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Memorial Day Weekend

May 3rd, 2017

birdsworking2 Memorial Day Weekend

Birds working. Photo by Kelly Groce.

The start of our summertime coastal fishing

By Capt. Joe Kent

While not the official start of our summertime fishing season, Memorial Day Weekend often offers excellent conditions for both inshore and offshore fishing.  For many anglers it is their first run of the year to offshore waters.

Others focus on the jetties and bays, with all areas capable of producing some nice fish.

Most years, the water temperature has reached the 80-degree mark and, while not as warm as in the mid-summer range of July through mid-September, it is at the point when all of our summertime fish are around.

The bay waters are not so warm as to keep trout and other fish that are sensitive to dissolved oxygen levels, in deep water.  This means that wade fishing the shorelines continues to be a viable option for catching trout, reds and other fish.

During May, the jetties begin turning on with trout activity and other fish join the prized specks in feeding up and down the rocks.  May through August is prime time around the collection of granite rocks known as the North and South Jetties and many locals add still another designation, that being the Bolivar Jetties for the North and the Galveston Jetties for the South.

Regardless of which designation you use, Memorial Day Weekend is a great time to fish them.

Bird action in both East and West Bays will continue until the waters warm to the point that the fish go deeper.  Normally that does not take place until late June or early July.

kent king Memorial Day Weekend

Polly Kent with Joe Kent’s 48 pound ‘smoker kingfish’ in 1972.

Memorial Day Weekend is a Holiday Weekend that I always have looked to as the time to head offshore, conditions permitting.  My first Memorial Day trip was in 1972 and what a trip it was.  King mackerel were thick beginning about 10 miles south of the Galveston or South Jetty.  Before that I had made an offshore trip in my boat only four or five times over the previous years.

A learning experience it was.  One of the largest kings I have ever caught was landed that day.  It was a real “smoker” that weighed 48 pounds on the unofficial scales at Wilson’s South Jetty Bait Camp.

Wayne Tucker, operator of the bait camp, said the king was one of the largest he had seen.

For years thereafter Memorial Day Weekend was set aside for offshore fishing and the percentage of times we were able to make it beyond the jetties was higher than normal for offshore trips.

Some of the largest pelagic fish which include kings, ling, sharks and Dorado make it to the shallower offshore waters during May and early June, with Memorial Day right in the middle of that timeframe.

Besides good fishing and statistically good weather, the Memorial Day Weekend does not normally have the intense heat we experience later in the summer.  One advantage of fishing offshore during this time is that the crowds are much lighter than for inshore fishing.

While inshore fishing is in its prime, the weekend is one of the busiest on the water.  Normally, that does not bode well for fishing and one way to escape the heavy concentrations of boats is to head out from the jetties and enjoy the offshore.

Don’t forget the sunscreen, as the sun is intense, and that warmth of the season along with good fishing and crabbing, make Memorial Day Weekend a very special time of year.

Keep up with Joe Kent’s daily fishing report here.

Gaining Knowledge

May 3rd, 2017

WayneDenaDavis Gaining Knowledge

Wayne and Dena Davis caught some nice trout with Capt. Dillman despite high winds that day.

By Capt. David C Dillman

Spec-tacular Trout Adventures409-632-0924

Albert Einstein stated that “The only source of knowledge is experience.” When it comes to fishing, I firmly believe this quote holds true. There are many written books, articles and even videos on how to catch speckled trout. Lots of that information is excellent and a great resource for gaining some knowledge about the sport. But true knowledge of how and where to catch speckled trout comes from years of experience pursuing these fish.

In my 30 years of experience guiding fishing trips, I am always asked “When is the best time to catch trout?” For the majority of people that fish, it all starts with the month of May. During the first week of May, there will be a movement of speckled trout into our bay system through the Galveston Jetties. They come from the beachfront and these fish are commonly known as “tide runners.” Do they all come at once? No, but the majority of “tide runners” come May and June. As they make their way up the Houston Ship channel, these fish split into three different directions. Some move east, others west, and some head straight up the channel depending upon the salinity of the water. That is why you will read about the increase of catches in areas like Hanna’s Reef in East Bay, and the Dollar Point area on the Western side of Galveston Bay.

June arrives and so begins our summer fishing pattern in Galveston Bay. The trout begin to seek shelter of the deeper water shell pads located in our bay system. A majority of these “tide runners” can be found near the shell pads adjacent to the Houston ship channel from Markers 52-72.  They will also filter towards the numerous gas well scattered in close proximity of the channel. With every incoming tide more fish will be pushed into this area. In my years of fishing the channel and observation, speckled trout use this area to stage and spawn.

During this time of year, trout can be caught on a variety of artificial lures, but live baits seem to produce the better results. Live shrimp and croakers are the top two natural baits. Shrimp can be fished on the bottom or under a popping cork. Croakers should be fished utilizing a carolina rig or Texas rig. Eagle Point Fishing Camp always has a great supply of both and has easy access to the above prime locations!

If you want to gain further “knowledge” of these areas, I offer guided trips out of Eagle Point. Also orientation trips can be arranged where I go in your boat. Get out and experience the great trout fishing Galveston Bay has and as always, be careful on the water.

Galveston Bay Spring Fishing

March 1st, 2017

By Capt. David C Dillman

Spec-tacular Trout Adventures | 409-632-0924

March and April is when the majority of the fishing community wipe the cobwebs off their rod and reels, crank up their outboards and set their sights on bending rods.

Spring along the Upper Coast starts with the 42nd Annual Houston Fishing Show, March 8-12 at the GRB Convention Center. This is one of the largest shows of its kind in the country. Everything fishing related from boats, tackle, fishing guides and marinas located under one roof. I will be there all week at the Eagle Point Fishing Camp booth #618.

On the fishing scene it all begins with the arrival of big black drum. The Galveston jetties, passes, Texas City dike and the Bolivar gas wells will all hold an abundance of these fish. The best baits to use are blue crab, dead shrimp and even crawfish. A medium/heavy action rod and reel combo, utilizing enough weight to hold the bait down on the bottom, will draw the bites. These fish range from anywhere from 20 to 50 pounds.

Sheepshead will be there for the taking as well. Literally any spot along the Galveston jetties will produce these tasty fish. Shorelines with scattered shell and pier pilings should also be good. Live shrimp under a popping cork is a great method when fished tight up against the structure. While often overlooked, they are fun to catch and offer good table fare. There is a 5 fish limit with a 15 inch minimum size.

On the speckled trout scene look for the action to first heat up around the Galveston jetties. As we move into the latter part of March, the lower Galveston Bay area, around the causeway, Campbell’s Bayou and Sand Island will hold its share of fish. In April, East Galveston Bay and the western shoreline of Galveston Bay, from the base of the Texas City Dike, Dollar Point and towards Moses Lake will hold good numbers of trout. Don’t overlook the shorelines around Eagle Point. Last year this area gave up excellent stringers of quality speckled trout.

Until next time be safe on the water and enjoy what Galveston Bay has to offer.

costa rica sailfish Galveston Bay Spring Fishing

In January, my girlfriend and I visited Costa Rica for our first time. We fished aboard “Dreamworks,” owned and operated by Capt. Tom Carton and his Mate Jerry Carothers. We went 7-12 on Sailfish and lost a blue marlin estimated at 300 pounds. Capt. Tom has been fishing the area for over 25 years. He had the first Charter service in Los Suenos. I highly recommend him. You can find him on the web at captaintoms.com.

Galveston Bay Fishing 2016

October 31st, 2016

redcaldwell Galveston Bay Fishing 2016

Doug Cadwell with a Texas two-fer of redfish and speckled trout.

Recap of 2016 and a Look Ahead

By Capt. David C Dillman | Spec-tacular Trout Adventures409-632-0924

It has been said that the older you get, the faster time goes by. It seems like only yesterday I was penning my first article for 2016 and now I am writing the last one for the year. But 2016, for sure, is a year to remember.

Winter started off typically here on Galveston Bay. In between fronts, the fishing held consistent. The upper reaches of the bay, Scott, Burnett, Crystal and West Galveston Bay lived up to their reputation as winter hot spots. In March, and the first two weeks of April, fishing really turned on in the Texas City/ Eagle Point area for speckled trout. Great catches were coming from both locations. This sure did set the stage for Galveston Bay to have an epic year of fishing.

In mid-April of this year, an upper level low stalled over the Rocky Mountains. During the overnight hours of April 16-17 and into the morning of the 18, Houston received over 17 inches of rain, the most since Tropical Storm Allison in 2001. The resulting runoff from this event flooded Trinity and Galveston Bay. This fresh water pushed the fish into lower Galveston and East Bay.

East Galveston Bay remained the best location until about the last week of May. The fish began to move back up north, following the flow of saltwater back into our bay system. Everything seemed to be getting back to normal until June 3, when the Houston area received even more rain! Another runoff event ensued, turning our bay fresh and off-colored. This time though, while some fish retreated back to East Galveston Bay and further south, lots of fish stayed in the area. They sought deeper water along the spoils and gas wells.

As we moved into June and August, the area along the ship channel spoils and gas wells, known as the A-lease wells, saw very good numbers of speckled trout and redfish. Limited supply of live bait was a problem for area fishermen during the first few weeks of summer, another adverse effect from the June flood. But by the third week of July, Galveston Bay and the fishery was back to normal. Towards the end of August, we started seeing fish make a move back into Trinity Bay and farther up the channel, a normal movement that happens every year.

September is a month of transition where schools of speckled trout are harder to locate. This certainly was the case this year. Scattered catches of redfish and speckled trout were the norm. By the end of September and the first week of October, as I type this article, fishing for trout has seen an upswing. But the problem we are experiencing is the size of the trout. Numerous undersized fish are being caught, compared to keepers. I believe this is due to the higher than normal water temperature and tide.

I am optimistic that November and December fishing will get us back on track for numbers and size of trout. We are finally experiencing some cooler weather with the passing of a couple fronts. Although a true cold front has not passed, water temperatures have cooled a little. The first cold front should help drop the tides and flush the bait out of the marsh and inlets of our bay system. This should help fishing tremendously.

Eagle Point Fishing Camp will maintain a good supply of live bait through the year. Remember to be courteous to others on the water. Happy Thanksgiving, Christmas and Holidays to all!                                          

Fishing Oyster Reefs

December 30th, 2014

rowanredfishart1 Fishing Oyster Reefs

Fishing oyster reefs in Galveston Bay

By Capt. Joe Kent

Anglers fishing the Galveston Bay Complex often take for granted the positive effects of oyster reefs, both live and dead, on their fishing.  That is until the reefs start diminishing and the fishing is affected.

Let’s take a look at what we are discussing and how oyster reefs benefit fishing.

Oyster reefs in Galveston Bay form in the open bay along the periphery of marshes and near passes and cuts and can be either subtidal or intertidal. The reef itself is three dimensional because oyster larvae settle on the top of old shells growing upwards through the water column above the established oysters. The shells create an irregular surface that support a myriad of small marine life.

The oyster reef community is very diverse with a wide variety of shell fish, crustaceans and fin fish forming a balanced aquarium. Predators in this habitat include fish capable of crushing mollusks such as black drum, red fish, sheepshead, and blue crabs and stone crabs, which prey on small oysters with thin shells. At low tide, birds forage on the exposed oyster reef habitat.

When Houston was first settled, an ancient oyster reef (Redfish Bar) separated Upper and Lower Galveston Bay. This reef stretched from Smith Point on the east to Eagle Point on the west and had only one small gap through which shallow draft boats could pass. There were extensive oyster reefs throughout Trinity, East and West Bays as well.

Just about every species of fish caught in Galveston Bay can be found on or around oyster reefs.

redfishspots Fishing Oyster ReefsIn the latter half of the 19th century, oyster shell became a construction material and was commercially harvested. In the first half of the 20th century, oyster shell became an industrial commodity and shell dredging intensified. Millions of cubic yards of oyster shell were removed from the bay, some of it from living reefs. This practice, which greatly reduced the area covered by oyster reef habitat, was prohibited in 1969.

Hurricane Ike had a tremendous impact on oyster reef habitat in Galveston Bay. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department estimates that approximately 60 percent of the oyster reef habitat in Galveston Bay was covered by sediments as the storm surge moved through the bay in September 2008. Scientists do not know how long it will take for the reefs to recover.

With this background on the makeup of oyster reefs and how they are formed, let’s visit about fishing the reefs.

In my childhood years when first learning to fish Galveston Bay, oyster reefs were the prime target.  We did not have electronic equipment to locate the reefs, just a long pole that we bounced off of the bottom. If the pole had a soft landing we kept moving until the pole struck something solid and we had found oyster shells.

Just about every species of fish caught in Galveston Bay can be found on or around oyster reefs.  Fish with scales and tough mouths, such as sheepshead and both black and red drum, feed along the shell while consuming crabs and other crustaceans.

Speckled trout also are common around the shell; however, they do not have the physical traits to actually feed along the shell itself.  Trout do not have scales and their mouths are softer than the main predators feeding in and around the shell.

Trout like to feed just off of the reef during tidal movement which flushes the small marine life from their shelters.

Seasoned shell reef anglers know how to fish the reefs and plan their strategy based on tidal movement.  During slack or weak tides, they will focus on the reef itself as drum sheepshead and reds and other tough skinned, strong mouthed fish will be working the bottom.  When the tide starts moving, then trout on the periphery will be the target.

Trout will be found on the reef  itself; however, they tend to be cautious as the edges of the shell can be razor sharp.

Anglers have been reporting reduced catches in Galveston Bay over the past few years and one of the culprits likely is the reduction in acres of oyster reefs.  Hopefully our restoration program will prove successful and the sooner the better.

Changes Ahead for the Galveston Bay Complex

March 3rd, 2014

galvestonbaycomplex Changes Ahead for the Galveston Bay Complex

By Capt. Joe Kent

Earlier this year, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department conducted scoping hearings around the state to present their ideas on long-term management of our fish stocks and to receive input from sportsmen on their views about changes in size and bag limits for certain fish.

While the stocks of our big three, flounder, reds and trout, currently are in good shape, biologists feel that long range planning needs to start in order to assure adequate stocks of that resource for future generations.

Of particular concern to the biologists is the forecasted future of the Galveston Bay Complex and the potential changes that lie ahead for that body of water.

The cause of the immediate concern is the reduction in quantity and quality of fresh water forecasted for Galveston Bay.  With rising populations along the feeder rivers, water consumption will continue to increase thus reducing the amount flowing into the wetlands and bay itself.  Of equal concern are the multiple treatments the water goes through before it reaches the coast.  Each treatment process adds chemicals to the water and filters out nutrients.

One of the detriments to the reduced flow of water will be an increase in salinity levels through-out the complex.  This will have an adverse effect on the wetlands.

marshshrimp Changes Ahead for the Galveston Bay ComplexApproximately 98% of all finfish and shellfish are dependent upon the wetlands either as part of their life cycle or as part of their food chain.  This does not take into account the role of wetlands as part of the life cycles of waterfowl and other forms of life.

The marshes, swamps and other forms of wetlands offer a filtering effect for water and, through the filtering process, collect microscopic marine life that feeds the next layer in the food chain.  The wetlands also are a buffer when hurricanes hit the coast and absorb part of the brunt of the storm before it reaches higher land.

Last, but not least, the wetlands offer recreational aspects for fishermen, hunters and nature lovers, including bird watchers.

An increase in salinity along with less water will further reduce the ever shrinking acreage along the upper Texas Coast.

So, what do biologists foresee will happen?  During a visit with Lance Robinson and other personnel connected with the TPWD’s Dickinson Marine Lab we touched upon this topic.

First, Galveston Bay, unlike fresh water reservoirs, will retain its water levels due to tidal ebb and flow from the Gulf.  The difference is going to be in higher salinity levels and less wetlands.  So, how will this affect our fish?

It is foreseen that different species will begin appearing, much like the presence of mangrove snapper in the bays over the last three years.  Mangroves are warm water fish and one of the first to be affected by cold weather.

During the 2012 light freeze along the coast mangroves or gray snapper as they also are called were the primary fish, besides bait fish, that were found floating after the cold spell.  No significant kills of game fish occurred although speckled trout are close behind mangroves in their lack of cold water tolerance.

Beside mangroves, the higher than normal water temperatures attracted offshore fish such as gag grouper that were rarely seen in the bays in earlier years.

Another factor with potential fish changing effects is the proposed deepening of the Houston Ship Channel up to Pelican Island.  The deeper channel from the Gulf of Mexico likely will bring in more species that are typically found offshore and add to the flow of Gulf waters into the bay.

So, what can we expect in the future?  Change is about all that can be counted upon at this stage.  Some fish will adapt while other will not and the survivors migrate to other areas.

All of this leads up to support of conservation efforts to protect our current stocks.  Catch and release along with limited retention of fish is a practice all anglers are going to have to employ if we are interested in our future generations enjoying this sport.