Pro Tips: April 2009

Pro Tips: April 2009
What is it about guys, boats and water that sometimes bring out the worst in us? For the life of me I cannot understand why we cannot work together by simply respecting one another. I had a guy cut off our wade the other morning in a very popular area. I do not believe the guy was being rude or disrespectful. I believe he honestly did not know any better.

During the incident, one of my anglers asked, "What's too close?"

I replied, "That, for sure, is too close."

Then I started thinking about the issue more deeply. Personally, I think 500 yards is plenty of cushion. Go stand on the end of your local high school football field and then extend that by five. This is a lot of water and would be fine if all the area on a given shoreline was created equal. If you fish, you know this is just not the case.

Every shoreline, reef, sandbar or back lake has its sweet spot and unfortunately lots of anglers are aware of these. The problem presents itself when we arrive and find the spot we wanted already occupied. So what's the proper etiquette?

Again, I would feel good about someone allowing me at least 500 yards if the area has the capabilities to do this. If it does not, you then need to start thinking about your secondary choice. The 500 yard rule allows a quiet zone to be created. It gives the already present anglers the luxury of working the area thoroughly and all throughout the day if they so choose.

We all know anglers that want the entire shoreline. To those I say, "Wake up and start thinking realistically." I had a coach that told me often to wish in one had and do something else in the other; and then see which one would fill up first.

With the increased numbers of people taking advantage of the beauty and abundance of opportunities in today's saltwater fishery we have to be willing to share. At 50 years of age and fully 5-inches short of 6-feet, I am not much on starting trouble on the water and I have almost passed the yelling and the hand gesture stage. I know too many other areas that might be holding fish to let someone ruin my day as well as that of my clients.

I have always thought most anglers were smart enough to learn by observing. But when I started observing, I realized a lot of the bad habits have been taught by those of us that are suppose to know. If I as a professional run in on top of or out in front of another angler, I am telling all present that it is acceptable.

I'll go on record and say that I am sure I have been guilty of being too close in the past, but I never intentionally cut someone off. I carry a range finder in the tournaments; I am that paranoid about someone screaming foul. Tournament rules have always included a 100 yard minimum distance between other waders and drifting anglers. Again, stand on the goal line and put someone on the opposite end; try to carry a conversation without shouting. It's impossible without a cell phone. Oh, and please Lord, don't let me get started on that topic.

I personally think 100 yards is cutting it too close. You are simply not allowing enough room for the already present anglers to fish. Fish move along their chosen structure and an already present angler deserves the room and freedom to move with them, and this takes me back to my 500 yard cushion. I have, over time, become more comfortable fishing in closer quarters than ever before. After all, there are a lot of us out there, and I do not see that changing anytime soon.

Here is something that might come as a surprise. There are times when I actually like heavy pressure around me. If you are savvy enough to setup in the right areas, boat traffic and wading pressure can actually play into your hand.

One of my favorite areas is the southern tip of the tremendously popular Mud Island in Aransas Bay. Long about the middle of April this area starts getting pounded. The point provides easy deep water access, terrific bottom structure, tidal movement and an abundance of varied bait species. Everything an angler would want, minus the fishing pressure, right? Read on.

I like to place my people around the deeper potholes on the flat that adjoins the point and simply wait for the fish come to us. With tons of fishing boats and increased dolphin predation of recent years, the bigger fish are seeking shelter in the shallows rather than the depths. Dolphins, props and piggy perch await then along the drop-off most everyday. It only stands to reason that the resource would seek a quiet zone. Over time, the fish evolve to methods of traveling and feeding that best fits their continued existence. No scientific data here on my part, just 30-plus years of observing patterns on a daily basis.

Finally, there are times when you just have to stand with the crowd and get if done if catching is the only thing that will fulfill the day. I must say though, this is my least favorite option and it is rare when I exercise it. More likely, as I said earlier, there is a strong chance that I am aware of other areas that might be just as productive with fewer fishermen using it. Given that the next sunrise is going to find me back on the water doing it all over again, I believe it is important to discover and utilize alternate game plans.

Whichever way you choose to fish and navigate; always remember, "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you." The higher powers have been trying to get us to practice this for thousands of years. We are lucky he is so patient. See you on the water, hopefully at about 500 yards.

May Your Fishing Always Be Catching,
Guide Jay Watkins