Monday, May 28, 2007

Almost a Blow Out

Today began with a lot of promise. I got up early and drove to my favorite saltwater bay fishing pier (Palacios) with high hopes of catching some specks between the thunderstorms.

The bay waters looked like Yoohoo and the wind was blowing out of the SE at about 10mph. The only fish being caught were hardheads and an occasional gaftop by a group of recent immigrants.

I caught one small sand trout and decided to change locations. I had Spot with me so I headed to McNab and arrived at about 5:30am. The area was flooded from the recent rains and there was an incoming tide. The wind was still blowing and I tried a few casts around the reefs and rocks. The road in to the pier was flooded so I was confined to the blacktop. I wasn't sure about paddling in due to the changing weather but finally decided to go in about 7:30. The clouds had thinned out and the sun was out when I left and I thought I could get in a couple hours before heading for home.

I fished a bone Zara Spook and didn't got any blow ups so I switched to the gold spoon. When I arrived at the lake the wind was picking up and the lake was choppy. I paddled the south shoreline and got a bath from a nice fish that I spooked out of the shallows. I spent about 30 minutes in the small cove where caught my fish earlier without seeing another big fish.

When I was leaving the area I finally got a hit and hookup for about 10 seconds before the fish spit out the spoon. I was disappointed to say the least and was almost out of time so I came out and paddled to the back (East) shoreline. I found another opening into the marsh and was just heading in when I spotted a huge fin & tail. At first I thought it must be a big black drum then I saw the spot...

Just as I was setting down the paddle and sliding the stake in to hold my position, the fish noticed my boat and spooked. I was about 50 yards away but there was no mistake that the fish cleared the area. I cast throughout the whole area until it was time to go with no takers.

The paddle out was pretty much a workout against the tide and the wind. It was still a great trip and despite my disappointment in losing the only fish I had on it was a thrill to see another big redfish up close.

I saw one small gator near the bridge and it looks like the 5-footer met his end as he was floating between the bridge and the ICW. Some bubba must have been nervous...

I got the boat loaded and was on the way home when the rain started. It was stormy on and off all day and I finally got the front lawn mowed in the evening. After looking at Paul's Pinkston pics I was thinking about LMB so I decided to head over to Evans Lake for the last hour of daylight.

I brought the fly rod but decided to go with the BGW after seeing that the wind was still up when I arrived. There were still vestiges of the stormy weather around and I fished Cypress Flats first with no takers. When I got to the new brush pile along the shoreline I pretty much knew there should be at least one fish holding nearby.

I was right!

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Stormy Day

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Fish on!

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Nice Fish
(Photo by Ryan Evans)

Mark joined me later and we fished until after dark. We both had fish on but like the responsible fishermen we are we both practiced LDC&R.

All's well that ends well.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Matagorda Vacation - Day 5

Today I really wanted to return to the west jetty for one last crack at a big trout. I made all the preparations - including live shrimp - and had my tackle box stocked with every possible artificial and lure.

The wind wasn't as stiff but was still blowing pretty good. The water looked better than it had been and everything seemed right. I fished hard for several hours but was only able to manage some bottom feeding hardheads and croaker.

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Smile Mr. Croaker!

I threw everthing I had - top - middle & bottom. I fished each slow, steady and fast & erratic. The trout were either not there or not interested.

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Fellow Fisherman

I did see a big dolphin thrashing some mullet in the cove but didn't see any other signs of fish feeding.

I made it back in time to cook up the trout for lunch and talked Tracy into venturing out on the big pier to see what was happening.

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Matagorda COE Surf Pier

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Rough Surf Over the Jetty

The wind had picked up and the surf was strong and rough. I took the rods and tried some Gulp shrimp but had no takers.

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No Luck from the Pier

When I returned, I broke out the cast net to see if I could scare up some bait for the evening. I caught some more shrimp in the cast net and wanted to see if I could catch some crabs so I stalked and cast over a big mullet that were close to shore.

I caught one that was about 12" and tied him on a string to use for crab bait.

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Crabby Catch of the Day

I also caught this strange looking critter in the cast net:

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Goby - aka Dragon Eel

The campers really started showing up for the holiday weekend and several guys were setting up big rods to cast into the channel. Not to be outdone, I pulled out my 10ft rod and hung two 2" live crabs from kahle hooks.

I hooked on a big surf weight and "let her fly".

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Look Out!

I figured if there was a big redfish anywhere near he would go for the crabs. My neighbor hooked a 6" mullet on his rig and sent it for a ride. We were fishing side by side and it was anybody's guess which bait the big fish would prefer.

I thought my line was drifting too fast and cranked it in to check. I had a big crab clamped on one of the smaller ones and he wasn't letting go!

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Blue Crab

Later when my rod started jumping I was sure I had a big fish. What else could be going for a whole crab? I cranked it in without too much of a fight only to find this huge hardhead on the end of my line.

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Big Belly Cat

This thing had a stomach full of crab as he had eaten both crabs off my line!

All in all it was a great trip. We both had fun and want to return soon. Many thanks to my willing photographer without whom many of these pictures would not have been possible.

I'll leave you with one last masterpiece that Tracy captured with the lens but that only God can provide:

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Adios Matagorda

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Matagorda Vacation - Day 4

Today the weather was better so I called our new buddies at Freebird to see if they could reschedule our paddle trip. All systems go and Wayne said we could meet at 7:30 AM at Rawlings Cut.

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Launch Point - Rawlings Cut

We headed out into the marsh and were paddling against the incoming tide and into the wind. The boat I had picked out for Tracy didn't work out as well as I had hoped. Wayne informed her at the launch that she should plan on a wet ride (no scupper plugs) and the extra length turned out to be a liability as well.

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Tracy working hard against the tide.

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John & Wayne in the lead.

The marsh was nice and it was cool to be close to the place where "all sea life begins" (Wayne's description).

The paddle turned out OK but was probably not the highlight of the trip for Tracy. Let's just say that I won't be running out to buy a second boat just yet.

After the kayak trip and lunch (grilled chicken & peppers and skillet potatoes with onions) we took a drive down the beach. The crews were busy clearing away the driftwood and debris for the big holiday weekend on the first three miles of the driving access and we didn't try to push our luck by driving further with just a 2WD.

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Beach Bums - Note the cool hand-knit socks - the latest fad in beach wear.

I may need to look into a 4WD so we can go down the beach into uncharted territory.

We got out and walked about another 1/2 mile and found some neat sights.

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Any fish in here?

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Jelly Belly

We enjoyed the peace and quiet of the beach without all the people. This turned out to be a good time for us to take some time and enjoy the natural beauty of the coast before the summer crush of humanity.

When we returned I got out the cast net and found some more bait shrimp. I was bound for a paddle back to the west jetty to see if I could scare up another trout.

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Bait Shrimp

I was joined by a fellow kayaker from Kemah who was staying in a motorhome a few spaces away from us. The wind was blowing pretty hard and that made the paddle across the channel interesting. I did manage to get close to these pelicans for a good picture without spooking them.

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Preening Pelicans

At first all we caught were a few hardheads then I struck silver with this 18" sow trout.

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Worth the paddle

Looks like fish for lunch tomorrow!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Matagorda Vacation - Day 3

Today was supposed to be the day scheduled for the Kayak Adventure into the marsh.

I had made arrangements with Freebird Kayak Adventures for an early morning trip.

When we awoke at 5:30 AM there was a storm brewing. We called off the trip and enjoyed a snappy little squall which brought sheets of rain, pea-sized hail, and lightning that hit a light pole in the park about 100 yards from our trailer.

No harm done as the storm blew through and the rest of the day turned out OK.

The wind was up so we went for a walk on the beach and picked up some shells.

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Lots of nice shells on Matagorda Beach

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Smile! We're on vacation!

I cooked up the trout for lunch caught the day before and it was delicious!

Later, I broke out the rods and tried fishing in the surf (too rough and too much seaweed) and settled for the protected cove inside the mouth of the river.

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Rough Surf (seaweed in forground)

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A relaxing way to pass the afternoon.

I had a lot of fun catching small stuff on shrimp I had caught in the cast net.

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I must have caught 50 or so yellowtails and croaker before I headed in for supper.

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I got the bright idea that I might catch a flounder at the slough leading to McNab lake and headed over there for the last hour of daylight.

I saw a big feral hog on the road to the bridge but wasn't able to get a picture.

I didn't catch one but I saw a fellow RVer catch a 20" flattie on a "Little Fishy".

We also watched a 5 ft gator catch and eat a large drum that was fooling around near the bridge. The gator made a big splash and thrashed around with his supper before finally rearing up out of the water to swallow it.


Monday, May 21, 2007

Matagorda Vacation - Day 2

After a nice breakfast, coffee, and a hug, I was off in "Spot" in search of fish.

I paddled across the river and headed towards a cove just inside the west jetty.

I fished along but didn't find any fish and finally pulled in and parked near the west jetty to try my luck off the rocks.

I had thrown out the cast net before leaving and caught a few shrimp and some small crabs. I hooked up a live crab and threw it out in front of the rocks to see if I could find a red.

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Before too long I noticed two guys trying to cross the channel in a small jonboat. They had a paddle and it was a struggle to move that craft with two big guys in it across moving water.

When they cleared the channel one guy got out and pulled them across the rest of the way. They set up nearby and began fishing live croakers. I decided to head back and launched as they were getting set up. By the time I had moved off one guy caught a small trout. Soon he had another and I decided to go back and try my luck. I made several attempts at positioning the yak and anchoring but the wind kept pushing me off my spot. I finally paddled back to the same shore I had left and pulled out some of the live shrimp I had caught in the cast net.

They were small but still lively so I took the rubber shad off the twin rig and used the 1/16 oz jig heads to hook up the shrimp. By now the two guys had been fishing for almost 30 minutes and one had caught two and the other none.

On the first cast I got hit and felt the pull of a 19" speck on my line.

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After a great fight and congratulations from the other fishermen, I cast again and immediately hooked up again!

This fish was barely 15" and I released it to fight another day.

I fished for the next 30 minutes without another bite save this one:

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It was a great anniversary gift and we will be having fish for lunch tomorrow!

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Sunday, May 20, 2007

Matagorda Vacation - Day 1

Its time to take a break from the rat race and get some much needed R&R.

Tracy and I decided to spend our anniversary camping in Matagorda at the new RV park.

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We headed out from Needville after church services and lunch and got everything set up in time to eat a quick bite and launch the yak for a short paddle up the Colorado River.

I had to try out the Mann's Baby 1- I had recently purchased in the baby bass color.

I saw something hitting bait up close to the shore and after a long cast I was rewarded with a ribbon fish!

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I seem to be on these guys lately!

The evening was too short and I made it back by dark.

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I did fish off one of the piers with some folks that had some lights out but the trout never made an appearance. Time to get some sleep and try again tomorrow.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Big Mama

Friday turned out to be a blur.

I had a dental appointment mid morning so I spent the early part of the day at home on the computer trying to get caught up on e-mail.

After a little dental restoration I met Tracy and we ran a few errands before returning to Needville. I took some phone calls, finished some e-mails, and took care of some other business before retrieving the travel trailer from storage and getting it in the driveway and plugged into AC power. Once the fridge and air conditioner run overnight it will be ready to load for our trip to Matagorda next week.

Matt and I were scheduled to participate in a work day with the church on Saturday morning and as usual on a Friday evening I had fishing on the brain.

My compadre Mr. Huskins reported in from McNab lake that he had scored on a 27" redfish and a keeper trout. Two thirds of a Texas Slam!

Brother Paul was cooling his heels in New Caney and was supposed to get the yaks wet in the morning. The buzzbaits will be working overtime!

I was bound for Palacios and eager to see if the nice weather would bring the trout in under the lights.

I got off later than I expected and arrived at the pier at 9:30PM. Not much was happening unless you count the EAST wind blowing at a steady 5 knots. As usual when this phenomenon occurs the fishing is slow. I managed a few sand trout on the tiny shad rig and tried several other ideas including the Cubby jig and a Hackberry Hustler (a form of a sand eel).

I caught my first ribbon fish and it was pretty cool to see up close.

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Ribbon of Silver

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Toothy Critter

At midnight the wind started to lay down and some small specks started showing up. I began hearing sporadic "pops" and decided to stay a while and see if things improved.

I picked up a couple of undersized specks and several more sand trout and now it was 1AM and high time for me to head for home.

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Undersized Speck

As I was reeling in and hooking up, two guys got into some big trout off the seawall. I saw them pull in two that were close to 20" and decided to hang on for a little while more.

The specks were still there but they were few and far between and I could only seem to find those that were just a little undersized. By 2AM the bay was completely flat the wind was calm and the tide started coming in.

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Almost Legal

I made one last visit to the light in front of the Baptist Encampment and found some trout right up tight to the rocks in front of the seawall. I began casting parallel to the wall and got a solid hit and hookup. I applied gentle pressure as this fish felt like it might be a keeper and what happened next caught me totally off guard.

I've caught many doubles while fishing the tiny double shad rig - even several this night. Something hit my line and took off like a freight train. At first I thought it must have been a red but soon I saw in the placid pool of light two speckled trout on my line and one was a Big Mama.

The biggest trout I have landed off the wall was about 19" but I have seen bigger trout being caught and I couldn't help but wonder whether this was one of those.

The two trout mostly wanted to go in different directions and canceled out each other's runs. I think the smaller fish was scared of the larger one. Twice they both headed off in the same direction and they had their way with my light gear. I let them run until they started fighting against each other and then guided them back to the wall.

I began worrying about trying to lift them over the wall and didn't want to break off or straighten out the hook. When the time came I gave it a try and hoisted both fish in one smooth movement up to the sidewalk. YeHaw!

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Two For The Price of One

This fish was almost as long as my personal record but I think this one was larger overall. It was thick and fat and well represented it's kind.

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Big Mama

I continued to chase the "pops" and ended up with three more keepers.

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Another Keeper
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Size Comparison

I need to change my approach and start sleeping before I go to Palacios. This was a long night for the fisherman and for those at home concerned for my safe journey home.

Fishing at night is exciting and fun but it shouldn't be an excuse to be inconsiderate.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Two Pauls (New Pics)

I don't know what else to do. I must bring bad luck to brother Paul.

Every time we go fishing together lately one of us gets the short end of the stick.

I was eager to get him to McNab Lake and after getting the pickup outfitted with some new headgear on Friday, I made the trip to New Caney. The plan was for me to shuttle Paul's boat to Needville and for him to come along later to spend the night before an early morning trip to the Matagorda marsh.

I had the bright idea to drive down to the surf first to see if there were any sea-run speckled trout cruising the shoreline. I've been reading about this and was wanting to throw a silver spoon out into the dark just before dawn.

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As it turned out we probably missed the best hour of fishing in the marsh but I guess you live and learn. We did get to enjoy the stinging bites of some ferocious mosquitoes and Paul barely escaped getting a "soggy bottom" by almost stepping off into a dropoff.

We beat it back to the McNab launch and had the boats in the water by the time it was full light. Paul Huskins joined us and he was ready for a repeat performance from last week.

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2 Pauls at the McNab Launch

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Big John at the Launch Site

The tide was low and going out as we made the paddle in but the wind was flat. We saw lots of mullet and bait (minnows) and tried not to stop too many times on the way in but it's hard to pass up a shot at big swirls and jumping bait!

We arrived at the lake about 7:30AM and planned to be back at the launch by 11:00AM.

I headed back to the inlet where I had missed my chance last week and Paul(1) headed for the eastern side of the lake. Paul (2) was lingering back in the channels no doubt soaking a New Penny Gulp shrimp.

I threw a gold flake TTF Killer Flats Minnow into the opening of the marsh where the water from the lake was draining. The tides definitely have an effect on marsh fishing and this was quite a bit different from last week.

I was suspecting that the predators would be holding near a point of opening where hapless bait would be swept along with the moving water. Last week at high tide, the fish were back up in the marsh feeding on crabs and shrimp right up against the grass.

After a few throws with nothing taking the TTF KFM, I decided to switch to a spoon. I chose a 1/4 oz Weedless Johnson Silver Minnow rigged with a split ring and swivel tied to a 18" 20# mono leader. On the second pass through the current where the bait were jumping I felt a solid whack. I stopped my retrieve and watched as the line began to move. After about 10 feet, I gave a steady pull to feel the fish. "Fish On!" I couldn't tell whether this guy had any size initially but when I tried to bring him to the boat I was made aware that this was no small trout. He took off straight away from the boat taking drag for at least 50 feet. After the first run I got my boat free from its resting place and as I reeled the fish in I was thinking about taking my time. "Don't horse it!"

Once again when the fish saw the bottom of the boat he took off for the other side of the lake. This time in addition to the drag on my reel, he had the free floating weight of "Spot" to contend with. I experienced my first "Texas Sleigh Ride" as this fish pulled me out into the lake and seemed to have energy to spare.

I let him pull me around for a few more runs before trying to bring him into the boat. I finally put the lip grabber on him and pulled him in.

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At last, a keeper redfish.

The slot is 20"-28" with one over 28" per season allowed. This guy measured 21" which gave me pause to think about how much fun a BIG red would be!

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Paul & John with Redfish (Photo by Tracy)

Brother Paul was nearby and provided photographic services and Huskins paddled by some time later with his own supper-on-a-string.

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Paul's Catch

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I heard a story from both Pauls about "the one that got away".

Paul B was disappointed but thought his was an undersized red.

Paul H reportedly hooked a monster on a topwater lure and is fortunate that the hook bent out straight or else he might have been towed back through the channel to the Intercoastal canal and out to the Gulf of Mexico never to be see or heard from again!

My fish story goes like this - I think I may have caught the smallest non-game fish possible on a Zara Puppy topwater. Check out this little mullet:

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Don't worry brother. We are going to hit them again soon!