The Trip Down to Galveston
Last Saturday, I made plans to meet up with my two friends, Rex “RexDelRey” D. and Valentine “Val” P, to go kayak fishing for some Texas redfish. I met up with Val first, as he was staying in South Houston for the night, which is on my way to Galveston. We met at Bayou Bait and Tackle just off of I-45 so Val could stock up on live shrimp.
Val followed me down through Galveston, and we made our way to the east end of the island to board the Galveston-Bolivar ferry. There was no wait, and we drove right on to the boat from the landing. A few short minutes later, we departed from our berth and headed across the Houston ship channel.
As we motored across the channel, I was amazed at how foggy it was. You could barely see the jetties from the ferry, which meant visibility was less than a half mile. We landed safely at Port Bolivar and made our way up the Bolivar peninsula toward our launch spot at Stingaree Marina in Crystal Beach.
At the Launch
We reached the marina and I was surprised to see a mostly empty parking lot. At this point, it was close to 7:30. My guess is that the fog kept most of the recreational boaters and anglers in the area in bed for a while longer than normal. Either way, we weren’t complaining. I received word from Rex that he was held up, so we decided to launch and meet up with him at the marsh we were going to fish first. Val loaded up his Pescador as I piled my gear in the Cuda, and we were off.
The conditions were calm, but the fog was as thick as I have ever seen it. From the launch, which sits right on the ICW, you could not see across to the other side. Val and I paddled the short 3 minute trip to the marsh, and started the search for fish. Our game plan was to slowly make our way to the back of the marsh on the incoming tide, and then turn around and fish our way back out. The cuts in the marsh here split in many directions, so we stayed to the right and took the widest option.
In the Marsh
As we made our way through the marsh, I saw a few fish moving, but nothing actively feeding. I kept polling my way around, stopping at each pool to make a few casts with my Saltwater Assassin 4″ Sea Shad in the Chicken on a Chain color, rigged with a Mustad PowerLock 1/8th oz weedless hook. As the morning progressed, the tide started move a little quicker, and the feeding started to pick up. I started seeing signs of life as finger mullet were getting chased up into the grass by larger fish. It was clear that mullet were the meal of choice today, so I stuck with my Sea Shad and waited for the perfect opportunity. I left Val drowning shrimp on the bottom, and paddled around the next corner.
As I entered the area of the next pool, I immediately saw some large pushes in the water. I examined the area, and it was a perfect spot. I was at the intersection of two cuts in the marsh, and the crossing of these two waters made a large natural pool that was 3-4′ deep, as compared to the 1-2′ feet in most of the surrounding areas. There was moving water, oyster beds, and lots of bait. I grounded the Cuda on a partially submerged oyster bed, and just as I looked up, I saw a big push in the water about six feet away. I immediately tossed my lure in the fish’s direction, being careful to make a soft presentation just behind him, so as not to spook it. I gave my lure a second to sink, and then slowly began my retrieve. My heart was pounding, and within two or three cranks of the reel, there was a huge push in the water. I held my breath, and SLAM, line was tearing off my reel. The fish was stuck though, and he did not have much room to work with. I focused on turning him back towards me and controlling his movement. I got him turned around back towards my kayak, and immediately realized I was in trouble. As I said earlier, I was grounded on an oyster bed. Oysters are sharp. Very sharp.
This fish was smart, and had probably been caught before. As soon as he realized there was nowhere to run, he did the next best thing: find something to break the line on. Oysters are especially great for destroying mono fishing line, like the Ande Mono leader material connecting my PowerPro braid to my lure.
At this point, as I was watching the redfish run full speed toward the oyster bed I was standing on, I panicked. My first thought was to get to the edge of the oyster bed as quickly as I could so that I could use my American Rodsmiths ProLite rod to redirect him away from freedom. I jumped from the kayak into about six inches of water….and a foot and a half of mud. I immediately sunk up past both of my knees. As I pulled my feet up to trudge through the mud toward the edge of the oyster bed, I caught my shins, calves, and ankles on what seemed like every single oyster in the marsh. I didn’t feel it at the time, the adrenaline must have blocked it out. I made it to the edge, and was able to grab the fish before he could pull any heroics.
Once I had landed the fish and was back in the kayak with the fish on the stringer, I looked down and I was bleeding from cuts all over my legs. “Lovely,” I thought to myself as my legs instantly seemed to catch on fire. Luckily, I keep a waterproof first aid kit on board and I was able to clean and patch myself up pretty quickly. There wasn’t a lot of blood, but I was definitely glad to be able to clean the cuts, especially with all the stories I’ve heard about Vibrio lately. The fish was totally worth it though, and I was smiling.
One Down, Time to Move on
After all of this nonsense was over, I decided I needed a break. Val came over to see what was going on, so I sat back and chatted with him for a while as he fished the same pool, looking for some of my fish’s friends. It was about this time that Rex showed up and I flagged him down so that he could come join us. We fished the same spot for a little while longer and then decided to make our way all the way to the back of the marsh. I followed Rex towards the lake all the way in the back, stopping to fish at key spots along the way. The fog was still thick, and now there was also a light rain that kept turning on and off. I saw lots of fish, spooked a bunch of them, but couldn’t get any of them to play ball. I got bored and decided to head back to the top of the marsh, as the tide was now turning. It was probably around noon now, high tide had come and gone. I was thinking that as the marsh was emptying, bigger fish would be stacked up at the mouths of the cuts waiting for the baitfish coming out. I moved my way back up, fishing a few spots on the way to see if anyone was hiding around a few corners I passed.
I made it back to the top of the marsh, where it opened back up to the ICW, and found a small island to anchor next to so that it protected me from the current. I switched tactics at this point, and picked up my larger Penn Battle 4000 rod and reel combo and put on a H&H Costal Popping Rig. I tied on to that about 3 feet of leader material. I added a 3″ Gulp Shrimp in New Penny/Chartreuse on at the end of it with two 1/16 oz split-shot weights in the middle. I’ll tell you more about that rig at another time. I reclined my seat a little, casted the cork and shrimp into the middle of the mouth, and started in on the first half of my sandwich. Rex and Val were back in the marsh still, and I was, at this point, alone in the fog on my little island. After I finished my sandwich, I zoned out a little bit, only to be startled back to reality by a pull on my line and the sight of my cork going under. I set the hook and the line went slack. Missed him. I let it sit for a second, then popped it twice in succession. I let it sit for another second, and sure enough, BAM. He didn’t miss it that time.
The redfish slammed the artificial shrimp and took off for open water. This fight was not nearly as dramatic as the last, as we had nothing but open space. This battle was simply a chance to let the rod and the drag do the work, while I could relax and enjoy running him back and forth until he tired into submission. I netted him along the side of the Cuda and he was toast. He was about the same size as the first fish, 22″ and well fed. He was a beautiful fish with a beautiful shape and marvelous colors in his tail.
Two in the Bag, Time to Relax
Now it was close to 2, and I was content with my day. Val and Rex made their way back out, and I showed them my second fish. Val had just gone on his first “Texas Sleigh Ride” by hooking into a 30+ lbs Black Drum cruising the bottom. The drum had apparently dragged him around the marsh for a good 30 minutes before finally giving up. I was sorry I missed that, but Val managed to get a picture.
The rain had stopped and it was warmer now. We hung out on the little island for a while and stretched our legs while we continued to fish the mouths of the draining marsh. We stayed there with a few bites, but no new fish for another hour or so. The weather was starting to get worse again, the fog was insane, and the wind was picking up quickly. Fast changes in the wind usually spell rain on the Texas coast, so we packed up shop and headed back to the launch. But of course, not before a little photo shoot!
Calling it a Day
After we loaded up the yaks and stowed all of our gear, we stopped in to the DownUnder Bar and Grill under the Stingaree Marina restaurant. We hung out for a bit, pounded some good food, had a few laughs, and then called it a day. I got some more ice from the baitshop to put on my fish, and headed back to Houston. It was a great day with good friends, and even though we got a little wet, it was totally worth it. Now, its time to turn these two into dinner!
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