The cold of the month of February just seems to creep into my bones. Maybe Ive slowed down as Ive gotten older or maybe here in Gods country the lack of activity just allows the cold weather to slow us all down. Maybe Im set in my ways but with this month being my birthday, I tend to reflect back on my years, my life and try to learn from my experiences and my mistakes.
As I look back on last years fishing season, two things seem jump out at me; one, I fished more last year than in previous years and, two, our little corner of the world seems to be getting more crowded. I guess these two go hand in hand and one needs simply to drive on any major highway these days to see just how crowded things are getting.
This has flowed over into our favorite fishing spots as well. Numerous people have stated to me that Rockport just aint what it used to be and is just flat getting too crowded, either living there or visiting. I have to admit that our little boat ramp on St. Charles Bay is no exception to the crowded rule. More boats, more trailers, more diesel trucks, more trash, more noise, more drinking, more cigarette butts and more short tempered people all trying to get their piece of paradise even if for just two days.
This past year I did, in truth, have more close encounters of the rude kind than ever before. My clients and I watched in amazement as anglers in boats ran over our fishing line, or moved in so close to my Haynie that a short throw line is all they needed to tie off to my boat.
On Saturdays Ive actually had to ask my clients that were slaying fish to put their rods down so approaching boats would not move in on us spooking the reds we were catching. One guy would launch his boat and wait for me to head out then follow me all day, often ruining fishing spots and the whole fishing experience for my clients.
One for the books is a guy actually cast a heavy sinker into my boat so he could QUIETLY pull he and his boat next to mine. When I asked him what planet he was from he simply said "Well, I knew you were catching fish and I wanted to tie up to you without running the motor and spooking the fish".
Yet another guy (notice its always men) actually swam from his boat to mine to get in on some catching action. Needless to say he had a long swim back.
Yet another shut his boat down a few hundred yards behind my Haynie and after what seemed about an hour started waving an orange distress flag. I in turn responded by telling my clients it was the right thing to do and I was obligated to assist as a merchant mariner. On approaching the distressed boat the guy said his motor wouldnt start so I had him go through the normal checklist and three minutes later he hit the switch and the Yamahammer (Yamaha) started right up. He looked at me and said "Hey, what do you know" then proceeded to move in on the exact spot I had just left to render help.
Just one more. Three guide boats were fishing a reef in close proximity to one another with one of the guides (being a newbie) and just happened to get a little too close to an old salts guide boat. The old salt proclaimed "anybody that would do that was lower than a snakes belly".
An exchange of colorful metaphors ensued the result of which was one guide jumping off his boat into the other guides boat. A saltwater heavyweight bout was under way with both tumbling into the water throwing punches, spitting water; all the while both their boats with clients on board were drifting away to parts unknown.
My clients put their rods down grabbed a Coke and said "catching fishing and a good fight, all we need now is some popcorn to make it all complete". You cant make this stuff up!
One thing to note about fishing guides: Most are good people that care about their clients and do the very best possible to catch fish, but we guides dont own the water, we dont own the boat ramps, we dont own the parking lots and we dont own the bait stands even though there are a select few that seem to think that way and act accordingly.
Truth is most guides, me included, are so familiar with our line of work that its second nature to us and we tend to forget that others arent nearly as familiar as we are and when having a bad day can get, well, testy. The root because, I believe, I mean the real issue is, well, no one else wants to say it so I will be the sacrificial lamb: There are just too many people on this planet and guess what, in aint getting any better! Point in fact to a 2010 study- roughly 7 billion people now inhabit this planet. Two hundred sixty-seven are born every minute, of that, 108 die, netting 159 new people every 60 seconds or 229,000 a day, 83.6 million a year.
Well, yeah, we are getting crowded and not just on our beloved bays. We old timers get whats causing this over population and it aint too much fishing. We get that people know how to create babies, we get that people are capable of having babies, we also know that this procreating populace needs to get a grip and act responsibly before this old planet tilts and rids itself of the one resource that seems to be in overabundance: US. Its a hard truth but one that the most intelligent life form on this planet better figure out and damn quick. God said go forth and multiply (I think we got that down, Lord). He didnt say go forth and over populate. And how does all this relate to fishing and sharing our waters with our brethren? Let me give just a few good rules that will help us all as we figure out how to share our natural resources:
Rule-1: The hundred yard rule - allow a 100 yard buffer between you and other anglers, especially in a boat and double that for wade fishermen, regardless if thats your favorite fishing spot and you see another in your spot with all the rods bent double, go to another spot or just get their earlier.
Rule-2: be helpful not hurtful - that guy thats blocking the boat ramp aint gonna go any faster by being honked at or hollered at, more than likely he needs your help and is as anxious as a cat on a hot tin roof.
Rule-3: Think the best of people as you do of yourself. That person that just made the angling offense is probably not aware that he or she has done anything wrong. Help educate him/her for an ounce of angling and boating education is worth more than a ton of hostile retribution.
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Copano Bay --- The black drum bite is still good around the Turtle Pin area with peeled shrimp and squid good choices for bait. A silent cork or a light Carolina rig is best here. The beach front of the airport shoreline (southeast shoreline) is good for reds using finger mullet and or mud minnows. High tide is the best time coupled with late evening. The deep water edges off of Newcomb Point are good for trout using soft plastics in electric grape and morning glory colors.
Aransas Bay --- The north shoreline adjacent to Goose Island State Park is good for reds using cut menhaden or mud minnows on a light Carolina rig. Sheeps head action is good close to the bridge pilings of LBJ causeway with small hooks tipped with cut squid a good bait choice. On a falling tide the mouth of Allyns Lake is a good spot for trout using live shrimp or soft plastics in new penny or electric chicken colors.
St. Charles Bay --- Good black drum action close to the Twin Creeks area on warmer days. Peeled shrimp free lined or a light Carolina rig works well here. Some flounder off of Hail Point using tandem tied white grubs on light jig heads. A jig head tipped with a small piece of squid on colder days gets more bites. Some keeper reds using top waters in bone and white and red and white work well drifting across Cow Chip making multiple drifts. The reds tend to hang close the shoreline on warmer days and out in the deeper grass beds on cold days.
Carlos Bay --- Think deeper water for trout and reds especially on the very coldest days, areas like Cape Carlos Dugout or Cedar Dugout. New penny colored jerk shad are a good bet here for trout and molting Berkley Gulp shrimp for reds. The key here is to fish the entire water column so weight your presentations according to the tide movement which can be quite swift here.
Mesquite Bay --- Some flounder still in Brays Cove with live shrimp fished on the bottom is a good bet. Set the hook after a one to two count. Beldon Dugout is good for reds with patience the key for success. I like cut bait here. The fresher the better with menhaden or mullet being good choices. Free line is best if the wind allows otherwise a light fish finder rig will work. The Mesquite side of Ayers Dugout is good for trout using a slight rattle cork and live shrimp (Berkley Gulp Shrimp works well here as well).
Ayers Bay --- Ayers Reef is good for trout using free lined live shrimp or live shrimp under a silent cork. Switch to a rattle cork on warmer days. The east shoreline of Matagorda Island is good for black drum using peeled shrimp on a light Carolina rig. Light hook sets are the trick here after allowing the drum to take the bait for 3 or 4 count.
THE BANK BITE
The cut between St. Charles and Aransas Bay is where to be on the very coldest days. Reds and trout and some flounder stack up in the deeper water seeking temperature protection. Lots of shell in the water so keep your lures and bait off the bottom if you can. Soft plastics like jerk shad and sand eels in electric chartreuse and white work well here on over cast days with darker colors like new penny and morning glory of cold bright sunny days.
Contact Capt. Mac Gable at
Mac Attack Guide Service,