Monday, March 28, 2016

Whoopers and Beach Time

Our friends Bob and Nancy are here visiting and as it’s their first time on the Texas Coastal Bend we had to take them fishing on the beach and birding at Lamar, (I taught with Bob for thirty years and his wife Nancy was a school guidance counselor).
I knew that Bob wouldn’t have any problem fishing as we had fished walleye tournaments for eighteen years. So it was no surprise to see him out fish me as he caught a nice black drum. My luck was that I was fishing and enjoying my new beach chair, (hard work I know but someone has to do it).
Bob taught science with me and I knew they would also like seeing the whooping cranes of Lamar. Luckily they haven’t left yet and so we were able to see a group of seven juveniles. They have separated from their parents and are hanging out in a typical teenage gang, party time!
In a year or two they will pair up for life and from then on the male will defend his territory. That makes it easy to spot the juveniles as adults would never gather in a group. We watched them as they fed and after a while they grew antsy as one male chased another around the watching females.
Spreading their wings they did several false takeoffs before finally heading into the wind, running a few steps and then lifting off! They, along with the adults, should soon be on their way north to Canada. This time they were probably just flying up the bay to feed on more blue crab.
It should be a good year for the flock as the blue crab are everywhere and whoopers usually have good nesting and egg laying season when they feed on lots and lots of blue crab. There are currently seven hundred birds so let’s hope for lots more chicks when they return next year!

Finally we had to show our friends the famous Big Tree of Texas. It’s over a thousand years old and is an enormous live oak, one of the biggest we have seen anywhere. As an added bonus the wildflowers surrounded the tree adding to the beauty of the day. Clear skies

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Sheephead Harvest Time

“The sheephead are in”, are words that many here have waited to hear. Never mind that many disdain the fish, it’s one of many great eating fish that you can catch in the Gulf waters and one you can catch without a boat. The words mean that the sheep head have come in to spawn and so the local hot spots are crammed full of boats.
The fish can best be described as a crappie on steroids. It’s a fish that can reach up to eight pounds and comes equipped with sheep like teeth that literally crush clams, small crabs, oysters, and any of course shrimp. Now usually any fish that eat what I like to eat is itself great to eat and sheephead are no exception. It’s a white meat that you can fry, bake, or grill and you may even have eaten it without even knowing as it’s sometimes presented in restaurants as a fish called bay snapper.
Luckily I got the chance to fish the old Fina Docks as my friend Dave invited me along. Reaching the decaying structure, one must tie up to the rusted posts, using a rebar hook attached to a shock absorber rope. You can anchor if you want to lose the anchor and if you want to swamp the boat when a large ocean going vessel passes by and throws a large wake!
Hooking on to a jutting piece of the dock we were immediately catching fish. No time to take a sip of coffee, no time, or need for a bite or snack, no time really as every time you drop down your bait a sheephead eats your shrimp. The fish is a hard fighter that circles and dives back down suggesting the size of the fish, before you see it.
The fish in Texas must be fifteen inches long and so as soon as you take it off the hook you must place it on a measuring board before placing it in the cooler. This is no mean feat in itself as the fish is armed with large sharp spines, teeth that will remove fingers, and gill plates that will deeply slice your hand, (My fingers and hands are still aching from the damage the sheephead exacted before their cleaning).

It took us less than two hours to catch our limit, as we caught and released many undersized fish, two hours of frantic action that reminds me of harvesting salmon in Alaska. Now the question is should we fry, bake or grill the fish? Clear skies

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The Gulf Coast Gem and Mineral Society Show 2016.

The doors opened at ten am sharp and a steady stream of gem and mineral enthusiasts flowed in. Soon we greeted our first customers, two ladies who have always stopped by and love our work. By noon the largest crowd had gathered and we greeted all with our usual promise that we could tell a story of each stone even if they didn’t want to hear it.
Still it was a steady flow of people but slower than the first day last year. This allowed me to check out the silent auction table where I was able to bid on several items. I won one, a soapstone Chinese carving of a sow and her piglets. It was what I really wanted as Renita and I are both originally from Iowa, a place with lots of pork!
The second day opened slowly at first, it usually does on a Sunday, but the two ladies returned and asked me to wrap a beautiful Tiffany stone cabochon in sterling silver wire. Another couple returned from Saturday and asked if I could wire wrap a pair of gold tiger eye earrings. There were a present from a bother in law who had passed away and they had been languishing in a desk drawer.
Renita handled the tables as I started working on the tiny stones. The smaller size always makes the wire wrapped more difficult as the short pieces of wire become very hard, making it a challenge to capture and display the beauty of the stone.
An hour and a half later I finished the pair and found the couple sitting in the food court area. Handing her the closed box she opened it and the smile on her and her husband’s faces made our whole show! We have been blessed with the knowledge and ability to work stone and metal and it’s all about making people happy.

The show finally ended and tired we repacked our cases, rocks, and fossils. The show was a success, the best two day show we have ever had, and not only the money but more important the many smiles we had seen on faces! That’s what it’s really all about. Clear skies

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Crabbing On the Mission River

The Mission River is about thirty miles west of us. It enters Mission Bay, where several of our friends had been guided with great success. So we made several trips to the fish the Mission River, a new place for us, trying to learn something about the river and its connecting bay. The first was with our friend Captain John and the other was a shore fishing attempt where the main purpose was to trap crabs for a crab boil.
On the first trip John took us in his boat and we launched at the well maintained boat ramp. Heading up the river we quickly arrived at a place where a set of gates formed a narrow opening, almost like what I would call a wing dam on the Mississippi River.
It looked just like many I had seen near Grand Isle, Louisiana, places where Gary had taken me after speckled trout. Putting on a popping cork and a chartreuse jig I made my first cast and started to work it across the opening. Pausing every few feet the bobber suddenly disappeared and I was on a fish with my first cast! Fighting it in I measured the fish and sure enough it was half an inch short of the keeper slot size. C
Thinking we were really going to catch a lot of fish we all cast and cast but no more trout! Heading downstream we went to our second spot where we anchored and caught red after red, but again they were all small. Roy caught a black drum and again it was just under the legal size.
Being bothered by blue crabs we decided to return another day with crabs traps and nets, hoping for enough to have a crab boil. A few days later four of us arrived armed with chicken necks, smelly dead mullet and high hopes.
Soon we were catching crabs but many were too small. They have to measure five inches across the widest part of the dorsal caprice. As the day wore on they did start to get bigger and we did manage to catch fifteen legal blue crabs. Now if you have ever eaten blue crab you know that fifteen crabs won’t go very far so I called Renita and had her buy shrimp, Cajun sausage, corn on the cob, and red potatoes.

That night we gathered together and before long the pot was a boiling! Half an hour later all was ready and we gathered round to enjoy a taste of south Texas. After demonstrating how to open a cooked crab, everyone dived into the rich crab and shrimp. Life here is about letting the good times roll and a boil is certainly a good time! Clear skies