Posts Tagged With: fishing

Lost in the Texas Marsh

Standing JPEG

The clock on the dash of my truck shows 5:31, but I know it’s not accurate.  I keep it set eight minutes faster than the actual time, which means I’ll reach my destination a few minutes ahead of schedule.  That’s not uncommon since I always seem to wake up before my alarm goes off on mornings when I have a fishing trip planned.

As I approach my launch site, I do a quick scan of the area to see if my headlights reflect off of any other vehicles.  They don’t of course.  It’s rare that they ever do since I do my best to arrive before anyone else.  Beating the crowds is nice, but I don’t like to miss the sunrise as it peaks over the horizon.  That’s where it always looks the best.

I slowly back my truck up to the edge of the water and fumble through my gear for the can of Deep Woods Off.   On this muggy Texas morning, the winds are non-existent, which means the mosquitos will be out in full force.  I douse myself in the insect repellent before opening the door, but know it will only do so much.  Marsh mosquitos are tough, and I often think they view the spray as a marinade being applied to their next meal.

I exit the truck and begin the mindless task of unloading my kayak and gear.  I’ve performed this task several hundred times now, so within 10 minutes of arriving, I am on my way.

It’s still pitch black outside, so I turn on my 360-degree light, even though it won’t serve a purpose on this particular morning.  It’s way too shallow for powerboats to reach the spot I’m heading to, so the odds that I’ll become a speed bump in the dark are nonexistent.

I have roughly thirty minutes before first light shows itself, which is more than enough time to complete the one-mile paddle required to reach my destination.  I keep my pace slow and steady, while carefully listening to the sounds of the marsh.  It’s quiet at first, and the only sounds I hear are the occasional splashes made by jumping horse mullet and few noisy seagulls.  Then, off in the distance, I hear something else.  The distinct flushing sounds that only feeding redfish make.  I don’t quite know the exact location, but turn the bow of my kayak in the general direction of the noise.   Even if I am unable locate this particular group of fish, it’s these types of sounds that get my adrenaline flowing for the day.

As I approach the area where I believe the fish had been feeding, I stop and wait, hoping that they will eventually give themselves away.  They don’t of course, so I fan cast the area with my topwater, hoping to get lucky. Three casts into the small cove results in zero blowups.  The fish that had been in the area just moments before seem to have vanished all of a sudden.

As the sun inches closer and closer to the horizon, my vision slowly improves.  A quick glance at the shoreline confirms what I already know.  The tides are extremely low this morning, with a good six inches separating the top of the water from the bottom of the grass.  Bait has very few places to hide right now, so the marsh birds are having a field day.  I watch a few Rosette Spoonbills as they swing their bills back and forth through the water in search of the tiny shrimp that are burrowed in the mud.  I don’t spend too much time watching though.  I have approximately two hours before the tide turns and begins rushing back in, so there’s little time to waste if I want to sight cast a few reds.

At times I’m paddling through 8” of water, but on occasion I hit an area so shallow that I’m forced to pole myself through what feels like more mud than water.  As I paddle, I do my best to remain in the center of the narrow channel that leads to the back of the lake. If I’m not careful, I could stray off course and be forced to walk through knee-deep marsh mud, which is not my idea of a good time.  This area is really shallow, but I know that I’ll find slightly deeper water and plenty of fish if I can just make it a little further.

After another hundred yards of carefully navigating my way through the maze of mud, I finally reach a consistent depth of one foot and my search begins.

I have four rods with me, just like I would on any other day.  One has a topwater; another has a popping cork, the third has a soft plastic, and the fourth is equipped with a ¼ oz. Beastie Bugg.  The cork, topwater, and soft plastic will more than likely not see much action today, but the Bugg is sure to get a workout.  If I catch any redfish this morning, it will be because I can see parts of, if not the entire fish.  After all, the low tides and exposed fish are the main reasons I chose to fish this particular marsh this morning.

The first area I approach is a small grass flat that has held good fish for me in the past around this time of the year.  Crabs, shrimp, baitfish, and numerous other creatures’ call this area home, and use it as a hideout from would be predators.  The redfish know that, and don’t seem to have a problem with putting in a little work for their food.

I start off by circumnavigating the football sized patch of vegetation, focusing on the edges of the grass.  I’m hoping to spot a few reds as they slowly move along the perimeter looking for their breakfast.  I’ve always had a hard time focusing on one area for an extended period of time; so naturally, I divide my time between watching the edge of the grass and looking out towards the middle.  I’ve spent several years training my eyes to subconsciously look for signs of redfish in shallow water, but so far, I am unable to locate any fish.

Large mullet in the area continue to jump, but the sound that their splashes make receive no attention from me.  Just like my eyes, my ears know what to listen for, so I’ll only jerk my head around if I hear the obvious sound made by redfish smashing bait.

After slowly covering a good fifty yards of water, I finally spot what I’ve been looking for.  A dozen redfish tails are sticking a few inches out of the water in close proximity to one another, as they rummage through the grass for small crustaceans.  I’ve witnessed redfish in this setting a hundred times before, but it never gets old. My heart starts racing, the excitement overwhelms me, and it’s like I’m seeing it for the first time again.

In the past, I would have paddle straight towards the fish, and fired a cast off in the middle of them as soon as I reached the outer limits of my reels casting capability.  More times than not, that cast would miss its mark, and the fish would scatter.  My past experiences let me know that those fish aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. It has taken a while, but I’ve learned that a little patience combined with a stealthy approach will almost guarantee that I catch one of these fish.

The fish are moving slowly, but they are moving, which means the direction they are heading is important.  I watch for a few seconds and determine that they are moving directly away from my current location.  I take my time and slowly paddle around the right hand side of them, making sure to stay a good 15 yards away at all times.  In all honesty, I’m not even paddling water to move my kayak.  Instead, I am placing the blade of my paddle into the soft mud, and propelling myself forward by pushing against it.  This approach is a littler quieter, and it allows me to get within casting distance of the school without giving myself away.

DSC_0047 copy_800x532A few minutes have passed now and the fish are still unaware of my presence. They are devouring shrimp and crab without the faintest idea that one of them is about to be yanked from their little group.  Half of me wants to spend a few minutes watching them feast, while the other demands that I make an immediate cast.  I only take a few seconds to decide, and the half that is begging me to make a cast wins.  It’s been too long since my last trip and I need to feel that tug on the end of my line.

I pick up my rod with the Bugg, double check the direction they are heading, and release a near perfect cast that lands three feet past and three feet in front of the school.  The Bugg lands softly and matches the size and color of the fleeing shrimp perfectly.   Not a single fish spooks, so I know what is about to happen.  I let the Bugg fall for about 3 seconds so that it reaches the bottom where the fish are feasting, give one twitch, and feel that familiar thump I’ve been waiting for.

I reel down my slack and lay into the fish with a powerful hook set.  At this point, all hell breaks loose.  The unlucky red that has taken my bait bolts from the group, the remaining fish scatter in every direction, and my reel begins playing that sweet music that only a fisherman can appreciate.

I begin what will probably be a 2-4 minute battle with the fish, but in all honesty, my favorite part is over.  I enjoy fighting the fish as much as the next guy, but my favorite thing about sight casting, is the eat.  I love seeing the fish pounce on my bait, feeling that hard thump, and experiencing those first five seconds of ninety mile per hour drag peeling as the fish races away, leaving behind a massive wake.  It’s what keeps me coming back for more time and time again.

Hot Pink Curl Tail BuggThree minutes have passed now, and the fish has made a couple of extraordinary runs, but with little energy remaining, he has accepted defeat.  I reach over the side of my kayak and bring my opponent onboard.  It’s a solid red at 25” with a beautiful bronze color.  The Bugg did its job and ended up in the corner of the fish’s mouth.  After a few wiggles back and forth, it comes free, leaving the fish unharmed and ready to rejoin his friends.  I gently slide him over the edge of my kayak and back into the water while holding him by the tail.  I’ll hold him here until he pulls away on his own, which occurs less than ten seconds later.  With a powerful wave of his tail, he splashes me with a little water, his idea of revenge I’m sure, before disappearing into the grass.

I spend the next few hours repeating this process and landing a handful a fish. The incoming tide has now ruined my skinny water and temperatures have already climbed into the lower 90s.  I’ve scratched my redfish itch for the day, so leaving a little earlier than planned doesn’t bother me on this particular morning.  I head back to the truck and no longer have to worry about getting stuck in the mud.  The water is even with the bottom of the grass now, so I am able to paddle anywhere I choose.

As I arrive back at the truck, I am greeted by a couple of kayakers that have just returned from their morning trip.  They don’t have a drop of mud on them, and I am completely filthy.  It turns out they were heading for the same general area that I had fished, but quickly decided to change plans upon arriving because they said, and I quote, “There just wasn’t enough water for the fish to be back there”.  Instead, they opted to fish a nearby deeper channel without any luck.  I can’t help but laugh a little and tell them that an area that’s too shallow for redfish doesn’t really exist.

DSC_0111 copy_800x532I describe the events of my day and tell them about everything I had to go through to reach my spot.  I tell them about the schools of fish and show them a few pics on my phone.  From the looks on their faces, I can tell that they are trying to decide if my story is true, or if I’m sending them on some wild goose chase to protect my honey hole.  I encourage them to give it a try one morning and they say they will give it some thought.

For those curious as to why I spend so much time in the shallow Texas marsh, this recap of the day’s events sums it up.  Watching the sun rise, listening to the sounds of nature, covering several miles of water as I search for fish, and seeing them pounce on my lure is a combination of events that makes it all worthwhile.  There are several different opportunities out there when it comes to selecting an area and species of fish to target, but for me, redfish in the marsh tops them all.

 

Tips and Tricks

Don’t be afraid to go shallow – Redfish will swim through water that even your kayak can’t float through.  If you choose not to fish a spot because you think “there’s just not enough water”, you could be making a big mistake.

Constantly use your eyes and ears – In water this shallow, redfish will often give themselves away if you know what to look and listen for.  Tails, backs, wakes, fleeing bait, hovering birds, or one tiny shrimp can be what leads you to the fish.

Use patience when you locate a fish – Often times, anglers get so excited when they see a visible fish that they will make a cast as soon as possible.  Take a minute or two and observe the fish.  See which direction its heading, determine whether it’s aggressively chasing bait, and if so, what is it eating.  Also, enjoy the sight of watching a 25” redfish as it swims through a few inches of water.  There are plenty of people that will never experience that.

Expect fish to be spooky – Redfish in really shallow water are normally pretty spooky.  Using small baits and casting past and in front of the fish by several feet is usually required if you want to keep from scaring them off.  Once the lure hits the water, very small twitches will help to draw attention to your lure without spooking the fish.

 

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FishHide Sportswear Review

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Like most anglers, when I choose my gear, there are several factors that influence my decision. When selecting lures I look at size, color, and action. When picking out a rod, I focus on the length, power, action, and components used to build it. If I’m looking at a new reel, I want something that is small and lightweight, with the ability to handle big redfish and function properly around saltwater. The same thought process occurs when I choose the clothes I fish in. Not only do I want them to last and look good, I want them to serve a purpose as well.

Over the past 5 years, I’ve purchased just about every “fishing shirt” out there with mixed feelings on each of them. A few months back, at the Houston Fishing Show, I was able to get my hands one of the FishHide Sportswear shirts that has quickly become my favorite shirt to wear while on the water. Photo Mar 01-310690043_829848303742347_2596004534882066710_nNot only is the shirt made from high quality material that will last for many years, it has several added features that most anglers will find useful.

The first thing most people will notice about this shirt, is the large strip of bright orange material located across back and under both sleeves. It’s no secret that hunters wear bright orange clothing to make themselves visible to other hunter’s while in the woods right? Well, the FishHide shirt does the same thing for anglers on the water. As boats travel at high speeds across the open bay, it can be difficult for them to see kayakers and wade fishermen that are in their path, especially in low light situations. With the FishHide shirt, you have the added protection of bright orange that is clearly visible to others. The large strip on the back of the shirt makes it easy for boats that are approaching from the rear to see you, while the strips under each sleeve become visible when you raise your arms above your head and wave them back and forth. As someone who spends the majority of his time paddling a kayak around the bay, visibility is very important to me.

Protection from the sun is another feature I look for in my shirts. For as long as I can remember, I have not been able to stand sunscreen. I don’t like the way it feels on my skin and I am constantly forgetting to reapply it every few hours. My lack of reapplying (or not applying in the first place) has left me with several bad sunburns over the year, which we all know can lead to skin cancer. My solution to this problem became long sleeve shirts made from quick drying micro mesh material that is breathable. This is the same material the FishHide company uses to make their shirts, so not only do I not have to worry about catching a sunburn, the material keeps me cool and dry the entire day, which is important here in Texas where temperatures reach the 100 degree mark on most summer days.

The neck, face, and hands are three other areas that seem to receive a lot of attention from the sun. Gloves and a buff are how the majority of anglers choose to solve this problem, which is the same method I use. An added bonus to FishHide shirts is that they come with a buff and set of gloves built in to the shirt. The buff is attached to the collar of the shirt, while the gloves are readily available because of a thumbhole at the end of each sleeve. These built in gloves are great for kayakers while paddling from spot to spot, and for anglers that want to protect the tops of their hands while fishing. The buff does a great job of protecting your neck since it is attached to the shirt. Being attached to the shirt helps to eliminate the small area at the bottom of your neck where a normal buff always seems to leave a small gap between it and your shirt. So if you always seem to realize that you left one, or both of these back at the truck shortly after launching, the FishHide shirt can provide you with an easy solution to your problem.

Each shirt also comes standard with two chest pockets that can be used to store a few items that you would like to have close by. Under the pocket on the right hand side of your chest, you’ll find a kill switch loop which can be useful to anglers that own a power boat. Inside that same pocket, you’ll find an attached piece of lens cloth that allows you to wipe away water, moisture, and smudges from your polarized sunglasses. While in relatively shallow water, the cloth stays dry throughout the day and is always within reach when you need to give your glasses or GoPro lens a good wipe down.

Shirts are available in a variety of sizes and colors as well. handsupRanging from small to XXXL, with over a dozen colors to choose from, anglers have plenty of options, including four camo patterns and nine solid colors.

These shirts provide anglers with a good combination of comfort, style, and safety while on the water and they are made to last. The additional features like the built in buff, gloves, and lens cloth eliminate the need to carry extra items, which gives you a few less things to worry about.

To see all available colors or to place an order, visit them online at http://www.fishhidesportswear.com

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A New Baby and a Trip to the Marsh in the Jackson Kraken

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Since time to fish has been hard to come by, I’ve been trying to work on a few new things for the blog, but recently got a little sidetracked before finishing any of them up. My wife and I have been preparing for our second little girl to make an appearance on May 13th, but apparently she had plans of her own. We woke up around 5 am on April 30th and made a mad dash to the hospital to find out that she would have to be delivered that day. Four hours later she made an appearance (5 weeks early since her original due date was June 4th) and has been in the NICU for the past 10 days. Everything is fine with her; she just has to improve on her eating before they will release her to come home. We are very excited about the newest (and last edition) to our family, Samantha Rae Mills. Between her and my other daughter, a Jackson Big Tuna or maybe a couple of Cruise 10s might be in my future.

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A few weekends ago, Jackson Kayak teammate Michael Harris and I decided to try our luck at one of my favorite marshy areas. We had a small window of opportunity with an outgoing tide that would bottom out around 9 am which gave us about three hours of ideal sight casting conditions before the water would start pushing back in.  I picked up Aaron Ferguson’s Jackson Kraken for this trip to see how this offshore kayak would handle the skinny water and deep mud of the marsh.

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We launched before first light and made the short paddle to the area we planned to fish. We were floating through 6-8 inches of water, looking for signs of redfish when we came across a small flat with submerged grass. The area was about the size of a football field with plenty of active bait hiding among the vegetation. Large patches of underwater vegetation are great places for small shrimp and baitfish to seek refuge from predators, and the redfish knew that, and didn’t mind rooting around for them. I started off throwing a black and orange She Pup to avoid getting caught in the grass before spotting a group of a dozen tails about 30 yards away. I called Michael over and told him to put his fly rod to work.

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Once Michael arrived, I backed away and watched, as he calmly approached the school, taking his time before making a cast. The first cast fell a few feet short, but the next one was right on the money. A fish bolted from the school, his line went tight, and the 9-foot buggy whip bent over. After a solid 10-minute fight, the mid slot red gave in and the first fish of the day hit the deck of Michael’s Cuda 14. After a few quick photos, the red was released, and our search for the next fish continued.

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Micahel Harris on the fly

It didn’t take long before I spotted another (or the same) school of tails not far from the location of the first and made my way towards them. Michael had already landed him a fish, so now it was my turn. Throughout the month of April, I have gone with a Curl Tail Bugg on 90% of my trips with good results, and I wasn’t about to change things up. All the bait I’ve been seeing is still relatively tiny, so it only makes sense to continue matching the hatch.

Hot Pink Curl Tail Bugg

I fired my little Bugg out in front of the tails, let it sink for a few seconds, and gave it one little twitch. I felt that familiar thump, followed by a good amount of drag peeling, and set the hook. The school scattered and a few minutes later my fish hit the net. I figured I could hang around the grass and wait for the fish to regroup, but I really wanted to push back further in hopes of locating a few crawlers.

I’ve always enjoyed the challenge of convincing a redfish in really shallow water to eat. By shallow, I mean the ability to see their head, back, and tail as they crawl through 3-4 inches of water. Most people think this should be an easy task, when in reality; it can be the most difficult bite to obtain. Fish this shallow are on full alert and very spooky since they are completely exposed. To make a long story short, I spotted a dozen crawlers, got within casting distance of about 3, and only caught one, once again, on my Hot Pink Curl Tail Bugg.

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I look forward to the next 6 months of fishing. The marsh will remain full of reds, and they’ll be hitting everything from a topwater to a soft plastic. I’ll stick with my little Bugg for the rest of this month; however, a MirrOlure She Dog will be close by for that topwater itch I need to scratch.

I did receive a few nice packages in the mail from Jackson Kayak last week.  The first was my new 2015 Cuda 14 which I plan to do a full post about showing all of the improvements Jackson has made compared to my first Cuda, along with everything I love about this kayak.

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The other package was a new team shirt and hat that will be nice to wear during tournaments, demo days, and fishing shows.

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Small Lures for Big Fish

SM Big Red

“Match the hatch” is a phrase we fishermen hear all to often, especially when targeting skinny water redfish on the Texas gulf coast in the early spring. Our fish are a bit picky during this time of the year as they transition from their winter homes, with lots of changes occurring around them. Water temps are rising, wind is going crazy, and plenty of fresh water is flowing into the bay from every river, creek, and stream that leads into the bays, due to the excessive amount of rain we receive this time of the year. There are also millions of little baitfish and shrimp hatching in the marsh, with most of these tiny creatures being no larger than your fingernail. With so many tiny meals that are easy to catch, you can expect shallow water reds to develop a little bit of tunnel vision when it comes to what they will and won’t eat.

With all of this in mind, I like to downgrade the size of my lure to better match the hatch during the months of April and May. Buggs Fishing Lures are my favorite lures when sight casting to spooky reds. These lures are tied like flies using strips of bunny fur and very small in size. Not only are they similar in size to the current bait, but they also make very little splash when coming in contact with the water.

Beastie Bugg

This past weekend while fishing a small marsh lake with an average depth of 1 foot of water, I began blind casting my Bugg after seeing several signs of redfish along the shoreline. It didn’t take more than a few casts before I felt a hard thump, followed by a strong run with a couple dozen yards of drag being peeled off my reel. I knew I had a sold fish, but was surprised to net a 33” redfish after a good 15-minute battle.

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Sonny Mills - Release

I hopped out of the kayak for a quick photo and immediately sank to my thighs in the soft mud our marshes are full of. In water this shallow and mud this deep, kayaking is your only choice, with the Cuda 14 my weapon of choice.

Big baits don’t always catch the big fish. There are certain times of the year when smaller baits will put more fish in the boat and they are a lot of fun to throw. Next time you’re having trouble with getting a bite, downgrade the size of your bait and see if a lure with a smaller profile is what they are after.

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Conditions:

Wind: 15 mph with Gusts to 20 mph

Weather: Cloudy skies with temps in the mid 70s

Tides: Outgoing

Bottom: Mud with occasional patches of shell

Depth: 1-2 feet deep in most areas

Lures: 1/8th oz. Buggs Curl Tail Jig (Blue Crab)

Rod: 6′ 10″ Hook Spit T-N-T

Reel: Shimano Citica

Kayak: Jackson Cuda 14

Paddle: 250 cm Werner Cyrpus: Hooked

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West Houston Kayak Club Presentation

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Photo Credit: Robin Janson

 

This past Tuesday I had the honor of speaking to the West Houston Kayak Club about my favorite redfish lures.  The meeting was held in the banquet room at Spring Creek BBQ in Katy, TX where the club was having their second meeting since forming a few months back.  In January, a meet and greet was held to get to know one another and discuss the future of the club with interested members.

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Photo Credit: Robin Janson

 

I assumed around 30-35 people might attend the meeting to see me speak since 15 had attended the first meeting.  You can imagine my surprise when the banquet room with a capacity of 65 people was completely full, forcing about a dozen people to stand on the back wall.  I was completely shocked to see that 78 people had made the long drive through Houston traffic to hear me speak and I enjoyed every minute of it.

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Photo Credit: Robin Janson

 

The presentation started off with me introducing myself to the group and then telling them a little about myself.  I showed them a few examples of the different types of structure I fish on google earth before moving on to the lures, where I explained when and why I use them.  After discussing a lure, I would show video footage of me catching a few fish on each of them, while walking everyone through each hookup.

At the end of the night, the club had a drawing where they gave away and Igloo Marine Cooler, a few bottles of Pro-Cure, and a large gift basket full of soft plastics.  I was also able to give away two each of the Hydra Buggs, Beastie Buggs, Curl Tail Jigs, and a new Buggs Gator Trout shirt that Buggs owner Heath Hippel had sent me.

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Photo Credit: Robin Janson

 

It was a fun night and I hope everyone that attended went home with a little more knowledge than they came with.  Adam and Scott have big plans for this group and I look forward to seeing them continue to grow.  Their club will meet on the 2nd Tuesday each month at the Spring Creek BBQ in Katy, TX and anyone that would like to attend is welcome.  They will have a speaker each month with Bill Bragman  and Andrew Moczygemba of Yak Gear and Railblaza USA presenting at the March meeting.

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Photo Credit: Robin Janson

 

I had planned to try and video the presentation for those who were not able to attend but we had to turn off most of the lights in order to see the projector on the screen.  I will try to create a video with a voice over while the slides and videos are shown but it will probably take me some time.  The presentation was about an hour long so I will have to find time to sit down and recreate everything I had talked about.

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Photo Credit: Robin Janson

 

I know its a long ways off, but I have already been invited to speak again at the PACK meeting here in Houston on September 15th.  The topic I’m leaning toward is “Signs of Redfish in the Marsh” where I’ll focus on discussing the ways redfish give themselves away in shallow water.  

If you’re reading this post and attended the meeting the other night, then thank you for taking the time out of your day to come and listen.  Thanks to Adam and Scott for allowing me to speak, Heath Hippel for the Buggs, and Robin Janson of Kadien Photography for capturing a few pictures.

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West Houston Kayak Club-TKF Speaking

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If you live in the Houston area and would like to hear me talk about catching redfish, I’ll be speaking to the West Houston Kayak Club on February 10th. The meeting will take place at Midway BBQ in Kay, TX in the large meeting room from 6:30 to 8:00. The topic will be “Redfish Lures: When and Where to Throw Them”. I’ll be focusing on my favorite lures for redfish and explaining certain situations where I like to use each of them along with the reasons why. I have a 32 page PowerPoint presnetation full of pictures, videos, and helpful information from my experiences on the water over the years. Grab a friend, come enjoy some good BBQ, and talk fishing with me for an hour.

 

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January 2015 Issue of The Fisherman’s Journal

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The January 2015 issue of The Fisherman’s Journal is now available at the link below.  Be sure to check out page 24 to read my article “10 Tips to Defeat the Wind While Kayak Fishing”.

 

http://thefishermansjournal.com/blog/2015/01/06/the-january-2015-issue-of-the-fishermans-journal/

 

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Fly Fishing the Guadalupe River

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This past Sunday Aaron and I left the kayaks at home, grabbed the fly rods, and headed west to fish the Guadalupe river for rainbow trout.  While I’ve practiced at the local ponds, I’ve never actually caught a fish on the fly.  I’d like to spend some time this summer chasing redfish with the fly rod so this trip would allow me to learn  few things and practice on some smaller fish.

We left Pearland at 4:15 am and made a quick stop at Whataburger before reaching the river in New Braunfels around 7:20.  Temps were holding in the upper 30s with an occasional gust of wind but we had blue clear skies and temps that would rise throughout the day.  We hopped into our waders, rigged our rods for nymphing, and headed down to the river.  After a few quick tips from Aaron we got our flies in the water and had a double hook up on our 2nd casts.  Aaron had a nice fish to start the day while my first fish was in the 6 inch range.

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The action stayed pretty consistent for most of the day with each of us landing a little over 20 fish each.  The majority of the fish were in the 6-10 inch range but we caught half a dozen each that were around 16″.  The Guadalupe River provides some beautiful scenery and great trout fishing during the winter months for Texas residents.

 

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10 Tips to Defeat the Wind While Kayak Fishing

MeandCalbert

As kayak anglers, if we only fished on days when the wind laid low, odds are the majority of us would never get on the water. Like it or not, windy days are a part of kayak fishing that you’re going to have to deal with on occasion. While the wind can be a pain to deal with, it’s not always a reason to cancel your trip. Fishing on a windy day is not only possible, but can be very productive with proper planning and the right equipment. A combination of the tips and advice listed below can help you turn a canceled trip into a successful and enjoyable day on the water.

Warning: As always, precaution should be taken when dealing with dangerous situations such as kayaking during a period of extremely high winds. Know your abilities as a paddler, always wear your lifejacket, and if in doubt, cancel your trip. When I use the term “high winds” in this article I am referring to winds in the 15-25 mph range.

DSC_0131 copy_800x532The Power of a Good Paddle

Having proper equipment is one of the best ways to make things easier for yourself while kayaking. As wind speed increases, so will the amount of paddle strokes you take throughout the day.  With an increase in the amount of strokes you take, you can expect fatigue to set in more quickly, especially if you’re using a heavy paddle (greater than 30 oz.). You’ll be amazed at just how much a full carbon or carbon blend paddle will help to prolong fatigue, regardless of how high or low winds are. I am currently paddling with the 250 cm Werner Cyprus: Hooked that weighs in at 23.25 oz. making fatigue during 20+mph winds the least of my worries. Before the Cyprus, I paddled with the 250 cm Werner Shuna: Hooked (27.75 oz.) which was also a great paddle. Having a paddle constructed from lightweight, high quality materials can make a huge difference on a windy day when the amount of strokes you take will greatly increase.

Feathering Your Paddle

Feathering the blades of your paddle is a great way to reduce the resistance caused by wind. Feathering is the action of rotating the blades on your paddle so that they sit at opposite angles of one another. This allows one end of your paddle to slice through the wind at an angle while the other is in the water propelling you forward. This helps to reduce resistance caused by the wind during each paddle stroke you take. While feathered, you are required to rotate the shaft of the paddle in your hand so that the blades enter the water at the right angle during each stroke. Most people find paddling with feathered blades awkward at first so it’s a good idea to practice on a calm day ahead of time. Once proper technique has been developed, paddling on windy days can become easier than you think.

Slow and Steady Wins the Race

When paddling straight into a strong headwind, many kayakers will make the mistake of throwing their head down and giving it all they’ve got in an attempt to defeat the wind. The problem with this method is that most anglers will tire out before reaching their intended destination. It’s sort of like sprinting and jogging. If you have a short distance to travel, then sprinting will get the job done. However, if your destination is a long ways off then you’ll need to maintain a slower, steady pace that is similar to jogging. Paddling is really no different since a constant but comfortable pace will allow you to paddle for a longer period of time while a more strenuous pace will get you there faster but cause you to fatigue more quickly. The bottom line is that on windy days you should expect to paddle for a longer period of time and cover less water than you normally would. With this in mind, slow and steady is your best choice.

IMG_4513Leave the Stringer Behind

If you plan on keeping fish during a trip when the winds are going to be high, a fish bag on your kayak is the best way to go. Dragging several fish behind your kayak on a stringer creates extra drag that can make a tough day of paddling even more difficult. By placing a fish bag in your rear tank well, you can place your fish on ice as soon as they are caught and eliminate the drag that would be created if you were towing a stringer.

Drift Sock

The last piece of equipment that can really come in handy on windy days is a drift sock. During high winds, the speed of your kayak is difficult to control while making long drifts across an open bay or lake. The wind causes you to drift at a faster pace than you would like, which makes it very difficult to cover an area thoroughly. It also makes properly working your lure a bit of a challenge since you will be constantly moving about twice the speed you normally would. Deploying a drift sock is a great way to slow down and really cover an area the correct way.

Launch Here, Exit There

Launching from one location and exiting at another is a great way to make sure you spend more time fishing and less time paddling. For this to work, you’ll need to fish with a friend and drive separate vehicles. You load both kayaks and gear into one vehicle and leave the empty one behind at the area you plan to exit. You then head back to your launch, unload your kayaks and gear, and start your drift by allowing the wind to blow you towards your exit. Using this tactic allows you to cover several miles of water, fish during the majority of the trip, and keeps you from having to paddle back into wind. The key is choosing your launch and exit according to the direction the wind is blowing. By doing so, the wind will actually help to reduce the amount of paddling required during your trip.

Hugging Wind Protected Shorelines

One way to avoid the wind while moving from spot to spot is to stay as close as you can to a wind protected shoreline. By staying within a few feet of these shorelines you can minimize the effect crosswinds will have against you and your kayak. The water near these areas will be slightly shielded from the wind for about five feet off the shoreline line allowing you to paddle through a somewhat protected area. For example, if the wind was blowing out of the north, you would want to stay as near the north shoreline as possible. With this in mind, wind direction can play a huge role in the location I choose to launch from and the areas I choose to fish on windy days.

DSC_0075 copy_800x532Get Out and Wade

Most kayakers seem split when it comes to fishing from their kayak or getting out and wading. Some will argue that one of the main reasons they bought a kayak was to get away from wading while others will swear that wading will put more fish on the stringer. As far as this goes, I say to each their own, however, on windy days I like to use my kayak to reach a location and then get out and wade. Making several casts and working a lure properly is much easier while standing on solid ground when compared to sitting in your kayak while it gets blown across the water at a high rate of speed. It also allows you to properly cover an area since wading forces you to slow down and make several casts before moving on.

Wind Driven Current

One of the major benefits of fishing on a windy day is the constant tidal movement that can be created by the wind. Small pinches and channels created by islands or other forms of land make great places for fish to feed as the wind funnels the water and bait through these areas. The key is finding a channel or pinch that runs parallel to the direction the wind is blowing. Other great areas to focus on would be points, small coves, and large patches of shallow shell where fish can sit out of the current while waiting for bait to be blown by. All of these areas make great ambush points for reds, trout, and flounder on windy days.

DSC_0017 copy_800x532High to Low

A lot of the newer model kayaks that have come out recently give you the option to place your seat in a high or low position. The Jackson Cuda 14 I paddle gives me this option and 95% of the time I sit in the high position. It makes standing easier, gives me a higher view point, and is overall a more comfortable position in my opinion. The downside is that while elevated, your body catches more wind which can slow you down due to the extra drag that is created. Windy days are when I move my seat into the low position in order to reduce the amount of resistance my body creates. While it may not seem like much, it can make a noticeable difference while paddling.

Next time the wind looks like it will be more than you care to deal with, remember these tips and use it to your advantage. Some of my best days on the water have occurred during windy days when I had considered staying home. The thing about fishing is you never know if the fish are biting until you get on the water and see for yourself.

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Willie Wimmer Slam Jam

This past weekend I competed in the Willie Wimmer Slam Jam Tournament out of San Leon, TX to help raise money for a local Galveston fishing guide who sustained injuries from a gun shot wound to the back.  Wade Bullard, the owner of the Hook Spit Fishing Store in League City, TX was hosting the tournament which included a boat and kayak division.  Aaron and I had already registered and with a little bit of coaxing, we convinced David to sign up on the final day.

We chose our location a week before the tournament based on past experiences and reports from friends that had fished the area recently.  For those who do not know, a slam tournament allows you to weigh in one slot redfish, one speckled trout, and one flounder with their combined total weight making up your stringer.  We knew the redfish would come easy since that’s what we spend the majority of our time chasing but were a little unsure about the flounder and trout.  I have a friend that has been killing the flounder in the area we were heading to that supplied me with some great flounder fishing tips including how to tie the same tandem rig he uses, what soft plastics and colors to throw, and a map where he had been having success.  Another friend told me a few areas that the trout had been hanging around the last couple of weeks as well, so we felt pretty confident that we would each get our three fish.

Tandem

When we woke up Saturday morning the winds were under 10 mph from the north and the temperature was holding steady around 50 degrees but would quickly climb to 70 as the day went on.  We arrived 30 minutes before the 6 am launch time, unloaded our gear, and moved one truck a little further down the road to a second launch point so we would have the option of making the shortest paddle back to a vehicle depending on where we were when it was time to head in.  At exactly 6 am we shoved off and made the 2 mile paddle to our first spot.  We were going to try and pick up our redfish first since they had been schooled up early in the mornings during previous trips.  About halfway to the spot David broke away and said he was going to fish a small drain that he’s had luck at in the past.  Aaron and I continued on our way and finally reached the lake we had been heading to.  We didn’t see much action so we decided to split up to try and locate some fish.  I paddled another 1/2 mile across the lake to the opposite shoreline while he worked the near side.  Aaron found a few schools and caught 3 or 4 reds with his largest being 26″.  My side of the lake was pretty slow with no schools in sight.  I decided to work the shoreline with a popping cork and gulp in hopes of finding a good sized single that might be roaming the area.  Ten minutes passed and I hadn’t had a nibble.  After a while I started looking across the lake for any signs of fish nearby and saw one tiny shrimp go airborne to my left about 30 yards off the shoreline.  Without taking my eye off of where it landed, I reeled in my cork and fired a cast in it’s direction.  A few seconds later my cork went under and what felt like a lower slot fish turned out to be a nice 26″ red that went into the fish bag.

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In the video below you can barely see the ripple made by the one little shrimp and will notice that I do not take my eyes away from the area until my cork lands.  By not glancing away, I was able to put the cork exactly where the bait had spooked.

I met back up with Aaron and we were both satisfied with the 26″ reds for the time being.  We decided to head over to the flounder hole Johnathan had told us about to see if we could get our flat fish out of the way.  We were fishing a small channel that turned out to be around 5 feet deep in the middle but closer to 1 foot near the edges.  There was a scattered shell bottom with a small reef near the bend.  Johnathan had told us to work the grasslines along the shallower water as slow as possible.  I had tandem rigged one of my rods the night before with two 1/8th oz jig heads that were about 6 inches apart.  I went with a bone colored killer flats minnow on the top and a Berkley 4″ Gulp Shrimp on the bottom.  I parked my kayak and fished from the bank making casts that were parallel to the grass while working my tandem rig slower than I’ve ever worked any lure.  I would basically give my rod tiny twitches and reel in the slack and repeat.  My twitches resmebled the way you might move your rod if you were trying to scare a dragonfly off of the tip.  The technique and rig paid off as my first flounder was caught less than 10 minutes after arriving.  At 16″ I was glad to have a keeper in the bag but at the same time, was worried about my chance to upgrade.  November flounder limits in Texas drop from 5 to 2 and you’re not allowed to cull them.  With only one chance to upgrade available I was worried I would catch a 17″ flounder next and be faced with the choice of releasing it in hopes of catching a bigger one or keeping it and being done.

I continued working the area looking for an upgrade and picked up a 20″ red before catching a surprise 19″ trout.  This was a decent trout which allowed me to complete my slam by 8:12 am.  Aaron was working the same area trying to catch his flounder but kept catching undersized reds and trout.  After bagging my trout I decided my best chance to upgrade my weight would be to continue working the area for a flounder and it finally paid off when I brought in a solid 19″ flattie.  All of my fish up until this point came on the Gulp Shrimp.

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As soon as I bagged that fish I left Aaron and decided to meet up with David and head out in search of a bigger trout.  When I found David he had a fat football shaped red that was right at 24″ and a 19″ flounder like me.

football

We made the short paddle to a nearby area in search of a trout but had trouble locating them.  We moved around to a few different spot but the trout didn’t seem to be around or at least weren’t feeding.  We decided to head to our last trout spot that was near David’s truck determined to camp out on this area and continually work it until we found the trout or ran out of time.

After five minutes at this area we started hearing the distinct sound made by feeding reds in a nearby lake.  I had my slam and was happy with my fish so I told David I was going to chase some reds while he worked for his trout.  Before I could get past him he decided to join me.  He said the thought of those reds feeding like that was to much to resist.

We spent the next hour or so sight casting lower to mid slot reds in shallow water with tons of shell.  I was having a little trouble keeping my soft plastic out of the shell and decided to switch over to a Strike Pro Hunchback.  Not only did this keep me out of the shell, but wakers are a blast to throw at shallow water reds.  I would cast in front of the  small wakes they were pushing and start reeling the lure in.  As soon as they spotted the hunchback they would dart from behind it and explode on the lure which was fun to watch.  After picking up about 4 reds each we decided to head back to the truck.  We arrived at the same time Arron did and found out that he had found a 17″ trout and a 16″ flounder to complete his slam as well.

We arrived at the weighin and visited with friends for a while before the weighin finally opened.  When it was all said and done, David had finished 3rd with 8.84 lbs, Aaron was 2nd with 10.10 lbs, and I had come out on top with 11.19 lbs.  We had a great time on the water fishing with one another, plus its always nice when the plans you make come together as well as they did.

 

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