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Fisherman’s Paradise: The Florida Everglades

July 1st, 2019

DSC 0693 1024x683 Fishermans Paradise: The Florida Everglades

Capt. Ruby Delgado with the first snook of our trip caught on a Savage Gear topwater. Photo by Kelly Groce

61106226 2474210565924667 2953527436114919424 n 300x271 Fishermans Paradise: The Florida Everglades

This is the view surrounding each key island in the Everglades. A school of tarpon swam by shortly after this photo was taken.

By Kelly Groce

The Florida Everglades is a dream land for any angler. Its pristine waters, remote location and wide range of wildlife will have any fisherman questioning their flight back home before the trip is even over. With no cell phone service and miles upon miles of crystal clear flats glistening with shark fins in the distance, the opportunity to catch a bucket list or fish of lifetime are around every corner. I left that day with a new species to add to my list; my first tarpon.

Cindy Nguyen, Capt. Ruby Delgado and myself spent the first few hours of the day catching snook and speckled trout on a variety of Savage Gear topwaters thanks to Sam Root who poled us around on his Maverick skiff. The sloppier we worked our topwaters, the more the snook couldn’t resist it. Fishing with a topwater has to be one of my favorite approaches, especially when it’s for snook.

Sam Root had to get in on the snook topwater bite from his poling platform.

After eating lunch with a breath taking view of gin clear water, Sam poled us around a small key island. I pitched my small swim bait next to the grass beds. As my bait starts to drop down, a couple of 30 inch tarpon emerge from under the beds. I slowly start reeling it in and one takes my bait. He did an acrobatic dance for me as I shouted with excitement and high fives ensued. The silver king is a stunning fish to see.

In one day we saw schools of tarpon, manatees, snook, speckled trout, redfish, grouper, mangrove snapper, barracuda, stingrays, alligators, lemon sharks, nurse sharks, and more. Exploring the Everglades is like something out of a Hemmingway book; pure adventure. Its untouched beauty should make it a top place for any fisherman to visit.

Cindy Nguyen’s first cast of the day resulted in this beautifully spotted trout.

Our morning greeting to the beautiful Florida Everglades.

Ruby suggested I work my topwater a little sloppier and immediately I caught this snook.

Retro Lessons In Summer Fishing

July 1st, 2019

farahtrout Retro Lessons In Summer Fishing

Big trout can still be caught in the heat of summer!

By Capt. Joey Farah

361-442-8145 Capt. Joey Farah’s Backwater Adventures

In the frantic rush of summer live bait fishing, many proven lessons for summer success are passed by. Those long days of our youth were filled with adventures and memories. Today it seems like a rush to get out and then get in. Slow it down and turn up the heat on your summer fishing this year! Here are a few not quite forgotten, but tried and true summer strategies to bring trout, reds, and flounder to hand!

Big Trout

First light is the best time to find big summer trout. Protected shorelines will be clean of floating grass, allowing anglers to dance top water plugs over skinny grass flats, shallow rocks and oysters. Big mature trout will be hunting their last meal before retreating to cover and deep water at first light.

A topwater bait imitates a wounded mullet or shad chased up against a shoreline by packs of trout during the night. Throw plugs that you can see at a distance; visual awareness is essential in timing your hookset, as well as aligning your technique with the soul of the ocean. Look for flats where there are signs of baitfish. Surface action, birds and good tidal flow are a good start. Later in the day, move towards deeper drop offs with smaller soft plastics like the 3”DOA CAL SHAD in natural color patterns, imitating pin perch for all-day action.

farahflounder Retro Lessons In Summer Fishing

Summer flounder are great targets around piers and docks, this flat fatty was jigged up on a DOA 3” CAL Shad glow/pink.

Flatfish

Fantastic summer flounder fishing can be as close as the dock you are standing on! Flounder are mostly a strategic ambush predator. They love to position themselves along the pilings of piers and docks. This is where small shrimp and minnows gather. They will lay just down current of the posts waiting for you to jig a small soft plastic along their sight path.

Step carefully so you don’t rock the dock and to keep your presence unknown. Flounder seem to be more aggressive towards bright colors. White, chartreuse, and pink have always been a coastal favorite. An old timer once told me never use a black net, always a green one! Black nets will send flounder on a bolting run as it looks like a dolphin. They seem to swim right into a green one.

Summer Redfish

Summertime belongs to the redfish! Chasing redfish during these long summer days can be an all day event. First light finds them digging and hunting the extreme shallows for crabs, shrimp and small baitfish. Before the sun gets bright and the shadows of birds spook surface mullet, anglers will find reds up so shallow that their tails will be cutting the surface, alerting us to their location. Walking side current will allow you to sneak up on them and project a perfect cast ahead of them.

My best baits are the DOA Shrimp and soft plastics rigged with a very light 1/16 oz. jig head, both for silent and natural sounding entry. Sight casting for reds will teach many lessons in how fish react to fishermen. At times you will watch redfish bolt towards lures at first sight, but most of the time they are very spooky and dart away from loud baits hitting the water. Cast well past the fish and bring the bait into their path. Redfish usually have a two foot sight awareness in front of them. They are used to scanning for food sources jumping up in front of their faces.

As the sun rises, switch to topwater plugs and make grid pattern casts over the flats. Scattered redfish will explode on the plugs, and allow anglers to cover large areas of water. Remember, redfish have bottom facing mouths. This means they must pounce down or turn over to get the bait off of the surface. I always let them bend the rod tip before I set the hook with topwater plugs.

The best and time proven bait for summertime redfish is the gold spoon! This lure perhaps dates back to the beginning of mankind, as bone and shell tied together to bring fish to hand and mouth. The flash and vibration of the glittering spoon awakes redfish from their resting places in thick grass. It imitates both the flash of perch and mullet, but mainly persuades them it is a fleeing crab, their favorite meal. I work my spoons with a fast retrieve with hard jerks and flutters. I adjust my presentation as needed to a light fluttering and stroking of the spoon over the bottom as well. You need to be loose and try new techniques to match the aggression and moods of the reds.

Target areas void of boat traffic, with grass and sand mixed bottom. Most redfish will be found in areas containing a good variety of bird life. Each species feeds on different things; a variety of birds means a buffet of redfish food!

Skip the bait stands and get a head start on your SUMMER FISHING! These lessons passed down from anglers of our past still hold true to our hearts and stringers here along the Texas Gulf Coast. Head out with a few pockets full of these specialized baits, concentrate on fishing and leave your stress on the beach. Summertime memories seem to last forever long past our last casts.

The Good, Bad and Ugly

June 29th, 2019

dillred The Good, Bad and Ugly

James R “Chezo” Cesarini, PE.

By Capt. David C. Dillman

galvestonbaycharterfishing.com | 832-228-8012

As a writer, sometimes we suffer from what is known as “ writer’s cramp.” Coming up with material is not as easy as one would think. I always try to pen something that keeps my readers engaged. I definitely suffered through writer’s cramp, for this July/August article. This writing will focus on events that happened in May, first “the bad and ugly” and then “the good,” as I try to remain positive!

On the afternoon of May 10, 2019 a tug, pushing two barges, and a tanker collided in the Houston Ship Channel. The incident lead to the barge spilling a estimated 9,000 barrels of a substance called reformate. This caused a total closure of the channel, along with a seafood consumption advisory for the middle and upper portions of Galveston Bay. How an accident like this can happen is anyone’s guess. The “saving grace” is that this product floats and it evaporates quickly. Once it is gone from the water, there is no long term effect on environment or marine life. Couple this with the ITC fire earlier this spring and it has been eventful for the upper portion of Galveston Bay.

dilltroutdrum The Good, Bad and Ugly

Eagle Point VIP Robert Drew

Then if all this was not enough, Galveston Bay received a large dumping of fresh water from Lake Conroe and Lake Livingston. Then to top it off, we had sustained winds from the E-SE gusting at times to 25 knots for over two weeks. This of course did not allow the bay system to “flush” the water out through the Galveston jetties. The salinity levels dropped to below 5 parts per thousand in many areas, except in far East Bay, Lower Galveston Bay, the Jetties and West Bay. Now enough of “the bad and ugly,” and onto the “good!”

The “good” to all this is that the bay is slowly but finally clearing up! Fishing has and will continue to be good in those areas not effected by the runoff. The big question is when will fish return to their normal pattern in Galveston Bay? Fish naturally return to the same areas year in and year out. Every incoming tide from now on will push the fish into their “normal areas” for July and August. These areas include the shell reefs of the channel, adjacent gas wells and some areas of Trinity Bay. These fish will even push farther North towards the middle of August, barring any kind of major weather system. Other “good” news is the bait situation at Eagle Point Fishing Camp is getting better. By July their live bait supply should be great, with both shrimp and croaker. Also if your in the mood for some fresh table shrimp, fresh off the boat, give them a call. They can be reached at 281 339-1131 for fishing updates, bait supply and table shrimp.

Silver Kings and More On South Padre Island

June 29th, 2019

tarpon lee Silver Kings and More On South Padre Island

Capt. Lee Alvarez with a 100 lb tarpon caught near South Padre Island with Capt. Brian Barrera.

By Capt. Lee Alvarez

SouthPadreIslandFishingTrips.com | (956) 330-8654

“No, don’t hold too tight to the reel. Cause it’s a big one boy. It’s gonna pull you down now.”

That happens to be one of my favorite lines on the song Pull by Blind Melon.  It’s also exactly what was racing through my mind as a 100 lb tarpon made its first appearance on an epic jump while fishing with Capt. Brian Barrera on South Padre Island.  In an instant, with a perfectly embedded hook in its upper lip, the Silver King made its first run 125 yards parallel to the jetty towards the Gulf before another spectacular aerial show.

In the last issue, I concluded my article by mentioning the 2019 Shallow Sport Tournament on SPI.  This year, I had the pleasure of guiding Team Sportsman, consisting of Rob Youker, his 11 year old grandson McCaden Wolf, JR Torres and his daughter Crystal Torres Brice, all from College Station.  Rob is President of The Sportsman Boats in San Benito.  The Sportsman is the only authorized Shallow Sport dealer in the Rio Grande Valley and both companies have been honored as leaders in the boating industry.  Rob has led this 3rd generation company to a Top 100 Marine Dealership Award in North America for 14 consecutive years.

I met the team early in the morning at Jim’s Pier on SPI and we immediately began discussing the day’s strategy.  A few sips of coffee later and a couple of ideas traded back and forth and we were on our way to join the ant line of boats en route to check-in behind Louie’s Backyard.  We wanted to make sure we had good positioning before the 6:30 am shotgun start.  If you’ve never been in the midst of 250+ boats simultaneously racing off to their favorite fishing holes, then add it to your bucket list of things to do on the Texas coast.

Wind was a major factor this year as anglers dealt with stiff breezes in excess of 30 mph.  As I said in the previous article, I like me a little bit of gusting wind.  Team Sportsman member JR Torres also seemed to favor the breeze as he hauled in a 27 15/16” tournament winning redfish that topped the scales at 8.22 lbs and earned Team Sportsman a 1st Place finish in the Redfish Division.  This was JR’s first fishing tournament and we faced some heavy hitters as competition.  How cool is that?

Fishing on South Padre has been nothing short of exceptional as summer has officially kicked off.  Redfish action has been solid during the afternoon outgoing tide using a DOA 5.5” Jerk Bait in Texas Croaker on a 1/8 oz. jighead.  When redfish aren’t as eager to eat a lure, drift fishing the flats with cut ballyhoo has been productive.  In the cooler and deeper waters off the ICW, speckled trout can be found on both live and artificial baits.  Target visible structure while slowly crawling a lure on the bottom until you feel that thump. Black drum have been schooling up in the channels of South Bay and can make for an action packed day of fishing.  These herds of fish have been prevalent on both an incoming and outgoing tide.  At the jetties, kingfish are also beginning to show up and as I mentioned earlier, so are the tarpon.  If you’d like an opportunity at landing a Silver King on the Texas coast, give Capt. Brian Barrera a call!  Until next time, keep fishin.’

Sun Protection Out on the Water

April 30th, 2019

specktrout Sun Protection Out on the WaterMake protection from the sun a priority

By Capt. David C. Dillman

GalvestonBayCharterFishing.com | 832-228-8012

As a child, I never worried about problems associated with the sun and it’s rays. I grew up around water all my life, from swimming in our backyard pool during my early years, to spending my weekends fishing Matagorda at the family cabin. Then I got my first set of “wheels” and it was off to the beach every chance we got, as long as the sun was shining. After college, I worked a nine year stint with the YMCA. Outdoor activities were a big part of the job. Over the last 30 years I have owned and operated a fishing charter service.

Once May came around, I can remember watching television and seeing those ads for Coppertone Sun Tanning Lotion. These ads would continue all the way through Summer. I was one of those that didn’t need much help achieving that dark tan. During these three decades, the 60s, 70s, and 80s, not many of these commercials advertised the use of a sun blocking product, only tanning lotions and oils. The harmful effects of the sun’s rays were very seldom or at all mentioned.

Last August my bottom lip developed severe blisters. I fished four days in a row, in the Gulf, prior to the breakout. I went to one of those urgent care clinics and the doctor attributed the blisters to severe sunburn of the lip. This had never happened to me before but I did not question the diagnosis. After a couple weeks of medicine, blisters went away but my lip was still tender. This past March, the problem started again. This time, under the advice of a friend, I went to UTMB Dermatology. They gave me some medicine to help heal the blisters, but also ordered a biopsy of my bottom lip. After the results, I am now on a topical chemotherapy treatment, which I began in early April. All of this was caused by damage from the sun.

During the past 25 years, much more knowledge has come to light about the harmful effects from over exposure to the sun. These days, the use of sunscreen and sun protective clothing is advertised across all media platforms. I seldom used any protection at all from the sun. I can now honestly say, “take precautions from the sun!”

Trout Fishing Starts

I always called May and June the official start of “trout fishing” in Galveston Bay. For myself and some others, the “season” never stops. But starting in May, one will notice a increase in boats on the weekends and by June, people will be out seeking trout in earnest. Everything seems to fall in place for some great fishing. Lower and Middle Galveston Bay, East Bay and even Trinity Bay should all produce nice catches of trout. The closure of the boat ramps under the Clear Lake Bridge will impact lots of boaters. Eagle Point Fishing Camp is a great alternative. They boast a three lane ramp, with ample dockage, secure parking, live bait, tackle, snacks, drinks, ice and clean restrooms to accommodate your angling or boating needs for the day. They can be reached at (281) 339-1131 for updates on conditions and bait supply.

Remember to be courteous on the water and protect yourself from over exposure of the sun. See ya on the bay!!

Lower Laguna Madre Fishing

April 30th, 2019

By Capt. Lee Alvarez

SouthPadreIslandFishingTrips.com | (956) 330-8654

lee trout Lower Laguna Madre Fishing

Nick Cantu with an impressive Lower Laguna Madre speckled trout caught with Capt. Alvarez.

There really is no better time of the year for me than right now. Baseball season has begun, summer is looming on the horizon and fishing in the Lower Laguna Madre near South Padre Island is just about as good as it gets. Throw in the fact that you can once again fish in comfortable clothing, and there really isn’t a whole lot to complain about. That is unless you don’t like a little bit of extra wind.

May and June in South Texas also means strong winds, which can sometimes blow in the 35-40 mph range. Increasing temperatures combined with hard winds on the shallow flats of the LLM often brings good fishing. When water is blown out and potholes or grass beds are nearly impossible to see, long casts with 10 lb or 12 lb FINS Windtamer Braid will get your lures out further from the boat.

This gives an angler a better opportunity to hook up when blind casting. Maintaining a good distance from fish is critical to keep from spooking them and windy days typical of this time of year will help increase that distance. In these types of conditions, one of the easiest and most effective methods for locating fish is to use a soft plastic lure worked under a popping cork.

One of my favorite techniques is to tie on a 3” D.O.A. Shrimp (Glow/Holographic Flake Belly or Nite Glow/Chartreuse) with a 1/8 to 1/16 ounce jighead fished under an oval-shaped cork. This method (which works best in 3-5 feet of murky to off colored water) has been producing great numbers of keeper sized speckled trout for my clients. Under windy conditions, popping corks make a little extra commotion for your lure and help get it noticed. With the brightest cork that you can find, give several quick jerks of the rod tip to pop the floater and let it sit still. Repeat. Vary the length of time you allow the cork to rest in the water. A fish will eat your lure when the cork is still and upright and your bait is suspended in the water column.

On many of my recent charters, my clients have been hooking up to solid 18 – 26 inch trout using a D.O.A. Shrimp tied to 24 inches of fluorocarbon leader line under a cork. Many of the trout that have been caught have been spitting up shrimp which we have perfectly matched with our lures.

The 2019 Shallow Sport Boat Owners Tournament on South Padre Island is just around the corner and this year’s tournament has some exciting new rule changes. In an effort to promote conservation, Shallow Sport has decided to change the format of this year’s tournament from an individual to a team competition. This is one of the largest boat owner tournaments in the state (263 boats registered last year) and this awesome measure will dramatically decrease the number of fish killed during the tourney and will keep our bays healthy and stocked for future generations of anglers to enjoy.

Follow Capt. Lee on social media:

FB: Capt. Lee Alvarez’ South Padre Fishing Charters

IG: leandro_alvareziii

Upper Texas Coast Spring Fishing

February 28th, 2019

By Capt. Steve Soulewww.ultimatedetailingllc.com

sight cast redfish Upper Texas Coast Spring Fishing

Capt. Steve Soule caught this nice red while fly fishing with Capt. Clay Daniel Sheward.

Spring on the upper Texas coast brings warming temperatures, to both air and water. We have longer daylight periods and typically much more sunshine, accompanied by vigorous winds and choppy bays. It also is the time when multiple food sources return to our bay waters and shallows, flowing new life into areas of the bays that may have seemed desolate and devoid of life during the winter. The combination of springtime transitional patterns and occurrences can, and often do, confuse and complicate the plans of bay anglers.

TEMPERATURE

This time of the year, we are still in a back and forth battle with passing cold fronts and swinging temperatures, though the greater trend is warming. With this in mind, we often have to change plans based on temperature. It is key to remember that as air temperatures drop below those of the water, fish will tend to move slightly deeper, and as air warms to temperatures greater than water, they tend to move shallow. This is in part due to the comfort level of the predators, but to an even larger degree, this pattern has to do with following their food sources.

Let’s throw in a little twist to this generalization. The bottom make up of the bay areas that you fish can also play a large role in temperature as well as comfort and availability of food sources for predators. Soft or darker colored mud bottom, especially in relatively shallow water will warm faster on sunny days. This can create comfort zones for both bait species and predators alike. So, as much as we watch temperatures, we also need to be aware of the amount of sun and bay floor make up to help focus our efforts on productive areas.

sunlight Upper Texas Coast Spring Fishing

The longer days in spring trigger spawning activity for many species of fish.

INCREASING SUNLIGHT

Photo period is an often overlooked part of transitional periods throughout the year. Photo period, the number of hours of daylight versus night, triggers many things beyond the obvious additional heating of the water temperature. It’s well known that this is one of the triggers for spawning periods of fish. It also plays a large role in the timing of baitfish and other prey species returning to various areas of the bays. Coincidental timing I suppose, but since most all plant life requires sunlight to grow, its a well timed natural occurrence for the return or emergence of many of the smaller fish and crustaceans right when their food sources become more prevalent. Here’s an interesting thought about photo period and longer hours of daylight during spring. Even at the same daily temperature, longer days will yield greater warming than shorter days. This helps with the overall warming trend even on days when temps aren’t significantly warmer, purely because of the extended hours of daylight.

COMPARING SPRING & FALL

Keeping in mind that this is a transitional season, spring is one that requires more patience compared to fall. During our fall transition, the bays are at the peak of life, with numerous prey species readily available and in abundance. Much of the activity in fall centers around the mass migrations and attempted exodus from the shallows first,and then from deeper waters. Because the triggers for feeding are falling temperature, photo period decrease and changes in wind and tide, the ensuing patterns become fairly predictable.

In spring, things just don’t happen all at once. There are many factors that affect the return of bait species, and unfortunately, they don’t all happen at the same time. There are counter forces that can slow and change the timing of when they occur. With many of the returning species of bait, we are dependent on favorable offshore conditions along with onshore wind flow to bring them into the bays. Some, on the other hand must move to more open water from deeper inland, in creeks and bayous. Timing and location of these events is different every year.

THE WIND

In spring, wind plays a huge role in many ways. Wind can have an obvious effect on the location and supply of many smaller prey animals. As much as heavy south or southeast winds can make our fishing days challenging, these are much needed to speed the return of many offshore species to the bays. Even though the exact timing and amount of any given species hitting certain areas of the bays is very unpredictable, there are some things we can count on nearly every year.

The gulf passes and outlets will be the first to see many species and typically in the greatest quantities. Shortly after, the adjacent shorelines and nearby structures will gradually blossom with new life. Similarly, the upper reaches of the bays will begin to see an increase in bait flows that seek slightly higher salinities returning from low salinity areas up creeks and bayous. These are great starting points in our search for fish, knowing that these areas will consistently have the earliest increases in food supply for the predators that we seek.

Beyond the challenges of finding fish, springtime winds can make fishing unpleasant, difficult and often unsafe. Some quick thoughts on wind; how it effects fish and anglers when it comes to deciding where to fish. Logic tells us that wind can move many of the small species, especially when it works in unison with tides. Winds can drive schools of small bait to wind blown shorelines, and make movement or escape from predators very difficult. This can and will create something of a buffet line for predators who can more easily move and prey upon small species.

These shorelines are often overlooked, and some days they should be for safety. North and west shorelines that see the brunt of the spring winds are great under moderate wind days and days following hard onshore wind flows. On the days that the winds are just too high to fish these areas, it makes much more sense to fish protected shores. Again, look for the shorelines and areas that are nearer to gulf passes or upper reaches of the bays where creek flows will deposit concentrations of food.

Keep in mind that spring winds often can create more than just a comfort problem for anglers, but often a safety concern, making certain areas just not worth the effort or risk to fish.

mullet

Topwaters and plugs that imitate mullet are good choices at the start of spring. Downsize to smaller lures later in spring when predators are keying in on newly hatched baitfish.

LURES FOR SPRING

I couldn’t talk this much about springtime transition and food sources without mentioning what types of lures to throw and some timing aspects to consider. This is one of the best times to fish bigger mullet imitations, especially topwater baits, but you will often need to be patient to find success. Timing is often the key here, tides and moon position can make a big difference in getting bites.

As much as I would love to do nothing but throw topwater lures, some days you have to scale down and get lower in the water column to get bites. If you find yourself surrounded by smaller baitfish, it can be well worth the time to try some small plastic swimming tails on lighter jig heads. There are also times when only very light or natural colored baits work when all else fails. Matching the hatch isn’t always necessary but getting close to the size can help.

Something else fun to try during spring are lipped twitch baits, like those from Rapala and Bomber. The erratic darting action and slow rise or suspension on the pause can often be the trigger to get stubborn fish to bite.

TACTICS

Though spring can present challenges in many ways, it can bring equal rewards for those who pull together the many puzzle pieces. Watching tides and winds and planning accordingly can put you in the midst of schools of fish hungrily feasting on ever increasing supplies of small food.

Be prepared to adjust your plans, be thorough in your search and coverage of areas. If you are in an area that you feel sure there are fish, don’t be afraid to stick around and adjust your tactics. Some days a lure change can make all the difference.

Don’t let failure in one spot prevent you from trying other areas, and make great notes about areas that are showing abundant food. Many times the food sources will show before the predators, and knowing this will provide you with great fishing areas to return to later.

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

     

Boat and fishing gear checklist

February 28th, 2019

texas fishing Boat and fishing gear checklist

Take the proper preparations with your gear and boat before fishing really heats up.

By Capt. Joe Kent

Spring presents an opportunity to visit about preparations needed to help ensure a trouble free time on the water during the best months for fishing that lie ahead.

During March and April many anglers and or boaters will use their equipment for the first time this year.  Many will have the unpleasant experience of launching their boat and encountering problems that ruin what would otherwise be a pleasant day on the water.

The equipment we are going to discuss includes the boat, motor and fishing tackle.  Each of those are vulnerable to damage when sitting up for long periods of time.  Finding a problem before heading out on that first trip of the season will save a lot of frustrations and expenses.

Let’s start with your boat and motor.  The number one problem according to marine mechanics is fuel that has been in the tank too long, especially untreated ethanol gasoline.  If your boat has been dormant most of the winter fresh fuel should be added along with a fuel treatment designed to enhance the fuel and absorb any water.

Ethanol based gasoline tends to break down and absorb moisture from the air, leading to expensive repairs if not addressed before running your engine.

The engine oil (for four-stroke engines) should be changed as well as the lower unit oil on all marine engines.  If you change the lower unit oil yourself, check for water. After setting up, if water is present it likely will drain to the bottom and come out first when the drain plus is removed.

Milky colored lower unit oil indicates the presence of water.  In either case, do not run the engine in gear until the source for the water is determined and repaired.  Most of the time it is a leaking seal.

Check your steering cables and fuel lines.  If cracks or noted in the fuel line, replace it.

Confirm that your bilge pump is working.  If your battery is over three years old, replace it.  Chances are it is not going to last much longer.

Before making that first trip to the ramp, crank the engine using an earmuff type fresh water flushing device.  Let it run for ten minutes and if no problems detected you are ready to head out.

While all of the above are good pointers for avoiding problems, nothing beats a check-up by your mechanic before making that first trip.  Remember, an ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of trouble.

Close behind in importance is your fishing equipment and tackle. They should undergo a thorough inspection before that first fishing trip. Replace the line on your reels if they have been sitting up all winter.  Using a light penetrating oil such as WD-40, clean the outside of your reel and use a light reel oil to lubricate the internal parts.  Check the eyes on your rods for corrosion and clean or replace if necessary.

Clean out your tackle box and toss any rusty or corroded lures and hooks.  Also, check your supply of tackle.  Over the winter we often forget about items needed  for the upcoming season.

Utilizing time during March and April to prepare for the summer fishing season is time well spent.

Fishing the Lower Laguna Madre with D.O.A. Lures

January 1st, 2019

DSC 0033 2 Fishing the Lower Laguna Madre with D.O.A. Lures

This beautiful Lower Laguna Madre trout couldn’t resist the D.O.A. 4″ C.A.L. Jerkbait in Candy Corn.

By Kelly Groce

Back in August of 2018, I was in Port Aransas celebrating my father’s birthday for the weekend. On Sunday, I decided to drop some Gulf Coast Mariner Magazines at local businesses, one of them being Port “A” Outfitters. I see a man walking down the stairs who I know is Mark Nichols, the creator and owner of D.O.A. Lures. I’ve always been a huge fan of his lures, especially that dang shrimp. He’s walking right by my car so I have to say something.

“Excuse me, are you the D.O.A. man?”

“I sure am.” Mark responds.

We shake hands and chat about fishing in Stuart, Fla. where he resides. I hand him a copy of the magazine before we part ways. My day was made.

Fast forward a few months… it’s just another day at the office here in Seabrook. The phone rings and Christmas came early. Capt. Brian Barrera, who is a fishing guide and also works for D.O.A. Lures called to invite me to their 2018 Outdoor Writers Event in South Padre for four days. Without hesitation, I said I’ll be there.

The day of the trip comes, I’m listening to the Bite Me: Texas Saltwater Fishing podcast for the majority of the drive down (if you don’t listen to this podcast, you should) and daydreaming about drifting clear water with grass and sand pockets as far as the eye can see. I’ve been to South Padre three or four times prior, but it was always to go surf, never to fish.

48238147 10211192088193046 4257466532084318208 n Fishing the Lower Laguna Madre with D.O.A. Lures

The view every morning before we took off for a full day of fishing and fun.

I pull up to home base for the next few days, which is a beautiful house right on the pristine waters of the Lower Laguna Madre. When I walk in, I’m immediately greeted by D.O.A. Lures employee/local fishing guide/fish slayer Capt. Brian Barrera (if catching Texas snook and tarpon is on your fishing bucket list, Brian is your guy). As I’m relaxing and meeting fascinating people from all over the country and the industry, Mark pulls up by boat (of course he had been fishing the next canal over, catching redfish and trout). I see Mark and say “Remember me from the Port “A” Outfitters parking lot?”

He says, “Of course I do, welcome!”

The sun starts to set and a delicious feast of authentic pastor and beef tacos are being cooked on the deck overlooking the water by local restaurant, Mr. Taco. We are given D.O.A. Kits that contain their family of lures such as TerrorEyz, Swimmin’ Mullet, Shrimp, Jerk Bait, Shad, Paddle Tails and more. Capt. Brian informs everyone who their fishing guide would be for the next day, we talk a little longer and eventually everyone makes their way to bed.

DAY 1 OF FISHING
Cup of coffee… check. Breakfast taco… check. Camera and fishing gear… check. I walk downstairs and there waiting for us is a fleet of boats, mostly Shallow Sports, to take us fishing for the day. I had the pleasure of going out with local guide and super nice guy, Capt. Joel Ramos. My fishing partner was Tommy Thomson, regional sales manager at Shimano. The weather is perfect, a little overcast with a high of 75 degrees. We drive for about 30 minutes, then Capt. Joel Ramos stops, shuts off the motor and says we’re going to do a drift here. It is just what I imagined… as far as you can see clear water spotted with sand pockets and grass. I started throwing D.O.A. Lures 4” C.A.L. Jerk Bait in one of their newer colors Texas Croaker. It doesn’t take long and we all start catching trout cast after cast. Capt. Joel hooked up onto a pretty 22” trout on the 4” C.A.L. Jerk Bait in Candy Corn. It appeared, the fish liked the contrast of that bright orange lure color. The night before, we were given some D.O.A. 3” C.A.L. Shad Tails in a new color that is not yet named. It’s a brown with gold flake top with a pearl colored bottom. I switched to this bait and caught a few decent trout on that lure as well. Tommy threw on the D.O.A. topwater, the PT-7 (featured on the cover) and had a huge trout blow-up on it, that was pretty exciting. The PT-7 is a fun topwater to work with a lot of action. Capt. Joel wanted to get us on some reds next, so we went to a real shallow spot along a shoreline. I stuck with the 4” C.A.L. Jerk Bait in Texas Croaker, and Capt. Joel stuck with the 4” C.A.L. Jerk Bait in Candy Corn. 22 was Cap. Joel’s number that day, because after a few minutes at the spot, he hooks up to a nice 22” redfish. We get some footage of the fish and let him go. Shortly after, I hook up on a red I’d say was about 20” on the Texas Croaker Jerkbait. The water was so clear it was pretty neat to see the lure hit the water and then a flash which was the redfish chasing after it. After a full day of fun and fishing, we head back to casa de D.O.A.

The D.O.A. legend, Mark Nichols and myself on an evening boat ride.

That afternoon, everyone is sitting around trading fish stories from the day. Mark points to me and says, “Want to go for a boat ride?”

“Yes sir” I say.

We board his Maverick Mirage skiff, which is one beautiful boat. We go for a cruise and enjoy the stunning South Padre Island sunset. SO… here I am sitting on Mark Nichol’s boat with an ice cold Corona overlooking the Lower Laguna Madre while listening to him talk about fishing and his life. Mark is incredibly knowledgable about fishing and has lived a life full of adventure. I learned that Mark grew up in Houston and his dad had a shrimp boat on Clear Lake. That 45 minutes on his boat is truly a moment I’ll never forget.

DAY 2 OF FISHING
I get paired with Capt. Lee Alvarez. He was born and raised in the area and knows these waters like the back of his hand. I felt like I was getting special treatment since it was just Capt. Lee and myself on his boat this day. There was a front coming in that night, so it was overcast and rain was on the horizon. I had to throw that Candy Corn Jerkbait after the success we had on it the day before. We did some drifts and caught tons of trout on it. We were drifting this one area and a school of about five beautiful upper slot redfish swam right in front of the boat. We saw the school of reds again and we started sight casting at them, but didn’t land one. Either way, very cool seeing fish like that. The rain started coming down pretty good, but the fish were still biting, so I was a happy camper. After all, a little water never hurt no one.

On the ride back to the house, I was gathering my thoughts on the past few days of fishing. Myself alone, caught probably 70+ trout and some nice redfish in just two days on nothing but D.O.A. Lures. D.O.A. stands for Deadly On Anything, and after the non-stop catching I had experienced, that slogan is without a doubt true. These lures are like candy to fish, they can’t say no. An absolute must-have for any angler’s tackle box.

That evening, it was Mark’s birthday. The crew had got him a cake that was decorated with the D.O.A. logo and lures. Some tasty burgers were being grilled on the deck while we continued to celebrate and enjoy each other’s company. My face was starting to hurt after all the laughs.

The next day, it was difficult to head back home. After the few days I got to spend with Mark and the rest of the D.O.A. Lures crew, I must say his lures are amazing, but this group of people are even better. The camaraderie I experienced was bar none. Not only did I learn a lot, but I left South Padre feeling like I had a whole new family.

The stars aligned that day I met Mark in that parking lot in Port Aransas. I never thought I would run into him, let alone be invited to South Padre to fish with him for several days. Mark’s passion for fishing and his energy is contagious. He has lit a fire for me to continue pursing my passion of fishing, writing, and photography. And for that I will forever be grateful to Mark.

Huge thanks to Mark Nichols and the entire D.O.A. Lures crew for an incredible trip. I’ll be back to catch my Texas snook. Until next time amigos!

Mark Nichols and Dave Stewart hold a massive black drum they caught on a D.O.A. C.A.L. Paddle Tail. Photo by Danno Wise

Capt. Brian Barrera stuck this beautiful 28″ trout using the D.O.A. 4″ C.A.L. Jerkbait in Candy Corn. Photo by Ed Zyak

Ed Zyak with a nice 24″ snook caught with Capt. Brian Barrera. Photo by Capt. Brian Barrera

New Year, New Beginnings

January 1st, 2019

GraceSutherland New Year, New Beginnings

Grace Sutherland with a nice red

By Capt. David C. Dillman

galvestonbaycharterfishing.com | 832-228-8012

As we usher in 2019, I always reflect on the past year. I think of the trials and tribulations that I faced in 2018, but it was also a very rewarding year. I now set my sights forward and fully embrace the challenges and rewards of this coming year.

 My January starts at the 2019 Houston Boat, Sport and Travel Show. This event takes place at the NRG Center, Jan. 4-13. If you are in the market for a new boat or RV, you should attend this event. For those looking to re-power, come check out the latest technology in outboards. I will be at the Eagle Point Fishing Camp booth, numbers 612-613 throughout the show. Stop by, and I will be there to answer all questions about boating, boat storage, and of course fishing! The rest of my January will be filled with a much needed vacation to the blue waters of the Caribbean.

The beginning of the year, is also the time to get your boat seaworthy for this coming year. If your boat needs to go to a shop for service, this is the time. Do an inventory of what is stored in your boat. It is amazing how much “stuff” one can accumulate in your boat‘s storage hatches. Discard all non-serviceable items and check your PFDs for any defects.

On the fishing scene, look for continued good action on speckled trout along with scattered redfish. The usual winter locations, Clear Lake, Kemah/Seabrook flats, and the northern areas of Galveston Bay should hold fish. West Galveston Bay is also well known for its winter fishing.

Speaking of trout, one should keep abreast of the TPWD proposal of decreasing the trout daily bag limit. They should release their recommendation sometime in January. Hopefully, the Houston/Galveston area can make it through this winter without a major freeze event. If so, this spring we should see some really great fishing according to the fall gill net surveys from the TPWD.

I hope everyone had a great holiday season this past year. I look forward to seeing you at The Houston Boat Show.

Winter Redfish Patterns

January 1st, 2019

sheward Winter Redfish Patterns

Capt. Clay Sheward with a chunky 28″ redfish on the fly.

By Capt. Steve Soule

It’s cold, damp and dreary: the kind of weather that makes it hard to find motivation to get up and going. We are deep into daylight savings time, with short days and not nearly enough sunlight to fuel my tank, but somehow there is still some motivation to be found for winter fishing.

The bright sunny days are often few and far between. Cloudy skies and damp conditions seems to dominate our weather patterns between December and February. Where is the “upside” to this? Well, fortunately for all of us fish heads, they still have to eat.

By no means does this cover the entire weather pattern spectrum of winter, but for the shallow water enthusiast, we can start with two basic condition sets that we must learn to contend with: sunny skies or cloudy skies. With these two basic conditions, there are other trends that tend to coincide with them.

Bright & Blue

Sunny skies are typically the trend after the passage of a front, and with the bright skies an initial strong wind flow and tide movement. Sunny skies are great for the sight fisher, allowing the angler to see and target the fish. Aided by the clearer waters of winter, fish can be much more easily spotted in the shallows with bright overhead skies. This is not always an indicator of our ability to catch them, but the ability to see them is the first step when sight casting.

A Stealthy Approach

Light wind, sunny skies and clear water will require a very stealthy approach from the angler as these conditions make fish much more vulnerable and aware of potential threats to their safety. Stop well short of the areas you intend to fish or believe are holding fish and work slowly and methodically until you locate them. Loud noises, boat wakes and other pressure waves that we create can alert fish to our presence. Keep in mind that when you get a bite its definitely time to slow down and work the area more thoroughly. One of the greatest parts of winter fishing is that when you find one fish, you have likely found an area holding many fish.

Dark & Stormy

So, if sunny skies and light wind make for great sight fishing, but likely only happen once every 3-5 days, what do you do when the clouds and cooler temperatures roll back in? You must learn where the fish move as the temperatures and tides drop. It may require a fair amount of knowledge of the area you’re fishing, but falling temperatures and falling tides actually generate a fairly predictable pattern from fish.

It is important to understand about how changing temperatures effect fish movement. As a general rule, during the cooler months, if the air is warming and the water is cold, fish will move shallow as soon as the air temperature exceeds the water temperature. Much the same, when the air temperatures drop below the water temperature during cooling periods, fish will tend to move towards deeper water. Knowing this basic principle will help guide you during the winter months.

Cloudy skies have settled in, seeing the fish is virtually out of the question. Temperatures are cooler and the tides are low; where have the fish moved? Here is when you need to understand the structures in the area. Contour depth changes, reefs, and bay floor make up all play a big role in where fish will move during these conditions.

Typically, open water adjacent to the shallow marsh is the first depth contour change that will allow slight insulation from cooling water. This is also where you are likely to find some added structure like oyster reefs. Look for areas with dense dark mud as it will not only hold many small food sources, but will maintain a slight advantage in warmth as well.

Sunny vs Cloudy Days 

There will be other notable differences in these two primary patterns. Periods of sunny skies, light wind and clear water will dictate the use of smaller lures and flies, stealthy approaches and much more subtle presentations to catch fish.

When the skies are cloudy and wind has returned, and especially when temperatures are falling, it often pays off greatly to increase the size of your presentation. This is when mullet imitations can bring huge catches, not just in numbers, but often in the size of the fish. Topwater “dog walking” lures and slow sinking, suspending finesse lures and twitch baits can provide rod jerking strikes that you won’t soon forget.

catch2000 Winter Redfish Patterns

MirrOlure’s Catch 2000 is a great subsurface bait for winter.

For winter sight fishing my go-to lures would be a dark colored small swim or paddle tail soft plastic rigged on 1/16th to 1/4 ounce screw lock jig heads or a hand-tied Buggs lure. When the clouds roll in, it’s tough to find me not fishing a top water like a Super Spook or Spook Jr., or a She Dog or She Pup. I like natural colors like white, bone and chrome for clear water. Use darker colors for dirtier water or cloudy conditions.

When it’s time to drop below the surface, the Catch 2000 or Corky series are hard to beat. Pink, Texas chicken and chartreuse/gold are my go-to colors. Some interesting fun can also be found with shallow running twitch or crank baits. Again, all I can say is hang on! The strikes can take your breath away.

Putting It All Together

There is so much more to winter fishing than I can possibly cover here, but understanding the basic temperature change and fish movement will get you started. Digging deeper, you will start to notice that barometric pressure also plays a huge role, and understanding tides and structures are like the interlocking pieces of the puzzle.

Don’t let winter fishing intimidate you! It’s like any other time of year and just requires a different knowledge base to create success. As an added bonus, fishing during the clear water and low tide periods during winter may also provide you with the best education you will get all year.

Take this opportunity to learn more about bay floor structures, such as shallow areas, reefs, guts and deeper channel flows. This will help your overall understanding of where and how fish move around the bays.

Galveston Bay: 2018 Past and Present

November 1st, 2018

dillman1 Galveston Bay: 2018 Past and Present

Joe Harris and David Hagemeyer

By Capt. David C. Dillman

galvestonbaycharterfishing.com | 832-228-8012

The Holiday season is here. Another year has come and gone and folks will begin making their plans for the holidays. If you enjoy the outdoors, fishing or hunting, this is prime time! Hunting begins in earnest and fishing can be the best of the year!

This past January and February, we experienced true winter weather along the Upper Coast. Wind, rain, and freezing precipitation greeted us throughout these two months. Some fish kills were reported, but nothing substantial along the Upper Coast.

During March and April, we did experience some late season fronts. As the weather stabilized, spring-like weather arose, as did the water temperatures. Good catches of trout came from Lower and East Galveston bay. Everything was shaping up for an excellent year of fishing.

May and June arrived and the weather took a turn for the best. Fishing in East Bay got even better, with excellent catches of speckled trout coming from the reefs. During the latter part of May, trout made their move to the middle areas of the bay. The trout catches increased around Eagle Point. In June, the wells located off of Eagle Point produced excellent catches of trout and redfish.

July and August blew in along with inconsistent winds. On any given day, the wind would blow from two or three different directions and velocity. This curtailed what was excellent trout fishing. Those who concentrated their effort on other species, were rewarded. I myself went after redfish and the action was outstanding! Winds finally settled in late August, and the trout catches rebounded, along with great catches of sand/gulf trout and drum.

This bring us to September and October. In my last article, I stated these two months were the “transition period” for Galveston Bay. Indeed it was! During the first week of September, everything was good and fish were falling into their seasonal change. Then, the Galveston area experienced rain, almost, if not every day in September. We did not have a major flush of freshwater into our bay, but in some locations, 100 year old rainfall totals were broken for the month.

dillman2 Galveston Bay: 2018 Past and Present

Maco Fowlkes, Gage Fowlkes and Mike Bishop.

In October, Florida was hit with a catastrophic hurricane, which caused our tide levels to rise 2 feet above normal. The high tides have curtailed catches. Look for tide levels and fishing to return to a normal fall pattern as more cold fronts occur.

Finally, this bring us to November and December; what I refer to as the “Holiday Season.” There is no better time for a true sportsman in Texas. Fishing between the fronts can produce some of the best catches of the year, and hunting season is wide open. On the fishing scene, the annual flounder run will be in full swing. These fish will be making their migration to the Gulf, and lots of anglers will target just these fish for their well known table fare! Trout and redfish will be plentiful in the upper end of our bay system. I will be fishing between the fronts and preparing for the annual Houston Boat Show starting Jan. 4, 2019.

Eagle Point Fishing Camp will continue to hold live bait. They can be reached at 281-339-1131 for updates on bait and fishing. Until next year, may God Bless all of you during this great time of year.

The Keys to Shallow Redfish Success

September 1st, 2018

soule2 The Keys to Shallow Redfish Success

Captain Clay Sheward with a healthy marsh redfish.

By Capt. Steve Soule

“Everything happens for a reason.”

We’ve all heard this expression, maybe not so often when we talk about fishing, but it definitely applies. As we learn an area or just learn to fish, things happen throughout the course of our days on the water. When we are novices, or less experienced, most of these things seem random or happen by chance. Whether it’s catching a fish or finding a new spot, it isn’t easy to see how the pieces of the fishing puzzle fall into place. Over time, the pieces come together, and details of how and why become much more clear.

For advanced or professional level anglers, fishing isn’t left to chance. It simply cannot be if you want to find shallow redfish success and find it regularly. I’ve learned lessons over many years and watched similar scenarios play out time and time again. The perspective of a guide, especially one who isn’t actively fishing, but more teaching and directing customers to fish is a very different one. Years of pushing a small skiff around the shallows teaches you many things. You get to watch fishing moments play out from a totally different point of view. It’s like having a grand stand seat on the front row, watching the entire scene play out in front of you, successful or not.

There is a ton to be learned both visually and with the end of the push pole about contours and bay bottom variations. My early years as an avid wader taught me many lessons that simply could not be learned from a standing in a boat. Contours, tapers and bottom composition are some of the most important factors in determining fish location and feeding pathways. These things, like so many that have led to fishing success for me are often quite subtle and the type of things that go totally unnoticed by the majority of people on the bay.

Sharpen Your Sight

I had a day several years ago fishing with a customer new to shallow water. I had met him around 5:45 am for a mid summer sight casting trip. As per my usual, the morning was spent trying to acclimate the customer to the world of shallow water fishing. Trying to teach him to see fish, even when they aren’t visible, and understand the signs. This particular day, I became much more aware of just how many signs and subtleties I look for and try to relate to customers. It was somewhere around 11 a.m. when I mentioned a small mullet jumping. This was a little more obvious than many of the things I had pointed out that morning. The customer responded that this was the first thing they were able to notice, despite me talking and pointing things out all morning. I found this rather interesting, mostly because it made me realize that the level of scrutiny I look at my surroundings, goes far beyond what most people would see.

For those new to the sport, I’m sure that it’s tough to keep up with someone like me who is constantly pointing out things of interest and trying to describe their significance. Moreover, it probably generates some concern when they can’t or simply don’t see even half of what I tell them I’m looking for. I talk about all manner of things from “mud boils” and swirls, to wakes and pushes. Not the average language for most, and among the thousands of jumping mullet, flying birds and general commotion on the water, these things aren’t easy to distinguish.

reds918 The Keys to Shallow Redfish Success

Kristen Soule’ with a shallow water redfish and a shirt borrowed from dad.

Now, when we start to take this to an even more intense level of things like seeing a two-inch white shrimp jumping 50 feet away from you, it becomes easy to understand how this can be challenging when its all so new.

In my nearly 40 years of shallow water fishing, I’ve had the pleasure of fishing with hundreds of anglers, from complete novices to those who have fished this coast much longer than I have. I’ve always made a point of trying to learn something from every situation, and there have been many days when lessons have come from people with considerably less experience. Perspectives can be so different as we progress in fishing and gain knowledge and experience.

I have a great friend and fellow angler that I have known for many years and have gotten to spend more days on the water recently. We just had a day on the water where he asked me about boat positioning. This is all important in sight fishing, especially fly fishing, and a topic that all of my friends seem to expect me to have an exact answer to. This particular day, I gave a response that had become something that I’ve come to take as fairly obvious. “Follow the contour line;” a fairly subtle depth change that runs along this particular shallow flat. Something that in my mind had become a standard practice and to me was quite visible. It took some time, zig zagging back and forth across this contour before he began to realize what I meant. Just one of the many things that has led me to greater success in finding fish.

For many years, I have made a point to take careful notice about where I see fish and as much as possible what they are doing and the direction that they are moving. When you fish shallow, you get to see so much more and the opportunities to learn are everywhere around you. If you make a practice of little things like this,  over time you can start to see patterns form that will only lead to future success. Sometimes these patterns apply within the course of a day, other times they are the type that would get logged into the memory banks as seasonal.

One of my favorites has always been trying to note what depth the fish are at. Given that most of the water I fish is shallower than most people would fish, it’s much easier to take note of. You probably wouldn’t think that the moving between 7 and 10 inches deep would make much difference, but there are many days when it really does.

roseate spoonbill

The Other Birds

Birds on the bay can be some of the best indicators around. I always tell people they are way better at finding fish than we are. We fish for fun, mostly. Birds find fish, and things that fish eat, to survive. Knowing various birds that we see around the bay and understanding what their various behaviors indicate is another invaluable tool. We all know the value of seagulls in leading us to hungry packs of trout or redfish. How many of us pay attention to a snowy egret or an ibis? If you saw three roseate spoonbills walking a shoreline, would you pay them any attention? Do you ever pay attention to pelicans? Could you even identify a loon? Every one of these birds can and will lead you to fish, along with many others. But without having seen them in action and having the experience of knowing what they mean, they just become a part of the coastal scenery.

The keys to success aren’t always obvious. I’ve told people for years that you can’t always go look for the fish. Some days you have to look for the signs of the fish. The movements visible on the waters surface; a shrimp flipping out of the water, being able to distinguish a different type of baitfish, or recognizing the difference in the way mullet jump. Being “tuned in” to your surroundings and constantly making the effort to learn and understand the “why” can only make you a better angler and one who finds success more consistently over time.

Galveston Bay Trout Fishing: The Transition

September 1st, 2018

By Capt. David C. Dillman

galvestonbaycharterfishing.com | 832-228-8012

hutchb Galveston Bay Trout Fishing: The Transition

Hutch Burns with a nice trout.

We all can remember sitting down and chatting with our parents and grandparents as a youth. My conversations with them would usually be about memories of past times. The conversation always ended with them saying “Life is short; the older you get, the faster times goes by.”

Now, as I near the ripe age of 58, I understand what they meant. It only seemed like yesterday that the summer of 2018 began, and now the end is near. Fall is knocking on the door. Galveston Bay is about to go into a transition period.

JohnM Galveston Bay Trout Fishing: The Transition

John Michael Provenzano’s redfish.

September still might feel like summer during the day but slight changes in the air temperature will occur at night. The evening and early morning air will be slightly cooler and drier compared to the previous two months. This subtle change will begin to slightly lower the water temperature in the bay. This will spark a movement of shrimp and baitfish from out of the back marshes and into the main bay. Speckled trout will transition themselves, no longer seeking the depth of deep water. The fish may remain around deep water structure but will be feeding higher up in the water column. Live shrimp fished under a popping cork 4-6 feet deep will be lethal on these trout, while the “croaker bite’ will slow down.

Come October, we will see the “transition” in full swing. Passing cool fronts will lower the water levels and temperature even more, triggering a bigger movement of shrimp and baitfish from the back ends of Galveston Bay. Speckled trout will move to these areas to forage on what is exiting the marsh. Flocks of seagulls will pinpoint the location of these fish when they are feeding. Don’t rule out drifting the reefs and structure with live shrimp under corks, keying on presences of bait and slicks in the area.

Remember not all trout make this movement. Depending on the weather and cool fronts, plenty of fish will still be caught in the areas you were fishing in August. Eagle Point Fishing Camp will have a great supply of live shrimp. Those anglers in the Kemah, Seabrook and Clear Lake area can call 281-339-1131 to check on their bait supply.

It has been a long hot summer but fishing remained good. I am looking forward to fishing these months and enjoying the cooler weather. The fish seem to bite through out the day, on any given tide. Take time away from your busy schedule and get on the water!

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!!

Down South Lure Weedless Rigging

July 1st, 2018

DSL flounder Down South Lure Weedless Rigging

By Brandon Rowan

This is a great way to rig a Down South Lure when fishing for flounder that are super tight to rocks, pilings or heavy shell. Fish as close as you want to structure with confidence and lose less tackle. Just be sure to tuck the barb of the hook back into the plastic and set the hook like you mean it.

bobberstoptung Down South Lure Weedless Rigging

STEP 1

Pull your rubber sinker stop onto your line. Add your tungsten bullet weight (1/8 oz., 1/4 oz. or 3/8 oz.) and slide both up your line, giving yourself plenty of room to tie on your hook.

STEP 2

Tie on a Gamakatsu 2/0 EWG worm hook with your preferred knot.

STEP 3

Push the hook into the head of your Down South Lure, about the length of the hook’s offset shank, then push the hook through the underside of the lure and thread up onto the shank.

STEP 4

Lay the hook against the plastic and visually mark where to push the hook back up through the lure. Push the hook through the belly and up through the top of the lure. Bury the tip of the hook back into the plastic. The lure should lay naturally when rigged correctly. Slide down your rubber stop and peg the weight to the lure. This keeps the entire rig compact and less likely to catch rocks or other snags.

Is it time to lower the limit on speckled trout?

April 30th, 2018

blumentrout Is it time to lower the limit on speckled trout?

Speckled trout. Photo by Garrett Blumenshine.

By Capt. Joe Kent

Almost every time the subject of lowering the number of fish anglers can retain crops up, a controversy arises that seems to draw a line in the sand.

Part of the problem is that there remain a large number of anglers who grew up fishing under no size or bag limits for saltwater fish.  Fifty years ago anyone would have been laughed at if they suggested placing a limit on the number of fish an individual could keep, let alone place any size restrictions on the catches.

After all, there was an endless supply of finfish and shellfish swimming the coastal waters and there was no way fishermen could even dent the populations.

Unfortunately, it did not take long to prove otherwise, as freeze events and overfishing by both commercial and recreational anglers began taking their toll on our stocks of trout, redfish and flounder.

Toward the end of the 1970s, when the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) was compelled to take action, the bag and size limits imposed were met with resistance by many in the fishing community.

That mentality continues to exist and was noticeable as recently as seven years ago when the TPWD held public hearings soliciting comments and opinions from anyone affected by any change in the bag limits for trout.

One meeting that was held at the TPWD Dickinson Lab almost got out of hand, as guides, marina operators and others were quite vocal in their opposition to any reduction in the number of trout allowed.

While the TPWD passed on the concerns expressed for the upper Texas Coast, they did recommend and had approved by the commissioners a reduction from 10 to five trout for anglers fishing the lower and middle coasts.

As an outdoor writer and columnist, I have been noticing an increasing number of sportsmen, including fishing guides and others with commercial interests in fishing, supporting a change in the rules.

Many of those same individuals were among the loud protesters at the hearings mentioned earlier.

I asked several of those I personally know what brought about their change of attitude?  Universally, they said that it was concern over the long-term survival of our stocks of trout.

One well-known fishing guide pointed out that the problem was of an environmental nature and that while recreational fishermen had a minimal impact, the solution required sacrifices on all ends.  There is not much individuals can do about devastating floods or severe droughts; however, they can do their part as stewards of our wildlife resources.

Each year there are increasing numbers of anglers fishing the Galveston Bay Complex and we are at the point that our resources of trout and other fish just cannot handle all of the added pressure.

At this point trout appear to be the only finfish about which there are concerns.  Reds have a three-fish slot limit and seem to be thriving well around the Galveston Bay Complex.

Several years ago the bag limit for flounder during the majority of the year was reduced from 10 to five and all indications are that the stocks are rebounding well following that change.

While anglers have a voice in the matter, the answers are going to have to come from the TPWD.  If the parties are in agreement, the process should be fairly easy to get initiated. The legislative procedures will begin to get the regulatory changes into law.

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.