January 13 – February 10 – February 24, 2018 at Jackie’s Brickhouse
Saltwater Legend Series
Saltwater Survival Series
Rudy’s Pro Series-3rd Stop 2018 Season
July 12-14, 2018 at Jackie’s Brickhouse
Lone Star Shootout
Texas Billfish Classic
Meet Hunter Welch of FishStix Rods
By Kelly Groce
Thanks for doing this interview with us, Hunter. Tell our readers about your self and how you got started building fishing rods.
My Name is Hunter Welch, growing up in East Texas, I have always had a passion for fishing. My twin brother and I grew up fishing at a private pond for most of our childhood and occasionally some lakes. As I became a teenager I began to wade fish at Rollover Pass in Bolivar, Texas. It was actually my now father-in-law that got me started. I fell in love with saltwater fishing and learning the different techniques that is required to catch fish; including how to choose the perfect fishing rod. After my wife, Liz, graduated from UT Tyler, we moved from east Texas and settled down in Bayou Vista. It was there that I began to build rods as a hobby.
When did you start FishStix and why?
When I had the idea for FishStix, I hit the ground running. I built several rods without a label or even a “brand.” I started concentrating on creating a name that was catchy, and I thought of “FishStix.” From that day the label was there, the logo was there, and all I had to do was push the brand. Almost 4 years ago, I legally filed FishStix as a business. In the beginning, FishStix was a part time job/hobby. At the time I was going to school, and I was a stay at home dad to my 2 small children. My first time to sell rods to the public was at Bay City on the Square which is where businesses set up tents and sell their items once a month. I first attended with 6 FishStix rods and sold 3 of them. The next month I sold 3 more. I attended Bay City on the Square every month for a year until finally I attended the Houston Fishing Show in March 2015. It was then that we were able to sell a lot of rods and visit with a lot of people. In the beginning, I never thought of myself as a salesman and I certainly never thought of FishStix as “the premier rod.” As months turned into years, being a salesman and selling the rods is what I enjoy most. I love to hear customers’ expressions when they feel how light and durable the rods are. I love to hear their stories of all the catches that they had, and to see them comeback and shop with us as a repeat customer. I tried to start my business on the very basic principles of trust, respect, and honor.
I have always dreamed big, so as time went on FishStix became a never-ending goal. Today my goal is to sell more rods this month than I did this time last year, talk to more people this month than I did this time last year, watch people enjoy our products, and to eventually have a FishStix in every household across the USA. Like I said, “dream big”.
Starting out, I never thought that I would be doing an interview for a very popular magazine like Gulf Coast Mariner, but by the grace of God, and our great customers, we are able to stay relevant and we are able to keep providing the best customer service and the best fishing rods on the market today.
What makes FishStix rods unique?
FishStix rods are hatched and spawned in Galveston County. Every rod that I build is in Hitchcock, Texas. FishStix is unique because it is truly a grass roots business that started from ground zero and we are working our way to the top one rod and one customer at a time.
Our rods are unique because of their loud colors, their durability, their comfort, their performance, and customer service. If you’ve ever seen our rods the first thing you notice is the colors. We pride ourselves on going outside the box when designing the rods. We custom paint the rod blanks and have even hydro dipped custom patterns on the rod blanks. Our saying here at FishStix is “FishStix is the lightest in their class and the brightest in their class!” We use and have even led the way when it comes to using neon colored thread wraps on custom fishing rods.
FishStix rods are durable because of the quality rod blanks that we use in all of our models. Our rod blanks offer the sensitivity to feel every bite, and have added strength for brute lifting power. We use only the best components for added durability. I take pride in our micro guide technology. The micro guides that we use are insert free so that you can fish all day knowing that your insert will not crack, chip, or cut your line.
FishStix Rods are comfortable because of their weight. Depending on the rod model you use, most rods weigh between 2 and 3 ounces. They are lightweight because the micro guides that we use are 83 percent lighter than standard guides. FishStix are also lighter because of the split grips and the split reel seats that we put on all of our rods. I’ve had hundreds of people telling me how using our rods have made them be able to enjoy fishing longer without hurting afterwards because the rod is so light weight.
The FishStix out performs other rods because of the micro guide technology that we use. With the micro guides you will achieve further casting distance with less backlash and less wind knots. We also have built on measurement marks for you to measure your fish by holding it up to your rod so you don’t have to worry if a fish is legal or not. The sensitivity of our rods is what really sets our rods apart from the competition. Because of the micro guide technology, we are able to keep a lot of weight off of the blank which makes the rod more sensitive. The split reel seats are as good looking as they are functional with casting and spinning models up to 54% lighter than conventional reel seats. These seats allow full contact with the rod blank and maximum blank exposure for the ultimate in sensitivity and control.
Lastly, we are unique because when you buy one of our rods, instead of helping out a giant corporation you are actually supporting a family and children that rely on it. You are helping a community, local schools and local clubs that we donate time and effort to.
Which FishStix rod is best for catching trout, flounder, redfish, etc?
We build a variety of rods and most people prefer different rods for different types of fishing. I consider our rods to be situational rods. Most people don’t always pick a rod for what types of fish that they want to catch but rather, they pick a rod based on what types of baits they want to throw efficiently. For example, I recommend our 7’ M/L to anyone that throws tails only. I recommend the 6’6” M/L to anyone who wade fishes and throws artificial lures. I recommend the 7’ Medium or the 6’6” Medium to anyone who wants to have an all-around rod to throw most any bait that can be thrown in the bays or lakes. I recommend our 7’ M/H to anyone that wants to throw heavy spoons and popping corks.
When I am fishing for trout I fish with tails and always use the 6’6 M/L because of its lightweight and durability. When I am fishing for flounder I use the 6’6” Medium because of its backbone and sensitivity. I like plenty of backbone in the rod whenever I am flounder fishing so that I can set the hook through the flounder’s face which is made predominantly of bone. I like to use my “DrumStix” when I am fishing for redfish. The DrumStix is a 7’ Medium Heavy rod that I use to throw popping corks. All of the big fish that I catch offshore or at the jetties are caught on our all-around big fish rod known as the “MVP” (Most Valuable Pole).
Do you make custom rods? If so, how can someone get a hold of you to start that process?
We make custom rods to best fit your style, your feel, and your budget. I take pride in asking questions to best understand your needs for your next rod. We custom fit each rod to the specific person who is buying that rod. Whenever you get ready for your custom rod you can call, email or leave a message on our website.
Where can our readers purchase a FishStix rod?
You can purchase a rod from our website, you can come by our shop in Hitchcock (by appointment only), or you can see us at any of the major tradeshows in your area. We do have several retail stores that carry our products. Please feel free to call or message us and we will make sure we can send you to the closest location that best suits your needs.
Does FishStix host any tournaments?
We host the “Who’s Your Flattie Daddy?” Flounder Fishing Tournament every year in October. This past year and for many years to come we have teamed with Coastal Brigades to raise money for their kids’ camp that they host every year in the summer time. Our tournament is the largest flounder tournament on the Gulf Coast. This past year we gave away a Dargel boat at theweigh-in and over $13,000 in prize money. You can find out more about our tournament on our website.
What can we expect to see from FishStix in the near future?
In the future for FishStix you will see us more often at tradeshows nationwide. You will find us in more stores closer to you, and you will see more options from us that push the limits of where any fishing rod has ever gone before. Stay tuned!
Down South Lures’ Mike Bosse
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.”
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.
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.
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.
The Changing Fishing Patterns Experienced in 2017
By Capt. Joe Kent
Fall fishing in the Galveston Bay Complex has been undergoing changes for several years now. The biggest factor contributing to the changes has been the warmer weather over this period of time.
Likely, the most noticeable change has been in the late migration of flounder. Another area that has evidenced this change is trout action in the upper bays.
For fall fishing patterns to get into full swing, the water temperature needs to fall below 70 degrees. Each year, September is looked upon as being a transition month, when at some point during the month our first cold front of the season crosses the Texas Coast. Most years we would see ambient temperatures fall into the upper 40s and lower 50s for a short period of time; however, it would be long enough to send signals to fish to get moving.
In recent years, water temperatures have barely fallen below 80 degrees in September, which continues the summertime mentality in fish. This year it was well into October before the Galveston Bay Complex got into the low 70s.
By October, flounder should start showing signs of movement and trout action in Trinity and other bays would pick up. Bird action has been one of the traits of October, as seagulls would work the bays feeding upon shrimp driven to the surface by schools of feeding fish, usually speckled trout.
A number of anglers sent notes or called in expressing concern over the lack of activity on specks and flounder. Now, while there were those concerns over two of the big three, reds continued to offer excellent action. September is usually prime time for reds around the jetties and in the surf and 2017 was no exception. In fact bull and slot reds saved the day for fishermen during September and October.
We just have not had the strong cold fronts to hit until after October. Until a few make their way here, fall fishing patterns will not get into full swing.
A good example of how the weather patterns have changed and affected fishing was in the new flounder regulations that came out several years ago. Known as the Special November Rules which limit the bag limit on flounder to two fish and prohibit gigging for flounder, they applied only to the month of November.
Early on, it was noted that the annual flounder migration, for which the rules were designed to protect, continued well into December. When written, the flounder run usually peaked around Thanksgiving and was followed by a steady decline of fish moving out of the bays.
Soon, the rules were extended to mid-December, as the migration continued well into December. Interestingly, the Special November Rule prohibiting taking flounder by gigging ended December 1 but the two-fish limit continued.
One of the most experienced Galveston area flounder guides, a long time fisherman who has been keeping logs on flounder for decades, always said that the peak of the flounder run occurred between the Full Moons of October and November. A few years ago, he revised his observation and pushed it forward due to the warmer weather. Now the peak is between the Full Moons of November and December.
While the flounder run is the most obvious change, speck action follows close behind, as now we are seeing the fall pattern start in November and run well into December or early January.
January 2018 should be an interesting month for fishing if we do not have any significant freezes beforehand. While most flounder will have migrated each year there will remain a number of flounder that decide to stay in the bays. The key is food. If bait is available, we will see them hang around until enough marsh emptying northers blow through to send the small fin fish and crustaceans to deeper waters.
At that time, trout will be starting their winter patterns.
A New Beginning
By Capt. David C. Dillman
Spec-tacular Trout Adventures | 832-228-8012
I can’t tell you how many times lately I have heard the phrase: “ I will be glad when this year is over.” For all of us that live on the coast of Texas, this is so true. South Texas coastal residents are still dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. Here on the Upper Coast, the destruction left by the flood waters from Tropical Storm Harvey is still daunting. What has become a normal routine is still not “normal” for a lot of us that reside on the coast of Texas.
What is normal? The first two weeks of January is the annual Houston Boat, Sport and Travel Show. In its 63rd year, the show begins January 5, 2018 and runs through January 14. It is the largest indoor show of its type on the Gulf Coast. It features something for everyone that attends. I will be at the Eagle Point Fishing Camp booth during the show. While you are there, please stop by and say hello!
Maintain Your Ride
January/February is the time to get your boat ready for the upcoming season. Before one knows it, springtime on the Upper Coast will be here. You should perform all your required maintenance on the boat and engine. If it needs to go to a repair facility, don’t hesitate. They get busy and the earlier you get it in, the better chance it will be ready by March. If you are mechanically inclined, order all your parts now. They can become scarce during high demand times.
Hot Cold Fishing
On the fishing scene, the trout population is really good. However, there is a noted decrease in the overall size. TP&W has deemed the trout fishery is good and recommended no changes in the current bag limits this coming year.
The catches of redfish have been “off the chart.” Redfish have been plentiful throughout our bay system, along with sheepshead and black drum.
This January/February, fishing should continue to be good, before and after cold fronts. The Northwest reaches and the West side of Galveston Bay will offer your best opportunity for speckled trout and redfish. As the sun rises and sets, this side of the bay receives the most sunlight. The water remains a tad bit warmer than other areas of the bay, thus holding the fish. Also, during passages of cold fronts, the adjacent water is deeper and offers protection to the fish. Eagle Point up to the Seabrook Flats, Sylvan Beach, Tabbs, Burnett and Scott Bays will be the places to fish. West Galveston Bay will also see its fair share of fish.
Live shrimp this time of year will be in short supply. Few, if any bait camps will have some, much less even be open. You can always call Eagle Point Fishing Camp to check on their bait supply. Usually, they hold live shrimp all year. Hopefully we will have a “mild” winter, and avoid a major freeze!
Boyd’s One Stop Flounder Tournament Winners
2017 was a year of big fish on the Texas City Dike. Boyd’s One Stop’s annual Flounder tournament finished up with the top three fish all weighing over 8 pounds! Congratulations to first place winner Jantzen Miller, second place Kevin Heiman and third place Nathan Chain.
Catching the Dream
All the Fishing Boats One Could Never Own
Imagine driving the car of your dreams; perhaps a different model on any given day. The only question is, “Shelby GT350 Mustang or ZL1 Camaro?”
Now imagine choosing from a fleet of high-performance fishing boats, powered by oversized American-made Evinrude engines, and hitting the water any time of the day or night while someone else takes care of the details.
Vince Denais, founder of The Fishing Boat Club in Seabrook and lover of all things saltwater, makes the avid angler’s dreams come true.
“The Club is designed to offer fishing enthusiasts access to a fleet of boats to suit every occasion,” Denais says.
He also makes enjoying multiple fishing boats hassle-free and affordable. Using his proprietary Rugged Smart Fleet technology and partnership with Epic Boats, members pay monthly dues for the convenience of reserving premium watercraft online, and then retrieving them with the swipe of an ID for 24-hour pleasure. All for a fraction of the cost to own, insure and maintain such level of quality and selection.
Membership is available only to experienced anglers who demonstrate proficiency in boat handling.
“We’re not in the business of renting boats, but rather providing a customized service to discerning sportsmen who might already own a boat but also want to enjoy different angling experiences,” Denais adds.
Members can currently reserve 21, 23 and 25-foot center-console models with angler-preferred standard features such as trolling motors and Power-Pole anchors. Options include fiberglass T-Tops, premium and Bluetooth stereo, multiple speakers, GPS, and LED underwater lighting.
A full range of fishing watercraft, including pro angler kayaks, flats boats and family friendly angler pontoons will be available in 2018.
Members also gain access to a private club environment. The Fishing Boat Club’s 1950s vintage clubhouse in Seabrook sits atop 1.3 acres of historical property first made famous by 1920s-era Muecke’s Seafood as a mecca for local fishermen. Oyster shell-piled “Muecke’s Mountain” offers 25-foot elevation views of the Clear Lake/Kemah Channel.
Denais is currently accepting applications and reservations at the Seabrook flagship location. Future expansion could include Texas Gulf Coast clubs in Anahuac, Corpus Christi, Dickinson, Freeport and Port Arthur, as well as Lafayette, Lake Charles and New Orleans, Louisiana. Membership includes access to all club locations.
Catch the dream at http://fishingboatclub.com.
What’s Behind Abnormal High Tide Levels in Galveston Bay
By Capt. Joe Kent
The most common question anglers have asked so far this fall is what is causing the abnormally high tide levels in the Galveston Bay Complex?
High tide levels are common all year long; however, their duration is almost always limited to the events that caused them, such as strong east and southeast winds, storms in the Gulf of Mexico and to a lesser degree the Full Moon Phase.
For most of October, the tide levels have been averaging two feet above normal all around Galveston Bay. The most interesting part of this is that, while at times the normal triggering factors mentioned earlier were present, the high water levels continued after those factors diminished.
So, what is behind all of this? Well, I checked with a Galveston area weather expert and asked that question. The following is his theory on why the tides did not quickly recede to normal levels.
First, higher than normal tides is the new normal along the upper Texas Coast, at least for the time being. October 2017 was one of the warmest ever in and around Galveston (since observations began in 1871).
This is reflected in the water temperatures in deep Gulf waters. Since warm water expands, water levels will be higher than if the water temperatures were lower or in the normal range.
Also, we are seeing a residual run up of water along the upper Texas Coast, as there is some inertia built into the development of higher tide levels. Also, we still are getting a fairly robust fresh water flow from the recent record setting floods that are causing large amounts of water to flow from rivers between the mouth of the Sabine River to the mouth of the Colorado River.
Strong northerly winds will mitigate the situation by blowing the water out of the bays and back into the Gulf of Mexico.
It should be easy to conclude from the expert’s opinion given above that global warming is aggravating the situation as well.
Now, how does all of this affect fishing in the Galveston Bay Complex? During September and October the higher tide levels hampered fishing. Generally, when there is a change from the normal, fish react to it. In this case we saw some negative effects on inshore fishing while the surf likely benefited from the longer stretches of water hitting the beaches.
The one area that saw the least effects was offshore where the summertime pattern continued.
For inshore fishing, the marshes and back bays were flooded and that drove redfish well into the normally shallow waters chasing bait fish and reaping the spoils of freshly covered ground where crustaceans and other small marine life were thriving.
Besides the abnormally high water levels, the record temperatures of October delayed our fall fishing patterns from getting underway.
Often I have mentioned that Columbus Day was a time when we saw signs of the onset of fall fishing patterns. Not the case in 2017, as now I am leaning more toward Veteran’s Day as that pivotal time.
GALVESTON FALL FISHING 2017
By Capt. Joe Kent
Years ago by November, fall fishing patterns would be well under way and the annual flounder and golden croaker migrations in full swing. This is not the case now and anglers have moved the time table ahead as a result.
While growing up around the Galveston Bay Complex, saltwater anglers looked to Columbus Day in early October as the time when they could count on the onset of fall fishing patterns. For a number of years now, fall weather patterns have not set in until much later, usually close to November.
Fall fishing patterns are triggered by the water temperature in the bays and it is not until the readings fall below 70 degrees that we can count on much in the way of autumn fishing.
Sunlight or presenting it a different way, shorter periods of daylight, also influence fish to move into their fall feeding style. Fortunately, while weather patterns may change, periods of daylight do not, so that is one constant we can count on in the equation.
An example of how our weather pattern has changed comes with the special flounder regulations that were set by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to protect flounder from over harvesting during their fall migration or as anglers call it the Fall Flounder Run.
The dates for the special regulations that cut the bag limit to two per day and outlawed flounder gigging were Nov. 1 through 30. Those dates were chosen because historically the flounder run was in its peak during November and by December 1, nearly over.
Quickly TPWD observed that the flounder migration lasted well into December and amended the rules to add the first two weeks of that month.
Mentioned earlier was the fact that Columbus Day was looked to as the kick-off of the fall fishing season and now that has changed. If I were to choose a holiday that better represents the time when fall fishing is in full swing, it would be Veteran’s Day on Nov. 11.
Now, with that background, what is the outlook for this year’s fall fishing?
Let’s take a look at speckled trout first. The record floods of late August and early September likely will continue to affect speckled trout fishing through at least the early part of November. Trinity Bay and the upper reaches of Galveston Bay continue to have enormous amounts of fresh water pouring into them. Until that stops and salinity levels improve, don’t look for the prolific fall trout action for which those areas are famous.
On the other hand, East and West Bays should be hot spots once the water temperature cooperates. Hordes of specks migrated out of the lower salinity areas to locations closer to the Gulf of Mexico and likely will remain until the “All Clear” signal is given to migrate north.
The fall flounder run is shaping up to be a good one this year, as a good crop of quality flat fish is in the bays and, once a few genuine cold fronts pass through, look for the passes to the Gulf to be wall to wall with both flounder and fishermen.
Redfish action has been outstanding all during this fall season. Reds of all sizes have been caught in good numbers in the lower bays and surf. Look for that to continue, as reds are not nearly as sensitive to salinity levels as other fish. Once the water cools, look for the back bays and marshes to turn on.
The annual golden croaker run, which usually occurs about the time of the flounder run, has been a big disappointment in recent years. During November large golden croaker known as bull croaker make their run to the Gulf of Mexico for spawning and are easy prey for anglers fishing near the passes into the Gulf.
While there has been some good action during the run, it has not measured up to that of 20 years ago and beyond.
In summary, it is going to take a couple of things to really trigger some hot fall fishing and those are getting the water temperature down into the 60s and eliminating the heavy flows of fresh water into the bays.
Once the water temperature drops look out! The action will be hot and heavy.
Galveston Bay’s Promising Outlook
By Capt. David C. Dillman
Spec-tacular Trout Adventures | 832-228-8012
“Hopefully we can dodge a major weather system and enjoy this amazing time of year in Texas and the Upper Coast”
Well, the Galveston area did dodge the destruction of Hurricane Harvey’s winds, but not the rainfall. The Houston/Galveston area received upwards to 60 inches of rain and Galveston Bay became “fresh” from all the runoff. Fishing in September was non-existent, with few folks even trying their luck. As October rolled around, fishermen began plying the waters, with catches coming from the Jetties, East Bay and south of the Eagle Point area. Every tide change in October pushed the saltwater farther north into the Galveston Bay Complex. The outlook for November/December at the time of publication is positive!
November will be the month of transition for those seeking speckled trout. The trout will continue to move farther north with each tide change, but will they be in the normal areas, like Jack’s Pocket in Trinity, Tabbs, Scott and Burnett Bays? I would guess towards the end of the month, anglers should be able to catch some fish from these areas. Until then look for trout to remain in the areas they have been in October. Don’t overlook the west shoreline of Galveston Bay from Eagle Point to Seabrook. Also the western side of Trinity Bay from Dow’s Reef to the HLP Spillway. The wells in the middle of Galveston Bay and Trinity Bay, along with West Galveston Bay have the potential to produce great catches this November.
November is also the traditional month for flounder. The so called “Flounder Run” is in full force this month. Any shoreline, along any bay where drains are located is where one should concentrate their effort. The well known Galveston Channel, from Seawolf Park to the Pelican Island Bridge should be loaded up this year with flatfish! Already, some really nice flounder have been caught this October. It should only get better.
By December, we should see the Galveston Complex returning to a normal fishing pattern. The fish should be in their regular areas. The far back end of Trinity, the NW end of Galveston Bay, and West Galveston Bay will be the areas to target.
Hopefully we can dodge a big freeze and have minimal rainfall with each passing cold front. Eagle Point Fishing Camp has had a great supply of live shrimp and croaker. Their goal is to continue to have live bait throughout this year. You can always call them at 281-339-1131 to check on their bait supply. This time of year bait can become scarce, it is nice to know that you can count them to have live bait.
Flounder Fishing Tips From Flounder Pounder Lures
Advice from Phil and Joe Ortiz of Flounder Pounder Lures
By Capt. Joe Kent
November is by far the best month for flounder fishing along the upper Texas Coast. It stands out so much that the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department set special rules for that month that include a reduction in the daily bag limit from five to two and the limitation of hook and line (rod and reel) as the only means of catching flatfish. With that restriction, flounder gigging is prohibited during November.
The main reason for the great fishing in November is the annual flounder migration to the Gulf of Mexico reaching its peak and flounder stacking up in such numbers around the passageways to the Gulf that they are easy picking for anglers.
Prior to the changes in the rules, anglers had a daily bag limit of 10 with a two-day possession limit. This allowed the gigging crowd to take 10 before midnight and another 10 per person after the clock struck 12 a.m.
When the two-day limit was eliminated and the bag limit reduced to five per day, along with the November rules, flounder stocks began to rebound.
With the flatfish now back to good numbers, let’s take a look at some tips from an expert on how, where and when to fish for flounder.
Phil Ortiz, inventor and manufacturer of the popular Flounder Pounder artificial bait, is one of the noted experts on flounder and flounder fishing. Ortiz has fished commercially for flounder and for over 20 years has devoted his time to producing one of the most prolific flounder baits on the market, the Flounder Pounder.
Recently, I interviewed Ortiz along with his brother Joe who assists him in manufacturing the baits. We started out with what I considered the most important question and proceeded from there.
Kent: What would you say is the most important single factor in fishing for flounder?
Ortiz: When the periods of sunlight fall, meaning shorter days, signals go off in flounder to start moving. The shorter days translate into cooler water and give rise to frontal systems making their way to the coast. This has a snowballing effect in that the fronts move the water out of the marshes and back bays thus telling flounder to prepare for their move.
Kent: Now that we see the flounder beginning to move, what are other factors that affect fishing?
Ortiz: The next most important is atmospheric pressure. A drop in pressure alerts flounder that change is on the way and the movement begins.
Kent: What about tides and moon?
Ortiz: Tidal flow, whether incoming or outgoing, is 99% necessary. The moon phases are not as important; however, the better action will be during major and minor periods.
Kent: What about the actual fishing? What color is your favorite and how do you fish for flounder?
Ortiz: Color makes no difference; in fact the bait itself is not that important. It is all in the presentation. I once hooked a cigarette butt to one of my jigs and caught flounder by making the bait resemble a running shad.
Kent: I recall you telling me that noise, if anything, helps flounder fishing. Is that still true?
Ortiz: Absolutely. Think about it, flounder lie on the bottom and any loud noise nearby will spook bait into running away. During the exit, the spooked bait will run past an awaiting flatfish and an easy meal results.
Kent: Is November the best month to catch that big “saddle blanket” flounder?
Ortiz: There are a lot of large flounder caught during November; however, my experience has shown June through August to be the best time.
Kent: It is pretty well known that the smaller male flounder make an appearance first during the flounder run. Why is that?
Ortiz: It is because they move slower than the larger females.
Kent: In closing, do you have any advice or recommendations to pass on to other fishermen?
Ortiz: Yes, I encourage fishermen to support regulations to increase the minimum size for flounder to 17 inches. Why? Because most of the males are under 17 inches and it takes approximately four to six males to fertilize the eggs of one female. Before recent research on this topic, it was thought that a one to one ratio was satisfactory. Today we know otherwise.
For more on Flounder Pounder Lures, please visit www.flounderpounder.net
Galveston Bay fishing after Harvey
By Capt. Joe Kent
Lots of questions are being asked about the effects of the recent flood waters on the Galveston Bay Complex. Most of the questions are centered on whether the floods have a beneficial or detrimental impact on the eco-system and what we can expect in the way of fishing this fall.
For a number of years, the Galveston Bay Complex was experiencing a serious drought that was beginning to change the ecology of the bay. High levels of salinity and restricted flows of fresh water from rivers and creeks were taking its toll on the wetlands and back bays.
Concerns were mounting about a change in our fish patterns, in particular a possible migration of certain species of fish out of the bays and an influx of different species into the bays. It certainly was a situation that warranted concern.
Three years ago, the first of a series of heavy flooding hit and eventually lowered the salinity levels and created some ideal conditions for growing our stocks of marine life, both fin fish and shell fish.
In most cases, flood waters entering the bays do a lot of good for the basic component of the marine life cycle and that is the estuaries. The nutrients that are washed into the rivers and other outlets help the vegetation grow and in turn provide a sanctuary for newly hatched marine life.
This is obviously a real benefit to all who partake in saltwater recreational activities and most beneficial to anglers in all areas including those who fish offshore.
On the other hand, flood waters that contain heavy concentrations of contaminants can be detrimental to the estuaries. Contaminants in the form of chemicals and metals are the most destructive, as they can and do kill the life line of the estuaries, the vegetation and in general pollute the waters.
“Well, for speckled trout especially they are going to be found in large concentrations closer to the coast.”
Just how our recent flood affects the sensitive balance in the wetlands is yet to be determined.
While it remains to be seen as to the effects on the estuaries, there are a few things that can pretty well be counted on as far as the effects on fishing and crabbing.
Following the floods and during the time when heavy flows of water continued to pour into the bays, we have experienced a welcomed dry spell with northerly and westerly winds dominating under low humidity. This has helped to get the flood waters draining more rapidly.
Most of Galveston Bay has been muddy and off color with little or no salinity. How long this will last is anyone’s guess.
Most of the time, trout will move out of the upper reaches of the bay system and settle in areas that are closer to the Gulf of Mexico such as those around the passes and jetties. In those areas, trout tend to stack up and become easy prey for anglers.
Using last year as an example, our heavy floods came early in the summer and were followed by a similar pattern of hot, dry weather. It was at least two months before the bays started showing signs of improvement.
If that pattern repeats itself, it could be November before the water returns to normal around the Galveston Bay Complex. This is especially true in light of the fact that this year’s flooding was more extensive and severe than in years past.
So what does that mean for fishing? Well, for speckled trout especially they are going to be found in large concentrations closer to the coast. The jetties, surf and lower Galveston Bay should hold the prized game fish for quite a while.
Reds and other fish likely will be the offering in the upper reaches of the bay system, as they are not nearly as sensitive to salinity as are trout.
Fishing with Capt. James Plaag
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.
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.
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.
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 email@example.com or visit www.silverkingadventures.com. Tarpon fishing will be hot and inshore fishing during the fall is the best all year.
Fishing with Capt. Steve Hillman
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.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Youngster Lands Big Bull Dorado
Eleven-year-old Will McLemore of Houston landed this 67” dorado while fishing with Capt. Brett Holden and the crew of the Booby Trap out of Los Sueños, Costa Rica. He also released his first ever blue marlin!
His father, Scott McLemore, also released a marlin just minutes later on their half day trip just 20 miles from the marina.
The big dorado took a live tuna, bridled with a circle hook, while fishing for Marlin near a floating log.
“There are a lot of big dorado this year,” Capt. Holden reported. “We have landed more this season than the past three years combined.”