The following is a blog detailing my fishing trip to Aransas Pass, TX in April of 2017. I did all of my fishing aboard a 2015 Hobie Pro Angler 14. I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I did fishing during the trip.
Thursday 4/20/17 Dagger Island
Day 1. Hit the water at a slack high tide, so I wasn't expecting much. After 4 hours of grinding, I caught this nice 17" speck. Found a big school of 25-35" redfish. Real toads. I threw the kitchen sink at them, but couldn't get one to bite. Twas a little maddening! I also saw quite a few cownose rays. Saw one that was a giant. Probably 7 feet across. Tomorrow will be my first full day fishing, so I'll be on the water at sunrise. I hope you are as well as I!
Friday 4/21/17 South Bay
Day 2. The one redfish of the day. 20 inches on the nose. Grind, grind, grind, and then grind a little more. Caught it at about the 7 1/2 hour mark of the day. The smell of skunk was just about overpowering and then he took my Gulp shrimp. Phew! The wind...is blowing. Better days are ahead as the tides will start to align.
Saturday 4/22/17 South Bay
Day 3. PERSISTENCE PAYS OFF. Caught an early speck right at sunrise, and then threw a Corky for the first time in my life. Now I understand all the buzz about it. Caught two reds, one of which was 21", within 7 minutes of each other. Ah but the fish are transient. Caught a small speck on ultra light gear with a DOA shrimp, and then contemplated other options with a relatively slow bite with 4 fish in the boat by 10:30. Re-rigged, lunch of champions that includes Dr Pepper/water/granola bars/Powerade, and then threw a spinnerbait for redfish in the shallow water. Hooked and lost a speck, then decided to drift the South Bay flats. Wise idea. Threw a 1/16 oz Bass Assassin jighead paired with a Norton Bull Minnow in plum/chartreuse. Made two drifts, the first of which netted me 5 specks and 4 reds over about a two hour drift. The fish wanted fast, faster, and fastest. Heck of a fun way to fish. I made an occasional target cast at a speck or red in a pot hole, and landed a few that way. The other drift got me two more specks and a red. Gin clear water. When I drifted over the little cut in the middle of the bay, I could see the bottom very clearly in about 8 feet of water. It looks like an aquarium when the wind isn't blowing very hard. Overall, it was an excellent day. Landed 9 specks, 6 reds, a black drum on a Corky (which I have never heard of), and even hooked a pinfish in the mouth. If I had been keeping today, I would have had a small limit of reds (3) and 4 legal trout. I would have found a way to get #5 to get my double limit if I was keeping. The threat of strong winds behind a cold front got me off the water. I love to fish, but I prefer breathing and walking, if only by a hair.
Sunday 4/23/17 Dagger Island
Day 4. A cold front ripped through south Texas last night. Winds howled out of the north today, so I was in no hurry to get on the water. I caught a rat red on my second cast, and thought I might be all over them. Not so much. I did catch this healthy 17 1/2" speck today though on a Corky. I saw several fish short strike or nip at my lure today, but they seemed to be a little shy. The front may have done that. I also foul hooked a big hardhead catfish, and caught another pinfish in the mouth. It's a funny thing to hook a fish that's the size of your bait. Light winds and high optimism tomorrow.
Monday 4/24/17 East Shore early, South Bay by noon
Day 5. A perfect, windless morning with ideal tidal and lunar conditions. High expectations. Finally, I could see bait and active feeding. I caught a keeper trout, and missed a nice one on a topwater. Then for the next several hours, I pretty much just roamed casting at bait but not necessarily gamefish. You would see the occasional trout pop or a redfish swirl, but there wasn't much activity. I caught another little trout in there, then drifted a little flat. I hooked into a BIG trout. Shook It's head all the way to the yak and spit the bait. It had been a while since I had lost a big fish. I really wanted that one. I continued the drift and caught a small red, but that was little consolation. Redemption would be had, however. South Bay in Aransas Pass is amazingly consistent. Speckled trout and redfish seem to never leave. I don't know why I was so reluctant to drift that area, but I just thought there were better ways to catch fish. Perhaps there aren't with my skill set. So I go over there and I drift. I'm hooking into a lot of fish. Several nice slot reds and a few trout. I come away with all of one trout. It was disheartening to say the least. One more drift and I figure I'll go back to the hotel to re-group. A few minutes into chuck and wind, bango. A speckled submarine inhales my purple and yellow faker. It surfaces, and I become more nervous than Neftali Feliz in a postseason save opportunity. This fish too shakes violently all the way in. I figure many of these bigger fish have been hooked before. As I fumble with my net trying to land my giant, it dangles perilously close, yet so far away. By some miracle, I connect in my anxiety-ridden ineptitude. Paydirt. Hoist it in, and I know I have a real toad. I put it on the tape, and it measures 22 1/2". My new personal best! Ah catharsis. It feels so good to succeed after such failure. Now 22 1/2" is not a huge speck by an old salt's standard. It's a really nice fish. Some might even say "big". But it's no giant. That starts at about 27". But that's the great thing about fishing-the size of the trophy is measured between one's ears.
I'm writing this the day after another day on the water, and even though this was a fine experience with a great fish, it pales in comparison to what I did today. Thank you for reading. I appreciate it.
Tuesday 4/25/17 South Bay
Day 6. For hours the night before, I planned and studied maps trying to get out of a wind that would create small craft advisory winds. Wind is the most consistent challenge kayak anglers face. It makes conditions dangerous and tough to fish. Today I pushed the limit, and decided to just go out. Life is short. Make hay while the sun shines. With the wind, the only real option is drift fishing-that is get as far as you can upwind, and let the wind steer you through your fishing spot. Using a drift anchor made a huge difference today. What a great tool that is.
A light overcast is overhead, and of course the wind is howling. The lure color has to be morning glory. It's called that for a reason. By 7:20, I have landed 7 specks. It's a bite about every 15 casts, with my hookup ratio being 75%. SET THE HOOK. Always set the hook. Reel down and put a Rougned Odor swing on your fish. After my first drift is completed by about 8:30, I've got 11 specks with 3 or so keeper sized trout to 17" in there. My next drift will be a memorable one.
I was using a 15 lb leader, but had this inner voice telling me not to get my heart broken. I listened. Since I'm power fishing, casting as far as I can and burning my lure back over and over again, subtlety isn't a requirement. 65 lb braid to a 25 lb flourocarbon leader. I'm not screwing around. I crank down the drag and decide it's time to get nasty. Before I start though, I make a colossal mistake-I dunk my favorite battle axe of a baitcasting reel in the salt. Loud expletives. Hope it still cranks in the morning. With the sun up, I decide it's time to switch to plum/chartreuse. This might be my favorite color to throw on the coast now. I catch a couple of trout, and I drift across the area where I caught my personal best trout the previous day. THUMP...reel down...HAMMER. Drag starts to come off my reel. I know that feeling-a slot redfish. The fish surfaces. NOPE. The largest trout I've ever hooked is at the end of my line. Trout really like to shake their heads when hooked. It's nerve racking. But the hookset was excellent, and she's hooked well. Since I beefed up and cranked the drag down, I can horse the fish a little bit. The fight doesn't last all that long. Soon the mondo speck is within netting distance of my kayak. Invariably, the net is tangled. In a moment of calm I don't often exhibit in these situations, I casually undo the net and put it under the fish. Hoist. What a feeling of glory! The fish is at least as long as the width of my yak, and I'm giddy putting it on the tape. 23 1/2". Easily my best trout and she is FAT. With exceptional girth, the fish probably weighs more than 5 lbs. I may fish for a long time and not best this. I photograph, revive, and release. I am now brimming with confidence. The rest of the drift yields a couple of trout and a rat redfish.
On my 3rd drift, I catch fire getting a bite on nearly every other cast. A very productive drift yields about another 8 specks a slot redfish, and a monster. Towards the end of the drift, a really big redfish swims up and literally inhales my jig. I set the hook and I'm glad I packed a lunch. What a bulldog. Relentless. Seemingly tireless. The fish just wouldn't give up while we go 12 rounds. By judges decision, I win the fight after the fish begrudgingly succumbs to my net. I tape it and she measures a healthy 29 1/2". I don't know if I could handle 10 more of those. The speckled trout might be the Mazerati, but the redfish is a monster truck with 50" wheels. Yeesh. What a competitor.
I make one more drift, catch 4 more trout, and decide that the wind is at my threshold. Very wisely I get off the water, as shortly after I beach my yak, the bay resembles an angry Gulf of Mexico. When the dust settles, I boat 29 fish total and I am off the water by 2. A truly spectacular day by my standards. Lot's of fish, and a couple of trophies. It was a day to remember and one that will be hard to top.
Hope the wind lets me start keeping fish tomorrow!
Wednesday 4/26/17 South Bay
Day 7. The wind kept me off the water until almost 8 am. The bite was a strange one today. I caught a keeper speck about 10 minutes into the morning, and then it became land of the dink. There's a derogatory name for these short fish, but I won't share it. After I waded through 8 or 9 of these dinks, the redfish bite heated up. I got a 21", a 28 1/2", and a 19" red pretty close together, and by about 11 am I was an inch and a half from limiting on redfish. I mustered another keeper trout at about noon, and I had a red and two specks on the stringer. Then the bite completely died for about 3 hours. Right before that, I saw a pretty good sized school of reds, and it was strange to me that the bite just disappeared. I started getting back into the fish by 3 pm, and caught another barely oversized red. Another fisherman might have said "close enough". With the redfish bite being a little fickle, I felt like these fractions of an inch might comeback to haunt me. In the end, it didn't matter. By the end of the day, I would have a double limit of legal reds, but of course the limit is 3. I am always astounded by the pure ferocity of a redfish. Oftentimes, I'll be retrieving my lure one way, and a red will come crashing out of nowhere to annihilate my bait from a spot you might think to be out of their cone of vision. They probably feel the thump from the paddle on the lure. Watching a red eat is an awesome sight-they hone in, attack viciously, and then usually make a sharp 90 degree turn. Sometimes they do a complete 180. Anyway, I would fish until dark trying to get my combo limit. I scratched out another keeper trout and a few more reds as I frantically casted till dark. It just wasn't meant to be. If I hadn't missed or lost several specks like I did today, I probably could have had it. But all in all, it was another excellent day. 16 specks and 11 redfish. That makes 56 specks/reds the last two days with 4 reds over 28" and two specks over 20.5 inches. I also saw a dead porpoise today. That was strange. Don't show your kids unless you're twisted like me. Pour one out for Flipper.
Thursday 4/27/17 South Bay
Day 8. After a scary experience several days ago, strong winds kept me off the water until after sunrise. There's a threshold of danger that you have to be careful with. Anyway, the bite was a little slow to start. I caught a keeper red, and then not much else but a few dink trout until about 10:30. That's when things heated up. There are some quality trout in South Bay right now. And when you find them, they're all very nice keepers in the 17-21" range. One drift through the flat yields 3 chunky specks to 20 1/2", and the next gets me a small keeper speck and another red. Big trout are hanging right on the edges of the humps. As well as I'm doing, I'm missing a lot of fish. I probably hooked and lost 15 today. They get to be this size for a reason I guess. So here I am at 12:30 with 4 trout and 2 redfish needing only one more of each to get a double limit. Then the bite completely dies. DEAD. I might get one bite every hour and a half. When you are fishing this hard, it's difficult to stay completely focused. I did for the most part, but I would just get unlucky on the fish I did hook. Between 12:30 and 7 pm, I manage a few specks, all of which are maddeningly close the the magic 15" mark. I swear one fish was 14 15/16" of an inch. It makes you a little crazy being that close to your goal and not getting it. All during this time, I continue to lose fish. Some redfish and trout that are big enough to make me literally sick at my stomach. It was indeed a mighty frustration. As the clouds hang low and the sunlight starts to fade I do that thing every fisherman does-"5 more casts". After hours and hours of grinding, I am preparing myself for contentment with "almost". My first 3 casts all haul water. Amazingly, on my 4th cast of the 5, a thump and a swing gets me a dandy 20 inch trout. I didn't get my double limit, but I'll certainly take this consolation prize. It's getting dark now. Time to get in while I can still see. The ride in is hairy. Crossing the channel with a strong outgoing tide nothing short of a dangerous proposition. Big rolling waves in the 3-4 foot range are what I must conquer to get back to dry land. The first few minutes are ok. It's wavy but manageable, if not a bit unnerving. Soon though, I'm in a really bad spot. A few waves are crashing into my kayak, as I am in a borderline panic. Head in is my only chance. I'm truly scared to death as I plow through these widowmakers. Miraculously, I make it across unscathed. There's a nervous energy once I beach my yak at the launch site. I contemplated all kinds of things at that moment. Death, selling my kayak, and even swearing off this entire lifelong endeavor. There's a sort of infinite unforgiveness and emptiness about the ocean. It's vast, unfathomably large, old, and will swallow you up without remorse. A fellow fisherman is about to launch his own kayak, but I successfully plead him not to do so here. My heart is in my throat as I slowly load my gear. "I don't think I'm going back out tomorrow" is the phrase I have in my head. Don't tempt fate. But, one scary experience shouldn't stop you. Ultimately it wouldn't, even though I would exercise a great deal more caution the next day. It was not a bad decision to go out. I was simply unaware of how intense an outgoing low tide could be. Lesson learned.
Friday 4/28/17 South Bay
Day 9-Final day. I went into today needing two speckled trout and a redfish to take home my maximum legal possession limit of 6 redfish and 10 trout. After 8 full days of grinding and a hair-raising experience from the night before, I absolutely was not going to be paddling through water that threatened to capsize me at 5:50 am. I slept in. I didn't know if I was going out today when I went to sleep last night. With a 12 mph SE wind though, I couldn't pass up the opportunity. I was rubbing my eyes at 7:20 and fishing by 8. I was ready. The day started predictably, with a small trout and a few lost dink trout at the boat. Nothing heartbreaking, but nothing to get my heart pounding either. It was a struggle to find the fish this morning. The bite was a little slow, and I was missing/losing the fish I did hook. I was something like 1 for my first 8. If I were a baseball player, I would have been accused of "pressing". And I was. I was fishing desperately. My stated goal was to bring home the maximum legal amount of fillets. I was bound and determined to do it. I challenge myself to do it in 3 days rather than over the entire trip, as that fuels my competitive fire. Perhaps next year I'll challenge myself to get two double limits in consecutive days. At about 9:15, I whack a stud 20" trout. This one was a jumper. I've never seen trout jump this much in a trip. It was kind of like bass fishing. The bite once again complete eludes me. Over the course of the next hour and a half, and a ticking clock until 2 pm, I'm pondering numerous lures and presentations. Ultimately, I decide to stick with the most productive lure I have used this trip, the old plum/chartreuse Norton Bull Minnow on a Rockport Rattler 1/8 oz jighead with Pro-Cure Inshore fish attraction gel. Get beat using your best player was my mindset. Once in a while I would pitch the sometimes effective tandem rig, but I didn't have much confidence. At this point, I simply need 1 trout and one red. So close, yet so far away. At about 10:20, I get the old thump/whack/drag peel/paydirt. 19" trout in the net. I love fish big enough that you don't need to measure. I always do though, just for my own mental image for later if nothing else. I scream happy words across South Bay. A wee bit of catharsis is unleashed. Back on the horse. All I need is a single slot red now. Sometimes, they're so common they're almost easy. My next cast fails to hook up, but I have new confidence. Bites usually come in flurries. This would be no different. My final cast of the trip flies the customary 40 or so yards I get with help from the wind. Thump/hookset/drag peel/headshake. I know immediately that I've hooked a redfish. When you catch enough of them, it's usually pretty easy to tell the difference between a trout and a redfish. My stomach turns as I know my opportunity is at the end of my line as he comes to the boat. The slot red threatens to foul in my stringer and drift anchor. When he rolls over though, I drop the net under him and put him in the boat. I'm quite sure he's 21". Put him on the tape and he's 21 1/2". With extremely deliberate motions, I put him on the stringer. I have a complete release of emotion and pure catharsis. It's all over. My annual trip is over, and over very successfully. I have attained my stated goal of bringing home the maximum legal possession limit, caught the most quality fish, caught my personal best trout one day and then bested that the next, caught 4 oversized redfish, and consistently put high quality fish in the boat all while using lures. There have been great times, scary times, some depressing and frustrating moments, but ultimately it wound up being the most memorable fishing trip of my life. When I started scouting for this trip last August, I couldn't have dreamed it would wind up being this good. It's amazing to think how good it wound up. I am proud and happy about my accomplishments. It will be hard to do better than this in future trips. Thank you for reading my blog. Tight lines and calm waters.
I'm not a chick.