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Fishing After a Cold Winter

February 28th, 2018

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.

A New Beginning

January 1st, 2018

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!

The Beat of the Drum: Black Drum Fishing

February 29th, 2016

bigblackdrum The Beat of the Drum: Black Drum Fishing

By Capt. David C Dillman

In March, several years ago, I looked forward to having a much needed day off. Spring Break had just ended and that is a busy time for fishing guides. My phone rang as I milled around the house that early morning. It turned out to be a good friend asking, “ Would you like to go with us to the Galveston Jetties?” I paused for a second and replied “YES.” Well, that day off from fishing did not last very long!

bluecrabbait The Beat of the Drum: Black Drum Fishing

Blue crab is a great bait for spring drum.

They picked me up from the Galveston Yacht Basin and we made our way through the channel. As we motored toward the granite rocks near the North Jetty, I inquired about the bait. The response was “We have plenty.” A quarry of live crabs, fresh dead shrimp, and even a few live crawfish filled the bait cooler; perfect baits for March when the drum run is in full swing.

We anchored up in position by 9:30 a.m. Several boats were already in the area known as the “boat cut.” The next four hours or so produced 62 black drum for myself, my friend and his dad. Just about every cast produced a fish. We had many triple hook-ups that day. All the fish ranged from 25 – 45 pounds.

Later that evening another guide called asking, “How many did yall catch?” I told him 62, to which he replied “Only 62? Why!”

“Because we ran out of bait!” I said.

March and April are prime months to venture out and tackle some of these oversized brutes. The drum you encounter this time of year mostly range from 20 – 35 pounds. On any given day, one pushing 50 pounds is possible.

A medium to heavy action rod will suffice. Use enough weight to hold the bait down on the bottom. Fresh crabs cracked in quarter pieces, large fresh dead shrimp, and even live crawfish are the best bait for these fish. This is a catch, photo and release fishery. It’s great entertainment for families, especially the children.  Tight Lines!

Capt. David C Dillman is a full time fishing guide with over 30 years experience fishing the waters of Galveston. Call 832-228-8012 or 409-632-0924 for information and reservations with Spec-tacular Trout Adventures.