Sunday, November 25, 2018

The Whoopers are back in Lamar, Fall 2018

The tall bird stood tall over than the nearby sandhill cranes.  The sunlight wasn’t great and so we headed down anther road to get closer to our first whooping crane of the fall season. It was a solitary adult size bird, but we couldn’t see any other white adults or any mixed color fledging, It was probably a two-year-old bird. It didn’t matter as the whoopers were back in Lamar!
Two cold fronts had passed though our area and while our friends up north wouldn’t describe them as “cold”, they kept us inside our fifth wheel. It stopped raining for a bit and we had decided to head over Copano Bay Bridge to see if there whoopers in Lamar. A newspaper had just written an article on the return of some of the whooping cranes to the Aransas National wildlife refuge.
Driving further up St Charles Bay, we stopped at a turnout and spotted another whooper standing on a point that we often kayak to and fish. It was watching two men and a dog working on their duck hunting blind, duck season had started, (one of the reasons we don’t usually kayak on weekends is the noise of the airboats taking duck hunters to and from the blinds).
A little nearer to us Renita spotted one, and then another whooper as they stood on another piece of land. They leaped into the air, beat their wings and landed into a nearby hidden lake. It’s a large lake and contains fish but we don’t kayak there anymore as it also is the home of a very large alligator!
The bird count was four whoopers, four sandhills, a flock of black belied whistling ducks and a single rosette spoonbill. We drove to Big Tree and walked around it, Reita can often hear the distinct call of the whoopers, but she didn’t today, (I can’t unless they are very close). There were a few monarch butterflies in the brush and we mused that perhaps they were some of the same ones we saw in Kansas.
Heading up eighth street we did catch a glimpse of a black crowned night heron adding it to our list, along with pelicans and white egrets that I had forgot to mention. It started to rain and so we returned to our winter home.
Thanksgiving arrived and most everyone gathered for our buffet dinner. Alan and Zita, the park activity directors had smoked, deep fried, and roasted four turkeys, (thank you both)!
The rest of us had signed up for our contributions to the meal and we filled up, but still left some for that nights gathering for the football game. Renita had made her sugar free cranberry sauce and it had also disappeared!
The two days later the wind calmed and so we loaded the kayaks and went fishing to a nearby state park. The sheepshead had been eaten and we wanted to catch some more of the tasty fish. However, when we got to our spot, we caught fish after fish, but they were all too small to keep. Our friend
Terry was fishing nearby in his brand-new kayak and he was catching some keeper size speckled trout!
He kindly invited us over and we and as soon as we got situated Renita caught a fish on her first cast, (speckled trout are called weakfish in Florida due to their soft mouths and so we lost quite a few). Finally, Renita caught our first keeper.
It wasn’t too long before he caught his limit and left. The fish were in a feeding frenzy and small trout were hitting our bobbers! Renita swore that as her cast reached the water a fish had been waiting and took her baited shrimp before the bobber splashed down!
Finally, out of bait, we loaded the fish, Renita had also caught a keeper black drum, and we ended up with six trout and one black drum. I can report that the trout fillets, (a white-meat not unlike walleye), tasted great with the parmesan crusted recipe I had used before! What a busy week! Clear skies

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Cold Walks and Hot Kayak Fishing!

The week started cold and we had a brief snow storm which was really a few flakes of sleet. It was playing havoc on our exercise, but Renita suggested that we take a walk along the parkway that borders the local Walmart. It was a great idea!
We started along the cement pathway and before we got very far, I noticed a white-tailed buck walking directly towards us. The deer down south are much smaller then the ones up north, (smaller mammals do better in high heat and humidity as it’s all about getting rid of excess heat). The larger the animal the better it retains heat with less surface area per volume, so the deer up north are much larger.
The buck didn’t seem bothered by our nearness, but it did step off the trail and head down to a stream where it browsed on some bushes, took drink and then climbed the embankment. It paused and browsed a bit and then disappeared into the thick undergrowth.
A little further a great blue heron waded along, and a cattle egret looked for insects and small reptiles. Small little grey birds flushed from us and one stopped long enough for a quick identification, it was a tiny bird, a definite flycatcher but we couldn’t give it an exact name.
Returning to the path we walked a little further and two does stood up as the same great blue heron sat nearby, stoic on a dead tree branch. The deer didn’t like us bothering them and walked away with one flashing its white tail in warning. The heron also flushed flying and then landing across a small clearing.
The rain returned for another day but then the skies cleared, and it warmed up. The warmth and calm made us think of kayaking and I did a fishing trip just down the road launching at Copano Bay. I caught two nice fish, a sheep head and a redfish but I released them both as they were just a hair small. I do get a charge out of catching any size fish!
The next day Renita and I went to another nearby place and launched the kayaks. We were using live shrimp hoping to catch anything. Our first few casts were fruitless but then I caught a sheepshead near an old piling. The second cast also produced a fish and this one was legal, so it went into our fish net live well.
Paddling close to the pilings and we caught fish on every cast, really! Carefully measuring the fish, no easy feat in a kayak, (sheepshead have very large sharp spines and razor-sharp gill covers), we caught a lot of small fish but occasionally a nice one and the live well filled. Renita caught the largest fish of the day, a seventeen-inch sheepshead!
She also caught the last two keepers of the day. The fish basket/net was so heavy I couldn’t lift it into the back of her kayak and I had to paddle to a nearby oyster bar. Getting out of my kayak I was able to get the fish into the cargo area and it didn’t take long to reach the take-out spot.
It was only a few miles from our winter home and soon Renita and I were cleaning the fish. Most people here do not keep sheepshead, (the locals here prefer red fish and speckled trout. We also eat those fish but Renitas favorite and one of mine is fresh sheepshead, (If you have never caught one the fish are like crappies but on steroids and a twenty-two-inch fish will weigh about eight pounds).
It was the best day we have ever had in our kayaks and we really did have a bite on every cast. Back in the rv park, we shared our bounty with several friends and that night it was all you could eat fresh fish dinner! Clear skies

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Back in Rockport, 2018

We arrived early in Rockport and set up our rig for the winter. The drive had been uneventful and as we entered the area, we noticed that much of the hurricane damage had been repaired. Terry and Evelyne had arrived a few days earlier and Terry had already been fishing.
Renita and I went down to the dock and I threw out my cast net hoping to get some mullet for bait.
The first cast yielded nothing but small jelly fish. Moving a little further out, I made another throw and caught a few nice size mullet. I also caught some pin fish, another good red bait, and so we made plans to go fishing the next day.
Plans change, as does life and the next morning I took Molly out for a walk. She was barely able to walk a few steps and was in pain, so we took her to the vet. The outlook was not good, and we left in tears without her, we both never want to have another dog again.
A few days later I went fishing with Terry and while I caught quite a few fish, none were big enough to keep. Terry had caught several keeper speckled trout, (Terry is amazing when he is fishing for speckled trou), and we decided to go back the next day. Terry again caught several keeper trout, but I was stymied catching lots of undersize reds, sheepshead, and small black drum.
At the last spot I cast out a live shrimp and my bobber slowly started to move. The next moment it disappeared, and I was onto a large fish. During the first run the hook came out, it wasn’t meant to be. Throwing back out to the same spot nothing happened for a bit and then the bobber disappeared.
It was another large fish, perhaps the same one, and it took me awhile to fight the fish in to the shallows. I finally saw that it was a large red and the fish finally tired and I was able to beach it. I did have a measuring tape and the fish measured just under twenty-eight inches, a legal red!
As I had been fighting the fish Terry set the hook on another and he skillfully beached his fish. It was another keeper red, these one twenty-five inches long. Returning to the our rv park we stopped and showed our wives before heading down t the fish cleaning station.
There is nothing like fresh fish for dinner and one fillet was enough for both of us. I made it using the crusted parmesan recipe but I modified the recipe using quite a bit more of the tabasco sauce. It was very good!
Yesterday a strong cold front moved in, with heavy rain, high winds, and temperatures in the fifties. It will be awhile before we go fishing again so any more fishing plans will have to wait. Perhaps a movie is in order!  Clear skies

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Harvest Moon Regatta

We had left Grand Isle and spent the first night at Beaumont. The next day was a short one as Renita had found us a spot at Galveston Island State Park. I don’t like driving through Houston, especially when pulling our fifth wheel, and so we turned off at Winnie and headed to the Ferry at the end of the Bolivar Peninsula.
As we crossed the bay, Renita pointed out the large numbers of sailboats. Looking it up on Google, she found out that the Harvest Moon Regatta was taking place. It’s a race from Galveston to Port Aransas. There are often over two hundred sailboats that race/participate and by the time we had set up at the state park, many had already started to go around the curve of the earth.

If you look closely and blow the images up, you can see that the hulls of some of the boats have disappeared. At the time of Columbus, no one believed that the earth was flat, the real argument was the size of the circumference of the earth and whether Columbus would be able to sail around the world.
There is a formula that tells you how much of the boat disappears, the horizon is the square root of (your height in meters times 13) and it’s a little over one foot for each three miles. Renita had also found out the race had a live web page that showed the names of each boat, the crew, and its current position.
By the time we reached Rockport, the next day many of the boats had beat us by sailing all night using the full moon, (the lead boat averaged 7.9 knots per hour and took less than a day to travel the one hundred and seventy five mile distance).
There was free coffee and doughnuts on Sunday morning and so we arrived as many of the boats were leaving the Port of Aransas, heading back to Houston.
I later mentioned to Renita that we should sell everything, buy a sailboat and travel around the Caribbean, but she didn’t really like the idea. Now maybe she would change her mind if we could find a small pocket cruiser, a type of sailboat that can cross the Atlantic? Clear skies