Pro Tips: January 2009

Pro Tips: January 2009
I hope everyone has been enjoying the holiday season. I take the winter feeding-up pattern to heart so some long wades in the mud are needed to knock off a few pounds. With the start of a new year I looked back and tried to think of one question or topic that seemed to come up the most during 2008. The views I express in this article are mine only and only reflect what I personally experience and see on a daily basis.

I am asked just about everyday about the status of our trout fishery. Understand that I come from the school of taking limits and producing numbers to keep the revenue flowing. I am guilty of just about everything that a guide could have done wrong over the past 30 years when it came to producing ego-charged boxes of fish at the cleaning stand.

It haunts me, knowing I am in some part a part of the problem. I am also the originator of the Just Keep Five slogan, so I have evolved some over the years. Sure, a large part of this attitude is driven by the need to survive in the profession I have chosen. No quality trout and my client base goes away. Lucky for me I have a new passion for the old redfish that we grew up trying NOT to catch. Our management efforts with this species have been highly successful. I feel better about you knowing that I know; I am not without many faults when it comes to the over-fishing issue. Let's talk now about working to fix it.

I am a trout fisherman at heart. Love the yellow-mouthed spotted bombshells. Catching trophy sized trout might be the toughest trophy of all in my opinion. You really have to put in some time and be on top of your game to consistently find and catch fish over 28 inches. It has never been easy but today it is tougher than ever along most of the Texas coast.

I had a day last winter with Glenn Hornsby from Austin that revived my love for the majestic fish. Glenn actually took me fishing, his boat, his spot, his fish. I caught a 10 pound fish that was as memorable as I have ever caught. Glenn lost one that day that was well over 30 inches due to me trying to get him to get the fish facing me for the action photo. We caught numerous fish over 27 inches that day. You can view the photo of Glenn's fish via the photo gallery on my website. Take a look at the head on this fish. I mounted mine; I like looking at that fish from time to time and remembering the fight and the guys that were with me that morning.

I see the over-all trout population in pretty good shape. It is the 18 to 20 inch and greater class of fish that we continue to see in decline. It makes sense if you think about it; our current regulations direct us to take fish between 15 and 25, with only one per day over 25 inches. I am not sure what the TPWD survey numbers will be for 2008 but I do know their numbers showed decline in the 15 to 25 slot a few years ago.

Fishing pressure slacked off during $4.00 gas days, Hurricane Ike and the downturn in our economy also reduced pressure, but prior to these developments the bays were very crowded. For the life of me I cannot understand the status quo in trout regulations when we have seen drastic increases in fishing pressure and reductions in limits of most other gamefish species.

During July and August of 2008 catching 10 for a group of anglers was tough much less 10 per person, and the sizes were on the very low end of the slot. Again, this is my personal observation and my clients are trying to catch their fish on lures.

So what's the answer? No easy one I promise but, I have for the past few years tried to restrict my clients to take only five per angler. Most are eager to comply but a few still feel they need the biggest bang for the bucks.

Catching is not always completed with killing. With guide's limits no longer allowed we are at least saving 10 per trip from previous years but this alone is not going to be enough. "We as fishermen are gong to have to do it ourselves," is the message I am sending to all of my clients.

The process, once started, is easy and it goes like this. Retain five trout of good eating size. Release fish greater than 20-inches UNLESS the fish is not going to survive or you're going to have it mounted. Continue catching and releasing fish or go on a scouting run looking for new areas or alternate species.

Here's the greatest benefit of the process: be happy doing your part to conserve your own trophy trout fishery as well as those who will follow. May your fishing always be catching!

Guide Jay Watkins