Monday, February 29, 2016

Tides, Water Levels, and Big Black Drum

We always check two things before we go out for a day on the water, the tide forecasts and the weather. The tide forecast tells us when the water is moving, (fish usually don’t bite when there is no movement). It also helps us to understand the water levels which are also affected by strong fronts which push water in and out of the bays.
A cold front had just passed through and we knew the water levels would be low. Not surprisingly the water was too low to reach the area we wanted to fish. However we did notice large brown muddy swirls as we frightened fish while entering the bay.
Anchoring the boat we decided to fish the swirls and it wasn’t long before Dave hooked a huge black drum. The water was really shallow so the fish could only fight using long hard runs, but Dave knew the tricks to battle this fish’s tactics.
Skillfully working the fish it finally grew tired and I was able to try to net the fish. Now the problem was that the fish was too big for the net! I was barely able to net some of the fish, just enough that using both hands I was able to just hoist the fish aboard. Lifting the fish the net broke in two and Dave held the fish up for a quick picture before he released it back into the bay.
Such giant brood fish are the future of the fishery and are not legal to keep. Usually these giant fish contain parasites they have acquired and wouldn’t be any good to eat anyway. It was a good release and the fish quickly swam away unharmed!

Oh and the fish was forty inches long, about forty pounds! Clear skies

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Rings and Things and More Fishing

I checked the date on the blog and much to my surprise it has been a week since I posted. It’s not that we haven’t been busy, it’s just that I haven’t taken many images. While a fellow friend keeps weekly notes I look at my weekly images and that’s what inspires the story.
We are getting ready for one of our biggest shows and so most of the week has seen us busy finishing up orders and making rings. Lots of rings. Our friends Dave and John both invited me to go fishing and as we were out of fish I quickly accepted both their invites, (as we were out of fish).
Our new style rings have been well received. I learned the process by watching the show, “How It’s Made”. It is amazing, to me anyway, what you can learn on some of those episodes and we also spend time learning from videos on You Tube.
Step one is to select the rough stone, determine the shape, and size, and cutting the preform. Next we dop, (doping a stone involves cementing a stone to a wooden dowel using a special doping wax), the stone to make the rock manageable while grinding on our machines.  We don’t dop larger cabochons, finished semiprecious stones, as we simply hold them in our hands while working the grinding wheels.
Finally we set the stones and then finish grind the whole ring before buffing and polishing the final product. This is an image of rings set in silver using high grade Green Australian Marlborough Chrysophrase, Siberian purple charoite, light green Citron Chrysophrase, and high quality Wyoming Jade.
We are also making some Morenci Turquoise ring and blue stone rings using sodalite, Oregon Holly agate, South African tiger eye, and Namibian blue lace agate. We won’t get all of these done but that’s ok as we will have some new pieces for our summer shows.
As to the fishing, well we had to buy some fish at the fish monger so it was definitely time to get out again. From the images I post you may think we always catch fish, and while we usually do the fish are often too small to keep. I went out for two days and caught lots of small fish with John and Dave, before scoring with a limit of black drum.
Finally I must mention the daily ritual called happy hour. Our friends all gather together at four pm, some with a glass of wine or beer but not all, and discuss our day’s activities. The group usually averages fifteen to twenty and it’s going to grow in size as Renita’s sister Pam and her husband Roy are arriving next week!

Clear skies

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

A Days Birding In Port Aransas

We hadn’t yet been birding on Mustang Island and so when Renita mentioned this we packed a lunch, loaded up everything we needed, and made the drive to Port Aransas. Upon our arrival at the first birding area, Charley’s Pasture, we realized we had forgotten our binoculars, (note to self-bring binoculars when birding).
Still we had our cameras and telephoto lenses so we could still view the birds, just not as easily. As we started to walk the trail at Charley’s Pasture it was immediately apparent that the lack of rain had turned the area into a giant muddy salt flat. Still we walked the Salt Island Overlook Trail but the birding left much to be desired.
Our next stop was at Paradise Pond which is a small marsh/waterhole in a hidden tree protected bird sanctuary. It’s usually a good spot to pick up some warblers, night herons, and even a bittern. Much to our surprise we saw that most of the trees had been removed!
Instead of roosting night herons we saw bulldozers, tractors and trucks. Instead of trees we saw graded piles of sand. The curse of the coast, developers, has descended on the area and with the cities blessing. We did read the signs that replanting would take place. So perhaps I am being harsh but birds also need a place to call home.
Our last stop was at the Leonabelle Turnbull Birding area near the water treatment plant. The parking lot was overflowing as it was President’s Day, but the place saved our day of birding. As soon as we walked out on the boardwalk we were treated to a green heron poised ready to strike at the first sign of the marsh’s buffet lunch!
Two alligators, did I say large, lay in the mud pretending to be sleeping but Renita caught one opening its eyes. Perhaps it was waiting for a handout or perhaps manna from heaven, (a birder from above)? Continuing along the boardwalk roseate spoonbills displayed, (it’s soon to be breeding season), American white pelican’s rested, and common gallinueles walked atop the marsh plants.
Black necked stilts, sandpipers and plovers all entertained us, oblivious to the clicking cameras and soft whispers. Northern shovelers, green winged teal, and mottled ducks all added to the raucous bird frenzy. The days birding was saved!
Returning to the truck we talked about how unique the area is and how we look forward to next month’s migrating spring arrivals, in all their gaudy breeding plumage. Spring time is arriving here and the birding is always special as it’s also the time for migration fallouts. A friend in Corpus Christi told us the hummingbirds have already started to arrive.

Oh and one last thing, save places for the birds! Clear skies

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Fishing, Taking a Break from the Rocks, (Mostly)

It’s been an extremely busy week as we decided to take a break from jewelry and rocks and spend some time on the water. Well we did go to the rock shop and saw a piece of dinosaur bone and I did make a few rings while Renita braided more kumihimo necklaces, but we did take a long break for us.
Last Sunday we drove to a new place, along the Mission River boat dock. Our friend John told us it was a great place to catch some nice bait fish, finger size mullet. As soon as we arrived we watched as another angler threw his cast net and caught a bunch of bait. It took me a while to remember how to throw the net but before long we were filling our bait with nice size mullet.
Baiting our poles we threw out and immediately started to be bit by blue crabs. In fact as fast as we threw out we caught more crabs and so the fish didn’t stand a chance to even find our lines. Still it was a good day and we have enough bait for a few weeks.
The next day John invited Dave and I to go out and fish along the intracoastal. Putting in at Goose Island State Park we made about a fifteen minute run but the black drum had moved to deeper water.  A big cold front had passed and the water temperature had dropped to fifty eight so the fish were in a coma.
We tried several spots and did find a bunch of small reds so we all caught reds, which always makes for a good day. Still it would have been nice to eat some redfish on a half shell, but not yet. In consolation Renita and I did latter stop at a fish monger and bought some fresh mahi-mahi. If you have never had them grilled and love eating fish you are really missing out on a treat.
Two days later John took Ed and myself fishing to the North Jetty and the Fina Dock near Port Aransas. There were quite a few boats at the North Jetty and I did catch an undersize sheep head but the swells were a bit unsettling for our stomachs and so we headed back into the pass.
Stopping near the Fina docks I missed a fish but everything then shut off and so we decided to try some new places. We caught some small speckled trout in the sailboat channel, before finally catching a few keepers in a place we call the Carbon Plant. One nice speckled trout and one sheep head were not enough for a meal but at least we had covered a lot of water and actually caught a few larger fish.
So it was a good week with lots of quality time with Renita and friends. We still have a few weeks before our big show at the Gulf Coast Gem and Mineral show in Robstown, Texas. Plenty of time for more fishing and maybe a little time to make some more of our new rings. Oh and Happy Valentine’s Day!

Clear skies

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Blue lagoons Arts and Craft Show 2016

Every year, upon our arrival here, we organize a private Art and Crafts Show. We call it the Show and Tell and Maybe Sell Show as the main purpose is to show the off the work of the talented people in our small park. It also allows the crafters to meet and connect.
Now it never draws everyone that crafts here, but it does draw out enough to make it a fun time. For us it kind of a practice set up for our big show next month. It also allows us to show our friends our work and we do sell a little.
This year we had several new people! Joe set up a neat display of his old glass outdoor lights and his unique earrings, (made from gar scales and the inner ear bones of redfish! Kathy also set up a table displaying her knitting projects and blouses.
Pat of course showed her quilting and all the baby blanket quilts she had made in the past year. Jim demonstrated wire wrapping, (we taught him), and he made a beautiful set that I am not going to show or tell as they are destined to be gifts.
Diane also displayed her unique Christmas light bottles, her knitting scarfs, and some really pretty beaded bracelets. As usual we didn’t do much advertising and so we had a small crowd, but it was enough to keep busy as we explained what we do.

Oh and Joe and his gar scale earrings, he was the hit of the show and sold out! Thank you to all the crafters and to the people that viewed everyone’s work. Thanks also to Blue Lagoons for allowing us to let us show. Clear skies

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Another Day in St Charles Bay

There were reports that the sheep head have moved in, (salt water species), at least large numbers of big fish had been seen nearby. Hearing this we decided to fish some places where the fish used to be routinely caught.
The wind was supposed to pick up so we planned on a short day. Our plan was to only paddle a few places as we didn’t want to have to return against a strong headwind. Launching our kayaks we quickly arrived at our first spot. Casting out live shrimp we waited for the tell tail bite.
Nothing happened, it was obvious that the fish weren’t there, so we pulled our anchors and headed into a short cut. It’s a place where we have had some success in the past and it’s usually full of night crowned herons.
Entering the cut the absence of the night crowned herons became obvious. Recently increased human activity on the shore must have disturbed the birds. Perhaps they had simply been flushed or perhaps they had moved on to another roosting spot.
As we entered the cut two whooping cranes flew overhead. The white birds, with black tipped wings and long trailing legs slowly winged to a nearby meadow. Of course we didn’t have the camera out as we get cautious with cameras on the water.
Shortly after a pair of bright pink rosette spoonbills also flew overhead and added to our birding delight. Dropping our anchors and casting out we watched as the whoopers returned to the back bay. Driving by the field near the launch we had spotted it already occupied by another pair and whoopers stake out and defend a large territory.
Soon our poles started to draw fish but they were all small. Black drum and redfish were at the spot but they were all too small to keep. We usually use circle hooks and so the undersized fish were all returned and safely swam away.
All though we were in a protected bay, we were able to see the tree tops sway as the wind picked up. Calling it a day we headed out of the cut, right into a strong headwind. The waves were just starting to white cap and so we labored slowly back to the takeout.

It’s always a fun day paddling, after all we are retired, and only launch on nice days. It didn’t matter that the fish had all been small as we had had fun being entertained by birds, small fish, and a picnic on the water. Every day is a blessing! Clear skies