Monday, December 26, 2022

Catching Mullet for Bait, Throwing a Seven Foot Cast Net

I had been casting a smaller cast net for almost fifteen years. The problem with a small net is that it doesn’t sink fast enough to catch bait. In deeper water the mullet swim fast enough to swim out from the net. To remedy this I decided to buy one seven feet in diameter. The problem now was that the seven-foot net has heavier weights and is a lot more difficult to throw(age?). Wanting to learn I did what everyone else does, by googling how to throw a large cast net and I came up with several videos. The first one that came up was the most popular. Perhaps it was because the teacher was so good but perhaps it was also because she was wearing a very small bikini.
I am sure she did a good job of teaching the technique, but it didn’t show me the step-by-step directions I needed, so I went down the list and found one that was less distracting. Armed with the video on my phone I went outside to practice. Not getting a perfect pancake, I continued to practice until I got an ok one. The next day I went out and practiced until I threw a consistent pancaked net. By then my back was sore from the heavy weights on the net. It was two more days before the wind calmed down and the mullet reappeared next to our rv park’s dock. Renita and Dave, accompanied me and with the mullet swimming toward me I made my first cast. Success. I had six mullet in my first throw! Dave helped me to measure them, (while Renita took pictures), and we released the larger mullet. All mullet twelve inches and larger must be returned live. The reason for this is that’s it’s the spawning season and so it ensures the future of the fish. It was a regulation that was adopted due to some people netting the mullet for their roe. The roe is supposed to be good sauteed in butter and when in Florida we had watched as fishermen were throwing twelve and even fourteen-foot nets.
Almost immediately two other friends showed up, a great blue heron and a snowy egret. It only took two throws to harvest all the mullet we needed. Two days later the severe cold front came through and all fishing was closed. At least we now have enough frozen bait to last for a while, (we primarily use cut mullet for redfish)! Clear skies.

Saturday, December 17, 2022

The Coastal Bend Fly-in, Rockport Texas 2022

We were alarmed when the first plane thundered over our house! Going outside we watched as a World War Two vintage bomber shook us and then a series of trainers and biplanes made passes overhead.
I quickly got my camera ready, but it was to no avail as the planes would quickly appear and then disappear in the open gaps of the live oak trees.
We learned that a fly in was happening, and it included many planes from the Commemorative Air Force, (once called the Confederate Air Force)! The weather was supposed to be good for the second day of the air show and so we planned on spending the next day trying to get some decent photos. After all, there is little difference between the birds we normally photograph and the metal birds in the show, right.
The next day the planes stared to buzz our rv park by nine am and so we headed to the local airfield. Normally the airfield is pretty quiet except for the touch and go landings of military pilots in training and the arrival of privately owned aircraft. The show was free, and the parking was close enough that it was a short walk, but a van stopped and offered us a courtesy ride, (they probably saw our silver hair).
Entering the main gate, the planes were arranged on the tar mac and some even had tables where you could pay for a ride on a vintage aircraft. It cost from one hundred to four hundred dollars for a flight, depending on the plane, (We passed it up as neither of us relished flying on a plane that was , in some cases eighty seven years old).
Renita took lots of pictures of the planes on the ground and I tried to concentrate on the planes during the flight part of the show.
It was a little hazy with some clouds and so the ground pictures turned out the best.
Among the planes were several biplanes including a PT Stearman, a submarine naval search plane, several cargo and passenger transport planes and a B-25 that was adorned with the name and image of The Texas Rose! one of the books I had just read told of the air raid on Germany’s ball bearing plants. There over three hundred planes had thundered in at low level, before dropping their bomb loads.
There was even an experimental aircraft with a futuristic design that included a rear propeller and was also available for rides, (we also passed up on that one). A last treat was the appearamnce of a Coast Guard Rescue Helicopter! The helicopter had landed to refuel and ended up giving a demostration of how a person is uoloaded from the sea. Well done Coasties!
It was a fun morning! Clear skies

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

More Whooping Cranes with Fred and Becky

Our friends Fred and Becky came down to our area for two days of bird watching. They spent the first day at the Leorna Turnbill birding center. The next morning they drove over to our place for a morning of whooping crane watching in Lamar. Luckily the birds put on great displays, including a tricolor heron that was tempting a very large alligator. Both were on the lawn besides a blue house. We wondered how many birds that gator has eaten and suspect that the people living in the house don’t have a dog or cat.
We saw our first whooping cranes along Eighth street. A family group was close, but we could also see another threesome watching a feeder.
The first group was the most fun to watch as four sandhill cranes flew low over the whoopers and the male spread his wings in a threat display.
The colt, the young mottled brown and white whooper, spread its wings emulating the parent. The sandhills didn’t care and landed anyway but did keep a little distance from the large birds.A bit latter a plague, (flock) of grackles landed near them and the colt decided he would chase them away. The adults ignored the grackles but the young whooper knew he could win a fight against the small birds.
On the shore of a small pond Renita spotted and photographed a rosette spoonbill.
As we watched the birds a Swainson’s hawk landed on a power line pole. It was the same one we had spotted on our previous trip. Driving over to Big Tree three cara caras put on a display atop the live oaks.
The first two almost looked like they were nesting but we alter decided it was just a nest like tree branch. A little further another cara cara, (also called a Mexican Eagle and can be found in bird books grouped with falcons), stood proud on top of another live oak tree.
It posed and allowed us to get some great pictures, before flying away with the other two. Along the shorefront a great blue heron posed, we love it when they pose, and the usual Franklyn gulls dominated the posts.
A brown pelican landed on a pier, left over from a dock washed away by Hurricane Harvey. We did get one last treat as a third family group flew over the first one and the ones on the ground stretched their necks straight up and made a loud warning. Whoopers are very territorial and often get into fights. The flying group did not land and continued flying to a back bay.
A great day of birding had to end as it was a hot humid day and Fred and Becky’s dog rough, named from the brown Cajun mixture of butter and flour, was suffering from the conditions. We had planned on going to a local restaurant, but they left early. Renita and I decided to eat out and we shared a shrimp and sweet potatoes fries basket. Clear skies

Sunday, December 4, 2022

Lamar's Whoping Cranes, December 2022

Saturday morning means breakfast with our friends. As usual we went to our favorite Mexican restaurant, where Renita ordered an omelet and I had a Huevos con Marchacado, (eggs with dried meat) Mexicana, (tomatoes and jalapenos). Usually we go shopping, but today we headed over to Lamar for a morning of birding. Our friends Roy and Mary Lou told us that they had seen three whooping cranes next to the blue house and we knew just where they meant!
As we drove by the Blue House, we were surprised to see seven Whooping Cranes, Three were a family group with a colt, a brown mottled juvenile whooper, Three appeared to be second year cranes, and another a dominant male which chased and harassed the family.
He finally harassed them so much that they flew away.
They really didn’t go very far as they had been waiting for a deer feeder to dispense its corn. Leaving the scene we headed further, to eight street where we spotted another five of the largest cranes. Three were a family group, with another mottled colt, and two were a pair without any young ones.
As we watched, we noticed two sandhill cranes in the foreground and a great egret near a distant pond. Two gadwalls fed while a plague of boat tailed grackles cavorted in a grassy area.
Red winged blackbirds were also in abundance and a flock of rock doves landed in a distant tree.
We saw a Swainson’s hawk land on a telephone pole and after taking its picture we next spotted a vermillion flycatcher sitting on its tree top perch.
Every so often it would launch itself in the air, catch a bug and then back to the perch. After driving to Big Tree, we saw another feasting flycatcher, this one was an eastern phoebe.
From there we drove to the beach where a willet and a lesser yellowlegs fed for underwater crustaceans. Gulls were everywhere and one, a Franklins gull refused to move from its spot. So, we got a great image!
Driving up fourth street we saw that one of the family groups of whooping cranes had flown to a feeder that must have just gone off. The birds know when the feeder are timed to go off. Once you learn this you can be almost guaranteed to spot the magnificent birds.
Heading back home we drove along the Fulton beach road.
On one of the docks a tricolored heron walked away afraid we would try to get its breakfast. However, neither of us care for fresh rat and so we let it go on its way. If you look closely, you can see that it is preparing to swallow it head first…
It was a great morning of whooping cranes, other birds and another appreciation of how important the birds are as they keep down the rodent population. Clear skies, and may your day be rat free!

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Renitas new personal record, an oversize black drum

Imagine catching a fish that is one third of the size of your boat. Imagine the large fish pulling your boat even though you have two anchors down. Further imagine a fish that nearly spools your reel which is loaded with one hundred and fifty yards of twenty-pound test braid. Oh, and you have a small net…. Last week Renita had caught a twenty-nine inch black drum, her salt water personal best, (although she had caught a forty inch northern and a thirty inch walleye in fresh water). It was only a matter of time before she finally hooked into a monster black drum, one over thirty inches. Her time was yesterday as we fished/kayaked a local bay. She had cast her shrimp near the end of pilings left over from a hurricane destroyed pier. It sat there for a while and then slowly started to move. She was using a number three/ought circle hook under a slip boober, and as the fish moved it hooked itself, (You don’t want to set the hook when using circle hooks).
The fish took off on a long run which didn’t stop. There’s not much you can do with a large fish until it stops its run, hoping it doesn’t spool your reel. Luckily the fish stopped it run. It had settled in deeper water and Renita started to gain line. I had our kayaks connected and anchored but the ten foot boats had been pulled off our spot. Reeling down and then pulling her rod tip up she gained a foot and then another. The fish took off on another short run before it again stopped and she was able to start the process all over again. Now we both wondered if the line would hold, if the pole would break, or if the fish would find a snag, forcing her to break it off, (much of the bottom here is covered with sharp oyster reefs with areas of sand and mud). Gaining more line, the fish decided to try another tactic as it headed towards the nearest barnacle covered pilings. Putting more pressure on the fish and at the last minute, Renita was able to turn it and it swam into open water. The final part of the fight was to bring the fish to the boat, where it tried another tactic, snagging the line on our anchor ropes.
As the fish swam around us, both of our kayaks were twirling like a pair of whirling dervishes. Now it was a question of who would tire first, her or the fish. The bobber appeared and we spotted the fish near my kayak. Knowing that I had to head the fish I was able to slip the net partway down the fish and hoist it besides my yak! It was picture time and Renita kept it in the water while I snapped several photos. She passed the net to me, and I lifted the fish into my kayak, nearly swamping my boat. Trying to straighten out the fish, I measured it. It was still curved, and it measured over thirty-five inches, a twenty two plus pound fish. Texas has a slot limit for black drum. To keep one, it must measure from twenty to thirty inches. One fish over fifty-four inches can also be kept. This ensures the brood stock remains for reproduction. The fish immediately swam down, a great release! We fished some more and ended up catching four black drum and one speckled trout, (mine were the smallest ones. Which Renita pointed out as she told her fish story). I felt proud for her after the outstanding job she had done catching the big fish! Well done Renita! Clear skies

Friday, November 25, 2022

Renita's new personal best, a large black drum!

One of the things that has been missing from our blog is a fishing story. That is no longer the case as the weather has finally cooperated. Wednesday the wind calmed down, the temperature warmed up, and it finally quit raining, so Renita and I decided to head out to one of our favorite spots.
As we reached the parking lot, we saw that the fishing pier was full of people! Not only that they were fishing where we liked to fish. Still, we were able to find a spot. Baiting our hooks with live shrimp, we watched as others caught fish after fish and soon Renita had a nice one on, a nineteen -inch sheepshead, (for our freshwater friends this is an ocean fish. It fights like a bluegill, but her fish was about four pounds).
It was my turn next but after netting the fish I goofed up and let the fish jump from the net into the water. I finally caught another one and added it to the stringer. Our stringer was away from everyone and so as I fumbled with the fish a fisherman ran over to me and said, “Your wife has a big fish on and needs help!” It turns out she had yelled for help, but I had removed my hearing aids and didn’t hear her. The fish had made a run under the pier and was on the other side. Her drag was set light and she could not gain any line. Now I thought it was a big sheepshead but when she finally got it to the net it turned out to be a large black drum! Measuring the large fish, it was 29.5 inches, we were able to keep it as the slot limit here is 20-30 inches in length. It is the largest black drum she has ever caught! She fought it expertly and managed to keep it from wrapping around the barnacle encrusted pilings. Well done! We weren’t the only ones catching fish, others were also catching sheepshead, and speckled trout. One lady was catching trout on almost every cast. I put a jig on and caught several myself, but they were sixteen and a half inches in length, (the slot size here is seventeen to twenty-three inches) so we returned them to the water.
Meanwhile Renita caught another keeper sheepshead and missed several more. I also missed and lost fish, I think I had too large a hook. To add to our problems, I had left all the leaders I had tied up back at the rv park. The fish finally quit biting, it was a good thing, as our bucket was barely large enough for our five keepers. It had been a crazy two hours and we were out of bait, (we had only bought a pint of live shrimp). Not far from us another group caught and landed a forty plus inch black drum, (probably a forty five pound fish). It was a huge fish and they released it after they took pictures. The oversize fish are the spawing population and you can only keep one over fifty-four inches). After cleaning our fish, the final question was how to cook them for dinner. Should we coat them with beer batter, sauté them in a lemon cream sauce, or bake them in a parmesan crusted coating? This time beer batter won out. The fish were so large that we only cooked one sheepshead, two fillets, and we could barely eat all of that! Clear skies She has caught larger redfish, a thirty inch walleye, and a forty inch northern, but this was her largest black drum. I can't wait to see what happens when she hooks into a giant black drum while in her kayak, (we always put out our anchors to keep from being drug out to sea!

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

A Red Shouldered Hawk and the Houston Gem and Mineral Show

Yesterday, our friend Jane knocked on our door. She told us there was a large hawk perched on a post next door. Assembling our camera, with the Sigma 150-600 mm lens, I followed her out and after help I finally spotted the beautiful bird.
We were sure it was a red shouldered hawk, and while we have taken pictures of one before, we have never had one pose so close for so long. It repeatedly turned it’s head giving us profile after profile and looked at us face on. Moving to another spot, we used their truck to hold the camera steady and continued to take more images. Dave asked me if I had taken enough and laughed when I said I had only snapped a little over one hundred pictures< In one photo I caught the hawk blinking.
Instead of an upper and lower eyelid they have a third eyelid called a nictating membrane. It keeps their eye moist and clean, like we do. In some birds it also protects the eye and allows them to see when they are underwater, (like a kingfisher).
The wind was blowing strong and at one point almost blew the bird off its perch. It’s feathers had been puffed up, it’s a cold forty five here, and so it decided to take off for a better spot.
I forgot to zoom out as it got antsy and so my flight pictures were not the best but still the detail was great! We also traveled to Houston to see our cousin Angie and her husband Pete. We stayed with them and attended to the Houston Gem and Mineral Show. Pete is a retired geologist and also collects specimens so we all enjoyed the show and made purchases.
Checking out all the booths/tables, we found several rocks we did not yet have. One type of Jasper is called a Dalmatian jasper, another a fossiliferous crinoid marble,
and a third was a black nephrite jade from Australia, (the Australian Jade was given to us by Angie who had found it while cleaning out her Dad’s house).
We also looked for a pectolite called larimar, which is only found in the Dominican Republic.
Its an expensive rock and has multiple hardness areas making it difficult to cut. Not finding any rough we broke down and bought five, very expensive cabochons, (they will probably end up as Christmas presents and will not be sold). Besides rocks we went out to eat including at a place that advertised the World’s best chicken fried steak, (I still think the one I ate in Hondo, Texas is the best)! As always we had a wonderful time with Angie and Pete, thanks for the invite! Clear skies