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Is it time to lower the limit on speckled trout?

blumentrout Is it time to lower the limit on speckled trout?

Speckled trout. Photo by Garrett Blumenshine.

By Capt. Joe Kent

Almost every time the subject of lowering the number of fish anglers can retain crops up, a controversy arises that seems to draw a line in the sand.

Part of the problem is that there remain a large number of anglers who grew up fishing under no size or bag limits for saltwater fish.  Fifty years ago anyone would have been laughed at if they suggested placing a limit on the number of fish an individual could keep, let alone place any size restrictions on the catches.

After all, there was an endless supply of finfish and shellfish swimming the coastal waters and there was no way fishermen could even dent the populations.

Unfortunately, it did not take long to prove otherwise, as freeze events and overfishing by both commercial and recreational anglers began taking their toll on our stocks of trout, redfish and flounder.

Toward the end of the 1970s, when the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) was compelled to take action, the bag and size limits imposed were met with resistance by many in the fishing community.

That mentality continues to exist and was noticeable as recently as seven years ago when the TPWD held public hearings soliciting comments and opinions from anyone affected by any change in the bag limits for trout.

One meeting that was held at the TPWD Dickinson Lab almost got out of hand, as guides, marina operators and others were quite vocal in their opposition to any reduction in the number of trout allowed.

While the TPWD passed on the concerns expressed for the upper Texas Coast, they did recommend and had approved by the commissioners a reduction from 10 to five trout for anglers fishing the lower and middle coasts.

As an outdoor writer and columnist, I have been noticing an increasing number of sportsmen, including fishing guides and others with commercial interests in fishing, supporting a change in the rules.

Many of those same individuals were among the loud protesters at the hearings mentioned earlier.

I asked several of those I personally know what brought about their change of attitude?  Universally, they said that it was concern over the long-term survival of our stocks of trout.

One well-known fishing guide pointed out that the problem was of an environmental nature and that while recreational fishermen had a minimal impact, the solution required sacrifices on all ends.  There is not much individuals can do about devastating floods or severe droughts; however, they can do their part as stewards of our wildlife resources.

Each year there are increasing numbers of anglers fishing the Galveston Bay Complex and we are at the point that our resources of trout and other fish just cannot handle all of the added pressure.

At this point trout appear to be the only finfish about which there are concerns.  Reds have a three-fish slot limit and seem to be thriving well around the Galveston Bay Complex.

Several years ago the bag limit for flounder during the majority of the year was reduced from 10 to five and all indications are that the stocks are rebounding well following that change.

While anglers have a voice in the matter, the answers are going to have to come from the TPWD.  If the parties are in agreement, the process should be fairly easy to get initiated. The legislative procedures will begin to get the regulatory changes into law.

Thoughts on the call for a trout limit reduction

By Capt. David C. Dillman

galvestonbaycharterfishing.com | 832-228-8012

dillman fishing Thoughts on the call for a trout limit reduction

Mickey and Pat Carr

Galveston Bay is the seventh largest estuary in the United States. The surface area of the bay is 600 square miles with a average depth of ten feet. The bay complex has survived floods, freezes and pollution and still continues to thrive. Changes to the bay have occurred ever since “Moby Dick was a minnow.”

In the past few years, the bay system has seen its share of droughts and floods. Ever resilient, the bay system rebounds and so does the fishery. No matter what “Mother Nature” throws at it, the bay system rebounds. This resiliency is what makes Galveston Bay such a great fishery.

There has been a recent increase in calls for a reduction in the bag limit for speckled trout. The influx of freshwater into our bay system over the past two years has made trout easy targets for some. A situation known as a “stack up” of these fish occurred in the bay and many trout were taken by anglers in the know, many of them being charter boats. Fearing another “stack up” situation this year from the recent rains and runoff this April, some anglers and charter boat captains are calling for a reduced limit of trout. The current limit is ten fish per angler and on charter boats the captains limit is excluded. A five fish limit is what this group is seeking.

dillman fishing2 Thoughts on the call for a trout limit reduction

Dick Daugird with grandkids Wade and Walker Winters.

A article that was in the Houston Chronicle dated April 4, 2018 deemed our fishery “fine and dandy” according to Glen Sutton of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. So why are some anglers and charter boat captains “beating their drum” for a reduced limit? Some of this group believes the trout population has suffered over the past couple years due to them being stacked up in one area for a few weeks. I do believe they became easy prey for some anglers, most of them on chartered boats. The question becomes, what type of conservation should be in place to protect our trout fishery?

Fact is, the average angler seldom, if ever, catches a ten fish limit of trout. They just want to go out and enjoy their fishing experience with the hope of catching a ten fish limit one day. Anglers on charter boats go out with the expectation of catching their trout limit. The captain, as the law is written, can contribute to the boat limit of speckled trout. I think we all can agree there is an abundance of charter boats on Galveston Bay. These same charter boats take a majority of trout from the bay system. So maybe we need to find a way to reduce the catches of trout on chartered boats. I know good and well that a captain fishing along with their customer catches and retains an unequal amount of trout most of the time. This ensures the captain of a quick day and full limits for the boat.

What I would propose, is that a captain CANNOT retain any fish on a chartered trip. They can fish, but with no retention or “boxing” of fish. After all, I feel the customers should be the ones catching their own fish to take home, not the boat captain.

I feel no one user group should dictate what the fish limits should be unless it is agreed upon by the majority of fishing license holders or TPWD officials and biologists.   

Haynie Custom Bay Boats – 25′ Magnum

 Haynie Custom Bay Boats   25 Magnum

haynie fd789218dbb4e21f7267ca50532332aa59d509521a94b31e82195d7d4c639a54 300x173 Haynie Custom Bay Boats   25 MagnumWith hundreds of miles of Texas coast line, Haynie custom bay boats can cover it all. From the open waters that can kick up a healthy chop on the Galveston Bay complex to the flats of Rockport, you won’t find a more superior ride. The 25 Magnum is the newest addition to the Haynie line-up and it is a monster.

The Magnum handles extremely well in choppy conditions. The hull is 24’ 11” long and has an 8’ 3” beam. This V-hull will draft in 10” of water, get up in 16-18” of water, and will run in 6-8” of water. With a 250-hp Mercury® Pro XS®, this boat will run between 55-60 mph. With a 350-hp Mercury® Verado®, it will run 65-70 mph depending on the deck layout and rigging.

All Haynie boats come on a custom aluminum Coastline Trailer built in Seadrift, Texas. Each trailer is built for your boat and comes standard with L.E.D. lights and smooth riding torsion axles.

Located in Aransas Pass, Chris’s Marine is a family owned full service marine dealership and the largest Haynie boat dealer. Stop by and visit the nice folks at Chris’s Marine and let them help you design your perfect fishing boat. The options are endless!

CHRIS’S MARINE:
1213 W. Wheeler Ave
Aransas Pass, Texas
361-758-8486
www.hayniebayboats.com
www.chrismarineboats.com

Gear Up For Spring

pfg board short Gear Up For Spring

Columbia PFG Offshore Camo Fade Boardshort

Combining good looks and high-performance, these Columbia boardshorts cover all the bases. The Omni-Wick and Omni-Shade UPF 50 fabric protects from the sun and dries quickly. Stash your keys or extra tackle in a zippered cargo pocket. These boardshorts even have a bottle opener for those celebrations on the dock or beach. Available in five digital fade colors. Shown in Cedar Redfish Digi Fade Print.

www.columbia.com

salty crew hat Gear Up For Spring

Salty Crew Mahi Trucker Hat

Choose to keep it salty with this Salty Crew trucker hat. Features a mesh back and nylon ‘dorado’ patch sewn to the front.

www.salty-crew.com

Columbia Men’s Dorado CVO PFG Shoe

This versatile shoe combines a comfortable wear-anywhere design and high-performance pedigree. Super-plush and quick-drying, the Dorado CVO PFG is built for the life aquatic with a breathable mesh upper, superior midsole cushioning, and wet grip traction. Plus, advanced water and stain repellency helps ensure a clean look whether you’re dockside or downtown. Shown in Zour/Emerald Sea

www.columbia.com

Yo-Zuri 3D Inshore Twitchbait

This slow sinking lipless hard bait by Yo-Zuri exhibits an erratic darting action during a twitch and pause retrieve. Use the smaller 2 3/4” size in Ghost Shad to imitate an injured glass minnow when fishing the lights at night this spring.

www.yo-zuri.com

Yo-Zuri 3DR Minnow

Small Yo-Zuri jerkbaits have long been a secret weapon for targeting redfish and trout around nighttime light sources. New for 2018, the 2 3/4 3DR Minnow in Real Glass Minnow is a perfect forage imitation to use around causeway or canal lights.

www.yo-zuri.com

Strike King Redfish Magic Spinnerbait

Spring means high winds, high tides and murky water in the marsh. Search out hungry redfish with the extra vibration and flash from this proven Strike King spinnerbait. Shown in Black Neon Chartreuse. Available in 1/8 or 1/4 oz sizes.

www.strikeking.com

FishStix “Kitchen Sink”

The FishStix “Kitchen Sink,”  7’ Medium bait cast rod is built for throwing a little bit of everything. It has enough backbone and power to throw heavier baits such as topwaters, popping corks, live bait and crankbaits but still has a fast enough tip to be able to throw tails. It’s the perfect rod for beginners, everyday anglers, and guides because of its great versatility and dependability.

“Kitchen Sink”

Length/Action: 7’ Medium

Line: 10 – 20 LBS

Lure: 3/8 -1 Oz.

Micro guides

Fuji SK2 Split Reel Seat

www.gotfishstix.com

13 Fishing Concept Z Baitcasting Reel

13 Fishing is exploring the future of fishing reels with the first high performance baitcasting reel that uses zero ball bearings. The result is a quiet and far-reaching cast that won’t suffer performance loss from debris, corrosion or environmental wear. A ridiculous 22 pounds of max drag keeps even the biggest fish in check.

Weight: 6.4 oz., Line Capacity: 12/135, Ratio: 6.6:1, 7.3:1 or 8.1:1

www.13fishing.com

Wilderness Systems Ride 135

What you can see is what you catch when sight fishing for marsh redfish. This time-tested Wilderness Systems yak is stable enough for any angler to stand up in and gain a better vantage point. The 13”6’ length will keep you paddling happy vs. shorter kayaks. Shown in Mango.

www.wildernesssystems.com

 

Marsh Fishing in Spring

redfish marsh fishing Marsh Fishing in Spring

Captain Clay Sheward hooked up to a redfish deep in the marsh.

By Capt. Steve Soule

www.ultimatedetailingllc.com

Spring may be the toughest season of all to figure out on the upper Texas Coast. It’s the first of our two annual transitional periods, and in my opinion, definitely the harder of the two to get a solid grasp on when it comes to patterning. With so many factors at play, March and April can wreck even the best made plans.

To gain a better understanding, we need to think first about where we are transitioning from. In a winter season like we’ve just had, the coldest in nearly 10 years, we truly put fish into a winter pattern. This is a pattern that can be predictable and reasonable easy to describe and understand. Fish tend to move slightly deeper and hold over certain types of structure or bay substrate. Food sources, though limited have become reliable and are somewhat easy to locate as they are larger and more visible than at other times of the year.

Temperature

At the first signs of spring, anglers can often do very well. Predatory fish move from deeper to shallower water as the air and water temperatures warm. The initial warming creates added temperature to the cold blooded fish as well as their prey. This change typically makes both more active and sends predators out in search of food. But this isn’t always the easiest thing for hungry predators to accomplish.

Everything is transient in spring; both predator and prey. Temperature and barometric pressure swings wildly during this period. Weather varies from mild to violent

and boating and fishing pressure is steadily increasing.

Wind, tide, temperature and timing; all of these factors play a major role in spring fishing. But the prevalence and types of available food for predators is still limited.

Spring Prey

Winter forage, like mullet and finfish are still present but the return, or emergence of other various food sources happens at a much slower pace than their departure during fall. Wintering crabs and shrimp that have buried in mud through the cooler months will be some of the earliest additions to the menu, followed by a slow trickle of various other small baitfish species. Keep in mind that this is a slow process that is triggered more so by the “photo period” or length of daylight versus darkness than it is by temperature. Many food sources don’t truly return in force until later in spring.

Wind

Wind is always a factor in spring, especially during the first half of the season. Light wind days are few and far between, and late season cold fronts can often push us well into the small craft advisory range. This doesn’t lend itself well to great fishing days and certainly doesn’t make spring inviting for anglers. With high winds come several other factors that influence fishing. High tides and rapid barometric pressure come to mind at the top of the list.

reds Marsh Fishing in Spring

Marcos Enriquez with a nice shallow water redfish.

High Tides

Discussions on high tides seem to happen repeatedly during spring. For those who fish open and deeper water areas, the significance is reduced dramatically. For those who fish relatively shallow waters, the impact is quite substantial.

Big rising tides push small prey animals deeper into marshes and other areas where they can find cover from predation. The host of predators, like redfish, trout and flounder, will follow. Often, this puts predator and prey out of reach of most boaters and increases the overall size of the area we have to search. Fish become like needles in a haystack.

It often seems like redfish enjoy exploring new territory, and high tides are the open invitation for them to take off wandering.

Pressure

The large swings in barometric pressure during spring can provide both good and bad fishing. Changes in pressure seem to create short windows of increased feeding activity, especially when they happen in conjunction with moving tides or a moon position that would already cause fish to hunt for food. We can’t fish purely around pressure changes, not predictably anyway. You can shoot for catching the big changes as fronts approach and pass the coastline, but safety and comfort are often compromised. More often than not, most of us as anglers are stuck with the days that we can get on the water. It’s interesting to note, that even small changes in the direction of barometric pressure movement can effect fish feeding behaviors. Steady pressure, or pressure that is steadily on the rise or fall, often yields stagnant fish feeding

Timing

Timing, as I mentioned earlier, can have a huge impact on our success rates in fishing. Knowing seasonal patterns is very helpful in understanding when fish tend to feed in certain areas. If you don’t have years of fishing log information, then you can only go and hope for the best in finding actively feeding fish or rely on local information. Often, springtime doesn’t follow the typical feeding periods normally associated with summer. Don’t be one of the anglers that hunt out a summer feeding pattern this early in the year.

Bottom line, springtime fishing requires more thought on average than any other season along the coast. Careful planning, understanding the conditions, researching or having years of experience can help greatly. Knowing the available food sources, and making appropriate adjustments in your lure arsenal can pay off with big dividends. Most of the new arrivals of prey animals are quite small, which often leads to day where even larger predatory species are focused on eating small but numerous meals.

With careful planning, and an educated approach, spring can pay big dividends of big trout. But, if you think that you’re going to find a summer pattern just because of the rapid warm up, you will be in for quite the surprise.

Get out and enjoy the warmer weather, and don’t be discouraged by the difficulties. Instead, use the time wisely to cover more water and seek out the patterns hidden within the season.

Fishing After a Cold Winter

max conner trout Fishing After a Cold Winter

Max Conner with a solid stringer of trout and reds.

What will the effects of our icy winter have on fishing?

By Capt. Joe Kent

Beginning in mid-December, the Galveston Bay Complex experienced one of its coldest winters in years.  Many of the anglers have not been through a severe winter from an historical perspective. You have to go back into the 1990s to find when we had subfreezing temperatures along the Texas Coast that lasted more than a short time.

Severe cold is not anything new to the Galveston Bay Complex; however, the number of days of subfreezing conditions has progressively dropped over the last decade.

A frequently asked question by readers of the Galveston County Daily News is how will all of the bitter cold weather affect fishing during 2018?

The answer is that it is hard to pinpoint; however, there are several indicators that tell us that when the weather warms, normal fishing patterns should return.

In the good news department, it appears that there were no major fish kills during the multiple freeze events that took place.  While fish kills were reported, most of the finfish were forage fish, mainly mullet, menhaden and small fish of all species that were not large enough to tolerate water in the 40 degree range very long.

One of the reasons the stocks of gamefish survived well is that they had time to get acclimated to the cold and had moved into areas offering deep, protected waters.

Last January, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department exercised its right to close certain bodies of water when freeze events took place.  This is the first time the TPWD has exercised that option and the areas around the Galveston Bay Complex that were affected were Moses Lake in the vicinity of the flood gates and most of Offatts Bayou.

Both areas are known to hold large concentrations of trout and other fish when the water temperatures fall into the low 40s or lower.  In those pockets of deep water, fish are sluggish and easy prey for anglers.

Shortly after one of the freeze events in the early 1960s,  I fished with a friend at the Blue Hole in Offatts Bayou and recall catching close to 50 trout (there were no size nor bag limits back then) with many of the fish being snagged by the treble hooks on my Bingo Lure.

In the bad news department, the freeze took its toll on aquatic vegetation.  There is little doubt that the plants will rebound; however, it could take a while after this long winter.  Like with all other vegetation, warm weather is the key to rebounding and growth.

The effect of the loss of aquatic plants is in the loss of cover for fish, mainly young fin fish, crustaceans and shell fish.

Over the past 10 to 20 years when mild winters were the norm, we started the spring season with a good crop of bait in the marshes and wetlands.  It remains to be seen just how badly the freezes affected that part of the marine life cycle.

Overall, I expect 2018 to be a good year for fishing, barring any catastrophic events such as major floods or droughts.

While not on the topic of fishing directly, one of the big effects of a long cold winter is on boats, especially engines and mechanical equipment.  A large number of boats have not been run for many weeks and problems likely are going to be widespread, with contaminated fuel, frozen water lines and other parts that are vulnerable to freezing weather or sitting up very long.

Before using your boat for the first time this year, check it out. For the first trip away from the dock, make it an abbreviated one and do not venture too far.

Galveston Bay Spring Fishing

sheephead Galveston Bay Spring Fishing

Phoung Nguyen with a nice sheepshead

Come On Spring!

By Capt. David C. Dillman

Spec-tacular Trout Adventures832-228-8012

always wonder how the folks up  “North” survive the winter. After these cold, cold months all I can say is “I have had enough!”

This is the first real winter in many years for “us” on the Upper Coast of Texas. The wintery mix of snow and ice was a novelty, but worrisome for those of us that enjoy the fishery of Galveston Bay. We dodged a major fish kill disaster from a devastating freeze. I think we are all ready for some sunshine and warmer temperatures. Come on spring!

This coming March and April we should experience a traditional spring fishing pattern in the Galveston Bay Complex. The traditional “drum run” will be in full swing along the Galveston Jetties. Also plenty of sheepshead, along with redfish and speckled trout will prowl the rocks. Depending on how fast the water temperature rises, these fish should make their way into lower Galveston Bay, at the end of the month.

In April, while the “drum run” is still happening, many anglers will set their “radar” on speckled trout. This winter, trout fishing was decent. It will improve significantly this month! Late season cold fronts this month can bring moderate to strong winds prior to their arrival. These winds are usually from the south-southeast. East Galveston Bay and the waters north of the Texas City Dike offer protection from the winds. Every incoming tide will push trout into these areas this month. In East Bay, Sievers Cut to Stingaree Cut and the adjacent reefs are the “go to” places. On the West side, Mosquito Island to Dollar Point offers plenty of protection and areas to fish under strong south winds. The shoreline in front of the floodgate at Moses Lake, is a good springtime spot to catch speckled trout.

Live shrimp supplies should be good, but I would call a bait camp ahead of your planned trip. In the Clear Lake – Kemah area, check with Eagle Point Fishing Camp at 281-339-1131. Eagle Point offers quick access to the above mentioned areas and is a full service marina with a boat launch. Enjoy this upcoming Spring weather. See ya on the water!

Meet Hunter Welch of FishStix Rods

16707606 1356915217663434 6942929077763324962 o 1024x576 Meet Hunter Welch of FishStix Rods
23316419 10215272041742208 5289314646350524275 n Meet Hunter Welch of FishStix Rods

Hunter Welch, owner and builder 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.

Hunter & Liz Welch, Founders of FishStix™

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!

Contact FishStix Rods at:
903-922-3563
www.gotfishstix.com
gotfishstix@yahoo.com

Down South Lures’ Mike Bosse

mike bosse dsl Down South Lures Mike Bosse

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

Interview by Brandon Rowan

Where are you from?

I was born is Cypress, Texas. We moved to Chappell Hill when I was four years old. I grew up there and went to Brenham High School. We grew up fishing ponds, the New Year’s Creek and the Brazos River. Eventually, we graduated to fishing Lake Conroe, Fayette, and Gibbons Creek before I got bit by the “saltwater bug.”

DSLkickin Down South Lures Mike Bosse

Down South Lure in Kickin’ Chicken.

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

Like many people, I had an extreme love for fishing. Since I pond hopped all the time, I loved to fish for bass. This inspired me to make my first lure when I was 12 years old. I cut about 3 inches off my mom’s wooden broom handle and carved a cup out of one end to make a “popper lure.” Then I grabbed an old Heddon Torpedo, took the screw-in eyelet off the nose and screwed it into the nose of my bait. The hooks were removed from the old Torpedo, and I screwed those into the bottom of my lure. I did not paint the plug; I just tied it on and went fishing. A two-pound bass was caught that afternoon on it.

Since we bass fished big lakes like Conroe, we threw a lot of Carolina rigged sickle tailed baits in deep water. We loved the way the bait swam down off the ledges when we dragged them over humps and creek beds. We were firm believers that fish ate the bait when it was falling, more often than not. Well, fast forward about 15 years and I found a love for saltwater fishing. I noticed that most of the paddle tails and tout tails did not swim on the fall like our bass worms did. After that, I began to tinker with other plastic baits, modifying them to have action while falling. It just grew from there. More and more friends were asking me to make them baits. After that I cut my own mold design. It has grown into the Down South Lure that you see today.

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

One of the biggest challenges in the lure industry is that you have to prove that your bait is different and has a place in peoples’ tackle boxes. The only way you can do that is by fishing with it, and getting it into the hands of reputable fishermen. Once they see that the bait has merit, they will begin to purchase your lure. It’s very hard to get fisherman to switch from something they have been throwing successfully for years.

Another surprise to me was that it was extremely hard to get shelf space. Going into it, I figured that if I had a good product with professional packaging, I would be granted pegs. That’s not the case at all. People have to ask for your products over and over. Then you can get a spot on the wall in a tackle shop.

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

What is your personal favorite DSL lure/rigging?

I’m pretty simple. I like a 1/4 oz. or 1/8 oz. 3/0 jighead rigged with either the original Southern Shad or the Super Model XL. I throw various colors, depending on the water clarity. If I had to pick one color for all clarity it would be Chicken of the C.

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

I like to go with as light a jighead as possible considering the conditions. If it is windy, or the current is moving pretty good you may have to use a little heavier jighead.  If you notice that your lure is not getting down to the bottom, and there is a big bow in your slack line, you need to go heavier. My personal favorite “big fish” colors are Red Shad, True Plum, Key Lime, and Howell’s Strawberry Wine.

What kind of retrieve do you recommend when fishing DSLs?

Retrieves can vary with the conditions as well. My personal all-around favorite is to let the bait sink to the bottom and then retrieve with a twitch, twitch, pause cadence. I think fish are more reactionary feeders, and that they do not over think when feeding. That’s how they have survived this long. The twitch, twitch, pause resembles a classic “two hop” shrimp escape. Though my bait more resembles a fish swimming, or an eel escaping to the bottom, I always think that the most natural movements get the most strikes. You will notice that most of your bites will be when this bait is falling.

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

I have a bunch that stick out, but probably my favorite was when I was when I located some big trout while prefishing for a redfish tournament in Galveston. I was throwing my baits against a stretch of rocky shoreline. There was a lot of bait activity on that particular rock line point, so I fired my Chicken of the C in there and caught a 5 pounder. The next cast was another solid 5 pounder. I just eased away and told myself, “I’m bringing my girlfriend here first thing in the morning.”

We got up early, and I told her I was not going to fish, just run the trolling motor. We eased up to the point and she caught 3 fish very quickly to 4 pounds on a pink MirrOlure She Dog (She loves topwater and the conditions were perfect for it.) As we approached to honey hole, I told her to cast right by that one larger rock that had a wash out behind it. She gave it a perfect cast, and within 6 twitches she had a major explosion. It ended up being her largest trout ever measuring 28.5 inches. She said, let’s quit on that cast, but I wanted a flounder for lunch. We agreed to try for 15 minutes pitching around some rocks in a spot where I have caught them before. It was only 50 yards away from the trout spot. Within 5 minutes I had the solid thump of a flounder right by the boat on my Chicken of the C lure. I set the hook, and all hell broke loose. It was a big red! I told my girlfriend to get the net because I saw how many spots it had on its side. It was absolutely covered. I told her whatever you do, do not miss this fish! I’ll never hook one like this again. She got it on the first swipe. It measured 31.5 inches and had 144 spots on it. I took close up photos of both sides of the fish, and released the beauty for someone else to catch.  We never made another cast that morning. I racked the trolling motor up and we headed back to the dock. The moral of the story is, I’ve had better days with numbers of fish, but we both broke personal records that day.

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

What’s your favorite place you have fished?

If I had to pick one bay system in Texas, it would be Port Mansfield. The vast grass flats are just too appealing. The deep reefs and rocks of Galveston are a close second in the state. Poling for permit in the Florida Keys is my favorite out of state adventure.

Aside from fishing, what else are you passionate about?

When I’m not fishing, I like to hang out with friends, watch football, and BBQ while enjoying a cold beverage. We enjoy going deer hunting when we get a chance as well. Recently, I have become more intrigued with deer hunting, so my tournament partner and I have secured a deer lease in south Texas for next year.

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

Yes, always be on the lookout for new and innovating products and colors that we are working on releasing. Give us a follow on Facebook and Instagram to see all the updates. We post everything up there, and feature exceptional catches on our page. As always, we will have a booth at the Houston Boat Show in January, The All Valley Boat Show in McAllen in February, and The Houston Fishing Show in March. We always have our lures and apparel on special at these shows, so come by and get a deal. In addition, we will be doing some raffles and drawings for people that stop by at these shows. As always, you can shop all of our products at www.downsouthlures.com. See you guys soon and tight lines.

The Changing Fishing Patterns Experienced in 2017

kellyspec The Changing Fishing Patterns Experienced in 2017

Gulf Coast Mariner’s Kelly Groce caught this 26 inch, 7 pound trout on artificial in East Matagorda Bay.

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

Cruzfish2017 A New Beginning

Mike Johnson, Juan and Addie Cruz after a good day with Capt. Dillman.

By Capt. David C. Dillman

Spec-tacular Trout Adventures832-228-8012

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.

jantzen miller Boyds One Stop Flounder Tournament Winners

1. Jantzen Miller 8.86 lbs, 25.5 inches.

kevin heiman Boyds One Stop Flounder Tournament Winners

2. Kevin Heiman 8.41 lbs, 24.5 inches.

3. Nathan Chain 8.34 lbs, 25 inches.

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

flounder fall GALVESTON FALL FISHING 2017

The flounder run is coming!

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

jetty red Galveston Bay’s Promising Outlook

Jessica Riemer with a nice post-Harvey redfish. Redfish, unconcerned with low salinity levels, went on a feeding frenzy after the hurricane.

By Capt. David C. Dillman

Spec-tacular Trout Adventures832-228-8012

“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

ortiz Flounder Fishing Tips From Flounder Pounder Lures

Phil Ortiz with a big Galveston flounder.

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.

pounderlure Flounder Fishing Tips From Flounder Pounder Lures

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?

ortiz2

Phil with another flatfish fooled by the Flounder Pounder.

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

big speckled trout 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.

troutrowan 300x141 Galveston Bay fishing after Harvey

“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

plaag trout stringer Fishing with Capt. James Plaag

Capt. James Plaag with a good stringer of trout.

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

Interview by Brandon Rowan

Where did you grow up?

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

How long have you been guiding?

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

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

tarpon plaag Fishing with Capt. James Plaag

Silver King Adventures is no stranger to large tarpon.

So it all started with Tarpon?

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

What is your fishing specialty or target fish?

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

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

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

What lures/baits are you using for tarpon?

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

How did you get your start fishing?

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

Do you have a favorite fishing moment?

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

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

MirrOlure 51MR CH and Bass Assassin in Red Shad.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do you have a favorite tide stage to fish?

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

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

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

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

James with a 5 pound bass.

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

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

Favorite place you have ever fished?

It’s definitely Panama.

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

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

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

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

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

Aside from fishing, what else are you passionate about?

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

Do you fish any tournaments?

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

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

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

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

How can someone contact you for a guided trip?

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

Fishing with Capt. Steve Hillman

hillman speck Fishing with Capt. Steve Hillman

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

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

Interview by Brandon Rowan

Where did you grow up?

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

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

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

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

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

Do you have a favorite fishing moment?

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

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

mirrolure27 Fishing with Capt. Steve Hillman

MirrOlure MirrOdine XL

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

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

What is the biggest mistake you see other fishermen make?

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

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

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

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

Do you have a favorite tide stage to fish?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Favorite place you’ve ever fished?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aside from fishing, what else are you passionate about?

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

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

 

Fall into Great Galveston Fishing

souleredfish 1 Fall into Great Galveston Fishing

Alisha Soule with a Galveston marsh redfish.

By Capt. Steve Soule

After what feels like an eternal summer this year, I could not be more excited thinking about fall and cooler temperatures. There are so many great things that happen on the bays, and of course the cooler temperatures don’t hurt my feelings one bit.

In mid August its still hot but one of the first major changes happens; the kids go back to school. There’s a slight drop in fishing pressure as many of us have to change our focus from entertaining kids to keeping them on track with school work and other related activities.

Tropical weather from late summer is usually the starting point of some very slight bay water cooling. The increase in even daily thunderstorms and cloud cover starts the downward trend of water temperatures. This seems to in turn trigger some slight change in fish feeding and activity periods.

Extreme daytime temps of summer can reach well into the 90’s and often leave us with fish that are sluggish and less active during the mid day periods. Scorching heat and cloudless days can push fish to slightly deeper water and definitely seem to keep fish from high levels of surface feeding. Not to say that there won’t be activity in the heat but many days it can be reduced from other peak times. Add in some heavy cloud cover and you will notice a decrease in water temp even without rain fall. Mix in some solid rainstorms with the cloud cover and its entirely possible to knock several degrees off the surface and shallow water temps.

Short days, long stringers

By September, we have typically passed peak temperatures. It’s still hot for sure, but we are beginning to trend slowly downward. Shorter daylight “photo period” helps as there is a reduction of hours of sun heating. Another slight boost to fishing is the second annual reduction of fishing and boating traffic due the opening of some shooting sports season. Teal season does put some boats on the water in select areas, but they aren’t moving around much during the first few hours of the day. In general, the reduction of boats running around tends to help “settle” the fish and allow them to spend their time doing the feeding and moving habits that are normal and less of their time trying to avoid propellers and loud noises that our boats make.

Fish the outgoing tide

One of the biggest changes, and one that affects certain parts of the bay very dramatically, is the change in tides and timing. This is a known annual event, though there is no exact repeating date when it occurs. At some time in September, we will see this change, the change of having a typical daily incoming tide in the early morning hours. Eventually we see the early morning tide turn to an outgoing swing. It doesn’t sound like a big deal, but if you understand the number, size and varying types of baitfish, shrimp and crabs that have grown through the warmer months and have spent their time deep into marshes and up rivers and creeks, falling tides tend to become the predominant feeding time.

Knowing where some of the big numbers of prey species are makes it easier to understand how an outgoing tide can spike feeding activity. Small baitfish and invertebrates are much more subject to being moved around by the force of tides, not to mention that their food sources are moved and easily available during periods of stronger tide movement. As these tides flow and bring food out into open areas, fish tend to binge feed on more available food sources.

Conversely, on incoming and higher tides, many of the food species are able to find cover and shelter in places that make it challenging for predators to reach them.

Cool water feeding

The final change of the fall tends to come slightly later in September or early October, and is again temperature related. Though we will probably see some very mild cool fronts, the early “stout” fronts will make a huge difference in fishing. The smaller mild fronts will create small changes in bay temps and fish feeding, but as we start to see more significant fronts, feeding activity increases at a much more notable rate. Since these early fronts don’t typically bring huge temperature drops and are quickly followed by rapid warming, they don’t really cool the water that much. Stronger fronts that last longer, will create even more water cooling.

So, why does cooler water make the fish feed? In short, so many of the small prey species that arrive in the spring, have grown to maturity and are prepared to move out of the back bays, creeks and rivers and these movements are triggered by falling temperatures. Add the onset of outgoing tides and you have a perfect recipe for heavy feeding.

Fish are aggressive, food is more readily available, the boating and fishing traffic has reduced and the comfort level is significantly better to spend a day outside. Sounds like a perfect time to go and enjoy the outdoors.