Saturday, April 30, 2011

A Fine Mess!

What do you call a bunch of cows? A herd.

What about a group of whales? A pod.

Generally when you consider a collection of fish they are called a school - that is unless they are on a stringer or in the ice chest after a good day of fishing - then they are called "a mess of fish".

We made our way to the river on Friday in time for a little topwater action before dark.

It's hard to beat the sight of a speckled trout hitting a dog-walking hard bait.

We ended up with three trout in the bag before turning in for the night but that was just the beginning of a banner weekend of catching.

We were using live shrimp and were fishing up the river in the new spot - Eagle's Cove. Shrimp is fun to fish with as you never know what you will catch.

We caught a nice variety of fish including this flounder. The gafftop were also bothersome but we were able to put up with them to get to the real target species.

We found that quite a few keeper specks were in the area and made their way into casting range as we stayed anchored up along the high bank out of the gusty wind.

Both of us caught fish and while Tracy's keepers were bigger and I had more in the box I think we ended up catching almost the same number and weight overall.

We had enough for a delicious meal and to give away to three families from church.

It was a lot of fun and a sign that with the warming of Spring comes better fishing.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Two Days Fishing

The holiday weekend snuck up on us. Being out of town most of the week in SLC threw me off and when I returned I found out that everything scheduled for Friday had either been canceled or postponed so I decided to take the day off.

We stayed home Thursday night but got a fairly early start and made it to Matagorda before 8AM.

The swallows have returned to the boat slips and this photo and the next show how they can become a nusiance.

Makes you glad your boat is in a storage stall instead of hanging in the straps.

The wind was relentless and even though we tried to fish below the ICW we soon realized that we needed to find a spot up the river. We had seen a boat parked along a high bank near Selkirk where the river bends back to the west so we headed there hopeful that the spot would be open.

Sure enough not only was the spot available but it was productive as well. The bait shop at the Harbor had live shrimp and Tracy put them to work. She caught two keeper trout before lunch before the bite tapered off.

We went back up the river after lunch and I was determined to catch a keeper fish. I tried topwater, plastics, live and dead shrimp, and even cut up a croaker but only managed to catch small fish. Tracy caught several small fish including a flounder (no picture).

I finally hit the bottom of the food chain and caught this blue crab. OK - I'm not above chumming. This blue beauty was sacrificed and scattered in the current between the boat and the bank. I cast my baited hook and was finally rewarded with a nice red.

I may not be fast but I sure am slow! I guess I will do whatever it takes to catch fish. They say you have to be smarter than the fish but I sometimes think you just have to know what motivates them. With all the bait available right now these fish are full and not aggressively feeding. That being said, no self respecting redfish can turn down a free meal especially when the scent of fresh crab is everywhere!

We didn't try to fish under the lights but got to bed so we could get an early start in the morning.

The wind continued to blow all night and though we got the boat launched before sunup it was already building in velocity so we headed upriver to the new spot - "Eagle's Cove".

I connected with the keeper trout this time and Tracy thought she had a big red but instead it turned out to be a nice keeper black drum.

The namesake of our new spot was spotted sitting on the nest visible from the river then we watched as one of the bald eagles flew nearby trying to fish in the river. The crows were pestering the eagle so bad that he finally gave up. I was wishing for the big camera as the beautiful bird soared overhead.

We saw a lot of birds of prey while fishing in this spot including the Eagles, a Great Horned Owl (early in the morning), a pair of Mississippi Kites, several Osprey, and a some Mexican Falcons (Caracara).

When I saw this I thought it was a snake but after watching it bob along we decided that if it was a snake it was dead. Can you believe it turned out to be a stick?

We made it back home before dark on Saturday in time to prepare for a day of worship on Sunday. God is always worthy of our worship and it is a real privilige to be able to be with the church every Lord's Day.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Water Water Everywhere

We are experiencing a pretty severe drought in Texas. The governor has requested a disaster declaration for the entire state due to recent brush and wildfires.

Utah on the other hand has a different problem. The snow melt combined with recent rains has swelled area rivers to the max.

I headed out to the beehive state on a work trip today with my ultralight and a weak expectation that I might get to visit an old friend in the near Midway. It was raining in the Salt Lake valley and snowing on Parley's Summit but once I got over the Wasatch the sky began to lighten up and hope began to grow.

I remember the first time I saw this sign and every time thereafter I'm thankful for Ken Probst and his generosity towards fishermen like me.

You can tell from this shot that it has been raining pretty steady here for some time.

The big swirly hole was full of runoff and rainwater and the flow was strong.

I tied on a baby brown trout Panther Martin and began searching the pool for my friend Mr. Brown. I caught several feisty fish in the 8-12" range but couldn't seem to locate "the one".

I soon took off downstream and tried the spinner in the smaller pools and runs along the way but to no avail.

The vegetation was not only present on the bottom of the creek but it was floating free which added a whole new degree of difficulty.

I crept along the lower end of the creek trying to blend in to the landscape but this flock of Yellow Headed Blackbirds made such a fuss I think every fish in the creek must have wondered what was up.

I picked up another small brown then finally found "the one" I was looking for. This hefty 18 incher put up a great fight on the ultralight.

I was really missing my photographer by now so I had to revert to the long armed fish picture.

I fished my way back upstream to the big riffle hoping to snag a rainbow. I fished hard near the tailout and had a couple of hits but couldn't seem to connect.

I finally worked my way back upstream to the big swirly hole only to find that someone else had claimed the spot. We had a nice chat and I decided to head in. I know it's hard to imagine me quitting with at least an hour of daylight left but sometimes you have to be satisfied with a successful outing even if you don't fish till dark.

Besides - there are road hazards to consider this time of year! Better to see these in the daylight than crossing the highway in the dark.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

One Fish Day

We hardly ever catch limits when we fish but most of the time we catch enough for dinner and to share with others. The Friday weather forecast looked good with cooler and drier temps prevailing after the little front that pushed through.

We arrived early enough for me to throw the cast net and I found some live shad in the river. We got an encouraging fishing report from Edie at Spoonbills. She said that the trout were in the river and were up under their lights on Thursday so we were hopeful for a repeat.

We got the light out before dark and I started fishing with the shad.

It wasn't too long before I found some "slimers" (gafftopsail catfish) like this bewhiskered one.

Tracy caught her share of hungry fish like this little red.

This "tater chip" flounder needs to grow up before he will fill a plate. I love the distinct mottled pattern of the Matagorda flounder.

We fished until nearly 11PM and even though the solunar data predicted a major feeding period I think the fish had other ideas. We put nothing in the box and had to settle for a nice cool evening on the river.

We got an early start on Saturday morning. The bait shops had no live shrimp for sale but we took some of the shad from the previous night and some fresh dead shrimp.

We got to the "Hole" early enough to get this nice sunrise shot across the channel. I rigged up a live shad and cast to the bank. The first bite I missed and quickly rigged up another shad and cast back to the same spot. I felt a tap-tap then set the hook.

What happened next can only be fully understood by someone who has had a similar experience. The fish I hooked came up to the surface but not out of the water. It was long and lean and seemed black as coal on it's back which was the only part visible to both Tracy and I. I thought it must be a mackerel or a shark the way it was streaking through the water on several blistering runs. This fish would change course and rush off in a new direction so fast I was struggling to keep up. I was fearful that I would lose it and never know what it was.

This big girl finally began to tire and we got to see a beautiful 23" trout come to the boat. Thanks to Tracy's expert net handling and photography I got to show off my best trout of 2011 (so far).

If you click this picture you will see the beautiful array colors in this saltwater superstar.

Here is the shot at the cleaning table. She makes my trout knife look small!

We came in for lunch then decided to head up river to see if we could find any fish near the nuke plant.

Fishing dead shrimp on the bottom predictable located some hungry reds. They were feisty but too small to keep.

The reds use their broad tail and beefy shoulders to great advantage.

In addition to supplying strength, the tail of these red drum can also be a beautiful blue adding contrast to the white and silver-gold color of the scales.

Not a bad adornment for a fish known as a "Mud Mule"!

The trout turned out to be the only fish we kept but we felt blessed to be able to have enough fish for a meal or two and to be able to be out enjoying God's creation.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Spooled then Schooled

Last weekend I got spooled by a big fish - this weekend I didn't come anywhere near one. My fishing wife however saved the day by putting a nice red in the box. We fished under the lights after supper and a short drive on the beach. I thought I was going to have a repeat of last week when a big gafftop took my live shad for a ride out to the middle of the river. I was able to stop his run and cranked him back to the bank. We each caught a few more "slimers" and Tracy caught two small specks on one cast. I caught one sand trout before we gave it up for the night. The wind has been brutal during the week so we got an early start. The bait shops all had the same story - "No live shrimp" so we resorted to using soft plastics, topwaters and Gulp. The sun was just peeking over the beach road as we crossed the ICW on the way out the Diversion Channel to the Redfish Hole. We saw plenty of boat traffic after anchoring up and I was able to catch this group kicking up a roostertail as they sped down the channel. After fishing all morning with nothing to show but a couple of Croaker and small black Drum we went in for lunch and took a break from the wind and headed down to the beach. I had a big idea to throw the cast net in a marsh drain but forgot the net at the trailer so we took a walk and looked for sea beans. Tracy found one - a Tropical Walnut. After our break, I bought a pound of "fresh dead" shrimp. Fresh in this case means not frozen - but not necessarily "fresh". This batch had been on ice for several days and was a little weak but we were getting desperate for some fish. We went back down the Channel to the Hole but once again could not seem to find the fish. Before it got too late I gave my First mate the "Heave Ho the anchor" signal and we headed upriver. We were blessed to see the Bald Eagle on the nest just south of Selkirk which made my day. Shortly after getting set up on our spot, Tracy caught this nice 21" red on her first cast. Looks like fish for supper after all!. We fished this spot for the next hour or so without catching anything but little throwbacks and bait stealers so we called it a day.

I may have to start asking Tracy for tips on her uncanny ability to come out on top...

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Tracy's Slam

The woman is on fire!

We had a church function on Saturday morning but managed to launch the boat and head to the "Hole" by about 2PM. It was a little breezy but overall the weather was nice - warm and sunny.

Tracy dropped her live shrimp into the sandy green water and watched as her pink cork drifted along near the interface of clear and cloudy water kicked up by the wake of passing boats. This interface coincided with a drop off and was a great place to find a waiting hungry fish. The first bite was a keeper flounder which promptly went in the box. Soon after, I connected with a keeper trout so the pressure was off and we settled in to a slow but steady bite.

Not long after we both had caught several trout including some keepers, Tracy commented that she needed a redfish to complete her slam. Well let me tell you she got her wish!

This shot shows her in full fight mode. Mr. Redfish put up a good fight but he had no idea who he was tangling with. This girl was on a mission!

Here is the happy slammer! There was no doubt about the smile that a 26" redfish can produce.

I had to take a shot to show that she caught and fought the beast with a #8 treble hook.
The evening sun put a silver sheen on the water as Tracy continued to search for more fish. After a slow period we decided to cross over to the other side of the channel and that turned out to be a great plan. The wind started to lay down and we found fish out in the channel near the outflow of the marsh drain. Tracy continued her tear with the live shrimp under the pink cork and connected with this 19" trout which was the biggest of the day.

Here we are at the cleaning table as the sun was slipping down below the horizon. A Texas saltwater fisherman's dream - The Slam! Tracy is now the official envy of all my fishing friends. We ended up with quite a haul of fish - 9 trout, one big red and a nice flounder. We got checked by the game warden on the way in but we were well within the legal limit on size and number of fish. I'm thankful to my dad for instilling in me a responsible attitude about game conservation and the importance of obeying game laws. He was a man of integrity and expected the same from us.