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GCM’s Women of the Bay

May 4th, 2015

shellydixon GCMs Women of the Bay


What’s your profession?

I build custom fishing rods. Fifteen years ago, I started Anglers Euphoria Custom Rods for Reel Fishing Women.

Tell us about your rods.

Our rods are unique and different from the others out on the market. We build them all; from little bait casters to spinning rods and offshore rods as well. As we build a rod we send pictures of our progress along to the customers. My husband Adam Dixon, and my daughter, Ashley Downs who is 13, also help me with building the rods. They both have been a huge support in our making the business successful.

What’s your first fishing memory?

I remember my father taking me to the Texas City dike as a child and I fell in love with the sport. The very first fish I caught was a bull red and it was a beauty. My father passed away in February of 2015. His memory lives on in every fish I catch.

Land based shark fishing; what’s that all about?

My family and I enjoy the sport of land based shark fishing. In land based shark fishing you leave the rod and reel on the beach, hop in a kayak and paddle out over 100 yards to drop bait. We use 25 ft. leaders made by Alberto Zertuche with Hard Life Tackle to catch the big sharks. We release all sharks and other fish unharmed.

What’s next for you in your career?

With the support of family and friends I’m living my dreams. Building custom rods takes time but also leaves a lasting impression and a positive impact on everybody involved. You can visit our Facebook group Shark ON and our website Anglerseuphoria.com for more information about all of our rods.

lisahalili GCMs Women of the BayLISA HALILI

What is your profession? 

I am Vice President and Administrator for Halili Management Services, LLC.  I manage Prestige Oysters, INC and our other corporations. I oversee the day to day operations of all our companies.

What inspired you to choose the profession you are in? 

I have always loved being on and around the water.

How long have you lived in the Bay Area?  

35 years

What do you like to do most when you are not working? 

I love hands on work and love to be outdoors. Unfortunately, most of the time, I am behind a desk.

What is something people may not know about you?  

I love hard work. I love to work on the boat. If I had my choice, I would go back to being my husband’s deckhand on the back of a shrimp boat. That was really living; I just did not know how good we had it back then.

Also, for over a year, I have been leading a movement to protect the oyster industry from a group called STORM, LLC. The STORM organization is trying to pass a bill in the state legislature that would allow them to confiscate half of the public oyster reefs in Galveston Bay. Along with the help of other interested parties and legislators, I am fighting to keep the bill from passing.

I love and live by the following quote from William Faulkner: ”Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion against injustice and lying and greed. If people all over the world would do this, it would change the earth.”

kimhardingremaxKIMBERLY HARDING

What is your profession?

I am a real estate broker and owner of RE/MAX Synergy in League City. I enjoy the hands on experience of listening to the needs of the clients I represent so I can find them the home they are looking for and guide them through the home buying and selling process.

Tell us about your hobby of fishing in tournaments.

I am honored to be a part of a women’s fishing group for almost 5 years now. We travel to South Padre Island and Galveston for bay fishing tournaments and we go to Pensacola, Florida for the Ladies’ Offshore Bill Fishing Tournament. My fishing team is a sisterhood that creates a bond far beyond a regular friendship.

How long have you lived in the Bay Area?

I have lived in the Bay Area all my life. I was born and raised in Galveston County and am proud of it! I’ve been married to my husband, Beau for 24 years and we have raised our 21 year old twin sons here as well.

What do you like to do most when you are not working?

I love to fish and also hunt. I bow hunt and rifle hunt when I have the time.  I love the outdoors and I am a tom-boy when not showing properties in my 4 inch stilettos!

What is something people may not know about you?

That my first job was at a Chief Auto Parts store and I knew how to change the oil in my car when I was 16 years old.

shannonbushSHANNON BUSH

Ten years ago did you see yourself racing in one of the most competitive one design classes in the world and doing well?

Yes, actually, that’s why I chose this fleet. When I lost my Soling to a hurricane, I had a choice of any boat I wanted to get in to. I had seen the Etchells on Galveston Bay and loved their graceful lines. I noticed who was sailing them and wanted to compete against a bigger, deeper fleet full of past World Champions, All-Americans, sail makers and boat builders.

Are you a Danica or is there a sisterhood of hotshot sailing women like yourself?

At most of these major events, there may be two women drivers, sometimes three, but that’s pretty rare. Usually, it is just one. At the Worlds in San Diego four years ago, there were three; in Italy two years ago, I was the only female driver; in Newport last year, there were three. But I don’t see myself as a female driver, I see myself as a driver.

How much practice time do you put in before a major regatta?

For a two day weekend regatta, we arrive for three days of practice.

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

I spend time with my awesome family. They have been incredibly supportive and understanding of my sailing interest. To that, when I’m not racing, the time we spend together is not about me, but about them. We travel when we can, make the vacations fun, usually going someplace they want to go, doing things they want to do. In the meantime my kids go to school out of state and there is quite a bit of travel to see them at their schools, or in cities close to their schools. Our daughter is at Ole Miss in Oxford MS, a really fun place to visit, and our son is a short train ride from NYC. I enjoy just hanging out with my kids; having them around is never a dull moment. We don’t sail as a family and I don’t push it. If they want to sail, they will on their terms, in their own time.

Getting Our Youth Fishing

May 4th, 2015

speckledtroutyouth Getting Our Youth Fishing

Abby Gonzalez happily shows off her trout.

By Capt. Joe Kent

Almost every outdoor publication that includes fishing will at some point have articles expressing concerns on the future of fishing for the next generations.  Most tend to focus on the crop of fish that may or may not be available, adverse environmental changes and future regulations that could discourage fishing.

While there is no doubt that those are viable concerns needing to be addressed, my biggest concern is getting kids involved in fishing.

While I do not have any statistics to support my observations, my experiences show that today there are a lot fewer kids involved in fishing.

Each angler that considers himself or herself to be an avid fisherman likely had the roots of their passion developed at an early age and usually have someone in the past to acknowledge as being a major influence on generating their passion for fishing and teaching them the basics.

I recall as a young child how much I enjoyed going to Clear Lake and fishing from the numerous docks and piers along the lake and from the Harris County Park on NASA Road 1.

My dad, while not very interested in fishing or crabbing, would take me and watch while I fished.  Much of my early knowledge of the basics, from how to rig a pan fish line to the proper baits, were learned from others fishing around me.  I don’t recall anyone ever getting annoyed by the questions I would ask and at times requesting to borrow a piece of bait they were using.

The only fishing my dad had been exposed to was freshwater and mostly from river forks such as those along the Trinity River in North Texas.  The only thing he knew about fishing was centered on a cane pole, bobber and worms or pieces of entrails of chickens.

At some time near the age of eight a fellow angler on the pier at the county park offered me a few pieces of dead shrimp and showed me how to rig a pan fish line.  Using that bait I caught a few small croaker, however, to hear me tell it, they were big fish.

One person I will always remember is a neighbor who took my dad and me out in his boat.  Launching at Bub’s Fish Camp near the old Seabrook-Kemah Bridge we headed out in a 15-foot Elgin (Sears) boat powered by a 12-hp Sea King engine.  The neighbor first used his shrimp trawl to get bait, both live shrimp and small fin fish.  After obtaining our bait we pushed on to the bulkheads near the Houston Ship Channel and anchored around other boats.

mickey and jordan 2 Getting Our Youth Fishing

Mickey and Jordan Miller with a mixed bag of trout, redfish and mackerel.

Wow, I will never forget that trip with all of the sand trout, croaker, gafftop and I’m sure other fish that we caught.  From that day on I was hooked and it was just before my 10th birthday.

Having memories like that and seeing so many kids being deprived of this fun sport caused me to go on a campaign to encourage other anglers to take kids fishing.

With school now out for the summer, what a perfect opportunity to share this fun sport with our youth.

Just about every opportunity that arises to take young ones with us fishing, my wife and I jump on it.  As a fishing guide I gave a substantial discount for father-child trips and many of the trips were father- daughter.

The first time we hosted some kids was from the Harris County Youth Detention Center located across from the Harris County Park on NASA Rd. 1.  That was back in the mid-1970s and the two youngsters that accompanied us had a ball.

If you do not own or have access to a boat, there are many places to fish from shore, unfortunately not as many as in the past.

Taking a youth fishing is a rewarding experience and will pay dividends for the sport when the child reaches adulthood.

Under Pressure – Fishing Pressure Changes

May 1st, 2015

souleredfishmay Under Pressure   Fishing Pressure Changes

Capt. Steve Soule and a bruiser redfish caught during falling pressure.

By Capt. Steve Soule

Every day in the life of saltwater angling, we feel pressure. Whether we are recreational or professional, fishing for fun or fishing for money; lets face it, trying to catch fish consistently is no easy task when fishing with rod and reel, and even more so when you only fish with artificials. The pressure that we feel as anglers, however, is nothing compared to the pressure that the fish feel. At this point you may conclude or assume that I am referring to the pressure on a particular fish or fishery. As important and impactful as that aspect may be, that is not the pressure that I’m talking about.

The pressure, or more precisely, the barometric pressure, plays a huge role in fish feeding and general activity levels day in and day out. I can’t personally recall meeting anyone that could truly “feel” barometric pressure changes or direction of movement. Animals, on the other hand have no problem at all noticing even small changes in barometric pressure, and these changes and trends in pressure have an impact on fishing. I’m not going to tell you that there is a perfect science to this, but over the years, I have certainly watched some distinct trends become evident and often reliable.

Planning for barometric changes isn’t something that we can always do, but some situations are easy to understand and plan around. There are some obvious and noticeable times when even though we probably can’t feel the change in barometric pressure, we can feel or see the changes that coincide with it. Clouds are a great indicator, along with rapid changes in temperature. It’s well known that as winter storms approach the Texas Gulf Coast, pressure trends will be downward, and as the front passes the coast that a rapid rise in pressure will follow. We can plan around these fronts and we can often fish around summertime passing thunderstorms to take advantage of rapid pressure changes.

Over my 15-plus-year career of both guiding and tournament fishing, I have often tried to track and make notes about conditions, and how they impact, or at least appear to impact fishing. I will say without hesitation, pressure seems to have a greater impact on the feeding, or lack of feeding, of speckled trout more so than redfish. Keeping in mind that there are no hard and fast rules that apply in every situation, there are some noticeable trends and patterns that I have found and recorded over the years. The bites and other sources of information have helped lead me to these conclusions.

troutfly Under Pressure   Fishing Pressure Changes

Randy Cameron with a 28.5” trout taken on the fly.

In the middle of a very difficult day of tournament trout fishing in 2010, sometime around 1 p.m., the fish turned on in a very nasty way. I think that up to that point, my teammate and I had only had two bites and had yet to land a fish. It was a cold day in February, and a strong cold front had passed that morning before sunrise. We were battling a stout Northwest wind and a screaming upward trend in pressure. There were a couple of conditional changes that all occurred in a short period of time that seemed to put some short term urgency in the trout. A tide change and a slight decrease in wind speed, in the middle of a rapidly climbing pressure trend, caused a short period where the pressure dropped before continuing on its upward movement. What made this memorable, or even noteworthy was that in the 35-45 minutes that the trout fed, I landed all three of our weigh fish for the day, including our big fish at 7.58 pounds. The sad part was that of seven bites, I was only able to land three and at least two of the four I lost were considerably larger than the biggest that made the trip to weigh scales.

We have all heard that high pressure days are bad for trout fishing. This example, along with many others that showed a similar pattern, have led me to believe that it’s not so much whether pressure is high or low, but more how stable the trend is. Fish seem to bite on changing pressure. It seems that as I have monitored pressure and other conditions in my fishing, stable trends in pressure don’t seem to generate aggressive feeding behavior. So, if pressure is stable, or moving at a steady rate up or down, this creates a similar situation where fish seem to be less aggressive. When the steady or stable trend is broken by sudden movement of pressure in either direction, fish seem to feel a sense of urgency to feed aggressively.

Another of the shining examples that fish have shown me over the years about how barometric pressure can trigger aggressive feeding has to do with a large marsh lake in Galveston Bay that I have fished for many years. In the Summer, the lake is loaded with redfish and trout but they don’t often gang up and feed very well during daylight. One of the most interesting trends in the lake in summer is that if a summer thunderstorm passes over the lake, especially early in the day, the redfish and trout in the lake would gather and feed very aggressively for a brief period. These are not just average fish, but exceptional fish that aren’t often caught during the summer months in this location. Numberous 20-to-25-inch trout and 26-to-29-inch reds would gang up and chase shrimp and mullet. The first boat in the lake after the storm would reap the benefits, but by the time a second or third boat got there, the action would come to a halt. The rapid drop and returning climb of pressure put the fish in a frenzy, but it was always short lived.

It may not be easy to plan fishing around pressure changes all the time, but tracking changes during your fishing days can lead you to some interesting finds and improved catches. Though you could probably buy a small portable barometer, its much easier to just use the internet. NOAA, on their “Tidesonline” website, has buoy stations all around the Gulf of Mexico. Not all of the buoys have full data tracking but there are enough that you can get the general picture of what has gone, or is going on in your area. Use this tool to makes notes about things that have occurred during the course of your fishing day when you get home. While on the water, you need only to make mental notes of the times and location of better feeding activity, then compare those times to the changes in conditions when you get home to locate the correlations. In time, you will inevitably uncover some interesting trends that will hopefully improve your future fishing.

Revisiting The Legacy’s Blue Marlin State Record

May 1st, 2015

legacybluemarlinrecord Revisiting The Legacys Blue Marlin State Record

Capt. Kevin Deerman and the crew of the Legacy celebrate their record breaking blue marlin caught during the 2014 Bastante John Uhr Memorial Billfish Tournament. The Rockport Aquarium plans to display a full body mount of this record breaking fish. The mount will be a permanent part of the Aquarium and the dedication ceremony will be held during this year’s Bastante Tournament.

legacybluemarlin1 Revisiting The Legacys Blue Marlin State Record

The crew of the Legacy prepares the marlin for the scales.

By Amanda Jenkins

On July 11, 2014, Kevin Deerman and his eight-man crew caught a blue marlin off the coast of Port Aransas that broke the Texas record,. Deerman, 50, of Galveston, was leading the crew in a 56’ Viking named “Legacy.” The crew included: George Gartner, the owner of the private boat, Michael Fitzpatrick, Ruben Ramos, Colin Ocker, Jeff Owen, Richard Richardson and Cameron Plaag.

The Legacy departed out of Port Aransas around 6 p.m., after waiting for some thunderstorms to pass.

“We were fishing the Bastante John UHR Memorial Billfish Tournament that we had registered for in Rockport the previous day,” says Deerman, “We ran about 130 miles out to the Hoover Diana Spar and started catching bait around 6 a.m.” After gathering a surplus of live tuna to attract the fish, the team started their journey around 6:45 a.m.

After the thunderstorms from the previous night passed through, the weather conditions were perfect for the day of the record catch. That morning was overcast, the water was calm, and there was no wind. The crew was only fishing for about 15 minutes after catching bait when they got the blue marlin to bite. “As soon as we had the fish situated in the cockpit we headed to the dock so we didn’t catch anything else other than bait,” says Deerman.

“We had the bite at 6:58 and it took another 40 minutes to get the fish in the boat before we could make the run back to the weigh station in Rockport,” explains Deerman. The team used their Shimano 130 Tiagra reels and Shimano 130 class rods to reel in the marlin. The line was 130 pounds IGFA Amilon.

It was truly a team effort and took the crew about 17 minutes to fight the marlin before they got her to the boat. Gartner, Fitzpatrick, Ramos and Ocker got the first gaff in the fish, and Owen was able to get a second gaff in. Richardson acted as the angler and “put a lot of heat on the fish,” the captain says. “At one point when the fish went down, he was as close to 60 pounds of drag.” Plaag was Deerman’s mate and wireman on the boat.

Once they got to the weigh station, the crew saw that they broke the record with an enormous 972.7 pounds (137.5” long) blue marlin.  The previous state record weighed 876.5 pounds and was caught on August 20, 1988 off the coast of South Padre Island.

The captain of the Legacy and his crew have many years of experience fishing. Deerman has been fishing in offshore waters most of his life and had his first captains job in 1986 when he received an offer to take a boat to the Bahamas. He has since spent about 15 years fishing in Mexico, Florida, Panama, Costa Rica and Texas. When he fishes for billfish in Texas it’s usually in tournaments.

Cameron Plaag or his father James Plaag always accompanies the captain on his fishing excursions.  “James spends more time on the bay than he does on land,” says Deerman, “I love any kind of fishing. When you catch a nice fish or a good number of species that you are targeting it’s all good, but my favorite fish to catch will always be the blue marlin!”

Trolling Without Outriggers

May 1st, 2015

No outriggers, no problem! Trolling without outriggers on a small boat is a great way to get into big fish. Troll these easy spread along weedlines, shrimp boats, color changes and structure this summer off the Texas coast. Simplify down to two or three lures depending on your crew and experience. Fewer lines are easier to manage for beginners. Mount release clips on reel seats or to your boat to change the angle of lines and prevent tangles. Rubber bands to cleats or reel handles will also work.


doradotrollingspread Trolling Without Outriggers

texasdorado Trolling Without OutriggersProven dorado colors are blue/white, pink/white and green/yellow. Change your spread to the colors they are hitting the hardest. Feather jigs, Ilanders, small Mold Crafts and C&H lures are excellent, inexpensive lures. Place bigger baits closer to the boat and smaller ones further back in your spread. To hungry dorado, your boat resembles fleeing bait and your lures are the crippled fish, easily picked off. Rig baits with 100-150# hard mono and 6/0 or 7/0 hooks. Use single strand or cable for ballyhoo baits around platforms and shrimp boats to prevent cutoffs from toothy fish.



texaskingKingfish are abundant in the Gulf and will strike baits with unbridled aggression and speed. Gold and silver Russelures are proven lures, as well as Rapala diving plugs, baited feather jigs and Mann’s Stretch Lures. Experiment with other colors like pink or chartreuse if the fish are not cooperating. Troll this spread right outside the jetties, around offshore platforms or near shrimp boats. Rig baits with 80-100# coffee colored single strand wire or crimped multistrand cable. Subdue kingfish before bringing them on board. A thrashing kingfish with a mouth of big treble hooks is no joke.

Texas State Record Bluefin Tuna Flashback

May 1st, 2015

txrecordbluefintuna1 Texas State Record Bluefin Tuna Flashback

Pictured from left to right: Capt. Joe Johnson, Neal Isaacs, Trina Isaacs and David Tubbs (not pictured, Steve Thompson)

It was May 1985, the weather was warming up and everyone was ready to go offshore fishing. The conditions weren’t ideal but a small window of good weather presented itself. A group of fishing buddies, Neal Isaacs, his wife Trina, David Tubbs, Joe Johnson and Steve Thompson, headed out to the canyon off South Padre Island. They had always had great luck this time of year – the marlin seemed bigger, and there was always the off chance of a bluefin tuna. They had no clue this was about to become a record-breaking day.

The fishing crew left at daybreak and started trolling once they were 60 miles out. One yellowfin and a couple of wahoo were caught early on – not exactly what they were looking for. They made the move further offshore into deeper water.

Around 1:00 p.m., a school of small tuna was spotted splashing less than a mile away. The crew trolled towards the commotion and the pink Mold Craft Wide Range on the starboard rigger went down HARD.  It was obvious this was a big fish. Trina jumped in the chair and Joe backed down on the tuna as it tore line off the reel. It managed to strip over 500 yards of line before they stopped her.

The huge tuna was brought up to the boat several times, only to dive back down on big runs. Finally, after an hour-long battle, they had their shot. Neal grabbed the leader, and they stuck her with a flyer. The gaff didn’t penetrate, but the rest of the crew was standing by! A calcutta cane gaff to the tail, followed by a knife-point flyer, did the trick. They slid on a tail rope and worked to get the beast in the boat.

Without a transom door, they struggled to get the football-shaped fish over the gunnels. Luckily, a nearby boat came to their aid and lent a come-along. Another hour later, the fish was finally on the deck. They headed back towards the Sea Ranch Marina, feeling on top of the world. Once on the scales, the bluefin weighed in at 808 pounds.  It was 8.5-feet-long, with an 88-inch girth and was easily a new Texas State record. It was a heck of a day of fishing in anyone’s book!

That record still stands today.

Story recounted by Capt. Brett Holden, friend of the family.

One Pan Tomato Basil Chicken

April 29th, 2015

tomatobasilchicken One Pan Tomato Basil Chicken

This easy recipe for Tomato Basil Chicken serves four hungry mariners.


  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 4 chicken breast fillets
  • 3 small ripe tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 tsp. sugar (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup basil leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup black olives
  • shaved parmesan or reggiano cheese


Heat the oil in a frying pan over medium high to high heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook for 4 minutes or until soft. Add the chicken and cook for 2 minutes on each side or until well browned. Add the tomatoes, wine, sugar, salt and pepper, and simmer over medium heat for 8 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Gently stir in the basil and olives. To serve, place the chicken on plates and top with the pan mixture. Serve with the shaved parmesan/reggiano.

Flower Garden Banks Wahoo

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.


galvestonwahoo Flower Garden Banks Wahoo

A winter wahoo, one of the fastest fish in the sea, about to come to a complete stop.

wahoodeck2 Flower Garden Banks Wahoo

The battle comes to an end. Ron McDowell watches his wahoo hit the deck.

A wahoo bares its teeth as the gaff moves into position. Skirted ballyhoo was a productive bait on this trip.

A wahoo bares its teeth as the gaff moves into position. Skirted ballyhoo was a productive bait on this trip.

Debbie Conway reels in an early morning wahoo at the Flower Garden Banks on Feb. 9, 2015. David Weiss Jr. waits with the gaff, deckhand Tatum Frey clears the cockpit while Ron McDowell observes the fight and Capt. Billy Wright maneuvers the boat.

Debbie Conway reels in an early morning wahoo at the Flower Garden Banks on Feb. 9, 2015. David Weiss Jr. waits with the gaff, deckhand Tatum Frey clears the cockpit while Ron McDowell observes the fight and Capt. Billy Wright maneuvers the boat.

A hefty wahoo ascends into the boat. This fish bit a dark colored Braid Marauder.

A hefty wahoo ascends into the boat. This fish bit a dark colored Braid Marauder.


Fishing Bull Tides & Spring Winds

February 26th, 2015

souleredfish Fishing Bull Tides & Spring Winds

Torrey Hawkins releases a 29-inch marsh red.

By Capt. Steve Soule

Spring on the upper Texas Coast brings the return of many things, sunshine and warming temperatures are what we tend to notice the most.

springmarshflies Fishing Bull Tides & Spring WindsAs 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.

The Bass Assassin Sea Shad in Slammin’ Chicken is a good springtime marsh bait. Purple is a common color in juvenile blue crabs.

The Bass Assassin Sea Shad in Slammin’ Chicken is a good springtime marsh bait. Purple is a common color in juvenile blue crabs.

The Norton Bull Minnow in Texas Roach is good for low visibility marsh water. Use 1/16-1/8 oz jigheads with these soft plastics.

The Norton Bull Minnow in Texas Roach is good for low visibility marsh water. Use 1/16-1/8 oz jigheads with these soft plastics.

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.

Wendell Breazele with a nice fly caught trout.

Wendell Breazele with a nice fly caught trout.

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.

Surfing Galveston

February 25th, 2015

john Surfing Galveston

John Callahan cruising down the line in Galveston, TX. Photo by Kelly Groce

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!

surfcamp Surfing GalvestonCan I take a surf lesson or join a surf camp?

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.


Photo by Kimmy Callahan

Photo by Kimmy Callahan

Where do I surf in Galveston?

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.

southernspearsWhere can I rent a surfboard?

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.

What size board do I use?

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.

What other equipment/gear do I need?

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

Fishing the Reefs of Galveston Bay

February 25th, 2015

travistrout Fishing the Reefs of Galveston Bay

Travis Haight with a seven-pound speck.

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.

taylorhuntertrout Fishing the Reefs of Galveston Bay

Taylor Hunter caught this five-pound trout while wadefishing.

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

Lou Nuffer with a bull red.

Lou Nuffer with a bull red.

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 art@baygroupmedia.com

Ask the Rigger: Sailboat Rigging Questions

February 25th, 2015

alexcrowell Ask the Rigger: Sailboat Rigging Questions

By Alex Crowell

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.

Sea Turtles Released Back into Gulf

February 24th, 2015

turtle Sea Turtles Released Back into Gulf

turtletime Sea Turtles Released Back into GulfThe 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


The Galley: Skillet Mexican Chicken Casserole

February 24th, 2015

chickenskillet The Galley: Skillet Mexican Chicken Casserole

Recipe by Betha Merit. Serves four.


  • 4 teaspoons oil or butter
  • 6 tablespoons sour cream or plain Greek yoghurt
  • 1 cup shredded cheese, Mexican blend
  • 1 large can mushrooms, drained
  • 1 (16-ounce) jar of salsa or Ro*Tel®
  • 2 cups cooked rice
  • 1/2 of a (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 (12-ounce) can of chicken, drained
  • Spices to taste (cumin, cilantro, garlic, chili powder, cayenne)


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.

Deep Drop Techniques for Grouper and Tilefish

February 1st, 2015

chelholden Deep Drop Techniques for Grouper and Tilefish

Chelsey Holden and a very colorful tilefish.

captholdengrouper Deep Drop Techniques for Grouper and Tilefish

Capt. Brett Holden with a real nice yellowedge grouper.

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.


Capt. Matt Reed, left, and Capt. Jeff Wilson with a warsaw grouper.

Species of the Deep

Mike Parsons with the new Texas state record tilefish. 43 inches and 33.08 pounds.

Mike Parsons with the new Texas state record tilefish. 43 inches and 33.08 pounds.

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.

'Bubba' with a longtail sea bass.

‘Bubba’ with a longtail sea bass.

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.

Capt. Jeff Wilson and Mike Parsons with a trio of barrelfish.

Capt. Jeff Wilson and Mike Parsons with a trio of barrelfish.

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.

Other Species

Josh Graves carefully holds up a scorpionfish.

Josh Graves carefully holds up a scorpionfish.

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.

Spiny Dogfish

Spiny Dogfish

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.

Triple deep drop leader with LP circle hooks.

Triple deep drop leader with LP circle hooks.


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.


Cannonball weights and lead stick.

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.


Reel Crankie in action.

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.

What Bait?

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.

Preparing Your Catch

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.

Connor Weigelt holds up a beautiful colored tilefish.Go Get Them

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. 

Five Lures for Fishing the Lights

January 30th, 2015

greenlights Five Lures for Fishing the Lights

troutstringer Five Lures for Fishing the LightsFive Trout and Redfish Lures for Fishing the Lights

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.


Rapala® Husky Jerk 

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.


MirrOlure® MirrOdine

The darting, side-to-side motion of the MirrOdinemimics a wounded baitfish and presents an easy meal to nighttime trout and reds. Quickly twitch retrieve this bait to aggressively feeding fish.


Yo-Zuri® 3DS Minnow

Yo-Zuri has taken its years of experience and technological research and created a formidable weapon for anglers targeting inshore gamefish. The 3DS Minnowis 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.


Rat-L-Trap® Tiny Trap

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.


“Speck” Rigs

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.


How to Select Fresh Oysters (with recipes)

December 30th, 2014

oysterfry How to Select Fresh Oysters (with recipes)

See recipes for fried oysters below.

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.

Cleaning and Shucking

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!

Oyster Recipes



  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup finely chopped sweet onion
  • 2 celery ribs, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 quart shucked oysters, do NOT drain
  • 1/4 cup flour, dissolved in 1/4 cup very hot water
  • 1 quart half-and-half, can use fat-free
  • 1 teaspoon salt, to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon tarragon
  • 1/2 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika or cayenne pepper


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.



  • 12 oysters, freshly shucked
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 tablespoons Hot Sauce
  • 1 cup panko, (Japanese breadcrumbs)
  • 2 cups peanut oil, or canola oil
  • kosher salt


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

  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise, best quality
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice, from one lime
  • 2-3 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce (canned), roughly chopped, plus 1-2 teaspoons sauce (more or less, depending on taste for spicy)
  • 1 large garlic clove, roughly chopped

Combine the mayonnaise, lime juice, chipotle chiles with sauce and garlic in a blender or mini food processor and blend until smooth.

Sea Scout Base Galveston

December 30th, 2014

buildingoutside Sea Scout Base Galveston

Base brings a love of sailing to Galveston Island through unique maritime and educational programs

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.

Sea Scout Base Galveston 5 Sea Scout Base GalvestonAdaptive 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.

How to be a Good Skipper

December 30th, 2014

goodskipper How to be a Good Skipper

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.

Be technically proficient

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.

Be a good leader

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.

Be organized

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.

Foster a relaxed and fun environment

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.

Be safe

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.

Hanse 415 Review

December 30th, 2014

hanse415 reaching9603v2 Hanse 415 Review

German built Hanse 415 features sleek, streamlined styling

By Jon N. Jones

hanse415 salon looking fwd 108v2 Hanse 415 ReviewLast 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.

hanse415_salon looking aft_145v2The 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.