Friday, March 16, 2018

Fishing, Fishing, Rocks, Doctor, Fishing, and more Fishing

Our rock shows were over for this winter and so it was time to go fishing, (we did run to San Antonio for a day and purchased some beautiful stones at the San Antonio Gem and Mineral Show). So, we planned on resting a bit, putting the rocks away till we reach Wyoming, and trying to catch some fresh fish.
Last year we caught the Spanish mackerel run at the south Jetty and caught quite a few nice fish. They smoked well and so we hoped to catch the run again this winter. However, we missed them by two days, those darn fish won’t stay put, and instead tried to catch some sheepshead,(not the freshwater variety).
Roy and I didn’t do very well as the only fish we caught were two puffers and two stingrays, (all safely released). Terry, Marlene, Bob, and Dave had better luck and caught six nice sheepsheads. Still it’s always nice watching the dolphins in the channel and seeing the big ships go past.
Two days later John invited us to fish a place where the reports of black drum frenzies were occurring and a friend in our rv park kindly led us to his spot. There were three boats taking turns and all of us caught our limits of fifteen black drum. It was some of the best black drum fishing I have ever seen.
While all this was going on Renita and I both got sick and went to the Urgent Care. It turned out she had a cold and I had an ear infection. Of course I asked the nurse practitioner how soon I could go fishing and she said as soon as I felt better. The next day I felt better and went fishing with John, Dave, and Roy returning to the same spot. The fish had moved. The excitement for the day was watching beautiful rosette spoonbills flying in their bright pink breeding colors and dolphin watching as the dolphins fed near our boat.
John decided that we needed to go to another of his favorite spots and the next days we anchored near an old dock in the main shipping channel. I caught two keeper sheepsheads, before Roy got hot and landed four more. Meanwhile John had broken off two large fish.
The next fish wasn’t so lucky and after a fierce run and fight I netted John’s twenty-five inch red! Roy and I were catching smaller sheepshead, while John caught another keeper red, this time a twenty-three-inch fish!
About this time, we ran out of bait. We tried casting jigs and as a last resort even tried some bait in a package. John put on a slice of shrimp flavored bait and he got anther keeper red! He put his pole down, and proudly stated that he had caught his first limit of reds, ever!
It was so appropriate for John , as he has worked so hard with others organizing work parties that have been aiding displaced Hurricane Harvey victims. The names of all the volunteers in the park who have helped is too numerous to mention, basically all have been either helping by providing physical labor or donating food and money for the meals our park makes and distributes, (we have been feeding about forty plus people two days a week).
So now we only have two weeks before we slowly wind our way north. Of course, we will make our usual detour to visit Connie and Gary, on Grand Isle, Louisiana, attend the bird festival there, and watch the Blessing of the Fleet as it prepares for this season shrimping and fishing. Clear skies

Friday, March 9, 2018

The Gulf Coast Gem and Mineral Society 2018 Show

It was time for our first big show of the year, the Gulf Coast Gem and Mineral Societies annual event, (it’s a juryed show), in Robstown, Texas. Friday was the setup and we drove over early to help with the unloading and assembly of the display cases.
While I was lending a hand, Renita set up our booth. We had not brought our jewelry and knives yet, and so our setup was easy. The club does provide security, but we are still a little leery of leaving our life’s work, fifty miles away from us.
Saturday morning, we drove back to the Fairgrounds and carried our cases to our display booth. We usually display and sell some rocks and slabs but this year we were selling Australian boulder opal rough and specimen pieces. We had barely finished before ten o’clock arrived and people started coming in.
It got busy fast and our first customers loved our new pendants, (we have added pendants with attached bails), as well as the usual wire wrapped ones. They have been some of our best patrons and bought some finished piece besides presenting us with a new challenge. One of them had brought along some of her grandfather’s arrowhead collection and wanted us to make wearable pendants, we love a new challenge!
The day was busy, the first day usually is, but it did seem busier than normal. We also left with a new carved animal. Our friend Mark had come over before the show started, and asked us to wire wrap his latest creation, a beautiful jade cabochon. He offered us a rhodonite carved pig in payment, and we gladly accepted the trade.
At the end of the day, we reached home tired, and were greeted at the door by our guard dog, Molly. She is a such a sweetie, and practically pulled me along as we went for an evening walk. Pam and Roy had bought a chicken dinner, (thank you), and after eating we talked a little about the day before heading home to an early bed.
The next morning was more relaxed and we arrived later, still with some time for us both to walk around and check out the other vendors. It was the first year that our friend and mentor, Dick Cline, wasn’t there as he had passed away in May, at the age of ninety-two, (he was one of the club’s founders and was a true Master of Stone). The show seemed somewhat empty without him.
The club had a silent auction booth and our friend Mark, was selling a carved lapis rhinoceros. He was also selling a large carved rhodonite elephant and we bid, and won, the rhinoceros, (oh my goodness, we must be starting a zoo)! Pam and Roy were interested in the pink elephant, also won it, and will use it for a display in their Art Coop.
Sunday morning is usually slow, but this year the crowd arrived early, and it was so busy that Renita didn’t have much of a chance to make some purchases from other vendors! All my treasures were purchased at the silent auction, (I bought a specimen of wulfenite, a sterling silver bolo tie clasp with a chryscolla cabochon, and a workable piece of chryscolla rough).
The surprise of the day was that we sold four bolo ties. It’s unusual to sell even one and this year we sold four! Now we must make more for our summer shows, especially as we have been accepted into Cody, Wyoming’s Wild West Extravaganza.
Day two ended, but we were busy right until the end. It had been our most successful Texas show ever, and our new pendant styles had been a success. Now we need to get busy on the diamond wheels and replace what we have sold, (I am also trying to add a new presentation grade knife, made from Damascus steel and fitted with rare Wyoming Jade scales, (handles).
We have nothing else planned for here in Southern Texas, so it is officially fishing and birding time! At the end of the month we hope to head to Louisiana before returning home after a week long stop over in Iowa. Clear skies

Thursday, March 1, 2018

A Day at The Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, 2018

I attended a lecture on the effects of Hurricane Harvey on local fish, and basically found out that there were twice as many fish as last year. The hurricane didn’t make the fish magically multiply but did keep the angling pressure down, by a factor of ten. If you are not catching fish, it’s your problem!
At the lecture the fisheries biologist talked about the surge and showed that the surge reached a height of over twelve feet at the wildlife refuge. The next day was too windy to kayak and so we decided to drive to the refuge for a day of birding and take along a picnic lunch.
Arriving at the refuge, we checked in at the temporary headquarters, (the headquarters and museum while looking ok on the outside were destroyed by the hurricane). The surge did not destroy the roads and trails but did cause a tremendous loss of trees and brush. So much so that the refuge’s vegetation has opened up, and you can see many of the deer and feral hogs.
Passing Heron Flats, we saw small herds of deer and after arriving at Jones Lake we discovered that the lake was now full.
Lesser scaup, blue winged teal and American coot were the main species and of course several large alligators made their presence known.
Across the lake three feral hogs fed and their rooting evidence is everywhere, (we always remember when Connie and Gary visited us, and
Gary attempted to call the feral hogs, we have never seen hogs run so fast).
We next drove to the observation tower. Both towers survived the hurricane and surge and were open.
However, many of the surrounding live oaks were toppled by the water and wind and all lost their leaves in the one hundred and forty mile per hour winds. Luckily a substantial number did flush again with new leaves!
Climbing the highest tower, we really had to glass awhile before we finally spotted three whooping cranes. They were about as far away from us as they could possibly be, and of course we didn’t have our spotting scope, (at least I got an image of Renita and Pam).
Turkey vultures were everywhere, and we did see some immature white ibis, but the image of the far away whoopers looks like three small dots.
Turning down the eleven-mile, one-way trail, by. we passed lots of white tail deer and more feral hogs. There were lots of evidence of large controlled burns, which were set after the hurricane passed.
There had been reports of whoopers along the road, but we only saw great and lesser egrets.
Walking into the Oaks Sanctuary we were swarmed by mosquitos, which usually happens, and we reached the beach edge to see a beach that didn’t look much difference then normal.
A large live oak did however show effects of the wind and you can see why they are so important in providing protection.
We lunched at the usual picnic area, where a tremendous downfall of trees had occurred. The fishing pier was undamaged, or at least repaired, and it didn’t look any worse for the wear from the high winds and surge.
Heron Flats was also open, but there weren’t many birds around. Three American white ibis fed among the salt marsh, and we saw as many alligators as we did birds. We tried walking down the trail, but the mosquitos were able to find shelter from the wind and they quickly drove us back to the truck.
Our last stop was at the alligator lookout and sure enough there were two alligators. One woke up and swam ashore before staring at us as if to beg for food. Its behavior was much like the fed alligators we found at many stops in the Everglades. A fed gator is a dead gator, so I don’t think this gator is long for the world.
It was windy drive home but at last it has warmed up. The wind keeps us from kayaking but at least we got to spend a day of wildlife viewing and birding at one of our favorite places. Kudos to the Refuge staff for returning the place to as near normal as it can get, six months after the category four hurricane. Clear skies.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Valentine’s Day Dinner at Blue Lagoons

It has been an unusually chilly winter here, and many of the restaurants are still closed while undergoing repairs from hurricane Harvey. Luckily every year, our rv park, Blue lagoons, hosts a Valentines Day dinner. Its organized by the activities director,
Zita, and her husband Alan. Zita sets the whole dinner up and with the help of volunteers, and decorates the hall, while Alan, a Kansas City Pit master, smokes Texas quail, Atlantic salmon, and prime rib.
Others volunteered to host, and Della took Valentines photos, (I will add ours when we get it), of all those whom wanted images of the night’s festivities. The downside of this year’s feast, was the raging flu epidemic that was running through the park.
The places at the tables were all set, but there were many no shows, couples who took deliveries instead of spreading or risking catching another bout.
We sat at a table with Pam and Roy and Mary and Rich. Thankfully, Pam and Roy had both just recovered from the flu, while we hoped that we wouldn’t catch it again, (many are)! After a brief prayer of thanks, tables were called up for serving, with the quail and fish served first.
Getting served we enjoyed a delicious meal and pleasant conversations with friends and family. I did forget to bring my own camera but went back home to take images of all of all those attending.
Afterwards we visited with friends at other tables, before calling it a night and retreated to our warm rv. It was a good night, with my own Valentine, Renita. Clear skies

Monday, February 12, 2018

Blue Lagoons Arts and Crafts Show 2018

The setup was supposed to start at eight but by seven thirty members of our rv park were already arriving to set up their displays. It was time for our annual Arts and Crafts Show at Blue lagoons Rv park! This is the first year we advertised the show outside the park!
Our small rv park isn’t just a fishing park, but also has many talented people who spend their winter painting, quilting, and crafting. Each year we hold an Arts and Craft Show in which we encourage everyone to get out of their rvs and show what they make. Each year new people and new crafts come out and this year was no exception.
One of the new displays this year was by our next-door neighbor Sue. She displayed one of her beautiful quilts and demonstrated how she coils wire and beads and makes bracelets. She is offering a class in the park and had quite a few enrolled!
Another new crafter/artist is Dave. He has been in the park for a long time and has started to make steak turners, used in barbecuing. He makes them in both right and left-handed models and uses different woods, including walnut harvested from his family farm.
There are quite a few people here from Michigan and Al’s specialty is making Maple syrup! Each year he collects about three hundred gallons of sap a day, using plastic tubing and a gravity pressure vacuum system, (no carrying buckets)! He then boils the sap, reducing the volume about thirty times, before filtering and bottling his home-made maple syrup.
Evelyn had a busy year with her water color painting, and I made the mistake of not buying a beautiful yellow painting of a hibiscus in full bloom! Her specialties include birds, flowers, and pets/animals. One of her more unique paintings was one of a camel! She also displays her work in the clubhouse and takes commissions.
Diana brought and showed some of her knitting and jewelry, along with Jim who crafts rosaries, wire wrapped pendants, and does lapidary. Joe displayed and sold his fish scale jewelry! Finally, we of course showed our lapidary and jewelry objects.
This year we have added knifes and letter openers with scales, (handles made from dinosaur bone, Wyoming black and green jade, and blue and gold tiger eye.
Unfortunately, several others were unable to make the show as the flu has hit the park hard, (as it has everywhere). Pam and Roy had brought some of their lapidary and jewelry collection from their artist coop in Iowa but stayed in their rv recovering and regaining their strength.
It was the most people that have ever attended, and it was a fun show! Thank you to all who shared their work and thank you to all who came and enjoyed looking at our work! Now, we have a brief respite before getting ready for the Gulf Coast Gem and Mineral Show at the fairgrounds in Robstown, Texas). (March 3rd and 4th. Clear skies

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Three Days of Fishing with Dave, Rich, and Roy

The day Pam and Roy arrived, I had the chance to go fishing with Dave and Rich. Dave took the three of us went to a place that had been full of feeding black drum, (there are a lot of black drum this year). The first two hours were slow, but things picked up briefly and we managed to catch five black drum. I caught my largest of the winter, a twenty-six inch fish.
Two days later the wind calmed a bit, and Roy and I went kayak fishing in St Charles bay. After paddling a long way, we finally reached a back bay full of mullet, (bait fish). The presence of bait is usually a good sign but not today. The fish didn’t cooperate, and I missed the one bite I had. After a few hours of exploring we headed back and leap frogged along the shore looking for active fish,
I caught an undersized red, and Roy caught a keeper, twenty-one inch fish! A few more leaps and it was nothing but undersize reds, but still it was fun. Reaching a point, I cast out and caught a keeper black drum. A bite developed and both Roy and I caught more blacks. Many had been undersize but the largest was nineteen inches and they would all make nice fillets.
The wind had picked up and w it was a struggle to return to the truck. Waves occasionally splashed over the side and both of us were tired from the long three-mile paddle. It was a struggle for two seniors to climb out of the yaks but neither one of us slipped and fell in the mud, while getting out, (I fell last year at the same spot, providing those along the shore with some entertainment).
The next day was too windy for kayaks, but it calmed down in the evening and we loaded the kayaks and returned to the same spot. Nothing bit at first, but a slow bite eventually developed, and I caught four under size reds, rat reds, before catching my first slot sized red of the year!
Again, we leap-frogged along the shore looking for more fish but we never had another bite. Still it is always fun, and we had been rewarded in the morning, with the sight of three whooping cranes, feeding in a field alongside the road. It was another day to remember. Clear skies

Ps Everyone should be using circle hooks! They make a safe release of the smaller fish as they are usually hooked in the edge of their mouth. The key is to put your rod in the holder and do not set the hook as the fish will set it for you.