctant to change from topwaters, even when conditions and results say I could be catching more fish, but the thrill of surface strikes are just way more fun. I know I could catch more fish more consistently on weightless soft plastics or spoons but these simply do not light me up the way a floater does. Guilty as charged.

Cap’n Trim with a husky, slotsized “tournament” red.

aaaThe first redfish of the day took a mighty swipe at the MirrOlure She Pup floater I was throwing and missed the first time only to come back and finish the job. It was not long before we had another tournament class fish fall for the same plug. Both fish were solid seven pounders and that proved to be a great start. A short trip down the same shoreline produced another quality fish from almost the same type of structure and thus a pattern was starting to form. After a few pictures and a nice release it was my turn to man the push pole and let Trim take the casting platform. Spending a day on the water with another guide is a really nice change of pace, a type of “holiday” that only comes around every now and again. It’s always enjoyable to share a boat with another person who has the same interests as you and this makes the day that much better. It wasn’t long before Trim had his first redfish on and doing it’s best to test his drag. At this point we decided we had found a viable pattern and area that would give them a good starting point so we were now free to explore some other options. Now is when we were glad that we had run so far south earlier that morning because the wind was beginning to howl from the southeast. The small skiff hugged the bank and we remained surprisingly dry all the way to the next stop. It was here that we began to cull out bad water for additional scouting trips Trim was hoping to make later in the week. Finding and eliminating non-productive areas are just as important in the scouting plan as finding good ones. By being able to concentrate on “good” water and not worrying constantly over other areas that might produce, the angler can relax and fish an area more thoroughly and with greater 34 35 May 2011 /

Texas Saltwater Fishing

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of the wind and decided to look at one more place that was as out of the wind as we could find. We turned the skiff and allowed the wind to push us along as we made long casts along a shallow flat. It didn’t take long for an oversized redfish to punish Trim’s plug and take off for parts unknown. The healthy ten pounder finally came to the boat after an extended battle. All we could do was laugh as we looked at how far down the fish’s throat the topwater plug was lodged, it was absolutely inhaled. Fortunately enough we were able to free the plug and release the fish unharmed to fight another day. A fitting way to end an exceptional day on the water. Hopefully the lessons learned on this scouting mission will translate into a big check for Cap’n Trim and his partner come tournament time. Chuck says, “It’s always nice to take a break from guiding and fish for fun every now and again.”

confidence. By having a good game plan and sticking to it, a team maximizes their fishing time in a given day. Time spent running and looking on tournament day translates into failure most of the time. There will always be that time someone stumbles up on some fish that they had not seen or found previously but those cases are usually rare. The anglers that scout with a purpose and are well prepared will usually come out on top in the long run. After probing a few more locations we were basically at the mercy


Chuck Uzzle 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 Email Website


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Watch the video! Scan this tag with your smart phone and free mobile app to view the Andros video. / May 2011 35

Joe D og ge t t

Rudy “The Plugger” Grigar (left) with Doggett at Port O’Connor in mid-70s. Note: Ambassadeur 5000 reels, custom fiberglass rods and ancient Whaler boat.

TSFMag is proud to present a three-part series by Joe Doggett that chronicles the evolution of Texas inshore sport fishing through the eyes of a lifelong plugger. Doggett’s outdoor writing career began in 1972 with the Houston Chronicle where he spent 35 years, retiring in 2007. Joe began fishing the Texas coast in the middle 1960s, often wading alongside Texas legends like Rudy Grigar. His perspective on the evolution of Texas inshore fishing is unique…he was there! Everett Johnson-Editor Texas keeps plugging along; in fact, the Lone Star State traditionally has led the nation in plugging. Using a level-wind reel and a two-handed rod to cast an artificial lure is the school of light-tackle inshore fishing known as plugging. The main-line contact, the blend of power and finesse under the “educated thumb,” has an aura that whirring, clattering spinning tackle cannot equal. Spinning is effective in many light-line applications, no question, but the clean, classic no-nonsense style is missing - or at least woefully downgraded. Modern plugging on the Texas coast began with direct-drive reels and bamboo rods following World War II. Great reels of the era included the Shakespeare President, the narrow-framed Shakespeare Sportcast, and the Pflueger Supreme. Popular split cane rods were offered by Heddon, South Bend, and Shakespeare. Plugging really expanded during the late ‘50s and early ‘60s, with the widespread use of hollow fiberglass rods and free-spool 36 May 2011 / 37

Texas Saltwater Fishing

reels capable of handling the new monofilament lines. I began fishing as a teenager for speckled trout and redfish during this period and feel reasonably qualified to offer some I-was-there perspective on the history and evolution of inshore fishing along the Texas coast. The A-Team plugger during the ‘60s and early ‘70s wielded a 7- or 7 1/2-foot two-handed rod and a Red Reel - the original free-spool, star-drag Abu Garcia Ambassadeur 5000. Everything else was pretty much relegated to the B Team. This is my vivid recollection. Herb Purvis, Fenwick fiberglass rod, 5000 reel, and classic 52M MirrOlure, the go-to surf plug.

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The Red Reel ruled. During the late ‘60s and early ‘70s,Texas was the largest market in the world for the Ambassadeur 5000. Admittedly, much of the popularity was spawned by the explosion of Pineywoods bass lakes, but coastal tides and salty “pluggers” carried the momentum. Popular saltwater rods during the fiberglass era were offered by Shakespeare, Browning Silaflex, Garcia, and, later, Fenwick. My first serious rig, purchased in 1965, was a red 5000 fitted to a white 7-foot Shakespeare Gulf Coast Special. Geez, I was stoked! The reel was spooled with 17-pound du Pont Stren monofilament. Or maybe it was Berkley Trilene; those were the two main mono choices. Incidentally, most pluggers spooled with 15- to 20-pound line. Ten and 12-pound mono rarely, if ever, was used on casting reels. Hollow fiberglass blanks were bulky and heavy, and the typical two-handed stick weighed approximately 8 ounces (today’s graphite rods scale in the range of two to three ounces). The occasional eight footer might weigh an ounce more. This was not all bad; the added heft helped balance the reel. The original Ambassadeur 5000 with brass gears weighed approximately 11 ounces. Later models trimmed to 9 ounces, still heavy compared to, say, a new Shimano Curado E at 6.9 ounces. The fiberglass rods suited for casting 1/4- to 1-ounce payloads are slow - excruciatingly slow compared to fast high-modulus materials. Not that this necessarily was a negative. Lures can be “chunked “ a long way with the deliberate wind-up and lob afforded by a long, whippy rod. So, for that matter, can a popping cork rigged with a live shrimp. A kicking “brownie” was - and remains - an excellent choice for inshore action, but I primarily am concerned here with the evolution of Texas plugging. Go-to lures for trout and reds were spoons and sub-surface plugs. Big-name spoons were made by Schumacher/Dixie (Siren, Jet), Johnson (Sprite, Silver Minnow) and Tony Accetta (No. 5 and No. 5H). Fast-sinking hard-plastic plugs were led by Doug English Bingo (Queen, King, and Pluggin’ Shorty) and Hump. Among slow-sinking mullet-imitation plugs, the coin of the realm was the hollow-plastic 52M Series MirrOlure, manufactured by L&S Bait Company of Largo, Fla. The original 52M measures a shade under four inches, with the line-eye rigged in the top the head for a deeper retrieve angle. As an interesting footnote, the hugely popular nose-rigged 51M MirrOlure evolved as Texas pluggers began re-fitting the 52 eye in the nose for shallow running. This was sketchy business with sweaty hands and a pair of rusty needle-nosed pliers. It was easy to screw up - literally. The screw had to seat just right and I recall ruining several new 52’s when the twisted eye would slant and the nose would split, allowing the hollow plug to fill with water. After several years of Texas tweaking, L&S introduced the 51M series and never looked back. Among all slow-sinking plugs, it remains a benchmark for big trout specialists on shallow flats and shorelines. As a plus for the old school, both spoons and sub-surface plugs can be effectively worked with a horizontal rod held approximately chest high. The reel was “palmed” with the left hand (right-hand caster) and the rod butt was placed inside the elbow and braced against the ribs. Longer handles facilitated this technique; the average butt was 10 to 13 inches long, a considerable extension compared to the 7- and 8-inch butts used on most current 6 1/2- to 7-foot graphite rods. Subtle action with the horizontal rod was imparted with flips of the limber tip and/or a stuttered cadence on the reel. Anchoring the straight butt under the arm relieved the wrist and hand stress Texas sporting-art legend Jack Cowan landing a red on airboat, popular for shallow water fishing in pre-skiff days.

Please use our Texas spotted seatrout resource wisely!

Texas Saltwater Fishing / May 2011 37

common with the 45-degree jiving, jigging 2 1/4-inch plastic fitted on a leadhead hook. It was No-limit era, mid-70s, Doggett with hair and action used with most “tails” and dogwalker somewhat specialized for night fishing for small lure hat popular then. surface plugs. “jug” trout under pier and dock lights (similar to the A tuned old salt like Rudy “The Plugger” nylon “speck rig” jigs). Grigar or Felix Stagno (main man at Houston’s Florida-based Boone Bait Company blew the old Sporting Goods, Inc.) could wade waist-deep whole thing wide open during the early 70s with and chunk a gold Sprite all day by using the long the introduction of the Tout Tail. The original handle to minimize arm fatigue. 3-inch shimptail Tout looks pretty lame today, but Over shallow grass or shell, the long handle the molded soft plastic with a flared tail fitted to could be braced at a 45 against your sternum 1/4-ounce leadhead had the appearance and action for easy leverage. The high tip combined with a of a bay shrimp. Trout and reds and everything else snappy retrieve (not always easy with the slower with fins this side of a bull mullet ate ‘em up. 3.7-to-1 retrieve ratio on the original Red Reel) That one lure changed a lot of concepts. For best kept a lightweight spoon skipping on or near the results, you needed to jig the thing during the surface. A brief pause over each sand pothole retrieve - not so good with a horizontal rod and a would allow the lure to flutter down a foot or two 12-inch handle. - a killer technique. The Tout was so effective that Texas-bred Hard as it might be for today’s young lions imitations soon started showing. And, as with the to comprehend, soft plastics for specks and reds 52M MirrOlure, Texas anglers made a good thing were virtually unheard of during the ‘60s and better. Longer tails with increased profile and action early ‘70s, and nobody north of the lower Laguna started dominating. Perhaps the first was the fourMadre spent much time chunking topwater lures. inch Original Norton Shrimptail, offered by veteran Soft plastic worms by makers such as Nick guide/rodbuilder Bill Norton of Port Mansfield. Creme and Tom Mann were hugely popular for largemouth bass on the Right behind, and widely marketed, was the four-inch KellyWiggler East Texas lakes, yet nobody of note bothered to utilize the concept in Texas Longjohn, by Alpha Industries of Pearland. saltwater. Big mistake. Within a few years, dozens of companies were offering soft plastic To my recollection, the only soft plastic marketed specifically for tails designed for inshore duty. But, as generic tribute to the first Boone specks/reds along the Texas coast was the Bingo Worm, a stiff, stubby product, many old salts still refer to all tails as “Touts.”


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Overall fishing was good along the Texas coast during the ‘60s and early ‘70s. This is surprising when you consider that no size or bag limits were in effect for speckled trout or red drum. None. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to the tide line, and both vital species were wide open to sport and commercial harvest. This is astounding, utterly boggling, when viewed from today’s conservation-oriented coast. Shallow-oriented immature red drum increasingly were vulnerable to commercial gill nets and trotlines, and inshore stocks began dipping during the early ‘70s. By the mid ‘70s, the red drum fishery in Texas was in serious decline. I remember when catching a single redfish from, say, West Galveston Bay was a big deal. Your best bet for reds was with shrimp or mullet along the major jetties or maybe with a spoon in one of the remote back bays south of Port O’Connor. Of course, to reach the latter required specialized shallow-water equipment. Fishing was a deeper game back then. The standard-issue 18- to 21-foot center console Boston Whaler or Mako or Falcon was great for anchoring along the rocks or running the primary bays, but the draft of the heavy V-hull was a tight fit on the flats and in the “lakes.” You anchored in reliable thigh- to waist-deep water and bailed out and waded in, hoping you wouldn’t walk up the back of a barndoor stingray cozied into the goo-pie bottom. Poling a flats skiff or paddling a kayaking across the soft muck makes a lot more sense, but nobody wielding a Red Reel in Texas had a clue about such things. A few one- and two-man scooters were used around Port O’Connor, Rockport, Port Mansfield, and Port Isabel, but the privileged mode of shallow-water transportation was the airboat. But airboats are noisy and expensive, not the norm for the average angler. But that’s what you really needed if you were serious about reaching the shallows and chasing the remaining pods of redfish in the Texas bays. Drive-to potential for shoreline reds just wasn’t consistent, increasingly strangled in webbing from Sabine Lake to South Padre Island. But speckled trout fishing during those years was outstanding - open bays, passes, jetties, surf, all held impressive schools on green tides. Boaters chasing the birds or anchored off the Gulf jetties or bay gas wells often measured success not in fish but in ice chests. (“We got two-and-a-half Igloos off the Gulf side of the North Jetty.”) An “Igloo,” of course, was a 48-quart cooler made by the company of the same name. Fishermen under pier and dock lights often boxed dozens of 10- to 12-inch school specks per night. All you wanted - especially if you were willing to stay up half the night. The biggest numbers came from the lower coast, where boldly spotted immature trout swarmed over the rich grass beds. A competent surf wader on a green morning tide near San Luis Pass might literally fill a 12- to 15foot cord stringer with two- to five-pound trout. These are examples of the excesses that occurred day-after-day with rod and reel. “Sport” fishermen often sold trout and reds to markets and restaurants to defray costs, even turn a profit from a day on the water. I never approved of this practice and never sold a fish, but some of my good friends routinely did so. And who was I to call foul? The State of Texas didn’t care. “Third Bar A-Team” - Bill Evans, Jerry Pyle, Don Culwell, Herb Purvis - San Luis Pass, early 70s, no limits then.

Next month, Part Two will review the pivotal period from the late ‘70s through the early ‘90s. That span saw the widespread use of graphite rods and low-profile reels, the birth of the Gulf Coast Conservation Association, realistic limits on inshore fishing, and the successful introduction of marine hatcheries.

Please use our Texas spotted seatrout resource wisely!

Texas Saltwater Fishing / May 2011 39

Jay Watk in s

May is still a very windy month for us here along the middle and lower Texas Coast. Last month’s article should have gotten you fired up about the tremendous opportunities that await you in the dirty water. In May we will still have those same opportunities but one will need to be watchful of land mines. By this I mean stingrays. The San Jose and Matagorda Island shorelines are beginning to attract large numbers of rays. Small holes in the bay floor are notorious hiding places for stingrays and too many good anglers have had fishing seasons ruined by a single careless step. BE CAREFUL! No trout or redfish is worth the pain and suffering a bad step can bring. Trout are starting to show in good numbers along the barrier islands in the Aransas and San Antonio Bay regions. The seasonal key to finding and catching bigger trout is grass. For weeks we looked at only the remnants of the root systems. Now, with rising water temperatures, the grassbeds are once again beginning to flourish and in many areas are already holding good numbers of better-than-average-sized speckled trout. The key to the bigger trout showing is the influx of baitfish and these too are attracted to grass. Two types you need to look for would be menhaden

40 May 2011 / 41

Texas Saltwater Fishing

and mullet. Egg producing females naturally seek rich forage and these oily creatures, when ingested, aid in egg development and contribute buoyancy to their eggs. Life is tough in the sea, everything eats fish eggs and fry, so survival is minimal at best and increased oil content helps the eggs disperse into the current. More reasons to have more out there spawning, huh? Yeah, I know, I said I wasn’t going to talk about that anymore. I look for the bait to ride the higher tides of spring into the bay through area passes. Currently we have only the pass at Port Aransas as Cedar Bayou remains closed for several years now. Some in TPWD believe the passes play little or no role in the trout scene so maybe my theory of tide runner trout is all wet. I do know that as soon as the tide levels start to rise and the menhaden and mullet pour in from the Gulf the larger trout show right along with them. Maybe they wait out in the bay depths for this to happen, nobody really knows, but we can correlate the arrival of the larger trout with the spring migrations of baitfish. It is all good no matter what the real science is and my theories have kept me in business for the past thirty-two years. You do the math, as they say. You really need to fish shallow and windward whenever

Please use our Texas spotted seatrout resource wisely!

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Please use our Texas spotted seatrout resource wisely!

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possible. Trout are predators and seem to prefer feeding in a minimized strike zone for efficiency. Less water, more grass, a little bottom contour and you’re in a big trout’s head. My head has plenty of swimming space for any trout that might want to drop and relax for a while. My approach is typically formulated from an offshore-fishing shoreward vantage point. Casting at angles to the area of preferred structure allows me the ability to present the bait out in front of the fish. Predators like to use what I refer to as the “bump” method for locating food. If you have ever been on a deer drive in states that permit them, fishing works the same way. Hunters walk through thickets making noise and bumping deer from cover, hoping to push them to a hunter waiting on the edge. The deer move only because they are spooked. Trout do the very same thing when working grassbeds along shallow shorelines. By slowly wending their way in and around the grassbeds, baitfish are bumped from cover and become a meal for the hungry predator. Gaining a mental picture of this process can give you the upper hand in catching lots of fish and also the fish of a lifetime. This image gives me staying power and encourages me to make multiple casts to likely-looking areas. The process also allows me to anticipate the strike. When we fish with all sense on go, the odds of getting the proper hookset on every strike increase dramatically. A mullet flipping here and there around the structure reinforces my beliefs of being in the right area at the right time. Just for the record, when a lazy mullet jumps it typically enter the water at a somewhat headfirst angle. Mullet flipping and fleeing for their lives make a different sound and splash, sometimes landing on their sides and even tail first. This should get your attention. Right now our trout are holding on the shallower grass beds, the average depth of which is about calf deep to knee deep on yours truly. Like I said, rather shallow. I am still being impressed daily with the new five inch Die Dapper swimbaits from Bass Assassin. Of course the old tried and true five inch Bass Assassin shad is still a go-to bait for me and likely always will be. The MirrOlure topwater baits and the Paul Brown Originals (Corkys ) are still getting plenty of action on the end of my line on a daily basis. Clear patterns with silver, copper or chartreuse highlights should certainly be considered. I hope the photos in this article show you just how good some of our fish have been lately. Trout to seven and a half pounds on the high side and three to four pounders have been fairly common in lots of areas. I hope to see some of you on the boat this spring and the rest of you around the docks when you are in town.

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One of the more common requests I receive from Texas Saltwater Fishing Magazine readers is to provide more fly tying articles. Each year it seems the interest grows as more anglers discover the unique and rewarding pastime of fly tying. This month, we’ll walk through the steps required to tie a fly called the Meaty Minnow. It is a moderately difficult fly to tie, but the techniques used to make it can also be used to create other minnow and crustacean patterns. The Meaty Minnow is a large mullet/baitfish pattern built from craft fur. It is a slow-sinker with a tremendous amount of fluid motion. The Meaty Minnow is a great fly for speckled trout, redfish, striped bass, and a host of other swimming carnivores. Good colors include grey, tan, chartreuse, white and pink. The Meaty Minnow has several unique design aspects that contribute to its effectiveness. First, the head of the fly is made from craft fur dubbed and trimmed to a traditional “bass bug” shape. It pushes a lot of water and the turbulence causes the supple tail of the fly to “swim.” And although it has a high profile in the water column, the non-absorbent craft fur used to make the Meaty Minnow sheds water very well. Even though it is large, it is light and easy to cast.


The eyes used on the Meaty Minnow are somewhat unconventional. They are made from strung plastic bead chain, complete with pupils and a durable clear-coat. The cool thing about making a set of eyes from plastic bead chain is that they aren’t glued to the fly. Instead, the thin nylon cord the beads are fused around is simply tied to the hook shank with a bead on either side. A narrow set of eyes can be made by snipping off a 2-bead section of chain, and a wide set of eyes can be made by snipping off a 3-bead section and cracking away the center bead with pliers. Once tied to the hook, the eyes are free to flex and move. They won’t crush the head of the fly, aren’t secured with messy glue, and will not mysteriously fall off. To learn more about how to make these eyes, just visit my website. Now… on to the tying steps for the Meaty Minnow. Materials · Hook: Size 2 to 1/0 Mustad C68 SZ Tarpon (or equivalent shortshank wide-gape hook). · Thread: Clear nylon mono · Eyes: Plastic bead chain · Flash: Polar Flash · Cement: Sally Hansen’s Hard-as-Nails

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42 May 2011 / 43

Texas Saltwater Fishing

Please use our Texas spotted seatrout resource wisely!

Step 1 Attach a set of plastic bead chain eyes to the top of the hook shank near the center. Coat the thread wraps with Sally Hansen’s and move the bobbin to the rear of the hook. Step 2 Tie a full clump of craft fur on top of the hook shank. Next, overlay 8-10 strands of Polar Flash. Then, add a second clump of craft fur on top of the Polar Flash. Coat the thread wraps with Sally Hansen’s.

spinner or small weighted hook into the loop and let it hang. Move the bobbin to the eye of the hook. Cut a 3-inch section of craft fur and insert it into the hanging loop as shown. The butt ends of the craft fur should extend approximately ½ inch from the loop. Step 4 Hold the dubbing spinner/hook in one hand and apply steady pressure to the loop while spinning it. Spin the loop until the thread tightens and begins to shorten slightly. Do not over-spin or the thread will break. Use a piece of Velcro hook material to pick out the tangled craft fur fibers until they have a fuzzy shape. Step 5

Step 3 Pull the thread down and form a 5-inch loop. Bind the base of the loop to the shank with a few thread wraps. Place a dubbing

Slowly palmer (wrap) the dubbing loop forward and carefully brush the wrapped fibers back as you move toward the eye of the hook. This keeps them from becoming buried or tangled.

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Texas Saltwater Fishing / May 2011 43

FLY FIsh I nG Depa rtMen t

· Tail and Body: Craft Fur (Rainy’s or Doug’s Bugs “Craft Fur Plus” recommended)

Step 6 Continue toward the eye of the hook, making sure the wraps seat tightly around the hook and on either side of the plastic eyes. When you reach the eye of the hook, wrap down the tag end of the dubbing loop with the main thread and tie it off. Cut the thread clean and coat the wraps at the eye with Sally Hansen’s.

Step 9 Trim both sides of the fly flush with the outside edges of the plastic eyes. Take care not to cut the eyes. Continue trimming until the fly has a smooth cylindrical head. The overall shape of the head should be round, like a classic “bass bug.”

Step 8 Next, trim the bottom of the fly. Leave plenty of “belly,” making sure the fibers almost touch the point of the hook. This will keep the tail from swinging around and fouling on the hook when you cast.

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Texas Saltwater Fishing


Step 10 Now go fishing! Fish the Meaty Minnow with slow supple twitches. It works fine on both floating and sinking lines. My favorite presentation is on an intermediate line with five foot fluorocarbon leader.

Step 7 Brush out the fibers so they are smooth and evenly shaped around the hook. Begin shaping the head of the fly by first trimming the top of the head flat with sharp scissors as shown.

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


Please use our Texas spotted seatrout resource wisely!

Please use our Texas spotted seatrout resource wisely!

Texas Saltwater Fishing / May 2011 45



By Noemi Matos | Resource Specialist | Brownsville Field Station, Brownsville, TX

The Texas coastline experienced frigid temperatures between the mornings of Tuesday, February 1, and Saturday, February 5, 2011, as a large arctic air mass made its way across Texas. Temperatures in south Texas plummeted from the 60’s (°F) early Tuesday morning to the 20’s by Tuesday evening. Widespread record low temperatures continued for three days, as the arctic high pressure continued to push south, with most areas remaining in the 20’s and 30’s during this period. Following a brief period of warming, the coast experienced a second 2-day wave of cold temperatures on February 9th. These extremely cold air masses correspondingly dropped water temperatures

46 May 2011 / 47 118777_CDM10174_TxSalt 1

Texas Saltwater Fishing

throughout the coastal bay systems. The rapid on-set of low temperatures are one of the greatest threats to marine fishes that are accustomed to the relatively warm waters normally found along the Texas coast. Fish need time to acclimate, or adjust, to changes in water temperature. If water temperatures drop too quickly death can occur because of osmoregulatory dysfunction, which occurs when a fish can no longer control the water going into and out of its body. The lethal threshold for many of our coastal fish is between 39 and 45 ° F (Table 1). Freezing air temperatures caused bay waters to reach, or fall below, these lethal temperatures, thus causing fish

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kills throughout the coast. The 2011 freeze killed an estimated 290,000 fish. In comparison, the December 1983 freeze killed approximately 14 million fish coast wide, and the February and December 1989 freezes killed a combined estimate of 17 million fish. Further evaluation of the February 2011 freeze fish kill highlights the differences among coastal fish freeze events and the variability among bays during any given event. Of the total estimated number of fish killed, 82% coastwide were non-recreational species. Nonrecreational fishes comprised over 66% of fish killed in all bay systems except the lower Laguna Madre (47%). Interestingly, 49% of recreational fishes killed in the lower Laguna Madre were sheepshead. Over 70% of the fish killed coastwide were from Matagorda Bay (57%) and the upper Laguna Madre (15%), with non-recreational fish within these bays receiving the greatest impact (86 and 97%, respectively). Non-recreational species affected were mainly silver perch, hardhead catfish, and striped mullet. Of the recreational species impacted this year, sheepshead appear to have been affected the most, with spotted seatrout, red drum, and black drum making up a relatively small percentage. The predictable approach of the February arctic front enabled TPWD to enact its thermal refuge closure regulation. This temporary closure of fishing in certain deep water areas is designed to protect fish gathered in deep waters that has not reached lethal temperature. Biologists and game wardens observed high compliance by fishermen of this fish protection measure. A complete list of coastal thermal refuges that may be closed during freeze conditions can be found at, The February 2011 freeze also resulted in the largest number of cold stunned and stranded sea turtles in Texas history. A total of 1,520 sea turtles (1,518 green, 1 hawksbill, and 1 loggerhead) were rescued and rehabilitated. Over 230 turtles were found dead. Sea turtles are cold blooded, and rely on ambient temperature to regulate their body temperature. Low temperatures cause their hearts to slow down and energy levels decrease. Many of the turtles rescued were found in this state and were able to be recovered by being warmed up very slowly (if warmed up too quickly, death can occur). Most of the recovered sea turtles were collected with the help of local sea turtle rescue organizations, volunteers, and state and federal agencies. The rescued sea turtles were kept and rehabilitated in numerous facilities along the coast (e.g. TPWD hatcheries, Gladys Porter Zoo, Sea Turtles Inc., and UT-MSI ARK) and then released once water temperatures increased. Fish mortality is part of the biological cycle and can be beneficial to an ecosystem. When fish die, they decompose and release nutrients which are essential to the maintenance of the ecosystem. Nutrients are supplied back into the system via the production of autotrophs, or producers, and then spread throughout the food web and all levels within the ecosystem. As has occurred in previous freezes, TPWD Coastal Fisheries staff will be using the long-term fisheries monitoring programs to further assess the freeze impact to our fisheries as well as document their recovery. Table 1. Lethal Cold Water Temperature of Selected Local Fish.

Please use our Texas spotted seatrout resource wisely!

Texas Saltwater Fishing / May 2011 47

Table 2. Percent fish mortality by bay system and recreational identity during February 2011 freeze.

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

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CONSERVATION PAGE 22nd annUaL state oF teXas anGLer’s roDeo (star) Set to Kick-Off at Sunrise, Sat. May 28th Memorial Day weekend will here before you know it and so will the 22nd Annual CCA Texas/STAR. Anglers can count on a speck-tacular prize line-up of awesome truck/boat packages, boat packages and, of course, giant scholarships! Check out the new Offshore Division Prize, the fabulous Explorer by Dargel 216 Blue Water Series… a sweet rig for the big seas! Be sure and enter now to take advantage of some great early bird incentives… see details below. NEW for 2011… CCA Texas/STAR Platinum Package Thanks to the generosity of artist David Drinkard, we’re thrilled to announce the first ever CCA Texas/STAR Platinum package. This special offer includes a CCA membership and 2011 CCA Texas STAR entry, plus a signed, limited-edition print created exclusively for STAR, all for $125! STAR Reds is a one-of-a-kind special painting, worth this price alone. If you would like to consider one, or several, of these limited-edition packages, please place your order with the STAR Dept. by calling (713) 626-4222. The proceeds from the sale of these packages will help us continue to fund the STAR scholarships. Good Luck on being one of the first to own this commemorative and thanks for supporting CCA Texas and the STAR Tournament! For more details or go to: YOU’VE GOT TO BE IN TO WIN! A friendly reminder to all Texas coastal anglers… in order to win one of a $1,000,000 in prizes being offered in Texas’ largest, richest, summer-long saltwater fishing event, an angler must be a CURRENT member of CCA, in addition to being registered as a 2011 TEXAS STAR entrant. The STAR tournament entry fee is an awesome bargain at only $20 for ages 18 and up ($20 of insurance to claim your share of $1,000,000 in prizes)! Membership fee is $25 annually, plus $20 STAR Tournament for a total of $45. In order to win at STAR, an angler must be registered and be a member of CCA. You’re going to get in anyway, might as well do it now! Remember, everyone entered in the STAR Tournament, who will be 6 years old in 2011 and older, is eligible to win the prizes being offered (even the TAGGED REDFISH DIVISION)!!! Get everyone signed up for the 2011 STAR. YOUNG ANGLERS FISH FOR FREE! Speaking of bargains, for young anglers ages 6–17, the “New Tide” membership fee remains $10 annually and the STAR entry fee is FREE! CCA “New Tide” members will continue to have the opportunity to win giant scholarships to fund their college education for just the price of a $10 CCA 50 May 2011 / 51

Texas Saltwater Fishing

“New Tide” Membership. We thank our generous sponsors for making it possible for us to offer young anglers this great opportunity, so don’t forget to take ‘em. 2011 EARLY BIRD DRAWINGS - We will again offer some great incentives for anglers to sign up before the tournament starts. Don’t forget to sign up ahead of time and get your shot at landing one of the many great prize offerings just for registering early. Your early registration into the 2011 CCA Texas/STAR Fishing Tournament qualifies you to win the perfect rig to get you to your favorite fishing hole in style. 2011 STAR Early Bird Drawing Prizes - Deadline to enter is May 27th GRAND PRIZE 21’ Shoalwater Cat, Mercury 150 OptiMax and McClain Trailer (must be 21 years old to win boat prize package) ***20 MORE GREAT PRIZES*** 9.9 hp Mercury Motor Three (3) Rod & Reel Combos Thermo-Electric Travel Cooler & Warmer Fifteen (15) CCA Special Edition Posters Don’t miss “the boat” or “the truck and boat”… register today! You can sign up online at or www.!!!

CCA Texas/HTFT teams with Coastal Bend Bays & Estuaries Program and Texas General Land Office for Bay Debris Removal CCA Texas and Habitat Today for Fish Tomorrow (HTFT) recently joined with Coastal Bend Bays and Estuaries Program (CBBEP) and Texas General Land Office (Texas GLO) to remove the remaining debris from a recent derelict barge removal project in the Aransas Pass and Ingleside area waters. The targeted area was an industrial vessel slip area just south of the Hampton’s Landing boat launch area and just north of the ICW RV Park in Aransas Pass. (Continued on page 94...) Please use our Texas spotted seatrout resource wisely!

Please use our Texas spotted seatrout resource wisely!

Texas Saltwater Fishing / May 2011 51


Capt. S cott Null


This is why we fish from kayaks!

Sitting down to write, I first perused an internet fishing site the surface is an ever-changing river that floods and drains a and happened upon a tale relating the rescue of a kayaker. tremendous amount of water on every tide. It is a relatively The young man made several mistakes that most experienced narrow pass servicing several large satellite bays. If you look kayakers would avoid and I started at an aerial photo you can easily to waive it off. Then it occurred how see how the pass acts as a funnel many newbies join our ranks every for Galveston’s West Bay, Bastrop, day and I realized not everyone has Christmas and Chocolate along with had the good fortune to grow up thousands of acres of marsh. Imagine learning to respect the awesome how many gallons must pass through power of the Gulf and its bays. All it to change the water level one foot in takes is inexperience matched with just a few hours. the wrong conditions to turn a fun On the day in question, March 25th, adventure into tragedy. With the the pass was anything but calm and summer season staring us in the face I benign. The wind was blowing hard figured this was probably a good time from southeast and the tide was to touch on the subject. moving the opposite direction. I’ve The young man ventured into San seen this pass under such conditions Luis Pass in a kayak without a PFD. I and there isn’t a fish in the world that don’t know him, but I’m sure he’d would get me off the sand. Yet for heard San Luis is a great place to fish. whatever reason this young man set Visicarbon Pro What he perhaps didn’t know is that forth. His day ended with a rescue kayak light from this is one of the most dangerous ride on the back of a PWC thanks to an YakAttack. places on our coast. On a calm day it alert bystander and quick actions of looks benign and alluring. Yet below the Jamaica Beach Fire Department. It 52 May 2011 / 53

Texas Saltwater Fishing

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Texas Saltwater Fishing

For more information:

713.626.4222 / May 2011 53

kaYak FIshI nG

could have been much worse. While San Luis Pass has a reputation for danger, it doesn’t take a large pass with huge natural forces to wreck your day. When you’re paddling a small piece of plastic all it takes is a sudden weather change, a rouge wave or even a simple moment of inattention to put you in the water. Danger can also come in the form of a boater who doesn’t see you, a misguided hook, or any number The author calls of things that are no big deal on this a “minimally essential” kit of dry ground yet become a real emergency gear. problem when you’re on the water far away from the truck. I don’t want to sound as if this is an inherently dangerous sport. Overall, kayaking is pretty safe so long as you are well prepared and pay attention to the weather and what is going on around you. Being prepared means having at least a basic knowledge of the area and its potential dangers, as

in the case of San Luis Pass. It also means knowing the weather forecast before you launch and having the proper equipment to get yourself out of a jam. First and foremost is a solid, seaworthy kayak. I was recently out with a fella who had a leaky kayak. A little water in the kayak is no big deal, but after a few hours his kayak was holding several gallons. Sloshing water makes a kayak extremely unstable, not to mention a bear to paddle. Luckily we were in the marsh and were able to get out on an island to drain it before heading back across open water to the launch. And there doesn’t have to be a leak. I’ve seen more than one kayaker get into trouble by forgetting to screw in their drain plug. Next on the list is a properly fitting PFD. There are plenty on the market designed for paddling. Look for one with plenty of room around the shoulders and armpits so you won’t get rubbed raw. Another feature I insist on is the lower back cut away. This makes sitting against the backrest much more comfortable. There is much debate on the wearing of PFDs. Some insist you should

wear one every minute you’re in a kayak, others feel that as long as it’s on the kayak everything’s good. I’ll likely ruffle a few feathers but I fall somewhere in the middle. I’ve been on the water a long time and feel very confident in my abilities. I don’t wear it when I’m in shallow and familiar water. If I’m in deeper or unfamiliar waters I’ve got it on. I also wear it when fishing near boat lanes or feel the least bit uncomfortable about the conditions. The law states that you must have a PFD and it must be readily accessible. While a PFD will keep you afloat, it is no guarantee you’ll survive an unexpected dunking. Being in the water for an extended period can cause hypothermia, even in relatively warm water. Prolonged submersion in water as warm as 79°F can lead to hypothermia. Water in the 50°F range can cause death in less than an hour. Given this, it is very important to learn to perform a deepwater re-entry. There are plenty of articles and videos available showing various techniques. Learn this and practice it.

There are plenty of good PFDs on the market; ample shoulder and arm room, along with lower back cutout are features to consider.

Being seen and or heard is extremely important. First off it can help you avoid getting run over by a boat. The law states that manually driven vessels shall exhibit at least one bright light, visible all around the horizon from sunset to sunrise and during restricted visibility. The light must be visible at a distance of two miles on a clear dark night. One of the most popular lights used by kayakers

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Texas Saltwater Fishing

Please use our Texas spotted seatrout resource wisely!

Having the ability to thoroughly cleanse and patch a wound is a good idea. My kit also includes a product from Texas Tackle Factory for treating stingray hits. It comes with tweezers for removing pieces of barb, hydrogen peroxide, antibiotic and bandages. It also has a heat pack. Having been the unfortunate recipient of a well-placed barb I can tell you nothing feels better than heat placed directly over the wound. The kit doesn’t replace seeking medical attention, but it is certainly a better option than allowing time to elapse without proper first aid. All of the above are the bare minimums everyone should consider, but there are many other items you could add to the list. Side-cutter pliers capable of cutting the shank of a hook, a good knife, a sturdy tow rope, a waterproof VHF, something to start a fire, a dry change of clothes in a waterproof bag…you get the idea. Not everyone needs to carry a full arsenal all the time. If you are in shallow, protected water and never leave sight of the truck you don’t need the same equipment as the guy venturing across the bay on an overnighter. Use your head, consider the possibilities and have a plan. Be safe out there, I don’t want you to be the next one I read about.


doesn’t actually meet these criteria because it isn’t tall enough. If the light being displayed is not higher than your head it can’t be seen “all around.” You might want to check your set-up. Many are not aware that all vessels, including kayaks, must have a whistle, horn or sound signaling device. The USCG also requires manually propelled boats operating between sunset and sunrise on open waters to carry three night signaling devices, handheld or aerial flares. The bays on the Texas coast are not considered “open waters” but it’s something to think about if you are venturing off the beachfront and not a bad idea to keep handy if you fish anywhere at night. I recently began using the Visicarbon Pro kayak light from YakAttack. Not only does it place a very bright light above my head, it also has an orange flag and a ring of reflective tape at the base of the light. It can easily be seen day or night. The designer is obviously a kayak fisherman who put a lot of thought into building it. The unit floats, can be inserted into a typical rod holder, and folds for easy storage. Beyond these, you can also chose a brightly colored kayak and wear brightly colored clothing. I’ve been on the water in all weathers, day and night. On a sunny day it doesn’t matter so much, but in sketchy conditions dark or neutral colors tend to blend into the surroundings. Even if you aren’t concerned about boat traffic, in the event you should require assistance it sure is nice to have a fourteen foot piece of orange plastic for a signaling device. Some other safety gear you may want to consider would include a well-stocked first aid kit. This sport is full of things that can cut, scrape or poke and saltwater is known to harbor some nasty bugs.

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

Phone 281-450-2206 Website Email

Phone: 361-651-BOAT Serving Texas Boaters for Over 30 Years 3033 S. PADRE ISLAND DRIVE CORPUS CHRISTI TX 78415




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Texas Saltwater Fishing / May 2011 55

S c o tt S om m er latte


I have dedicated my life to fishing. In fact my dedication, or some would call obsession, has been taken so far to the extreme that it has gotten in the way of friendships and even relationships. And, while many think I am crazy for it, I am completely okay with it. Thoughts of fishing, or some aspect of it, have filled my mind and fueled my dreams for as long as I can remember. That could not be more evident than in my latest project. Several years back I had the pleasure of sharing a skiff with a mentor for a day of fishing in Florida. Before launching his skiff I noticed that he had an unusual looking wooden fork on the end of his Stiffy push-pole. I asked him about it and he explained that it was made from the fork of a guava tree. “This was what we used in the good ‘ole days when we were still poling skiffs around with old pole-vaulting poles that we would get from the high-schools and colleges when they were no longer any good for vaulting.” Being the gracious host, he offered me the bow as he climbed upon his perch on the platform while continuing my history lesson and explaining why the fork of a guava tree was superior to other woods but also as to what other trees offered suitable replacements in a pinch. He also explained the process from choosing a good fork and curing it quickly all the way down to shaping it and attaching it to the pole. But, outside of the nostalgia, I did not truly appreciate the primitive device until it was my turn on the platform. It was much quieter coming out of and re-entering the water and it rarely got stuck in the mud like the “saddled” fork that came standard on my push-pole back home. I was sold. Loving the performance of the foot and more so the nostalgia of it all, I inquired as where I might acquire a guava fork. He told me to just send him a reminder email and he would ship me a couple from his stash. A couple of weeks later I received a package with a note that said- Everyone deserves a good fork. And so…the adventure began. I dove into the project with all that I had making sure that I calculated and measured everything just right before removing one splinter from that precious piece of wood (guava trees are few and far between in Texas). Once I was satisfied that I had it all figured out, out came the saw and the wood rasps and I went to work. Sometime later I was poling the Texas flats with the real deal. Again, truly for me, it was all about the “this is how the Old Dudes did it” thing but I was more and more so becoming convinced that whoever came up with the idea of putting a “mud bar” on a push pole had done a serious injustice to such a pure thing as poling a skiff. So, fast forward a few years and we arrive at a phone conversation that I had with Joe Welborn of Carbon Marine out of Florida. The phone rang, we exchanged a few pleasantries 56 May 2011 / 57

Texas Saltwater Fishing

and he inquired as to what I was up to. I explained that I was shaping a new guava fork for my back-up push pole and how it was the only one I had left and I was hoping to not screw it up because my “source” was out of cured forks and it might be a year or so before any were available. “I’ve got a whole box of Stiffy forks in the back… if you need one I can send it over,” was his response. At this time I began to explain why that just would not do and how I wished I could design a fork that could be manufactured to replace the need for having a healthy population of guava trees in the backyard. “Why don’t you?” He asked. “I’ll help you with it.” So to the drawing board I went. Joe assisted in finding someone to do the CAD drawings and then cut our first mold out of tooling board on a CNC machine at his shop. We poured some prototype parts using polyurethane and put them to use. Needless to say, the first design was somewhat of a failure. Back to the drawing board we went to make it stronger. The second version exceeded my expectations so Joe proceeded to cut a set of aluminum molds on his CNC to be used in the injectionmolding process. The problem was, his machine was not capable

Injection molding dies for Skiff Gear fork.

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fork and my failed attempt to bring a molded version to market. “Well today happens to be your lucky day,” Norris informed me. “I just happen to own a small machine shop called ARC Design with a CNC that will cut anything and I am quite certain I have the software that will read that file no matter what format it was saved in.” So here we are now, nearly two and half years later and one of my half-baked “fishy” ideas has finally reached fruition. With that being said, let me introduce you to the Skiff Gear Poling Fork. I cannot begin to tell how much heart, soul and aggravation went into seeing it to this point but I can tell you it was fun and has already sparked a few new ideas that I am working on now. Until next time be good, go slow. . . and stuff like that!


Scott Sommerlatte is a full time fly fishing and light tackle guide, freelance writer and photographer. Telephone 979-415-4379 Email Website

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of cutting the aluminum blocks and he proceeded to break bit after bit. Finally he conceded that we were not going to be able to get the job done on his equipment so we went looking for a machine shop that could. Well, after several told us that they could not read the computer file in the way it was written, and others that could read it quoted outrageous prices, the dream was slowly dying. Enter fate! One day I am out on the skiff guiding a sport by the name of Josh Norris. I was poling them around looking for reds With prototype Skiff when he commented on Gear fork in foreground, how different my push this photo shows the evolution of the project. pole foot looked than others he had seen. The poor dude had no idea what he was getting himself into at that point as I started telling the story of my introduction to the guava

Anna Rucker (left) takes count of boy scouts from Troop 106 . (Continued from page 31)

Frito pie (her first experience with it!) and the participation of the boy scouts. She shares that opinion with several others. As Morris says, “It gives me optimism that upcoming generations are being taught and shown through hands-on activities to develop an environmental stewardship ethic.” Two volunteers were the proud winners of the 10th Anniversary Celebratory Raffle, each receiving a saltwater art print. Philip Durst, of Rockport, volunteered out of the Goose Island Boat Ramp site and removed four traps from the upper portion of Aransas Bay. Chet Cloudt, also of Rockport, volunteered on kayak with TPW&D staff in St. Charles Bay and assisted in removing eight traps. The cleanup in the Seadrift/Port O’Connor area would not have been nearly so successful without the generous donations of gloves by CCA Texas, tarps by the Coastal Bend Bays & Estuaries Program, dumpsters by Commercial Metals Inc., a backhoe and operator by Calhoun County Pct. 4 Commissioner Kenny Finster, food services by Tom Hans and the POC CCA, the location at Charlie’s Bait Camp by Neal and Karen Gary, and the many other businesses, organizations, TPWD workers, and volunteers that helped out with the program.


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Texas Saltwater Fishing / May 2011 59

Jake Had d ock



Now that we are in the midst of the spring season everything is looking up. The tides are coming back in, the redfish are up tight to shorelines, feeding away in back bays. It’s also a good time of year to catch trout along main bay shorelines anywhere you can find a lot of active bait. This time of year, more specifically May and early June, is one of my favorite times of the year to fly fish. When all of the shrimp hatch in the small back ponds and coves, the redfish set up for ambush. It’s easy to find them too. They will be tightly bunched together, nose down and tail up, a.k.a. tailing. It’s not anything to walk into a shallow little cove and be greeted by twenty orange flags. They may not be twenty-eight inch reds but you won’t care because they put on a show. The best way to go after them, in my opinion, is on foot with a fly rod. You may want to be on foot because you more than likely will have to cross land or shallow oyster reefs and that is the best way to keep quiet to get really close to them. The fly rod is what I like to use for this because you can make multiple presentations in a short amount of time. Also, you can softly land flies right in front of the reds without scaring them. All of this starts to happen when the outside temperature

stays around the eighty-five degree range for a while. This year I plan to take my camera along during my wades for these tailing redfish to get some really awesome pictures for you all. The only thing I can do until then is dream about it. While the water is still trying to warm up, sometimes you can find some of the bigger redfish on more of a winter pattern. While I was in Port O’Connor over spring break, this was definitely the case. The first day we were in POC, a bet was made between my cousin, Dylan, and I versus two of my uncles, Mitchell and Max. Of course, with money on the line I didn’t come out on the winning side. That day we were also fishing the San Antonio Bay complex. I don’t know this area as well as the Espiritu Santo Bay complex. Therefore, I wasn’t able to find fish like I normally do. After getting a lot of smart remarks from both Mitchell and Max, I said, “Ok, tomorrow we’re going to launch out of Port O’Connor and we will see who catches the fish.” So, the next day we launched our boats. Dylan and I in were in my Flats Cat while Mitchell and Max were in theirs. We made an agreement to meet at the beach at noon. So, we took off and I had a particular spot in mind. It was a spot that helped me out before when I needed to redeem myself. Actually, it

Jake with a husky red that brought a halt to the smack talk.

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was the same spot that I caught fish in that I talked about in the recent Cousin Dylan article, “Through Shades of Gray.” As I scored too with his Super Spook. pulled up to the spot, I couldn’t help but notice mullet jumping right over the hole. Dylan had never fished this spot before. I told him, “Don’t worry, we’re fixing to catch some fish here.” I asked him to walk to a little point just up ahead and throw out a topwater or tail. He put on a topwater that he always catches fish on and walked up to the point. Before I could even get the boat situated, I heard an explosion. No, it wasn’t dolphin or sharks, just redfish on Dylan’s topwater. I quickly walked over and hooked up with one of my favorite Hogie Major Minnows, catching back-to-back solid reds. We continued to fish down the shoreline catching fish the whole way. We let most of the fish go, but kept a select few to stop the smack talking.1/5/11 When 2:55 PM Page 1 Inshore Ad.7.5x4.875

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we met up at the beach we asked them if they caught anything. Of course, Mitchell was flaunting how he walked up on a herd of fish and sight casted to three big redfish. Then, he asked how we did. Dylan and I pulled out the two redfish we had kept then said, “Yeah, we let the smaller ones go.” His response was, “Man, the fish I caught were big, but not that hefty.” We didn’t have to listen to his smack after that. Now, as I am sitting down to finish up this article I’m realizing how warm of weather we are having, and I am loving it. Thinking back to last spring I specifically remember fishing Easter day, and being in waders throwing Corkys. However, this year shrimp are already hatching and/or have hatched, with redfish hot on their tracks. This is just something to think about.

Texas Saltwater Fishing / May 2011 61



Mike Jennings


With summer fast approaching, we begin to look forward to the ability to target pelagic species like dorado and kingfish. We will see more wahoo and sailfish moving in shallower where they can be regularly targeted by the average angler with limited fuel capacity. All of these fish can be found in and around rips, weed lines, and an array of flotsam. Rips are associated with the edges of opposing currents and usually have a noticeable temperature and water clarity change as you cross from one side to the other. Rips will trap anything floating, especially sargassum, forming what many call weedlines. These sometimes massive mats of vegetation are a critical habitat for many marine species including numerous fish that rate high on a fisherman’s list. Weed lines attract a variety of baitfish that can usually be caught very easy along the edges. I regularly fill my livewell on one or two stops in the morning on surprisingly small patches. With the amount of bait present, weed lines are a natural gathering place for wahoo, dorado and other pelagic species looking for easy forage and also to simply take advantage of shelter on the open ocean. Much of this is well known by avid fishermen, but most don’t know that the South Atlantic Fisheries Management Council has taken measures to preserve what they call “essential fish habitat”

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by creating the Sargassum Fishery Management Plan, thus placing restrictions on the commercial harvest of sargassum. Approved in 2003, the management plan protects sargassum throughout the blue waters of the South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico. Commercially harvested sargassum is used in fertilizer and dietary supplements in animal feed.

White marlin, caught and released on one of the authors charters.

Please use our Texas spotted seatrout resource wisely!

Please use our Texas spotted seatrout resource wisely!

Texas Saltwater Fishing / May 2011 63

Texas Nearshore & offshore

The ongoing protection of this fish-holding algae (it is really not a weed at all) is definitely important to all within the recreational fishing community, and another example of how complex the management and conservation of our fisheries has become. Just how many of us have ever given a thought to what the ramifications might be if this floating habitat was lost through over-harvest? While the National Marine Fisheries Service is tasked with protecting this fish-holding resource, it leaves you and I free to fish it at every available opportunity. There are many ways to approach a weed line and all can be productive. On a given day or weed line I may catch fish with a combination of tactics. For round patches of weed with little to no obvious current change, I will often ease up, chum along the edges, and then just wait to see what will come up to investigate. This approach will not only pull in curious dorado (also called dolphin fish) but often produces ling and occasionally a tripletail or two. When using this approach I will pre-

rig at least two rods with a fluorocarbon leader and a 4/0 to 6/0 live bait hook. When fish swim into the chum, simply bait the hook with the same chum that attracted them and drop it in. With school-sized dolphin you can often boat multiple fish before the bite falls off. On many occasions this approach will draw larger dolphin that will hang below the smaller ones feeding at the surface. These larger fish will usually be finicky, appearing sluggish and disinterested. This is where you change tactics. I have caught many large dolphin that I first saw under my chum by easing away from or down the weed line and rigging a few Jet Heads or Resin Head trolling lures. Giving myself enough room to put out the spread and settle into a good trolling speed of about seven to eight knots, before passing the area that I had been chumming. You will often see a knockdown on the very first pass. If not, you know he is there so don’t hesitate to work

spreads to produce fish. With summer quickly approaching, we will see the sargassum begin to arrive. With it will be the highly prized dolphin, wahoo and even an occasional billfish. Fishing these weed lines is one of my favorite pastimes and such a dynamic fishery that no approach can be considered the rule. We can only start with a tactic or style that has proven to produce fish in the past. When it fails us we have to tweak it to that day’s conditions until it works and then file the lesson in our mental Rolodex for future reference. Therein lies the biggest secret to consistently catching fish. A good fisherman has much that he can teach others. A great fisherman realizes there is much he can learn from the fish and never misses an opportunity to be taught.


the area again and adjust your speed. I will regularly pull baits close to ten or eleven knots before I see the fish showing interest. On weed lines along a rip with obvious current changes I will usually start with a trolling spread. These are normally the longer more narrow lines that often have a noticeable color or clarity change on either side. Start on the side of the rip with the best water clarity, it will usually produce the best results. You will find that trolling with or against the current can make a difference, but for starters it’s just a coin toss. I often get a surprised reaction from people when I tell them just how far back I pull a spread. Personally, I like my spread Blue marlin tag positioned well back and away from the and release on outboard exhaust. I regularly pull them author’s boat, Poco five to even six wakes back, rarely inside of Bueno 2008. three wakes. I also find consistent success with as little as three baits; staggered, with the shortest line closest to the weed line. I prefer a simple, small spread and rarely use outriggers. This gives me the ability to easily make turns and quickly reverse direction. It also allows me to easily swap sides of the line through small breaks in the weed if necessary. The most important aspect to me is trolling speed and running your lures in water clean enough that they can be seen from below. So don’t think it requires outriggers and complex

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


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Texas Saltwater Fishing

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Seatrout Spotlight: Spawning The spotted seatrout. Genus: Cynoscion, so named for their tender mouths which hooks tear easily from.1 Family: Scianidae, or drum and croaker family. That’s right, the spotted seatrout is actually NOT a trout, but a drum. Like all varieties of this family, the male seatrout has a special set of muscles that are easily visible within the body cavity, and by vibrating these muscles against his gas-filled swim bladder, he produces a drumming sound to attract females.2 Seatrout reach sexual maturity in one to four years, with the males maturing earlier than the females. Two, three, and four year olds make up the bulk of the

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Texas Saltwater Fishing


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fIshY faCTs

spawning population. Three-year-old sows, because of their abundance, spawn the highest percentage of eggs, “and thus have the greatest reproductive potential of all age classes.”3 Sexually mature females can spawn anywhere between nine and sixty times in a season, releasing anywhere from three- to twentymillion eggs a year!3 The spawning season for specks is, well, two seasons: spring and summer, beginning mid-April and lasting through mid-September, with peak production occurring May through July. During spawning, seatrout will usually congregate near shallow grass beds, in estuaries, and around shallow structures where their young will have food and shelter.4 Males begin drumming around sunset, and spawning continues for

TPWD broodfish tank at Sea Center, Texas. Much of what has been learned about spotted seatrout reproduction has been learned through Texas Parks & Wildlife’s Stock Enhancement Program.

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Texas Saltwater Fishing / May 2011 67

several hours into the night. Constant milling and light, side-toside body contact stimulate the release of sperm and eggs into the water where fertilization takes place.5 Because newly hatched spotted seatrout are susceptible to cold and unfavorable salinity, spawning takes place in water temperatures between 70° and 90° Fahrenheit and in an optimum salinity range of 17 to 35 parts per thousand.8 The magic equation for creation. Seatrout are classified as pelagic spawners, meaning they spawn and move on with no preparation of a spawning bed or attempt to guard eggs and/or protect larval offspring. Spawning season is also the height of fishing season for spotted seatrout. Experienced anglers know all the best ways to catch spotted seatrout, that knowledge partly coming from an understanding of the fish. Like many other creatures, seatrout instinctively measure the amount of effort it will take to catch a meal, and whether or not that meal is worth expending the energy. Big trout tend to be couch potatoes, often preferring a few large, slow-moving meals over several smaller, quicker ones.6 However, if you prefer a chase, excited specks are sometimes easy to find. Besides observing the feeding behavior of gulls, terns, and pelicans that flock to take advantage when specks push forage species to the surface, anglers can also sniff out a seatrout slick. Trout have a wonderfully smelly habit of regurgitating when they’re stuffed full and wired up; then that oily, partially digested food rises to the surface.7 Smells like watermelon (yum), or fresh-cut grass... When you land your spotted seatrout, remember to wet your hands before hauling her up for a photo shoot (the best catches

68 May 2011 / 69

Texas Saltwater Fishing

are always females, right?). That slime on her body is akin to her immune system; it’s germ protection.6 The more slime on your hands, the less on her body. Wetting your hands minimizes slime loss, increasing her chance at staying healthy to produce the next round of couch potatoes.

Footnotes 1 “Seatrout,” Down Time Sportfishing Charters, 21 March 2011 <http://www.>. 2

“Spotted Seatrout (Cynoscion nebulosus),” Department of Natural Resources, 17 March 2011 <>. 3 K. Hill, “Species Name: Cynoscion nebulosus,” Smithsonian Marine Station, 2 March 2011 <>. 4

“Spotted Seatrout (Cynoscion nebulosus),” Texas Parks & Wildlife, 1 March 2011 <>. 5 Darlene Johnson, “Species Profiles: Life Histories and Environmental Requirements of Coastal Fishes and Invertebrates - Spotted Sea Trout” (National Wetlands Research Center: Louisiana, 1986) 1, 4-6, 11-12. 6

“Speck Fishing Tips,” Texas Fishing Network, 21 March 2011 <http://www.txfishing. net/speck_tips.htm>. 7 Joe Martin, “Spotted Seatrout in Texas,” Texas Parks & Wildlife, 21 March 2011 <http://>. 8

“Spotted Seatrout in Alabama,” Auburn University Marine Extension & Research Center, 24 March 2011 <>.

Please use our Texas spotted seatrout resource wisely!

Please use our Texas spotted seatrout resource wisely!

Texas Saltwater Fishing / May 2011 69

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Texas Saltwater Fishing

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Texas Saltwater Fishing / May 2011 71

DICKIe CoLBUrN’s Sabine Scene “And then one morning the wind went away and they were all good fishermen again!” Thankfully, that is just the DICKIe CoLBUrN beginning of the story here on Sabine Lake. The turnaround Dickie Colburn is a full time guide began when a brutally cold stretch out of Orange, Texas. Dickie has of winter gave way to warmer 37 years experience guiding on temperatures overnight and the Sabine and Calcasieu Lakes. wind has finally cut us a little slack as well. Telephone It is not like those of us who 409-883-0723 Website know Sabine do not also know that you can still catch trophy trout and redfish in cold muddy water. Our problem is the limited fishable acreage when daily winds of 20 to 30 mph sweep across the open lake slamming chocolate waves against the revetment walls and ninety percent of our more addicted fishermen are wedged into ten percent of the lake. With the entire lake now back in play most days, areas that went untouched over the past month are yielding solid catches of trout up to seven pounds, schooling redfish are running the open lake and the

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flounder bite has been excellent. It literally seems like one day we had no place to fish and the next day we couldn’t decide where to fish first. I will touch on this briefly only because those of you that have fished with me know that it is not my cup of tea. I have been doing well enough fishing the north end, but not taking advantage of the even easier bite on the south end of the lake is a mistake for those of you that do not fish Sabine very often. The water is just beautiful on the tide changes and the redfish and trout continue to follow the shrimp all the way from the jetties into the lake on incoming tides. The LNG terminals have already yielded some of the largest trout of the spring and the Causeway reefs are on fire when you can time the tide changes right. Bouncing a tail across the shell is still the preferred technique for catching incredible numbers, but a larger percentage of the bragging size fish fall victim to topwaters and suspending baits. Top Dog Jrs. and She Dogs, MirrOdine XL’s, Catch V’s and Corkys are deadly on trout holding around the docks and over the shallower reefs. The bonus bite each day takes place from Garrison’s to Blue Buck when the trout and reds are hustling shrimp and ribbon fish under the gulls. It is not unusual for that action to last well up into the morning and there are very few lures that will not catch fish when it starts. With the exception of the scattered grass from Green’s to Willow,

Texas Saltwater Fishing

Please use our Texas spotted seatrout resource wisely!

saBINe the mid-lake bite has not been as productive for us as the north end. When the fish are feeding in the shallow grass, topwaters and spinnerbaits are hard to beat. When they are holding in 4 to 6 feet of water outside the grass, we have also done well making long casts with Tidal Surge’s Crazy Croaker in pearl pink or pearl chartreuse and fishing it in the top of the water column on short twitches. Our solution for even the toughest days is still fishing the smaller 4-inch Assassin Sea Shad or Texas Tackle Factory Flats Minnow under a Kwik Cork. That combination will catch everything from flounder to trout in water from a foot to six Dr. Dan Martin feet deep. When the fish get was catching and really picky, we are fishing the releasing on a tail on an exposed 4/0 Mustad windy day. Wide Gap worm hook under the cork to take advantage of a slower fall. Regardless of your venue, if you are fishing around rocks or grass, you have got to give the following a try. Rig one of Assassin’s new Die Dappers on

Please use our Texas spotted seatrout resource wisely!

a 6/0 un-weighted worm hook with a wire screw lock keeper. Stanley makes a Swim Max hook that works perfectly. I attach it to a Norton Quick Change Clip with a swivel to prevent any line twist and it adds just enough weight to slowly sink the buoyant tail. I was initially trying to simply find a better way to exploit submerged root balls with fewer hang-ups, but it has proven equally deadly twitched through the rocks on the revetment walls. You can throw it out of sight, swim it on top or crawl it through structure without hanging up. My strike to catch ratio is also better when fishing it on braid with a 20-pound mono leader. It is “game on” right now with the shrimp all over the lake and huge schools of juvenile shad crowding the shorelines. There are a lot of options, but if you will commit to a single game plan and minimize your boat riding, you can do more catching than fishing on Sabine this month!

Texas Saltwater Fishing / May 2011 73

MICKeY On Galveston Howdy anglers, Capt. Mickey here with a look at recent fishing results and a peek at what May should bring. Believe it or not MICKeY easTMaN we are actually having a real spring rather than one of those Mickey Eastman is a full-time lingering winters that gives fishing guide out of Baytown, way immediately to summer TX. Mickey has 26 years guiding heat. Hopefully the spring experience on the Galveston area bays and is the founder fishing patterns that have been of Gulf Coast Troutmasters, emerging will last more than a the largest speckled trout week or two this year. tournament series of all time Speaking of patterns, we really had it going on during the first Contact weeks of March prior to the full Mickey Eastman’s Guide Service moon (super moon of March 19.) Telephone Super moon is the name given 281-383-2032 a new moon or full moon that coincides with the moon being closest to Earth in its orbit. Naturally, when the moon is closest to Earth its gravitational forces are stronger with greater effect on ocean tides and currents. That whole two week period between the new moon of March 4th and the full moon of March 19th gave us phenomenal fishing, some of the best I’ve ever

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seen for this time of the year. We were wade fishing and catching some really nice trout up to twenty-nine inches on Super Spooks, Corkys, and that new Mull-O-Grunt by StuntGrunt Lures. Unfortunately, the weeks following that super moon have been pretty much hit or miss and I’m not really sure what’s up with that. While the weather hasn’t been the greatest I don’t believe it deserves all the blame. Hopefully things will turn for the better real soon. Trinity Bay: Right now I would have to give the nod to Trinity as the bay with the most consistent action here in the Galveston Complex. The far north end seems to be holding lots of trout. Given lack of runoff, salinity levels are higher normal for this time of year and this is likely the reason so many trout are holding up on that end. Wade fishermen working mud and clam shell flats have been doing fairly well on average. Keys to getting on the bite have been locating bait schools and occasional slicks. Areas close to bayou mouths, any kind of drains coming out of the marsh, where you have any kind of mud bottom or depth change with some scattered shell seems to be the ticket for finding the better trout. Since the full moon we have been using topwater baits like Super Spooks in clown and bone-chartreuse although color may not matter all that much. I think the biggest thing will always be running a bait across the top of feeding fish and having the right rattle or clunk noise to match the conditions. Smaller plugs seem less effective of late and the rattle tone in the Super Spook seems

Texas Saltwater Fishing

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GaLVesToN to be what they want right now. Soft plastics have been best for trout when drift fishing when the winds are down. We have taken some four and five pounders drifting near the mouth of the Trinity River and up by Skippy Reef and Exxon F Lease in the four to six feet depths out there over scattered grass and clam shells. Redfish are up in the marshes again, we were catching a few out on the flats but now it seems to be a lot of “rats” and the bigger redfish seem to be way out deep in the middle or back up in the bayous in the marsh. There is some pretty good red fishing going on upstream, above the Fred Hartman Bridge, like in San Jacinto Bay, Burnet Bay, Crystal Bay and the San Jacinto River. East Bay: Patterns in East Bay seem to be favoring deeper water. The better numbers of trout have been more or less hanging on the mid-bay shell the past couple of weeks. Shoreline action is scattered, a sprinkling of trout, just not real consistent. I believe this will change and they will make a move creeping back up toward the banks in the coming weeks. Most reefs that taper down into deeper water are the better bets at the time of this writing. Wading shallower shell like you find around Bull Shoals and Hanna Reef has been producing fewer fish in general but the ones they’re getting have probably been the best to come out of East Bay recently. Of course you need to be there when the wind is down to be able to fish it properly. West Bay: There are still fair numbers of trout coming out of West Bay. Best action has been very early and again as soon as the sun hits the horizon in the evening. We call it the glass minnow pattern. Glass minnows are most active during darker periods and this means when

the trout are on them the bite will best right at daylight and again right before dark. Being at the right place at the right time is always important but when the trout are on glass minutes it is even more important. Rather hard for your average fishermen to get in on the action when it’s like that. Galveston Jetties: A few good fish are being caught at the Galveston Jetties. It’s been producing a lot of big black drum and naturally some big trout mixed in with them and a few redfish also. The way the wind has been blowing lately you just have to pick your days very carefully. Tide changes on calm days having been paying off, coming or going, doesn’t really seem to matter but you definitely need current out there to kick things off. That about sums it up for now. As I write this in early April we are still getting fronts every week or so with back and forth twenty to twentyfive mile per wind, hard southeast for a few days followed by a day or two of north. All of this will be history by the time May rolls around and I expect with the kind of fishing we saw in early March it could bust wide open again in May. Water temperatures have finally crept up to the 70° mark and historically when this happens lots of forage species such as mullet, shad and glass minnows begin to show in great numbers. Fishing could be better right now but I think there’s lots of good catching coming our way. Meantime, get out there and have fun with them and always remember to keep an eye on the weather.

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CaPT. BILL’s Fish Talk April showers bring May flowers, hit the fish cleaning table for waders working the shallower mid-bay and as far as fishing goes we reefs. Over in West Matagorda Bay, the glass minnows began to should see some seasonal show along the south shoreline about the 10th of April and as always beauty there as well. We’ll fishing the incoming tide has been paying off. Most all have been CaPT. BILL PUsTeJoVsKY find our fish becoming more solid fish in the sixteen to eighteen inch range and there have been aggressive along with the rising lots of reds running those same shorelines. Bill Pustejovsky is a full-time water temperatures enabling May will find me fishing both East and West bays depending guide at Matagorda, TX. us to wade wet. What a relief on the conditions. I’ll try to stay in East as much as possible but if Bill fishes year-round for trout and redfish in all the not having to wear waders. it starts getting crowded or the wind becomes a factor I’ll run over Matagorda Bays. Wading and I’m sure a lot of fishermen, like to West Bay and it won’t take me long in my new twenty-five foot drifting for trophy trout and myself, found some April Dargel HDX Cat. I Redfish like this one reds are his specialty. afternoons when wet am very impressed David Niles is holding wading was comfortable with the way this have been coming Telephone very steadily for us. but the waders were still boat takes rough 979-863-7353 needed most mornings. water while at the Email Even with cooler morning same time able to Website temperatures in the first run in one foot, ten days of the month, plenty skinny for my April has been giving us wading purposes. I good fishing in both East and West Matagorda Bays. applaud Dargel for An abundance of trout and reds have been caught recently constructing a boat by anglers drifting the middle of East Matagorda with Bass that has a great ride Assassins rigged under rattling corks. An equal amount of fish and can also run

76 May 2011 / 77

Texas Saltwater Fishing

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MaTaGorDa shallow. Cleve Ford, owner of Dargel Boats, painless but it works did his homework. A lot of engineering for me and I have since went into the hull design and it has removed countless hooks performed very well for me so far. from others. Fishing topwaters effectively Hitting the peak of the action on West Bay’s south shoreline usually means being requires lots of patience and expertise that comes with there on incoming tide. When focusing on practice. One of the greatest reasons few truly master trout I’ll be wading the sandbars and deeper it is because they can’t stand watching their buddies grass beds. Your redfish will be found in land fish on other lures while they are figuring out the tight, closer to the shorelines. retrieve for the day. Some days the trout will want a fast If topwaters are your cup of tea, May mover and some days they’ll hit it on the pause. Other is probably one of the best months of the days they will prefer it slow and steady. You have to be year. It’s a lot of fun seeing them explode willing to experiment to get good at it. On windy days on a lure but you need to be extra careful I usually go with a She Dog or full-size Spook. Calmer Charles Roberts; 40-45 lb. black drum while handling a thrashing fish. Too many days find me throwing the MirrOlure She Pup, Spook (estimated) caught and released - West times I’ve watched smiles turn to frowns. Jr., or Skitter Walk. Each one of these baits has its own Matagorda Bay April 06 2011 - Bass Assassin. One quick headshake is all it takes to bring rattle tone. tears to even a grown man’s eyes. I witness this very same routine When you finally hit pay dirt and hook your first fish all the rest every year as I’ve had a lot of practice pulling hooks out of fishermen’s should come easy. Personally I like bone colored lures and here lately hands and other places I’ll not mention. I became a guinea pig for I’ve been doing well with the Heddon One Knocker in Okie shad. I my current hook removal method while fishing one morning when often change out the rear hooks and replace them with ones dressed suddenly a Corky slammed into my hand. Capt. Jimmy West from in chartreuse and white feathers. These dressed hooks work well Galveston came to the rescue and showed me how to use a strong equally well on Corkys. I know it may sound trivial but sometimes it’s piece of fishing line to remove the hook with less pain than other the small details that provide the edge you need. methods. I’m not going to lie and say that Jimmy’s procedure is Good fishin’ and God bless. -Capt. Bill


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MID-CoasT BaYs With the Grays Springtime fishing patterns are in full swing here on the middle coast. Mother Nature never disappoints in showing us just CaPT. sheLLIe GraY how hard she can blow her Captain Gary and Captain Shellie seasonal winds. I will be using Gray fish year-round for trout pretty much the same tactics and redfish in the Port Oâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;Connor/ that I used in April to help make Seadrift area. Gary started his Bay May catches. Locations will Rat Guide Service 20 years ago. The Grays specialize in wade and change somewhat due to the drift fishing with artificial lures. change in water temperature Gary and Shellie also team up to but many areas will likely be offfish many tournaments. limits on windier days. Trout numbers will continue Telephone to increase on the outside sandy 361-785-6708 shorelines of our bay waters Email like Espiritu Santo, San Antonio and West Matagorda Bays. Since Website the winds are typically more â&#x20AC;&#x153;fishableâ&#x20AC;? at sunrise I will start my day fishing the windward shorelines where the catching has been most productive; however, winds typically pick up by mid-morning forcing

me to move to the leeward shorelines. Shorelines that have the most pronounced guts with abundant grass beds hold the most baitfish which is definitely a key when deciding where to start. I like to start up shallow away from the dropoff early in the day throwing small topwaters such as Super Spook Jr. in the redfish color scheme. Smaller topwaters are easier to work, requiring a lot less effort to â&#x20AC;&#x153;walk the dogâ&#x20AC;?, compared to the larger heavier topwaters. While ease of use is important, it is their ability to entice fish to strike that keeps me throwing them over and over. Now I have to admit Eight year olds, Sam that we put more fish in Peacock and Robert the box using soft plastics, Stavinoha, getting started you just canâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t beat the right with great catches! entertainment that comes with throwing topwaters. Watching a big redfish




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PorT o’CoNNor / seaDrIfT blow a plug out of the water without My mom, getting hooked amazes me every time. Sandy Zimmer, Especially since I seem to hook myself showing she and everything else so easily with those still has what dang sharp treble hooks. And I can it takes to land nice fish. never get enough of watching trout smackin’ at a plug whether it takes it or not. If you have never had the pleasure of catching or almost catching a fish on a topwater, do yourself a favor; tie one on and LEAVE it on. Fish most the day or all day with it and I promise you too will become addicted. Back lakes will remain a mainstay throughout May simply because it is hard for me to give up on redfish. I love them! Our lakes are currently holding good supplies of these coppery, rod bending bruits, thanks due largely to the success of the CCA/TPWD hatcheries and restocking programs. The one-two punch of conservative bag limits and restocking have given us an awesome fishery and we should never forget that outlawing gill nets helped too. My clients are often amazed that these large fish inhabit such shallow dwellings. We are fortunate here on the middle coast to have such and pristine back lakes; however, the dense grasses there can make lure chunking almost impossible at times. This is when weedless, Texas-rigged soft plastics really shine. I make my rig using an 1/8 ounce bullet weight slid onto about ten

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inches of 20# leader line and then tying a 4/0 offset worm hook. A wide gap hook will help get a better hook set and are easy to remove. Make sure to attach you main line to the leader using a small barrel swivel; I use a #10. Remember this is supposed to be weedless, the bigger the swivel the more grass you will catch so try not to use anything larger than a #10. Adding a five inch sardine colored Gulp Jerkshad will make it hard for redfish to resist. On those rare days when the wind is not a factor I will probably be drifting or wading the many reefs in San Antonio Bay. Locating bait and reef hopping is almost always a must to find the best action. Sometimes it takes me three or more stops before I find a solid bite. Don’t get discouraged, it will pay off. As of late the west shoreline and reefs of San Antonio Bay have been productive for me and my clients. Fleeing mullet and bird activity have been the key factors to finding cooperative fish. Mother’s Day is this month so I want to wish all of you Angling Moms a very Happy Mother’s Day. I hope you all are treated to some relaxation, fun, and lots of love on your special day. I take this opportunity to thank my mom for her immeasurable contribution to my life. With all the special ways you show me that you care Mom, no wonder I love you so much!

Texas Saltwater Fishing / May 2011 79

hooKeD UP WITh Rowsey Hard to believe that I am writing an article for the May issue of TSFMag when I just canceled today’s charter due to a late DaVID roWseY norther that blew in overnight. David Rowsey has 20 years As I have heard many times, “If experience in the Laguna/Baffin you do not like the weather in region; trophy trout with artificial Texas, just wait ten minutes and lures is his specialty. David has a it will change.” May sound like a great passion for conservation gripe, but I wouldn’t have it any and encourages catch and other way. release of trophy fish. The full moon that came on Telephone March 19, (a.k.a. Super Moon 361-960-0340 Website full moon at perigee, closest it has been to Earth in 27 years) Email brought some life to the bay system I did not expect until April. Seemingly overnight the water turned air-clear in parts of the Upper Laguna and Baffin, sargassum weed appeared in the middle of Baffin, skipjacks started smashing lures, unbelievable schools of menhaden and mullet appeared, and the football-shaped trout started making their first appearances. And to think; all of this before the bulge of the spring equinox tide. I hate to be overly optimistic as

it could surely bite me in the butt, but I sure like what I am seeing and this could well be “one of those years.” The spring season has thus far has been “top shelf” for big trout. As mentioned in my last article some legitimate twelve pound trout have been landed and I just heard a rumor of a thirteen pounder, not to mention a good smattering of tens. It has been many years since this number of heavyweights have been caught in one season and it would not surprise me if Jim Wallace’s record is overtaken before the end of May. Yes, I’m aware that TPWD recognizes a trout caught and released by Bud Roland in the Lower Laguna as the state record but with no official weight some of us have a hard time accepting it. With so many areas looking primed for big trout, it is sometimes hard for me to decide where to go first. This is a good problem to have and one that myself and most other guides usually do not have to deal with. Trout are dropping eggs on a regular basis now so my first thought is of areas that hold a lot of grass. Unlike bass, trout do not build nests and do not hang around to protect their spawn once released. What they do is slip into areas where thick grass is prevalent, waters are shallow and warm, and then release their roe for the male trout to fertilize. Catching the grunting, undersized male trout is actually a good indicator that larger females are around. The south shoreline of Baffin, amongst the rocks and shoreline of Rocky Slough, the flats of Yarbrough, and the spoil islands of the

11709 FM 1764 Santa Fe, TX 77510 Phone: 409-927-1462 EMail: 80 May 2011 / 81

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UPPer LaGUNa/ BaffIN Laguna (Nighthawk), are ideal spawning areas that will hold all of the structure and water depths to attract the big females. Mix these areas with a stable bait supply and we should be on our way to some good fishing, and big catching. I was fishing the Rockport Bash one year in May and my partner and I had the lead on Day 1 with three fish that weighed 18.5#. We were excited for the second day to hopefully get a big check. Long story short, the fish would not bite for us on Day 2 and we zeroed! I could literally sight-cast those big girls but they would eat nothing. Frustrated after the tourney, I spoke with my good friend, Capt. Jay Watkins, and told him of what we had gone through. Jay said, (as

The smile says it all: Craig Kiefer with a big CPR trout, Chandeleur Isle Bass Assassin.

only he could), “Now, Rowsey… What is the most fickle, moody, and temperamental thing on the face of planet?” Me: “I give up. What is it, Jay?” Jay: “I’ll tell ya Rowsey…It is a pregnant woman at 8.5 months and that is what you are trying to catch.” As soon as he said it, I knew he was right. Now to the point of the story, we have to approach these big trout with caution, be subtle in our approach, and selective in our lure choices. A big intrusive plug is not always the best approach to catching these big girls in shallow water. A floater Corky by MirrOlure, a small swim shad by Bass Assassin on a 1/16 ounce jig, or maybe a weedless-rigged 5” Bass Assassin, will top my list for coaxing these temperamental females. “Fishing is like sex, everyone thinks there is more than there is, and everyone else is getting more than their share.” -Henry Kanemoto “Set ‘em loose.” -Capt. David Rowsey

Port Mansfield Fishing Tournament July 28th – 31st, 2011 Please visit website for info. Website: Phone Number: Fax Number: E-mail Address: Mailing Address: Event Center:

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Texas Saltwater Fishing 956-944-2354 956-944-2515 P.O. Box 75 Port Mansfield, TX 78598 101 E. Port Drive Port Mansfield, TX 78598 / May 2011 81

TrICIa’s Mansfield Report Every season is unique and spring brings its own brand of magic to the Laguna Madre. Cozy temperatures above and CaPT. TrICIa below the water’s surface, blooming yuccas, hordes Capt. Tricia’s Skinny Water of baitfish exploding above Adventures operates out of aggressive trout and reds, with Port Mansfield, specializing in gulls wheeling and laughing wadefishing with artificial lures. on top of it all. What a great time to be on the water! Telephone Since my last report, 956-642-7298 water conditions Email have improved as our Website seagrass continues to recover. Much of the Laguna can be almost too clear during low wind periods, so concentrate on rafting mullet and heavy grass until the wind creates color changes and a little chop on the surface. A problem of late has been the abundance of filamentous algae or “Easter grass” as some call it given its likeness to the stuff we put in Easter baskets. This seasonal nuisance is in full bloom and sometimes

82 May 2011 / 83

dominates the entire water column. Sunny, windy days are the worst when it begins to float, and the farther south you run the worse it seems to be. Putting up with it every day is a pain and I cannot wait until it is gone. Quite thankfully, many trips of late have yielded results bordering on “epic” quality, especially when the wind plays into our hand. Epic is a strong word coming from a full-time guide, but the reality is that we are no doubt riding the crest of a rare high cycle in nature and many factors probably contribute. A good hurricane (Dolly), the East Cut being re-opened, a very dramatic freshwater flush, and certainly a reduced trout limit all play a role in this. Fishing for limits is suddenly old-fashioned when anglers have legitimate chances at multiple trophy trout on any given outing. Some of the more exciting stuff has been

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PorT MaNsfIeLD sight-casting to trophy-class trout in knee-deep clear water. I found these fish by accident, jumping up on plane to repeat an incredible wade fishing session we had already experienced. At first I thought they were redfish, but it didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t take long to discover what I was seeing was something far beyond my wildest dream. An entire stretch of clear sand was literally swarming with large trout, and what was even more unbelievable was that they were eager to pounce on most anything presented with a good cast. As mysteriously as they appeared they have now vanished but not before we were able to get on them several times. This uncommon school is further evidence (at least to me) of what ample freshwater and a conservative bag limit can create. A classic spring trout bite has emerged in most of the traditional areas. Topwaters have been steady producers of two to five pound fish on the flats, with kickers of seven and eight pounds not uncommon. Lately, nearly every trip has yielded at least one trout in the twenty-eight inch class. The best action has been on smaller plugs, fishing shallow early and late, and also on larger and noisier baits when the water is choppy mid-morning through afternoon in the waist deep. Kelly Wiggler paddletails and TTF Big Mino on 1/8

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ounce jigs have also been very good when the fish will not commit on top. Yes, spring is here and summer will be here before long. This means we will all have to start sharing the water more patiently. Be tolerant of newbies who do not yet understand the protocol and courtesies we all strive to practice. Education is the key and leading by example is the best lesson plan. Should you unfortunately encounter a hard-case who flagrantly disrespects your space and/or your safety, save the tongue lashing for the docks. Bay rage will only make things worse and hopefully you can accomplish some good after everybody cools down a bit. No doubt, the spring air is full of fishing magic here on the Lower Laguna and you really need to get out and enjoy it at its finest. Even though we seem to be enjoying a banner year we still need to practice good conservation and stewardship. If a fish dinner is your thing, take only enough to make a good meal or two and be extra careful when handling and releasing the heavier egg-laden spawners. With trout weights being uncommonly heavy for length, three or four eighteen to twenty inchers should be enough to feed five or six hungry seafood lovers. Take along a digital camera to record your success and let the stringer shot become a thing of the past.

Texas Saltwater Fishing / May 2011 83

soUTh PaDre Fishing Scene The spring winds have been relentless. Although it has not stopped us from fishing, it has caused us to make adjustments CaPT. erNesT CIsNeros in the areas we choose to fish. A Brownsville-area native, Two gusty days and nights in a Capt. Ernest Cisneros fishes row causes lots of good water the Lower Laguna Madre from to be blown out. The good Port Mansfield to Port Isabel. news is that when the wind Ernest specializes in wading lays a bit overnight the water and poled skiff adventures for has been clearing nicely snook, trout, and redfish. and fishing has been Cell remarkably good until 956-266-6454 it begins to howl again Website in the afternoon. More good wind related news comes in the form of dissolved oxygen content. The fish feed more aggressively and fight harder in highly oxygenated water. You could say it puts them in top shape like a well-conditioned boxer just before a title bout. During the latter part of March the rising water temperature brought a tremendous topwater bite. Fish have been exploding violently on Skitter Walks, Top Dogs, and the Spook

84 May 2011 / 85

Jr. Pink, bone and redhead have been excellent colors and the most consistent presentation has been ripping it pretty fast to get their attention. A blowup is the signal to let it rest for a couple seconds followed by several quick twitches and that usually seals the deal. Our best action has been in areas with lots of active bait, casting quickly behind individual baitfish as they bust the surface. There are currently huge numbers of finger-sized mullet down here in our end of the Lower Laguna Madre and that says a lot about the condition of our fishery When the topwater bite slows down we have been tying on Corkys and darker Danny displays Kelly Wigglers, both one of several big baits have done trout caught on a the trick for us on recent spring trip. redfish and trout. Over the last few weeks the afternoon and evening bites have been incredible especially when we can catch a moving tide. We have had numerous

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arroYo CoLoraDo To PorT IsaBeL evenings when we landed a fish, lost a fish, or missed a bite on nearly every cast. It’s not a secret that stronger tides occur during the new moon and full periods, but around full moon periods the action can be pretty darn slow during daylight hours. If you’re willing to wait them out, patience can and will eventually pay off. I have had many memorable trips around this time of the year where we decided to do just that (wait them out), and the reward came in trophy sizes. Mauri caught this I have every reason to believe beauty on a topwater that we have a great summer working a shoreline. season ahead in the Lower Laguna Madre. Both drifting and wading, we are seeing incredible numbers of shrimp skipping on the surface and we have an abundance of blue crabs of all sizes on the shallow, grassy flats. The redfish we have been cleaning are quite often so stuffed with crabs and shrimp that it makes you wonder why they wanted to eat a fishing lure. Skipjacks are already numerous and if you can believe the old-timers; when the skipjacks are thick on the flats the trout soon will be too.

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As mentioned last month, we are currently seeing lots of stingrays. I recommend you do the stingray shuffle AND wear your stingray protection. Stingrays are very opportunistic feeders and quite often you will see them settled right in amongst a school of reds ready to pounce on any small prey the reds spook up. They also seem fond of sneaking along in your mud trail when you are wading. Be careful with that back step! I would have to say that judging from our catches, the flounder population is rebounding strongly in the Lower Laguna. A good game plan for snagging a bunch of flatties is to work the edges and dropoffs of the ICW and any channels that intersect it. Flounder bite best when the current is strong. Rigging small soft plastics on heavier jigs than you normally use on the flats is a good setup for getting your bait down to the doormats. Summer months will soon be here and the right equipment makes our time on the water safer and more comfortable. Quality eyewear is a year round must-have, but the glare of summer sun is toughest of all on the eyes. Just recently I picked up a pair of Costa del Mar 580 Series in the Man-o’-War model and their lightness, comfort and lens clarity were instantly noticeable. The side shields on these frames block out all the glare and harmful UV. I highly recommend them to anybody shopping for quality fishing glasses.

Texas Saltwater Fishing / May 2011 85



from Big Lake to Boca Chica

Lake Calcasieu Louisiana Jeff and Mary Poe - Big Lake Guide Service - 337.598.3268 May is a great month! As long as we don’t have a major rain event, things should be lining up for a great spring and summer. The water is salty and the fish are from one end of the estuary to the other. In May, the fish are beginning their transition to summer patterns. There will be plenty of fish under birds, and there should be no shortage of big trout either. Look for the giants on the flats early in the morning, then follow them to oyster reefs near the flats as water temperatures rise. Try topwaters and MirrOdines. In sandy green water, try bone, chartreuse, and pink. In super clean water, try natural colors like baby trout chrome/green. Under birds, the trout will eat pretty much anything. We use shrimp imitations on quarter ounce jigheads. Sand Eels, MirrOlure Soft Minnows, and H&H Salty Grubs and Beetles are great choices. Redfish are also going to be very plentiful. Look for birds picking close to the bank and usually you’ve got ‘em. They will also be at the weirs and on shorelines adjacent to them. Try spinner baits, jigs, and popping corks. Trinity Bay - East Bay - Galveston Bay | James Plaag Silver King Adventures - - 409.935.7242 Fishing for trout along protected shorelines in Trinity and East Bay had been good in days leading up to this report, James says. “We’re catching some quality trout up to seven pounds and more, mostly on Paul Brown’s FatBoys in the new color with a pink belly and black back. Also catching real good on


Die Dappers rigged on H&H Flutter Jigheads. The topwater bite is good too at times, particularly on early morning wades in Lower Galveston Bay. Best action there has been early, not much good once the sun gets up. As for a May prediction, I’ll venture to say that if you aren’t close to one of the passes, you will be in the wrong place. Seems like a bunch of our fish went into the Gulf when it was so cold, and they should show back up at the passes, and around the jetties. Then the shorelines around Rollover and San Luis Pass should heat up, as will areas like the Bolivar pocket and shorelines in Lower Galveston Bay. The topwater action should be great when the water is moving and the bite is on. Bass Assassins will work too, of course.” Jimmy West - Bolivar Guide Service - 409.996.3054 Jim describes some excellent action on trout lately, but he also says the action is basically feast or famine. “I had one twenty-nine incher and several others around twenty-seven. The big ones are biting Paul Brown’s Original Lures and MirrOlure Catch 2000s mostly. We’ve also had a good topwater bite in the shallows when the water’s pretty. It’s a weather and crowd thing as far as what you need to have a productive outing. When it’s windy, you really need to wade to have the best chance of catching fish. But on the days with the bigger crowds, the best areas for wading will fill up. If you don’t pull up in a great spot and stay there, it can be tough to move and find something better. Of course, as we get into May, the mid-bay reefs will hold more and more fish, and on the calmer days, you can catch all you want in the middle out of the






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boat. We’ll see more potential to hit the surf too. There have already been some good days around Rollover. The big trout bite great there on outgoing tides, but you have to have light winds for it to work.” West Galveston - Bastrop - Christmas - Chocolate Bays Randall Groves - Groves Guide Service - 979.849.7019 - 979.864.9323 Randall mentions that he looks for a rather specific thing when trying to find fish this time of year, while he‘s running at the helm of his JH Performance boat. “You have to follow the food. I actually try to find a pelican with a seagull sitting on his head. The pelican will stick his head in the water and scoop up some shad, then the seagull will try to steal some. If you do see that, get out and be persistent in the area, even if there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of structure to hold the fish. The concentration of bait will cause the fish to stay there. We’ve got tons of bait in the bays right now. It all just came rushing in from the surf over the last couple of weeks. The topwater action has been good lately, especially on the new Heddon One Knocker in bone and the one that looks kind of like a redfish. The other thing that’s working great is the pink Skitterwalk. We’re looking for even more bait to move in from the surf, namely the ribbonfish. When that happens, we’ll see some big trout hanging around and chasing them.” Matagorda | Charlie Paradoski Bay Guide Service - 713.725.2401 As usual, there are options aplenty in the Matagorda area in May, Charlie says. “Our mainstay pattern is to run west and fish the grass beds on the shorelines in West Bay. You’ll catch plenty of both trout and redfish over there, throwing topwaters and soft plastics, working the shallowest beds early and moving to the outside bars later. If the winds are light, other options come into play as well. We like to fish in East Bay as much as we can this time of year. Generally,

the trout are bigger in East Bay. They’ll be on the shorelines a lot this month. The mid-bay reefs and scattered shell also hold plenty of trout for people who prefer to fish from the boat. Pretty light winds are necessary to make the fishing productive in the middle of East Bay, since it muddies up easily. The other thing we keep out eye on is the surf. On some of those days when we’re over in the coves in West Bay and it gets dead calm, we just cross over the dunes and head for the beach. Some of the biggest surf trout of the year are caught in May when it’s right.” Palacios | Capt. Aaron Wollam - 979.240.8204 Fishing has taken off in our area, with lots of bait moving into our bay systems. Small mullet, glass minnows and shrimp have arrived and the fish have been hot on their tails. Our topwater bite for redfish and trout has been awesome lately to say the least. Pink Skitterwalks, bone Spook Juniors and black/ chartreuse SheDogs have accounted for most of our fish. Dark colored soft plastics rigged on eighth ounce jigheads have accounted for fish when blow ups slow down. Live shrimp rigged under popping corks have accounted for plenty of fish also people who like to fish with live bait. Drum and redfish have been more common in the sacks caught on live bait. May should bring in warmer water and one of my favorite species--tripletail. These tasty fish should start to arrive when the water temps get above about 75 degrees. Turtle Bay and Keller Bay should have some good bird activity this month, and the glass minnows should arrive by the millions. Watching pelicans and seagulls is a surefire ways to locate fish following the minnows.

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Texas Saltwater Fishing / May 2011 87

Port O’Connor | Lynn Smith - Back Bay Guide Service 361.983.4434 May is a great month for fishing with top waters, according to Lynn. “We’ll be fishing in the back lakes quite a bit this month. Some years, there are decent schools of bigger than average trout in the lakes. Small topwaters work well when they’re in shallow areas like the lakes and along the shorelines adjacent to the entrances to the lakes. I always like to key on areas with heavy concentrations of grass, the more the better. We then focus our casts on the bright spots, or sandy pockets within the grass beds. It’s important to be thorough when working this drill, casting at every edge of the pockets, trying to keep the lure moving along the fringes where the grass meets the sand. I stay with two favorite colors in the Super Spook Juniors mostly. If it’s not bright and sunny, I favor the white one with the chartreuse head, and when the sun comes out, I often switch over to chrome with a blue back. Redfish will be found in these same areas, and both species will bite best when the water is moving, either coming in or going out.” Rockport | Blake Muirhead Gator Trout Guide Service - 361.790.5203 - 361.441.3894 Blake has been moving around and fishing most of the Rockport area bays and the fishing is good to excellent all over. “I’ve been in Mesquite, San Antonio, St. Charles, Aransas, Corpus Christi and even the smaller bays. Trout fishing has been steady. We’ve had good topwater action on lots of days. We’re not catching really big trout, but the numbers are closer to the good old days than they were the last couple of years. Our focus has been on sandy shorelines with some decent grassbeds mostly. The reefs are also producing already, and in May, fishing the mid-bay reefs is usually a productive idea. I’ll throw topwaters around the reefs, but the old standby Sand Eels come into play a lot too, in colors like pumpkinseed/chartreuse and purple/chartreuse. The reds have been thick at times, mostly when we’re running into the back

lakes, and also at times around the drains coming out of the back lakes into the main bays. With the salty water we’ve got all over, May should be outstanding. Maybe even in the surf.” Upper Laguna Madre - Baffin Bay - Land Cut Robert Zapata – - 361.563.1160 The month of May is one of my favorite months to fish for big trout. Speckled trout are spawning during this month, so they will spend much of their time in shallow, grassy shorelines. The water temperature is not a factor during the month of May, and the water clarity is great in our part of the Laguna Madre. I will be approaching my target areas quietly with my trolling motor from at least one hundred yards away and then drift or wade parallel to the shorelines or grass lines in less than two feet of water. My sixteenth ounce Spring Lock jig head will be rigged with a Bass Assassin five inch Die Dapper – plum/chartreuse tail or a salt and pepper silver phantom. The four inch Sea Shad Blurp in colors like good penny and pearl will also see a lot of action. On sunny days, around 11 a.m., I will probably be heading to shallow water about twelve inches deep with a clear and sandy bottom where I will be sightcasting trout, reds and black drum. It can be very exciting to cast at a particular fish and then actually see it react and swallow your bait. Corpus Christi | Joe Mendez – - 361.937.5961 As of the middle of April, the fishing in the Land Cut is absolutely on fire, Joe reports. “Anglers are catching all the trout they want in the cut, keeping the boat in the middle and throwing at the west edge primarily. Live shrimp under a popping cork works best, of course, but anglers throwing topwaters and soft plastics are catching plenty. When throwing the soft plastics, use heavier jigheads when it’s windier and lighter ones when it’s calmer, to keep the lure better in contact with the ledge as it falls. As we get into May, the fishing should continue hot in the Land Cut, and with the beautiful water, Nine


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Boat Lifts PWC Lifts & More 88 May 2011 / 89

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Mile Hole should offer excellent potential too. There are some monster reds in that area, and it’s possible to catch them after seeing them at times. Few things rival sightcasting oversized reds and watching them bite! They can be caught on a variety of lures at times, even on flies. If they are finicky, a small paddle tail often entices them to bite. Throwing it past the fish and reeling it slowly and steadily in front of its nose works great.” Padre Island National Seashore Billy Sandifer - Padre Island Safaris - 361.937.8446 May can bring high-quality angling but it depends on the amount of sargassum present. We are currently buried in the stuff and there is no way to predict when it will end. Bull, blacktipped, spinner, sharpnose, blacknose, bignose, finetooth and lemon will be the most common shark species but others are possible. Overall, the conditions are more user-friendly than earlier in the year with tides and winds moderate. Bonita, large shoals of jack crevalle, Spanish mackerel, Atlantic bluefish and skipjacks should all be plentiful as should whiting, redfish, black drum, and scattered pompano. Whiting is the early season preference of the sharks and fresh, dead shrimp and Fishbites should work well on the bottom feeders. Watch for whirling, diving birds to show you where the jackfish, blue fish and mackerel are feeding. While heavy mono makes good leaders for the jackfish, the others require a short piece of wire. Speck rigs and spoons work well on the blues and mackerel and large lures of many types will draw strikes from the jack crevalle. Don’t forget, it is turtle nesting season.

Lower Laguna Madre - South Padre - Port Isabel Janie and Fred Petty – – 956.943.2747 Both sides of the intracoastal that divides the LLM have been getting hit with some really nasty dredge water whenever the wind blows from the south or southeast. Heavy spring winds day and night aren’t giving the bay a chance to clear. We’re able to catch trout almost anywhere when the tide’s right, but finding redfish in the muddy, churning water can be tough. Boat traffic has been pretty steady all winter and looks to increase, especially on weekends. That’s the bad news…the good news is that thanks to Berkley Gulp! shrimp and Cajun Thunder corks we’re catching limits of reds and tagging oversized ones fairly regularly to complement daily limits of trout and an added bonus of the best year we’ve seen in ages for flounder. Freddy says, “Running around looking for fish is counterproductive when the water is so cloudy. It’s impossible to see anything except your own wake. Your best bet is to make long drifts without burning the entire flat until you find the depth that they’re hanging in. Low tides are deceptive when you can’t see the bottom, so start deep and work your way shallower…drifting instead of driving.”

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Port Mansfield | Terry Neal – 956.944.2559 The U.S. Army Corps Of Engineers just finished dredging the mouth of the Mansfield Jetties. The prevailing average depth is now twenty-eight feet, plenty of water for all kinds of fishing boats. Already we are seeing huge

schools of bait coming into the Lower Laguna from offshore, and naturally, these are attracting all kinds of predators. Here of late the water clarity is generally excellent until the wind gets up over 15 mph, and then it colors up pretty quickly across most of the bay. Working color changes has made for some excellent topwater action. If you like to take some trout home, there will be plenty of 18 to 22 inchers to put on a stringer (excellent table fare), so be sure and let the big mamas go so they can spawn and replenish the Lower Laguna. Spawning activity should be well under way by the time you read this and the seatrout fishery needs all the help we can give it. Keep only what you will eat fresh and release the rest.

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Texas Saltwater Fishing / May 2011 89

Savanna Clopton & PaPaw Handrick South Padre - 22.5” speckled trout

Alan Atkins Rockport - redfish

Krista Benavides Corpus Christi - 28” trout

Luke Cotton Matagorda Bay - 28.5” 7.5lb trout

Jorge Delgado Cindy Brady Port Aransas - 28” 7lb spotted sea trout Chocolate Bayou - 30” black drum

Kevin Davis Baytown - big snapper 90 May 2011 /

Noemi De La Rosa South Padre - red Texas Saltwater Fishing

Matt Curbow Padre Island - 18” speckled trout

Gavin Garcia Baffin Bay - first redfish!

Kloe Garcia Rockport - first redfish!

Rebecca DeFazio 23” redfish

Moses Garcia Baffin Bay - 30” 8.5lb trout

Ethan Heffeman Galveston Bay - 23.5” trout

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Joshua Hinojosa Laguna Madre - 8lb 27’’ speck

Tyler & Travis Johnson Arroyo City - 25” first red!

Lauren Hollon Night Hawk Bay - 24” redfish

Jennifer Atkins Rockport - 24” first redfish

Sam Giammalva Port O’Connor - 40” bull red

Enrique Isais Drum Bay - 25” 6lb flounder

Anne Lockwood king Ted Mendez Gulf - 21” first red snapper!

Ben Ledet Port O’Connor - 24” trout

Logan Lyday Trinity Bay - 25” redfish

Nevaeh Love Freeport - first fish! (redfish)

Alvin Kneisler Baffin Bay - speckled trout

Jamie Maroul Matagorda Beach - 29” redfish

Please do not write on the back of photos.

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

Madeline Mize Richland Chambers Lake - first fish!

Logan 7lb 15oz trout

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Jared Curnel Rockport - 38” black drum Texas Saltwater Fishing

Mail photos to: TSFMag P.O. Box 429, Seadrift, TX 77983 / May 2011 91

GULf CoasT Kitchen Potato Crusted Drum with Thyme Beurre Blanc Adapted from Galatoire’s Restaurant in New Orleans A big thanks to Ellen Ohmstede for submitting the recipe and for being a dear friend and a great cook!

PaM JohNsoN

3 large Idaho potatoes ¼ cup Tabasco sauce Juice of 5 lemons 1 Tbsp salt 1 tsp white pepper 6 drum fillets or other firm flaky fish

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

Black pepper to taste 1 cup seasoned flour for dredging 1 cup clarified butter * 6 thyme sprigs, for garnish 3 lemons cut into wedges

Peel and shred potatoes with processor or cheese grater. (Frozen hash browns might be an option.) Toss shredded potatoes in a large bowl with lemon juice, Tabasco, 1 Tbsp salt and white pepper. Set aside. Season fillets with salt and pepper or your favorite Creole seasoning. Divide potato mixture in half. Create 6 equal portions from half the mixture. Squeeze excess liquid from potatoes and lay out 6 portions of potatoes on parchment paper or cookie sheet, shaping them to the length of each filet. Dust each filet in seasoned flour and place each on top of the potatoes. Divide the remaining mixture of potatoes into six portions, squeeze out excess liquid and place on top of each filet. Heat ½ cup of clarified butter into two oven proof skillets on high heat. When pans are hot, lift filets carefully from parchment paper into skillet. Once all fillets are in, reduce heat to medium and sauté 3-4 minutes then gently flip the filets and continue cooking 3-4 minutes until golden brown. (Depending on thickness of filet you may have to finish in 350° oven.)

Chef Joe recommends Braman C10 Chardonnay. Thyme Beurre Blanc: 1 cup dry white wine 2 Tbsp lemon juice 1 Tbsp chopped shallots 1 Tbsp chopped garlic 1 Tbsp black peppercorn 3 sprigs fresh thyme 1 lb salted butter, cut into pieces Add wine, lemon, shallots, garlic, peppercorns and thyme to small sauce pan and simmer over medium heat until reduced by 1/3. Whisking constantly begin adding butter one piece at a time until all is incorporated into the sauce. Remove from heat and strain sauce discarding solids. Drizzle sauce onto serving plate before placing the crusted fillet. *I have substituted ¼ cup olive oil in each skillet for clarified butter with good result.

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(Continued from page 50...) This project led by Texas GLO originally removed nine barges from the old slip area. Many of the barges rested in the shallow waters adjacent to the slip and covered areas where sea grass beds where once believed to exist due to the existence of grass beds in the immediate surrounding areas. Because of the shallow depths of where the barges sat, the original contractor was not able to reach the random pieces of smaller materials left after the removal of the large pieces by the shear barge. To finish this cleanup, Texas GLO contacted CBBEP and CCA Texas to help fund the process of “hand picking” the remaining materials. The Derelict Vessel removal program led by Texas GLO has removed over 400 vessels of the 700 plus that have been identified along the Texas coast. Much of this work has been accomplished at no cost to Texas GLO while the contractors have completed the jobs for the revenue generated from the scrap metal that has been removed. This agreement

with the contractors has made the program a huge success when funds would otherwise not be available to complete these types of projects. Texas GLO has now begun to actively seek partnerships with groups such as CCA Texas and CBBEP to complete these smaller type projects, such as this one in Aransas Pass. “CCA Texas has a long standing history in helping remove debris from Texas’s coastal waters. The Bay Debris Program led by the Corpus Christi Chapter in the 1990’s, was the example that has led to many debris removal programs in place now and an influencing factor in the passage of HB2986, which mandated and set guidelines for the removal of derelict vessels, during the 79th Texas Legislature,” commented Jay Gardner, CCA Texas HTFT Committee Chairman. CCA Texas is committed to restoring and creating habitat along the Texas coast. Debris removal is a part of this process and partnerships such as this one with CBBEP and Texas GLO will continue to be the key in completing these worthy projects.

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Texas Saltwater Fishing / May 2011 95

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GALVESTON TIDES & SOLUNAR TABLE Texas Saltwater Fishing Magazine MAY 2011

The BEST Choiceâ&#x20AC;Ś Any Place, Anytime!

To find a location near you, please visit us at

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

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

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

For other locations, i.e. Port Oâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;Connor, Port Aransas, Corpus Christi and Port Isabel please refer to the charts displayed below.

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

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

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

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

May 2011  

May 2011 issue of Texas Saltwater Fishing Magazine

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