Outdoors: Holidays a good time to hit the coast
By the time this hits the presses, Christmas 2021 will be a wrap, and it looks like Santa stuffed our stockings with enough warm weather days to take us through the rest of the year.
Cold weather won’t be standing in the way of your outdoor plans, and if you got a new rod and reel, bow and arrows, firearm, tent, set of golf clubs, or any other outdoor gear, you have got about a week to break them in before the next chance of wet and cold weather arrives.
To me, there’s no better time to get down to the coast than after Christmas and before New Year’s Eve. The weather will be right, it’s less crowded on the beaches and in the little towns, you’ll be paying offseason rates for lodging, and you’ll find plenty of wide open spaces on the beaches, bays, cuts, and canals. And the fishing is going strong for a lot of species.
One of the prized species along the salty shore is back in season. Flounder season was closed from November 1 through December 14, but anglers are finding plenty willing to take the bait. December is typically on the tail end of the flounder migration, or run, and this year, they’re not disappointing.
Flounder are a flatfish that start off their lives with one eye on each side of their heads and swimming around like most other fish, but as they move into the juvenile stage, one of the eyes migrates to the other side and they spend the rest of their lives swimming horizontally.
They spend most of their time waiting on the bottom for prey to swim by, and feed by ambush. They’re able to change their body color to blend in with the surrounding environment, and will typically burrow into the sand or mud bottom to better conceal themselves. Having both eyes on top of their heads, along with strong mouths loaded with sharp teeth, make them effective predators.
If you’re using a rod and reel, fishing in channels and passes with shrimp, mullet, and mud minnows is a good bet. Flounder will also go for artificial baits that are scented.
It’s also prime time for sheepshead along the Texas coast, and fishing the jetties right around the rocks using live shrimp is what beach denizen and avid angler Terry Samuels advises.
Samuels says to ask the bait shop for the smallest live shrimp they have (he recommends The Bait Bucket if you’re fishing around Corpus). He uses a 2/0 circle hook and a split shot about 18 inches above the hook. “Go out to either the Packery Channel or Port Aransas jetties and flip the bait out just on the other side of the rocks,” he said. “The sheepshead are thick in there. There are tons of them.”
Samuels added that the black drum bite is good at the Fulton and Cole Park piers for bull drum using either sea lice or blue crabs for bait, and said pompano rigs in the surf with dead shrimp or shrimp fish bites for pompano is bringing in good numbers of pomps.
Most saltwater species have sharper teeth than you’ll find in freshwater fish, so it’s important to use heavy leaders and check your line frequently for weakened areas. Fish are fish, and many techniques are the same as freshwater fishing, but the gear takes more of a beating when fishing at the coast, including the saltwater’s effects on reels and other equipment.
The thing I like second best about catching saltwater fish (my favorite thing is eating them) is that you never know what’s going to be on the other end of your line when you hook up. It’s likely going to be something tasty to eat, but it could be any number of species — and maybe something rarely, if ever seen before.
The holiday season is a good time to get others interested in the outdoor sports, and this year, the weather is no excuse. Mother Nature is calling us to get outdoors.
New bait shop
Growing up in Central Texas, there seemed to be bait shops scattered around like there are Starbucks today. When I moved back to the area after wandering through the wilderness of the world, I was disappointed to find that most places where I used to buy bait had closed down.
Thankfully, I’m skilled enough at netting my own bait that I don’t need to buy from others, but it’s nice to have the option when I don’t feel like doing that extra work before a fishing trip.
I was recently pleased to find a new shop opening up in the area, and now veteran-owned Catch One Bait & Tackle is expanding its hours of operation. The shop is owned and operated by Raymond Fields, and is located on Highway 84, not far past the Speegleville Road intersection if you’re heading toward McGregor, at 29225 W. Highway 84. It has been open since April and offers not only a variety of fresh and live baits, but also fishing tackle and gear along with services like reel spooling, rod repair and reel maintenance and repairs.
The new hours are Monday-Thursday from 8-3, Friday 8-6 and Saturday 6-4.
“We still have the largest selection of live bait. We’ve got golden shiners, goldfish, black salties, rosy-red fathead minnows, bluegills and what we call “trophy chasers” — seven to eight-inch live bait,” he said. They also carry nightcrawlers, red worms, frozen shad, and cut buffalo and carp, along with a selection of rods and lures.
You can reach the store at 254-447-8237 or look up Catch One Bait & Tackle online.
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