Thursday, October 23, 2014

Bayou Bassin League - Clear Creek

This Saturday Oct. 25th the Bayou Bassin League will be holding the first of their fall tournaments on Clear Creek Bayou.  A registration meeting will be held on the 24th at Hook Spit Tackle Store in League City at 6:00.
This is a team (2 Man) tournament with an entry fee of $60 per team.  The launch and weigh-in will be at the boat ramp in Walter Hall Park in League Texas.  Start time will be 7:00 AM or when it is light enough to safely leave the ramp.  Weigh-in will at 3:00 PM and you need to be in line at 3:00 PM to qualify to weigh-in.
1st, 2nd, 3rd and Big Bass will receive cash prices and 1st, 2nd and Big Bass will get trophies.

Clear Creek has turned into a great bass fishery and these tournaments have been have good turn outs with very nice stringers being weighed in.  So get your bass boat ready and come on out and join use for some Texas Bayou Bassin on Saturday Morning.  I'll be at the registration meeting Friday evening and fishing the tournament Saturday morning.  If you come make sure to stop and say hi, I'll be wearing one of my Red, White and Blue Santone Lure Shirts with a Red Hat.

Until next time, Tight Lines and Take a kid fishing.

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Day The Freebird Fell!

Folks I don't know if you know this or not but 37 years ago today plane carrying members of the band Lynyrd Skynyrd ran out of fuel and crashed.  This is truly the day the music died!  In tribute to Ronnie Van Zant, Steve and Cassie Gaines you have been missed all these years!!!

"If I leave here tomorrow will you still remember me?"  Yes we still remember!!!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Blockade Runners

Blockade Runners is the name of a Fishing Camp on Titlum-Tatlum Bayou which is owned by a good friend of mine named Sandy.  He is a great guy and also a History Teacher at one of our local schools which makes him a doubly great guy!!!  You see as a History Teacher and also a War of Northern Aggression (Civil War) buff, he knew that San Luis Pass and especially Titlum-Tatlum Bayou was used by the Confederate Blockade Runners to hide from the Union War Ships blocking all of the southern ports.  I could write this whole blog post about this subject, but alas this is a fishing blog so on to the fishing.
 I remember back years ago when Sandy first acquired the camp and gave it the Blockade Runners monicker and my first trip out.  Let me tell you in those days it was a pretty rundown old camp, but Sandy put a lot of time into her and it started to take shape.  That was before Hurricane Ike came and almost wiped it completely away.  Even with all the damage Ike caused Sandy wasn't going to give up and with lots of help, including myself, Blockade Runners lives and it is a beautiful camp today. The other special thing about going out to Blockade Runners is Sandy's cooking.  He is not only a History Teacher, this guy knows his way around kitchen, so we ate awesome all weekend.

Another guy that frequents Blockade Runners is pretty well known on the Texas Country Music scene and that would be "Batman" himself, Tres Womack.  It is a real treat when Tres is there as you will be treated to some picking and singing which makes for an awesome weekend.  On this weekend Tres brought a couple of guys out that had helped with one of his fundraisers so they could catch some fish and I offered to help try and put them on some fish.

I made down to the ramp at San Luis Pass around 5:00 PM on Friday evening and soon had the boat in the water and loaded with my gear.  I wish I could have stayed all weekend, but I needed to leave Saturday evening so I could do some Grandpa things on Sunday.  My bass boat isn't the best type of boat for fishing this area, but it works good if you know the area, plus the trolling motor really comes in handy sneaking up on the fish.   It was a quick ride from the ramp to the camp so I was actually fishing by 5:30 and it didn't take long to put some fish in the boat.  I had hoped to put a couple flounder in the cooler to bring home for my wife, but the Redfish had other plans.  I got on some 18-19.5 inch Reds immediately and though they were just under keeper size they are a ton of fun on my light flounder setup.

In fact the actions was so fast and with the day growing short just as fast I only took pictures of the first two Reds. I caught and release 3 more without taking pictures so I could try and catch more before the rest of the guys arrived and the sun set.  Speaking of sunsets you haven't seen a sunset until you see one from your boat on Titlum-Tatlum Bayou on a wonderful October evening.
Once we were all at the camp with the boats unloaded and gear stored it was time to get ready for the evening fishing from the dock.  If you have never fished for Speckled Trout under light you have to one day as it can be some of the fastest fishing action you may ever see.  Well that is if the winds, tides and water color is all right.  Sandy got the generator fired up and the lights going just as the last rays of sun let the darkness fall over Blockade Runners.
This weekend the water was just a little off colored and it really made finding a catching fish tough.  We were still able to put 11 nice keeper trout in the box over the course of evening.  That is not counting the many undersize trout and redfish we caught.

We all took a break from fishing when Sandy announced the Ribs and Fajitas were ready to eat.  As I had said earlier Sandy is an awesome cook and man he didn't disappoint us at all.  Nothing like sitting on the front porch of Blockade Runners with a cool breeze blowing eating awesome food with a good ice cold beer.  If I was to envision what heaven was like then it would be moments just like this!! From this point on it seems that I forgot to take any more pictures.  After eating we continued to fish the light off and on until after midnight with a keep caught here and there but not the action we had hoped to have.   So we all decided to get some sleep and see if the morning would bring us more luck.

I woke up just as the sun's light gave birth to a new day.  It is special waking up out at the camp knowing you are only second away from getting your line wet.  I wasn't sure how late everyone else wanted to sleep so I sneaked down to my boat and used the trolling motor to easy away from the dock.  I wasn't going to far because there is a spot not far from the camp where I have caught some real Saddle Blanket flounder over the years.   I eased the boat there and started fishing with very little luck.  I picked up a couple throwback trout and nothing more.  The tide wasn't moving much and the water was still off colored and I knew then we were going to have a tough time getting Tres' guest to catch some fish.

After about an hour of fishing the flounder hole I decided to fire up the big motor and head for the far west end of Titlum-Tatlum.   There is a spot there when the tide is running that has been good to me.  Once there I got the boat anchored up and proceed to catch one throw back trout after another for about 15 minutes.  Then it went died for a while with not even a bump.  The tide was running out a little bit but not very much and really not enough to turn on the bite.  I did pick up a throwback trout here and there over the next 30 minutes and so I stayed.  Just as I hear a boat coming down the bayou my bobber went under and I set the hook.  Up came a trout in the 4-5 pound class that very quickly threw my hook and was gone.  

The boat coming was Tres and his two guest and I had them pull up behind me and fish.  We tried them for about 30 more minutes then headed back to camp as Sandy would have breakfast ready.  Down the bayou we headed at warp speed (well warp speed to bayou travel) to get to breakfast.  Once we were back at the camp the smell of breakfast turned on our feeding frenzy even if the fish weren't biting.  We all had our fill and were soon thinking of what to do and where to go to catch some fish.

After our breakfast had settled some Tres and I took my boat out with the trolling motor to see if we could throw net up some finger mullet.  I ran the trolling motor while Tres threw the net until he was tired.  He then took over controlling the boat while I threw the net.  When I was tired we had a few dozen or so finger mullet and headed back to the dock to get gear read and decide on a game plan.  While we were discussing our plans for the afternoon/evening fishing; Tres set out a rod with one of the finger mullet from the dock.   The tide had just started to move a little and we hoped so would the fish.  We decided to split up and with Tres and one of his guests heading one direction and me with the other guest head the other direction.  Just as we were about to get in the boats the rod Tres set out bowed up big time and the fight was on.  It took Tres a few minutes but soon I netted a really nice 23 inch Red.  So the fishing was looking up even before we left the dock.

I wanted to put my boat in the same spot I had been that morning and hoped the evening out going tide would be stronger and with it more fish.   The tide did come in stronger and with were some fish.  Maybe not the great fishing we had hoped but we did catch some keeper trout, a few nice flounder and another 25 inch red.  The guest with me hooked up with a really good fish that broke his line which was a bummer.   The bite died down and there wasn't much light left in this day.  I told the guys we would head back to the spot I'd caught the Reds the evening before.  I used my trolling motor to get us into some deeper water so I could fire up the big motor for the run to the spot.  As the trolling motor carried us to the deeper water I lowered and started up the big motor.  I was going to go pull up the trolling motor but my guest said he'd get it.  He was a good guy and was trying to help but I should have check the trolling motor before heading down the bayou.  We were planed out and running about 40Mph when we hit just enough wind waves to bounce the trolling motor.  In what seemed like slow motion I watched the trolling motor bounce up and start for the water.  I pulled back on the throttle as fast as I could, but it was too late.
If you ever wondered about Minn Kota's unbreakable shaft advertizements; I can now tell you the shafts will break!  Of course I wouldn't recommend trying to put your trolling motor in the water while you are on plane. The guest felt bad about what happened but I really can't blame him one bit.  He was only trying to help and as the captain it was my responsibility to make sure we were ready to get underway.  Needless to say this incident brought the weekend fishing to a quick halt, and not on a good note.  However, things happen and if I can get some worked out for next weekends bass tournament, no harm no foul.

You may have noticed I haven't said much on what tactics and baits that worked this weekend.  The reason for this is there wasn't anything that really stood out as working.  Other than those Reds when I first got there Friday evening which were all taken on the Rattling Cork and Gulp rig I fish a lot for flounder.  We used that rig with some luck into the evening and the next day, but we also caught fishing on live bait, and many different types of artificial baits in different styles and colors.  It was one of those times where you could catch one or two on just about anything you threw.  Now late Saturday afternoon it seem like they liked a Cocahoe Minnow in Strawberry with a white tail the most, worked really slow along the bottom.  Strawberry with a white tail has always been one of my all time favorite colors and a go to color when the fishing is tough.

Until next time, Tight Lines and Take a Kid Fishing!!!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Thunder on the Bayou

I meet up with a new fishing friend at the boat ramp of Halls Bayou Friday morning 10/10/2014.  Things did not start out very well for us either.  We hit some pockets of rain on our way down the bayou that caused us to slow down.  The wind was blowing very hard from the SSW and I'd guess 15-20mph in the morning and 20-25 in the afternoon.  The water in the pockets where we wanted to fish for flounder was very sandy and all we could get was one small flounder to bite.  It had the makings for a very bad day on the bayou!!!

Well we decided to switch from flounder and move out to the main bayou to see if we could find some Redfish or maybe Bass that wanted to bite.  Because the wind was blowing so hard it was pushing the boat up the bayou at a pretty good clip and I was only able to control the direction of the boat with the trolling motor.   Controlling the boats direction was even a task because as the bayou snaked its way north west we got hit with wind from all angles.  I figured the best bait for the task at hand would be a spinnerbait in white or chartreuse with gold or brass blades.   The one I decided to throw was made by Throw-n-Thunder Lures. You can read my full write up on their baits here: Serious Spinnerbaits  Here is the TNT I decided to throw.

When throwing a great spinnerbait like this TNT you also have to use a great trailer!!!  My trailer of choice these days for both my spinnerbaits and swim jigs are the XZone Lures Swammers.
The color of the Swammer above is Cisco and it is also my color of choice when using them as a trailer.  Now I do dip the tail of the Swammer in some Spike-It Chartreuse Garlic for both the garlic smell and also the color.

It didn't take me too long to have the first Red on and fighting with this combo once we found the places they were hanging.  Basically they were in the bends of the bayou where there were reeds and the wind was blowing almost directly into the reeds.  The tactic was pretty simple also; just toss the TNT spinner bait up as close as possible to the reeds and retrieve it slowly letting that 4 willow blades do their thing.
 I only had one TNT bait in this color (this will change very soon) but I did give my new fishing friend a bait that was chartreuse and had 2 gold willow blades.  He was fishing it in the same manner as I was fishing the TNT but after I'd put more Reds in the live well I started to feel bad for my new friend on the back of the boat.
So I took off my TNT and handed it over to the new guy.  I grabbed a different color TNT out of my bag and went back to fishing.  The new TNT (picture below) was the Table Rock Shad color that I have come to love use on Lake Fayette for those big she pig bass.  I finished it out with an XZone Swammer and the Spike-It dip.
The Table Rock Shad has been a proven big bass bait on Lake Fayette and it didn't disappoint me on Halls Bayou.  We were so far south on Halls Bayou that it really couldn't be considered Brackish water any longer.  The Salt content might be a little lower than in the bays but not by much.  However bass are caught in the high salt areas of the bayou and when you do catch one it is generally an above average bayou bass.  The average bayou bass come in between 1-2 pounds with the exception of the winter when your average will push 2-3 pounds. The Table Rock Shad tends to draw strikes from above average bass on Lake Fayette and that was the case on Halls Bayou as it did draw a hard strike from what was a solid 3lb bass.  I got the bass up next to the boat and before my friend could get the net under her she decided to say her good byes.   Too bad too as all I wanted was a picture with her and she would have been set free.

Back to my new friend and how he had been doing on the day.  He had caught the only flounder we caught on the day early and had also picked up some just under the limit specks during the day but that Redfish just hadn't come so far but that was to change.  He may have not caught the most Redfish but he did end up catching the biggest!!!
 After we landed his big Red all we caught were a few more under sizes specks and reds to round out the day.  From what started with the makings of a really bad day fishing on the bayou had been completely turned around with the awesome Spinnerbaits by Throw-in-Thunder Lures.   I highly recommend these spinnerbaits for bass and now I highly recommend them in the bayou for both Bass and Redfish.  They do draw lots of strikes and those strikes are big fish!!!

Until next time, Tight Lines and Take a Kid Fishing.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Birthday on Halls Bayou

Yesterday was my birthday and I'd planned to spend the morning flounder fishing with my son.  I knew the day before by the weather forecast we likely would not have a good day, but we went anyway as it was my birthday.  The morning met me just as I had figured; a bright Bluebird day after a front with lots of rain the day before and a very stiff north wind still blowing.   Bluebird days after a front are not the best days to fish and add that to very stained water and the strong north wind not letting the tides run their course makes for a really tough day.

That was the bad part of the day and the good part would be I was fishing with my son.  Even though he over slept and we didn't get on the bayou until 8:30AM I don't think it would have made much difference.  The conditions were against us from the start but you know the saying "A bad day fishing beats a good day working".  This is the case when ever I get the chance to fish with my family, it is always a good day on the water.   The boat ride was great and the Ole Cajun purred like a kitten as she carried us to our first spot.  Every time I get to thinking about getting a newer boat she does this and at 16.5ft she really is the perfect bayou boat.

We make it to our first spot and get our lines in the water and my son immediately hooks up.  I also miss a fish and I'm thinking hey it might not be a bad day after all.   Even though the fish my son catches is a small speckled trout it does break the ice.
 We did get the flounder to bite somewhat, but the ones we were catching were little guys that were under the 14 inch legal limit.  Sure we had several that were 13 3/4 inches but just couldn't get a 14 in the boat.
Of course that would soon change as my son started whipping my butt pretty good and on my birthday to boot.  At least he wasn't rubbing it in too hard, guess that was because it was my birthday.  He hooked up and we landed the only keeper for the day.  She was a 22 inch beauty that this picture just doesn't do justice to at all.
My son also decided that while he was giving me my birthday butt whipping he would also go ahead and ring up a Texas Slam (Trout, Red and Flounder).
That is also not a great picture of the Red as it was 24 inches and gave my son a really good fight on the light tackle.

We were fishing the Flounder rig and tactic that I published in my last article and it was how all but one of the fish were caught.  In an attempt to catch up to my son I did try a few other tactics that only yielded one small flounder, but there is really no need to discuss what they were as they really didn't work.  What did work was the Rattling Cork and Berkley Gulp combo and the Nuclear Chicken colder was the best for this day.  We did catch a couple on white/chartreuse and rootbeer/chartreuse but it was the nuclear chicken that was the ticket.  Well do not fear we will return for more flounder action in the near future and hopefully under better conditions.

Until next time, Tight Lines and Take a Kid Fishing!!!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Lets Catch Some Flounder

My wife has asked if I would go catch her some flounder this weekend and of course as any good husband would do I told her yes.  This is really not an issue as fishing for flounder is very similar to fishing for bass.  They really relate to structure just like bass, however they generally don't hide in the cover as they have a way of camouflaging themselves in plain sight so to speak.

As you can see from the picture above they can blend right in with the bottom and is some cases bury themselves in the sand, gravel and mud.  They lay there and wait for their dinner to come in range and then very quickly pounce.  So you need to find structure that is holding bait (shrimp, shad, finger mullet or mud minnows) and fish near that structure.   In a lot of cases around coves, inlets or feeds into or near a main body of water.  In the larger bays you will want to look for oyster reefs, sand bars and mud holes as the structure that will hold flounder.  However if there isn't any bait present at the structure, then you need to move on as there will also not be any flounder there. Your fish finder is really only good for locating the structure and sometimes telling you if there is bait on the structure.  It is highly unlikely you will see flounder on your fish finder because they are laying on the bottom and even camouflaged to the most high tech fish finder.

One of the methods that has worked for me time and time again is to fish tide flooded grass flats.  When the tide is high and these grass flats are flooded the bait will move up in the grass to feed and hide from the game fish.  If you can find a grass flat that also has a drain or feed into the main body of water you will find flounder there almost 100% of the time.  In the below picture you can see me fishing such a spot. This weekend will find me at this exact spot looking for some flat fish.

As the tide turns and starts going out the bait fish will start leaving the flooded grass so they are not trapped.  Waiting for them will be flounder staged along the grass.   Other than feeds coming out of this flooded grass what you will be looking for is a drop-off  a few feet from the grass line.  The flounder will position themselves just over the drop-off to gain just a little more of an advantage on their prey as shown by the red "X" in the drawing below.

Now the trick is to get your bait in front of the flounder and make it look like something they want to eat.  There are a wide range of baits that you can use to do this including baits intended to catch bass.   However for this weekend I'm going to cheat a little bit and use Berkley Gulps and a Rattling  Cork.  So what do you need to make this rig?

1. Berkley Gulp Shrimp/Curly Tail Grubs or both - Assorted Colors (Nuclear Chicken is my favorite)
2. Fluorocarbon Leader (I recommend 15-20lb test)
3. Rattling Corks (I prefer Cajun Thunder Rattling Corks)
4. 1/8 to 1/4 ounce jig heads.  (Make sure the hooks are sharp)

I generally will buy one of the Berkley Gulp "Alive" containers with one color of the the Gulp then buy the packages of the Gulps in other colors and remove them from the package and put them in the Gulp Alive container.  That way you are sure they won't dry out and are coated good with the Gulp juices.

Now what you do to build this rig is very simple in general.  If you know how deep the water is where you will be fishing you want to cut a piece of fluorocarbon leader line in a length that will keep your bait within 12 inches of the bottom, dragging the bottom is just fine when fishing flounder.  As a general rule for me fishing the Bayous that length is about 2 feet but in some cases might be a little longer.   You want to attach the leader to the bottom of your rattling cork.  The bottom of the corks is the end with the metal/brass beads. 

After attaching your leader to the bottom of the rattling cork you can then tie on a jig head.  Your rig is now ready to be tied to the end of your fishing line.  Don't put a Gulp on your jig until you are ready to make your first cast as they do dry up and once they do they are no long good for fishing. (Note: The leader line in the picture below is Green Mono and used only so it would show up good for an example picture.)

Now what type of rod and reel combo should you use to fish this rig?  I really prefer to use a Medium Light to Medium action 7 foot rod and a baitcasting reel loaded with either 10 or 12lb test Monofilament line. You can use spinning tackle in the same setup if you prefer as there is nothing wrong with spinning tackle. In fact if the wind is blowing very hard I'll switch to spinning tackle so I can make my casts.  Why such a light setup and monofilament line you might ask?  Well if you have ever fished for flounder you will know they are escape artist and I mean they can get off a hook like no other fish I've ever caught.   I have my ideas as to why they can do this and I know there are a lot of other ideas out there as well.  What ever the reason for them being able to get off a hook so easy I've found that if you apply as little pressure as possible when fighting them you tend to land a lot more.  In most cases 80-90% of the ones you hook and folks will tell you that is a great percentage.  Using this light tackle helps keep you from putting too much pressure on them during the fight and will help you land a lot more fish.

So how do you fish this rig?  Simple, cast the rig up close to the grass line and let the Gulp sink to the bottom or close to the bottom.   Then give it a couple of quick short jerks to rattle the cork and move it closer to the edge of the drop off.

After the short jerks let the bait set there and allow the current to move the bait closer to you while keeping most of the slack out of your line.   After a minute or two repeat the couple short jerks to move the bait.   When a flounder hits it will take the cork under and generally straight down, but maybe only a couple of inches and it will sit still.  This is because they hit the bait then settle back to the bottom to eat their prize.  Wait for a 5 count before you set the hook, but if you miss the flounder or it isn't hooked well or comes off, then give a 10 count on your next strike.  If you don't hook the flounder the first time it hits, it will likely only move a little to the left or right and settle back down on the bottom and hit again. Now don't be surprised if you cork takes off really fast.   If it does this set the hook immediately as it is likely a Speckle Trout or Redfish and if you are fishing the bayous like me and brackish water it could likely be a bass.  Hope you have a blast landing a big redfish on the light tackle, I know I do when it happens and it will.

Until next time, Tight Lines and Take a Kid Fishing!!!