What If You Catch a Bird or Jack in the Bay?
B AY FISHERS PREFER lightweight rods and reels because a few additional ounces become heavy after the 800th cast, but what if you hook a fish that is bigger and stronger than your rod and reel were meant to handle? Or what if you hook a brown pelican?
In early June I was offshore fishing with boat captain and owner Brian Tulloch, and friend and veterinarian Mark Vanness. We were hooked up to an oil platform 28 miles offshore from the Matagorda Jetties.
I was casting a top water lure into the rig when a brown pelican intersected the airborne lure and ended up with one hook in its bill and another hook in its wing. I was aghast and at a loss about what to do, but Mark the veterinarian said, “Reel it in, I’ll take care of it.”
When the pelican got to the boat, Mark calmly reached down and pulled the bird into the boat. Then he covered the pelican’s eyes with one hand while instructing me to hold both wings. With the bird under control, Mark removed the hooks with his free hand. Watching the pelican fly away was a beautiful sight.
Not long after the brown pelican experience, I was wading fishing near Aransas Pass when a laughing gull was hooked by a lure cast by a fisherman near me. I remembered how Mark covered the pelican’s eyes to calm it, so I put my hat over the bird’s head. The gull settled down so we could remove the hook and release it.
In June the bays are loaded with baitfish, and this brings crevalle jacks into West Matagorda Bay. Mature crevalle jacks are from 12 to 20 pounds of pure power, but they are not good to eat. Before a crevalle jack strikes, you often see baitfish flying and the jack’s dorsal fin cutting through the water at the pace of a speedboat.
Bob Turner and I were fishing from kayaks near Palacios when a crevalle jack took his soft plastic lure. He was tied to a piling and he wisely untied that line, so that his kayak would work in tandem with the drag on his reel.
When you fish with a rod and reel that will handle trout, flounder and most redfish and you hook a crevalle jack, you have to decide if you are going to fight the fish or cut the line. Keep in mind that you are not going to keep the fish to eat.
Bob decided to try and land the fish for a photo. The crevalle jack towed him a half mile into West Matagorda Bay and nearly spooled his reel while Bob did his best to reel in line, inch by inch. Finally, after a 35-minute fight, the tired fisherman boated the tired fish. Then he paddled over to me for a photo, released the crevalle jack, and the fish darted off.
JUNE 1 IS THE BEGINNING of red snapper season in federal waters more than nine nautical miles offshore. In the 1980s and early 90s it was tough to catch red snappers that were 16 inches, the legal keeper size, but today thanks to management by National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), we have an abundance of red snappers between 20 and 30 inches.
The problem is that federal rules govern the entire Gulf of Mexico, and the eastern Gulf of Mexico does not have the abundance of snappers that we have in the western Gulf. We have been subjected to rules that do not make sense for our waters.
Last year the recreational season was three days. After the season closed last year, NMFS did add weekends in August and September.
This year looks like a different, more realistic and positive, situation. NMFS is considering allowing Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to manage the recreational red snapper fishing in federal waters. This could result in the season being from 51 to possibly 104 days long.
In Texas waters less than nine nautical miles offshore, it is legal year-round to take four red snappers per day that are a minimum 15 inches. During open season in federal waters the limit is two, and the fish must be at least 16 inches. Check the NMFS website for up to date information.
THE BANK BITE
THE SHORELINE AT PALACIOS on a North Wind. Occasionally the wind comes from the north in June. When that happens and you want to wade fish or fish from shore, try the Palacios shoreline between the Baptist Encampment on the east side and CR 321 on the west side. Hard sand and multiple access points make wade fishing easy.
You can also fish from the pier at 4th street and jetties near the boat ramp at 6th street. Bait is available at Grassy Point (turn east off Business 35 onto Bayshore Boulevard) or at the Harbor on the west side of town.
Email Mike Price at ContactUs@fishgame.com