Sunday, April 27, 2014

Revisiting Familiar Places, A Day of Fishing and Memories and Birds

Four years ago we were camped at Grand Isle State Park as the Deep Water Horizon exploded and caught on fire. Soon afterward the skies darkened and rain fell on us and our camper, covering the rig with small black spots from the raging fires and the fires set by the Coast Guard as they attempted to burn off the gushing oil.
The wind changed and so we kept on doing the things we always do here, fishing, birding, and beach walking. We didn’t understand the magnitude of the disaster or the changes that would take place. No one, except BP realized how much oil was being released and the effect it would have on the sea life and birds.
It’s been four years since the spill and Gary was taking us on aboard his fishing boat for a day of fishing and, for me anyway, I day in which I hoped to see some positive signs of nature rebounding. The waters were choppy at first before the wind died and the seas smoothed out allowing us an easy day to circle all the familiar places.
Launching the boat we first went to Bird Island where we saw brown pelicans using their familiar rookery. From there we fished some gas and oil platforms and while the fishing is always great the catching was only ok as Gary and Dave landed some nice sheephead for a meal.
Next was Beauregard Island and everywhere we went we didn’t see the stained plants and rocks once covered with sludge.  The water clarity wasn’t the best but it wasn’t from the spill but from the muddy bottom, the result of winds and waves from a passing cold front. We didn’t catch any speckled trout, (which was what we were after), but we did see another boat land one keeper.
The seas went flat and crossing to Grand Tere we fished a cut where I saw the best sign of recovery. An oyster catcher was nesting on a sandbar and the biggest danger to her and her mate was a flock of American white ibis that landed and pushed her off her nest.
A least tern flew by and dolphins were everywhere, feeding on the schools of mullet. Dave caught a keeper red and Gary had one on, but no matter what I did my offerings were only bothered by small fish and hard head catfish.
A dark stain that resembled oil marred the beach but Gary said it looked to him like it was only small dark broken pieces of vegetation and wood. We didn’t land to check it out as we didn’t want to disturb the birds. No matter really as it was so good to see the birds were returning.
We circled the island and motored past the never occupied fort. One of the biggest surprises of the day was how much of Grand Tere had disappeared into the sea. Water was lapping at the pillars of logs that supported the old fishery research station. It has been replaced by the new facility on Grand Isle and that was a wise decision as the sea will soon reclaim the old buildings.
We fished a couple more places during which the tide went slack and so did our lines. A slack tide is usually poor catching and the fish quit biting. It didn’t matter really as it had been a fun day of fishing and more importantly a day in which we didn’t see evidence of the mammoth spill. Thank you Gary for the fine day! Clear skies

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Sharks, Redfish, Black Drum and The Fish that got Away

After years of hearing my stories of fishing Grand Isle, our friends Dave and Jane decided to dally here before heading north to their summer place in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  Dave is a great fisherman and so I was interested in watching how he would approach the beach fishing possibilities. He simply approached them by catching just about everything you could catch here and it’s been fun netting his fish.
We first went out to Elmer’s Island where black tip shark were biting. They bit through our lines and destroyed our gear forcing us to make a frantic call to Renita, Jane, and Connie, asking them to buy us more wire leaders, (they had gone shopping up the bayou to Houma).
Dave did manage to land two black tip shark, (shark season is closed so the fish were released unharmed as we use circle hooks), and I managed to miss the two bites that doubled my pole over. Oh and I  caught a lot of big hard head catfish which have about as much oil in them as a BP spill and so are inedible.
The fishing bridge was next and while we caught lots of fish at the south end, the north bridge was where it was at as it provided some of the best fishing Grand Isle has to offer. Huge numbers of bat rays have moved into the pass and so we spent the morning catching the forty pound plus bat rays, huge redfish, sheephead, and we watched others catch big black drum.
Another day and this time we fished the beach at the state park. The water was muddy and there were lots of weeds, so things were quite and the weeds tangled our lines, although we did have two pick ups on our dead mullet. Dave hooked a big fish that went on a run that he couldn’t stop. It broke off and Dave decided he should put on heavier line.
On our last day fishing we returned to the fishing bridge. It was so amazing to see schools of bull redfish swim buy and phalanx of bat rays traveling in their diamond shaped formation. We never landed any big bull reds as they were so large that they manhandled us and wrapped our lines around the barnacle encrusted posts.
Spotting a large shark I cast a mullet ahead of it and soon had it on but it came off as the circle hook never set properly. My last big fish of the day hit and ran for the Gulf and I was actually able to turn it, chasing it to the end of the pier. Dave followed with the hoop net but the hook pulled out as I saw another huge bull red swim away.

So the shore fishing here has been what we hoped for, and I think it’s the best fishing on the Gulf Coast, (my nephew has fished by Venice, Louisiana and says it’s better there). Big fish are the name of the game here and if you do come down the bayou to the end of the road, be sure to release the big ones as they are the breeding stock. Clear skies

Friday, April 18, 2014

A Day of Magnificence

Every day is a blessing and yesterday handed us an especially beautiful treat. WE never expected such a sight when we decided to try kayaking on the lagoon at Grand Isle State park with maybe a little fishing, birding, or whatever presented us on the protected waters.
It only took a few minutes to drive and launch the kayaks as the lagoon is just a few blocks away. A stiff wind was blowing and we hesitated to even launch, we never would have with the canoe, but launch we did!
Renita was soon paddling away from me and I worried a bit but it was needless as she easily turned and paddled back into the wind. I pushed off and joined her as we glided along the black mangrove shoreline.
The black mangroves here are taller than in Texas but much shorter then the ones in Florida so they provided us with some shelter from the wind.
Mullet were everywhere we went but the reds simply weren’t biting. I cast and cast hitting pockets in the bushes but no fish laid in wait for bait riding the outgoing tide. Still it was a joy to be on the water and the fishing was great even with the catching being zero.
We kayaked under the walkway only to find that rocks had been placed across the bay opening, preventing us from accessing the next bay and then the mouth into Batarria Pass. The rocks wee large enough to even block the movement of fish, except at the highest tides and I wondered why they were placed there.
Heading to the other end I noticed Renita lagging behind and realized she was taking images of high flying birds. Approaching her I finally saw the magnificent frigates wheeling overhead and the mystery of her tardiness was solved. It always amazes me as to how much I miss as I speed by, concentrating on a single goal or spot.
Above us eleven of the frigate birds were riding the steady wind and thermals and soaring easily. With a wingspan of eight feet they truly are magnificent and they were so close that we could even see the white heads and bodies of the mature males.

It is the closest we have ever been to the birds, the locals refer to them as rain birds, and their appearance is said to herald an approaching storm. It was an unexpected treat and the fish and the paddling were soon forgotten as we sat and watched the dance of the magnificent frigates. Clear skies

Monday, April 14, 2014

Grand Isle 2014, Bird Fest, Friends, and Family

Its spring and it’s still too early to head north. We spend our summer at six thousand feet in elevation and up high April is still early spring with snow and cold. So we are dallying down south and that means it time to head to Grand Isle for family, friends and birds.
On the way to Grand Isle we stopped for a night at New Iberia so we could stock up on Tabasco sauces. Last year we went to Avery Island with our friends Jim and Nancy and the sauces we bought didn’t even last a year. So we stocked up but already I fear we didn’t buy enough.
Arriving at Grand Isle we camped at the State Park and then waited for our friends Dave and Jane. Dave has always wanted to fish at Grand isle and so they are camping next to us. WE waited at Connie and Gary’s house and then drove over to welcome them here.
The next morning was the second day of the bird festival. Heading to the Multiplex we checked out the information booth before heading down the birding trail. Several painted buntings had been spotted the day before and so we all hoped they hadn’t yet continued their migration.
There were quite a few birders, the most we have ever seen, and perhaps that made the birds more skittish but we still managed to spot and indigo bunting and a scarlet tanager. We even got two new life birds, an orchard oriole and a Swainson’s warbler.
We later learned that huge fallout had happened last Tuesday and the birds were so tired they simply landed and sat. It’s a long flight across the Gulf of Mexico and the birds had actually fought through a really strong cold front with forty mile per hour wind gusts.
So while our bird numbers were down, for us, it’s always a good time birding at the festival. We ended the day by having a picnic on Elmer’s Island. There is another cold front moving though on Monday and so there might be another fall out before the spring migration ends. Maybe we will yet spot a painted bunting?

Clear skies

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Purple Gallinules and Snowy Egret Blue Eggs

There are two pictures in my mind: first of course is the image of a new bird on our life list, a purple gallinule, second the robin blue color of snowy egrets eggs. One I can share and the other I have but our camera is so poor that it’s hard to see the egg.
We have always wanted to see a purple gallinule but they are a summertime bird here on the coastal bend of Texas, so it was a surprise when the birder mentioned that there were three purple gallinules feeding below the second platform.
We raced there only to miss them and so we went back and forth from viewing platform to viewing platform only seeing common gallinules, (common marsh hens). Another birder stopped to ask us if we had seen any warblers and she told us that the purple gallinules were moving in and out of the cattails.
So we went back and Renita spotted one barely visible in the high reeds. Luckily they both moved out and so we watched them for quite a while, as they moved in and out of the weeds. It’s been a while since we had a new life bird, and to see the bright purple head and iridescent sheen of their bodies was special.
Of course there are other images, a blue indigo flitting in a tree. Another is the bright color of a summer tanager. Of course the sight of hundreds of rosettes and snowy egrets nesting and squawking and fighting for a place on the Rookery comes to mind.
It gives us a glimpse of what a nesting colony of dinosaurs must have been and birds are really dinosaurs that made it through the great extinction. I wondered if the herds of dinosaurs were surrounded by predators just as the Rookery at High Island is surrounded by alligators and gar fish. It’s a noisy place and the dinosaur nests must have been also.

We are often asked if we have favorite places and we have been blessed to have so many. High Island, Texas and the Rookery is definitely one of them! It’s a place we hope to return to again and again. Clear skies

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Every Now and then A blind pig will find an acorn, A great Day Fishing at Matagoda

The winter fishing at Rockport was the worst we have had. I know that our blog seems to radiate positives with images of fish but you don’t see any images of all the fishless days. Blame it on the record cold, seems like a good excuse, as it certainly wasn’t from lack of trying.
So we looked forward to stopping for a few days at one of our favorite places, Matagorda Bay. We hoped for good weather but high winds caused huge waves that prevented us from doing much more than taking walks on the beach,( and of course there is nothing wrong with that).
The forecast was for clearing weather and calmer winds and so we decided to stay for another day and try to do some fishing. We had talked with one fisherman who had landed a nice hammerhead, (bonnethead shark), and even that would have made our stay.
So on Monday morning I got up early and drove to the nearest bait shop. Armed with live shrimp and the mullet I had caught with the cast net let me cover all the bases. As I arrived at the parking lot I saw seven fisherman walking out on the fishing pier and then setting up at my favorite spot.
I still had my second favorite place available and I cast out two poles, one with cut mullet and another with fresh shrimp. I watched the others and they soon had two nice black drum along with several sheepshead. Renita was coming out later and so I cast a sheepshead rig toward the rocks, hoping to find some fish before she arrived.
Three small sheepshead later I decided to save my shrimp and concentrate on the big poles. The one with the shrimp was being pestered by whiting and the mullet was doing nothing. Deciding to try a speckled trout spot I walked back a ways and cast into the first cut.
The slip bobber went down almost immediately and I was fast onto a nice black drum. Stringing the fish up I put on another live shrimp and in less time than It takes to write this I set the hook on a keeper red drum.  Every cast produced a fish and I moved all of my gear out to the new spot.
Renita arrived and watched as I hooked another keeper red and then another nice black drum.After I caught a good flounder she informed me that she had to go back and get her license. That’s usually something that I do, forget my license, so she went back and I kept catching fish.
By the time she got back I had my limit of reds and three nice blacks. The spot we were fishing was only good for one line and so I gave her my pole. Of course she was soon fighting her own fish and added five more nice black drum to the stringer!

Running out of bait we decided we had had enough fun for the day and we walked back to the truck with the best stringer of fish this year. Nothing big mind you, but perfect eating size fish, and thats what we had hoped for before our next stop at Grand Isle. Oh and of course the seashells. Clear skies.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Big Waves at Matagorda, April 2014

We were both surprised when the auto technician walked over and said that we didn’t need to have our bearings repacked. I walked back with him and he showed me how they looked and they looked like they had just been done. I thanked him but still had him check the other wheels, which were also in great shape, (A friend of ours had his bearings burn up and so it’s one of those maintaince things we do every year).
Getting an early start we left Fulton by eight thirty am and headed out to Matagorda Bay. There were plenty of spots available and we quickly parked and set up. It had been a short drive but a windy one, with gusts over thirty miles per hour, and so we rested a bit before going for a walk along the beach.
The waves were too large to fish and so we ended up shelling at one of our favorite shelling beaches. Here we specialize in searching for sundials and whelks with the occasional other shell. They were quite plentiful, which is usually the case when big waves equate with great shelling.
A new sign was up warming about the dangerous riptide and banning swimming! Hopefully people here will heed the signs as we have seen too many recoveries while staying here. It really is one of the most dangerous beaches we have ever been to and I still wonder why you don’t see life jackets or foam rescue boards, (boogey boards at the very least).

So we are going to stay here for a few days and maybe get in some fishing. The park ranger said that redfish, sharks, black drum, and sheephead were all biting. Now if the wind will just cooperate and the sun will come out and the fish will bite…………Clear skies

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Hitch Itch, It time to Head Out Down the Neverending Road

The spring flowers at the Rockport cemetery are in full bloom and so it’s time to head north.
We have enjoyed our time on the Coastal Bend of Texas, but the desire to travel means we will leave Friday and slowly move back to Wyoming. I do stress the word slowly as there is still two feet of snow on our RV lot in Star Valley, Wyoming.
A last day at the lapidary shop was needed with us sawing a last few rocks and even a little grinding and polishing. Our friend and mentor Dick, showed up and we presented him with a wrap of a piece of his Texas plume agate. I enclosed it in silver wire and Renita finished it with a matching kumihemo necklace.
Our friend Mark ordered pizza and so we ate and talked of this year’s plans. Our plans this year are to head to Grand Isle for a few weeks and then spend the summer rock hounding in Wyoming. We also sent in the money for a three day show at the Alpine Wyoming Mountain Man celebration in June and may try to show at another in Pinedale, (along with the artist show in Etna).

So with the goodbyes all said and all the yearly repairs completed on Friday, we will go to Matagorda, High Island, and somewhere in Louisiana. Thanks to all our friends here and thanks for the good times on the Texas Coastal Bend. Clear skies