AT THE TIME OF the writing of this article, a kayak fisherman was tragically killed in the bay waters of this area. The incident is still under investigation but from early indications it appears the kayaker was hit by a boat in the early morning hours.
Although this type of accident is thankfully rare, life-threatening close calls are all too common. Every week I hear a story about a boater that narrowly missed running into or over a kayaker.
What’s interesting is how these incidents are seen SO differently between a kayaker and a boater. The kayaker almost always says they saw the powered boat a long way off and gave ample warning, both visual and audible to the boater they were there.
The boater always sees it differently. Most having never seen or heard any sign that a kayaker was anywhere around, but due to their “expert boating skills” was able to avoid the accident at the last second.
It needs to be noted some of these narrow misses were not misses at all, but rather did impact, scrape or capsize the kayak and its occupants with the very best results being the contents of said kayak at the bottom of the bay, the worst being injury to the angler.
I’m not going to delve into who has more rights, the kayaker or the boater. I will however give my considered opinion about the root causes of these avoidable close encounters of the H2O/aqua kind.
Visual impairment is number one, meaning any reason that limits sight is a recipe for disaster on the water. This includes, but is not limited to, leaving the dock in the dark of early morning or late evening, a tactic of guides and highly motivated anglers.
This also includes kayaks that are not lighted (which I see every week). Yes, there are some boats guilty of this as well, however kayaks are by far the biggest perpetrators of not being lighted in the dark hours.
They are required to be lighted by law. I’ve had several kayakers debate this with me. So, for the record, this is what the TPWD Water Safety Act says under kayaks, subsection Lights Exception 6:
“If sidelights and stern light are not practical, it must have and exhibit at least one bright light, lantern, or flashlight from sunset to sunrise in all weather.”
I might add under the definition of lights it says the light needs to be visible for up to two miles. Why wouldn’t a person want to do this?
While we’re on the subject, I believe an audible sounding device should be required as well but as of this writing it is not. I suggest at least get a nautical whistle; they cost $5 and can split your eardrum and save your life!
Don’t turn the page here if I’m stepping on your kayak toes. It’s an affectionate request
It kills on the roads and on the water. There is absolutely no reason for a boater on our bays to go over 30 mph, but EVERY morning I see boaters in the pitch-black dark, running 50-plus mph to “beat the crowds,” and we guides are the worst of the bunch.
I wish speed limits would be applied to our waterways; it WILL save lives. Most of those running these high speeds don’t have a clue how to handle a boat at 30 mph much less 60 mph.
It takes the average boater four to five seconds before he or she pulls the throttle or turns the wheel in an avoidance maneuver. In that span of time at 50 mph, that same boat will travel more than the length of a football field.
Depth perception on the water is VERY difficult to judge. It’s virtually impossible for a novice boater because often there are no reference points for comparison. Again this does not bid well for small water craft such as kayaks.
The kayak’s low profile coupled with those in camo colors make them hard to see, even on a bright, clear day. Once in Mesquite Bay I saw a kayaker in the only egress channel between two bodies of water.
I called a friend in the area to alert him to be careful if he used the channel. The kayaker had assumed what I call the “stealth position.”
He leaned his body forward flat with the kayak to avoid spooking a school of fish he was targeting. A few minutes later my friend missed the kayak by less than three feet, having never seen him due to his low profile. Luckily, he was going slowly. At the last minute, he saw the angler’s rod and swerved.
I have seen kayaks with small flags extending up from their craft, and every chance I get I compliment them on their choice. I, for one, believe this should be required equipment for these small watercraft as it makes them 10 times more visible.
I believe kayaks are the future for our bays: they are green, easy on our grasses, oyster reefs and are pretty much non-pollutants. Also, their prices make them accessible to most anglers.
They are, however, not without risks. When a boat and a kayak collide, the kayaker will almost always suffer the greatest. In these tragedies no one wins, you can be LEGALLY right, but unfortunately you can also be DEAD right.
I HINK AUGUST is a great time for half-day trips. The heat is usually too much for most people to stay out all day. It’s hard on bait in a live well, too. Most guides have half-day charters, and some welcome the reprieve from the 100-plus degree temperatures.
Copano Bay: Early morning, the area close to Turtle Pen is good for reds using finger mullet on a free-line rig. This area requires some stealth, so approach slowly and quietly. Copano Reef is a good spot for trout, using a popping cork and live shrimp. Free-line croakers work here.
Aransas Bay: Multiple cuts on the north side of Mud Island, created by Harvey, are good spots for reds and trout. Late evening is best with a moving tide. Cut mullet works best for the reds and piggy perch for the trout on a light Carolina rig.
St Charles Bay: Cowchip is a good spot for reds, using mud minnows. Anchor up in the shallows near the bank and throw into the deeper water edges. I like a light Carolina rig in this area. The mouth of Cavasso Creek is a good spot for trout. Drifts in this area can produce keeper trout using topwaters in red/white, blue/gold or soft plastics in morning glory or nuclear chicken.
Carlos Bay: Drifts across Carlos Lake for trout and reds is still a good choice here. A bubble cork with an imitation shrimp such as the Egret Vudu Shrimp worked slowly as you drift, is a good choice. Cedar Reef is good for black drum using live shrimp on a light Carolina rig.
Mesquite Bay: On high tide the cuts running from Ballou Island are good wade spots for reds and some big trout using croaker free-lined. During the week, set up at the mouth where the ICW and the bay intersect for reds.
This can be a high traffic area so be wise. Late evening is best. Cast into the deeper water of the ICW using finger mullet on a medium Carolina rig.
Ayers Bay: Second Chain Islands is good spot for trout using croaker free-lined. This is a good wade area as well. Gafftops are plentiful in the deeper waters mid-bay, using a popping cork and shrimp. Gafftop is a much under-rated game fish that pulls like a freight train and is great table fare.
The area at the north end of the LBJ causeway is a much over-looked area for bank fishermen. Some very large black drums hang here during the summer. In the early morning to late evening, reds frequent this area close to the old pilings. Access is available at the old state pier parking lot.
Email Capt. Mac Gable at [email protected]