Rebuilding Copano’s Oyster Reefs
TPWD, ALONG WITH The Nature Conservancy and Coastal Conservation Association announced in November 2018 that a 60-acre oyster reef would be rebuilt in Copano Bay.
Laura Huffman of the Nature Conservancy said in a published report that oysters are essential building blocks in the Gulf of Mexico. But they’re extremely compromised ecologically.
Mark Fisher, a coastal fishery biologist for Texas Parks & Wildlife Department said the restoration has already started. “There are several on-going efforts to restore oyster beds in Copano, have been for the last eight years. We have a new program, HB 51 that requires oyster dealers to return their shucked shells back to the water. A lot of them just kept them. You would see big mounds of shells behind their shops. They would grind it up and often sell it for chicken feed.”
Shell is preferred material for young oysters to settle on. However, oyster larvae will settle on a variety of substrates such as boat hulls, pilings, and rocks.
Coastal Conservation Association of Texas said in a press release that oysters normally construct reefs by settling on top of each other. This provides a better habitat for numerous other species, such as trout, redfish and other fish.
The attraction to Copano Bay:
Copano Bay has numerous reefs, plenty of sea grass and both hard sand and soft mud bottoms. Copano Creek, Mission and Aransas Rivers supply fresh water to the Bay. The Bay is a go-to destination all year long for Rockport/Aransas anglers.
Fish Copano from a boat or slip into the shallow waters and silently wade to seek your prey. Fisher said most of the bay is covered by shallow water with lots of good wading opportunities, but it can go as deep as 12 feet in the middle. There are several drive-up and walk-in access points for anglers without boats.
Copano Bay serves as a nursery for shrimp, which attracts a large number of redfish. Abundant collections of black drum, flounder and trout, can also be found in the bay.
The Bay did not receive as much angler attention after Hurricane Harvey. “Fewer fish were caught and removed from the Bay, which means more fish in the water,” said Fisher. “The fishery is in great shape. The two main species that (Copano) anglers fish for, trout and redfish, are doing very well. Some of the shorelines were rearranged a little bit, some pot holes became a little bigger.”
Fishing Copano in February:
Artificials are probably the best baits in the colder months because live bait is hard to find. Capt. Troy Butler said if you can find shrimp for sale at the bait stands, shrimp under a popping cork would catch trout, redfish and drum.
“I work the oyster reef edges with soft plastics on a screw-lock jig head for trout. Tight along the grass beds is where you will find the redfish. If the water temperature is low on a sunny day, the water will heat up in the shallows and trout and redfish can be found sun bathing in the shallows.” Also, have a couple of topwater baits along. Butler’s favorite is the One Knocker. “A lot of big trout are caught out of Copano Bay in February.”
Mark Fisher is a fly fisherman who likes to wade shallow water. “Wait for a nice sunny day when the fish make it into the shallow areas,” he said. “Use a deeper running, weighted fly. Clousers are hard to beat. Little crab or shrimp imitations are always a winner.”
In visiting with different guides, I found out about a new bait that’s made in Brazil, the Borboleta LeLe. “A great bait for wading knee-deep, shallow grass areas and shell,” said Capt. Tommy Countz. “You twitch it, and it’s erratic. It won’t go deep enough to hang a hook in the grass or shell.”
It’s used for peacock bass in Brazil. The line tie is on the top of the head, and it floats. The nose is kind of shaped down a little bit so that when you work it, it catches water and pushes the bait down below the surface. If you stop reeling, it floats back up.
Check online sites such as Amazon.com and other mail other tackle retailers for more information.
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