Friday, January 31, 2014

Sheephead Fishing in Copano Bay

For the past month the sheephead have been schooled and we have watched frustrated as they feed while refusing our dead shrimp. I even tried buying clams but it didn’t make any difference. Occasionally we would catch a few small fish and every once in a while a keeper but that all changed when our friend John noticed a live shrimp sign at the local bait shop!
A bitter cold front passed through and so I waited a day until my friend Dave stopped by and said that everyone else had braved the bitter cold and caught their limit of fish. So while Dave went out and bought a quart of live shrimp I readied my rods.
The water had changed from clear to a stained green and we could no longer see the fish but everyone on the fishing pier had a stringer out.  Most had dead shrimp but the man next to me had live and he soon caught his last one to fill his limit of five.
Now sheephead fishing on the pier is kind of like combat fishing on the Kenai, but at least the fisherman here have some experience and actually get out of the way when you get a fish on. I quickly caught three undersize fish, (here in Texas they must be at least fifteen inches), before I hooked a big one.
Sheephead don’t run like a redfish but instead swim in circles much like a monster bluegill and as this one was huge I had my hands full! Eventually I guided the fish down the walkway to a spot where Dave was able to net the fish. I measured it and it was a little over twenty two inches. Returning to my spot I quickly fought and landed a seventeen inch fish.
Then the big ones moved on me and I couldn’t catch a thing as the little fish as extremely good at stealing bait. It was really frustrating as Pete, Reva, and Dave where all adding keeper sheephead to their stringers. Figuring I must be holding my mouth wrong I tried various smiles, frowns and ebven keeping my mouth shut but nothing seemed to help.
Moving to the other side of the pier I tried placing my bait next to several posts before I was fast onto another twenty two inch fish. Dave again netted it and I quickly filled my limit of five fish. Pete and Reva had already caught their fifth fish and headed back to their truck. Switching to a jig with a chartreuse body I cast for a while but the speckled trout just weren’t there.
A little further out three oyster boats were working an oyster bar and a dolphin pod corralled and the fed on a school of fish. It’s always fun to watch them work as a team as they force the fish into the shallows before almost beaching themselves to feed on the trapped prey.
Meanwhile Dave was catching a fish on every cast but they were all small and it was pretty obvious that he was getting frustrated. His luck suddenly changed and he hooked a twenty inch fish and guided it into my waiting net. Another cast and another keeper and we were filled for the day.
Now everyone on the pier caught their limit, even the ones using dead shrimp and so to say we needed the live bait, would be inaccurate. Still it worked for us and we could finally look forward to a dinner of Renita’s favorite fish! Clear skies

If you read our blob you have probably noticed that our favorite fish changes to whatever we are catching and eating. Heck even a whiting tastes as good as a salmon, at least it does when you don’t have any salmon.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

A Hot Bite Fishing the Lighthouse Trails, 2014

Pushing off we paddled to the first spot and on the second cast Renita landed a legal black drum. An hour later we hadn’t had another bite and so we pulled up the anchor and headed for some other spots on the sailboat channel.
Not too far up a secondary cut, a rosette fed greedily and seemed unconcerned allowing us to both take multiple images of the feeding bird. A little further we passed a flock of least grebes, which is a common bird here but rare elsewhere. Snowy egrets, great blue herons, and reddish egrets all waded and paused to watch as we glided by.
We fished three other spots but the fish simply weren’t there, or they weren’t biting for me. Renita did catch a small red fish, called rat reds here because they are too small to keep. After our picnic lunch, we kept at it, but to no avail. A nearby wading fly fisherman caught a nice fish and whooped and hollered announcing his catch.
The wind blew harder than the twelve mile per hour forecast but it was till doable and so we paddled back down the side cut before turning and heading for the main channel. Three boats blocked the entrance and I told Renita that it must be the only place to fish, ( a joke really as it always amazes me how fisherman anchor nose to nose when there are so many other places).
Snaking though the fleet we reached the main channel and headed to the first spot we had fished. There was no one there and after anchoring we both made our first cast. I had a good bite and missed the fish but Renita was fast onto a nice seventeen inch black drum. Rebaiting I fought a nineteen inch red, while Renita had another keeper black drum.
Soon my job was to net her fish as she caught a big red and then another. Adding to the stringer she switched back to black drum and the girl was hot. Finally I hooked up on a black drum and now I didn’t have to resort to begging for fish for dinner.
It was one of the hot bites that sometimes happen in the gulf and just as soon as it started it stopped as the big fish moved on. Without going into all the details suffice it to say Renita ended up with two nice reds, a twenty seven and a twenty five inch fish, along with her limit of black drum. I added three black drum myself and the whole bite had lasted less than thirty minutes!

Of course the wind shifted and we had to paddle hard against the wind to reach the truck. We were both tired and happy and I certainly don’t mind being out fished by my favorite fishing partner! Clear skies

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Open House at the Gulf Coast Gem and Mineral Societies Rock Shop, 2014

Neither one of us had any idea as to what to expect. We had volunteered to give a wire wrapping demonstration at the open house at the Gulf Coast Gem and Mineral Society’s, (GCGMS), lapidary shop and had brought several displays of our lapidary and wire wrapping.
So it was a pleasant surprise when about twenty people showed up, along with a camera person who wanted to film us for a segment on a local public channel. I soon went into my teacher mode and as usual I talked a lot and for once kept my sharp wit and jokes to a minimum.
The audience paid attention and asked really good questions so it went well. I went over my allotted time, which didn’t surprise me, and Renita took images for our blog. It was nice to be able to help out as the GCGMS has provided us with so much instruction and help as we have learned and increased our lapidary art.
Next on the agenda was our friend Mark; (he visited us in Wyoming and went fossil fish digging with us at Kemmerer). His presentation was about rock tumbling and the different types of tumblers. It was a really good topic as most people begin their rock obsession by first tumbling rocks.
He talked about rotary verses vibrating tumblers, and even though I have done quite a bit of tumbling, I learned quite a few things including pitfalls I have not yet encountered. As he gave his presentation he passed around different finished samples from the different types of machines. He really did a great job and the audience’s questions showed their interest in starting tumbling themselves.
The rest of the open house involved a show and tell of the lapidary shops equipment and rock inventory.

What could be better than a day of rocks, tumbling demonstrations, and most importantly meeting new people? Making new friends and learning new interests is really what our fulltime RV lifestyle is all about! Clear skies

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Happy Hour at the Beach: A Day Trip to Padre Island National Seashore 2014

When I was a teacher I used to take my classes on field trips to the Black Hills, Thirty years of field trips and I retired happy that I had never had anything serious happen. So here I was with six trucks following me to the Padre Island National Seashore and as usual worried about them all.

Not six blocks into the trip and I realized I had forgotten my fishing and drivers license. They were still in my kayaking gear so I pulled over and asked John to lead the group to the park and sped back to the fifth wheel for my gear. Luckily everyone was fine and waiting for us at the visitor center.

Driving south on the beach I realized my gps had lost all of the fishing waypoints I had locked in over the years, so I ended up driving past the spots we had fished last year. Picking a new spot where the surf was different I pulled in and all the rest of the group was soon parked and setting out their lines.

Quickly, both of our lines fouled up with seaweed, never a good sign, and I wondered if it would be one of those days. The surf was muddy and brown, from the passing front, but to my surprise one of our poles bent and Renita soon landed a nice whiting.

Others were also having weed problems but several groups of ladies were shelling and today’s beach special was washed up starfish. Just then I noticed that Reva, the best fisherperson in the group was fast onto a really large fish and it was giving her a heck of a fight, (She is eighty and still wading out in the surf, generally out fishing us all).

Watching her closely the fish broke off and she mentioned that she should be using her other pole with stronger line. A little further down Pete caught a hard head catfish, (one of the few ocean fish that tastes bad), and I could see the disgust in his face as he released it back into the water.

John caught several more whiting and we added some more to our cooler, when Sharon caught an almost twenty inch redfish, the first one she had ever caught. Unfortunately it was a hair to small and so Pete told her she had to release it. She looked around to see the joke but we all glumly told her it was so and so she finally let it go. You could see she had caught the bug, so it was still good.

Later the grills fired up and we all gathered round for the beach picnic, with lots of homemade goodies to round out the hotdogs and bratwurst. The fish keep biting and so we added more to the cooler all of which were destined for out happy hour fish fry, (which always follows soon after the day at the beach).

The fishing however didn’t really matter; it was a beautiful day on the beach, with low surf and temps in the upper sixties. It was a perfect day for snowbirds from the upper Midwest and the Northern Rockies. That’s what it all was about, a fun and safe day on a deserted beach. Clear skies.

Monday, January 13, 2014

I lay in bed and tried to sleep but the mornings image of the flying whoopers kept me awake. I saw them flying in a group of three, their dark black primaries and red crown clearly visible as they passed by. Each beat of their wings drove them toward the town of Lamar and I wondered if they were heading to their usual feeding area near eight street. Giving up on sleep I arose to write of the days paddle.

A little further another group of three also flew by and I wondered if they were groups of juveniles, as all were displaying the white plumage and red crowns of mature birds but still flying together. Other birders told us that they had flown from a field after posing for images from the many cameras.

Launching our kayaks at the Big Tree shore, we quickly paddled out. Both of us so excited that we forgot our life jackets and so had to return for them before we got too far, (of course Renita realized our mistake). Passing a boat canal and the remnants of weathered aged docks posts we spotted a reddish egret frantically wading about and feeding on tiny fish and crustaceans.

We stopped to fish the edge of an oyster bar but nothing hit our dead shrimp. The water was still too cold and there were no jumping mullet, which is a really bad sign as no baitfish means no red fish. Tying up to a post we cast out again and rested but no takers.

Renita suggested the place at the back of the canal as the mud bottom would be quicker in warming the water. Entering the narrow confines we spooked two night crowned herons before spotting one that posed in its favorite brushy perch.  A brilliant red cardinal flew by but wouldn’t stop long enough to cooperate for me to snap his picture.

As soon as we stopped Renita cast out and quickly had a fish on and it was our first fish in our kayaks. She smiled and posed with the undersized black drum, before she released it. Our poles went off as fast as we threw in and we caught black drum after black drum, as mullet jumped about, (who knows why they make their repeated leaps).

Sorting through the little drum two larger and legal black drum went on our stringer and a fish dinner was assured. Dark clouds to the south moved in and the paddling became more difficult and we fought a head wind as we hurried back to the take out point.

Beaching near the truck, we loaded the kayaks just as the rain started and our timing had been pretty good as we stayed dry. It had been a great paddle, with whooping cranes, great blue herons, reddish egrets, and black crowned night herons to name just a few of the birds we had spotted. This is the kind of day we search for in our travels. Clear skies.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Back in Fulton, Texas Warmth

We left from St Petersburg on the first of the year and after four days of rain and wind, arrived safely at our usual winter Texas spot in Fulton, Texas. It was actually pretty warm and I was able to change into shorts as we set up and greeted friends.

One of the blessings of our life style is the many friends we have been able to make and as soon as we had parked they came over for a plethora of hugs. Jane and Gail, and Jerry and Jack, and Betty, to name a few, gave us the hugs we needed and we remembered why we still come back here.

The next morning a cold front came in and the temperatures plunged to thirty five Fahrenheit so we rested inside before going to Corpus Christi for sawing and grinding rock. There our friend and shop foreman Mark gave us a big smile and of course a hug, (Mark is the one who visited us in Wyoming and split rock with us at the Warfield fish quarry).

As I stepped outside the following morning, Texas greeted us with sleet and we remembered why we don’t stay in Wyoming for the winter. Still we had some running around to do that included buying propane, getting the dog’s meds, and a quick trip to the local HEB grocery store, (which is a Texas institution).

Later it warmed up a little and so we drove to Goose Island State Park for a little birding and to check out the fishing. Renita spotted two rosettes,  flocks of willets and dunlins, while I cast for speckled sea trout and reds, but to no avail. Some other winter Texans, these three were from Minnesota, arrived and caught a few sheepshead before we retreated to the truck.

We drove out to the Big Tree shoreline, looking for Whoopers, and instead spotted quite a few sandhill cranes. Eventually we saw some whoopers in the far distance but they were too far to see and of their features. It was too cold to even think about using the kayaks, (yes I know we saw people kayaking with icebergs in Alaska, but this is not close to Alaska and we have turned into fair weather birders and fisherpersons.

So we will be here for three months of working rock and metal, preparing for the summer art and craft shows in Wyoming, and of course fishing and fun when it warms up! Sitting for a spell will be good. Clear skies.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year!

It’s time to leave Florida for Texas, as more friends, rock, fish, and whoopers await, just a few of the things that are good in Texas. Leaving here is hard as we said our goodbyes to our daughter and to her friends Eric and Chad, and Brandy. We also got to see my niece Melanie and her daughter Heather as we all gathered to celebrate a belated Christmas dinner at Jenny’s.

See Jenny had to work a twelve hour shift at the hospital on Christmas our celebration was put off for two days, (her boyfriend worked ten on Thursday). The menu was Cornish hens and we were all to bring them after cooking them in a slow cooker with Cornish hen being cooked three ways. Later we unwrapped presents and we loved ours, kayak skirts and watertight bags!

The best presents, of course, were to be with ones we loved and it was especially nice that my niece Melanie and her daughter Heather were able to join us. It’s amazing how fast and how much Heather has grown in the past year and she proudly told us she had gotten all “E’s”, on her report card.

On another day we met again for a dinner at a seafood place where we feasted on conch, mussels, black grouper and red snapper, all superbly done. So with hugs and promises and plans to return next year we head out tomorrow morning. We have been truly blessed. Clear skies and happy New Year!