Hooked Up: May 2019

Hooked Up: May 2019
Todd Schoeffler with a big nine-pounder - personal best! His excitement upon landing this fish was contagious. Great memory.

Sitting here to write this article, I just realized it has been one year that Capt. Billy Sandifer passed away. Billy served as dad, mentor, counselor, and friend to so many of us. You will be forever missed but never forgotten, Old Man. If by chance anybody reading is not familiar with the man we lovingly called The Padre of Padre, do yourself a favor and research his life's work. Billy was truly a one of a kind man and character.

As I mentioned in last month's article; the springtime tide is rolling up through the Land Cut. The amount of baitfish and other critters that hitch a ride on this train are filling the bays with all manner of life from the surface to the bay floor. A very exciting time for Baffin and Upper Laguna fisherman. 

With all the forage available for gamefish to gorge on, just about any area you anchor your boat to begin a long wade is going to look fishy but, deciphering which one holds the predators can be somewhat challenging. My favorite technique for locating the "sure thing" is finding slicks in the early hours. When the sun is up a bit they are pretty obvious, but in low light or slick-calm conditions your sense of smell works better. I routinely run my boat downwind of zones where I expect feeding to occur under such conditions and wait for that sweet smell of watermelon to blast the nasal cavities. When I hit it right my clients think I am some kind of fish whisperer but there really is no magic to it.  It's just fishing a little smarter than the average guy that doesn't have the number of days on the water as I do.

May is, without doubt, one of the most fun months of the year to fish Baffin Bay. We will still be catching some heavy trout, along with great numbers. If lots of action and the possibility of all-day topwater explosions is on your fishing bucket list, May is when you want to book a trip or get out on your own to get it done. 

As much as I love May’s fishing, it also brings the serious onset of live croaker season. Personally, I couldn’t care less what bait anyone chooses to use. I know a ton of very talented fishermen that can catch fish year ‘round with lures (and many claim they do), but just let that yellow flag start popping in the breeze and a great number of them will have their bait reserved for the next day. Once they get those “barking” baits in the live well it triggers something in their head that turns them into natural born killers. That yellow flag might just as well say "crack" instead of live croaker. Apparently it's a mind-altering experience.

Fact is: Live croakers are no more responsible for absurd numbers of dead trout at the end of a fishing day than a gun for a shooting. It all comes down to the person using it.  Responsibility in conserving the resource that provides a fishing guide and his family a living makes obvious sense to me. Killing fish to feed egos and advertising oneself as a social media hero needs to become an old memory – the sooner the better! 

Any seasoned guide knows that catching quality fish is considerably tougher than it was even just a few years ago. If they honestly disagree with that statement they have not been doing it very long or they’re just plain full of brown.

Five years into the five fish limit and not much has really changed in the fishery. Why is that?

It’s because there are so many people utilizing the resource nowadays, all going after the same fish. The number of  lines in the water has outgrown the ability of the fishery (spotted seatrout) to sustain itself while the limit reduction could and should have sent it thriving toward historic levels. With the popularity of fishing on the rise, new guides popping out of the woodwork and the effectiveness of croaker as bait for most, something will have to give. 

If we don't start policing ourselves, there will come a time when it will be done for us.  Just because TPWD says you can kill five doesn’t mean you have to. I'd like to think my fellow fishing  guides are smart enough to see the bigger picture and do their part to educate and practice more catch and release. It would be a huge step forward for the fishery and their own ability to continue to make a living on the water. It's not rocket science, folks.

Remember the buffalo!  -Capt David Rowsey