Buggy Whippin: Galveston sight casting with Capt. Clay Sheward

November 1st, 2019

buggs lure redfish sheward Buggy Whippin: Galveston sight casting with Capt. Clay Sheward

Capt. Clay Sheward holds up a nice marsh redfish with a double spot tail.

Story and photography by Brandon Rowan

THE WATER IS STILL AND SO AM I. The redfish swims along a flat, that is painted with a palette of green sea grass and dull colored sand, unaware of our presence. On the bow of Capt. Clay Sheward’s skiff, I feel more like a hunter in a tree rather than a fisherman. The rod in my hand is the bow and the arrow is a hair-tied Buggs jig at the end of my line.

Clay gives the word and I make a light cast behind and ahead of the red. We can see everything in the water on this calm October morning. I reel quickly to intercept the moving fish and begin jigging to tempt what I hope is a hungry fish. My heart starts beating faster as the redfish inches closer and closer to my offering. Time thickens and that half  moment seems to last an eternity before the fish inhales the Buggs lure.

BEGINNINGS

Clay Sheward, 37, was born and raised in Spring, Texas. His passion for fly fishing started very early in life.

“I’ve been fly fishing for a really long time, since 1992, when the movie A River Runs Through It came out,” Clay said. “I saw that movie with my dad and that Christmas, my family provided me a fly tying kit and a fly rod.”

This film, which won an Academy Award for Best Cinematography in 1993, is set in early 20th century Montana and follows a pair of brothers and their love of fly fishing. Many scenes in this movie do an excellent job of capturing the camaraderie of fishing; the tense moments before the catch and the  euphoria after the fact.

Clay cut his teeth fly fishing on the local ponds and creeks near the Woodlands, but as he grew older his love of fly fishing carried him to new locations.

“Mostly, I went to the Guadalupe and the White River in Arkansas. Sometimes my family would travel to Colorado. I didn’t get to do it a whole bunch but I would practice casting in the yard to teacups. Of course, I grew up and girls came along, but I always tied flies. I still do it regularly,” Clay said.

sheward fly fishing Buggy Whippin: Galveston sight casting with Capt. Clay Sheward

OCEAN CALLING

Eight years ago, Clay’s focus shifted from freshwater to saltwater fly fishing. First from a kayak, then to an Ankona ShadowCast 18 which served him and his customers well for several years. But in 2019, Clay was searching for his perfect skiff and finally found it.

“I run a 2019 Chittum Skiffs Laguna Madre with a 50HP Tohatsu. I couldn’t be happier. The trailer is gorgeous and it is such a really nice rig. I can’t believe that I have one. It’s just unbelievable,” Clay said.

The Chittum has expanded Clay’s range and clients of Buggy Whippin Sight Fishing enjoy access to the skinniest of waters in our area.

STUDENT OF NATURE

Clay’s love and careful examination of nature has paid dividends on the flats, where subtle, easily overlooked signs can tip off the location of fish.

“I like to watch animals. It doesn’t matter if it’s just me chilling in the backyard watching birds or hawks, or even seeing my dogs’ ears perk up when they catch a scent and chase it down,” Clay said. “Sitting stream-side, watching a trout circle behind a rock and then leave during changing cloud cover and then come back to the same spot several times a day. Or watching a spider build a web completely from start to finish. That sort of thing.”

Clay recently purchased a drone to better observe wildlife in the marsh. This eye in the sky lends a totally different point of view compared to a poling skiff.

“I’ve seen some crazy things with trout and redfish schooling up on the flats with the drone,” Clay said. “I’ve seen schools of redfish following one big alligator gar. Whatever the gar did, the redfish did the same. I’ve seen bobcats back there in Green’s Lake, as well as pigs. It’s educational as hell.”

Brandon Rowan with one of many redfish caught sight casting with Capt. Sheward.

TIME RETURNS TO NORMAL and I quickly bring my first sight-casted redfish to hand. I get a “Nice Job” and a fist bump from Clay after the release. The day is early and we continue our hunt for redfish along the sandy flat.

Stingrays, so many stingrays, hover along eeriely as we the glide down the shoreline. Flounder scoot away in a trail of punctuated mud puffs and gnarled, large crabs plod on slowly. This is my first time on a poling skiff and it 100% reminds me of flounder gigging. You are able to witness the abundant life of the bay, visually scanning until your target is located and then a careful approach begins. Unlike the rapid fire retrieves of blind fan casting, you often only get a single shot, like a sniper, when sight casting to a redfish.

Further down the flat, we have no problem tracking down more reds on this absolutely gorgeous day. Bronze backs and tails flick along the shorelines and shell points. Some of these we catch, others refuse the lure or fly, and others spook and run.

It felt like an entire day’s worth of fishing has happened but in reality only two hours have passed. But the day is young. We make a change, push off the flats and head back into the deeper recesses of the marsh.

This redfish absolutely crushed a Buggs Jig.

BUGGY WHIPPIN

Clients of Capt. Clay Sheward can expect to fish the maze of marshes and flats on the north shoreline of West Bay and the surrounding areas. There are opportunities to wade or even fish from shore. His Chittum Laguna Madre skiff has everything the fly angler could want and accommodates two fisherman.

However, you don’t need to know how to fly fish to enjoy sight casting for redfish. Catching these fish on light spinning tackle is still a blast and provides ample challenge. You will be thoroughly tested on how accurately and quickly you can place a cast.

“Scratch them on the chin” is what Clay advises when casting to a hungry redfish. It’s hard for them to resist an easy meal in front of their noses. An alternative method is to cast beyond and ahead of a fish, making sure you intercept its path.

No matter your tackle, stealth and speed are essential for success. Casts must be made quickly but delicately, without excessive movement. Heavy steps, twisting hips or any careless motion can rock the skiff and alert fish to your presence.

Clay does not sugar coat it. If you are doing something wrong, he will absolutely let you know. But the best teachers rarely coddle. Those ready to learn and listen have a high probability for an epic day of redfishing with Captain Clay Sheward.

Capt. Clay Sheward poles his Chittum Skiffs Laguna Madre along the flats.

KEEPING IT FLY

As a fledgling fly fisherman, I was eager to pick Clay’s brain on advice for those new to the sport.

“First, remember ‘Tip down, strip tight and everything will be alright,’” Clay said. “Second, if you feel like you need to go faster and harder, you probably need to go slower and softer, especially with a fly rod.”

Must-have flies include the Kwan, Clouser, Gurgler, spoon fly and any shrimp imitation with a weed guard. If Clay could only have one it would be the Kwan. He also recommends tying a loop knot, with as small a loop as possible, for most flies. He is an avid user of 16 and 20 lb tippets for his clients when targeting redfish on the upper coast. He is also a firm believer in casting whichever rod you are going to buy.

“Cast it and get what feels good to you. Redfish don’t need expensive fly reels. It’s nice to have, but not needed for reds in our area,” Clay said. “Gordy and Sons is one of the nicest fly shops in Houston. They’re no joke and the people that work there are extremely knowledgeable fly anglers.”

Although Clay’s all-time favorite fishing location is the Black Hills of South Dakota, his favorite fish to catch on the fly is the tripletail.

Umpqua’s Kwan fly, tied with bead chain eyes.

“Getting them to eat is the best because they are so stingy man! It’s got to be a perfect presentation,” Clay said. “You can get really close to them though and that gets the nerves going. I think that’s my favorite right now, but chasing a redfish with its back out of the water, and poling up to them…hunting them, that’s always going to be for me.”

THE SUN IS OUT NOW and we find ourselves deep in the marsh, floating along a back creek that is absolutely full of redfish. We glide over schools of erratic, frenzied bait as multiple big redfish cruise down the shoreline, picking them off lazily, one by one.

Clay’s oversized redfish.

It’s been several hours since we left the dock and I’ve honed in on what’s needed to effectively spot and cast to fish, thanks to Clay’s instruction.

We absolutely tore it up on that little stretch of water. After each fish caught and released, we seemed to spot another one right away. Clay caught an absolute beauty of a fish that taped out barely over 28 inches; a heartbreaker of a fish if it was a tournament day.

My favorite catch of the day was an upper slot redfish that came on a second chance. We had a pair of fish swim across our path that ignored the first presentation. They picked up speed and starting swimming away, no longer in sight. I flung out a far cast, as delicately as I could, and started jigging back to where I thought they might be. I knew I got it right when my reel’s drag started screeching.  After a rigorous fight, I brought the bronzed backed, pumpkin eyed fish in for a quick photo and release.

It was early in the afternoon but we decided to end the day on high note. The Chittum snaked its way through the marsh lanes as we made the scenic trek back to the dock. I was definitely impressed with the way the boat handled.  It took on chop with no issue, didn’t slide around the corners and granted us access to areas other poling skiffs couldn’t reach that day.

I’ve caught my fair share of redfish and I’ve got to say this was the absolute, most exciting way to catch them. If you have a background in kayaking, gigging or hunting, and you haven’t sight casted to redfish, you are missing out I’d say.

Summer and fall are Clay Sheward’s favorite times to be on the water but winter does have its perks.

“The water is so clear in the winter and it’s so fun. You can see everything on the bottom when you’re poling. You can learn so much, it’s incredible.”

Book a trip with Capt. Clay Sheward by visting buggywhippin.com, emailing claysheward@gmail.com or calling/texting 281-745-1578. Rates for two people max are 4 hours at $450, 6 hours at $550 and 8 hours at $650. Check him out on Instagram and Facebook @BuggyWhippin

Check out the heart shaped spot on Clay’s redfish!

Late Fall Galveston Bay Fishing

November 1st, 2019

red fish rach Late Fall Galveston Bay Fishing

Rachel Thevenet

By Capt. David C. Dillman

galvestonbaycharterfishing.com | 832-228-8012

Wow. It’s hard to believe that another year has passed. I wrote this article on the verge of Halloween, and finally the Upper Coast had its first passage of a “cold front.” Although not really cold, it at least got us out of summer-like temperatures and hopefully curtailed the remaining hurricane season. Tropical Storm Imelda, wreaked enough havoc in some places along the Upper Coast of Texas.

Prior to the arrival of Imelda, Galveston Bay was flourishing with speckled trout and redfish. The fish were being caught over the entire bay system. Then when everything was setting up for some outstanding late September and October fishing in Galveston Bay, torrential local rainfall and subsequent runoff curtailed the action. I am praying that this November and December, we see a return to a near normal weather pattern and end this year with some great fishing and catches.

big ug Late Fall Galveston Bay Fishing

Barry Lofton

I am optimistic that the fish will be caught from the traditional locations for this time of year. Trinity Bay should produce it’s fair share of speckled trout and redfish in November. Both shorelines in Trinity, depending upon the wind, will be excellent choices for those who like to wade and or boat fish. Jack’s Pocket should not be overlooked. The fish were there prior to Imelda!  Also in November, the shoreline between Eagle Point and April Fool Point, has always been productive, especially with a North-Northwest wind.

December, look for the fish to be transitioning to the Northwest reaches of our bay. Tabbs, Crystal, Scott and Burnett bays will all produce fish. This area offers shelter from the winds and provides the fish with deep water protection from severe cold fronts. One of the best stringers of fish I ever caught came from this area with air temperature hovering around 30 degrees. Clear Lake should not be overlooked during this month. Again, it offers the protection from the wind and allows the fish to slide off into deeper water in case of a severe temperature drop.

In November and December the flounder fishing is in full swing! The usual places should all produce excellent catches. The Galveston Harbor would be high on my list as the top spot. Of course, shorelines adjacent to major marsh drains, passes and the Galveston Jetties are also good.

Remember to take precautions this time of year. Check the weather and dress for the conditions. I highly recommend a waterproof/windproof jacket and carrying an extra set of dry clothing. Enjoy the Holidays and remember that the Houston Boat Show begins the first week of January. I will be there at the Eagle Point Fishing Camp booth during the show. Eagle Point should have plenty of live shrimp and mudfish for the angler.

TIE ONE ON: Capt. Wayne Davis

November 1st, 2019

wayne snook TIE ONE ON: Capt. Wayne Davis

WE ASK captains, guides and those in the industry what they’re throwing, for what species and what they’re drinking after a long day of fishing.

WAYNE DAVIS: Full-time fishing guide of Hook Down Charters specializing in wading with artificial lures in Port Mansfield, Texas. www.kwigglers.com | 210-287-3877

kw willow tail TIE ONE ON: Capt. Wayne Davis

The Willow Tail comes in a variety of fish catching colors.

First, I use soft plastics (KWigglers) 95% of the time, the other five percent you can catch me throwing topwaters.  Over the last couple years, I have found myself throwing the Willow Tail Shad (WTS) most of the time.  This is a very effective shallow water bait and I always rig it on our 2/0, 1/8 oz. short shank black nickel hook.

All of my charters are done wading with artificial lures. I am never fishing over 3 feet, and most of the time it is less than thigh deep. With the WTS and small jighead I can effectively, and with control, work the lure in just about any condition (grass, potholes, ledges etc..)

Every short twitch with the rod tip makes that WTS tail flip flop around – I believe the lackadaisical attitude of the bait entices a strike from just about any fish.  The WTS is a lazy bait, not designed for a simple cast and retrieve method.  The angler should work the bait.  The mere profile of the WTS is in and of itself luring to big fish.

Over the last two years I have been targeting and have been able to somewhat pattern South Texas Snook.  To date, I have landed 52 during my trips.  Almost all of them have been over 28 inches, with the largest one taping out at 35 inches and 13 pounds. All have come on the Willow Tail.  I also caught the STAR winning trout while snook fishing – a 31+ incher at 9.5 pounds.  Since I am a licensed captain I do not qualify for CCA STAR so the fish was released (it would have been anyway).

As far as a dock cocktail after a day of fishing – well of course the “Wiggler.” White rum, cranberry and a splash of grapefruit juice. I took it to our local restaurant in Port Mansfield, The Pelican, and they loved it so much they put it on their menu and it is the number one selling cocktail.

Remembering Capt. Aubrey Black

November 1st, 2019

baffin bay rod gun Remembering Capt. Aubrey Black

Capt. Aubrey Black and the love of his life, Capt. Sally, combined their talents, experience and passion for the outdoors and started the fishing and hunting lodge of their dreams, Baffin Bay Rod and Gun.

aubrey black Remembering Capt. Aubrey Black

By Kelly Groce

On October 3, 2019 the fishing community unexpectedly lost one of the great ones, Capt. Aubrey Black of Baffin Bay Rod and Gun. Aubrey was a kind and wonderful man whose passion was putting his clients on their personal best speckled trout.

Together, Aubrey and his wife, Capt. Sally, achieved their dream of having a first-class fishing and hunting lodge on Baffin Bay. Sally is absolutely devastated by the loss of Aubrey, but very thankful for all of the outpouring support from friends, family and the fishing community.

To keep Aubrey’s legacy alive, Capt. Sally and the entire crew at Baffin Bay Rod and Gun invite everyone to continue booking fishing and hunting trips at “The Last Best Place on the Texas Coast.”  Visit them online at www.baffinbayrodandgun.com

Texas Ceviche Recipe

October 3rd, 2019

best ceviche recipe Texas Ceviche Recipe

 

By Brandon Rowan

This ceviche recipe uses lemon drop peppers, which have a citrusy and peach-like flavor that perfectly pairs with seafood. Their heat is comparable to the serrano pepper. I grow my own but you can find them at Fiesta or online. There are a couple different varieties of these yellow Peruvian Aji Limo peppers, all perfect for ceviche.

I used a fresh, surf-caught speckled trout for this ceviche recipe and it was honestly the best way I’ve ever had trout. I was surprised. But use your favorite, ultra-fresh fish when making ceviche. My all-time favorite fish is definitely wahoo.

Enjoy!

Lemon Drop Ceviche

  • 1 pound of your favorite, fresh fish fillets
  • 1 whole white onion
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 3-4 lemon drop peppers, diced
  • 2 tomatoes
  • 1 large avocado
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 TBSP dried parsley
  • Pepper to taste

Soak your fillets in lime juice overnight. The next day, cut the fish into small cubes and place into a large bowl. Mince the onion and rinse with cold water. Pat dry with paper towels and add to bowl. Dice the tomatoes, avocado and peppers and add to mixture. Add cilantro, salt, parsley and fresh cracked black pepper to taste. Mix well and chill for one hour. Serve with your favorite chips, cerveza or tequila.

 

Making Dreams Come True

October 1st, 2019

eric simmons Making Dreams Come True

Eric Simmons, owner of ES Custom Boats and Simmons Custom Rigging, builds high performance, shallow draft boats.

Eric Simmons of ES Custom Boats and Simmons Custom Rigging builds dream boats one hull at a time

By Brandon Rowan

In 2003, tournament angler and fishing guide Eric Simmons had a decision to make: continue guiding or focus on a dream of building his perfect boat. Fast forward sixteen years later, and Simmons is making others’ dreams come true with his shallow draft, ultra high performance boat, the Revolution.

“The Revolution series builds on our history of know-how,” Eric Simmons said. “We’re always evolving and building a better product.”

trophy trout trophies Making Dreams Come True

Eric’s tournament background played a role in the design of his high speed boats.

BIRDS BEFORE BOATS

Born and raised in Freeport, Eric’s first love was duck hunting and all he ever wanted to do. Needing something to do in the offseason, he later discovered a second love, fishing.

“As soon as I could, I got a boat and a truck and started fishing up and down the Texas Coast. I didn’t come from a big hunting or fishing family so I’m not sure where I got it from. But I loved it. I made a lot of good life long friends doing that,” Simmons said.

Eric was fortunate to be up-and-coming during a lot of the big Mickey Eastman Troutmasters style tournaments. These life experiences shaped his boat’s design.

“Tournament anglers like the Revolution. It’s a boat race with some fishing sprinkled in there, so we do cater to that,” Simmons said.

Through guiding and tournaments, Eric gained a lot of knowledge and insight on what he wanted to see in his perfect fishing boat. Slowly over time he realized what he was looking for didn’t exist. And despite no formal education in nautical design, he decided he was going to build his own. The rest is history.

“I am self taught, a student of the game. I had the desire and want to do it,” Simmons said.

ES Custom Boat’s Revolution is powered by Mercury Racing Outboards.

A LEAGUE APART

The Revolution is CAD designed and blends efficiency with shallow water capability. There’s a lot of shallow draft cats out there but that’s not what sets the Revolution apart.

“The handling characteristics of our boats stand alone,” Simmons said. “The performance and speed are in a different league. Our hulls have some of the best ride quality out there.”

The Revolution is made to order and a waiting list of 12-16 months is typical. But good things come to those that wait. Customers of ES Custom Boats have the privilege of truly crafting their dream boat from the ground up.

“We have a hull and deck mold, but the color, the way you lay it out, and your style of fishing has a lot to do with the end result, as well as your budget and imagination,” Simmons said. “It’s fun to do each one. They’re all a little bit different.”

Everything starts with an idea on paper. Once a plan is in place, the hull is created at the glass shop, gel coat is sprayed and the deck and fuel tanks are added. The hull then moves to the rigging shop where it stays for two to three weeks. Engines, electronics, aluminum work and any and all marine accessories are added. A Power-Pole shallow water anchor system is affixed to every boat. Eric prefers top-shelf, hand picked products from companies like Power-Pole, Simrad, Wet Sounds Audio and Mercury Racing.

The Revolution is outfitted with Simrad electronics.

“I am OEM with Mercury and Mercury Racing. I’ve always liked their product; it has given us an edge. They have a full array of factory props that work well with our boats. Sometimes with custom props you never know what you will get from one to the other,” Simmons said.

The Revolution also features high quality anodized Jack Plates from Bob’s Machine Shop in Florida. Theirs is a superior design; strong, simple and very fast. Eric prides himself on attention to detail and total control over quality.

“We do say no to certain ideas because we may have tinkered with it and realize it didn’t work. We like to keep control so there’s no oddball boats out there somebody isn’t happy with. We don’t go with who is going to give us the deal but who is going to give us the best results,” Simmons said.

The Revolution comes in two lengths, the 23 and 25. Both perform similarly and are a matter of preference. The 23 is preferred by solo anglers, smaller groups and those who don’t have the space to accommodate the 25.

THE FUN PART

Once work is completed in the rigging and aluminum shops, the boat is turned over to Eric.

“I get the fun part of water testing each one,” Eric said with a smile. “My job is to make sure she floats and quality control every little thing I can find.”

After that, the boat is detailed, another checklist is completed and she is out the door to a happy new owner. ES Custom Boats currently produces three boats a month but Eric’s goal for 2020 is to build a boat a week. And if that isn’t enough to keep them busy, Simmons Custom Rigging also outfits boats of other makes, with several aluminum or rigging jobs a year. The shop recently outfitted a bare hull Majek with a riser box, complete aluminum work and the console.

Another attractive aspect for customers of ES Custom Boats is the resale value. A lot of custom boats take a dive in value the second they leave the yard.

“Our resale value is extremely high,” Eric said. “A lot of my return customers have reported that they’ve broken even or made money when they sell. It’s not guaranteed but it seems to be the case out there.”

Eric Simmons with one of his custom coolers and “office security.”

FAMILY GUY

When Eric isn’t in the shop or tinkering with designs, he is passionate about his family.

“We like going out on the boat in the summer time,” Eric said. “We’re a boating family, that’s my biggest thing. I have three kids with my wife Candace; Hailey is 10, Cole is 12, and Olivia is 15 and has her driver’s permit.”

But with the kids back to school, Eric’s attention turns to his two favorite fishing targets, trout and redfish.

“I like winter time fishing. The bays are a lot quieter, there’s less people out there and you’re after a different caliber of fish. That’s what I really enjoy.”

For more information on building your dream boat, visit simmonscustomrigging.com or call the office at (832) 864-2331

The Galveston Jetties

September 1st, 2019

jettywreck The Galveston Jetties

A Double Edged Sword for Anglers

By Capt. Joe Kent

The Galveston Jetties are comprised of two sets of Granite Rocks known as the North and South Jetties that extend close to five miles out from shore. The South Jetty is located on the Galveston side while the North Jetty has its home on the Bolivar side.

The jetties were built to protect the Galveston/Houston Ship Channel from erosion and wind in order to keep the entrance to Galveston Bay open for all vessels.  Construction began in the late 1800s and was completed around the beginning of the 20th century.

The jetties brought a new dimension to fishing, as the rocks attracted all types of crustaceans and fin fish.  Early on, anglers would catch grouper, mackerel and even red snapper along the rocks.  Tarpon were also plentiful for jetty fishermen.

While most of those species are rarely found around the jetties any longer, the rocks continue to attract a wide variety of both inshore and offshore fish as well as fishermen.

While the virtues of fishing are high on the benefits offered by the jetties, there are dangers that lurk.  Early on the most common fatality came from small boats rounding the end of the North Jetty to fish the Gulf side.  Many times the attendant at the South Jetty Lighthouse would call in a distress report after observing a small boat capsizing in the turbulent waters at the end of the North Jetty.

For that reason and others, a cut was constructed in the North Jetty not far from shore and was and still is called the North Jetty Boat Cut.  It too added another dimension for fishing and safety for boaters.

For years, the greatest peril facing jetty fishermen in boats were the strong currents found along the channel side of both jetties.  Often the current would change so rapidly that boaters did not have time to react and found their boat pushed into the rocks with major damage resulting.  Wakes from large vessels also were potential trouble makers and while those perils continue to exist, boaters are more aware of them today.

In recent years still another danger has emerged and that has been caused by the subsidence of the century old granite rocks.  This has been a gradual process; however, the sinking continues.

Today, the submerging rocks are probably the greatest of the perils.

I have fished the jetties for well over 50 years and recall my early offshore fishing days when I would return from a trip and see the jetties from at least five miles away.  Today, that is not the case, as the rocks do not become clearly visible until within a mile or less.

The big dangers come in poor light such as night time navigation or in the early morning hours.  For several years now multiple mishaps have occurred where captains misjudged the end of the jetties and crashed into the rocks.  The picture accompanying this article is a good example and was taken in August of this year.

During periods of higher than normal tides, such as during storm tides associated with events in the Gulf, much of the jetties are under water or barely above the surface.

While it is not feasible to raise the rocks or economical to add new layers, there are things that can and should be done.  First and foremost is adding lights or lighted buoys along both jetties.

Signs also would help alert newcomers about the dangers.

While these suggestions might not eliminate all tragedies, they would be a major step and could save some lives and preserve this iconic fishing territory for generations of anglers to come.

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.