Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Breezy Afternoon in Wilsons Cut, Port Aransas

Originally the winds were forecast to ease to 5-10 mph and so we planned to canoe Wilsons Cut, but the forecast changed to ten to twenty and  it was with some trepidation as we went ahead with oor plans. After a short drive to the cut from Mustang Island State Park and we quickly arrived at the put in point.
Never having canoed there before, we had launched at Fish Pass before and it was just ok, we backed right up to the water. The canoe slid out of the truck and we quickly loaded it with our gear before launching it into the shallow water. It was a falling tide, but it was still pretty high and so we quickly pushed off and headed into the cut.
Our original goal was to canoe the cut and then turn north east. making a short loop through the mangroves and back into the cut. As with most plans it quickly demanded a change as the wind picked up and blew so strong that we didn't dare leave the cut and journey into the open flats! In fact I was worried about getting back to the launch as the wind quickly pushed our boat to the west.
Finger mullet were everywhere and stopping I cast the net to get some bait as it seemed that stopping and fishing would be a better option for the day. Having the small four foot net I cast over a large school of mullet, but I only got two as the water was pretty deep and they sped out from beneath the net as the sinkers slowly settled the net to the bottom.
Another cast and a few more mullet and so we decided we had enough to fish. As we paddled west we saw a pole standing below a power line and it looked like it was hanging from the wire! We realized our mistake as a fisherman on shore rose from his seat and stood to let us know he wouldn't appreciate us boating over his line.
Turning to the other side of the cut we could see lots of lines hanging from the wire, hmmm must be a good place to fish and so we ran the boat into the sea grass, before baiting our hooks and casting into the deeper water of the cut.
Almost immediately Renita had a bite and she landed the largest piggy perch we have ever seen. Bite after bite followed and we even caught three red fish, all though they were undersized and so quickly released. A speckled trout attacked my bait as I wound it in but it was also a little small, 14 inches and it was also released.
The plans for an evening fish fry dimmed but it really didn't matter as we were catching fish from the canoe and having fun on the water! Wilsons Cut is a great place to launch and we will definitely return here again on a calmer day. Clear skies.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Mustang and North Padre Islands

We left Aransas Pass and drove all of twenty miles to Mustang Island State Park. It was the first time we took the ferry across Aransas Pass, with our fifth wheel, and we wondered why we didn't take it before.
Arriving at the park, we set up and headed for the beach.
Now the jetty's in the park are usually empty, or pretty much so, and so we were surprised to see them crowded with fisherman. As we watched they were catching fish after fish and finger mullet were everywhere. They were being chased by schools of trout, red fish and bluefish and of course the brown pelicans had joined in the feeding frenzy!
I started to tremble and shake and Renita could see that I was gripped by the same fishing frenzy! It was all she could do to calm me down as I hurried back to the truck for our cast net. I soon had lots of finger sized mullet and we found an empty spot at the end of the south jetty.
As fast as we threw out our bait was stolen! biatfish were being mauled and we weren't catching any of the fish. Finally I hooked a fish and caught a small bluefish, my first  Texas bluefish!  Now Renita and I love to eat fish but the worst fish we have ever had was bluefish and so back in it went. It was ok, we were catching fish and all was well.
The next day we went to the Packery Channel to See if they were catching flounder and the bridge was lined with fisherman. Again cast nexts were flying and we watched as trout and red fish and flounder were being caught. Not wanting to fight the crowds we drove to the Packery Channel jetty's, where the pass empties into the gulf/
Catching some mullet and ghost shrimp I soon had a sheephead and bite after bite from large piggys and grunts. Finally, I set the hook on a larger fish and I caught my first snook. It was too small to keep but it was a new species for me and that is always worth remembering. As I fished Renita watched the surfers.
On another day we went back to the South Jetty at Port Aransas. While Renita walked the beach and photographed dolphins I of course threw out some cut mullet for red fish and caught a perfect eater that measured 28 inches long. Fresh fish for dinner.
Now we do there things besides fish. We spend two days a week in the lapidary shop and we wire wrap our cabochons when the weather is too bad to fish.... Oh and we do walk the beach daily as that's what the beach is for. It has been a while since we were at Grand Isle, our last time on the beach, too long in fact.
Clear skies.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Canoeing the Sail Boat Channel

We pushed off of the bank and it only took a few strokes to cross the Sailboat Channel. A dolphin surfaced in front of us and the day was already worth the launch as Renita scrambled for the camera. From there we paddled up the old oil field ditch, intending to do some birding and fishing at several places Lannie had showed me last year.
Passing another kayaker who was fishing a small pass we reached a fork where we turned west and headed for an oil platfrom. It was low tide and mullet were quite simply everywhere. As we neared the platform we saw a third kayak fishing the south side of the hole and so we rowed to the north edge and fished the same place Lannie had showed me.
Piggy perch after piggy perch bit as fast as we threw in and Renita stopped fishing as there were rosette spoonbills all around us. The birds were taking advantage of the really low tide and were feeding as greedily as the perch.
They seemed unconcerned as we watched them swish their bills back and forth looking for crustaceons in the tide pools. A blue crab walked up to our canoe and I could have reached over and grabbed it but I knew better from the crabbing class I took on Grand Isle. There I had tried to grab a large blue crab and my sister Connie had simply yelled no!
The other yaker left and we paddled over to his spot but the fish weren't any bigger, although Renita did catch a few hard head catfish. Heading back up the cut we were able to turn south towards Brown Flats. Stopping just short of the shallow flats we tossed out our poles and again caught perch after perch.
The first yaker we had passed paddled up and told us we were at  hot spot and that he had watched another couple catch their limit of red fish the day before, hmm we should have been there yesterday. Several powerboats came, fished, and then left including a guide boat and I thought about how upset I would be if I paid for a guide and he took me fishing in such a heavily fished spot. Of course being an old guide I knew that a guide is often someone with a boat and without a job so the quality varies a lot!
We never caught any keeper fish, although I did actually catch a red fish. There were really alot of blue crabs everywhere we went and so we both talked about the possibility of a good year for the whoopers,(they need six to ten crabs a day to store up enough fat for the breeding season).
The wind came up as we paddled back to the truck but it was a cross wind and didn't cause us any difficulty.It had turned out to be an easy day and the most rosette spoonbills we have seen on a paddling adventure. The area is worth another paddling day when the winds allow. Clear skies.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Bull Redfish off the South Jetty, Port Aransas

Everywhere we looked people were fighting fish, and they were big fish! Some were fisherman in boats but as many where shore fisherman casting from the rocks. Walking out to the end of the jetty we passed two fisherman struggling to haul their catch to their cars. To say I was anxious to get to my spot and start to fish was an understatement!
I was surprised to get the spot I did and I quickly cast  a pole with cut mullet and another with dead shrimp.Soon I felt a tell tail tap and set the hook only to feel the line set firmly in the snaggy bottom. Of course I broke off not just one pole both.
Hmmm, typical jetty fishing I thought, and so I rebaited and recast out and snagged both poles. It didn't help that I could see a nearby boat catching one redfush after another and even some large pompano! They even had numerous doubles and the only doubles I was having were snags. I finally had a good bite but the fish pulled me into the rocks and I broke off.
Unable to stand it anymore we retreated back from the point of the jetty to a gap in the fisherman. We had seen them catch fish and had even watched one boat fight a big redfish for over an hour. Casting out a pole with a piece of cut mullet I baited a second pole with dead shrimp and started to retie a third when I heard the first pole's drag start to scream as a big fish tore line from the reel! Grabbing the pole I held on as the fish ran and ran and ran and I wondered if it would stop before I reached the end of the spool.
Increasing the drag I even used my hand to put more pressure on the spool and I was glad I had thirty pound braid and a twenty pound leader. Finally the fish stopped its run and I regained a turn of the spool before it went on another run.
It stopped and I was able to get a few more cranks. Getting even the fish and I alternated with both of us having the upper hand for a bit before It finally came to the surface and wallowed for a few seconds. About this time the fish made a short run and crossed another fisherman's line and now the risk of losing it increased.
Lucky for me the other fisherman realized what was happening,(It turned out he was a local and knew what he was doing), and so he walked over to me carefully keeping  pressure off my line. I was able to gain line and with his help we got our lines untangled.
Standing on a large boulder I gained line and was able to guide the spent fish into an opening in the rocks. There I was able to reach down and lift the fish out by placing my hand in its gill cover. Did I mention I forgot my net? Renita captured it all on film and she quickly snapped several pictures before I removed the number six ought circle hook from the corner of its mouth.
The fish went back into the water and swam away and that made my day, a big fish and a good release. The red was forty inches long and was a personal best. It was the reason I put up with the numerous snags and lost tackle and it made my day!
Casting out again I started to rebait my other pole when the first pole went off. It was another red but not as large as the first and it didn't take as long to fight the fish in and release the thirty eight inch fish. I only had enough bait left for one more cast and I quickly lost it to a small fish but it didn't matter.
The day brought back memories of other redfish, fishing with George on the South Jetty and fishing at Grand Isle with my brother in law Gary. Those were memories I won't forget, as was this day, and it was made especially sweet as I remembered it was a Friday and I used to work on Fridays! Clear skies

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Choke Canyon, Fall 2010

We left Hondo and made the short jaunt to Choke Canyon State Park. We have stayed there before and its one of our favorite state parks with excellent birding and fishing and so we planned a week there before we headed to the coast.
The frist night we heard animals outside our window and we woke up to find the campground full of deer. Bucks and does and fawns all seemed tame as they watched while we took our morning walk. The deer here are so small compared to their northern cousins but the surface area to size ratio dictates size in hot and cold areas.
The first full day we headed to the seventy five acre lake to check out the alligators and do some birding. It felt good, and so with the bird book in hand we reacquainted ourselves with the characteristics of the herons and egrets. Hmmm, black legs and yellow feet so it must be a snowy egret?
The water was up and we only saw one alligator but we did see a pair of green jays, along with a common marsh hen and  lots and lots of egrets. A pair of golden fronted woodpeckers flitted from tree to tree and we clearly saw the crimson red color on the top notch of the male.
Surprisingly, we didn't see any vermilion flycatchers, perhaps it was too early as we are usually here in mid November. Scissorr tailed flycatchers were in abundance and we did see our first cara caras, first for this fall anyway. So we did see most of the usual birds.
The next morning I went fishing, armed with some bait fish I caught with my cast net. I was pretty rusty with the throws and so it took me awhile to catch enough but I hoped the cut bait would at least catch us some catfish.
A flock of black bellied whistling ducks flew overhead, their high pitched whistling so distinctive and I thought of the old saying a bird heard is a bird seen. Small fish bothered my bait and I didn't have any luck, in fact my luck was really pretty bad as I got bit by a fire ant!
Going back to our fifth wheel I ate lunch and laid down and soon woke up with three bites on my shoulder and chest, with pain and swelling. A spider bite perhaps? I cleaned the bite areas and covered them with a topical first aid cream. It felt like my ears were swelling shut and so I took an allergy pill and the swelling eased, at least in my ears, (the swelling and pain lasted for two days and I was really concerned about it being a brown recluse bite but it finally returned to normal with no discoloring or other bad stuff).
The next day we returned to the Seventy Six Acre lake for more birding and got a great look at the alligators! Walking down the gravel path to the first bird overlook we surprised a rather large alligator next to the bank. It soon reappeared and it was a big one! Looking a little further out we saw the king of the lake, the eighteen footer! It was floating with only its head visible and oh my what a head! The ten footer near us was tiny in comparison and we glanced around nervously as we watched the gators and the birds.
We did go to town and stopped at an antique shop, but we weren't impressed. The fishing never did turn on but we enjoyed our stayed there. The birding and the peace and quiet, added to the beauty of the spot was the reason we had returned and the reason we will come back again. Clear skies.