Two weeks ago, I had a frustrating day of surf casting at Matagorda Beach. So much so I was constantly replaying the day in my mind looking for items I might change. I purchased replacement supplies (braid, fluorocarbon leader material, weights, and crimps), cleaned and oiled reels, spliced braid using Uni knot and refilled reels, attached shock leaders using FG knot, and built three types of pulley rigs. I also reorganized my surf fishing tackle after I bought a replacement tub for storing tackle and several small boxes for tools and rig making components.
I decided to return to Matagorda Beach and try again. I could not sleep the night before the trip. As I tossed and turned my mind would not shut down as I thought about how the day would unfold. Was I prepared? Will I cast better? Will my gear and strategy changes be successful? Which of my shark pulley rigs would work best--single strand wire or cable? And will the weed eater line I used in the shark rig keep the shark from slicing the rig?
The crystal-clear water and near calm sea fueled my excitement as I drove onto Matagorda Beach. Arriving mid-morning I found numerous wade fishermen already in the water and several kayaks working the shoreline. The spot I finished before was already taken. Wow…must be specs…throwing corked shrimp, shiners, artificials, but as I watched I saw no one catching anything.
I picked my spot in the crowded beach, drove in two sand spikes, and went about setting up two surf rods. Now to test my rigs. One rod was fitted with a single strand wire pulley rig (the new) and the other with a fluorocarbon-line built pulley rig (the old). I baited the wire rig with the tail section of a mullet and the other rig was baited with a shrimp sausage made by wrapping shrimp in a nylon stocking type mesh. Both baits were secured to the hook with a rubber band.
In my last outing, I broke off two 8-ounce weights casting into a strong headwind. Not wanting to repeat the break offs on the first cast, I used 6-ounce weights. I also tightened the braking system on each reel to further reduce the chance of a backlash. Then I took one of my bottled waters and wet the line on each reel.
Finally; ready for the first cast of the day. Crystal clear water, no pounding waves as I wade out into the surf about knee deep—some 20 yards from dry land. I pick my target, plant my feet in the soft sand, wind up, and throw my rig some 80 yards using the pendulum casting technique. Acceptable for the first cast of the day, but I can do better. It was short of the second sandbar. The process is repeated with the second rod, but with a 100-yard cast, landing on the second sandbar. Yes, one could see the second sandbar standing on the shore, the water was that calm and clear.
So far so good. Wait a minute…I should be experiencing bites by now. No bites? I watch intently for 15-minutes, then another 15. I reel in; bait is still intact; no nibblers. I cast again. I repeat.
This is not good. Should I move, but where? Set up camp for the day? Wait…no birds, the wading fishermen are gone, no shrimp boats…only the sunbathers remain. Not knowing where to go, I decided to set up camp—a chair and tent umbrella for enjoying the day watching my rods, the sea, and sipping on a Garter Aid.
As the day wore on, the wind shifted, white caps began to appear, and waves were beginning to fill with sand. Are we transitioning into a normal surf? Will the bite return?
As the day wore on, I noticed the nibblers chewed on the shrimp sausage but not the mullet pieces. Was the mullet spinning in the current? I replaced my single wire rig and fastened shrimp sausage to both rods. I guess today is not a good day to test my shark rig.
Mid-afternoon my reel began squealing as the line was ripped off by whatever was on the other end. I grabbed my rod from the sand spike and began spinning the star drag while the rod was doubled over. Then I was reeling as fast as I could to take up the slack. What is this? Not behaving like a bull. Then I saw it, a stingray with a 24-inch wingspan, the largest I’ve ever caught. That was exciting…but then, any time a fish strips line I get excited; it's why I fish. Maybe it’s a sign. So, I rebaited and cast again. Then I wait, and I wait and…
In making one of many casts for the day, the sand I was standing on gave way just as I was releasing the spool to make the cast. As I stumbled forward trying to regain my footing the rig splashed down some 80-yards in front me, but I did not get my thumb on the spool quick enough to avoid a spool overrun. A bird’s nest. Now what standing in the surf? I fiddle for a few minutes trying to clear the mess hoping a fish doesn’t come along. Not liking the situation, I decided I will fish the remaining day with one rod and deal with the problem when I get home. So, I recover the rig onto the reel over the bird’s nest and return the rod to its sand spike.
But I got bored with the slow bite. I grabbed the fouled rod, unwound the reel by dropping the weight and walking the shoreline, and then sat in my chair under the umbrella and began picking at the bird’s nest. After about an hour of picking and pulling the nest was finally cleared and I could return the rod to service. Meantime, no bites on the rod still in service.
Results for the day…one hardhead catfish, one stingray, one mullet, and one unknown bait fish. Two break offs and one rig recovery (yes, I caught one of my earlier break-offs).
I’ve had similar poor outings at Surfside and Galveston beaches and haven’t returned to them. I will probably try Matagorda one more time this fall before I make a final decision on future return trips. It may be one for the seasonal list, but not the year-round list.