Chasin’ speed demons! Flower Garden Banks wahoo photography and GoPro video from onboard Bad Intentions, a 64′ Viking Sportfisher out of Galveston, TX.
February 26th, 2015
Chasin’ speed demons! Flower Garden Banks wahoo photography and GoPro video from onboard Bad Intentions, a 64′ Viking Sportfisher out of Galveston, TX.
February 26th, 2015
As much as those two factors make us rush to the bays, they are not the keys to angling success in the Spring. Though they do in fact play an important role, they are not nearly as influential as most anglers believe them to be.
Conditions, specifically those that we can easily detect above the water, are not the same as those that a predator like a redfish or speckled trout feels below the water’s surface. If I was to give my personal estimation of the two conditional factors that have the greatest influence, they would have to be water temperature and daily photo period. These are what both predator and prey feel, and are the factors that drive spawning and the return to shallow bays and estuarine waters.
Beyond sun and rising water temps, wind is probably the most notable factor for anglers, and probably the one that is the most discouraging. We can’t change the wind and it isn’t always easy to forecast, but we should all understand its impact and learn to use it to our advantage.
Strong southerly winds and powerful incoming tides of Spring are the arteries that deliver the life blood to our coastal bays and estuaries. These will typically start bringing new life as early as February, and continue well into April and even May. These bull tides bring numerous prey species, along with their food sources, back to the shallows. Each of the returning animals’ migration, whether large or small in distance, is timed perfectly by the return or resurgence of their primary food sources.
An entire article could be dedicated to prey species, their eating habits and preferred habitat, but knowing a few factors that play critical roles in locating and catching trout and redfish are worthy of mention. Blue and stone crabs, white, brown and to a lesser degree, pink shrimp, glass minnows, menhaden and shad, as well as sheepshead minnows and many more all make their annual return to the estuaries during spring. They wash inshore on incoming tides towards lower salinity estuarine waters where they can thrive and find abundant microbial food sources.
As anglers, we can all benefit from a greater understanding of the life cycles and influences within our chosen fishing grounds.
Just as these animals arrive, due to abundance of food, so do their predators. In nature, every step of the food chain is driven by three basic, instinctual needs: food, safety, and reproduction. Knowing this makes it very clear that to find our target fish, we must find its target or preferred food. As anglers, we can all benefit from a greater understanding of the life cycles and influences within our chosen fishing grounds. We must accept that sometimes the things that frustrate us the most can provide the greatest advancement in our angling skills.
Wind can make our fishing days challenging; knowing where those winds deposit concentrations of prey species can make them more productive. West Galveston Bay’s notorious winter “moss” can frustrate us to no end, but the realization that its “decay stage” provides possibly the largest food source for many returning and emerging prey species, might well make you look more closely at the areas most inundated.
Knowing some of the favorite prey species and their preferred habitat and food sources are great. Now, it’s up to you as a successful angler to locate them. Most of these small species are difficult to physically locate. Thankfully, there are some larger and more widespread animals that can help us locate the smaller food sources that often lead to greater catches. Since most every angler reading this has likely experienced fishing an area devoid of prey species and the ensuing unproductive day, we probably all can now see the importance of finding the food source.
Focus your efforts, whether on open bay shorelines, or in the marshes, on the areas populated by mullet. They are not only much easier to see, but they also eat the same decaying plant material that most of the smaller prey species dine on. Also, take the time to explore every stretch of water inhabited by shore birds such as egrets, herons, ibis and spoonbill. Areas where terns and gulls are diving are likely to have juvenile surface dwelling animals, riding currents. Many of these are extremely small and hard to see, but don’t think that hungry predators would pass up on the opportunity to feast on these helpless little morsels.
Don’t let the most transitional season deter your efforts, use this season to explore and use your angling skills to locate fish in places you haven’t often looked. You will find, that even though spring fishing can be very challenging, it can also be very productive for those who armed with knowledge. You might just find some very aggressive fish that are waiting to reward you with explosive strikes.
February 25th, 2015
By Kelly Groce
Whenever you hear the word surfing, most people think of Hawaii, California, or Mexico… not Texas. Luckily Texas has 300+ miles of coast along the Gulf of Mexico for the opportunity of good waves. Galveston might not always have the best surf, but at least there’s something to give us surfers our fix.
Texans will surf any kind of conditions that are coming their way whether that’s a hurricane, chasing tanker waves, ice cold waters, rain, or howling winds, but that’s what makes us unique. We usually deal with horrible conditions, but aren’t completely aware of it because it’s all we know. That’s where the saying “if you can surf in Texas, you can surf anywhere” comes from. Once Texan surfers go to a place like California or Mexico with solid waves, we are in hog heaven because the waves are clean and come in sets.
If you are planning to learn how to surf, you should. After your first experience, you will get bitten by the surf bug and want to go every chance you can. Spring is a great time to learn since the water temperature starts to get warmer after the cold winter. This article will direct you on where to surf, what you will need, etc. Have fun!
Yes, Ohana Surf & Skate in Galveston offers both surf lessons and surf camps. Visit their website or call to find out the schedule and pricing. If you have a friend that has a board and surfs, that is also a great way to learn while having fun.
Surf any of the jetties between Pleasure Pier and 61st Street When you are first getting started, avoid the jetties with a big crowd, but don’t surf by yourself either.
Southern Spears Surf Shop has surfboards you can rent for the whole day for only $25. They have a variety of sizes so you can choose which one you feel the most comfortable on.
The bigger, the better. A longboard is definitely the way to go when you are trying to learn how to surf. Look to rent a board that is 8 feet long or more. Longboards are the best bet for small Texas surf. Once you pick it up, you can try using a shortboard on the bigger days.
You will need a leash, wax, and a spring suit (the water might be chilly). You can get these things from any surf shop like Ohana Surf & Skate or Southern Spears.
For more information on surfing, please visit:
Ohana Surf & Skate – 2814 Avenue R 1/2, Galveston, TX 77550 • (409) 763-2700
Southern Spears Surf Shop – 6026 Seawall Boulevard, Galveston, TX 77551 • (409) 744-2772
February 25th, 2015
By Capt. Joe Kent
We addressed the effects of oyster reefs on Galveston Bay fishing in the last edition of Gulf Coast Mariner Magazine and now we will expand on this by discussing fishing the reefs of Galveston Bay.
To begin, let’s take a look at the definition of a reef. A reef is “a ridge of rock, sand, coral etc. the top of which lies close to the surface of the sea; a ridge or mound-like structure built by sedentary calcareous organisms and consisting mainly of their remains.”
In the Galveston Bay Complex we have both natural and artificial reefs.
The natural reefs consist of oyster reefs, clam shell reefs and sand reefs.
The artificial or man-made reefs consist of shell, sand and gravel beds associated with oil and gas production facilities or old tires and steel reefs that are mainly oil and gas wells. Artificial reefs associated with oil and gas facilities are not permanent and are removed soon after the well or platform is abandoned.
Tire reefs (chaining together old tires) are beginning to become more prevalent with the demise of so many of our natural reefs. Lower West Bay is the location of one of the popular tire reefs.
Once, oyster reefs dominated the reef picture; however, following Hurricane Ike in 2008, that
domination ended and now oyster reefs make up a much smaller portion or our reefs and fishing grounds.
Clam shell reefs have a presence in upper Galveston and Trinity Bays; however, they are not as prolific as in other bay systems east of here. The few we have do offer some excellent fishing much in the same manner as oyster reefs.
Sand reefs become more numerous the closer we get to the Gulf of Mexico especially around the passes. Sand reefs should not be confused with sand bars which are defined as “ridges of sand formed in a river or along a shore by the action of waves or currents”.
While artificial reefs do not initially meet the definition of reefs, after a time they become infested with barnacles and other growth that cause them to expand in size and come within the meaning of a reef.
Now that we know more about reefs in Galveston Bay, let’s discuss how to fish them.
Reef fishing is productive in all but the coldest months of winter. They are most productive in the spring and fall, two seasons when tides run unusually high. The reefs most affected by this are the shell and artificial reefs.
Deeper reefs are productive all year, especially in the summer when trout go to deeper waters. A high percentage of the deep reefs are artificial and associated with oil and gas facilities.
The best of the reefs for fishing are the live reefs that have a wealth of small marine life around which in turn starts the food chain to moving. Farther up the food chain are the predator fish which come to feed on the lesser species such as crustaceans.
The shell and artificial reefs offer hiding places for the lower of the food chain that is until the tide begins to move and that is when the action turns on.
Fishing the reefs is best when using a float to keep the bait from snagging on the rough foundation. Live bait is the choice of most anglers.
Speckled trout have sensitive skin and are most often caught around the edges of the reefs. On the other hand, fish with scales and strong jaws or teeth are found feeding on the bottom eating crabs, live barnacles and other residents of the reefs. Sheepshead and black drum are two examples of the mid-reef bottom feeders.
Other fish are found feeding on the food chain as well. Panfish are usually thick around reefs.
Sand reefs are fished mostly by wading. Fish feed on the wide variety of marine live that burrows into the sand for shelter and, as with the shell reefs, tidal movement sends them running for safety and again that is the best time to be fishing.
Without our reefs, fishing would not be as good in Galveston Bay. Hopefully we will see an aggressive program get underway to restore our oyster reefs and add more permanent artificial reefs.
Submit your fishing photos for our print and web editions to email@example.com
February 25th, 2015
I need to replace my J-80 mast. How much will a new one cost me?
If you are replacing your J80 mast, there are a lot of variables that you have to consider. The reason most change between the Hall section and the Sparcraft section is the lighter weight and more streamlined section.
There is a ton of stuff to do to switch it over. None of the rigging switches over to the new mast; the mast step has to be modified for the shorter section, the furling unit has to be changed for the longer headstay and the spin halyard is longer on the Sparcraft section than the Hall section.
We have done three of these conversions, and the price of the section has increased every year. It was up by 20 percent in February. So if you are budgeting, beware of the price increase. A mast with no rigging and no shipping is an estimated $5,800. Delivery is around another $900 to $1,300. If we piggy back multiple masts on our mast trailer, you can get delivery as low as $500. Depending on what is needed and upgrades to increase stiffness and performance, the price starts as low as $8,000 using minimal labor, the old furling unit, standard rigging and old halyards.
It is an estimated $15,000 using maximum labor, a new furling unit, rod headstay, compact strand rigging, and new-performance type running rigging. You can always save money if you do the leg work on any job. We have all the dimensions for ordering the conversion for a plug and play installation.
I’m going to order a new mainsail for my 35 ft cruising boat. When I place the order should I go with two reefs or three?
I try to talk my customers out of three reefs 50’ and under. Installing the third reef adds a lot of line that you have to deal with every time you go sailing. Most sail makers go with what they call a “slab” reef. It is a much larger reef that reduces sail quicker and ends up with the same result of the third reef.
Just remember to tie the loose cloth with something that will give way if your reef breaks. Something to substantial could tear the sail in half if it lets loose.
Self-steering systems have come a long way in the past 10 years, in your opinion what is the best system on the market?
There are multiple electronic auto-pilot systems out there. What is the best is an argument I rather not get into; but, what we have found on all systems is that you want to install the larger system, not just the minimal system that fits your boat.
Also have plenty of power to run it, even if you go as far as to add an extra battery or two. Too many times I hear stories of people on delivery and the auto pilot runs the battery down and goes offline. In strong conditions people lose sight of how hard the unit is working; it can consume tons of power if the boat is trimmed wrong. Make sure you take the unit offline from time to time and trim or reduce sails yourself to help the auto pilot.
Our long-range and long-time cruisers prefer the wind-driven auto pilots, but that is a story for another time.
I’m a cruiser. I do not need a racing compass. Who makes a good compass and how much does it cost to install?
All cruising boats should have a magnetic compass somewhere on the boat. I want to say it is a requirement for all boats from the factory. If your boat is not equipped with one, the bulkhead-mount compass is the easiest one to install.
We install the Plastimo Contest most of the time. They cost between $260 to $350 depending on what you want on it. There are others on the market, but this is the one most readily available. What I look for is self-leveling with level marks, magnified-heading numbers with reciprocal numbers, and a light for night time.
Installation varies between the type of boat; around two hours for a basic install and five hours if you are installing wiring for lights. Cabinet modification is not included in these estimated times. That becomes a time and material type of job.
Stack pack or in-the-mast furling systems?
We always recommend “stack packs” or in-boom furling before in-mast furling.
With in-mast furling, you have a chance of the furling unit failing and the sail being stuck at full hoist, in or out of the mast at the worst possible time. It is tough to drop or raise an in-mast sail at the dock in perfect conditions, imagine what it would be like in the middle of the ocean. We actually repair an in-mast furling once a week in peak season.
With a “stack pack” or in-boom furling, you have the option to drop the main if you have trouble and deal with it on the deck. The in-mast adds a lot of weight aloft that hurts performance and makes the boats riding moment higher. The last thing is the in-mast sail has a lot less sail area then the standard sail. Standard battens project the leach of the main out adding sail area and helps the way the boat sails. Consider this when purchasing a new boat.
By the way, if you get a standard mast you can add a roller boom for the same price as an in-mast furling. If you add it after market you can save more.
After a hard day of racing on the bay my headsails are covered with salt. Does it make sense to hose them down with fresh water?
You should absolutely hose down your sails and gear with fresh water after a hard sail. Even if you go out for a day sail around the bay you should give her a good rinse.
Salt accumulation in the bearings or on the thread of sails will eventually break these parts down. The stitching on the sail will start to deteriorate, causing weakening and patches.
If you look at furling sails, the threads rot faster at the bottom where it has been wet than up top where it stayed dry. All of the gear on your boat is expensive, so a fresh water rinse will save you thousands in the future and add time between replacement.
February 24th, 2015
The Padre Island National Seashore Sea Turtle Recovery Division released over 200 cold-stunned green sea turtles back into the warming waters of the Gulf of Mexico in January.
Earlier in the year the turtles washed ashore along Padre Island. Experts believe the turtles were stunned by the dropping temperatures in the Gulf.
About four hundred people were on hand to assist and cheer the volunteers who carried the turtles into the Gulf.
The sea turtle science and recovery program at Padre Island National Seashore is a part of the overall global efforts to help recover the populations of threatened and endangered sea turtles. For more information, visit Texas Parks and Wildlife online at www.tpwd.texas.gov
February 24th, 2015
Recipe by Betha Merit. Serves four.
Heat all ingredients except chicken in the skillet (or large pan on stove) over medium-low heat. As things warm through and cheese is melted, turn off heat, and gently fold in the drained chicken. Cover the pan and wait 5 to 15 minutes until the chicken is warmed through. Serve with any garnishes you have on hand, such as extra shredded cheese, diced green onions, fresh cilantro, or avocados.
February 1st, 2015
By Capt. Brett Holden
Deep dropping for tilefish and grouper is becoming more and more popular by the day here in the Gulf of Mexico. I began fishing for these deep-water critters in the mid-1980s, and the sport has grown into a daily routine for many Gulf anglers.
Faster boats with longer range have now made fish like warsaw grouper, snowy grouper, yellowedge grouper, longtail sea bass, barrelfish, tilefish and others easier targets for many Texas sport fishing vessels. These deep drop techniques will help you find these fish in 400–1,300 feet of water.
Warsaw, yellowedge and longtail sea bass are commonly found around mountain tops, hard spots and deep water oil rigs in the 400–900 foot range. Warsaw grouper, on average, run anywhere from 40–100 pounds. But over the years I’ve seen several fish up to 250 pounds and a couple in the 300-pound range. Regulations have changed and now only one warsaw per-vessel is allowed.
Yellowedge grouper are delicious and average 8–18 pounds, with a few 20–30 pounders still caught fairly regularly. The largest one we ever caught was around 50 pounds.
Longtail sea bass are another fish that seem to inhabit the same area. They are good eating but hold a little stronger taste than the deep-water grouper. Once again, these fish are mostly found in the 400–900 foot range.
Barrelfish and tilefish run a little deeper on average. For big barrelfish, you want to fish down current from the edges and walls of deep water mountain tops. The edges will have well-defined drops and barrelfish can stack up very thick at the top and bottom of this structure. They’re usually found a bit higher off the sea floor and mark well on a good bottom machine. These fish are most often found between depths of 850–1,200 feet.
Many times the deeper you drop for barrels, the bigger the fish tend to be. Last year we found a pile of barrels at 900 feet that ran 3–8 pounds. We moved off that ridge and found another school in 1,170-to-1,225 feet of water. All of the barrels off that ridge were running 12–18 pounds on average. These fish are a blast; they fight all the way to the surface, unlike many deep water species that tend to “blow up” as they near the surface. The barrels fight hard and really put a bend in the rod.
Tilefishing is a fast growing sport and produces exceptional table fare. Not long ago, tilefish were pretty much unheard of as a rod and reel fish. I caught my first one in the mid-1980s and have been targeting them every since. This fishery was kept very quiet for a long time and was a pretty big secret. Back in the 1990s, there were no limits on tiles, and that is what we filled our freezers with. But still to this day, they are a fish you can actually go target and pick up a few meals.
We have bigger tilefish here in the Gulf than most people would think. Just a few years ago, the record tilefish was only around four pounds. But I have caught uncountable tilefish running 25–35 pounds
and several that have been 35–45 pounds, including a couple near 50 pounds. Now that eyes are opening to the new daytime swordfishing industry here on the Texas coast, more and more tilefish are being boated.
Tilefish are probably the easiest of all the deep water fish you can target. The golden tilefish is most commonly found in the 900–1,250 foot range. Smaller tiles, averaging 2–10 pounds, can be targeted on the continental shelf wall without any special areas or specific “numbers.” Muddy areas anywhere from 900–1,000 feet of open water will hold tilefish.
Finding better average sized fish will take a little more work. Tilefish will typically get bigger off the shelf, or in valleys against the shelf. Drop on the down current side of small dips and slopes in 1,000–1,250 feet of water. Tilefish tend to feed right on the bottom, so try to stop your bait and hold the boat on an area as tight as possible.
However, slow drifting will also produce tilefish and is great for covering ground. Drag the bait against the bottom, stopping often, and then continuing the drift to explore new areas.
Finding bigger tilefish is another story altogether. I have learned a lot over the past few years about these large fish. The biggest ones will hold against ridges at 1,200 feet and are bold enough to follow baits headed for deep water. Drop your bait near the edge of a ridge that looks over 1,500–1,600 feet of water and be ready. The biggest tiles, those from 35–50 pounds, seem to live alone. I have caught most of these big fish away from the schools and many times, several feet off the bottom feeding in schools of squid or dragonfish. The big tilefish really don’t seem to like a lot of leader in their face. Single rigs with the weight above the bait seem to work best. A whole squid, about 14-inches-long, works very well. Use a large hook and bait to avoid the smaller fish when targeting big tiles.
I seem to catch lots of big tiles early in the year, April through May, and sometimes in as shallow as 850–1,000 feet. I’m not sure if it was due to spawning or what, but I’ve caught several in the 30–45 pound class during these months.
Beware of spiny, toothy and venomous critters that you might pull up from the deep. Spiny dogfish are small, deep water sharks that have spikes near the dorsal fins that can cause a painful sting. The spines on scorpionfish can also sting if you’re not careful. But these bright orange fish are pretty good to eat.
Once the sun goes down the tilefish stop biting and the eels take over in force. Conger eels have nice white meat but lots of bones. Banded shrimp eels and moray eels have mouths full of big teeth so watch out.
Hake, a small brown fish averaging 1–3 pounds, also bite at night and can be a nuisance. They will eat pretty much anything. Their meat is good and tasty but very soft. I use hake filets to replace crab meat in gumbo.
The tilefish don’t bite at night but grouper will if you’re in an area free of eels. Snowy and yellowedge grouper will take baits and warsaw will feed as high as 400 feet off the bottom in 900 feet of water.
For years I never used any kind of light or strobe to catch tilefish and did okay. But over the past 10 years or so, I’ve started rigging them up and I think it does work better. I also found that rigging the light further from the bait will produce bigger fish. If we are targeting BIG tiles I will rig the weight and light 15 to 20 feet above the bait. Big tilefish will eat regular double and triple bait rigs, but once again, you’ll do better on a clean single rig. The standard double and triple bait drops work well for yellowedge grouper and smaller tilefish.
Your size of leader and weight will all depend on how much current you are fighting. The bite and fishing will be best when using less weight and smaller line. Thinner line means less bow in the line and that makes it easier to see bites. On the Booby Trap, we use Diamond braid made by Diamond Products. I like the orange 80 pound braid because it is easy to see.
With a light current and this braid, 3 pounds is a good weight to start with on your standard double bait leaders. I use cannon ball style weights because they don’t get hung up as easy on rough, rocky bottoms. If the current is strong then move up in weight size to 4 to 5 pounds. If it really cranking move up to 7 pound window weights or lead stick weights.
Some of these deep water fish have sharp teeth, so heavy mono leaders are a necessity. Yellowedge, longtail sea bass and other smaller grouper are not so bad but tilefish, eels and small sharks have sharp teeth. The grouper will wear through light leaders eventually and the tiles will bite clean through them. I use 300 pound LP or Momoi mono leader for our deep drops.
Use caribbean swivels to help keep the twist out of the leader and line. Most bottom fish will go into a spin on the way up.
Heavy duty circle hooks, from 8/0 to 16/0, work best for deep dropping. Tilefish and grouper have no problem snagging themselves on a circle hook and I would say it definitely helps keep the fish on when cranking them up from the deep. A sharp hook is also important. It’s a long way up and down, so a needle sharp edge is very important.
Be sure to take plenty of extra tackle when deep dropping. It is a long ride to the deep water fishing grounds and you might lose tackle to rocks and snags. Also, carry an extra spool or two of braided line. One break off at 1,000 feet can end the day if you are without replacement line.
When it comes to reels, the Lindgren Pitman S-1200 electric reel is the reel of choice on the Booby Trap. The LP is a deep dropping fishing machine that also has the strength and drag system to handle big warsaw grouper and swordfish. You can also hand crank tilefish and grouper on conventional tackle but it is a long way up and down.
The Reel Crankie is a must have, great product that can assist in getting your rig up from the bottom fast. It’s not made for fighting fish but for retrieving your heavy weight and empty hooks when you don’t catch a fish. It does a great job of winding up all the line, instead of you wearing out your arm on empty hooks. The Reel Crankie fits on a cordless drill and clamps onto several different makes of conventional reel.
You can also deep drop with two lines but it can be tricky fishing and requires some boat handling. The more bow in the lines you have, the more likely you are to tangle your expensive gear.
Over stuffing your hook with bait can result in fewer hookups. It is more important to get less bait nicely hooked rather than too much bait, which will result in missed fish. Avoid hard, bony, bulky baits that can push a fish off the hook. Softer baits like fish fillets and squid will result in better hook ups. Larger squid are usually tougher and stay on the hook better than the small ones. I like to take a 12–16 inch squid and cut chunks for tilefish. Squid wings work well too but not as a whole squid or chunks.
Gut your grouper and tilefish ASAP for better table fare. These fish eat lots of shellfish, which can result in some nasty strong tastes in the meat if not taken care of properly.
Wash down your fish after gutting them and keep on ice. Try and keep cooler drained at all times so the fish don’t soak in water.
Now you’re ready to go out and find your own tilefish and grouper. The entire continental shelf from Texas to Louisiana holds great bottom structure, supporting tons of deep water species.
Some fish stay directly on top of structure, some live on the walls, slopes and drop offs and some species are found on flat bottoms. Don’t forget to mark your hook ups on your GPS and keep a track record of your best catches. This is the best way to build and notice patterns on the different fish.
It is a fun way to spend the day with miles and miles of perfect habitat for multiple types of great eating fish. You never know what you will come up with and that alone makes deep dropping fun in itself.
Brett Holden is the captain of the Booby Trap, which holds the record for largest swordfish in the Gulf of Mexico. Holden is a pioneer in daytime swordfishing along the Texas coast; he holds numerous billfishing records and shares his deep drop techniques every year at the Texas Swordfish Seminar.
January 30th, 2015
The month of March signals the start of Springtime fishing trends along the Gulf coast. Soon, newly hatched finfish and crustaceans will swarm canal green lights and other sources of nighttime luminescence. Hungry trout and redfish won’t be far behind to gorge on these tiny treats.
Under the scrutiny of the lights, it’s best to downsize your lures and tackle. Use smaller, transparent lures to best imitate the prey of these evening predators. Lures that glow in the dark also draw attention. Although, there may be times where the fish are feeding so fierce that just about anything moving will entice a strike. Other times, you may encounter stubborn fish that ignore all of your offerings.
Try these proven lures next time you find yourself fishing a set of canal lights, causeway lights or your favorite lighted pier.
Typically thought of as a freshwater lure, the Husky Jerk™ in Glass Minnow is an absolute killer under the lights. It can be retrieved straight but works best when twitched and paused. Pick the smaller sized HJ06 or HJ08 lures.
The darting, side-to-side motion of the MirrOdine™ mimics a wounded baitfish and presents an easy meal to nighttime trout and reds. Quickly twitch retrieve this bait to aggressively feeding fish.
Yo-Zuri has taken its years of experience and technological research and created a formidable weapon for anglers targeting inshore gamefish. The 3DS Minnow™ is a versatile lure that works well retrieved straight or twitched. The color Luminescent Aurora Chartreuse, new for 2014, should be perfect for fishing the lights.
Another freshwater import, the 1/8 ounce Bill Lewis Rat-L-Trap® has the flash and sound to pique the attention of hungry fish. Buzz this lure through the lights and be ready for a vicious strike.
Last but not least, is the old tried and true tandem ‘speck rig.’ Companies like H&H Lures and Texas Tackle Factory offer up several variations of this classic lure that imitate small shrimp or baitfish. These lures are inexpensive so buy a few different colors and see which works best for your area.
December 30th, 2014
By Betha Merit
Let’s talk about how to select fresh oysters. From buying to storing to shucking to recipes. You might be oyster savvy, so feel free to simply enjoy the recipes in this column. But many of us choose our oysters from a restaurant menu, and lack experience on how to select and process the sweet smelling, briny little bivalve mollusks.
When purchasing fresh oysters from a fish market or the regular grocer, freshness is everything. Every oyster should be shut. If it is not, then tap it, and it should shut definitively. If it doesn’t, don’t buy it. Oysters lose moisture when removed from the sea. They should feel full and heavy in your hand, which suggests that they are fresh harvested. If you bang two oysters together, they should sound solid. Throw out any that sound hollow.
Remember, oysters are alive and need to breathe. So never place live oysters in water or seal in a plastic bag if you want them to stay alive. One storage option for using a cooler is to sandwich layers of live oysters between two beds of ice. They will last for two days. If you are not using them immediately, you may store oysters in the refrigerator at 40 degrees F, preferably in an open container covered by a damp towel or damp newspaper layers. This method will keep them for five to seven days. Either way, place them deep side down to retain their juices.
Tools needed for this step include a stiff bristle brush, a sturdy knife, a heavy glove, and a clean towel. We can’t describe this process thoroughly due to space, so we recommend you do an internet search for how-to sites that includes pictures or videos of oyster shucking, or set up a training time with someone experienced in shucking.
If you went through the above process, you have the perfect fresh oysters, each still in its own juices (called liquor) on the half shell. Immediately place them on a bed of crushed ice for serving. Recommended condiments include lemon wedges, cocktail sauce, chili sauce, horseradish, and hot sauce.
You can either use a little fork to pick the oyster out, or you can slurp them out of their shell into your mouth. By slurping you get to drink the liquor. Cradle the shell in your hand, grasping it with your thumb and first two fingers. And Slurp!
It is notable that for many recipes you can buy shucked oysters in pint or quart containers in liquid. These last a bit longer, but do check the shelf life. And, it is a lot easier than buying fresh and shucking yourself. True oyster “fast food” is a smoked oyster from a tin served on a thin slice of cheddar on a cracker. Also delicious!
In a soup pot, melt butter. Add the finely chopped onions and celery and minced garlic. Cook for about five minutes until veggies are tender. Add the oysters and their liquid to the pot. Bring to a boil and boil for 4-5 minutes, until oysters curl; reduce heat to a simmer. Whisk together 1/4 flour in 1/4 water until very smooth; add this to soup pot, stirring constantly. Add all remaining ingredients to the soup pot. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, for about 10-12 more minutes or until heated through and thickened. Serves 6.
In a small bowl, place the flour. In a second small bowl, whisk the egg and 3 tablespoons of the hot sauce. In a third small bowl, place the panko. Dredge the oysters in the flour shaking off any excess. Dip the flour dredged oysters in the egg mixture. Shake off any excess and roll oysters in the panko being sure to completely coat. Place on a baking sheet and place in the refrigerator while oil comes to temperature.
In a heavy skillet, heat oil to 325°. Add the breaded oysters and fry until golden brown about 1-2 minutes. Drain on paper towels and immediately sprinkle with kosher salt. Serve warm chipotle lime dipping sauce.
Chipotle Lime Dipping Sauce
Combine the mayonnaise, lime juice, chipotle chiles with sauce and garlic in a blender or mini food processor and blend until smooth.
December 30th, 2014
Photography by Al Ruscelli
Sea Scout Base Galveston (SSBG) has hoisted anchor on its high-adventure marine and maritime excursion, and it’s off to a fast start. The 10-acre facility on Offatts Bayou, has already hosted two major national sailing events, the Galveston Regatta, proudly sponsored by Pelican Rest Marina, and the 2014 U.S. Disabled Sailing Championship. Held at SSBG’s Galveston Community Sailing Center (GCSC), the only U.S. Sailing sanctioned community sailing center in Texas, these events reaffirmed the special emphasis SSBG has placed upon teaching youth and people with disabilities the art of sailing.
Adaptive sailing at the GCSC is just one of SSBG’s offerings. SSBG is the home of BaySmart, a youth program promoting the exploration of marine-related Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM)-based topics and also provides nautical high adventure programs for Scouts in partnership with the Bay Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America.
The Galveston Community Sailing Center has applied for U.S. Sailing Adaptive Training Center accreditation and will soon become an official Paralympic training site.
With both individual and family memberships available, GCSC makes sailing available to all members of the community including veterans and those with special needs. Staffed by U.S. Sailing-certified instructors, GCSC accommodates sailors of every skill level with weekly sailing classes, Open Sail Saturdays and Schooner Sundays. GCSC also hopes to host more than a dozen high school sailing teams through the Interscholastic Sailing Association.
As the name suggests, Sea Scouting is a key component of the base’s mission. In partnership with the Bay Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America, SSBG has developed a unique high-adventure Scouting program including the Cub Scout Splash Adventure, the Sea Scout Academy, and the Sea Scout Adventure, along with Galveston nautical adventures, lifeguard certification, privateer adventures, scuba certification and swim rescue and paddle safety training in 2015.
The BaySmart initiative is based at the Sea Scout Base Galveston facility on Offatts Bayou, and while BaySmart offers educational opportunities for Scouts through its Nova program, it is a separate organization from the Boy Scout of America and is open to anyone interested in studying marine-related Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM)-based topics such as oceanography, meteorology, and more.
Several curricula are available under the BaySmart initiative. STEM 2 Stern, a four-hour field trip aboard the BaySmart Express, is open to all elementary-through-high school students. The Nova program was created to foster Scouts’ exploration of STEM fields and REACH is a U.S. Sailing-certified program to help students discover STEM-related careers. New programs are being created to expand these opportunities.
The educational initiative reaches into public, private and home schools as well. BaySmart will launch its first in-school field trip program in the spring. Working with school administrators, the organization will conduct four-hour excursions aboard the BaySmart Express for up to 84 students at a time supporting existing in-school STEM programs by giving students an insight into nautical STEM topics.
For maritime students in vocational programs, the BaySmart Express, SSBG’s 110-foot floating classroom, offers internships that include working alongside the vessel crew accumulating sea time toward Merchant Mariner credentials and gaining valuable on-the-job training. Keep up with BaySmart on Facebook at facebook.com/baysmart.galveston.
Founded on the belief that water is a pathway to independence, SSBG’s programs are designed to introduce a new generation of sailors to maritime activities and build confidence in their abilities both on and off the water. For more information about SSBG and any of its varied programs, please visit www.ssbgalveston.org.
December 30th, 2014
By Jon and Lori Jones
For those of us who routinely take on crew, either for racing or cruising, it is important to have a reputation as a good skipper. People who crew on other people’s boats talk, and if you get a reputation for not being a good skipper, you will soon find yourself honing your solo sailing skills.
On the other hand, if you obtain a reputation as a good skipper, folks will seek you out. But what makes a good skipper? What are crew looking for when they step on your boat? How are they judging you?
Who better to consult on what makes a good skipper than the crew? We maintain a crew list of 30 to 40 folks. Most of them sail on other boats and some of them even own boats of their own. So, we asked our crew what they thought makes a good skipper. Here is what they had to say.
Not surprisingly, being a good sailor was the most cited desirable trait for a skipper. Most of our crew associated sailing proficiency with other desirable characteristics such as being a good teacher, being confident, and being safe – all traits that have their basis in knowing what you’re doing. For instance, Tammy said, “When I’m on a boat…even when I’m scared due my own inexperience, I am truly reassured when I can 100 percent trust the experience of the skipper that he will not put the crew or the boat at risk.” Anton said, “For sure, a good skipper needs knowledge to teach, tell stories, and sing sea-shanties.” Josh, an experienced crewmember “prefers a skipper that is a better sailor than I am, since I look at each outing as a chance to learn.” Hmmm…this might explain why Josh hasn’t sailed with us much lately.
Right after sailing ability, our crew equally cited both “no yelling” and patience as desirable traits, often linking them to remaining calm. As Nancy put it, “I do not like skippers that scream or yell or demean their crew. Remaining calm is a great trait in a skipper.” Ellen said, “I especially like the non-yelling, non-condescending skipper, which probably stems from their patience and skill.” Several of our lady crew spoke in terms of yelling, screaming, being condescending, etc. This appears to be a sore point and a common one at that. The men of the crew (along with the less traumatized ladies) used the term “patience” as a desirable trait in their skippers, which seems to us about the same thing.
On the third tier of desired traits were be a good teacher, be organized, and clearly communicate. I was surprised at how many of our crew want their skippers to be a good teachers. Apparently telling them what to do is not enough. They also want to understand what is going on. Many cited being organized and being able to clearly communicate as important so that crew can be more sure of their role and what is expected of them. As Lauren puts it, “Every good crew member expects to be flexible- to wind, weather, whims of the group, whatever. A basic sail plan with simple crew instructions and an overview of the boat’s features maximize chances that everyone will show up similar expectations and appropriate gear.”
The next most cited group of traits had to do with enjoying the sail. Cited equally often were allowing the crew to participate, creating a relaxing environment, and fostering fun. The only surprise here is how far down on the list these traits were. Having fun is certainly essential for the crew, but it was not cited by most of the crew and others cited it only after pointing our other desired traits. Perhaps having fun went without saying, so they didn’t say it.
Rounding out the list were being safety conscience, being of responsible character, looking like a sailor, having sufficient beer and rum on the boat, and knowing sea-shanties.
Other noteworthy observations: Ben said the most important quality is leadership, but he was the only one to use that word. Erik says he tends to stay clear of skippers who use terms like “avast” and “ye matey.” Cynthia wants skippers to know she isn’t looking for a date. And finally, Katherine responded to my inquiry as to what she is looking for in a skipper with just two words: cold beer.
Taking into account our crew’s input, here is our assessment of what it takes to be a good skipper.
Know navigation, good seamanship, and how to sail your boat. Know your boat’s capabilities and limitations. Know what you need to do if you get into trouble, and better yet, know enough to stay out of trouble in the first place. Your crew doesn’t need you to be an expert, but they will expect you to be competent.
A good leader looks and acts the part. He or she displays confidence and instills confidence in the crew. A good leader knows what she and her crew are capable of. A good leader is a good teacher/coach, and communicates effectively. A good leader explains how things are done with patience and keeps calm in the face of adversity. A good leader does not need to yell, scream, or demean her crew. Your crew looks to you to be the leader.
An organized skipper is likely to have an organized boat, which in turn will likely be well-maintained, safe, and will instill confidence in the crew. The organized skipper will have sufficient stores on board for the crew and will make sure the crew knows what they need to know. Standing orders and standard procedures will be consistent and understood by all. The organized skipper helps alleviate anxiety and confusion in the crew without driving them crazy with his borderline obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Your crew is not signing up to hunt whales in the Arctic or to exchange broadsides with privateers in the Caribbean. They sail for pleasure. Good skippers ensure the crew enjoy themselves, feel relaxed on the boat, and allow them to participate in handling the boat. So relax and sing a sea-shanty or two. Cold beer can help, too.
The good skipper understands the overriding importance of keeping the crew safe. Your crew is expecting you to watch out for them and keep them from endangering themselves through ignorance or inattention.
If you are crew, look for these characteristics before signing on to someone’s boat. Few skippers will have an abundance of all of these characteristics, but most should have at least some of each. If you are a skipper looking to better your reputation, focus on these five characteristics, especially the first one. Once you have a reputation for being a good skipper, obtaining and keeping a good crew will be a snap.
December 30th, 2014
By Jon N. Jones
Last summer I had a chance to sail a new Hanse 415 on Galveston Bay. I’d heard of Hanse, a German production sailboat company very popular in Europe, but had not sailed one, so, of course, I jumped at the chance.
My first impression was of a sleek, modern-looking sailing machine with uncluttered deck and European styling. It looked much bigger than her 39’4” would suggest due to the ample freeboard, plumb bow and flat transom.
According to Hanse, most owners opt for the fully battened mainsail instead of the increasingly popular in-mast furling. This boat was no exception and it was clear most of the horsepower comes from the main. The mast is noticeably forward of center and the boom comes all the way back to the transom, allowing for a large (565 sf) and powerful mainsail. The jib is a single-sheet, self-tacker, unique to Hanse. The jib sheet connects to a traveler-like arrangement forward of the mast replacing the need for a jib-boom on other self-tacking rigs I’ve encountered.
My first impression of uncluttered decks was confirmed. Other than a tank fill cap, I found not a single fitting on the deck itself. The cockpit was similarly uncluttered with all lines being led aft underneath molded runners on deck and then into molded cockpit lockers. The entire boat is noticeably lacking in trip hazards and toe-stubbers.
The transom itself drops down “tailgate” fashion, which is becoming the norm for swim platforms. Twin helms are also becoming the norm, but unlike most production boats, Hanse’s rack and pinion steering allows each wheel to be independent. If one steering mechanism fails, the other can compensate. There is no emergency tiller on board – the other helm is the emergency tiller.
Down below, the Hanse 415 does not disappoint. Straight lines and 90 degree angles on the interior cabinetry gives the perception of more space and makes the boat feel more home-y, and less boat-y. Interior woods come in a variety of types and shades. The model I saw was outfitted in American cherry. Interior doors were substantial including hardware more like what you find in a home than on the typical boat.
As nice as it was below, I came out to sail the boat. On our test sail, we had steady 10-12 knot winds from the SSE and calm seas. We motored easily past the Kemah boardwalk with the boat’s Volvo-saildrive and two-blade folding propeller. Steering was easy, two fingers being more than enough to steer the boat under engine.
This Hanse 415 was equipped with an electric main halyard winch, so raising sail consisted of turning into the wind, unzipping the lazy bag and pushing the button. Falling off a bit, we unfurled the jib and the boat quickly achieved 5.5 knots close hauled. Falling off the wind, we picked up to just under 7.5 knots with only a slight adjustment of the jib sheet.
Tacking the boat was ridiculously easy. From the helm, I announced “tacking,” and turned the boat through the wind with just one hand. The self-tacking jib slid across the deck and settled in on the new tack. Nothing touched, no sheets to let fly, no need to trim the sheet. And just like that, we were back up to speed.
The Hanse 415 is a cruising boat, no doubt. It is roomy and well appointed. She was quite impressive under sail with a powerful sail plan and performance-minded rudder and keel. Not only will this boat be very comfortable at the anchorage, she can get there quickly, too.
December 30th, 2014
Stepping outside with my cup of coffee, I was greeted by a deep chill in the air with the passage of a cold front. I hurried back inside the house to finish dressing, layering my clothing. I grabbed my wind and water resistant jacket, before I left on my way to the boat ramp.
As I launched my boat, my customers emerged from their truck, dressed more like Eskimos than fisherman. We chuckled at each other saying “It’s kind of cold.” I told them, “You think it’s cold now, wait for the ride across the bay!”
The five-mile boat ride was quite brutal. Once we got there, we spent the next few minutes rigging our rods and reels with some soft plastic lures.
“The Norton Sand Eel or Bass Assassin are my go to lures during the winter rigged on a 1/8 ounce lead head jig.”
The next hour and a half provided little for our effort. With only a couple of speckled trout in the box, my customers gave me that, you got us out here for this? look. I looked at them and promised, “It’s fixing to get right,” as the tide began to move. I suggested that we move about a half mile away to a flat that has produced for me in the past during the winter. As I slowly idled into the area, I gave them a grin as a tint of off colored water appeared, along with a couple of Loons swimming and diving. The next four hours we caught fish. When it was all done our cooler was full of speckled trout and a few redfish. We also caught and released just as many!
This scenario can be played out during January/February in West Bay. First, you need to dress for the weather. Layers of clothing provide the best warmth, in my opinion. The best part of layering is if you get too hot, you can always remove some. Furthermore, a good wind and water resistant jacket is a necessity. Stocking hats or even a full face mask are always useful to help keep you warm. Once your body gets cold, it’s hard to get warm again without heading to the dock and calling it a day.
The winter area of West Bay that I mentioned earlier is what I call the triangle. Meacom’s Cut to Green’s Cut, then between North and South Deer Islands. During this time of year fish congregate in this area. It has a mixture of sand and shell, with depths ranging from three to six feet. The key to fishing this area is tidal movement. I usually do the best with an incoming tide. This area becomes crystal clear with cooler water temperatures. As the tide begins to move, streaks of off colored water will appear. This provides cover for the fish to ambush whatever unsuspecting bait that is there. You might only see one or two mullet flicker on the water surface. If you see a bird known as a “Loon” in the area, it’s a good bet baitfish are there. Drift fishing is the best way to cover the area and located the fish.
Artificial lures this time of year work the best. Soft plastics or even swim type imitation mullet baits are best. I mostly use soft plastic type baits. The Norton Sand Eel or Bass Assassin are my go to lures during the winter rigged on a 1/8 ounce lead head jig. I find that a reel with a retrieve of 5:1 helps when trying to slow your presentation of the bait. Keeping your lure in the “strike zone” just a little longer is the key to having a successful day. My favorite color is black with a chartreuse tail.
Just because it is cold, does not mean you can’t have a great day on the water. Dressing properly and fishing the tides is the key to a great day on the water. Fishing a couple days after the passage of a cold front can yield you a box full of fish! Don’t forget to like Coastal Charter Club on Facebook.
December 30th, 2014
By Capt. Joe Kent
Anglers fishing the Galveston Bay Complex often take for granted the positive effects of oyster reefs, both live and dead, on their fishing. That is until the reefs start diminishing and the fishing is affected.
Let’s take a look at what we are discussing and how oyster reefs benefit fishing.
Oyster reefs in Galveston Bay form in the open bay along the periphery of marshes and near passes and cuts and can be either subtidal or intertidal. The reef itself is three dimensional because oyster larvae settle on the top of old shells growing upwards through the water column above the established oysters. The shells create an irregular surface that support a myriad of small marine life.
The oyster reef community is very diverse with a wide variety of shell fish, crustaceans and fin fish forming a balanced aquarium. Predators in this habitat include fish capable of crushing mollusks such as black drum, red fish, sheepshead, and blue crabs and stone crabs, which prey on small oysters with thin shells. At low tide, birds forage on the exposed oyster reef habitat.
When Houston was first settled, an ancient oyster reef (Redfish Bar) separated Upper and Lower Galveston Bay. This reef stretched from Smith Point on the east to Eagle Point on the west and had only one small gap through which shallow draft boats could pass. There were extensive oyster reefs throughout Trinity, East and West Bays as well.
Just about every species of fish caught in Galveston Bay can be found on or around oyster reefs.
In the latter half of the 19th century, oyster shell became a construction material and was commercially harvested. In the first half of the 20th century, oyster shell became an industrial commodity and shell dredging intensified. Millions of cubic yards of oyster shell were removed from the bay, some of it from living reefs. This practice, which greatly reduced the area covered by oyster reef habitat, was prohibited in 1969.
Hurricane Ike had a tremendous impact on oyster reef habitat in Galveston Bay. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department estimates that approximately 60 percent of the oyster reef habitat in Galveston Bay was covered by sediments as the storm surge moved through the bay in September 2008. Scientists do not know how long it will take for the reefs to recover.
With this background on the makeup of oyster reefs and how they are formed, let’s visit about fishing the reefs.
In my childhood years when first learning to fish Galveston Bay, oyster reefs were the prime target. We did not have electronic equipment to locate the reefs, just a long pole that we bounced off of the bottom. If the pole had a soft landing we kept moving until the pole struck something solid and we had found oyster shells.
Just about every species of fish caught in Galveston Bay can be found on or around oyster reefs. Fish with scales and tough mouths, such as sheepshead and both black and red drum, feed along the shell while consuming crabs and other crustaceans.
Speckled trout also are common around the shell; however, they do not have the physical traits to actually feed along the shell itself. Trout do not have scales and their mouths are softer than the main predators feeding in and around the shell.
Trout like to feed just off of the reef during tidal movement which flushes the small marine life from their shelters.
Seasoned shell reef anglers know how to fish the reefs and plan their strategy based on tidal movement. During slack or weak tides, they will focus on the reef itself as drum sheepshead and reds and other tough skinned, strong mouthed fish will be working the bottom. When the tide starts moving, then trout on the periphery will be the target.
Trout will be found on the reef itself; however, they tend to be cautious as the edges of the shell can be razor sharp.
Anglers have been reporting reduced catches in Galveston Bay over the past few years and one of the culprits likely is the reduction in acres of oyster reefs. Hopefully our restoration program will prove successful and the sooner the better.
December 30th, 2014
by Rod Evans
The moment is as fresh in his mind as if it happened last week. Four-year old Brett Holden stands on the dock holding a gleaming kingfish that’s nearly as big as he is. Published in a local newspaper, the photo, submitted by his dad, Don, documented the beginning of a record setting angling career.
While much has changed for Holden, now 45, one thing remains unchanged: his enthusiasm for sport fishing runs as deep as the blue waters where the billfish he chases roam.
“I’ve always been fascinated by big fish,” Holden says. “My dad had a boat, so I’ve been fishing since I was born. He (Don) primarily targeted snapper, grouper, kingfish and ling, but he also targeted sharks, so I grew up shark fishing with him. We caught numerous sharks that were 800 to 1,200 pounds. He still makes a couple of trips per year with us.”
As owner and captain of the sport fishing juggernaut Booby Trap, a 52-foot, twin-engine 2008 Viking Express based at Surfside Marina that’s capable of hitting 40 knots, Holden (aka “Captain Ahab”) and his crew of talented and intrepid anglers have emerged as the premier private sport fishing boat in the Gulf of Mexico. The team has been named the top private boat in the Houston Big Game Fishing Club for five straight years mainly on the strength of its ability to reel in an astounding number of elusive, majestic swordfish. And while catching a swordfish is major accomplishment for any angler, bringing one of the bottom-dwelling monsters to the surface during the daytime, a feat the Booby Trap crew has perfected, is even more impressive.
In June, the Booby Trap crew, comprised of Jeff Wilson, Matt Reed and Travis Joyce, along with guest anglers Brian Barclay and Danny Lenderman, made sport fishing headlines when on its third trip of the season, Barclay hooked a mammoth swordfish that weighed in excess of 500 pounds, crushing the old Gulf of Mexico swordfish record of 341 pounds. The fish was placed in 1,000 pounds of ice and was weighed the next day. By that time, Holden says the fish weighed about 493 pounds, was 108 inches long and had a girth of 60 inches.
“This fish came to the surface and we could see it was hooked pretty deep. It then went back under for three hours. At first, I thought it was a 300 pounder, but the closer it got to the boat I said, ‘It’s a nickel!’ It probably would have been around 550 pounds, but we didn’t weigh it for 27 hours, and by then it had lost an inch in length and four inches in girth,” Holden said.
After snagging the massive swordfish, the Booby Trap tracked west in search of blue marlin and caught six wahoo and two blue marlin before calling it a day.
Catching large numbers of huge fish is nothing new for Holden and the Booby Trap. In 2012, the Booby Trap caught 172 swordfish in 41 days of fishing and Holden says the crew has caught over 800 swordfish and 1,000 billfish in the Gulf of Mexico to date. Over its last 45 trips, the crew has caught 218 swordfish and released approximately 20 state record class swords. In 2009, the boat recorded the first “Super Grand Slam”—catching all four of the billfish species, which includes swordfish, blue marlin, white marlin and sailfish, in one day—in the Gulf of Mexico and repeated the feat in 2012.
In late June, the prolific boat, owned by Holden since 2008, set a world record when the crew caught 30 swordfish in a single trip, breaking the old record of 21. Of the 30 fish caught, Holden says 23 were estimated to weigh in excess of 200 pounds and five were estimated to weigh at least 300 pounds. As is the custom for the Booby Trap, which releases 95 percent of the fish caught, 26 swordfish were released. The catch and release practice is in keeping with Holden’s overriding belief in preserving the natural resources of the ocean. He says fish badly damaged from the battle to bring them to the boat are usually kept.
“We try to release every fish we can,” Holden says. “We don’t keep fish because of size, we keep them because of the condition that they come to the boat in. Swordfish are good eating fish and we don’t feel bad about putting them in the boat. We just have respect for one of the most incredible fish in the ocean.”
For Holden, the owner of Holden Roofing and a Houston native who lives in Richmond, his rise to the top of the sport fishing game was not an overnight journey. In the 1980s, he began getting hired by boats to assist those crews in finding big fish before he bought his first boat and began entering tournaments.
“Between 1984 and 2000, I won or placed in 50 tournaments and bought bigger boats from the tournament money. In 1986, I was able to afford a boat that could travel out that far (at least 100 miles offshore) and from ’86 through 2008 I mainly targeted blue marlin,” he said.
While focusing on catching blue marlin by day, Holden dabbled in catching swordfish at night, as catching the elusive fish that lives in over 1,700 feet of water during the daytime was extremely rare. For over a century, swordfish were caught primarily at night when they ventured up to about 300 feet from the surface to feed. While fishing at night, Holden says a good trip might yield two to four swordfish.
“There was no daytime fishery (for swordfish) here (in the gulf). A group in Florida started catching them during the day, so I knew it could happen here.
“For years we were told that the gulf had been fished out and the swordfish were not there, but I didn’t believe that. We went out numerous times and never caught one, but on the first trip that we did catch swordfish, we caught five.”
Using squid bait provided by sponsor Bait Masters, along with their recommended rod, the “Get Tight Sucka” series, 80 class reels and up to 6,000 feet of 80-pound, high visibility orange line with strobe lights affixed to the leader, and utilizing sophisticated radar and sonar equipment to see where the fish are living, the Booby Trap has re-written the rules for swordfishing in the gulf.
“The techniques we’re using are different from anybody I’ve ever seen and we’re able to produce double digit swordfish on just about every trip,” Holden says.
For the past three years, Holden and company have hosted the Texas Swordfish Seminar at Surfiside Marina, where they reveal their techniques to eager anglers. The seminar benefits the non-profit Everyday Heroes organization, which provides transportation to veterans to and from their doctor’s appointments. Holden says they expected 50 people the first year of the seminar and more than 500 showed up. Over 2,500 people attended the 2013 seminar held in March. To date, the event has raised over $500,000 for the charity.
Holden says he’s considering starting a fishing charter company in the future, but for the time being, he’s content to keep setting the bar for daytime swordfishing and billfishing in general in the gulf and doing his part to help Everyday Heroes.
November 1st, 2014
Lakewood Racer O.J. Young Captures Second Bacardi Cup
Longtime, experienced racer O. J. Young of Lakewood Yacht Club won the Harvest Moon Regatta Bacardi Cup for the second year in a row and was presented the prestigious award during the Oct. 12 Awards Ceremony held at Port Aransas’ City Pavilion.
Racing on his yacht “Happy Ending,”a Hallberg Rassy 42F, the competition in the Bacardi Fleet this year was in high gear as the Gulf of Mexico’s unpredictable winds came at the racers from all directions.
A 150-mile race across the Gulf of Mexico from Galveston to Port Aransas that started at the Pleasure Pier on Thursday afternoon, Oct. 9, the Harvest Moon Regatta had 166 boats start the race and 144 actually finish. Of that, 11 boats were from Seabrook, 20 from Kemah, eight from League City, seven from Corpus and eight from additional Texas cities outside of Houston.
“Lakewood Yacht Club had a record number of trophy winners this year – 28, with 14 of those being first place,” said Regatta Chairman Jack Seitzinger. His Principle Race Officer this year was Andrea Todaro.
When asked what his racing strategy this year was, Young replied that when one has a well prepared boat, good sails and a good crew, that boat should do well in the race. “Everyone in Seabrook said I had the ‘dream team’ crew with three racers being former America’s Cup winners,” Young remarked.
The crew consisted of Young’s son Robbie who re-rigged the boat and design, Doug Cooke, Farley Fontenot, Jim Davis, Joe Taylor, Cal Herman, Robbie Baldridge, and Paolo Shaffer.
Young said the winds this year were light at the beginning but picked up during the middle of the night. He sailed a little above the Rhumb line and by using his spinnaker at the finish, he was able to beat fellow club racer John Barnett on “ViCi” by several minutes. “The winds this year were ideal for my boat,” he added.
Young has extensive racing experience, having been a professional sailboat racer in the 1960s and 1970s. He came in second, twice, in the Olympic Trials, won the North American Championship 11 times, and won the ¾ Ton World Championship in 1974. He has raced with Dennis Conner in numerous ocean races. Conner, in his book No Excuse to Lose, named Young as one of the top ten racers in the world.
Other major perpetual trophy winners were Cameron Canon, cruising non-spinnaker overall (corrected), Doug Byerly on “Jonre;” Commodore’s Cup, cruising spinnaker overall (corrected), Jim Demarest on “Sodalis;” Founder’s Trophy, overall multihull (corrected), John Williams on “Gimme Samoa;” Judy’s Mission, ovarian cancer Sail-a-thon; John Walsh on “Candace Ann;” Mayor’s Trophy, first multihull to finish, Bo Kersey on “Abandoned Assets;” and the Bill Hall Memorial Trophy, the first monohull to finish, “Passion” owned by Steve Hastings.
New trophies this year were the Bacardi Superior, sport boat winner, Don Lemke on “Aloha” and Bacardi OakHeart, heavy displacement winner, John Mastroianni on “Andiamo.” The Bacardi Watch for the overall monohull (lowest corrected time) went to Doug Byerly on “Jonre.”
The Harvest Moon Regatta is organized by Bay Access, a charitable organization that supports amateur racing. It has been hosted by Lakewood Yacht Club for 28 years. Port Aransas and Mustang Island are co-hosts of the event.
Sponsors that make this first-class event possible include founding and primary sponsor Bacardi USA, the City of Seabrook, Nautic Group, Hays, Little Yacht Sales, West Marine, Sea Lake Yachts, Volvo Penta, OJ’s Marine, Banks Sails, True North Marine and Windward Sea Ventures.
November 1st, 2014
A Harvest Moon Regatta Story
By David Popkin
The smoke from the 3:15 p.m. starting gun in the 2014 Harvest Moon Regatta was still visible, drifting to leeward of the line as Ground Effect, Martin Hamilton’s Condor 40 trimaran crossed the line and began reeling in the fleet. The multihull class is traditionally the last class to start and this year was no exception. Our start was one hour and fifteen minutes after the first of five consecutive monohull class starts, the first at 2 p.m. There is no challenge in sending the fastest boats out first, since a big part of the race is managing the inherent risks of passing or being passed by other boats. Being one of the dozen or so fastest boats in the regatta meant we would overtake more than 150 boats in the course of the race, and if all worked as planned, Ground Effect would be one of the first three or four boats to finish the 150 nautical mile race in Port Aransas early Friday morning.
Onboard were six very experienced sailors. Four were veteran multihull sailors; the owner Martin Hamilton, Joe Peine, Roy Shaw, and Jeff Linn. Terry Hudson and I both had extensive offshore experience on various monohulls, but limited experience on multihulls.
Tactically, our plan was to work to windward of the rhumb line, that line being the most direct course to the sea buoy in Port Aransas. The winds were predicted to be relatively light at the start, then building to 18-20 knots true, around 1 a.m. Friday morning. There was also a predicted shift from SE to S or possibly even SSW by early morning Friday. Hence our desire to “put some in the bank,” meaning we would keep to windward of the rhumb line and if the wind did indeed shift, we would not then need to be close hauled, or possibly struggling to make our mark without tacking.
Based upon our assumed speed, we set up a furthest offshore waypoint on our chartplotters, which by coincidence, was directly offshore from the Matagorda Ship Channel, approximately 50 nautical miles from Port Aransas. We were hoping to reach it as the winds freshened and possibly shifted. From that waypoint, we would crack off and have a comfortable and speedy reach straight to the sea buoy and then on to the finish line inside the Port Aransas channel.
Right on schedule, we reached our tactical waypoint around 2:45 a.m. The boat was really in a groove, handling the jumbled 4-6 ft seas with ease and making near 10 knots in building pressure. We eased our sheets, cracking off and immediately picked up 2 knots of boat speed. It was an amazing ride! At around 3:30 a.m. there was a loud noise at the transom. Suddenly, the boat lost all momentum and rounded up into the wind and seas, sails flogging. Terry Hudson was at the helm and yelled that there was no response. We were all dumbstruck. Roy made his way back to the rudder cage and felt below the waterline. “It’s gone! Sheared completely off! Let’s get the sails down, we’re done.”
With the sails put away, we began slowly drifting northward at just over one knot. The disappointment was palpable. We were in no immediate danger, but clearly would need assistance. We tried hailing the HMR fleet and got no response. That was due, I can only assume, to our distance offshore and being in front of most of the fleet. Finally, the US Coast Guard responded. We gave them our position and the condition of boat and crew and asked them to try and reach BoatUS to arrange a tow to the nearest port. Our communication with the Coast Guard was ongoing for nearly two hours before they decided it would be in everyone’s best interests to send a vessel out to tow us into Port O’Connor. They had made contact with the BoatUS main office on the East Coast, but efforts to reach an associate on the Texas coast were unsuccessful.
Around 6:30 a.m. Friday morning, the Coast Guard vessel arrived and came close enough alongside so we could discuss towing procedures. Once their main line was passed to our boat, it was made fast with a bridle and the last wild ride began. Despite cleats ripped from the deck, bowsprits broken, and toe rails splintered, all from the tow line, we were delivered safely to the bulkhead in front of the US Coast Guard Station, in Port O’Connor by 9:30. Subdued but in good spirits, in the end, no one got hurt, and with time and money, the boat could be made whole again. Despite his declaration minutes after the rudder failure that this was his last offshore race, Martin was already talking about next year’s race and what it would take to build a new improved rudder. To paraphrase Lance Armstrong, it’s not about the boat. Those of us who do this do it because we welcome the challenges, the possibility of facing unknown events or improbable outcomes, be it failures or triumphs. To be sure, we all take risks in our everyday lives, but that world is ultimately predictable and pretty tame. The ocean is our last, greatest and most beguiling wilderness. We have no more control over its whims today than Columbus did in 1492. And that’s exactly why we choose to go.
November 1st, 2014
I own an older boat and I’m thinking of replacing some of the running rigging. What are your thoughts on the best type of line to use?
It all depends on what kind of sailing you are doing. You need to ask yourself, “Am I cruising around the bay, club racing and long-range cruising, or just racing full time?”
If you are cruising around the bay, you can get away with the lesser performance lines and go for price and durability. If you are club racing or long range cruising, you should go to a blended core to a full performance line for things like the main and genoa halyards. With control lines, you can get away with the lesser performance lines. If you are pushing the boat around the race course, the less stretch, the faster.
You should be using full performance lines with a low stretch core; the less stretch in lines transfer to the mast and boat turning energy into speed.
What’s the difference between mast rake and mast bend?
Mast rake is the angle of the mast fore and aft on the boat. It controls the center of effort of the boat, helping it point higher. Too much forward rake, the boat will turn down causing a negative steering moment. With too much aft rake, you will have to fight the rudder causing drag, which slows the boat down.
In a perfect world, you should have a couple of pounds of weather helm and rudder angle should not exceed three to seven degrees, unless steering wind shifts. You should tell your rigger during a mast tuning how the boat is performing. Mast bend is set to help your mainsail.
As a sail gets older you can increase the bend to get more performance out of the sail. When you order a new sail, the sail maker may ask to have you decrease the bend since the sail is new. The other thing bend does for you, is it flattens the mainsail in windy conditions helping you keep control and not getting over powered. Tell your rigger what you feel are the wind conditions you find yourself in the most. They will set the bend to fit the way you sail.
I’m looking for some new spinnaker sheets for my J-105, what brand do you recommend and why?
The J-105, just like most asymmetrical boats, uses a high heat covered line with a performance core. We taper the sheets, which reduces weight and leaves the core exposed. All line companies have equivalent line types. Color and feel is the only difference between most lines.
My anchor is always slipping, how much chain do I need and who makes the best anchor on the market today?
The anchor is probably the most argued boating topic ever. I feel that every type anchor has its purpose. We used to cruise with a CQR and a Danforth. The CQR was our workhorse. After getting a lot of education we switched to Mantis anchors. They use technology and NASA engineers to design their product. They added a roll bar that I know I could have used it in the past for more reasons than it was designed for.
When it comes to chain, we always carried 100’ on one anchor and 25 to 40’ on the secondary. That is all the boat could fit. Both anchors had 150’ of three-strand line; the more chain, in my opinion, the better. For storms we carried a bridal and another 300’ of three-strand that we could add in line to the scope. That worked for us. You will have to find what works for your boat.
How can I keep my roller furling from overriding, it works for a while and then it gets hard to pull in.
You should control your furling line when you unfurl your sail. If you just untie it and unfurl, more than likely, it will get some loose rolls and possibly override. The other thing to look out for is the lead block into the drum needs to be at 90 degrees in the center of the drum guide. The last thing, is to make sure when the unit is furled, it has two wraps on the jib sheets and you should have at least five wraps on the drum.
Do you recommend buying a used roller furler?
We are against buying old furling units. Technology is so much better today than 10 to 20 years ago. Always remember there is a reason the furling unit was replaced in the first place. The foil connectors and bearings wear down over time. We end up having more time fixing the used unit than what a new one would have cost with installation.
Also, when fixing old units you don’t get a warranty, so even if you patch it, you will have to pay to repair it every time you have a problem. Most new units have a two to seven year warranty and rigging companies should back their work.
Alex Crowell is the owner of Bahama Rigging in Kemah, a full service shop for all sailboat rigging needs.
November 1st, 2014
By Capt. Joe Kent
When the water is comfortable to wade fish in a bathing suit or shorts it’s not the best time for fishing action while wading.
The late fall and early winter are prime times for wade fishing. When the water temperature drops below 70 degrees, it is a bit uncomfortable for wading in typical summertime attire; however, the fish love the cooler waters and tend to roam the shallows more.
While wade fishing, especially in the surf, will produce fish year round, it is not until the water cools that the action pops open in the bays. The annual flounder run will attract hordes of waders as it is usually late October or early November when the flat fish start stacking up along the pathways to their winter home, the Gulf of Mexico.
Colder water is one of the signs flounder look for before deciding to exit the bays and readings in the 60’s will do the trick.
Trout and reds will spend more of the day in shallower waters during that time and wade fishing is the best way to sneak up on them.
Now, if you are new to this style of fishing I hope to cover some of the basics to help you get started and for you to have more productive fishing trips.
We need to begin with the basic wading gear. A pair of insulated waders is a must and the prices run the gamut depending on what quality you desire and your budget. A full service sporting goods store can show you the wide range of options.
Wading shoes, whether part of the waders or separate pieces are important. You will need shoes that can handle the sharp, cutting edges of shell while withstanding soft mud. Wade fishermen tend to cover a lot of territory and different underwater terrains are encountered.
One of the worst things to experience is to lose a shoe in deep mud.
Stingrays are one of the big enemies of waders and protective covers are vital to prevent a barb from piercing your foot or leg. Again, your sporting goods store can show you options for this.
Additionally, a long stringer, one that places your catch a number of feet behind you is a must or one of the more popular donut style container nets can be used. In either case your catch should be far enough behind you to allow a shark to attack it without mistaking your leg for a fish.
A good wading belt with pliers and a bait compartment is needed.
Now, for the fishing equipment itself, most wade fishermen use artificial baits as they eliminate the need to drag along a live bait bucket. This allows the angler to cover more territory and faster.
The rod and reel is a personal choice; however, the length of the rod is normally longer than those used by boaters. Long, accurate casts are a must for success while roaming the shorelines.
Your choice of artificial bait depends on the species of fish you are targeting. Personally, I prefer soft plastics as they are easy to use and I have had success with them.
For flounder my favorite three soft plastics are Flounder Pounders, Chicken Boys and Gulps.
For trout and reds, Bass Assassin Sea Shads in various colors, Norton Sand Eels, Saltwater Assassins in Chicken on a Chain and Down South soft plastics are good choices. One color that seems to add to the odds is chartreuse in combination with other colors.
Now, let’s talk about where to wade. The biggest limitation is whether you have a boat to access wading areas or depend on entering from land. Boaters have many more options as the Galveston Bay Complex is limited in areas where the public can cross land to enter the water.
Briefly, for those without boats, the Seawolf Park area offers access to water along with Eight-Mile Road on the west end of Galveston Island. All along the road from the Texas City Dike to the Moses Lake Flood Gate offers good wade fishing at times as does the April Fool Point Area in San Leon.
The Seabrook Flats are well-known for winter wade fishing and have easy access at several points along the shore.
Now for the most important aspect of wade fishing! Do not go it alone. Have a fishing buddy join you as there are too many incidences of a wader falling into a deep hole, and with the heavy equipment on, could not swim and drowned. A companion fishing close by could have saved the day. To be on the safe side, two or more anglers should wade fish together.