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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.

Offshore Fishing Checklist

March 1st, 2017

yamaha 150 outboard Offshore Fishing Checklist

Get ready, summer will be here before you know it.

By Capt. Joe Kent

Not too long ago, offshore fishing was a year-round sport.  While the peak of the season is from around the Fourth of July to not long after Labor Day, red snapper and other reef fish provided action all year long.

When tight regulations began being imposed on the recreational sector in Federal Waters, winter fishing for red snapper was virtually eliminated.

While recreational anglers do have a short window of time to catch their two fish per day limit of red snapper, the timeframe usually begins on June 1 and lasts anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks or so.  The season usually ends about the time when action on pelagic fish such as king mackerel, ling and Dorado begins to get hot.

With the exception of anglers owning large vessels, those in the 45 foot and larger range, most of the offshore boats are used on a limited basis or sit up a good part of the winter months.

The same can be said of fishing equipment and tackle, all of which leads to the point of this article and this is now is the time to get prepared for the offshore fishing season.

Many offshore anglers postpone their preparations until close to the time when they will make that first venture of the year to the rigs and other areas offshore.  In doing so, often it is discovered that the boat and/or fishing equipment is in need of repairs or service.

While there is normally no problem getting the gear in shape, it usually takes much longer than it would have earlier in the year.

March and April are excellent months to address all of this and here are some suggestions on what you should look for and respond to during the process.

Let’s start with the boat.  The gasoline tank is one of the biggest problems and it is not the tank itself, but the contents.  Gasoline that has been in the tank for several months should have a special treatment added before venturing out for the first time.  Ethanol blended fuel is the main culprit.

Although a stabilizer may have been added before storage, over time it loses its effectiveness and water will build in the tank. This is largely due to the absorption aspects of ethanol.  Water and gasoline do not mix and can cause big problems that are expensive to repair.  Check with your mechanic for a recommended gas treatment and if the gas has been in the tank for a long period of time, it may be recommended that the fuel be removed and replaced. That is much cheaper than a major engine repair.

If the gasoline is not an issue, one of the best ways to check out the other boating and fishing equipment is to make a trial run offshore.  March and April are the two windiest months of the year and the number of days offering tolerable conditions offshore is limited.

Regardless, a bay run is a good substitute.  The main thing is to be able to open up the engines and run them at cruising speed for at least thirty minutes.  During the process, check out the fresh and saltwater pumps and all other electronics.  Fuel indicators are one of the more frequent items to become stuck during storage.

Next would be the fishing equipment.  Look for rust and corrosion on tackle and if suitable for cleaning, do so, if not replace.  Reels and line are the two items of fishing gear than normally need the most attention.  If the line has been used much or has been on the reel for two seasons or more, replace it.

Reels will need to be cleaned and oiled and if you are not comfortable taking them apart and putting them back together, take them to a professional.  The cost is worth it.

You have often heard the old expression of “a stitch in time saves nine,” well nothing could be truer when preparing for the upcoming offshore fishing season.

Galveston Offshore Fishing

June 1st, 2013

By Capt. Joe Kent

cuda Galveston Offshore Fishing

Barracuda can provide a fierce fight on light tackle.

I have been looking forward to this first article for the Gulf Coast Mariner Magazine ever since the invitation was received to write the fishing articles.  First, let me tell you something about my background in fishing.

Fishing has been a life-long passion of mine. One of the reasons I decided to take an early retirement from the legal profession was to devote more time to my passion in life.

I have been a licensed captain and fishing guide for over 15 years, operating Sea 3 Charters Guide Service and writing daily fishing articles for the “Galveston County Daily News” and several magazines.  My wife and I live on the water in Galveston where I have easy access to fishing upper West Bay and other spots including the offshore waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

I have fished both offshore and inshore waters along with the surf and jetties.  With that, let’s get started with the fishing column for “Mariner Magazine”.

By the time most anglers read this column, we are going to be entering the 2013 offshore fishing season.  Beginning Memorial Day Weekend and going through much of September, our migratory pelagic species of fish will be roaming the waters of the Gulf not far from shore.

mahi 300x201 Galveston Offshore FishingThis time of year, especially during July and August, is prime time for the smaller boats, collectively referred to as the Mosquito Fleet, to make Galveseton offshore fishing trips.  The Mosquito Fleet will venture well within its fuel range to spots that offer action on a variety of fish including king mackerel, ling, Dorado, bonito, sharks and many varieties of reef fish.

Not all boats are suitable for making journeys beyond the jetties; however, those that are can, find action as close as eight to ten miles out.  So, what does it take to go deep-sea fishing and what will you find in the way of fishing spots within 10 miles of shore?

First, the boat needs to be seaworthy, meaning that it can handle a sudden squall with strong winds and choppy seas.  The length is not as important as the style of hull.  Boats as short as 17 feet fall into that category.  Flat bottom boats and others designed more for inshore waters are not safe at anytime in the Gulf.

A whole article could address what is considered a seaworthy boat and discuss the equipment needed to make it offshore.  One of the best approaches is to make a trip in tandem with another boat.

offshore platformOffshore anglers generally target structure whether visible like wells and platforms or subsurface like rocks and reefs.  Weed lines and anchored shrimp boats are other popular destinations to find fish.

Within 10 miles of shore mostly wells and platforms commonly called oil rigs are the top choices.  Beginning in July anchored shrimp boats and weed lines add another dimension to the offshore selection.  Each area has its own unique way of being fished.  More on that aspect will come in a future article focusing of offshore fishing.

For now, the objective is to give an overview to the small boat operator who has not ventured beyond the jetties.

The required fishing equipment will be heavier than typical trout and redfish tackle; however, the big rods and reels that are commonly associated with offshore fishing are not needed for a short run offshore.

Most of the surface fish, such as king, ling, Dorado, bonito and sharks, are going to range in size from close to 10 pound to 30 pounds.  There will be that occasional hook-up with a really big fish well beyond that size range.

One of the keys is to have enough line on your reel to play your fish.  For this type of fishing, line strengths of 20 to 30 pounds are the most common.

There are lots of structures in the waters off of Galveston and around them are concentrations of reef fish of all sizes.  For this type of fishing, anglers normally use heavier equipment in the 50-pound category for mainly dragging the fish from the structure, as most everything that has been underwater for a while is covered with sharp barnacles that will easily cut line that comes in contact with it.

snapper

Many varieties of snapper can be found within 10 miles of shore.

Your choice of bait will differ from inshore fishing where live shrimp is one of the top choices.  While live finfish such as piggy perch and mullet are top baits, frozen Spanish sardines, ribbonfish, squid, ice fish and cigar minnows are widely used.

Trolling is a popular way to fish for the kings and other surface fish; however, newcomers tend to prefer drifting natural baits (mentioned above).  The key here is to keep the bait close to the surface.

If you are new to fishing the offshore waters, once you make that first trip and hear your reel scream with a strike, you will be hooked.  It is music to the ears of old salts.  Have fun and put safety as your number one priority.