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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



  • 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


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



  • 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


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.




  • 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.


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.

2015 Lone Star Shootout

August 31st, 2015

REHAB Blue Marlin Release1 2015 Lone Star Shootout

Lone Star Shootout champions, Team REHAB with a 412.5 pound blue marlin.


By Dawn Messina

The Lone Star Shootout, formally The Houston Invitational Billfish Tournament, started in Galveston in 2005 as a function of The Houston Big Game Fishing Club. It was moved to Freeport in 2007 and six years ago, again moved to Port O’Connor a location that has proven to successfully attract bigger participation.  The Lone Star Shootout provides serious funds for the Houston Big Game Fishing Club’s charitable programs, supporting college scholarships and other programs relating to fishing, boat safety and Warrior’s Weekend.

To date HBGFC, due in large part to the funds raised at the Shootout and with the support of its members and corporate sponsors, has funded over $150,000 in scholarship money.

The tournament was held July 22-27, following the week of Poco Bueno at Port O’Connor’s Caracol Coastal Development. Most of the boats that fished Poco also participated in the Lone Star Shootout. However, captains and crew members may change, fishing a different boat from the previous tourney.

The tournament concludes with an awards party, remembered and talked about each and every year for great food, entertainment and fellowship. Prizes are awarded for billfish, wahoo, tuna and dolphin.  The Perpetual Champion’s Trophy is the prized possession of each year’s champion and has become one of the most sought after trophies on the Gulf Coast tournament trail.

I found the Lone Star Shootout to be the most fun to attend. It’s smaller than Poco Bueno, but still offers the opportunity to compete against some of the best billfish teams in the U.S. and a chance to win big money. The Shootout has one of the largest payouts of any tournament in the western Gulf with a billfish release format.

The action started off hot on day one and kept going to the last minute of fishing with no less than ten boats reporting at least two marlin releases. After all the boats were in, videos reviewed and paperwork confirmed, the field had caught a record total of 98 billfish! The totals were 35 blue marlin, 30 white marlin and 33 sailfish.

The Lone Star Shootout had 52 participating boats this year, offering optional side pot betting instead of a Calcutta. These side pots pay out 95 percent of the total amount entered and the remaining 5 percent of the total will is donated to HBGFC Charitable and Scholarship Funds. Optional side pots include billfish release pots in the amounts of $5,000, $2,500, $1,000, and $500, daily pots of $500; gamefish pots, including weighed blue marlin pots of $3,000, $2,000, $1,000 and $500; a winner-take-all pot of $2,500 for total tournament points and a crew side pot in the amount of $400. This year’s total was a whopping $965,900! The Houston Big Game Fishing Club received $48,295 for their charitable fund.

The tournament also featured a $1 million reward for a state record blue marlin! To qualify for this reward, the fish must be certified by the State of Texas and caught according to all tournament rules and any other rules as specified in the $1 million reward rules published and provided to participants prior to the fishing days. Wow! Now we’re talking!

The point system employed during the tourney awards any released blue marlin 750 points for both the release side pots and for total score. Weighed blue marlin will count one point per pound for weighed blue marlin side pots and 750 points each for the total points scored. Released white marlin score 200 points and sailfish 100 points. Scoring for the overall tournament points will consist of total billfish release points, plus 750 points for each weighed blue marlin meeting the tournament minimum length of 102 inches.

lonestar 2015 Lone Star Shootout

The Shootout was well attended this year.

There was one aspect of the event I found interesting, that I never really understood until a good friend, Mark Phillips explained it. There is the “meat pot” and the “biggest fish pot,” meaning a boat can come in with the biggest fish and not win the big money depending on which side pot they bought into! They win a beautiful trophy and bragging rights but not necessarily money. Betting on the “meat pot” is very expensive but provides opportunity for a nice payout. So it’s kind of, “put your money where your mouth is” so to speak! It can be $40,000 and up depending on across-the-board betting for one boat and all species of tournament fish caught during the tournament.

Congratulations to the Lone Star Shootout Champion team REHAB, who scored 2,450 points with two blue marlin releases, two sailfish releases and weighed a 412.5-pound blue marlin on day one of fishing. REHAB is owned by Jasen Gast and captained by Troy Day.

2015 Poco Bueno

August 31st, 2015

pocoboats 2015 Poco Bueno


By Dawn Messina

The Invitational Poco Bueno founded in 1969 by Walter W. Fondren III and some of his closest friends. Fondren, who left a distinguished legacy, became the founding chairman of the Coastal Conservation Association in 1977, now the CCA.  Poco is a Fondren family-run fishing tournament that includes offshore and inshore divisions.

Fondren saw Poco Bueno as a way to draw attention to the incredible resources that Port O’Connor offered the recreational angler. The name Poco Bueno in Spanish roughly translates to “It’s Okay.”

Thirteen boats registered for that first Poco, which ended in bad weather so a big party and trap-shooting off the dock took place. Rumor has it that in the early days of Poco, it was a wild four-day party that included strippers, flown in by oil and gas executives, and an endless supply of high dollar liquor. Today, over 50 years later, Poco Bueno is family friendly and attracts some of the most prestigious boat owners, their families, captains and crew members from across the United States to fish the offshore tournament.

In 1985, an inshore division was added in order to accommodate the overwhelming desire of redfish and trout anglers to participate in all of the festivities. With the growing popularity of fly fishing on the Texas coast, a fly fishing division was added in 2009.

In the years since that first Tournament, Poco Bueno has grown to include over 100 offshore and inshore boats. Through the years, it has kept its original spirit – groups of friends gathering to promote the sport of offshore and inshore fishing in and around Port O’Connor.

Walter Fondren IV, who is following in his dad’s footsteps, now acts as director of the legendary Poco Bueno billfish tournament, which continues to be an invitational only, family-run tournament.

This year, taking top spot by one-pound was Hasta Luego, Capt. Dee Wallace, crew and angler Justin Aguilar from San Antonio with a 575-pound blue marlin. Second place was taken by Mojo, Capt. Brian Phillips with a 574-pound marlin and third place went to Lady Adele with their 508-pound marlin. Fourth place was Honky Tonk at 452-pounds, fifth place was Done Deal at 421-pounds, Over the Limit took seventh with a 393-pound fish and seventh place was Whoo Dat at 389-pounds.

Taking top spot for the inshore master angler division was Ken Lester and Brant Boone with 57.15-pounds. The fly-fishing master angler award went to Camp Baily and Corby Robertson with 34.8-pounds.

pocoboats2 2015 Poco Bueno

2015 Bastante John Uhr Memorial Billfish Tournament

August 31st, 2015

bastantewinners 2015 Bastante John Uhr Memorial Billfish Tournament

Game Hog took first place in the offshore division with two blue marlin releases.

By Dawn Messina

started my travels in Rockport to write about the 2015 Bastante John Uhr Memorial Billfish Tournament, only a few years old and still going through growing pains. The offshore registration saw some great boats and the inshore division proved to net a record breaking Calcutta of $71,500. 

Bastante means “more than enough” and the tournament’s name honors the memory and the life of Captain John Uhr.  The mission of Bastante is to raise money for The American Cancer Society Relay for Life, The Boy Scouts of America, The Rockport-Fulton Humane Society and Adoption Center and The Rockport Aquarium.

Uhr was well known around the world for his passion of sportfishing. His humorous personality and love for life led him into the hearts of just about everyone that met him. His first offshore boat was named Bastante so in his younger years he was known by those closest to him was Johnny “Bastante.”

John Uhr lost his battle with cancer on December 30, 2010, just shy of his 49th birthday, leaving behind his beautiful wife, Cindy and young son, Jackson. He was considered a living legend by some and countless stories continue to be told by family and friends about his many outdoors adventures.

During last year’s Bastante tournament, the Texas state record blue marlin was caught by Team Legacy, captained by Kevin Deerman and owned by George Gartner. The Legacy has fished Bastante every year and returned in 2015 to defend their title.

Tami Noling, founder and director of the tournament, was one of Uhr’s closest friends and was asked time and again to organize a billfishing tournament out of Rockport. Tami is well known around the world in her own right as one of the top lady billfish anglers so starting Bastante was a natural fit!   

Registration this year was held at Poor Man’s Country Club on Wednesday, July 8, with eight offshore boats with a total of $46,750 prize money. Then on Friday, the Calcutta for the bay fishing division was held with 21 boats and a whopping $71,150 total of prize money, setting a new record for the inshore tournament.

Taking top spot in this year’s offshore division was Game Hog with two blue marlin releases. Bleu Sky captured second place with a blue and white marlin release as well as taking first, second and third place for tuna. Bird Dog came in third with a white marlin release and first, second and third place dorado.

Taking top spot for kingfish was Gaff ‘em & Stack ‘em with 61.75 total weight and first and third place with a 37.9 and 23.85 pounders. Second place went to Reel Keen with a total weight of 52-pounds and Todd Caspary took second place with a 33.75 kingfish. Caspary donated his winnings to American Cancer Society as he does every year. Third overall went to Ojos Loco with 34.05 pound total weight.

The inshore division, first place total stringer went to Team Waterloo, comprised of anglers Jake Luddeke, Brett Sweeny, Patrick and Tyler Gulley, with 34 pounds, earning them $8,400 in prize money. Second place went to RJB Trucking for a $2,400 payout and third went to Da Boys for a $1,200 payout.   

In the Calcutta, top money went to TRI Country earning them a whopping $49,805! Second spot to RJB Trucking for $14,230 and third to Da Boys for $7,115. Certainly not bad pay for fishing!

The redfish top spot went to Da Boys with 8.95 pounds, second place to How Deep Is It Here with 8.77 pounds and third to RJB Trucking with 8.57 pounds.

Top honors for trout fishing went to CLS with a 4.98 pound-fish, second to TRI Country with 4.93 pounds and M&P Produce with 4.70 pounds.

Dates for the 2016 Bastante John Uhr Memorial Billfish Tournament are July 27-31. Stay tuned!

taminoling 2015 Bastante John Uhr Memorial Billfish TournamentBastante Founder Tami Noling

When was the first Bastante?

Tami Noling: We held the first tournament in 2012.

What inspired you to organize this tournament? 

TN: I had helped run other tournaments in the Caribbean and Mexico, but never in the U.S.  Johnny nagged me for years and years to do one in Rockport and I would give him the “Oh brother”…”yeah right”…”you’re crazy” speeches.  There was no question or “maybe I’ll do one” after he died.  It was more like, “When, where and who’s in with me?!”

Describe how it all came together and the experience of being on the other side of a big game fishing tournament.   

TN: I had been on the other side of tournaments before. There’s pressure of course, but I’ve never been one to buckle under pressure. And knowing it’s all for Johnny makes me stronger and more confident in all aspects of the whole gig.  I’m a tough, salty fishhead and my dad raised me to have some pretty thick skin. That all started at the age of two when my father took me fishing for the first time.  I’ve loved it for 50-plus years now.

What has been the most rewarding part of organizing this tournament?

TN: The people involved. The crew that gathers to volunteer each year and help me with the tournament are just amazing, and they do it out of love. It’s a love that can be felt during the whole event. I’ve even had several people come up to me during an evening party and make a point to tell me how they can feel the love. Our sponsors are another amazing part of the tournament; most of them knew Johnny and proudly sponsor to ensure this event can happen year after year.

Kayaking Christmas Bay’s Paddling Trail

August 31st, 2015

xmasbay Kayaking Christmas Bays Paddling Trail

Callie and Christian Easterly on Christmas Bay. Photography by Jim Olive. www.stockyard.com

By Janice Van Dyke Walden

She’s a surfer chick and he’s a coastal kayaker with wanderlust. Together, Callie and Christian Easterly find their peace at Surfside and Christmas Bay on Follets Island just west of Galveston. When they’re not taking to the waves, they’re meandering Christmas Bay’s paddling trail, usually with no agenda except to open the mind.

Though the two grew up less than a mile from each other — she at her dad’s house in the Treasure Island community of San Luis Island, he, roaming the beach and surf of San Luis Pass – Callie and Christian didn’t meet until after she had spent a dozen years in Seattle (“I was surrounded by environmentalists”).  They just happened to hook up in Houston.

“Even though I’d spent most of my years growing up around Surfside and Christmas Bay, I didn’t really appreciate the area until Christian showed it to me,” admits Callie, who is director of development for Katy Prairie Conservancy. “After living in the Pacific Northwest, it looked so flat and boring to me.  Christian has an amazing knowledge of ecosystems, wildlife, and how they’re all connected. That opened my eyes to the beauty that I had grown up around and made me fall in love with the Texas coast, coastal wetlands and of course, prairies.”

For a Call of Duty level designer who advanced quickly in the competitive game world, that knowledge of ecosystems was invaluable to Christian. For years, he designed landscapes in action sequences that immersed gamers in their virtual reality. “If your background comes off as fake,” says Christian, “you won’t continue to engage your audience. The way the sky looks, little ambient sounds, birds flying by….that’s what makes it immersive. One of the reasons why I’ve been put into some of the larger games is because I spent so much time outside.  I had a really good memory bank of references of landscapes that I use.” And, so much of that time outside was paddling Christmas Bay.

Throughout its 4,173 surface acres of water, Christmas Bay has a stable bottom and a consistent four-foot water depth, making it a kind of shallow pan perfect for wade fishing. These same conditions have promoted the growth of over 200 acres of sea grass, making the bay’s sea grass stand one of the largest in Texas. Add to that an unbroken shoreline, stable waters and no primary contact with pollutants, the bay has become ideal as a rookery, marine nursery and everything else that feeds up the biotic chain.

To see all this, you can go out in the open and find your own direction. But, like the virtual games Christian designs, most people enjoy a pre-determined path with options. And, that’s the reason for the paddling trail on Christmas Bay.

paddlingtrailmap Kayaking Christmas Bays Paddling Trail

Texas Parks and Wildlife put in the trail shortly after the first one was established at Lighthouse Lakes in 1998.  The concept of paddling trails was new to Texas then, and, like Lighthouse Lakes, the trail at Christmas Bay came in to being because local interest and local stewardship made it happen. Someone was willing to take up the cause and get the markers in the water.

Today, those 29 markers are tied to GPS coordinates that guide boaters in a 19.1-mile loop of the bay.  They have succumbed to years of weathering and forces like Hurricane Ike. It’s time to restore all the signs and some of the posts.

Jim Olive is doing just that with the Christmas Bay Foundation he started in 1999 and with the help of Brazoria County and Eagle Scout candidate Harrison Jones. Olive is crazy for Christmas Bay. It graces the cover of the book he photographed for author Jim Blackburn, The Book of Texas Bays. It is prominently displayed through his photomurals in the Houston Museum of Natural Science’s new permanent exhibit, the Hamman Hall of Coastal Ecology (Gulf Coast Mariner, July/Aug 2015).  It’s the place where Olive retreated for years each weekend, happy in an old fisherman’s shack he owned on a gravel spit in the middle of the bay.

By October, Jim’s foundation and volunteers will complete restoration of the paddle trail, providing anglers and kayakers a well-marked route connecting to Drum Bay, Bastrop Bay, Cold Pass and San Luis Pass. A paddler can do the entire 19.1-mile loop, or go on popular, shorter routes of 3.8 miles and 10.3 miles.

christmasbaykayak“As a kayaker,” says Christian, “it’s extremely important to have a marked trail.  There can be a mental barrier for people to get out and do it. It’s one thing for people to have the time and money and initiative. But, most people don’t know where to go. Getting in your kayak and going into an expanse of water can be intimidating. Just like the sound on their phone, the same is true with trails.  People like feedback in what they’re doing. It’s nice to see the mile marker and know where you are. It makes it more enjoyable.”

And, for Callie and Christian Easterly, and a lot of other people, there’s no better place. You’ll find them out and about kayaking Christmas Bay.

Monsters of the Past – Texas Shark Fishing

August 31st, 2015

holdenshark Monsters of the Past   Texas Shark Fishing

Capt. Brett Holden, left, with a huge hammerhead shark caught 13 miles off the beach of Matagorda during The Big, The Bad & The Ugly Shark Tournament of years past.

By Capt. Brett Holden

Back in the day shark fishing was a big hit. Boats traveled from across the entire Gulf Coast to fish shark tournaments on the Texas coast. Tourneys like The Big, The Bad & The Ugly in Matagorda, The Monster Fishing Tournament in Freeport and the Hall of Fame Tournament held on the old Texas City Dike, drew in crowds from around the state.

Vacations were scheduled around the events so everyone could see the monster sharks come in to the dock. These tournaments were held during the summer months, which was the best time to target big sharks in close.

As time marched on, enthusiasm for shark fishing kind of withered away. Many, including myself, just decided it was not ethical to target and kill these monster “prehistoric giants” for a few bucks and a picture.

I fished my tail off for big sharks as a young man and caught numerous sharks  in the 600-to-1000-pound range. They are incredible creatures and I really enjoyed it back in the day. But knowing now that some of these giants were estimated to be over 100 years old, I would never kill another one of that caliber again. They are a really cool part of the oceans that we love so much.

One thing I have noticed lately is how so many of the shark fisherman today are catching and releasing some big fish from nearshore boats and the beach. It is still not uncommon to see a 500-1000-pound class fish being caught on video and released to fight another day, which is very cool!

For decades, large sharks have been a great sport fish. The big ones can be targeted from as close in as the breakers on the beach, to just a few miles offshore. How many other species of fish can you target from a very small boat that close in and still be in search of a true grander without breaking the bank?

Lakewood Yacht Club Team Wins US Sailing’s Prestigious Sears Cup

August 10th, 2015

SearsCupWinners Lakewood Yacht Club Team Wins US Sailing’s Prestigious Sears Cup


Lakewood Yacht Club’s youth team has brought home the highly coveted Sears Cup. The United States Sailing Association’s 94th U.S. Junior Championships Regatta, one of the country’s most prestigious events for sailors ages 13-18, was held at Wianno Yacht Club in Osterville, MA August 2nd– 6th 2015 and Lakewood Yacht Club was represented as home to the best of the best for youth sailors

The team of Dane Byerly, Howdy Hughes, Collin Scoville and Carson Shields has won US Sailing’s Jr. Quadruple Handed Championship for the Sears Cup. The event was part of the Chubb US Sailing Jr. Championships and sailing took place in Wianno Seniors, a 25 ft. Gaff Rigged Sloop, originally designed in 1914. Eleven teams from around the United States qualified to compete in this year’s Sears Cup through area eliminations in their region. Racing took place in a variety of conditions on Nantucket sound, with a great sea breeze being the norm late in the day. The Lakewood team was strong in all conditions, effectively winning the event even before the last race. On the final day the team sailed to their 6th race win in 11 races while flying the Texas flag from the mast. They ended up winning the event with 18 points in 11 races with second place 24 points behind them. The Sears Cup is the oldest youth trophy in sailing and has been awarded since 1921. This is the first time that Lakewood has ever won this prestigious award.

In addition to Lakewood Yacht Club team winning the Sears Cup, Dylan Ascencios and Hunter Skinner, also represented Lakewood in the 420 class sailing for the Bemis trophy. Coming off several impressive events this summer, Dylan and Hunter looked to keep their momentum going. The two sailed most of the event in the top ten, but a tough final race saw them finish up at a still impressive 13th place overall.

Complete results can be found here: Final Results.

In recognizing the success of the team, it’s important to also recognize Lakewood Yacht Club’s Sailing Director, Marek Valasek, who joined the Lakewood staff in May 2012 and has grown the club’s youth program into one that is recognized as stellar around the world. Due to his success, Marek has been picked to judge the 2015 Opti Worlds to be held in Dziwon, Poland from Aug. 25th – Sept. 5th.

Shimano Flat Fall Jig Review

August 6th, 2015

pinkblueflatfalljig Shimano Flat Fall Jig Review

Shimano 200g Flat Fall Jig in Pink/Blue

Shimano unveiled new, heavier weights of 200g and 250g for their innovative Flat Fall Jigs at this year’s ICAST.  These jigs are designed to entice strikes as they flutter down through the water column. Speed jigging is, no doubt, an effective way to catch fish, but can also be physically taxing. These Flat Fall Jigs take the work out of jigging and let you conserve energy for fighting fish.

We were eager to try out the new 200g in Pink/Blue offshore the Texas coast. On a trip 30-40 miles out of Galveston, we hooked up on red snapper, dorado and kingfish while fishing near platform structure and reefs. This jig falls through the water column slower than other jigs of the same weight so keep a mindful thumb to prevent backlashes.

flatfalljigdorado Shimano Flat Fall Jig Review

The Gulf Coast Mariner Magazine crew hooked up on a dorado 40 miles offshore Galveston.

As designed, the jig drew fish strikes as it fluttered through the water column, but this lure can also be worked up back to the surface in typical speed jig fashion. Hook ups on dorado mostly occurred 10-30ft under water as the jig was ripped back to the boat. Keeping it near the bottom was productive when fishing for red snapper.

The 200g and 250g flat fall jigs should also be perfect for other Gulf species like amberjack, grouper and tuna. These lures could be very effective when jigging for tuna at night near the ‘floaters’ or semi-submersible drilling platforms in the Gulf. Blackfin tuna, and occasionally yellowfin tuna, have no problem hitting diamond and speed jigs on the drop near this structure.

Check out the video below for a Texas-sized red snapper brought up on Shimano’s new 200g Flat Fall Jig.


Galveston Bay Foundation to Reveal Bay’s Report Card

August 6th, 2015

galvbaymarsh Galveston Bay Foundation to Reveal Bays Report Card

Sea Grass in Shell Midden along Texas coast

The Galveston Bay Foundation (GBF) and the Houston Advanced Research Center (HARC) will launch the first-ever Galveston Bay Report Card. Residents of the Galveston Bay Area will be able to see what overall grade the Bay received. This is the first time researchers have graded the health of the Bay and produced a report for the residents of the Houston-Galveston region. The report card calls attention to serious problems that put Galveston Bay at risk and provides recommendations on how people can help preserve the Bay.

GBF and HARC will share grades for the following categories: water quality, pollution, wildlife, habitat, human health risks, and coastal change.

Guest speakers include Louis R. Rigby, Mayor, City of La Porte, Laura Spanjian, Sustainability Director, City of Houston, Bob Stokes, President, Galveston Bay Foundation, Lisa Gonzalez, Vice President and COO, Houston Advanced Research Center

Free parking is available at the Sylvan Beach Pavilion. For more information, contact Anja Borski at aborski@galvbay.org or 281-332-3381 ext. 223.

49d8ffd7 08f7 43b0 880e e19c9b83eb16 Galveston Bay Foundation to Reveal Bays Report Card

Wednesday, August 12, 2015, at 10 a.m.

Sylvan Beach Pavilion

1 Sylvan Beach Drive

La Porte, TX 77571

Click Here to RSVP

Galveston’s Best Restaurants, Attractions & Fishing Spots

July 1st, 2015

gtowntop5 Galvestons Best Restaurants, Attractions & Fishing Spots

Galveston’s Best Restaurants

mosquitocafe Galvestons Best Restaurants, Attractions & Fishing Spots

Mosquito Cafe

628 14th St.

The intriguing Mosquito Cafe entices patrons with its upscale eclectic menu of grilled, roasted, sauteed and steamed dishes.  You’d be remiss to skip over any item on this menu that includes pulled pork.  Be advised, lunch here can be very busy.’


Olympia Grill – Seawall

4908 Seawall Blvd.

The Kriticos Family is true to their word. Olympia Grill’s seawall location provides the ‘Highest Quality for a Good Value.’  A spectacular menu of Greek, seafood and other dishes is sure to satisfy.


Rudy & Paco

2028 Post Office St.

This unique island restaurant delivers grilled seafood and steaks with a South and Central American sabor.  Lunch is a casual affair but shorts are not allowed in the dining room at dinner.  Pair your red snapper with a cold Central American lager.


Saltwater Grill

2017 Post Office St.

Gourmet seafood, fresh from the grill or kettle, is served up in an upscale atmosphere at Saltwater Grill.  The fresh catch changes daily but any salmon, sea bass or tuna dish is a great choice. Reservations recommended.


Shrimp N Stuff

3901 Avenue O

Since 1976, Shrimp N Stuff has been the place the locals love to eat. Find no frills, fried-to-perfection seafood served in a casual atmosphere.  Try the coconut shrimp dinner or one of their famous po-boys.



Moody Gardens

1 Hope Blvd.

The island’s most recognizable attraction, Moody Gardens is full of family friendly fun.  Check out the Aquarium and Rainforest Pyramids, 3D and 4D theaters, museum exhibits, zip lining, water rides and other seasonal attractions.


Pleasure Pier

2501 Seawall Blvd.

Rides, food and fun! The Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier is perfect for families, friends or date night.  Visitors can shop, dine and take delight in amusements and roller coasters.  Ride the Texas Star Flyer for a spectacular view of the island.



2026 Lockheed Rd.

Over 35 thrilling water adventures ensure there is something for everyone at Schlitterbahn Waterpark.  Take it easy and float the Kristal River.  Feeling adventurous? Free fall 81 feet and approach speeds of 40 mph on the Cliffhanger slide.


Texas Seaport Museum/ELISSA

2100 Harborside Dr

Relive the adventure of the high seas aboard the celebrated 1877 tall ship ELISSA. Explore the decks of this floating National Historic Landmark and enjoy the adjacent museum and theater.


The Historic Strand District

The Historic Downtown Strand District boasts a wonderful selection of shops, restaurants, art galleries, and museums within a perfect radius for self-guided tours.  Visit Galveston.com for information on seasonal events like the ArtWalk and Dickens on the Strand.

Fishing Spots


Galveston Fishing Pier

9001 Seawall Blvd.

Find a plethora of fish species on this pier, including sharks, redfish, drum, panfish and more.  The lights at night draw in speckled trout during good conditions.  Visit www.galvestonfishingpier.com for rules and recent fishing reports.

Galveston Jetties

The jetties are a top fishing destination for good reason.  You can catch just about every desirable species of fish near the granite, even pelagics like ling and kingfish.  Fish the Gulf side on an incoming tide and the channel side during an outgoing tide. Live shrimp, mullet and finfish are the best baits along the rocks.


Seawolf Park

100 Seawolf Park Blvd.

Seawolf Park offers something for all kinds of anglers. Wadefishermen can fish the channel, kids can bank fish and a lighted pier draws in trout and reds at night.  The park is a flounder hot spot during the fall run.  The fishing can be spectacular but so are the crowds.


The Beachfront

A light SE wind means ‘trout green’ water and some of the hottest fishing on the island.  Speckled trout, redfish and spanish mackerel will all readily take live and artificial baits.  Use small pieces of dead natural baits like shrimp and squid for panfish and drum. Fish on the rock groins for sheepshead and even flounder.


Brandon Rowan, Eric Moeller and Doug Rowan with a trio of West Bay redfish.

West Bay

An angler’s paradise, this bay system hosts a variety of fish habitat and angling opportunities. Freeline finfish and shrimp near the causeway for trout and reds. Use popping corks near the railroad bridge for trout.  Marshes and shorelines are perfect for kayaking and flounder gigging. Drift mid bay reefs for a chance at a Texas slam.

Summer School: Schooling Redfish in the Marsh

July 1st, 2015

summerschool Summer School: Schooling Redfish in the Marsh

By Capt. Steve Soule

Normally, when we hear those words, it’s not a good thing, but in this case, it’s about as good as it gets.

Summer heat has set in and sunshine is abundant on the upper Texas coast. Our seasonal crops of shrimp and crabs have reached their summer destinations of back marshes and shallow shorelines, where they will spend the warmer months growing to maturity. Other seasonal visitors, like glass minnows, ballyhoo, pinfish and numerous others, are settled in along the shallow shorelines and back bay areas.

As we already know, these animals tend to gravitate towards areas rich in their primary food source, decaying vegetation. On the heels, or rather the tails, of these smaller animals are the predatory army of redfish and others that thrive on these prevalent food sources and the relative shelter of shallow water.

Not only does the abundance of small baitfish and crustaceans in the shallows make life easy for the fish, but equally, it makes life easier for us as anglers. Typically, with this greater source of prey species, predators will be equally abundant. The sheer numbers of both prey and predator make for the foundation of great fishing. I’ve always been a firm believer in locating abundant food sources, since predators will rarely inhabit an area where they cannot feed readily and easily. Fishing areas lacking in food sources for the predators we seek, typically result in very poor catches.

So, as we find these areas rich in both prey and predator, it’s easy to see our catch percentages increase. Many times this is due to the visibility of the fish that we seek, especially in the case of redfish. Redfish often feed in a very aggressive manner, making themselves visible as they “crash” baitfish and shrimp along shorelines. When redfish feed more aggressively, and we as anglers can more readily determine where they are, it becomes much easier to present a lure or fly correctly.

mikeattis1 Summer School: Schooling Redfish in the Marsh

Mike Attis picked off this red from tailing school.

Cast Placement: Fly vs. Lure

There is always a “bite window” for every species. It varies with water conditions and the size of the offering we present to a fish. For the sake of retaining our sanity, let’s stick to a fairly predictable species, like redfish for this discussion.

The food source that redfish are feeding on plays a huge role in the size of our “bite window.” If they are feeding predominantly on 1-2-inch-long shrimp, they will typically not be in the mode of moving far off course to eat the next morsel. We see this commonly while fishing shallow grass flats and back marsh waters in the summer and fall.

The fly, which is similar in size, needs to be within a 1-2-foot radius area, in front of and at nearly the same depth as the head of the redfish. Flies don’t move much water and they don’t typically rattle or have other factors that help redfish hone in on their whereabouts.

On the other hand, if we are casting with conventional gear and fishing a slightly larger soft plastic or spoon, the presentation window may be increased slightly due to the larger profile and greater vibration of these lures moving through the water. This tends to make nearby redfish more aware of the lure’s presence. The downside is when casting to the fish, more caution must be used.

A well presented fly can typically be cast within two feet of a redfish without spooking the fish. Try this same cast with a 1/8th ounce jig and plastic combination or 1/4th ounce weedless spoon, and you will find yourself watching lots of spooked fish swim away unhooked.


Alisha Soule with a 31-inch marsh red.

Shallow Water and Sight Casting Situations

In water with greater clarity or visibility, fish will become somewhat more spooky and require more “lead” or distance from the fish when making your cast. In dirty water, we may be able to cast a weighted lure like the spoon within two feet of the sighted fish. In clear water, we often have to cast five or six feet beyond and ahead of the fish and retrieve it back to a crossing position to find success.

Flies excel in clear water, as most are unweighted or weighted so lightly that they can be presented gently within a very close proximity to the fish without scaring them. Lures, with their larger profile and vibration emitting qualities, will excel in dirty water because they tend to help fish locate the offering. Clear water, especially during periods of light wind, can complicate this even more by making it more difficult to get within casting range of the fish.

As a general rule, I tell anglers that with a fly and a slow moving fish, the cast should both lead the path of the fish, and go beyond the fish’s current location by a two-to-three-foot margin. This allows the angler time to start a retrieve and adjust speed as necessary to bring the fly across the path of the fish. In the case of lightweight lures during sight casting situations, this cast often must be increased to as much as five feet of lead space to prevent spooking a fish.

Keep in mind that the closer you are to presenting an offering at a perpendicular angle, the better your chances are of convincing the fish it’s worth eating. Don’t ever present a lure at a closing angle, or one where the lure or fly is coming head on at a predatory fish. This will scare even very large and aggressive predators like sharks.

Predators aren’t brilliant, but they do know from experience that small prey animals never swim directly to their mouth. If you present your lure of fly in a way that crosses effectively through their bite or feeding window, and then proceeds to move away, you will likely be rewarded with bites at a much higher rate.


Kristen Soule with a school size red.

Schooling Redfish

When the heat is really turned up and the shrimp and crabs crops are at their peak, significant schooling will begin. Redfish primarily school in shallow water when feeding on one of these two types of crustaceans. We mostly see them grouped up and chasing shrimp, but there are times when they are schooled and feeding on crabs. When feeding on shrimp, reds tend to be fairly aggressive and visibly moving along flats and down shoreline. On the grass, you will usually see them tailing in groups but moving along at a slow pace. This movement is typically punctuated by an occasional pop or fast movement by some of the fish within the school.

When feeding on crabs in schools, the reds tend to move along much more slowly and are sometimes easily spotted by the muds they create while rooting in the substrate. There is a distinct difference on how they feed on each species.

Schooling fish make our lives as anglers eminently easier! There is safety in numbers and there is also an inherent competitive nature when predators feed in groups. As competitive feeding heightens, fish tend to not only become less aware of what is around them, but also they tend to charge down close meals with reckless abandon. We can get closer to them, as well as make casts much closer without spooking the fish. It is equally important to note that there is an obvious increase in the likelihood that our offering will get eaten when casting to a school of 10-20 fish, versus casting at a single fish. When casting to schooling fish with a fly, the need to lead the fish is almost completely eliminated and with conventional gear, offerings can be cast at a much closer range.

Aggressive schooling behavior on the Upper Texas Coast will be present throughout the summer and into the fall until the majority of the shrimp and crabs leave the shallow waters for winter. If you are ready for a whole new level of fun in your fishing, don’t miss out on Summer School.

Successful Trolling Techniques

July 1st, 2015

txtrollinglures Successful Trolling Techniques

Examples of productive trolling lures for the Texas coast.

Trolling Techniques For Those New to Offshore Fishing

By Capt. Joe Kent

For several years, offshore anglers have been dealing with an unusually large crop of seaweed in the Gulf of Mexico and, while there are definite benefits to fishing created by the masses of weed patches and weed lines, it is a nuisance for boats trolling for fish.

This summer there has been a major reduction in the quantities of seaweed pushed into the Gulf of Mexico.  While anglers like to fish around the patches and lines of this vegetation, beach goers and fishermen who like to troll are welcoming the change.

When seaweed is thick in Gulf Waters it causes frustration with captains having to frequently reel in their baits, remove it and then let out their trolling lines again.  For at least three years now it has been again and again and again.

With all of the other successful techniques for catching offshore fish, I personally abandoned trolling in seaweed infested areas which included most of the nearshore Gulf waters.

This year it appears that trolling will be much less frustrating and, for those not experienced at this method of fishing, hopefully these pointers and suggestions will get you started and produce some nice fish. For purposes of this article, our discussion will be limited to trolling nearshore waters up to approximately 50 miles offshore.

Deep water trolling requires different techniques and baits than what would be required for nearshore trolling.

Trolling can be one of the more enjoyable ways to fish as the boat is moving and generating its own breeze during days of light to calm winds.

Late spring through early fall is the time to troll nearshore waters, with late June through early September being prime time.

bonitodorado Successful Trolling Techniques

Bonito and dorado, or mahi mahi, will readily take trolled lures.

Any size of boat capable of going offshore is a candidate for trolling.

The most common fish that hit trolled baits in nearshore waters are king mackerel, bonito, Dorado, ling and barracuda.  King, bonito and Dorado are easily attracted to trolled baits.

So, now that you know what fish will be targeted, let’s discuss what baits are best.  Well, the standard answer is the ones that catch fish.  The group is divided into natural versus artificial, with artificials being the most popular.

My favorite for natural baits is the ribbonfish.  Rigged properly and trolled near to or on the surface they are awesome.  This bait works especially well around the rigs and anchored shrimp boats when trolled slowly.

In the artificial group, Russell Lures and King Getters are outstanding for king mackerel.  Other fish will hit them but kings tend to have a keen eye for this favorite bait.  This is another bait that is trolled slowly.

For faster trolling, lead head jigs and more streamlined baits weighted at the tip work well.

A whole column could easily be written about the various offshore trolling baits and, if new to this sport, visit a tackle shop that carries a wide variety of offshore baits for recommendations.

The next question is how many lines should you troll?  For newcomers I recommend no more than two, as experience will teach you more about trolling and how to troll more lines without getting them tangled.

One of the biggest differences between nearshore and deep-water trolling is in the speed.  Nearshore baits are trolled at slower speeds overall.

How far should the trolled bait be from the transom of the boat?  My rule of thumb is approximately three times the length of the boat.  Again, experience will help you determine the best distance.

How fast should you troll? Just fast enough to keep your bait near the surface.  It your speed allows your bait to occasionally break the surface, that is even better.

When a strike occurs, slow the speed of your boat but do not come to a stop, as fish can more easily spit out the hook, especially with treble hooks.

Trolling rods are generally shorter and stiffer than rods used for drift fishing or casting.  The reels need to be such that they can withstand more tension and carry larger amounts of line.

Chumming, or dropping excess bait into the water, while trolling, adds to the odds of attracting fish to your baits.

If you haven’t trolled while fishing offshore, give it a try.  The first time you hear that reel start singing, chances are you will be hooked!

Dr. Wes Tunnell

July 1st, 2015

westunnell Dr. Wes Tunnell

Henry and Ann Hamman, on left, with Kathy and Wes Tunnell.

We recently caught up with Dr. Wes Tunnell, who provided the expertise for the Hamman Hall of Texas Coastal Ecology.

What’s the number one goal for the Hamman Hall of Texas Coastal Ecology at the Museum of Natural Science?

To teach people about the ecological treasures of the Texas coast and inspire them to want to sustain and conserve it for future generations.

So many people are moving to the coast, how do we maintain a balance between coastal ecology and residential and commercial development?

It is important for coastal planners to utilize the best available technologies and best available science when coastal areas are to be developed. We have many years of experience now on what we should not do, and we likewise have many new ways of doing things that will help preserve the environment. State and federal agencies have many environmental protocols to be followed, and environmental assessments and impact statements guide new developments with the best available technologies and science. There are also many new and successful restoration technologies being implemented that bring back degraded coastal habitats, and the Hamman Hall demonstrates a number of these, such as oyster reef and salt marsh restoration, in addition to species conservation stories about the Brown Pelican, Whooping Crane, and Kemp’s ridley sea turtle.

How long have you been doing research on the coastal ecology of Texas?

I started my career as a student at Texas A&I University (now Texas A&M University-Kingsville) in the mid-1960s, so almost 50 years. Specifically and important for the Hamman Hall, I taught a graduate course in Texas Coastal Ecology for almost 25 years, where we took an annual trip of the entire coast. Over the years I have published over 100 scientific papers and book chapters, as well as 7 books, most of which are one Texas coastal ecology or Mexico coral reef ecology.

hamman Dr. Wes Tunnell

Hamman Hall Of Texas Coastal Ecology

When did the coastal prairies as we know them get their start?

They probably started coming into existence during the geologic time period known as the Pleistocene (Ice Age), between 2.5 million and about 11.5 thousand years ago. The current configuration of the Texas coast line began taking shape about 5,000 to 4,500 years before present, when sea level rise slowed its transgression across the continental shelf from about 45-50 miles east and 300-450 feet depth, starting about 18,000 years ago. When sea level reached its present position, about 2,800 to 2,500 years before present the barrier islands and peninsulas that we know today took shape, as well as the coastal plains, bays, estuaries, and lagoons behind them.

For the first time in a long while Texas is getting rain. In some cases too much, how will this affect the fishing along the Texas Coast?

Texas is known for great fluctuations in weather, and these environmental variations are natural processes that affect the coast and species that live here. Most organisms that live along the coast are adapted to this kind of changing environment, but long time droughts, as well as short-lived and longer flood periods will affect the distribution of marine life in the bay. The Texas coast is a natural laboratory for studying salinity effects on organisms that live in our bays and estuaries. This is one of the main topics explained in the new Hamman Hall. With lots of rainfall and freshwater inflow to the upper coast, we see lots of oyster reefs and salt marshes, but on the lower coast, where evaporation exceeds precipitation, the Laguna Madre has hypersaline conditions most of the time (salinities higher than the open ocean). Before humans protected our Texas natural inlets with stone jetties between the estuaries and open Gulf, we may have seen conditions on the lower coast like we more recently have seen in the Laguna Madre de Tamaulipas just south of the Rio Grande. During drought times, the inlets would close and the lagoon would begin to evaporate until nothing was left but very salty waters and brine shrimp. Then a hurricane would come along and dump huge quantities of rainfall on the land and into the lagoon, which would swell high enough to reopen the tidal inlets through the barrier islands and flush out the entire system. Slowly, invertebrates and fish would return, and peak harvests of shrimp and fish would be harvested for several years until the barrier island passes silted shut again and salinities rose too high for marine life. This boom or bust cycle may have been present in South Texas 100s of years ago. So, we may see some species change in abundance with all the current rainfall and flushing of the bays, but others will come back to levels normal to the environmental conditions that they prefer or find optimal.

Who influenced you the most and how?

Besides my Dad, who took me outside hunting and fishing a bunch when I was a kid and taught me how to enjoy and love nature, my major professor for my BS and MS degrees influenced my career choice the most. My Dad, who was a physician, told me he did not care what profession I chose, just as long as it was something I enjoyed doing and that I do the best I could at it. Dr. Allan Chaney, a Professor of Biology in Kingsville, taught me the joys of hands-on, field-oriented biology. He showed me that you learn it best when you are immersed in the natural world, not just studying it from books or labs. The famous early biologist/naturalist Louis Agassiz stated it similarly on an old board that still hangs on the wall at the famous Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory…”Study nature, not books.”

What do you like to do for fun when you’re not working?

I love to go to the Gulf beaches, particularly Padre Island and Mexico beaches. Dr. Chaney got me inspired to travel Mexico beaches and other places, and I used to do that a lot until all the recent problems in Mexico. I still go to the Yucatan Peninsula regularly several times a year, and consider it the safest place in Mexico at present. I love all the old haciendas and history associated with them, as well as the cenotes (sink holes), and particularly the east coast state of Quintana Roo. The beaches, rocky shores, and coral reefs there, as well as coastal jungle, are some of my favorite travel places with my wife. I used to go there regularly with my graduate Coral Reef Ecology Class, but now I just go there to enjoy. At home and around Texas, I love visiting with my kids and grandkids, as well as collecting and enjoying old stuff from the mid-1800s, particularly Colt pistols, Texas and US Bowie knives, and scrimshaw.


A Great Texas Snapper Season

July 1st, 2015

twilliamssnapper A Great Texas Snapper Season

Travis Williams caught the biggest fish of the trip on a slapper and sardine.

By Kelly Groce

kgrocesnapper 300x225 A Great Texas Snapper Season

Gulf Coast Mariner graphic designer Kelly Groce with her personal best red snapper.

When a friend of mine asked if I wanted to stay the night at a beach house in Surfside and go snapper fishing the next morning on a 50-foot Bertram, there was no question about it, I was in.

On June 9 we took off out of Freeport. We first stopped about 40 miles out and dropped over some rocks. My sardine instantly got hit and I reeled in what was already the biggest snapper I had ever caught. We went another 10 miles and drifted over more rocks and that’s where we started hooking up on the big boys. Just about everyone got their limit at that spot and my boyfriend Garrett, caught a 40-inch ling as well.


Garrett Blumenshine’s 40-inch ling.

We cruised another 10 miles and the water changed to a beautiful offshore blue. This time we dropped and could see snapper only 20 feet down. My friend Ryan, who hadn’t had any luck that day, caught two monster snapper at once on a double rig! With all of us having our limits and a good day of tight lines, we headed back to Freeport as happy campers. Until next snapper season!

Cruisers Yachts 45 Cantius

July 1st, 2015

cantius1 Cruisers Yachts 45 Cantius

Lainey and Logan explore the bow as the Cantius cruises through Offatts Bayou in Galveston.

cantiusinterior Cruisers Yachts 45 Cantius

The helm, galley and master stateroom of the 45 Cantius.

With the smooth integration of lavish indoor spaces and the great outdoors, the remarkable new 45 Cantius offers a seamless flow that feels refreshingly unlike any other on-water lifestyle. With spacious entertaining areas, a full glass enclosure and unprecedented sightlines, the 45 expands your experience beyond the horizon.


LOA Including Swim Platform 45’0” 13.7 m

LOA Including Hi-Lo Swim Platform 47’3” 14.4 m

Beam 14’6” 4.3 m Draft (IPS) 41” 1.0 m

Cabin Headroom 6’6” 2.0 m

Headroom at Helm 6’4” 1.9 m

Bridge Clearance – w/o Radar 10’0” 3.0 m

Weight – Diesel 29,500 lbs 13,381 kg

Fuel Capacity ** 362 g 1,370 l

Water System Capacity ** 100 g 379 l

Waste Holding Capacity ** 48 g 182 l

Deadrise 18.5 °

Height – Keel to Top of Hardtop 13’6” 4.0 m


The 45 Cantius has ample room for entertaining.


The bow of the boat is perfect for sunbathing.


Lainey and Logan sporting Gulf Coast Mariner long sleeve tees.

Desserts on the Water

July 1st, 2015

A taste of sweetness is a welcome treat when out on the water

By Betha Merit

The type of dessert most convenient to serve or prepare is dependent on several factors. Are you under power, sailing, or anchored? What type of boat are you on? Is this a dinner cruise or several days at sea? And, laughingly, are there kids on board?

The most important factor is the type of vessel, and does it have a full galley with refrigeration or are you rocking the ice chest? This dictates whether you can do a fancy dessert, or whether the least crumbly cookie bars (with no colored sprinkles) make the most sense. As always, storage, refrigeration, preparation time, oven capabilities, and trash management are details each dessert diva will consider. Remember, some desserts can be made ahead and brought on board.

Here are some recipes that may inspire you and fit your needs:

brownie Desserts on the Water

Aunt Bettylou’s Chocolate Chip Pudding Cake 

  • 1 package dry white cake mix
  • 1 large package cook-style chocolate pudding
  • 3 cups milk (according to pudding directions)
  • 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Cook pudding with milk, let cool for several minutes. Pour dry cake mix into large mixing bowl. Fold warm pudding into dry cake mixture (will be lumpy). Pour into 9 x 13 inch greased baking pan. Sprinkle with chocolate chips. Bake according to cake mix directions. When cool, cut into squares or brownie sized bars.

 briecrumble Desserts on the Water

Strawberry and Brie Crumble

  • 5 cups quartered fresh strawberries (two 16-ounce baskets)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup corn starch
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup quick-cooking oats
  • 1 cup loosely packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine, slightly softened
  • 1 package (5 oz.) Brie cheese spread

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 11 x 7 inch (2-quart) glass baking dish with cooking spray. In large bowl toss the strawberries, sugar, cornstarch and vanilla. Spoon into baking dish. Now combine the flour, oats, brown sugar and salt, and using a fork or pastry blender cut in the butter until mixture resembles large crumbs. Sprinkle over fruit. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes until golden brown. Top each serving with about 1 tablespoon of Brie.

Racing the Little Boat: Dean Snider

July 1st, 2015

deansnider Racing the Little Boat: Dean Snider

Dean and Kay Snider at left with Dave Curtin. Photo: Monica Kressman Photography

Houston Yacht Club member Dean Snider is a four-time Ensign National Champion. What makes him so good?

Where were you born, and what was your childhood like?

I was born near Somerset, Ohio a small town in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. I was one of nine siblings that provided the work force for the operation on the Sniders Family Dairy. Being one of the youngest siblings, I was not involved in the major jobs on the farm, but was kept busy with appropriate farm activity. The farm was sold when I was eight years old so I had a major change in my life when we moved to Celina, Ohio.

The home in Celina was very close to the water front on Grand Lake. The lake originally was built to provide a water supply for the Miami/Erie canal and was five miles wide and ten miles long.

My father owned a small boat with a 3.5 HP Scott Atwater motor for fishing. Since my father was now traveling the State of Ohio selling dairy equipment, I had access to the boat and spent a lot of time on the water (not fishing). This evolved into a love of the water


How did you get started racing sailboats on Galveston Bay?

Racing Sailboats did not enter my life until I graduated from College. I went to work in New Jersey at an EXXON refinery. In the next year, my bride to be graduated from College and we were married. She worked for UNION CARBIDE in New York. One of our early trips was to Cape Cod. To entertain my new wife (Kay) I rented a sailboat and we had a pleasant sail. She was a quick learner and liked the activity.

A month after we were married, the EXXON refinery where I worked had a major strike by the union workers. The strike lasted about a hundred days. The first thirty days I spent in the refinery running one of the units. The fallout of this activity resulted in a bonus that we had to spend. We wanted to join a Golf Country Club but that was too expensive and public courses took too long to play. So we bought a sailboat and raced it at the Nyack Boat Club on the Hudson River.

The sailboat was a Lightning and the prior owner volunteered to teach how to sail the boat. He was a racer and since there was a race the day he took us out, we entered it and finished mid fleet. We thought it was so easy and if we could get another engineer from the refinery and with a three engineer crew, we would be winning races. As it worked out the only race we won was four years later. The race was at the end of the season that year and it was only open to the fleet members that had not won a race that year. It was a long four years, but we learned a lot!

After the “win” we had to sell the Lightning because of a transfer to Houston. The second day in my office a gentleman walked in and identified himself as Hank Arnold. He did not want to talk about business. He was a sailor, a member of Houston Yacht Club and raced his Ensign. During the next two weeks, Hank became the sponsor on our HYC application and we bought an Ensign. This was in 1967 and we have actively raced it since then.


What is some good advice about starting in big fleets?

One of the things we had to learn early in our racing career was how to start in large fleets. Both the Lightning Fleet and the Ensign Fleet routinely had 15-20 boats on the starting line. We have found that a lot of homework is required on the water before the start of the race. Information that is helpful to getting a good start include, the favored end of the line, the time it takes to travel the length of the line, which tack is likely to be favored at the start, the frequency of wind shifts and which end of the line you want to start at. The Lightning and the Ensign that we raced are not dinghies. Unlike dinghies that can sit on the line and trim in the sails at the gun and accelerate quickly, the Ensign at 3000 pounds does not do that. Since it is important to get to the starting line close hauled and at full speed it is important to know how far in various wind conditions that you need to be from the starting so that when you harden up, you hit the line at the starting gun.

Ensign National Events with 40 plus boats on the line required a starting line that is in excess of a thousand feet long. It requires more planning and picking your “spot” to start well and be there at the gun. The favored end is usually crowded so you have to decide whether to “duke” it out there or go for a start in a “hole.” I have had success and failures in both situations. In the failures, it is important to get to clean air as soon as possible and get in phase with the wind shifts and current at those sites that have significant current. It is important to find a clear lane to sail in after the start to minimize the number of tacks. This is hard to do since you don’t know when somebody is going to tack and give you dirty air. Sometimes if the penalty to tack and get out of dirty is large if may be best to ride out the dirty air. Lots of judgment decisions are required on the race course!

Since we are now racing in a much smaller fleet, the starting line is generally only 30 seconds long. Position in the last two minutes of the starting sequence is critical. Based on the other boats position, you have to evaluate who is going to be late, early, and position yourself to take advantage of the information obtained on the water prior to the start.


What do you look for in a good crew?

The most important element in racing an Ensign is having a good crew. The best situation is having a good crew that is compatible and can race with you all the time. It is most important that the crew really enjoys being on the water. The rest of the stuff falls into place. The ability to recognize headers and lifts on the weather leg, agility and strength to hike, understanding sail trim, and stamina to make it around the course all comes with experience. This experience can be gained on other boats, but is easily transferred to the Ensign.

As with all boats requiring crew, the crew expects certain things from the skipper. They need to know what the next move is going to be so that they can be in position to carry it out, especially a warning that you are about to tack. A smooth tack requires timely action by the crew and skipper to maintain boat speed. This is especially important if the wind is fresh since it takes time to get off the rail on one side and be in position on the rail of the other side. Another situation that requires lead time is when you are approaching the weather mark and you need to move the spinnaker from one side to the other side before you reach the weather mark. It helps if the skipper keeps a dialog going regarding all upcoming action on the boat. For new crew this is necessary and is also educational. The more they learn about you and the boat, the faster you will go! One thing that is not conducive to team work (and boat speed) is an abrasive skipper

I had the pleasant experience of racing with the same crew for 35 plus years. It included Frank and Sandy Kelley (we purchased their Ensign in 1967) and my wife (Kay). Frank and Sandy seemed like nice people, and since we did not know anybody else in Houston, we invited them to crew for us. Five years later, the Kelley’s bought a Catalina 25 and later switched to a Morgan 27. As long as the Kelley’s owned a boat we crewed for them in GBCA races and they crewed for us on the Ensign. This was intense racing for the four of us, but it was also great training for the crew. We all learned all the positions on the boats and became a stronger team. Several people made the comment that when Frank injured himself, I felt it!! It was a wonderful experience to know and race with the Kelley’s. They crewed for us in most of the National and Regional events that we attended, including three of our four National Championships. It was a challenge when we had to train new crew. We had not talked about the crew functions for 25 plus years and it was hard to figure out what the Kelley’s did. Whatever is was, it was good!!


Tell us about racing with your wife.

Racing with my wife Kay is one of delights of my life. Over time, she became the “crew steward” (protecting the crew’s union rights), still is a great crew and loves to sail and race. She keeps the boat gear organized during the race, can jibe the pole if necessary, trim the jibe and make on the spot repairs if needed and points out items in need of repair. If there is rigging problem during the race she can isolate the cause and correct it without the Skipper needing to take his attention off sailing the boat. Once in a while we have a disagreement on the boat, but have learned it is best to wait until the next day to resolve the issue. This is working better and better as the years go on. My memory is getting worse with time so most of the time I don’t remember the problem.

littleoil Racing the Little Boat: Dean Snider

Little Oil in action.

Your boat is named Little Oil, how did you come up with that name?

We purchased a new Ensign in 1980. It became a problem because there were so many naming options. Our prior boat was named Striker II and the origin of this name was because the boat was bought with a bonus from a union strike at the Exxon Refinery where I was employed. We ended up using a link to our life as a basis for the name. In 1980, I moved from a large oil company to a small oil trading company. Kay still worked with Exxon so we played with the idea of naming Big Oil on one side and Little Oil on the other side. Little Oil finally won since the Ensign is a “little” boat. I am happy to report that our prior Ensign (517) is still active and competitive when raced!