Now that we can see fall in the headlights and summer in the rearview, it's time for many of us salty souls to start thinking about trophy fishing again. For me, fall fishing will be interrupted occasionally by bow hunting and then chasing blue quail in the west Texas mountains, but thoughts of trout will remain at the forefront of all things outdoors.
Wrapping up my late-summer thoughts and observations of post-freeze fishing; I am grateful to discover we had a good number of smaller breeder trout that survived the freeze and had a chance to spawn throughout the warmer months. There is no way of determining how many trout were harvested this summer but the trout that were killed will be a setback to getting the fishery back in good standing. Personally, I think it will be a good three years before we see a substantial change from our currently low catches to what was considered normal in years past. Common sense will tell even the simplest of minds that the more spawners you take from the ecosystem during a time of recovery the longer it will take to accomplish a full recovery.
For those who think the trout fishery will miraculously bounce back in 2022, consider this anecdotal equation, which is based purely on our post-freeze charter catch rates.
75% freeze loss + 5% harvest leaves only 20% of original spawning age trout in the bay. And of that 20%, at least 1/3 are males, which likely leaves just over 13% sexually mature females for future spawning.
The most important thing I am hoping to convey via this less-than-scientific analysis is this: Trout are not going to rain from the sky in 2022! The only significant increase to total seatrout biomass will be the 2021 year-class fingerlings. Hence, we will be in the exact same position (actually less due to harvest) than we were immediately following the freeze. Think about that!
The days of stringer shots and dead fish displayed on the bow of the boat need to be put behind us. The pressure currently being placed on the species is unsustainable and as sportsmen we need to get serious if we can ever hope to see this fishery thriving again as it did from the mid-90s through 2010, or so. Unfortunately, many newcomers to the sport think that catching five trout in a day is great. I guess it is if you have never caught one hundred that averaged 3-4 pounds. Yes, that’s the way it should be and was not very long ago.
Other states like Florida, Alaska, and many of the mountain states truly value great fisheries and understand how to manage them. As proud as I am to be a Texan we are like Neanderthals when it comes to managing the resource for quality and sustainability. The way I see it TPWD Coastal Fisheries has its hands tied by politics and seemingly cannot manage as proactively as they should or could. I am also concerned that CCA Texas is not exerting its muscle sufficiently in the political arena to help achieve its original conservation goals.
Thank goodness there are still some groups and folks that are steadfast in their practice of catch and release and have genuine concern for the future of our coastal resources – albeit we are greatly outnumbered by those who think the supply is endless. We must therefore take every opportunity to inform the less-educated of the impact we are having on the fishery.
October is a transitional month on Baffin Bay. If we are fortunate enough to get a couple of small fronts to cool things down, fishing can be really good from mid-month through Halloween. Now, if the weather stays hot that whole time, it can be much like an extension of summer’s dog days and we will be doing a lot more fishing than catching. More often than not, October will remain warm with slightly cooler mornings.
My approach will remain pretty much the same as in September, targeting shallow feeding areas that drop abruptly into deeper water. There are many such areas along the north and south shorelines of Baffin and also the many spoil islands stretching from the JFK Causeway to the Land Cut, well south of Baffin. For a little table fare, the spoil islands will also be holding redfish, flounder and black drum. The tips of these islands should be the most productive as wind-created currents will be the strongest (and cooler) in these areas.
Remember the Buffalo! -Capt David Rowsey
Thankfully We Still Have Spawning Age Trout in the Upper Laguna