Making The Best of a Cold and Wet North Wind

It is September in Texas, why would you need a coat?  Sometimes the weather throws you a hardball.  You work all week, locked away from the thrill and adventure of stalking fish and then the weekend finally comes, but greets you with rain and strong winds.

That is precisely what happened on this September morning. I had been watching the weather forecast all Friday afternoon and into the evening, only to wake up to an even worse forecast when the morning finally arrived.  The weatherman said to expect winds up to 20 mph out of the north and they would bring rain and cold temperatures.

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We searched the maps to find a launch on a protected northern shoreline and set out with our fingers crossed, hoping for doable weather.  The weatherman was pretty much correct except for the wind strength exceeding the forecasted 20 mph. The rain was cold so I was thankful for my rain jacket.

The first hour was non-eventful. I struggled against the strong wind and found no fish. Not even a bite. Finally, I found some action in about 2-3′ of water over mixed shell and mud.

Todd Hart redfish 1

I was hoping to find some trout, but all I found was six slot reds. All were caught using my favorite pink Rapala Skitterwalk.

Check out all the spots on this beautiful fish.

Todd Hart multi-spot redfish

The fish were scattered over a fairly large area. I was thankful for Power-Pole’s Micro-Anchor. I was able to push a button and quickly secure myself in one spot and work the area thoroughly. I would start casting on my right and work 180 degrees to my left.

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After doing this routine twice I would simply push a button to lift the electronic stake out stick and move forward to cover a new area. It was quick and simple. I love this unit.

The fish were all about the same size, ranging from 20″-23″.

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I made a couple of rookie mistakes. One of which was easily corrected by the use of the “Line Cutterz” ring you can see in the picture above. I ended up with a nice “rat”s nest” tangle casting against the wind. I quickly worked on getting the mess untangled from the reel, but afterwards I pulled out a bunch of extra braided line and dropped it between my feet within the kayak. (What was I thinking?) Extra braided line and wind don’t mix. I quickly found a big mess and was thankful for the use of the ring to quickly dispatch all the tangled line from EVERYTHING in my kayak.

Mistake #2 can be seen in the video below.

All in all, it was great day besides for being a bit cold, wet and windy. However, one can not complain about a double daily limit of slot reds all coming on top-water. I would call that a successful trip.

Operationfish.com signing out,

Todd Hart
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It’s Time to Run With The Bulls (Bull Reds That Is)

Every fall the large oversized bull red fish cruise the beach front in search of an easy meal. The winds tend to slow. The surf begins to lay down. The weather begins to cool. All these factors add up to what we refer to as prime time BTB (Beyond the Breakers) kayak fishing.

Kayakers from all over Texas make the trek to McFaddin Beach, located near High Island, TX.  This is considered the “Mecca” of bull red fishing. From both the kayak and the beach these beefy fish are plenty and easy to come by.

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On August 24th I made this trip with two other “Anglers Elite” team members. We were hoping to land the last 25 red fish we were allotted for Kayakwars.com during the month of August.  That task would prove easy.

We were armed with large mullet, large circle hooks, and hefty rod and reel combos. We paddled out to roughly 11′ of water and dropped anchors. We cut the mullet into 4″ chunks and cast it out on a large circle hooks attached to either steel or heavy mono leaders. It wasn’t long before the fish began to bite.

todd hart redfish 8-24-14

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The bite was pretty fast all day. There was not much down time.

todd hart redfish 8-24-14 2nd

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All the reds I caught measured between 35″ and 40″. It was a fun day. We ended with more fish then we had slots available.

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Red fish can be found all along the northern Texas coast, however the area between Rollover Pass and Sabine Pass tends to hold some of the best bull red fishing around, at least in my opinion.

Don’t miss out on the prime red fish run. Get out there while the fishing is good.

Operationfish.com signing out,

Todd Hart

Backcountry.com - Labor Day

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Line Cutterz (Fishing Ring)

I’m happy to be one of the first fisherman to get my hands on the new “Line Cutterz” fishing ring. This is a handy tool. It is a fast and effective way to cut almost any fishing line. I tried it out last Saturday and was thoroughly pleased. It cut through my 20 lb. braid with no effort at all. (Much easier then using the cutters on my fishing pliers.)  It also cut through my mono leaders line in an instant.

line cutterz main page

These will be available to the public shortly. You have to get your hands on this product. I’m sure you will be pleased.

Below is a short demo video. Check it out.

They will are reasonably priced, comfortable and quite stylish.

Operationfish.com signing out,

Todd Hart
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End of the Summer Break PINS trip.

I had the chance to make one last trip before returning to school/work. I talked my fellow “Anglers Elite” team member Grant into making the trip to PINS. We left about 7pm from the Houston area and drove south. We stopped in Corpus Christie to purchase some ribbon fish and then continued the trip a few miles down the beach on PINS (Padre Island National seashore).

We pulled the truck over after about 5 miles down the beach, pulled out our cots and slept under the stars. The sea breeze and lack of mosquitos made for a nice night. We woke up at sunrise and readied our gear for a day’s worth of fishing.

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It turned out to be a great day. We each caught a few Spanish Mackerel. These were caught using silver spoons, top-water lures as well as ribbon fish.

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We also spent some time jigging near the rig and each landed some reef fish. The below fish were caught using jigs, squid and finger mullet. We each caught numerous red snapper and various other fish.

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Grant caught a few nice snapper.

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We also spent time trying to catch  Kingfish on Top-water lures. However, most Kingfish were landed on trolled ribbon fish.

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We ended the day with five quality Kingfish (King Mackerel) each. My largest Kingfish of the day is pictured above and measured roughly 47″.

Kingfish are extremely fun to catch. Their initial run is quite powerful and fast.  They can really rip out the drag.

Grant caught the trophy fish of the trip.

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Before this day neither of us had ever landed a Cobia/Ling. (One of us still hasn’t. Errrr.)  I thought about leaving Grant stranded on the beach but decided against facing the wrath of his angry wife so I gave him a ride home in exchange for some meat from his catch.

It was a great trip. PINS is only about 4-5 hours south of Houston. If you get a chance I really recommend making the trip. The offshore fishing is of a much higher quality than that found within kayak reach of the Greater Houston area.

Operationfish.com signing out,

Todd Hart
Backcountry.com - Labor Day

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Lone Star Kayak Series August Redfish Tournament

My wife, Kristen and I fished the latest leg of the LSKS (Lone Star Kayak Series) redfish tournament. I haven’t really spent much time in the marsh this summer chasing reds so we decided to hit one of our favorite places, Keith Lake, near Port Arthur.

Todd Hart LSKS fish

The day started with a number of unfortunate events. First, I was just returning from a two day fishing trip in the PINS beach area. This left me exhausted so we got off to a bit of a late start. Second, along the way the road was closed so we got stuck in traffic. We were finally able to make a U-turn and look for a new route. Third, once we arrived we were greeted by an estimated 30 mph north wind (The forecast called for southern winds in the single digits) and a nasty lingering storm cloud.   We  sat in the truck and waited it out. Finally, around 7:15 we launched. This would not be the end of our unlucky events.

We fished the shoreline and then ran into a huge school of mullet and shad. The bait was being chased by predators of many species, but we weren’t able to entice a bite.  There was one 3-4′ shark and a number of large alligator gar causing a major ruckus.

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We worked our way back into the marsh. I tried throwing a gulp swimming mullet along the grass and then switched to  gulp shrimp under a popping cork neither seemed to work. I just wasn’t having any luck so I finally switched to my favorite top-water bait, a Pink Rapala Skitterwalk and this landed my first red of the day.

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I continued working the grass-line with the Skitterwalk when the wind began to gust again and I saw a wall of rain heading our way.  I worked my way out into the middle of a lake and staked out with the ease and remote ability of the Power Pole Micro Anchor. (I love this unit in the bay.)  My wife huddled up in a feeble attempt to keep warm and dry. I sat the storm out and fan casted and immediately landed my second red.

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I now had my two fish, all I had to do was upgrade. I continued working the grass-line until I found another area where the bait was school up and being harassed by predators. I worked this area for while and finally enticed a bit from these two guys.

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Since these fish were about the same size I decided to move on looking for something a bit larger. Across the lake I heard and spotted what appeared to be a fish along the shoreline. I quickly pedaled over and began casting. It wasn’t long before I landed this nice fish.

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This was a quality tournament fish. I needed another like it and time was running out.

Todd Hart Marsh Red fish Aug 2014

I continued working the grass and landed two more slot reds. Neither would be upgrades.

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Time ran out so I told my wife we had to head back. She was a bit disgruntled and maybe a bit angry as she didn’t catch any fish. I’m sure my friendly-good natured bantering probably didn’t help matters.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We quickly loaded up. I gave each fish it’s own cooler filled with water. Each cooler was supplied an conditioning oxygen tablet as well as their own aerator. We stopped at a store and put a bag of ice in each cooler, but the fish did not survive.  (I would not be getting the half pound bonus.)

Along the way we were stuck in construction traffic. I thought for sure we would have plenty of time to spare but the clock was dwindling fast. I was becoming nervous. Finally, we popped out the other side of construction but the GPS said we would arrive two minutes after the deadline. There was no way I would miss the weigh-in by such a short margin.  I may have broken a few traffic laws during the last few miles. I actually had lights and sirens flash me as I pulled into the parking lot (no ticket thank goodness). I stopped feet from the check in and made it to the table in the last possible second. (Whew!!!! Close one).

Todd Hart LSKS weigh-in

My two fish were a bit lighter than I had hoped only weighing a total of 11.6 lbs. This put me in 9th place (top 16 earning pay checks).

Todd Hart LSKS prizes

All in all it was a great day of fishing with my lovely wife. Plus, anytime you can get more than a double limit all on top water baits you should be happy.

Operationfish.com signing out,

Todd Hart

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ALS Ice Bucket Challenge Accepted!!

Todd Hart accepts the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge set forth by fellow Yak Gear Brand Ambassador, Grant Justus.

Challenge Extended to:

1. Bill Bragman (Yak Gear)

2. Russell Faldyn (James E Taylor High School

3. Ruby Matherne (Pearland Animal Hospital.

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Operationfish.com Signing out,

Todd Hart

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Marlin Fishing in The Dominican Republic

Last week my wife and I made our annual anniversary trip. This year we decided to visit the Dominican Republican. My wife surprised me with a chartered trip targeting White Marlin and Wahoo.

I was a bit nervous since the tropical Storm named “Bertha” had just recently passed through leaving the water rough, full of seaweed and not quite as clear as usual.

The shuttle service picked me up around 7:00am to take me and 4 others to the marina. The boat and the crew were great. The water, however, was a bit rough. We zoomed out a few miles and starting trolling about 3 miles offshore. We trolled out about 7 miles I would estimate.

Along the way we picked up a few small Mahi Mahi (Dorado).

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The water was really rough when we started. Two of the passengers became seasick even though they both were wearing doctor prescribed patches. They were troopers and hardly complained even as they vomited over the side of the boat.

We were not successful in catching the targeted species, but I had fun none the less. As I said earlier, the crew was great. On the way back in, they taught me their methods for rigging ballywho and allowed me to prepare some for their afternoon trip,.

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The trip was very reasonability priced.

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My expenses are generally more than that every time I fish here locally so I was not complaining at all. We caught a handful of beautiful fish although none were to big. I would recommend the trip. They call it fishing not catching for a reason.

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I landed a few fish, had a great time, met some interesting people. That makes a successful trip in my book.

Operationfish.com signing out,

Todd Hart
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Guess the Weight

I had one last day to fish before departing on an anniversary trip with my wife to the Dominican Republic. I decided to make an early morning trout run to Galveston Bay. I woke up early and planned to launch slightly before sunrise.

When I made it to my location I caught a small trout 15″ trout on my first cast with the top water. (Things were looking good.) After that, the action was kind of slow and it wasn’t until nearly 7:00AM when I landed my next trout.

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I continued plugging away in about 3′ of water. There was a long submerged structure I was fishing over. About 10 or 15 minutes later I landed this monster trout. He sucked in the pink Rapala Skitterwalk when it was only about 10′ from my Hobie Pro Angler. Then the fight began. I thought it was a nice redfish at first.

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He looked rather thick with girth so I called my friend to ask about the trout on the CCA leader board for our region. The largest trout turned in this year weighed between 8.4lbs and 9.4lbs. This began a discussion about rather I should release the fish or take it to an official scale. I decided to weigh him in.

I began fishing my way back to my truck. Along the way I landed another trout.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYou should probably guess the weight of the trout.  Before reading on. Let’s see if you will be surprised as I was.

Along the way I met a boater with his family. He let me borrow his Boga grips to weigh the trout. The grips uses a spring type scale and it showed 8lbs.  Now I was getting excited.

I made it to the truck, loaded up, stopped and got ice and found my way to an official scale in Galveston.

To my surprise the fish only weighed 6.4lbs.  I was a bit embarrassed. I thanked the guys operating the scale and walked away with slumped shoulders and a bowed head. It was my largest trout of the year so far and he was still a couple pounds shy of the CCA leaders.

My quest will have to continue for a large trophy trout.

Operationfish.com signing out.

Todd Hart

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Fishing Padre Island National Seashore (PINS)

August 2nd was the date of the Blue Water Kayak Classic hosted in the Corpus Christie area.  The main targeted species was King fish, but there were minor categories such as; Spanish mackerel, cobia/ling and reef fish(red snapper, grouper, spade fish, etc).

Myself and a couple of others decided to fish the Padre Island National Seashore (PINS). The fee for entering is $10 for a 7 days pass or $20 for an annual pass. Four wheel drive is recommended for the beach. You can travel as far as 60 miles south along the beach.

PINS map

The forecast called for rain and rough waters in the early morning. Therefore, we departed Katy, Texas around 6:30 am and made the 4 – 5 hour trip to our target destination. None of us had ever fished the PINS area before so we decided to enter the park beach front and drive south until we saw something that looked like it might be good fishing.

PINS entrance

We drove approximately 5 miles when came across a helicopter pad and a large rig only a few miles off shore. We unloaded our stuff and was launching our kayaks around 12:30pm.  We pointed our bows to main rig and started pedaling the 3 plus miles.

One the way out, I landed a small Spanish mackerel on a silver spoon. I also hooked a small shark which thankfully came unhooked at the kayak.

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Around approximately one mile to two miles out Karl hooked and landed a monster king mackerel measuring over 56″.

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That would be the first and last of our king fish for the day. We finally made it out to the rig and we soon landed a few red snapper each.

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We had to return to shore after our short trip so we could go check in for the fishing tournament. None of us wanted to stop fishing but rules are rules. We pedaled back, loaded up, drove to the check-in, and returned to the beach.

We spent the night sleeping on the beach. The weather was awesome. There was a slight cool breeze and no mosquitoes. I simply slept on a cot under the stars.

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Tournament day. (Day 2)

It was light about 6:30-6:45 am so I launched slightly before 7am and pedaled towards the rig. I landed a nice 26″ Spanish mackerel and then what I thought was a giant 33″ Spanish mackerel. It turned out it was a juvenile king mackerel.

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Then I saw a few king fish jumping out of the water. I grabbed my trout rod which was was equipped with a top water lure I would normally use for trout in the bay. (I did place an 18″ steel leader above the lure to stop there razor sharp teeth from breaking me off.) After a few casts I saw an explosion as a small king fish nailed my plug and cleared at least 3′ of air with my bait suspended from his mouth. The little rod bent over quickly and the line started ripping off my reel. I quickly turned the kayak and pedaled as fast as I could to keep up while trying to regain some of the lost line.

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As you can see he doesn’t have the same yellow spots as the 33″ fish I caught earlier . This is one of the reasons I thought that earlier fish was a huge Spanish mackerel. (I decided to keep the 33″ fish just in case the judges ruled it as a Spanish mackerel. (They ended up declaring it as a king fish. Oh well.)

There was a storm slowly working it’s way towards us, so we decided to head closer to shore just to play it safe.  This is where we found most of our king fish. Everyone in my group quickly limited out on kings in approximately 38′ of water. Unfortunately for me, I only landed smaller ones measuring in the upper 30′s. The other guys in my group caught larger ones. (BAH!!!!)

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All king mackerel were caught on trolled ribbon fish.

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Many of the other kayakers decided to catch some reef fish near the helicopter pad.

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I decided to keep trying to upgrade my king fish. That would never happen as I was bite off a few times. Twice I was almost spooled and was forced to tightened the drag down all the way only to be broke off. (Sorry, if you overheard my explicit language accompanying my many temper tantrums after the numerous break offs.)

Then the bite seemed to slow/stop completely.

Once I started to reach shallower waters, on the way in I switched over to trolling a silver spoon. I landed this weird looking fish. (I have no idea what it is, but it looks like it had six legs and wings. Hmmm?)

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I also landed what would end up being my largest Spanish mackerel of the day and the 2nd largest of the entire tournament. (Only .3 of a pound short of some major prize money.)

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My fish were not large enough to earn me any cash or prizes at the tournament, but it was fun none the less. I met some great people and future fishing partners. I explored an area unknown to me and found some fish I can’t easily catch on the northern coast Texas.

I can’t wait to explore even further south on the Padre Island National Seashore.

Operationfish.com signing out,

Todd Hart
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Kayaking for Sharks

The last two days have been fairly calm. The winds have been soft and the breakers in the surf have been small. This gave me a chance to head out “Beyond the Breakers” (BTB) to target both Sharks and Bull Reds.  The beaches along the north Texas coast are loaded with both.

7 foot bull shark 4

Many people think you need a bunch of heavy duty expensive equipment for these monsters of the sea, but that’s not necessarily true. You can have an adequate set up for a very reasonable price.

Below is a list of items for the frugal fisherman.

1. Seven foot Shakespeare Sturdy Stick ($15-20)

2. Okuma Classic Pro fishing reel ($40-$45)

3. Fishing line 30-50lbs (100-200 yards)

4. Leaders (The longer the better for sharks) wire, 100 lb mono or cable. ($2-to how ever much you want to spend)

5. Circle Hooks. (I prefer size #10 Eagle Claw) ($4-6 per pack of three)

6. Party balloons for the days there is little to no current. ($1 per pack)

7. Wire cutters/ pliers

8. Bait (Cow Nose stingray, Mullet, bonita, basically any fish)

This list will set you up for both bull reds and sharks. (Although I would stick with cut mullet for the bait when targeting bull reds.)

Todd Hart 7-6

I usually target both species together. I equip one rod with a piece of cut mullet free lined off the bow. This requires a very simple set up; line, leader, hook,  3″-4″ piece of cut mullet. Using the head of the mullet is probably my favorite bait for bull reds. I simply hook it through the lips and chuck it out there and wait for the clicker to scream on the Okuma Classic reel.

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When fishing for sharks I sometimes use the same set-up. This works best if there is a current and the bait stays off the bottom. If there is no current I use nearly the same set up. The only thing different is I blow-up and tie a small party balloon directly on the line above the leader.  This acts as a float and holds the bait up higher.

Once hooking a shark I usually unhook from my anchor line and allow the shark to pull the kayak (A Texas Kayak Sleigh Ride). This eases some of the pressure on your line and your reel.  Once the shark tires out I usually pull him close to the kayak for a few modeling pictures.

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At this point, you’ll need those wire cutters or pliers I listed earlier. Cut the leader as close to the shark as you safely can. The shark will expel the hook with time. Watch out for the “tail whips”. They can really sting.

Red fish are a bit easier to deal with. You simply pull them to the boat, use some fish grips and pull them into your lap.  You can almost always safely remove the hooks from a red fish.  Even if its embedded way, deep in throat. Their teeth are usually small (sometimes sharp). Beware they have another set of teeth deep in their throat for crunching crab shells.

hook removal

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Now (July) is a prime time to target sharks. There seems to be a number of larger sharks not far off the beach. In the last two days I have caught bull sharks up to 7′ (Maybe larger) as seen in the picture at the top of this article.

Late summer through the fall is the prime time  to target bull reds. Although they can be found off the beach year round. Just today I landed four measuring up to 40″.

As soon as I get a chance I’ll be back on the water trying to land some more monsters.

Until next Operationfish.com signing out,

Todd Hart
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