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

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

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.

Top 5 Winter Billfish Destinations

Spend your winter at one of the five hottest fishing grounds this side of the globe.

tropic star lodge Top 5 Winter Billfish Destinations

PANAMA

The Tropic Star Lodge in Piñas Bay has been producing world-class inshore and offshore fishing since 1963. Nestled 150 miles southeast of Panama City, this remote destination offers access to the abundant fishing grounds of the Pacific and splendor of the pristine Darien Jungle.

Expect hot action on some of the most sought-after pelagic fish during January and February. Black and blue marlin fishing will be excellent, as are the prospects for hooking into large pacific sailfish, big cow yellowfin tuna and bull dorado.

Despite its far-removed location, the Tropic Star Lodge has accommodations and amenities to please the most persnickety of travelers.

Visit TropicStar.com for more information.

SergioPucci Top 5 Winter Billfish Destinations

Photo by Sergio Pucci

COSTA RICA

The Los Sueños Resort and Marina is a 1,100-acre master planned destination resort, offering all the services and amenities of a small city. Calm waters and short distances to one of the healthiest billfisheries in the world make it a highly popular sportfishing destination. The main attraction during winter is unrivaled action on big pacific sailfish, but yellowfin tuna and dorado make appearances as well. Visit lossuenos.com for info on charters and lodging.

GUATEMALA

Sailfish Oasis in Guatemala, “The Sailfish Capital of the World,” is home to one of the largest breeding grounds for Pacific sailfish. Guatemala holds both the conventional and fly fishing records for most sailfish released in one day. The Sailfish Oasis lodge is situated in a secure, tree-lined, residential development, on the edge of a canal that overlooks the mangroves. Their fleet of sportfishing yachts can accommodate the needs of every angler. Visit SailFishOasis.com for more information.

Famous arch in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

MEXICO

Cabo San Lucas is host to a strong striped marlin bite during the winter months. The action on these acrobatic fighters continues through spring and into early summer. This popular Baja destination has no shortage of accommodations and fishing charters. We recommend RedRum Sportfishing (redrumcabo.com) and Chupacabra Sportfishing (chupacabrasportfishing.com)

Fort Lauderdale, Florida is a winter sailfish hot spot.

FLORIDA

South Florida’s peak Atlantic sailfish season begins in January and sets off a flurry of fishing activity in Fort Lauderdale, the Florida Keys and as far north as Fort Pierce. The prospect of a multi-fish day is good, as large schools of these spirited fish move up and down the coast all winter long. Trolled lures are effective but live bait fished under a kite is the most popular method.

Coastal Artist Anastasia Musick

musick tarpon Coastal Artist Anastasia Musick

Anastasia Musick with her tarpon painting “Eyes on the Prize.”

Interview by Kelly Groce

Tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from and when did you start painting?

Originally I am from Kazakhstan but I have lived all over Europe and Asia (11 countries to be exact) before I was even 17!  Shortly after I came along, my family endured many hardships from the changing times, causing us to constantly move.

Like many young kids, I was fond of drawing, painting and anything artistic, but I tended to dedicate all of my time to this interest over anything else.  Certainly it was a good focus, as no matter where we lived or what the language, I had to start learning that particular year(s), I had consistency and stability in my artwork. I think was more beneficial to me than anything.

When I was around 11 years old, I was starting to paint and draw animals and floral art at a very rapid rate.  My mother would place the finished works in shops wherever we were living at the time.  By the time I was 15, I was being contacted for commissioned pieces of a very wide array of subjects, including freshwater fish, birds, and a lot of floral works.

How did you get into painting wildlife?

I have from the very beginning painted a host of subjects without boundary, but I would say that the time period I started focusing mostly on marine and wildlife was 2-3 years ago. My first saltwater piece was around that time as well.

musick swordfish Coastal Artist Anastasia Musick

“Dancing in the Moonlight”

Aside from art, what else are you passionate about?

Well to be completely honest, I don’t really have much time to do much else!  I paint 8-12 hours a day, 7 days a week, and when I am caught up I try to go fishing or enjoy my time on the water.  I take what I do incredibly seriously and try to give every ounce of energy I have to becoming better. After all, I have a lot of folks who have invested in me by owning originals.  I would be doing them a disservice if I did not increase their piece’s value over time.

I do love to fish but unless it’s a subject I am completely new to, it really does not make the artworks any better to continually see the same species—at least for me it doesn’t, but what does improve the paintings is pure repetition. This is the only requirement needed to have the knowledge or capability to paint or draw anything with success.

“Nine Lives”

What is your favorite fish to catch?

Redfish and Mahi.

Favorite location to fish or travel?

When time allows, I like to take either my paddle boat or kayak to a tiny little area in Charlotte Harbor that always is harboring at least a few hungry reds!  Within the last two years my vacationing has been sort of limited, but I have really enjoyed the various beaches I’ve visited in Texas and of course the boardwalk in San Antonio was a fun time.

Favorite fishing moment?

The very first redfish I caught had a little over 13 spots and I think that’s when I fell in love with fishing and wanted to dedicate that as my predominate focus.

“Ambush Queens”

How can our readers purchase and enjoy your art?

I have hundreds of pieces that I do reproductions of in small numbers, apparel and a host of other things available.  Easiest way to contact me is either to go to Facebook and search me out: Anastasia Musick. Also feel free to contact me on my business page: Musick Art Corporation. You can also find my website at www.AnastasiaMusick.com

Are there any foundations or organizations you are involved with that you would like to tell our readers about?

I work with CCA Texas, Florida and several kidney research foundations.  In 2019 I was selected to be the Texas CCA STAR Platinum Print Artist and would like to continue working with them and others.

“The Prospectors Bill”

Healthy One Pot Meal Recipes

By Betha Merit King

After the holidays it’s nice to have some lower calorie meals to help us get back in shape and shave off some pounds. Luckily for me, I have a birthday in December, too. Knowing my happy exploration into one pot meals, I was gifted with the latest and greatest kitchen helper: an Instant Pot.

The Instant Pot cooks meals in less time by utilizing pressure cooker technology. Doing research, it is obvious there is a long future of fabulous discoveries to be made. For this article, we’ll touch on two pasta dishes, that are vegetarian. For meat lovers, you can serve baked fish or chicken breasts or lean pork tenderloin, cooked separately.  There are a thousand more recipes that include meat, desserts, sauces, dips, and side dishes. The possibilities appear endless.

one pot Healthy One Pot Meal Recipes

Veggie Walnut Pesto Pasta

  • 4 cups water
  • 8 ounces whole-wheat rotini pasta
  • 1/2 cup lentils
  • 1 8-10 ounce jar of prepared Walnut Pesto
  • 1/2 cup baby arugula chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 zucchini, chopped
  • 1 14-ounce can artichoke hearts, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 or more grated Parmesan cheese
  • Freshly ground black pepper.

Pour 4 cups water into Instant Pot, add the pasta and lentils, stir well to submerge for even cooking. Secure the lid and move the steam release valve to  Sealing. Select Pressure Cook to cook at high pressure for 4 minutes. Let the pressure naturally release for 10 minutes, then move the steam release valve to Venting to release any residual pressure.

When the floating valve drops, remove the lid and press Cancel to stop the cooking cycle. Use oven mitts to remove the pot and drain the pasta and lentils in a fine-mesh sieve. Rinse with cold water. Dry the pot and clean anything off the sides and bottom, and return it to the Instant Pot.

Press Sauté and add olive oil to pot. Once the oil is hot, add tomatoes, zucchini, and artichoke hearts. Stir until softened (5 min.). Add the drained pasta and lentils chopped arugula and pesto sauce, tossing well to coat. Stir in Parmesan and pepper to taste.

pasta recipe Healthy One Pot Meal Recipes

Cauliflower Mac & Cheese

  • 1 pound whole-wheat or regular macaroni
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 Tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1-2 Tablespoons spicy brown mustard
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 pound fresh or frozen cauliflower florets
  • 4-8 ounces extra-sharp Cheddar Cheese, shredded
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • parsley and pepper for garnish.

Pour pasta into the Instant Pot and add 4 cups water, soy sauce, mustard and salt. Stir well to combine, then add cauliflower on top without stirring so the cauliflower layers completely cover the pasta. Secure the lid and move the steam release valve to Sealing. Select Pressure Cook to cook on high pressure for 3 minutes.

When cooking cycle is complete, let the pressure naturally release 10 minutes, then move the steam release valve to Venting to release residual pressure.

When floating valve drops, remove the lid and stir the pasta well, breaking up any pasta that has stuck together or to bottom (which is normal). Use your spoon to mash any intact cauliflower florets against the side of pot to help them dissolve into the pasta sauce. They will be hidden as part of the sauce.

Add the Cheddar and Parmesan and stir well. Adjust seasonings as needed.

Winter Redfish Patterns

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.

What Happened to the 2018 Flounder Run?

flounder nov What Happened to the 2018 Flounder Run?

By Capt. Joe Kent

Anglers all around the Galveston Bay Complex are scratching their heads in disbelief of the fact that we did not appear to have a genuine flounder run during November.  Almost all of the experienced flounder fishermen are asking why the flat fish never made a concentrated run like they are supposed to during late autumn.

Was it a sign that the flounder stocks are dwindling or was it something else that interfered with the 2018 fall flounder run?

To begin with, let’s take a look at what traditionally takes place with flounder and their annual run to the Gulf of Mexico to spawn, especially in years past.

At some point after mid-September, flounder sense winter is  not far away and start thinking about their move to the Gulf.  Two key factors contribute to this insight, those being shorter periods of sunlight or shorter days and the water temperatures cooling from the summertime readings.

When this first occurs Galveston Bay flounder begin to move, first out of the shallower back bays and lakes and then to the larger bays, especially East and West Bays.  From there they will head to the pathways to the Gulf, which include the Galveston Ship Channel, Bolivar Roads, Cold Pass, Rollover Pass and San Luis Pass.

In most years, November is when the migration reaches its peak, with flounder lining the shorelines of Pelican Island, all along upper Bolivar Peninsula and around all of the passes into the Gulf.

At that time it was “easy pickins” on flounder, as they were so concentrated that anglers could load large ice chests with the flat fish.

Several years ago, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department set a special bag limit of two flounder per person per day for November and later extended it to mid-December.  Also flounder gigging was prohibited during November.

For at least three years now the annual run has fallen short of its expectations and this year it was hardly noticed, as few flounder were caught from the traditional hot spots.

The first thought is that the stocks have declined to the point that they are in trouble.  All indications are that this is not the problem.  All during the year, flounder were being taken in typical numbers and experienced flounder anglers reported the back bays and marshes being full of the flatfish.

What about our warmer than usual winters?  That has to be a big factor and from here I would like to pass on some comments from a few of the flounder pros.

One angler sent a note to the Reel Report in the Galveston County Daily News saying:

“Here is my reason for the poor flounder run. Try to forget what you think you know about flounder running in the fall. The flounder are not leaving the bays, they are entering the bays. They have to wait till the water temperature in the bay drops down enough to run off the scavenger fish that would eat all the eggs they are leaving in their spawn.”

Another reader sent in this note:

“Has anyone wondered if the lack of flounder can be tied to the dredging of the Galveston Ship Channel! The hopper dredge has been working 24/7 for several weeks now and rumors are they are scooping up barrels of flounder. Something seems off when dredging to deepen the channel is planned when a bottom fish has its migration.”

This note came from a biologist at a popular aquarium:

“Most everyone is complaining about the poor flounder run this year.  All sorts of reasons are cited; however, one thing that seems to be missed is that all flounder do not leave the bays during winter. One of the driving factors is food supply.  If the small fish and crustaceans are around, flounder are slow to leave and will tend to hang around as long as food is plentiful.”

Another reader said: “We may be missing the flounder run, as the warmer weather could be causing a delay in the migration to sometime in mid to late December.  If so, this would be at a time when not much fishing is taking place and possibly a major run would go unnoticed.”

Whatever your theory, the warmer winters over the past few years have to be a major factor.  Hopefully the stocks of flounder will continue to be in good shape during 2019 and beyond.

Judy Olsen’s Boat Décor LLC Covers All Your Boat’s Needs

before after Judy Olsen’s Boat Décor LLC Covers All Your Boat’s Needs

Before and after

By Xander Thomas

The Clear Lake Area is one of the largest boating centers in the U.S.  With the number of crafts that take to our waters most of the year, given our lengthy warm season, someone must tackle the task of helping maintain these boats. Judy Olsen’s Boat Décor LLC is exactly the kind of place that can help these captains-at-their-own-leisure with all things canvas and upholstery for their boats.

“This line of work is definitely challenging but it is very rewarding to see the final product and that my customer is happy.” Olsen said, “We take pride in our work and provide excellent customer service.”

Judy has been in business for eight years, but she has been working with her mother as a seamstress since she was 15, and using a sewing machine since she was five-years-old.  She has experience with all different sorts of items and even used to make wedding dresses.

“I could not make any money making the dresses, I had maybe two orders” she said, “They were both very happy, but you cannot compete with China.”

Olsen’s current location opened in the summer of 2018.  She moved to this specific building because before her, it was another canvas shop and was already set up in a good way for her business. That made it easier to open shop right away, as there were already cutting tables and other items set up usefully for sewing. But getting her business set up in the exact spot that she wanted proved to be no easy task.

“As soon as I found out that they moved, I immediately called to get this spot, and was told that it had already been leased,” she said.

Business continued and Olsen secured a different location. Days later, she got a call that the deal on her preferred location had fallen through! Luckily enough, she was let out of her lease without a fee, and was able to move into the space that was already partially set up for her work.

She starting selling out of what used to be called “Sundowner Canvas” and that has helped her business.

“Sometimes people call the owners of Sundowner, and they say go to Judy, she does good work, she will take care of you,” Olsen said.

Before attaining a place to open business, Judy worked out of her own house, but that was not ideal.

“There was stuff everywhere. I only really had the master bedroom and kitchen for myself.”

She had a four-bedroom home at the time.  She was even having to cut materials out on the driveway.

Olsen does mostly work for boats, but she will make custom canvas pieces and even re-upholster regular furniture, if that is what the customer wants. She makes her own custom pattern for every item she does.

Boat Décor LLC crafts screens, furniture upholstery, custom covers for any part of the boat imaginable and bedding, such as sheets, pillows and even high-quality mattresses. They use top of the line marine products such as sunbrella, stamoid, strataglass, tenara thread, dot stainless steel snaps, and more.

A full list of the services Judy Olsen offers can be found at www.BoatDecorLLC.com. Call 281-928-8548 to chat about your boat or visit her at 900 Anders Lane Suite 11 in Kemah.

Fishmas Gift Guide

redfish earrings Fishmas Gift Guide

Gone Coastal Jewelry

Gone Coastal Jewelry features the highest quality nautical and coastal jewelry along with exceptional customer service. No matter which design you choose, their necklaces, bracelets, earrings, charms, pendants, rings and more fully embody the excitement, beauty and peacefulness of coastal life. GoneCoastalJewelry.com

columbia megavent2 Fishmas Gift Guide

Columbia Men’s Megavent™ II PFG Shoe

It dries quickly, drains water easily, and laces up fast. The latest Megavent™ hybrid shoe is made for the professional angler who needs an outsole that grips when wet, an upper that resists stains, and an overall design that performs when the excitement hits. Gulf Coast Mariner put these shoes to the test all summer in Cabo San Lucas and during the Texas Billfish Classic. They are extremely grippy boat shoes that don’t sacrifice comfort or durability. Columbia.com

Studio Abachar Pinup Girl Stickers

Impressive vintage-styled stickers from world-famous marine artist Amadeo Bachar. These 8” Clear vinyl stickers are printed with white ink behind Amadeo’s fish illustration to preserve opacity and unmatched level of detail. Each is coated with heavy UV to stand up to the elements— rain, wind and sun without fading. Also available in prints. Visit studio-abachar.myshopify.com

Cold Steel Bird & Trout Knife

The Bird & Trout knife is a much loved, lightweight tool that is enjoyed by hunters, fisherman and outdoorsmen the world over. Its lightweight one-piece construction and its versatile, ultra-skeletonized sheath make it effortless to carry and a joy to wear all day long. Made of Japanese AUS 8A Stainless Steel. Overall length 6 5/16” Blade length is 2 1/4” ColdSteel.com

Avid Angler Jewelry

Avid Angler Jewelry provides unique, realistic jewelry that has been designed and hand-crafted by fellow fishing and hunting enthusiasts. Be it sterling silver or 14k gold, these pendants, charms, pins, earrings, bracelets, tie-tacs and rings can be created to customize your collection. These inshore or offshore pieces express a love of nature and the outdoors and make a perfect gift. @AvidAnglerJewelryDesigns

YETI Rambler Half Gallon Jug

With rugged construction, FatLid™ insulation and a stainless steel handle, the Rambler® Half Gallon Jug is built to take on the wild. Whenever and wherever you need it, count on an ice-cold (or piping hot) sip from your Rambler to come to the rescue. Available in 2 DuraCoat™ colors and stainless steel. Yeti.com

Avet Patriot Series Reels

Give the gift of American Pride! All of your favorite Avet reels are now available in red, white and blue. The 6061 T-6 marine grade aluminum frame proudly displays our flag and features an anodized finish for superior corrosion resistance. Avet reels feature precision machined stainless steel gears and components and are proudly made right here in the good ole’ U. S. of A. AvetReels.net

Galveston Flounder Run: A Quick Guide

flounder map Galveston Flounder Run: A Quick Guide

WHERE TO FIND THEM

A: UPPER BAY

Flounder from upper Galveston Bay begin to exit areas like Clear Lake, Dickinson Bay and Moses Lake. Fish the shorelines outside these back lakes as flounder migrate towards the Gulf.

B: JONES BAY

Marsh dwelling flounder will exit through Highland Bayou and into Jones Bay. Fish marsh drains, shorelines and structure.

C: WEST BAY

Flounder exit the numerous coves and marshes and either head west to San Luis Pass or east to the Galveston Ship Channel. Fish the bayou mouths, marsh drains and shorelines as flounder make their exodus.

D: BOLIVAR

Flounder congregate near the structure and wells around Bolivar as they head to the pass.

E: TEXAS CITY DIKE

Flounder will hug the rocks and shorelines of this 5-mile-long levee during their migration. This is a great location for shore-bound anglers.

F: GALVESTON SHIP CHANNEL

During the peak of the flounder fun, fish stack up as they funnel through the channel. Any given shoreline or structure can hold flounder in the GSC.

G: GALVESTON JETTIES

This is your last shot at a saddle blanket before they enter the Gulf of Mexico. Fish big mullet and heavy jigs along the rocks during the outgoing tide.

big flounder 2018 Galveston Flounder Run: A Quick Guide

HOW TO CATCH THEM

THE BITE

Flounder are ambush predators, concealing themselves on the bay floor and striking when opportunity presents itself. There a couple telltale signs of a flounder strike. The most recognizable is the satisfying “thump” of a bite during your retrieve. Sometimes, the bite is more subtle and all of sudden you notice a dead weight on your line. And other times, a fish might strike viciously and move.

THE HOOKSET

The most important aspect of flounder fishing is patience!! Flounder often bite first to kill and wait before swallowing. Wait anywhere from 5 to 20 seconds before attempting to set the hook. Flounder have bony mouths and require a stout hookset. The no-stretch qualities of braided line are perfect for hooking flounder.

Down South Lure in Kickin’ Chicken, Gulp Shrimp in New Penny and H&H Grub in Glow/Chart.

BAITS AND LURES

Berkley Gulp baits are some of the best scented plastics for flounder, but any soft plastic on a quality jighead can get the job done. Scent is important and helps flounder hold on to the bait longer. Apply Pro-Cure gels to your unscented plastics, like Down South Lures, Chicken Boy Lures or Flounder Pounders.  You can also tip your jighead with a small piece of shrimp tail section.

Popular lures colors include pearl, pearl/chartreuse, strawberry/white, chicken on a chain, pink, chartreuse, new penny and many more.

Live shrimp, finger mullet and mud minnows are all popular, successful flounder baits.

It’s hard to go wrong with the real thing. The most popular live baits are finger mullet, live shrimp and mud minnows. Fish these on the bottom with a carolina rig: swivel,  weight (1/4 oz. to 1 oz. depending on water depth), a live bait or kahle hook and a 18” length of 15-20 lb mono or fluoro.

UNDERSTANDING THE FLOUNDER LIFE CYCLE

Life cycle of the Southern Flounder. Illustrations by Brandon Rowan.

Newly renovated Tommy’s Restaurant Oyster Bar serves up the best in seafood

tommys2 Newly renovated Tommy’s Restaurant Oyster Bar serves up the best in seafood

By Rick Clapp

ttollett Newly renovated Tommy’s Restaurant Oyster Bar serves up the best in seafood

Tommy’s owner Tom Tollett

Tommy’s Restaurant Oyster Bar is, and has always been, synonymous with the finest quality oysters, seafood, wine and spirits. A favorite among the NASA elite crowd, the eatery has been serving the entire Clear Lake community for 24 years.

The restaurant’s owner, Tom Tollett, is known for his attention to detail and the quality and has successfully engineered and remodeled the restaurant every few years. The newly remodeled Oyster Bar is simply stunning!

The new renovations have a very modern, panache feel with artistic overtones. The style of art displayed represents the many colors and tranquility found in Galveston Bay. The renowned Marjorie Slovack, a carriage trade interior designer, successfully developed a contemporary look that exudes a classy, yet relaxed atmosphere and ambience.  Futhermore, RBL construction transformed Slovack’s gorgeous design into reality.

Tom Tollett is a native Louisianian from Baton Rouge, Lafayette. He collaborates with his talented team of chefs and creates a diverse selection of fresh seafood and steaks to be enjoyed by his patrons.

His authentic Louisiana recipes have been perfected and developed over the past 42 years, encapsulating a story of culture and flavor from the best of Creole and Cajun seafood.

“There are two distinct types of cuisine found in Louisiana,” Tollett says. The popular Cajun style is pure country with simplistic flavors and a variety of vegetables and peppers. On the other hand, Creole style is influenced by the city with regional spices and savory seafoods, often smothered in rich creams.”

Tommy’s Restaurant Oyster Bar consistently ranks among one of the best seafood restaurants in both Harris and Galveston County. Not only do they cater to their loyal customer base, but also offer accommodations for private parties, corporate events and special occasions.

The chefs take great pride in serving dishes and entrees of the upmost quality. The bartenders and wait staff, like their boss, pay attention to detail and customer service.

One of Tom’s major passions is to educate the community and organizations on the importance of harvesting and farming oysters sustainably, and protecting this rich resource of Galveston Bay. Tommy’s Restaurant and Oyster Bar implements sustainability in their company with the help of local businesses. Tollett works closely with the Galveston Bay Foundation to help build new oyster reefs. He has served for many years on the Board of Directors.

“This restoration project helps build valuable ecosystems for many marine organisms,” Tollett said of the Galveston Bay Foundation’s efforts.

“Oysters filter 50 gallons of water per day and keep Galveston Bay clean and safe. Oyster reefs also create a buffer from the damaging effects of storm surges and flooding. Since 2011, over 250 tons of recycled oyster shells have helped revitalize the bay instead of becoming waste in landfills. Tollett wants his customers to know the importance marine conservation. He is integrally involved in the sustainable seafood movement to keep our waterfront community a gorgeous, elegant place to live. Their goal as a company is to protect our precious Galveston Bay through oyster conservation efforts and to provide the freshest, highest quality seafood and cuisine.

Try Tommy’s Restaurant Oyster Bar for your next culinary experience. Enjoy the smashing new renovations and modern ambiance. For reservations, call 281-480-2221 or visit them online at www.tommys.com. They are located at 2555 Bay Area Blvd., Houston, TX 77058.

The Galley: Warming Foods

By Betha Merit

Hot food may refer to temperature, like a warm bowl of chicken soup or an aromatic cup of hot chocolate. What’s more fun is to combine that hot with spicy heat, for a warmth from your mouth to your toes experience. Chili style is a very personal taste and creative specialty. No beans, yes beans, and 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 alarm options. Personally, I’ve never met a chili I didn’t like. Nostalgia makes me remember chilly fall nights and my mom’s chili (with beans) served with saltines.

Jalapeño cheese cornbread and Mexican Caesar salad keep the heat going. Add a Margarita as the perfect cooling beverage pairing. Whether concocted with your favorite tequila with hand squeezed lime juice and agave syrup over ice, or using pre-mixed Margarita in a bottle, ready to pour over crushed ice. It’s all good.

chili recipe The Galley: Warming Foods

Becky’s Chili Beans

  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 small onions, finely chopped
  • 1 chopped bell pepper (optional)
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 5 Tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 Tablespoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne (or to taste)
  • salt/pepper to taste
  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 1 (24 oz.) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 (24 oz.) can diced tomatoes with juice
  • 1 (8 oz.) can tomato sauce
  • 1 (15 oz.) can drained, rinsed kidney beans
  • 1 (15 oz.) can drained, rinsed pinto beans

In a large pot heat olive oil over medium heat, adding onions, optional bell pepper and garlic. Sauté about 5 minutes. Add chili powder, cumin, cayenne, salt and pepper, stirring for 2 more minutes. Add the beef, brown and stir to break up meat into crumbles. Add all tomatoes and sauce, and beans. Bring to a boil, reduce to low heat, and cook for 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.

mex caesar salad The Galley: Warming Foods

Mexican Caesar Salad

SALAD

  • 1 head romaine lettuce, torn into bite sized pieces
  • 1/2 cup cooked corn kernels
  • 1/2 cup black beans (canned), rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 avocado, peeled and cubed
  • 1/8 teaspoon dried chili flakes (optional)
  • 2 handful tortilla chips, crumbled
  • 1/2 cup grated cotija cheese
  • lime wedges, to serve

DRESSING

  • 1/2 cup Caesar dressing
  • juice of one small lime
  • 2 teaspoons cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon chipotle chili powder

Combine all ingredients for dressing into a shaker bottle or jar. Shake well and set aside. In a large bowl combine romaine and remaining ingredients, reserving limes and crushed tortilla chips for serving. Dressing may be tossed into the salad or set out for self serving along with the tortilla chips.

Easy Jalapeño Cornbread

  • 1 (8 1/2 ounce) box Jiffy cornbread mix
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 3 Tablespoons jar or can jalapeños, diced and drained well
  • 1/2 to 1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

Combine cornbread mix, egg and butter in a mixing bowl.

Stir in remaining ingredients and mix well.

Place mixture in greased muffin tin or 8” by 8” greased pan.

Bake at 375 degrees for 15-20 minutes of until cornbread is golden brown.

Galveston Bay: 2018 Past and Present

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 Golden Croaker Disappearing Act

croakerkent The Golden Croaker Disappearing Act

Big croaker like this one are hard to come by these days.

By Capt. Joe Kent

While not a piece of legislation, this characterization is a question on the minds of many senior anglers who once enjoyed the annual golden croaker runs during the autumn.

October and November are the prime months for this event and for many years Rollover Pass and other passageways into the Gulf of Mexico would be lined with anglers virtually shoulder to shoulder with their baits in the water during the big runs.

During my growing up years, my dad would take me to Rollover Pass when word got out that the croaker were running, and in most instances I caught several croaker in the one to two pound category.  Dead shrimp fished on the bottom was the bait, and just about everyone around me was catching fish.

The annual migration, or run as it is commonly called, usually coincided with the annual flounder migration or flounder run.  Rollover Pass also was a popular spot to catch flounder during their migration.

Over the past three to four decades, a noticeable decline in the numbers of the big or bull croaker has taken place.  While this fish continues to make its journey to the Gulf each fall, large concentrations have not been observed.

Sporadic reports continue to come in of isolated catches of the migrating fish with a few of them being well over two pounds in weight.  Three-pound croaker were not at all uncommon during the migrations of years ago.

Croaker are a resilient fish and can reproduce often and in varied conditions. This is one reason the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has not been greatly concerned over their populations.  They are not as sensitive to salinity levels or cold temperature as many other fish.

So, we ask the question:  “What has happened to our stocks of croaker?”

For at least two decades, anglers have been inquiring about the decline in the bull croaker, especially the ones that used to dominate the migrations.  Today, questions are coming from year-round croaker anglers wondering why they are not catching as many and that the sizes seem to be getting smaller.

As a child and a teenager, I was among those anglers fishing just out of Seabrook for nice-sized croaker.  Scotts Reef, probably a mile or two from shore, was noted for its big croaker.  Not the average size of the fall migration but in the ¾ to pound and a half range.  That was a great eating size and very popular for the table.

Today, croaker remain widespread and are easily caught; however, the average size seems to be progressively declining as well as the numbers being caught.

Early on, it was thought that the bycatch from shrimp nets was the culprit; however, croaker have been enduring that for decades and the number of shrimpers on Galveston Bay is declining.

Many anglers feel that the demand for small croaker for bait, one of the top choices for speckled trout, is a major factor.  More and more bait camps are offering live croaker for bait and, when there is a shortage of live shrimp, the other top bait, croaker are usually available.

Several professional fishing guides have told me privately that the bait market for live croaker is taking its toll on the stocks and, while I am not advocating a prohibition of the sale of bait croaker, I do think a serious study of the situation is warranted and if any appropriate regulations should be enacted, they should be encouraged to help this fish rebound.

TPWD has been successful in restoring our trout and redfish populations and croaker stocks should be next on their list to build back.

2018 Seabrook Saltwater Derby Results

sbrook2 2018 Seabrook Saltwater Derby Results

The 9th Annual Seabrook Saltwater Derby took place on Friday, Sept. 28, 2018. Many nice fish made it to the scales, despite challenging conditions. Participants enjoyed cold beer, tacos and giveaways a-plenty at the weigh-in at CABO Clear Lake.

Heaviest Redfish

1. Brandon Perez: 9.19

2. Tyler Cervenka: 8.76

3. Daniel Marshall: 8.27

Heaviest Trout

1. Daniel Marshall: 4.07

2. Michael Fesco: 3.83

3. Troy Albright: 3.52

Heaviest Flounder

1. Gerald McDermott: 3.08

2. Michael Fesco: 2.14

3. Kyle Cervenka: 2.14

Heaviest Redfish Stringer

1. Waterloo: 23.7

2. Pullin’ 3 G’s: 21.14

3. Degens from up Country: 20.71

Heaviest Trout Stringer

1. Muy Loco: 14.31

2. Three Amigos: 11.81

3. Gig Em: 11.2

Fishing Cabo San Lucas

Blue marlin, wahoo and scenic Pacific views from one of the world’s hottest sportfishing destinations.

Photography by Brandon and Meagan Rowan

pueblo bonito beach Fishing Cabo San Lucas

The Pacific thunders against the beach outside of the Pueblo Bontio Pacifica Golf & Spa Resort

mr cabo Fishing Cabo San Lucas

EL ARCO: Meagan in front of “Land’s End” – Cabo’s famous rock arch formation.

The sun rises over Cabo San Lucas as the sportfishing boats make their way offshore.

We were greeted with calm seas on our outing.

This marlin hit a naked caballito (Bigeye Scad) on the shotgun line and absolutely lit up with color next to the boat. Capt. Ramone and First Mate Julio of RedRum Sportfishing were absolute pros and put us on the fish.

 

My first blue marlin breaks the surface. Caught with RedRum Sportfishing on the ‘ReelRum’

A pair of remoras are revealed on the underside of this marlin.

 

This wahoo hit a skirted plunger on the port rigger line. We had unbelievable ceviche and grilled wahoo that night.

The Keys to Shallow Redfish Success

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

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!

Changing Galveston Flounder Patterns

texas galveston flounder Changing Galveston Flounder Patterns

By Capt. Joe Kent

Autumn, or Fall Fishing, as we more frequently call it, is one of the best times of the year to fish the Galveston Bay Complex, especially for flounder.

In recent years, we have discussed the changing scene of fall fishing, noting how the timing has been altered.  We likely all agree that we have seen a delay before the action gets underway; however, we have not discussed how flounder fishing has changed as a result.

Hopefully some pointers will help increase your harvests of this popular fall flatfish.

Fifty years ago, the first cold front of the season usually arrived in mid-September.  Following it, fish would start changing their patterns, as an awareness took place that winter was not far behind.

By October, the water temperature in the bays had dropped and that, combined with the shorter periods of sunlight, gave way to the action.  Flounder were noticeably more active and were beginning to make their way toward the passes and outlets into the Gulf of Mexico.

freeport flounder Changing Galveston Flounder Patterns

Colder weather brings out the big girls.

At some point between Thanksgiving and mid-December the sows are on their way and that is time for trophy flounder catches.

Today, much has changed due to the delay in the arrival of cooler temperatures. During the era we have been discussing, the water temperatures were below 70 degrees by mid-October and the first freeze of the year, albeit a light one, usually took place by late October.

The fall flounder run was well underway in October and old-timers looked at the peak of the annual run as taking place between the Full Moons of October and November.  Now that same group looks to the same lunar phase between November and December.

A good example of how this delay has been recognized was when the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department imposed special flounder regulations during November, as that was the month when the annual migration reached its peak and started winding down.

Not long ago the TPWD extended the November bag limit of  two fish per person to mid-December.  When the regulation was enacted all signs pointed to November as the time for the peak and the winding down.  Now, it is well into December before the migration shows signs of running its course.

Today, the flounder run has its peaks and valleys; however, one thing that anglers are noticing is that many of the flatfish do not make the migration and remain in the bays.

The reason for this is that due to the warmer than normal conditions, bait still hangs around and with it a certain number of flounder.

During the run, there will be a few major cold fronts that empty the marshes and back bays.  When this occurs, flounder will head to deeper waters and many take the signal to move on to the Gulf.

In recent years, the after effects of the fronts do not last long and many of the fish, including bait, will head back to the marshes and back bays.  Savvy anglers have observed this and take advantage of the situation.

Flounder catches will increase as we get closer to the end of the year.

By mid-December, the majority of flounder is on its way to the Gulf or has arrived there.  Still a few stragglers will remain.

Prior to 2010 I had never caught a flounder during January or February.  In January that year a friend and I were drifting for trout in West Bay tossing soft plastics when I landed a 16-inch flounder.  What a surprise it was.

Today, successful anglers plan their trips and hit the water just before a “Blue Norther” hits or several days afterwards. Toward the end of the run, the big sows finally start their journey and that is usually after a series of major cold fronts empties the marshes and drops the water temperatures into the upper 40s.

It usually takes several of these “Blue Northers” to encourage the majority of the flounder to head to the Gulf.

At some point between Thanksgiving and mid-December the sows are on their way and that is time for trophy flounder catches.

While live shrimp, mud minnows and fingerling mullet are three of the top natural baits for flounder when the big girls are moving, live mullet up to six inches in length is the resounding preference.

Berkley Gulps, Flounder Pounders, Chicken Boys and a variety of other soft plastics also work well and give the natural baits serious competition.

$EA DOLLAR$ Tuna Tradition Continues

TBC tuna $EA DOLLAR$ Tuna Tradition Continues

Brandon Rowan, Matt Taylor, first mate Adam and Kurt Pantle with our 90 lb. tuna.

I went from reporting on the Texas Billfish Classic to fishing it

By Brandon Rowan

It was Wednesday night and the Texas Billfish Classic’s Kick Off Party was in full swing. It was good times, great food, cold drinks and plenty of early entry giveaways from Costa Del Mar, YETI and more. Tournament director Jasen Gast and company put on one hell of an event.

As the party was winding down, for some of us, my wife Meagan and I said our goodbyes. We headed to the truck and I spotted an old friend I’ve fished with many times over the years.

“YAMAGUCHI!” I yelled.

Capt. Mark Yamaguchi and I shook hands and instead of a hello/goodbye I got an invitation.

“Hey man, we need you. We’re short and need someone who can fish tuna.”

For someone who is, uh, not much of a morning person, tuna fishing until sunrise is one of my favorites. After a thumbs up from my better half, it was game on and I rushed home to prep my gear.

jack beal $EA DOLLAR$ Tuna Tradition Continues

Capt. Mark Yamaguchi and $ea Dollar$ owner Jack Beal.

The next morning I met the crew and we headed out from Freeport. Jack Beal, owner of $EA DOLLAR$, runs a tight ship with a solid crew. First mate Adam was the youngest of us but already boasts years of experience in multiple fisheries. I also met trolling experts Fred, who has fished with Jack for over 25 years, and Gary who has over 30 years experience in various countries. On night crew with Mark and I, was Matt and Kurt who brought in first place tuna during last year’s tournament.

The first night of fishing started out promising. We had cooperative seas, bait in our lights, a few fish early on poppers and easy jigging for blackfin. But our optimism faded as the hours dragged on and the sun began to rise. We busted our asses all night with no yellowfin tuna to show for it.

On Friday, conditions grew worse. The seas tumbled higher and rain pelted the boat. No matter; the sun set again and the night crew went back to work. But our luck started to change, as the air grew thick with flying fish. We netted well over a dozen flyers and sent them back out wearing circle hook jewelry. But drift after drift, we came up empty. Around 2 a.m., Mark made the call.

“Alright bring them in and lets make another drift.”

Those were the magic words. Kurt’s reel started screaming and it was fish on! The line continued to quickly peel away as Matt and I strapped him into the harness.

We knew this was a good fish but we didn’t realize how tough this one would be. A battle of wills began. Kurt gained yards and yards of line only to have the fish to strip it all away in an instant. This tug of war went on at least a dozen times before we finally saw color. Twenty minutes into the fight we were greeted with a tail, instead of the big head and open beak of a yellowfin tuna.

“She’s tail wrapped!” Adam said, gaff in hand.

The tuna must have heard him and sped back down to the deep, taking advantage by kicking that big tail, as we were unable to turn her head.

Thanks to the teamwork of the whole crew, Kurt’s unwillingness to give up and some attentive driving from Mark, we finally got the fish back to the boat. This time the line came free of her tail and the familiar circling of a doomed tuna began. We were ready.

Adam was quick with the gaff and close to 100 pounds of fresh sashimi hit the deck. It took 45 minutes of grit and hard work but she was finally in the boat. It was high fives all around!

The circle hook was stuck delicately in the corner of the mouth and came free too easily for comfort. We quickly put the tuna on ice and went back to work. Again, we drifted, jigged and popped until sunrise but that was it; one and done. Aside from a few badass blackfin, we only caught one yellowfin tuna, but it was the quality fish we were looking for.

On Saturday, $EA DOLLAR$ roared back into Freeport with a big tuna and a wahoo for the scales. I snapped a couple shots of Draggin’ Up weighing their big blue marlin from the water and then it was our turn. The tail rope was secured, the tuna was hoisted up and we held our breath waiting for the numbers.

TBC staff measures the tuna before weighing it.

“90 pounds on the dot!”

We had one fat tuna but it was just shy of the first place weight of 93 lbs. We took our pictures, got back on the boat, cleaned up, and made ourselves halfway presentable for the awards dinner where we were presented 2nd place tuna trophy.

Jack Beal and Kurt Pantle with the 2nd place tuna trophy.

 It was another killer event with good food and plenty of drinks for famished, thirsty crews. Draggin’ Up came in first with their big blue marlin and were named tournament champions. The first ever Billfish Classic Cup was awarded to Bimini Babe. The night ended with TBC’s Jasen Gast and the Freedom Alliance’s Pepper Ailor presenting a donated all-terrain wheelchair to veteran Jacob De La Garza, who lost his leg in Afghanistan.

Another one was in the books with many good fish weighed and several billfish released. Jack Beal’s $EA DOLLAR$ continued a tradition of bringing big tuna to the scales. I would look for it to happen again next year.

For more photography from this tournament, visit Gulf Coast Mariner’s Facebook and the Texas Billfish Classic Facebook.