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Relentless Pursuit Tops the Field in the 2019 Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic

RelentlessPursuit 1024x683 Relentless Pursuit Tops the Field in the 2019 Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic

Relentless Pursuit

Relentless Pursuit, a 95 Jim Smith owned by Dennis Pastentine, won the top honors in the 2019 Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic, which concluded Sunday evening at the Point Cadet Marina. Led by Capt. Robert Doggett, anglers Josh Jones and Mike Akue and the team scored 1,800 points in the billfish catch and release division to take the overall tournament award. They also won optional prize money in the tuna and dolphin divisions for an overall payout of $116,675. Relentless Pursuit calls Venice, Louisiana, its home port.

No blue marlin were weighed during the tournament, which convened during inclement weather offshore. The original field included 115 boats, but only 25 opted to compete in the heavy seas. Conditions were compounded by massive amounts of flood water pouring out the Mississippi River and floating debris, which made navigation difficult. Several impressive game fish catches were tallied, nonetheless.

Easy Rider II, a 61 Buddy Davis based in Galveston, Texas and skippered by Capt. Leslie Van Norman, was the second place catch and release team. The 1,200 points accrued, plus optional entries, earned the Texas anglers $28,382 in prize money. Pullin Wire, another 61 Davis from Panama City, Florida, also scored 1,200 points, good for the third place tournament award. Brennen Moore is at the helm of Pullin Wire. Sancha, a 68 Viking from Port Aransas, Texas, and Fleur de Lis, a 72 Viking from Grand Isle, Louisiana, won optional money for releasing marlin.

The game fish categories were tightly contested with the leaderboard changing several times during the weigh-ins. Owner/angler Robert Burroughs on Quick Time, a 70 Viking from Orange Beach, Alabama, took home $44,474 with the top tuna, optional dolphin and wahoo. The 142.87-pound yellowfin was the biggest fish weighed. Capt. Shelby Johnson is Quick Time’s skipper.

Deb Hebert, fishing aboard her 57 Gillman, Doctors Orders, took second-place tuna honors with a 137.16 yellowfin. Angler Toby Berthelot whipped the third-largest tuna at 128.49 pounds on Get Reel, a 60 Hatteras. The team also added optional dolphin and tuna for a $35,559 payout.

In the tournament dolphin category, Andre Feucht on Split Decision, a 37 Freeman (Capt. Scott Robichaux), wound in the biggest bull, tipping the scales at 35.8 pounds, worth $10,535. Iona Louise (68 Hatteras), with Tami Hudson in the chair, scored the second heaviest dolphin at 35.72 pounds. Combined with an optional wahoo, owner Joe Hudson, Capt. Clip Hopkins and the team earned $26,816. Angler Abbigal Weidenharf and Team Snafu, a 74 Viking, were third place in the dolphin division with a 35.44-pound entry.

Josh Collier and Intense owner Neal Foster captured the first- and second-place wahoo aboard a 39 Contender center console. Their fish weighed 89.83 and 59.68 pounds, respectively, good for a $53,056 payout.

“It was a very tough week due to circumstances beyond our control,” says Tournament Director Bobby Carter. “I’d like to thank everyone who participated and I’d also like to thank my team for pulling this one off.”

The 2020 Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic, hosted by Golden Nugget Biloxi, is scheduled for June 1-7, 2020. For more information, please visit: www.mgcbc.com

Photo courtesy of FredSalinas.com

 

QuickTime 1024x683 Relentless Pursuit Tops the Field in the 2019 Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic

QuickTime

Easy Rider II

Intense

Split Decision

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

Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic Poised for New Records

ECBC logo 300x118 Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic Poised for New Records
ECBCStart 300x169 Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic Poised for New Records

Photo credit: Capt. Dave Lear

With just over a month until the kick-off of the 17th annual Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic, boat registrations for this world-class fishing event are on pace to eclipse previous highs. The final field is expected to top 100 teams and if that does happen, a new $2.5 million dollar-plus benchmark in cash prizes would be established. The ECBC is hosted by the Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort and presented by Wind Creek Casino & Hotel-Atmore, AL. The tournament runs June 19-23, 2019.

“At the current pace of registrations, I’m confident we’ll exceed our 100-boat goal,” says Tournament Director Adam Alfonso. “And when we do, we’re likely to exceed last year’s overall record purse of $2 million as well. We have another great group of sponsors to help us celebrate 17 years and lots of activities to make the entire week a memorable one.” The Early Bird deadline for registering for the tournament is May 31.

The 2019 tournament will again make a strong statement for marine conservation. In the Gulf of Mexico the federal minimum length for boating a blue marlin is 99 inches. For ECBC anglers blue marlin must be at least 110 inches long to qualify in the weight division. That minimum is measured from the tip of the fish’s lower jaw to the fork of the tail. This increase in length will ensure the release of marginal marlin and result in only true trophies coming to the scales at Baytowne Marina.

“Raising the minimum length requirement was an easy decision,” Alfonso says. “The ECBC has been committed to conservation since the beginning and this new rule will ensure these magnificent fish are here for future generations. As a result, fewer fish will be sacrificed and those that are boated will truly reflect the caliber and skills of our contestants.” Can’t Deny It, the 2018 ECBC champion, took top honors with a blue marlin that was 118.5 inches and weighed 699.2 pounds.

In addition to the blue marlin weight division, smaller blues, white marlin, sailfish and spearfish that are successfully released earn points in the competitive release division. Releases are verified by video footage. Yellowfin, bigeye and blackfin tuna, wahoo and dolphin are scored one point per pound. The ECBC attracts multi-million dollar sport-fishing boats from across the Gulf of Mexico as well as the southeastern United States. Fishing begins after Thursday’s noon blast-off from the Destin Pass and concludes Saturday afternoon. Eligible fish are weighed Friday and Saturday evenings. Viewing is free and open to the public.

Even though the weigh-ins are popular crowd-pleasers, the festivities begin long before the boats leave the dock. Hancock Whitney Bank is sponsoring the ECBC Golf Scramble, which is open to participants and sponsors. Tee-time is 9 a.m. at The Links Golf Club on Wednesday, June 19.

Junior anglers get in on the fun on Friday, June 21, with the Kid’s Catch & Release Fishing Tournament. Prizes will be awarded to the winners who catch and release the longest fish from the resort’s many stocked ponds. Participants need to check in at the Baytowne Marina weigh scales by 10 am.

Tournament host, Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort and Presenting Sponsor Wind Creek Casino & Hotel-Atmore are joined this year by Tourism Partner Visit South Walton and Tournament Partners Mojo Sportswear and  Gulf Coast Yacht Group. Galati Yacht Sales returns as the Founding Sponsor while Sportfish Outfitters comes aboard for the first time as the Concierge Provider. Ten Emerald, 14 Platinum, 11 Gold and 32 Silver sponsors round out the many businesses and services that make the ECBC possible. Sponsor display booths will be located at Baytowne Marina.

The 2019 Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic runs June 19-23 at Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort. For registration, dockage, rules and schedule of events, visit www.fishecbc.com. Reservations for golf carts need to be made directly through the Baytowne Marina office. Book now to get the best location and rates for the event weekend. Call 800-320-8115 or book online at sandestin.com. Use GROUP Code FISH19.

About Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort

Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort is a major destination for all seasons and all ages, and was named the #1 Resort on Florida’s Emerald Coast. The resort invites guests to a world of 2,400 acres and 30 charming neighborhoods featuring 1,300 vacation rentals, condominiums, villas, town homes and the best in hotel accommodations. As a member of Visit South Walton and Visit Florida, the resort features more than seven miles of beaches and pristine bay front, four championship golf courses, 15 world-class tennis courts, 19 swimming pools, a 120-slip marina, a fitness center and spa, meeting space and The Village of Baytowne Wharf, a charming pedestrian village with events, shopping, dining and nightlife. People are invited to download Sandestin’s APP for iPhone and Android devices, or become a Facebook Fan or Twitter follower for the latest events and news.

 

Gulf Coast Triple Crown Championship Announces Changes for 2019 Season

2019 GCTC logo 300x198 Gulf Coast Triple Crown Championship Announces Changes for 2019 SeasonThe Wharf; Orange Beach, Alabama:

Celebrating its ninth season in 2019, the prestigious Gulf Coast Triple Crown Championship will feature a couple of important changes to the series, including new sponsors. Grander Marine and Invincible Boats are coming aboard as the new 2019 Presenting Sponsors. The pairing is a good synergy on several levels.

“I personally like to fish the Triple Crown tournaments and have been part of a team that was in contention previously,” says Grander Marine owner and angler Chris Bazor. “Our company sells new boats, brokerage boats and offers service, so sponsoring the series is a good way to help fellow contestants and promote our business. We’ll be competing aboard a 40 Invincible catamaran this season, so we figured why not? The owner of Invincible Boats is a passionate offshore angler too and the company builds some of the best quality mono-hull and catamarans in the sport-fishing industry, so it was a natural partnership.”

Grander Marine has a showroom and full service facility on Canal Road in Orange Beach, Alabama. Another satellite facility is scheduled to open later this summer. In addition to being the Gulf Coast dealer for Invincible Boats, Grander Marine also carries a full line of premium fishing and pleasure boats as part of its line-up. The Blue Marlin Grand Championship, the final leg of the five-tournament series, is held at The Wharf Marina in Orange Beach.

GCTC Director Scott Burt also commissioned a commemorative trophy that will be on permanent display at The Wharf Marina’s Outfitter’s Store. Created by marine metal artist Frank Ledbetter, the perpetual trophy will sit atop a rotating base and will feature all previous Triple Crown Champions. The team trophy, another stunning marlin sculpture crafted by Ledbetter, will be awarded annually to each champion.

There will be no rule changes for the 2019 season, Burt announced. Feedback from teams indicated satisfaction with the status quo. There will be an added financial component in the Optional Cash Award category, however. A new $25,000 winner-take-all prize will be awarded to the top team entered in the optional category. Teams wishing to participate in the Optional Division must sign up prior to the first event, the Orange Beach Billfish Classic, May 16-19, at The Wharf Marina. The scoring format for the Triple Crown points will remain the same as 2018.

Following the OBBC, the Triple Crown focus shifts to Venice, Louisiana, May 28 through June 2, for the Cajun Canyons Billfish Classic. The Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic kicks off June 3 through 9 in Biloxi, followed by the Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic later in the month (6/19-23) at Sandestin. The Blue Marlin Grand Championship wraps up the Triple Crown competition July 9-14.

For more information on rules or the optional cash award levels, please visit: gulfcoasttriplecrown.com

Sun Protection Out on the Water

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

By Capt. David C. Dillman

GalvestonBayCharterFishing.com | 832-228-8012

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

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

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

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

Trout Fishing Starts

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

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

Lower Laguna Madre Fishing

By Capt. Lee Alvarez

SouthPadreIslandFishingTrips.com | (956) 330-8654

lee trout Lower Laguna Madre Fishing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Follow Capt. Lee on social media:

FB: Capt. Lee Alvarez’ South Padre Fishing Charters

IG: leandro_alvareziii

Kayak Fishing Tips

brandon rowan trout Kayak Fishing TipsThat’s a paddlin’! Tales and observations from a floating piece of plastic

By Brandon Rowan

GREENER PASTURES

“Yup that’s the spot.” In the back of the marsh, far removed from the beaten path and at least several miles away from the launch. Yup, that’s the one.”

I don’t know about you, but that train of thought has definitely danced across my mind while scanning Google Earth for that new honey hole. I mean, the extra effort and difficulty will reap equal rewards right? That sometimes rings very true but is not always the case.

I made it a point to get out, paddle and explore new areas this year. Numerous trips in, I started noticing a trend: a surprising amount of good catches came from spots I typically passed during the journey to the “honey hole.”

Sometimes it was a shad flip, a hovering bird, or even a last ditch effort that put me on a location but you can’t argue with results of trout, redfish and flounder. Believe me, I won’t discount these ‘easy’ spots in the future.

HEAD ON A SWIVEL

Even subtle signs, like a single shad or mullet flip, can expose feeding fish underneath an otherwise calm water surface. Hell, what’s one more extra cast? Plus, it’s a pretty triumphant moment when the thump of a good fish confirms your suspicions.

Birds can be your guide in the marsh too. Hovering terns and gulls are a dead give away to activity but don’t discount shore walkers, like the Spoonbill. Their lives depend on their ability to find bait. Where there’s bait, there are predators.

down south lures trout Kayak Fishing Tips

I caught a lot of fish in late winter and early spring on these super model Down South Lures. Special colors, like this plum/chartreuse mullet eye and Purple Reign sans chartreuse tail, can only be found at special events like the Houston Boat Show and Fishing Show. Contact DSL owner Michael Bosse at 210.865.8999 for information on availability.

Subsurface twitch baits like this Rapala Twitchin’ Mullet are just plain fun to fish and productive, too. I caught my biggest trout of the year, 27 inches, on this olive green 06 model.

MEAT’S ALWAYS ON THE MENU

Knowledge of your area and the available forage through each season is crucial. Late winter and early spring was a great time to throw mullet imitations and I leaned on topwaters and big plastics like the Down South Lures super model.

But the days lengthened, the trees began to bloom and it wasn’t long before the bay was flush with freshly hatched bait species. Predators don’t overthink fishing locations and easy spots. They are opportunistic feeders and love easy meals. Later in spring, I starting throwing small baitfish imitations, like the smaller sized Rapala Twitchin’ Mullet.

One foggy April afternoon I was rewarded with a beautiful 27” speckled trout. I found her intercepting small shad forced back into the cove by a hard wind driven current. After a spirited fight, measurement and quick picture, I set her free and watched her swim away strong.

Egret Baits’ 2” Vudu Shrimp under an oval cork is a favorite in the marsh when fish are keyed in on itty bitty shrimp. I like pearl/chart or glow.

SHRIMP DINNER

Looking ahead to May and June, shrimp imitations will be a good bet. The surf is going to start looking real flat and I’ll be ditching the kayak for west end beach wading or seawall rock hopping. I love catching trout on topwater, but by far some of my most productive days have come from rigging a clear/gold D.O.A. Shrimp under a popping cork.

Glassy surf and its fishy possibilities are the stuff of dreams. But the stout early summer winds of the upper coast are often our reality. If that’s the case, you’ll find me in my favorite stretch of marsh chasing redfish. They eat small in my spot and rarely turn down a 2” Vudu Shrimp under a short leader and oval cork.

It’s about to get hot my friends so take care to keep yourself hydrated and safe. I hope to see you all out there!

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

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.

Recreational Shrimp Trawling

trawling Recreational Shrimp Trawling

How to catch shrimp with a sport trawl

By Capt. Joe Kent

Often I receive questions from anglers about shrimping and what it takes to use a sport (non-commercial) shrimp trawl.

The lure of going out and catching a nice batch of shrimp for either fishing or table fare intrigues many anglers with boats and just about all of them want to know what it takes to operate a shrimp trawl, license requirements and the pros and cons of going after shrimp around the Galveston Bay Complex.

As I once prided myself as a sport shrimper, we will discuss many aspects of this sport in hopes of acquainting those interested with some of the basic information.

First, let’s take a look at the expense of the trawl and related equipment needed.  The largest trawl allowed for sport or recreational use is a 20-foot trawl.  Most of the trawls on the market range from 10 to 20 feet.  Large trawls require a commercial shrimping license.

Like just about all sporting equipment, the prices for shrimp trawls run the gamut from reasonable to expensive.  On the average you should expect to pay around $600.00 for the maximum-sized sport or bait trawl and even the smaller sizes are not too far from that.

Recreational shrimpers must have a Texas Fishing License and a Saltwater Endorsement.  Additionally, each trawl must have a special tag commonly referred to as a shrimp tag.

Now, what type of boat and motor are suitable for recreational shrimping? While it is hard to pinpoint the best boat for this, there are certain features that are desirable and not desirable.

A Jon boat at least 14 feet in length powered by at least a 15 hp outboard is about the minimum and one suitable for back bays and protected waters.  Larger, more seaworthy boats are needed for open waters.

There should be plenty of unobstructed room in the rear of the boat for loading and unloading the trawl.  One thing for sure is that your boat will get quite dirty during the process.

Sport shrimpers are allowed two quarts of shrimp per person per day with a maximum of four quarts per boat per day.

Besides shrimp, many species of shell fish and small fin or bait fish are caught while dragging the trawl.

Now, before you take the plunge and purchase your shrimp trawl, let’s look at some of the pros and cons of recreational shrimping.

Operating a shrimp trawl by hand is a physically exhausting activity.  I shrimped up until about 20 years ago and gave it up due to the physical stress that a post-50 year-old just did not want to endure to have fun.

As mentioned earlier, shrimping will bring mud, slime, and all sorts of debris into your boat.  For that reason I had a 15-foot Jon boat designated just for dragging my trawl and putting out and retrieving crab traps.

Other not so fun things associated with this sport are hanging the net on submerged debris and other objects that take time and effort to untangle or get free.

Shrimping takes time away from fishing, if your are trawling for bait to fish that morning.

If there was one negative that I want to emphasize that would be not to have high expectations of catching a lot of shrimp.  Yes, at times, that is the case; however, the likelihood of your taking your limit each time is very low.

Now, let’s look at the pros of shrimping!  It is a fun sport with each retrieval of the trawl bringing intrigue as to what might be in the net.

Each quart of live shrimp you catch saves you about $20 at the bait shop.

Crabs are almost a given when shrimping and for those who enjoy eating crab, this would be a big benefit.

While it is illegal to retain game fish caught in a sport trawl, there are a lot of other fish that often are part of the  catch.  For offshore anglers, lots of chum is taken with each drag.

The surprise element is that there are always all sorts of marine life to be picked up off of the bottom, including lots of stingrays of all sizes.  Once an alligator gar got caught up in the net and that was not a fun experience getting it out.

I have mostly pleasant thoughts of the years I shrimped off of Seabrook and would bring home some good seafood and bait.

While there is a lot more to this sport, some of the pointers above may prove useful and should give you a better idea of what is involved and hopefully get you started!

Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic Creates Special Lure Incentive

91043FF9 6DE3 4E35 AFC1 981007A3F881 263x300 Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic Creates Special Lure Incentive

Photo courtesy of www.MGCBC.com

With 105 boats already pre-registered for the 2019 Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic and many more expected before the June 3 kick-off, the stakes will again be high for this popular sport-fishing event. More than $2 million in prize money was awarded in 2017 and 2018. Yet tournament organizers are sweetening the pot just a little more this year.

“We’re adding a special $25,000 incentive that will be paid if the winning fish is caught on a lure,” says Tournament Director Bobby Carter. “It has to be strictly a lure with no meat or bait attached. Dozens of genuine trophy blue marlin have been caught on plastics in the Gulf over the years, so including this special payout adds an interesting wrinkle to this year’s event.”

The Classic was the first tournament in the Gulf to increase the minimum length requirement to boat a blue marlin to 110 inches. Fish are measured from the tip of the lower jaw to the fork of the tail. Smaller billfish can still be caught and released as part of the competition. Teams can also enter optional release division categories for a chance at six-figure prize payouts. Qualifying catches are verified by video confirmation.

“We are continuing to work with the other Gulf tournaments to standardize the catch and release rules,” explains Tournament Coordinator Bert Merritt. “That aspect is a major component as we all move forward, especially with the levels of prize money involved. Our catch data bears this out. In today’s climate, raising the length to 110 inches to boat a qualifying blue makes sense.”

In addition to the blue marlin weight category and the release division (smaller blues, white marlin and sailfish/spearfish), teams can also weigh yellowfin tuna, wahoo and dolphin. The swordfish category has been retired after the new Mississippi state record was set in 2017.

The Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic is hosted by the Golden Nugget Casino & Hotel in Biloxi. Besides world-class gaming, the area offers beaches, golf, shopping and fine dining for family members who choose to stay ashore.

The 2019 MGCBC will be held June 3-9 at the Golden Nugget Casino & Hotel/Point Cadet Marina in Biloxi, Mississippi. To enter or learn more about the rules and tournament history, please visit www.mgcbc.com or through social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter).

Contact: Bobby Carter, 228-239-2575; bobby@mgcbc.com

The 2019 Los Sueños Signature Triple Crown Comes to an End

lstcsail The 2019 Los Sueños Signature Triple Crown Comes to an End

©Los Sueños Resort and Marina • Photographer: Pepper Ailor

The number of billfish released in Leg 3, brings the three-leg combined total to 3,945 billfish overall

Los Sueños Resort and Marina, located at Playa Herradura on Costa Rica’s Central Pacific Coast, held the third and final leg of its sixth annual Los Sueños Signature Triple Crown billfish series, presented by Chantilly Air, March 27-30, 2019. Forty seven of the best and most competitive teams came together to release a total of 1,234 billfish over three days.

Going in to this event, the reports were that fishing was slow with 3-6 fish a day being average. But the teams found the fish and the radio went off with an early bite on Day 1 and ended with a nail-bite inducing finish on Day 3. With 100 points awarded for each sailfish release and 500 points for each marlin release, marlin always end up making a difference for the podium finishers. After all the scorecards were reviewed, a three-leg Triple Crown total of 3,945 billfish were released (3,820 sails and 125 marlin) – or 444,500 points achieved by the 51 teams that participated this year, 38 of which were registered in all three events.

TRIPLE CROWN DAY 1

It was Tarheel to call in the first fish of the tournament just eight minutes after lines in, followed in the same minute by a triple sailfish release by Shoe. By 8:37 am four marlin had been released, with another two released in the following hour. In the same amount of time nine doubles were called in a three triples. Needless to say, fishing started off promising. By 10 am a total of 117 billfish had been released (111 sails, 6 marlin) and Fish Tank was in top position, followed by Sea Angel in second, and Tarheel in third. At the end of the day though, Uno Mas had taken first with 2,100 points (16 sails, 1 marlin), Sea Angel remained in second with 1,900 points (9 sails, 2 marlin), and Blue Eagle finished third on time with 1,700 points (17 sails), over Scandalous and Dragin Fly. The fleet achieved 373 billfish releases on Day 1, including 361 sails and 12 marlin.

TRIPLE CROWN DAY 2

Just four minutes after lines in, it was Pez Collector to report the first sailfish release of the day to Tournament Control. Funny enough, they also released the last fish of Day 1 at 4:02 pm on Thursday! At precisely 11:24 am Fish Tank released a marlin, starting a flurry of marlin releases with 5 in under 12 minutes. Fish Tank was in top spot at noon with a two-day total of 3,200 points, followed by Hey Chama with 3,100 points, and Uno Mas in third with 3,100 points. In the end though, Uno Mas pushed their way back to top spot with 16 sails and 1 marlin on Day 2 alone for a two-day total of 4,200 points (32 sails, 2 marlin), followed by Hey Chama with 3,900 points (34 sails, 1 marlin), and Fish Tank finishing in third with 3,800 points (23 sails, 3 marlin) on time, over Sea Angel. A total of 531 billfish were released on Day 2 alone (517 sails, 14 marlin) for a two-day total of 904 billfish (878 sails, 26 marlin).

TRIPLE CROWN DAY 3

The first hour of Day 3 was an explosion of marlin hook ups and releases, with the first call of the day a marlin hook up by Reel Pushy at 8:05 am, which was released only five minutes later. By 8:40 am, a total of 8 marlin had been released, including a double header striped marlin by Numero Uno, who went on to win the day with an impressive 2,100 points after releasing 6 sails and 3 marlin. By 2 pm the fleet went on to release 212 billfish, with Hey Chama then in first with 3,400 points, followed by Blue Eagle with 3,400 points, and Fish Tank also with 3,400 points. Off Duty finished the day off nicely with a triple sailfish release at 4:04 pm, bringing the total billfish releases for the day to 330 (318 sails, 12 marlin) and the three-day combined total to 1,234 (1,196 sails, 38 marlin). Uno Mas finished first for the tournament with 5,000 points (40 sails, 2 marlin), followed by Big Oh in second on time with 4,900 points (39 sails, 2 marlin), and Hey Chama in third with 4,900 points (44 sails, 1 marlin).

CASH PRIZES & AWARDS

Nearly 700 guests came together under the stars at the Los Sueños Beach Club to enjoy a phenomenal buffet dinner and live music by Acustica Lounge’s Coco Hits. Immediately preceding the presentation of trophies, prizes and checks to the tournament winners, guests enjoyed the highly anticipated dock show filmed and produced by Rich Christensen and Michael Butler. The ceremony was closed out by a spectacular fireworks display by La Trinidad. Tournament winners took to the stage to receive a total of $240,000 in cash prizes, as well as other awards provided by tournament sponsors, including custom trophies by Gray Taxidermy, apparel by Tunaskin, framed prints of this year’s tournament art by Steve Goione, YETI coolers and tumblers, Huck buckets, Costa Del Mar, and Flor de Caña aged rum.

unomas The 2019 Los Sueños Signature Triple Crown Comes to an End

1st Place: UNO MAS

5,000 points, 40 sails and 2 marlin

Uno Mas is a 60’ Bayliss captained by owner Brooks Smith, with anglers Sam Peters, Matt Traber, Justin DeBoom, Terry Robinson, and Jeremy Agüero. Uno Mas came in sixth in Leg 1 this year and eighth in Leg 2. They previously took first in Leg 2 in 2018, as well as second in Leg 3 in 2015, where Brooks was crowned Top Angler.

2nd Place: BIG OH

4,900 points, 39 sails and 2 marlin

This is Big Oh’s first win since 2015 when they fished on Trophy Box and took third both in Legs 1 and 2. Big Oh is a 63’ Scarborough captained by Ronnie Fields, with anglers Gray Ingram (owner), Jimmy Fields, Anthony Rizzo, Rodney Ingram, and Bo Ingram. Big Oh previously won several of the Signature Billfish Series and Marlin Invitational tournaments, which were run by Los Sueños prior to the formation of the Triple Crown.

3rd Place: HEY CHAMA

4,900 points, 44 sails and 1 marlin

Hey Chama, a 65’ Bayliss captained by Irving Irausquin, with anglers Leonard Chapman, Manoel de Silva, and Marlon Prendas, comes to us from Curacao. They fished the Triple Crown for the first time in Leg 2 of the 2018 series. These young up and comers finished 39th in Leg 1 and 44th in Leg 2, and gave a tremendous show in Leg 3 for a podium finish.

Series Champion: FISH TANK

17,400 points, 144 sails and 6 marlin

Fish Tank, a 63’ Hatteras captained by Ben Horning, with owners/anglers Chris and Laura Jessen, and their fellow anglers Kitt Toomey, Mike Ivancevic, Darren Helwig, and Joe West. Despite not making the podium for Leg 3, Fish Tank was the clear and undisputed Series Champion of the 2019 Los Sueños Signature Triple Crown, finishing with an almost unbelievable 17,400 points (144 sails, 6 marlin), 3,500 points ahead of the closest runner up, Sea Angel (on time ahead of Uno Mas with the same 13,900 points). Going in to Leg 3 Fish Tank already had a 2,900-point lead, and the 31 sails and 3 marlin they released in Leg 3 alone sealed their fate. Kudos to Laura Jessen who, despite a broken foot, released 6 sails this tournament alone and 34 sails over all three legs!

ABOUT THE LOS SUENOS SIGNATURE TRIPLE CROWN

2019 marks the 6th Annual Los Sueños Signature Triple Crown billfish tournament series. The Triple Crown consists of three annual tournaments, in January, February and March each year, and is fished out of the world class Los Sueños Resort and Marina in Costa Rica. Mark your calendars for the 2020 Triple Crown! Leg 1: January 15-18, Leg 2: February 26-29, Leg 3: March 25-28.

ABOUT LOS SUEÑOS RESORT AND MARINA

Los Sueños Resort and Marina is the premier luxury real estate resort in Costa Rica. Nestled on the Central Pacific Coast, Los Sueños is an 1,100-acre oasis offering incredible ocean, rainforest and golf course view properties; a gorgeous waterfront Marina Village commercial area with restaurants, shops and lively entertainment; a large private beach club for residents; an 18-hole championship golf course; a superb 201-room Marriott Hotel; and much more, all within close proximity to world record-setting sport fishing waters. Information on Los Sueños Resort and Marina is available online at www.lossuenos.com. Information on Los Sueños real estate properties is available online at www.lossuenosrealestate.com. For further information, please contact Ashley Bretecher, Executive Director of Marketing and Communications, Los Sueños Resort and Marina, Toll-free: 1-866-865-9759, Direct Tel: 011-506- 2630-4005, or e-mail: a.bretecher@lossuenos.com.

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.”

Inaugural Swordfish Cup To Be Held Globally in July

QualifyingSword 300x300 Inaugural Swordfish Cup To Be Held Globally in July

Photo: Capt. Dave Lear

The 1st Annual Swordfish Cup, a tournament with a popular 24-hour format, will be held July 27-28, 2019. Anglers around the world will be eligible to compete in their respective time zones. This new global sport-fishing contest is being presented by Fly Zone Fishing and RJ Boyle Studio.

“We’re excited to announce this new tournament catering to the growing legion of broadbill enthusiasts,” says Robert “Fly” Navarro, president of Fly Zone Fishing. “We’ve already heard from multiple teams and I expect to see some hefty entries hoisted to the scales. The popularity of swordfish has exploded in recent years and this tournament is designed to showcase this incredible fishery. We’ll be doing live updates every three hours on FaceBook (flyzonefishing) and giving away some cool prizes donated by our sponsors for those watching the feeds.”

The entry fee for the Swordfish Cup is $1,500 per team, with the winner taking 80 percent of the fees for the heaviest fish exceeding the 200-pound minimum weight. All line class weights will be allowed. Contestants may only use conventional rods and reels, including electric reels mounted on rods. Hand gear, bandit gear and hydraulic reels are not permitted. Harpoons may be used to boat the fish, however. In the event of a tie, the first eligible fish boated shall be declared the winner.

SmallBoatSword 300x300 Inaugural Swordfish Cup To Be Held Globally in July

Photo: Capt. Dave Lear

Weigh-ins will be conducted at approved scales certified by governmental authorities within the last year. Fishing hours will be from 8 am on Saturday, July 27 until 8 am on Sunday, July 28, in each local time zone. Continuous video verification of the gaffing and boating of the fish with a GPS date and time stamp will be required to prove the catch was made during the specified tournament hours. The winning angler and/or team member may also be required to take a polygraph test to ensure compliance with the rules.

“Several prolific swordfish areas will be in play during our July time frame,” Navarro adds. “South Florida and the Keys, the Mid-Atlantic, as well as the Gulf of Mexico, Southern California and Hawaii could all produce the winning fish. And with the caliber of teams we’re expecting, the winning weight might be decided by mere ounces. It will be an exciting 24-hour window into the sport.”

For more information on the tournament or to register to compete, please visit www.swordfishcup.com

Contact: Robert “Fly” Navarro, 561-310-9214; fly@flyzonefishing.com

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

Builder’s Choice Repeats as Winner in 3rd Annual Marina Casa de Campo Open

2019 MCDC Builders Choice OYFD2959 1024x683 Builder’s Choice Repeats as Winner in 3rd Annual Marina Casa de Campo Open

The warm tropical hospitality of the Dominican Republic really seems to suit one North Carolina sportfisher. Builder’s Choice, a 64 Jarrett Bay based in New Bern, took top honors at the third annual Marina Casa de Campo Open last week at the luxurious resort in La Romana, DR. This marks the second year in a row that the boat has finished atop the Open leaderboard, which is co-sponsored by the marina and Fly Zone Fishing.

Led by Capt. Brent Gaskill, Builder’s Choice released five blue marlin the first day of fishing and added two more the next. Cabana, a 64 Spencer run by Capt. Eddie Wheeler, claimed second place with a two/one split of blues. Auspicious, an 80 Viking with Capt. Cookie Murray at the helm, made a last-day charge by releasing three blue marlin within a 45-minute span. Ties are broken by the time of release.

Blue marlin count for 400 points in the Open’s all-release format. White and hatchet marlin, plus spearfish, score 100 points while sailfish are worth 50. There are no line class rules in this event, but boats are limited to six rods. Lures and baits are both allowed, with ballyhoo the most common offering in the spreads.

2019 MCDC Awards Builders Choice OYFD3488 1024x683 Builder’s Choice Repeats as Winner in 3rd Annual Marina Casa de Campo Open

“This is a full-fledged boat tourney,” explains Tournament Director Robert “Fly” Navarro. “The teams just go out, have fun and catch fish. We’ve gotten positive feedback on the simplicity of our rules.

“We co-host with Marina Casa de Campo to showcase the facility and celebrate these visiting boats spending time in the region,” he adds. “It’s a world-class resort and the fishing isn’t too bad, either. The marina and Casa de Campo take care of the hospitality aspects and event details while we run the tournament. We had live updates on social media throughout the tournament.”

Lainey Jones, competing aboard Mama Who, a 77 Jarrett Bay, was named the top lady angler for 2019. Jones tallied 800 points for two blue marlin released.

The dates for next year’s Marina Casa de Campo Open are set for March 14-16, 2020. For more information on registration and dockage, please visit flyzonefishing.com

Contact: Robert “Fly” Navarro, 561-310-9214; fly@flyzonefishing.com

Winter Wahoo

 

DSC 0012 300x200 Winter Wahoo

Photo: Kelly Groce

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My first wahoo weighed in at 36 pounds. (Check out those seas behind me). Photo: Shayne Ellis

BY KELLY GROCE

I was lucky enough to tag along with Team Pay Czech as they went searching for wahoo out of Freeport Marina for the 2019 Winter Wahoo Championship. Despite the howling winds and 4-6’ seas, we caught wahoo, blackfin tuna, amberjack and barracuda and had an absolute blast while doing so. Huge thanks again to Joe Schiller, Joey Schiller, Shayne Ellis and Collin Ferrera for inviting me along my first overnight offshore trip as well as my first wahoo. Go Team Pay Czech!

 

Collin Ferrera stuck this beautiful wahoo. Photo: Kelly Groce

Texas City Pride: David Fremont of Boyd’s One Stop

fremont bait Texas City Pride: David Fremont of Boyds One Stop

David Fremont with a net full of lively shrimp. Boyd’s One Stop is located at the base of the Texas City Dike and provides bait, tackle, advice and seafood to its patrons. You can find David behind the counter, helping customers or out on the Dike taking pictures for the Texas City Dike Fishing Group.

David Fremont of Boyd’s One Stop, and Admin of the popular Texas City Dike Fishing Group talks history, Texas City fishing and Boyd’s big plans for the future.

Interview by Brandon Rowan

Where are you from? Tell me about your background and how fishing became an important part of your life.

I was born on Galveston Island in 1954. My daddy worked for Amoco Oil in Texas City and moved us over here when I was a year old. I grew up a street off Bay Street, which is walking distance from the Texas City Dike. I went to work at Boyd’s when I was 14 years old, and I was one of the first kids to go to work with Gene Boyd, the original owner. He was an outboard shrimper and lived across the street from us.

He came over one day and he says “Hey you want to go to work for me? I’m going to open up that old Surfside restaurant on the Dike and have a bait camp. I’ll pay you a dollar an hour and I’ll work you to death!”

Well a dollar an hour was like hitting the lottery for me back then so I jumped on it. But he didn’t lie; he paid me but he also expected an awful lot and also taught me a whole bunch about dealing with the public. He made it perfectly clear that the customers were his bread and butter and I was a necessary evil.  But he was tough, fair and just a great guy.

I stayed with Boyd’s until I went off to the local college and then worked for Amoco, like my dad did, and I spent 35 years there. I never quit coming to the Dike and fishing and having a good time.

How did the very popular Texas City Dike Fishing Group get its start?

After I retired, Jason Cogburn, the current owner of Boyd’s One Stop, asked me if I’d like to come help with some of the advertising and social media. I didn’t know too much about it all at first, but we had a little text group that we started with. Now Boyd’s has built up its Facebook followers to about 63,000 and the text group is still active. Like, this last week we just sent one out to about 25,000 people when we had crawfish on sale.

The Texas City Dike Fishing Group started out before Facebook. There was a handful of us old timers that would meet up and fish on the Dike regularly. We started using a real primitive fishing group on the internet as a way to keep in touch when we weren’t out there fishing together. We’d share stories and how fishing was going and such.

Then when Facebook took over, we were able to migrate to that platform with our same handful of guys. I started incorporating it with Boyd’s when people would come in and want to know what was going on with the fishing scene on the Dike. I would say “Well get on my little Texas City Dike Fishing Group! We’ll add you to it and you’ll see what the latest and the greatest is on what’s being caught.”

And in no time, it just kept growing and growing and now we’ve got over 15,000 people involved. Now I can keep people informed on what’s going on and what’s happening with Boyd’s, in terms of bait and fishing tournaments. This past season, our flounder tournament had 425 people in it. We were able to give away over $8,000 as we do 100% payout.

I know you guys have had some real trophy fish brought in during your flounder tournaments.

We have! We’ve had some real good catches. This past flounder run for the Dike was a little on the slow side but that’s just mother nature. Sometimes those flounder will migrate different ways and in larger numbers. The Galveston Channel still had plenty of fish to be caught. I was over there a time or two and had some good days. Some of our regular fishermen, like Jantzen Miller, also known as the flounder guru, is a great guy and won the tournament in 2017. He tags flounder and he keeps me, and many others, informed about what the flounder are doing. He fishes a lot and caught a couple ten pounders late last summer and early fall.

drum Texas City Pride: David Fremont of Boyds One Stop

Boyd’s 2019 Drumathon tournament runs until April 15. It is a $20 entry fee and 100% payout for the winners. Visit www.boydsonestop.com to register.

 

What’s the word on the Boyd’s Drumathon Tournament?

We haven’t done one in a couple years but a lot of guys said “Hey the flounder run is over, let’s play drum!” So that’s what we did! It kicked off in February and will go until April 15. There are categories for slot and oversized drum. It’s $20 to sign up at Boyd’s or online at www.boydsonestop.com and has a 100% payout. Last I checked, we already have 125 people signed up.

Tell me more about Boyd’s owner Jason Cogburn and some of the big things he has in the works.

Jason Cogburn worked here as a bait boy many years ago and was fortunate, in that he was able to purchase the place. It had been bought and sold a few times after Gene Boyd passed away. Jason has turned it into a very nice business. He’s a family man and a man of great faith. He has started working with crawfish and it has taken over a big part of the operation. We are still very much involved with bait and tackle, but the crawfish business eats up 5 or 6 months of the year and it keeps us busy.

We just recently finished construction on our 30,000 sq. ft. crawfish and seafood facility behind Boyd’s. We are still setting it all up but that’s where we’ll bag and process our live Louisiana crawfish. Currently, we sell quite a bit of wholesale seafood to the H-E-B chain of grocery stores. We are very involved with them and ship an awful lot of crawfish to their San Antonio hub. They distribute to the stores near there and we deliver direct to many of the Houston area H-E-B locations. This also includes some large table shrimp and quite a few blue crab.

Once the processing facility is up and running and in good shape, our next phase is to build a new Boyd’s storefront, similar to a ‘mini Bucees.’ This would also include a huge tackle area and a large variety of bait, more than what we even offer now. We’ll also have a large restaurant that could seat up to 200 guests.

Tell me some of the methods/baits/tactics that make an angler successful on the Texas City Dike

When folks first come to the Dike, and they haven’t done too much homework or talked with people who fish it regularly, it can be kind of upsetting, in that the Dike is unforgiving. There are a lot of rocks under the water, especially on the Texas City channel side. For the first few miles of the Dike it’s not too bad, but as you get towards the end, you have to be able to cast out a good 30 yards or so to get past that rock line and to a good bottom. Then you either reel in as fast as you can to check your bait or if you’re fighting a fish you try to get it up as high in the water column as you can. That’s for the bigger fish like bull reds, big drum, jackfish, stingray and a few occasional sharks.

For speckled trout, most folks use popping corks during the daytime to keep live shrimp suspended above the rocks. Some guys will toss lures and do well too. At night time during the speck season, a lot of people will use lights and generators and fish them with live shrimp or lures like tandem speck rigs or glow-in-the-dark plastics.

Another reason I take pride in the Texas City Dike Fishing Group is that we are able to help newcomers catch fish. We treat everyone as an individual and I really stress friendship and camaraderie with that group.

David Fremont is no stranger to big flounder.

What is your favorite fish to catch?

Hands down flounder. That’s because I love to eat them and they’re just fun to catch. And for an old man like me, you don’t have to work that hard for them. You just get you some live finger mullet or a Gulp or lure of your choice, and either jig it around the pilings or rocks, or you can throw it out and let it sit and just relax. For many years, it was a toss up between flounder and speckled trout for me, but in my later years, I must say I really do love flounder.

I’m a flounder man myself. Do you have an all-time favorite fishing moment or experience?

I do and it makes me think of Gene Boyd because of the way he taught me about customers and getting folks excited about fishing. Before Hurricane Ike, maybe 15 years ago, it was spring break and I was out there fishing on the Dike with the big rods for bull reds and whatever would bite. A car pulls up near me and three kids jump out, early teens or preteens, and they come out near my rods and start throwing rocks in the water. I wasn’t too crazy about that.  But as I got to looking at them and the daddy trying to corral them I thought, “Hey man they’re just like me when I was that age.”

As luck would have it, one of my rods bent over so I hollered over to the kids “Hey you wanna wrestle a big fish?”

So they made a beeline, came running over and took turns fighting it. I thank the good Lord because they were able to bring in a real nice bull red. They were so happy, but not as happy as the daddy was; he was blown away!

In the course of about three hours, I counted 18 bull reds and black drum that we caught. Wore those kids out! Wore me and the daddy out too. Before they left, he told me, “You saved my life. It’s Spring Break and we came all the way from Oklahoma to Galveston Island but the beach was a washout with the weather. So I heard about the Texas City Dike, never been here before, but rolled on down and here you are. You put those boys on the fish of a lifetime and they will remember that forever.”

David saved the Spring Break of these three boys when he put them on fish after big fish.

That’s great story! Aside from fishing, what else are you passionate about?

I like taking pictures and most of the time it does involve fishing or family. But I like to share photographs of the Dike, fishing and the areas around Texas City. It’s all about keeping people excited about fishing. I like it when someone catches their first fish on the dike and shares it, or they catch their personal best.

Is there anything you want to talk about that I haven’t asked you about?

Boyd’s had its first annual Crawfest last year, and we’ve already got another one scheduled for March 30-31 at the base of the Dike. The City works with us on that and we’re very excited about it. I could talk about it all on and on.

I’m happy for you and your business and your endeavor with the magazine. All I can say is let’s get together and go fishing some time. Let’s catch a flounder!

That sounds like a plan!

Spring Bass Fishing

rowan bass Spring Bass Fishing

When extreme winds make the bay unfishable you might find me doing some bass fishing.

By Brandon Rowan

The high tides and strong winds of spring can create some real challenging conditions on the bay and in the marsh. Tired of fighting the wind? Look inland and hit the lake or local pond for some of the best bass fishing of the year.

3 Phases of Bass Fishing

PRE-SPAWN

This period occurs during late winter and early spring. As temperatures rise, bass move from deeper water and stage near the shallows. Bass begin feeding in anticipation of the spawn and can typically be found on submerged cover in creek channels or the first drop off from the flats.

SPAWN

Bass move to the shallowest areas to spawn. Beds are easily identified as circular areas cleared of most vegetation. You’ll find a mating pair, very protective of the area and ready to bite. This is one of the easiest times of the year to catch a bass.

POST-SPAWN

Immediately following the spawn, bass leave their beds. Big females are lethargic as they recover, but are susceptible to reaction lures or slow sinking lures too tempting to pass up. Find them on cover or laydowns just off the shallows. As we get closer to summer, bass start feeding to replenish their energy lost during the spawn.

brush hog bass Spring Bass Fishing

This nice bass couldn’t pass up a Texas rigged Baby Brush Hog. Photo by Brandon Rowan.

Lures & Tactics

These lure selections will get you on the right track to catching some bass this spring.

Strike King KVD 1.5 square bill crankbaits in Bluegill and Chili Craw.

SQUARE BILL CRANKBAIT

The square bill crankbait is shallow diving lure with an erratic wobble and random searching action. It can be successful throughout the entire spring bass season. When waters warm in early spring, bass begin feeding more aggressively in anticipation of the spawn. Find these fish near, or just off the shallow flats and protected coves. Colors like red and orange are a good choice as crawfish start becoming more active and are a favorite forage of bass.

During the spawn when fish are shallow and protective of beds, fish a bluegill or bream pattern. Bluegill are notorious egg thieves and bass will often annihilate this threat with vicious strikes.

After the spawn, big females will move away from the extreme shallows to recover. These fish are lethargic but can be provoked into a reaction bite. Burn bright colored crankbaits through areas just off the flats. Crashing the lure into brush or stumps and pausing is another great method to entice bites. The square bill shape is excellent at deflecting off cover.

3/8 oz Z-man Chatterbait in Green Pumpkin Purple with a Lake Fork Trophy Lures Live Magic Shad in Watermelon Red/Pearl Belly as a trailer.

CHATTERBAITS

Chatterbaits are extremely versatile baits that produce big bass. They have the flash of a spinnerbait, profile of a jig and vibration of a crankbait. They also excel in waters that have been muddied by spring rains.

The most popular retrieve is straight and steady, fished just above the bottom. But the possibilities are endless – you can use a stop-and-go retrieve, bump it into cover like a squarebill or drag and jig it slowly across a bed.

This is another lure that can imitate a variety of forage depending on colors and trailers. Colors like green pumpkin and bluegill/bream work great in the spring. Choose soft plastic swimbaits or creature/craw baits for more bulk and action. I like a Super Fluke Jr. when I want a more subtle tail wag. Single and double tail grubs are popular choices as well.

Left: Berkley Havoc Pit Boss in Junebug. Rig on 4/0 EWG hook. Right: Zoom Baby Brush Hog in Watermelon Red. Rig on 2/0 EWG or normal worm hook.

CREATURE BAITS

Texas rigged creature baits are a solid choice when sight fishing bass on beds. Two of my favorites are the Berkley Havoc Pit Boss and Zoom’s Baby Brush Hog, although a lizard is also a great option too. Bass don’t take kindly to these strange invaders trespassing on their nests. Sometimes they bite aggressively for the kill, but other times bite lightly to pick up and remove the invader. The compact size of most creature baits can lead to better hook-up ratios when bass are biting light.

Another advantage of using soft plastics is the ease in which you can change lures and colors if fish aren’t interested in your initial offering. Make your first cast beyond the bed and work your way into it. Experiment with retrieves until bass react, keeping your lure on the bed as long as you can.

Zoom Trick Worm in Green Pumpkin, Gary Yamamoto 5″ Senko in Watermelon Red and Green, and a Zoom Super Fluke in Baby Bass.

WEIGHTLESS SOFT PLASTICS

Weightless plastics can be tremendous for sight fishing beds when nothing else seems to produce. This is a slower fishing method so I save it for when all else fails. Senkos, Super Flukes and Trick Worms are all good picks when you want to hover and slow sink something above a bed.

Senkos, Texas rigged weightless or wacky, are also great to flutter past sluggish bass in the early post-spawn stage.

3/8 oz Strike King Hack Attack Jig in Green Pumpkin Craw. Trailer: Havoc Pit Boss in California.

JIGS

Pitching or flipping jigs is a time-tested bass fishing approach that is responsible for many big fish. Choose a jig you can work around heavy cover like the Strike King Hack Attack Jig. Minimal movements create action from your soft plastic trailer and flutter around the silicone skirt. This is important when you’re trying to agitate bedding bass or maximize time on a bed or in the strike zone.

Jigs are also great for probing cover and laydowns during the post spawn period. Use lighter finesse jigs or swim jigs with big trailers for suspended fish and heavier jigs if bass are closer to the bottom.

 

Upper Texas Coast Spring Fishing

By Capt. Steve Soulewww.ultimatedetailingllc.com

sight cast redfish Upper Texas Coast Spring Fishing

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

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

TEMPERATURE

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

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

sunlight Upper Texas Coast Spring Fishing

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

INCREASING SUNLIGHT

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

COMPARING SPRING & FALL

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

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

THE WIND

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

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

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

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

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

mullet

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

LURES FOR SPRING

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

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

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

TACTICS

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

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

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