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The Golden Croaker Disappearing Act

November 1st, 2018

croakerkent The Golden Croaker Disappearing Act

Big croaker like this one are hard to come by these days.

By Capt. Joe Kent

While not a piece of legislation, this characterization is a question on the minds of many senior anglers who once enjoyed the annual golden croaker runs during the autumn.

October and November are the prime months for this event and for many years Rollover Pass and other passageways into the Gulf of Mexico would be lined with anglers virtually shoulder to shoulder with their baits in the water during the big runs.

During my growing up years, my dad would take me to Rollover Pass when word got out that the croaker were running, and in most instances I caught several croaker in the one to two pound category.  Dead shrimp fished on the bottom was the bait, and just about everyone around me was catching fish.

The annual migration, or run as it is commonly called, usually coincided with the annual flounder migration or flounder run.  Rollover Pass also was a popular spot to catch flounder during their migration.

Over the past three to four decades, a noticeable decline in the numbers of the big or bull croaker has taken place.  While this fish continues to make its journey to the Gulf each fall, large concentrations have not been observed.

Sporadic reports continue to come in of isolated catches of the migrating fish with a few of them being well over two pounds in weight.  Three-pound croaker were not at all uncommon during the migrations of years ago.

Croaker are a resilient fish and can reproduce often and in varied conditions. This is one reason the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has not been greatly concerned over their populations.  They are not as sensitive to salinity levels or cold temperature as many other fish.

So, we ask the question:  “What has happened to our stocks of croaker?”

For at least two decades, anglers have been inquiring about the decline in the bull croaker, especially the ones that used to dominate the migrations.  Today, questions are coming from year-round croaker anglers wondering why they are not catching as many and that the sizes seem to be getting smaller.

As a child and a teenager, I was among those anglers fishing just out of Seabrook for nice-sized croaker.  Scotts Reef, probably a mile or two from shore, was noted for its big croaker.  Not the average size of the fall migration but in the ¾ to pound and a half range.  That was a great eating size and very popular for the table.

Today, croaker remain widespread and are easily caught; however, the average size seems to be progressively declining as well as the numbers being caught.

Early on, it was thought that the bycatch from shrimp nets was the culprit; however, croaker have been enduring that for decades and the number of shrimpers on Galveston Bay is declining.

Many anglers feel that the demand for small croaker for bait, one of the top choices for speckled trout, is a major factor.  More and more bait camps are offering live croaker for bait and, when there is a shortage of live shrimp, the other top bait, croaker are usually available.

Several professional fishing guides have told me privately that the bait market for live croaker is taking its toll on the stocks and, while I am not advocating a prohibition of the sale of bait croaker, I do think a serious study of the situation is warranted and if any appropriate regulations should be enacted, they should be encouraged to help this fish rebound.

TPWD has been successful in restoring our trout and redfish populations and croaker stocks should be next on their list to build back.

Choose the right fishing weight

September 6th, 2017

fishing weights Choose the right fishing weight

The different types of fishing weights.

By Capt. Joe Kent

While writing the fishing report each day for the Galveston Daily News, there are many questions that readers ask about fishing and fishing equipment.  One question that crops up fairly often has to do with fishing weights.

The inquiries are generated by anglers who shop at tackle stores or bait shops and see a wide variety of weights on the shelves and are curious as to how to distinguish between the choices.  Another common question about weights has to do with a recommendation of what weight or weights should be used for a particular type of fishing.

Hopefully this article will shed some light on those questions and provide some useful information about how and when to use the various weights.

Browsing around the fishing weight displays in tackle shops can be a confusing adventure, as most of the larger operations have dozens of different types on display with only a few being popular with fishermen.

Determine Your Use

Before getting into the various weights available, let’s address a basic question.  For what type of fishing is the weight designed?  Casting for trout and reds involves different types of weights than say surf fishing or offshore fishing in the Gulf of Mexico.  Pier fishing also has its unique type of weights.

For most types of fishing, the objective is to get your bait down with the least amount of weight.  Currents, wave action and wind all effect the choice of weights.

When viewing the choices of weights at most tackle stores there are several that stand out and for purposes of this article we will focus on the most popular along the upper Texas coast.

croak 153x300 Choose the right fishing weight

Photo of Atlantic Croaker caught on a headboat off the coast of Ocean City Maryland.

Pier and Bank Fishing

For bank and pier fishermen who cast baits with a double drop leader and weight at the bottom, the most popular are the bank sinker, pyramid and bell weights.  All come in varied sizes and are designed to get the rig (leader, hooks and weight) to the bottom quickly before the “trash fish” attack on the way down is successful.

This type of fishing is great for pan fish and is the most convenient and popular style when fishing from piers, rock groins and jetties with dead bait.

Live shrimp is a top choice for speckled trout.

Live Bait

When using live bait, other weights are the answer and again the objective is to get your bait out there and to a depth where the fish are feeding.  This is much more challenging than just getting your baits to the bottom.

Current strength is the key to choosing the right weight and just as important, the type of weight.  When fishing for most game fish, whether from a pier, wading or a boat, a slip weight is the best choice.  Slip weights include egg weights and the easily changeable rubber grip weights and pinch weights.  All are found in various sizes and again the choice is determined by where you want your bait in relation to the current flow.

Another of the detachable weights is the split shot which is easily attached and removed from fishing lines and is one of the smaller weights.  This weight is popular with anglers free-lining bait with little resistance.

Surf Fishing

One weight that gets more attention or curiosity than most is the odd looking surf fishing bait called the Sputnik.  The name comes from its resembling a satellite with antennas.  This bait is popular with surf fishermen as it digs into the sand and is not nearly as affected by wave action and tidal flow as other weights.  It also is popular with anglers fishing rocky or debris filled areas, as the wire protrusions we call antennas are much more easily removed from being stuck in the rocks or debris.

Red grouper

Offshore Fishing

Finally, we deal with offshore weights.  While heavy pyramid, bank and egg weights are popular for getting baits down to the reef fish, the trolling weights have been found to move the rigs faster to the bottom.  The reason is their slim design that does not displace as much water as other bottom weights.

While there is a desirable and proper weight out there for whatever your choice of fishing, remember the key to all of this is to get your bait to its desired location with the least amount of resistance.