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Making Dreams Come True

eric simmons Making Dreams Come True

Eric Simmons, owner of ES Custom Boats and Simmons Custom Rigging, builds high performance, shallow draft boats.

Eric Simmons of ES Custom Boats and Simmons Custom Rigging builds dream boats one hull at a time

By Brandon Rowan

In 2003, tournament angler and fishing guide Eric Simmons had a decision to make: continue guiding or focus on a dream of building his perfect boat. Fast forward sixteen years later, and Simmons is making others’ dreams come true with his shallow draft, ultra high performance boat, the Revolution.

“The Revolution series builds on our history of know-how,” Eric Simmons said. “We’re always evolving and building a better product.”

trophy trout trophies Making Dreams Come True

Eric’s tournament background played a role in the design of his high speed boats.

BIRDS BEFORE BOATS

Born and raised in Freeport, Eric’s first love was duck hunting and all he ever wanted to do. Needing something to do in the offseason, he later discovered a second love, fishing.

“As soon as I could, I got a boat and a truck and started fishing up and down the Texas Coast. I didn’t come from a big hunting or fishing family so I’m not sure where I got it from. But I loved it. I made a lot of good life long friends doing that,” Simmons said.

Eric was fortunate to be up-and-coming during a lot of the big Mickey Eastman Troutmasters style tournaments. These life experiences shaped his boat’s design.

“Tournament anglers like the Revolution. It’s a boat race with some fishing sprinkled in there, so we do cater to that,” Simmons said.

Through guiding and tournaments, Eric gained a lot of knowledge and insight on what he wanted to see in his perfect fishing boat. Slowly over time he realized what he was looking for didn’t exist. And despite no formal education in nautical design, he decided he was going to build his own. The rest is history.

“I am self taught, a student of the game. I had the desire and want to do it,” Simmons said.

ES Custom Boat’s Revolution is powered by Mercury Racing Outboards.

A LEAGUE APART

The Revolution is CAD designed and blends efficiency with shallow water capability. There’s a lot of shallow draft cats out there but that’s not what sets the Revolution apart.

“The handling characteristics of our boats stand alone,” Simmons said. “The performance and speed are in a different league. Our hulls have some of the best ride quality out there.”

The Revolution is made to order and a waiting list of 12-16 months is typical. But good things come to those that wait. Customers of ES Custom Boats have the privilege of truly crafting their dream boat from the ground up.

“We have a hull and deck mold, but the color, the way you lay it out, and your style of fishing has a lot to do with the end result, as well as your budget and imagination,” Simmons said. “It’s fun to do each one. They’re all a little bit different.”

Everything starts with an idea on paper. Once a plan is in place, the hull is created at the glass shop, gel coat is sprayed and the deck and fuel tanks are added. The hull then moves to the rigging shop where it stays for two to three weeks. Engines, electronics, aluminum work and any and all marine accessories are added. A Power-Pole shallow water anchor system is affixed to every boat. Eric prefers top-shelf, hand picked products from companies like Power-Pole, Simrad, Wet Sounds Audio and Mercury Racing.

The Revolution is outfitted with Simrad electronics.

“I am OEM with Mercury and Mercury Racing. I’ve always liked their product; it has given us an edge. They have a full array of factory props that work well with our boats. Sometimes with custom props you never know what you will get from one to the other,” Simmons said.

The Revolution also features high quality anodized Jack Plates from Bob’s Machine Shop in Florida. Theirs is a superior design; strong, simple and very fast. Eric prides himself on attention to detail and total control over quality.

“We do say no to certain ideas because we may have tinkered with it and realize it didn’t work. We like to keep control so there’s no oddball boats out there somebody isn’t happy with. We don’t go with who is going to give us the deal but who is going to give us the best results,” Simmons said.

The Revolution comes in two lengths, the 23 and 25. Both perform similarly and are a matter of preference. The 23 is preferred by solo anglers, smaller groups and those who don’t have the space to accommodate the 25.

THE FUN PART

Once work is completed in the rigging and aluminum shops, the boat is turned over to Eric.

“I get the fun part of water testing each one,” Eric said with a smile. “My job is to make sure she floats and quality control every little thing I can find.”

After that, the boat is detailed, another checklist is completed and she is out the door to a happy new owner. ES Custom Boats currently produces three boats a month but Eric’s goal for 2020 is to build a boat a week. And if that isn’t enough to keep them busy, Simmons Custom Rigging also outfits boats of other makes, with several aluminum or rigging jobs a year. The shop recently outfitted a bare hull Majek with a riser box, complete aluminum work and the console.

Another attractive aspect for customers of ES Custom Boats is the resale value. A lot of custom boats take a dive in value the second they leave the yard.

“Our resale value is extremely high,” Eric said. “A lot of my return customers have reported that they’ve broken even or made money when they sell. It’s not guaranteed but it seems to be the case out there.”

Eric Simmons with one of his custom coolers and “office security.”

FAMILY GUY

When Eric isn’t in the shop or tinkering with designs, he is passionate about his family.

“We like going out on the boat in the summer time,” Eric said. “We’re a boating family, that’s my biggest thing. I have three kids with my wife Candace; Hailey is 10, Cole is 12, and Olivia is 15 and has her driver’s permit.”

But with the kids back to school, Eric’s attention turns to his two favorite fishing targets, trout and redfish.

“I like winter time fishing. The bays are a lot quieter, there’s less people out there and you’re after a different caliber of fish. That’s what I really enjoy.”

For more information on building your dream boat, visit simmonscustomrigging.com or call the office at (832) 864-2331

Catch and Release Tips

souleredfish Catch and Release Tips

Steve Soule releases a slot redfish with care.

Caring for your catch: Handling fish and releasing properly

By Steve Soule | www.ultimatedetailingllc.com

There are probably not many people reading this article or others in this magazine that don’t have a great respect of fish, wildlife and the great outdoors in general. I know that over many years of fishing and spending time on and around coastal waters, my appreciation of the natural beauty and numerous species it supports has only grown greater.

With the vast majority of us spending too many days in offices, stuck on highways, and staring at small screens, time spent outdoors only grows more precious. It has always felt like time well spent, whether fishing for fun or for money as a tournament angler or guide. Understanding the value of the natural resources we have and consciously working to ensure that we can continue to enjoy it for many generations to come is of paramount importance.

CHANGING OF THE BAY

For those that are younger, newer to an area, or just haven’t spent as much time along the coastal waters, change definitely won’t be so noticeable. For those who have been on and around the coast for 10, 20 or 30 more years, change is striking and often disturbing. Coastal development, land erosion, dredge work and many other factors affect the bays and waterways. Some of these factors are just a part of nature and will happen regardless of human impact. Others are a direct effect of our desire to be on or near the water and the need for infrastructure and transportation in and around waterways. Those of us on the upper Texas Coast utilize and enjoy one of the most heavily populated and heavily trafficked bays in Texas.

Galveston Bay has an uncanny ability to withstand catastrophic events and rebound amazingly well. With near constant dredge work, endless barge and ship traffic, an enormous amount of recreational users, run-off water that none of us want to know the content of, and an occasional spill or collision leaking hazardous chemicals into the system, its truly miraculous how abundant this fishery remains. Wildlife in and around Galveston Bay seems to somehow pull through many challenges. The diversity of the system plays a huge role in this; three major Gulf inlets(for the moment), numerous rivers, creeks and bayous that empty into it and vast satellite nursery areas around the bay provide habitat. Given these facts, plus the sheer size of the bay, fish and other sea creatures seem to thrive on their ability to move around the bay system under varying conditions.

Fish and their food sources move around the bay every year, for the reasons listed above and many others. Couple this fact with the not-always-great water conditions and the prospect of catching fish can become daunting. Kudos to those who have figured out how to consistently catch fish here or in any saltwater bay system, as it is often difficult.

doubleredfish Catch and Release Tips

Clay Sheward and Rick Spillman with a double hookup on redfish.

STEWARDSHIP

Having fished the upper coast for a little over 30 years now, I’ve experienced good and bad. I’ve had more tough days of fishing than I care to admit or recall. I’ve found some great success, and always tried to keep track of how and why, so that I could hopefully repeat those days. I’ve seen some staggering changes and of course developed some very strong opinions based on years of observation.

Though I do eat fish from time to time, and killed more fish in the past for tournaments than I wish that I had, I have come to a point where I only take fish that I can eat that day. I have two primary reasons for this: first, I can assure you that fresh fish tastes much better than frozen. Second, for me, the enjoyment of fishing has always been about the chase and pleasure of fishing and catching them, rather than eating them.

There are laws in place designed to help control and maintain the fish populations that do a reasonably good job of ensuring that we will be able to enjoy the resource for many years to come. Each and every licensed fisher in the state is entitled to participate and enjoy consumption within those laws.

I’m not going to advocate change, though I was pleased when TPWD announced the reduction in speckled trout bag limit this year. I believe that decision will help overall populations. What I would really like to address isn’t the laws, changes to them or enforcement of them. I am of the opinion that those who most frequently use the resource, especially those who make their living from our fisheries, are the ones with the greatest responsibility to maintain the resource and teach future generations.

This group of people, in many cases, knows the condition of the habitat and fishery better than the politicians and lawmakers that govern over it. I have heard many different ideas and opinions about regulations and changes to them and how they will affect guides and commercial fishers. Probably the largest impact that can be controlled is that of the recreational fishing industry.

As a guide, I would say it is in your best interest to encourage that people only take the fish they plan to eat within a short period of time. Definitely, do not catch an additional limit and keep for your customers, since this has been a law for many years now. And as a steward of the fishery and in the interest of ensuring you have fish to catch in the future, encourage catch and release. Trust me, your customers book you because they enjoy fishing with you and respect your knowledge and want your guidance. They aren’t showing up because they have found the best way to feed their families. And yes, they will continue to come back to fish as long as there are fish to catch.

Now that we have jumped onto the catch and release train, we can start thinking about the impact we have there. I’ve spent a lot of years fishing primarily catch and release and have learned a lot about how to make sure fish survive and swim away healthy. I’m going to list some very basic rules to help make sure that are efforts are rewarded with a thriving population of fish.

TIPS FOR CATCH & RELEASE

  • Fight fish quickly to help reduce stress and exhaustion effects
  • Minimize the time fish are out of the water. They can’t breathe when there isn’t water passing their gills!
  • Avoid putting fish in contact with dry surfaces. It removes their protective slime. (wet hands to grab, keep off of hot boat decks)
  • If you can, release the fish without removing from the water.
  • Hold fish horizontally when out of the water. They don’t have support for internal organs so holding vertically can cause damage.
  • If possible, don’t hold fish by lips or jaws. ( Lipping and weighing devices that hold fish by lip or jaws can cause serious damage to connective tissue around the jaw.
  • Always attempt to revive fish by holding in water by the tail until they can swim away strongly.
  • If you’re going to measure a fish, wet the ruler.
  • Don’t force the jaws of a fish to overextend with lipping tools

A FEW MORE THOUGHTS

Fish are fairly durable and can handle being caught and released, but limiting adverse effects helps to make sure our efforts aren’t in vain. Making the effort to encourage and practice catch and release among recreational anglers and guides will almost certainly have a bigger impact on fisheries than regulations. I’ve never been one to believe that government knows or can react fast enough to be the best steward of resources. I firmly believe that as recreational users of the fishery, we stand to lose the most so we should work to maintain it. Killing 30 fish for your customers may be your right, but posting pictures of dead fish in a cooler or on the deck of your boat probably isn’t the best way to market how you help to keep our fishery strong.

Just because you have the opportunity to fish every day, doesn’t mean you should kill fish every day. One day you may just run out of fish. Killing a big trout or redfish for food isn’t great; expect parasitic worms and mushy trout fillets. Plus, the giant rib cage of a bull red yields much less meat than expected. These fish are also important spawners and make future fish generations possible. The same does not apply to flounder fillets, but we do need to maintain a strong breed stock.

Short sided planning around your love of fishing will likely lead to long term disappointment in your catching.

Fins & Feathers

IMG 4291 1024x575 Fins & Feathers

By Capt. Joey Farah

Marbled skies of fall color hold waves of waterfowl, and hover over some of the best bay fishing in the world. Here in Texas we are blessed to enjoy the harvest basket of winter sports. Combining fins and feathers brings days of duck hunting and fishing together. Hunting waterfowl can be a excellent and easy way to introduce youth and inexperienced hunters to the hunting sports. For seasoned hunters, the beauty and strategy of the hunt, and the game taken fulfill the wild spirit in each of us. This winter come experience hunting and fishing the right way; cast and blast Texas style!

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Fall and winter prove to be some of the best fishing of the year.

CAST FOR FINS

The bays come alive with coastal gamefish as air and water temperatures drop. Deeper water and softer bottoms hold smaller creatures that help get these fish through the winter months. Shrimp, crabs, mud worms, clams and mollusks, are just some of the building blocks of the food chain. Small minnows, baitfish and sport fish follow. These gatherings, and favorable water conditions, group winter fish in areas that fishermen can enjoy some awesome catching.

Strong cold fronts may seem like a good time to stay inside and dream about boiling hot summer days on the water, but then you’ll miss some of the best fishing of the year! Whipping winds roll the bottom and bring up those hidden food sources. Redfish, trout and black drum go into a feeding frenzy with each cold front. The first day or two is usually the best; those beautiful sunny third and fourth days are usually too pretty and fishing slows. The colder the water gets, the longer it takes fish to digest their meals. This can make feeding patterns predictable but spread out. Watching the lunar feeding tables will help anglers score the right times to be on the water. Here in the Laguna Madre and Baffin Bay Area we find some of our best fishing both close and far from the dock. The flats of the Laguna Madre hold an enormous amount of bait, which migrates into the ICW Canal when it gets cold. Schools of gamefish follow, putting all those fish in one area.

We work the edges of the drop off with soft plastics for some of the most insane trout and redfish action you have ever seen! Fall bait favorites are easily the 3” DOA CAL Shad. This is the perfect imitation of a small pinfish or mud minnow. Colors should include pumpkinseed/chartreuse, purple/chartreuse, blood red and glow. The larger 5” Jerk Shad is my go-to bait for big trout in the shallows with a light 1/16 oz. DOA jighead. This combination floats and flutters like a sand eel looking for any way out of becoming a meal! The 3 and 5” DOA jerk baits also fit the bill. They imitate both a fleeing minnow as well as the sand eel profile.

The best time to hook up on the hard fighting, great tasting black drum is now! The schools of drum gather during the winter months to feed on small clams and crab. We bring in limits of these fish all winter. Live shrimp works best, as well as crab and sea lice. The absence of trash fish and pin perch during the winter months makes fishing with shrimp much easier. The rock piles of Baffin Bay and the fish funnel to the south the Land Cut, are famous for their winter fishing greatness. We anchor up on those big rock piles and use live shrimp deep under popping corks to load the box with drum, trout, and reds.

When the temperatures really drop low, we find redfish fall off of the flats by the thousands into the deeper holes. Catching big redfish every cast can be an out of body experience! Last winter we had one morning where we brought 60 redfish to hand with three anglers in about three hours! Don’t let the heater keep you out of the best fishing of the year this winter, come experience miles of grassy flats boiling with excitement.

Texas Coastlines host over 20 species of waterfowl, each very beautiful. Photo: Joseph Farah

BLAST FOR FEATHERS

Like a squadron of fighter jets, the flock of descending ducks rounded the blind and cupped in for a landing. As their feet opened for the landing, fire erupted from the line. The lead birds dropped and a few more pops dropped two more. As the ripples stretched across the sky mirrored surface, my dog leaped across the flat for the first feathered trophy of the morning.

Big game hunting is expensive and puts the stress and buildup into one shot, one trophy. Waterfowl hunting is about ACTION! Diverse species are found with each duck specialized in its own way for feeding and flying. Colors like the most beautiful skies highlight their body in a rainbow of beauty. Young hunters can grasp gun safety, responsible shooting and hunting, as well as the idea of taking a life much easier, with waterfowl versus big game hunts.

The fact that I have the best and biggest, most comfortable duck blinds makes gathering friends and family much easier. We make it easy for you to hunt hard. My clients are still high and dry in days of rain and 40 mph north winds

We usually hunt some big sets with over 250 decoys for a mixed bag and lots of action. We use smaller, more specific set ups for trophy birds and particular species. Advanced hunters are usually looking for their favorite species; this is a lot of fun hunting and setting up for that perfect trophy bird for the mount. It is sometimes hard to convince the wife to hang big deer heads on the walls. Beautiful birds go up easier in the house and office.

Ducks have some defining patterns that you must consider on the hunt. They eat, fly, rest, drink and roost. As a group, inside the region there will be some ducks doing all of these things at any given time. Ducks also trade places between the areas they do this. We hunt all day! Don’t be fooled into going in after 9 a.m! Many times you will be missing the best activity. Much like fish, the lunar feeding tables mirror their activity. They will be feeding at peak times, but traveling and landing in your decoys before and after those peak times.

Ducks always want to land with the wind in their face. Hunt where they want to be, and not were you want them to be. Birds of a feather flock together holds true. Species will land and sit with their own kind even in flocks of thousands. Motion decoys in your spread can make or break you, so don’t be set in your ways. Make changes with the actions of the birds. Calling can bring ducks in from afar, or scare them away. Soft calling is best. We don’t have a lot of loud and vocal mallards here on the coast!

This winter come experience the beauty of the Texas coast with some fins and feathers! We will be here to help you start off right and make every adventure a success. Hunt smart and safe and always be a good ambassador of the hunting community.

We can accommodate the smallest and largest groups, just like welcoming you into my home. Get out and enjoy the best hunting and fishing in the world, right here in Texas! Follow all our blasts and casts on Facebook AT JOEY FARAH’S BACKWATER FISHING or call 361-442-8145.

Cast and blast events are perfect for group entertainment! Photo: Joseph Farah

Texas Grand Slams and Trophy Trout

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Capt. Andy Salinas with a lonestar linesider that fell for a D.O.A. 4” Shad Tail in 455 Texas Croaker.

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On his fourth cast of the day, Capt. Luis Flandes III landed this 28+ in. trout on a D.O.A. 4” Jerk Bait in 455 Texas Croaker. Safely released to fight another day.

Two days of fishing the Lower Laguna Madre with D.O.A. Lures results in remarkable fishing

Story and photos by Kelly Groce

DAY 1
After D.O.A. Lures creator Mark Nichols, Capt. Andy Salinas, videographer Johnny Lu and myself attempted to each eat a delicious breakfast burrito larger than the size of my head from Manuel’s Restaurant, we hit South Bay in South Padre Island in search of fish.

As Capt. Andy Salinas began to set our drift, I rigged up my go-to lure and color, which is a 4” jerk bait in the color 441 Figi Chix. I swear trout can’t refuse this lure, because it didn’t take long to start catching them. I saw jack crevalle hammering shrimp right behind the boat. I threw my lure towards the disturbance and got to have a fun fight with one. Next cast, a snook came speeding at my lure and my favorite sound on earth ensued… my reel peeling drag. I used 1 lure and caught 3 different species; trout, jack crevalle and snook.

Andy, Mark and Johnny all caught plenty of slot snook, redfish and flounder on 4” shad tails. The tail on those lures have amazing action that fish can’t look past.

We ended the day working a deep channel and catching black drum along the bottom. Between all of us, we caught a Texas grand slam which is a redfish, trout, flounder and snook. Not a bad day of fishing I’d say.

DAY 2
A summertime cold front blew through, so the day started out overcast and on the cooler side. On the ride out, Capt. Luis Flandes III, Mark Nichols, Cindy Nguyen and myself had all agreed that the surroundings looked like a winter day in Texas.

We began fishing a gin clear flat. On Capt. Luis Flandes’ fourth cast he hooked up to a stud 28+ in. trout. He was throwing a 4” jerk bait in the fish catching color 455 Texas Croaker. Winter-like conditions resulted in a trophy trout. After a fish like that, can the day get much better? Why yes it can. We moved to a grassy flat and Luis was plucking redfish out left and right using a Root Beer/Chartreuse jerk bait. Cindy and I doubled up on two pretty redfish, mine being the most orange colored red I have ever seen.

The fishing in South Padre is awesome. To get in on the action contact either one of these great guides, Capt. Andy Salinas or Capt. Luis Flandes III on Facebook. Thanks again for 2 great days of fishing. Tight lines!

Myself, Mark Nichols and Cindy Nguyen with 2 redfish we doubled up on using a 4″ Jerk Bait in Root Beer/Chartreuse and Texas Croaker. Photo: Capt. Luis Flandes III

Mark Nichols and Capt. Luis Flandes III enjoying a good day of fishing.

Capt. Andy Salinas with a black drum he caught on a D.O.A shrimp rigged backwards.

With one lure color, Figi Chix, I caught snook, trout, and jack crevalle. Photo: Johnny Lu

Capt. Luis Flandes had the hot hand this day of fishing.

I dare you not to laugh while on a trip with Mark Nichols.

 

Gear

10154468 600x400 Gear

FOREVERLAST Flats Wading Boots – New and improved for 2019 our Flats Predator Wading boots provide a comfort fit while bare foot wading or with stocking foot waders. Now with 6 ports the strain and drain system will not allow rocks and debris to enter and lets water out keeping them lightweight and the EVA material provides comfort fit while hard sole provides traction and stability over structure. www.foreverlast.com

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LAGUNA MADRE CLOTHING CO. “Taking Flight” Fishing Shirt – Always at the dock at the right time. A familiar sight of all coastal anglers. “Taking Flight”, by award winning watercolor artist Leslie McDonald, Jr. on our UPF 50 Performance Shirt. Flip to page 40 to read our interview with the artist. www.lagunamadreclothing.com

Shimano Stradic – The new Stradic FK utilizes Shimano’s latest technology while drawing on ways of the past. Hagane cold forged drive gear gear combined with X-Ship provides a smooth, powerful and durable reel. The sleek G-Free body provides a better weight balance to reduce fatigue. Every part has been designed to improve the anglers experience on the water. www.fish.shimano.com

Lifeguard Lanyard – Effective Sept. 1st, Kali’s Law requires boaters operating a vessel under 26’ to wear an engine kill switch lanyard. Tournament redfish anglers, Marty Simmons and Keith McBride from St. Augustine, FL designed this kill switch lanyard with safety and comfort while operating your vessel in mind. The Lifeguard Lanyard can be worn on your right or left ankle or wrist and is designed to stay clear of the steering wheel and other components. Our mission is to promote boater safety awareness by making the Lifeguard Lanyard a part of your day on the water. Available at Fishing Tackle Unlimited, Matagorda Tackle Shop, and Rockport Tackle Town. www.lifeguardlanyard.com

 

Lone Star Guide Boga & Pliers Float – The easiest way to keep up with your boga and pliers. Stays tight in a small package and just the right length to hold a fish and use the pliers for hook removal. Made for the 15 lb. boga, but can work with a larger one. This is the original Lone Star Gear boga and pliers float, still made by hand in the LSG Garage. Works great with the LSG Wade Box too. www.lonestarguide.com

Laguna Salt Custom Rods – Laguna Salt Custom Rods is a family owned company where everyone plays a part into each rod that is built. Once the order is made, owner and rod builder, Michael Garza, will stay in direct contact with the buyer to ensure the components and colors are perfect. All blanks are American made and all other components are ordered in the USA. The buyer can choose any length they want their customized rod to be, choose the type of guides, grips, reel seats and colors they desire. Laguna Salt will even personalize any type of brand, name or company into the rod as well. The imagination is unlimited when it comes to the types and colors of wraps Mike and his family can personalize the rod with. A series of questions will be asked to ensure the right rod is being made for the type of fishing the buyer does. The rod featured to the right is a St. Croix SCV model 7’0” Medium Light/Fast Action rod with Cherry Picked cork rings, Fuji SIC guides and Fuji reel seat. The rod color and wrap were customized to the buyers’ wants. lagunasaltcustomrods@gmail.com

D.O.A. Lures Swimmin’ Mullet – The D.O.A. 5” Swimmin’ Mullet is a great cast and crank lure. The single upright hook allows you to get the lure down in the strike zone without snagging anything but the fish. Featured color above is 318 Chart/Silver Glitter. Made in the USA. www.doalures.com

University of Houston’s 12th Annual Cougar Saltwater Open is Huge Success

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Kimberly Maraldo with some of the sponsors of the tournament; Triump Cabling, Gulf Coast Mariner Magazine and Lonestar Integra Insurance Services.

By Kelly Groce

On Saturday, Aug. 17th anglers fished the Galveston Bay Complex for the 12th Annual Cougar Saltwater Open presented by the University of Houston’s Jack J. Valenti School of Communications Alumni. Being a graduate from the school of communications, it was an honor to become co-chair and help organize this tournament with the guidance of Kimberly Maraldo. With the funds raised from this tournament going to scholarships for the communications school, Gulf Coast Mariner Magazine was proud to be the media sponsor.

Scattered rain showers and wind didn’t hold the participating fisherman down that included men, women and kids. Individuals and teams brought several nice trout, redfish and flounder to the weigh-in at Topwater Grill in San Leon.

Attendees enjoyed complimentary beer from Galveston Island Brewing and whiskey from Nine Banded Whiskey. Calavera Cookers served up some tasty BBQ and pulled pork as everyone visited and enjoyed the shady palapa.

Huge thank you to all the sponsors that help make this event possible; Okuma Fishing, Bombshell’s, Triumph Cabeling & Underground Services, Lonestar Integra Insurance Services, Essentia Water, Houston Sign Company, Calavera Cookers, Cavern Solutions Inc., FS&MG Frontier Sales & Marketing Group and Gulf Coast Mariner Magazine.

Also, thank you to all the in-kind donors such as; Traw Metalworks, Nine Banded Whiskey, Sugar Land Skeeters, Texas Rattling Rigs, D.O.A. Lures, Elaine Ebner, Cougar Pride, Patty Godfrey, Emilee Fontenot, Cathy Coers Frank, Ralph Morales, Judy Wheeler, Alan’s Swampshack, Saltwater Soul, No Label Brewery, Laguna Madre Clothing Co., Typhoon Texas, Raising Canes, Karbach Brewery, Kendra Scott Sugar Land, Leslie McDonald Jr. and Galveston Island Brewing.

Congratulations to all the winners and everyone that participated in this fun tournament. We will see you next year. Go coogs!

COUGAR SALTWATER OPEN WINNERS:

KAYAK/WADE DIVISION

Kayak/Wade Division – 1st place trout, John Liles

TROUT
1st John Liles
2nd Mike Brown
3rd Grant Justice

REDFISH
1st Jason Blackwell
2nd Grant Justice
3rd Rayfield Conley

FLOUNDER
1st Grant Justice
2nd Vince Rinando

 

BOAT DIVISION

Boat Division – 1st place trout, Mason Dees

TROUT
1st Mason Dees
2nd Rafael Pedraza
3rd Arturo Garcia

REDFISH
1st Audra Gould
2nd Mark Gould
3rd Mason Dees

FLOUNDER
1st Arturo Garcia
2nd Tracy Smith

HEAVIEST STRINGER
John Liles – 12.34 lbs.

SHASTA’S PICK
1st Bradley Brown
2nd Rayfield Conley
3rd Leslie Bandiera

University of Houston Alumni member, J.P. Groce supporting the tournament.

Go coogs!

Boat Division – 1st place trout, Mason Dees

Anglers enjoy the shade of the palapa at Topwater Grill.

Live auction of a Leslie McDonald, Jr. wildlife painting.

Future UH Cougars!

Nice fish!

$EA DOLLAR$ Tuna Tradition Endures

seadollarscrew $EA DOLLAR$ Tuna Tradition Endures

The winning crew of $EA DOLLAR$, from left to right, Mark Yamaguchi, Mark Budzise, Brandon Rowan, Brandon Nelson, Adam Lewis, Brad Bull, Gary Hervey, Scott Pantle, Randy King, Kurt Pantle, Matt Taylor, Jack Beal, Ace Nelson and Fred Pyle.

Good karma and tuna tenacity fuel a continued tradition of wins at the Texas Billfish Classic

By Brandon Rowan

High stakes and hot fishing are the name of the game every year at the Texas Billfish Classic and 2019 was no different. I was back on board Jack Beal’s 60’ Bertram, $EA DOLLAR$, to keep the night crew’s tuna win streak going. Last year, we hauled in a 90 lb yellowfin tuna that fell just three pounds short of first place. That was tough. We had our sights set on being No. 1 this time around.

Jasen Gast and the whole TBC team put on a killer kick-off party at Freeport RiverPlace the night before fishing started. The next day, we were locked, loaded and ready to head out far into the wild blue of the Gulf. We had a game plan and wasted no time putting it into action.

There were old and new faces on board for this year’s tourney. Introductions and catching up were in order as we roared out to pelagic possibilities. Plenty of laughs and colorful conversation (you guys know who you are) kept us entertained as we neared our first stop.

juvenile mahi mahi $EA DOLLAR$ Tuna Tradition Endures

You never know what you will find out there. Adam Lewis holds up our “trophy” mahi.

TUNA MACHINE

As the sun set on our fishing destination, the night crew geared up and went to work. We had Capt. Mark Yamaguchi at the wheel, Matt Taylor, Kurt Pantle, his cousin Scott, and myself down in the cockpit. Several of the guys on the day crew helped out early in the night and first mate Adam Lewis made many important gaff shots.

It didn’t take long for us to put a nice yellowfin on the deck and crack open the celebration brews. $EA DOLLAR$’ night crew is a well-oiled machine of jig, pop, chum, drift, catch, gaff, rinse and repeat.

The night stayed lively as schools of fish periodically found their way into our chum line and lights. Multiple hook ups on yellowfin and big bruiser 20-30 lb blackfin tuna kept us going until sunrise.

I was absolutely stoked for Kurt’s cousin, Scott, when he landed his first yellowfin tuna, on topwater no less!

“I saw tuna busting on top, luckily I had the popper rod right next to me. I quickly cast it out and after the second pop it was on!” Scott Pantle said.

I’m real happy he got a warm welcome to Texas

 tuna fishing. Scott is from Florida, where blackfin tuna is the target species, not the bait. I was lucky enough to witness that tuna crush the OTI Wombat Popper he had tied on and oh man, it was a beautiful sight to behold.

Every one of us put a yellow on the deck that night. At sunrise, it was time to tally things up. We had 6 yellowfin in the box, including an odd fish I caught on a Williamson Benthos jig. All other fish came from drifting chunks and Scott’s one on the popper. The flying fish piercing parlor was open for business but the tuna were indifferent to our winged offerings.

After a hot shower and a good meal, I hit the bunk with explicit instructions for the trolling guys to come smack me awake if they got into a good fish. The chance to photograph a big blue marlin jumping for the sky takes priority over sleep. I’ll sleep when I’m dead.

MEET JJ: The legend himself, JJ. We rescued this Pelican from the middle of the Gulf during the tournament. We were ready to turn him over to Parks & Wildlife but he jumped ship when we reached land.

FREE BIRD FRIDAY

After a good day’s rest, I was back up with camera in hand, waiting for the afternoon billfish bite. The marlin never materialized, but things stayed interesting nonetheless. We spotted a brown pelican bobbing up and down near the rig as we trolled around. We were a good 170 miles out in the middle of the ocean. This bird was in trouble.

We maneuvered over and tried to lure the pelican in through the tuna door with some bait. The poor guy was so weak, he couldn’t even muster the energy to come on board. Our flying fish net became a bird net and we scooped him up and in. We made a cozy spot in the corner with an old towel and named him “Jack Jr.”

We fed JJ as much fish as he wanted and after about 10 pieces and some water, he was content. We don’t know how he got so far out, but this lucky bird nearly became shark bait. JJ rested happily in the corner and regained his strength as he oversaw our tuna operation.

This night began much the same as the last one with a hot bite early. Line peeled away from my reel on the first drift and after a surprisingly short fight I had a respectable yellowfin tuna on the deck. The wheels of our tuna machine kept turning but that was the last yellow of the trip. But again, things stayed interesting.

JJ quickly regained his vigor and, well, actually became something of a terror. He bit Fred and a few others as they walked past. Them birds have some range with that neck! JJ’s happy little corner was on top of the livewell, so depositing flying fish in the tank became a careful procedure.

They say you don’t bite the hand that feeds you, but we forgive you JJ. A sportfisher is no place for a pelican.

JJ stayed on board for the rest of the night and watched the day crew score a white marlin and wahoo at sunrise. He didn’t care at all for the way we screamed back towards land for the weigh-in. Jack Sr. had Parks and Wildlife on the phone, but once we broke the jetties, JJ spotted some of his pelican brethren and left us behind.

“Fishermen and hunters always get a bad rap but we’re all about conservation,” Jack Beal said.

Matt Taylor, Scott Pantle and Kurt Pantle at the Texas Billfish Classic weigh in.

MOMENT OF TRUTH

Good karma paid off. When it was all said and done, we had 7 yellowfin tuna on ice, although no hundred pounders. We weren’t sure what to expect since our 90 lb fish last year was only good enough for second place. We held our breath at the weigh-in as they hung up our first fish. The scales’ flashed “49” and it was high fives and shouts all around! Not only was our win confirmed, but we also took second place with a 47 lb fish.

“If your next paycheck depended on catching a big yellowfin tuna, I would recommend you call the night crew of $EA DOLLAR$!” Matt Taylor said.

$EA DOLLAR$ was presented with a check for a cool $40,500 at the TBC awards dinner later that night. As a bonus, the whole crew walked away with bags of fresh tuna and a story we won’t soon forget.

You never know what you may see when you venture out into the Gulf of Mexico. I can’t help but imagine the sideways and disbelieving glances the other pelicans throw at JJ when he tells his tale. He came away with a strange new story to tell his buddies and so did we.

Fred Pyle and Jack Beal show off the goods.

Flounder Tips and Tactics

flounder catch Flounder Tips and TacticsBy Capt. Brian “Flounder Professor” Spencer

Let me introduce myself, my name is Brian Jospeh Spencer. Some people call me the “Flounder Professor” due to my love for that particular and very elusive fish. Fishing has been in my life for about 25 years, if you include salt and freshwater together. One of my jobs is being a commercial fisherman, searching and longing to find myself while roaming the flats of the upper Laguna Madre on the hunt for big flatfish. I provide flounder to the fish markets on occasion in order to fulfill everyone’s need to have a great fish dinner every once in a while. My other job is being a captain, putting people on their first flounder, whether by fishing or gigging, we get it done.

In this first article I will just give some basic education about flounder, their lifestyle and a couple of my favorite tricks to find them. There are two main types; the gulf flounder and the southern flounder that reside in our area. They are pretty similar except that the southern flounder runs bigger and lives a little bit longer. The huge females that we find, above 20 inches, are most of the time southerns. The gulf ones don’t get much bigger than 18 inches for the females and even smaller for the males. There are also summer flounder but those have five spots near the tail.

As a juvenile, the fry are born with their eyes on both sides of their head and not until they grow a little larger and lay on the bottom, do they begin to get the better known two eyes on the same side of their head. They tend to migrate out to deeper water during their time to spawn in November or when the water hits 65-68 degrees.

The reason they head out into the Gulf is to find water between 60 and 150 feet deep to expel their eggs. Due to not having an air bladder, they use the pressure from being so deep to make that happen. In March, they normally make their way back in for the spring run back to the flats.

When I fish for flounder I typically throw a tandem rig (check my YouTube for video) with a 1/4 oz. jighead up front and an 1/8 oz. jighead in the back. This way you can get some great action out of your back lure while still keeping it pretty low in the water column. For flounder I throw two types of lures; Berkley Gulp or Chickenboy Lures. There are lots of varieties to choose from, color and shape wise, but just try to match the hatch with what they are currently eating at the present time. Dragging the bottom is my method of choice. I use Texas Rattler Jigs in combination with my lures. Reeling in only to take up slack or bring in a fish, otherwise it is all rod movement.

Normally they say when you feel the thump or double thump from a flounder just leave it and wait about 15 seconds to give them time to eat it. Then set the hook solid due to flounder’s bony mouth structure.

Next issue I will get further in detail on where, how, what and why. If you have any questions on why I do what I do, feel free to ask me! If you would like to book a trip for flounder gigging or fishing, bay fishing or offshore check out TrinityOutfittersTx.com and leave me a message. Until next time, tight lines and sharp gigs.

Flounder Professor Outdoors@ You Tube & Facebook

Flounder Professor@ IG and Facebook

bspen112@gmail.com

Sponsors: Chickenboy Lures, Texas Rattler Jigs, Berkley, Frio Coolers, Powerpole, Houghy Stick, Penn, Stinkypants, Foreverlast, Steves Lures, Kelley Wigglers, Waypoint Marine, Wet Sounds, Outcast Rods, Jerrys Leds, Trokar, Salt Thugz Apparel, Redtail Republic, Fin Addict Angler, Fishhide Sportswear, Slick Sticks, DeFishing Soap

Galveston Bay Fishing September: A Season of Change

fish eagle point Galveston Bay Fishing September: A Season of Change

Mark Leaseburge caught redfish, trout and pompano with Capt. David Dillman.

By Capt. David C. Dillman

galvestonbaycharterfishing.com | 832-228-8012

Do we see the change from summer to fall? I see the signs; school begins, traffic increases, daylight is shorter and football season starts. Do fish and wildlife sense the change? To those who are observant, the movement and patterns are evident. Also, this is the time of the year that new fishing and boating regulations are enforced.

A major change to boating is the use and attachment of the motor cut off switch to operators of motor boats 26 feet and less. Saltwater fishing regulation changes are the statewide enforcement of the daily bag limit of speckled trout to 5 fish per person per day. Shark fisherman will be required to use non-stainless steel, non-offset circle hooks while in state waters. The size limit for Cobia (Ling) will increase to 40 inches. Fishing licenses will need to be renewed, so make sure you are legal.

Fish will begin to change their pattern, very subtlely in September and noticeable in October. In September, their slight movement will be directly related to the decrease in daylight hours. Fish will move slightly toward shallower water as it begins to cool from less sunlight. With each passing cool front, which usually begins the middle of September, speckled trout, redfish and flounder will seek the shorelines and move towards the northern reaches of the bay. This movement is a direct reaction to baitfish and shrimp migrating from the marsh to the open bay. Remember fish follow the food chain. They go where they can eat!

Anglers will be able to pursue these fish on a variety of soft plastic baits and of course, live natural baits. For flounder, live mudfish and finger mullet will be the go to baits. Although finger mullet can be scarce, Eagle Point will have some of the best mudfish available anywhere on the Texas coast. Trout and redfish will be caught on live shrimp fished underneath a popping cork. Also for those anglers who enjoy throwing artificial lures, a variety of soft plastics will do well. Anglers searching for something big should look no further than the Galveston Jetties. The annual bull redfish run will begin in September and really heat up in October. Tarpon fisherman will have a chance to get catch the largest of these creatures along the Galveston beachfront.

You can call Eagle Point Fishing Camp at 281-339-1131 to check on their bait supply. Enjoy this time of year, fishing can be fantastic!

The Galveston Jetties

jettywreck The Galveston Jetties

A Double Edged Sword for Anglers

By Capt. Joe Kent

The Galveston Jetties are comprised of two sets of Granite Rocks known as the North and South Jetties that extend close to five miles out from shore. The South Jetty is located on the Galveston side while the North Jetty has its home on the Bolivar side.

The jetties were built to protect the Galveston/Houston Ship Channel from erosion and wind in order to keep the entrance to Galveston Bay open for all vessels.  Construction began in the late 1800s and was completed around the beginning of the 20th century.

The jetties brought a new dimension to fishing, as the rocks attracted all types of crustaceans and fin fish.  Early on, anglers would catch grouper, mackerel and even red snapper along the rocks.  Tarpon were also plentiful for jetty fishermen.

While most of those species are rarely found around the jetties any longer, the rocks continue to attract a wide variety of both inshore and offshore fish as well as fishermen.

While the virtues of fishing are high on the benefits offered by the jetties, there are dangers that lurk.  Early on the most common fatality came from small boats rounding the end of the North Jetty to fish the Gulf side.  Many times the attendant at the South Jetty Lighthouse would call in a distress report after observing a small boat capsizing in the turbulent waters at the end of the North Jetty.

For that reason and others, a cut was constructed in the North Jetty not far from shore and was and still is called the North Jetty Boat Cut.  It too added another dimension for fishing and safety for boaters.

For years, the greatest peril facing jetty fishermen in boats were the strong currents found along the channel side of both jetties.  Often the current would change so rapidly that boaters did not have time to react and found their boat pushed into the rocks with major damage resulting.  Wakes from large vessels also were potential trouble makers and while those perils continue to exist, boaters are more aware of them today.

In recent years still another danger has emerged and that has been caused by the subsidence of the century old granite rocks.  This has been a gradual process; however, the sinking continues.

Today, the submerging rocks are probably the greatest of the perils.

I have fished the jetties for well over 50 years and recall my early offshore fishing days when I would return from a trip and see the jetties from at least five miles away.  Today, that is not the case, as the rocks do not become clearly visible until within a mile or less.

The big dangers come in poor light such as night time navigation or in the early morning hours.  For several years now multiple mishaps have occurred where captains misjudged the end of the jetties and crashed into the rocks.  The picture accompanying this article is a good example and was taken in August of this year.

During periods of higher than normal tides, such as during storm tides associated with events in the Gulf, much of the jetties are under water or barely above the surface.

While it is not feasible to raise the rocks or economical to add new layers, there are things that can and should be done.  First and foremost is adding lights or lighted buoys along both jetties.

Signs also would help alert newcomers about the dangers.

While these suggestions might not eliminate all tragedies, they would be a major step and could save some lives and preserve this iconic fishing territory for generations of anglers to come.

Dolce Coco Wins Swordfish Cup in the Dominican Republic

DulceCoco 683x1024 Dolce Coco Wins Swordfish Cup in the Dominican RepublicThe 1st Annual Swordfish Cup, a single-species tournament with a 24-hour global format, was held July 27-28, 2019, with 23 boats in the initial fleet. Paco Vela and his crew aboard Dulce Coco, a Hatteras based in the Dominican Republic, were declared the winners with a 381-pound broadbill. The Swordfish Cup was presented by Fly Zone Fishing and RJ Boyle Studio. Updates were broadcast on FaceBook every two hours during the 24-hour tournament.

Dulce Coco’s fish was caught on a whole de-boned and butterflied bonita near Isla Saona off the southeastern tip of the Dominican Republic. The 95-inch sword was boated late the first night and was weighed at Casa de Campo in the early hours of the morning. Vela and his team won a cash prize and the $1,500 Hooker Electric Bounty for their efforts.

With boats fishing Grand Cayman, St. Maarten, Cancun, the Gulf of Mexico and the Florida Keys and East Coast, competition was intense. Luna Tico brought a 291-pounder to the Sailfish Marina in Palm Beach at 11 am. Tournament sponsor and local expert RJ Boyle, competing aboard Hooked Up, brought an 80-inch 250-pound entry to the Lighthouse Marina in Pompano Beach around 6 pm.

Aussie Rules fished during the day off Cancun, Mexico and caught a non-qualifying fish. The minimum weight was 200 pounds. The crew reported a very low-key, fun and relaxing day of fishing, however. Because of the time-zone differences, many boats communicated with tournament control via text or WhatsApp.

In the Gulf of Mexico, The Duke captured some smaller swords along with a very large mako shark. Tighten Up, based on the Texas coast, went five for five on swordfish with the largest measuring 72 inches from the fork of the tail to the tip of the lower jaw. All line class weights were allowed. Anglers could only use conventional rods and reels, including electric mounted on rods. Weigh-ins were conducted at approved scales certified by governmental authorities within the last year.

Yellow Whip, fishing out of St. Maarten, staged a determined and late challenge. After the crew fished all day in extremely rough conditions, they returned to port to rest and eat. The boat went back out around midnight and hooked up right around dawn. After a battle lasting 2 hours and 40 minutes, they finally boated the swordfish which tipped the scales at 291 pounds.

“Everything went really, really well for a first-time event,” says Tournament Director Robert “Fly” Navarro. “I’m happy with the participation and the geographic spread. All the teams reported having a good time and the number of boats will only increase based on the feedback and inquiries. Congratulations to Dulce Coco and thanks to all the teams and our sponsors. I look forward to the second edition next summer.”

The 2020 Swordfish Cup will be held July 25-26, 2020. For more information, please visit www.swordfishcup.com

Relentless Pursuit Repeats as Gulf Coast Triple Crown Champion

Relentless Pursuit Triple Crown hi res 1024x819 Relentless Pursuit Repeats as Gulf Coast Triple Crown Champion

Photo courtesy of the Gulf Coast Triple Crown Championship

In another close finish, Relentless Pursuit, a 95 Jim Smith based in Venice, Louisiana, was named the 2019 Gulf Coast Triple Crown Champion. This season marks the second time the boat has earned top honors, following a 2015 championship run. Relentless Pursuit is owned by Dennis Pastentine, with Capt. Robbie Doggett the boat’s long-time skipper. In addition to bragging rights for another season, the team takes home a custom Frank Ledbetter metal marlin sculpture and $31,625 in cash including optional entry categories.

The Gulf Coast Triple Crown Championship is composed of the top five big-game tournaments in the region. The Blue Marlin Grand Championship is historically the last leg, but with Tropical Storm Barry moving west across the prime offshore waters, the tournament was cancelled for safety reasons. Done Deal, a three-time Triple Crown Champion, was tied with Relentless Pursuit before fishing started. Ties are determined by the largest marlin landed, which gave Relentless Pursuit the winning combination.

“During the Orange Beach Billfish Classic we left the dock at noon and ran four hours to reach 130 miles offshore,” Doggett explained. “Within 45 minutes we were already hooked up by the time other boats got there. The fight lasted an hour and 45 minutes. We slowly eased back in and weighed the fish the next morning.” That winning 658.2-pound blue marlin was caught on a trolled ballyhoo skirted with a pink Islander lure.

“We call it Stinky Pinky once the ballyhoo is added,” Doggett says with a laugh. “We strictly troll to cover more water and have an arsenal of 60 lures in various shades of blue, silver, purple, green and yellow. We run two rods each off the outriggers and two flat lines. We don’t have the patience to live bait, but we’ve been pretty successful with our style of fishing.”

In addition to the OBBC win, Relentless Pursuit won the Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic with three blue marlin releases (no billfish were weighed) and earned series bonus participation points. Done Deal also finished with 625 points from second place release awards in the Cajun Canyons Billfish Classic and the Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic, plus bonus points. Katie Gonsoulin was the angler on Done Deal’s big fish, a 535.5-pound blue, good for a second-place finish in the CCBC. Jason Buck is the boat’s captain and Jon Gonsoulin is the owner.

Fleur de Lis, a 72 Viking run by Capt. Scooter Porto and owned by Jeff Landry, was the third-place team in the 2019 GCTC standings with 500 points. The boat weighed the heaviest blue (602.7 pounds, angler Hunter Myers) in the CCBC, along with bonus points. Fleur de Lis is based in Grand Isle, Louisiana.

“This was a total team effort,” Doggett says of the 2019 Championship run. “This season was all about our former team mate, Dale Artigue, who passed away just before the holidays. His spirit was always with us in the cockpit. There are so many talented and hard-working crews fishing the Gulf that it makes competing against guys of this caliber such an incredible experience.”

Marking its ninth season, the 2019 Gulf Coast Triple Crown Championship was presented by Invincible Boats and Grander Marine. The five legs include the Orange Beach Billfish Classic, the Cajun Canyons Billfish Classic, the Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic, the Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic and the Blue Marlin Grand Championship.

For 2019 GCTC Director Scott Burt commissioned a commemorative trophy that will be on permanent display at The Wharf Marina’s Outfitter’s Store. Created by marine metal artist Frank Ledbetter, the perpetual trophy will sit atop a rotating base and will feature all previous Triple Crown Champions. Relentless Pursuit will now have to decide where to display its second GCTC Championship blue marlin.

“It was a tough season with all the weather issues, but Capt. Robbie, Dennis and Team Relentless Pursuit once again lived up to the boat’s name and came out on top,” Burt said.  “Congratulations to them and well done to all the competing boats. We look forward to another exciting finish as the Gulf Coast Triple Crown Championship celebrates its 10th anniversary in 2020.”

Sorted Wins The 2019 Blue Marlin World Cup

 Sorted Wins The 2019 Blue Marlin World Cup

Photo courtesy of the Blue Marlin World Cup

With an angler who flew halfway around the world to participate, Sorted, a 32 Luhrs based in Madeira, Portugal, claimed the winner-take-all $600,000 prize in the 2019 Blue Marlin World Cup fishing tournament. Sorted’s blue, caught by Craig Watson of Melbourne, Australia, weighed 541.2 pounds. Only one other fish was weighed, but it fell 23 pounds short of Watson’s entry.

Capt. Howard Williams is the Sorted’s skipper. The fight lasted 2.5 hours and the fish was caught on a one of Watson’s lures called a Bluedog Turtle. The boat was not entered in the optional $8,000 Big Blue Challenge jackpot, which would have boosted the overall payout to more than $1,000,000.

Mystic Blue, fishing in the Cape Verde Islands, caught the other qualifier, a 518-pound blue marlin. Female angler Aylin Karahan was in the fighting chair for that fish, with Capt. Giorgio Assolari at the helm.

The hook-ups of the two fish were only 40 minutes apart, but Mystic Blue actually boated their fish 20 minutes before Sorted. The lengths were very close, yet Sorted had the slight weight advantage. As the fishing progressed across the remaining time zones the other teams could see those entries were beatable. But no other boat managed to catch a qualifier.

“Mr. Watson flew to Madeira specifically to fish the World Cup and his victory really has a lot of folks excited in Australia,” said Tournament Director Robert “Fly” Navarro. He noted that the win was a significant milestone for the country’s fishing community.

The Blue Marlin World Cup is a one-day fishing tournament held around the world. Blue marlin weighing more than 500 pounds are the only eligible species and competing teams fish in their respective time zones from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm. The fish must be caught on conventional sport-fishing tackle with tournament-rated line with a breaking strength of 130 pounds or less. Entries are weighed on certified government scales in their respective locales. A total of 150 teams, competing in eight different time zones, made up this year’s tournament fleet.

Trouble Maker, fishing out of Kona, Hawaii, recorded the only eligible entry in 2018, a 760.5-pound blue. Done Deal, a 70 Viking based in Houma, Louisiana, earned more than $1 million in prize money combined with a 600-pound fish in 2017. The largest marlin ever weighed in World Cup history tipped the scales at 1,195 pounds. It was caught aboard Challenger in Bermuda in 1993. Two other “granders” or fish weighing more than 1,000 pounds are also in the World Cup win column. They were caught in Bermuda and Cape Verde.

The 2020 Blue Marlin World Cup will be held July 4, 2020. For more information or to register, please visit: www.bluemarlinworldcup.com

Barker Boatworks Announces New Direction, Expanding Line-Up

BBW26Bay 300x191 Barker Boatworks Announces New Direction, Expanding Line Up

Photos courtesy of Barker Boatworks.

Kevin Barker, president of Barker Boatworks, today announced a series of organizational changes and expansion as the semi-custom builder embarks on a renewed emphasis to produce high performance sport-fishing boats. Barker Boatworks has been in business since 2014.

“We’ve just completed our re-structuring and with our new ownership, we are revitalizing and expanding the company,” Barker says. “With the infusion of capital and additional resources, we’re again building and delivering semi-custom fishing boats to buyers who demand yacht-like quality, attention to detail and exceptional performance.” Barker Boatworks will continue to use Michael Peters Yacht Design to develop new models.

Al Jarrell, owner of Strike Force 7 LLC, is the owner of the re-organized company. Jarrell also owns Canyon Bay Boats and Perry Composite Manufacturing in Perry, Florida. The business operations will be handled by Chief Executive Officer Ross Toepel. There will be several collaborations between the Strike Force 7 Companies as production of Barker Boats continues to ramp up.

“All the fiberglass components for Barkers will be built at the Perry Composite Manufacturing facility in Perry, Florida” Barker explains. “We are excited to have a world-class manufacturing facility delivering high quality fiberglass hulls, decks and components using the same materials and infusion processes as before.”  Barker continues, “We will then complete the manufacturing of the boats at our Sarasota location with our experienced team of finishers, assemblers and riggers.”

BBW26BayVertical Barker Boatworks Announces New Direction, Expanding Line Up

Photos courtesy of Barker Boatworks.

Toepel says, “There will be certain common parts shared between Barker and Canyon Bay, but the two lines will maintain separate sales and marketing efforts.” Kevin Barker will handle the production, sales and marketing of the Barker line. Models will include the 26 Bay, 26 Open and 40 High Performance Catamaran under the Barker flag, while Toepel and his Canyon Bay Team will produce the 18 Flats, 22 Bay, 24 Bay, 24 and 28 Hybrid Bay Boat. A 40-foot Barker monohull with a dual step V-bottom is in the design phase. A 41 Express and Walkaround based on the Legend hull will be produced as a limited production custom model with outboard power as well.

Since its initial launch, the Barker Bay has earned a loyal following for performance, impeccable fit and finish and thoughtful angling features. Both the Bay and Open hulls come with the Michael Peters’ Stepped-Vee Ventilated Tunnel design. Attributes of the low drag co-efficient hull include increased speed, better fuel economy and a soft, sure ride compared to conventional stepped hulls.

Barker Boatworks is an OEM partner with Mercury Marine. Yamaha and Suzuki Outboards will also be a power option. Garmin Marine, Simrad and Raymarine electronic packages will be offered.   Since each Barker is made to order, every one launched bears the owner’s preference and distinct style.

For more information about the Barker Boatworks line-up, the build process and future models, please visit: www.barkerboatworks.com and www.sf7boats.com

Fisherman’s Paradise: The Florida Everglades

DSC 0693 1024x683 Fishermans Paradise: The Florida Everglades

Capt. Ruby Delgado with the first snook of our trip caught on a Savage Gear topwater. Photo by Kelly Groce

61106226 2474210565924667 2953527436114919424 n 300x271 Fishermans Paradise: The Florida Everglades

This is the view surrounding each key island in the Everglades. A school of tarpon swam by shortly after this photo was taken.

By Kelly Groce

The Florida Everglades is a dream land for any angler. Its pristine waters, remote location and wide range of wildlife will have any fisherman questioning their flight back home before the trip is even over. With no cell phone service and miles upon miles of crystal clear flats glistening with shark fins in the distance, the opportunity to catch a bucket list or fish of lifetime are around every corner. I left that day with a new species to add to my list; my first tarpon.

Cindy Nguyen, Capt. Ruby Delgado and myself spent the first few hours of the day catching snook and speckled trout on a variety of Savage Gear topwaters thanks to Sam Root who poled us around on his Maverick skiff. The sloppier we worked our topwaters, the more the snook couldn’t resist it. Fishing with a topwater has to be one of my favorite approaches, especially when it’s for snook.

Sam Root had to get in on the snook topwater bite from his poling platform.

After eating lunch with a breath taking view of gin clear water, Sam poled us around a small key island. I pitched my small swim bait next to the grass beds. As my bait starts to drop down, a couple of 30 inch tarpon emerge from under the beds. I slowly start reeling it in and one takes my bait. He did an acrobatic dance for me as I shouted with excitement and high fives ensued. The silver king is a stunning fish to see.

In one day we saw schools of tarpon, manatees, snook, speckled trout, redfish, grouper, mangrove snapper, barracuda, stingrays, alligators, lemon sharks, nurse sharks, and more. Exploring the Everglades is like something out of a Hemmingway book; pure adventure. Its untouched beauty should make it a top place for any fisherman to visit.

Cindy Nguyen’s first cast of the day resulted in this beautifully spotted trout.

Our morning greeting to the beautiful Florida Everglades.

Ruby suggested I work my topwater a little sloppier and immediately I caught this snook.

Retro Lessons In Summer Fishing

farahtrout Retro Lessons In Summer Fishing

Big trout can still be caught in the heat of summer!

By Capt. Joey Farah

361-442-8145 Capt. Joey Farah’s Backwater Adventures

In the frantic rush of summer live bait fishing, many proven lessons for summer success are passed by. Those long days of our youth were filled with adventures and memories. Today it seems like a rush to get out and then get in. Slow it down and turn up the heat on your summer fishing this year! Here are a few not quite forgotten, but tried and true summer strategies to bring trout, reds, and flounder to hand!

Big Trout

First light is the best time to find big summer trout. Protected shorelines will be clean of floating grass, allowing anglers to dance top water plugs over skinny grass flats, shallow rocks and oysters. Big mature trout will be hunting their last meal before retreating to cover and deep water at first light.

A topwater bait imitates a wounded mullet or shad chased up against a shoreline by packs of trout during the night. Throw plugs that you can see at a distance; visual awareness is essential in timing your hookset, as well as aligning your technique with the soul of the ocean. Look for flats where there are signs of baitfish. Surface action, birds and good tidal flow are a good start. Later in the day, move towards deeper drop offs with smaller soft plastics like the 3”DOA CAL SHAD in natural color patterns, imitating pin perch for all-day action.

farahflounder Retro Lessons In Summer Fishing

Summer flounder are great targets around piers and docks, this flat fatty was jigged up on a DOA 3” CAL Shad glow/pink.

Flatfish

Fantastic summer flounder fishing can be as close as the dock you are standing on! Flounder are mostly a strategic ambush predator. They love to position themselves along the pilings of piers and docks. This is where small shrimp and minnows gather. They will lay just down current of the posts waiting for you to jig a small soft plastic along their sight path.

Step carefully so you don’t rock the dock and to keep your presence unknown. Flounder seem to be more aggressive towards bright colors. White, chartreuse, and pink have always been a coastal favorite. An old timer once told me never use a black net, always a green one! Black nets will send flounder on a bolting run as it looks like a dolphin. They seem to swim right into a green one.

Summer Redfish

Summertime belongs to the redfish! Chasing redfish during these long summer days can be an all day event. First light finds them digging and hunting the extreme shallows for crabs, shrimp and small baitfish. Before the sun gets bright and the shadows of birds spook surface mullet, anglers will find reds up so shallow that their tails will be cutting the surface, alerting us to their location. Walking side current will allow you to sneak up on them and project a perfect cast ahead of them.

My best baits are the DOA Shrimp and soft plastics rigged with a very light 1/16 oz. jig head, both for silent and natural sounding entry. Sight casting for reds will teach many lessons in how fish react to fishermen. At times you will watch redfish bolt towards lures at first sight, but most of the time they are very spooky and dart away from loud baits hitting the water. Cast well past the fish and bring the bait into their path. Redfish usually have a two foot sight awareness in front of them. They are used to scanning for food sources jumping up in front of their faces.

As the sun rises, switch to topwater plugs and make grid pattern casts over the flats. Scattered redfish will explode on the plugs, and allow anglers to cover large areas of water. Remember, redfish have bottom facing mouths. This means they must pounce down or turn over to get the bait off of the surface. I always let them bend the rod tip before I set the hook with topwater plugs.

The best and time proven bait for summertime redfish is the gold spoon! This lure perhaps dates back to the beginning of mankind, as bone and shell tied together to bring fish to hand and mouth. The flash and vibration of the glittering spoon awakes redfish from their resting places in thick grass. It imitates both the flash of perch and mullet, but mainly persuades them it is a fleeing crab, their favorite meal. I work my spoons with a fast retrieve with hard jerks and flutters. I adjust my presentation as needed to a light fluttering and stroking of the spoon over the bottom as well. You need to be loose and try new techniques to match the aggression and moods of the reds.

Target areas void of boat traffic, with grass and sand mixed bottom. Most redfish will be found in areas containing a good variety of bird life. Each species feeds on different things; a variety of birds means a buffet of redfish food!

Skip the bait stands and get a head start on your SUMMER FISHING! These lessons passed down from anglers of our past still hold true to our hearts and stringers here along the Texas Gulf Coast. Head out with a few pockets full of these specialized baits, concentrate on fishing and leave your stress on the beach. Summertime memories seem to last forever long past our last casts.

Gear

P STRADIC CI4 1024x1024 GearSHIMANO STRADIC CI4+ – Striking good looks, light weight with a solid feel, and an ultra smooth reeling experience combine to win the hearts of anglers around the globe. Incorporating exciting concepts like HAGANE gear, G Free Body, CI4+, X-SHIP, Core Protect, and the totally new Magnumlite Rotor which allows a super light feel when you turn the handle, the new Stradic CI4+ is built to last. www.fish.shimano.comsalty crew 300x300 Gear

SALTY CREW HIGH SEAS HYBRID SHORT – Made of four-way stretch durable fabrication with hyper-dry performance. Men’s High Seas Perforated Hybrid Shorts are complete with a welded zipper pocket and utility plier pocket. Asymmetrical back pocketing for easy access options finish these shorts. Utility walkshort with multifunctional uses and rapid dry fabrication. Anti-microbial fabrication. www.salty-crew.com

WATERLOO ROD COMPANY HP LITE – Designed for the avid artificial fisherman whose arsenal includes soft plastics, top waters and spoons. Built on a high modulus medium light, fast action graphite blank with a light tip and moderate backbone. This rod is available as a spinning rod in length 6’7”, 6’9”, 7’0” and 7’6”. The HP Lite is also available as a casting rod in the same lengths. Order online to select custom preferences such as colored thread around the guides and handle type. www.waterloorods.com

COLUMBIA PFG SUPER TERMINAL TACKLE™ SHIRT – Keep the hot sun off your back all day long with this UPF-30-armed fishing shirt, featuring an über-light, quick-to-dry fabric in a standout print. www.columbia.com

ENGEL 65 HARD COOLER – Engel, the original high-performance cooler, is roto-molded for toughness and durability. It’s filled with a full 2 inches of insulation in the lid, on the sides, and on the bottom, helping to retain cold and ice for up to 10 days. The all silicone gaskets create a near airtight seal that is durable and will never lose it’s shape. Available in white, tan, grey, blue, seafoam and camo. Comes with a 10 year warranty. www.engelcoolers.com

SUNBUM SIGNATURE CLEAR SUNSCREEN FACE STICK – Our mineral based Signature SPF 30 clear sunscreen offers the very best Broad Spectrum protection to those who work and play hard in the sun. It will never bleed into your eyes, make your hands slippery or come off during the most rigorous activities in the water, wind, or blazing hot sun. www.trustthebum.com

 

D.O.A. LURES 5″ SWIM BAIT – 5” hollow soft body lure with a wide verticle paddle tail can be fished top water, suspended or on a jig head. Swim Bait is the right choice for any fish that eats a swimming bait in freshwater and saltwater. The color above is 408 Red/Gold Glitter. Made in the USA. www.doalures.com

MAGELLAN OUTDOORS WADER SLING PACK – With a strap system that lets you secure the pack to your back, the Magellan Outdoors™ Wader Sling Pack features lightweight polyester fabrication, a built-in plier sheath and multiple D-rings to attach accessories. Waterproof pouch with sunglasses cloth. Nylon zippers with Magellan Outdoors™ pulls. www.academy.com

12th Annual Cougar Saltwater Open Fishing Tournament

62446610 1386741711475365 6116945740687212544 o 1024x683 12th Annual Cougar Saltwater Open Fishing Tournament

Cougar Saltwater 12TH 01 300x292 12th Annual Cougar Saltwater Open Fishing TournamentThe Valenti School of Communication Alumni Association will hold its 12th Annual Fishing Tournament – The UH Cougar Saltwater Open, on Saturday August 17th at Topwater Grill. This event funds scholarships for students currently pursuing studies in Communication at the University of Houston.

Tournament is open to UH students, alumni and the public. We encourage full family participation.

Cougar Saltwater Open shall be an inshore tournament. There will be a boat and kayak division for each category.

Awards will be given in the following divisions:

  • Heaviest individual redfish (20-28 inches, no oversized) boat and kayak
  • Heaviest speckled trout (16-25 in) boat and kayak
  • Heaviest flounder boat and kayak
  • Heaviest stringer (3 fish) : any combination of the following three fish-trout, flounder and 1 redfish boat and kayak
  • Shasta’s pick: bring your big ugly (any trash fish) and the heaviest one wins!

Kids Division:

  • Biggest Fish, Smallest Fish, Ugliest Fish, Unusual fish, etc. (Multiple prizes will be awarded in this division)

Registration fee includes tournament t-shirt and meal at weigh in/awards ceremony.

Registration $65 per person. $20 per child (12 and under).

Weigh in will be from 2-4 P.M. at Topwater Grill. You must be in line no later than 4 p.m.

For more information please email info@cougarsaltwateropen.com or contact:

  • Kimberly Maraldo 832-264-3951
  • Kelly Groce 281-923-8860

To register please visit: www.cougarsaltwateropen.com or complete the form on the back of this flier with payment and mail to:

Fishing Offshore Weedlines

bull dorado Fishing Offshore Weedlines

A well formed weed line is a favorite sight for many offshore fisherman. They are known best for holding Dorado (pictured) but ling, wahoo, sailfish and marlin can be caught here as well.

By Capt. Joe Kent

For the last 20 years or more offshore seaweed, which forms weedlines in the Gulf of Mexico, has been either over abundant or virtually nonexistent.  When abundant, many species of fish follow the sargassum, or seaweed as it is more commonly called, as the patches, clumps and organized lines reflect the basics of the marine food chain.

During lean times, such as offshore Galveston anglers have experienced for several years now, there is a conspicuous absence in the number of pelagic fish in the nearshore waters of the Gulf.  Most notably absent are the Dorado, Dolphin fish or mahi-mahi, as they are called interchangeably.

Dorado of all sizes hover around masses of seaweed and along with them are just about all other fish that roam the Gulf waters.

This year it appears that we may have more seaweed in our near shore waters and if so, look for a banner year of offshore fishing along the upper Texas Coast.

Seaweed attracts and is a refuge for small crustaceans and fin fish.  Watching carefully from close range are larger fish waiting for an opportunity to feast.  Behind those are billfish, huge Dorado, ling, wahoo, sharks and as mentioned earlier almost every species of pelagic fish in the Gulf.

Just about all marine life in the Gulf of Mexico waters can be found in the vicinity of this vegetation.

Now that we know what is offered in the way of fish around the seaweed, how do we take advantage of it and catch some of the fish?

chicken dorado Fishing Offshore Weedlines

Chicken Dorado can provide fast action on weedlines.

Dorado, especially the smaller chicken Dorado, are one of the most common fish hanging around the shade and protection.  Tripletail, small amberjack, king, ling, shark, wahoo and sailfish are others that are commonly found just outside of the masses of weed.

Anglers experienced at fishing the weed lines know that there are two ways to find the fish.  One is to quietly move close to big concentrations of weeds and toss out small pieces of squid or cut bait.  Any chicken Dorado close by likely will come out of hiding to pursue a quick and easy meal.

When this occurs, anglers using light to medium tackle will toss free-lined squid or other bait toward the seaweed and bingo, most of the time a group of small Dorado will inhale it.  While battling the small Dorado many others will follow close by and the key is to keep the fish hooked while others in your party toss similar baits into the water.

On one occasion years ago my group of four landed over 100 while employing this technique.

Once the Dorado have scattered, slowly maneuver your boat along the edges of the weed line and look for either more Dorado or tripletail.

Often at some point large Dorado and ling will appear searching for the same chicken Dorado you are pursuing.  Both ling and Dorado are curious fish and tend to check out noise.  One technique that works in getting their attention is to pound the side of the boat with your hands.

If no fish appear, move on to another clump or line or begin trolling. Trolling is another way to find the fish.  Try trolling the outer edges of the weed concentrations keeping enough distance to prevent the trolling lure for getting tangled in the seaweed.

The most active seaweed lines are going to be found in blue or blue/green waters.  Lines found in off color water are hardly worth the time to check out.

Most of the strikes are going to be near the surface and visible.  Every ling I have caught while working seaweed has come to the surface to check out the bait.  Sometimes they just smell it and take off, other times they take it.

One mistake that newcomers make when larger fish like ling first take the bait is to try to set the hook too quickly.  Free spool enough line that the large fish can take the bait and start swimming away before setting the hook.

For the chicken Dorado and smaller fish, setting the hook immediately is imperative.

One pointer for boats, especially those propelled by outboard engines, is that when working seaweed areas often the props get tangled in the vegetation.  When this occurs put the engine in reverse and it should remove the clutter.

Hopefully we will see a good balance of weed lines in the Gulf this summer and we can enjoy the bounties of seafood they offer.

Whose water is this?

sheward fish on Whose water is this?

Captain Clay Sheward starting the morning hooked up in the marsh.

Consideration and knowledge goes a long way for on-the-water etiquette

By Capt. Steve Soule

Every single one of us who boats, kayaks, fishes, goes sight seeing, jet skiing, wading or any other use of public waters has come from a different place or perspective. Some are very experienced, others have little to no experience. Each and every one of us has a different view of the resource that we share. None of us are wrong or right, though we may be highly opinionated or have well founded thoughts and beliefs. We all have a right to the use of the resource, and we all have the shared responsibility to respect and maintain what we have.

If you search the internet, or speak to people who utilize the bays and waters of the Texas Coast, or any other for that matter, you will find no shortage of opinions and arguments regarding how we come in contact with each other on the water. Over time, we start to develop the belief that we are right or someone else is wrong. This may or may not be true or correct, but we tend to believe that our way of utilizing the resource may be better than the next person’s plan.

Does a fishing boat have any more right to be in an area than a jet skier? Does a poling skiff have the right of way on a flat over a tower boat? Does a wade fisher have more right to be in a spot than a boat drifting? I believe that it is safe to answer all of those questions, and many other similar scenarios with a resounding no!

There isn’t any one of us who takes advantage of our right to access public water that has special privileges that others do not. Now, with that said, consideration of others must come into play, along with some knowledge and understanding of how your actions may impact others around us, we can all enjoy the resource.

Knowledge

In nearly every case where someone is upset with another person on the water, ignorance, or lack of knowledge is the primary issue. I don’t use the term ignorance in a derogatory manner, but truly in the sense that there is a lack of knowledge or information that causes the perceived infringement on another.

There are most definitely some cases where people act in malice towards others, either because they don’t care or they believe they have some right. For those who do this, I can only suggest that you consider the consequences. Imagine if every time a boater, or anyone on the water took revenge on every person they believed had done them wrong. Likely this will not resolve the problem, nor will it allow any involved to enjoy the water as they had planned.

Let take a look at perspectives, and knowledge of others and what they are doing. Maybe goals on the water and what would be required to achieve them. For most of us that fish, having a productive spot to ourselves, without a boat coming inside of 100 yards sounds like a good thing. In some case it may take even more room than that to keep the spot producing. This is very different than what a jet skier would want. For them it would be fun to have boats running nearby so that they can jump wakes. A very different view of how to spend time on the water and easy to see how conflicts could arise.

A wading angler, walking quietly down a shoreline, has a plan of stealthily approaching fish, and if skilled, could easily stay within casting range of fish for long periods. A drifting boat of anglers, no matter how careful, will always make more noise and spook more fish. If you haven’t spent time in clear or very shallow water, this may not have ever occurred to you. After a lifetime of fishing in both shallow and clear water situations, I can tell you that the noises we make in boats definitely alert fish to our presence and reduce our chances of catching them.

The Lateral Line

Every single thing that moves in the water, no matter how big or small, creates a pressure wave. This is like a sound signature, and tells every animal with a lateral line that there is something nearby. Most fish, can judge the size of the object or animal making the pressure wave in total darkness. This sense is one of many that keep fish safe from harm.

Once we are aware of this, and look for its impact on our fishing, we can see that even a wader can send out pressure waves and make noises that alert fish to our presence. Often this can be why one person catches fish while another nearby does not. Given that fish can so accurately “feel” sounds or movements that can indicate the presence of danger. If fish can be spooked by a wader or a quietly drifting boat, you can only imagine the reaction to a boat running through the shallows at 20 or 30 miles per hour. Sheer panic is the immediate reaction to such loud noises.

If you fish shallow water long enough, you will without a doubt, witness this first hand. In many cases the cause isn’t intentional. I seriously doubt that we haven’t all sped across a flat, through a marsh or down a shoreline looking for signs or trying to reach a destination spot, never really giving thought to fish along the way. It’s probably not that anglers have a blatant disregard for fish or fishery, but likely that we haven’t fully considered the impact of our actions.

Common Sense and Courtesy

With the ever increasing numbers of people enjoying the bays and lakes, comes greater potential of encroaching on others. Every situation is different and some are more avoidable than others. Classically the case of channels or passes from one area to another create challenges for passing boaters. Neither has any greater right or privilege, though common courtesy goes a long way.

It doesn’t really matter whether you are operating a boat, kayak, jet ski or even wading quietly, public waters are a first come first served playground, and we all want to be able to enjoy the discoveries we have found without unwanted interruptions.

Its hard to say there is any set of rules regarding distances or behavior that govern us on the water. It is however safe to say that if we all give the same consideration that we would ask, time on the water would be much more pleasant. Taking the time to understand and respect the intentions of others on the water isn’t hard and will likely yield the same respect in return. It only takes a brief moment to determine the direction a boat is drifting or poling, or the direction waders are walking, and shift your course to avoid cutting them off.

Public waters are a source of enjoyment for many varied groups; a resource that needs respect and consideration. I have no doubt that we as users of the resource can collectively do a much better job of managing that which we all love, than politicians could ever dream of. Our first hand knowledge provides a view that can’t be seen from an office and an understanding that can only come from experience. The responsibility to be the stewards, falls on each and every user, and the better we can self maintain, the less the likelihood of misguided bureaucratic management.

Fish and fisheries are not an endless resource. Having the right to run a boat basically anywhere we want doesn’t mean its always the best thing to do. Just like having the right to kill our legal limits of fish every day would not be a good way to preserve the fishery.

As much pleasure as we find in our time on the water, we probably all have the same desire to pass this along to the next generation. With a little thought and consideration, we can not only enjoy our time on the water, but also leave it in great shape so that generations to come can experience it as well.