THERE IS A MENACE THAT LURKS among us. It is dreaded by all, feared by most and downright disgusting to those who have been attacked. As of this writing you won’t see Rockport residents whiling away in their yards or sipping coffee on the front porch.
One recent visitor to our beloved area asked, “Why do local residents seem so rude!?”
“I don’t find them that way at all” I responded, “so excuse me if I’m a little baffled.”
“Well, I stopped to talk to some folks who had just gotten out of their car, and they hurriedly avoided me by running into their house,” the visitor said. “Then the same thing happened at the store, and then I’ll be dadgum if it didn’t happen again at our favorite restaurant! Is there something wrong with the water or is there a stomach bug going around and they must sprint to the great white throne (commode)? “Is that what has made people here so anti-social?”
When he turned around I was no longer there, but headed for my truck in rapid fashion. I quickly jumped in, slammed the truck door, then drove over to him as he shook his head with a look of what-the-heck!?
At the boat ramp the usual verbal dribble is quiet. Even though the trucks and trailers and boats are there, the anglers appear to be gone; but on closer inspection you can see the little white lights inside as they huddle over their cell phones, texting from one vehicle to the other.
This sterile way of communicating (Yes, I hate texting) seems to be running rampant here in Rockportville these days. Even my favorite bait shop owner is huddled inside his vehicle as if the Predator from my favorite movie (Yes, I love the Predator movies) is lurking outside ready to do a human head mount of him (you gotta love it!).
What has invaded our peaceful town, and will it ever go away? The nemesis seemed to have come with the record rains we had this year. All was well and good as we went through a drought in the early part of 2018, but when it got wet a black cloud seemed to park itself over our coastal community.
Just to answer a few questions here, the nemesis has been here for over 100 million years, and it ain’t going away. More than likely, it will be here long after us carbon units (humans) are long gone. This demon has invaded every aspect of life from cutting lawns, to getting bait, shopping, barbecuing, eating, sleeping and even breathing.
The demographics for the area is pretty much a retired/aging/mature group of folks. Like me, they detest texting but have become quite skilled of late in this insular way of communicating due to fear of being eaten alive.
I bet you thought this was going to be an article about getting into shape as the heading might suggest. It is anything but!
Even though it is the closing of the year (Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, by the way), and we all could use a little conditioning tune-up. The devilish creature I speak of is of course Culicidae. The one, but not only, mosquito.
Eighty-five species exist here in Texas and three thousand on our blood-rich planet. They were here before the dinosaurs, after the dinosaurs; and my bet is they will outlast us, too. They have evolved to resist many pesticides, and the only complete eradication of these miniature winged bloodsuckers involves chemicals that will eradicate us as well.
Further, science has all but given up trying to repel/kill them, rather embracing a new strategy of “let’s all hide from them.” Current repellents (inaccurate term) now seek to make us invisible to the sharp-beaked blood seekers.
If this doesn’t suggest we really don’t have an effective way of ridding mankind of this bug, which will inevitably see our demise, nothing will. I am pretty sure the good Lord put these things on our planet to test our predilection to use colorful metaphors. Even the saintliest among us is gonna cuss when one of these guys makes its way to unprotected skin. The nunnery down the road has recently set a record in Hail Marys for this very reason.
Upon close inspection, this little guy is truly a fascinating study. Of course, they are insects, so they have all the body parts most of us know about: antennae, wings, head, thorax, legs, abdomen etc. But how about that mouth that does all the biting?
This straw-like feature of the mosquito is what distinguishes it. It’s called the proboscis, and is actually six different needles that work in harmony to make it a true blood-sucking machine.
The first pair is like serrated teeth and do the cutting of our skin. The second pair of needles is much like clamps that hold the new-formed wound channel open. The next two needles are the true horror of this beast.
One needle is a sensory device that detects and finds our blood vessels, detecting chemicals our vessels give off, and is used to slurp away our tasty blood. The last needle is the worst. It injects an anticoagulant to keep our luscious blood from clogging the workings of the proboscis. It is also what leaves the itchy bumps when the mosquito leaves.
While she (only females drink blood) fills up with our blood, she eliminates waste from her body on our skin to hold more of our blood.
Great! Feed on me. Now use the bathroom on me. If that’s not the thing nightmares are made of, tell me what is.
It ain’t over yet. She then literally throws up her saliva on us, leaving a parting gift that contains viruses such as dengue, West Nile virus, Zika, and chikungunya. These diseases kill hundreds of thousands of people each year.
This little girl is the deadliest animal on our planet, bar none. The female uses the iron and protein in our blood to make her eggs. The male and female mate—usually in the air—but they can mate while grounded too.
It is believed the wing beat frequency of the female is what attracts the male for mating. Males live only about two weeks, but females can live up to two months.
The eggs need water to hatch and even a small plastic bag with a spoonful of water can work. The egg to adult cycle is from 4 to 14 days depending on conditions. The myth that mosquitos breed only in fresh water is false—some require fresh water, others use saltwater, still others can breed in both.
What’s the point here, you ask? Simple. You fish here you’re gonna get bit. All the bug dope in the world is no guarantee. Some of the bug dope is questionably worse for you than the mosquito.
Is there any hope? Several studies are in process, such as releasing sterile male mosquitos into an infested area in hope the competition between sterile and non-sterile will help drive the sheer number of hatched mosquitos down.
The males in this process will be irradiated (exposed to radiation) rending them sterile. Another process is introducing a bacterium called Wolbachia into a male mosquito. When released into the wild, this male will mate with a female, but the bacteria will prevent the eggs from hatching.
I’ll not hold my breath on either of these, but do wish them the best of luck.
What attracts Culicidae to humans? Honestly, just about everything we are and do—smells, vibrations, lactic acid, carbon dioxide, sweating.
Some body chemistry is more prone to attracting mosquitos than others. Strangely, frequent swatting at them seems to help, as if they sense aggression as a bad thing.
Other practical advice comes from a guy who has spent many years in mosquito country, including Alaska and its tundra, which is some of the worst on the planet: Cover your skin!
Yes, it gets hot, but better hot than bitten. Deet is the only chemical I have had continued success with. It, however, is not healthful for humans. When used regularly, it can irritate the skin as well as breathing passages.
Spraying clothes with it instead of your skin, works well for me. The higher the percentage of Deet concentrate, the better it works.
Anything that can hold rainwater, including weeds, needs to be removed. Heated repellents such as Thermacell work okay, but not in the wind. If you can’t smell it, it ain’t working.
The long-term effect of smelling may not be good for you. As for green sprays, I’ve used just about all there is. Some attract mosquitos, while others work just marginally well. Try and buy.
Any new repellent I buy in a small can. Then I get into mosquitos and spray it directly on mosquitoes flying around me and watch its effect. If the little bugger doesn’t take a nosedive or get completely disoriented, I get my money back.
The best defense I’ve found is the wind. Get much above 12 knots, and you’re gonna be pretty much freed from these pests. They are great fliers, but not strong fliers, so just about any breeze helps.
At temperatures below 50 degrees, most mosquitos are rendered inactive or die. So, the cooler the better, which is almost never where we live here on the Texas coast.
On the positive side, if there is one, a high concentration of mosquitos and larvae means baitfish, because they feed voraciously on the hateful things. The baitfish bring the predator fish as well, so fishing often is pretty good. So, cover up, dope up and swat often, but don’t forget to set the hook.
DECEMBER—THE WATER temperature will hover around 68 degrees and with the cooler temperatures deep-water egresses are the best spot to be. This is cut bait country or if you can find it, live shrimp. Deeper water (seven feet or more) has protective qualities that hold fish. Patience is a virtue here, so pack a thermos, dress warm, put your rod in a rod holder and wait’em out.
COPANO BAY: My favorite spot this time of year is the mouth of Mission Bay. Black drum and red fish frequent this area because it offers protection from wind and the mud bottoms hold warmth. This, of course, holds fish. Finger mullet free-lined works well here or cut menhaden on a light Carolina rig. Some good action for sheepsheads can be had on the old pilings near the LBJ Causeway. Small kahle hooks tipped with shrimp or cut squid is the ticket here. Free-lined is best.
ARANSAS BAY: Wades down Blackjack are a good spot for reds using new penny-colored Jerk Shad. Work parallel with the bank about 20 yards off shore. On warm days the reds will be near the shoreline grass; colder days out in deeper water. There are some keeper trout on the ICW side of Dunham Bay. Live shrimp under a popping cork works well here.
ST. CHARLES BAY: Twin Creeks area is still holding some black drum. Use a light Carolina Rig with fresh peeled shrimp. The cut between St. Charles Bay and Aransas Bay is the place to be for trout. New penny and watermelon-colored Jerk Shad work well here. Cast into the deep water of the cut and work the edges of the shell.
CARLOS BAY: Carlos Dugout is the best spot this time of year as the deep water holds fish.Deep running lures in bone and red colors work well, as do free lined Gulp shrimp.
MESQUITE BAY: Cedar Bayou is a good spot for trout and a few flounders. Light Carolina rigs work well here with mud minnows being the preferred bait. Live shrimp is a close second. The north shoreline near Roddy Island is a good spot for black drum and sheepshead. Fish near the new spoil area for sheepshead and farther south near the shoreline for drum. Peeled shrimp on a light Carolina rig is good for this area.
AYERS BAY: Wades down Rattlesnake Island are good for reds using soft plastics in morning glory and electric chicken colors. Several reefs run off the shoreline at a 90-degree angle. Working these reefs from deep end to shallow usually produces fish.
THE ST. CHARLES BAY SHORELINE near the Big Tree is a good spot to wade for reds. Wade northeast and work the old fence lines in this area. A bubble cork with Berkley Gulp shrimp work here or use live shrimp if available.
Email Capt. Mac Gable at [email protected]