Greetings from Port Mansfield! What a rollercoaster; everything from a complete Covid-19 shutdown to a strong re-opening, to another pause in full-open operations. All this for the greater good I suppose, but it sure is a challenge to the fishing industry. This is the busiest time of year for coastal vacationing, fishing tournaments, and some of the largest fishing and hunting expos. This year will not soon be forgotten.
Over the years I have gained some knowledge and experience that relates to the fishing community and I am beginning to sense a paradigm shift in the way this community views the resource. I see this as a grassroots thing and if you take time “to have the conversation” you might be pleasantly surprised how well it goes.
Our coastal fishery is currently facing pressure never before seen or even predicted. The increase in anglers and fishing tournaments is astonishing. There seems to be little accountability regarding tournament formats and the number of fish being retained. Some tournaments have been around for decades and refuse to recognize their impact on the fishery. Some recognize there might be an issue and have made small adjustments to their formats; i.e. number and size of fish being weighed for competition. Many of us enjoy the challenge of competitive fishing but we should never forget the purpose is to declare a winner and it doesn’t take every participant killing a legal limit to decide this important question.
So, where does it begin? I would say with anglers such as yourself and guides like me and a few others. I do my best to encourage a balance of fish retention and conservation. I believe it is better to keep and eat a few 18-inch trout than 26s, 27s, and 28s. I also believe fish are better fresh than frozen for months, or forgotten and left to waste in freezers. I care enough to be involved in programs such as Empty Stringers Catch and Release Program, Release Over 20, and have recently been invited to serve as an ambassador of ReleaSense; an initiative and outreach by Texas A&M University Corpus Christi Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies. I believe in these programs because I know they have potential for improving our fisheries. I have received training in fish tagging and will be assisting Dr. Greg Stunz and his team with this project. I will be focusing on flounder, trout longer than 25 inches, and snook. If you catch one with a tag, please report it.
About 50% of my charters are Empty Stringer trips and the other half are fish-keeping trips. When I book new folks, I have what I call “the conversation.” It is simple. I ask them if they might be willing to release trout over 20 inches. I follow this by saying that keeping reds and a flounder (if we get lucky) is perfectly fine. The coolest part is that everyone agrees, most with eagerness. Sure, we may have a conversation about resource conservation but never has a single angler pushed back at the suggestion.
I am willing to bet if more guides, especially influential ones, would simply have “the conversation” they would be pleasantly surprised, and what a positive impact they could have long term on our fishery.
Tides have been generally high but slowly beginning to diminish. Our water remains in good shape, thanks to plentiful seagrass. Some hot fishing areas can be challenging due to floating grass, especially during low tide periods. Doubling back as the day’s tides increase can often be productive as the mats of grass drift away.
Lots of small trout right now, typical of summertime. KWigglers Willow Tails and Ball Tails in Texas Roach, Bone Diamond and Strawberry White are attracting lots of bites. Switching to weedless rigging with Willow Tails helps with the floating grass problem. I have been catching lots of trout a bit shallower than waist-deep with a good percentage of keepers in the mix. About every other trip somebody will get a five pounder.
Reds have been generally scattered in shallow water but there are a few schools showing in deeper water. Flounder are also being found about every two or three trips; the landings seem somewhat lower compared to last year. We can expect a few more redfish schools to show as we move further into August and late summer. This is great fun when your group walks into a school of them.Until next time, stay safe out there and remember it does not hurt to have “the conversation.”