Encyclopedia of the Coastal Bend

Encyclopedia of the Coastal Bend

We fishermen are always looking for the latest greatest tools to give us the edge in our outdoor adventures. Sometimes it's the newest reel on the market matched to the perfect lightweight rod. Other times we find some new high-tech electronic gadget guaranteed to help us locate the mother lode of bronze-backed reds. And of course, we kayak fishermen are always looking to upgrade our kayaks or maybe find that perfect paddle. According to my wife, the common denominator in my wants and needs seems to be the price tag...too much. The debate will go on forever as to the true value assigned to most of these things, but I recently found a very valuable tool that would be a bargain at twice the price.

It's the latest offering from Ray Crawford, a book by the name of "Wade & Kayak Fishing on the Coastal Bend of Texas." Ray's previous books covering the upper coast have been around for quite a while and have developed a cult following among the kayak fishing crowd. Now he's outdone himself with an offering that details the ins and outs of the middle coast. There are over 300 photos, maps, and satellite images included in the book covering everything from Hopper's Landing on San Antonio Bay to the Upper Laguna Madre at Laguna Shores. Three years of hard work and many miles traveled really paid off.

This section of the Texas coast is considered by many to be the Mecca for kayak fishermen in our state due to the easy public access, vast grass flats, and numerous shallow backwaters. It is the perfect venue to get started kayak fishing and an even better place for the veteran kayaker to stretch their horizons and explore new water. The very reason for its popularity often causes folks new to the area to become a bit intimidated. The choices and options can seem daunting at times. There are so many quality locations to choose from that you sometimes find yourself second-guessing where to go. And if you don't know the area it can be quite easy to just settle into going for the easiest and most obvious places. I know I'm guilty of getting comfortable with a given area and then ignoring some of the other nearby possibilities.

I've been fishing and exploring this part of the coast for quite a few years now and thought I had done a pretty thorough job of ferreting out the potential launches. Going through the new book I was reminded of some places I'd been meaning to try, but hadn't taken the time to do so. However, the most surprising thing was finding a large number of places I'd never even considered. Ray really did his homework and obviously spent countless hours driving around investigating potential public access points. I can't imagine how many hours he spent behind the wheel bouncing down some unnamed dirt road following up on a hand-drawn napkin map from a local expert. You know the kind. Turn left at the chicken coup, right at the old rusted blue barrel, then through two ditches–and be careful of the second ditch, it can get you stuck.

A guide book of written directions coupled with maps to the launch points is a valuable resource in itself. I've bought and used several books with that format in other parts of the country. These are certainly better than nothing, but leave a lot of unknowns that require considerable time and effort to figure out. If you're on a tight schedule you can find yourself spending more time exploring than actually fishing. Ray has gone far beyond the basic guide book format. Along with the written driving directions, this book includes photographs as seen from the driver's perspective. How cool is that? A map, directions, and photos to insure you are headed in the right direction. It may seem like overkill to the locals, but imagine how helpful a photo of the entrance to an unmarked dirt road would be if you've never been there.

But it doesn't stop there. He's added detailed driving instructions regarding the condition of the inevitable dirt roads that lead to the best places and suggestions about how to navigate these often sketchy paths. There are also photos and tips as to the best points to enter the water and the possible hazards you may encounter at the various locations. Having launched at hundreds of places from Port Isabel to Key West, I can tell you that this information could've saved me from a good many risky situations. Ray really needs to get busy with the rest of the entire Gulf Coast.

Now that you've gotten safely to the launch and into the water you're on your own to go exploring and hunt for the fishing holes. Nope. Read on. There are photos depicting the view you'll see from the launch including landmarks such as exposed reefs, gas wells, piers, and any number of other structures to assist you in navigating through unfamiliar waters. These on-site photos coupled with aerial photo-maps of each area should be more than enough to provide you with the confidence to get out and explore the hundreds of square miles of water available to you.

Ray is also an experienced fisherman so there are plenty of tips and strategies to help you along with getting started finding fish. At the various access points there are directions on where to find reefs, guts, and other fish holding structures. Of course tides, winds, and other weather conditions will vary greatly so it would be impossible to provide any surefire tactics that would guarantee your success. It'll still be up to you to figure out what areas will be best under the given conditions. But this book will certainly help to straighten out the learning curve.

In this day and time of private property issues and loss of access to the water, we all owe Ray a pat on the back for putting this information together in a concise and informative package. My copy is already getting dog eared and marked up with intended destinations and I can see that I've got plenty of exploration ahead of me this summer.

To get your own copy you can visit Ray's website (www.texascoastalfishingbooks.com) for a list of retailers who carry the book.