Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Photo Contest

In our recent travels around Matagorda County some unique photo opportunities presented themselves.

Take a look at these shots and indicate in the comments which one is your favorite. Be sure to click on each one to enlarge and see the picture in full size.

1) Baby Blowfish (caught by Tracy on the Palacios pier)

2) Sunset Windmill Repair

3) Great Horned Owl on the Perch

4) Great Horned Owl on the Wing

5) Praying Mantis

6) Spoonbill Takeoff

Thanks for visiting the blog!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

"The Corners"

There's more than one way to follow a successful fishing trip.

For some it satisfies an itch and they are OK to return to normal life. For those of us with the OCF gene it creates a new desire and an expectation of similar success.

After the Team Slam on Friday, I immediately began scheming on how to squeeze another quick trip in on Saturday morning. We were fully booked up for later in the day but had a few hours in the morning.

"Let's see, we could pay bills, do laundry and yard work, or .... put all that off and go fishing!". Yeah I know...that other stuff needs to get done too but now that it is just the two of us we are finding it easier to take advantage of good weather and "run away from home" once in a while.

We arrived at the launch of McNab about mid-morning and the water level had dropped and was still on the way out. Tracy said it felt like we were going down the drain every time we would stop and try to fish. The current would pull on the boats and dislodge the stake out poles.

We fished the first few legs of the channel near the launch end but couldn't seem to find the fish. I tried crankbaits and topwaters and rigged Tracy up with a new offering that I had caught one of the trout on the previous day - Gulp Jerk Shad in neon chartreuse pepper.

I finally connected with a two-spot rat red. We were beginning to think it was just one of those days and finally decided to paddle in to the next fork for one last ditch effort.

Tracy got in position and attempted to make a cast to the deep part of the channel. Her finger hung on the line a split second longer than she planned and the errant cast sailed up the edge of the grass and landed just inches from the edge. She was about to start her retrieve in disgust when she realized that something had picked up the Gulp Jerk Shad and taken off!

She landed the 19 3/4" red with the help of her guide and continued to fish the fork while I tried a little around the bend.

The marsh grass is ripening and showing signs of going to seed. It provides a break from the wind and it's stems and roots are a great hiding place for fiddler crabs and small baitfish.

After I had made enough casts with the crankbait to satisfy myself that there were no takers, I switched to the flounder pounder. No luck there either so I turned back and paddled to meet up with Tracy. She had been fishing the fork area and as I pulled along side her I asked if she had thrown the Gulp up into the cove in front of the smaller fork.

She had but I decided to try anyway and threw the pounder to the back of the cove near the grass. As I began my retrieve, I felt a light strike and noticed that my line was coming towards me. I quickly took up the slack and felt the weight of the fish as I set the hook.

And what a fish it was! This 3.4lb 23-23/4" speck was a glorious fury of silver and foam as she fought against my 7' graphite rod. When I finally netted this beauty and put her on the stringer I got a close look at her colors.

These are truly magnificent fish and though they are voracious predators and toothy fighters, when they calm down and are swimming alongside the kayak it's impossible not to see them as beautiful creatures.

Now this is a handful of fish!

Here is another shot showing the silver and gold along with the characteristic yellow mouth.

Thanks once again to my excellent photographer for this portrait.

When we headed in to Stanleys for a bathroom and a cold drink, I got the idea to call our friend Edie at Spoonbills to see if she had time to turn the catch of the day into lunch. She had informed us that she could cook our B.Y.O.F. even if it was a variety of fish like speckled trout that she was not allowed to sell.

She out did herself and made each of us a beautiful plate of fire grilled asparagus, fresh green beans, baked fresh fillets of trout with a tomato basil topping that included sauteed onions and celery.

This was possibly the freshest trout I have ever eaten and was one of the most pleasing to the eye and the palate. Once again we were reminded who Spoonbills is an award winning restaurant. Thanks Edie!

"The Corners" have been good to us this weekend - especially to me. I caught my biggest ever flounder and my biggest ever speckled trout. It has been an education figuring out what to throw and how to fish the salt marsh.

Who knows what awaits around the next corner?

Friday, September 26, 2008

Team Slam

Every Texas angler's dream is to catch the Slam - at least one redfish, one trout, and one flounder on the same stringer.

Tracy and I ended up at McNab on Friday afternoon after taking care of some morning business and lunch. This was our first kayak trip in a while and our plan was to hit the "Corners" in the channel on the way in to the lake. With any luck we would find the fish hanging around near the reefs.

The weather was definitely changing and though it was still warm, the humidity was lower and there were signs of fall everywhere. These spoonbills are losing their vivid color as the mating season has passed and they will be moving south soon.

The water level was up which was a good sign and we started fishing the first fork with flounder pounders and crank baits.

I connected early with a 19" red. These guys really put up a fight!

Redfish number two was also one inch shy of legal. This release picture shows the shallow running crankbait that fooled him.

I put a 17" trout on the stringer and repositioned to take advantage of the water moving across the reef. As a big barge moved up the intracoastal, the water began rolling across the reef and I pulled my crankbait along the edge of the oyster shells and was rewarded with a strike. I paused my retrieve and watched my line continue to move towards the deep part of the channel before setting the hook. It took a few minutes to bring the 19 3/4" - 3.4lb flounder to the surface. I quickly got him in the net and on the stringer.

My next hookup felt like another flattie but turned out to be this big blue instead.

I caught one more small two-spot red but couldn't seem to connect with the keeper to complete the slam. Meanwhile, my fishing partner was getting pretty frustrated as I was getting all the action and she couldn't seem to connect. I tied on a crankbait but for some reason all she was able to hook up was a big sheepshead that was released at the side of her boat before I was able to get a picture. We were nearly through when she finally hooked up a nice 20+" red which completed the slam. I added one more trout to the stringer on the way in.

This was a great way to spend the day and we were blessed with enough fish for ourselves and were able to give some non-fishing friends some fresh fish as well.

Saltwater fishing on the Texas coast seems to have gotten into our blood. I'm thankful for the Slam and the fact that it was a team effort makes it even more special.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

The New Three Mile Lake

We made the trek to Matagorda again this weekend and found that the high storm tide pushed much of the beach sand up into the Three Mile Lake area. This not only changed the topography of the entrance, but blocked some of the water's return as it receded back to the Gulf.

Some of the access tracks are still flooded so we fished in a different spot.

This is the terminus of the sand looking back towards the beach. It is a layer nearly 2 feet thick.

Tracy makes a nice cast. She avoided the hardheads and bait stealers while I was not as fortunate.

When this gal gets on her game face the fishing gets serious!

After catching a smaller rat red, she hooked up this nice redfish. Too small for the stringer but full of fight and a classic single-spot specimen.

Back you go Sir... Grow quickly and we may meet again.

This sunset was from the previous day after our return to Spoonbills for supper. Thank God this beautiful spot was spared the devastation of the hurricane.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Hurricane Ike (in the rear view mirror)

With Ike on the way we decided to hook up the trailer and bug out to the Texas Hill Country.

We stayed in Comfort amidst some curious wildlife like this pretty whitetail.

The nearly-full moon was rising as the colorful evening light faded out of the eastern sky.

To the west the last blazes of sunlight made for an interesting silhouette.

We made the trip to Fredericksburg to visit the cemetery where my parents are buried.

Some friends and co-workers from Bay City joined us at the Feathered Horse Ranch.

Tracy put out a feeder and we enjoyed the hummers.

Taking a break in the juniper.

When we arrived home the only damage was to our basketball goal which would have nailed the "mobile tacklebox" had it been parked in its usual spot.

We had quite a bit of leaf litter and small branches to clean up but we didn't have any roof or water damage like some of our neighbors did.

We took a drive to Matagorda to see how things looked. Here is the view from the launch at McNab Lake. Quite a bit of flooding but no serious damage.

This is the view from the bridge on Cemetery road towards the Intracoastal. The pier was washed out and is shown in the foreground.

This is the trash line near the entrance to Matagorda Bay Nature Park looking north.

The RV park was closed due to the debris that needs to be removed before folks will be camping here.

Jetty park looked OK and the sky was begging for a picture.

Tracy has some additional pics on her blog.

The Palacios area was spared and the local paper, The Palacios Beacon has a good article with pictures. Looks like the 1st street pier got a good cleaning but was not dammaged.

God be with those who were not as fortunate.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Dream Up A Flounder

You know I've been dreaming about flounder.

I've read about them and studied them. I've even bought some special lures designed to catch them. My last experience with a flounder turned out to be a good one and I could hardly wait until the next trip to McNab to see if I could find another.

Saturday turned out to be the day. Tracy was set to attend a bridal shower in the morning so I made plans to get up early and head to the marsh. The only thing that could keep me from getting up at 4AM was....

Night fishing on the pier!

When I got in from the Friday traffic, Tracy was ready to escape from the housework blues so we headed to Palacios. I had an idea that I might throw the cast net for some finger mullet and we found some at the boat launch.

This girl is ready to fish! She is game to try the mullet but her go-to lure at night is the MirrOdine.

Casting for some bait. The finger mullet are fast and they figure out pretty quick that danger comes from above.

We fished the spot near where the pier leaves the seawall without any luck and got out to our preferred spot before the sun went down.

Tracy is tired of fishing with mullet. Let the games begin!

We enjoyed a beautiful sunset behind the pavilion pier.

Once the sun dips below the coastline, the lights come up and the fishing gets good. The specks moved in early and we had some good action on both the shad rigs and the MirrOdine.

We fished with mullet and I lost a couple and caught some small fish but no keepers.

I also tried various top water lures and other than a couple of halfhearted swipes I didn't have much luck with them.

There were some new visitors to the pier this time. These small jacks were good fighters and really liked the shad rigs.

We ended up catching lots of sand trout and specks but none over 15".

My buddy Tony showed up just as we were about to leave and he was ready to catch some keepers. He had a good load of finger mullet and another rod for throwing artificials and was planning on being there when the big girls moved in.

We intentionally didn't stay too late as I was still planning on heading to McNab in the morning. Good luck Tony!

I didn't sleep in too long and was able to get to the launch before dawn.

The water level was way up and I fished all the way in to the lake without any success. I did get a couple of blow ups on the top water but nothing serious enough to take the lure under.

Once in the lake, I found two fish working the south shoreline. My first hookup came up empty as I lost the fish at the boat trying to get my net out from under the bungee. I'll say for the record that it was most likely a redfish even though I never did get my eyes on him.

The thought that it might have been the flounder I was hoping for is too difficult to contemplate. I caught the second fish and it turned out to be just shy of legal. Both fish fell for the Flounder Pounder.

Off you go Mr. Red. Thanks for the fun!

Now quit loafing and GROW UP.

I paddled down to the corner and saw several gators but no fish. I finally tied on a green and red Texas rigged Culprit worm and tricked this little rat red.

I was beginning to think I would be going home empty. It was nearly 10AM, my stringer was empty, and my arms were beginning to tire from all the paddling. I headed up to the marsh opening to the left of the mouth of the lake and continued throwing the MirrOdine. This is the lure I had caught several fish on the last time I was in the marsh. Once again the 'Dine didn't disappoint.

I threw into a small cove off the main lake and started a slow retrieve. The color scheme of this lure seems to immitate a small croaker and when they like it, they like it.

Well to make a long story short - this guy liked it!

I fooled the trout on a tube jig on the way in but I was more than pleased to have what I came for.

This big girl measured nearly 20" and tipped the scale at 3 lbs even.

Not quite big enough to win the STAR tournament but definetly big enough for the grill! Looks like we have Sunday dinner figured out.

I met Tracy at home and after a light lunch we decided to head out once again to Three Mile Lake to make the best of the nice weather.

There is definetely a change in the air this time of year. The humidity was a little lower and though it was still hot, the afternoon angle of the sun causes it to seem less severe.

Tracy was once again queen of the bank fishing. She caught three reds that weren't big enough to keep and one keeper trout.

The blue tails of the redfish are part of the signature of this colorful species.

Red number three had a perfect tail. These fish were all about the same size.

We watched the sun set in Matagorda County for the second time in two days. Summer is over and the shorter days are ahead. I wonder what that means for the fishing?

On a final note to this long post...

If you think I've got fish on the brain, Tracy noticed that the clouds resembled a trout so I took this picture on the way out of the marsh.