Offshore Season Kicks Off
The big story this month is definitely red snapper. TPWD has announced a projected 82-day federal water season for private recreational anglers. The season is set to open on June 1 and run through August 21. The projection is based on National Marine Fisheries Service’s allocation of red snapper to the recreational side of the fishery and harvest estimates. Should it be determined (see also – guessed) that recreational anglers have achieved their quota before August 21, the season could be closed earlier. As snapper anglers are keenly aware, angling success is highly dependent upon the smallboat fleet’s ability to access the fishery – weather, rough seas, etc.
The red snapper bag limit in federal waters will remain 2-per person per day, with a minimum length of 16-inches. In Texas state waters, out to nine nautical miles, bag limits will remain 4-per person per day with a 15-inch minimum length and a 365-day season.
Texas state licensed fishing guides are not allowed to participate in the 82-day season with paying customers on the boat. These captains cannot legally fish for or possess red snapper in or from federal waters without a federal for-hire permit.
The Federally Permitted For-Hire Vessels have been allotted a catch season beginning June 1 and ending July 22, 2018. All boats operating in the for-hire fishery must be federally licensed, permitted, and abide by the rules set by National Marine Fisheries Service.
June typically puts the inshore/nearshore king mackerel season into high gear as large aggregations of kings generally follow the schools of bait into shallower gulf waters. It’s not unheard of to catch them within a couple miles of the beach or at ship channel jetties. The combined keys to their location are clear water, concentrated baitfish, and strong inshore tides.
The new and full moon phases consistently produce the strongest inshore tidal flow. For prime times, plan for a couple days before or after the moon phases. The powerful tides concentrate and overcome the baitfish, which in turn attract the kings. If calm wind conditions persist days prior and during these tides, clear water is a good possibility. The kings are typically sight and motion feeders, clear water and moving bait are favorable.
The 2018 season brings Texas anglers an increased daily king mackerel bag limit in Texas waters. It is now legal to retain up to three fish per person with a minimum length of 24-inches. TPWD enacted these new limits to better mirror the federal regulations for the species which is also 3-fish per day.
Dead baits can be trolled or drifted, but live baits on the drift can be deadly. My favorite rigs are one live menhaden or two live croakers hooked individually near their tails. The croakers put out bright flashes and vibration fighting against each other. Shiny ribbonfish are some of the most productive kingfish baits, trolled or drifted in any area kings are frequenting gets a bend in the rod.
Personally, I like to use two hooks only on my bait rigs. A pair of #4 Mustad 3592HD Kingfish trebles, rigged 7 inches apart keeps toothy fish attached. Rigging with 40- to 60-pound single strand wire gets the most bites. Egg weights from 1-3 ounces can be slid in front of the #7 black barrel swivel for additional depth coverage.
For artificial lures, I have used many brands and styles over the years. Depending on conditions and water depths, various sizes and colors come into play. Shiny chrome surfaces are always good, lighter natural colors like dorado/sardine in clear water and brighter colors used in more murky areas.
Over the last couple of seasons I’ve scaled down my lure sizes to coincide with the kingfish targeted. The best table fare comes from those less than 40-inches long. Two of my best producers for smaller kings and larger Spanish mackerel are the #17 Tony Accetta Pet Spoon and the Rapala CD-14 deep diver. Rig these with a 30” length of #6/61lb single strand wire. An appropriately-sized ball bearing swivel keeps line twist to a minimum.
If bigger kings are your target, increase the lure’s one size to a #18 spoon and a CD-18. Larger lures target larger fish and #8/93lb test wire works well.
These lures pull well with speeds 4-6mph and allow you to cover lots of water. Many times I use this combination of lures, either size, to hunt for fish schools. Once we hookup or get a strike, I mark the area on the GPS and fish back through the area, sometimes several passes. Drifting with the natural baits mentioned earlier can result in multiple hookups per school. Chumming once a bite starts can help keep the school following the boat as you drift.
Being on the water many days allows me to fine tune my fishing arsenal. Rod and reels, sunglasses, shoes, lures and terminal tackle are all well-tested. Many do not make the cut and, out of fairness, I only report on the ones that excel. The following are a few items that have made my outings more successful.
SoftScience Foot Wear- Hands down, these have been the best fishing shoe brand I have ever worn. On the boat, at the dock, or around town. I have been wearing the Fin original and 2.O version for two years now- no complaints. They are the most comfortable and fast-drying shoes I’ve owned. I purchased them from Roy’s Bait & Tackle and directly from SoftScience. Online sales offer a “Supreme Comfort Guarantee.” Take up to 60-days to try out your shoes. If you don’t love them they will exchange or refund them, includes free return shipping. What better service could you ask for?
Penn Battle II Reels- These spinning reels really take a beating and keep going! Very smooth drag system and a loud drag clicker that I love. The clicker alerts me if a fish is taking drag or if my customer is reeling against it. This allows me to make immediate adjustment to keep the fish on the hook and coming to the net. The 3000 series loaded with 20lb Spider Wire Stealth braid is perfectly sized for regular duty trout and redfish fishing.Versa Maxx Fishing Floats- I’ve been fishing this float all spring with live shrimp. The Bolt model allows for quick and easy depth adjustments with a “spool” incorporated into the design. I rig with about 40-inches of 25-lb mono wrapped around the spool and adjust as needed. The spool design is cool, but the click this rig makes sounds like a shrimp popping. Light pulls on the line when adjusting slack out of the drift is all that is needed. Minimal effort for maximum results makes for an easier day on the water.