Fishing with Capt. James Plaag

plaag trout stringer Fishing with Capt. James Plaag

Capt. James Plaag with a good stringer of trout.

From trout to tarpon with Capt. Plaag, the 36 year master guide of Silver King Adventures

Interview by Brandon Rowan

Where did you grow up?

I’m from Houston but I grew up down here near the water. My family has had houses here since the 1950s. So I spent all my youth down here. We had a place on Chocolate Bayou and in 1967 my family built a house in Jamaica Beach. I used to watch ZZ Top play down there on the weekends.

How long have you been guiding?

It’s been 36 years, man it goes by fast. Silver King Adventures was started in 1990. Things were tough with the ‘83 freeze when everything froze and died. Then with the ‘89 freeze everything froze and died again.

We had been trying to catch tarpon, but we didn’t know what we were doing at the time. But we had some people interested in going, and it took us a while to wire it up but we got it going. I was tarpon fishing in Louisiana some at that point too, and that’s how we started.

tarpon plaag Fishing with Capt. James Plaag

Silver King Adventures is no stranger to large tarpon.

So it all started with Tarpon?

Well, yeah that’s how the name came. One of our customers gave us that name and got roused a bit, and he made us a nice little ad. He was in that business.

What is your fishing specialty or target fish?

Right now we are tarpon fishing. We’ll still go trout fishing if the beach is no good but we’d rather be fishing for tarpon.

So you’re spending a lot of time a couple miles off the beachfront?

Sometimes we’ll get 10 miles out. I’ve caught them in 67 feet of water down to 7 feet of water; it all depends on where you can find them. They are the hardest fish on the planet to find and catch.

What lures/baits are you using for tarpon?

We quit fishing with bait maybe about 15 years ago. We make our own little lures. We still use Coon Pops. Coon is one of my best friends. I learned a whole lot from him; he’s probably the best tarpon fisherman I’ve met in my whole life. We make our own stuff, but we got a lot from him.

How did you get your start fishing?

I cut my teeth fishing the canals at my Grandma’s house in Jamaica Beach. I was about 8 and would ride my bike to the water. With dead shrimp I would catch croaker, hardheads and little redfish. If it bit, I would catch it.

Do you have a favorite fishing moment?

There’s two moments. We caught a really big tarpon one year. The fish was 6’9” with a 50 inch girth and weighed 238 pounds.

The other is from Panama. We were on the Gotcha in Panama City and we took it to Piñas. It’s probably the finest place I’ve ever been in my life. We saw about 15 or 16 fish, caught about 8 or 9. Half blues and half black marlin.

MirrOlure 51MR CH and Bass Assassin in Red Shad.

If you could only have one soft plastic and one hard bait, what would they be?

I’d take a 51 series MirrOlure in chartreuse/gold and a red shad Bass Assassin. I work for both of those companies, but if I didn’t, the answer would still be the same. I put my son through school on that red shad color.

What is the biggest mistake you see fisherman making out there?

They don’t put in the effort. There’s the old saying that you get out what you put in. Fishing is not just throwing your stuff out there and getting them; it doesn’t work like that. If just want a boat ride, that’s all good and fine, but if you actually want to catch something, you have to put in more than just a lackadaisical effort.

What are some things anglers in the Galveston Bay Complex should key in on during September and October to be successful?

September is a hard month for trout fishing. It’s a transition month. You have a major spawn in April and a little bit bigger than a minor spawn in September. September is probably one of the worst months to try and catch a trout. You can, and someone might tell me “Man you’re stupid, we kill them in September.” Yeah, well you might, but by and large it’s not that good.

If the weather is good then September is the best month to catch Tarpon. October is the same for those first three weeks if it’s calm. That’s when the big fish are there. It’s a really good month. October is also a good trout fishing month. Those birds will start working and it gets pretty easy. But September can be tough inshore. For me that month is made for tarpon fishing and dove hunting.

Do you have a favorite tide stage to fish?

It depends on the time of year and where you are fishing.  If you’re fishing the marsh during winter, then you got to have an outgoing tide. If you’re fishing near the ship channel, deep water shell or well pads, then the fish will be biting on the incoming tide.

What is the biggest change you’ve seen in our area from when you first started compared to today?

The biggest change? It’s a thing called a cell phone. It totally ruined fishing and I’ll throw croakers in there, too. It used to be that you could stay on a school of fish for two weeks, now you can’t stay on them for 2 hours before someone picks up the phone and tells the world “Hey I saw this dude on the fish over here and they’re getting them.”

The information highway brother…the coconut telegraph is a killer.

James with a 5 pound bass.

Do you have a new recently discovered lure or technique you’d like to share with our readers?

In these last three years we’ve been fishing a lot like they fish swimbaits for bass. Instead of jigging them, we use them like a search bait. That’s where the paddletail comes into play, like a Bass Assassin Sea Shad. Once you get your speed down and find the fish, whether it’s the bottom or top of the water column, it’s easy. That way you can tell clients to cast, let it fall for X amount of seconds and then bring it back on a medium retrieve.

Favorite place you have ever fished?

It’s definitely Panama.

Is there anything you’d like to see changed in the current regulations?

Do away with the croaker. Sooner or later the guides are going to fish themselves out of business and everyone will be wondering why. What it enables you to do is to target the individual fish you wouldn’t catch otherwise. I could go out there with a lure and I might catch one and I may not, but you drag that croaker through there and you can target the individual big breeder fish.

So you’ll have one boat load up with 15 or more 3 – 5 pound trout before they head in. Then you’ll have 30 boats out there doing the same thing. Add it up in pounds and it doesn’t take long to see the problem.

If you want to fish with finfish, then get you some piggie perch. Put some effort into it. Piggie is a better bait than a croaker, but you have to put some more effort in to use them.

Another thing I’ve talked about is putting a slot limit on the trout. Knock the minimum length down to 14 inches so Joe Blow can go out and catch his 10 fish. And then anything from 20 to 25 inches just put them back. Most customers want fish they can keep, so they could box the smaller eating fish and let the big ones go.

Aside from fishing, what else are you passionate about?

Dove hunting. But with fishing we go with the old saying “Can’t stop, won’t stop.” That’s what we do; we fish. Cameron, my son, is the same way. It’s what we do.

Do you fish any tournaments?

I’ve fished a couple tournaments this year. I’ve been lucky enough to place in just about every one of them. I don’t go after it hard anymore though. Them boys that fish those tournaments in wintertime, they’re good, they catch them. They’re young and they’ll make long runs.

We fish the Seabrook Saltwater Derby every year.  We’ve won something in that one just about every time. I fish with Jason Nolan. He just called me about it, it’s coming up on September 29.

Uh oh, we got some competition (laughs). Team Gulf Coast Mariner will be fishing that one too.

Well I hope y’all do good, but I hope I do better (laughs).

How can someone contact you for a guided trip?

Give me a call at (409) 935-7242,  email info@silverkingadventures.com or visit www.silverkingadventures.com. Tarpon fishing will be hot and inshore fishing during the fall is the best all year.

Texas Yellowfin Tuna 101

tunapop Texas Yellowfin Tuna 101

A Quick Guide to Fishing the Floaters

By Brandon Rowan

Night owls rejoice, Texas yellowfin tuna fishing is hot from dusk to dawn.  So, it’s pitch black and you’re bobbing along 100 plus miles offshore at the floaters (semi-submersible rigs). Well now what?

blackfin Texas Yellowfin Tuna 101

Blackfin tuna will provide all the bait and chum you need.

Jigging

First things first, you need chum. The idea is to create a tasty trail of bread crumbs for fish to follow as you drift away from the rig.  You could bring a bag of shad or other baitfish to get you started but all the chum and bait you need is right below your boat in the form of blackfin tuna.

Cousin to the yellowfin, these smaller tuna max out at around 50 pounds and swarm the night waters around the floaters.  There is no minimum length or bag limit for blackfin tuna in Federal waters.  Take the knife to smaller, football sized fish but bleed and ice the larger 15-30 pounders.  They put up a surprisingly good fight and taste nearly as good as yellowfin, just make sure to remove the large bloodline.  What is the best way to catch blackfin tuna?  Jigs are your best bet.

Blackfin are not particularly finicky and will hit just about any diamond, knife or butterfly jig you send down to the deep.  Jigs from 4 to 10 ounces with glow-in-the-dark colors seem to draw the most attention.  Yellowfin will also hit jigs although not with the regularity of blackfin. In fact, on one trip my two best yellowfin tuna, in the 50-pound class, were caught with glow-in-the-dark and blue 8-ounce diamond jigs.

To start your drift, position the boat down current of the platform and drop your jigs down.  Stay alert as you let your lure fall, many times fish will strike as the jig flutters downward. If your line suddenly goes slack, ratchet up the drag and set the hook.

The Japanese style of speed jigging can work in this situation but is tiring and not necessary when many bites happen on the fall. A slower yo-yo style of jigging is also effective, and if you’re at the right depth then sometimes a few lifts of the rod tip is all it takes to entice a bite. Load your jigging reels with color metered braid to help determine what depth the fish are feeding. Sometimes it’s 30 feet, other times it can be 300 feet.

 

Chunking

If things are going as planned, then you should have plenty of blackfin after a drift or two.  Cut your fish into one-to-two inch chunks and keep them handy in a designated chum bucket.  On your next drift have one angler continue to jig while another tosses out a handful of chunks every couple of minutes.  Set up two drift lines, one long and one short, each sporting a large bloody chunk of blackfin at the business end.

Chunking, as it is called, provides your best chance for landing big yellowfin tuna, so heavier tackle is a must.  Stout stand-up rods, 30 or 50 lb. class reels, 50 to 100 pound fluorocarbon leaders and strong 4/0 to 8/0 circle hooks are standard gear.  You don’t want to be outgunned when that 100 pounder finds its way to your chum line.  Don’t be discouraged if the bite doesn’t happen in first 15 minutes.  Many good fish have been hooked and landed far from the rig’s lights.

 

Yo-Zuri Sashimi Bull Metallic Popper

Yo-Zuri Sashimi Bull Metallic Popper

Pop the Top

Yellowfin tuna in the Gulf of Mexico sometimes shy away from jigs but will violently assault a topwater lure if conditions are right.  It’s a good idea to have a heavy spinning setup ready at all times for tossing poppers to surface crashing yellowfin. It is not uncommon to see tuna leap high out of the water when in pursuit of flying fish. A Shimano Saragosa or Stella loaded with 60 to 80 pound braid on a 7 – 8 foot rod is a common outfit. See this article for more detailed information on rods and reels.

The technique for working these lures is similar to the ole’ tried and true popping cork.   A flick of the rod tip causes the lure’s cupped mouth to rush forward and create a commotion.  They can also be reeled in ultra fast to create a big splashing disturbance on the surface. If the flying fish have taken to the skies, then it could be a good time to toss a popper.

 

flyfish

Tuna absolutely love flying fish.

Skimming the Big Pool

Flying fish are tuna candy. Sometimes they’re so thick they’ll fly right into the boat.  Other times they drift tantalizingly close but still out of reach. Your standard backyard pool skimming net solves this problem.  Flying fish make superb bait so collect as many as you can and put them to work on a drift line. Nothing beats the real thing.

 

A Bloody Mess

Tuna fishing is exciting, it definitely tests your arms and back – but it is not clean. You might want to wear an old shirt you don’t particularly care about. Tuna must be bled to ensure the highest quality of meat. Cut the gills or make a small semi-circle cut behind the pectoral fin to drain your fish before boxing it. You can go a step further and gut the fish, remove the head and pack the body cavity with ice if you find down time between fish. Good luck and tight lines!

tunadeck




Five Lures for Big Speckled Trout

These time proven big trout lures consistently produce fish over five pounds and have landed me a number of top tournament finishes.

By Capt. Steve Soule

superspookjr Five Lures for Big Speckled Trout

Super Spook Jr.

If the wind is light or I’m fishing in shallow water, my first and often only choice for chasing a trophy would be the Heddon® Super Spook Jr.® in bone with silver sides. Its a small lure in the world of big trout, but that’s what makes it so deadly. Fish in shallow water are much more sensitive to noise and water movements and there are days when the subtle presentation of a smaller lure just works better. With a little practice and variation of the retrieve, you can make the Spook Jr. sound and appear large. The single ball rattle system can be worked gently without spooking fish, but if you work it hard, you can achieve a wide side to side motion with a rather loud clicking to draw them in.

heddonsuperspook Five Lures for Big Speckled Trout

Super Spook

When the chop gets a little bigger, it’s time to tie on a bigger bait. The Heddon® Super Spook® in Okie Shad, or as I have always called it, the “Jimmy Houston,” is a close tie for my all-time favorite topwater. It’s a very natural color combination that works well in dirty water, but produces in clear water when others just won’t. This is not a small top water, in size or sound, but with its more natural color scheme it can be used effectively across the spectrum of conditions. Big or light chop, shallow or deep, this one does it all and I have caught more quality trout on this lure than I could possibly count.

shedog

She Dog

The MirrOLure® She Dog 83MR in Chartreuse/Pearl is another topwater that excels in choppy conditions, but can be deadly in both dirty and clear water. It too has a single ball style rattle, but emits a much higher pitch sound than the Super Spook. I don’t necessarily turn to this one as frequently as some of the others on this list, but when conditions call for it, I always have one ready. This lure and color combination landed me my largest trout to date, a fish just over 29.5” and over nine pounds, in 2010 in Galveston.

fatboy91

Paul Brown Fat Boy

When its time to probe the depths with deadly precision, I turn to the MirrOlure® Paul Brown Fat Boy, a creation of Houston mastermind Paul Brown, probably one of the greatest lure designers to ever live. This lure can take some time to get a grip on, but once you do, it can be fished effectively from less than a foot to depths over six feet. It’s a soft plastic wrapped, cork over wire, baitfish imitating, seductive dancing, finesse bait that has been the demise of many giant trout. Because of the construction of the lure, the Fat Boy can be tuned to swim at different depths, diving slightly up or down with different bends applied to the nose or tail. Chartreuse, gold sides, white belly has always been a favorite color combo for me.

fatboypink

Paul Brown Fat Boy

It’s not really fair to say that there is a fifth in my top five, because it’s a repeat of number four. For many years, the Fat Boy in pink with silver sides has been my go-to for cold winter fishing. This selection is a standard answer concerning winter trout, but my tournament partners can vouch for the fact that in certain conditions, I would start and finish a nine hour day throwing this one lure. It landed me my heaviest trout that I have an accurate weight on, at 9.25 pounds, and has been the lure that led me to more top five finishes in trout tournaments than any other.

These are my choices and I’m sticking to them. Every lure on this list has produced trout over 7.5 pounds in the Galveston Bay system. There is no one single bait that suits every condition set or scenario that you will encounter, and this list may not work for you, but it’s mine and has not changed much over the past ten years. When its time for me to hunt big winter or spring trout, you can rest assured I will have every one of these ready to go.

Fishing with Capt. Steve Hillman

hillman speck Fishing with Capt. Steve Hillman

Steve Hillman with a mid October beauty, released after a quick photo.

Hillman Guide Service’s big trout buff on his early years and fishing favorites

Interview by Brandon Rowan

Where did you grow up?

I was born in Galveston and grew up on Dickinson Bayou where my parents started a small seafood business in the mid-seventies.  When not fishing off of our little pier I would fish out in the bay with my dad, uncles and grandpa.  This was back when we didn’t have to venture far to catch trout, redfish and flounder.  Reefs in Dickinson Bay, Moses Lake and Todd’s Dump gave us all the action we could ask for.

It really wasn’t until my mid-teenage years that I learned how to read the water well.  I fell in love with wading and learned what slicks meant.  This is when fishing hit a whole new level for me.  I caught my first topwater trout on a chrome/ blue jumping minnow on Dickinson Reef when I was around 16 years old.  I still remember how rafts of mullet would mark the J-shaped reef.  No GPS was needed.

In 1996 I graduated from the University of Houston – Clear Lake with a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Management, then took a job in the chemical industry.  Within a couple of years I came back to my roots in the family seafood business to take over the marketing aspects of the business.  We would fly clients in from all over the country and I would take them fishing and golfing.

It was during this time when I realized just how much satisfaction I got from watching others enjoy catching fish.  In 2004 I obtained my captain’s license and started running trips.  Some folks told me to be careful taking something that I enjoy and turning it into a job.  I suppose this is true for some.  For me, it was the right choice.  I never intended on becoming a full-time fishing guide but the circumstances pretty much played out that way.  Now, I have some of the best regular clients that any guide could ever ask for.  Funny how things seem to work out the way you least expect.

When I started guiding I ran tarpon, bull red, shark, black drum, flounder and trout trips.  While I enjoyed all of that I realized that my true passion was fishing for trout and reds.  I’m a firm believer in sticking to what you know.  And, by doing the same thing day-in and day-out you can stay on the patterns and become better.

Do you have a favorite fishing moment?

My favorite experience is when a young man from Idaho called to book a two day fly fishing trip with me in March of 2006 for him and his father.  The first day was spent wading coves in West Bay amidst typical March stiff winds.  The bite was tough on flies, but the trout and reds were cooperative (for me) on conventional tackle.  Kurt and his dad kept their distance from me despite me constantly waving them in my direction.  They caught a few undersized trout on seaducers, clouser minnows and spoon flies.  They seemed to be happy despite not catching a bunch of fish.  The wind gave us a break on the second day and the fishing was much better.  Once again, however, they wouldn’t wade over when I was on fish.  They caught some, but I was a bit perplexed and maybe even a little disappointed that they pretty much hung out away from me in their own little world.  I pulled up to the dock at Teakwood Marina and Kurt’s father headed for the truck as he was a little tired.  Kurt handed me my check and said the following; “Captain Steve, I know that me and my dad could’ve caught more fish had we spent more time by your side or used conventional gear, but I need to tell you something.  My dad has terminal cancer and the doctors only gave him a few months to live.  He started taking me fly fishing when I was a little boy and those memories are the ones I cherish the most.  We got to relive some of those memories the past two days and I want to thank you for that.  This may be the last time I get to fish with my dad.”

As Kurt walked towards his truck tears flowed from my eyes.  I drove home thinking about how blessed I was.  That two day fishing trip with Kurt and his father will forever be etched in my memory as well as my heart.

mirrolure27 Fishing with Capt. Steve Hillman

MirrOlure MirrOdine XL

What is your favorite soft plastic and hard bait for trout if you had to choose only one of each?

My favorite soft plastic would have to be a Limetreuse Saltwater Assassin and MirrOlure’s MirrOdine XL would be my choice for a hard bait.

What is the biggest mistake you see other fishermen make?

I would have to say that the biggest mistake I see on a regular basis is other fishermen motoring over fish.  Just the other day we witnessed a boat motor through several good trout slicks then line up behind us to make a drift.  He was more concerned with what was happening on my boat then what was happening in the water around him.  This has become a daily occurrence.  I would love to see more awareness and better etiquette.

Fat redfish like this one can be found schooling in open water, September through November.

What should anglers key in on during September and October in Galveston Bay?

The early days of September are usually similar to our late summer patterns which involve drifting slicks in 7 to 11 feet of water over shell and throwing mainly soft plastics.  Depending upon the timing of cool fronts, late September and early October can become more of a transitional pattern where trout are found deep as well as shallow.  Slicks and active bait are always good telltale signs but gulls hovering over migrating white shrimp can also lead you to the fish.  Wading near marsh drains is always a good plan especially during late October.  Trout can be somewhat spread out until a true fall pattern arrives which usually occurs in November.

Do you have a favorite tide stage to fish?

My favorite tide to fish depends on where we’re fishing but our trout seem to feed better during a tide change.  If we’re wading the mouth of a marsh drain then I like a high tide going to a low.  If we’re drifting open bay reefs then any tidal movement is best, regardless of direction.

What is the biggest change you’ve seen in Galveston Bay over the years?

I could write an entire article on this subject but I suppose the most noticeable change is the bottom landscape of the bay.  Many islands are now reefs and many reefs are now gone.  Through the years the bottom structure has changed from environmental changes and man-induced changes.  We have lost more than half of our live oyster reefs and all of our rangia clam beds mainly due to Hurricane Ike and other environmental changes.

I’ve also seen the number of boats increase dramatically over the years.

Do you have a recently discovered lure or new technique you’d like to share with our readers?

I’m pretty much a creature of habit who tends to keep things simple.  That being said, I seem to be throwing more waking baits such as Strike Pro’s Hunchback this year.  It’s a subsurface hard bait that wobbles from side to side.  It has a loud rattle that tends to draw strikes when sometimes other baits won’t.  Other than that, I usually stick to the basic soft plastic and topwater program.  It really depends on what I see while we’re fishing.

Favorite place you’ve ever fished?

Hands down, my favorite place I’ve ever fished is Baffin Bay.  I love catching legitimately big trout and Baffin has produced more big trout for me than all the other bays I’ve fished combined.  Galveston Bay has produced some big trout for us through the years but not as consistently as Baffin.

Steve’s 8.25lb trout fell for a MirrOdine XL.

Is there anything you’d like to see changed in the current regulations?

The jury is still out on this question for me.  I carefully observe the changes I see on a yearly and daily basis while running my charters.  I also study the data from the Texas Parks and Wildlife, as well as others such as the Harte Research Institute.

My current opinion is that we’re struggling with habitat in this bay and fishing pressure has greatly increased.  Man-made and environmental changes have had a negative impact on our estuary.  I don’t think anyone can deny that.

The question is what changes should be made?  Is a limit reduction to 5 trout the answer?  I personally think it’s a good start.  Sustainability of our spotted seatrout as well as our habitat should be on the front burner.

Aside from fishing, what else are you passionate about?

I thoroughly enjoy fishing but my biggest passion is spending time with my family.  My wife and I only have one daughter, and she turns 16 in January.  Time seems to pass faster than ever and I don’t want to miss anything that has to do with them.  We’re a goofy little family and we can rarely have a serious conversation, but I wouldn’t want it any other way.

You can contact Hillman Guide Service by calling 409-256-7937 or by emailing captsteve@hillmanguideservice.com

 

Down South Lures’ Mike Bosse

mike bosse dsl Down South Lures Mike Bosse

Mike Bosse with a big trout caught on a Down South Lure in red shad.

Interview by Brandon Rowan

Where are you from?

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.”

DSLkickin Down South Lures Mike Bosse

Down South Lure in Kickin’ Chicken.

Tell me about the journey that led up to the design and success of Down South Lures.

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.

Were there any unforeseen challenges or surprises have you encountered while developing Down South?

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.

Michael Naymik with a 23.3″ Galveston flounder caught on Down South Lures.

What is your personal favorite DSL lure/rigging?

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.

What colors and riggings are best for the super DSL for big trout in the winter?

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.

What kind of retrieve do you recommend when fishing DSLs?

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.

Do you have a favorite fishing moment? Could be a big fish or trophy but also a special fish or situation.

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.

This big trout was caught on a Key Lime Super Model in Mansfield with Capt. Daniel Land.

What’s your favorite place you have fished?

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.

Aside from fishing, what else are you passionate about?

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.

Is there any Down South Lure news or upcoming events you’d like to let our readers know about?

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.

Coastal Artist Anastasia Musick

musick tarpon Coastal Artist Anastasia Musick

Anastasia Musick with her tarpon painting “Eyes on the Prize.”

Interview by Kelly Groce

Tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from and when did you start painting?

Originally I am from Kazakhstan but I have lived all over Europe and Asia (11 countries to be exact) before I was even 17!  Shortly after I came along, my family endured many hardships from the changing times, causing us to constantly move.

Like many young kids, I was fond of drawing, painting and anything artistic, but I tended to dedicate all of my time to this interest over anything else.  Certainly it was a good focus, as no matter where we lived or what the language, I had to start learning that particular year(s), I had consistency and stability in my artwork. I think was more beneficial to me than anything.

When I was around 11 years old, I was starting to paint and draw animals and floral art at a very rapid rate.  My mother would place the finished works in shops wherever we were living at the time.  By the time I was 15, I was being contacted for commissioned pieces of a very wide array of subjects, including freshwater fish, birds, and a lot of floral works.

How did you get into painting wildlife?

I have from the very beginning painted a host of subjects without boundary, but I would say that the time period I started focusing mostly on marine and wildlife was 2-3 years ago. My first saltwater piece was around that time as well.

musick swordfish Coastal Artist Anastasia Musick

“Dancing in the Moonlight”

Aside from art, what else are you passionate about?

Well to be completely honest, I don’t really have much time to do much else!  I paint 8-12 hours a day, 7 days a week, and when I am caught up I try to go fishing or enjoy my time on the water.  I take what I do incredibly seriously and try to give every ounce of energy I have to becoming better. After all, I have a lot of folks who have invested in me by owning originals.  I would be doing them a disservice if I did not increase their piece’s value over time.

I do love to fish but unless it’s a subject I am completely new to, it really does not make the artworks any better to continually see the same species—at least for me it doesn’t, but what does improve the paintings is pure repetition. This is the only requirement needed to have the knowledge or capability to paint or draw anything with success.

“Nine Lives”

What is your favorite fish to catch?

Redfish and Mahi.

Favorite location to fish or travel?

When time allows, I like to take either my paddle boat or kayak to a tiny little area in Charlotte Harbor that always is harboring at least a few hungry reds!  Within the last two years my vacationing has been sort of limited, but I have really enjoyed the various beaches I’ve visited in Texas and of course the boardwalk in San Antonio was a fun time.

Favorite fishing moment?

The very first redfish I caught had a little over 13 spots and I think that’s when I fell in love with fishing and wanted to dedicate that as my predominate focus.

“Ambush Queens”

How can our readers purchase and enjoy your art?

I have hundreds of pieces that I do reproductions of in small numbers, apparel and a host of other things available.  Easiest way to contact me is either to go to Facebook and search me out: Anastasia Musick. Also feel free to contact me on my business page: Musick Art Corporation. You can also find my website at www.AnastasiaMusick.com

Are there any foundations or organizations you are involved with that you would like to tell our readers about?

I work with CCA Texas, Florida and several kidney research foundations.  In 2019 I was selected to be the Texas CCA STAR Platinum Print Artist and would like to continue working with them and others.

“The Prospectors Bill”

Texas Billfishing Lures

Four top Texas captains give up the billfish lures that are always in their spread and should be in yours.

texasbillfishing Texas Billfishing Lures

Moldcraft Wide Range

moldcraftwiderangeblkpurp Texas Billfishing Lures

Moldcraft Wide Range with black/purple skirt. (no. 26)

Capt. Darrell WeigeltCapt. Darrell Weigelt – PATRON

“My favorite lure for Texas billfishing is the Moldcraft Wide Range in black and purple. I can pull it anywhere in the spread and get good action from it in almost any condition. This lure catches a lot of big blue marlin. It is responsible for a massive 1,742-pound marlin, as well as the 80 pound line class world record blue of 1,189 pounds.”

Wide Ranges

Some of Capt. Deerman’s favorite Wide Range color combos.

Capt. Kevin DeermanCapt. Kevin Deerman – LEGACY

“On the Legacy, we have about 20 lures that I would consider our ‘A Team.’ These are the lures that have been productive for us on the Legacy and also on other boats that I have been on in years past. As far as picking a favorite, I would have to say the Moldcraft Wide Range would be my choice in any color combo. This one always finds a spot in our spread either as a lure with hooks, at the end of a daisy chain or by itself as a hookless teaser. Because it’s a soft lure we get more bites out of a fish and more opportunities at hookups.”

Marlin Magic Baby Ruckus

Marlin Magic Baby Ruckus

Marlin Magic Baby Ruckus 03/46 skirt combo at Melton International Tackle.

Capt. Troy Day

Capt. Troy Day

Owner Jasen Gast – REHAB

“My favorite lure for Texas billfishing is the Marlin Magic Baby Ruckus. It was designed by fishermen in Hawaii who catch more big blue marlin on lures than potentially any other place in the world. Run off the short or long rigger position, this lure is a proven billfish raiser for us. It creates a lot of noise in the water and pulls extremely well in a variety of weather conditions we see here in the Gulf of Mexico. Both the Ruckus and Baby Ruckus models are very aggressive and create quite the billfish attracting commotion.”

Makaira 19 - Chartreuse Paua Shell - Blue/Silver over Green/Chartreuse

Makaira 19 – Chartreuse Paua Shell – Blue/Silver over Green/Chartreuse

Brutus - Blue Paua Shell/Silver Mirror w/ Silver Eyes - Blue/Silver/Black Bars over Purple/Black

Makaira Brutus – Blue Paua Shell/Silver Mirror w/ Silver Eyes – Blue/Silver/Black Bars over Purple/Black

Capt. Brett HoldenCapt. Brett Holden – BOOBY TRAP

“Due to weather, we only have so many days to fish here in the Gulf. So if I’m chasing billfish I’m going to make it count. Makaira Pulling Lures, custom handmade lures by Justin Roper in Louisiana, are my first choice for trolling. Justin has 19 different lure heads, from slant to yap to chugger, in a variety of colors and weighted in couple different ways. My favorites are the 19, Brutus and Mars. I prefer to rig them with a single stiff or single semi-stiff hook. I’ll always the remember the first day I trolled a Makaira. We were in 400–500 feet of water and a big blue marlin inhaled the lure off the flat line right away. We ended up catching 12 wahoo and four big dolphin in an hour and a half after that first big blue. Since that day, I’ve made it a point to always have Makairas in my spread.”

Lure Colors for Trout and Redfish

sunnylures Lure Colors for Trout and RedfishWhat a difference color can make!

By Capt. Joe Kent

Have you ever been fishing with friends and either you or they were catching fish while the other person was not?  Well, if you were using artificial baits, I bet the difference in success was a result of the color of the bait, assuming they all were different colors.

Fish are not color blind and can see clearly on the darkest nights and can distinguish colors.

greenwaterlures Lure Colors for Trout and RedfishSaltwater fish living where the water is very clear tend to be bluish or silver.  This makes them almost invisible and lets them blend with the clear water background.  When they move into the bays to spawn, they change colors and become brownish and stay that way until they move back into their normal habitat.

sandywaterluresThe reason for this change is to camouflage and protect them from predator fish.

The color of a lure has everything to do with catching saltwater fish.  Personally, I have fished with others using baits of various colors and after an hour or more, certain colors would be hit while fish turned up their noses to the rest of the colors.

The example I mention has occurred on several occasions while wade-fishing or drifting and casting with the same type of baits, in each case we all were tossing soft plastics.  One situation took place in Port Mansfield, the other in East Galveston Bay.

In Mansfield, white Norton Sand Eels with chartreuse tails out performed other variations of the same bait three to one and root beer colored touts did the same thing over other colors of touts in East Bay.

Rudy Grigar, who largely is credited with starting the interest in fishing with artificial baits in the Galveston Bay complex, had years of experience in dealing with baits and colors long before most “hardware” and “soft plastic” fishermen arrived on the scene.

Grigar loved to check fish, that had been recently caught where he fished or planned to fish, for their feeding habits.  Opening the stomach cavity would reveal just what was being consumed and would give a clue as to the color of bait to be used.

Early in the season when glass minnows or small mullet were the top choices of trout, he would use light-colored baits.  A silver spoon with a white bucktail often enticed a hungry trout that was feeding on the small fin fish.

Later in the season when shrimp were migrating, he would use darker, preferably light brown, colored baits.  Gold spoons with pink bucktails were one of his favorites.

Grigar had a list of bait colors he recommended for various conditions and always had the caveat of saying “ I recommend  the following colors; however, if you are on fish and they are not hitting your bait, try another color”.  Fish will surprise you.  They are not dumb.”

Redfish

Lure color selection is dependent on water and weather conditions.

The colors and conditions he recommended were:

For bright, sunny skies and clear water use, he recommended white, silver or gold.  Overcast skies or light drizzle, he recommended bright colors such as red, green or strawberry.

For green water, which is prevalent during windows of light winds and good tidal movement during the summer, his favorite was chartreuse.

In sandy waters, florescent lures and yellow redheads worked well. The same held true for murky waters.

For muddy waters or heavy, sandy conditions such as those created by strong southwest winds during the late spring and summer, his advice was to wait for the water to clear and not to waste your time.

What about the tail colors?  The colors recommended above do not reflect buck tails or different colors for the tails of soft plastics.

Carlos Rogers who fished the Port O’Connor area for years, was adamant about different colored tails and buck tails for baits.  He felt that the tail color would offset any ill-effects of the primary bait color and for that reason always had an assortment of soft plastics and spoons with various colors at the end.

White and pink were Roger’s favorite colors and anytime he added one of those to a lure and did not catch fish he switched to the other color. If the fish still did not bite he was convinced that they were either not around or not feeding.




Deep Drop Techniques for Grouper and Tilefish

chelholden Deep Drop Techniques for Grouper and Tilefish

Chelsey Holden and a very colorful tilefish.

captholdengrouper Deep Drop Techniques for Grouper and Tilefish

Capt. Brett Holden with a real nice yellowedge grouper.

By Capt. Brett Holden

Deep dropping for tilefish and grouper is becoming more and more popular by the day here in the Gulf of Mexico. I began fishing for these deep-water critters in the mid-1980s, and the sport has grown into a daily routine for many Gulf anglers.

Faster boats with longer range have now made fish like warsaw grouper, snowy grouper, yellowedge grouper, longtail sea bass, barrelfish, tilefish and others easier targets for many Texas sport fishing vessels. These deep drop techniques will help you find these fish in 400–1,300 feet of water.

warsaw

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

Species of the Deep

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

Mike Parsons with a huge tilefish that measured in at 43 inches and 33.08 pounds.

Warsaw, yellowedge and longtail sea bass are commonly found around mountain tops, hard spots and deep water oil rigs in the 400–900 foot range. Warsaw grouper, on average, run anywhere from 40–100 pounds. But over the years I’ve seen several fish up to 250 pounds and a couple in the 300-pound range. Regulations have changed and now only one warsaw per-vessel is allowed.

Yellowedge grouper are delicious and average 8–18 pounds, with a few 20–30 pounders still caught fairly regularly. The largest one we ever caught was around 50 pounds.

'Bubba' with a longtail sea bass.

‘Bubba’ with a longtail sea bass.

Longtail sea bass are another fish that seem to inhabit the same area. They are good eating but hold a little stronger taste than the deep-water grouper. Once again, these fish are mostly found in the 400–900 foot range.

Barrelfish and tilefish run a little deeper on average. For big barrelfish, you want to fish down current from the edges and walls of deep water mountain tops. The edges will have well-defined drops and barrelfish can stack up very thick at the top and bottom of this structure. They’re usually found a bit higher off the sea floor and mark well on a good bottom machine. These fish are most often found between depths of 850–1,200 feet.

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

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

Many times the deeper you drop for barrels, the bigger the fish tend to be. Last year we found a pile of barrels at 900 feet that ran 3–8 pounds. We moved off that ridge and found another school in 1,170-to-1,225 feet of water. All of the barrels off that ridge were running 12–18 pounds on average. These fish are a blast; they fight all the way to the surface, unlike many deep water species that tend to “blow up” as they near the surface. The barrels fight hard and really put a bend in the rod.

Tilefishing is a fast growing sport and produces exceptional table fare. Not long ago, tilefish were pretty much unheard of as a rod and reel fish. I caught my first one in the mid-1980s and have been targeting them every since. This fishery was kept very quiet for a long time and was a pretty big secret. Back in the 1990s, there were no limits on tiles, and that is what we filled our freezers with. But still to this day, they are a fish you can actually go target and pick up a few meals.

We have bigger tilefish here in the Gulf than most people would think. Just a few years ago, the record tilefish was only around four pounds. But I have caught uncountable tilefish running 25–35 pounds

and several that have been 35–45 pounds, including a couple near 50 pounds. Now that eyes are opening to the new daytime swordfishing industry here on the Texas coast, more and more tilefish are being boated.

Tilefish are probably the easiest of all the deep water fish you can target. The golden tilefish is most commonly found in the 900–1,250 foot range. Smaller tiles, averaging 2–10 pounds, can be targeted on the continental shelf wall without any special areas or specific “numbers.” Muddy areas anywhere from 900–1,000 feet of open water will hold tilefish.

Finding better average sized fish will take a little more work. Tilefish will typically get bigger off the shelf, or in valleys against the shelf. Drop on the down current side of small dips and slopes in 1,000–1,250 feet of water. Tilefish tend to feed right on the bottom, so try to stop your bait and hold the boat on an area as tight as possible.

However, slow drifting will also produce tilefish and is great for covering ground. Drag the bait against the bottom, stopping often, and then continuing the drift to explore new areas.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Finding bigger tilefish is another story altogether. I have learned a lot over the past few years about these large fish. The biggest ones will hold against ridges at 1,200 feet and are bold enough to follow baits headed for deep water. Drop your bait near the edge of a ridge that looks over 1,500–1,600 feet of water and be ready. The biggest tiles, those from 35–50 pounds, seem to live alone. I have caught most of these big fish away from the schools and many times, several feet off the bottom feeding in schools of squid or dragonfish. The big tilefish really don’t seem to like a lot of leader in their face. Single rigs with the weight above the bait seem to work best. A whole squid, about 14-inches-long, works very well. Use a large hook and bait to avoid the smaller fish when targeting big tiles.

I seem to catch lots of big tiles early in the year, April through May, and sometimes in as shallow as 850–1,000 feet. I’m not sure if it was due to spawning or what, but I’ve caught several in the 30–45 pound class during these months.

Other Species

Josh Graves carefully holds up a scorpionfish.

Josh Graves carefully holds up a scorpionfish.

Beware of spiny, toothy and venomous critters that you might pull up from the deep. Spiny dogfish are small, deep water sharks that have spikes near the dorsal fins that can cause a painful sting. The spines on scorpionfish can also sting if you’re not careful. But these bright orange fish are pretty good to eat.

Once the sun goes down the tilefish stop biting and the eels take over in force. Conger eels have nice white meat but lots of bones.  Banded shrimp eels and moray eels have mouths full of big teeth so watch out.

Spiny Dogfish

Spiny Dogfish

Hake, a small brown fish averaging 1–3 pounds, also bite at night and can be a nuisance. They will eat pretty much anything. Their meat is good and tasty but very soft. I use hake filets to replace crab meat in gumbo.

Hake

Hake

The tilefish don’t bite at night but grouper will if you’re in an area free of eels. Snowy and yellowedge grouper will take baits and warsaw will feed as high as 400 feet off the bottom in 900 feet of water.

Triple deep drop leader with LP circle hooks.

Triple deep drop leader with LP circle hooks.

Rigging

For years I never used any kind of light or strobe to catch tilefish and did okay. But over the past 10 years or so, I’ve started rigging them up and I think it does work better. I also found that rigging the light further from the bait will produce bigger fish. If we are targeting BIG tiles I will rig the weight and light 15 to 20 feet above the bait. Big tilefish will eat regular double and triple bait rigs, but once again, you’ll do better on a clean single rig. The standard double and triple bait drops work well for yellowedge grouper and smaller tilefish.

Your size of leader and weight will all depend on how much current you are fighting. The bite and fishing will be best when using less weight and smaller line. Thinner line means less bow in the line and that makes it easier to see bites. On the Booby Trap, we use Diamond braid made by Diamond Products. I like the orange 80 pound braid because it is easy to see.

weights

Cannonball weights and lead stick.

With a light current and this braid, 3 pounds is a good weight to start with on your standard double bait leaders. I use cannon ball style weights because they don’t get hung up as easy on rough, rocky bottoms. If the current is strong then move up in weight size to 4 to 5 pounds. If it really cranking move up to 7 pound window weights or lead stick weights.

Some of these deep water fish have sharp teeth, so heavy mono leaders are a necessity. Yellowedge, longtail sea bass and other smaller grouper are not so bad but tilefish, eels and small sharks have sharp teeth. The grouper will wear through light leaders eventually and the tiles will bite clean through them. I use 300 pound LP or Momoi mono leader for our deep drops.

Use caribbean swivels to help keep the twist out of the leader and line. Most bottom fish will go into a spin on the way up.

Heavy duty circle hooks, from 8/0 to 16/0, work best for deep dropping. Tilefish and grouper have no problem snagging themselves on a circle hook and I would say it definitely helps keep the fish on when cranking them up from the deep. A sharp hook is also important. It’s a long way up and down, so a needle sharp edge is very important.

Be sure to take plenty of extra tackle when deep dropping. It is a long ride to the deep water fishing grounds and you might lose tackle to rocks and snags. Also, carry an extra spool or two of braided line. One break off at 1,000 feet can end the day if you are without replacement line.

When it comes to reels, the Lindgren Pitman S-1200 electric reel is the reel of choice on the Booby Trap. The LP is a deep dropping fishing machine that also has the strength and drag system to handle big warsaw grouper and swordfish. You can also hand crank tilefish and grouper on conventional tackle but it is a long way up and down.

reelcrankie

Reel Crankie in action.

The Reel Crankie is a must have, great product that can assist in getting your rig up from the bottom fast. It’s not made for fighting fish but for retrieving your heavy weight and empty hooks when you don’t catch a fish. It does a great job of winding up all the line, instead of you wearing out your arm on empty hooks. The Reel Crankie fits on a cordless drill and clamps onto several different makes of conventional reel.

You can also deep drop with two lines but it can be tricky fishing and requires some boat handling. The more bow in the lines you have, the more likely you are to tangle your expensive gear.

What Bait?

Over stuffing your hook with bait can result in fewer hookups. It is more important to get less bait nicely hooked rather than too much bait, which will result in missed fish. Avoid hard, bony, bulky baits that can push a fish off the hook. Softer baits like fish fillets and squid will result in better hook ups. Larger squid are usually tougher and stay on the hook better than the small ones. I like to take a 12–16 inch squid and cut chunks for tilefish. Squid wings work well too but not as a whole squid or chunks.

Preparing Your Catch

Gut your grouper and tilefish ASAP for better table fare. These fish eat lots of shellfish, which can result in some nasty strong tastes in the meat if not taken care of properly.

Wash down your fish after gutting them and keep on ice. Try and keep cooler drained at all times so the fish don’t soak in water.

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

Now you’re ready to go out and find your own tilefish and grouper. The entire continental shelf from Texas to Louisiana holds great bottom structure, supporting tons of deep water species.

Some fish stay directly on top of structure, some live on the walls, slopes and drop offs and some species are found on flat bottoms. Don’t forget to mark your hook ups on your GPS and keep a track record of your best catches. This is the best way to build and notice patterns on the different fish.

It is a fun way to spend the day with miles and miles of perfect habitat for multiple types of great eating fish. You never know what you will come up with and that alone makes deep dropping fun in itself.

Brett Holden is the captain of the Booby Trap, which holds the record for largest swordfish in the Gulf of Mexico. Holden is a pioneer in daytime swordfishing along the Texas coast; he holds numerous billfishing records and shares his deep drop techniques every year at the Texas Swordfish Seminar. 

Offshore Fishing Boats for the Gulf

Venture far into the Gulf on any of these fine fishing boats from 24 – 36 ft.

grady27 Offshore Fishing Boats for the Gulf

Grady-White Fisherman 257

The Fisherman 257 was built ready to go offshore. Two insulated forward 120 quart boxes and a transom 185 quart box provide plenty of room for any pelagic or reef fish you bring in. The fully insulated 32-gallon lighted livewell keeps bait lively with full column raw water distribution. This ride makes for a comfortable, yet capable sport fishing machine.

  • Length: 24’ 9”
  • Beam: 8’ 6”
  • Fuel Capacity: 135 gal.
  • Max HP: 400 HP
  • Weight (w/o engines): 4,300 lbs.
  • Draft: 20”
  • Deadrise: 20°
  • Bait/Livewell: 32 gal.
  • Fish Storage: 120 qt. (2), 185 qt.

Visit Grady-White’s website for full specifications.

sailfish27 Offshore Fishing Boats for the Gulf

Sailfish 270cc

Improved fishability with higher gunnels, larger fish boxes, more interior room and a transom livewell make the 270 one of the best laid out fishing platform on the market. The improved functional and stylish helm offers ample room for your larger electronics and multiple storage compartments for gear and equipment.

  • Length: 26’ 2”
  • Beam: 9’
  • Fuel Capacity: 188 gal.
  • Max HP: 400 HP
  • Weight (rigged): 6,700 lbs.
  • Draft: 18”
  • Deadrise: 22-24°
  • Bait/Livewell: 30 gal.
  • Fish Storage: 260 qt. (2)
  • Rod Holders: 10

Visit Sailfish Boats’ website for full specifications.

capehorn24

Cape Horn 24os

With a host of changes in both design and style, the new Cape Horn 24os is more ready than ever to face what awaits 50+ miles offshore. The newly designed hull provides impressive ride comfort and fuel economy. A sprawling floor plan leaves more room to fish. Two big live wells make sure you will never run out of bait.

  • Length: 25’ 1”
  • Beam: 9’ 1”
  • Fuel Capacity: 136 gal.
  • Max HP: 400 HP
  • Weight (dry): 3,700 lbs.
  • Draft: 20”
  • Deadrise: 23°
  • Bait/Livewell: 30/45 gal.
  • Fish Storage: 470 qt.
  • Rod Holders: 20

Visit Cape Horn’s website for full specifications.

seahunt

Sea Hunt Gamefish 25

The Gamefish delivers exactly what serious fishermen demand in a sportfishing center console boat. This boat comes ready to fish with multiple insulated fishboxes and livewells as standard features. The cockpit has abundant room for 360° of fishing and the hull delivers a soft, dry ride.

  • Length: 25’ 6”
  • Beam: 9’
  • Fuel Capacity: 148 gal.
  • Max HP: 400 HP
  • Weight (dry): 4,700 lbs.
  • Draft: 19”
  • Deadrise: 21°
  • Bait/Livewell: 27/30 gal
  • Fish Storage: 148 qt. (2), 188 qt.

Visit Sea Hunt’s website for full specifications.

worldcat

World Cat 320cc

The 320CC is a versatile performer that excels in our Gulf chop. You can run flat out to your favorite fishing spot, even in rougher seas. A large 45 gallon livewell provides ample space for bait and over 1,300 quarts of insulated storage keeps your catch cold. Twelve gunwale-mounted rod holders and comfortable seating for twelve means you can bring the entire crew out fishing.

  • Length: 32’ 2”
  • Beam: 10’ 6”
  • Fuel Capacity: 279 gal.
  • Max HP: 600 HP
  • Weight (dry): 9,200 lbs.
  • Draft: 16”
  • Bait/Livewell: 45 gal.
  • Fish Storage: 300 qt. (2), 225 qt. (2), 105 qt.
  • Rod Holders (gunwale): 12

Visit World Cat’s website for full specifications.

Yellowfin 36 Offshore

The combination of speed, an unmatched dry ride and rugged construction make the 36 Yellowfin the boat to beat no matter where you are fishing. The 36 can be powered by twin or triple outboards and either option will yield speeds that few other boats in its class can match. Numerous console, leaning post and top options, let you customize the 36 to perfectly complement the way you fish. A huge 477 gallon fuel capacity lends incredible range to this ride.

  • Length: 36’ 8”
  • Beam: 10’
  • Fuel Capacity: 477 gal.
  • Max HP: 1,250 HP
  • Weight: 9,500 lbs.
  • Draft: 20”
  • Deadrise: 24°
  • Bait/Livewell:
  • Fish Storage:
  • Rod Holders:

Visit Yellowfin’s website for full specifications.

bostonwhaleroutrage

Boston Whaler 330 Outrage

With its precision-engineered deep-V hull, high padded gunnels and unsinkable Unibond construction, the 330 Outrage delivers an incredibly soft, safe, dry ride, whether you’re venturing far from shore or cruising close to home. State-of-the-art navigation and command systems make captaining a breeze, while smart ergonomic seating ensures an enjoyable ride for every passenger. In the bow, a plush forward lounge lifts to reveal ample storage below while the facing bow seats invite easy conversation.

  • Length: 33’ 1”
  • Beam: 10’ 2”
  • Fuel Capacity: 300 gal.
  • Max HP: 700 HP
  • Weight (dry): 9,000 lbs.
  • Draft: 22”
  • Deadrise: 23°
  • Bait/Livewell: 40/50 gal.
  • Fish Storage: 228 qt. (2)
  • Rod Holders: 16

Visit Boston Whaler’s website for full specifications.

capehorn36

Cape Horn 36os

The 36os features “more of everything.” The wide beam and excellent speed let get out into the Gulf faster and in comfort.  A 1,400 quart insulated fish box will hold any fish you may catch, including swordfish up to 9-feet-long. The rear 40 gallon live well is standard, as is the large transom gate. The main live well sports 60 gallons for keeping the largest of baits frisky. The 36os is a solid choice for the seasoned angler looking for all the advantages needed to fish harder than any other.

  • Length: 36’ 11”
  • Beam: 10’ 6”
  • Fuel Capacity: 410 gal.
  • Max HP: 1,100 HP
  • Weight: 7,900 lbs.
  • Draft: 24”
  • Deadrise: 23°
  • Bait/Livewell: 60/40 gal.
  • Fish Storage: 1,400 qt., 85 qt.
  • Rod Holders: 26

Visit Cape Horn’s website for full specifications.




Buggy Whippin: Galveston sight casting with Capt. Clay Sheward

buggs lure redfish sheward Buggy Whippin: Galveston sight casting with Capt. Clay Sheward

Capt. Clay Sheward holds up a nice marsh redfish with a double spot tail.

Story and photography by Brandon Rowan

THE WATER IS STILL AND SO AM I. The redfish swims along a flat, that is painted with a palette of green sea grass and dull colored sand, unaware of our presence. On the bow of Capt. Clay Sheward’s skiff, I feel more like a hunter in a tree rather than a fisherman. The rod in my hand is the bow and the arrow is a hair-tied Buggs jig at the end of my line.

Clay gives the word and I make a light cast behind and ahead of the red. We can see everything in the water on this calm October morning. I reel quickly to intercept the moving fish and begin jigging to tempt what I hope is a hungry fish. My heart starts beating faster as the redfish inches closer and closer to my offering. Time thickens and that half  moment seems to last an eternity before the fish inhales the Buggs lure.

BEGINNINGS

Clay Sheward, 37, was born and raised in Spring, Texas. His passion for fly fishing started very early in life.

“I’ve been fly fishing for a really long time, since 1992, when the movie A River Runs Through It came out,” Clay said. “I saw that movie with my dad and that Christmas, my family provided me a fly tying kit and a fly rod.”

This film, which won an Academy Award for Best Cinematography in 1993, is set in early 20th century Montana and follows a pair of brothers and their love of fly fishing. Many scenes in this movie do an excellent job of capturing the camaraderie of fishing; the tense moments before the catch and the  euphoria after the fact.

Clay cut his teeth fly fishing on the local ponds and creeks near the Woodlands, but as he grew older his love of fly fishing carried him to new locations.

“Mostly, I went to the Guadalupe and the White River in Arkansas. Sometimes my family would travel to Colorado. I didn’t get to do it a whole bunch but I would practice casting in the yard to teacups. Of course, I grew up and girls came along, but I always tied flies. I still do it regularly,” Clay said.

sheward fly fishing Buggy Whippin: Galveston sight casting with Capt. Clay Sheward

OCEAN CALLING

Eight years ago, Clay’s focus shifted from freshwater to saltwater fly fishing. First from a kayak, then to an Ankona ShadowCast 18 which served him and his customers well for several years. But in 2019, Clay was searching for his perfect skiff and finally found it.

“I run a 2019 Chittum Skiffs Laguna Madre with a 50HP Tohatsu. I couldn’t be happier. The trailer is gorgeous and it is such a really nice rig. I can’t believe that I have one. It’s just unbelievable,” Clay said.

The Chittum has expanded Clay’s range and clients of Buggy Whippin Sight Fishing enjoy access to the skinniest of waters in our area.

STUDENT OF NATURE

Clay’s love and careful examination of nature has paid dividends on the flats, where subtle, easily overlooked signs can tip off the location of fish.

“I like to watch animals. It doesn’t matter if it’s just me chilling in the backyard watching birds or hawks, or even seeing my dogs’ ears perk up when they catch a scent and chase it down,” Clay said. “Sitting stream-side, watching a trout circle behind a rock and then leave during changing cloud cover and then come back to the same spot several times a day. Or watching a spider build a web completely from start to finish. That sort of thing.”

Clay recently purchased a drone to better observe wildlife in the marsh. This eye in the sky lends a totally different point of view compared to a poling skiff.

“I’ve seen some crazy things with trout and redfish schooling up on the flats with the drone,” Clay said. “I’ve seen schools of redfish following one big alligator gar. Whatever the gar did, the redfish did the same. I’ve seen bobcats back there in Green’s Lake, as well as pigs. It’s educational as hell.”

Brandon Rowan with one of many redfish caught sight casting with Capt. Sheward.

TIME RETURNS TO NORMAL and I quickly bring my first sight-casted redfish to hand. I get a “Nice Job” and a fist bump from Clay after the release. The day is early and we continue our hunt for redfish along the sandy flat.

Stingrays, so many stingrays, hover along eeriely as we the glide down the shoreline. Flounder scoot away in a trail of punctuated mud puffs and gnarled, large crabs plod on slowly. This is my first time on a poling skiff and it 100% reminds me of flounder gigging. You are able to witness the abundant life of the bay, visually scanning until your target is located and then a careful approach begins. Unlike the rapid fire retrieves of blind fan casting, you often only get a single shot, like a sniper, when sight casting to a redfish.

Further down the flat, we have no problem tracking down more reds on this absolutely gorgeous day. Bronze backs and tails flick along the shorelines and shell points. Some of these we catch, others refuse the lure or fly, and others spook and run.

It felt like an entire day’s worth of fishing has happened but in reality only two hours have passed. But the day is young. We make a change, push off the flats and head back into the deeper recesses of the marsh.

This redfish absolutely crushed a Buggs Jig.

BUGGY WHIPPIN

Clients of Capt. Clay Sheward can expect to fish the maze of marshes and flats on the north shoreline of West Bay and the surrounding areas. There are opportunities to wade or even fish from shore. His Chittum Laguna Madre skiff has everything the fly angler could want and accommodates two fisherman.

However, you don’t need to know how to fly fish to enjoy sight casting for redfish. Catching these fish on light spinning tackle is still a blast and provides ample challenge. You will be thoroughly tested on how accurately and quickly you can place a cast.

“Scratch them on the chin” is what Clay advises when casting to a hungry redfish. It’s hard for them to resist an easy meal in front of their noses. An alternative method is to cast beyond and ahead of a fish, making sure you intercept its path.

No matter your tackle, stealth and speed are essential for success. Casts must be made quickly but delicately, without excessive movement. Heavy steps, twisting hips or any careless motion can rock the skiff and alert fish to your presence.

Clay does not sugar coat it. If you are doing something wrong, he will absolutely let you know. But the best teachers rarely coddle. Those ready to learn and listen have a high probability for an epic day of redfishing with Captain Clay Sheward.

Capt. Clay Sheward poles his Chittum Skiffs Laguna Madre along the flats.

KEEPING IT FLY

As a fledgling fly fisherman, I was eager to pick Clay’s brain on advice for those new to the sport.

“First, remember ‘Tip down, strip tight and everything will be alright,’” Clay said. “Second, if you feel like you need to go faster and harder, you probably need to go slower and softer, especially with a fly rod.”

Must-have flies include the Kwan, Clouser, Gurgler, spoon fly and any shrimp imitation with a weed guard. If Clay could only have one it would be the Kwan. He also recommends tying a loop knot, with as small a loop as possible, for most flies. He is an avid user of 16 and 20 lb tippets for his clients when targeting redfish on the upper coast. He is also a firm believer in casting whichever rod you are going to buy.

“Cast it and get what feels good to you. Redfish don’t need expensive fly reels. It’s nice to have, but not needed for reds in our area,” Clay said. “Gordy and Sons is one of the nicest fly shops in Houston. They’re no joke and the people that work there are extremely knowledgeable fly anglers.”

Although Clay’s all-time favorite fishing location is the Black Hills of South Dakota, his favorite fish to catch on the fly is the tripletail.

Umpqua’s Kwan fly, tied with bead chain eyes.

“Getting them to eat is the best because they are so stingy man! It’s got to be a perfect presentation,” Clay said. “You can get really close to them though and that gets the nerves going. I think that’s my favorite right now, but chasing a redfish with its back out of the water, and poling up to them…hunting them, that’s always going to be for me.”

THE SUN IS OUT NOW and we find ourselves deep in the marsh, floating along a back creek that is absolutely full of redfish. We glide over schools of erratic, frenzied bait as multiple big redfish cruise down the shoreline, picking them off lazily, one by one.

Clay’s oversized redfish.

It’s been several hours since we left the dock and I’ve honed in on what’s needed to effectively spot and cast to fish, thanks to Clay’s instruction.

We absolutely tore it up on that little stretch of water. After each fish caught and released, we seemed to spot another one right away. Clay caught an absolute beauty of a fish that taped out barely over 28 inches; a heartbreaker of a fish if it was a tournament day.

My favorite catch of the day was an upper slot redfish that came on a second chance. We had a pair of fish swim across our path that ignored the first presentation. They picked up speed and starting swimming away, no longer in sight. I flung out a far cast, as delicately as I could, and started jigging back to where I thought they might be. I knew I got it right when my reel’s drag started screeching.  After a rigorous fight, I brought the bronzed backed, pumpkin eyed fish in for a quick photo and release.

It was early in the afternoon but we decided to end the day on high note. The Chittum snaked its way through the marsh lanes as we made the scenic trek back to the dock. I was definitely impressed with the way the boat handled.  It took on chop with no issue, didn’t slide around the corners and granted us access to areas other poling skiffs couldn’t reach that day.

I’ve caught my fair share of redfish and I’ve got to say this was the absolute, most exciting way to catch them. If you have a background in kayaking, gigging or hunting, and you haven’t sight casted to redfish, you are missing out I’d say.

Summer and fall are Clay Sheward’s favorite times to be on the water but winter does have its perks.

“The water is so clear in the winter and it’s so fun. You can see everything on the bottom when you’re poling. You can learn so much, it’s incredible.”

Book a trip with Capt. Clay Sheward by visting buggywhippin.com, emailing claysheward@gmail.com or calling/texting 281-745-1578. Rates for two people max are 4 hours at $450, 6 hours at $550 and 8 hours at $650. Check him out on Instagram and Facebook @BuggyWhippin

Check out the heart shaped spot on Clay’s redfish!

Shimano Flat Fall Jig Review

pinkblueflatfalljig Shimano Flat Fall Jig Review

Shimano 200g Flat Fall Jig in Pink/Blue

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

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

flatfalljigdorado Shimano Flat Fall Jig Review

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

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

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

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

 




JH Performance Boats

56407399 395315677968363 7797394846783635456 o 1024x576 JH Performance Boats

JH Performance Boat’s most popular model, the Outlaw 230X, anchored down.

High-quality, built to last shallow water boats manufactured by Richmond family

By Kelly Groce

Born and raised in Richmond, TX, John Schubert and his brother Michael built racing boats their entire lives thanks to the knowledge that their father passed down. After starting Sport Marine in 1988 and being a dealer of a variety of boats for years, the family decided to start building their own boats in 2007.

JH Performance Boats has 3 models in a variety of lengths to choose from; Outlaw Series, BX Series and the B Series. Each JH Performance Boat is constructed from the highest quality polyester gel coats and resins using a variety of fiberglass cloth materials in multiple layers for added strength. Each hull is hand laid and filled with full foam flotation throughout. Floors and decks are built with 100% composite core materials and transoms are made of high density solid composite sheets. JH Performance Boats has a wide variety of colors to choose from to make your boat even more tailored to your liking.

With a phenomenal reputation by shallow water fisherman for attention to detail, excellent craftsmanship and above and beyond customer service, JH Performance Boats is now producing 50-60 boats a year and continues to grow. Enjoy

DSC 0189 1024x683 JH Performance Boats

Owner of JH Performance Boats, John Schubert, with an Outlaw model that will be on display at the Houston Boat Show this January 3-12. Photo: Kelly Groce

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your family.

Believe it or not, we’ve never been that much of a fishing family. We’ve been way more of a racing family or  just a normal boating family, but I really enjoy being a part of the fishing group of people that we are involved with now. I think shallow water boats and the shallow water community is a great group of people to deal with. They can be hard on equipment, but at the same time it’s a hard way of fishing. I enjoy that group of people the most and that’s who we cater to.

I’m still not much of a fisherman. My brother Michael and I will build a fishing boat for us to have, but then someone will come and buy it (laughs). We have a lot of fishing guides with our company, so we can always go fishing with them if we want. We mostly do a lot of boat racing and our kids enjoy it. That’s something my father always did, so naturally my brother and I did too. It’s pretty neat and it’s been part of what we do. We’ve gained a decent amount of knowledge doing it.

We also have  a house at Selkirk Island, which is up north from Matagorda. The whole family goes there and we bring a ski boat to run the river and pull the kids on tubes. The bay is right there if we want to go fishing, so that’s nice. My kids are getting older so its not just about going tubing anymore, but hose are some of our favorite times.

What is your most popular model?

The 23′ Outlaw. The boat drives and handles incredibly well. It is a great boat for getting across the bay and keeping you dry. It’s just a great running boat. We’ve sold a lot of them and people come in and want them again and again. We have lots of returning customers, which we appreciate. We;ve had Generation 1 and Generation 2 of the Outlaw. When my brother and I set out to build that boat, we drew what we wanted on paper and designed what we wanted. We built that whole boat out of wood, put a transom on it, bolted on a 200 HP Yamaha and ran that thing. Right out of the box it was pretty close to what we were thinking. We would go run it and come back home and in about an hours time we would have it flipped upside down and on the trailer. Since it was wood we would modify it easily; change angles, widths and all that kind of stuff. We would flip it back over, put a motor on it and go run it. We wouldn’t be in the water more than 3 minutes and know that quick if our modifications worked or didn’t work. We would do this over and over again until it was right. We had 16-18 hours on that boat after the fact just trying to figure out what would work. We got that one built and we were pretty happy with it. It didn’t carry the speed we wanted, but everyone said it was fine. They were all liars. There is no such thing as fast enough (laughs). We changed it up and we got it where we want as far as speed goes.

Does JH Performance Boats put on any events you want our readers to know about?

We do. Our JH Performance Boats Owners Tournament is in mid to late October each year out of Matagorda Harbor at the pavilion. Last year, we had 65 boats and 300+ people come out to support. It’s a really fun event that starts on Friday. We feed everyone and make sure everyone has plenty of cold beer. We get a lot of great product to giveaway too. Everyone is welcome.

JH PERFORMANCE BOATS

Destination Fishing: Bull Reds in Port Fourchon, LA

port fourchon redfish Destination Fishing: Bull Reds in Port Fourchon, LA

Alisha Soule with an absolute giant Port Fourchon redfish.

By Steve Soule | www.ultimatedetailingllc.com

I’ve taken a few short destination fishing trips this year, trying to spend more time away from my home waters and learning new areas. New challenges and new waters, and attempting to take what I’ve learned fishing my home waters of the upper Texas Coast and apply that to other areas. This is the part of fishing that I find most interesting, putting together the pieces like a puzzle and figuring out how to catch fish in new areas. Going somewhere new is always a fun, though it can be frustrating and put your skills and knowledge to the test. The satisfaction from developing a plan and finding success is one of my greatest pleasures.

This past weekend, my wife and I spent a day and a half fishing in Southern Louisiana, Port Fourchon, to be specific. This is a tiny town in a very remote part of southern Louisiana. It is an industrial port town that primarily serves the off shore oil and gas industry. Definitely not somewhere you would end up by accident. Beyond the Industrial side, Fourchon and its neighboring Grand Isle, serve the fishing community. The entire area is like an overgrown marsh, with slightly deeper secondary bays. What makes this place spectacular is that it has extreme close proximity to the deeper gulf of Mexico on the southern end and an endless supply of fresh water coming down through rivers, bayous and swampy marsh. In all honesty, this is basically the nursery for the upper gulf of Mexico.

Though I have fished here two times in the past, it was during a different time of the year. Like any fishing location, seasons will effect the location and concentrations of fish and their food sources. Before any trip to new locations, it’s always wise to do some research. try to learn a little about the lay of the land. Study maps and arial photos, look at tides, both height and movement and try to make sense of where fish might be. We got there Saturday evening on the heels of a cold front that had way more wind and rain than expected. I knew that this would cause some lingering dirty water which didn’t go well with my plan of sight casting. Some things are well beyond our control and we just have to learn to roll with them.

From the start, this was planned as a very short trip so I had to maximize my time. I had gotten one report about potential location of our target species, Bull reds. The lingering winds and dirty water did not help there, so after some driving to look at shorelines in open water, I decided i needed to try to find some protected north shore areas that may have cleaner water draining from creeks and bayous. This is where basic fish finding skills come into play. With limited time to locate and catch fish, it doesn’t make sense to fish without seeing some evidence of life.

After our trip south to look at open shorelines, I headed back north into some more protected areas, looking for birds or bait and clearer water. We made a few short drifts in areas with some moving bait and missed two big reds on top water. The blow ups were amazing but couldn’t get either of them stuck long term. We also caught a few small trout, but this was not the area where we would be able to sight cast, though we were getting much closer. Side note, I use the top water lures as search baits when I don’t know the area well or can’t see to sight fish.

Now that we were in more protected water it was time to explore areas where outgoing tide was draining from bayous out to the secondary bays. Initially I spent some time poling the boat, but it became evident quickly that I would need to cover a little more water. We would idle along about 50-100 feet from the shoreline looking for wakes from big fish and muds and as soon as we found a fish or two go back to poling. This is where you really have to start paying attention so that you can put together the patterns. Each drain had some level of life in it, bigger drains that had more current seemed to be holding big fish. Now we have a fishable pattern.

Finding a bayou or two that would wind back north into the marsh, especially those that had wide spots where there were small shallow flats seemed to be the trick to locating fish. Now its getting interesting! I would pole slowly around the points leading into bayous and started seeing both reds and black drum. Fish were not moving very aggressive so a slow stealthy approach proved to be the best plan. Many times we were able to get the boat within 10 feet of fish and with increasing light, it was becoming much easier to see them. We missed a few as is always the case in sight casting, then the fun really got started.

bull red soule Destination Fishing: Bull Reds in Port Fourchon, LA

Steve Soule releases a bull redfish.

Poling into a small flat at the bottom of a bigger bayou drain, we started seeing fish slowly crawling along looking shorelines feeding as they went. It didn’t take long before we were among them and getting good shots. our first fish was close to the boat and though it didn’t look huge when I cast at it, ended up being about 45 inches long. The fight with these big reds in shallow water is a little more intense than with their smaller counterparts. Several big runs and the usual level of disasters trying to maneuver a fish around the boat and we got her landed, photographed and released. First half of the mission was now accomplished, the only issue was it was supposed to be Alisha’s fish.

We spooked several fish during the fight with the first one and could still see and hear a few fish moving around the small flat. Back to the hunt! We worked our way around the flat, still struggling to see fish well. Then stumbled onto another slow crawling giant and it was her turn to shine. The fish was swimming slowly towards the boat and not yet aware of our presence. Alisha made a short cast, crossing the fish’s path and as it approached, gave the Buggs jig a few slight bounces to make the lure more visible. When she saw the lure, she attacked and the fight was on. It can all happen just that fast.

We had spent 2-3 hours of driving, looking and narrowing down our search pattern, then within a matter of 30 minutes, had found a nice flat that had multiple fish over 15 pounds, and landed two fish well over 20-25 pounds. This particular flat sat at just the right angle to the tide flow and was just large enough to stop a good quantity of fish and food in the outgoing tide. We saw numerous reds and several large black drum there. Now we had one pattern to look for in other areas and attempt to repeat.

We poled through several areas that looked similar, though none had quite the same layout. We found some smaller fish, that laughably would be considered on the bigger side back home in Galveston, but didn’t see as many big fish that would break 20 pounds. At this point it became evident that with the conditions we had, we would need to continue to find more protected and shallower water to continue to sight fish.

We checked a few shallower pond and lake areas, with some success, but finding any real concentration of feeding fish was not going well. We had our share of difficulties, dirty water and a pair of polarized glasses that got left in the truck, but we made the most of it and had a great time.

We knew that Sunday was going to be a great day as far as sun and wind conditions, and would be our best window of opportunity. Monday, would only be a half day, and weather conditions were supposed to be pretty good. As it often works out, when I woke up Monday morning, Conditions had worsened. Full cloud cover and increased wind. Nothing you can do except make the most of what you are given. Off we went, this time armed with a few places to start our hunt. Clouds, do not make sight fishing easy. And as you might imagine, we missed a lot more fish that we just couldn’t see until we were too close. We did manage a few fish and as we were nearing the end of our day, idling down shorelines working back towards the boat ramp we found a few reds and one more highly entertaining moment. I was standing on the casting platform with Alisha idling along and just looking for fish when we stumbled onto a small group of fish and the last fish of the day was sight cast with the outboard motor running. Made for a great laugh and a good ending to a short trip to the land of the giants.

Lots to be learned from trips like this. I find it fascinating how much fish act and feed in the same manner in totally different locations. Outgoing tides around marshes are always fun, they put fish on the move and create feeding situations that make for some great fishing. Moving prey species out into more open water where predators can easily attack. These tides generally move fish into areas where we can locate them and capitalize on their feeding. On incoming tides, look for fish to move farther into the reaches of the marsh and follow prey species to areas of safety. It is cool to see how much so these waters work on a parallel to the marshes closer to home for me. Though the area is vast and enormous compared to our marshes on the upper Texas coast, this place acts just like an overgrown Texas marsh, and once you start to look at it this way, becomes family easy to figure out.

With so many great destinations along the Gulf Coast, its just a matter of picking a spot where you want to go, spending a little time researching the area and go have some fun. I picked this area for its remote nature,(we only saw one other boat all day fishing similar water) and its notorious giant redfish. It only gets better on the southern fringe waters during winter if you want to go find giant redfish in relatively shallow water. There are fish there all year round, and the scenery is absolutely breathtaking. Bottlenose dolphins are a regular sight and often you can sit and they will roll and play near your boat. If it’s time for a change of pace, grab a map, do a little research and go have some fun doing something completely different.

Mowdy Boats

robbie with boat 1024x683 Mowdy Boats

Robbie Gregory of Mowdy Boats stands with a fine example of their 25’ Catamaran. This is their most popular model.

DSC 0694 683x1024 Mowdy BoatsPremium shallow water boats being handcrafted one at a time in Port Lavaca

Photography and interview by Kelly Groce

Mowdy Boats have been built since the 1970s by Mr. Hal Mowdy of Victoria, TX. Hal was the patriarch of all the Texas boat builders. Himself, along with Steve Bell of Shoalwater Boats and Mr. Haynie of Haynie Bay Boats, were ahead of the pack and started everything we see on Texas waters today. Mr. Mowdy was a one man show and made all his boats in one color, Mowdy gray. If you wanted a boat, that’s what you were getting and it may take 7 or 8 months to get your finished boat. Mr. Mowdy was extremely dedicated to the quality and the hand craftsmanship to each and every single one of his boats.

Mowdy Boats is now located in Port Lavaca and led by Frank Crappito and his managing partner, Robbie Gregory. I was fortunate enough to take a quick road trip down to meet with Robbie, who had just returned from Houston where he had gifted each of the winners of the largest trout division of the CCA Star Tournament a Mowdy boat. Besides the Star Tournament, you’ve most likely seen these beautiful boats on the water since Texas Parks and Wildlife, Texas Game Wardens, Coastal Fisheries, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, all run Mowdys. Robbie gave me a personal tour of their facility and educated me on how each boat is built one at a time by master craftsmen. From swampy back-bayous to fishing out in the Gulf, Mowdys can navigate through any water condition. Enjoy.

How did you and Frank get involved with Mowdy Boats?

So the way this company came about was in 2011 when one day Frank and I were fishing on his 22’ Mowdy that took him 3 years to find. Frank and I were just shooting the breeze and talking about how great these boats are. Frank said, “Wouldn’t it be something if we could buy the mold to this 22’ and build ourselves a couple of boats?” Frank then asked if I knew Mr. Mowdy. Having guided in Port O’Connor for 20 years I know just about everybody. Frank suggested I go talk to Mr. Mowdy and see if he will sell us the mold.

The next week I met with Mr. Mowdy and asked if he would sell us the mold to the 22’ and he said, “No I won’t sell you that mold, but I will sell you ALL of my molds and ALL of my equipment. Everything but the building.” I called Frank and told him that Hal won’t sell the one mold, but he wants to sell everything. I know it was a great opportunity especially since the boats already have such a great reputation. Frank said, “If I back it, will you run it?” Without hesitation I said, “I’m in.” So basically we did a hand written contract and a week later we paid Mr. Mowdy.

After that, we started looking for a place. I live here in Port Lavaca and we found this facility here. We had no clue on how we were going to build the boats. After fishing one day, I was at Clark’s in Port O’Connor, which is a marina, hotel and restaurant. I was there eating and my waitress said, “What do you do?” I told her I’m a fishing guide, do some building and developing, and now a friend of mine and I just bought Mowdy Boats. She said, “My husband builds boats and he needs a job, would you like to talk to him?” It was a God send. It turns out her husband started with Mr. Haynie of Haynie Bay Boats when he was 17 years old. He is now in his ‘50s, but that’s all he’s done his entire life. After talking to each other, he agreed to come onboard to help and he brought with him a family of a father and 3 sons. That’s all they’ve ever done their whole life is build these kind of boats. So we started with the most experienced crew of boat builders that you could ever imagine. From there, we started building boats.

The 25’ Catamaran, which is our most popular boat, is amazing. There’s no other boat out there like it. It runs incredibly shallow, but it also takes the water well because of the entry. It’s stable because it has all the tributes of a catamaran with the full tunnel. You can get on one side and jump up and down and it just sits there, it doesn’t rock around. Mr. Mowdy had only sold maybe 7 or 8 of those style boats, but as we began to get them out there and some of the fishing guides picked up on ‘em and started running them, 9 out of the 10 boats we build now are the 25’ Catamaran. Everybody wants it. Word of mouth has definitely made it what it is.

Another 25’ getting the final touches. This boat was built totally to the customer’s wants and needs.

How are Mowdy Boats different from other boat companies?

Mowdy is different from other companies because this is not a cookie cutter boat. So when I build your boat… I mean I build your boat. You get to tell me what color, pick the upholstery, decide where you want this or that. It’s totally custom. We are limited production, so we do about 50 boats a year. Which is a good thing because it keeps the price point high and you as an owner keep the value up on your boat. One thing that’s for sure is that you cant find one for sale, well maybe one or two, but people don’t sell their Mowdy. They are lifelong boats. They hold their value. Some guys will keep their boat for 5, 6, or 7 years and sell their boat for more or as much as what they paid. That is unheard of when it comes to boats.

We 100% foam fill our boat, from the top of the deck to the bottom of the hull. There is no void. It’s all filled with 2 lb. closed cell foam. The foam makes for a quiet ride that you don’t get beat up on. The boat just slices through the water. Little things like that set us apart from other boats. We block the bow of our boat so when you take it off the trailer it doesn’t hang off the reverse gunnel. By having a reverse gunnel on our boats, the water hits the reverse gunnel and throws the water down making it an extremely dry ride. Our aluminum is made at another facility, but it’s our deal. All of our cup holders are insulated cup friendly, like I said it’s the little stuff. But if you fish, you know how important all those little things are. We listen to our people and we aren’t close minded. We are here to build to your taste.

Another great thing is, you can’t sink a Mowdy. Think of a surfboard that is totally encapsulated. You can punch a hole in it, but you can’t sink it. That’s a Mowdy. The 2 lb. closed cell foam can’t adsorb water.

When your boat is done, it comes with tags, registration, and everything else you need. It is ready to be picked up and put in the water. We build this boat for you and the only thing I want to see from you once you pick it up, is fish pictures.

How did you get involved with the CCA Star Tournament?

A 25’ Mowdy Catamaran in the beginning stages of being made.

My partner Frank has a good friend, Bill Kinney, who’s head of the Star Tournament. There was an opportunity that came available for the prize boat for largest trout divisions for the upper, middle and lower coast since Blue Wave Boats dropped out. Frank and I talked about it and said it was a great opportunity with CCA being such a good organization and they do a lot of good with scholarships for kids. If you are a saltwater fisherman and you aren’t entered in the Star Tournament, something is wrong with you. The prizes are great. This year there was 51,000+ entries in the Star Tournament. So we signed up for a 5 year agreement. This was our 4th year, and we are going to renew for 5 more years. Our business has definitely increased being involved with them.

Robbie and the rest of the friendly staff at Mowdy Boats welcomes you to stop by the facility in Port Lavaca to answer any of your questions or to get your new boat built and rigged. Tell them Gulf Coast Mariner Magazine sent you.

The Come and Take It Tournament: Fishing, Camaraderie and Fundraising

cati first place 1024x768 The Come and Take It Tournament: Fishing, Camaraderie and Fundraising

Team Potbellys took home 1st Place and the big check for their 24.45 lb. stringer. Congratulations to Mr. Castillo and the crew.

By Kelly Groce

On October 17-18, 2019 anglers fished the Come and Take It Tournament in Port O’Connor, Texas. This great tournament reflects The United Way of Greater Houston’s goal of engaging caring people to improve lives and build a stronger community all while having fun and fishing.

Both days, anglers had a great time on the water. The lucky ones walked away with prizes and even some cash. Some local organizations such as the Port O’Connor Fire Department and Port O’Connor Elementary were also gifted some of the tournament proceeds that were raised.

The CATI Tournament would like to thank all of the sponsors that helped make this tournament a great success. Catalyst Boat Works, Waterloo Rods, Coastline Trailer Mfg., Inc./Marty Strakos Coastline Trailers, Coastline Marine/Coastline Custom Aluminum, Passion With Purpose, Pointer Wingshooting, Avian Skies, S&S Instruments, Hookset Marine Gear, H&H Rods, Aguila Ammunition, Wet Sounds and Gulf Coast Mariner Magazine.

Congratulations to all the winners and everyone that participated and volunteered. See you next year at the Come and Take It Tournament.

THE COME AND TAKE IT TOURNAMENT WINNERS:

ARTIFICIAL

  • 1st Place – ABEL of JOKERS WILD – 23.70 lbs
  • 2nd Place – MCCLUNG of HOOKSETGEAR – 21.32 lbs.
  • 3rd Place – LAIR of HOOKS N’ HULLS – 20.97 lbs.

OPEN

  • 1st Place – CASTILLO of POTBELLYS – 24.45 lbs.
  • 2nd Place – HARBORTH of CORK SOAKERS – 22.39 lbs.
  • 3rd Place – CAMERON of SALTY SEAMEN – 20.02 lbs.

REDFISH SPOTS: CAMERON of SALTY SEAMEN – 8 SPOTS
FLOUNDER: CASTILLO of POTBELLYS – 3.30 lbs.

 

IMG 4300 1024x768 The Come and Take It Tournament: Fishing, Camaraderie and Fundraising

The CATI Tournament gifted proceeds from the tournament to local organizations such as the Port O’Connor Voluntary Fire Department, Port O’Connor Elementary and more.

Late Fall Galveston Bay Fishing

red fish rach Late Fall Galveston Bay Fishing

Rachel Thevenet

By Capt. David C. Dillman

galvestonbaycharterfishing.com | 832-228-8012

Wow. It’s hard to believe that another year has passed. I wrote this article on the verge of Halloween, and finally the Upper Coast had its first passage of a “cold front.” Although not really cold, it at least got us out of summer-like temperatures and hopefully curtailed the remaining hurricane season. Tropical Storm Imelda, wreaked enough havoc in some places along the Upper Coast of Texas.

Prior to the arrival of Imelda, Galveston Bay was flourishing with speckled trout and redfish. The fish were being caught over the entire bay system. Then when everything was setting up for some outstanding late September and October fishing in Galveston Bay, torrential local rainfall and subsequent runoff curtailed the action. I am praying that this November and December, we see a return to a near normal weather pattern and end this year with some great fishing and catches.

big ug Late Fall Galveston Bay Fishing

Barry Lofton

I am optimistic that the fish will be caught from the traditional locations for this time of year. Trinity Bay should produce it’s fair share of speckled trout and redfish in November. Both shorelines in Trinity, depending upon the wind, will be excellent choices for those who like to wade and or boat fish. Jack’s Pocket should not be overlooked. The fish were there prior to Imelda!  Also in November, the shoreline between Eagle Point and April Fool Point, has always been productive, especially with a North-Northwest wind.

December, look for the fish to be transitioning to the Northwest reaches of our bay. Tabbs, Crystal, Scott and Burnett bays will all produce fish. This area offers shelter from the winds and provides the fish with deep water protection from severe cold fronts. One of the best stringers of fish I ever caught came from this area with air temperature hovering around 30 degrees. Clear Lake should not be overlooked during this month. Again, it offers the protection from the wind and allows the fish to slide off into deeper water in case of a severe temperature drop.

In November and December the flounder fishing is in full swing! The usual places should all produce excellent catches. The Galveston Harbor would be high on my list as the top spot. Of course, shorelines adjacent to major marsh drains, passes and the Galveston Jetties are also good.

Remember to take precautions this time of year. Check the weather and dress for the conditions. I highly recommend a waterproof/windproof jacket and carrying an extra set of dry clothing. Enjoy the Holidays and remember that the Houston Boat Show begins the first week of January. I will be there at the Eagle Point Fishing Camp booth during the show. Eagle Point should have plenty of live shrimp and mudfish for the angler.

Galveston Live Shrimp Shortage

skrimp Galveston Live Shrimp Shortage

shrimpHong Kong food and culture

Are they in jeopardy for the future?

By Capt. Joe Kent

Live shrimp likely are the most popular and sought after bait along the Gulf Coast.  While inventories at bait shops have been erratic this season, anglers willing to search a wide area around the Galveston Bay Complex usually have been able to locate live shrimp.

What does the future hold for this valuable resource?  Will we have sufficient supplies for future generations? What will the cost be for Gulf Coast anglers?

Live shrimp are caught by shrimpers dragging their nets in the bays.  For many decades there were few regulations on shrimpers; however, as the number of bay shrimpers increased, problems began and a multitude of regulations were enacted.

Beginning in the late 1970s, shortages of redfish and speckled trout started showing up.  While fish-killing freezes had a major impact, studies showed that the bays were being over harvested by shrimpers, along with the resulting by catch mortality rate for other marine life.

The first step was to ban any future commercial shrimp trawl licenses.  While this halted future shrimpers getting into the business, it did not address the large numbers of boats working the bays day in and day out.  For that reason a “buy-back” program was started where shrimpers could sell their licenses and have them taken off of the books, meaning eliminating another shrimp boat from shrimping the bays.

After over 20 years of the buy back program and no additional permits being issued, the numbers of active shrimpers started to dwindle.

Recently, the owner of two bait shops in the Galveston area visited with me about his concerns and the problems likely to occur if something does not change.

Some of the concerns he expressed were that bait shrimpers are leaving the business at a rapid rate making it increasingly difficult to obtain dependable supplies of live shrimp.  The bait shops and camps most affected are the smaller ones that cannot justify having a designated shrimper for their supplies.

The cost of diesel, the most common fuel for shrimp boats, is increasing and the shrimp stocks are declining.  A good number of shrimp boat operators have relocated from the Galveston Bay Complex to areas where shrimp are more plentiful.

The current regulations also contribute to the problem, as they were enacted based on a much higher number of shrimp boats operating in the bays.

In the past, shrimpers would drag for both live shrimp for the bait shops and table shrimp for seafood markets.  Low table shrimp prices driven by imported foreign shrimp currently make it unprofitable for them to go after table shrimp.

Now, let’s take a look at what is going to take place if nothing changes.  Higher prices and more shortages will be the result.

As fuel prices increase, the profits for shrimpers decrease.  With the restrictions on poundage they are allowed to catch daily, the result is obvious.  Higher prices at the bait camps, for live shrimp when available.  Today, the average price for a quart of live shrimp in the Galveston Bay Complex is around $20.  If prices increased to say $35/quart would anglers continue to purchase this bait?  Also, there is a good possibility that shrimp would start selling by the dozen and not by the pint or quart.

Along the Southeast Atlantic coast, live shrimp go for between $5.00 and $7.00 per dozen.  If this practice was adopted along the Gulf Coast and if the price of shrimp rose, just think about how far a couple of dozen of shrimp at say $12.00/dozen would go during the summer when almost every fish and crab are in a feeding mode.

Summertime anglers know how many shrimp are lost to bait snatchers and take that into consideration when purchasing live bait.  The result would be an unaffordable fishing trip at the higher prices.

While there is not much we can do about the foreign shrimp competition or fuel prices, one thing that should take place is for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) to reevaluate the poundage limitation for bay shrimpers considering that there are much fewer shrimp boats on the water today.

The TPWD has done an excellent job of managing our wildlife resources and hopefully they will continue that trend by doing what is best for our future supplies of live shrimp.

TIE ONE ON: Capt. Wayne Davis

wayne snook TIE ONE ON: Capt. Wayne Davis

WE ASK captains, guides and those in the industry what they’re throwing, for what species and what they’re drinking after a long day of fishing.

WAYNE DAVIS: Full-time fishing guide of Hook Down Charters specializing in wading with artificial lures in Port Mansfield, Texas. www.kwigglers.com | 210-287-3877

kw willow tail TIE ONE ON: Capt. Wayne Davis

The Willow Tail comes in a variety of fish catching colors.

First, I use soft plastics (KWigglers) 95% of the time, the other five percent you can catch me throwing topwaters.  Over the last couple years, I have found myself throwing the Willow Tail Shad (WTS) most of the time.  This is a very effective shallow water bait and I always rig it on our 2/0, 1/8 oz. short shank black nickel hook.

All of my charters are done wading with artificial lures. I am never fishing over 3 feet, and most of the time it is less than thigh deep. With the WTS and small jighead I can effectively, and with control, work the lure in just about any condition (grass, potholes, ledges etc..)

Every short twitch with the rod tip makes that WTS tail flip flop around – I believe the lackadaisical attitude of the bait entices a strike from just about any fish.  The WTS is a lazy bait, not designed for a simple cast and retrieve method.  The angler should work the bait.  The mere profile of the WTS is in and of itself luring to big fish.

Over the last two years I have been targeting and have been able to somewhat pattern South Texas Snook.  To date, I have landed 52 during my trips.  Almost all of them have been over 28 inches, with the largest one taping out at 35 inches and 13 pounds. All have come on the Willow Tail.  I also caught the STAR winning trout while snook fishing – a 31+ incher at 9.5 pounds.  Since I am a licensed captain I do not qualify for CCA STAR so the fish was released (it would have been anyway).

As far as a dock cocktail after a day of fishing – well of course the “Wiggler.” White rum, cranberry and a splash of grapefruit juice. I took it to our local restaurant in Port Mansfield, The Pelican, and they loved it so much they put it on their menu and it is the number one selling cocktail.

Viking Unveils Valhalla Line of Center Consoles

v37what Viking Unveils Valhalla Line of Center Consoles

The V-37 shines as a versatile coastal or offshore fish-raising thoroughbred with the legs to run long distances powered by either twin or triple outboards.

From the brilliant and innovative minds and builders of Viking Yachts, the new and exhilarating Viking Valhalla is here

This sleek new Viking is what center console boating dreams are made of, offering a high-end spin on your average center console.

The well renowned Viking Yachts builder has created a Valhalla V-33, V-37 AND V-41 that sets evolutionary standards in performance, engineering, quality and fishing capabilities. While strong in functionality and durability, the Valhalla does not withhold gorgeous craftsmanship and design.

Some of the impeccable features of the new Valhalla line include gently-sloped S-shaped sheers, double forward chines, helm pods, raised toe rails and abundant seating throughout. On deck, a raised transom live well, in-deck fish boxes, rod holders, a port dive door and storage space galore, just to name a few of the key features of this new center console.

The new Valhalla line certainly does not lack in power, with four-stroke outboards firing these impressive vessels from 300 to 425 in twin, triple or quad engines depending on length. A standard for the Valhalla line is power-assist hydraulic steering, and joystick helm control systems, are of course, an option for any of the models. Stepped hulls, as well as the direct-fuel-injected engines allow for exceptional fuel economy and range.

Bring all of the fishing equipment you need and more for offshore trips and coastline trips alike. This center console allows for plenty of storage of all of the trimmings needed for fishing and hosts top-notch fishing equipment for your days on the water.

This remarkable new creation from the Viking family is sure to impress, with all of your fishing, travel, durability and power needs, the Valhalla is unique in its class. For a more in depth look at the new Viking Valhalla line please contact our Galveston or Clear Lake offices at 409-741-8716.