"Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore."
-André Gide






Sunday, May 30, 2010

Mud and Steroids

Sometimes you have to get a little dirty...


to catch fish.




Thursday, May 27, 2010

Redemption

Chris has a tough time as of late hooking and landing fish, especially with topwaters. Ever since he replaced the rusty hooks on his trusty skitterwalk he hasn't landed a single fish on top. This morning he broke the new hook curse and landed one of his first topwater redfish of the year.





Chris with an Upper Slot Redfish






Stylin'


Coneheads


Coolin' Off

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

More Video

In this video Chris sneaks up on an oversized redfish with it's back out of the water. He made three casts in front of this fish's nose with his fly before it finally spooked. The fish barrels into my kayak and gets me all muddy and wet. What you don't see in the video is after I start paddling I hear a huge thud and realize that the fish is stuck underneath my kayak because we're so shallow. I grab my net and poke around under my kayak and the fish shoots off down the marsh pushing a wake the entire time. I've had many reds swim underneath and bump my kayak but I've never had a red get stuck underneath my boat before. I was completely shocked, so please excuse my language.



Chris spooks another red...

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Testing New Waterproof HD Video Camera

This morning I got to test out our team's new waterproof HD video camera. I apologize for the shakiness and poor quality. It's going to take some practice learning how to film while trying to catch fish; I'm determined to improve. All the pictures and video posted below were taken on the new camera, a Sanyo Xacti XPC-CA9EX. I'm pleasantly suprised with this video camera. It takes excellent video as well as photos and the sound quality is great. It has more megapixels and a better optical zoom than my previous waterproof digital camera. I would also like to thank our sponsor Yak-Gear for providing the cameras and supporting our team.

Fishing was a little slow this morning. I found about a half dozen schools of reds but I had to cover lots of water (13 mi+) to find them. The fish were not concentrating on any structure, just free swimming in marsh ponds in water 1'-2' deep. The key to finding schools was to keep moving and look for birds hovering over a particular spot. All the fish I found were underneath birds. The birds also made things difficult by keeping the schools on edge and constantly moving. Topwaters were the bait of choice.















Sunday, May 16, 2010

Where It All Began

Whoever said addiction is a bad thing never sat in a plastic boat.

I will be the first to admit I had no idea what I was getting myself into when my hindquarters touched polyethylene for the first time. Little did I know that day would be the planting of a seed. A seed that has been obsessively nurtured into what it has grown to today.

It all began with one simple post by my good friend Sam (Leviathan). Leading up to this point we had been on a mission to find areas where we could throw artificial lures and catch fish. We searched near and far, public and private, looking for likely localities. We yearned to become better anglers and catch fish on artificial lures, something we had only read about online and in print. He asked a basic question looking for an area where we could wade and hopefully catch a fish or two in the process.

The first post… http://www.texaskayakfisherman.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=49275

Sam’s plea for assistance was immediately noticed and met with overwhelming acts of kindness. Within minutes (7 minutes to be exact) after he made the seemingly innocent request for information, he already received a reply with an offer to loan him a kayak and an open invite to hit the water. Sam being the tactful friend that he is, refused to leave me stranded on the bank while he paddled off into the sunrise, reluctantly decline. Shortly thereafter (within an hour and a half), he received an additional act of benevolence in the form of another kayak, this time for me, his stranded companion.

Now all Sam needed to do was convince me to come along for the ride, not an easy task. Sam gave me a call and asked if I would partake in the festivities. After a little hesitation, I hastefully agreed to tag along.

Two days later I shoved myself and kayak off a shoreline that consisted of trampled shell and silt. I had never paddled a craft of any kind and never met a single person from this forum. I wouldn’t be portraying an accurate description of the events of that day if I failed to admit I was a little nervous and intimidated when we arrived at the launch spot that damp morning. As my paddle blade ruptured the water’s surface for the first time in my existence, excitement trumped all other emotions. Not only did these complete strangers not bite, but they were eager to share their expertise and tackle.

Our first kayak trip… http://www.texaskayakfisherman.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=49361

The fishing results of that day were irrelevant; everyone had fun in the presence of others that shared a common interest, a love for fishing and the outdoors. I grew up fishing the saline waters around the Galveston Bay Complex, but kayak fishing uncovered a completely new realm. A plastic paddle craft would allow me to fish anywhere and everywhere, the possibilities were endless. I wanted a kayak desperately and immediately.

After that first trip the thought of kayaking the Texas Coast consumed my mind. I perused countless reports of kayak fishing success stories daydreaming about the day I would be able to do the same. I read reviews about kayaks trying to single out the one that would suit my needs and fishing style. I even attended a few demos trying to narrow down my selection, not knowing when, if at all, I would be able to purchase a kayak of my own.

Five months later, after transferring to Texas State and moving to San Marcos and working long hours all semester to save up enough money, I purchased my first kayak ever, a WS Tarpon 160i. I still remember the fervor I felt strolling out of my local kayak shop after purchasing my new kayak. A feeling akin to a teenager after being handed the keys to their first vehicle, I was bubbling with zeal and anticipation.

But any lingering ardor swiftly vanished. It would be months before I could give my novelty its proper baptism. And, if that wasn’t enough, the commencement was rough. In the beginning, I had more than enough encounters with the solid black and white-striped, furry animal to make anyone in their right mind reevaluate whether they picked the appropriate pastime.

Since that humid, drizzly summer day nearly four years ago, I’ve logged a few thousand hours kayaking. I’ve been all over the state of Texas and up and down our entire coastline from Port Isabel to Sabine. I’ve landed innumerable quantities of fish, and had many indelible experiences. I’ve been in places rarely seen by civilization and never seen by power boaters. I’ve met countless first-class individuals. I’ve encountered nature in its purest form, raw and undeveloped. And I’ve had a fantastic time in the process. Every year seems improve on its predecessor. New adventures and new acquaintances are frequent headlines, each one exceeding all imaginable expectations. Without this board none of this would have been possible, and I am frightened of the thought of my life sans kayak.

But, my motivation for this post is not one of narcissistic enrichment or to put myself in the limelight. I wrote this to give thanks to those of you on this board that helped foster my seed (addiction) to what it has grown to today, especially Robert (UofHYaker) and Jeremy (jhjspecks). Not sure if either one of them still lurk this board, but if so, I would like to express my sincerest gratitude for inviting me and Sam on our first trip. Thanks for the kind gesture in loaning kayaks and openly sharing information with the two of us. I would also like to show my appreciation to everyone else (Mythman, scuppersancho aka Fin-Addict, GulfCoastRods, DelSol, MEDICMAN1838, whymel) that made our first trip possible. Thanks for showing us “newbies” the hospitality that TKF is notorious for.

A majority of the people I fish with these days I have met somehow directly or indirectly through this site. A few people I would also like to thank directly are Vincent and Crank-B8, among others, who always posted well-written and informative reports and motivated me to do the same. Thanks to Slowride, Blesker, and others for posting so many beautiful and scenic pictures that inspired me to not only write about my adventures but also chronicle them through photography.

I would also like to thank Windknot Flies for a piece he posted nearly a year and a half ago about his experience one morning on the beautiful waters of the Upper Laguna Madre. The story he articulate with words is what inspired me to write to begin with. The day I read his story I figured I would try my hand at grammatical puzzle-making, and wound up writing the very first piece of literary work I had ever written. After that piece I began to write about anything and everything, trying to enhance my syntax and vocabulary.

Inspiration… http://www.texaskayakfisherman.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=104321

My first piece… http://castingtales.blogspot.com/2010/04/fishermans-addiction.html

I was also like to thank the whole Ocean Kayak crew: Clint (bogdog), Vincent (vincent), Sam (Sam), etc. for showing me the ropes around Galveston and letting me tag along on various fishing trips, especially Clint for being so benign with his knowledge and possessions. I can only dream to acquire the wealth of knowledge these “old salts” possess from their years of experience here on the Texas coast.

I vividly remember the courtesy and compassion that has been directed my way over the last four years. I try to remember to return the favor. Sure, sometimes I get caught up in my egocentric pursuits, but I try not to forget that in the end it’s all about having fun and sharing experiences with others.

With that said I am going to make a concerted effort to take more novice kayak anglers out on the water this year and share the hospitality that I have been exposed to personally. I have introduced my fair share of people to the sport, but I think I could definitely do a better job. I just moved back to the Houston area and will be job hunting, so anybody who wants to make a trip around the Galveston Bay Complex give me a shout. I will also be advertising solo trips more frequently with an open invitation to anyone. This invite goes out to all: young and old, novice and veteran alike.

Our First Kayak Fishing Excursion July 3, 2006 (Sam on the left and me on the right)

Photo Courtesy of DelSol

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Adventure, Heartbreak, and Reality

Six days without the creature comforts of civilized life: a shower, a comfortable bed, or air conditioning. Emancipated from the constraints and obligations of urban existence. Camping literally in the middle of nowhere on a barren island infested with coyotes and mosquitoes. Living freely among the elements of Mother Nature, which includes wind, heat, and hard surfaces. Surviving on what supplies fit within the hatches and tankwell of a plastic paddle craft.

When most people think of adventure they probably don’t envision what I just described, but when I first heard rumblings of a camping trip on the pristine waters on the Lower Laguna Madre the news sounded like an adventure to me.

I’ve recently become familiar with the hypersaline lagoon of the Lower Texas Coast and have come to adore its remarkable and limitless fishing possibilities. There are not many places you can go on the Texas Coast, or even the Gulf Coast, and catch such a wide variety of species within the confines of single geographic area. On this particular trip we were able to catch seven different species including Snook, Redfish, Speckled Trout, Black Drum, Jack Crevalle, Ladyfish, and even a Mullet.

Every time I leave the area I’m anxiously anticipating my next trip down south. It reminds me of my childhood days subsequent to Christmas when the novelties of my new possessions wore off. I would start to count down the days until the next arrival of Santa, bearing with him new gifts. The grown-up version of this scenario doesn’t involve a mythical being, and I’m not waiting for new toys to play with. I’m looking for more divine offerings: tranquility, companionship, and good fishing.

After hearing the preliminary proposal, my first response was one of haste and anticipation: Where do I sign up?

You really don’t appreciate the comfort of a cushioned surface until you’ve had to sleep on unlevel, rigid land with only a towel for support and dirty clothes as pillow. Or, the luxury of shelter, shade, and a/c until you’ve awaken from the wind rocking the architectural structure of your lodging or you've woke up sunburned and drenched from lying in puddle made up of your own sweat. I knew it was going to be an arduous trip but I believe the allure of adventure is what intrigued me.

I hadn’t been camping in years, and me and John both had never camped more than one night using our kayaks as a means for transportation. To say that we were in over our heads was an understatement to say the least.

Day 1 (5/4):

I had class late Monday night, so by the time I loaded up and made it to Harlingen to meet up with John it was nearly 4:00am. I had been watching the weather closely, and I knew Tuesday was going to be an excellent day to be on the water. Shortly after arriving we decided to load up and hit the road to try to fish the dawn hours. Plan was to paddle out to the general area where we planned on camping and stash our gear until we had enough of the heat or when the fishing came to a halt.

After a couple of pit stops to load up on supplies we arrived in the area we planned on launching. We ran into our first of a series of problems. The place we originally planned to launch from didn’t allow overnight parking. We had no idea where we could safely leave our vehicle overnight. We burned up a couple of hours asking a few of the locals where we could launch from safely. After finally securing a launch site we loaded up our kayaks with all the supplies we would need to survive six days out in the wilderness without having to come back in for reinforcements. We ran into our second quandary. The weight of our kayaks loaded down with six days worth of provisions was overbearing. We couldn’t even lug our kayaks a few feet before having to take a rest, how were we supposed to paddle all that mass two miles safely?

After much deliberation we decided to lighten our loads and make two trips, which put us at six miles worth of paddling before we even had a chance to fish. We decided to leaving our fishing gear and other small but cumbersome supplies and focus on transporting the necessities for setting up camp and survival.

We ran into our third problem after making the two mile trek. We had no idea where we were going to set up camp. We both had been in this area numerous times before but we had no idea where the best place to camp would be, so we began examining areas we scouted on Google Earth. Most of the place we inspected weren’t fit for base camp for one reason or the other: the ground was too muddy, there was a lack of privacy, or it was too far from the water’s edge.

After much searching, we finally found an area that looked like it had potential. We decided to set up camp there for the time being. If we found a place that looked more promising over the next couple of days we would move camp. After a short break to regain strength we made our way back to the launch to fetch the rest of our equipment.

By the time we finally had all of our gear and camp established, the heat from the sun was already sweltering and it was mid-afternoon. Tired and exhausted from running on no sleep for me and almost no rest for John we decided to take a powernap and fish the last few hours of the evening. Our powernap lasted a little longer than expected, so we only had about 30 minutes of daylight left when we awoke. We fished close to our quarters until a short time after dark, and all we had to show for our efforts was several half-hearted blowups. This would be the only night of the entire trip that we weren’t able to catch fresh fish for dinner.

Day 2 (5/5):

We got out on the water about an hour before sunrise to catch the morning bite and avoid the heat. We saw fish schooled up and caught a few redfish on topwaters in the twilight hours. As we made our way to one of our favorite shorelines it was apparent that the tides were not going to cooperate and let us fish the areas we normally caught our targeted species, snook and redfish. We decided to move deep and we were quickly rewarded. We focused on deeper potholes and channels. While we were working the area over we saw bait running and jumping for their lives nearby, the tell-tale sign that predator fish, more specifically snook were in the vicinity.

Our predictions proved correct and we both hooked up almost instantaneously. I hooked and lost what would have been my PB snook (approximately 24-25”) when the hooks on my topwater pulled out as I was trying to lift the fish to get it in the net, the first of two major heartbreaks. John in the meantime was busy catching fish of his own, his first jack and a PB 29” snook. We stayed in the area catching the occasional redfish until the sun was unbearable and the fishing slowed down. We fished for a few hours that evening but fishing was slow even though we could hear fish popping all around us. They were feasting on small shrimp that was all over the water’s surface.

Day 3 (5/6):

The next morning we decided to fish the same area where we found the fish the day before. We got out there about an hour and a half before first light, but the activity didn’t pick up until just before sunrise. We found plenty of bait in the deeper sand pockets, but we only saw the occasional busting of baitfish. I managed to land my only snook of the trip at 21.5” (my PB by 1/2") along with a 27” trout on back to back casts with a topwater. We caught a fair amount of trout and redfish working in and around the edges of deep sand pockets. We only had a short window of decent conditions that morning because the wind blew hard for the remainder of the day.

We called it a day a little early, and we headed back to camp and took a break. We decided against fighting the stiff wind that evening, and instead we beached our kayaks and walked toward the jetties. It took us a lot longer than expected and it was getting late so we decided to stop short and fish the south end of Brownsville Ship Channel. Using the wind to our advantage we worked the channel for a couple hours. The only fish of the late afternoon was a big ladyfish John caught on a tandem-rigged flounder pounder.

Day 4 (5/7):

The following day was almost a complete wash. The wind blew hard all day from sunup to sundown. We fished for only a couple of hours that morning using soft plastics underneath Cajun Thunders over potholes and we caught a bunch of rat reds and a solitary keeper black drum that became dinner. We tried fishing that evening but the wind and tides decided otherwise. Again we went on another short trip this time without anything to show for our labors.

Day 5 (5/8):

The winds finally laid down so we got out on the water quite a bit earlier. We caught reds up shallow over grass and quite a few ladyfish, jacks, and trout in deep channels, most of which were caught on topwaters. About mid-morning we got into a good trout bite catching fish on every other cast. We found these fish in a deep channel (7’+) hanging on the edge of drop-offs. We caught a few on topwaters but as it got later in the day plastics out produced topwaters unmistakably. We caught and released several limits each.

In the midst of all the trout, I managed to experience my second major heartbreak, this time a far more malicious occurrence. I hooked and then immediately proceeded to break off the biggest snook I have ever seen with my own two eyes. The battle lasted all of five seconds. After being hooked, the fish made a full body leap and my line snap almost immediately, and I was left forlorn. It was THE FISH I had been targeting since the first time I made the voyage south. This fish was easily bigger than the two approximately 30” fish I witnessed two different buddies catch in my close proximity. Not a pleasant feeling but heartbreak is what keeps us, as fisherman, coming back for more.

We fished again that afternoon but only for a short period because we saw an approaching storm and wanted to make sure our residence wasn’t going to be bombarded by the passing squall. In the brief period we fished, we managed to relocate the trout we found earlier in the day. Again soft plastic paddle tails were the most successful.

Day 6 (5/9):

John wanted to bring back fresh fish for his parents to enjoy for being the kind and gracious hosts that they always are when we visit. We didn’t have any way to keep fish fresh the days prior, so our final day would have to be the day that we brought fish home. Since we caught so many trout the day before we figured it would be easy locating trout by working drop-offs along deep channels and then move shallow to find some redfish.

Things didn’t go exactly as planned. We did catch fish but the bite was far more sporadic. It took us a couple of hours to catch a limit and near limit. John still needed one more fish. We worked the area hard but with time running short all we could muster was a ½” short of the minimum trout. We drifted over a few shallow flats searching for redfish with little success, so we called it day early to pack up camp and make the paddle back to our vehicle.

Fishing was good considering the conditions we faced: low tides, little tidal movement, and spring winds. The last few days we were on the water the tides only moved a few inches all day long. The wind blew hard a majority of our trip.

We used a variety of lures over the course of our trip but topwaters and soft plastic paddle tails were the best producers. For topwaters the Lucky Craft Sammy in MS American Shad received the most attention from the fish followed by Super Spook Jr in Bone/Silver, and then Skitter Walk’s in Blue/Chrome and Black/Chrome. We fished our topwaters both shallow and deep with good success. The edges of deep channels and potholes seemed to be the best areas.

For soft plastics Texas Tackle Factory Flats Minnow in Purple Rain, Opening Night, and Liquid Shrimp produced the most fish. We fished these plastics on heavy jigheads (1/4oz+) in deep channels (7’+) where saw signs of baitfish activity. We also caught a few fish when the winds increased and stained the water by throwing Gulp Shrimp underneath Cajun Thunder popping corks in and around deep potholes.

I took a much needed and deserved break from "reality" as my mother likes to say and cleansed my soul with some saltwater therapy. A trip several months in the making has finally come to an end and I’m no worse for the wear. Had a blast and I’m now anxiously awaiting my next voyage to the waters of the Deep South.

Yesterday was the last day of my collegiate career. My college days have come to an abrupt end. It’s time to start job hunting. If anybody had any leads in either the Central Texas (Austin - San Antonio) or Houston area for company's looking to hire college graduates (more specifically accounting master’s graduates) feel free to send them my way. I would appreciate it sincerely.


(Click on thumbnails to enlarge)

Our confines for the trip


John hooked up with a Snook




Almost jumped in the net


John's PB 29" Snook


Texas Snook


Revive and...


Release


Snook On


21.5" Snook


Lip and...


Release


27" Trout


Topwater Redfish






7lb Jack - Fun fight on light tackle




One of Many Small Jacks






Lower Laguna Limits -1


John's First Jack


John's Baby Snook


John's Big Ladyfish




Mangrove Creek


In the Groves


Portuguese Man-of-War


Paw Print


Coyote Prints Were Everywhere Around Our Campsite


Tidal Splash


Seashell


Stomach Contents of a Single Slot Red We Ate For Dinner


Stomach Contents of a Single Trout - Shrimp were all over the flats and the fish were taking advantage of the buffet


On the Grill


Nightly Dinner of Fresh Fish