Rotating Our Crops

Rotating Our Crops
The guys caught and released 17 of these beauties after an awesome morning of trout fishing in off-the-beaten path areas.

There are many variations of crop rotation. Some involve growing a series of different types of crops in the same area across a sequence of growing seasons. This practice reduces the reliance of crops on one set of nutrients, pest and weed pressure, along with the probability of developing resistant pests and weeds. (Wikipedia) A good example of this method is after a farmer harvests corn he might plant beans because corn consumes a lot of nitrogen and beans return nitrogen to the soil. (Rodale Institute)

Another method of crop rotation involves the utilization of multiple fields. This concept allows the soil to rest between growing sprees, resulting in a longer lasting vitality. For example, in a two field system, the farmer will grow crops in one field while the other is allowed to remain dormant. Then, when the season is over, the farmer will switch the two fields. Splitting a plot into as many as four crops provides the advantage of growing even more crops at a time. “This concept calls for one of the fields to be left for a grazing crop, allowing farmers to maintain livestock year after year in a more sustainable way. First developed in Belgium, the concept was crucial in the development of Europe’s dairy and meat industries. (“Crop Rotation 101,” Nick Musica, March 22, 2021)

In contrast, monocropping is simply the practice of growing the same crop in the same place year after year. This practice gradually depletes the soil of certain nutrients and invites a highly competitive pest and weed community. Corn, soybeans and wheat are three commonly grown crops using this practice. “Farmers who prefer its adoption say that this method of farming results in higher yields as compared to choosing to rotate other crops every year.” As much as the claim in regards to profitability may prove to be true, the consequences involved in it will also sooner or later turn out to be more devastating than the benefits in relation to environmental safety and care.” (“Disadvantages and Benefits of Monocrop Agriculture,” GeoPard Agriculture)

As large as the Galveston Bay Complex is (roughly 600 square miles) our fish seem to congregate in the same two or three spots in each bay every year. This is especially true for trout and it is even more prevalent during the colder months. It becomes very easy for us (especially those of us who fish for a living) to revisit those few productive spots day after day. After all, folks are paying us to put them on fish. Of course I pride myself on teaching new techniques and thoroughly enjoy conversations with my clients, but let’s face it, catching is the cherry on top. Otherwise, an aspiring angler could attend various seminars over the course of the year and maybe watch an instructional DVD or two. Learning is great but catching fish during the process fulfills our need to be entertained.

There are three glaring problems with revisiting the same spots (or small areas) over and over again.

  • First and foremost, it seems like there are a finite number of legal-sized specks in most of these spots these days, and if we continuously beat on the same patches of fish over and over then the well will eventually run dry. While these areas are typically spots which still have some sort of live habitat (namely oysters in our bay), it doesn’t necessarily mean that they will magically be replenished year after year with new crops of legal trout. I want to believe that based upon current limits and regulations in place that the management formula would result in such a replenishment, but for some reason, I’ve witnessed the opposite in recent years. I almost feel like some of these trout return to the same spots each year, so if we remove the majority of them from one particular area then it disrupts the biomass cycle resulting in not only fewer trout but younger (undersized) age classes. This is precisely what I’ve witness in the past couple of years.
  • Secondly, when we are going to the same area everyday other boats will eventually take notice. If there were dozens of areas holding suitable numbers of fish then this wouldn’t necessarily be a concern but that’s not at all the case. Many of these spots are one boat spots and cannot handle the pressure of multiple boats. Obviously, nobody owns the water, but we should do our best to keep what few secret spots we have as close to the vest as possible. With the networking these days a school can get wiped out with one cell phone call. I’ve witnessed the same five or six boats fishing every day on one tiny spot until the school has mostly been harvested.
  • Lastly, I believe that as a professional fishing guide I have the responsibility to provide my clients with a well-rounded experience. Most of my customers are regulars who have been fishing with me a long time. Some of them fish with me two and three times per month. If I were to take them to the same spot every trip it would not be a good look in my opinion. Often times we’ll switch gears and chase redfish or flounder. This accomplishes two things. It takes some pressure off the trout and it can be refreshing to do something different. Variety is good.

As water temperatures continue to fall trout will become more concentrated as they gorge on the final exodus of white shrimp and other forage species. Fishing will be easy during the right conditions. Soft plastics such as Bass Assassins and Lil Johns will work great as always. Later in the month MirrOlure Corkys and MirrOdines will come into play, especially for the larger trout. December is one of my favorite months of the year for both numbers and size. Fish will be in many of their popular early winter haunts. It will be easy to fall in love with a spot. I encourage everyone to seek out other areas with similar structure, depth changes, and habitat in an effort to duplicate the results from some of those more well-known areas. It’s okay to circle back once in a while, but if we make an honest effort to rotate our crops then we’ll be doing ourselves and the resource a favor.