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Hot and Getting Hotter!

July 1st, 2018

Tantuco Hot and Getting Hotter!

Dr. Tantuco and family after a day of red hot speckled trout fishing with Capt. Dillman.

By Capt. David C. Dillman

galvestonbaycharterfishing.com | 832-228-8012

Summer has finally arrived here along the Texas Upper Coast. This June, the Galveston/Houston area broke record or near record high temperatures on several days. But the trout fishing in June was really good. As the heat sets in the next two months, the trout action will only get hotter!

As the doldrums of summer set in, the water temperature rises in the bay. This rise will cause trout to seek the deep water structure Galveston Bay affords them. In July, the area known as the Exxon A-Lease should be loaded up with trout. The deep water structure of shell pads near these numerous gas wells will hold the fish to this area. Any given well in this location can be productive but some wells are better then others.

The shell pads located adjacent to the ship channel will see its share of trout too. Some of the oyster reefs are marked by PVC pipe. Some reefs must located using your depth sonar. Channel markers 50-62 are popular areas to fish in July.

In August, trout will begin their annual migration north. There will still be plenty of fish in the areas mentioned earlier. Some fish will move farther up the channel, staging on the reefs from markers 66-72 and around the tip of Atkinson Island. The wells located in the middle of Trinity Bay will also see an increase in the population of trout. These wells, just as the wells in the A-Lease, provide good structure for the fish. Trinity is a big open bay that can get rough, so plan fishing the open water there according to the wind speed and your boat’s capability.

Live natural baits work best in the heat of July/August. Live croaker and shrimp are the baits of choice this time of year. Croakers should be fished on the bottom, while shrimp can be used on the bottom or under a popping cork.

Eagle Point Fishing Camp in San Leon offers easy access to all of these areas and has a great supply of live bait during this time of year. They can be reached at 281-339-1131 for updates on conditions and bait. Enjoy the heat of the summer and its hot fishing! Remember to drink plenty of water and stay hydrated!!

The 37th Annual South Padre Island Chamber of Commerce Ladies Kingfish Tournament

May 11th, 2018

 

2015 1024x683 The 37th Annual South Padre Island Chamber of Commerce Ladies Kingfish Tournament

LKT NewLogo w400 The 37th Annual South Padre Island Chamber of Commerce Ladies Kingfish Tournament

The 37th Annual South Padre Island Chamber of Commerce Ladies Kingfish Tournament will be held on August 10-12, 2018.

The tournament is divided into two divisions, Bay and Offshore. Anglers fishing in the Bay Division will vie for trophies in the categories of Redfish, Trout and Flounder, while anglers in the Offshore Division complete in the categories of King, Bonito, Blackfin Tuna and Dolphin.  Trophies will be awarded to the first four places in each category and Grand Champion Bay and Grand Champion Offshore winners will also receive trophies.  Trophies will be original unique artwork from famed artist Dinah Bowman.  NOTE: To qualify for Grand Champion an angler must bring in one of each fish listed in the category they are fishing in. In the event all qualifying fish are not brought in the division, the next highest number brought in will qualify.

The tournament kicks off Friday, August 10 with check-in and on-site registration from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. at the SPI Convention Centre.  On Saturday, fishing begins at 6:30 a.m. Sea Ranch Marina II at SouthPoint is where all the action will be with Bay division weigh-in from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. and Offshore weigh-in from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.  Sea Ranch Marina II at SouthPoint provides a large viewing and parking area for family and friends, and anyone else that would like to see who brings in the biggest fish. The Sunday Awards Luncheon will be held at SPI Convention Centre beginning at 11:00 a.m. All participants are invited to attend.

Early registration fees are $95.00 per angler. The registration fee includes an event bag and lunch at the Sunday awards ceremony.  The early registration fee for Captains/Boat Operators, Deckhands and Guests is $25.00 and includes lunch at the awards ceremony on Sunday.  Registration fees increase to $100.00 for anglers and $30.00 for Captains/Boat Operators, Deckhands and Guests after July 13.  All anglers and their Captain/Boat Operators, Deckhands and Guests must be paid registrants of the tournament and have completed release forms on file with the SPI Chamber of Commerce.  Tickets may also be purchased at the door for Sunday Lunch for $25.00 per person.  Food will be available only with a ticket.

Join us for the 37th Anniversary Ladies Kingfish Tournament and start your own Island tradition.

If you would like additional information about the tournament please contact the South Padre Island Chamber of Commerce at 956.761.4412 or info@spichamber.com

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).

Marsh Fishing in Spring

February 28th, 2018

redfish marsh fishing Marsh Fishing in Spring

Captain Clay Sheward hooked up to a redfish deep in the marsh.

By Capt. Steve Soule

www.ultimatedetailingllc.com

Spring may be the toughest season of all to figure out on the upper Texas Coast. It’s the first of our two annual transitional periods, and in my opinion, definitely the harder of the two to get a solid grasp on when it comes to patterning. With so many factors at play, March and April can wreck even the best made plans.

To gain a better understanding, we need to think first about where we are transitioning from. In a winter season like we’ve just had, the coldest in nearly 10 years, we truly put fish into a winter pattern. This is a pattern that can be predictable and reasonable easy to describe and understand. Fish tend to move slightly deeper and hold over certain types of structure or bay substrate. Food sources, though limited have become reliable and are somewhat easy to locate as they are larger and more visible than at other times of the year.

Temperature

At the first signs of spring, anglers can often do very well. Predatory fish move from deeper to shallower water as the air and water temperatures warm. The initial warming creates added temperature to the cold blooded fish as well as their prey. This change typically makes both more active and sends predators out in search of food. But this isn’t always the easiest thing for hungry predators to accomplish.

Everything is transient in spring; both predator and prey. Temperature and barometric pressure swings wildly during this period. Weather varies from mild to violent

and boating and fishing pressure is steadily increasing.

Wind, tide, temperature and timing; all of these factors play a major role in spring fishing. But the prevalence and types of available food for predators is still limited.

Spring Prey

Winter forage, like mullet and finfish are still present but the return, or emergence of other various food sources happens at a much slower pace than their departure during fall. Wintering crabs and shrimp that have buried in mud through the cooler months will be some of the earliest additions to the menu, followed by a slow trickle of various other small baitfish species. Keep in mind that this is a slow process that is triggered more so by the “photo period” or length of daylight versus darkness than it is by temperature. Many food sources don’t truly return in force until later in spring.

Wind

Wind is always a factor in spring, especially during the first half of the season. Light wind days are few and far between, and late season cold fronts can often push us well into the small craft advisory range. This doesn’t lend itself well to great fishing days and certainly doesn’t make spring inviting for anglers. With high winds come several other factors that influence fishing. High tides and rapid barometric pressure come to mind at the top of the list.

reds Marsh Fishing in Spring

Marcos Enriquez with a nice shallow water redfish.

High Tides

Discussions on high tides seem to happen repeatedly during spring. For those who fish open and deeper water areas, the significance is reduced dramatically. For those who fish relatively shallow waters, the impact is quite substantial.

Big rising tides push small prey animals deeper into marshes and other areas where they can find cover from predation. The host of predators, like redfish, trout and flounder, will follow. Often, this puts predator and prey out of reach of most boaters and increases the overall size of the area we have to search. Fish become like needles in a haystack.

It often seems like redfish enjoy exploring new territory, and high tides are the open invitation for them to take off wandering.

Pressure

The large swings in barometric pressure during spring can provide both good and bad fishing. Changes in pressure seem to create short windows of increased feeding activity, especially when they happen in conjunction with moving tides or a moon position that would already cause fish to hunt for food. We can’t fish purely around pressure changes, not predictably anyway. You can shoot for catching the big changes as fronts approach and pass the coastline, but safety and comfort are often compromised. More often than not, most of us as anglers are stuck with the days that we can get on the water. It’s interesting to note, that even small changes in the direction of barometric pressure movement can effect fish feeding behaviors. Steady pressure, or pressure that is steadily on the rise or fall, often yields stagnant fish feeding

Timing

Timing, as I mentioned earlier, can have a huge impact on our success rates in fishing. Knowing seasonal patterns is very helpful in understanding when fish tend to feed in certain areas. If you don’t have years of fishing log information, then you can only go and hope for the best in finding actively feeding fish or rely on local information. Often, springtime doesn’t follow the typical feeding periods normally associated with summer. Don’t be one of the anglers that hunt out a summer feeding pattern this early in the year.

Bottom line, springtime fishing requires more thought on average than any other season along the coast. Careful planning, understanding the conditions, researching or having years of experience can help greatly. Knowing the available food sources, and making appropriate adjustments in your lure arsenal can pay off with big dividends. Most of the new arrivals of prey animals are quite small, which often leads to day where even larger predatory species are focused on eating small but numerous meals.

With careful planning, and an educated approach, spring can pay big dividends of big trout. But, if you think that you’re going to find a summer pattern just because of the rapid warm up, you will be in for quite the surprise.

Get out and enjoy the warmer weather, and don’t be discouraged by the difficulties. Instead, use the time wisely to cover more water and seek out the patterns hidden within the season.

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.

Down South Lures’ Mike Bosse

January 1st, 2018

mike bosse dsl Down South Lures Mike Bosse

Mike Bosse with a big trout caught on a Down South Lure in red shad.

Interview by Brandon Rowan

Where are you from?

I was born is Cypress, Texas. We moved to Chappell Hill when I was four years old. I grew up there and went to Brenham High School. We grew up fishing ponds, the New Year’s Creek and the Brazos River. Eventually, we graduated to fishing Lake Conroe, Fayette, and Gibbons Creek before I got bit by the “saltwater bug.”

DSLkickin Down South Lures Mike Bosse

Down South Lure in Kickin’ Chicken.

Tell me about the journey that led up to the design and success of Down South Lures.

Like many people, I had an extreme love for fishing. Since I pond hopped all the time, I loved to fish for bass. This inspired me to make my first lure when I was 12 years old. I cut about 3 inches off my mom’s wooden broom handle and carved a cup out of one end to make a “popper lure.” Then I grabbed an old Heddon Torpedo, took the screw-in eyelet off the nose and screwed it into the nose of my bait. The hooks were removed from the old Torpedo, and I screwed those into the bottom of my lure. I did not paint the plug; I just tied it on and went fishing. A two-pound bass was caught that afternoon on it.

Since we bass fished big lakes like Conroe, we threw a lot of Carolina rigged sickle tailed baits in deep water. We loved the way the bait swam down off the ledges when we dragged them over humps and creek beds. We were firm believers that fish ate the bait when it was falling, more often than not. Well, fast forward about 15 years and I found a love for saltwater fishing. I noticed that most of the paddle tails and tout tails did not swim on the fall like our bass worms did. After that, I began to tinker with other plastic baits, modifying them to have action while falling. It just grew from there. More and more friends were asking me to make them baits. After that I cut my own mold design. It has grown into the Down South Lure that you see today.

Were there any unforeseen challenges or surprises have you encountered while developing Down South?

One of the biggest challenges in the lure industry is that you have to prove that your bait is different and has a place in peoples’ tackle boxes. The only way you can do that is by fishing with it, and getting it into the hands of reputable fishermen. Once they see that the bait has merit, they will begin to purchase your lure. It’s very hard to get fisherman to switch from something they have been throwing successfully for years.

Another surprise to me was that it was extremely hard to get shelf space. Going into it, I figured that if I had a good product with professional packaging, I would be granted pegs. That’s not the case at all. People have to ask for your products over and over. Then you can get a spot on the wall in a tackle shop.

Michael Naymik with a 23.3″ Galveston flounder caught on Down South Lures.

What is your personal favorite DSL lure/rigging?

I’m pretty simple. I like a 1/4 oz. or 1/8 oz. 3/0 jighead rigged with either the original Southern Shad or the Super Model XL. I throw various colors, depending on the water clarity. If I had to pick one color for all clarity it would be Chicken of the C.

What colors and riggings are best for the super DSL for big trout in the winter?

I like to go with as light a jighead as possible considering the conditions. If it is windy, or the current is moving pretty good you may have to use a little heavier jighead.  If you notice that your lure is not getting down to the bottom, and there is a big bow in your slack line, you need to go heavier. My personal favorite “big fish” colors are Red Shad, True Plum, Key Lime, and Howell’s Strawberry Wine.

What kind of retrieve do you recommend when fishing DSLs?

Retrieves can vary with the conditions as well. My personal all-around favorite is to let the bait sink to the bottom and then retrieve with a twitch, twitch, pause cadence. I think fish are more reactionary feeders, and that they do not over think when feeding. That’s how they have survived this long. The twitch, twitch, pause resembles a classic “two hop” shrimp escape. Though my bait more resembles a fish swimming, or an eel escaping to the bottom, I always think that the most natural movements get the most strikes. You will notice that most of your bites will be when this bait is falling.

Do you have a favorite fishing moment? Could be a big fish or trophy but also a special fish or situation.

I have a bunch that stick out, but probably my favorite was when I was when I located some big trout while prefishing for a redfish tournament in Galveston. I was throwing my baits against a stretch of rocky shoreline. There was a lot of bait activity on that particular rock line point, so I fired my Chicken of the C in there and caught a 5 pounder. The next cast was another solid 5 pounder. I just eased away and told myself, “I’m bringing my girlfriend here first thing in the morning.”

We got up early, and I told her I was not going to fish, just run the trolling motor. We eased up to the point and she caught 3 fish very quickly to 4 pounds on a pink MirrOlure She Dog (She loves topwater and the conditions were perfect for it.) As we approached to honey hole, I told her to cast right by that one larger rock that had a wash out behind it. She gave it a perfect cast, and within 6 twitches she had a major explosion. It ended up being her largest trout ever measuring 28.5 inches. She said, let’s quit on that cast, but I wanted a flounder for lunch. We agreed to try for 15 minutes pitching around some rocks in a spot where I have caught them before. It was only 50 yards away from the trout spot. Within 5 minutes I had the solid thump of a flounder right by the boat on my Chicken of the C lure. I set the hook, and all hell broke loose. It was a big red! I told my girlfriend to get the net because I saw how many spots it had on its side. It was absolutely covered. I told her whatever you do, do not miss this fish! I’ll never hook one like this again. She got it on the first swipe. It measured 31.5 inches and had 144 spots on it. I took close up photos of both sides of the fish, and released the beauty for someone else to catch.  We never made another cast that morning. I racked the trolling motor up and we headed back to the dock. The moral of the story is, I’ve had better days with numbers of fish, but we both broke personal records that day.

This big trout was caught on a Key Lime Super Model in Mansfield with Capt. Daniel Land.

What’s your favorite place you have fished?

If I had to pick one bay system in Texas, it would be Port Mansfield. The vast grass flats are just too appealing. The deep reefs and rocks of Galveston are a close second in the state. Poling for permit in the Florida Keys is my favorite out of state adventure.

Aside from fishing, what else are you passionate about?

When I’m not fishing, I like to hang out with friends, watch football, and BBQ while enjoying a cold beverage. We enjoy going deer hunting when we get a chance as well. Recently, I have become more intrigued with deer hunting, so my tournament partner and I have secured a deer lease in south Texas for next year.

Is there any Down South Lure news or upcoming events you’d like to let our readers know about?

Yes, always be on the lookout for new and innovating products and colors that we are working on releasing. Give us a follow on Facebook and Instagram to see all the updates. We post everything up there, and feature exceptional catches on our page. As always, we will have a booth at the Houston Boat Show in January, The All Valley Boat Show in McAllen in February, and The Houston Fishing Show in March. We always have our lures and apparel on special at these shows, so come by and get a deal. In addition, we will be doing some raffles and drawings for people that stop by at these shows. As always, you can shop all of our products at www.downsouthlures.com. See you guys soon and tight lines.

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!

GALVESTON FALL FISHING 2017

October 31st, 2017

flounder fall GALVESTON FALL FISHING 2017

The flounder run is coming!

By Capt. Joe Kent

Years ago by November, fall fishing patterns would be well under way and the annual flounder and golden croaker migrations in full swing.  This is not the case now and anglers have moved the time table ahead as a result.

While growing up around the Galveston Bay Complex, saltwater anglers looked to Columbus Day in early October as the time when they could count on the onset of fall fishing patterns.  For a number of years now, fall weather patterns have not set in until much later, usually close to November.

Fall fishing patterns are triggered by the water temperature in the bays and it is not until the readings fall below 70 degrees that we can count on much in the way of autumn fishing.

Sunlight or presenting it a different way, shorter periods of daylight, also influence fish to move into their fall feeding style.  Fortunately, while weather patterns may change, periods of daylight do not, so that is one constant we can count on in the equation.

An example of how our weather pattern has changed comes with the special flounder regulations that were set by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to protect flounder from over harvesting during their fall migration or as anglers call it the Fall Flounder Run.

The dates for the special regulations that cut the bag limit to two per day and outlawed flounder gigging were Nov. 1 through 30. Those dates were chosen because historically the flounder run was in its peak during November and by December 1, nearly over.

Quickly TPWD observed that the flounder migration lasted well into December and amended the rules to add the first two weeks of that month.

Mentioned earlier was the fact that Columbus Day was looked to as the kick-off of the fall fishing season and now that has changed.  If I were to choose a holiday that better represents the time when fall fishing is in full swing, it would be Veteran’s Day on Nov. 11.

Now, with that background, what is the outlook for this year’s fall fishing?

Let’s take a look at speckled trout first.  The record floods of late August and early September likely will continue to affect speckled trout fishing through at least the early part of November.  Trinity Bay and the upper reaches of Galveston Bay continue to have enormous amounts of fresh water pouring into them. Until that stops and salinity levels improve, don’t look for the prolific fall trout action for which those areas are famous.

On the other hand, East and West Bays should be hot spots once the water temperature cooperates.  Hordes of specks migrated out of the lower salinity areas to locations closer to the Gulf of Mexico and likely will remain until the “All Clear” signal is given to migrate north.

The fall flounder run is shaping up to be a good one this year, as a good crop of quality flat fish is in the bays and, once a few genuine cold fronts pass through, look for the passes to the Gulf to be wall to wall with both flounder and fishermen.

Redfish action has been outstanding all during this fall season.  Reds of all sizes have been caught in good numbers in the lower bays and surf.  Look for that to continue, as reds are not nearly as sensitive to salinity levels as other fish.  Once the water cools, look for the back bays and marshes to turn on.

The annual golden croaker run, which usually occurs about the time of the flounder run, has been a big disappointment in recent years.  During November large golden croaker known as bull croaker make their run to the Gulf of Mexico for spawning and are easy prey for anglers fishing near the passes into the Gulf.

While there has been some good action during the run, it has not measured up to that of 20 years ago and beyond.

In summary, it is going to take a couple of things to really trigger some hot fall fishing and those are getting the water temperature down into the 60s and eliminating the heavy flows of fresh water into the bays.

Once the water temperature drops look out!  The action will be hot and heavy.

Galveston Bay fishing after Harvey

September 14th, 2017

big speckled trout Galveston Bay fishing after Harvey

By Capt. Joe Kent

Lots of questions are being asked about the effects of the recent flood waters on the Galveston Bay Complex.  Most of the questions are centered on whether the floods have a beneficial or detrimental impact on the eco-system and what we can expect in the way of fishing this fall.

For a number of years, the Galveston Bay Complex was experiencing a serious drought that was beginning to change the ecology of the bay.  High levels of salinity and restricted flows of fresh water from rivers and creeks were taking its toll on the wetlands and back bays.

Concerns were mounting about a change in our fish patterns, in particular a possible migration of certain species of fish out of the bays and an influx of different species into the bays.  It certainly was a situation that warranted concern.

Three years ago, the first of a series of heavy flooding hit and eventually lowered the salinity levels and created some ideal conditions for growing our stocks of marine life, both fin fish and shell fish.

In most cases, flood waters entering the bays do a lot of good for the basic component of the marine life cycle and that is the estuaries.  The nutrients that are washed into the rivers and other outlets help the vegetation grow and in turn provide a sanctuary for newly hatched marine life.

This is obviously a real benefit to all who partake in saltwater recreational activities and most beneficial to anglers in all areas including those who fish offshore.

On the other hand, flood waters that contain heavy concentrations of contaminants can be detrimental to the estuaries.  Contaminants in the form of chemicals and metals are the most destructive, as they can and do kill the life line of the estuaries, the vegetation and in general pollute the waters.

troutrowan 300x141 Galveston Bay fishing after Harvey

“Well, for speckled trout especially they are going to be found in large concentrations closer to the coast.”

 

Just how our recent flood affects the sensitive balance in the wetlands is yet to be determined.

While it remains to be seen as to the effects on the estuaries, there are a few things that can pretty well be counted on as far as the effects on fishing and crabbing.

Following the floods and during the time when heavy flows of water continued to pour into the bays, we have experienced a welcomed dry spell with northerly and westerly winds dominating under low humidity.  This has helped to get the flood waters draining more rapidly. 

Most of Galveston Bay has been muddy and off color with little or no salinity.  How long this will last is anyone’s guess.

Most of the time, trout will move out of the upper reaches of the bay system and settle in areas that are closer to the Gulf of Mexico such as those around the passes and jetties.  In those areas, trout tend to stack up and become easy prey for anglers.

Using last year as an example, our heavy floods came early in the summer and were followed by a similar pattern of hot, dry weather.  It was at least two months before the bays started showing signs of improvement.

If that pattern repeats itself, it could be November before the water returns to normal around the Galveston Bay Complex.  This is especially true in light of the fact that this year’s flooding was more extensive and severe than in years past.

So what does that mean for fishing?  Well, for speckled trout especially they are going to be found in large concentrations closer to the coast.  The jetties, surf and lower Galveston Bay should hold the prized game fish for quite a while.

Reds and other fish likely will be the offering in the upper reaches of the bay system, as they are not nearly as sensitive to salinity as are trout.

Fishing with Capt. Steve Hillman

September 6th, 2017

hillman speck Fishing with Capt. Steve Hillman

Steve Hillman with a mid October beauty, released after a quick photo.

Hillman Guide Service’s big trout buff on his early years and fishing favorites

Interview by Brandon Rowan

Where did you grow up?

I was born in Galveston and grew up on Dickinson Bayou where my parents started a small seafood business in the mid-seventies.  When not fishing off of our little pier I would fish out in the bay with my dad, uncles and grandpa.  This was back when we didn’t have to venture far to catch trout, redfish and flounder.  Reefs in Dickinson Bay, Moses Lake and Todd’s Dump gave us all the action we could ask for.

It really wasn’t until my mid-teenage years that I learned how to read the water well.  I fell in love with wading and learned what slicks meant.  This is when fishing hit a whole new level for me.  I caught my first topwater trout on a chrome/ blue jumping minnow on Dickinson Reef when I was around 16 years old.  I still remember how rafts of mullet would mark the J-shaped reef.  No GPS was needed.

In 1996 I graduated from the University of Houston – Clear Lake with a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Management, then took a job in the chemical industry.  Within a couple of years I came back to my roots in the family seafood business to take over the marketing aspects of the business.  We would fly clients in from all over the country and I would take them fishing and golfing.

It was during this time when I realized just how much satisfaction I got from watching others enjoy catching fish.  In 2004 I obtained my captain’s license and started running trips.  Some folks told me to be careful taking something that I enjoy and turning it into a job.  I suppose this is true for some.  For me, it was the right choice.  I never intended on becoming a full-time fishing guide but the circumstances pretty much played out that way.  Now, I have some of the best regular clients that any guide could ever ask for.  Funny how things seem to work out the way you least expect.

When I started guiding I ran tarpon, bull red, shark, black drum, flounder and trout trips.  While I enjoyed all of that I realized that my true passion was fishing for trout and reds.  I’m a firm believer in sticking to what you know.  And, by doing the same thing day-in and day-out you can stay on the patterns and become better.

Do you have a favorite fishing moment?

My favorite experience is when a young man from Idaho called to book a two day fly fishing trip with me in March of 2006 for him and his father.  The first day was spent wading coves in West Bay amidst typical March stiff winds.  The bite was tough on flies, but the trout and reds were cooperative (for me) on conventional tackle.  Kurt and his dad kept their distance from me despite me constantly waving them in my direction.  They caught a few undersized trout on seaducers, clouser minnows and spoon flies.  They seemed to be happy despite not catching a bunch of fish.  The wind gave us a break on the second day and the fishing was much better.  Once again, however, they wouldn’t wade over when I was on fish.  They caught some, but I was a bit perplexed and maybe even a little disappointed that they pretty much hung out away from me in their own little world.  I pulled up to the dock at Teakwood Marina and Kurt’s father headed for the truck as he was a little tired.  Kurt handed me my check and said the following; “Captain Steve, I know that me and my dad could’ve caught more fish had we spent more time by your side or used conventional gear, but I need to tell you something.  My dad has terminal cancer and the doctors only gave him a few months to live.  He started taking me fly fishing when I was a little boy and those memories are the ones I cherish the most.  We got to relive some of those memories the past two days and I want to thank you for that.  This may be the last time I get to fish with my dad.”

As Kurt walked towards his truck tears flowed from my eyes.  I drove home thinking about how blessed I was.  That two day fishing trip with Kurt and his father will forever be etched in my memory as well as my heart.

mirrolure27 Fishing with Capt. Steve Hillman

MirrOlure MirrOdine XL

What is your favorite soft plastic and hard bait for trout if you had to choose only one of each?

My favorite soft plastic would have to be a Limetreuse Saltwater Assassin and MirrOlure’s MirrOdine XL would be my choice for a hard bait.

What is the biggest mistake you see other fishermen make?

I would have to say that the biggest mistake I see on a regular basis is other fishermen motoring over fish.  Just the other day we witnessed a boat motor through several good trout slicks then line up behind us to make a drift.  He was more concerned with what was happening on my boat then what was happening in the water around him.  This has become a daily occurrence.  I would love to see more awareness and better etiquette.

Fat redfish like this one can be found schooling in open water, September through November.

What should anglers key in on during September and October in Galveston Bay?

The early days of September are usually similar to our late summer patterns which involve drifting slicks in 7 to 11 feet of water over shell and throwing mainly soft plastics.  Depending upon the timing of cool fronts, late September and early October can become more of a transitional pattern where trout are found deep as well as shallow.  Slicks and active bait are always good telltale signs but gulls hovering over migrating white shrimp can also lead you to the fish.  Wading near marsh drains is always a good plan especially during late October.  Trout can be somewhat spread out until a true fall pattern arrives which usually occurs in November.

Do you have a favorite tide stage to fish?

My favorite tide to fish depends on where we’re fishing but our trout seem to feed better during a tide change.  If we’re wading the mouth of a marsh drain then I like a high tide going to a low.  If we’re drifting open bay reefs then any tidal movement is best, regardless of direction.

What is the biggest change you’ve seen in Galveston Bay over the years?

I could write an entire article on this subject but I suppose the most noticeable change is the bottom landscape of the bay.  Many islands are now reefs and many reefs are now gone.  Through the years the bottom structure has changed from environmental changes and man-induced changes.  We have lost more than half of our live oyster reefs and all of our rangia clam beds mainly due to Hurricane Ike and other environmental changes.

I’ve also seen the number of boats increase dramatically over the years.

Do you have a recently discovered lure or new technique you’d like to share with our readers?

I’m pretty much a creature of habit who tends to keep things simple.  That being said, I seem to be throwing more waking baits such as Strike Pro’s Hunchback this year.  It’s a subsurface hard bait that wobbles from side to side.  It has a loud rattle that tends to draw strikes when sometimes other baits won’t.  Other than that, I usually stick to the basic soft plastic and topwater program.  It really depends on what I see while we’re fishing.

Favorite place you’ve ever fished?

Hands down, my favorite place I’ve ever fished is Baffin Bay.  I love catching legitimately big trout and Baffin has produced more big trout for me than all the other bays I’ve fished combined.  Galveston Bay has produced some big trout for us through the years but not as consistently as Baffin.

Steve’s 8.25lb trout fell for a MirrOdine XL.

Is there anything you’d like to see changed in the current regulations?

The jury is still out on this question for me.  I carefully observe the changes I see on a yearly and daily basis while running my charters.  I also study the data from the Texas Parks and Wildlife, as well as others such as the Harte Research Institute.

My current opinion is that we’re struggling with habitat in this bay and fishing pressure has greatly increased.  Man-made and environmental changes have had a negative impact on our estuary.  I don’t think anyone can deny that.

The question is what changes should be made?  Is a limit reduction to 5 trout the answer?  I personally think it’s a good start.  Sustainability of our spotted seatrout as well as our habitat should be on the front burner.

Aside from fishing, what else are you passionate about?

I thoroughly enjoy fishing but my biggest passion is spending time with my family.  My wife and I only have one daughter, and she turns 16 in January.  Time seems to pass faster than ever and I don’t want to miss anything that has to do with them.  We’re a goofy little family and we can rarely have a serious conversation, but I wouldn’t want it any other way.

You can contact Hillman Guide Service by calling 409-256-7937 or by emailing captsteve@hillmanguideservice.com

 

Fools Rush In

May 3rd, 2017

fly fishing reds Fools Rush In

By Capt. Steve Soule

www.ultimatedetailingllc.com

It isn’t always a question of right or wrong. Sometimes it becomes more a matter of better or worse. Everyone has their own idea of how to approach each fishing situation, some well thought out, others are much more haphazard. The “approach,” the level of stealth, and knowledge of the area you are fishing can have a huge impact on success or failure when it comes to catching fish.

As anglers, most of us start each day with some form of a plan on what we want to catch and where we plan to try to catch it. With experience, these plans get better and more detailed. The bottom line is that we all benefit from having a goal in mind to accomplish each day on the water. If we give more thought to what that goal is, and how we might be able to tilt the scales in our favor when it comes to achieving that goal, we all stand to catch more fish, or at the very least, gain more knowledge that will lead to more fish in the future.

I feel certain that most experienced anglers have a plan of attack for each day that they fish. A location picked based on experience, knowledge of an area, or information about an area. Novices, or anglers newer to an area, the plan is likely not so well thought out.  This isn’t to say that a novice angler can’t or won’t catch as many fish, just that they don’t possess that level of experience to know exactly where to go or when to go to certain areas.

As an experienced angler, your goal should be to refine your knowledge and hone your fishing skills. As a novice or less experienced angler, your goal should be learn areas and develop an understanding of the structure, tides, and other factors that will influence the location and movements of the fish.

Take your time, use stealth when arriving and working the area you intend to fish.

As many times as I’ve talked about structure over there years, I realize that there is still a lot of confusion surrounding the topic. Structure goes well beyond just what we can see above the water; sometimes its obvious and sometimes its very subtle. Some of the many things that I consider structure can often be hard to detect. There is obvious structure like shorelines, reefs, rocks but sometimes the little things like grass, guts, humps and very subtle depressions are the keys to finding fish holding points and movement pathways. Finding these in shallow clear water is much easier than in open water. Wading and having actual contact with the bay floor can be a big help, and for those fishing deeper waters from a boat, learning to read a depth machine can be crucial.

Something interesting to remember, is that it isn’t just the contours of the bay floor, but also what’s on the bay floor that will impact when and where fish will be. Mud, grass, shell, clay, sand and many other things determine what type of prey will be in an area during different seasons and their predators.

Don’t just show up to an area and rush through it. So often I watch people on the water rush into an area, only to turn around and leave 15 minutes later. There is very little that can be gained in this approach. Unfortunately, in most cases the fish aren’t just waiting for us to arrive and throw things at them. In fact, most of the time we scare fish as we arrive and often shut down feeding behavior with our rapid and noisy arrival. This will spook fish in an area, slowing or stopping the bite temporarily.

Take your time, use stealth when arriving and working the area you intend to fish. Though it has become increasingly popular to run boats shallow and look for fish, this approach has significant short and long term impact on the environment and the fish. Starting with the obvious, sea grass and boat propellers do not mix! Some grasses recover relatively fast while others can take long periods to regrow. Prior to Hurricane Ike, there was very little natural grass growth in Galveston’s West Bay. Through man’s intervention, grasses returned and had a positive impact on bay habitat and water clarity. Fishing the same areas without the grass, was a world of difference. If just enjoying and appreciating the grass habitat isn’t enough, there is a Texas law in place that prohibits destruction of sea grasses.

Beyond the habitat impact, there is a huge short and long term impact on the fish. The sound of an outboard motor can not only be heard, but also felt by fish at a great distance. Knowing that fish are sensitive to vibration and sound should make us all aware that a hasty approach, using the big motor, doesn’t usually result in great catches.

Lets take this a step further. I know all too well how cool it is to see fish moving and feeding in shallow water, having spent over 35 years fishing shallow water from poling skiffs and other shallow water boats. I’ve seen a lot and learned a ton about fish behavior and their reaction to different things that enter their environment. Moving too fast in a poling skiff, a slight stumble when wading, and many other subtle sounds can alert fish. The practice of “burning shorelines” has way more negative impact on fish. A slow, and methodical approach will lead to much more productive fishing.

Take your time, use stealth in your approach, use the day as an opportunity to study, not just fish, and you may just learn how many things are missed by so many fishing around you. Fishing from a more methodical perspective will help you shorten the learning curve and improve your fishing not just today, but in the future as well.

Tips For Catching More Fish

October 31st, 2016

redflounderstring Tips For Catching More Fish

By Capt. Joe Kent

There is an old adage that 10% of the fishermen catch 90% of the fish. Well, while not statistically proven, the odds are that the old adage has a lot of merit.

If you are one of those anglers who comes away feeling like everyone around you is catching fish while you are left with an empty or sparse stringer, hopefully some of these tips will help you join that exclusive 10% group that takes 90% of the fish.

While actively guiding fishing trips, there were a number of things I observed that definitely handicapped my guests from catching many fish.

Most likely the biggest obstacle was in casting skills.  Other fishing guides agreed with me that if there was one big fault it was in the lack of being able to cast a bait to a target and at the same time avoid another big problem, backlashes.

fancast 300x240 Tips For Catching More Fish

Good casting skills are imperative for fan casting or placing your bait precisely near structure or jetties.

Line Control

There are a number of other skills anglers need to address; however, accurate casting and controlling the line is at the top of the list.

Casting skills take practice and the time not to practice is when on a fishing trip with others.

Choosing a rod and reel you are comfortable using and is appropriate for where you are fishing is the first step.

Practice, practice and more practice is the key to developing your skills in the art of casting.

Once you have become comfortable with your choice of rod and reel and have developed control over where and how far you can cast, then attention can be given to a number of other problems that tend to plague those not bringing home stringers of game fish.

liveshrimphook

Hook live shrimp under the horn.

Bait & Tackle

While space does not allow an elaboration on each of the following, using the wrong bait for the occasion, hook size and hooking live bait, especially shrimp, are key issues.

For newcomers and those not seasoned at saltwater fishing, I always recommend using live bait, especially shrimp when fishing.

Hooking live shrimp involves practice and experience.  There is a small area under the horn on the shrimp’s head that is the appropriate spot to hook the bait.  Using too large a hook or hooking the shrimp anywhere else is going to kill the bait and render it in the same category as dead bait. Use a number 6 or 8 treble hook or a small live bait or kahle hook.

Once you have become comfortable with your casting skills and can hook live bait properly, then you are ready for the easier parts of this lesson.

sewind

A light southeast breeze is usually best on the upper coast.

Learn to Read the Water

Tide movement and water clarity are of utmost importance in triggering feeding among schools of fish.  Once you see those elements come together then you can start looking at the wind direction.

Along the Texas Gulf Coast, the southeast wind is called the fishermen’s breeze as it brings clear Gulf water into the bays and along the beachfront.  This is a big plus when choosing a time to go fishing.

The so called 10% group takes time to plan their trips and, based on the forecast, they know what the odds are for a productive excursion.

Hold Steady

Most of the seasoned anglers limit their fishing to given areas that they tend to get to know well and learn where the fish will be at a given time. Concentrating on a particular bay, the jetties or surf can do wonders for your confidence.

Patience is a major key to success.  Guides and other experienced fishermen choose a spot and will stay there knowing that the fish have appeared there regularly while often having to fight boredom themselves and the impatience of their guests.

There is no way anyone can expect to take home a big stringer of fish on each trip; however, following the steps mentioned above you should greatly enhance your chances of increasing your odds of catching fish when hitting the water.

Lure Colors for Trout and Redfish

February 29th, 2016

sunnylures Lure Colors for Trout and RedfishWhat a difference color can make!

By Capt. Joe Kent

Have you ever been fishing with friends and either you or they were catching fish while the other person was not?  Well, if you were using artificial baits, I bet the difference in success was a result of the color of the bait, assuming they all were different colors.

Fish are not color blind and can see clearly on the darkest nights and can distinguish colors.

greenwaterlures Lure Colors for Trout and RedfishSaltwater fish living where the water is very clear tend to be bluish or silver.  This makes them almost invisible and lets them blend with the clear water background.  When they move into the bays to spawn, they change colors and become brownish and stay that way until they move back into their normal habitat.

sandywaterluresThe reason for this change is to camouflage and protect them from predator fish.

The color of a lure has everything to do with catching saltwater fish.  Personally, I have fished with others using baits of various colors and after an hour or more, certain colors would be hit while fish turned up their noses to the rest of the colors.

The example I mention has occurred on several occasions while wade-fishing or drifting and casting with the same type of baits, in each case we all were tossing soft plastics.  One situation took place in Port Mansfield, the other in East Galveston Bay.

In Mansfield, white Norton Sand Eels with chartreuse tails out performed other variations of the same bait three to one and root beer colored touts did the same thing over other colors of touts in East Bay.

Rudy Grigar, who largely is credited with starting the interest in fishing with artificial baits in the Galveston Bay complex, had years of experience in dealing with baits and colors long before most “hardware” and “soft plastic” fishermen arrived on the scene.

Grigar loved to check fish, that had been recently caught where he fished or planned to fish, for their feeding habits.  Opening the stomach cavity would reveal just what was being consumed and would give a clue as to the color of bait to be used.

Early in the season when glass minnows or small mullet were the top choices of trout, he would use light-colored baits.  A silver spoon with a white bucktail often enticed a hungry trout that was feeding on the small fin fish.

Later in the season when shrimp were migrating, he would use darker, preferably light brown, colored baits.  Gold spoons with pink bucktails were one of his favorites.

Grigar had a list of bait colors he recommended for various conditions and always had the caveat of saying “ I recommend  the following colors; however, if you are on fish and they are not hitting your bait, try another color”.  Fish will surprise you.  They are not dumb.”

Redfish

Lure color selection is dependent on water and weather conditions.

The colors and conditions he recommended were:

For bright, sunny skies and clear water use, he recommended white, silver or gold.  Overcast skies or light drizzle, he recommended bright colors such as red, green or strawberry.

For green water, which is prevalent during windows of light winds and good tidal movement during the summer, his favorite was chartreuse.

In sandy waters, florescent lures and yellow redheads worked well. The same held true for murky waters.

For muddy waters or heavy, sandy conditions such as those created by strong southwest winds during the late spring and summer, his advice was to wait for the water to clear and not to waste your time.

What about the tail colors?  The colors recommended above do not reflect buck tails or different colors for the tails of soft plastics.

Carlos Rogers who fished the Port O’Connor area for years, was adamant about different colored tails and buck tails for baits.  He felt that the tail color would offset any ill-effects of the primary bait color and for that reason always had an assortment of soft plastics and spoons with various colors at the end.

White and pink were Roger’s favorite colors and anytime he added one of those to a lure and did not catch fish he switched to the other color. If the fish still did not bite he was convinced that they were either not around or not feeding.