Thursday, March 27, 2014

Another Day on St Charles Bay

Dave invited Roy and me to go out in his boat and even though the fishing has been poor, we gladly accepted his offer and headed to St Charles Bay to look at areas that we can’t get to in our kayaks. If nothing else we hoped to see if the whoopers had left yet and perhaps catch some reds or black drum.
Soon after we left the boat launch we passed a pair of whooping cranes and as we headed across the bay we saw two different pairs with nearly full grown chicks. So the day was already a success as any time you get to see a whooper is a treat and eight is a great day!
We crossed to the east side of the bay and fished an old dock. We had caught some reds there last year but it wasn’t meant to be and nothing bothered our offerings of live shrimp. Fishing several other spots produced the same results and so we ran the bay and hit some of our other favorite spots.
Dave soon was fighting a nice eating size black drum and Roy scooped it up and deposited it in the ice cooler. It turned out to be the only bite of the day and we were all surprised that there was only one nice drum as they usually run in schools.
The wind died down and the water became almost glassy which is pretty unusual here on the Coastal Bend of Texas. While it made the going easier it seems like the fish bite better when there are some waves washing the shoreline and moving water and bait.
So it was nothing out of the ordinary, fishing wise. We did later talk with an angler who said the trout fishing was turning on down south and that in a tournament in Baffin Bay, fisherman had caught two speckled trout that were forty inches long. That’s huge but it really didn’t help us as we were forty miles north.
Another day on St Charles Bay and even though the catching was terrible it’s still better than being up north in the snow. Clear skies

We are watching the news about the oil spill in Galveston Bay and are alarmed that the spill is moving down the coast towards the whooping crane refuge. Let’s hope they fly north soon and that none of the flock is affected.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Black Drum On the North Jetty, 2014

Our three friends, Jim, Bruce, and Roy had decided to hire a guide and try to catch a big black drum. It’s the right time after all, as the black drum move into the bays for spawning, and so their guide baited their poles with blue crab. Suffice it to say they had the time of their lives catching four of the giants, (by law they must be released).
It sounded like so much fun that I put their guide on my wish list for next year as our time here is drawing short. Instead, Roy and I headed to the sailboat channel for a day of red fishing and another day on the North Jetty across from Port Aransas.
Now both places are shore fishing, which is what we do a lot of, and at the Sailboat Channel Roy caught a nice twenty four inch red on his third cast. We were both were excited but the day wore on and the only other bite we had turned out to be a large stingray.
So having lots of live shrimp left we headed out early the next morning to catch the Jetty Boat to the North Jetty. Its only twelve bucks for the round trip and because of the cost most people will instead fish the free South Jetty of Aransas Pass.
So we didn’t have to worry about crowding and after a short walk we baited our poles and started to catch sheep’s head, lots of sheep’s head. Unfortunately they were too small to keep, (we did catch one legal fish). I cast a pole out into the Gulf side but nothing was doing there so I moved out a bit and recast into the pass with a live shrimp tipped with some Fishbite, which is a man made scented bait that we use for pompano.
My pole bent over but the circle hook slipped free and the fish was never on. Putting on another shrimp, the pole tip wiggled a bit, much like the bite of a stingray and as I started to reel in the fish started to slowly swim away. I was onto a really big fish!
I really thought I had a large ray on, except the fish made some slow but powerful runs. Regardless of what it was it always fun to catch a big fish. I wondered how we could land it as our net is small and landing a big fish is challenging on the extremely slippery and dangerous rocks of the jetty.
The fight went on and on and it took quite a while before I started to gain back some line. Just when I thought I was getting the upper hand the fish would make another run and then the slow arduous task would be repeated. I had thirty pound test braided line on and a new thirty pound mono leader so if I could just keep it out of the barnacle encrusted rocks I actually might land it.
Finally the fish broke the surface and it was a trophy black drum! Leading it to a break in the Jetties rocks Roy climbed down and after three tries manages to net the fish head first. Of course it didn’t fit in but he still managed to get the job done. Well done Roy!
After pictures and measurements, it was forty inches in length, I released the fish only to have it wash back into a hole in the rocks and I had to climb down, using both hands to drag the fish out and release it back into the channel.
Tired and soaking wet I rested a bit before casting out again and again the pole jerked twice and I was fast onto another big black drum. I fought the fish for quite a while, deciding that the best thing to do was to horse the fish and attempt to break it off. Sure, it would have been fun to see it but the task of netting and releasing the fish would only have made us repeat the dangerous and arduous task of climbing down the rocks, (the swells had grown in height).

As it neared the Jetty the fish made one last run I put pressure on the spool, and the leader broke and that was ok. After all I had had a day in which I had hooked and fought two giant fish, and that made it a day to remember. Now I need to buy a larger net! Clear skies

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Another surf day with the Happy Hour Group, March 2014

The park ranger told me the surf driving was fair to poor and asked if we had four wheel drive. I wasn’t terribly concerned as we were only going to drive to the five mile marker and so we drove onto the beach heading for our secret spot, (We really don’t have a spot but simply look for a change in the surf pattern.
The surf swells were about three and a half feet high and so we all decided it was prudent to only wade out a little and fish the first and second cuts. As soon as we cast out the bite was on and the day turned into a whiting day as everyone caught fish after fish, which was just what we needed for a happy hour fish fry.
John was particulary hot as his pole never cooled down all day and he later told me that it was the best day of surf fishing he had ever had! Surprisingly we never caught a red or a pompano and perhaps it wasn’t unexpected as the water here was really cold, (I was told it was fifty three).
Another fisherman stopped by and told us he had seen a fisherman catch a bull red where we were at, but it was when the water was warmer. So we just relaxed and fished, taking whatever was biting. The group simply wanted fish and that’s what we got.
Warm weather, friends and fish and that’s why we retired and are snowbirds. It’s a far cry from the latest snowstorm. The kites were flying, it is spring break here in Texas, but we weren’t crowded. It’s simply too far to the bars here and so the major parties are to the north.
After grilling lunch, the bite continued and we added more fish to our cooler. The tide had come in and so we had to drive back in the soft sand. The conditions were pretty poor and I soon flipped the switch to four wheel drive. To add to the bad conditions people were parking right in the tracks and so we had to dodge in and out from the surfs edge, (major truck washing ahead).

We all made it back to the visitor center and then drove back through Corpus Christi, avoiding the lines and partiers at Port Aransas. Renita told me that she had spotted a line of cars starting near the Packery channel and that’s miles from the ferry. A good day at the beach, but aren’t they all? Clear skies

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Kayaking Across St Charles Bay, 2014

The tide was out and so we had to launch from an oyster bar. It was ok at first but then we lost any depth and I almost got stuck in the mud. Moving out ahead, Roy seemed to be doing better as he must have found a deeper path to the boat channel.
The wind was blowing from the east forcing us to paddle it head on, but the kayaks made the paddling possible and as we made our way across St Charles Bay the waves got smaller and the kayaking easier. Reaching the main boat pass we pulled ashore and then cast our shrimp into a nice outgoing tide.
However the number of boats seemed endless and about every five minutes another passed through the cut and over our lines. I mentioned to Roy another place off the Black Jack Pennisula and so we kayaked to an area that contained quite a few sandy patches, surrounded by darker vegetation.
It looked like a good spot and so we anchored and fished the spots, leap froging each other. The water was cold, which is a pretty good excuse and we never had a single pickup. I rowed back to the south side of the pass and actually had a bite! It turned out to be my first sting ray from a yak and so I cut the line, rather then trying to remove the deep set hook in a small open yak.
Another bite but now I was onto a fish that fought like, and was, a hard head catfish. It’s a species that is one of the least desirable fish of the Gulf Coast. I did have more bites but they were too small to get hooked up on my five ought circle hook.
There was still another good spot to fish but it only produced an under size black drum. The tide then changed and our lines became slimmed with a fine green algae. It was a real mess trying to remove it and so we moved back into the bay and gave it one last cast.

We never did catch any keepers but that’s ok as the fishing can be good even without the catching. At the very least Roy had paddled across St Charles Bay and fished some of the spots he had read about in our blog. The kayaks had again  worked better then the canoe and so I will probably sell it when we get back to our place in Star Valley. Clear skies

Thursday, March 13, 2014

A Day at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, March 2014

You really have to see the low water to appreciate the severity of the drought here. Ponds that usually hold water are completely dry and the ones that do have water are the lowest levels we have ever seen. Of course the wildlife follows the water and so alligators are scarce, compared to years past.
We hadn’t visited the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge this year and so with a weather forecast of forty miles per hour gusts we loaded into Pam and Roys car and headed out for some high wind birding.
It wasn’t the best of conditions but we hoped to see a few whooping cranes along with the usual plethora of alligators. Upon arriving at the refuge, our first surprise was that the visitor center was closed Monday through Wednesday and that wasn’t the only thing closed. A list of closures included a bridge on the Heron Trail, the walkway out to the water’s edge near the observation platform, and Hog bayou.
As we drove out to the observation towers we first stopped to bird at Jones Lake. There the water has receded to a very small pond and the top of one alligator’s back barely emerged from the shallow pond. We did spot a kestrel, which is fairly common bird, but it did exhibit its beautiful breeding plumage.
Everything is so dry here that as we parked at the observation tower the only greenery was the new growth of leaves on the coastal oaks. Upon climbing the tower we looked to the usual distant places but the whoopers instead were really close. Another birder had told us that the cranes had really spread out searching for food.
After driving the eleven mile road we stopped for lunch at the picnic area before hiking the Heron Flats trail. Another whooper surprise greeted us as there were two wading alongside the road searching for crustaceans, again in a place where we have never seen them.
A large gator greeted us as we started down the trail but we didn’t see any more until we neared a pond alongside the road. There several were quite close to the trail and seemed to pose for images. I was uncomfortable with how close they were to us and was glad when the picture taking was over.

One final gator stop was near the visitor center and our yearly visit was done. The wind had calmed a little bit and Renita was driving so it was a nice relaxing journey back home. While the birding hadn’t been great we did see six whooping cranes and that’s pretty good for the ANWR. Hopefully they have found enough food to fatten up for the long flight north. Clear skies

Sunday, March 9, 2014

We have health Insurance!

When we retired, we had the safety net of health insurance through the school district where I had taught for thirty years. The full cost was nine hundred and seventy dollars a month and paid by us. I had planned on this and so we paid and even planned that it would rise before we reached sixty five. Unfortunately it rose to two thousand one hundred per month in less than four years, (an increase of 116%).
To add to this we have preexisting conditions, my heart disease and my wife’s type one diabetes. The costs of our medicine and doctor’s visits were about eight thousand a year and so our total cost for medical care was about thirty two thousand per year with an eight thousand dollar deductible.
We simply could not afford this and so, for the first time in our lives, had to forgo health insurance. Last year, (2013), I reached age sixty two and tried to buy health insurance with the additional income from my social security. To our surprise the insurance companies would sell us insurance but denied coverage for any preexisting medical condition or related illness, (thanks for nothing).
So our only hope, with our preexisting conditions, was to wait for the Affordable Health Care Act to take effect and we waited and waited for the October first opening of the Health Care web site. While we suffered with everyone else as the web site crashed and crashed, by November first of 2013 we were able to finally register and receive the details and costs of nine different health insurance plans available to us in the State of Wyoming.
The plans ranged from a bronze plan costing a little less then sixteen hundred per month to a silver plan at a little over twenty two hundred per month, (we make too much to get any subsidy and so pay the full amount). While still high, (Wyoming has the highest cost and least available plans of any state), the insurance covers our preexisting condition and, so starting March first, we now have health insurance coverage.
As I watch the news I continue to hear Republicans vow to repeal every line of Obamacare, (the Affordable Health Care Act). I wish they would put their energies into coming up with a viable plan to fix the Health Care mess and actually try to fix the problem instead of attempting to repeal the law and deny us coverage, (how about giving us the same plan that Congress has?).

So for now,we now have health insurance and the peace of mind that brings. Thank you President Obama. Clear skies.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

The 52nd Gulf Coast Gem and Mineral Show

I finished the last new style bracelet and now it was time for the show.  Loading up the truck we left Fulton at six am and met the other club members at the storage space. There we helped to load the display cases before the drive to Robstown and the County Fairgrounds.
There were a lot of volunteers this year and so the setup went fast. Renita and Pam arrived in Pam’s car and we all worked to get our booth ready. Last year the show had been down in attendance and so we all hoped that the oil boom would increase the number of attendees and the amount people spent.
The next morning the doors opened at ten am and a steady stream of folks browsed our pieces. We chanted our usual mantra, that all of the lapidary and wire wrapping was done by us and that everything was made in the USA, mostly Texas and Wyoming.
Finally a person bought a few of the rock slabs and then another purchased a pendant. Now that we had some money I could go over to our friend Dick’s booth and buy some of his cabs. The crowd stayed steady and by the end of the day we had already had a record day in sales
We weren’t the only ones having a good show as the club also set a record for the number of tickets sold. There is nothing like an oil boom to let the good times roll and they were rolling here. Our friend Dick stopped to show us the rock slabs her purchased, (he is going to be ninety in May), and so I also had to run and purchase some of the good tiger iron.
Sunday morning the crowd slowed down and we were both able to stroll around ourselves. One of our first stops was to admire our friend Cecil’s booth filled with his knapped flint knives. Allison’s booth was another must stop to admire her beautiful creations. A new stop was at Russell’s mineral identification booth and now I want a refract meter!
The display cases were an education by themselves. There members display a case with examples of their collections, along with explanations of the rock or fossil locations and types. Our friend Mark had a beautiful display of his newly acquired rock carvings, along with some of his agate collection.

The show finally ended and it was time to tear down. Returning home we packed things away as we have no more shows till we get back to Wyoming. We are lucky in that we don’t have to do shows all the time as many venders do. While what we do is a business it’s also a labor of love and that’s the way we hope to keep it. It makes the whole thing fun and we certainly had fun at the Gulf Coast’s Gem and Mineral Show. Clear skies.