I was hungry for breakfast and didn’t have a trip. My wife was out of town so I headed for a local restaurant.
The coffee was hot and migas sounded right up my alley. As is sometimes the case, someone recognized my truck as I parked (that’s how we identify people here via their trucks or if you’re a guide, via your boat). If you want to roll incognito just buy a new truck or boat and no one will know who you are.
Anyway, as I sat down, before having any life enriching caffeine, the couple across the way said “Captain Mac, we have a bone to pick with you!”
Millions of galaxies, hundreds of millions of stars, and I’m just a speck on one, not even a blink really, so what could I have done to these folks? The clients had been out with a guide and quickly relayed their displeasure.
It was 9:30 a.m., so I surmised they fished the previous day and something had happened. I was mistaken. They had fished this day and something was wrong.
My coffee showed up, and before I knew it I had guests at my table.
“You want me to just move you to his table?” the waitress asked them.
“Ugh,” I thought.
“Yes please,” said the lady.
Well I hate to eat alone, I thought, trying to be positive. “Fishing was slow I take it.”
“No, not all,” she said as they sat down. “We caught our limit of trout, and then the guide took us back to the dock. We are now here early enough to have breakfast with you. We voiced our concern to him but his response was ‘I fish for trout nothing else. When we limit out we are done.’”
“So,” she said, “ten fish, two hours max and 550 dollars. Would you like to know his name?”
“No ma’am, not especially.” I got it anyway.
Their food was getting cold as they continued, and I hadn’t ordered yet. “What questions had you asked the guide before booking him?” I asked.
“Just if he was having any luck, and he said ‘yes he’d been catching trout.’”
I quickly ran down my standard list of guide questions one of which is: When does a typical day’s fishing begin and end with you?
“Well,” the lady piped in, “while we are not native to Rockport we do live here now and know there are more than trout in these waters.”
“Yes ma’am,” I replied.
She chimed in “After all that’s the beauty in fishing down here, at least for us. Is this normal for guides now days? They specialize in a certain species, and when that species limit is caught the day is over?”
“That ma’am is the question YOU need to be asking prior to booking a guide. The good thing here is you have some fresh trout to take home. It sounds like the guide knew right where the fish were and the bite came quick.”
“We didn’t want to just catch, we wanted to fish!” the couple responded. “Do you fish that way?”
“No ma’am, but I know some guides do. In their defense, some clients don’t have a problem fishing that way. It’s a matter of aligning the right guide with the right angler.
“Right or wrong that responsibility falls on the client because they are paying for the services,” I told them. “That said, I make it a point to describe a typical day of fishing when I get inquiries from new clients.
“Most of my clients are repeats so they are very familiar with my style of fishing. I try to give an eight-hour day which spans from the time we leave the dock until their fish is cleaned. I am old school so I target multiple species unless requested otherwise.
“Honestly at times I do envy guides like the one you went out with, but I could never fish like that unless my client asks me to.
“I hear statements all the time, like ‘I limited out and was done by 8 a.m.’ or ‘I had fish cleaned by 9:15 a.m.’ When I hear this, my immediate thought is I hope your clients were okay with that otherwise they may have been cheated out of a day on our beautiful waters.
“I guess they make statements like that to stroke their manhood / womanhood. It’s hard to know. It has very little to do with fishing prowess and more to do with luck where conditions, timing and their clients fishing experience is concerned.
“I know and have known some great fishermen and none of them would be willing to bet their livelihood that they could guarantee catching only a certain species of a certain size by a certain time on any given day. They need to tone down the self-promoting attitude and get a clue.
“Luck is what makes it fun, no one likes a braggart, NO ONE! A good fishing guide ups your percentage of catching fish and is damn thankful when luck shines his or her way.”
That was more than I had intended to say the whole day.
“Then you do find fault with these guides?” she asked.
“No I do not. I am sorry you had a bad experience, but the fault is yours for not vetting the guide properly. That doesn’t mean looking at their website. If you buy a product that doesn’t live up to or fit your expectations DON’T buy it again and let others know about your experience for nowhere is word of mouth more alive and well than in the guiding industry.
“Every person and that includes every guide has a right to decide what their time and services are worth. Fair or not fair, the decision is yours.” So my counseling ended. The couple went away, not very happy, but definitely wiser.
Guide specialists are nothing new but over the past five years or so we are seeing it more and more. Why? because there is a market for it, or at least a perceived market.
Some guides specialize based on the time of year—when the reds are biting, they fish for reds, same for trout, black drum, flounder, etc. Other specialists simply don’t fish when their particular species is not in these waters or is not biting.
Seldom will the specialist go after multiple species in a single day; if it happens, great, but their focus is usually a particular species. When it’s caught, they feel their job is done.
Further, many guides nowadays have other livelihoods and don’t have the time to be an expert on all species, which makes vetting even more important. The guide specialist usually is not a dishonest person, and they are not out to short change or mislead anyone. Their services are simply a product of the market. If the market is there, they and their services will be there too. It’s your nickel; spend it wisely.
• • •
The summer is alive and well here on the Texas coast. Hot Hot Hot!
Dehydration and heat stroke are a real possibility especially for us mature folks. Cuts and abrasions can get infected rapidly during the hot summer months. Waders and other confined clothing such as wading boots etc. can harbor some bad and lethal bacteria so clean thoroughly.
Copano Bay: Croaker free-lined is a good choice on Lap Reef. Early morning is usually best. Copano Reef is a good spot for trout using free-lined live shrimp. Shellbank Reef is good for reds and black drum. Use finger mullet on a light Carolina rig for reds and fresh dead shrimp under a silent cork for black drum.
Aransas Bay: Find some keeper trout off Jay Bird Reef with a free-lined croaker being the best choice. Thompsons Toe Heads are a good spot for sheepshead using cut squid and very small Kahle hooks free-lined. Grass Island Reef is a good place for reds using cut mullet on a Carolina rig. Cast into the grass and resist reeling in until you get a hit.
St. Charles Bay: Bird Point is a good place for reds using finger mullet on a light Carolina rig. Wades off Hail Point can produce some nice reds and trout using free-lined shrimp. Bartell Island is a good spot for black drum and flounders using mud minnows free-lined or on a light Carolina rig.
Carlos Bay: Drifts across Carlos Lake using soft plastics in new penny and silver mud colors are good for trout and reds. Cedar Reef is a good spot for reds using mud minnows or finger mullet free-lined. On high tide fish the tops of the reef. At low tid,e fish a few yards off the edges.
Mesquite Bay: Wades close to Cedar Point using croaker are good for trout. There are a few sharks in this area and some gators, so keep stringers easily detached. Some reds are in Beldon Dugout area. Use cut menhaden on a medium Carolina rig. Wades on the east shoreline of Brays Cove are good for trout using Berkley Gulp Shrimp under a rattle cork.
Ayers Bay: The pocket just off Ayers Island is a good spot for reds in the early morning using cut mullet under a popping cork. Catch sheepshead on the north shoreline reefs with fresh dead shrimp free-lined; very small Kahle hooks are the best choice.
Goose Island: Wades off the Goose Island State Park pier to the cut between Aransas and St. Charles Bay is a good spot for trout. A popping cork and shrimp work well here as well as does new penny Jerk Shad. Be respectful of boat traffic as this cut is the main egress between these two bay systems.
Contact Capt. Mac Gable at
Mac Attack Guide Service,
Email Chris Martin at [email protected]
or visit bayflatslodge.com