Friday, September 24, 2010

The Change of Seasons -- Best Time to Fish!

One of the best fishing seasons is the "change" of seasons. In Maine, the big change is "ice-out," when spring first arrives, the ice melts, the fish feed ravenously and the fishing is especially good. Here at Bob Hall pier in Texas, the water temperature has been close to 89 degrees for months, and it was an especially hot end of summer.
But for the last five days of summer, a long tropical rain spell kept the skies cloudy and the temperatures down. The water temperature dropped ten degrees -- and the fish, especially prized redfish or red drum, started feeding. Fishermen all over the area reported sudden limit catches as the start of fall arrived.
Even though the heavy rains that had caused major floods in nearby Corpus Christi threatened yet again on September 21, I wanted to see if the fish had been properly energized by the temperature drop. The water was rough and murky so lures would be hard for fish to see. I brought a fresh skipjack (ladyfish) to cut up for bait, the people next to me had live shrimp and the people next to them used cut dead mullet.
Didn't matter -- all of us caught redfish. I landed two reds around 5 pounds each in about an hour. As I was leaving I got a picture of the people next to me landing a 28 inch red, about 8 pounds. I came back the next night for a few minutes (again, just a few folks there) and caught a 20-inch redfish after a half hour or so. (There were some "nuisance" hardhead catfish biting, and the larger and tasty gafftop catfish as well.) Notice the "circle" or "drop" net -- it's your only hope for landing a big fish on a pier. You drop the net into the water and do your best to get your fish to swim into it, then pull it up.
You see that redfish really aren't very red -- until they're out of the water a few minutes. The first one I caught was bright red by the time the second one joined it in the cooler. Also, I was fishing in the early nighttime only because that's when I could make it out, but daytime should be good, too.
When seasons change, fishing can improve overnight, you can plan on that. And it's always nice when a plan comes together.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

One More Cast -- Hey, It Worked!

"Just one more cast." One of the most familiar phrases in fishing, often associated with times of slow fishing. Sometimes you just need to admit that it's not a great day for fishing, cut the losses and instead of spending a whole day with no fish, you only spent an hour or so. But "one more cast" is sometimes responsible for turning a slow day into a great day.
Today I was at the gulf coast near Corpus Christi, on a day that should have been ideal for pompano. Light winds allowed to the water to turn flat and clear. Sight-feeding pompano move in close to shore when this happens, and are often caught with shrimp. I use the popular peeled shrimp with the "fishbites" artificial shrimp on a size 3/0 circle hook. From 9 am to noon, the fish were absent. Nobody was catching any. I was saying, "One more cast before I call it quits," when I felt some bites, then a powerful foot-long pompano on my line. A few minutes later, another one, and then a black drum so big it barely fit in the ice chest (it was 2 feet long, seven pounds).
"One more cast" saved the day. And what a great dinner.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

I have the whole pier to myself! Hmmm, I'm getting a sore throat...

A sunny October afternoon — Halloween — the temperature in the 70's, but almost no one at Bob Hall pier in Corpus Christi. Red tide arrived here two weeks ago, turning the water a brownish red, filling the air with a toxin that stings the eyes and throat, and killing fish by the thousands. Normally October is considered by many the greatest time of all to go fishing, but when the red tide hits, it's a disaster. From the ocean beach at Corpus Christi south to Mexico, the beach is lined with dead fish, mostly mullet. They're not game fish, but they're a big part of the diet of game fish. Other fish of many species are killed in smaller numbers. This was the first major red tide event here in three years.
The red tide is an algae bloom, and relief only comes with cool weather. Two weeks after its arrival, it looks like it's finally moving out. You could hardly see or smell it, and the water was fine for swimming and surfing.
The question is, what's left of the fish? A few people were fishing in the afternoon, and none had any fish. A fellow fishing on the end of the pier said he had caught two "bull reds" (red drum over 30 inches long) and one shark earlier in the day.
I went a mile away to the Packery Channel jetty, where water from the bays enters the ocean. At the moment it was flood tide, so water was going in from the ocean, but all was clear. I saw one person who had just caught a mangrove snapper. I decided to try for a few minutes, and in just a few casts with a "gulp" lure, I caught a foot-long redfish (red drum), a ladyfish and two grunts ("piggy perch"). That's all I needed to see. I believe the fishing will pick right up.
So if you hear Red Tide is hitting the beach you're going to, find somewhere else to go, but when it's gone — no problem.
The only ones who LOVE red tide are the sea birds. They're so fat now they probably can't fly.
Red tide updates in Texas:

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The ONLY bait that works!

Friday I had a chance to fish -- but the wind returned and the Corpus Christi surf was as brown as it gets. I noticed seagulls feeding very actively in the Packery Channel, so I thought I had one good chance at catching fish -- use minnows. When the seagulls are feeding, that usually means small baitfish in the water being chased by big fish.
I had been hearing from many people about one fish that has always eluded me -- snook. As I got out of my car, a fellow stopped to tell me he had caught a dozen snook right there the day before, in the brown surf. He said he had one lure -- bright green "speck rigs," little lures that simulate small fish or shrimp. He said no other color worked. I asked about live shrimp or live minnows. His answer: he NEVER saw a snook caught on shrimp or minnows.
Well, I still went to get a few minnows. Just a few, because it was blazingly hot and I didn't expect a large number of minnows to live long under that sun in my bucket.
When I got back, Mr. Greenlure was gone. But, surprise, I saw a tourist from out of state who said he was catching one snook after another. His bait -- live shrimp! He caught a snook while I watched, close to the jetty rocks in the rough brown water, using a float to keep the bait from the rocks.
I took my five minnows in the bucket out to the end, put a float on and hooked on a small croaker to the size 1/0 "circle" hook. (The circle hook is a miracle invention, nearly circular, and as long as it's sharp, it will hook fish better than regular hooks. More in another entry.) In ten seconds I had a great big trout, biggest in a year -- 24 inches and very very fat. It weighed 4-1/2 pounds.
Unfortunately, the fight cost me my float, and I was just a little too lazy to walk all the way back to the car for another one. I fished with no float, just the bait and the hook. I lost three minnows, then with my last minnow, history. My first snook. It was hard to get a photo since it came free from the hook and wiggled so much. I had to throw it back because snook are protected, but first I got its picture, secure in my hands.
(In Texas you can keep one snook per day, but only if you're lucky enough that it's more than 24 inches and less than 28. This was maybe 16 inches.)
So remember, snook will only bite on green speckrigs. Make that live shrimp. I mean, minnows.

Monday, May 11, 2009

I'm Going Fishing for 15 Minutes

Here's a variation on the famous saying, "A bad day fishing is better than a good day at work:"
"A few minutes fishing is better than none."
Sunday evening I decided I was going fishing. Nothing wrong with that except, the sun was low and it was already 7:30 pm -- and the nearest place had no lights. Wherever you live, maybe you've had the same opportunity to fish late in the day, or for whatever reason you know you'll only have a few minutes. I decided, what the heck, and got to the jetty at Packery Channel on the Texas Coast with the sun already setting. When I got there, people at the very end were catching one of the prized gamefish, redfish. Some were using shrimp, some live minnows, some using cut fish. All were getting fish on their lines, and the skilled ones were able to land them through the rocks. I rushed to get my line in the water, quickly caught one hardhead catfish, cast again, and caught a highly "debatable" redfish. The question was whether it was the minimum size -- 20 inches. I pulled out my trusty tape measure -- make that, my rusty tape measure, and it broke. The section you see is 4 to 5 inches long. You be the judge. Anyway, the fish went back. But I did take pictures of some very nice fish in the few minutes I was there. Worth it!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Windy, rocky and slippery!

Jetties are very good places to find fish. The rocks attract minnows and other creatures the big fish can feed on.
I didn't say jetties are good places TO fish. They're probably the worst possible place to fish -- the rocks catch your hooks, the fish swim into the rocks and break the line after they're hooked, and many jetties, including this one at Packery Channel on the Texas coast, are often very slippery. Today, May 1, it was windy for the 8th straight day. Waves were crashing over the top, and very slippery moss made for very unsure footing.
I fished anyway, with some frozen "finger mullet," small fish, cut in half and placed on a hook -- and cast just as far as possible from the rocks. I caught fish, but these are not the kind you want to eat. One jack crevalle was really fun to catch. It weighed only nine pounds (small as these go) but "jackfish" fight so hard, you'll feel lucky if you can land it. They're not good to eat, and neither are the common saltwater catfish often called "hardhead" (although some, including the Texas Parks and Wildlife website, claim they're pretty good).
Persistence did pay off for a lone pair of fishermen using cut mullet like me, and also live finger mullet. They got two fine redfish (red drum) while I was there. You'll notice they stayed close to the railing even when they had fish, and yes, some fish got away because they were careful not to get into the slippery rocks just to land a fish.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Wintertime Pier Fishing in Texas

It was a Saturday afternoon in the middle of winter, and here on January 31 at Padre Island, Texas, Bob Hall Pier was once again busy. Even though it's about 100 miles away from the devastation of Hurricane Ike, the pier still suffered enough damage from the storm that it was closed from September 2008 until mid January.
The fishing can be very good here in winter, but not always, and today was "not always," although there were steady occasional whiting, and the little "piggy perch."
But with sunny skies and a temperature of 70 degrees, nobody was complaining.