Invasion of the Lionfish… with a Silver Lining

81364016 3417764481630088 8423082409699835904 n 300x201 Invasion of the Lionfish… with a Silver Lining

Photo by Courtney Platt Photography

By: Stacy Frank, Steve Gittings, Alexander Fogg, James Hart

Lionfish are one of the most destructive invasive aquatic species in history. A frilly, cut-throat invader. Native to the Indo-Pacific they have been damaging reef ecosystems off the east coast of the US, Bermuda, the entire Caribbean Region and the Gulf of Mexico for over 30 years, largely unchecked and unchallenged. You have likely seen them in home or restaurant aquariums. In the mid 1980s, two nearly identical species of lionfish (Pterois miles and P. volitans) were introduced to the Atlantic off the southeast coast of Florida, most likely released by their owners from aquaria. Starting around 2000, lionfish populations exploded. Click this link for more information: https://www.usgs.gov/centers/wetland-and-aquatic-research- center-warc/science/lionfish-distribution-geographic-spread?qt-science_center_objects=0#qt-science_center_objects. And at https://www.lionfishuniversity.org.

Below is a map of the distribution of invasive lionfish in the Northwest Atlantic Ocean as of January 2020 (courtesy of Amy Benson and Dr. Pamela Schofield of the USGS).

81416963 3427115310695005 8185913778743803904 n 768x768 Invasion of the Lionfish… with a Silver Lining

In the early 1990’s the first invasive lionfish was sighted in the Mediterranean, likely originating from the Red Sea and entering through the Suez Canal. Populations of lionfish have showed a marked increase in that region. Many Mediterranean countries prohibit spearing activities, including spearing invasive lionfish, but that is starting to change, much like it did in the western Atlantic when people realized that we had to confront the threat head on. The Mediterranean may represent a whole new destructive chapter of this invasion.

Every year thousands of species are introduced to non-native locations all over the world. So how has the perfect storm developed that has allowed lionfish to be so destructive in the wrong oceans? Adult lionfish mature within the first year of life and can grow to over 18 inches. They are slow moving and don’t scare easily and rely on their 18 venomous spines to keep predators away.

While there are numerous native species that have been reported to consume lionfish, it is not in high enough numbers to control the population. It’s not known exactly what keeps their populations in check in their native range, but groupers, sharks and moray eels have all been seen eating lionfish. Additionally, although lionfish are susceptible to diseases and parasites in their invaded range, the effects on the population are unknown.

Lionfish mature quickly and adapt to a large range of conditions (temperature, salinity, depth, habitat). An average sized female lionfish can produce an average of 25,000 eggs every 2.5 days which is more than 2 million eggs per year!

The impact of the lionfish invasion can be devastating. In heavily invaded areas lionfish reach densities of 200 adults per acre. They are not particular when it comes to food choices, and they are gluttons. They can reduce native fish populations by more than 90%. They are the buffet busters of the reefs at an all you can eat buffet. Lionfish stomachs can expand about 30 times normal size and they can swallow prey up to 2/3 their size. Below is a photo of the stomach contents of one invasive lionfish.

Lionfish prey include recreationally and commercially important species of fish such as juvenile snapper and grouper. They also compete with these same species of fish for food, which can result in significant impacts to local fisheries. Lionfish also eat herbivorous fish, which are vital to reef health because they keep algae in check. As lionfish populations grow, the degraded reefs become more susceptible to the effects of overfishing, disease, pollution and climate change. See National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries Impacts of Invasive Lionfish (Feb 9, 2018) for more information. https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/feature-story/impacts-invasive-lionfish

Alex Fogg, Marine Biologist, LFU Science Advisor and Field Reporter

So, what’s being done to control them? Currently, spearing is the most effective method of lionfish removal. Every lionfish speared can save thousands of native fish!

In addition to spearing, specialized traps are being developed to help harvest lionfish beyond diver depths (generally below 150 ft). Lionfish University is working with the trap’s designer, Dr. Steve Gittings, Chief Scientist for NOAA’s Marine Sanctuary System, as well as Coast Watch Alliance and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to help fund and execute the lionfish trap research. The traps work because lionfish are highly attracted to structure and tend to stay put. So, the traps stay open on the ocean bottom, with only a sheet of plastic lattice rising from the center of the trap, and nothing is actually trapped until the minute it is pulled up: native reef fish just swim out, but lionfish hunker down around the plastic sheet and don’t leave. This results in almost no by-catch of native species and no ghost fishing should the trap be lost. The results have been very encouraging and several groups throughout the invaded region have been testing the traps and giving feedback on how to improve them. Here is a link https://sanctuaries.noaa.gov/lionfish/ that shows how to build your own lionfish trap, along with great informational resources. Build one, test it, and let us know how to improve it. Note that specialized permits may be necessary to test these traps in your area.

Dr. Steve Gittings’ non containment trap design

So, what is the silver lining? Lionfish taste delicious and are nutritious. You can eat up and know you are helping to save the reefs while enjoying their light, buttery flavor and flakey texture. Many Whole Foods Markets as far west as Austin, Texas carry this delicious invader. They are high in Omega-3 fatty acids, low in mercury and provide a source of income for fishers who cull them with spears.

Besides their delectable food value, there are groups who have created successful business ventures surrounding the lionfish invasion including jewelry (http://lionfishcaribbean.com/lionfish-jewelry), art creations (https://kindledarts.com/shop/products/jIEs0DSac), clothing (https://lionfishuniversity.org/product/lionfish-eliminator-performance-long-sleeve-shirts/), and lionfish culling equipment (https://lionfishuniversity.org/product/zookeeper-lcu14/, http://www.lionatorpolespears.com). Despite their venomous spines, their meat is not poisonous and once the spines are clipped off, you can handle and cook them like any other white fish. See this link for a great lionfish cookbook: https://smile.amazon.com/dp/1457558521/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_U_PKbgEbJH52FHJ.

Quite the culture has grown up around the invasion, fun lionfish derbies and festivals for the ecologically concerned. Check out the Emerald Coast Open – the largest lionfish tournament in the world – May 15-17, 2020 in Destin, Florida. Last year this event had $50,000 in cash prizes, more than $15,000 in gear prizes, and netted almost 20,000 lionifsh! Prizes are awarded for most, largest and smallest lionfish. Find out more about how you can enter this reef saving event and/or attend the festival: https://emeraldcoastopen.com/. As Alex Fogg says: Lionfish are good for money, food, friends and fun!

If you would like to get involved in helping clear the reefs of these destructive fish you can become a certified scuba diver and learn how to spear them safely, making sure to check any local regulations about spearing certification, and types of spears that are allowed. Here are some dive operators in who can get you started:

  • Niuhi Dive Charters (Pensacola, FL)
  • Florida Dive Pros (Pensacola, FL)
  • Jolly Rogers Dive Center (Pensacola, FL)
  • Bluewater Escape Charters (Fort Walton Beach, FL)
  • Off Duty Dive Charters (Destin, FL)
  • Islamorada Dive Center (Islamorada, FL)
  • Juliet Sailing and Diving (Miami, FL)
  • Gary’s Gulf Divers (Orange Beach, AL)
  • Gulf Coast Divers (Mobile, AL)
  • Texas Lionfish Control Unit (Dallas, TX)

So, have a great time hunting while helping to save the reefs!

Eat Em’ to beat Em’. Take a Lionfish to Lunch… And Eat It!

JH Performance Boats

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JH Performance Boat’s most popular model, the Outlaw 230X, anchored down.

High-quality, built to last shallow water boats manufactured by Richmond family

By Kelly Groce

Born and raised in Richmond, TX, John Schubert and his brother Michael built racing boats their entire lives thanks to the knowledge that their father passed down. After starting Sport Marine in 1988 and being a dealer of a variety of boats for years, the family decided to start building their own boats in 2007.

JH Performance Boats has 3 models in a variety of lengths to choose from; Outlaw Series, BX Series and the B Series. Each JH Performance Boat is constructed from the highest quality polyester gel coats and resins using a variety of fiberglass cloth materials in multiple layers for added strength. Each hull is hand laid and filled with full foam flotation throughout. Floors and decks are built with 100% composite core materials and transoms are made of high density solid composite sheets. JH Performance Boats has a wide variety of colors to choose from to make your boat even more tailored to your liking.

With a phenomenal reputation by shallow water fisherman for attention to detail, excellent craftsmanship and above and beyond customer service, JH Performance Boats is now producing 50-60 boats a year and continues to grow. Enjoy

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Owner of JH Performance Boats, John Schubert, with an Outlaw model that will be on display at the Houston Boat Show this January 3-12. Photo: Kelly Groce

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your family.

Believe it or not, we’ve never been that much of a fishing family. We’ve been way more of a racing family or  just a normal boating family, but I really enjoy being a part of the fishing group of people that we are involved with now. I think shallow water boats and the shallow water community is a great group of people to deal with. They can be hard on equipment, but at the same time it’s a hard way of fishing. I enjoy that group of people the most and that’s who we cater to.

I’m still not much of a fisherman. My brother Michael and I will build a fishing boat for us to have, but then someone will come and buy it (laughs). We have a lot of fishing guides with our company, so we can always go fishing with them if we want. We mostly do a lot of boat racing and our kids enjoy it. That’s something my father always did, so naturally my brother and I did too. It’s pretty neat and it’s been part of what we do. We’ve gained a decent amount of knowledge doing it.

We also have  a house at Selkirk Island, which is up north from Matagorda. The whole family goes there and we bring a ski boat to run the river and pull the kids on tubes. The bay is right there if we want to go fishing, so that’s nice. My kids are getting older so its not just about going tubing anymore, but hose are some of our favorite times.

What is your most popular model?

The 23′ Outlaw. The boat drives and handles incredibly well. It is a great boat for getting across the bay and keeping you dry. It’s just a great running boat. We’ve sold a lot of them and people come in and want them again and again. We have lots of returning customers, which we appreciate. We;ve had Generation 1 and Generation 2 of the Outlaw. When my brother and I set out to build that boat, we drew what we wanted on paper and designed what we wanted. We built that whole boat out of wood, put a transom on it, bolted on a 200 HP Yamaha and ran that thing. Right out of the box it was pretty close to what we were thinking. We would go run it and come back home and in about an hours time we would have it flipped upside down and on the trailer. Since it was wood we would modify it easily; change angles, widths and all that kind of stuff. We would flip it back over, put a motor on it and go run it. We wouldn’t be in the water more than 3 minutes and know that quick if our modifications worked or didn’t work. We would do this over and over again until it was right. We had 16-18 hours on that boat after the fact just trying to figure out what would work. We got that one built and we were pretty happy with it. It didn’t carry the speed we wanted, but everyone said it was fine. They were all liars. There is no such thing as fast enough (laughs). We changed it up and we got it where we want as far as speed goes.

Does JH Performance Boats put on any events you want our readers to know about?

We do. Our JH Performance Boats Owners Tournament is in mid to late October each year out of Matagorda Harbor at the pavilion. Last year, we had 65 boats and 300+ people come out to support. It’s a really fun event that starts on Friday. We feed everyone and make sure everyone has plenty of cold beer. We get a lot of great product to giveaway too. Everyone is welcome.

JH PERFORMANCE BOATS

Draggin’ Up

dragginupmarlin Draggin Up

It took Draggin’ Up 20 hours to bring in this blue marlin! They placed third with this fish at the 2018 Poco Bueno Tournament.

Family, friends and most importantly, fun on Chris Heule’s tournament winning 74’ Viking

By Brandon Rowan

For Chris Heule, owner of Draggin’ Up, it’s all about being out there with family and friends. Catching fish is just the icing on the cake. Draggin’ Up has hit the ground running in the short couple years they’ve been on the tournament scene. Multiple blue marlin have hit the scales, awards have collected and tournaments have been won. That’s a whole lot of extra icing.

“I bought Draggin’ Up in September of 2016. I had always wanted a sportfish,” Chris Heule said. “I have a big family, with a lot of friends, so I was looking for something that could handle the crowd of people that we run with.”

Chris was born and raised in Seabrook and hasn’t strayed too far since. He now calls Friendswood home but keeps Draggin’ Up at Lakewood Yacht Club in Seabrook.

“I’ve always enjoyed the water so I wanted to stay near the water,” Chris said.

tbc draggin up Draggin Up

Crew, family and friends celebrate a win at the Texas Billfish Classic.

Family First

Chris and his family fell in love with the room and performance that a Viking Yachts 74, like Draggin’ Up, has to offer.

“My son Sam loves to fish too, so him and the crew he brings make a big impact on the boat,” Chris said. “All of his friends hang out with us.”

Chris and his son, Sam Rasberry, share a mutual passion for fishing and hunting, and get to spend a lot of time together. But it’s not a boys club out there. Chris’ wife Erika and his daughter Kennedy also love boating and fishing. Kennedy recently caught her first sailfish on a trip to Isla Mujeres

“I don’t have to bargain with Erika to go out on the boat, she’s always ready to go fishing!” Chris said.

Owner Chris Heule, center, with Sam Rasberry and Capt. Kevin Deerman.

At the Helm

No ship is complete without a captain and Draggin’ Up has one of the best in the biz. Capt. Kevin Deerman has been fishing most of his life and took his first captain job in 1986. Deerman has some serious notches on his belt. As former captain of the Legacy, he was at the helm when angler Richard B. Richardson, Jr. reeled in the 972.72 lb. Texas state record blue marlin during the 2014 Bastante John Uhr Memorial Billfish Tournament.

“Kevin Deerman:  He is the reason we do what we do,” Chris said of his captain. “He has really pole vaulted us to the marlin and bigger gamefish we are catching now. We wouldn’t be where we are now without our crew and Kevin.”

Before Draggin’ Up, Chris and Kevin were strangers, but closer to each other than they knew.

“We didn’t know each other but it’s crazy how many mutual friends that we had,” Kevin said. “But I can’t tell you how grateful I am to have Chris and his family in my life. They’re great people and they enjoy doing the things that I love. If they weren’t so passionate about fishing we wouldn’t be out there doing what we’re doing.”

Tricks of the Trade

We all know the drill. The pineapple is a must and absolutely no bananas on board. Every boat has their own superstitions and rituals and Draggin’ Up is no exception. Chris, Kevin and Sam lit up with excitement when asked about theirs.

“Oh man, I didn’t before I met Kevin but now I have a whole slew of them,” Chris laughed. “Some of them we can talk about, some are hush hush.”

And I’m good with that. Here at GCM, we’re not about giving away fishing spots or secret tournament rain dances. But Chris and company were gracious enough to let me share a few of them. Dunkaroos are big on Draggin’ Up.

“That’s when you take a bucket full of ice and water and you stick your head in there. When you come up you drink a beer.”  Sam Rasberry said. “Every since we started doing that we seem to get a marlin bite a few minutes later so we keep it going.”

The guys agree that the boat has to be jamming Post Malone and of course, no bananas are allowed on board. Kevin experimented with two pineapples for extra luck but went back to a solo fruit after that didn’t work out. Maybe the fish gods found it greedy.

The guys on Draggin’ Up also insist that Chris keep his comments to a minimum.

“We can’t let Chris make any comments on anything that might happen because then it will happen,” Kevin said.

For example, Chris couldn’t help but talk about how good a hook-up ratio they were having during a trip. But on the next trip out, the boat only went 1 for 5.

“And on another trip, Chris said to me ‘It’s amazing we haven’t seen any sharks in a long time!’” Kevin said.  “So I yell down ‘One shark, coming up!’ It wasn’t more than 30 seconds later that a 500 lb. tiger shark came up chasing the teaser. Of course, it took a bait and we caught it.”

Tournament Success

In their first tournament season, Draggin’ Up came out swinging. In 2017, they clinched a 4th place blue marlin at Poco Bueno, Kanon Lasserre was named top junior angler at the Lone Star Shootout, and they weighed a 3rd place blue marlin at Texas Legends Billfish Tournament. Things got even better in 2018 with a 3rd place blue marlin at Poco Bueno and a 1st place win at the Texas Billfish Classic in Freeport. The boat stays busy and fishes tournaments up and down the Gulf Coast.

“We really like the Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic. We look forward to that one every year, but we have so many good ones on our coast,” Chris said.

“The Houston Big Game is another one of our favorite competitions,” Kevin added. “We got top private boat the first and second year we entered.”

In 2018, the boat also collected awards for Top Captain, Kevin Deerman, Top Male Angler, Sam Rasberry, and 2nd place blue marlin, Chris Heule.

Draggin’ Up likes to keep the mood light and the mojo going during tournament time. Rituals and superstitions come into play and also antics, like catching fish out of an inflatable kiddie pool on the cockpit, are not out of the question.

The boat’s second favorite fish to catch is Yellowfin Tuna but they never get tired of seeing the man in the blue suit.

“When a blue marlin hits your bait, it’s completely different than anything else out there,” Kevin said.

Chris agrees.

“You could be having the slowest day, with everyone walking around pouting and moping, and the mojo on the boat is completely down, but when that bait goes off everyone’s attitude completely changes,” Chris said.

Fish From Hell

The Bahamas are a favorite destination for Chris Heule and Draggin’ Up.

The guys from Draggin’ Up have seen some truly wild occurrences in the few years the boat’s been on the water. The boat travels and Chris’ absolute favorite destination is the Bahamas. But the water is not without peril. The boat encountered a tropical wave on a trip to Isla Mujeres one year and the next year they were struck by lightning. But the one story that stands head and shoulders above the rest is the 20 hour blue marlin fight during the 2018 Poco Bueno Tournament.

“We have so many memories from this boat but that one marlin trumps anything we’ve ever done. Fish don’t usually last that long,” Chris said.

The crew did everything they could to stay awake during the fight and Chris never left the fighting chair.

“We tried every trick in the book,” Kevin said. “We made circles on it, tried getting it to come up, or on both sides of the boat and the fish just kept switching on us. It was on the leader most of the time.”

The man on the leader, Andy Hollen, literally collapsed once the fish was landed. It took 20 hours, and a fight reminiscent of The Old Man and the Sea, but the crew was able to capture third place in the tournament with the 575.5 lb marlin.

The majority of billfish are tagged and released on Draggin’ Up.

Many Firsts

Chris entertains a large group of friends and family on Draggin’ Up and the boat boasts several first catches. At least 18 people have caught and released their first blue marlin on board.

“When we go out and fish, we tag and release the majority of billfish,” Chris said. “It’s important to do what’s right and preserve what we do. It’s not always about killing. We are passing on the future of these fish still being able to be caught where we live.”

The amount of billfish released far outnumbers those retained. Kevin can count on two hands the amount of marlin retained over the years, including time before Draggin’ Up.

All in all, Team Draggin’ Up doesn’t have too much to complain about, especially with all of their accomplishments in such a short span of time. They continue to stay the course with family, friends and fun out on the water. Look for Chris Heule, Kevin Deerman, Sam Rasberry, mates Conner Golightly, Seth Brennan and the whole Draggin’ Up extended family, to continue making waves in the 2020 billfish tournament season.

The Shimano Experience

 

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Reese Haven, Scott Null, Dave Lear, Cindy Nguyen, Brian Barrera, Ed Zyak, Mark Nichols, Johnny Lu and myself at the end of the Shimano Headquarters tour in Ladson, SC.

DSC 0024 1024x683 The Shimano Experience By Kelly Groce

Since 1921, Shimano has been a reputable company that anglers have relied on for quality fishing products. After a day of fishing in Charleston, SC myself along with Cindy Nguyen, Johnny Lu, Brian Barrera, Mark Nichols, Ed Zyak, Dave Lear, Scott Null and Reese Havens were fortunate enough to take a tour of the new and remarkable Shimano Headquarters in Ladson.

Shimano’s Field Marketing Manager, Blaine Anderson, greeted us at the door and began the tour. As soon as you walk in, there is an exhibit that shows a timeline including when Shozaburo Shimano created Shimano in 1921 and other pivotal moments in the company’s history. Blaine talked us through other exhibits that showed Shimano’s latest technology that is used in each reel such as Micro Module gears that enables smooth reeling, X-Ship which also enables smooth reeling but under heavy loads, and Shimano’s precision cold forging technology. My favorite display (pictured right) was two reels broke down piece by piece. This was a truly remarkable sight and showed just how much detail goes into each reel.

Shimano’s Field Marketing Manager, Blaine Anderson, greeted us at the door and began the tour.

CONSERVATION AND ANGLER ADVOCACY
After the headquarters tour, Shimano America’s President, David Pfeiffer, spoke with us about Shimano’s involvement with conservation and angler advocacy. Shimano works with organizations that are involved in forming policies in Washington such as Center of Sport Fishing Policy, The American Sportfishing Association, The Marine Manufactures Association and Coastal Conservation Association. David informed us that fishing and boating is the 5th largest economic generator in the U.S. and that if more companies were involved in making a change, they could combine forces and ensure that our fishery stays healthy and productive for not only us, but for future generations to enjoy.

Low Country: Fishing South Carolina with D.O.A. Lures

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The view from our dock looking at the Cape Romain Wildlife Refuge.

metrout 858x1024 Low Country: Fishing South Carolina with D.O.A. Lures

Catching this trout on D.O.A.’s topwater, the PT-7, was the highlight of my trip. Photo: Scott Null

By Kelly Groce

South Carolina is home to 6-8’ tides, incredible seafood and BBQ, miles of marshes and mature oaks draped with moss. I was lucky enough to be able to fish this area with some great people in the fishing industry and the Low Country did not disappoint.

An hour north of Charleston, is the small, quaint community of McCllellanville. Here you will find the marsh land beauty and National Wildlife Refuge, Cape Romain, that separates the ICW from the Atlantic. I was expecting to catch a lot of redfish here, but speckled trout were the ones that showed up to play our first day of the trip. Capt. Jordan Pate has lived in the area his whole life and enjoys everything that there is to offer such as fishing, hunting and surfing. Jordan uses similar tactics we use here in Texas. Jordan had some rods rigged with a popping cork and D.O.A. 3” Shrimp and the other rods had a jighead with a D.O.A. 3” Shad. The wind was howling, but both of these methods worked just fine. Capt. Brian Barrera had to try the D.O.A. 3” Shad in the color Candy Corn since he was told he’d never catch anything on a lure that color in these water. He turned the skeptics into believers.

Charleston is home to great seafood. The oysters were incredible.

The second of the trip, Scott Null and myself traveled into Charleston to fish with Capt. Joe Benton on his Cayo poling skiff. We started the day fishing around some exposed oyster reefs and looking for tailing reds. The waters were calm so it was the perfect opportunity to throw D.O.A.’s topwater, the PT-7. As I was working my PT-7 alongside some grass I got a blow-up pretty close to the boat and it ended up being a beautiful 23” trout. Once again, coming to South Carolina I thought I was going to be catching redfish for the most part, but I’m not going to

complain about catching thick speckled trout on topwaters…ever. We poled around the corner and there was a beautiful sight of shrimp jumping followed by redfish wakes and tails waving. They weren’t amused with my topwater, so Scott got some photos and I enjoyed the nature show. If I would have had the time to change out my lure, a D.O.A. shrimp or their new lure, the Snakoil, would have done the job. Meanwhile on a different boat, Ed Zyak was putting a hurt on redfish using the Snakoil. It is great for sight casting big redfish and trout.

Both days of fishing ended with exchanging fish stories paired with incredible meals. South Carolina’s oysters are un-be-lievable. Shrimp and grits, crab cakes, pulled pork, chicken wings… it’s all good. If you don’t come to South Carolina to experience the fishery, you should definitely make the trip for the cuisine.

Thank you Mark Nichols, Ed Zyak and Brian Barrera of D.O.A. Lures for the invite to experience everything the Low Country has to offer. With fishing gurus such as Bill Carson, Scott Null, Cindy Nguyen, Johnny Lu, Jeff Burleson and Dave Lear in the mix, it’s always a fun few days of learning and laughs.

Capt. Joe Benton and Scott Null heading in after a day of fishing Charleston.

Capt. Brian Barrera with an example that similar tactics we use here in Texas such as a popping cork rigged with a D.O.A. shrimp worked just as good in South Carolina.

My first South Carolina speckled trout. We caught plenty of trout this size using a D.O.A. jighead with a 3″ Shad tail or the 3″ shrimp rigged under a popping cork. Photo: Brian Barrera

Walking in a Winter Wonderland

flyfishingredfish Walking in a Winter Wonderland

Stephen Young with a good redfish on the fly rod.

TRACKING DOWN COLD WEATHER REDFISH

By Steve Soule | ultimatedetailingllc.com

After 51 years of living in some of the southernmost regions of the United States, its very safe to say that I’m not the biggest fan of cold weather. I have however, many years back, learned that I truly love winter fishing.

Once you can get past the initial shock of cold air and water, even the damp and cloudy days can be some of the best that we will see all year. Let’s take a look at why winter is often so good for anglers and how to capitalize on cold weather fishing.

Forage Focus

As summer exits on the upper Gulf Coast, our abundance of baitfish and other food sources begins it dwindle. At first glance, this definitely doesn’t seem like it would lend itself well to better fishing. But if we think back to the dog days of summer, one of the most difficult parts of consistently catching fish would be locating the right areas. But when nearly every place that you would consider fishing is covered with mullet and other obvious signs, it can be confusing. I know it seems strange to think, but less abundant food supply can lead to better catches.

Why, you ask? Well, when there are food sources at every location, it becomes difficult to determine which area has not only the proper food sources, but also the predatory creatures we so desperately want to capture. During the cooler months, less can often equal more when it comes to catching redfish and trout. As food sources dwindle, they also concentrate! The resident populations of mullet and other fish now occupy much more limited areas of the bays, and remaining populations tend to become concentrated in areas of greatest comfort and reliable food sources. To less experienced anglers, this may still sound like it won’t help us locate fish. But as you begin to explore the bays in winter, it becomes evident that if you find concentrations of bait fish and other food sources, you will inevitably find concentrations of predators nearby. On the coldest, and most difficult days, never overlook the slightest presence of baitfish!!

heddonsuperspook Walking in a Winter Wonderland

Heddon Super Spook in Okie Shad.

Winter Lure Choices

Now that we have unlocked the key to locating predators in cooler water, we can get down to catching them! Hopefully. Winter is a “pick your poison” time of the year. My personal lure preference are larger mullet imitations for covering open water areas and structure. If I could only fish with one type of lure for the rest of my life, it would have to be a topwater. They prove deadly effective to the patient winter angler. Most won’t have the level of dedication and patience required to fully take advantage. If, by chance you are within the group of patient and you want to see some of the most explosive strikes that fish can provide us with, then tie on a Super Spook or She Dog and be prepared for some fun. Here are a few general rules for topwater fishing:

  • Make sure that you vary the retrieves!
  • Don’t assume tight cold water means you have to fish slowly to get bites.
  • Be patient
  • Some days, what you think is slow, isn’t slow enough, so go slower

There are always those days when they trout and reds just don’t want to come to the surface to eat a topwater. Though these days disappoint me greatly, it’s a fact that must be accepted. Coupling this fact with the fact that I’m constantly searching for the bigger fish, I will continue with my larger baitfish patterns during winter. Subsurface finesse baits, such as MirrOLure Catch 2000, Catch 5, Corky original and Fat Boy are some of the most effective winter standards on the Texas Coast, and rank very high on the list of big trout and redfish producers. These subsurface baits, much like topwaters, require a great deal of angler input to be truly effective. But once you’ve mastered a few retrieves, they will astound you with their ability to pry open the mouths of fish in very cold water. The key here is to experiment and vary retrieves and learn some of the many things that these baits can achieve. And of course, just like in the case of the topwater, there are days when slow just isn’t slow enough, so go slower!

Another type of bait or lure that can prove exceptional during the cooler months of the year, and is equally effective in the hands of a dedicated angler, is the “Twitch Bait.” What I’m referring to here are floating or suspending lipped baits. The big brand names that we all know in this category would be Rapala, Bomber, and more recently Yo-Zuri, along with a host of others. This category of lures has been around for many years, and can be just as effective as the others mentioned above. They can do so many things once the operator has taken the time to explore various retrieves. When you’re just getting started with this category, just varying speed with steady cranking can be very effective. Of course, like every other lure type, there are so many options with start and stop, fast twitches, and definitely lots of pauses.

Cold water, though it can provide us with some devastating and explosive attacks from our favorite predators, can also frustrate us with horrifically slow and subtle bites. On these days, learning new retrieves is often the trick that can take a day from zero to hero. Fast, slow, in-between speeds, starts and stops, and often long pauses can lead to some of the best catches when water temps plummet. Winter’s coldest days are the ones that make some of the best anglers shine. These are the days where the average angler just gives up, but for those who possess patience and persistence, and of course, who are in the “right” areas, be prepared for some serious photo ops.

Soft Plastics

If you just aren’t ready for the “grind mode” and patience isn’t your thing, that’s okay. Soft plastics, such as “rat tail” or “swim tails” will still produce well. Bass Assassin Sea Shads or MirrOLure Lil’ Johns offer less angler input and will typically produce much better numbers when fished though concentrations of baitfish. These are perfect for the drifting anglers and can work just as well for a wade fisher. To be honest, the Sea Shad has become one of my staple baits for sight fishing year round. A small profile with a swimming tail is effective in so many situations. Add to this, these baits require very little beyond just a steady retrieve to catch fish consistently, making them great for those just getting into lure fishing.

Last but not least, of the fun things about winter fishing is the water clarity and potentially extreme low tides. Though for many of us these can make for tough fishing days and potential new oyster rash on our prized fiberglass fishing crafts, they also combine to give us some of the best bay learning and exploration days of the year. Get out there and take advantage of the clear water and low tides. Learn some new areas and expand your understanding of the areas you already fish. Take your time when exploring; make sure that you look for structure. Try to gain a better understanding of the tide flows in these new areas. Don’t get in a rush. Try some new lures and new retrieves, and don’t forget that some days, slow just isn’t slow enough.

FlatsWorthy

flatsworthy FlatsWorthy

FlatsWorthy’s Chuck Naiser holds up Steve Soule’s redfish caught on the fly.

Working together to promote respect for anglers and resources alike

By Steve Soule

recently had the opportunity to meet with the founder and president of a very unique and growing Texas organization, whose primary goal is to educate and disseminate information about sharing our coastal waters and resources. If you read my article two issues back, you know that this is something that I feel very strongly about. Chuck Naiser, who guides shallow water anglers in the Rockport area, has been actively guiding since 1993 and fishing the mid coast since 1967. He is definitely a man who has seen coastal change and is passionate about the preservation and enjoyment of our bays, marshes and shallow flats.

Chuck and I made an instant connection while discussing coastal change and it was truly fascinating to hear how much our observations and thoughts mirrored each other, even though we fish waters so far apart. It was immediately evident, even though we had never really gotten to speak one-on-one before, that we had seen very similar changes within each of our diverse and separate ecosystems. These changes were, and are related to the coastal habitat, as well as the people who utilize them.

Diverse Anglers, Mutual Respect

I’ve given a lot of thought to this over the course of many years, watching disturbing activity from boaters increase in the Upper Coast bays and shallows where I have spent the past 25-plus years of my life fishing. The phrase that Chuck and FlatsWorthy chose to use as a descriptor for the organization is “Diverse Anglers, Mutual Respect.” This couldn’t be more succinct and yet so encompassing. These bays and other inland waters belong to us all equally! There is no user group that has more right or entitlement to usage. We are all equal here and anyone with the ability to access coastal waters is perfectly within their rights to do so.

We have coastal enforcement agencies in place who already have an existing set of laws that we are all expected to follow. Texas Parks and Wildlife, along with Texas Game Wardens, are empowered to enforce these laws. Like any other policing entity, they are overburdened and understaffed. One of the most important distinguishing factors about the FlatsWorthy organization is its goal is to establish a set of guidelines, with regard to boating and fishing etiquette, established by users at all levels and styles. The organization seeks a broad and diverse input to help establish these suggested practices, and has chosen to attempt to work to spread information that will help make every day more pleasant for all users of coastal resources.

Its about educating, not legally mandating! If we can establish and maintain a unified, diverse group of people who actively promote and enjoy inshore waters, and work together to promote a level of consideration, etiquette and respect, we can negate the need for Governmental involvement.  Therein lies one of the primary goals and core values; “self governing and cooperation, rather than regulatory enforcement” will allow all users to continue to enjoy the resources in diverse ways.

To date, the FlatsWorthy group has held many meetings, worked with biologists, broad and varied boating, fishing, kayaking and other groups to work to develop a understanding of the concerns each user group has. From this, it becomes clearer the level of respect and courtesy that is needed to help ensure that we can all enjoy coastal habitat and resources without infringing on others who are trying to enjoy them as well.

We have all seen, experienced, and heard multiple stories about boating activities that are much less than desirable. I have personally experienced more incidents than I would ever care to recall or recount. Interestingly, I feel that there are a great number of these occurrences that are accidental and stem purely from ignorance of acceptable behavior. Sadly, there are still a large number of inconsiderate acts on the water that likely can be attributed to individuals who just don’t grasp the concept of courtesy. Many can also be attributed to ignorance on one side, followed by arrogance or anger on the other. I have had my moments on the water of wanting to retaliate against inconsiderate boating behavior, but refuse to allow myself to succumb to the urge.

From boat launch to destination, be it hunting, fishing, birding or just recreational fun, everyone on the water deserves respect and consideration. We, as users, all find pleasure on the water, and many like Chuck Naiser and myself have spent many years promoting what we love. With growing populations and interest in coastal waters, we aren’t likely to see anything short of a continued growth in those who spend time on the water. Given this fact and having an understanding of how to successfully navigate our challenges with respect to others users, we can continue to share and enjoy a healthy coastal fishery for many generations to come.

If you want to learn more about an organization working to make everyone’s time on coastal water better, take a look at www.flatsworthy.com

Among the many things you will find when you look at their website is the FlatsWorthy Code of Angler Respect (COAR). The tenants are 1) Respect Fellow Anglers 2) Respect The Resource 3) Respect The Law

If you like the sound of this organization, please take a look and see if its a good fit for you and your angling and or boating style.

Tie One On: Capt. Brian Barrera

doa barrera Tie One On: Capt. Brian Barrera

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.

doaluresb Tie One On: Capt. Brian Barrera

D.O.A. Lures Bait Buster in 309 Glow/Gold Rush Belly and 3″ C.A.L. Shad Tail in 455 Texas Croaker.

I’m doing a lot of snook and juvenile tarpon fishing right now. With that being said, the trusty Shimano is always rigged up with a D.O.A. Lures Bait Buster, in a variety of colors worked “low and slow,” or I’m burning a D.O.A. 3” shad tail in anything with chartreuse on a 1/2 to 1 oz. jighead through the thermocline where the fish like to hang this time of year.

Once back at the dock after a long day in the elements, I like to have a Kimo Sabe Mezcal Reposado on the rocks or an old fashion. And bartender… keep ‘em coming!

-Capt. Brian Barrera

inshorefishingsouthpadre.com | 956-755-9413

Mowdy Boats

robbie with boat 1024x683 Mowdy Boats

Robbie Gregory of Mowdy Boats stands with a fine example of their 25’ Catamaran. This is their most popular model.

DSC 0694 683x1024 Mowdy BoatsPremium shallow water boats being handcrafted one at a time in Port Lavaca

Photography and interview by Kelly Groce

Mowdy Boats have been built since the 1970s by Mr. Hal Mowdy of Victoria, TX. Hal was the patriarch of all the Texas boat builders. Himself, along with Steve Bell of Shoalwater Boats and Mr. Haynie of Haynie Bay Boats, were ahead of the pack and started everything we see on Texas waters today. Mr. Mowdy was a one man show and made all his boats in one color, Mowdy gray. If you wanted a boat, that’s what you were getting and it may take 7 or 8 months to get your finished boat. Mr. Mowdy was extremely dedicated to the quality and the hand craftsmanship to each and every single one of his boats.

Mowdy Boats is now located in Port Lavaca and led by Frank Crappito and his managing partner, Robbie Gregory. I was fortunate enough to take a quick road trip down to meet with Robbie, who had just returned from Houston where he had gifted each of the winners of the largest trout division of the CCA Star Tournament a Mowdy boat. Besides the Star Tournament, you’ve most likely seen these beautiful boats on the water since Texas Parks and Wildlife, Texas Game Wardens, Coastal Fisheries, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, all run Mowdys. Robbie gave me a personal tour of their facility and educated me on how each boat is built one at a time by master craftsmen. From swampy back-bayous to fishing out in the Gulf, Mowdys can navigate through any water condition. Enjoy.

How did you and Frank get involved with Mowdy Boats?

So the way this company came about was in 2011 when one day Frank and I were fishing on his 22’ Mowdy that took him 3 years to find. Frank and I were just shooting the breeze and talking about how great these boats are. Frank said, “Wouldn’t it be something if we could buy the mold to this 22’ and build ourselves a couple of boats?” Frank then asked if I knew Mr. Mowdy. Having guided in Port O’Connor for 20 years I know just about everybody. Frank suggested I go talk to Mr. Mowdy and see if he will sell us the mold.

The next week I met with Mr. Mowdy and asked if he would sell us the mold to the 22’ and he said, “No I won’t sell you that mold, but I will sell you ALL of my molds and ALL of my equipment. Everything but the building.” I called Frank and told him that Hal won’t sell the one mold, but he wants to sell everything. I know it was a great opportunity especially since the boats already have such a great reputation. Frank said, “If I back it, will you run it?” Without hesitation I said, “I’m in.” So basically we did a hand written contract and a week later we paid Mr. Mowdy.

After that, we started looking for a place. I live here in Port Lavaca and we found this facility here. We had no clue on how we were going to build the boats. After fishing one day, I was at Clark’s in Port O’Connor, which is a marina, hotel and restaurant. I was there eating and my waitress said, “What do you do?” I told her I’m a fishing guide, do some building and developing, and now a friend of mine and I just bought Mowdy Boats. She said, “My husband builds boats and he needs a job, would you like to talk to him?” It was a God send. It turns out her husband started with Mr. Haynie of Haynie Bay Boats when he was 17 years old. He is now in his ‘50s, but that’s all he’s done his entire life. After talking to each other, he agreed to come onboard to help and he brought with him a family of a father and 3 sons. That’s all they’ve ever done their whole life is build these kind of boats. So we started with the most experienced crew of boat builders that you could ever imagine. From there, we started building boats.

The 25’ Catamaran, which is our most popular boat, is amazing. There’s no other boat out there like it. It runs incredibly shallow, but it also takes the water well because of the entry. It’s stable because it has all the tributes of a catamaran with the full tunnel. You can get on one side and jump up and down and it just sits there, it doesn’t rock around. Mr. Mowdy had only sold maybe 7 or 8 of those style boats, but as we began to get them out there and some of the fishing guides picked up on ‘em and started running them, 9 out of the 10 boats we build now are the 25’ Catamaran. Everybody wants it. Word of mouth has definitely made it what it is.

Another 25’ getting the final touches. This boat was built totally to the customer’s wants and needs.

How are Mowdy Boats different from other boat companies?

Mowdy is different from other companies because this is not a cookie cutter boat. So when I build your boat… I mean I build your boat. You get to tell me what color, pick the upholstery, decide where you want this or that. It’s totally custom. We are limited production, so we do about 50 boats a year. Which is a good thing because it keeps the price point high and you as an owner keep the value up on your boat. One thing that’s for sure is that you cant find one for sale, well maybe one or two, but people don’t sell their Mowdy. They are lifelong boats. They hold their value. Some guys will keep their boat for 5, 6, or 7 years and sell their boat for more or as much as what they paid. That is unheard of when it comes to boats.

We 100% foam fill our boat, from the top of the deck to the bottom of the hull. There is no void. It’s all filled with 2 lb. closed cell foam. The foam makes for a quiet ride that you don’t get beat up on. The boat just slices through the water. Little things like that set us apart from other boats. We block the bow of our boat so when you take it off the trailer it doesn’t hang off the reverse gunnel. By having a reverse gunnel on our boats, the water hits the reverse gunnel and throws the water down making it an extremely dry ride. Our aluminum is made at another facility, but it’s our deal. All of our cup holders are insulated cup friendly, like I said it’s the little stuff. But if you fish, you know how important all those little things are. We listen to our people and we aren’t close minded. We are here to build to your taste.

Another great thing is, you can’t sink a Mowdy. Think of a surfboard that is totally encapsulated. You can punch a hole in it, but you can’t sink it. That’s a Mowdy. The 2 lb. closed cell foam can’t adsorb water.

When your boat is done, it comes with tags, registration, and everything else you need. It is ready to be picked up and put in the water. We build this boat for you and the only thing I want to see from you once you pick it up, is fish pictures.

How did you get involved with the CCA Star Tournament?

A 25’ Mowdy Catamaran in the beginning stages of being made.

My partner Frank has a good friend, Bill Kinney, who’s head of the Star Tournament. There was an opportunity that came available for the prize boat for largest trout divisions for the upper, middle and lower coast since Blue Wave Boats dropped out. Frank and I talked about it and said it was a great opportunity with CCA being such a good organization and they do a lot of good with scholarships for kids. If you are a saltwater fisherman and you aren’t entered in the Star Tournament, something is wrong with you. The prizes are great. This year there was 51,000+ entries in the Star Tournament. So we signed up for a 5 year agreement. This was our 4th year, and we are going to renew for 5 more years. Our business has definitely increased being involved with them.

Robbie and the rest of the friendly staff at Mowdy Boats welcomes you to stop by the facility in Port Lavaca to answer any of your questions or to get your new boat built and rigged. Tell them Gulf Coast Mariner Magazine sent you.

Catch and Release Tips

souleredfish Catch and Release Tips

Steve Soule releases a slot redfish with care.

Caring for your catch: Handling fish and releasing properly

By Steve Soule | www.ultimatedetailingllc.com

There are probably not many people reading this article or others in this magazine that don’t have a great respect of fish, wildlife and the great outdoors in general. I know that over many years of fishing and spending time on and around coastal waters, my appreciation of the natural beauty and numerous species it supports has only grown greater.

With the vast majority of us spending too many days in offices, stuck on highways, and staring at small screens, time spent outdoors only grows more precious. It has always felt like time well spent, whether fishing for fun or for money as a tournament angler or guide. Understanding the value of the natural resources we have and consciously working to ensure that we can continue to enjoy it for many generations to come is of paramount importance.

CHANGING OF THE BAY

For those that are younger, newer to an area, or just haven’t spent as much time along the coastal waters, change definitely won’t be so noticeable. For those who have been on and around the coast for 10, 20 or 30 more years, change is striking and often disturbing. Coastal development, land erosion, dredge work and many other factors affect the bays and waterways. Some of these factors are just a part of nature and will happen regardless of human impact. Others are a direct effect of our desire to be on or near the water and the need for infrastructure and transportation in and around waterways. Those of us on the upper Texas Coast utilize and enjoy one of the most heavily populated and heavily trafficked bays in Texas.

Galveston Bay has an uncanny ability to withstand catastrophic events and rebound amazingly well. With near constant dredge work, endless barge and ship traffic, an enormous amount of recreational users, run-off water that none of us want to know the content of, and an occasional spill or collision leaking hazardous chemicals into the system, its truly miraculous how abundant this fishery remains. Wildlife in and around Galveston Bay seems to somehow pull through many challenges. The diversity of the system plays a huge role in this; three major Gulf inlets(for the moment), numerous rivers, creeks and bayous that empty into it and vast satellite nursery areas around the bay provide habitat. Given these facts, plus the sheer size of the bay, fish and other sea creatures seem to thrive on their ability to move around the bay system under varying conditions.

Fish and their food sources move around the bay every year, for the reasons listed above and many others. Couple this fact with the not-always-great water conditions and the prospect of catching fish can become daunting. Kudos to those who have figured out how to consistently catch fish here or in any saltwater bay system, as it is often difficult.

doubleredfish Catch and Release Tips

Clay Sheward and Rick Spillman with a double hookup on redfish.

STEWARDSHIP

Having fished the upper coast for a little over 30 years now, I’ve experienced good and bad. I’ve had more tough days of fishing than I care to admit or recall. I’ve found some great success, and always tried to keep track of how and why, so that I could hopefully repeat those days. I’ve seen some staggering changes and of course developed some very strong opinions based on years of observation.

Though I do eat fish from time to time, and killed more fish in the past for tournaments than I wish that I had, I have come to a point where I only take fish that I can eat that day. I have two primary reasons for this: first, I can assure you that fresh fish tastes much better than frozen. Second, for me, the enjoyment of fishing has always been about the chase and pleasure of fishing and catching them, rather than eating them.

There are laws in place designed to help control and maintain the fish populations that do a reasonably good job of ensuring that we will be able to enjoy the resource for many years to come. Each and every licensed fisher in the state is entitled to participate and enjoy consumption within those laws.

I’m not going to advocate change, though I was pleased when TPWD announced the reduction in speckled trout bag limit this year. I believe that decision will help overall populations. What I would really like to address isn’t the laws, changes to them or enforcement of them. I am of the opinion that those who most frequently use the resource, especially those who make their living from our fisheries, are the ones with the greatest responsibility to maintain the resource and teach future generations.

This group of people, in many cases, knows the condition of the habitat and fishery better than the politicians and lawmakers that govern over it. I have heard many different ideas and opinions about regulations and changes to them and how they will affect guides and commercial fishers. Probably the largest impact that can be controlled is that of the recreational fishing industry.

As a guide, I would say it is in your best interest to encourage that people only take the fish they plan to eat within a short period of time. Definitely, do not catch an additional limit and keep for your customers, since this has been a law for many years now. And as a steward of the fishery and in the interest of ensuring you have fish to catch in the future, encourage catch and release. Trust me, your customers book you because they enjoy fishing with you and respect your knowledge and want your guidance. They aren’t showing up because they have found the best way to feed their families. And yes, they will continue to come back to fish as long as there are fish to catch.

Now that we have jumped onto the catch and release train, we can start thinking about the impact we have there. I’ve spent a lot of years fishing primarily catch and release and have learned a lot about how to make sure fish survive and swim away healthy. I’m going to list some very basic rules to help make sure that are efforts are rewarded with a thriving population of fish.

TIPS FOR CATCH & RELEASE

  • Fight fish quickly to help reduce stress and exhaustion effects
  • Minimize the time fish are out of the water. They can’t breathe when there isn’t water passing their gills!
  • Avoid putting fish in contact with dry surfaces. It removes their protective slime. (wet hands to grab, keep off of hot boat decks)
  • If you can, release the fish without removing from the water.
  • Hold fish horizontally when out of the water. They don’t have support for internal organs so holding vertically can cause damage.
  • If possible, don’t hold fish by lips or jaws. ( Lipping and weighing devices that hold fish by lip or jaws can cause serious damage to connective tissue around the jaw.
  • Always attempt to revive fish by holding in water by the tail until they can swim away strongly.
  • If you’re going to measure a fish, wet the ruler.
  • Don’t force the jaws of a fish to overextend with lipping tools

A FEW MORE THOUGHTS

Fish are fairly durable and can handle being caught and released, but limiting adverse effects helps to make sure our efforts aren’t in vain. Making the effort to encourage and practice catch and release among recreational anglers and guides will almost certainly have a bigger impact on fisheries than regulations. I’ve never been one to believe that government knows or can react fast enough to be the best steward of resources. I firmly believe that as recreational users of the fishery, we stand to lose the most so we should work to maintain it. Killing 30 fish for your customers may be your right, but posting pictures of dead fish in a cooler or on the deck of your boat probably isn’t the best way to market how you help to keep our fishery strong.

Just because you have the opportunity to fish every day, doesn’t mean you should kill fish every day. One day you may just run out of fish. Killing a big trout or redfish for food isn’t great; expect parasitic worms and mushy trout fillets. Plus, the giant rib cage of a bull red yields much less meat than expected. These fish are also important spawners and make future fish generations possible. The same does not apply to flounder fillets, but we do need to maintain a strong breed stock.

Short sided planning around your love of fishing will likely lead to long term disappointment in your catching.

Texas Grand Slams and Trophy Trout

andy 1024x683 Texas Grand Slams and Trophy Trout

Capt. Andy Salinas with a lonestar linesider that fell for a D.O.A. 4” Shad Tail in 455 Texas Croaker.

luis flandes 880x1024 Texas Grand Slams and Trophy Trout

On his fourth cast of the day, Capt. Luis Flandes III landed this 28+ in. trout on a D.O.A. 4” Jerk Bait in 455 Texas Croaker. Safely released to fight another day.

Two days of fishing the Lower Laguna Madre with D.O.A. Lures results in remarkable fishing

Story and photos by Kelly Groce

DAY 1
After D.O.A. Lures creator Mark Nichols, Capt. Andy Salinas, videographer Johnny Lu and myself attempted to each eat a delicious breakfast burrito larger than the size of my head from Manuel’s Restaurant, we hit South Bay in South Padre Island in search of fish.

As Capt. Andy Salinas began to set our drift, I rigged up my go-to lure and color, which is a 4” jerk bait in the color 441 Figi Chix. I swear trout can’t refuse this lure, because it didn’t take long to start catching them. I saw jack crevalle hammering shrimp right behind the boat. I threw my lure towards the disturbance and got to have a fun fight with one. Next cast, a snook came speeding at my lure and my favorite sound on earth ensued… my reel peeling drag. I used 1 lure and caught 3 different species; trout, jack crevalle and snook.

Andy, Mark and Johnny all caught plenty of slot snook, redfish and flounder on 4” shad tails. The tail on those lures have amazing action that fish can’t look past.

We ended the day working a deep channel and catching black drum along the bottom. Between all of us, we caught a Texas grand slam which is a redfish, trout, flounder and snook. Not a bad day of fishing I’d say.

DAY 2
A summertime cold front blew through, so the day started out overcast and on the cooler side. On the ride out, Capt. Luis Flandes III, Mark Nichols, Cindy Nguyen and myself had all agreed that the surroundings looked like a winter day in Texas.

We began fishing a gin clear flat. On Capt. Luis Flandes’ fourth cast he hooked up to a stud 28+ in. trout. He was throwing a 4” jerk bait in the fish catching color 455 Texas Croaker. Winter-like conditions resulted in a trophy trout. After a fish like that, can the day get much better? Why yes it can. We moved to a grassy flat and Luis was plucking redfish out left and right using a Root Beer/Chartreuse jerk bait. Cindy and I doubled up on two pretty redfish, mine being the most orange colored red I have ever seen.

The fishing in South Padre is awesome. To get in on the action contact either one of these great guides, Capt. Andy Salinas or Capt. Luis Flandes III on Facebook. Thanks again for 2 great days of fishing. Tight lines!

Myself, Mark Nichols and Cindy Nguyen with 2 redfish we doubled up on using a 4″ Jerk Bait in Root Beer/Chartreuse and Texas Croaker. Photo: Capt. Luis Flandes III

Mark Nichols and Capt. Luis Flandes III enjoying a good day of fishing.

Capt. Andy Salinas with a black drum he caught on a D.O.A shrimp rigged backwards.

With one lure color, Figi Chix, I caught snook, trout, and jack crevalle. Photo: Johnny Lu

Capt. Luis Flandes had the hot hand this day of fishing.

I dare you not to laugh while on a trip with Mark Nichols.

 

Flounder Tips and Tactics

flounder catch Flounder Tips and TacticsBy Capt. Brian “Flounder Professor” Spencer

Let me introduce myself, my name is Brian Jospeh Spencer. Some people call me the “Flounder Professor” due to my love for that particular and very elusive fish. Fishing has been in my life for about 25 years, if you include salt and freshwater together. One of my jobs is being a commercial fisherman, searching and longing to find myself while roaming the flats of the upper Laguna Madre on the hunt for big flatfish. I provide flounder to the fish markets on occasion in order to fulfill everyone’s need to have a great fish dinner every once in a while. My other job is being a captain, putting people on their first flounder, whether by fishing or gigging, we get it done.

In this first article I will just give some basic education about flounder, their lifestyle and a couple of my favorite tricks to find them. There are two main types; the gulf flounder and the southern flounder that reside in our area. They are pretty similar except that the southern flounder runs bigger and lives a little bit longer. The huge females that we find, above 20 inches, are most of the time southerns. The gulf ones don’t get much bigger than 18 inches for the females and even smaller for the males. There are also summer flounder but those have five spots near the tail.

As a juvenile, the fry are born with their eyes on both sides of their head and not until they grow a little larger and lay on the bottom, do they begin to get the better known two eyes on the same side of their head. They tend to migrate out to deeper water during their time to spawn in November or when the water hits 65-68 degrees.

The reason they head out into the Gulf is to find water between 60 and 150 feet deep to expel their eggs. Due to not having an air bladder, they use the pressure from being so deep to make that happen. In March, they normally make their way back in for the spring run back to the flats.

When I fish for flounder I typically throw a tandem rig (check my YouTube for video) with a 1/4 oz. jighead up front and an 1/8 oz. jighead in the back. This way you can get some great action out of your back lure while still keeping it pretty low in the water column. For flounder I throw two types of lures; Berkley Gulp or Chickenboy Lures. There are lots of varieties to choose from, color and shape wise, but just try to match the hatch with what they are currently eating at the present time. Dragging the bottom is my method of choice. I use Texas Rattler Jigs in combination with my lures. Reeling in only to take up slack or bring in a fish, otherwise it is all rod movement.

Normally they say when you feel the thump or double thump from a flounder just leave it and wait about 15 seconds to give them time to eat it. Then set the hook solid due to flounder’s bony mouth structure.

Next issue I will get further in detail on where, how, what and why. If you have any questions on why I do what I do, feel free to ask me! If you would like to book a trip for flounder gigging or fishing, bay fishing or offshore check out TrinityOutfittersTx.com and leave me a message. Until next time, tight lines and sharp gigs.

Flounder Professor Outdoors@ You Tube & Facebook

Flounder Professor@ IG and Facebook

bspen112@gmail.com

Sponsors: Chickenboy Lures, Texas Rattler Jigs, Berkley, Frio Coolers, Powerpole, Houghy Stick, Penn, Stinkypants, Foreverlast, Steves Lures, Kelley Wigglers, Waypoint Marine, Wet Sounds, Outcast Rods, Jerrys Leds, Trokar, Salt Thugz Apparel, Redtail Republic, Fin Addict Angler, Fishhide Sportswear, Slick Sticks, DeFishing Soap

Owner of Galveston Island Brewing Keeps the Island Vibes Alive

tiki wheat 300x200 Owner of Galveston Island Brewing Keeps the Island Vibes Alive

Photo by Josh Olalde

Mark 576x1024 Owner of Galveston Island Brewing Keeps the Island Vibes Alive

Galveston Island native and entrepreneur, Mark Dell’Osso, whose love for craft beer and the Texas coast drove him start Galveston Island Brewing 5 years ago.

Interview by Kelly Groce

What’s your name and where are you from?

Mark Dell’Osso and I am from right here in Galveston, Texas.

What made you get into brewing beer and later start Galveston Island Brewing?

My love for craft beer and a need to stay in Galveston as well as along the coast.

How long has GIB been in business?

We’ve been brewing beer on location for 5 years now.

Which one of GIB’s brews would you recommend to someone new to craft beer?
Tiki Wheat. That is our staple and you can find it on many boats, fishing docks and all over the Gulf Coast.

Which beer is your personal favorite?

Tiki Wheat as well. Also, I have a side of me that loves IPA’s, so our Citra Mellow is a close second.

Do you have a favorite hop?

My favorite hop is citra. That is where our beer Citra Mellow comes from. It is 100% citra hops. So if somebody wants to get an idea of what that hops tastes like try the Citra Mellow, it is relatively rare for IPA’s to be a single hop variety because its harder to replicate year after year and get the same hops. It’s something happens organically and has grown to be our #2 best seller.

Photo by Josh Olalde

Besides brewing beer what else are you passionate about?

Boating, sailing and surfing.

So you surf?

For sure. In Galveston I longboard, but when I go south of the border I shortboard. Also, I’m a mariner and I have my captain’s license. I used to be a small tugboat captain and I’ve also been cruising around the islands on a small sailboat.

Where do you take most of your surf trips?

Primarily Costa Rica and Mexico. I make time to go to Costa Rica probably more than my coworkers would like (laughs). Now that I have little kids I visit Costa Rica more often than Mexico.

How many kids do you have?

I have 2 little girls, Zoe and Gia. They are 7 and 4. I’ve been married for 10 years. My wife is gainfully employed, which is important in the beer business.

Do you work with Galveston Surfrider Foundation?

Absolutely. One of our very first and longest running bartenders is the suto president, Jeff Seinsheimer of Surfrider Galveston. I actually was one of the original members of Galveston Surfrider way back when I was much younger. Its a great organization so we continue to support it. As well as all the local schools, better parks of Galveston. If its on the island or in our distribution area we are going to support it.

Are there any special events or new brews coming out?

Our spring seasonal Hefen-A is being released on May 20th, so by the time this article is out if will be available all summer and on store shelves. The logo is a play on the classic surf movie, Endless Summer. It’s a German Hefeweizen with notes of banana and clove. We actually get those banana flavors from a German yeast strain we bring over from Europe, we don’t use any fake flavoring. We stress the yeast and that gives it a wonderful banana and almost bubble gum note.

Where can people purchase your beers besides the brewery?

So our beers don’t go to Houston. You can find GIB beers up and down the gulf coast, similar to Gulf Coast Mariner Magazine. We distribute from Port Arthur and Beaumont down through Bolivar, all of Galveston County, Lake Jackson, and then we go further down the coast all the way to Victoria. You can purchase our beers at H-E-B, Walmart, Kroger, Randall’s, and of course a lot of bars and restaurants.

Do you do brewery tours?

We do. Every Saturday at 1 o’clock is a free brewery tour. We also have flights available so they can get 4- 4 oz. servings for $6, so that’s a good way to try a lot of different beers without having a bunch of full pints.

What makes Galveston Island Brewing different from other breweries?

Well, we’re the coolest (laughs). I think the biggest thing is that we grow at our own pace, we pride ourselves in what we are doing right here and we aren’t worried about large distribution or rapid growth. We could go to Houston tomorrow and flip a light switch to double our sales but we choose not to. We choose to spend time and be socially involved in our community especially here in Galveston. We’re a small mom and pop business that doesn’t move too fast to make sure our quality stays up. Our emphasis is right here close to home and I believe that there’s tons of room for breweries all through out Texas and there are some great breweries already in Houston. Volume isn’t the name of our game although we are constantly trying to increase volume in our backyard. We just do it on our time… island time.

 

Galveston Island Brewing

8423 Stewart Rd.

Galveston, TX 77554

www.galvestonislandbrewing.com

 

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

bart me2 1024x700 Fishing the Upper Laguna Madre with D.O.A. Lures

Capt. Bartt Caron and myself doubled-up on slot redfish while drifitng Land Cut. D.O.A. 3” C.A.L. Shad Tail in 350 Purple/Chartreuse and 4” C.A.L. Jerk Bait in 455 Texas Croaker. Photo: Brian Barrera

UPPER LAGUNA MADRE – BAFFIN BAY – LAND CUT

By Kelly Groce

DSC 0237 746x1024 Fishing the Upper Laguna Madre with D.O.A. Lures

Bill Carson of Humminbird, was all smiles and laughs while catching trout on D.O.A. 4” C.A.L. Jerk Bait in 455 Texas Croaker. Photo: Kelly Groce

Early in April, I got a call from talented fishing guide, surfer and all around waterman, Capt. Joey Farah, that reminded me of one of my favorite songs by Texas country singer, Gary P. Nunn, “Meet Me Down in Corpus.” Joey invited me to fish the Upper Laguna Madre area with D.O.A. Fishing Lures for their spring Outdoor Writers Event. Baffin Bay and Land Cut are places that I’ve dreamed of fishing for quite awhile and these writers events are always a blast, so without hesitation I was in.

Let me familiarize you with the Land Cut if you don’t know already. Land Cut is a 25-mile stretch of the Intracoastal Waterway between Padre Island and Port Mansfield. On one side you have the Padre Island National Seashore and on the other side is the Kenedy Ranch. It’s a beautiful and remote area that takes about an hour by boat to get to. The fishing is phenomenal there and without a doubt one of the prettiest stretches of the Texas coast I’ve laid eyes on.

My fishing buddies for the event were Bill Carson, Field Marketing Manager of Humminbird, and Capt. Brian Barrera, D.O.A. Fishing Lures’ Manager of Marketing and Business Development, and a fishing guide on South Padre Island that specializes in catching snook and tarpon. Our fishing guide was Capt. Bartt Caron. Bartt is an extremely knowledgeable big trout fisherman that knows the Upper Laguna Madre like the back of his hand. When he speaks about fishing, you listen. Bartt owns a beautiful 25’ Haynie Bigfoot with a 350HP Mercury on the back. That thing hauls ‘tater!

Not only does Capt. Brian Barrera like throwing a D.O.A. Bait Buster in 372 Pearl/Green/Red Chin, but trout like eating it too. Photo: Kelly Groce

DAY 1 OF FISHING
When I say a front blew in that morning, I mean a front blew in that morning. There were wind gusts up to 53 mph and it was raining sideways by 5:15 a.m. After the front passed, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and everyone met at Marker 37 Marina, which is on Padre Island right beside the JFK Causway.

Bartt, Bill, Brian and myself loaded up the boat and ran towards the King Ranch Shoreline. Bartt threw out the drift sock and we started doing some pretty fast drifts since the wind was still howling in the 30mph range. We fished hard til about 4:30 p.m. Everyone caught fish, but Bill was on top of the leader board catching some chunky trout throughout the breezy day. The 4” C.A.L. Jerk Bait in 455 Texas Croaker was definitely the ticket.

That evening back at the condo, we all congregated around as Capt. Joey Farah and Capt. Braeden Thomas fried some drum, redfish, and trout from the day’s fishing trips. Bill Carson made his famous key lime pie for us, which was a real treat. It’s always a good time talking and hanging out with the D.O.A. crew; Mark Nichols, Ed Zyak, Brian Barrera, Ruby Delgado, and Taylor Garcia. Also in good company was Cindy Nguyen, Johnny Lu, Taylor Winzeler, Robert Sloan, Dustin Cartrett, Bartt Caron, Bill Blodgett, Andrew Lassiter, Rocky Guerra and his wife Silver.

Good Friday was a perfect morning of fishing. Photo: Kelly Groce

Capt. Bartt Caron with a healthy Land Cut trout caught on a 3” C.A.L. Shad Tail in 350 Purple/Chartreuse.
Photo: Kelly Groce

DAY 2 OF FISHING
Good Friday was blissful with warm temps and blue skies. Everyone was at Marker 37 Marina by 6:15 a.m. Red Bull, cold beer, D.O.A. lures, great people – check! We got to Land Cut in no time, thanks to Capt. Bartt’s Haynie, and began our drift. Since Land Cut is part of the ICW, it has shallow flats on each side with a drop off to about 12 feet of water in the middle. I was positioned at the back of the boat and started working my 4” C.A.L. Texas Croaker Jerk Bait on a 1/4 oz. D.O.A. jig head on the flats through grass and patches of sand. Before long I was hooked up on a slot redfish. Bartt and Brian were both sticking some nice trout where the flat dropped off to deeper water. They were using the 3” C.A.L. Shad Tail in Purple/Chartreuse and 4” C.A.L. Jerk Bait in Texas Croaker. We drifted for 2 hours and steadily caught nice fish. At one point Bartt and myself doubled up on slot redfish. It doesn’t get much more fun that that. Capt. Bartt also scored a bonus flounder shortly after. We got to a slough where Bart caught a solid trout. Brian switched up to a D.O.A. Bait Buster in 372 Pearl/Green/Red Chin. I took photos and watched the guys as they caught trout back-to-back and had double hookups. Bartt finished the day off with an upper slot redfish that we all watched charge at a 3” C.A.L. Shad Tail in Purple/Chartruese on the flats. Seeing the wake from a hungry redfish is always a cool sight to see.

Another guide on the trip, Capt. Braeden Thomas, invited everyone to meet at his family’s fishing cabin on Baffin Bay. We pull up to the dock and I’m looking at a piece of Texas paradise. Joey and Braeden gave me a tour of his place that has been in the family for over 80 years. It was like a time warp to the 50’s inside. Old fishing lures, maps, catch of the day photos, and all types of other nautical nick-knacks covered the ceiling and walls. I’ve never seen a place more perfect in all of my life. From inside the cabin you can see the crystal clear water of Baffin Bay through the windows. I couldn’t think of a better way to spend the afternoon than at Braeden’s fishing cabin.

This fishing cabin, overlooking the pristine waters of Baffin Bay, has been in Capt. Braeden Thomas’ family for over 80 years. Photo: Kelly Groce

Our delicious meal prepared by Chef Jeff at Fishtales Bar & Grill at Marker 37 Marina. Photo: Kelly Groce

Cindy Nguyen, Ruby Delgado and myself ended the day at Fishtales Bar & Grill at Marker 37 Marina. It was very nice walking straight off the boat to a restaurant on the water. We enjoyed a cold Modelo and conversated as Chef Jeff prepared our post-fishing meal. Chef Jeff graduated from Johnson & Wales College, which is one of the leading culinary institutions in the country and he has 30 years of culinary experience. He prepared grilled Gulf shrimp over basmati rice with baby spinach topped with a rich cilantro butter sauce and fresh roma tomatos in addition with a side of lemon scented asparagus and guacamole with lump crab topped with perfectly fried tortilla strips. I was blown away by the aromas and colors from my plate. It was almost too pretty to eat. But I did and it was the best post-fishing meal I have ever had. Delicious food combined with a view of the Upper Laguna Madre, your best buds, and a cold beverage is about all you can ask for after a day of fishing.

My first fish of the day and it was a pretty one.
Photo: Brian Barrera

I want to give a big thanks to Joey Farah for the invitation to the D.O.A. Lures Outdoor Writers Event. Thank you for the great memories while testing these fish-catching lures in your backyard. Next time we’re surfing too! I’m forever grateful to Mark Nichols, Ed Zyak, Brian Barrera, and Ruby Delgado of D.O.A., you guys are amazing. Also, thank you Taylor Winzeler from Laguna Madre Clothing Co. for supplying us with top notch fishing apparel. As for Chef Jeff and Marker 37 Marina, I can’t say enough good things about how well they treated us. I will be back soon!

The weather is only getting better and the Upper Laguna Madre fishery is phenomenal, so if you would like to fish this area, contact any of these knowledgable and upstanding guides; Capt. Joey Farah, Capt. Bartt Caron, Capt. Braeden Thomas and Capt. Andrew Lassiter.

Fishtales Bar & Grill at Marker 37 Marina is the perfect place to enjoy a meal by Chef Jeff after a day on the water. Photos: Kelly Groce

Cindy’s Smoked Amberjack Fish Dip Recipe

fish dip recipe Cindys Smoked Amberjack Fish Dip Recipe

CATCH! CLEAN! COOK!

tx amberjack Cindys Smoked Amberjack Fish Dip Recipe

Turn hard fighting Amberjack into delicious smoked fish dip.

By Cindy Nguyen

Though darker meats of the Gulf like Amberjack and Kingfish are not the most sought table fare, it’s hard for me to release a nice Amberjack knowing what a crowd pleaser these bruisers can be! It’s taken me a few tries to get this dip the way I like it and I hope you all enjoy it as well!

Marinate overnight:

  • 1lb – Amberjack fillets
  • Italian Dressing
  • 1 Tbs Brown Sugar
  • Dash of Old Bay

Smoke at 200° for 2 hrs on your Traeger Grill.

After removing from the smoker, using gloves, break the fish down into a bowl of flaky meat.

Add the following ingredients one at a time and blend until consistency reaches a nice heavy spread.

  • 1 Tsp Minced Garlic
  • 3 Stalks of Celery Chopped
  • 1 Chopped Jalapeño
  • 1/2 Chopped Red Onion
  • 1/2 Cup of real Mayonnaise (I use Duke’s)
  • 1 package of Cream Cheese
  • 1 handful of Chopped Cilantro
  • 1 Tsp of Saté Chili (this will give it a little heat and nice color)

Tip: Using a stand mixer will make this much easier.

Refrigerate and serve chilled with your favorite chips or crackers.

Texas Sea Turtle Nesting Season

green sea turtle Texas Sea Turtle Nesting Season

The green sea turtle, pictured here, is one of three species that nest on Texas beaches. Kemp Ridley’s and Loggerhead sea turtles also nest here.

Keep an eye out for sea turtles on Texas beaches over the next several months. Sea turtle nesting season runs from April to September and you can play a vital role in protecting the populations of these turtles.

If you see a nesting turtle, please call 1-866-TURTLE5 (1-866-887-8535)and report the location. Please keep your distance and do not disturb the turtle during its nesting activities. If possible, remain at the site until a biologist arrives.

With the public’s help, we can increase populations of critically endangered species like the Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle.

 

Texas Billfishing Lures

Four top captains talking about the Texas billfishing lures that are always in their spread and should be in yours, too.

texasbillfishing Texas Billfishing Lures

Moldcraft Wide Range

moldcraftwiderangeblkpurp Texas Billfishing Lures

Moldcraft Wide Range with black/purple skirt. (no. 26)

Capt. Darrell WeigeltCapt. Darrell Weigelt – PATRON

“My favorite lure for Texas billfishing is the Moldcraft Wide Range in black and purple. I can pull it anywhere in the spread and get good action from it in almost any condition. This lure catches a lot of big blue marlin. It is responsible for a massive 1,742-pound marlin, as well as the 80 pound line class world record blue of 1,189 pounds.”

Wide Ranges

Some of Capt. Deerman’s favorite Wide Range color combos.

Capt. Kevin DeermanCapt. Kevin Deerman – LEGACY

“On the Legacy, we have about 20 lures that I would consider our ‘A Team.’ These are the lures that have been productive for us on the Legacy and also on other boats that I have been on in years past. As far as picking a favorite, I would have to say the Moldcraft Wide Range would be my choice in any color combo. This one always finds a spot in our spread either as a lure with hooks, at the end of a daisy chain or by itself as a hookless teaser. Because it’s a soft lure we get more bites out of a fish and more opportunities at hookups.”

Marlin Magic Baby Ruckus

Marlin Magic Baby Ruckus

Marlin Magic Baby Ruckus 03/46 skirt combo at Melton International Tackle.

Capt. Troy Day

Capt. Troy Day

Owner Jasen Gast – REHAB

“My favorite lure for Texas billfishing is the Marlin Magic Baby Ruckus. It was designed by fishermen in Hawaii who catch more big blue marlin on lures than potentially any other place in the world. Run off the short or long rigger position, this lure is a proven billfish raiser for us. It creates a lot of noise in the water and pulls extremely well in a variety of weather conditions we see here in the Gulf of Mexico. Both the Ruckus and Baby Ruckus models are very aggressive and create quite the billfish attracting commotion.”

Makaira 19 - Chartreuse Paua Shell - Blue/Silver over Green/Chartreuse

Makaira 19 – Chartreuse Paua Shell – Blue/Silver over Green/Chartreuse

Brutus - Blue Paua Shell/Silver Mirror w/ Silver Eyes - Blue/Silver/Black Bars over Purple/Black

Makaira Brutus – Blue Paua Shell/Silver Mirror w/ Silver Eyes – Blue/Silver/Black Bars over Purple/Black

Capt. Brett HoldenCapt. Brett Holden – BOOBY TRAP

“Due to weather, we only have so many days to fish here in the Gulf. So if I’m chasing billfish I’m going to make it count. Makaira Pulling Lures, custom handmade lures by Justin Roper in Louisiana, are my first choice for trolling. Justin has 19 different lure heads, from slant to yap to chugger, in a variety of colors and weighted in couple different ways. My favorites are the 19, Brutus and Mars. I prefer to rig them with a single stiff or single semi-stiff hook. I’ll always the remember the first day I trolled a Makaira. We were in 400–500 feet of water and a big blue marlin inhaled the lure off the flat line right away. We ended up catching 12 wahoo and four big dolphin in an hour and a half after that first big blue. Since that day, I’ve made it a point to always have Makairas in my spread.”

Deep Drop Techniques for Grouper and Tilefish

chelholden Deep Drop Techniques for Grouper and Tilefish

Chelsey Holden and a very colorful tilefish.

captholdengrouper Deep Drop Techniques for Grouper and Tilefish

Capt. Brett Holden with a real nice yellowedge grouper.

By Capt. Brett Holden

Deep dropping for tilefish and grouper is becoming more and more popular by the day here in the Gulf of Mexico. I began fishing for these deep-water critters in the mid-1980s, and the sport has grown into a daily routine for many Gulf anglers.

Faster boats with longer range have now made fish like warsaw grouper, snowy grouper, yellowedge grouper, longtail sea bass, barrelfish, tilefish and others easier targets for many Texas sport fishing vessels. These deep drop techniques will help you find these fish in 400–1,300 feet of water.

warsaw

Capt. Matt Reed, left, and Capt. Jeff Wilson with a warsaw grouper.

Species of the Deep

Mike Parsons with the new Texas state record tilefish. 43 inches and 33.08 pounds.

Mike Parsons with a huge tilefish that measured in at 43 inches and 33.08 pounds.

Warsaw, yellowedge and longtail sea bass are commonly found around mountain tops, hard spots and deep water oil rigs in the 400–900 foot range. Warsaw grouper, on average, run anywhere from 40–100 pounds. But over the years I’ve seen several fish up to 250 pounds and a couple in the 300-pound range. Regulations have changed and now only one warsaw per-vessel is allowed.

Yellowedge grouper are delicious and average 8–18 pounds, with a few 20–30 pounders still caught fairly regularly. The largest one we ever caught was around 50 pounds.

'Bubba' with a longtail sea bass.

‘Bubba’ with a longtail sea bass.

Longtail sea bass are another fish that seem to inhabit the same area. They are good eating but hold a little stronger taste than the deep-water grouper. Once again, these fish are mostly found in the 400–900 foot range.

Barrelfish and tilefish run a little deeper on average. For big barrelfish, you want to fish down current from the edges and walls of deep water mountain tops. The edges will have well-defined drops and barrelfish can stack up very thick at the top and bottom of this structure. They’re usually found a bit higher off the sea floor and mark well on a good bottom machine. These fish are most often found between depths of 850–1,200 feet.

Capt. Jeff Wilson and Mike Parsons with a trio of barrelfish.

Capt. Jeff Wilson and Mike Parsons with a trio of barrelfish.

Many times the deeper you drop for barrels, the bigger the fish tend to be. Last year we found a pile of barrels at 900 feet that ran 3–8 pounds. We moved off that ridge and found another school in 1,170-to-1,225 feet of water. All of the barrels off that ridge were running 12–18 pounds on average. These fish are a blast; they fight all the way to the surface, unlike many deep water species that tend to “blow up” as they near the surface. The barrels fight hard and really put a bend in the rod.

Tilefishing is a fast growing sport and produces exceptional table fare. Not long ago, tilefish were pretty much unheard of as a rod and reel fish. I caught my first one in the mid-1980s and have been targeting them every since. This fishery was kept very quiet for a long time and was a pretty big secret. Back in the 1990s, there were no limits on tiles, and that is what we filled our freezers with. But still to this day, they are a fish you can actually go target and pick up a few meals.

We have bigger tilefish here in the Gulf than most people would think. Just a few years ago, the record tilefish was only around four pounds. But I have caught uncountable tilefish running 25–35 pounds

and several that have been 35–45 pounds, including a couple near 50 pounds. Now that eyes are opening to the new daytime swordfishing industry here on the Texas coast, more and more tilefish are being boated.

Tilefish are probably the easiest of all the deep water fish you can target. The golden tilefish is most commonly found in the 900–1,250 foot range. Smaller tiles, averaging 2–10 pounds, can be targeted on the continental shelf wall without any special areas or specific “numbers.” Muddy areas anywhere from 900–1,000 feet of open water will hold tilefish.

Finding better average sized fish will take a little more work. Tilefish will typically get bigger off the shelf, or in valleys against the shelf. Drop on the down current side of small dips and slopes in 1,000–1,250 feet of water. Tilefish tend to feed right on the bottom, so try to stop your bait and hold the boat on an area as tight as possible.

However, slow drifting will also produce tilefish and is great for covering ground. Drag the bait against the bottom, stopping often, and then continuing the drift to explore new areas.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Finding bigger tilefish is another story altogether. I have learned a lot over the past few years about these large fish. The biggest ones will hold against ridges at 1,200 feet and are bold enough to follow baits headed for deep water. Drop your bait near the edge of a ridge that looks over 1,500–1,600 feet of water and be ready. The biggest tiles, those from 35–50 pounds, seem to live alone. I have caught most of these big fish away from the schools and many times, several feet off the bottom feeding in schools of squid or dragonfish. The big tilefish really don’t seem to like a lot of leader in their face. Single rigs with the weight above the bait seem to work best. A whole squid, about 14-inches-long, works very well. Use a large hook and bait to avoid the smaller fish when targeting big tiles.

I seem to catch lots of big tiles early in the year, April through May, and sometimes in as shallow as 850–1,000 feet. I’m not sure if it was due to spawning or what, but I’ve caught several in the 30–45 pound class during these months.

Other Species

Josh Graves carefully holds up a scorpionfish.

Josh Graves carefully holds up a scorpionfish.

Beware of spiny, toothy and venomous critters that you might pull up from the deep. Spiny dogfish are small, deep water sharks that have spikes near the dorsal fins that can cause a painful sting. The spines on scorpionfish can also sting if you’re not careful. But these bright orange fish are pretty good to eat.

Once the sun goes down the tilefish stop biting and the eels take over in force. Conger eels have nice white meat but lots of bones.  Banded shrimp eels and moray eels have mouths full of big teeth so watch out.

Spiny Dogfish

Spiny Dogfish

Hake, a small brown fish averaging 1–3 pounds, also bite at night and can be a nuisance. They will eat pretty much anything. Their meat is good and tasty but very soft. I use hake filets to replace crab meat in gumbo.

Hake

Hake

The tilefish don’t bite at night but grouper will if you’re in an area free of eels. Snowy and yellowedge grouper will take baits and warsaw will feed as high as 400 feet off the bottom in 900 feet of water.

Triple deep drop leader with LP circle hooks.

Triple deep drop leader with LP circle hooks.

Rigging

For years I never used any kind of light or strobe to catch tilefish and did okay. But over the past 10 years or so, I’ve started rigging them up and I think it does work better. I also found that rigging the light further from the bait will produce bigger fish. If we are targeting BIG tiles I will rig the weight and light 15 to 20 feet above the bait. Big tilefish will eat regular double and triple bait rigs, but once again, you’ll do better on a clean single rig. The standard double and triple bait drops work well for yellowedge grouper and smaller tilefish.

Your size of leader and weight will all depend on how much current you are fighting. The bite and fishing will be best when using less weight and smaller line. Thinner line means less bow in the line and that makes it easier to see bites. On the Booby Trap, we use Diamond braid made by Diamond Products. I like the orange 80 pound braid because it is easy to see.

weights

Cannonball weights and lead stick.

With a light current and this braid, 3 pounds is a good weight to start with on your standard double bait leaders. I use cannon ball style weights because they don’t get hung up as easy on rough, rocky bottoms. If the current is strong then move up in weight size to 4 to 5 pounds. If it really cranking move up to 7 pound window weights or lead stick weights.

Some of these deep water fish have sharp teeth, so heavy mono leaders are a necessity. Yellowedge, longtail sea bass and other smaller grouper are not so bad but tilefish, eels and small sharks have sharp teeth. The grouper will wear through light leaders eventually and the tiles will bite clean through them. I use 300 pound LP or Momoi mono leader for our deep drops.

Use caribbean swivels to help keep the twist out of the leader and line. Most bottom fish will go into a spin on the way up.

Heavy duty circle hooks, from 8/0 to 16/0, work best for deep dropping. Tilefish and grouper have no problem snagging themselves on a circle hook and I would say it definitely helps keep the fish on when cranking them up from the deep. A sharp hook is also important. It’s a long way up and down, so a needle sharp edge is very important.

Be sure to take plenty of extra tackle when deep dropping. It is a long ride to the deep water fishing grounds and you might lose tackle to rocks and snags. Also, carry an extra spool or two of braided line. One break off at 1,000 feet can end the day if you are without replacement line.

When it comes to reels, the Lindgren Pitman S-1200 electric reel is the reel of choice on the Booby Trap. The LP is a deep dropping fishing machine that also has the strength and drag system to handle big warsaw grouper and swordfish. You can also hand crank tilefish and grouper on conventional tackle but it is a long way up and down.

reelcrankie

Reel Crankie in action.

The Reel Crankie is a must have, great product that can assist in getting your rig up from the bottom fast. It’s not made for fighting fish but for retrieving your heavy weight and empty hooks when you don’t catch a fish. It does a great job of winding up all the line, instead of you wearing out your arm on empty hooks. The Reel Crankie fits on a cordless drill and clamps onto several different makes of conventional reel.

You can also deep drop with two lines but it can be tricky fishing and requires some boat handling. The more bow in the lines you have, the more likely you are to tangle your expensive gear.

What Bait?

Over stuffing your hook with bait can result in fewer hookups. It is more important to get less bait nicely hooked rather than too much bait, which will result in missed fish. Avoid hard, bony, bulky baits that can push a fish off the hook. Softer baits like fish fillets and squid will result in better hook ups. Larger squid are usually tougher and stay on the hook better than the small ones. I like to take a 12–16 inch squid and cut chunks for tilefish. Squid wings work well too but not as a whole squid or chunks.

Preparing Your Catch

Gut your grouper and tilefish ASAP for better table fare. These fish eat lots of shellfish, which can result in some nasty strong tastes in the meat if not taken care of properly.

Wash down your fish after gutting them and keep on ice. Try and keep cooler drained at all times so the fish don’t soak in water.

Connor Weigelt holds up a beautiful colored tilefish.Go Get Them

Now you’re ready to go out and find your own tilefish and grouper. The entire continental shelf from Texas to Louisiana holds great bottom structure, supporting tons of deep water species.

Some fish stay directly on top of structure, some live on the walls, slopes and drop offs and some species are found on flat bottoms. Don’t forget to mark your hook ups on your GPS and keep a track record of your best catches. This is the best way to build and notice patterns on the different fish.

It is a fun way to spend the day with miles and miles of perfect habitat for multiple types of great eating fish. You never know what you will come up with and that alone makes deep dropping fun in itself.

Brett Holden is the captain of the Booby Trap, which holds the record for largest swordfish in the Gulf of Mexico. Holden is a pioneer in daytime swordfishing along the Texas coast; he holds numerous billfishing records and shares his deep drop techniques every year at the Texas Swordfish Seminar. 

Texas Snook with Capt. Brian Barrera

slab snook 2 300x184 Texas Snook with Capt. Brian Barrera

I waited a long time to hold a snook, especially a slab like this one. Caught on D.O.A. Lures 4” shrimp in 305 nite glow and a 3/8 oz. jig head. Photo: Cindy Nguyen

brian4 198x300 Texas Snook with Capt. Brian Barrera

Capt. Brian Barrera before releasing a slot Texas snook. Photo: Kelly Groce

BY KELLY GROCE

South Padre Island is home to not only some of the best pastor tacos, but also the only fishable population of snook in the Lone Star State. I learned this after attending the D.O.A. Lures Outdoor Writers Event. That is also where I met Cindy Nguyen who is an amazing angler that has fished all over the world. She told me stories of catching snook in Florida. I think once I told her I had never fished for a snook let alone caught one, she felt bad for me. About a month after the writers event, Cindy gets a hold of me and says, “Let’s go get us a Texas snook.” It doesn’t take much convincing to get me to visit south Tejas, especially for a bucket list fish of mine. It only made sense that we ask SPI’s own Capt. Brian Barrera to take us. Brian is an overall great fisherman, but he has snook fishing dialed-in better than anyone else in the area.

Cindy Nguyen is no stranger to catching snook, but here she is with her first one caught in Texas. Photo: Kelly Groce

Cindy and I got to SPI around noon (thank you to the cop who gave me a warning for speeding due to my excitement). We met Brian and followed him to the boat launch, which is eight minutes away from the Mexico border, jumped on his Shallow Sport Boat, Blackbeard’s Delight II, and headed towards the Brownsville Ship Channel. Brian used a 1 oz. D.O.A. jig head with a D.O.A. 3” Texas Croaker shad tail that he said the snook had been loving lately. He tied on the ole’ faithful D.O.A. 4” shrimp with a 3/8 oz. jig head on another rod, which after a spot or two, Cindy caught her first beautiful Texas snook on. We then checked out a spot where you could literally see dozens of snook in the shadows and cast right at them, it was pretty unreal. The sun started to set and Brian showed us how to catch a few more before calling it a day.

After losing a slot snook by the boat the day before, I was happy to land this one. Photo: Cindy Nguyen

The next morning, I was determined to get my south Texas snook. I played some Selena on the way to the boat launch to get the fish in the mood. As we pulled up to the first spot of the day, there was tons of fry in the water and you could see snook hitting the surface. I tossed my D.O.A. shrimp as close as I could towards the rocks and started working it back, then I felt something slam my shrimp and I heard Brian say, “It’s a snook!” It jumped a couple of times before Brian netted it. Such a cool fish to not only catch, but to release. You lip them like a bass and they suck on your thumb until they are ready to swim off. Nothing could wipe the smile off of my face after catching some snook.

If you’re looking for your next fishing trip, check out South Padre Island and Capt. Brian Barrera. He’s a great fishing guide that can not only put you on snook but also trout, redfish and flounder. During the warm months he’s chasing big tarpon if you want a shot at the silver king.

I’ll be back that’s for sure.

South Texas Saltwater Experience
Capt. Brian Barrera
Fishing Guide & Wildlife Biologist
956.755.9413
brian@doalures.com

Capt. Brian Barrera with one last snook before dark. Photo: Kelly Groce

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