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Lakewood to host 15th annual Bay Cup I on March 5th

January 28th, 2016

Lakewood Yacht Club and Bay Access are excited to present Bay Cup I, part of the 2016 Bay Cup Series! Fleet Captain Tom Frankum has announced that the 2016 Bay Cup I Regatta will be held on Sat., March 5th, on Galveston Bay. This one-day event will once again showcase a full spectrum of sailboats and feature long distance premier racing. “Bay Cup I is the first of a two race series with races having multiple legs totaling about 15 – 20 nautical miles,” explained David Comeaux, Bay Cup I Regatta Chair. This will be an amazing experience to both sailors and spectators alike. “Make a weekend of it and bring the family and/or friends to enjoy your evenings at one of the fine hotels in Seabrook,” related Comeaux.

Experience a weekend of sailing, music, dining, and fun at Lakewood Yacht Club! Families could also enjoy local entertainment at Space Center Houston, scenic Armand Bayou, fun and dining at Kemah Boardwalk or hiking one of the numerous nature trails in the city of Seabrook. It is truly an outdoor paradise!

Bay Cup I is the first in a series with Bay Cup II taking place on August 6th. Overall trophies will be presented for the two-race series at the conclusion of Bay Cup II. Both are open to the public with a $75 registration fee each. This includes the Skipper’s Meeting on Fri., Mar. 4th, 7:30 pm in Lakewood’s ballroom, along with one meal and two drink tickets for the Sat. night party, which includes the awards ceremony and amazing live music from award-winning singer/songwriter Kelly McGuire.

Racers can register now online at www.lakewoodyachtclub.com before the Wednesday, March 2nd deadline. Don’t miss out! Classes include PHRF Spinnaker, PHRF Non-Spin, Cruising Poleless Spin, Cruising Non-Spin-Classic Canvas (i.e. Dacron sails), Shorthanded Offshore Sailors (SOS), Multihull and One Design Classes.

Sponsors that are helping to make the Bay Cup I an amazing event are Don Q Puerto Rico’s Premier Rum, the City of Seabrook, Blackburn Marine, West Marine, Davis Marine Electronics, Edna Rice, Executive Recruiters Inc., Little Yacht Sales, Texas Coast Yachts, and True North Marine! Proceeds from the Regatta benefit Bay Access, a not for profit charitable organization fostering amateur racing and sailing on Galveston Bay.

For visitor information, please check the website www.seabrooktx.gov. For questions regarding Bay Cup I, please contact Lakewood Yacht Club’s office at 281-474-2511 or David Comeaux at davidcomeaux@earthlink.net.

A Word On Winter Wahoo

January 5th, 2016

ilandhw A Word On Winter Wahoo

Ilander Heavy-Weights in Blue/White and Black/Plum.

winterwahoo A Word On Winter Wahoo

Jasen Gast with a monster 93-pound wahoo. Photo by REHAB Fishing Team.

Bring home some winter wahoo this season with advice from these pros.

 

REHAB FISHING TEAM

Owner Jasen Gast | Capt. Troy Day

Spread

We run a split of Yo-Zuri Bonitas in purple/black and orange/black on the corners short and Ilander Heavy-Weights in black/red, black/purple and blue/white with ballyhoo long on the outriggers.  The Bonitas are rigged on 275# 49-strand cable and the Ilanders are rigged on 175# cable with 9/0 needle eye hooks like the Mustad 7731AD or equivalent. This is not a live bait fishery, as the sharks are too thick.

Tackle

Stand up gear in the 30-pound class is the perfect tackle in our opinion. These rigs are light and fun, but still have enough strength for the occasional monster roaming out there. But, we do take the 50-pound gear along too, as they are appreciated when the wahoo are running big and for pulling bonitas on the shorts.

Tactics

Target the edge of the drop off, usually 160-200 ft. depths, but move around until you mark fish on the sounder and then stay on them. If you’re not marking well, don’t be afraid to troll wide and deeper looking for them.  Every once in a while the wahoo will be shallower, but most of the time kingfish and barracuda are thick shallow on top of the reef.

 

Also to Note:

When you get a bite, keep the rest of the spread out. Many times you will get multiple hook-ups as the lures sink while you fight the fish.

The best bite is usually very early in the morning but can be good in the evening too towards the later part of the day.

Although you are mainly targeting wahoo in January, be prepared to catch other species as well. We have caught dorado, tuna and sailfish while trolling for wahoo.

yozuribonitas

Yo-Zuri Bonita™ in Purple/Black and Orange/Black.

PATRON

captweigeltCapt. Darrell Weigelt

I’ve always had my best results with Yo-Zuri Bonitas in purple/black or orange/black. Troll them fast at 10-12 knots. If fish are present they will be chasing bait. At the Flower Garden Banks, fish the up current side of the bank. The wahoo move through the current upwellings. Rig the Bonitas on six feet of multi-strand cable.

pwilander

Ilander in Pink/White.

LEGACY FISHING TEAM

captdeermanCapt. Kevin Deerman

On the Legacy we always pullYo-Zuri Bonitas on the flat lines and drop one of them on the down rigger when the bite is slower. Orange/black and purple/black have always worked the best for me.

We pull weighted jet heads (not any particular brand) on the left and right riggers with an Ilander/ballyhoo on the center rigger. We pull mostly blue/white or pink/white Ilanders.

We also keep a couple of spinning rods with large spoons ready to cast after we are hooked up. We have tried pitching live blue runners out after missing a bite or marking fish but sometimes ended up with big amberjack that are mixed in with the wahoo.

When the bite is really on we try to keep it as simple as possible.

WINTER WAHOO RECAP

  • Yo-Zuri Bonitas & Ilander/Ballyhoo in your spread
  • Rig lures with multistrand cable like 49-strand
  • Keep lures out after strike for multiple hook ups
  • Best bite is very early in the morning

Guide to Clear Lake Marinas

January 5th, 2016

 

clearlakemarinas1 Guide to Clear Lake Marinas

1. Bal Harbour Marina (Private)

Max Length: 45
Total/Transient Slips: 133/Call
Approach/Dockside Depth: 5/4
Fuel: No
Pumpout: No
Repairs: No

2. South Shore Harbour Marina

Max Length: 120
Total/Transient Slips: 855/Call
Approach/Dockside Depth: 8/10
Fuel: Diesel/Gas
Pumpout: Yes
Repairs: No

3. Clear Lake Marine Center

Max Length: 45
Total/Transient Slips: 161/Call
Approach/Dockside Depth: 6.5/6.5
Fuel: No
Pumpout: No
Repairs: Hull / Engine

4. Marina del Sol

Max Length: 55
Total/Transient Slips: 331/10
Approach/Dockside Depth: 8/5
Fuel: No
Pumpout: Yes
Repairs: No

5. Waterford Harbor Marina

Max Length: 70
Total/Transient Slips: 643/Call
Approach/Dockside Depth: 7/7
Fuel: No
Pumpout: Yes
Repairs: No

clearlakemarinas2 Guide to Clear Lake Marinas

6. Watergate Yachting Center

Max Length: 120
Total/Transient Slips: 1200/10
Approach/Dockside Depth: 9/9
Fuel: No
Pumpout: No
Repairs: Hull / Engine / Prop

7. Legend Point Marina

Max Length: 50
Total/Transient Slips: 254/Call
Approach/Dockside Depth: 7/6
Fuel: No
Pumpout: Yes
Repairs: No

8. Lakewood Yacht Club (Private)

Max Length: 100
Total/Transient Slips: 300/Call
Approach/Dockside Depth: 10/8
Fuel: Diesel/Gas
Pumpout: Yes
Repairs: No

9. Blue Dolphin Yachting Center

Max Length: 75
Total/Transient Slips: 237/Call
Approach/Dockside Depth: 8/8
Fuel: No
Pumpout: No
Repairs: No

10. Seabrook Marina/Shipyard and Fuel Dock

Max Length: 125
Total/Transient Slips: 750/20
Approach/Dockside Depth: 10/9
Fuel: Diesel/Gas
Pumpout: Yes
Repairs: Hull / Engine / Prop

11. Portofino Harbour Marina

Max Length: 55
Total/Transient Slips: 212/5
Approach/Dockside Depth: 7/7
Fuel: No
Pumpout: Yes
Repairs: No

12. Kemah Boardwalk Marina

Max Length: 100
Total/Transient Slips: 414/50
Approach/Dockside Depth: 10/10
Fuel: No
Pumpout: No
Repairs: No

Winter Woes or Wows: Winter Trout Fishing

January 5th, 2016

soulewintertrout Winter Woes or Wows: Winter Trout Fishing

Capt. Steve Soule with a 9.25lb winter trout.

By Capt. Steve Soule

It’s that time of the year; the air is colder, rains are frequent and there just isn’t enough daylight in a 24 hour period. Winter weather seems to sap my energy, but there are still a few motivating fishing patterns to wake me back up.

There is no doubt that winter trout fishing can be some of the best all year and the fish will be at their heaviest for any given length. When it’s cloudy and old man winter has his grips sternly upon the upper Texas Coast, this is what comes to mind first…well, right behind chilling on the couch. Yes, it takes some extra motivation to want to get out there and grind for a winter time trophy, but the months from November through February present some of the best big trout fishing of the year. This isn’t your typical fair weather fishing, so there is some preparation required.

Plan your fishing wisely

Weather can change in an instant and you need to plan well and prepare even better. I don’t usually plan to fish more that just a handful of spots in a day, and when big trout are the target, the number of spots may shrink to only one or two. Make sure you know that where you intend to fish will be safe in the wind if you fish close to a frontal passage. I’ve got too many stories about close calls and pulled anchors to relate while trying to get this right.

Be prepared for the weather that you will encounter. I’m not going to say there is a weather man that I trust, but when fishing, I take the worst possible scenario as the most likely, especially if it’s a tournament day. I don’t drift fish much when fishing for big trout so I always have my Simms waders in the boat or on me. Layering clothing is the best way to go. Start with a very thin thermal layer, then add a fleece layer on very cold days, topped off with lightweight waders. This gives you great moisture wicking, warmth and protection from wind and water.

ALWAYS wear a belt over your waders! It sounds simple, but it can save your life if you take water into your waders. Another obvious sounding plan is to wear a wade or waterproof jacket over the outside of your waders. If it rains or you get too deep, this will keep you dry and warm.

Now that you are geared up and ready, pick your favorite big trout weapons and look for some very important clues when deciding where to fish. Notice how I didn’t say look for boats or waders. There is a huge amount of water around the Texas bays and more than enough spots to go around. Numerous shorelines and shell reefs will hold fish during the winter months. Knowing which ones to fish will come with experience.

Key factors to consider

It takes more than just shell to create a productive area. The combination of shell, soft mud, the presence of baitfish and reasonably good tide flow will almost always pay off. But when temps are very low, finding baitfish may not always be easy to accomplish. Let the winter natives guide you. There are two birds that I have counted on for years to help me locate concentrations of baitfish. First is the loon, a bird that spends most of the year well north of Texas, often north of the Canadian border. They are amazing divers that can swim rapidly under water and stay below the surface   for several minutes while chasing down small fish. The second bird is the white pelican. Big and obvious, whether crashing the water from above or just swimming, they are a voracious mullet eater and shouldn’t be ignored.

catch2000 Winter Woes or Wows: Winter Trout Fishing

MirrOlure Catch 2000 in HP and CH.

Choose your weapons

It doesn’t matter if you prefer soft plastic, topwater or suspending baits, all can be effective. My personal preferences would be a selection of surface baits and slow sinking mullet imitations. Its an age old argument about which is more effective and the best answer that I can provide is that the lure you have most confidence in will be the effective one most days. I personally have caught more big trout on mullet imitations, both surface or sub surface, but I can say with 100% certainty that this is because that is what I have tied on more days than not.

Regardless of your choice, tie a lure on and bring your patience. Big trout are not like small trout. They are at a totally different stage of their lives and simply don’t feel the need to eat voraciously every day. Think of it like this; at seven pounds, a trout is at or near the age most of us would be retired from a working career. They are much more into the simple life of relaxing and staying safe. They would much prefer to eat a single large meal, and take two days or rest, than to get up early and chase down small meals all day. It may take ten casts and it may take a thousand casts, but if you are in the right place you will eventually find them when it is feeding time.

redfish

Daniel Popovich with an upper slot redfish.

The other fish species of winter, and one that requires much less patience, is the redfish. If you are not a person who wants to spend solitary days standing in mud up to your ankles, casting repeatedly for one bite, give winter redfish a shot. I won’t say everyday, but on most days, redfish are cooperative fish. Where a trout over seven pounds is an older fish who likes to relax, the redfish in that same size range is just a teenager, who still has a voracious appetite.

The same lures will still apply when fishing for redfish and the topwater action can be nothing short of amazing in the winter. The usual list of redfish lures work well year round. At the top of the winter list for me would have to be surface lures. Nearly anytime that you can find active mullet in shallow areas with mud and shell, this is my first choice. When they won’t eat off the surface, feed them a slow sinking hard bait like a MirrOlure® Catch 2000. If you aren’t comfortable or confident using finesse baits, the trusty Johnson Sprite spoon or swimming tail soft plastics will still get the job done well.

Though winter has it’s down side with weather and temperatures that aren’t always pleasant, the upside is that fish tend to be much more concentrated in areas and when you find them, fishing can be off-the-charts good. Stay warm and hooked up!

The Galley: Easy Boating Recipes For Winter Cruising

January 4th, 2016

By Betha Merit

It’s the New Year and winter here in the South. That means we can still go out on the water, although temperatures might dictate wearing jackets, hats and gloves. What it also means, is that our galley menu ideas bounce from salads and grilled fish to the cold weather desire for comfort food.

The following are easy boating recipes. With ample use of potatoes, corn, and bacon, your guests and family will leave the table greatly satisfied in tummy and soul.

bakedpotatosoup The Galley: Easy Boating Recipes For Winter Cruising

Easy Baked Potato Soup

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion (frozen or fresh)
  • 1 TBSP freeze dried minced garlic, or one clove minced
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 cubes chicken bouillon
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 (24-oz.) package frozen steam & mash cubed potatoes
  • 2 cups half and half
  • 2 teaspoons pepper
  • Toppings: cooked, crumbled bacon, shredded cheddar cheese, sliced chives or green onions

Directions

Melt butter in a large soup pan or Dutch oven over medium heat; add onion, garlic and stir often for 5 to 10 minutes until golden. Sprinkle flour over this mixture until coated. Stir in bouillon and water. Bring to a boil on medium heat while stirring often. Reduce heat to a simmer for ten minutes, stirring occasionally.

During this process, you can microwave the potatoes according to package, but do not add butter or milk. When cooked, stir the potatoes, half and half, and pepper into the onion mixture. Cook on medium, stirring occasionally until thickened. Garnish with bacon, cheese and chives.

tamalepie The Galley: Easy Boating Recipes For Winter Cruising

Tamale Pie

Ingredients

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 can cream style corn
  • 1 can whole kernel corn, drained
  • 1 can kidney beans, drained
  • 1 small can tomato sauce
  • 1 large can tamales
  • 1 can black olives, drained
  • 1 TBSP chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Optional Toppings: shredded cheese, sour cream, jalapeños

Directions

Brown onion and beef together. Drain excess fat. Stir chili powder, salt, and garlic powder into meat mixture. Open can of tamales, drain excess liquid, remove papers, then chop in bite size pieces. Combine all ingredients in a large baking dish.  Cover with foil, bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour. Serve with desired toppings.

clamchowder

New England Clam Chowder

Ingredients

  • 6 cups bottled clam juice
  • 2 10 oz. cans baby clams
  • 1 TBSP unsalted butter
  • 8 oz. bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 celery stalks, minced
  • 1 large onion, minced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 1/2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled,
  • cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 TBSP chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 TBSP cornstarch
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
  • Chopped fresh chives

Directions

Melt butter in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, until fat is rendered and bacon begins to brown, about 8 minutes. Add celery, onion, and garlic and cook, stirring often, about 10 minutes. Add 6 cups bottled clam juice, potatoes, thyme, and bay leaf. Bring chowder base to a simmer; cook until potatoes are tender, 20-25 minutes. Whisk cornstarch and 2 tablespoons water in a small bowl. Stir into chowder base; return to a boil to thicken.

Remove base from heat. Discard bay leaf. Stir in two 10-ounce cans baby clams and cream. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Divide chowder among bowls. Garnish with chives.

Boating Knives And More

January 4th, 2016

Exceptional boating knives and a variety of other blades for any coastal situation

saltI Boating Knives And More

Boating

Spyderco Salt I

Spyderco has taken H-1 steel, a superior corrosion resistant alloy, and created the Salt I, a seriously seaworthy blade. The yellow FRN handle is highly visible, light and keeps a steady grip in wet hands. A hollow clip screw makes a lanyard pipe for stringing thong or cord through when using around water. The 3″ H-1 steel blade will not rust.

captpro Boating Knives And More

Sailing & Rigging

Myerchin Titanium Captain Pro: Gen 2

One of the finest rigging knives available, this Myerchin offering is crafted from German marine stainless steel and titanium. Features include a serrated blade, marlin spike and lanyard loop. The blade is 2.8″ and made from stainless similar to 440C. It’s tough, lightweight and a good addition to your race day gear.

cimeter

Heavy Duty Fillet

Victorinox Forschner 10” Cimeter

Process wahoo, tuna, grouper and other big game with ease. The cold-rolled, stamped stainless steel blade is light and quick at the cleaning table. The fibrox handle cleans well.

filletflex

Fillet

Victorinox Forschner 7” Straight Flexible Blade Fillet Knife

Victorinox, makers of the original Swiss Army Knife, create some of the best value cutlery on the market today. Glide over rib bones and maximize the meat retained from your flounder, trout and redfish with this flexible stainless steel knife.

riffestubby

Spearfishing & Diving

Riffe Stubby

Known for quality spearguns, Riffe also delivers great dive knives. The dagger styled Stubby has a 3.5″ teflon coated blade made of heat treated 420 stainless with both straight and serrated edges. The tip is dangerously sharp for subduing fish. The Stubby comes with a nice sheath that can be worn on ankle or arm.  

barkriverbirdt

Bird Hunting

Bark River Bird & Trout

Hit the blinds this duck season with a hunting knife of extreme quality on your belt. Bark River’s Bird & Trout weighs in at a mere 2.5 ounces and is perfect for field dressing birds and other light outdoor tasks. The 3.6″ CPM S35VN blade has great toughness and edge holding properties. This knife can be ordered in a variety of handle materials and comes with a leather sheath.

para2

Every Day Carry

Spyderco Paramilitary 2

Light and wicked sharp, the Paramilitary 2 is a worthy knife for every day carry. This folder has both a pocket clip and lanyard hole. The G-10 handle is tough and grippy. The 3.438″ CPM S30V blade is easy to open, thanks to Spyderco’s trademark thumb hole, and has excellent edge retention. This knife is a favorite every day carry of many knife enthusiasts. 

Top 5 Big Trout Lures for Winter

January 4th, 2016

These time proven big trout lures consistently produce fish over five pounds and have landed me a number of top tournament finishes.

By Capt. Steve Soule

superspookjr Top 5 Big Trout Lures for Winter

Super Spook Jr.

If the wind is light or I’m fishing in shallow water, my first and often only choice for chasing a trophy would be the Heddon® Super Spook Jr.® in bone with silver sides. Its a small lure in the world of big trout, but that’s what makes it so deadly. Fish in shallow water are much more sensitive to noise and water movements and there are days when the subtle presentation of a smaller lure just works better. With a little practice and variation of the retrieve, you can make the Spook Jr. sound and appear large. The single ball rattle system can be worked gently without spooking fish, but if you work it hard, you can achieve a wide side to side motion with a rather loud clicking to draw them in.

heddonsuperspook Top 5 Big Trout Lures for Winter

Super Spook

When the chop gets a little bigger, it’s time to tie on a bigger bait. The Heddon® Super Spook® in Okie Shad, or as I have always called it, the “Jimmy Houston,” is a close tie for my all-time favorite topwater. It’s a very natural color combination that works well in dirty water, but produces in clear water when others just won’t. This is not a small top water, in size or sound, but with its more natural color scheme it can be used effectively across the spectrum of conditions. Big or light chop, shallow or deep, this one does it all and I have caught more quality trout on this lure than I could possibly count.

shedog

She Dog

The MirrOLure® She Dog 83MR in Chartreuse/Pearl is another topwater that excels in choppy conditions, but can be deadly in both dirty and clear water. It too has a single ball style rattle, but emits a much higher pitch sound than the Super Spook. I don’t necessarily turn to this one as frequently as some of the others on this list, but when conditions call for it, I always have one ready. This lure and color combination landed me my largest trout to date, a fish just over 29.5” and over nine pounds, in 2010 in Galveston.

fatboy91

Paul Brown Fat Boy

When its time to probe the depths with deadly precision, I turn to the MirrOlure® Paul Brown Fat Boy, a creation of Houston mastermind Paul Brown, probably one of the greatest lure designers to ever live. This lure can take some time to get a grip on, but once you do, it can be fished effectively from less than a foot to depths over six feet. It’s a soft plastic wrapped, cork over wire, baitfish imitating, seductive dancing, finesse bait that has been the demise of many giant trout. Because of the construction of the lure, the Fat Boy can be tuned to swim at different depths, diving slightly up or down with different bends applied to the nose or tail. Chartreuse, gold sides, white belly has always been a favorite color combo for me.

fatboypink

Paul Brown Fat Boy

It’s not really fair to say that there is a fifth in my top five, because it’s a repeat of number four. For many years, the Fat Boy in pink with silver sides has been my go-to for cold winter fishing. This selection is a standard answer concerning winter trout, but my tournament partners can vouch for the fact that in certain conditions, I would start and finish a nine hour day throwing this one lure. It landed me my heaviest trout that I have an accurate weight on, at 9.25 pounds, and has been the lure that led me to more top five finishes in trout tournaments than any other.

These are my choices and I’m sticking to them. Every lure on this list has produced trout over 7.5 pounds in the Galveston Bay system. There is no one single bait that suits every condition set or scenario that you will encounter, and this list may not work for you, but it’s mine and has not changed much over the past ten years. When its time for me to hunt big winter trout, you can rest assured I will have every one of these ready to go.

Counting on Birds: San Bernard National Wildlife Refuge

January 4th, 2016

birds 1 Counting on Birds: San Bernard National Wildlife Refuge

It takes teamwork to spot, identify and count the flurry of quick bird activity at San Bernard NWR. San Bernard’s CBC is the third of four CBCs that Tad Finnell and Susan Heath will participate in this year. Photo by Jim Olive Photography.

Each Christmas, thousands of volunteers take to the field to count birds in the great, international census supported by Audubon.  This December, Janice Van Dyke Walden joined a group at San Bernard National Wildlife Refuge, and tells how anyone can join in the count.

It’s 6:30 a.m. on Friday, December 18, 2015 at the headquarters of San Bernard National Wildlife Refuge in Texas when about 35 volunteers show up in the dark, ready to go in the field to count birds.  They don’t stay long; they are here to catch the first light.  That’s when the refuge’s bird life is most active.  As soon as Ron Weeks marks their presence on his laptop’s list, they form groups and disappear in the dark to their designated sections within the 15-mile count radius.

Outside, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Biologist Jennifer Wilson is fielding questions.  She and Ron are co-compilers for the event, and she’s well acquainted with the procedure, having managed many Audubon Christmas Bird Counts at the refuge.

Suddenly, headquarters’ big room empties, and Ron sees me standing near him to receive my group assignment.  “You go with Susan Heath to Wolfweed Wetlands,” he says, barely looking up from his laptop.

I get in my car, and head to the refuge’s wetland.  Already the sun is coming up.  The visibility is clear, the atmosphere is relatively dry, and it’s 38° degrees F.  I’m wearing three layers, tall boots and fingerless gloves.  When I arrive at the wetland, Susan sees me and says, “Aren’t you going to be cold?”  Having been in situations like this before, I shrug off her concern, and join the four in our group: Sandy Moore, Joanna Friesen, Tad Finnell and Susan who is Avian Conservationist Biologist for the Gulf Coast Bird Observatory.

Everyone in this group has put in long hours so far: Sandy woke up at 3:30 this morning to pick up Joanna for the hour-and-a-half drive from Houston; Tad and Susan woke up yesterday at 3 a.m., did the Guadalupe River Delta bird count, got home at 9 p.m. last night, and woke up early this morning to be at San Bernard before dawn.  This is their third bird count in a week, and in 48 hours they’ll do a fourth one in Freeport.

redtailhawk Counting on Birds: San Bernard National Wildlife Refuge

red-tailed hawk

If there seems to be a rush among the friendly morning chatter, there is:  it’s a rush against daylight; a rush to count as many birds in the country in the season’s three-week window.  Researchers and climate specialists rely on data from the annual Christmas Bird Count to understand species decline, habitat changes and migratory trends influenced by a warming world.  When Ornithologist Frank M. Chapman proposed the first Christmas Bird Count in December 1900, he promoted it as an alternative to the “Side Hunts” so prevalent at the time, where teaming hunters would choose sides and see how many birds they could shoot in a day.  That first year, 27 volunteer observers conducted a bird census at 29 locations, from Ontario to California.  A century and 15 years since, the census has grown to a major Holiday tradition with 71,531 observers in 2,369 locations (2012-2013).  Between December 14th and January 5th, thousands of volunteers in all 50 states, Canada and the countries and territories south of Texas take to the field to count.  In Texas, alone, 2,700 volunteers participate in the count at 108 locations, 29 of which are in the high-season migration zone of the Lower Rio Grande Valley and the Texas Gulf Coast.  Success is based on location, access to land, the number of consistent volunteers and the organization behind the event.  Given that, today’s count at San Bernard will again rank in the top five in the nation.

White Ibis (Eudocimus albus)

White Ibis (Eudocimus albus)

This morning, Sandy, Joanna and Susan are smiling at the optimum conditions: this day last year at Wolfweed Wetlands they faced over four inches of unending rain, low bird counts, and more mosquitoes than you could take to hell.  This morning, it’s cool and clear, and the wetland has a good level of water for wading birds, waterfowl, ducks, raptors, kingfishers and flycatchers.  The woods next to the wetland are alive with song from sparrows, thrushes and wrens.  And, within feet of the parking lot, there’s a sudden frenzy of sightings: an American Bald Eagle swoops down, catches a Coot and flies away, a Cooper’s Hawk lands momentarily in a tree near us, three Anhinga perch in wetland scrub nearby, and seven Sandhill Cranes fly overhead, sounding their sure arrival.  Everyone whips out their binoculars to look in different directions as if manning a foxhole.  Tad puts his Kowa TSN-2 spotting scope in place on tripod, and aims deep in the wetland for a raft of Coot.  He counts 50 plus two Plied-Billed Grebes.  Then, in less than two minutes, he counts another 180 Coot.  It’s 7:30 a.m., and the group is fixated high on the wetland’s observation deck.  Nineteen White Ibis pass by, pairs and pairs of Cormorants fly in front of us, a flock of Snow Geese fly overhead, and a Red Tailed Hawk can be heard in the woods.

When the flurry of activity subsides, Tad picks up his sticks, and we walk down the dike, stopping to count as more birds come in to view.

Hermit Thrush

Hermit Thrush

We then dip into the woods off the dike, down a tall grass trail that takes us to Cocklebur Slough.  There, Susan places an owl box in a Hackberry tree.  Within minutes, the owl’s recorded hoot draws birds out of the brush.  They begin to congregate on the Hackberry.  It’s a simple and effective technique used to draw out small birds when the brush is impassable for observers.  Gathering around the box and near the slough are Lincoln’s Sparrow, Swamp Sparrow, Carolina Wren, Yellow-rumped Warbler, House Wren and Hermit Thrush.  Again, it takes four pairs of eyes in various directions to count the quick activity.

By 8:40 a.m., we’ve only covered one side of the wetland and counted 27 species, over one-third of the 63 species our group will count that day.

With the field counts complete by mid-afternoon, all the groups reconvene at headquarters to report their numbers to Ron and compare notes while enjoying fabulous gumbo provided by Friends of Brazoria Wildlife Refuge.

If you’d like to participate in next year’s bird count, the cost is free.  Visit www.audubon.org/conservation/join-christmas-bird-count

Sam Rayburn ShareLunker is First of the Season

November 3rd, 2015

txsharelunker Sam Rayburn ShareLunker is First of the Season

Roy Euper of Lufkin caught Toyota ShareLunker 564 from Sam Rayburn Reservoir November 2. The fish weighed 13.2 pounds and was 25.5 inches long and 22 inches in girth. TPWD Photo © 2015, Reese Sparrow

ATHENS—Roy Euper of Lufkin caught the first Toyota ShareLunker of the season from Sam Rayburn Reservoir Monday afternoon (11/2/15). His Sam Rayburn ShareLunker weighed 13.2 pounds, just over the 13-pound minimum.

Any angler who catches a 13-pound largemouth bass can be considered lucky, but Euper may be the luckiest of all. The official weight for the fish was taken at Jackson Hill Park Marina, an official Toyota ShareLunker weigh and holding station. After the fish arrived at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens, it regurgitated a crappie that weighed 0.3 pounds.

Had the fish not eaten that crappie, or if it had spit it up before being weighed, it would not have weighed the 13 pounds necessary to qualify as a ShareLunker.

Euper was fishing in 30 feet of water with a crankbait when the fish bit about 3 p.m. The fish was 25.5 inches long and 22 inches in girth.

The catch moved Sam Rayburn into sole possession of second place among Texas lakes for number of ShareLunkers caught. Anglers have caught 26 largemouth bass weighing 13 pounds or more from the lake. Only Lake Fork, with 257 entries, has produced more. Lakes O.H. Ivie and Alan Henry have each produced 25.

Last season Sam Rayburn sent two ShareLunkers to Athens. Both were caught on the same day, March 7. More ShareLunkers are caught in March than in any other month. Euper’s fish is only the twelfth in the 30-year history of the ShareLunker program to be caught in November.

Anyone legally catching a 13-pound or bigger largemouth bass from Texas waters, public or private, between October 1 and April 30 may submit the fish to the Toyota ShareLunker program. Fish will be picked up by TPWD personnel within 12 hours.

Anglers entering fish into the Toyota ShareLunker program receive a free replica of their fish, a certificate and ShareLunker clothing and are recognized at a banquet at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens. The person who catches the season’s largest entry will be named Angler of the Year and will receive a prize package from G. Loomis of a top-of-the-line rod, Shimano reel, PowerPro line and G. Loomis hat. If the Angler of the Year is a Texas resident, that person will also receive a lifetime Texas fishing license.

ShareLunker catches can be reported 24 hours a day, seven days a week during the season, by calling (903) 681-0550. If poor cellphone service prevents use of the voice number, anglers can leave a phone number (including area code) at (888) 784-0600. That number is also monitored 24/7 during the season.

For complete information and rules of the ShareLunker program, tips on caring for big bass and a recap of last year’s season, see www.tpwd.texas.gov/sharelunker/. The site also includes a searchable database of all fish entered into the program along with pictures where available.

Information on current catches, including short videos of interviews with anglers when available, will be posted on www.facebook.com/sharelunkerprogram. “Like” this page and you can receive notification and photos of catches as soon as they become available.

The Toyota ShareLunker Program is made possible by a grant to the Texas Parks & Wildlife Foundation from Gulf States Toyota. Toyota is a long-time supporter of the Foundation and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, providing major funding for a wide variety of education, fish, parks and wildlife projects.

Wading West Bay

November 1st, 2015

redfishrowan Wading West Bay

Wading West Bay: A Winter Wonderland For Wade Fishermen

By Capt. Joe Kent

When I first started fishing Galveston’s West Bay during the late 1970s, several fishing guides referred to it as one of the best kept secrets for winter fishing.

Since then, the word has spread and today this body of water is a popular spot for late fall and winter fishing, especially by wade fishermen.  From late October through much of the winter, wade fishermen score well on the big three, flounder, reds and trout.

Upper West Bay in particular tends to be the favorite of anglers as opposed to Lower West Bay.  Beginning in the vicinity of Jamaica Beach and running all the way to the Galveston Causeway, Upper West Bay holds numerous spots that are productive during colder weather.

We will discuss some of the favorite places waders choose and talk about the baits and conditions that produce the best results.

For starters, we need to mention that insulated waders are a must this time of year.  Also, fishing with companions is highly recommended over fishing alone.

While there are spots that anglers without boats or kayaks can fish, they are limited and the use of a boat to get you to the better spots is almost essential for increasing your odds for good results.

Let’s start out by mentioning some of the spots that offer access to the bay for fishermen without boats.  While actually across the line into Lower Galveston Bay, the shoreline from the Causeway Railroad Bridge down to Campbell’s Bayou is accessible by driving under the railroad bridge.  You should plan on lots of walking if you fish this area.

Carancahua Cove behind the Galveston Island State Park near Jamaica Beach is a popular spot and offers easy wade fishing.

flounderface1 Wading West Bay

The flounder run will soon be in full stride on the Texas Coast.

The Sportsman Road and Anderson Ways areas, just off of Eight Mile Road, are spots where wade fishermen can access the south shoreline of Upper West Bay.  Starvation Cove is in the vicinity of this area and is quite popular.

All of those spots are easily accessible by boat as well.

For boaters, North and South Deer Islands and the surrounding areas are top spots for early morning wade fishing action. From Mecom’s Cut all the way to Green’s Cut, the spoil Islands offer great opportunities for taking all of the big three.

On the north shoreline of Upper West Bay lays the spoil area beginning at Harborwalk and extending all the way to the entrance to Chocolate Bay in Lower West Bay.

Off of Jamaica Beach is Shell Island that is covered by water at normal high tide; however, it is an excellent spot to fish for trout and reds.

While it will be impossible to fish all of those spots on the same day, the variety is good.

Live bait, especially shrimp and mullet, fished under popping corks is excellent; however, for waders it presents obstacles with the extra equipment needed to keep the bait alive.

Artificial baits are by far the best choice as they are easy to carry, allow you to cover more territory faster and present a wider range of baits.

Soft plastics are the top choice and the brand, color and style will depend on where you fish and the clarity of the water.  Bass Assassins, Saltwater Assassins, Down South, Norton and corkies (Paul Brown Originals) are among the most popular soft plastic bait brands.

Gold and silver spoons, along with a variety of Mirrolures, are used by a good number of waders.  One category of artificial baits may surprise you as the top waters are used during the winter.  Super Spooks, Super Spook Jrs. and Bombers are credited with some big trout during cold weather.  Pre-sunrise and dusk are the times that they are most effective.

The patterns of fish change as the water gets colder, with a shift to an afternoon bite rather than early morning taking place later in the winter months.

Tidal movement continues to be important with high tide offering the best results for waders along the shorelines.

When the water cools down, wrap up, put on your insulated waders and give West Bay a try.

troutrowan

Fall is great time of year to try West Bay for a variety of species, trout included.

Fishing the Birds

November 1st, 2015

birds Fishing the Birds

By Capt. David C. Dillman

Harbormaster at The Waterman Marina & Spec-tacular Trout Adventures

Upon waking up to a gentle north breeze, I felt a bit of chill in the air. I grabbed my rod and a variety of soft plastic lures. Heading out towards the boat, I sensed this would be the day to “work the birds.” The month of November, and even into December, is prime time for fishing the birds.

Cooler water and dropping tides flush the back bays and marshes of shrimp. The shrimp become easy prey for speckled trout and redfish. As they feed, shrimp are driven to the surface to escape, only to become easy prey for the seagulls and terns. The fish also become a easy target for anglers.

Having your boat equipped with a trolling motor comes in handy when chasing the birds. It allows you to position your boat quickly and accurately to cast into a feeding school of fish. Also, a good pair of binoculars enables you to scan the horizon for birds. Normally if you see one group of birds, there are other flocks working nearby.

sandeel Fishing the Birds

Norton Sand Eel in Black Magic.

Mliljohn

MirrOlure Lil John Twitch Bait in Kitchen Sink.

A variety of lures work well under feeding birds. Topwaters, slow-sinking plugs and soft plastics can be used to catch fish. I prefer the latter. A soft plastic on a jighead enables you to quickly unhook the fish and get back to the action. My two favorites are the Norton Sand Eel and Mirrolure Lil John. Both are very durable and allow you to catch multiple fish on one bait.

Remember to remain courteous when chasing birds. The bays can get crowded during this time of year. If you see a couple of boats working a flock, move on and try to locate another one. Many times other boaters will come in and tempers can flare. There is no need to get upset, just move on. Remember it’s just a fish!

Tight Lines to all!

Cold Weather Surf Gear

November 1st, 2015

gabeprusmack Cold Weather Surf Gear

Photographer: Adam Valadez. Surfer: Gabe Prusmack

Don’t let chilly mornings win. This cold weather surf gear will keep you warm while you keep doing what you love. These items make great Christmas gifts too.

 

WETSUITS

OXNeillXWetsuit Cold Weather Surf Gear

O’Neill Men’s Reactor 3/2 Full Wetsuit

 

RipXCurlXWetsuitXWomens

Rip Curl Women’s Dawn Patrol 3/2 Full Wetsuit

 

HEAD GEAR

quiksilverhood

Quiksilver Cypher 2mm Hood with Dickie

 

GLOVES

Quiksilvergloves

Quiksilver Neo Goo 4mm 5 Finger Gloves

 

SURF BOOTIES

RipCurlXBooties

Rip Curl Rubber Soul Plus Split Toe Booties

 

 

League City 54th Annual Christmas Boat Lane Parade on Clear Lake

November 1st, 2015

marinerxmas League City 54th Annual Christmas Boat Lane Parade on Clear Lake

Callen Worthen, from left, Charles Milby as Santa, Lainey Black and Kelly Groce aboard ‘Pop A Top,’ J.P. Groce’s Luhrs 34 Tournament Open. Photography by Debra Rueb

Bright lights and boats of all kinds will meet Dec. 12, 2015 at 6 p.m. for the League City 54th Annual Christmas Boat Lane Parade on Clear Lake, presented by the City of Kemah and produced by the Clear Lake Area Chamber of Commerce.  The parade will line up in the Nassau Bay Lagoon and South Shore Harbour Marina, travel the Clear Creek Channel past Seabrook, Clear Lake Shores and the Kemah Boardwalk, out into Galveston Bay and return.

These beautifully decorated sail and power boats will dazzle and entertain thousands of spectators with their brightly colored lights, music, dancers and designs. Some boats will be decorated traditionally, and others will look very unique. The honorary parade marshall is Texas Navy Admiral R.B. “Bob” Taylor, representing the Sam Houston Squadron of the Texas Navy based out of Lakewood Yacht Club.

The City of Nassau Bay signals the start of the parade with its beautiful fireworks display.  For parade spectators, kicking off the holiday season should be a fun time of year to relax, spending time with loved ones and enjoying these vibrantly decorated vessels.  Go early to Kemah and spend the day eating and shopping before the parade that evening, or visit Nassau Bay’s winter festival during the day and enjoy artificial snow, Santa, food and fun prior to the parade.

The morning following the parade, awards will be given out at the long-established awards brunch in the ballroom of South Shore Harbour Resort in League City.  All registered boaters receive two tickets to the awards brunch to celebrate their hard work with their fellow participants.

Over 50 awards are given in numerous categories including family power boats, family sail boats, family man-powered boats, sponsored power boats, sponsored sail boats and sponsored man-powered boats.  The entries are then divided into divisions by length, and then first place, second place and third place trophies are presented.  Businesses from around the area sponsor these awards and attend the brunch to present them to the winning captain.  Excellent photo ops!      

Major sponsors of the parade include the Cities of League City, Kemah and Nassau Bay, Gulf Coast Mariner Magazine/Bay Group Media, the Kemah Boardwalk, Hollis Huff Lewis & Co. P.C., Photosbyeddieharper.com, South Shore Harbour Resort and The Pet Palace Pet Resort.

The Blue Marlin hosts the parade committee while the judges enjoy their evening at the Kemah Boardwalk.

The $75 early entry rate for boaters expires on Dec. 1.  If you need additional information about the parade, want to sponsor or want an entry form, please call 281-488-7676 or e-mail the Clear Lake Area Chamber of Commerce at shari@clearlakearea.com

marinerxmas2 League City 54th Annual Christmas Boat Lane Parade on Clear Lake

See you at the Boat Parade!

Building on Success: Hanse 385

November 1st, 2015

hanse385gcm Building on Success: Hanse 385

The Hanse 385 cruising on Galveston Bay. Photo by Debra Rueb

Offering a contemporary interpretation of a performance cruising yacht, the stunning new Hanse 385 is successor to the much admired 37-foot range.

hanseintext Building on Success: Hanse 385Designed by Judel/Vrolijk & Co. and built by HanseGroup, the Hanse 385 integrates many of the groundbreaking features that have made their mark on the world market:  an integrated self-tacking jib system with a matching sail plan, high-security keel-hull connections, a modern loft-style interior, and the way in which the halyards and sheets are guided to the helmsman. The running deck is free of fittings while the anchor locker is large enough to accommodate the fenders. The large cockpit has comfortable seating positions, a dual wheel system and a drop-down swim platform. Concealed storage space for a life raft and gas bottles are included. The interior concept showcases an intelligent use of the living space.

The length and height of the owner’s cabin in the bow enhances freedom of movement.  Extra volume has been invested in the head with separate shower and in a large U-shaped pantry (two-cabin version) that is the benchmark of the 38-foot class. Above the owner’s cabin are two full-size flush hatches, the side windows of the coach roof can be opened and both the galley and the head have large flush hatches and extra large cockpit windows. Ultimately, Hanse has created a new yacht that offers superior performance combined with easy handling resulting in more fun on the water.

 hansespec

SPECIFICATIONS

LOA 11.40 m | 37´4˝

Hull length 10.90 m | 36´06˝

LWL 10.40 m | 34´12˝

Beam 3.88 m | 12´73˝

Draft 1.99 m | 6´52˝ (standard)

1.63 m | 5´35˝ (option)

Displacement approx. 7.6 t | approx. 15,873 lb

Ballast approx. 2.2 t | approx. 4,850 lb

Engine 20.1 kW / 27,3 HP

Fresh water approx. 300 l

Fuel tank approx. 160 l

CE Certificate A (ocean)

Mast length above WL approx. 17.30 m | approx. 56´8˝

Total sail area approx. 74 m² | approx. 797 sq ft

Main sail approx. 44.00 m2 | approx. 473,61 sq ft

Self-tacking jib approx. 30.00 m2 | approx. 322,92 sq ft

Genoa 105% approx. 33.50 m2 | approx. 360,59 sq ft

Rig I 14.70 m | 48´23˝

J 4.30 m | 14´11˝

P 14 m | 45´93˝

E 5.10 m | 16´73˝

The Galley: Holiday Dinner Ideas

November 1st, 2015

galleymeat The Galley: Holiday Dinner Ideas

Baked meat with basil and garlic

By Betha Merit

Lucky us, to live in a climate where we can go cruising during the holiday months. And lucky us, that we have simplified packaging and ingredients so we can aim at a close re-creation of a traditional holiday dinner. It will take a tad of resourcefulness with a smack of creativity. Just break down the six areas that are must haves. These include main dish meat, side dish starches, your family’s traditional veggies/relishes, bread, dessert, and a holiday drink option.

Let’s start with the holiday drink, of course. In addition to your soda, wine, coffee/tea staples, for the holidays we associate aromatic scents and spices with the season. The drink choice will allow you to incorporate a lovely waft of cinnamon, nutmeg, and/or cloves to set the olfactory tone. The easiest way to accomplish this is with individual packets for hot apple cider and hot chocolate with your additional spices. Just add water. For making these drinks adult beverages, add a splash of brandy, rum, bourbon, etc. A big side note here, is that you can put all your spices for drinks and the entire meal, into pre-measured baggies before you board if space/storage is an issue.

The main dish. Turkey? Chicken? Ham? Whole turkeys are probably too large for most galley kitchens. But a turkey breast or boneless roast, either pre-cooked or fresh/frozen is a great option. If you simply must have a platter with a whole bird on it, a large roasted chicken is a beautiful option if your guests are few. Gravy comes in packets, jars, and if you have any drippings, you can add that.

Potatoes, Yams, and Stuffing? It is always possible to use Great Aunt Ethel’s recipes by making them ahead and freezing them to bring on your vessel, or even preparing them on board. For an easy way, you can buy stovetop style stuffing and bring your own celery, mushrooms, or water chestnuts in baggies, ready to add. A great compromise to dried mashed potato flakes is to use a few boiled real potatoes in the mix. Canned yams is also an option. These are very personal choices, so do not create WWIII over these emotionally charged dishes.

Traditional veggies and relishes are up to you. What can you fit? Relish cans and jars are heavy. What is a must have? Cranberry relish in some form is standard, and if the cream cheese stuffed celery is required, make the effort to get that done. Green beans are the easiest side, whether canned, frozen, or fresh. Creamed spinach can be made on the cooktop. You know your family/guests, so your insight is the deciding factor. The same with bread/rolls. Do what makes sense for you. And don’t forget the butter!

The dessert tradition is often pies. Two other ideas are pumpkin bars and gingerbread.  Both smell delicious, can be made prior to the meal in most galley ovens, and are associated with the holidays. Lastly, have holiday music playing on your sound system. From Frank Sinatra to Amy Grant to a children’s choir, make the mood music according to your traditions. And, bon appétit.

pumpkinsquares The Galley: Holiday Dinner Ideas

Pumpkin Squares

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 of a 15-ounce can of pumpkin
  • 2/3 cup of sugar
  • 1/2 cup cooking oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 TBSP pumpkin pie spice or cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • Canned cream cheese frosting (topping only)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour an 8” or 9” square pan. In a bowl, mix pumpkin, sugar, oil, and eggs. Mix remaining ingredients separately, then add to pumpkin mixture and stir until batter is smooth. Pour batter into prepared pan and smooth top until level. Bake for 30 minutes. When cool, cut into squares and top with a dollop of canned cream cheese frosting.

spinach

Creamed Spinach

Ingredients:

  • 2 ten ounce bags of frozen spinach, thawed
  • 1 TBSP of dried minced onion
  • 1 TBSP olive oil
  • 1/2 cup garlic and herb spreadable cheese, (Alouette brand is excellent)
  • 2 TBSP shredded parmesan cheese

Directions:

Heat olive oil at medium heat in large pan on stove. Stir in minced onion for one minute. Add thawed spinach and cook for one to two minutes. Add garlic and herb cheese and mix together. Use salt and pepper to taste. When warmed through, sprinkle parmesan cheese over the top.

Coastal Heritage Preserve: Galveston’s Largest Nature Preserve

November 1st, 2015

CHPHabitatTypesMap Coastal Heritage Preserve: Galvestons Largest Nature PreserveBy Janice Van Dyke Walden

With Galveston’s new home builds reaching a 10-year high in 2014, one organization is making sure that limited space on the island is left in a natural state for wildlife to thrive and future generations to enjoy.  In March, Artist Boat celebrated a victory when they dedicated the 367-acre Coastal Heritage Preserve off Settegast Road on the island’s West Bay.  It’s been an eight-year effort for the Galveston-based non-profit known for its eco-art kayak tours.  But, the effort paid off handsomely.  With so much competition for land, this is one of the island’s last large tracts, and a protected parcel only superseded in size by Galveston Island State Park.  For Artist Boat, it’s more than an outdoor classroom.

“I’ve been birding on Settegast Road for 19 years,” says Artist Boat’s founder and executive director Karla Klay.  “There’s no other place like this on the island.”

Flanked on two sides by new homes and channelized subdivisions, the Coastal Heritage Preserve contains four distinct coastal habitats.  Klay describes it like “somebody cut a window in the ecosystem.”

There’s 136 acres of salt marsh, 33 acres of tidal flats, 17 acres of estuarine and fresh water habitats, and an upland produced by coastal dune swales and ridges where one can experience a three-inch change in elevation.  From one of these ridges, Texas City is visible in the distance.

For Ted Lee Eubanks, who practices the valuing of natural assets through his company, Fermata, Inc., the Coastal Heritage Preserve represents what Galveston used to be like before development.  “It’s a good place to see the island’s natural heritage.  A lot of the original topography is still in place.”

While most large tracts on the island have become fragmented by development, the absence of roads, right-of-ways and utility lines on the Coastal Heritage Preserve allows migration between the four habitats, connecting nature’s network into a healthier system, allowing unusual species to exist.  Species like the Curved-billed Thrasher.

Eubanks was drawn to this spot in the early 1970’s on a tip that someone had seen the bird.  The unusual note about this is that Curved-billed Thrashers are not known to inhabit coastal marshes and uplands.  They’re most common in the thorny deserts of Mexico, west Texas, southern New Mexico and southern Arizona.  They are also long-term residents, staying in a specific spot for years.  Eubanks noticed this about the bird he observed.  “I’ve visited that land for years,” says Eubanks, “and he was always there along the prickly pears.”  Since it’s only one of two Curved-billed Thrashers Eubanks has ever seen on the Upper Texas Coast, he calls this residency “pretty remarkable.  Things like that seem to happen on that property.”

Yet, convincing the new owners of the land’s natural value was a more artful task.  They had plans to build a marina and an 800-unit channelized residential community.  While some islanders chose to engage in litigation, Klay and Artist Boat’s board chose to show Marquette Cos. of Chicago what an incomparable natural asset they had.  One evening in May 2008, Klay took Marquette’s Darrin Sloniger to a high point on the property to experience its beauty and vast overview.  In the distance they heard pilings being driven in the ground.  “What is that terrible noise?” asked Sloniger.  “That’s the noise you’re going to make for the next 25 years if you develop this land,” answered Klay.  She says now, “Thank God I was showing him his land through my eyes.”

Even though an appreciative relationship started that evening, Marquette held to the asking price of $15 million for the 367 acres.  That sum far exceeded any amount ever raised by the small non-profit.

Then, four months later, Nature and Wall Street played in Artist Boat’s favor: in September, Hurricane Ike devastated Galveston, followed by the collapse of the U.S. housing market in November.  Suddenly, setting aside the large tract made good business sense to Marquette.  They gave Artist Boat time to seek funding, receive three major grants from state, federal and other sources, and secure the 367 acres for $7.7 million.

Artist Boat’s prize for hard work and not giving up now moves into the bigger task of restoration and management.  First, the land needs to regain its balance.

Prairie grasses, which were grazed to the point that the invasive Baccharis and Western Rag Weed took over, need a chance to come back.  Nate Johnson, in charge of habitat and stewardship for Artist Boat, hopes to provide those conditions with the help of volunteers who can remove the competitive invasives, allow the land to restore itself, and start native seedlings where needed.  With the land just now under Artist Boat’s care, the full extent of species has yet to be listed.  But for now, Johnson estimates that no less than 300 species exist on the Coastal Heritage Preserve.  That, alone, is plenty to learn from for years to come, and enough subject matter to fill a sketchbook.

To support Artist Boat and their habitat restoration projects, or to book a kayak tour, visit www.artistboat.org.

Galveston Fall Fishing

August 31st, 2015

redfishfly Galveston Fall Fishing

Look for redfish to become more active as the weather cools.

By Capt. Joe Kent

Autumn, especially during the months of October and November, is the favorite time of year for fishing for the majority of anglers who focus on the Saltwater Big 3, flounder, reds and trout.

While our fall fishing patterns have changed a little over the last decade or two, mid-October through mid-December is prime time for action on all of the Big 3, especially flounder.

Prior to the 1980’s, our fall fishing began earlier in the season and generally was about over by December.  During September, flounder action around Pelican Island at the old Quarantine Station, now Seawolf Park, would get well under way by mid-September.

Today, the catches do not show considerable increases until sometime in early to mid-October and the annual flounder run does get going until close to November 1.

Redfish action picks up all over the Galveston Bay Complex, with the bull red run at the jetties and in the surf being the highlight of the season.

troutplaag Galveston Fall Fishing

James and Cameron Plaag with a stringer of trout.

Trout start moving into shallower waters and schooling, with shallower bays and back bays offering their best fishing of the year.

While all of the Big 3 are frantically feeding to put on extra layers of fat for the winter, the highlight of the season for most anglers is the fall flounder migration from the bays to the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico.  This event is most commonly referred to as the fall flounder run.

It is undisputed that November is the best month for flounder fishing, as the run is in full swing and anglers limit out quickly on flatfish during this time.  One well-known flounder guide, who has been fishing the annual run for almost 60 years, gave his observation of how the fall fishing pattern has been delayed.  Capt. Mike William’s experience showed that for years the peak of the flounder run took place between the full moons of October and November.  Today he says that the action is peaking between the November and December full moons.

During November, bait camps strive to keep a good inventory of fingerling mullet and mud minnows, as they are the top baits for the migrating fish.  While mullet tend to have an edge over mud minnows in popularity with anglers, live shrimp fall into the ranks as the number three choice.

Many anglers will opt for live shrimp as they are more universal as bait and attract trout and reds as well.

Savvy anglers know that once the flounder run starts being publicized that certain tackle and artificial baits are in short supply and they should stock up ahead of time.  Among the baits that are the more popular choices are Flounder Pounders, Chickenboys and Gulp soft plastics.  Pre-rigged flounder leaders, especially those including the egg weight, and size eight and ten treble hooks tend to quickly leave the shelves of tackle stores and bait shops.

One of the best times to find flounder on the move is right after a cold front blows through.  From Mid-October until sometime in December, each passing cold front triggers increased movement.

Toward the end of the run, usually beginning around Thanksgiving, the larger sow flounder bring up the rear of the migration and seasoned flounder fishermen focus a lot of their fishing time from the end of November through early December.

Fall is in the air, so head out and enjoy some nice weather and good fishing!

Farley Fontenot – Quantum Sails

August 31st, 2015

FARLEY1 Farley Fontenot   Quantum Sails

The boats on a reach at the 2015 Audi Melges 32 World Championships.

Good of Farley 2 Farley Fontenot   Quantum Sails

Farley Fontenot

Farley lives in La Porte, runs a business in Seabrook and races sailboats all over the world. A family man, he still finds the time to sail with his kids. By the time you read this article, Farley will be back home from the 2015 Audi Melges 32 World Championships held in Trapani on Sicily Island in Italy, where he acted as coach for the Quantum Racing Team. The guy has a pretty nice gig.  How did he get so lucky?

When did you first come to this area and how did you get started in the sail making business?

I grew up in Port Arthur, and at that time there were no sailmakers in that area, so my father decided that we would take sail making up as a hobby and to help support the local sailmaking market. So by the seventh grade, I could use a sewing machine and do the service work that came into his little business. We were working out of our living room, which was 25’ x 15.’After college, in 1977, I wanted to continue sailing, and my only avenue was sailmaking. So I promised my parents that I would do it for a couple years and then get a real job. I worked for John Cameron for maybe six months, before I ran into John Kolius, who was running the Ulmer Sails loft here in Seabrook, and I have been here ever since.

What is the biggest change you have witnessed in the sail making business in the last 20 years?

Two things come to mind. The first is technology in both design and materials. Just as in every other surviving business in the world, we continue to move the boundaries forward on where we are going with design and material. In design, with the development of our own proprietary design software and the use of programs such as V Spars, we can exact the loads generated on each sail and then design that sail specifically to that load. This enables the sail to be as light in weight as possible and yet still yield to loads generated.

The second thing is how the sailmaking business has transformed from a small cottage business to a international, technology driven business, where we know every sail built around the world, who the customers is, what sails he owns, and what work has been done to those sails.  To be a leader in the service industry, you have to know your client’s needs.

The Melges 32 is a pretty physical boat in a blow — how many guys do you carry as a crew and who does what on the boat?

The Melges 32 is definitely a lesson in “Team Sports.” On the Delta Volpe teams we have playbooks, we have game films, we have team meetings to go over the game films, and we have a game plan every morning when we leave the dock. All teams are led by the “Owner Driver.” The Melges 32 is one class that has zero tolerance for anyone other than the owner to drive the boats. All of teams have “Pro Tacticians.” Our teams have Pro Mainsail and Jib/Spinnaker Trimmers. We then have a bowman, a tall, strong Mast Man, a pit person and a very athletic floater, who is a little of everything.

If you could start your business all over again what would you do differently?

That is an easy one, I would have saved all of the money we were making in the early 80s before that oil crash. That was a hard lesson for a couple young kids to learn, trying to make our business work in a down turned economy. We had done so well, that we thought it would never end, but it did. And I bet if you ask Kolius, he would say the same thing.

In your opinion why is the U.S. Olympic team so far behind some of the dominating sailing teams in the world?

Without looking deep into it, I would say that there are two Olympic sports that you have spend so much money on your equipment: Sailing and Equestrian (The rich man’s sports). And because of that, there are many times that our best sailing talent does not have the funds to fully develop their talents and skill sets.  Other countries such as England and New Zealand have large funds set aside just for the development of the best sailors in their countries. The U.S. is going to have a tough time competing with those types of programs. Although Josh Adams, Charlie McKee and even Houston’s Luther Carpenter are doing great jobs with what they have to work with, it just might not be enough. And if the sport is not careful, we could lose sailing altogether in the games.

Buddy Melges used to say “Win the start and then increase your lead.” Is that what you say to your guys when you’re coaching them?

For long regattas, such as World Championships, where we will have 12 races, we try and manage the peaks and valleys.  We love winning races, but we try and manage the starts and first legs, and then have a positive pass number throughout the race.  Let’s say we get to the first mark 11th, pass a boat here and there, take a couple with a good marker rounding and pass one more on the last beat and come in 5th.  That is a strong race in that fleet. That’s how you win regattas, staying consistent. We try and not let a bad race bring us down, we recover and get ready to race another race.

In long regattas, the first three races are very important, in that you don’t let the regatta get away from you. The middle races are fine tuning what the course and fleet give you, and you take as much as you can each race from both the fleet and the course. The next to last day you have to keep yourself in contention.  And on the last day, you want to leave the dock knowing you have a mathematical shot to win the regatta.

When is John Kolius going to be inducted into the U.S. Sailing Hall of Fame?

If there is anyone out there who deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, it has to be JK. I have nominated him twice with no luck. I will continue the nomination process until we get him there.  He was arguably one of the best boat drivers in the world from 1977 to 1995, and I believe that he has earned the right to be inducted into the Sailing Hall of Fame.

In Season Seafood Sensations: Grouper, Flounder & Shrimp

August 31st, 2015

By Betha Merit

September and October are prime months for fresh catch. Whether you visit your favorite local fish monger, supermarket or haul in your own edible seafood trophies, it’s going to be delicious, plentiful, and affordable. Shrimp will be in season, as well as inshore fish like flounder and redfish, and offshore fish like grouper, snapper, tilefish, wahoo and more.

 bakedgrouper In Season Seafood Sensations: Grouper, Flounder & Shrimp

BAKED PARMESAN GROUPER

Ingredients:

  • 4 grouper fillets (4-6oz)
  • 1 egg
  • 2 Tbsp. milk

Breading Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 Tbsp. flour
  • 1/2 tsp. paprika
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper

Directions:

Beat egg and milk in a shallow bowl and set aside. In a shallow dish or plastic baggy, combine breading ingredients. Dip each fillet in egg mixture, shake off excess and turn or gently shake in breading. Bake uncovered on a greased baking sheet at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork. Serve with lemon wedges.

flounderbasil In Season Seafood Sensations: Grouper, Flounder & Shrimp

FLOUNDER WITH LEMON BUTTER SAUCE & BASIL

Ingredients:

  • 4 fresh flounder fillets (4-6 oz., 1/2” thick)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. white flour
  • 3 Tbsp. butter, cut into 4 slices
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 2 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh basil

Directions:

Pat dry fish fillets with paper towels, then season with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a cast-iron or stainless steel pan/skillet over medium to high heat. Pat dry fillets again and dust with flour (optional). Add fillets to pan and cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Carefully flip fillets. Place a slice of butter on top of each fillet, allowing it to melt and drizzle into pan. Cook until fish springs back from light pressure, about 2 minutes. Transfer fish to a platter or 4 plates. Squeeze the lemon juice into the still heated pan and use a spoon to scrape up the tasty brown bits stuck to the bottom. Stir in the fresh basil and spoon the sauce over fish.

fiestaskrimp

CHILI DUSTED GULF SHRIMP FIESTA

Ingredients:

  • 2 tsp. chili powder
  • 1 tsp. ancho chile powder
  • 1/4 tsp. chipotle chile powder
  • 2.5 tsp. sugar, divided
  • 1/2 tsp. salt, divided
  • 1.5 lbs. large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 5 tsp. olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
  • 1 Tbsp. garlic, minced (fresh or bottled)
  • 1 Tbsp. ginger, minced (fresh or bottled)
  • 1 package frozen corn, (10 oz. thawed)
  • 1.5 Tbsp. cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onions

Combine 1 tsp. sugar, chili/chile powders and 1/4 tsp. salt in a shallow dish. Add shrimp and toss until well coated.

In large nonstick pan/skillet, heat 3 tsp. oil over medium to high heat. Add the 1/2 cup onion, bell pepper, garlic, and ginger; sauté 5 minutes. Combine remaining 1.5 tsp. sugar and corn to pan. Cook 3 more minutes, stirring occasionally. Add green onions, salt, and vinegar, stirring for 30 seconds. Transfer this corn mixture to a bowl.

Wipe pan with a paper towel. Heat remaining 2 tsp. oil in pan over medium to high heat. Add shrimp to pan and sauté 3 minutes or until done, turning once. Serve over corn mixture.

2015 August Billfish Classic

August 31st, 2015

OVERRIDE 2015 August Billfish Classic

Team Over-Ride took top money and won the billfish division at this year’s ABC.

VIEW THE 2015 AUGUST BILLFISH CLASSIC RESULTS HERE

By Dawn Messina

The August Billfish Classic is back after 15 years. I had a chance to sit down with Howard Andrews, the new owner of Bridge Harbor Yacht Club and Marina in Freeport, before Wednesday’s kickoff party.

“I remember as a young boy going to watch the weigh-in of the ‘ABC’ tournament,” Andrews said. “It was an important element in my decision to purchase BHYC. This tournament has a historic value to the people of Freeport and the Billfish tournament community. At one time, it was one of the most notable Texas bluewater billfish tournaments on the Gulf Coast.”

The August Billfish Classic started in 1986 and ran until 2005 when the previous owner of BHYC decided to stop all fishing tournaments. Andrews purchased BHYC in November of 2013 and immediately began major renovations with the intention of bringing back two major billfish tournaments to the yacht club; the August Billfish Classic and the Joe Hall Memorial Tournament.

ABC, with its rich heritage, promotes the release of blue and white Marlin, as well as sailfish. Like other notable billfish tournaments, there is a very lucrative payout format in the categories of billfish, tuna, wahoo and dolphin.

Jasen Gast, tournament director, along with BHYC owner Howard Andrews and Harbormaster Mingo Marquez worked together coordinating most of this year’s tournament details. What an impressive comeback after 15 years with 21 boats registered and a respectable side bet pot total!    

Boats began arriving at Bridge Harbor as early as Sunday, Aug. 9. The kickoff party was Wednesday, Aug. 12, followed by a Thursday departure from any port at 2 p.m. All boats had to return to Bridge Harbor Yacht Club to weigh fish and turn in video release verifications to receive tournament points. Also all boats had to be within the Freeport jetties and be verified by Tournament Control by 6 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 15.

The weigh-in on Friday and Saturday was open to the general public but tournament functions access was restricted to tournament participants only and their guests.

Like other notable Gulf Coast billfish tournaments, IGFA saltwater angling and tackle rules applied with the exception that an angler may receive assistance getting the rod to the chair or harness.

On the first day of fishing, Buck N Bills reported a release of a blue marlin at 2:24 p.m. Then, later in the eveing, the 52’ Viking, Leveled Out (Owner Ed Williams, Capt. Dennis Tuttle) arrived at the scales at 7:30 p.m. with a 395.4 big blue marlin! Team Over Ride reported the release of two blues and had boated a 109” blue marlin! Team Easy Rider also called in a Blue Marlin release at 7:35 p.m.

Next day, the action continued with Team Relentless releasing a white marlin at 8:23 a.m. Solid fish were brought in all weekend. Team Over Ride weighed a 390.1 pound blue marlin and Team REHAB came in with a monster 169.1 pound yellowfin tuna! Congratulations to all the winners and welcome back ABC!

Team REHAB 169.1 YFT 2015 August Billfish Classic

REHAB does it again! The fishing team scores first place tuna with a 169.1 pound fish.