Max Conner

June 29th, 2019

max conner snook Max Conner

Max Conner with a TANK of a snook.

The young tournament winner on what it’s like growing up on Galveston and what’s next for the future

Where did you grow up and how did fishing become a big part of your life?

I have grown up with my grandfather; just two of us. As long as I can remember, we’d commute from Houston to Galveston EVERY weekend to go fishing.  Often, we’d fish all night on 61st Street or Jimmy’s Pier on the Seawall and travel home again on Sunday night.

In 2012, my grandfather changed careers and accepted a job on the island so we could move here and I could pursue my passion for fishing!  Our first Christmas after relocating, he bought me a kayak. I waded, yakked, and surf fished year round. Saltwater is truly in my soul.

max tarpon Max Conner

Do you have an all-time favorite catch or fishing moment?

I will always remember my first tarpon. I was 14 and had been fishing Bob Hall Pier in Corpus all weekend.  We went all night without a bite so I was set to fish the morning. I had a group of kids tell me that they saw a couple of fish roll in the morning, so I was determined. I was on the pier by 6 a.m. and hooked my

first fish by 6:15 a.m. but it jumped the hook. Shortly after, I threw at another one and hooked it good. I fought the fish for 10 minutes or so before netting it. It measured around 42 inches.

What’s your favorite species to catch?

Setting the hook on big trout will always be the best feeling. However, this past summer we fished for snook in Southern Florida for about a week and that definitely sealed the deal. We caught a dozen fish in the 35” to 43” range.

Favorite place you’ve ever fished?

Without a doubt my favorite place I’ve ever fished was Sanibel Island, Florida. The snook bite was incredible and we got to fly fish for tarpon in the mangroves, which has always been on my bucket list.

If you had to have only one lure, what would it be?

I’d say Down South Lures with no hesitation. It’s the most universal bait on the market. You can throw them in any kind of water and in any weather condition.

Tell us about your sponsors.

At age 14, soon after our move to the island, I met Hunter Welch of Fishstix.  We just hit it off and he began to build my rods.  Louis Thomas, of Black Marlin Rods, has built my shark rods.  Jason Paul with Stinky Pants fishing began to support me early on too.  Michael Bosse with Down South Lures has been a tremendous friend and sponsor too.

What are you studying in school and what are your plans after graduation?

I will be a Freshman at Texas A&M Galveston beginning in July. My degree is Maritime Administration. I’d like to either have my own business or work on the rigs when I graduate college.

Aside from fishing, what else are you passionate about?

Bird hunting is my second passion. Last year we added a beautiful black lab puppy to our family.  She’s now 11 months old, 70 pounds and loves to be on the water and bird hunt.

What else should we know about you?

I am thankful for my grandfather and the opportunities that he has provided for me.  He has sacrificed much for me to live near the water and chase my dreams.  I’ve been blessed and would like to always pay it forward.

6 Tips for Kayak Safety

June 28th, 2019

yaksafety 6 Tips for Kayak Safety

1. Wear Your PFD

This is extremely important and could save your life. Companies like NRS, Stohlquist and MTI make kayak specific type II and type III PFDs that won’t hinder your paddling ability. Keep a whistle in your vest to alert nearby boaters or persons if you are in distress.

2. Know Your Limits

Become familiar with your kayak and abilities, especially if you’re new to the sport. Start out somewhere calm like a local pond, lake or marsh. Practice maneuvers that get you back on the kayak if you fall out (search YouTube for demonstrations.)

3. Weather

Be aware of the conditions and marine forecast. Avoid going out if heavy storms, high winds or rough waters are in the forecast. Visit NOAA’s website for marine reports and resources on your area.

4. Anchor Properly

Always anchor from the bow or stern of your kayak, especially in rough conditions. Don’t let waves or choppy seas hit the broadside of your kayak or you could flip over.

5. Avoid Hazardous Locations

People drown at San Luis Pass every year. The strong currents and changing tides can create unpredictable situations. Texas City and areas near the Ship Channel can also be dangerous. Keep an eye out passing tankers and their wakes. Turn the front of your kayak into any incoming wakes or waves.

6. Float Plan

Let others know when you plan to be on the water and when you will return. Keep your cell phone with you on the water in case you need to make an emergency call.

Visit TPWD for more information on boating safety requirements and regulations. 

Kayak Fishing Tips

April 30th, 2019

brandon rowan trout Kayak Fishing TipsThat’s a paddlin’! Tales and observations from a floating piece of plastic

By Brandon Rowan

GREENER PASTURES

“Yup that’s the spot.” In the back of the marsh, far removed from the beaten path and at least several miles away from the launch. Yup, that’s the one.”

I don’t know about you, but that train of thought has definitely danced across my mind while scanning Google Earth for that new honey hole. I mean, the extra effort and difficulty will reap equal rewards right? That sometimes rings very true but is not always the case.

I made it a point to get out, paddle and explore new areas this year. Numerous trips in, I started noticing a trend: a surprising amount of good catches came from spots I typically passed during the journey to the “honey hole.”

Sometimes it was a shad flip, a hovering bird, or even a last ditch effort that put me on a location but you can’t argue with results of trout, redfish and flounder. Believe me, I won’t discount these ‘easy’ spots in the future.

HEAD ON A SWIVEL

Even subtle signs, like a single shad or mullet flip, can expose feeding fish underneath an otherwise calm water surface. Hell, what’s one more extra cast? Plus, it’s a pretty triumphant moment when the thump of a good fish confirms your suspicions.

Birds can be your guide in the marsh too. Hovering terns and gulls are a dead give away to activity but don’t discount shore walkers, like the Spoonbill. Their lives depend on their ability to find bait. Where there’s bait, there are predators.

down south lures trout Kayak Fishing Tips

I caught a lot of fish in late winter and early spring on these super model Down South Lures. Special colors, like this plum/chartreuse mullet eye and Purple Reign sans chartreuse tail, can only be found at special events like the Houston Boat Show and Fishing Show. Contact DSL owner Michael Bosse at 210.865.8999 for information on availability.

Subsurface twitch baits like this Rapala Twitchin’ Mullet are just plain fun to fish and productive, too. I caught my biggest trout of the year, 27 inches, on this olive green 06 model.

MEAT’S ALWAYS ON THE MENU

Knowledge of your area and the available forage through each season is crucial. Late winter and early spring was a great time to throw mullet imitations and I leaned on topwaters and big plastics like the Down South Lures super model.

But the days lengthened, the trees began to bloom and it wasn’t long before the bay was flush with freshly hatched bait species. Predators don’t overthink fishing locations and easy spots. They are opportunistic feeders and love easy meals. Later in spring, I starting throwing small baitfish imitations, like the smaller sized Rapala Twitchin’ Mullet.

One foggy April afternoon I was rewarded with a beautiful 27” speckled trout. I found her intercepting small shad forced back into the cove by a hard wind driven current. After a spirited fight, measurement and quick picture, I set her free and watched her swim away strong.

Egret Baits’ 2” Vudu Shrimp under an oval cork is a favorite in the marsh when fish are keyed in on itty bitty shrimp. I like pearl/chart or glow.

SHRIMP DINNER

Looking ahead to May and June, shrimp imitations will be a good bet. The surf is going to start looking real flat and I’ll be ditching the kayak for west end beach wading or seawall rock hopping. I love catching trout on topwater, but by far some of my most productive days have come from rigging a clear/gold D.O.A. Shrimp under a popping cork.

Glassy surf and its fishy possibilities are the stuff of dreams. But the stout early summer winds of the upper coast are often our reality. If that’s the case, you’ll find me in my favorite stretch of marsh chasing redfish. They eat small in my spot and rarely turn down a 2” Vudu Shrimp under a short leader and oval cork.

It’s about to get hot my friends so take care to keep yourself hydrated and safe. I hope to see you all out there!

Kayak Fishing: A Plastic Boat?

February 28th, 2019

GCMredfish1 Kayak Fishing: A Plastic Boat?

By Dustin Nichols

Some ask me that question. Also: “Why do you fish out of that?” Well…let’s get into answering those questions. Kayak fishing has started to take off here in Texas, and that’s not only limited to coastal areas.  With a plethora of reservoirs, lakes, creeks and bayous, chances are you have some type of water body you can access nearby.

Kayak fishing has seen tremendous growth the last five years. Eric Jackson owner of Jackson kayaks, says, “Fishing kayaks are booming.” He has seen how the sport has grown.

The development of more stable kayaks and high seating that aids in being able to stand up and sight cast redfish, or pitch to bass in deep cover, sure makes it easy to fish from. Who doesn’t love being that close to the action.

ACCESSIBILITY

The ability to launch from any public boat ramp or easement is a big draw for the kayak angler.  Even if you do not own a truck or trailer you can “car top” your kayak. There are plenty of options for rack systems and loading assist equipment that makes them easy to transport.  Plus, adding a wheeled kayak cart will have you from your vehicle to your launch quickly.

AFFORDABILITY

The price point for getting into a solid kayak is a lot cheaper than getting into a basic boat/motor package. You can shell out the dough for a brand new kayak or spend some time cruising Facebook groups and Craigslist to find solid used kayaks. Most kayaks are outfitted with rod holders and gear tracks already installed. You can also add lots of options to rig it the way you like.  Not to mention, with the addition of pedal driven kayaks, the amount of water you can cover has increased tremendously.

GCMredfish2 Kayak Fishing: A Plastic Boat?

Stealth is paramount when chasing spooky redfish.

STEALTH

Sliding into that back lake to chase tailing reds is no problem. Accessing skinny water is a big plus for kayak fisherman. Also, sliding under bridges to access water that boats cannot can lead you to some pretty sweet spots.  It sure is cool to be cruising along and drop your lure directly in front of a red fish without even making a cast. Talk about a rush!  The stealth approach in a kayak is not only a benefit to inshore anglers,  but also those targeting bass!

FUN

Who doesn’t like having fun?  That’s what kayak fishing is all about.  As they say “ Even a bad day on the water is better than a good day at work.”  There are plenty of kayak clubs and groups all over.  The camaraderie is top notch and there are a ton of anglers out there that are willing to help a newbie get started.

SERIOUS BUSINESS

Let’s not forget the tournament scene.  From local club trails that target bass, to redfish series with major sponsors, there are no lack of events for the competitive minded kayak angler.  Most tournaments use photos of the fish caught on measuring devices called “bump boards” to determine the winners.  The fish are laid on the board then photographed with an identifier code, usually written on your hand, as a way to tell apart the anglers and make sure there is no fish submitted from another time out!

Let this sink in. Last year, KBF (Kayak Bass Fishing) had multiple events, both live and online, as a means to qualify for the national championship. Over 700 anglers qualified to fish the event on Kentucky Lake in Tennessee.  Guess how much money first place took home?  $100,000. Plus, one of our very own anglers from right here in Texas (Dwayne Taff) took the win!  I have had the honor to meet and fish with Dwayne.  He shared some of his thoughts with me on the growth of the sport and tournament scene.

“As a tournament angler, its even hard for me to imagine a 100K payday for fishing out of a kayak!” He said. “It’s unbelievable how I’ve seen the sport grow in the last few years and everywhere you go you see a kayak on top of a vehicle.”

He remembers fabricating accessories himself to make things more efficient on the water and now if you can imagine it, someone has already marketed it.  Businesses in the fishing industry are doing just that. The steady growth of the sport has lead many companies on board.

CHOICES

“There are so many kayaks out there!  How do I choose which one is right for me?”  That is a common question, so let me help you out.  It all comes down to the type of water you fish. The Jackson Coosa HD would be a great boat for moving water like creeks and streams up in the Texas hill country.

If you are interested in fly fishing, then the Jackson Mayfly shines with its molded in reel pockets for rod storage and open deck concept to keep line from snagging/tangling while stripping back your fly.

Are you adventurous and want the challenge of targeting some offshore species?  Well then, the Jackson Kraken 13.5 would be the boat for you to push your skills beyond the breakers!

What if you want a basic kayak that you can rig yourself, that is stable, lightweight, and paddles well.  Then the Jackson Bite would be a great boat for you.

But my best advice to you would be to go and visit your local kayak dealer and find out when the next “on the water” demo would be.  That way you can paddle different kayaks and make the best decision by paddling and checking them out in person.

So, are you ready to jump on the kayak fishing bandwagon?  I hope so. If the ease of access and affordability don’t reel you in (pun intended), then the great people involved in this sport should.  I hope to see you all on the water soon!

Dustin Nichols is Jackson Kayak National ProStaff and affiliated with Waterloo Rods, Kden Lures, Calibre Baits, Fuel Clothing Co., and Beck & Masten Buick GMC Coastal Bend

     

Kayak fishing with Marine Corps Veteran and Hurricane Harvey Hero Donald Justin

April 30th, 2018

Interview by Brandon Rowan

donald justin 300x298 Kayak fishing with Marine Corps Veteran and Hurricane Harvey Hero Donald Justin

Donald Justin fishing in Iraq.

Where are you from?

I was born in Hagåtña, Guam but I grew up all over America. My dad was in the military my whole life and then I joined the military myself. I settled down here in the Galveston Bay area after I retired.

What branch of the U.S. military did you serve in?

I was in the Marine Corps. I finished service there and then joined the Army and was assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division. I was trained as a combat diver and paratrooper. I jumped out of planes and all that fun stuff. I was a machine gunner in Iraq, too – not much use for a diver in the sand. I deployed to Iraq five times between 2005 and 2011.

What do you do now that you’re out of the service?

I kayak fish a minimum four to five times a week. Sometimes I can go two to three months without missing a day of fishing.

I like to fish. It’s relaxing when I go out there. Sometimes if I spot a school of redfish I won’t even cast to them, I’ll see how long I can follow them.

But I don’t eat fish. I ate fish every day growing up, a couple times a day. I’ve fished my whole life, starting in Guam. I’ve fished all over the United States and even in Iraq.

What’s there to catch in Guam?

Mostly pelagics but also different kinds of snapper. Guam is smaller than the city of Houston and surrounded by very deep water. You can fish in 1,200 feet of water from a pier and catch tuna. The Mariana Trench is just off the shore of Guam.

What’s your favorite place you’ve ever fished?

Florida Keys. I go there twice a year. I take my wife and kids and they do “wife and kids stuff” and I go fish. My favorite place in Texas is the Port Aransas area. It’s pretty good for kayak fishing because you get other stuff besides just redfish and trout without going six or seven miles offshore like in Galveston. I just picked up a Hobie Tandem Island just to go past the breakers. I’m on a mission for kingfish this year.

Do you have a favorite fishing moment?

The first time I got my son on a fish. He had just turned 4 years old and it was just a little 15” rat red, but he brought it in on his own. He casted and reeled it in all by himself on a spiderman pole and chickenboy lure.

heroes on water Kayak fishing with Marine Corps Veteran and Hurricane Harvey Hero Donald Justin

Heroes on the Water provides no-expense kayak fishing trips for veterans.

Tell me about your involvement with the community and veterans.

For the past few years I’ve been a member of Heroes on the Water – Southeast Texas Chapter, which organizes kayak fishing trips for active-duty military and U.S. veterans. They bring the kayaks and all of the fishing equipment; they supply everything. The only thing veterans need to bring is a fishing license. They started in Texas but there are chapters all over the states.

Veterans can relax out on the water for a little peace. They don’t necessarily have to fish; some just paddle around to take a break and clear their minds. Heroes on the Water concentrates on disabled veterans, but all veterans and service members are welcome.

I fell into it because it gives you a chance to be normal and meet people who have gone through the same things you have. I go out for every event I can. They need experienced people and sometimes we lack enough volunteers.

How can a veteran or volunteer get involved with Heroes on the Water?

They can visit heroesonthewater.org for information on the closest chapter, and most chapters have a Facebook page.

I understand you put your kayak collection to work during Hurricane Harvey.

Yeah, me and two neighbors on kayaks, and a handful of neighbors on big lifted trucks, got a couple dozen people out of their homes. The water was so high in some neighborhoods that we did rescues out of second story windows

Right on. In what areas did you perform rescues?

Friendswood and Dickinson. Boats were awesome for rescue but there were dry patches in some neighborhoods. So boats would tow us as far as they could go, and we would go get people and bring them back to the boats. We even rescued nine border collies that are featured in Alpo ads and commercials.

Border Collies being rescued by Donald Justin after Hurricane Harvey.

My family was affected and actually my own border collie, Murphy, rode in my kayak that day. It was a real bad time but great to see so many good people come together. Were you affected by the storm?

I live in Webster and my whole neighborhood lucked out. Everyone came together though; cooking for people, collecting donations and opening their doors. I had three people that we didn’t know live in our house for four months. Their son has special needs and there wasn’t a place for them.

Well, aside from helping others and fishing, what else are you passionate about?

Old BMWs. I have 22 various BMWs. I’m driving a 1990 BMW today that’s probably nicer inside than most 2018 models; no stains, rips, tears…everything is flawless.

Wow, is that your favorite BMW?

No, that’s the only one I’m willing to put miles on. My favorite is my 1991 E30 318is; it was only available for one year here in the States. It’s a slick top, turboed and has everything done to it. I’m giving it to my son one day. (without the turbo).

Galveston Marsh Fishing and Kayaking Report

August 24th, 2016

redfish 1 Galveston Marsh Fishing and Kayaking ReportBy Cody Phillips of Galveston Kayak Charters

During the middle of summer, it’s hard to get your fix AKA time on the water. That’s why this time of year until the first signs of fall, I am on the water by 3 a.m. With temps hovering around a hundred by midday water temps are well into the nineties. This makes me focus my fishing in or around marsh. This time of year I make sure there is plenty of foliage to keep the water cool into the mid day hours. Using this strategy has kept my clients and I on solid redfish during this heat wave. It’s amazing a couple of degrees in water temp will make or break a marsh fishing adventure. I’ve put this theory to the test up and down the Texas coast and the end results are all the same big red fish in less than 2 feet of water.

mambo mullet 3.gif Galveston Marsh Fishing and Kayaking Report

Egret Baits Mambo Mullets in Golden Nugget

Preferred baits:

When it comes to baits of choice Egret Mambo Mullets in Golden Nugget and solid chartreuse have been my go-to. Then Egret Wedgetails in Plumb/Chartreuse for fishing over thick grass and cover.

Preferred boats:

One of the kayaks I recommend is the Ocean Kayak Prowler 13. This boat is incredibly fast able to paddle long distances with little too much effort. Another reason is it is a very quiet hull enable to go in the shallowest of marshes when the tide is below normal.

Native Watercraft's Versa Board Angler

Native Watercraft’s Versa Board Angler

The second boat I recommend is Native Watercraft’s Versa Board Angler. It is a crossbreed between a paddle board and a kayak. This boat is very wide and glides across the water. This is a great advantage when you’re standing up push polling through the marsh sight casting redfish.

To book a trip with Cody, call 832-339-4441.

Cristina Maldonado

Cristina Maldonado with a beautifully spotted redfish out of Galveston.

Phillip Grosman with his first ever redfish.

Phillip Grosman with his first ever redfish.

 

Galveston Marsh Fishing and Kayaking Report

July 5th, 2016

cody hobie Galveston Marsh Fishing and Kayaking Report

Cody Phillips with another good red.

By Cody Phillips

egret baits wedgetail Galveston Marsh Fishing and Kayaking Report

Egret Baits Wedgetail Mullet

With all the rain this month, most kayak anglers were deterred from getting on the water. The rain has stacked fish in certain locations up and down the coast. Those who have braved the weather were rewarded with full stringers of speckled trout and redfish. This time of year, the Gulf pushes tons of small baitfish into the bays including brown shrimp, shad, croaker and glass minnows. That’s why my lures of choice have been Wedge tails in blk/chartreuse or chartreuse and Vudu Shrimp by Egret Baits. Last week, the big gulf shrimp hit the coast. Many people were taking advantage of this by cast netting on the beach front and loading up.

Marsh report:

With the higher than normal tides, we have taken full advantage by locating schools of redfish in the back marshes. Groups of 10 to 25 reds have been swimming the banks destroying anything in their paths. If you’ve never experienced this you need to put it on you bucket list. I’ve witnessed this hundreds of times and my adrenaline still skyrockets every time. If you can cast a rod and reel, you can guarantee a redfish on the end of your line.

Preferred boats:

hobie-pro-angler

Hobie Mirage Pro Angler

The Hobie Mirage Pro Angler 12 is favored because I can cover tons of water with half the effort thanks to the mirage drive. Also having your hands free increases your catch percentage on the water by being able to fire a bait at any fish that shows their location. Seconds can be the difference between you hooking up with a fish.

hobie-outback

Hobie Mirage Outback

The Hobie Mirage Outback also has all the advantages like the Pro Angler but is a lighter hull that allows you to load and unload by yourself. This boat maneuvers very well with minimal effort.