June 11 – 20, 2018
Clear Lake & Galveston Bay
January 30th, 2018
January 26th, 2018
We encourage anyone and everyone with a wooden boat to bring your craft to be displayed at the Port Aransas Wooden Boat Festival. Lots of activities are planned so bring the whole family for a weekend in Port A. Just show up any time from Friday noon on to register your boat. See you there!
Would you or your family like to build a boat with expert supervision along with several other families? If so, sign up now for the Family Boatbuilding event at the Port Aransas plyWooden Boat Festival. Sign up HERE
January 11th, 2018
The Houston Yacht Club’s Women’s Sailing Association is now accepting applications for their 2018 Windward Bound Sailing Camp for Women, which will be held June 6-9 at the Houston Yacht Club. The overnight camp is open to all women who are 21 years or older.
Windward Bound Sailing Camp is a great opportunity to learn, expand, or enhance your knowledge and skills in sailing. This camp is the only program of its kind on the bay. It is all about women teaching women how to sail in a fun, friendly, and safe environment. The camp will help you gain new confidence, new skills, and new friends; and is for those new to sailing, those who are familiar with the sport but want to expand their knowledge and skills, and for the experienced sailor who wants to race competitively.
The format of the camp is residential, concentrated, and objective-oriented and features small group instruction with individualized attention. The counselors are accomplished women sailors with years of experience in cruising, racing and teaching other women to sail.
The camp is broken down into four categories to include:
Waves (Beginners): Great for first-time sailors or those of you that need a refresher on the basics! We will focus on terminology, rigging, boat handling skills, sailing theory, and becoming comfortable and confident on the water. Our enthusiastic instructors guide sailors through hands on lessons and adventures making time on the water enjoyable and safe.
Flamingos (Intermediate): After mastering the basics of sailing, our Flamingo group will continue to sharpen their rigging, boat handling and terminology skills. In addition to becoming more comfortable with your beginner knowledge, you will also be introduced to detailed lessons on wind and waves and how they relate to your boat. Intermediate sailing is taught with a greater emphasis on the sailor’s self-reliance; we expect that once the course is completed, the sailor can rig, launch, sail out and back, without assistance and with confidence and efficiency.
Nautigirls (Advanced): Experienced sailors will learn to sharpen their sailing skills. Lesson will be given on fine tuning a boat for speed, skippering, spinnakers, and racing. This group of sailors will perform drills that will enhance their understanding of boat speed and small boat racing.
Mermaids (Big Boat): Sailors in this group will discover all things related to big boats! We will teach the basics of sailing but will also cover details of crewing on or owning a large boat (30+ feet) – everything from working the head to steering with a wheel versus a tiller and maneuvering in and out of the dock. All skill levels are welcome.
Open to HYC members and non-members but numbers are limited. Registration deadline is May 1, 2018.
The cost for camp is $500 for HYC members and $650 for non-HYC members. Camp costs cover room and board, camp shirt, instruction, boat usage and banquet.
Experience the freedom and camaraderie of women’s sailing. For more information, contact one of our co-directors: Joanne Humphries, email@example.com or Martha Gillett at firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also contact the HYC office at 281-471- 1255. To download the Windward Bound Camp application, please visit us online at http://houstonyachtclub.com/Portals/0/News/wwb_app_18.pdf.
January 10th, 2018
January 10th, 2018
January 10th, 2018
January 10th, 2018
January 8th, 2018
January 8th, 2018
July 12-14, 2018 at Jackie’s Brickhouse
January 3rd, 2018
January 1st, 2018
January 1st, 2018
January 1st, 2018
By Kelly Groce
Thanks for doing this interview with us, Hunter. Tell our readers about your self and how you got started building fishing rods.
My Name is Hunter Welch, growing up in East Texas, I have always had a passion for fishing. My twin brother and I grew up fishing at a private pond for most of our childhood and occasionally some lakes. As I became a teenager I began to wade fish at Rollover Pass in Bolivar, Texas. It was actually my now father-in-law that got me started. I fell in love with saltwater fishing and learning the different techniques that is required to catch fish; including how to choose the perfect fishing rod. After my wife, Liz, graduated from UT Tyler, we moved from east Texas and settled down in Bayou Vista. It was there that I began to build rods as a hobby.
When did you start FishStix and why?
When I had the idea for FishStix, I hit the ground running. I built several rods without a label or even a “brand.” I started concentrating on creating a name that was catchy, and I thought of “FishStix.” From that day the label was there, the logo was there, and all I had to do was push the brand. Almost 4 years ago, I legally filed FishStix as a business. In the beginning, FishStix was a part time job/hobby. At the time I was going to school, and I was a stay at home dad to my 2 small children. My first time to sell rods to the public was at Bay City on the Square which is where businesses set up tents and sell their items once a month. I first attended with 6 FishStix rods and sold 3 of them. The next month I sold 3 more. I attended Bay City on the Square every month for a year until finally I attended the Houston Fishing Show in March 2015. It was then that we were able to sell a lot of rods and visit with a lot of people. In the beginning, I never thought of myself as a salesman and I certainly never thought of FishStix as “the premier rod.” As months turned into years, being a salesman and selling the rods is what I enjoy most. I love to hear customers’ expressions when they feel how light and durable the rods are. I love to hear their stories of all the catches that they had, and to see them comeback and shop with us as a repeat customer. I tried to start my business on the very basic principles of trust, respect, and honor.
I have always dreamed big, so as time went on FishStix became a never-ending goal. Today my goal is to sell more rods this month than I did this time last year, talk to more people this month than I did this time last year, watch people enjoy our products, and to eventually have a FishStix in every household across the USA. Like I said, “dream big”.
Starting out, I never thought that I would be doing an interview for a very popular magazine like Gulf Coast Mariner, but by the grace of God, and our great customers, we are able to stay relevant and we are able to keep providing the best customer service and the best fishing rods on the market today.
What makes FishStix rods unique?
FishStix rods are hatched and spawned in Galveston County. Every rod that I build is in Hitchcock, Texas. FishStix is unique because it is truly a grass roots business that started from ground zero and we are working our way to the top one rod and one customer at a time.
Our rods are unique because of their loud colors, their durability, their comfort, their performance, and customer service. If you’ve ever seen our rods the first thing you notice is the colors. We pride ourselves on going outside the box when designing the rods. We custom paint the rod blanks and have even hydro dipped custom patterns on the rod blanks. Our saying here at FishStix is “FishStix is the lightest in their class and the brightest in their class!” We use and have even led the way when it comes to using neon colored thread wraps on custom fishing rods.
FishStix rods are durable because of the quality rod blanks that we use in all of our models. Our rod blanks offer the sensitivity to feel every bite, and have added strength for brute lifting power. We use only the best components for added durability. I take pride in our micro guide technology. The micro guides that we use are insert free so that you can fish all day knowing that your insert will not crack, chip, or cut your line.
FishStix Rods are comfortable because of their weight. Depending on the rod model you use, most rods weigh between 2 and 3 ounces. They are lightweight because the micro guides that we use are 83 percent lighter than standard guides. FishStix are also lighter because of the split grips and the split reel seats that we put on all of our rods. I’ve had hundreds of people telling me how using our rods have made them be able to enjoy fishing longer without hurting afterwards because the rod is so light weight.
The FishStix out performs other rods because of the micro guide technology that we use. With the micro guides you will achieve further casting distance with less backlash and less wind knots. We also have built on measurement marks for you to measure your fish by holding it up to your rod so you don’t have to worry if a fish is legal or not. The sensitivity of our rods is what really sets our rods apart from the competition. Because of the micro guide technology, we are able to keep a lot of weight off of the blank which makes the rod more sensitive. The split reel seats are as good looking as they are functional with casting and spinning models up to 54% lighter than conventional reel seats. These seats allow full contact with the rod blank and maximum blank exposure for the ultimate in sensitivity and control.
Lastly, we are unique because when you buy one of our rods, instead of helping out a giant corporation you are actually supporting a family and children that rely on it. You are helping a community, local schools and local clubs that we donate time and effort to.
Which FishStix rod is best for catching trout, flounder, redfish, etc?
We build a variety of rods and most people prefer different rods for different types of fishing. I consider our rods to be situational rods. Most people don’t always pick a rod for what types of fish that they want to catch but rather, they pick a rod based on what types of baits they want to throw efficiently. For example, I recommend our 7’ M/L to anyone that throws tails only. I recommend the 6’6” M/L to anyone who wade fishes and throws artificial lures. I recommend the 7’ Medium or the 6’6” Medium to anyone who wants to have an all-around rod to throw most any bait that can be thrown in the bays or lakes. I recommend our 7’ M/H to anyone that wants to throw heavy spoons and popping corks.
When I am fishing for trout I fish with tails and always use the 6’6 M/L because of its lightweight and durability. When I am fishing for flounder I use the 6’6” Medium because of its backbone and sensitivity. I like plenty of backbone in the rod whenever I am flounder fishing so that I can set the hook through the flounder’s face which is made predominantly of bone. I like to use my “DrumStix” when I am fishing for redfish. The DrumStix is a 7’ Medium Heavy rod that I use to throw popping corks. All of the big fish that I catch offshore or at the jetties are caught on our all-around big fish rod known as the “MVP” (Most Valuable Pole).
Do you make custom rods? If so, how can someone get a hold of you to start that process?
We make custom rods to best fit your style, your feel, and your budget. I take pride in asking questions to best understand your needs for your next rod. We custom fit each rod to the specific person who is buying that rod. Whenever you get ready for your custom rod you can call, email or leave a message on our website.
Where can our readers purchase a FishStix rod?
You can purchase a rod from our website, you can come by our shop in Hitchcock (by appointment only), or you can see us at any of the major tradeshows in your area. We do have several retail stores that carry our products. Please feel free to call or message us and we will make sure we can send you to the closest location that best suits your needs.
Does FishStix host any tournaments?
We host the “Who’s Your Flattie Daddy?” Flounder Fishing Tournament every year in October. This past year and for many years to come we have teamed with Coastal Brigades to raise money for their kids’ camp that they host every year in the summer time. Our tournament is the largest flounder tournament on the Gulf Coast. This past year we gave away a Dargel boat at theweigh-in and over $13,000 in prize money. You can find out more about our tournament on our website.
What can we expect to see from FishStix in the near future?
In the future for FishStix you will see us more often at tradeshows nationwide. You will find us in more stores closer to you, and you will see more options from us that push the limits of where any fishing rod has ever gone before. Stay tuned!
January 1st, 2018
Starship Marina and Boatyard features a 75 metric ton Marine Travel Lift to accommodate large boats.
We provide environmentally clean facilities, protecting our Texas coastal and inland waters from pollution. We make it easy so you can spend more time enjoying your boat.
Located on the channel between Clear Lake & Galveston Bay- we are just 1/4 mile from the Kemah Boardwalk on FM 2094.
Call 281-334-2121 or visit www.starshipmarina.com
1206 FM 2094 Clear Lake Shores, TX 77565
January 1st, 2018
Interview by Brandon Rowan
I was born is Cypress, Texas. We moved to Chappell Hill when I was four years old. I grew up there and went to Brenham High School. We grew up fishing ponds, the New Year’s Creek and the Brazos River. Eventually, we graduated to fishing Lake Conroe, Fayette, and Gibbons Creek before I got bit by the “saltwater bug.”
Like many people, I had an extreme love for fishing. Since I pond hopped all the time, I loved to fish for bass. This inspired me to make my first lure when I was 12 years old. I cut about 3 inches off my mom’s wooden broom handle and carved a cup out of one end to make a “popper lure.” Then I grabbed an old Heddon Torpedo, took the screw-in eyelet off the nose and screwed it into the nose of my bait. The hooks were removed from the old Torpedo, and I screwed those into the bottom of my lure. I did not paint the plug; I just tied it on and went fishing. A two-pound bass was caught that afternoon on it.
Since we bass fished big lakes like Conroe, we threw a lot of Carolina rigged sickle tailed baits in deep water. We loved the way the bait swam down off the ledges when we dragged them over humps and creek beds. We were firm believers that fish ate the bait when it was falling, more often than not. Well, fast forward about 15 years and I found a love for saltwater fishing. I noticed that most of the paddle tails and tout tails did not swim on the fall like our bass worms did. After that, I began to tinker with other plastic baits, modifying them to have action while falling. It just grew from there. More and more friends were asking me to make them baits. After that I cut my own mold design. It has grown into the Down South Lure that you see today.
One of the biggest challenges in the lure industry is that you have to prove that your bait is different and has a place in peoples’ tackle boxes. The only way you can do that is by fishing with it, and getting it into the hands of reputable fishermen. Once they see that the bait has merit, they will begin to purchase your lure. It’s very hard to get fisherman to switch from something they have been throwing successfully for years.
Another surprise to me was that it was extremely hard to get shelf space. Going into it, I figured that if I had a good product with professional packaging, I would be granted pegs. That’s not the case at all. People have to ask for your products over and over. Then you can get a spot on the wall in a tackle shop.
I’m pretty simple. I like a 1/4 oz. or 1/8 oz. 3/0 jighead rigged with either the original Southern Shad or the Super Model XL. I throw various colors, depending on the water clarity. If I had to pick one color for all clarity it would be Chicken of the C.
I like to go with as light a jighead as possible considering the conditions. If it is windy, or the current is moving pretty good you may have to use a little heavier jighead. If you notice that your lure is not getting down to the bottom, and there is a big bow in your slack line, you need to go heavier. My personal favorite “big fish” colors are Red Shad, True Plum, Key Lime, and Howell’s Strawberry Wine.
Retrieves can vary with the conditions as well. My personal all-around favorite is to let the bait sink to the bottom and then retrieve with a twitch, twitch, pause cadence. I think fish are more reactionary feeders, and that they do not over think when feeding. That’s how they have survived this long. The twitch, twitch, pause resembles a classic “two hop” shrimp escape. Though my bait more resembles a fish swimming, or an eel escaping to the bottom, I always think that the most natural movements get the most strikes. You will notice that most of your bites will be when this bait is falling.
I have a bunch that stick out, but probably my favorite was when I was when I located some big trout while prefishing for a redfish tournament in Galveston. I was throwing my baits against a stretch of rocky shoreline. There was a lot of bait activity on that particular rock line point, so I fired my Chicken of the C in there and caught a 5 pounder. The next cast was another solid 5 pounder. I just eased away and told myself, “I’m bringing my girlfriend here first thing in the morning.”
We got up early, and I told her I was not going to fish, just run the trolling motor. We eased up to the point and she caught 3 fish very quickly to 4 pounds on a pink MirrOlure She Dog (She loves topwater and the conditions were perfect for it.) As we approached to honey hole, I told her to cast right by that one larger rock that had a wash out behind it. She gave it a perfect cast, and within 6 twitches she had a major explosion. It ended up being her largest trout ever measuring 28.5 inches. She said, let’s quit on that cast, but I wanted a flounder for lunch. We agreed to try for 15 minutes pitching around some rocks in a spot where I have caught them before. It was only 50 yards away from the trout spot. Within 5 minutes I had the solid thump of a flounder right by the boat on my Chicken of the C lure. I set the hook, and all hell broke loose. It was a big red! I told my girlfriend to get the net because I saw how many spots it had on its side. It was absolutely covered. I told her whatever you do, do not miss this fish! I’ll never hook one like this again. She got it on the first swipe. It measured 31.5 inches and had 144 spots on it. I took close up photos of both sides of the fish, and released the beauty for someone else to catch. We never made another cast that morning. I racked the trolling motor up and we headed back to the dock. The moral of the story is, I’ve had better days with numbers of fish, but we both broke personal records that day.
If I had to pick one bay system in Texas, it would be Port Mansfield. The vast grass flats are just too appealing. The deep reefs and rocks of Galveston are a close second in the state. Poling for permit in the Florida Keys is my favorite out of state adventure.
When I’m not fishing, I like to hang out with friends, watch football, and BBQ while enjoying a cold beverage. We enjoy going deer hunting when we get a chance as well. Recently, I have become more intrigued with deer hunting, so my tournament partner and I have secured a deer lease in south Texas for next year.
Yes, always be on the lookout for new and innovating products and colors that we are working on releasing. Give us a follow on Facebook and Instagram to see all the updates. We post everything up there, and feature exceptional catches on our page. As always, we will have a booth at the Houston Boat Show in January, The All Valley Boat Show in McAllen in February, and The Houston Fishing Show in March. We always have our lures and apparel on special at these shows, so come by and get a deal. In addition, we will be doing some raffles and drawings for people that stop by at these shows. As always, you can shop all of our products at www.downsouthlures.com. See you guys soon and tight lines.
January 1st, 2018
By Capt. Joe Kent
Fall fishing in the Galveston Bay Complex has been undergoing changes for several years now. The biggest factor contributing to the changes has been the warmer weather over this period of time.
Likely, the most noticeable change has been in the late migration of flounder. Another area that has evidenced this change is trout action in the upper bays.
For fall fishing patterns to get into full swing, the water temperature needs to fall below 70 degrees. Each year, September is looked upon as being a transition month, when at some point during the month our first cold front of the season crosses the Texas Coast. Most years we would see ambient temperatures fall into the upper 40s and lower 50s for a short period of time; however, it would be long enough to send signals to fish to get moving.
In recent years, water temperatures have barely fallen below 80 degrees in September, which continues the summertime mentality in fish. This year it was well into October before the Galveston Bay Complex got into the low 70s.
By October, flounder should start showing signs of movement and trout action in Trinity and other bays would pick up. Bird action has been one of the traits of October, as seagulls would work the bays feeding upon shrimp driven to the surface by schools of feeding fish, usually speckled trout.
A number of anglers sent notes or called in expressing concern over the lack of activity on specks and flounder. Now, while there were those concerns over two of the big three, reds continued to offer excellent action. September is usually prime time for reds around the jetties and in the surf and 2017 was no exception. In fact bull and slot reds saved the day for fishermen during September and October.
We just have not had the strong cold fronts to hit until after October. Until a few make their way here, fall fishing patterns will not get into full swing.
A good example of how the weather patterns have changed and affected fishing was in the new flounder regulations that came out several years ago. Known as the Special November Rules which limit the bag limit on flounder to two fish and prohibit gigging for flounder, they applied only to the month of November.
Early on, it was noted that the annual flounder migration, for which the rules were designed to protect, continued well into December. When written, the flounder run usually peaked around Thanksgiving and was followed by a steady decline of fish moving out of the bays.
Soon, the rules were extended to mid-December, as the migration continued well into December. Interestingly, the Special November Rule prohibiting taking flounder by gigging ended December 1 but the two-fish limit continued.
One of the most experienced Galveston area flounder guides, a long time fisherman who has been keeping logs on flounder for decades, always said that the peak of the flounder run occurred between the Full Moons of October and November. A few years ago, he revised his observation and pushed it forward due to the warmer weather. Now the peak is between the Full Moons of November and December.
While the flounder run is the most obvious change, speck action follows close behind, as now we are seeing the fall pattern start in November and run well into December or early January.
January 2018 should be an interesting month for fishing if we do not have any significant freezes beforehand. While most flounder will have migrated each year there will remain a number of flounder that decide to stay in the bays. The key is food. If bait is available, we will see them hang around until enough marsh emptying northers blow through to send the small fin fish and crustaceans to deeper waters.
At that time, trout will be starting their winter patterns.
January 1st, 2018
By Capt. David C. Dillman
Spec-tacular Trout Adventures | 832-228-8012
I can’t tell you how many times lately I have heard the phrase: “ I will be glad when this year is over.” For all of us that live on the coast of Texas, this is so true. South Texas coastal residents are still dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. Here on the Upper Coast, the destruction left by the flood waters from Tropical Storm Harvey is still daunting. What has become a normal routine is still not “normal” for a lot of us that reside on the coast of Texas.
What is normal? The first two weeks of January is the annual Houston Boat, Sport and Travel Show. In its 63rd year, the show begins January 5, 2018 and runs through January 14. It is the largest indoor show of its type on the Gulf Coast. It features something for everyone that attends. I will be at the Eagle Point Fishing Camp booth during the show. While you are there, please stop by and say hello!
January/February is the time to get your boat ready for the upcoming season. Before one knows it, springtime on the Upper Coast will be here. You should perform all your required maintenance on the boat and engine. If it needs to go to a repair facility, don’t hesitate. They get busy and the earlier you get it in, the better chance it will be ready by March. If you are mechanically inclined, order all your parts now. They can become scarce during high demand times.
On the fishing scene, the trout population is really good. However, there is a noted decrease in the overall size. TP&W has deemed the trout fishery is good and recommended no changes in the current bag limits this coming year.
The catches of redfish have been “off the chart.” Redfish have been plentiful throughout our bay system, along with sheepshead and black drum.
This January/February, fishing should continue to be good, before and after cold fronts. The Northwest reaches and the West side of Galveston Bay will offer your best opportunity for speckled trout and redfish. As the sun rises and sets, this side of the bay receives the most sunlight. The water remains a tad bit warmer than other areas of the bay, thus holding the fish. Also, during passages of cold fronts, the adjacent water is deeper and offers protection to the fish. Eagle Point up to the Seabrook Flats, Sylvan Beach, Tabbs, Burnett and Scott Bays will be the places to fish. West Galveston Bay will also see its fair share of fish.
Live shrimp this time of year will be in short supply. Few, if any bait camps will have some, much less even be open. You can always call Eagle Point Fishing Camp to check on their bait supply. Usually, they hold live shrimp all year. Hopefully we will have a “mild” winter, and avoid a major freeze!
January 1st, 2018
By Betha Merit
Houston, we had snow! And what a year it was. We started with hosting the Super Bowl, went on to survive Hurricane Harvey, won the World Series and then had snow that delighted hearts with our winter wonderland morning after. Bottom line for this column is that we got to enjoy some cold weather. And now we need some warming up.
There are a great variety of hot drinks to be enjoyed, and a touch of hooch make them especially fun to be shared with friends or when entertaining. One of my favorites is heating up eggnog and sprinkling with nutmeg then adding a shot of whiskey or rum. Many hot drink recipes can be made without the alcohol if you have minors in the crowd.
My friends know me for cooking healthy, simple one pot dinners, a lot. They are easy, filling, feel warm in the hands while eating, and have been dubbed as, “pure sustenance.” The basic recipe is to brown a pound of ground meat (chicken, turkey, beef, bison, lamb, etc.), add spices and herbs to the browning with a dollop of olive oil. Then cut up and toss any veggies from the fridge into the pot, or add bags of frozen veggies from the freezer. Additional items might be quinoa, wild rice, potatoes or sweet potatoes. These last additions may be pre-cooked or added raw to the browned meat and veggies; you just adjust the water amount for what you add. If pre-cooked, you may add the veggies and any of the extras with a few tablespoons of water and cover with a lid.
In a large skillet sized pan, drizzle olive oil as pan heats. Brown bison, onion and garlic on medium to high heat until crumbly. Add herbs and spices and optional tomato paste. When blended, lower to medium heat and move the meat to the edges of the pan to form a circle with an open middle, add the squash and frozen kale to the pan, pouring the liquid over the top and covering with a lid. After about 20 minutes of good simmering, add the cooked rice and stir everything together. Cook another few minutes, adding liquid if needed. Salt and pepper to taste.
Add tequila and hot chocolate to a glass. Garnish with a hearty dollop of whipped cream and a dash of chili powder.
Fill a mug with boiling water and let stand to heat up. Meanwhile stick the cloves in the lemon wheel. Now empty the mug and fill just over half way with fresh boiling water. Add the brown sugar, stirring to dissolve. Add the lemon wheel and stir. Now add the lemon juice and scotch and stir once more. May remove the lemon wheel and attach to side of mug.
January 1st, 2018
West Marine in Kemah hosted Ladies’ Night in the Rig Shop, and a benefit for Judy’s Mission Ovarian Cancer Foundation on Thursday, Nov. 9. It was an evening filled with education, fund-raising and good times to empower women to be confident boaters, to connect ladies with a shared passion of being on the water and to educate them (along with their first officers who attended) about early symptoms of ovarian cancer.
Judy’s Mission Ovarian Cancer Foundation was created in 2010 to honor Judith (Judy) Liebenthal Robinson, Ph.D., a NASA scientist and avid sailor at Lakewood Yacht Club. Despite habitual exercise, a consistently healthy diet, and regular medical examinations, Judy was diagnosed with advanced stage ovarian cancer and died within a year. While battling ovarian cancer, it was Judy’s mission to raise awareness about the vague symptoms and ineffective screening procedures associated with ovarian cancer. She inspired all who knew her; and as a result, friends (many from Lakewood Yacht Club) came together to create the Judy’s Mission Ovarian Cancer Foundation a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.
Along with lots of food, and spirits provided by cosponsor Railean Distillery of San Leon, West Marine Rigging associates Suzanne Kutach and Randi Miller taught knot tying and dock-line instruction, while Rigging associate Josh Gray (with his wife Angie) spiced up the evening in ‘Pirate’ regalia.
With ‘Rigging Solutions’ donated by the West Marine Rig Shop (Tide-Minder Soft Shackles, Dyneema Cleat- Extender Loops and Shackles, and Sailboat Rigging Inspections), as well as donations from the 2017 Harvest Moon Regatta, $1,255 was raised in silent auction for Judy’s Mission Ovarian Cancer Foundation.
“Although Ladies’ Night was our first event of its kind,” said West Marine Rig Shop Manager Franklin Viola, “The overwhelming enthusiasm and support by local lady sailors will certainly not make it the last!”
January 1st, 2018
By Janice Van Dyke Walden
For years, scientists have reported on the extent of plastic pollution in far-off places of the world. But a new effort is revealing just how extensive “plastic soup” is in the Gulf of Mexico. In the first citizen-scientist effort to document the extent of microplastic pollution in the Gulf of Mexico, volunteers and scientists are finding that these permanent fragments are in nearly every sample they take.
The low-level collection method of dipping one-liter water bottles and collecting sediment in one-gallon bags is also showing that microplastics are just as extensive in urban areas as they are in remote locations of the Gulf.
Most microplastics are created when sunlight or wave action breaks down larger pieces of plastic debris into tiny, even microscopic bits. Colorful and abundant, they enter the marine system as fragments, film, fiber and microbeads. Lifted in the air, washed from our landfills, or drained from our sinks and washing machines, they end up in our oceans for thousands of years where marine life ingest or adhere to it.
Through a microscope, Theresa Morris has observed baby shells living among microplastics and algae living in Styrofoam. As a citizen-scientist coordinator based in Galveston with the Turtle Island Restoration Network, she’s one of the scientists involved in creating a more complete picture about the extent of microplastics in the Gulf of Mexico. “The research is so new, we don’t know how bad it is,” she admits. Although Morris and volunteers have analyzed just a few samples on Galveston’s beach, she’s convinced that more investigation needs to be done with funding behind it. Each sample she’s examined contains some form of microplastic.
In the course of her PhD thesis, Caitlin Wessel has seen microplastics in hundreds of samples she’s collected, from the Texas-Mexico border to the Florida Keys. As she finishes her doctorate, Wessel works as the Gulf of Mexico Regional Coordinator for NOAA’s Marine Debris Program based in Mobile, Alabama. Her two years of degree work collecting samples from water, beach sand and coastal shelf material show just how prevalent tiny bits of plastic are, even in the most unlikely locations.
Wessel got curious about microplastics four years ago during a moment offshore Louisiana. While helping a fellow grad student off Louisiana’s uninhabited Chandeleur Islands, Wessel found herself picking bits of plastic out of seagrass cores. It’s not what she expected to find 30 miles offshore at the nation’s second oldest National Wildlife Refuge. “That got me thinking,” Wessel recalls. “This is supposed to be a pristine habitat, but there’s all this trash out here.”
Around that same time, Dr. Maia Patterson McGuire started wondering if microbeads were present in the ecosystem she works in. Found in toothpaste and exfoliate healthcare products, the tiny beads of plastic rinse off, go down the drain and into the stream chain. Because they are so tiny, most wastewater treatment facilities pass microbeads. When McGuire, a University of Florida Marine Biologist, began her citizen-science investigation in 2015, there was no law forbidding the production of microbeads, and not very much was known about their impact on marine life. With a grant from NOAA, McGuire trained and equipped 16 partner organizations that organized 130 volunteers to collect water samples along the entire coast of Florida. McGuire was looking for the tiny microbeads. Instead, she found a different, more prevalent plastic: plasticized fiber, the kind used in synthetic clothing and other products.
“It could be nylon, it could be acrylic, it could be polyester, it could be the plant-based plastics like rayon or a polymer that is made from cellulose, but still a plasticized product,” says McGuire. Without access to more precise equipment, “we can’t tell just what kind of fiber it is,” she says. But what she does know is that the fiber is manmade, it’s widespread, and it’s not going away. “There seems to be an equal-opportunity of finding plastics in water samples regardless of where they are collected.”
Erik Sparks agrees. At Mississippi State University, he is the collection point for all the samples taken in this citizen-scientist project. Working with Morris, Wessel, McGuire and other partners along the Gulf Coast, he’s seen the results of hundreds of samples, from Corpus Christi, Texas to the Florida Keys. In the two years of data reporting, Sparks is finding that “at least 90% of the microplastics have been fibers. By far, the most abundant microplastics are microfibers that come off of polyester clothing.”
With only so much land on earth to produce cotton and wool, polyester fiber is filling the gap, clothing a world population expected to exceed 9 billion people by 2050. As the population soars, so does polyester production. In the last 20 years, polyester production increased five times to 50 million tons per year. In the next 8 years, it’s expected to nearly double to an all time high.
That’s not good news for the Gulf of Mexico where oysters and other bivalves live and ingest the “plastic soup”. When they filter microplastic-infused water, plastic can stay lodged in bivalve tissue. No one knows for how long. Of the oysters that Caitlin Wessel found in Mobile Bay, 25% contained 3 to 5 bits of microplastic. Beyond its disturbing presence in tissue, microplastics are also known to interfere with the reproductive and offspring performance of oysters. A study published by the National Academy of Sciences in March 2016 explains that Pacific oysters exposed for two months to polystyrene microspheres (micro-PS) experienced decreases in diameter, oocyte number and sperm velocity.
And, microplastics’ adverse interaction is not limited to oysters. It appears to affect all levels of aquatic life. A 2017 report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations shows that in lab results dating to 1991, aquatic organisms experienced at least one impact through interaction with microplastics. The impacts range up the aquatic food chain from adherence in algae to liver toxicity in fish.
That kind of exposure may affect humans. “As plastics break down, they leach toxins that are very bad for you,” says Morris, “Like PBCs. They’re carcinogenic. They cause mutations in fetuses. They also cause a lot of physiological complications in your endocrine system. Fish eat them, and so, when you eat fish,” she explains, “you are eating meat that has had these plastic toxins leached into the meat. The research is so new; we don’t know if this is what is causing people to come down with cancer.”
Given the recent spotlight on microplastics in the media, there’s still no ceasing the trend of more people on earth. So, the demand for plastic will be there where natural resources are spare. Which means, microplastics will be in the Gulf of Mexico a long, long time. “There’s no feasible way to remove microplastics from the water without basically removing every piece of life from the water,” says McGuire. And, if that were to happen, we’d no longer have an ocean.
McGuire used her citizen-scientist investigation to form the Florida Microplastic Awareness Project. Each volunteer takes a pledge. You can, too.
Find it at www.plasticaware.org.