EVERY ROCKPORT AREA GUIDE has a favorite honey hole or two where they can count on hooking into redfish, but one of the youngest guides on the coast has a trick up his sleeve for catching big reds in places often bypassed by other anglers.
Capt. Aerich Oliver, a mere babe in the woods compared to the numerous veterans who ply their trade along the Texas Gulf Coast, just turned 21 this year and already has earned a reputation as a go-to guide based in Rockport.
The tricks of his trade have been gleaned from the time he was 3 when he started learning the ropes of saltwater angling from his grandfather, Capt. Charlie Newton of Redfish Charters.
Oliver is kind of like the saltwater version of Davy Crockett — the legendary woodsman who was “Raised in the woods so’s he knew every tree. Killed him a bear when he was only three,” according to the folk song.
Instead of traveling the woods of frontier Tennessee like Crockett, the young saltwater guide has spent most of his life on the waters of
Aransas Bay, Redfish Bay and South Bay; including areas like Estes Flats, Corpus Christi Bayou, Big Bayou, California Hole, Traylor Island, Mud Island, Allyn’s Bight, Harbor Island, Talley Island, Lydia Ann Channel and the Intracoastal Canal.
He exudes a level of professionalism well beyond his years and recently showcased his skills to a couple of outdoor writers participating in the 34th annual Spring Fling conducted by the Rockport-Fulton Chamber of Commerce.
After spending a couple of hours of hit or miss fishing for keeper redfish at the usual places where the big underwater predators cruise looking for a free meal, Oliver cranked up the boat motor and seemed to be heading back toward the dock.
“These spots have been good for reds this year and we are also hooking up with some nice trout earlier than normal,’’ he said as he left the barrier island points, shorelines and oyster beds that typically produce some fine angling action.
“Just yesterday we hit a Texas Slam (a keeper redfish, speckled trout and flounder all on the same trip). That is always a lot of fun.
“We’ve had some good high tides recently and I want to check out a place that I have never fished before,’’ he said as he made his way between brushy islands in the shallow bays.
At a spot just off the Intracoastal Canal that is like an angler’s interstate with dozens of boats passing by each day, Oliver carefully guided his craft through a narrow and shallow pass-way that opened up into a tiny shallow cove not 50-yards across.
“I’ve fished some oyster beds near here and always thought this place might hold a big fish or two,’’ he said.
As other anglers passed along the nearby Intercoastal without giving Oliver and his fishing crew a second glance, the young guide rigged up several rods with one of his favorite redfish baits — half a menhaden shad hooked through the eyes and fished on bottom held down by a sliding egg sinker.
The tails of the menhaden, also known as pogies, are tossed overboard to create a chum line of pieces of bait and a smelly oil slick that is like a dinner bell to hungry reds.
Over the next 45 minutes, a limit of redfish, including several undersized rat reds that were returned to fight another day, provided some top-notch saltwater action. The surprise of the day, however, was when a hefty fish snatched up a bait and bent one fishing rod over double.
A battle royal lasting about 15 minutes took place between angler and obviously the biggest fish of the day. The big bruiser made numerous runs back and forth across the tiny cove, scattering other smaller reds across the shallow waters like a flushing covey of quail.
Finally giving up the tussle, the redfish was skillfully netted by Oliver who then measured the trophy at 30 3/4 inches.
“This is a really big fish from such a small cove, but I thought there might be a good red or two in here,’’ Oliver said.
The last and biggest fish of the day was tagged and joined a limit of redfish — several others measuring just over 24 inches long — in the cooler headed for the dock.
“I’ll remember this spot, but I probably won’t share the location with anybody for awhile,’’ Oliver said as he beamed a smile of a youngster who won the day over some old salts.
For further information about Capt. Aerich Oliver and Redfish Charters, visit www.redfishcharters.com or call (361) 729-8220.
—story by RALPH WINNINGHAM