What is a Nomar Bumper? I found myself asking that same question about two years ago.
We had just purchased a marina. The gentleman who brokered the marina deal came to me during our first summer. He explained that he represents a company that manufactures a system to help with the efficiencies of the fuel dock. I was curious as to what they were and how the application worked. We agreed to bring in a few to look at and he gave me three as a gift. (A salesman ploy to get you hooked!)
We have 140 feet of fuel dock, so three was a big tease. I placed them on the dock for a week. The pump I installed them on was handling flow of traffic nicely. Remember the hook! Okay, here it comes, that tug and set. I soon reached out to him to equip our entire 140 feet. Now here is where the big fish gets dangled; he casually let me know that the business is for sale, with a few tidbits of info on cost, margin, etc.
By now, Ken we will call him that for the sake of things, has a fairly good understanding of me. I tend to project when my interest is peaked. Ken starts talking about patents, P & L statements and assets, which was all good. In my mind I was already thinking of the next type of bumper and additional products we could manufacture. A couple months go by and boom, now we own a bumper business.
Looking back a bit, to those tidbits; the one that hit me the most was that the original owner worked three days a week, three hours a day, and made surprisingly good money doing so. I am thinking winter project, right? The marina is slow (ya right!!!). The original owners had advertised in a couple of magazines, along with doing the Seattle Boat Show. I knew with a little more energy things would increase dramatically.
So, what is a Nomar Bumper System? A patented design, 100% American made, dock bumper system that stands up to the harshest conditions. NO Marring; NOMAR. The unique fabric is UV protected. That is the corporate terminology behind this product, the nuts and bolts. We are a small, family-owned company that takes pride in what we do. We are excited each time the phone rings. I enjoy designing new products that make your boating adventure enjoyable. We are still small enough to take the time to get to know our customers.
So, a NOMAR Bumper System allows you to come home, layup to your slip without messing with fenders. You set your lines and go home. We have become so much more then that know. Please take a minute and look at our website, www.grangermarine.com. You can find it all there to suit your boating needs. If not call us at 253-315-1629 and we might be able to build it for you. I look forward to hearing from you. Imagine NOT having to hassle with your fenders, every time you leave or come home.
Kelly & Cindy Granger
Buggy Whippin: Galveston sight casting with Capt. Clay Sheward
Capt. Clay Sheward holds up a nice marsh redfish with a double spot tail.
Story and photography by Brandon Rowan
THE WATER IS STILL AND SO AM I. The redfish swims along a flat, that is painted with a palette of green sea grass and dull colored sand, unaware of our presence. On the bow of Capt. Clay Sheward’s skiff, I feel more like a hunter in a tree rather than a fisherman. The rod in my hand is the bow and the arrow is a hair-tied Buggs jig at the end of my line.
Clay gives the word and I make a light cast behind and ahead of the red. We can see everything in the water on this calm October morning. I reel quickly to intercept the moving fish and begin jigging to tempt what I hope is a hungry fish. My heart starts beating faster as the redfish inches closer and closer to my offering. Time thickens and that half moment seems to last an eternity before the fish inhales the Buggs lure.
Clay Sheward, 37, was born and raised in Spring, Texas. His passion for fly fishing started very early in life.
“I’ve been fly fishing for a really long time, since 1992, when the movie A River Runs Through It came out,” Clay said. “I saw that movie with my dad and that Christmas, my family provided me a fly tying kit and a fly rod.”
The film is set in early 20th century Montana and follows a pair of brothers and their love of fly fishing. Many scenes in this movie do an excellent job of capturing the camaraderie of fishing; the tense moments before the catch and the euphoria after the fact. It won an Academy Award for Best Cinematography in 1993.
Clay cut his teeth fly fishing on the local ponds and creeks near the Woodlands, but as he grew older his love of fly fishing carried him to new locations.
“Mostly, I went to the Guadalupe and the White River in Arkansas. Sometimes my family would travel to Colorado. I didn’t get to do it a whole bunch but I would practice casting in the yard to teacups. Of course, I grew up and girls came along, but I always tied flies. I still do it regularly,” Clay said.
Eight years ago, Clay’s focus shifted from freshwater to saltwater fly fishing. First from a kayak, then to an Ankona ShadowCast 18 which served him and his customers well for several years. But in 2019, Clay was searching for his perfect skiff and finally found it.
“I run a 2019 Chittum Skiffs Laguna Madre with a 50HP Tohatsu. I couldn’t be happier. The trailer is gorgeous and it is such a really nice rig. I can’t believe that I have one. It’s just unbelievable,” Clay said.
The Chittum has expanded Clay’s range and clients of Buggy Whippin Sight Fishing enjoy access to the skinniest of waters in our area.
STUDENT OF NATURE
Clay’s love and careful examination of nature has paid dividends on the flats, where subtle, easily overlooked signs can tip off the location of fish.
“I like to watch animals. It doesn’t matter if it’s just me chilling in the backyard watching birds or hawks, or even seeing my dogs’ ears perk up when they catch a scent and chase it down,” Clay said. “Sitting stream-side, watching a trout circle behind a rock and then leave during changing cloud cover and then come back to the same spot several times a day. Or watching a spider build a web completely from start to finish. That sort of thing.”
Clay recently purchased a drone to better observe wildlife in the marsh. This eye in the sky lends a totally different point of view compared to a poling skiff.
“I’ve seen some crazy things with trout and redfish schooling up on the flats with the drone,” Clay said. “I’ve seen schools of redfish following one big alligator gar. Whatever the gar did, the redfish did the same. I’ve seen bobcats back there in Green’s Lake, as well as pigs. It’s educational as hell.”
Brandon Rowan with one of many redfish caught sight casting with Capt. Sheward.
TIME RETURNS TO NORMAL and I quickly bring my first sight-casted redfish to hand. I get a “nice job” and a fist bump from Clay after the release. The day is early and we continue our hunt for redfish along the sandy flat.
Stingrays, so many stingrays, hover along eeriely as we the glide down the shoreline. Flounder scoot away in a trail of punctuated mud puffs and gnarled, large crabs plod on slowly. This is my first time on a poling skiff and it 100% reminds me of flounder gigging. You are able to witness the abundant life of the bay, visually scanning until your target is located and then a careful approach begins. Unlike the rapid fire retrieves of blind fan casting, you often only get a single shot, like a sniper, when sight casting to a redfish.
Further down the flat, we have no problem tracking down more reds on this absolutely gorgeous day. Bronze backs and tails flick along the shorelines and shell points. Some of these we catch, others refuse the lure or fly, and others spook and run.
It felt like an entire day’s worth of fishing has happened but in reality only two hours have passed. But the day is young. We make a change, push off the flats and head back into the deeper recesses of the marsh.
This redfish absolutely crushed a Buggs Jig.
Clients of Capt. Clay Sheward can expect to fish the maze of marshes and flats on the north shoreline of West Bay and the surrounding areas. There are opportunities to wade or even fish from shore. His Chittum Laguna Madre skiff has everything the fly angler could want and accommodates two fisherman.
However, you don’t need to know how to fly fish to enjoy sight casting for redfish. Catching these fish on light spinning tackle is still a blast and provides ample challenge. You will be thoroughly tested on how accurately and quickly you can place a cast.
“Scratch them on the chin” is what Clay advises when casting to a hungry redfish. It’s hard for them to resist an easy meal in front of their noses. An alternative method is to cast beyond and ahead of a fish, making sure you intercept its path.
No matter your tackle, stealth and speed are essential for success. Casts must be made quickly but delicately, without excessive movement. Heavy steps, twisting hips or any careless motion can rock the skiff and alert fish to your presence.
Clay does not sugar coat it. If you are doing something wrong, he will absolutely let you know. But the best teachers rarely coddle. Those ready to learn and listen have a high probability for an epic day of redfishing with Captain Clay Sheward.
Capt. Clay Sheward poles his Chittum Skiffs Laguna Madre along the flats.
KEEPING IT FLY
As a fledgling fly fisherman, I was eager to pick Clay’s brain on advice for those new to the sport.
“First, remember ‘tip down, strip tight and everything will be alright,’” Clay said. “Second, if you feel like you need to go faster and harder, you probably need to go slower and softer, especially with a fly rod.”
Must-have flies include the kwan, clouser, gurgler, spoon fly and any shrimp imitation with a weed guard. If Clay could only have one it would be the kwan. He also recommends tying a loop knot, with as small a loop as possible, for most flies. He is an avid user of 16 and 20 lb tippets for his clients when targeting redfish on the upper coast. He is also a firm believer in casting whichever rod you are going to buy.
“Cast it and get what feels good to you. Redfish don’t need expensive fly reels. It’s nice to have, but not needed for reds in our area,” Clay said. “Gordy and Sons is one of the nicest fly shops in Houston. They’re no joke and the people that work there are extremely knowledgeable fly anglers.”
Although Clay’s all-time favorite fishing location is the Black Hills of South Dakota, his favorite fish to catch on the fly is the tripletail.
Umpqua’s Kwan fly, tied with bead chain eyes.
“Getting them to eat is the best because they are so stingy man! It’s got to be a perfect presentation,” Clay said. “You can get really close to them though and that gets the nerves going. I think that’s my favorite right now, but chasing a redfish with its back out of the water, and poling up to them…hunting them, that’s always going to be for me.”
THE SUN IS OUT NOW and we find ourselves deep in the marsh, floating along a back creek that is absolutely full of redfish. We glide over schools of erratic, frenzied bait as multiple big redfish cruise down the shoreline, picking them off lazily, one by one.
Clay’s oversized redfish.
It’s been several hours since we left the dock and I’ve honed in on what’s needed to effectively spot and cast to fish, thanks to Clay’s instruction.
We absolutely tore it up on that little stretch of water. After each fish caught and released, we seemed to spot another one right away. Clay caught an absolute beauty of a fish that taped out barely over 28 inches; a heartbreaker of a fish if it was a tournament day.
My favorite catch of the day was an upper slot redfish that came on a second chance. We had a pair of fish swim across our path that ignored the first presentation. They picked up speed and starting swimming away, no longer in sight. I flung out a far cast, as delicately as I could, and started jigging back to where I thought they might be. I knew I got it right when my reel’s drag started screeching.After a rigorous fight, I brought the bronzed backed, pumpkin eyed fish in for a quick photo and release.
It was early in the afternoon but we decided to end the day on high note. The Chittum snaked its way through the marsh lanes as we made the scenic trek back to the dock. I was definitely impressed with the way the boat handled.It took on chop with no issue, didn’t slide around the corners and granted us access to areas other poling skiffs couldn’t reach that day.
I’ve caught my fair share of redfish and I’ve got to say this was the absolute, most exciting way to catch them. If you have a background in kayaking, gigging or hunting, and you haven’t sight casted to redfish, you are missing out I’d say.
Summer and fall are Clay Sheward’s favorite times to be on the water but winter does have its perks.
“The water is so clear in the winter and it’s so fun. You can see everything on the bottom when you’re poling. You can learn so much, it’s incredible.”
Book a trip with Capt. Clay Sheward by visting buggywhippin.com, emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling/texting 281-745-1578. Rates for two people max are 4 hours at $450, 6 hours at $550 and 8 hours at $650. Check him out on Instagram and Facebook@BuggyWhippin
Check out the heart shaped spot on Clay’s redfish!
Women’s Swimwear and Fishing Apparel from Scales Gear
Adrienne Hall in the Ocean Scales bikini by Scales Gear. Photography by Kelly Groce.
By Kelly Groce
Inspired by the protection and hydrodynamic advantage fish scales provide; SCALES created a unique product line using the highest quality materials that combines performance, style and comfort for their apparel and accessories. Here is some of our favorite picks from their women’s gear.
WAHOO TRIANGLE TOP – A classic bikini top in a colorful-inspired Wahoo design.
WAHOO BAITING SUIT SOLO BOTTOM – A classic bikini bottom with added flare of the squid skirt tassels will make this bottom the talk of the boat, beach or the pool!
OCEAN SCALES BIKINI
OCEAN SCALES BIMINI TWIST TOP – A twist on a timeless bikini silhouette with a flattering Ocean Scales design.
OCEAN SCALES BANDED BOTTOM (ADDITIONAL COVERAGE) – Extra comfortable classic bikini bottom in a colorful Ocean Scales design.
TROPICAL SAILFISH PERFORMANCE TOP
A lightweight, comfortable and athletic fit performance shirt. Comes with a vibrant color sublimated print.
Model Adrienne Hall in the Wahoo Baiting Suit by Scales Gear. Photography by Kelly Groce.
Fishing with Capt. James Plaag
Capt. James Plaag with a good stringer of trout.
From trout to tarpon with Capt. Plaag, the 36 year master guide of Silver King Adventures
Interview by Brandon Rowan
Where did you grow up?
I’m from Houston but I grew up down here near the water. My family has had houses here since the 1950s. So I spent all my youth down here. We had a place on Chocolate Bayou and in 1967 my family built a house in Jamaica Beach. I used to watch ZZ Top play down there on the weekends.
How long have you been guiding?
It’s been 36 years, man it goes by fast. Silver King Adventures was started in 1990. Things were tough with the ‘83 freeze when everything froze and died. Then with the ‘89 freeze everything froze and died again.
We had been trying to catch tarpon, but we didn’t know what we were doing at the time. But we had some people interested in going, and it took us a while to wire it up but we got it going. I was tarpon fishing in Louisiana some at that point too, and that’s how we started.
Silver King Adventures is no stranger to large tarpon.
So it all started with Tarpon?
Well, yeah that’s how the name came. One of our customers gave us that name and got roused a bit, and he made us a nice little ad. He was in that business.
What is your fishing specialty or target fish?
Right now we are tarpon fishing. We’ll still go trout fishing if the beach is no good but we’d rather be fishing for tarpon.
So you’re spending a lot of time a couple miles off the beachfront?
Sometimes we’ll get 10 miles out. I’ve caught them in 67 feet of water down to 7 feet of water; it all depends on where you can find them. They are the hardest fish on the planet to find and catch.
What lures/baits are you using for tarpon?
We quit fishing with bait maybe about 15 years ago. We make our own little lures. We still use Coon Pops. Coon is one of my best friends. I learned a whole lot from him; he’s probably the best tarpon fisherman I’ve met in my whole life. We make our own stuff, but we got a lot from him.
How did you get your start fishing?
I cut my teeth fishing the canals at my Grandma’s house in Jamaica Beach. I was about 8 and would ride my bike to the water. With dead shrimp I would catch croaker, hardheads and little redfish. If it bit, I would catch it.
Do you have a favorite fishing moment?
There’s two moments. We caught a really big tarpon one year. The fish was 6’9” with a 50 inch girth and weighed 238 pounds.
The other is from Panama. We were on the Gotcha in Panama City and we took it to Piñas. It’s probably the finest place I’ve ever been in my life. We saw about 15 or 16 fish, caught about 8 or 9. Half blues and half black marlin.
MirrOlure 51MR CH and Bass Assassin in Red Shad.
If you could only have one soft plastic and one hard bait, what would they be?
I’d take a 51 series MirrOlure in chartreuse/gold and a red shad Bass Assassin. I work for both of those companies, but if I didn’t, the answer would still be the same. I put my son through school on that red shad color.
What is the biggest mistake you see fisherman making out there?
They don’t put in the effort. There’s the old saying that you get out what you put in. Fishing is not just throwing your stuff out there and getting them; it doesn’t work like that. If just want a boat ride, that’s all good and fine, but if you actually want to catch something, you have to put in more than just a lackadaisical effort.
What are some things anglers in the Galveston Bay Complex should key in on during September and October to be successful?
September is a hard month for trout fishing. It’s a transition month. You have a major spawn in April and a little bit bigger than a minor spawn in September. September is probably one of the worst months to try and catch a trout. You can, and someone might tell me “Man you’re stupid, we kill them in September.” Yeah, well you might, but by and large it’s not that good.
If the weather is good then September is the best month to catch Tarpon. October is the same for those first three weeks if it’s calm. That’s when the big fish are there. It’s a really good month. October is also a good trout fishing month. Those birds will start working and it gets pretty easy. But September can be tough inshore. For me that month is made for tarpon fishing and dove hunting.
Do you have a favorite tide stage to fish?
It depends on the time of year and where you are fishing.If you’re fishing the marsh during winter, then you got to have an outgoing tide. If you’re fishing near the ship channel, deep water shell or well pads, then the fish will be biting on the incoming tide.
What is the biggest change you’ve seen in our area from when you first started compared to today?
The biggest change? It’s a thing called a cell phone. It totally ruined fishing and I’ll throw croakers in there, too. It used to be that you could stay on a school of fish for two weeks, now you can’t stay on them for 2 hours before someone picks up the phone and tells the world “Hey I saw this dude on the fish over here and they’re getting them.”
The information highway brother…the coconut telegraph is a killer.
James with a 5 pound bass.
Do you have a new recently discovered lure or technique you’d like to share with our readers?
In these last three years we’ve been fishing a lot like they fish swimbaits for bass. Instead of jigging them, we use them like a search bait. That’s where the paddletail comes into play, like a Bass Assassin Sea Shad. Once you get your speed down and find the fish, whether it’s the bottom or top of the water column, it’s easy. That way you can tell clients to cast, let it fall for X amount of seconds and then bring it back on a medium retrieve.
Favorite place you have ever fished?
It’s definitely Panama.
Is there anything you’d like to see changed in the current regulations?
Do away with the croaker. Sooner or later the guides are going to fish themselves out of business and everyone will be wondering why. What it enables you to do is to target the individual fish you wouldn’t catch otherwise. I could go out there with a lure and I might catch one and I may not, but you drag that croaker through there and you can target the individual big breeder fish.
So you’ll have one boat load up with 15 or more 3 – 5 pound trout before they head in. Then you’ll have 30 boats out there doing the same thing. Add it up in pounds and it doesn’t take long to see the problem.
If you want to fish with finfish, then get you some piggie perch. Put some effort into it. Piggie is a better bait than a croaker, but you have to put some more effort in to use them.
Another thing I’ve talked about is putting a slot limit on the trout. Knock the minimum length down to 14 inches so Joe Blow can go out and catch his 10 fish. And then anything from 20 to 25 inches just put them back. Most customers want fish they can keep, so they could box the smaller eating fish and let the big ones go.
Aside from fishing, what else are you passionate about?
Dove hunting. But with fishing we go with the old saying “Can’t stop, won’t stop.” That’s what we do; we fish. Cameron, my son, is the same way. It’s what we do.
Do you fish any tournaments?
I’ve fished a couple tournaments this year. I’ve been lucky enough to place in just about every one of them. I don’t go after it hard anymore though. Them boys that fish those tournaments in wintertime, they’re good, they catch them. They’re young and they’ll make long runs.
We fish the Seabrook Saltwater Derby every year.We’ve won something in that one just about every time. I fish with Jason Nolan. He just called me about it, it’s coming up on September 29.
Uh oh, we got some competition (laughs). Team Gulf Coast Mariner will be fishing that one too.
Well I hope y’all do good, but I hope I do better (laughs).
How can someone contact you for a guided trip?
Give me a call at (409) 935-7242, email email@example.com or visit www.silverkingadventures.com. Tarpon fishing will be hot and inshore fishing during the fall is the best all year.
Texas Yellowfin Tuna 101
A Quick Guide to Fishing the Floaters
By Brandon Rowan
Night owls rejoice, Texas yellowfin tuna fishing is hot from dusk to dawn. So, it’s pitch black and you’re bobbing along 100 plus miles offshore at the floaters (semi-submersible rigs). Well now what?
Blackfin tuna will provide all the bait and chum you need.
First things first, you need chum. The idea is to create a tasty trail of bread crumbs for fish to follow as you drift away from the rig. You could bring a bag of shad or other baitfish to get you started but all the chum and bait you need is right below your boat in the form of blackfin tuna.
Cousin to the yellowfin, these smaller tuna max out at around 50 pounds and swarm the night waters around the floaters. There is no minimum length or bag limit for blackfin tuna in Federal waters. Take the knife to smaller, football sized fish but bleed and ice the larger 15-30 pounders. They put up a surprisingly good fight and taste nearly as good as yellowfin, just make sure to remove the large bloodline. What is the best way to catch blackfin tuna? Jigs are your best bet.
Blackfin are not particularly finicky and will hit just about any diamond, knife or butterfly jig you send down to the deep. Jigs from 4 to 10 ounces with glow-in-the-dark colors seem to draw the most attention. Yellowfin will also hit jigs although not with the regularity of blackfin. In fact, on one trip my two best yellowfin tuna, in the 50-pound class, were caught with glow-in-the-dark and blue 8-ounce diamond jigs.
To start your drift, position the boat down current of the platform and drop your jigs down. Stay alert as you let your lure fall, many times fish will strike as the jig flutters downward. If your line suddenly goes slack, ratchet up the drag and set the hook.
The Japanese style of speed jigging can work in this situation but is tiring and not necessary when many bites happen on the fall. A slower yo-yo style of jigging is also effective, and if you’re at the right depth then sometimes a few lifts of the rod tip is all it takes to entice a bite. Load your jigging reels with color metered braid to help determine what depth the fish are feeding. Sometimes it’s 30 feet, other times it can be 300 feet.
If things are going as planned, then you should have plenty of blackfin after a drift or two. Cut your fish into one-to-two inch chunks and keep them handy in a designated chum bucket. On your next drift have one angler continue to jig while another tosses out a handful of chunks every couple of minutes. Set up two drift lines, one long and one short, each sporting a large bloody chunk of blackfin at the business end.
Chunking, as it is called, provides your best chance for landing big yellowfin tuna, so heavier tackle is a must. Stout stand-up rods, 30 or 50 lb. class reels, 50 to 100 pound fluorocarbon leaders and strong 4/0 to 8/0 circle hooks are standard gear. You don’t want to be outgunned when that 100 pounder finds its way to your chum line. Don’t be discouraged if the bite doesn’t happen in first 15 minutes. Many good fish have been hooked and landed far from the rig’s lights.
Yo-Zuri Sashimi Bull Metallic Popper
Pop the Top
Yellowfin tuna in the Gulf of Mexico sometimes shy away from jigs but will violently assault a topwater lure if conditions are right. It’s a good idea to have a heavy spinning setup ready at all times for tossing poppers to surface crashing yellowfin. It is not uncommon to see tuna leap high out of the water when in pursuit of flying fish. A Shimano Saragosa or Stella loaded with 60 to 80 pound braid on a 7 – 8 foot rod is a common outfit. See this article for more detailed information on rods and reels.
The technique for working these lures is similar to the ole’ tried and true popping cork. A flick of the rod tip causes the lure’s cupped mouth to rush forward and create a commotion. They can also be reeled in ultra fast to create a big splashing disturbance on the surface. If the flying fish have taken to the skies, then it could be a good time to toss a popper.
Tuna absolutely love flying fish.
Skimming the Big Pool
Flying fish are tuna candy. Sometimes they’re so thick they’ll fly right into the boat. Other times they drift tantalizingly close but still out of reach. Your standard backyard pool skimming net solves this problem. Flying fish make superb bait so collect as many as you can and put them to work on a drift line. Nothing beats the real thing.
A Bloody Mess
Tuna fishing is exciting, it definitely tests your arms and back – but it is not clean. You might want to wear an old shirt you don’t particularly care about. Tuna must be bled to ensure the highest quality of meat. Cut the gills or make a small semi-circle cut behind the pectoral fin to drain your fish before boxing it. You can go a step further and gut the fish, remove the head and pack the body cavity with ice if you find down time between fish. Good luck and tight lines!
Five Lures for Big Speckled Trout
These time proven big trout lures consistently produce fish over five pounds and have landed me a number of top tournament finishes.
If the wind is light or I’m fishing in shallow water, my first and often only choice for chasing a trophy would be the Heddon® Super Spook Jr.® in bone with silver sides. Its a small lure in the world of big trout, but that’s what makes it so deadly. Fish in shallow water are much more sensitive to noise and water movements and there are days when the subtle presentation of a smaller lure just works better. With a little practice and variation of the retrieve, you can make the Spook Jr. sound and appear large. The single ball rattle system can be worked gently without spooking fish, but if you work it hard, you can achieve a wide side to side motion with a rather loud clicking to draw them in.
When the chop gets a little bigger, it’s time to tie on a bigger bait. The Heddon® Super Spook® in Okie Shad, or as I have always called it, the “Jimmy Houston,” is a close tie for my all-time favorite topwater. It’s a very natural color combination that works well in dirty water, but produces in clear water when others just won’t. This is not a small top water, in size or sound, but with its more natural color scheme it can be used effectively across the spectrum of conditions. Big or light chop, shallow or deep, this one does it all and I have caught more quality trout on this lure than I could possibly count.
The MirrOLure® She Dog 83MR in Chartreuse/Pearl is another topwater that excels in choppy conditions, but can be deadly in both dirty and clear water. It too has a single ball style rattle, but emits a much higher pitch sound than the Super Spook. I don’t necessarily turn to this one as frequently as some of the others on this list, but when conditions call for it, I always have one ready. This lure and color combination landed me my largest trout to date, a fish just over 29.5” and over nine pounds, in 2010 in Galveston.
When its time to probe the depths with deadly precision, I turn to the MirrOlure® Paul Brown Fat Boy, a creation of Houston mastermind Paul Brown, probably one of the greatest lure designers to ever live. This lure can take some time to get a grip on, but once you do, it can be fished effectively from less than a foot to depths over six feet. It’s a soft plastic wrapped, cork over wire, baitfish imitating, seductive dancing, finesse bait that has been the demise of many giant trout. Because of the construction of the lure, the Fat Boy can be tuned to swim at different depths, diving slightly up or down with different bends applied to the nose or tail. Chartreuse, gold sides, white belly has always been a favorite color combo for me.
It’s not really fair to say that there is a fifth in my top five, because it’s a repeat of number four. For many years, the Fat Boy in pink with silver sides has been my go-to for cold winter fishing. This selection is a standard answer concerning winter trout, but my tournament partners can vouch for the fact that in certain conditions, I would start and finish a nine hour day throwing this one lure. It landed me my heaviest trout that I have an accurate weight on, at 9.25 pounds, and has been the lure that led me to more top five finishes in trout tournaments than any other.
These are my choices and I’m sticking to them. Every lure on this list has produced trout over 7.5 pounds in the Galveston Bay system. There is no one single bait that suits every condition set or scenario that you will encounter, and this list may not work for you, but it’s mine and has not changed much over the past ten years. When its time for me to hunt big winter or spring trout, you can rest assured I will have every one of these ready to go.
Fishing with Capt. Steve Hillman
Steve Hillman with a mid October beauty, released after a quick photo.
Hillman Guide Service’s big trout buff on his early years and fishing favorites
Interview by Brandon Rowan
Where did you grow up?
I was born in Galveston and grew up on Dickinson Bayou where my parents started a small seafood business in the mid-seventies.When not fishing off of our little pier I would fish out in the bay with my dad, uncles and grandpa.This was back when we didn’t have to venture far to catch trout, redfish and flounder.Reefs in Dickinson Bay, Moses Lake and Todd’s Dump gave us all the action we could ask for.
It really wasn’t until my mid-teenage years that I learned how to read the water well.I fell in love with wading and learned what slicks meant.This is when fishing hit a whole new level for me.I caught my first topwater trout on a chrome/ blue jumping minnow on Dickinson Reef when I was around 16 years old.I still remember how rafts of mullet would mark the J-shaped reef.No GPS was needed.
In 1996 I graduated from the University of Houston – Clear Lake with a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Management, then took a job in the chemical industry.Within a couple of years I came back to my roots in the family seafood business to take over the marketing aspects of the business.We would fly clients in from all over the country and I would take them fishing and golfing.
It was during this time when I realized just how much satisfaction I got from watching others enjoy catching fish.In 2004 I obtained my captain’s license and started running trips.Some folks told me to be careful taking something that I enjoy and turning it into a job.I suppose this is true for some.For me, it was the right choice.I never intended on becoming a full-time fishing guide but the circumstances pretty much played out that way.Now, I have some of the best regular clients that any guide could ever ask for.Funny how things seem to work out the way you least expect.
When I started guiding I ran tarpon, bull red, shark, black drum, flounder and trout trips.While I enjoyed all of that I realized that my true passion was fishing for trout and reds.I’m a firm believer in sticking to what you know.And, by doing the same thing day-in and day-out you can stay on the patterns and become better.
Do you have a favorite fishing moment?
My favorite experience is when a young man from Idaho called to book a two day fly fishing trip with me in March of 2006 for him and his father.The first day was spent wading coves in West Bay amidst typical March stiff winds.The bite was tough on flies, but the trout and reds were cooperative (for me) on conventional tackle.Kurt and his dad kept their distance from me despite me constantly waving them in my direction.They caught a few undersized trout on seaducers, clouser minnows and spoon flies.They seemed to be happy despite not catching a bunch of fish.The wind gave us a break on the second day and the fishing was much better.Once again, however, they wouldn’t wade over when I was on fish.They caught some, but I was a bit perplexed and maybe even a little disappointed that they pretty much hung out away from me in their own little world.I pulled up to the dock at Teakwood Marina and Kurt’s father headed for the truck as he was a little tired.Kurt handed me my check and said the following; “Captain Steve, I know that me and my dad could’ve caught more fish had we spent more time by your side or used conventional gear, but I need to tell you something.My dad has terminal cancer and the doctors only gave him a few months to live.He started taking me fly fishing when I was a little boy and those memories are the ones I cherish the most.We got to relive some of those memories the past two days and I want to thank you for that.This may be the last time I get to fish with my dad.”
As Kurt walked towards his truck tears flowed from my eyes.I drove home thinking about how blessed I was.That two day fishing trip with Kurt and his father will forever be etched in my memory as well as my heart.
MirrOlure MirrOdine XL
What is your favorite soft plastic and hard bait for trout if you had to choose only one of each?
My favorite soft plastic would have to be a Limetreuse Saltwater Assassin and MirrOlure’s MirrOdine XL would be my choice for a hard bait.
What is the biggest mistake you see other fishermen make?
I would have to say that the biggest mistake I see on a regular basis is other fishermen motoring over fish.Just the other day we witnessed a boat motor through several good trout slicks then line up behind us to make a drift.He was more concerned with what was happening on my boat then what was happening in the water around him.This has become a daily occurrence.I would love to see more awareness and better etiquette.
Fat redfish like this one can be found schooling in open water, September through November.
What should anglers key in on during September and October in Galveston Bay?
The early days of September are usually similar to our late summer patterns which involve drifting slicks in 7 to 11 feet of water over shell and throwing mainly soft plastics.Depending upon the timing of cool fronts, late September and early October can become more of a transitional pattern where trout are found deep as well as shallow.Slicks and active bait are always good telltale signs but gulls hovering over migrating white shrimp can also lead you to the fish.Wading near marsh drains is always a good plan especially during late October.Trout can be somewhat spread out until a true fall pattern arrives which usually occurs in November.
Do you have a favorite tide stage to fish?
My favorite tide to fish depends on where we’re fishing but our trout seem to feed better during a tide change.If we’re wading the mouth of a marsh drain then I like a high tide going to a low.If we’re drifting open bay reefs then any tidal movement is best, regardless of direction.
What is the biggest change you’ve seen in Galveston Bay over the years?
I could write an entire article on this subject but I suppose the most noticeable change is the bottom landscape of the bay.Many islands are now reefs and many reefs are now gone.Through the years the bottom structure has changed from environmental changes and man-induced changes.We have lost more than half of our live oyster reefs and all of our rangia clam beds mainly due to Hurricane Ike and other environmental changes.
I’ve also seen the number of boats increase dramatically over the years.
Do you have a recently discovered lure or new technique you’d like to share with our readers?
I’m pretty much a creature of habit who tends to keep things simple.That being said, I seem to be throwing more waking baits such as Strike Pro’s Hunchback this year.It’s a subsurface hard bait that wobbles from side to side.It has a loud rattle that tends to draw strikes when sometimes other baits won’t.Other than that, I usually stick to the basic soft plastic and topwater program.It really depends on what I see while we’re fishing.
Favorite place you’ve ever fished?
Hands down, my favorite place I’ve ever fished is Baffin Bay.I love catching legitimately big trout and Baffin has produced more big trout for me than all the other bays I’ve fished combined.Galveston Bay has produced some big trout for us through the years but not as consistently as Baffin.
Steve’s 8.25lb trout fell for a MirrOdine XL.
Is there anything you’d like to see changed in the current regulations?
The jury is still out on this question for me.I carefully observe the changes I see on a yearly and daily basis while running my charters.I also study the data from the Texas Parks and Wildlife, as well as others such as the Harte Research Institute.
My current opinion is that we’re struggling with habitat in this bay and fishing pressure has greatly increased.Man-made and environmental changes have had a negative impact on our estuary.I don’t think anyone can deny that.
The question is what changes should be made?Is a limit reduction to 5 trout the answer?I personally think it’s a good start.Sustainability of our spotted seatrout as well as our habitat should be on the front burner.
Aside from fishing, what else are you passionate about?
I thoroughly enjoy fishing but my biggest passion is spending time with my family.My wife and I only have one daughter, and she turns 16 in January.Time seems to pass faster than ever and I don’t want to miss anything that has to do with them.We’re a goofy little family and we can rarely have a serious conversation, but I wouldn’t want it any other way.
You can contact Hillman Guide Service by calling 409-256-7937 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Down South Lures’ Mike Bosse
Mike Bosse with a big trout caught on a Down South Lure in red shad.
Interview by Brandon Rowan
Where are you from?
I was born is Cypress, Texas. We moved to Chappell Hill when I was four years old. I grew up there and went to Brenham High School. We grew up fishing ponds, the New Year’s Creek and the Brazos River. Eventually, we graduated to fishing Lake Conroe, Fayette, and Gibbons Creek before I got bit by the “saltwater bug.”
Down South Lure in Kickin’ Chicken.
Tell me about the journey that led up to the design and success of Down South Lures.
Like many people, I had an extreme love for fishing. Since I pond hopped all the time, I loved to fish for bass. This inspired me to make my first lure when I was 12 years old. I cut about 3 inches off my mom’s wooden broom handle and carved a cup out of one end to make a “popper lure.” Then I grabbed an old Heddon Torpedo, took the screw-in eyelet off the nose and screwed it into the nose of my bait. The hooks were removed from the old Torpedo, and I screwed those into the bottom of my lure. I did not paint the plug; I just tied it on and went fishing. A two-pound bass was caught that afternoon on it.
Since we bass fished big lakes like Conroe, we threw a lot of Carolina rigged sickle tailed baits in deep water. We loved the way the bait swam down off the ledges when we dragged them over humps and creek beds. We were firm believers that fish ate the bait when it was falling, more often than not. Well, fast forward about 15 years and I found a love for saltwater fishing. I noticed that most of the paddle tails and tout tails did not swim on the fall like our bass worms did. After that, I began to tinker with other plastic baits, modifying them to have action while falling. It just grew from there. More and more friends were asking me to make them baits. After that I cut my own mold design. It has grown into the Down South Lure that you see today.
Were there any unforeseen challenges or surprises have you encountered while developing Down South?
One of the biggest challenges in the lure industry is that you have to prove that your bait is different and has a place in peoples’ tackle boxes. The only way you can do that is by fishing with it, and getting it into the hands of reputable fishermen. Once they see that the bait has merit, they will begin to purchase your lure. It’s very hard to get fisherman to switch from something they have been throwing successfully for years.
Another surprise to me was that it was extremely hard to get shelf space. Going into it, I figured that if I had a good product with professional packaging, I would be granted pegs. That’s not the case at all. People have to ask for your products over and over. Then you can get a spot on the wall in a tackle shop.
Michael Naymik with a 23.3″ Galveston flounder caught on Down South Lures.
What is your personal favorite DSL lure/rigging?
I’m pretty simple. I like a 1/4 oz. or 1/8 oz. 3/0 jighead rigged with either the original Southern Shad or the Super Model XL. I throw various colors, depending on the water clarity. If I had to pick one color for all clarity it would be Chicken of the C.
What colors and riggings are best for the super DSL for big trout in the winter?
I like to go with as light a jighead as possible considering the conditions. If it is windy, or the current is moving pretty good you may have to use a little heavier jighead.If you notice that your lure is not getting down to the bottom, and there is a big bow in your slack line, you need to go heavier. My personal favorite “big fish” colors are Red Shad, True Plum, Key Lime, and Howell’s Strawberry Wine.
What kind of retrieve do you recommend when fishing DSLs?
Retrieves can vary with the conditions as well. My personal all-around favorite is to let the bait sink to the bottom and then retrieve with a twitch, twitch, pause cadence. I think fish are more reactionary feeders, and that they do not over think when feeding. That’s how they have survived this long. The twitch, twitch, pause resembles a classic “two hop” shrimp escape. Though my bait more resembles a fish swimming, or an eel escaping to the bottom, I always think that the most natural movements get the most strikes. You will notice that most of your bites will be when this bait is falling.
Do you have a favorite fishing moment? Could be a big fish or trophy but also a special fish or situation.
I have a bunch that stick out, but probably my favorite was when I was when I located some big trout while prefishing for a redfish tournament in Galveston. I was throwing my baits against a stretch of rocky shoreline. There was a lot of bait activity on that particular rock line point, so I fired my Chicken of the C in there and caught a 5 pounder. The next cast was another solid 5 pounder. I just eased away and told myself, “I’m bringing my girlfriend here first thing in the morning.”
We got up early, and I told her I was not going to fish, just run the trolling motor. We eased up to the point and she caught 3 fish very quickly to 4 pounds on a pink MirrOlure She Dog (She loves topwater and the conditions were perfect for it.) As we approached to honey hole, I told her to cast right by that one larger rock that had a wash out behind it. She gave it a perfect cast, and within 6 twitches she had a major explosion. It ended up being her largest trout ever measuring 28.5 inches. She said, let’s quit on that cast, but I wanted a flounder for lunch. We agreed to try for 15 minutes pitching around some rocks in a spot where I have caught them before. It was only 50 yards away from the trout spot. Within 5 minutes I had the solid thump of a flounder right by the boat on my Chicken of the C lure. I set the hook, and all hell broke loose. It was a big red! I told my girlfriend to get the net because I saw how many spots it had on its side. It was absolutely covered. I told her whatever you do, do not miss this fish! I’ll never hook one like this again. She got it on the first swipe. It measured 31.5 inches and had 144 spots on it. I took close up photos of both sides of the fish, and released the beauty for someone else to catch.We never made another cast that morning. I racked the trolling motor up and we headed back to the dock. The moral of the story is, I’ve had better days with numbers of fish, but we both broke personal records that day.
This big trout was caught on a Key Lime Super Model in Mansfield with Capt. Daniel Land.
What’s your favorite place you have fished?
If I had to pick one bay system in Texas, it would be Port Mansfield. The vast grass flats are just too appealing. The deep reefs and rocks of Galveston are a close second in the state. Poling for permit in the Florida Keys is my favorite out of state adventure.
Aside from fishing, what else are you passionate about?
When I’m not fishing, I like to hang out with friends, watch football, and BBQ while enjoying a cold beverage. We enjoy going deer hunting when we get a chance as well. Recently, I have become more intrigued with deer hunting, so my tournament partner and I have secured a deer lease in south Texas for next year.
Is there any Down South Lure news or upcoming events you’d like to let our readers know about?
Yes, always be on the lookout for new and innovating products and colors that we are working on releasing. Give us a follow on Facebook and Instagram to see all the updates. We post everything up there, and feature exceptional catches on our page. As always, we will have a booth at the Houston Boat Show in January, The All Valley Boat Show in McAllen in February, and The Houston Fishing Show in March. We always have our lures and apparel on special at these shows, so come by and get a deal. In addition, we will be doing some raffles and drawings for people that stop by at these shows. As always, you can shop all of our products at www.downsouthlures.com. See you guys soon and tight lines.
Coastal Artist Anastasia Musick
Anastasia Musick with her tarpon painting “Eyes on the Prize.”
Interview by Kelly Groce
Tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from and when did you start painting?
Originally I am from Kazakhstan but I have lived all over Europe and Asia (11 countries to be exact) before I was even 17!Shortly after I came along, my family endured many hardships from the changing times, causing us to constantly move.
Like many young kids, I was fond of drawing, painting and anything artistic, but I tended to dedicate all of my time to this interest over anything else.Certainly it was a good focus, as no matter where we lived or what the language, I had to start learning that particular year(s), I had consistency and stability in my artwork. I think was more beneficial to me than anything.
When I was around 11 years old, I was starting to paint and draw animals and floral art at a very rapid rate.My mother would place the finished works in shops wherever we were living at the time.By the time I was 15, I was being contacted for commissioned pieces of a very wide array of subjects, including freshwater fish, birds, and a lot of floral works.
How did you get into painting wildlife?
I have from the very beginning painted a host of subjects without boundary, but I would say that the time period I started focusing mostly on marine and wildlife was 2-3 years ago. My first saltwater piece was around that time as well.
“Dancing in the Moonlight”
Aside from art, what else are you passionate about?
Well to be completely honest, I don’t really have much time to do much else!I paint 8-12 hours a day, 7 days a week, and when I am caught up I try to go fishing or enjoy my time on the water.I take what I do incredibly seriously and try to give every ounce of energy I have to becoming better. After all, I have a lot of folks who have invested in me by owning originals.I would be doing them a disservice if I did not increase their piece’s value over time.
I do love to fish but unless it’s a subject I am completely new to, it really does not make the artworks any better to continually see the same species—at least for me it doesn’t, but what does improve the paintings is pure repetition. This is the only requirement needed to have the knowledge or capability to paint or draw anything with success.
What is your favorite fish to catch?
Redfish and Mahi.
Favorite location to fish or travel?
When time allows, I like to take either my paddle boat or kayak to a tiny little area in Charlotte Harbor that always is harboring at least a few hungry reds!Within the last two years my vacationing has been sort of limited, but I have really enjoyed the various beaches I’ve visited in Texas and of course the boardwalk in San Antonio was a fun time.
Favorite fishing moment?
The very first redfish I caught had a little over 13 spots and I think that’s when I fell in love with fishing and wanted to dedicate that as my predominate focus.
How can our readers purchase and enjoy your art?
I have hundreds of pieces that I do reproductions of in small numbers, apparel and a host of other things available.Easiest way to contact me is either to go to Facebook and search me out: Anastasia Musick. Also feel free to contact me on my business page: Musick Art Corporation. You can also find my website at www.AnastasiaMusick.com
Are there any foundations or organizations you are involved with that you would like to tell our readers about?
I work with CCA Texas, Florida and several kidney research foundations.In 2019 I was selected to be the Texas CCA STAR Platinum Print Artist and would like to continue working with them and others.
“The Prospectors Bill”
Texas Billfishing Lures
Four top Texas captains give up the billfish lures that are always in their spread and should be in yours.
Moldcraft Wide Range with black/purple skirt. (no. 26)
Capt. 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.”
Some of Capt. Deerman’s favorite Wide Range color combos.
Capt. 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 03/46 skirt combo at Melton International Tackle.
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 Brutus – Blue Paua Shell/Silver Mirror w/ Silver Eyes – Blue/Silver/Black Bars over Purple/Black
Capt. 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.”
Offshore Fishing Boats for the Gulf
Venture far into the Gulf on any of these fine fishing boats from 24 – 36 ft.
Grady-White Fisherman 257
The Fisherman 257 was built ready to go offshore. Two insulated forward 120 quart boxes and a transom 185 quart box provide plenty of room for any pelagic or reef fish you bring in. The fully insulated 32-gallon lighted livewell keeps bait lively with full column raw water distribution. This ride makes for a comfortable, yet capable sport fishing machine.
Improved fishability with higher gunnels, larger fish boxes, more interior room and a transom livewell make the 270 one of the best laid out fishing platform on the market. The improved functional and stylish helm offers ample room for your larger electronics and multiple storage compartments for gear and equipment.
With a host of changes in both design and style, the new Cape Horn 24os is more ready than ever to face what awaits 50+ miles offshore. The newly designed hull provides impressive ride comfort and fuel economy. A sprawling floor plan leaves more room to fish. Two big live wells make sure you will never run out of bait.
The Gamefish delivers exactly what serious fishermen demand in a sportfishing center console boat. This boat comes ready to fish with multiple insulated fishboxes and livewells as standard features. The cockpit has abundant room for 360° of fishing and the hull delivers a soft, dry ride.
The 320CC is a versatile performer that excels in our Gulf chop. You can run flat out to your favorite fishing spot, even in rougher seas. A large 45 gallon livewell provides ample space for bait and over 1,300 quarts of insulated storage keeps your catch cold. Twelve gunwale-mounted rod holders and comfortable seating for twelve means you can bring the entire crew out fishing.
The combination of speed, an unmatched dry ride and rugged construction make the 36 Yellowfin the boat to beat no matter where you are fishing. The 36 can be powered by twin or triple outboards and either option will yield speeds that few other boats in its class can match. Numerous console, leaning post and top options, let you customize the 36 to perfectly complement the way you fish. A huge 477 gallon fuel capacity lends incredible range to this ride.
With its precision-engineered deep-V hull, high padded gunnels and unsinkable Unibond construction, the 330 Outrage delivers an incredibly soft, safe, dry ride, whether you’re venturing far from shore or cruising close to home. State-of-the-art navigation and command systems make captaining a breeze, while smart ergonomic seating ensures an enjoyable ride for every passenger. In the bow, a plush forward lounge lifts to reveal ample storage below while the facing bow seats invite easy conversation.
The 36os features “more of everything.” The wide beam and excellent speed let get out into the Gulf faster and in comfort.A 1,400 quart insulated fish box will hold any fish you may catch, including swordfish up to 9-feet-long. The rear 40 gallon live well is standard, as is the large transom gate. The main live well sports 60 gallons for keeping the largest of baits frisky. The 36os is a solid choice for the seasoned angler looking for all the advantages needed to fish harder than any other.
Below is a map of the distribution of invasive lionfish in the Northwest Atlantic Ocean as of January 2020 (courtesy of Amy Benson and Dr. Pamela Schofield of the USGS).
In the early 1990’s the first invasive lionfish was sighted in the Mediterranean, likely originating from the Red Sea and entering through the Suez Canal. Populations of lionfish have showed a marked increase in that region. Many Mediterranean countries prohibit spearing activities, including spearing invasive lionfish, but that is starting to change, much like it did in the western Atlantic when people realized that we had to confront the threat head on. The Mediterranean may represent a whole new destructive chapter of this invasion.
Every year thousands of species are introduced to non-native locations all over the world. So how has the perfect storm developed that has allowed lionfish to be so destructive in the wrong oceans? Adult lionfish mature within the first year of life and can grow to over 18 inches. They are slow moving and don’t scare easily and rely on their 18 venomous spines to keep predators away.
While there are numerous native species that have been reported to consume lionfish, it is not in high enough numbers to control the population. It’s not known exactly what keeps their populations in check in their native range, but groupers, sharks and moray eels have all been seen eating lionfish. Additionally, although lionfish are susceptible to diseases and parasites in their invaded range, the effects on the population are unknown.
Lionfish mature quickly and adapt to a large range of conditions (temperature, salinity, depth, habitat). An average sized female lionfish can produce an average of 25,000 eggs every 2.5 days which is more than 2 million eggs per year!
The impact of the lionfish invasion can be devastating. In heavily invaded areas lionfish reach densities of 200 adults per acre. They are not particular when it comes to food choices, and they are gluttons. They can reduce native fish populations by more than 90%. They are the buffet busters of the reefs at an all you can eat buffet. Lionfish stomachs can expand about 30 times normal size and they can swallow prey up to 2/3 their size. Below is a photo of the stomach contents of one invasive lionfish.
Lionfish prey include recreationally and commercially important species of fish such as juvenile snapper and grouper. They also compete with these same species of fish for food, which can result in significant impacts to local fisheries. Lionfish also eat herbivorous fish, which are vital to reef health because they keep algae in check. As lionfish populations grow, the degraded reefs become more susceptible to the effects of overfishing, disease, pollution and climate change. See National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries Impacts of Invasive Lionfish (Feb 9, 2018) for more information. https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/feature-story/impacts-invasive-lionfish
Alex Fogg, Marine Biologist, LFU Science Advisor and Field Reporter
So, what’s being done to control them? Currently, spearing is the most effective method of lionfish removal. Every lionfish speared can save thousands of native fish!
In addition to spearing, specialized traps are being developed to help harvest lionfish beyond diver depths (generally below 150 ft). Lionfish University is working with the trap’s designer, Dr. Steve Gittings, Chief Scientist for NOAA’s Marine Sanctuary System, as well as Coast Watch Alliance and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to help fund and execute the lionfish trap research. The traps work because lionfish are highly attracted to structure and tend to stay put. So, the traps stay open on the ocean bottom, with only a sheet of plastic lattice rising from the center of the trap, and nothing is actually trapped until the minute it is pulled up: native reef fish just swim out, but lionfish hunker down around the plastic sheet and don’t leave. This results in almost no by-catch of native species and no ghost fishing should the trap be lost. The results have been very encouraging and several groups throughout the invaded region have been testing the traps and giving feedback on how to improve them. Here is a link https://sanctuaries.noaa.gov/lionfish/ that shows how to build your own lionfish trap, along with great informational resources. Build one, test it, and let us know how to improve it. Note that specialized permits may be necessary to test these traps in your area.
Dr. Steve Gittings’ non containment trap design
So, what is the silver lining? Lionfish taste delicious and are nutritious. You can eat up and know you are helping to save the reefs while enjoying their light, buttery flavor and flakey texture. Many Whole Foods Markets as far west as Austin, Texas carry this delicious invader. They are high in Omega-3 fatty acids, low in mercury and provide a source of income for fishers who cull them with spears.
Quite the culture has grown up around the invasion, fun lionfish derbies and festivals for the ecologically concerned. Check out the Emerald Coast Open – the largest lionfish tournament in the world – May 15-17, 2020 in Destin, Florida. Last year this event had $50,000 in cash prizes, more than $15,000 in gear prizes, and netted almost 20,000 lionifsh! Prizes are awarded for most, largest and smallest lionfish. Find out more about how you can enter this reef saving event and/or attend the festival: https://emeraldcoastopen.com/. As Alex Fogg says: Lionfish are good for money, food, friends and fun!
If you would like to get involved in helping clear the reefs of these destructive fish you can become a certified scuba diver and learn how to spear them safely, making sure to check any local regulations about spearing certification, and types of spears that are allowed. Here are some dive operators in who can get you started:
Niuhi Dive Charters (Pensacola, FL)
Florida Dive Pros (Pensacola, FL)
Jolly Rogers Dive Center (Pensacola, FL)
Bluewater Escape Charters (Fort Walton Beach, FL)
Off Duty Dive Charters (Destin, FL)
Islamorada Dive Center (Islamorada, FL)
Juliet Sailing and Diving (Miami, FL)
Gary’s Gulf Divers (Orange Beach, AL)
Gulf Coast Divers (Mobile, AL)
Texas Lionfish Control Unit (Dallas, TX)
So, have a great time hunting while helping to save the reefs!
Eat Em’ to beat Em’. Take a Lionfish to Lunch… And Eat It!
JH Performance Boats
JH Performance Boat’s most popular model, the Outlaw 230X, anchored down.
High-quality, built to last shallow water boats manufactured by Richmond family
By Kelly Groce
Born and raised in Richmond, TX, John Schubert and his brother Michael built racing boats their entire lives thanks to the knowledge that their father passed down. After starting Sport Marine in 1988 and being a dealer of a variety of boats for years, the family decided to start building their own boats in 2007.
JH Performance Boats has 3 models in a variety of lengths to choose from; Outlaw Series, BX Series and the B Series. Each JH Performance Boat is constructed from the highest quality polyester gel coats and resins using a variety of fiberglass cloth materials in multiple layers for added strength. Each hull is hand laid and filled with full foam flotation throughout. Floors and decks are built with 100% composite core materials and transoms are made of high density solid composite sheets. JH Performance Boats has a wide variety of colors to choose from to make your boat even more tailored to your liking.
With a phenomenal reputation by shallow water fisherman for attention to detail, excellent craftsmanship and above and beyond customer service, JH Performance Boats is now producing 50-60 boats a year and continues to grow. Enjoy
Owner of JH Performance Boats, John Schubert, with an Outlaw model that will be on display at the Houston Boat Show this January 3-12. Photo: Kelly Groce
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your family.
Believe it or not, we’ve never been that much of a fishing family. We’ve been way more of a racing family or just a normal boating family, but I really enjoy being a part of the fishing group of people that we are involved with now. I think shallow water boats and the shallow water community is a great group of people to deal with. They can be hard on equipment, but at the same time it’s a hard way of fishing. I enjoy that group of people the most and that’s who we cater to.
I’m still not much of a fisherman. My brother Michael and I will build a fishing boat for us to have, but then someone will come and buy it (laughs). We have a lot of fishing guides with our company, so we can always go fishing with them if we want. We mostly do a lot of boat racing and our kids enjoy it. That’s something my father always did, so naturally my brother and I did too. It’s pretty neat and it’s been part of what we do. We’ve gained a decent amount of knowledge doing it.
We also have a house at Selkirk Island, which is up north from Matagorda. The whole family goes there and we bring a ski boat to run the river and pull the kids on tubes. The bay is right there if we want to go fishing, so that’s nice. My kids are getting older so its not just about going tubing anymore, but hose are some of our favorite times.
What is your most popular model?
The 23′ Outlaw. The boat drives and handles incredibly well. It is a great boat for getting across the bay and keeping you dry. It’s just a great running boat. We’ve sold a lot of them and people come in and want them again and again. We have lots of returning customers, which we appreciate. We;ve had Generation 1 and Generation 2 of the Outlaw. When my brother and I set out to build that boat, we drew what we wanted on paper and designed what we wanted. We built that whole boat out of wood, put a transom on it, bolted on a 200 HP Yamaha and ran that thing. Right out of the box it was pretty close to what we were thinking. We would go run it and come back home and in about an hours time we would have it flipped upside down and on the trailer. Since it was wood we would modify it easily; change angles, widths and all that kind of stuff. We would flip it back over, put a motor on it and go run it. We wouldn’t be in the water more than 3 minutes and know that quick if our modifications worked or didn’t work. We would do this over and over again until it was right. We had 16-18 hours on that boat after the fact just trying to figure out what would work. We got that one built and we were pretty happy with it. It didn’t carry the speed we wanted, but everyone said it was fine. They were all liars. There is no such thing as fast enough (laughs). We changed it up and we got it where we want as far as speed goes.
Does JH Performance Boats put on any events you want our readers to know about?
We do. Our JH Performance Boats Owners Tournament is in mid to late October each year out of Matagorda Harbor at the pavilion. Last year, we had 65 boats and 300+ people come out to support. It’s a really fun event that starts on Friday. We feed everyone and make sure everyone has plenty of cold beer. We get a lot of great product to giveaway too. Everyone is welcome.
It took Draggin’ Up 20 hours to bring in this blue marlin! They placed third with this fish at the 2018 Poco Bueno Tournament.
Family, friends and most importantly, fun on Chris Heule’s tournament winning 74’ Viking
By Brandon Rowan
For Chris Heule, owner of Draggin’ Up, it’s all about being out there with family and friends. Catching fish is just the icing on the cake. Draggin’ Up has hit the ground running in the short couple years they’ve been on the tournament scene. Multiple blue marlin have hit the scales, awards have collected and tournaments have been won. That’s a whole lot of extra icing.
“I bought Draggin’ Up in September of 2016. I had always wanted a sportfish,” Chris Heule said. “I have a big family, with a lot of friends, so I was looking for something that could handle the crowd of people that we run with.”
Chris was born and raised in Seabrook and hasn’t strayed too far since. He now calls Friendswood home but keeps Draggin’ Up at Lakewood Yacht Club in Seabrook.
“I’ve always enjoyed the water so I wanted to stay near the water,” Chris said.
Crew, family and friends celebrate a win at the Texas Billfish Classic.
Chris and his family fell in love with the room and performance that a Viking Yachts 74, like Draggin’ Up, has to offer.
“My son Sam loves to fish too, so him and the crew he brings make a big impact on the boat,” Chris said. “All of his friends hang out with us.”
Chris and his son, Sam Rasberry, share a mutual passion for fishing and hunting, and get to spend a lot of time together. But it’s not a boys club out there. Chris’ wife Erika and his daughter Kennedy also love boating and fishing. Kennedy recently caught her first sailfish on a trip to Isla Mujeres
“I don’t have to bargain with Erika to go out on the boat, she’s always ready to go fishing!” Chris said.
Owner Chris Heule, center, with Sam Rasberry and Capt. Kevin Deerman.
At the Helm
No ship is complete without a captain and Draggin’ Up has one of the best in the biz. Capt. Kevin Deerman has been fishing most of his life and took his first captain job in 1986. Deerman has some serious notches on his belt. As former captain of the Legacy, he was at the helmwhen angler Richard B. Richardson, Jr. reeled in the 972.72 lb. Texas state record blue marlin during the 2014 Bastante John Uhr Memorial Billfish Tournament.
“Kevin Deerman:He is the reason we do what we do,” Chris said of his captain. “He has really pole vaulted us to the marlin and bigger gamefish we are catching now. We wouldn’t be where we are now without our crew and Kevin.”
Before Draggin’ Up, Chris and Kevin were strangers, but closer to each other than they knew.
“We didn’t know each other but it’s crazy how many mutual friends that we had,” Kevin said. “But I can’t tell you how grateful I am to have Chris and his family in my life. They’re great people and they enjoy doing the things that I love. If they weren’t so passionate about fishing we wouldn’t be out there doing what we’re doing.”
Tricks of the Trade
We all know the drill. The pineapple is a must and absolutely no bananas on board. Every boat has their own superstitions and rituals and Draggin’ Up is no exception. Chris, Kevin and Sam lit up with excitement when asked about theirs.
“Oh man, I didn’t before I met Kevin but now I have a whole slew of them,” Chris laughed. “Some of them we can talk about, some are hush hush.”
And I’m good with that. Here at GCM, we’re not about giving away fishing spots or secret tournament rain dances. But Chris and company were gracious enough to let me share a few of them. Dunkaroos are big on Draggin’ Up.
“That’s when you take a bucket full of ice and water and you stick your head in there. When you come up you drink a beer.”Sam Rasberry said. “Every since we started doing that we seem to get a marlin bite a few minutes later so we keep it going.”
The guys agree that the boat has to be jamming Post Malone and of course, no bananas are allowed on board. Kevin experimented with two pineapples for extra luck but went back to a solo fruit after that didn’t work out. Maybe the fish gods found it greedy.
The guys on Draggin’ Up also insist that Chris keep his comments to a minimum.
“We can’t let Chris make any comments on anything that might happen because then it will happen,” Kevin said.
For example, Chris couldn’t help but talk about how good a hook-up ratio they were having during a trip. But on the next trip out, the boat only went 1 for 5.
“And on another trip, Chris said to me ‘It’s amazing we haven’t seen any sharks in a long time!’” Kevin said.“So I yell down ‘One shark, coming up!’ It wasn’t more than 30 seconds later that a 500 lb. tiger shark came up chasing the teaser. Of course, it took a bait and we caught it.”
In their first tournament season, Draggin’ Up came out swinging. In 2017, they clinched a 4th place blue marlin at Poco Bueno, Kanon Lasserre was named top junior angler at the Lone Star Shootout, and they weighed a 3rd place blue marlin at Texas Legends Billfish Tournament. Things got even better in 2018 with a 3rd place blue marlin at Poco Bueno and a 1st place win at the Texas Billfish Classic in Freeport. The boat stays busy and fishes tournaments up and down the Gulf Coast.
“The Houston Big Game is another one of our favorite competitions,” Kevin added. “We got top private boat the first and second year we entered.”
In 2018, the boat also collected awards for Top Captain, Kevin Deerman, Top Male Angler, Sam Rasberry, and 2nd place blue marlin, Chris Heule.
Draggin’ Up likes to keep the mood light and the mojo going during tournament time. Rituals and superstitions come into play and also antics, like catching fish out of an inflatable kiddie pool on the cockpit, are not out of the question.
The boat’s second favorite fish to catch is Yellowfin Tuna but they never get tired of seeing the man in the blue suit.
“When a blue marlin hits your bait, it’s completely different than anything else out there,” Kevin said.
“You could be having the slowest day, with everyone walking around pouting and moping, and the mojo on the boat is completely down, but when that bait goes off everyone’s attitude completely changes,” Chris said.
Fish From Hell
The Bahamas are a favorite destination for Chris Heule and Draggin’ Up.
The guys from Draggin’ Up have seen some truly wild occurrences in the few years the boat’s been on the water. The boat travels and Chris’ absolute favorite destination is the Bahamas. But the water is not without peril. The boat encountered a tropical wave on a trip to Isla Mujeres one year and the next year they were struck by lightning. But the one story that stands head and shoulders above the rest is the 20 hour blue marlin fight during the 2018 Poco Bueno Tournament.
“We have so many memories from this boat but that one marlin trumps anything we’ve ever done. Fish don’t usually last that long,” Chris said.
The crew did everything they could to stay awake during the fight and Chris never left the fighting chair.
“We tried every trick in the book,” Kevin said. “We made circles on it, tried getting it to come up, or on both sides of the boat and the fish just kept switching on us. It was on the leader most of the time.”
The man on the leader, Andy Hollen, literally collapsed once the fish was landed. It took 20 hours, and a fight reminiscent of The Old Man and the Sea, but the crew was able to capture third place in the tournament with the 575.5 lb marlin.
The majority of billfish are tagged and released on Draggin’ Up.
Chris entertains a large group of friends and family on Draggin’ Up and the boat boasts several first catches. At least 18 people have caught and released their first blue marlin on board.
“When we go out and fish, we tag and release the majority of billfish,” Chris said. “It’s important to do what’s right and preserve what we do. It’s not always about killing. We are passing on the future of these fish still being able to be caught where we live.”
The amount of billfish released far outnumbers those retained. Kevin can count on two hands the amount of marlin retained over the years, including time before Draggin’ Up.
All in all, Team Draggin’ Up doesn’t have too much to complain about, especially with all of their accomplishments in such a short span of time. They continue to stay the course with family, friends and fun out on the water. Look for Chris Heule, Kevin Deerman, Sam Rasberry, mates Conner Golightly, Seth Brennan and the whole Draggin’ Up extended family, to continue making waves in the 2020 billfish tournament season.
FlatsWorthy’s Chuck Naiser holds up Steve Soule’s redfish caught on the fly.
Working together to promote respect for anglers and resources alike
By Steve Soule
I recently had the opportunity to meet with the founder and president of a very unique and growing Texas organization, whose primary goal is to educate and disseminate information about sharing our coastal waters and resources. If you read my article two issues back, you know that this is something that I feel very strongly about. Chuck Naiser, who guides shallow water anglers in the Rockport area, has been actively guiding since 1993 and fishing the mid coast since 1967. He is definitely a man who has seen coastal change and is passionate about the preservation and enjoyment of our bays, marshes and shallow flats.
Chuck and I made an instant connection while discussing coastal change and it was truly fascinating to hear how much our observations and thoughts mirrored each other, even though we fish waters so far apart. It was immediately evident, even though we had never really gotten to speak one-on-one before, that we had seen very similar changes within each of our diverse and separate ecosystems. These changes were, and are related to the coastal habitat, as well as the people who utilize them.
Diverse Anglers, Mutual Respect
I’ve given a lot of thought to this over the course of many years, watching disturbing activity from boaters increase in the Upper Coast bays and shallows where I have spent the past 25-plus years of my life fishing. The phrase that Chuck and FlatsWorthy chose to use as a descriptor for the organization is “Diverse Anglers, Mutual Respect.” This couldn’t be more succinct and yet so encompassing. These bays and other inland waters belong to us all equally! There is no user group that has more right or entitlement to usage. We are all equal here and anyone with the ability to access coastal waters is perfectly within their rights to do so.
We have coastal enforcement agencies in place who already have an existing set of laws that we are all expected to follow. Texas Parks and Wildlife, along with Texas Game Wardens, are empowered to enforce these laws. Like any other policing entity, they are overburdened and understaffed. One of the most important distinguishing factors about the FlatsWorthy organization is its goal is to establish a set of guidelines, with regard to boating and fishing etiquette, established by users at all levels and styles. The organization seeks a broad and diverse input to help establish these suggested practices, and has chosen to attempt to work to spread information that will help make every day more pleasant for all users of coastal resources.
Its about educating, not legally mandating! If we can establish and maintain a unified, diverse group of people who actively promote and enjoy inshore waters, and work together to promote a level of consideration, etiquette and respect, we can negate the need for Governmental involvement.Therein lies one of the primary goals and core values; “self governing and cooperation, rather than regulatory enforcement” will allow all users to continue to enjoy the resources in diverse ways.
To date, the FlatsWorthy group has held many meetings, worked with biologists, broad and varied boating, fishing, kayaking and other groups to work to develop a understanding of the concerns each user group has. From this, it becomes clearer the level of respect and courtesy that is needed to help ensure that we can all enjoy coastal habitat and resources without infringing on others who are trying to enjoy them as well.
We have all seen, experienced, and heard multiple stories about boating activities that are much less than desirable. I have personally experienced more incidents than I would ever care to recall or recount. Interestingly, I feel that there are a great number of these occurrences that are accidental and stem purely from ignorance of acceptable behavior. Sadly, there are still a large number of inconsiderate acts on the water that likely can be attributed to individuals who just don’t grasp the concept of courtesy. Many can also be attributed to ignorance on one side, followed by arrogance or anger on the other. I have had my moments on the water of wanting to retaliate against inconsiderate boating behavior, but refuse to allow myself to succumb to the urge.
From boat launch to destination, be it hunting, fishing, birding or just recreational fun, everyone on the water deserves respect and consideration. We, as users, all find pleasure on the water, and many like Chuck Naiser and myself have spent many years promoting what we love. With growing populations and interest in coastal waters, we aren’t likely to see anything short of a continued growth in those who spend time on the water. Given this fact and having an understanding of how to successfully navigate our challenges with respect to others users, we can continue to share and enjoy a healthy coastal fishery for many generations to come.
If you want to learn more about an organization working to make everyone’s time on coastal water better, take a look at www.flatsworthy.com
Among the many things you will find when you look at their website is the FlatsWorthy Code of Angler Respect (COAR). The tenants are 1) Respect Fellow Anglers 2) Respect The Resource 3) Respect The Law
If you like the sound of this organization, please take a look and see if its a good fit for you and your angling and or boating style.
Destination Fishing: Bull Reds in Port Fourchon, LA
Alisha Soule with an absolute giant Port Fourchon redfish.
I’ve taken a few short destination fishing trips this year, trying to spend more time away from my home waters and learning new areas. New challenges and new waters, and attempting to take what I’ve learned fishing my home waters of the upper Texas Coast and apply that to other areas. This is the part of fishing that I find most interesting, putting together the pieces like a puzzle and figuring out how to catch fish in new areas. Going somewhere new is always a fun, though it can be frustrating and put your skills and knowledge to the test. The satisfaction from developing a plan and finding success is one of my greatest pleasures.
This past weekend, my wife and I spent a day and a half fishing in Southern Louisiana, Port Fourchon, to be specific. This is a tiny town in a very remote part of southern Louisiana. It is an industrial port town that primarily serves the off shore oil and gas industry. Definitely not somewhere you would end up by accident. Beyond the Industrial side, Fourchon and its neighboring Grand Isle, serve the fishing community. The entire area is like an overgrown marsh, with slightly deeper secondary bays. What makes this place spectacular is that it has extreme close proximity to the deeper gulf of Mexico on the southern end and an endless supply of fresh water coming down through rivers, bayous and swampy marsh. In all honesty, this is basically the nursery for the upper gulf of Mexico.
Though I have fished here two times in the past, it was during a different time of the year. Like any fishing location, seasons will effect the location and concentrations of fish and their food sources. Before any trip to new locations, it’s always wise to do some research. try to learn a little about the lay of the land. Study maps and arial photos, look at tides, both height and movement and try to make sense of where fish might be. We got there Saturday evening on the heels of a cold front that had way more wind and rain than expected. I knew that this would cause some lingering dirty water which didn’t go well with my plan of sight casting. Some things are well beyond our control and we just have to learn to roll with them.
From the start, this was planned as a very short trip so I had to maximize my time. I had gotten one report about potential location of our target species, Bull reds. The lingering winds and dirty water did not help there, so after some driving to look at shorelines in open water, I decided i needed to try to find some protected north shore areas that may have cleaner water draining from creeks and bayous. This is where basic fish finding skills come into play. With limited time to locate and catch fish, it doesn’t make sense to fish without seeing some evidence of life.
After our trip south to look at open shorelines, I headed back north into some more protected areas, looking for birds or bait and clearer water. We made a few short drifts in areas with some moving bait and missed two big reds on top water. The blow ups were amazing but couldn’t get either of them stuck long term. We also caught a few small trout, but this was not the area where we would be able to sight cast, though we were getting much closer. Side note, I use the top water lures as search baits when I don’t know the area well or can’t see to sight fish.
Now that we were in more protected water it was time to explore areas where outgoing tide was draining from bayous out to the secondary bays. Initially I spent some time poling the boat, but it became evident quickly that I would need to cover a little more water. We would idle along about 50-100 feet from the shoreline looking for wakes from big fish and muds and as soon as we found a fish or two go back to poling. This is where you really have to start paying attention so that you can put together the patterns. Each drain had some level of life in it, bigger drains that had more current seemed to be holding big fish. Now we have a fishable pattern.
Finding a bayou or two that would wind back north into the marsh, especially those that had wide spots where there were small shallow flats seemed to be the trick to locating fish. Now its getting interesting! I would pole slowly around the points leading into bayous and started seeing both reds and black drum. Fish were not moving very aggressive so a slow stealthy approach proved to be the best plan. Many times we were able to get the boat within 10 feet of fish and with increasing light, it was becoming much easier to see them. We missed a few as is always the case in sight casting, then the fun really got started.
Steve Soule releases a bull redfish.
Poling into a small flat at the bottom of a bigger bayou drain, we started seeing fish slowly crawling along looking shorelines feeding as they went. It didn’t take long before we were among them and getting good shots. our first fish was close to the boat and though it didn’t look huge when I cast at it, ended up being about 45 inches long. The fight with these big reds in shallow water is a little more intense than with their smaller counterparts. Several big runs and the usual level of disasters trying to maneuver a fish around the boat and we got her landed, photographed and released. First half of the mission was now accomplished, the only issue was it was supposed to be Alisha’s fish.
We spooked several fish during the fight with the first one and could still see and hear a few fish moving around the small flat. Back to the hunt! We worked our way around the flat, still struggling to see fish well. Then stumbled onto another slow crawling giant and it was her turn to shine. The fish was swimming slowly towards the boat and not yet aware of our presence. Alisha made a short cast, crossing the fish’s path and as it approached, gave the Buggs jig a few slight bounces to make the lure more visible. When she saw the lure, she attacked and the fight was on. It can all happen just that fast.
We had spent 2-3 hours of driving, looking and narrowing down our search pattern, then within a matter of 30 minutes, had found a nice flat that had multiple fish over 15 pounds, and landed two fish well over 20-25 pounds. This particular flat sat at just the right angle to the tide flow and was just large enough to stop a good quantity of fish and food in the outgoing tide. We saw numerous reds and several large black drum there. Now we had one pattern to look for in other areas and attempt to repeat.
We poled through several areas that looked similar, though none had quite the same layout. We found some smaller fish, that laughably would be considered on the bigger side back home in Galveston, but didn’t see as many big fish that would break 20 pounds. At this point it became evident that with the conditions we had, we would need to continue to find more protected and shallower water to continue to sight fish.
We checked a few shallower pond and lake areas, with some success, but finding any real concentration of feeding fish was not going well. We had our share of difficulties, dirty water and a pair of polarized glasses that got left in the truck, but we made the most of it and had a great time.
We knew that Sunday was going to be a great day as far as sun and wind conditions, and would be our best window of opportunity. Monday, would only be a half day, and weather conditions were supposed to be pretty good. As it often works out, when I woke up Monday morning, Conditions had worsened. Full cloud cover and increased wind. Nothing you can do except make the most of what you are given. Off we went, this time armed with a few places to start our hunt. Clouds, do not make sight fishing easy. And as you might imagine, we missed a lot more fish that we just couldn’t see until we were too close. We did manage a few fish and as we were nearing the end of our day, idling down shorelines working back towards the boat ramp we found a few reds and one more highly entertaining moment. I was standing on the casting platform with Alisha idling along and just looking for fish when we stumbled onto a small group of fish and the last fish of the day was sight cast with the outboard motor running. Made for a great laugh and a good ending to a short trip to the land of the giants.
Lots to be learned from trips like this. I find it fascinating how much fish act and feed in the same manner in totally different locations. Outgoing tides around marshes are always fun, they put fish on the move and create feeding situations that make for some great fishing. Moving prey species out into more open water where predators can easily attack. These tides generally move fish into areas where we can locate them and capitalize on their feeding. On incoming tides, look for fish to move farther into the reaches of the marsh and follow prey species to areas of safety. It is cool to see how much so these waters work on a parallel to the marshes closer to home for me. Though the area is vast and enormous compared to our marshes on the upper Texas coast, this place acts just like an overgrown Texas marsh, and once you start to look at it this way, becomes family easy to figure out.
With so many great destinations along the Gulf Coast, its just a matter of picking a spot where you want to go, spending a little time researching the area and go have some fun. I picked this area for its remote nature,(we only saw one other boat all day fishing similar water) and its notorious giant redfish. It only gets better on the southern fringe waters during winter if you want to go find giant redfish in relatively shallow water. There are fish there all year round, and the scenery is absolutely breathtaking. Bottlenose dolphins are a regular sight and often you can sit and they will roll and play near your boat. If it’s time for a change of pace, grab a map, do a little research and go have some fun doing something completely different.
Hosted Trip to South Padre Island
Unbeatable fishing in South Padre Island, Texas.
Mariachi band played after an evening dove hunt.
By Capt. Dave Stewart
I spent the whole month of October in South Padre Island, Texas hosting 3 groups from the Carolinas to fish Laguna Madre waters. This area is beautiful, full of skinny flats with loads of grass that requires new techniques to tackle the huge prey that can hide in it. I solicited the help of several of our D.O.A. Lures guides to show these anglers are and techniques sticking trout, reds, flounder and tarpon. Weather as the cold fronts drop can and did hamper us a few days but that is the Lords will. You must adjust as our great guides did. My relaxation while anglers hit it with the guides. Oh – also had a private pool too. Great place to lounge and chill after day of fishing. I play chef – not but damn good cook! Breakfast lunch and supper every day. Suppers such as grilled pork roast, jambalaya, fish (plenty) and dove breast on grill. My big event is supper of local fare. I hired a local chef that cooks EVERYTHING from scratch – no cans. Real Mexican food at its best and believe me… she has great pleasure in cooking for us and you wont go away hungry. Hope leftovers are okay with ya!
The accommodations for the trip.
The jetties (a short run to the Rio Grande and the border) are full of mullet as the run is on. Tarpon, snook and loads of big reds hang in them. Weather dictates fish ability but awesome if can do. Inshore fishing in skinny waters hold trout and reds with a huge opportunity for BIG fish. 30″+ trout and huge schools of reds that we had up to 30”. If weather is right sight casting is a blast. Imagine casting at a huge school of over slot reds. Hook up in skinny water and hang on. No where to go but out or IN. watch the boat, say goodbye. Deeper water holds plenty and huge snook providing top water at its best. One a.m. trip hooked approximately 40 really nice snook.
I also arranged for 1 group to go dove hunting – off the shelf – limit out on big white wings full of sunflower seeds. They wanted a marichi band in the field after shoot with appetizers and beverages. Can and did do.
To top it off, they also wanted massages. Well, I can arrange it. I had a licensed massage therapist come rearrange their bones and muscles from the hard shooting and fishing.
South Padre Island is a great place to hold a team building or group trip – comradery at its best. Don’t come here just for this, beautiful area to sight see and relax on the Gulf beaches and such.
A beautiful snook that was landed while fishing with Capt. Brian Barrera.
Capt. Dave Stewart with a south Texas snook.
Capt. Ruby Delgado with an upper slot redfish.
Robbie Gregory of Mowdy Boats stands with a fine example of their 25’ Catamaran. This is their most popular model.
Premium shallow water boats being handcrafted one at a time in Port Lavaca
Photography and interview by Kelly Groce
Mowdy Boats have been built since the 1970s by Mr. Hal Mowdy of Victoria, TX. Hal was the patriarch of all the Texas boat builders. Himself, along with Steve Bell of Shoalwater Boats and Mr. Haynie of Haynie Bay Boats, were ahead of the pack and started everything we see on Texas waters today. Mr. Mowdy was a one man show and made all his boats in one color, Mowdy gray. If you wanted a boat, that’s what you were getting and it may take 7 or 8 months to get your finished boat. Mr. Mowdy was extremely dedicated to the quality and the hand craftsmanship to each and every single one of his boats.
Mowdy Boats is now located in Port Lavaca and led by Frank Crappito and his managing partner, Robbie Gregory. I was fortunate enough to take a quick road trip down to meet with Robbie, who had just returned from Houston where he had gifted each of the winners of the largest trout division of the CCA Star Tournament a Mowdy boat. Besides the Star Tournament, you’ve most likely seen these beautiful boats on the water since Texas Parks and Wildlife, Texas Game Wardens, Coastal Fisheries, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, all run Mowdys. Robbie gave me a personal tour of their facility and educated me on how each boat is built one at a time by master craftsmen. From swampy back-bayous to fishing out in the Gulf, Mowdys can navigate through any water condition. Enjoy.
How did you and Frank get involved with Mowdy Boats?
So the way this company came about was in 2011 when one day Frank and I were fishing on his 22’ Mowdy that took him 3 years to find. Frank and I were just shooting the breeze and talking about how great these boats are. Frank said, “Wouldn’t it be something if we could buy the mold to this 22’ and build ourselves a couple of boats?” Frank then asked if I knew Mr. Mowdy. Having guided in Port O’Connor for 20 years I know just about everybody. Frank suggested I go talk to Mr. Mowdy and see if he will sell us the mold.
The next week I met with Mr. Mowdy and asked if he would sell us the mold to the 22’ and he said, “No I won’t sell you that mold, but I will sell you ALL of my molds and ALL of my equipment. Everything but the building.” I called Frank and told him that Hal won’t sell the one mold, but he wants to sell everything. I know it was a great opportunity especially since the boats already have such a great reputation. Frank said, “If I back it, will you run it?” Without hesitation I said, “I’m in.” So basically we did a hand written contract and a week later we paid Mr. Mowdy.
After that, we started looking for a place. I live here in Port Lavaca and we found this facility here. We had no clue on how we were going to build the boats. After fishing one day, I was at Clark’s in Port O’Connor, which is a marina, hotel and restaurant. I was there eating and my waitress said, “What do you do?” I told her I’m a fishing guide, do some building and developing, and now a friend of mine and I just bought Mowdy Boats. She said, “My husband builds boats and he needs a job, would you like to talk to him?” It was a God send. It turns out her husband started with Mr. Haynie of Haynie Bay Boats when he was 17 years old. He is now in his ‘50s, but that’s all he’s done his entire life. After talking to each other, he agreed to come onboard to help and he brought with him a family of a father and 3 sons. That’s all they’ve ever done their whole life is build these kind of boats. So we started with the most experienced crew of boat builders that you could ever imagine. From there, we started building boats.
The 25’ Catamaran, which is our most popular boat, is amazing. There’s no other boat out there like it. It runs incredibly shallow, but it also takes the water well because of the entry. It’s stable because it has all the tributes of a catamaran with the full tunnel. You can get on one side and jump up and down and it just sits there, it doesn’t rock around. Mr. Mowdy had only sold maybe 7 or 8 of those style boats, but as we began to get them out there and some of the fishing guides picked up on ‘em and started running them, 9 out of the 10 boats we build now are the 25’ Catamaran. Everybody wants it. Word of mouth has definitely made it what it is.
Another 25’ getting the final touches. This boat was built totally to the customer’s wants and needs.
How are Mowdy Boats different from other boat companies?
Mowdy is different from other companies because this is not a cookie cutter boat. So when I build your boat… I mean I build your boat. You get to tell me what color, pick the upholstery, decide where you want this or that. It’s totally custom. We are limited production, so we do about 50 boats a year. Which is a good thing because it keeps the price point high and you as an owner keep the value up on your boat. One thing that’s for sure is that you cant find one for sale, well maybe one or two, but people don’t sell their Mowdy. They are lifelong boats. They hold their value. Some guys will keep their boat for 5, 6, or 7 years and sell their boat for more or as much as what they paid. That is unheard of when it comes to boats.
We 100% foam fill our boat, from the top of the deck to the bottom of the hull. There is no void. It’s all filled with 2 lb. closed cell foam. The foam makes for a quiet ride that you don’t get beat up on. The boat just slices through the water. Little things like that set us apart from other boats. We block the bow of our boat so when you take it off the trailer it doesn’t hang off the reverse gunnel. By having a reverse gunnel on our boats, the water hits the reverse gunnel and throws the water down making it an extremely dry ride. Our aluminum is made at another facility, but it’s our deal. All of our cup holders are insulated cup friendly, like I said it’s the little stuff. But if you fish, you know how important all those little things are. We listen to our people and we aren’t close minded. We are here to build to your taste.
Another great thing is, you can’t sink a Mowdy. Think of a surfboard that is totally encapsulated. You can punch a hole in it, but you can’t sink it. That’s a Mowdy. The 2 lb. closed cell foam can’t adsorb water.
When your boat is done, it comes with tags, registration, and everything else you need. It is ready to be picked up and put in the water. We build this boat for you and the only thing I want to see from you once you pick it up, is fish pictures.
How did you get involved with the CCA Star Tournament?
A 25’ Mowdy Catamaran in the beginning stages of being made.
My partner Frank has a good friend, Bill Kinney, who’s head of the Star Tournament. There was an opportunity that came available for the prize boat for largest trout divisions for the upper, middle and lower coast since Blue Wave Boats dropped out. Frank and I talked about it and said it was a great opportunity with CCA being such a good organization and they do a lot of good with scholarships for kids. If you are a saltwater fisherman and you aren’t entered in the Star Tournament, something is wrong with you. The prizes are great. This year there was 51,000+ entries in the Star Tournament. So we signed up for a 5 year agreement. This was our 4th year, and we are going to renew for 5 more years. Our business has definitely increased being involved with them.
Robbie and the rest of the friendly staff at Mowdy Boats welcomes you to stop by the facility in Port Lavaca to answer any of your questions or to get your new boat built and rigged. Tell them Gulf Coast Mariner Magazine sent you.
The Come and Take It Tournament: Fishing, Camaraderie and Fundraising
Team Potbellys took home 1st Place and the big check for their 24.45 lb. stringer. Congratulations to Mr. Castillo and the crew.
By Kelly Groce
On October 17-18, 2019 anglers fished the Come and Take It Tournament in Port O’Connor, Texas. This great tournament reflects The United Way of Greater Houston’s goal of engaging caring people to improve lives and build a stronger community all while having fun and fishing.
Both days, anglers had a great time on the water. The lucky ones walked away with prizes and even some cash. Some local organizations such as the Port O’Connor Fire Department and Port O’Connor Elementary were also gifted some of the tournament proceeds that were raised.
The CATI Tournament would like to thank all of the sponsors that helped make this tournament a great success. Catalyst Boat Works, Waterloo Rods, Coastline Trailer Mfg., Inc./Marty Strakos Coastline Trailers, Coastline Marine/Coastline Custom Aluminum, Passion With Purpose, Pointer Wingshooting, Avian Skies, S&S Instruments, Hookset Marine Gear, H&H Rods, Aguila Ammunition, Wet Sounds and Gulf Coast Mariner Magazine.
Congratulations to all the winners and everyone that participated and volunteered. See you next year at the Come and Take It Tournament.
THE COME AND TAKE IT TOURNAMENT WINNERS:
1st Place – ABEL of JOKERS WILD – 23.70 lbs
2nd Place – MCCLUNG of HOOKSETGEAR – 21.32 lbs.
3rd Place – LAIR of HOOKS N’ HULLS – 20.97 lbs.
1st Place – CASTILLO of POTBELLYS – 24.45 lbs.
2nd Place – HARBORTH of CORK SOAKERS – 22.39 lbs.
3rd Place – CAMERON of SALTY SEAMEN – 20.02 lbs.
REDFISH SPOTS: CAMERON of SALTY SEAMEN – 8 SPOTS FLOUNDER: CASTILLO of POTBELLYS – 3.30 lbs.
The CATI Tournament gifted proceeds from the tournament to local organizations such as the Port O’Connor Voluntary Fire Department, Port O’Connor Elementary and more.
Wow. It’s hard to believe that another year has passed. I wrote this article on the verge of Halloween, and finally the Upper Coast had its first passage of a “cold front.” Although not really cold, it at least got us out of summer-like temperatures and hopefully curtailed the remaining hurricane season. Tropical Storm Imelda, wreaked enough havoc in some places along the Upper Coast of Texas.
Prior to the arrival of Imelda, Galveston Bay was flourishing with speckled trout and redfish. The fish were being caught over the entire bay system. Then when everything was setting up for some outstanding late September and October fishing in Galveston Bay, torrential local rainfall and subsequent runoff curtailed the action. I am praying that this November and December, we see a return to a near normal weather pattern and end this year with some great fishing and catches.
I am optimistic that the fish will be caught from the traditional locations for this time of year. Trinity Bay should produce it’s fair share of speckled trout and redfish in November. Both shorelines in Trinity, depending upon the wind, will be excellent choices for those who like to wade and or boat fish. Jack’s Pocket should not be overlooked. The fish were there prior to Imelda!Also in November, the shoreline between Eagle Point and April Fool Point, has always been productive, especially with a North-Northwest wind.
December, look for the fish to be transitioning to the Northwest reaches of our bay. Tabbs, Crystal, Scott and Burnett bays will all produce fish. This area offers shelter from the winds and provides the fish with deep water protection from severe cold fronts. One of the best stringers of fish I ever caught came from this area with air temperature hovering around 30 degrees. Clear Lake should not be overlooked during this month. Again, it offers the protection from the wind and allows the fish to slide off into deeper water in case of a severe temperature drop.
In November and December the flounder fishing is in full swing! The usual places should all produce excellent catches. The Galveston Harbor would be high on my list as the top spot. Of course, shorelines adjacent to major marsh drains, passes and the Galveston Jetties are also good.
Remember to take precautions this time of year. Check the weather and dress for the conditions. I highly recommend a waterproof/windproof jacket and carrying an extra set of dry clothing. Enjoy the Holidays and remember that the Houston Boat Show begins the first week of January. I will be there at the Eagle Point Fishing Camp booth during the show. Eagle Point should have plenty of live shrimp and mudfish for the angler.
Buggy Whippin: Galveston sight casting with Capt. Clay Sheward
The water is still and so am I. The redfish swims along a flat, that is painted with a palette of green sea grass and dull colored sand, unaware of ou...