WHAT’S YOUR OPINION on whether artificial lures or live baits is the correct, ethical way of catching our saltwater species?
I don’t think anyone is going to argue against the fact that live baits catch more fish. Live shrimp, live croakers, live mullet and other live items are going to out-fish a soft body plastic tail or hard body creation.
If you check with fishing guides in areas such as Rockport, Aransas and other popular areas where many of their clients are visiting guests, just about all will be using some type of live bait. They want to put fish in the boat.
Live shrimp under a popping cork, or free-lined will get just about any coastal fish’s attention. Live croaker is a bait that has the ability to make a fish curious, especially speckled trout.
However, if you have been fishing the coast for a while you might remember back to the 80s. An angler using a live croaker to catch trout was definitely looked down on by other fisherpersons. As if it was unethical to use croakers, a croaker angler was using an unfair advantage on the fish. Now in the 2000s, the croaker is a go-to bait for the pros and newbies alike.
Capt. Mike Williams, one of the old-time legends of Texas coastal fishing said everyone uses croakers now. “People were brain washed by media, tackle shops, guides, and the makers of artificial lures that if you used a croaker, or any other live bait, you were an inferior fisherman. Croakers as bait really got hot when several guides—David Dillman and Gary Hahn—start getting some press for the catches that they were making.
“The general fishing population wanted to know how to use croakers or other live baits.”
So, how do you rig up for fishing with a live croaker? Williams uses a number 2 Kahle hook, 20-pound test monofilament leader, about 20 inches long. Attach a small black swivel between the end of the leader and the reel line.
The big secret is that you want to get the croaker down on the bottom. “You want to use enough weight to get it down. In most cases between a 1/8 to a 1/4-ounce slip weight above the swivel will get the job done. Fishing near one of the reefs or shell pads is going to produce results.”
Capt. Nathan Beabout fishes San Antonio Bay most of the year, using only artificial offerings. He says that if one of his prospective clients wants to use live bait, he will give them a couple of names and phone numbers of guides who do specialize in only live bait. He made the decision to fish only artificial baits early in his career. Live bait was impossible to find in the winter months, and you had to use an artificial. Why not use the artificial bait all the time?
He’s partial to Down South soft plastics, not because he gets them free from Down South, but because they catch fish. He buys the lures in bulk from Down South.
“It’s durable and doesn’t get shredded or tore up,” said Beabout. The biggest thing about the lure is it swims, flutters on the fall. They’re very user friendly for the angler just beginning his learning cycle with soft plastic baits. I give them a handful of them because it will work for them. Match it up with an 1/8-ounce jig head and allow the bait to flutter down to the bottom.” His favorite color is Pumpkin Seed because it matches up to the live bait color in the water he fishes.
Soft plastic Rat Tail Bass Assassins in strawberry/white, chartreuse or limetreuse, are Capt. Williams favorite soft plastic lures. He goes so far as to say, “it’s the most lethal trout lure ever made by man for trout. Walk the piers at Galveston Yacht Basin and see what the guides have tied on after they come in from fishing in June. It will be the limetreuse Rat Tail.
“Probably one of the most overlooked lures is the plain jane, Johnson Sprite silver spoon, a really great lure,” adds Williams. “It’s been around 40 to 50 years and still going strong. It works both good in the surf and wading in the bays for speckled trout. Gold is good for reds.”
Money fish, anyone?
Red is the first thing to know to be successful, redfish for The State of Texas Angler’s Rodeo (STAR) Tournament, and red snapper for the study being conducted by the Harte Research Institute (HRI) for Gulf of Mexico Studies at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi.
You can register for the redfish tournament by becoming a CCA member. All kinds of great prizes such as boats, motors, trucks, and college scholarships can be won (www.joincca.org/startournament).
For the A&M study, download the iSnapper and log your fishing trip results.
(tamucc.edu/news/2018/05/052118_iSnapper.html#.XKEHaZhKiUk) There is no registration charge to participate in this study. Some of the fish will have $250 tags and others $500 tags.
Remember to have your Texas Fishing License and appropriate tags. Look for tags on the fish, and you can catch them with live or artificial baits, your choice.
Email Tom Behrens at [email protected]