Hooked Up: August 2021

Hooked Up: August 2021
Gretchen Sengelmann with one of many reds caught over two days with her dad, Bill. I just drive the boat. All CPR! I appreciate them looking out for the future of the fishery.

"Would somebody please throw some water on the fire?" That's a verse from a song I heard this afternoon as I jumped into my super-heated truck to load the boat after being in the hot sun all day, and what seemed like bubbling hot water. 

The lack of wind in July is par for the course but dang if it doesn't seem especially hot this year. Some kid told me it's global warming. My doc says it's the diabetes meds. One old salt said I'm just not as young as I used to be. There may be some truth to all but I'm thinking that becoming a Yellowstone River fly fishing guide, June through August, may be how I redefine myself  next year. I'm kidding, of course, but there are days that fighting bears seems more appealing than fighting a typical south Texas summer.

Despite the killing freeze, we are still targeting trout daily. The good news is we are catching them. The majority are small, but I am so thankful there are trout in the bay to continue spawning. 

We are getting on the water very early, arriving to our first wading area just as light is breaking through. Without doubt, your best chance to be successful on trout is before 9:00 a.m.  After that, you have one of two options to keep the catching going.  For trout, get on the deepest breaks you can find that are holding bait. Wade deep and cast deeper, working your lure close to bottom as you retrieve it back up along the drop-off you are wading. This technique can produce bites just about all day, albeit the process can be a true grind.

Wading deep rock piles can be equally effective. Keep in mind though, not every rock is guaranteed to have trout on them. There must be bait present to have even half a chance. The good news is that you can make that determination before you even get out of the boat. No bait…move on to other rock formations.

When the sun climbs higher, long about 10:00 a.m., your fishing effort can be redirected to site-casting on the flats that we are blessed to have miles of in the Upper Laguna/Baffin system. Schooling reds and black drum will be easy targets during this part of the day and can make for some exciting fishing. And before you thumb your nose at black drum, be advised that trout of all sizes routinely cruise with them to snatch up whatever bait they are spooking and not devouring. Another bonus is that black drum can be mighty fine on the dinner plate, if you care to take some home.  

"Back in the day," as they say, you could always count on running across some big schools of reds while headed back to Bluff’s Landing Marina. The good news is we still find them; however, it may take a little more work versus past years. The number of boats pursuing them now is tenfold, and they tend to stay on the spooky side, so the challenge is real when you do find them. My best advice as to spot them from a distance and drift into them quietly. Unbelievably, even a trolling motor can spook them beyond casting distance. 

TPWD should be releasing results of their spring gill net surveys sometime in July. Personally, I would like to see the bag limit remain at three fish, but with the “keep” slot restructured to 17- to 20-inches, from the current 17- to 23-inches, enacted following the freeze. These bays have been banged up by fishermen using live croaker almost thirty years now, and the decline in the fishery was obvious even before the freeze.   

Adding the setback of the February freeze to the perceived long-term decline (croaker related harvest and explosion of fishing pressure), we will be hanging by a thread if  TPWD opts to return to “business as usual” going forward. Two technicians with Coastal Fisheries tell me the post-freeze gill net surveys are showing an increase in trout numbers. I find that especially disturbing when our trout-to-hand numbers are down 70-75% in Baffin, and 90% in the Upper Laguna. It is hard to fathom how their science and our manhours with rods and reels are so vastly different, and I am speaking for many fishermen and guides. 

Remember the buffalo!  -Capt David Rowsey

Post-Freeze Mullet Schools in Upper Laguna; Like the Good Old Days!