Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Twenty four hours to fish

On Monday afternoon I left the Rio Grande Valley and traveled north to Corpus Christi to once again fish with my cousin. I basically had about 24 hours or so to fish as I had to get back on my way in order to be home to make preparations for Thanksgiving day.

On Monday evening we set out in the kayaks to fish around Nueces Bay and the causeway there. Normally, the fishing is excellent when there is a strong outgoing on incoming tide. However, the tide that night was not quite that strong and might be considered somewhat slack and so the fish weren't there in large numbers. I caught three trout no larger than 14 inches and so after a few hours we decided to leave to rest for a trip out in the motorboat the next day.

On Tuesday morning we cleaned up our gear from the night before and loaded up the boat and set out to fish Nighthawk Bay. We took along live shrimp to fish under a popping cork. We spent about 3 or 4 hours out in the bay and I caught only one keeper trout at about 17 inches.

After cleaning the boat and gear we rested a little and decided to go out in the evening and try our luck with the sail line. Once we got to Bird Island Basin and set out the sail line, the first time we brought it in it had seven keeper trout on it! It looked as if this night might make up for the tough day but alas it was not to be. We made three additional runs up until midnight and only caught one undersized trout.

Despite the lack of a lot of fish, I am thankful for the 16 fillets of trout that I was able to bring back which will be on the menu this weekend after everyone is tired of Thanksgiving leftovers.

Pier fishing in Port Isabel

I traveled down to the Rio Grande Valley to visit family and while I was there I promised my younger two children that I would take them fishing. We were staying with in-laws in Los Fresnos which is about 20 minutes from Port Isabel and South Padre Island.

On Monday I got up early but it was raining so we had to wait until 9:30am to get going. I went to pick up my niece to take her along and then we all headed to Pirate's Landing fishing pier near the lighthouse in Port Isabel. I bought some shrimp and walked out to a section of the pier the kids and I have been to before. We noted the color of the water was a gorgeous light green.

I had rigged each rod with a carolina rig and a circle hook on which I put one shrimp and set it out. My son was casting my baitcaster rod and reel setup which he really enjoyed and the girls had spinning rigs.

Gabi was the first to catch a fish and it ended up being an 18" or 19" ladyfish (skipjack) which is sometimes referred to as "the poor man's tarpon". We photographed the catch and released it.

Next to catch something was my niece who caught a small stingray which I didn't photograph and released quickly.

My son by this time was getting frustrated as he had not caught anything yet and the girls had. The girls decided to leave their rods on the railing and play on a bench together.

While I was checking on the other rods my son noticed that my daughter's rod was bending over and grabbed it before it got pulled over the railings and I had him reel it in and it had a fairly sizable croaker on it which is related to redfish. We photographed and released it.

By this time, all three kids had caught something and we were running out of time as we only had an hour to fish. They insisted I take one of their rods and catch something before we left and I ended up catching a puffer fish which was interesting as we all ended up catching a different species.

At this point we left but I promised to bring them back the next time we came to visit to see what else we could catch.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Vintage reel brings back memories

Last night I was going through my fishing stuff in the closet looking for some lost lures and came across a box containing a vintage Shimano baitcasting reel. The reel was a bit dirty and had one screw missing for the level wind but otherwise was intact.

The reel used to belong to my father and I received it from my sisters when my dad was placed in a nursing home to get round-the-clock care due to his affliction of Alzheimer's.

The reel brought back memories of my cousin and I as young boys taking it and the rod it was attached to without permission one morning to go fish a canal down the road from where I lived. I also remember my father coming over the berm down into the canal and grabbing my cousin and I by the shoulder and taking us back home ending that fishing excursion mighty quick. Needless to say the rod and reel where off limits the rest of that summer.

I decided to clean up that old reel as best I could to place it in my office so that I don't forget my family's passion for fishing. My dad collected and fixed up rods and reels but didn't have much time to fish though.

My grandfather was a devoted fisherman. One of my earliest memories of going fishing was when I was probably three or four years old and going with my grandpa and my dad to fish the Brownsville ship channel. I remember they caught either a ribbon fish or some sort of eel that startled me. I also remember walking off and stumbling into some cactus and getting needles in my palms and my knees and my dad pulling them out while I bawled my eyes out. My grandfather kept on fishing of course.

My grandfather was an excellent fisherman. I remember eating fresh fish he would bring home that my grandmother would skillet fry after battering the fish in corn meal. That fish was delicious! My grandfather was also very partial to flounder.

My cousin often says that he and I inherited our grandfather's passion for fishing. It's in our blood though for my grandfather a big part of it was also to simply put food on the table.

My grandfather passed away when I was about 14 and most of his beloved fiberglass rods and Penn reels and other saltwater tackle got dispersed among uncles and son-in-laws. Several years later my grandmother found one tackle box that she allowed me to have that belonged to him. I still have it though I don't use it.

I hope one day I can pass on some of my gear to my son, son-in-law or grandchild and it will remind them of our love for this sport.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Veterans Day

Today is Veterans Day. God bless the men and women who served and defended this great country of ours. My favorite cousin who I fish with every chance I get is a former Marine and veteran of the first Gulf War. I wish him and all others in the military a great day today.

The color green

Green is the color of bass. Sometimes, colorations vary depending on the season and the depth the fish is to be found but in the end they are still green. Today I saw a lot of green.

I set out this morning to fish my favorite river, the San Gabriel, with my dark green Sage XP 5wt rod and tied to my tippet, an olive green Bonker Zonker (BZ). The rabbit strip and pearl cactus chenille that compose the BZ fly simply drive bass wild. I have caught a bunch of bass with this particular fly and would again today.

I paddled and waded about three miles upriver to a very narrow section of the river that had emerald green water that said "bass" all over it. I worked the BZ fly from the opposite bank into the deeper water and current and then out to the light green shallow water were I was.

My first strike came from a very healthy largemouth that felt strong in the current and made the XP's light tip dance around.

Soon after I caught another bass though this one was a bit different and by the tough fight it put up, it felt like a Guadalupe bass, and a trophy size one to boot (12 inches is a trophy Guad). After photographing and releases the Guad, I proceeded to catch additional bass (all green of course).

At one point, I cast out to the opposite bank and hooked a redbreast sunfish when all of a sudden something charged it! It was a three pound largemouth! The little stunned sunfish lay on its side on the top of the water and floated downriver while the largemouth remained just below it yet not attempting a second charge. I expect it saw me on the bank and thought twice about taking the bait.

I tried repeatedly to find that three pound green river monster but to no avail. I ended up calling it a day after a while. All in all, I probably caught about 10 or more bass and a couple of brim.

On my way out I ran into a kayak angling friend of mine that was intent on catching carp on the fly. However, I mentioned to him that I hadn't really focused on carp today but they seemed awfully skittish.

I told him I had concentrated on bass upriver. He responded that he had caught quite a few 1 to 2 pound bass just 300 yards from where we both put in. Oh well, I guess I got my exercise in today and got to see a lot of green. What more could I ask for?

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Bass in the carp hole

This morning I got up late and got together my kayak and fly gear to try and fish the San Gabriel river for a couple of hours. My hope was to find some carp wanting my flies.

The paddle upriver from Mankin's Crossing wasn't bad at all. The water was flowing but nowhere as fast as the last time I was there. I could see the water was fairly clear in some places and a little bit greener in others.

After passing the first rapids which were very traversable, I started looking for signs of carp feeding. I saw lots of them cruising thanks to the high sun and I thought I saw some bass as well. I did see one beautifully spotted gar on the paddle towards the rapids that was around three feet long.

I had first tied on my favorite carp fly of mine which is a crawfish orange Gotcha type fly. I had one carp pick it up and spit it out. I waded around for a bit and crossed to the other side of the pool to try my luck there.

On one side of the pool below some trees I could see shadows moving out of the shade. They were carp and after a few casts I had one pickup the fly and spook as I tried to set the hook.

I decided to switch flies and moved to a large fly I got in a fly swap. I think it was meant for bass because on my second cast, a bass hit it hard. I was a chunky little bass around a pound and half and fought well. I brought it into shallow water, photographed and released it. I would end up with two more in less than 45 minutes after catching the first one that were the same size.

I continued trying to hook a carp but it was not to be. On my way out I briefly spoke with a angler in kayak heading past me about the carp/bass hole ahead. As I was taking my kayak out at the put-in point, I spoke with another angler that asked me several questions about the river.

I forgot to mention that I donned waders though the water wasn't as chilly as I figured. Better safe than cold and miserable.