Boaters for Life – Kevin Ruszkowski and Family

March 3rd, 2014

reelcrazy Boaters for Life   Kevin Ruszkowski and Family

The Ruszkowski clan, Kyle, Kevin, Cole and Stacey aboard ‘Reel Crazy’ their Grady-White 360 Express.

There’s no better place to be for the
Ruszkowski family than on the water

By Rod Evans

While Bay Oaks resident Kevin Ruszkowski may spend the bulk of the work week sitting behind a desk in a suit and tie, his mind never strays far from the water.

To say that Ruszkowski, 49, is a boating aficionado is like saying Eric Clapton is a pretty good guitar player. For as long as the married father of two boys can remember, fishing, and boating in general, have been the dominant pursuits in his life.

“We even lived on a boat in South Shore Harbour for two years back in the early ‘90s,” he recalls.

Ruszkowski, first vice president-wealth management advisor in the Merrill Lynch office on El Camino Real in Clear Lake, was born in Cumberland, Maryland, but moved to Seabrook with his family when he was one-year old. The first boat he remembers boarding was his parents’ Sailfish sailboat, which they sailed all over Clear Lake and Taylor Lake. Not long after graduating from the University of Arkansas, he purchased his first boat, a 27-foot Carver fishing boat, in 1987. He’s been a boat owner ever since.

“After the Carver, I bought a Boston Whaler, then another Boston Whaler before I bought a 31-foot Stamas fishing boat,” Ruszkowski says. “We kept that boat at our bay home in Bolivar, but Ike came through (in 2008) and blew everything away and the boat wound up getting crushed. It was a big mess.”

But while losing the Stamas was certainly a difficult pill to swallow, it led Ruszkowski, who’s been married to wife, Stacey, for 18 years, to buying the boat they own now: the beautiful 36-foot Grady-White 360 Express that’s docked at the Lakewood Yacht Club.

gradywhite360reelcrazy Boaters for Life   Kevin Ruszkowski and Family“It’s got triple Yamaha 250 outboards, a couple of bedrooms downstairs, an air conditioned bridge and downstairs area. It’s set up for fishing, but it’s a good all around boat. It holds about 370 gallons of fuel, but it burns a lot, too,” he said.

The entire Ruszkowski clan, including sons, Kyle, 16, and Cole, 12, enjoys fishing and being on the water. A little over a year ago, Ruszkowski, a certified diver for over 20 years, helped his sons earn their diving certifications. Now, in addition to frequent fishing trips, they also take trips to go Scuba diving in tropical locations like the Bahamas.

Cruising Clear Lake and going diving are certainly enjoyable endeavors, but Ruszkowski is a fisherman first and foremost. In the early days, he usually ventured offshore to catch red snapper. On one trip, probably around 20 years ago, he and his fishing party caught upwards of 500 pounds of snapper.

“That was the first trip I’d been on where we caught a ton of fish and it got me hooked on it, but the regulations in effect now restricting the number of snapper you can keep has kind of made just fishing for that not really worth it,” he said. “We’ve had to change our game plan, so now we’ll go fishing for grouper, tile fish and other deep water fish using electric reels. Plus we’ll catch wahoo and kingfish along the way. I’ve seen more snapper in some areas than I’ve seen in 15 years. You don’t even have to try to catch them; you just throw a line in the water.  Spots that 10 or 11 years ago were sparse, now there’s fish everywhere. They’ve (state and federal regulatory agencies) have a done good job managing the fish, but they won’t let us go fishing, which is kind of a bummer.”

Ruszkowski says he and his fishing compatriots often schedule trips to Mexico in search of yellowfin tuna, a massive fish that can easily weigh in excess of 340 pounds and take three to four hours to get into the boat.

“The biggest yellowfin I’ve caught was around 320 pounds, but the record at that time was about 350 pounds,” he recalls.

Ruszkowski has also caught swordfish and blue marlin over the years. In fact, the 400-pound blue marlin he caught on his honeymoon sits proudly on display at the family’s Bolivar bay home.

Kevin (center) with his son, Kyle, and a business client show off a serious catch of yellowfin tuna in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

Kevin (center) with his son, Kyle, and a business client show off a serious catch of yellowfin tuna in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

On a trip to Mexico in February with friends and business clients, he says the group reeled in three yellowfin that averaged about 175 pounds on the first day of the three-day excursion. On the second day they caught just one yellowfin. The tuna action came to a halt on day three, but they changed tactics and started doing some bottom fishing, which resulted in 10 pargo being caught.

“We didn’t catch all of the yellowfin we wanted, but the weather was beautiful; not a cloud in the sky and the high temperature was around 80,” he says.

Ruszkowski says about 130 to 140 miles is about as far offshore as he’s been. He says guests accustomed to the murky surf near shore who venture out 50 miles or so into the Gulf are often taken aback by the sight of the crystal clear blue water.

Cole Ruszkowski with a nice warsaw grouper caught in the Gulf of Mexico.

Cole Ruszkowski with a nice warsaw grouper caught in the Gulf of Mexico.

Kyle Ruszkowski dives Cape Eleuthera in the Bahamas.

Kyle Ruszkowski dives Cape Eleuthera in the Bahamas.

“People don’t believe that you can go 80 miles out and see water so blue you’ll think you’re in the Caribbean,” he said.

For Ruszkowski, in his 24th year working for Merrill Lynch, targeting challenging billfish such as swordfish presents a special test for any angler because the majestic and illusive fish usually inhabits the very deepest waters, especially during the day. Even at night, he says catching swordfish requires skill, knowledge of the seas and the proper equipment.

“During the daytime, you have to drop down to the deep trenches, but at night the fish will be on top of what’s called hilltops, where the depth goes from about 2,500 feet to around 800 feet, so you have to fish on the edges of the hills where the bait gets pushed up and the swordfish come up to feed at night,” he says.

Ruszkowski says a few years ago he made around 30 fishing trips a year, but with his kids getting older and getting involved in various activities, the number of offshore trips has been cut to perhaps 10 per year, but that doesn’t mean the boat sits idle.

“We may go down to the Bahamas to go diving or something, but we use the boat a lot in the summertime. We don’t necessarily go offshore all the time, though. We might go fishing in the bay for trout or redfish. I’d rather go offshore, but it’s also gotten prohibitive because fuel has gotten so expensive,” he says.

Even though he’s been something of a serial boat buyer, Ruszkowski says he has no plans to replace the Grady-White anytime soon.

“This is pretty close to the largest boat you can get with outboards and outboards are easier to maintain compared with inboard diesel engines, where you have a little more to deal with. So I’m gonna stay with what I’ve got for a while,” he said.

Regardless of whether he’s fishing 150 miles offshore or just zipping around the bay, Ruszkowski says boating will, thanks to its therapeutic qualities, always be his first love.

“I like getting away from work and concentrating on things like operating the boat and catching fish instead of the day to day things you have to do at the office,” he says. “I always love taking friends and family out and having a good time.”

 

South West International In-Water Boat Show Returns to South Shore Harbour Marina, March 27-30

March 3rd, 2014

SWIBS South West International In Water Boat Show Returns to South Shore Harbour Marina, March 27 30

Shark tank 300x141 South West International In Water Boat Show Returns to South Shore Harbour Marina, March 27 30Geico boat and toysPresented by GEICO, the Southwest’s largest In-Water Boat Show returns to the South Shore Harbour Marina, Bay Area Houston, for the sixth year in March 2014 with over 400 boats in-water and onshore making it THE Premier Power and Sail Show for Texas!

The show will again feature a variety of Sailboats from Jeanneau, Beneteau, Lagoon, J/Boats, Catalina, Dufour, Hanse and Hunter to name a few – the largest display of Sailboats in the Southwest, alongside boats, ranging in size from 10ft-80ft+, including Motor Yachts, Powerboats, Pontoon Boats, Cruisers, Sportfishing Boats, Catamarans, Bay Boats and Ski Boats, with many available for demo at the docks!

This is the largest selection of both freshwater and saltwater boats, new and pre-owned, available anywhere in the Southwest – with pre-season specials and dealer incentive programs available on many models.

Over 200 vendors will offer a variety of services and products for the boating and outdoor lifestyle, including fishing gear, engines, apparel and outdoor equipment, in addition to a full range of marine electronics, sailing gear, accessories and hardware from top industry names.

Once again a comprehensive Seminar Program, featuring over 40 FREE seminars for Boat Show attendees, will be offered across the four days of the Boat Show.  These entertaining and educational seminars, hosted by industry experts, will take place on site at the South Shore Harbour Resort Hotel and will cover a wide variety of topics, from weather and fishing to information on how to turn boating dreams into on the water reality!

Additionally, show-goers can sign up for one of the Discover Boating hands on skills training workshops, designed to add more fun to the boat show experience… and take boating skills up a notch.  There’s something for everyone – from absolute beginners to seasoned skippers!  Powerboaters may choose from four One-Hour Skills Building sessions and Sailors may choose from Two-Hour and Three-Hour Sailing Workshops.  All sessions are taught by USCG licensed Captains who are professional, certified instructors, with registration on the show website.

For those who have never tried scuba but wanted to, there is the opportunity to take a Free scuba diving lesson in the 15,000 gallon Be A Diver Pool and take the first step toward a new hobby!

Show attendees can watch and be amazed as divers swim with sharks at the Live Shark Encounter – the only traveling Shark Show in the country and dedicated to the preservation of the species.

Or, get up close to the 7 time World Champion Miss GEICO Powerboat, while enjoying live music, craft beer tastings and exciting giveaways each day – a great line up of events for the entire family!

There’s so much to see and do at the show, what about making a weekend of it and staying overnight at the South Shore Harbour Resort Hotel offering a Boat Show Package with accommodation, breakfast and two tickets to the show, with details on the show website.

Tickets are $13 for adults, $11 for seniors/military, $5 for children 6-14, and Free for children 5 and under.

Parking is free in the parking lots around the South Shore Harbour Resort, with free shuttle for overflow parking at the weekend.

Thursday, March 27: 12:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.

Friday, March 28: 12:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.

Saturday, March 29: 10:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.

Sunday, March 30: 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.

For further information regarding tickets, exhibitors, events, registrations and features please visit: www.southwestinternationalboatshow.com or email info@southwestintlboatshow.com

Five Lures for Fishing the Lights

March 3rd, 2014

greenlights Five Lures for Fishing the Lights

troutstringer Five Lures for Fishing the LightsLures for Trout and Redfish at Night

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.

huskyjerk

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.

14MR_S

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.

F962 LSAC

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.

tinytrap

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.

specrig

“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.

 

Fishing from a Kayak at Night

March 3rd, 2014

nightyak Fishing from a Kayak at Night

Be it causeway bridge lights or canal green lights, fishing from a kayak at night is a great option for chasing down trout and redfish. A yak allows you the stealth to approach a light with caution and the mobility to fish a whole series of lights. Night kayaking can be an exhilarating experience but it is not for the novice, and requires some special care and equipment. It is a good idea to fish with one or more kayakers on your first outing. It also helps if you have paddled the area during the day. Things can look very different at night.

mtipfd 300x300 Fishing from a Kayak at Night

MTI Fisher PFD

Required Gear for Night Kayaking

Lighting System. Kayakers are required to display a white light with unobstructed 360-degree visibility. A quick visit to www.ACK.com reveals several options for LED/flag combos that get your light high above the water’s surface. You don’t want to be so stealthy that boats are running you down.

Personal Flotation Device. The USCG requires that a life jacket be readily accessible, but it strongly recommended that kayakers wear one at all times, especially at night. Plus, most type III fishing specific PFDs are riddled with pockets and double as a wearable tackle box.

Whistle or Horn. It needs to be audible up to a half a mile away. A loud whistle is easily kept in one of your PFD’s pockets.

Princeton Tec EOS headlamp

Princeton Tec EOS headlamp

Recommended Gear

Headlamp. This is crucial. A headlamp keeps your hands free and lets you see what you’re doing when tying knots or dealing with a landed fish. Choose a water resistant lamp like the Princeton Tec EOS.

Anchor. Spend more time fishing by keeping yourself properly situated with an anchor. This is a good strategy for relatively calm canals but keep in mind that not all locations are safe for you to set anchor. For example, there is debris below the Galveston Causeway that can snag your anchor; this combined with a fast flowing tide can flip you over. Try using a drift chute in this situation; it will keep you within casting distance longer without creating a dangerous situation.

Multiple Rods. If you have this luxury, and the rod holder space, it saves time to have two or more rods rigged with different lures if you encounter finicky fish. You don’t want to be bogged down changing lures when the bite is hot.

Cellphone or VHF. Carry in a waterproof bag. You never know what might happen out on the water.

greenlights

Etiquette

Neighborhood canal or pier lights. This is a touchy and heavily discussed subject that draws many opinions. But the fact is these lights are in public water and can be fished by the public. That being said, you are not paying the electric bill and should be respectful to these homeowners.

Be quiet. Tidal flow and moon phase is always a factor but some of the best fishing happens after midnight. If you are lucky and can fish on weekdays be as quiet as you can. Avoid pointing your headlamp toward properties. Don’t drop your anchor loudly into the kayak but rather bring it in gently. If you are with a group of kayakers do not yell or talk loudly. If the dog starts barking and won’t stop? It’s time to move.

Be friendly. If you come upon a populated pier or dock say hello and ask if it is okay to fish. Many bay houses are vacation rentals and the inhabitants may not be interested in fishing. But other times, people are waiting for fish to really crowd the light before they begin their effort. If they ask you to leave, be respectful, be courteous and move on.

Respect property. Never, ever tie off to any private dock or structure. The water is public but the dock is not. You could be mistaken for a thief and that is not something you want to do in Texas. Also avoid casting too close to any structure or directly to an underwater green light. If you snag these objects you lose a lure and piss off a homeowner in one fell swoop. Plus, the big fish are usually on the edge of the light’s reach.

Just Move. Some homeowners feel very strongly about you fishing their lights. Don’t feel too bad if the light you are fishing suddenly goes dark. It happens. It is the homeowner’s right to keep their lights on or off. Just move. If someone comes out and starts yelling, cursing or insulting all you hold dear, don’t get sucked in. Keep your cool and just move.

Causeway or “public” lights. Stay out of the middle of channels and high traffic areas. Be aware of fast flowing currents and tidal changes. If the light you intend to fish is occupied, find another one.

Changes Ahead for the Galveston Bay Complex

March 3rd, 2014

galvestonbaycomplex Changes Ahead for the Galveston Bay Complex

By Capt. Joe Kent

Earlier this year, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department conducted scoping hearings around the state to present their ideas on long-term management of our fish stocks and to receive input from sportsmen on their views about changes in size and bag limits for certain fish.

While the stocks of our big three, flounder, reds and trout, currently are in good shape, biologists feel that long range planning needs to start in order to assure adequate stocks of that resource for future generations.

Of particular concern to the biologists is the forecasted future of the Galveston Bay Complex and the potential changes that lie ahead for that body of water.

The cause of the immediate concern is the reduction in quantity and quality of fresh water forecasted for Galveston Bay.  With rising populations along the feeder rivers, water consumption will continue to increase thus reducing the amount flowing into the wetlands and bay itself.  Of equal concern are the multiple treatments the water goes through before it reaches the coast.  Each treatment process adds chemicals to the water and filters out nutrients.

One of the detriments to the reduced flow of water will be an increase in salinity levels through-out the complex.  This will have an adverse effect on the wetlands.

marshshrimp Changes Ahead for the Galveston Bay ComplexApproximately 98% of all finfish and shellfish are dependent upon the wetlands either as part of their life cycle or as part of their food chain.  This does not take into account the role of wetlands as part of the life cycles of waterfowl and other forms of life.

The marshes, swamps and other forms of wetlands offer a filtering effect for water and, through the filtering process, collect microscopic marine life that feeds the next layer in the food chain.  The wetlands also are a buffer when hurricanes hit the coast and absorb part of the brunt of the storm before it reaches higher land.

Last, but not least, the wetlands offer recreational aspects for fishermen, hunters and nature lovers, including bird watchers.

An increase in salinity along with less water will further reduce the ever shrinking acreage along the upper Texas Coast.

So, what do biologists foresee will happen?  During a visit with Lance Robinson and other personnel connected with the TPWD’s Dickinson Marine Lab we touched upon this topic.

First, Galveston Bay, unlike fresh water reservoirs, will retain its water levels due to tidal ebb and flow from the Gulf.  The difference is going to be in higher salinity levels and less wetlands.  So, how will this affect our fish?

It is foreseen that different species will begin appearing, much like the presence of mangrove snapper in the bays over the last three years.  Mangroves are warm water fish and one of the first to be affected by cold weather.

During the 2012 light freeze along the coast mangroves or gray snapper as they also are called were the primary fish, besides bait fish, that were found floating after the cold spell.  No significant kills of game fish occurred although speckled trout are close behind mangroves in their lack of cold water tolerance.

Beside mangroves, the higher than normal water temperatures attracted offshore fish such as gag grouper that were rarely seen in the bays in earlier years.

Another factor with potential fish changing effects is the proposed deepening of the Houston Ship Channel up to Pelican Island.  The deeper channel from the Gulf of Mexico likely will bring in more species that are typically found offshore and add to the flow of Gulf waters into the bay.

So, what can we expect in the future?  Change is about all that can be counted upon at this stage.  Some fish will adapt while other will not and the survivors migrate to other areas.

All of this leads up to support of conservation efforts to protect our current stocks.  Catch and release along with limited retention of fish is a practice all anglers are going to have to employ if we are interested in our future generations enjoying this sport.

Fresh Oyster Recipes

March 3rd, 2014

freshoysters Fresh Oyster Recipes

Herbed Baked Oysters 

Recipe by Chef Andrea Gaspercic of Brooklyn Phil’s Italiano

  • 24 fresh oysters.
  • ¾ cup of bread crumbs.
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped.
  • 1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard.
  • 1 teaspoon of olive oil.
  • ½ teaspoon of fresh thyme, chopped.
  • ½ teaspoon of fresh basil, chopped.
  • ¼ teaspoon of fresh marjoram, chopped.
  • Zest of one lemon.
  • 2 tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese.

Shuck the oysters and set aside on the half shell. Discard the remaining shells.

In a bowl, mix the bread crumbs, garlic, mustard, olive oil, thyme, basil, marjoram, lemon zest and Parmesan.

Top each oyster with about 1 teaspoon of the bread crumb mixture and place the oysters on a baking sheet. Cook under high broiler (grill) for about 6 minutes or until the oysters are crispy and golden brown.

Serve the hot, with a wedge of lemon and your favorite hot pepper sauce on the side.

 

Scalloped Oysters

Recipe by Chef Andrea Gaspercic of Brooklyn Phil’s Italiano

  • 1 ½ cups of coarse cracker crumbs.
  • 8 tablespoons of butter, melted.
  • 1 pint of oysters.
  • ½ teaspoon of salt.
  • Pinch of pepper.
  • ¼ cup of oyster liquid.
  • 2 tablespoons of milk.

Combine crumbs with the butter.

Put thin layer of crumbs in the bottom of a 1-½ quart baking dish.

Alternate layers of oysters and crumb mixture, sprinkling each layer with seasonings.

Do not use more than 2 layers of oysters.

Pour the oyster liquid and milk over the last layer, then top with crumbs. Bake at 450°F for 30 minutes.

 

Oysters Rockefeller

An Old Favorite

  • 12 fresh bay oysters
  • 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
  • 1 splash of milk
  • 1 cup chopped, cooked spinach
  • 6 minced scallions
  • 2 tablespoon crumbled bacon
  • 1 teaspoon chopped parsley
  • ¼ cup herbed bread crumbs
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • Cayenne pepper sauce
  • black peppercorns
  • sea salt

Place cleaned, unshucked oysters in a large stockpot. Add enough water to just cover oysters. Add 1/2 tablespoon of minced garlic, 1 tablespoon butter and crack sea salt and black pepper to taste. Once water achieves a boil, remove oysters from stockpot and set aside to cool. Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a saucepan and add 1/2 tablespoon minced garlic, the scallions, bacon and a dash of hot sauce. Reduce heat to low and add the spinach, a small splash of milk and salt and pepper to taste. Stir frequently and cook for about two minutes.

Remove the top shells from the cooled oysters and arrange on a baking sheet. Spoon spinach mixture over each oyster. Sprinkle parsley, bread crumbs and Parmesan on top of the sauced oysters. Bake for 10 minutes or when cheese melts.

 

Oysters on the Half Shell

The classic, the legend

  • 12 fresh bay oysters
  • cocktail sauce
  • ground horseradish
  • lemon wedges
  • your favorite hot sauce
 Shuck the freshest oysters you can find. Lay on a bed of crushed ice in a serving platter. Squeeze a fine spray of lemon over the oysters. Add hot sauce, horseradish and cocktail sauce to taste and enjoy.

 

What’s For Dinner from a Hired Chef?

March 3rd, 2014

daviscouple Whats For Dinner from a Hired Chef?

By Betha Merit 

Jonathon and Kim Davis spent five years crewing for private yacht owners and charters who enjoyed the experience of a weeklong trip with a captain to navigate the seas, and a chef who stocked the galley to make the evening meal a fine dining experience.

Previously, Jonathon had experience in delivering boats for private owners that wanted their vessels moved from places like Newport, RI to the Caribbean or from Galveston to Florida.  After a particularly rough sea delivery Jonathon was sitting in Tortola watching the sunset.  He looked out over the harbor and saw a beautiful boat with a crew ready to embark on a halcyon Caribbean cruise and thought, “I want to do that.”Jonathon returned to Bay Area Houston, enlisted the help of Kim who was working in retail, and thus began their career as captain and chef.  They crewed on 70-foot or larger sailing yachts with most of their time spent on a particular 72-foot John Alden designed ship built by Eric Goetz. Kim says with charters, the emphasis is on people having a great time, with available food for breakfast and lunch, and then a great prepared dinner.  In advance, Kim sent a menu to private owners or charter companies, and then tailored the food to their requests and seasonal availability.  Most food was bought in advance as things like ground beef is not easily found in Island grocery stores.  “But you can always find rack of lamb,” says Kim.  She paired this surprising meal with a garlic mash, and glazed fingerling potatoes and baby vegetables.
In present day, the Davis family includes their 15-month old son, Cole, and a new yachting venture based in the League City, South Shore Harbour area.  They have launched The Yacht Service Company, Inc., specializing in everything from wash-down to safety maintenance, electronics, varnishing, and provisioning.  “We saw a higher level of service while in marinas in St. Barths, St. Maartens, and Newport,” says Jonathon, “and we have brought that level of service here to Bay Area Houston.” Find out more at www.theyachtservicecompany.com.Kim shared several recipes (shown to right).  “The Shrimp Puttanesca is a special favorite to serve as a late afternoon meal when everyone returns from a long day of swimming, snorkeling, or scuba,” says Kim.  Another crowd pleaser is Portabella and Brie Cups, served as an appetizer or anytime.

shrimpandgarlilc 300x153 Whats For Dinner from a Hired Chef?Shrimp Puttanesca

  • 2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 large cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp. finely grated orange zest (from half a medium orange)
  • 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • One 28-oz. can whole tomatoes, coarsely chopped, juice reserved
  • 1/3 cup pitted Kalamata olives, rinsed and quartered
  • 2 Tbs. capers, rinsed
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 oz. whole-grain penne pasta
  • 1 lb. medium shrimp (51 to 60 per lb.), shelled and deveined
  • 4  anchovies, finely chopped (optional)
  • 1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Heat the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until golden, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the onion, orange zest, oregano, and pepper flakes and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is tender, 5 to 6 minutes. Add the wine and simmer until it has almost evaporated, about 2 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and their juice, olives, and capers. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer, and cook until the sauce has thickened, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the penne and cook until al dente. Drain well.

Add the shrimp and anchovies (if using) to the sauce in the skillet. Raise the heat to medium high and cook, stirring occasionally, until the shrimp are cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Pour the pasta into the skillet and toss with the shrimp sauce. Divide the pasta among 4 bowls. Sprinkle with cheese and parsley.

 briecupsPortabella and Brie Cups

  • 6 oz. fresh Portabella mushrooms
  • 2 Tbs. butter
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 24 mini puff pastry shells
  • 3 oz. brie

Heat oven to 375 degrees.  Spray 24 miniature muffin cups with non-stick spray.  Brush mushrooms or wipe clean with damp cloth.  Finely chop.

In a small skillet, combine mushrooms, butter and garlic; cook over medium heat for 5 to 6 minutes or until butter is absorbed and mushrooms are tender, stirring occasionally.  Stir in green onions and mustard.

Place mini puff pastry shells in muffin cups.  Spoon about one tablespoon mushroom mixture into each cup.  Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until light golden brown.  Meanwhile cut cheese into 24 pieces.

Remove cups from oven.  Place a piece of cheese in each cup.  Return to oven and bake an additional 2 to 4 minutes, or until cups are golden grown and cheese is softened.  Cool 5 minutes; remove from muffin cups.  Cool slightly before serving.

Creola

March 3rd, 2014

creolapic Creola

tonysmythe Creola

Tony Smythe next to the models of Creola and Salerosa that hang up in the Texas Corinthian Yacht Club.

The Grand Dame of the Gulf Coast

Long time yacht broker Tony Smythe loves being around boats. He was kind enough to share his thoughts on why he rescued this classic wooden boat. She is a beauty and if you want to get a closer look be sure to check her out at this year’s Keels and Wheels Classic Car and Boat Show May 3 and 4 at Lakewood Yacht Club.

GCM: When did you first see Creola?

When living in New Orleans I had a Grand Banks 32 that I took to Lafitte, south of the city on Bayou Barataria where she was our hunting camp during duck season. Although Creola lay wilting in a covered shed in the same marina where I first saw her, it was love at first sight. Even then I saw lots of potential.

GCM: Tell us about the boat’s history.

She is the creation of Emil “Bill” Dufrene, a true bayou Cajun who was the originator of the Lafitte Skiff. He hand crafted a boat that revolutionized commercial fishing in Louisiana. Prior to his Lafitte skiffs, fisherman spent days shrimping on their 5-7 knot “Luggers”, plying the bayous far from home. Then came Dufrene who in the late 40’s put more speed into his boats that brought their fishing grounds within a day’s run.

GCM: What is it you really like about the Lafitte skiffs?

In Louisiana, Dufrene’s skiffs are legendary. I became aware of him from several friends at Southern who owned his boats. They were all built of hand-picked, aged cypress and were butt-planked using no caulking. Dufrene was ahead of his time. Most production boats, like Chris Craft and Mathews in that era were narrow-beamed and round-chined. Dufrene built his with hard chines and beamy, providing more room and stability. She also has wide side decks unlike the production boats.

 GCM: How and why did you end up with her?

In December of 1992, during a return trip to Southern, a friend told me the 37 foot I knew in Lafitte was for sale. I don’t really know why I bought her as I was happy with Salerosa, our Grand Banks 42. Paint was peeling off but structurally she was as sound as the day she rolled off the “ways” on the bayou. She was a damsel in distress and I was just too smitten with her.

GCM: Tell us about the restoration of Creola.

I repowered her in New Orleans with new diesels and we ran her back on her own bottoms to HYC. The restoration took nine months with a deadline of taking her to the Madisonville Wooden Boat Festival. Bernt Womack was the main man to tackle the project with my old friend Tim Strong as his able assistant and Len Kirkham as shipwright. I knew immediately the interior layout would not work, so we gutted her inside and I laid her out to my own design with input from Bernt and Tim.

GCM: How have you used Creola?

Creola has given me the opportunity to run the waterways, bayous and bays with more speed than the Grand Banks 42, so I’ve covered more cruising and fishing grounds in shorter time. I’ve cruised her extensively in Texas and Louisiana, especially gathering research for THE TEXAS/LOUISIANA COASTAL CRUISING GUIDE. We have even trucked her to Hinckley’s yard in Maine. In 2001 we cruised from Maine to Long Island Sound and then trucked her back home. She has played the perfect committee boat for local regattas as well as many national championships hosted by TCYC and HYC.

With the Lafitte trademark being the overhanging fantail, the curious northern yachtsmen asked me what exactly she was. My reply was simple, she’s a Coon-ass lobster boat. That must have made Dufrene smile.

2015 Ford F-150

March 3rd, 2014

15FordF150 02 2015 Ford F 150

All-New Aluminum F-150 Heads to Gulf Coast

By Don Armstrong

2015FordF150 06 HR 2015 Ford F 150The biggest game changer in modern-day trucking made its debut at the 2014 North American International Auto Show in Detroit recently; the 2015 Ford F-150.

For the first time, high-strength, military-grade, aluminum alloys are used throughout the F-150 body. These alloys, already used in aerospace, commercial transportation and other industries, make the new truck’s body lighter, stronger and more resistant to dents. If that’s not enough, an all-new, fully boxed ladder frame with more high-strength steel than ever makes a tough chassis even stronger, yet lighter. Overall, the F-150 is up to 700 pounds lighter, helping the truck tow and haul more, accelerate and stop faster, and operate more efficiently.

Changes were made under the hood as well, with four engine options that include an all-new 2.7-liter EcoBoost® 4-cylinder power plant with standard Auto Start-Stop technology. The naturally aspirated 3.5-liter V-6, the EcoBoost V-6 and the 5.0-liter V-8 will remain in the lineup.

Included for the first time in an F-150 are a remote opening tailgate, LED headlights, LED cargo box lights, and extensive on-the-job and at-play amenities.

2015 Ford F-150 Platinum

One feature that every fisherman will welcome is the new trailer hitch assist. A new rear view camera, that adds a superimposed line on the screen based on steering wheel angle, will help line up truck and trailer without requiring a spotter or having to get out of the vehicle.

The instrument panel has been completely redesigned with an all-new 8-inch productivity screen featuring computer-generated graphics and customizable information. The speedometer, tachometer, fuel gauge and amp meter are all now fully computer-generated, and the driver can choose additional screens for a specific use such as towing or off-roading. The driver also can configure the locations and colors of the individual instruments.

When it goes on sale late this year, the all-new Ford F-150 will continue the tradition of offering no fewer than five primary trim levels along with chrome appearance packages for XL, XLT, Lariat and King Ranch. Monochromatic sport appearance packages are available with XL, XLT and Lariat and the FX4 off-road package can be added to most four-wheel-drive models.

We’ve only touched on a few of the major highlights here. We suggest you head to www.Ford.com for complete details. You’ll be able to put your eyes on the new 2015 F-150 in the Ford Display at this year’s 2014 Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo.

Catalina Yachts 445

March 3rd, 2014

catalina Catalina Yachts 445

This Isn’t Your Parent’s Catalina

cat445image Catalina Yachts 445With over 96 hulls built in less than four years, the Catalina Yachts 445 has proven to be one of the best blue water cruisers to come out in the last decade. Many of the reasons why were born out of the last financial crisis.

In 2008 after the largest economic crisis in most people’s lifetimes, the norm for most builders was to stop building or go out of business. At the time Catalina Yachts, which has been in business now under the same ownership for over 45 years, was building over ten models of boats from 28 to 47 foot. Always known as a robust and rugged boat capable of offshore passaging but built at a modest cost, Catalina had a choice to go the way of most builders and stop production and wait this crisis out or they could scale back and shrink down the models to a more useful size range – all the while improving the product for the end consumer.

Catalina chose the latter solution and the Five Series was born. The current Catalina models, 315, 355, 385, 445 have all the attributes of the Five Series.

One of the biggest features of the Catalina 445 is the Flex Cabin. Think of it as a walk-in cockpit locker or the third guest stateroom for the grand kids. The door to the flex cabin is to port in the galley area. This area features upper and lower berths that can be folded up. There is also a filter cabinet that allows you to check the main engine’s fuel and water filters. Also, there is a cabinet that can be left as storage or customized. A washer dryer, icemaker or third refrigeration system can be added. The possibilities are endless. Plus when you need a place to put gear, like cockpit cushions, you can also access the flex cabin from the starboard cockpit locker. Unlike a lot of boats being built today, the Catalina 445 is loaded with storage. There are large oversized hanging lockers in each cabin as well as drawers.

There are 12 large drawers in the 445, plus over 30 places for storage including custom storage for pots, pans and dishes. In addition to the flex cabin, which has an unlimited amount of uses, there are two large stern lazarettes.

On deck the 445 is all business. From the traveler to the winches to the standing rigging, the hardware is massive. The primary winches on most boats are the size of the halyard winches on the 445. Even the bow rollers are set up for two real anchors and the chain locker is divided. Even though there is a collision safe forward “strike zone,” there is room to carry 300’ of chain and not offset the balance of the boat.

Listed below are the main design features that distinguish the new 5 Series models:

  • Collision-safe forward Strike Zone bulkheads and impact absorbing chamber.
  • Deep Defense rudder systems with stainless rudder posts.
  • T-Beam Mast Step system structure providing all the benefits of a deck-stepped mast and the strength of a keel-stepped mast.
  • Secure Socket mast support/chainplate system.
  • Knitted fabrics used for a stronger laminate and stiffer structure.
  • Dramatically styled teak interiors and laminates finished with a satin varnish for durability and beauty.
  • Five-part structural construction, insuring a stronger boat and more rigid structure.
  • Offshore internally Banged hull to deck joint capped with a slotted toe rail.
  • Navigation AC/DC panel with additional circuits  for added options, plus a built in amp draw meter  to monitor electrical usage.
  • Wide, clear weather decks designed with inboard shrouds for moving forward with ease, and a diamond non-skid pattern for safety and durability. In addition, the low profile cabin design provides for a sleek appearance, great  visibility forward.
  • Comfortable, ergonomically correct cockpits with seats long enough to stretch out on.
  • Lead keels for durability, and impact shock absorption for safety of the crew and structure.
  • Oversized travelers, winches and lines for ease of sail handling in all conditions.

More more information on the Catalina 445,  contact Little Yacht Sales at 281-334-6500.

 

Youth Sailing: Howdy Hughes

March 3rd, 2014

howdyhughes Youth Sailing: Howdy Hughes
hugheskids Youth Sailing: Howdy Hughes

Hannah Hughes, Dane Byerly, Howdy Hughes, Collin Scoville in Chicago last May for the High School Mallory Fleet Racing National Championship.

Howdy Hughes started sailing in 2006 with Optis. In 2009, he switched over to Laser 4.7, and now sails Radial and Full Rig. Hughes also sails double-handed boats and on his family’s Beneteau 411.

 Accomplishments

  • Winner of Area F Sears Cup Qualifier, 4th at US Championship 2013
  • Laser 4.7 Worlds – Buenos Aires 2012, San Francisco 2011
  • National One-Design Champs, V15 skipper – 4th place 2011
  • Day Sailer Youth Nationals, skipper – 3rd place 2011
  • LYC Jr. Flag Vice Commodore 2013, Rear Commodore 2012, Secretary 2011
  • LYC International Commodore Award – 2012, 2011
  • Finished 2nd in TSA Laser 4.7 – 2010
  • Lakewood Yacht Club Seahorse Sailing Team 2006 – present
  • Laser 4.7 District 15 Champion 2010, 3rd place 2011
  • Good Sportsmanship Award, TSA Port Arthur 2010
  • LYC Most Improved Sailor 2007
  • Orange Bowl 2012, 6th in 2011, 2010

Background

Hughes has sailed in National and International Regattas including 4.7 Worlds, Laser North Americans, Gulf Coast Champs, and Orange Bowl.

He sails TSA regattas and enjoys sailing in the Wednesday Night Lake Races as much as his schedule allows. Hughes has done some district Laser racing including the Wurstfest and Easter regattas, and has sailed in the Harvest Moon Regatta five times.

Howdy is active at school and is currently the team captain for the Clear Falls High School Sailing Team. He qualified for the Mallory and Baker National Championships in 2013, coming in at 14 out of 20 in Chicago’s fleet racing. Hughes has been to Opti camp two years and was a counselor one of the years. He has seven years of Seahorse camp under his belt and has been a counselor since 2011. In his spare time he enjoys kite boarding.

4th Annual “Get Tight Sucka!” Texas Swordfish Seminar Announced

February 7th, 2014

recordsword 4th Annual Get Tight Sucka! Texas Swordfish Seminar Announced

The Booby Trap Fishing Team with the 493lb Texas state record swordfish, caught by angler Brian Barclay.

The Booby Trap Fishing Team, known worldwide for their daytime swordfishing success, has announced the details for their 4th Annual Texas Swordfish Seminar, which benefits the U.S. Veterans of “Everyday Heroes Inc.” The 2014 seminar takes place April 26th at the Surfside Marina, 827 Gulf Road, Surfside Beach, TX 77541, and starts at 9:00 a.m.

The seminar will feature several speakers from the Booby Trap Fishing Team, including Capt. Brett ‘Ahab’ Holden owner of the Booby Trap, as well as guest speaker Capt. Nick Stanczyk of Bn’M. Attendees will be instructed on all the basics of daytime and nighttime swordfishing, such as rigging baits, recommended tackle, proper depth, tips, techniques and how to specifically target BIG swordfish.

There will be a fishing tournament for the kids, a live auction, great raffles and one lucky door prize winner will be invited to fish aboard the Booby Trap!

Tickets are $20 at the gate and $5 for kids 10 and under. One ticket includes admission, a kid’s fishing tournament entry, swordfish seminars, one raffle entry for door prizes and all you can eat jumbo shrimp, crawfish and BBQ, while it lasts, for lunch and dinner. Tickets can be purchased at Holden Roofing in Rosenberg or at the gate on the day of the seminar.

For more information on the seminar, please visit www.boobytrapfishingteam.com

To learn more about the Booby Trap Fishing Team, please read our July/August 2013 feature article.

A Day in the Life of a Ferry Boat Captain

February 4th, 2014

ferryboat A Day in the Life of a Ferry Boat Captain

The Galveston-Bolivar Ferry started service in 1930. The Texas Department of Transportation operates the ferry year round and it’s free to the public.

We spent some time with Captain Johnny Smith, he started out as a deck hand in 1989 and four years later he was a captain. Grab the kids, a camera and take the greatest free ride in Texas.

GCM: How did you get interested in this line of work?

Smith: In the summer of 1989 I took advantage of the great opportunities the Texas Department of Transportation had to offer and I like the work so much I decided to make a career out of working on the Ferry.

GCM: Why a ferryboat captain, why not a tug boat captain?

Smith: I enjoy working on inland vessels, this allows me to go home every day and spend time with my family and friends. If you work offshore then you’re gone a lot.

GCM: How long have you been a captain?

Smith: I’ve been a captain with TxDOT for 20 years.

GCM: What type of engines do you have in the current ferries now in service?

Smith: Currently there are two 12 cylinder engines that provide 1500 horsepower each. These modern boats have plenty of power and are fun to drive.

GCM: How long does it take to make the trip over to Bolivar?

Smith: A normal trip to Bolivar takes about 18 minutes. To make the trip to Bolivar and then back to Galveston takes about 50 minutes.

GCM: Where did you receive most of your training?

Smith: I received most of my on the job training with TxDOT and some offsite training with various schools in the area.

GCM: How many cars can you get on a ferry?

Smith: It takes approximately 65 cars to fill up the Ferry. That can vary with the addition of trailers and other work vehicles.

For more information on the Galveston-Bolivar Ferry go to the TxDOT web site  www.txdot.gov

 

Setting the Bar – The Booby Trap Dominates Swordfishing on a Global Scale

January 17th, 2014

by Rod Evans

DSC 6766 Setting the Bar   The Booby Trap Dominates Swordfishing on a Global Scale

The Booby Trap Fishing Team with the new Texas state record swordfish

The moment is as fresh in his mind as if it happened last week. Four-year old Brett Holden stands on the dock holding a gleaming kingfish that’s nearly as big as he is. Published in a local newspaper, the photo, submitted by his dad, Don, documented the beginning of a record setting angling career.

While much has changed for Holden, now 45, one thing remains unchanged: his enthusiasm for sport fishing runs as deep as the blue waters where the billfish he chases roam.

“I’ve always been fascinated by big fish,” Holden says. “My dad had a boat, so I’ve been fishing since I was born. He (Don) primarily targeted snapper, grouper, kingfish and ling, but he also targeted sharks, so I grew up shark fishing with him. We caught numerous sharks that were 800 to 1,200 pounds. He still makes a couple of trips per year with us.”

Where the Big Fish Live

As owner and captain of the sport fishing juggernaut Booby Trap, a 52-foot, twin-engine 2008 Viking Express based at Surfside Marina that’s capable of hitting 40 knots,  Holden (aka “Captain Ahab”) and his crew of talented and intrepid anglers have emerged as the premier private sport fishing boat in the Gulf of Mexico. The team has been named the top private boat in the Houston Big Game Fishing Club for five straight years mainly on the strength of its ability to reel in an astounding number of elusive, majestic swordfish.  And while catching a swordfish is major accomplishment for any angler, bringing one of the bottom-dwelling monsters to the surface during the daytime, a feat the Booby Trap crew has perfected, is even more impressive.

boobytrap Setting the Bar   The Booby Trap Dominates Swordfishing on a Global Scale

From left to right: Capt. Ahab/Brett Holden, Capt. Jeff Wilson, Capt. Travis Joyce, and Capt. Matt Reed

In June, the Booby Trap crew, comprised of Jeff Wilson, Matt Reed and Travis Joyce, along with guest anglers Brian Barclay and Danny Lenderman, made sport fishing headlines when on its third trip of the season, Barclay hooked a mammoth swordfish that weighed in excess of 500 pounds, crushing the old Gulf of Mexico swordfish record of 341 pounds. The fish was placed in 1,000 pounds of ice and was weighed the next day. By that time, Holden says the fish weighed about 493 pounds, was 108 inches long and had a girth of 60 inches.

“This fish came to the surface and we could see it was hooked pretty deep. It then went back under for three hours. At first, I thought it was a 300 pounder, but the closer it got to the boat I said, ‘It’s a nickel!’ It probably would have been around 550 pounds, but we didn’t weigh it for 27 hours, and by then it had lost an inch in length and four inches in girth,” Holden said.

After snagging the massive swordfish, the Booby Trap tracked west in search of blue marlin and caught six wahoo and  two blue marlin before calling it a day.

Setting World Records

Catching large numbers of huge fish is nothing new for Holden and the Booby Trap. In 2012, the Booby Trap caught 172 swordfish in 41 days of fishing and Holden says the crew has caught over 800 swordfish and 1,000 billfish in the Gulf of Mexico to date. Over its last 45 trips, the crew has caught 218 swordfish and released approximately 20 state record class swords. In 2009, the boat recorded the first “Super Grand Slam”—catching all four of the billfish species, which includes swordfish, blue marlin, white marlin and sailfish, in one day—in the Gulf of Mexico and repeated the feat in 2012.

Capt. Ahab and Capt. Jeff Wilson prepares to release a big sword.

Capt. Ahab and Capt. Jeff Wilson prepares to release a big sword.

In late June, the prolific boat, owned by Holden since 2008, set a world record when the crew caught 30 swordfish in a single trip, breaking the old record of 21. Of the 30 fish caught, Holden says 23 were estimated to weigh in excess of 200 pounds and five were estimated to weigh at least 300 pounds. As is the custom for the Booby Trap, which releases 95 percent of the fish caught, 26 swordfish were released. The catch and release practice is in keeping with Holden’s overriding belief in preserving the natural resources of the ocean. He says fish badly damaged from the battle to bring them to the boat are usually kept.

“We try to release every fish we can,” Holden says. “We don’t keep fish because of size, we keep them because of the condition that they come to the boat in. Swordfish are good eating fish and we don’t feel bad about putting them in the boat. We just have respect for one of the most incredible fish in the ocean.”

For Holden, the owner of Holden Roofing and a Houston native who lives in Richmond, his rise to the top of the sport fishing game was not an overnight journey. In the 1980s, he began getting hired by boats to assist those crews in finding big fish before he bought his first boat and began entering tournaments.

“Between 1984 and 2000, I won or placed in 50 tournaments and bought bigger boats from the tournament money. In 1986, I was able to afford a boat that could travel out that far (at least 100 miles offshore) and from ’86 through 2008 I mainly targeted blue marlin,” he said.

While focusing on catching blue marlin by day, Holden dabbled in catching swordfish at night, as catching the elusive fish that lives in over 1,700 feet of water during the daytime was extremely rare. For over a century, swordfish were caught primarily at night when they ventured up to about 300 feet from the surface to feed. While fishing at night, Holden says a good trip might yield two to four swordfish.

“There was no daytime fishery (for swordfish) here (in the gulf). A group in Florida started catching them during the day, so I knew it could happen here.

“For years we were told that the gulf had been fished out and the swordfish were not there, but I didn’t believe that. We went out numerous times and never caught one, but on the first trip that we did catch swordfish, we caught five.”

Photography: www.boobytrapfishingteam.com

Photography: www.boobytrapfishingteam.com

Using squid bait provided by sponsor Bait Masters, along with their recommended rod, the “Get Tight Sucka” series, 80 class reels and up to 6,000 feet of 80-pound, high visibility orange line with strobe lights affixed to the leader, and utilizing sophisticated radar and sonar equipment to see where the fish are living, the Booby Trap has re-written the rules for swordfishing in the gulf.

“The techniques we’re using are different from anybody I’ve ever seen and we’re able to produce double digit swordfish on just about every trip,” Holden says.

For the past three years, Holden and company have hosted the Texas Swordfish Seminar at Surfiside Marina, where they reveal their techniques to eager anglers. The seminar benefits the non-profit Everyday Heroes organization, which provides transportation to veterans to and from their doctor’s appointments. Holden says they expected 50 people the first year of the seminar and more than 500 showed up. Over 2,500 people attended the 2013 seminar held in March. To date, the event has raised over $500,000 for the charity.

Holden says he’s considering starting a fishing charter company in the future, but for the time being, he’s content to keep setting the bar for daytime swordfishing and billfishing in general in the gulf and doing his part to help Everyday Heroes.

Galveston Bay Fish Stocks Declining?

January 3rd, 2014

tarponjump Galveston Bay Fish Stocks Declining?

A Galveston Bay Fish Stocks Overview

By Capt. Joe Kent

tarponjumpcover Galveston Bay Fish Stocks Declining?Anglers fishing the Galveston Bay Complex during 2013 often asked if we are experiencing a decline in our stocks of speckled trout.

Trout action for the most part was far below the norm for the past few years for most anglers, including me.

Tarpon catches appeared to be down for the average angler and the annual flounder migration was disappointing to a large number of those who patiently waited until signs of the migration to start their fishing.

What has happened to our fish was a common question?  Since I did not have the answer, two professionals with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department were consulted, Lance Robinson and Bill Balboa.

Both work out of the Dickinson Marine Lab in Dickinson and offered some interesting insight as to what is taking place.

I started out the conversation with the primary question, has there been a decline in our stocks of trout and flounder?  The answer was basically no.  Balboa cited samplings and onsite surveys as not giving any indications of a noticeable reduction in our stocks of fish.

OK, if that is the case, why were catches for the average angler down this year, I asked?

Both gentlemen had a lot to offer in regard to why we are seeing changes and why we will continue to see even more.

redfishyozuriTo start with, let’s look at redfish, the other specie of the Big 3 Saltwater Fish.  Redfish have bounced back to the point that more liberalized bag and size limits were discussed.  Feedback from a large sampling of anglers along the middle and lower coast indicated a majority did not want to see any changes.

Crabs are bouncing back from a low point several years ago and were harvested in good numbers and sizes last year.

If the stocks of trout and flounder are in good shape, then why were the catches off last year?  Several explanations have been put forth; however, first let’s look at trout.  The anglers having the success with trout found them in different locations and at different depths than typical in the past.

Part of the reason has to do with salinity levels in the bays and the water temperature.  Since 2011, we have been in a severe drought causing record high salinity levels in the Galveston Bay Complex.  During 2013 we had more rain and a slight reduction in salinity compared to 2011 and 2012.

The continued warming trend has raised the normal temperature levels and all of this has had its effect on trout, a species that is sensitive to salinity levels and temperature.

While some of the normal hot spots for trout did not produce, the surf exploded with action in late summer.  One noticeable difference was that the fish were generally much closer to the beach.

Most fishing guides reported reduced catches and having to look hard to find where the fish were stacking up.  One guide said that typical of last year was his charters experiencing a catch of 15 fish compared to 25 to 30 in prior years.

What about the flounder?  While there has been no proof shown that this was the answer, it is commonly accepted among seasoned flounder fishermen that the big moves occurred during the strong outgoing tides at night during November and lots of the flatfish made their exit during the numerous strong frontal systems that kept anglers off of the water.

Balboa cited a survey of bank fishermen along the Galveston Channel during a hard norther.  The wind was too strong for boats; however, anglers fishing from shore were quickly limiting out on flounder.

tarponswimTarpon was another fish that was on the list of poor results last year. While there has been no recent survey of their numbers, all indications are that the stocks are in good shape.

Last year tarpon guides reported that the fish were being caught in different areas along the upper Texas Coast than in previous years.  The shift seemed to be from the Bolivar Peninsula area to points south of San Luis Pass, all still in the mythical highway called Tarpon Alley.

Our next article will pick up with the ecological changes occurring in the Galveston Bay Complex and how they will affect fishing.

Keep Your Vessel Seaworthy – Boat Maintenance

January 3rd, 2014

seaworthy Keep Your Vessel Seaworthy   Boat Maintenance

Boat Maintenance Tips

By Rod Evans

In a perfect world, taking your boat out on the lake or in the gulf would be the ideal remedy for a blazing hot summer day. But this past summer’s hot weather made just getting out on the water a matter of survival.

With the cooler weather upon us, perhaps you’re looking to make up for some lost time by heading to your nearest body of water. However, it’s a good idea to make sure your boat is equally as ready as you are.

“It’s a lot of work to get a boat up to standards, but it’s even more work if it breaks down in a strange location, like in the gulf,” said Dan Cantrell, the delivery captain for Marine Max in Seabrook.

Cantrell says if your boat has been inactive for a while, it’s advisable that either you or your mechanic perform some basic maintenance.

He says a good place to start is the sea strainers for the air conditioning and the main engine. Those should be checked and cleaned, with special attention paid to possible algae build up in the air conditioning system.

The impellers should be replaced after 100 hours of use. Cantrell says the devices will fail to pump enough water to cool the engine if they are worn.

Fuel filters are another important area that must be inspected before taking your boat out, and making sure you add a fuel stabilizer to your fuel tank is critical as well.

“Stabilizers are a necessity these days,” Cantrell says. “If the boat has been sitting for a month or more, the ethanol will separate and play havoc with the engine. Running your boat without stabilizers can lead to some pretty expensive repairs.” He recommends stabilizers sold by Star Brite or Sta-Bil.

According to Cantrell, who teaches boating safety and maintenance seminars at Marine Max, inspecting the condition of the steering connections is often overlooked. “You’ve got to check the turnbuckle and all of the steering mechanisms for rust and, if you have cable steering, make sure it is not locked up. Be sure to look for any hydraulic leaks and check for sufficient pressure.”

Cantrell says another oft forgotten maintenance concern is inspecting the shaft log and rudder post, especially making sure the packing gland is functioning properly.

On the safety front, Cantrell says boaters should inspect the fire extinguishers annually, but also give a quick look at the gauge indicator periodically to check for signs of lost pressure or discharge. All flares should be changed annually and life jackets should be U.S. Coast Guard approved.  Don’t leave the dock without a hand held VHF radio and GPS system loaded with fresh batteries.

“If you’ll be boating with kids, allow them to decorate their life jacket with reflective stickers because they make it easier to find them if they should go overboard. Also, attach a whistle to the jacket. It might be a little annoying at times, but will come in handy if you’re searching for them,” Cantrell says.

He says many boaters opt for having the Coast Guard Auxiliary give their boat an inspection for an added peace of mind. The agency will issue a sticker to be displayed on the boat indicating all safety checks have been performed.

One of the best things boaters can do, he says, is leave a “float plan” with family or friends that details where and when you’ll be boating, which could prove valuable should something happen on the water.

For Cantrell, perhaps the best habit to get into is doing a quick inspection of your boat at the dock. “If you haven’t run the boat in a while, start up the engine and let it get up to operating temperature. Check for any leaks by sight and smell. Check all of the engine fluid levels before you leave the dock.”

He also recommends becoming a member of organizations like Sea Tow or Boat U.S., which offer rescue assistance among other services.

“Making sure your boat is ready at the dock is the key,” Cantrell says. “There’s usually no one out there to help if you have trouble.”

Sailing Key West

January 3rd, 2014

keyswater Sailing Key West

Sailing Key West from North Palm Beach

By Charles Milby

floridamap Sailing Key WestWinter sailing in Florida can be fun. The water is turquoise and the weather is usually warm.  Over the Thanksgiving Holidays, Suzanne and I were invited to help our friends Dave and Kris Popken move their sailboat from North Palm Beach to Key West. We had a great time. Most of the coast of Florida is developed, but when you travel by boat you get to see the best parts and avoid the snow birds. Key Largo and Marathon were two of the most delightful stops on our trip. I didn’t make it to Sloppy Joe’s Bar, which is where Hemingway hung out, but I did go to the Schooner Wharf Bar and the Island Dog Bar. Suzanne liked Grunts, a very nice dinner spot off Duval Street. You will have to explore and find your own little place in Key West; it’s filled with friendly watering holes where everyone is welcome.

Dave Popken aboard Orion, a Sabre 38

Dave Popken aboard Orion, a Sabre 38

As we were walking down the pier at our marina one day we saw a manatee. He was so big. I thought it was a rock on the bottom until he moved. I’m not sure what he was looking for as he posed for pictures, to the delight of our party, but he was fun to watch. Having been to Key West I would definitely go back, so check it out. If you like to fish and sail then make some plans soon. I’m sorry to say Southwest Airlines will no longer be flying into Key West. You can still get there is by car or by boat. I preferred the boat.

The manatee at the marina was not shy.

The manatee at the marina was not shy.

 

Chickens were brought into Key West by Cuban immigrants in the 1800s for the purpose of cockfighting. This was outlawed in the 1970s and now these birds roam the streets freely.

Chickens were brought into Key West by Cuban immigrants in the 1800s for the purpose of cockfighting. This was outlawed in the 1970s and now these birds roam the streets freely.

2014 Jeep Wrangler

January 3rd, 2014

jeep2014 2014 Jeep Wrangler

No Trail Too Tough: 2014 Jeep Wrangler

By Don Armstrong

jeepinterior 2014 Jeep WranglerFor many, part of the outdoor experience is navigating terrain and no vehicle is more capable than the Jeep Wrangler.

Since 1941, this original four-wheeler has gotten more people out of tough spots than we can count, including our armed forces.

The 2014 Wrangler has come a long way since its debut, yet its body style is still the most recognizable in the world.  The 7-slot grille, round headlamps, squared shoulders and rear-mounted spare are, today, very much a part of its long lineage.

Now featuring a more powerful and fuel efficient 3.6-liter Pentastar engine, there’s enough oomph to get you up and over almost anything, with on-road civility and power for freeway on-ramp speed squirts. The 285-horsepower V-6 gets up to 21-mpg on the highway while delivering 260 lb.-ft. of torque.

For those that like autonomous shifting, there’s an available 5-speed automatic transmission, but for the do-it-yourselfers, a 6-speed manual will impress your fishing buddies.

Here are the numbers, the off-road stuff that makes Wrangler a winner in every category; Able to tackle the steepest grades and deepest ruts, approach angle for Wrangler is up to 44.6 degrees, breakover angle is 25.5 degrees and departure angle is up to 40.6 degrees depending on tire size. Ground clearance of the front axle is 9.1 to 10.5 inches depending on tire size. At the rear, axle-to-ground clearance is 8.8 to 10.2 inches. On Jeep Wrangler Rubicon models there’s an electronic front sway bar disconnect to help provide additional wheel travel in difficult terrain conditions.

As for on-road ride quality; it’s smoother and more compliant than you might think, certainly better than many import sport cars.

Jeep purists still enjoy all of the amenities that make this do-all an outdoorsman’s dream; fold-down windshield, removable doors, washable floors, standard soft-top and optional removable hardtop.

And let’s not forget Chrysler’s available Uconnect touch screen, the best in the business, featuring Bluetooth streaming audio, SiriusXM satellite radio and Travel Link, Uconnect media center, web, navigation and voice command. 

The Jeep Wrangler 2-door and Wrangler Unlimited 4-door are available in four models: Sport, Sport S, Sahara and Rubicon.

Limited, special edition versions of the Wrangler are snapped up as fast as they are built. Right now Jeep is offering the Willys Wheeler Edition in the 2-door model and the Polar Edition for four-door fanatics.

Pricing starts at $22,395 for the 2-door sport.

Youth Sailing: The Byerly Brothers

January 3rd, 2014

byerlybros Youth Sailing: The Byerly Brothers

We recently caught up with a band of sailing brothers who have had the opportunity to sail around the world competitively. These up-and-comers are active here at home with high school sailing and also with Lakewood Yacht Club.

Dane Byerly – age 15

GCM: What got you started in sailing?  

Dane: I read about winning a scholarship to go to Sailing Camp at Lakewood Yacht Club through Bay Access.  My dad is a sailor and I really wanted to learn how to sail.

GCM: Who was instrumental in helping you learn how to sail?  

Dane: My first coach, Mattia d’Errico, taught me how to sail.  He introduced me to Scott Lindley, another coach, who taught me how to race.

GCM: Why and what do you like about sailing?  

Dane: I really like the competition in sailing and also getting to hang out with my friends.  I have met kids around the country and around the world.

GCM: How do you apply what you learn in sailing to everyday life?  

Dane: Sailing has taught me how to be more organized and how to plan ahead.

GCM: How many years have you been sailing?  

Dane: Seven years.

GCM: What are your future goals?  

Dane: If there was a chance, my dream would be to represent the United States on the Olympic Sailing Team.  Of course, sailing in the America’s Cup would be awesome too.  I would love to attend and sail for the U.S. Naval Academy or Boston College.

 

Dougie Byerly – age 14

GCM: What got you started in sailing?  

Dougie: My brother Dane started sailing at Lakewood and I wanted to learn too.

GCM: Who was instrumental in helping you learn how to sail?  

Dougie: Coach Mattia – he was my first coach.

GCM: Why and what do you like about sailing?  

Dougie: I like having fun on the water with my friends.

GCM: How do you apply what you learn in sailing to everyday life?  

Dougie: I have dyslexia and sailing helps me learn to focus.  I am also able to use what I have learned about weather in my everyday life.

GCM: How many years have you been sailing?  

Dougie: Six years.

GCM: What are your future goals?  

Dougie: I would like to continue sailing, especially high school sailing.  I don’t know what I want to study but would like to attend Texas A&M.  I hope to use what I have learned in sailing in big boats when I am older.

 

Dutch Byerly – age 12

GCM: What got you started in sailing?  

Dutch: My older brothers, especially Dane.  I was also having fun hanging around the sailing kids.

GCM: Who was instrumental in helping you learn how to sail?  

Dutch: Coach Mattia, then my brother, Dane. Then Coach Scott taught me a ton about racing.  He taught me how to team race and I got to qualify with our team who were able to attend the Volvo Open Ocean Race Academy in Miami.  We represented Team Abu Dhabi and got to see the boats and met some of the team members.  They trained us in the special team boats.  It was really fun.

GCM: Why and what do you like about sailing?  

Dutch: I like being competitive and it helps me stay in shape.  I like being active.

GCM: How do you apply what you learn to everyday life?  

Dutch: It helps me when I have to think quickly and notice my surroundings because of what I have to do on the water with wind and race course conditions.

GCM: How many years have you been sailing?  

Dutch: About four years but I have been in the boats with my dad and brothers since I was tiny.

GCM: What are your future goals?  

Dutch: I want to sail in the Olympics for the U.S.  I also want to be on the U.S. National Team for Optimist Sailors like my brother, Dane.  I want to team race a lot and compete in bigger boats, especially in high school sailing and travel to sail.  I am going on my first international trip to Argentina in February to sail in a regatta.

Marvin Beckmann

January 3rd, 2014

A Conversation With 2013-2014 Etchells World Champion Marvin Beckmann

GCM: How old were you when you first started sailing? 

Beckmann: About 10. My dad pushed me off on a sailfish with my mom. Not knowing much, it took me some time to make it back. I remember doing races with my sister on that same sailfish at the Seabrook Sailing Club and not doing so well.

GCM: Who was the biggest influence in your early sailing career?

Beckmann: As a youngster I enjoyed the camaraderie of friends and members of the Seabrook Sailing Club. The biggest influences on my sailing were Martin Bludworth, Earl Gerloff and my father. Each of these individuals taught me how to be competitive, what makes a sailboat go and what to look for in the wind.

 GCM: One design racing on a club level seems to be on the decline, what can clubs do to get more people involved with the sport?

Beckmann: That is a tough one. Sailboat racing takes time which people don’t seem to have a lot of these days. The ironic thing is that if you don’t take the time to race locally or on the road as the pros do, your results won’t be good. The local clubs schedule and run series races, but the turnout usually isn’t there. The turnout is better for key local events, but that also has fallen off. It takes the effort of a few people to improve fleet turnout to races. I watched Ian Edwards do it for the Lighting class in 2012 where he organized half day events in preparation for the Worlds. It was a low turnout initially but ended up having enough boats to support the participation.  We set up a short course Saturday afternoon and held numerous starts and mini races. This was followed by a great get together at the club or my bay house.

GCM: Did you ever crew for Martin Bludworth?

Beckmann: I sailed against him and must have crewed with him a time or two. I remember that he could be difficult on the boat, something I may have acquired from him. He was a great inspiration for the sport of sailing.

GCM: Now that you’re a world champion are you going to sail as much as you did last year?

Beckmann: We are gearing up for the Etchells Worlds next year in Newport, RI. I have already participated in several sailing events and will continue in preparation. To win a Worlds you have to be at the top of your game and have a few things fall your way.

GCM: Big money always seems to drive the sport, what’s your take on the Americas Cup?

Beckmann: This year’s final event was exciting to watch but seemed a little one sided, first for NZ and then for the US. I would like to see the countries represented by their own countrymen. The US boat was controlled by a Brit and Aussies and the office by NZ. I don’t think the cheating represented our country very well. I also think the race track was short and predictable, minimizing passing opportunities.

GCM: I know you have sailed a bunch of different kinds of boats in your career, what was it about the Etchells that attracted you to the class?

Beckmann: I got started in the Etchells because of the local fleet with notable locals of Don Genitempo, Don Harbin, Tom McCulloch, Mike Little, Johnny Maudlin, Mike McCann, Tom Meeh and Tony Smythe. We were getting ready for the 1999 North Americans where Ash Beatty, John Wilson, and I finished 2nd. The Etchells is a tactical boat that rewards boat speed and good decisions, a lot like a Soling which I sailed for years before the Etchells.

GCM: In 1977 you won the Clifford D. Mallory Cup. In 1978 and in 1979 you won the Prince of Wales match racing trophy and now you’re a world champion. Which of the three trophies do you savor the most?

Beckmann: The one-on-one game of anticipating and controlling your opponent was very rewarding and fun. Winning the Worlds in the highly competitive Etchells class is my best achievement. We had a great team and did a lot of prep for the Etchells Worlds with a lot of good results leading to the Etchells Worlds, which included winning the Jaguar Cup ( a series of 4 regattas in Miami), the Etchells Nationals and the Italian Nationals.

GCM: What is it about racing sailboats that keeps you coming back year after year?

Beckmann: I think it’s my competitive nature and I like a challenge. I do it as a hobby, so finding the time is sometimes difficult. In my younger years it was the turnout and camaraderie. Sailing J-24s  with 40-60+ boats at weekend circuit stops was a blast. Over the last few years the larger events (NAs, Worlds, etc.) draw the competition and challenge in preparing to give it your best shot at doing well. It feels good to get the results against all the pros.