Sandifer Snippets

Billy has been a wonderful mentor and teacher in the ways of fishing and the natural world and given us tons of great reading over the years. I thought it might be fun and informative to look back on some memorable excerpts.

This first one discusses weather phenomena and untimely presence of species. Billy has maintained meticulous records of weather for at least 30 years and "firsts" of various seasons. Comparing timely observations with his history of logbooks was always the basis for his fishing forecasts; it has never been his way to simply guess at what was going on. And he always had a conservation message. It seems the average angler is too busy making a living, hoping to fish on weekends, to be as busy recording natural events. But this has been Billy's world. Here's what Billy had to say in April 2003. - Editor

An Early Spring
– As of mid-March both air and water temperatures have been running a few degrees higher than they have for the past several years. Plants are budding out early, blue bonnets and primroses are blooming and several bird species have returned from their winter quarters. Everything shows signs of an early spring and it sure would be welcome around here.

As a longtime observer and daily record keeper, I noticed in 1992 that our local weather pattern seemed to be going through a change. Spring can be a wonderful time to fish in the Coastal Bend, but starting in '92 it seemed our spring season arrived later and later each year as Old Man Winter refused to leave on schedule. The result was that surf fishers lost some really fine fishing opportunities.

I have almost gotten used to this pattern as the years passed because the situation seemed to exacerbate rather than return to normal. Last year was the most unusual that I ever remember in the surf. Sharks stayed through the winter regardless of the temperatures. A million or more little tunny showed up on March 16 and stayed a week, the trout fishing was unprecedentedly very good throughout July and August, large numbers of juvenile manta rays spent August in the PINS surf (first I'd ever seen in the surf in my entire life) and tarpon were present throughout the month of September in numbers not seen in many years.

This winter, some numbers of sharks have remained present, a large mako was landed and released, tremendous numbers of Portuguese man-of-war jellies turned miles of beach blue, and incredible numbers of baitfish shoaled nearshore and remained in the area throughout the period. And on 10 March a 25-pound-plus jack crevalle was sight-casted in the surf, a full six days earlier than any past record and 12 days ahead of my second earliest record.

How wonderful are the prospects that we may enjoy one of those fine springs we used to enjoy regularly?

One of the benefits of an early and perhaps even milder spring is that it affords shark anglers some of the best and easiest fishing of the year. The largest lesser blacktipped sharks are present in the spring months and these fish will come into extremely shallow water, which makes successful fishing possible by casting baits as well as kayaking them offshore. Scalloped hammerheads are also present in the highest numbers during spring.

A word to shark fishers is appropriate herethese large female blacktipped sharks are full-term pregnant during April, so please take this into consideration prior to killing one as you are not killing one shark but several.

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Speaking on developments in fishing tackle and accessories, Billy had this to say in January 2004. Billy was no tackle junkie, could never afford to be, but he was always keen to recognize opportunities to better equip himself and his clients because his business was catching fish.

Continuing evolution of Texas saltwater fishing
I have always been told that change is inevitable and the only thing a man can manage is his own reaction to it. Somehow this has always made a lot of sense to me.

There are so many things changing in the world of Texas inshore saltwater angling, and at such an unprecedented pace, that at times it seems almost overwhelming to an old hunter-gatherer like me.

It's as if I can hear the distant roar of change on the horizon, likened to the approach of a storm or a herd of large animals running hard across an open plain. New technology and products have a lot to do with it.

Sophisticated new products are appearing on tackle store shelves faster than I have ever seen in my life. The diversity of new soft plastic lures alone is mindboggling. New lines, rods and reels appear regularly, along with more efficient GPS units and other boating accessories aimed at serious, upper-end anglers.

Today, choice is the only thing that remains truly simple. One either continues to do things as always and use the same tools year after year, or we adapt and accept newly available tools and equipment with open arms.

I choose to utilize absolutely anything that has potential to make me a better angler and fishing guide. It's not about keeping up with the Joneses; it's about being the very best I can be and providing the very best possible service to my clients.

It tickles me to read defenders of a long-accepted lure assure the world that the new "look alike" will be short-lived and never take the place of the original.

Usually, some statement of how the new one "sinks too fast" is given as justification. If one really analyzes the situation, it may well be that he can remember days when the original couldn't quite fill a need, and could have, IF the sink rate had been a bit faster. So to me, the new one is not attempting to gain the market from the original at all, but to offer the option of a similar but faster sinking lure. It would be ludicrous to assume the designer would not have matched the sink rate of the original if that had been the intent.

So it's not an "instead of" bait, but rather a new specialty bait the manufacturer hopes will fill a void in the modern angler's tool kit. We live and fish in the era of specialty baits and I imagine we'll be seeing plenty more of them. Today's trout anglers fish in conditions that would have never been considered fishable in years past and it is only logical that a wider array of tools will become available due to the diversity of conditions now being fished.

I have been around for some time and I remember lots of accepted truths from the past that would draw grins and giggles today. I remember when the only topwater lure used locally was the 7M MirrOlure. When the Cordell Broken Back arrived on the scene everybody knew it was too big to use for trout and would never work.

I remember when common knowledge held that it was impossible to catch trout on topwaters until the water temperature reached at least 68 or 70 degrees. I also remember when shark fishing in the Texas surf ended in early fall and resumed in mid-March at the earliest. Don't try for a split second to sell these theories to the anglers of the new millennium.

I can remember when the complete tackle box contained but a handful of stuff and even fewer artificials. Now I have a bookcase filled with plastic containers of lures. Each performs more effectively than others during certain conditions and having each of them available greatly increases the chances of a successful outing regardless of conditions. The key to success is not only having a wide selection available, but also in knowing when each particular type will excel above the others.