My Son’s First Solo Kayak Fishing Trip

Sunday, 9/28/14, I planned on staying home and spending time with the family. My wife suggested we load up the kayaks for a short afternoon trip. This would be the first time my eleven year old took the kayak out by himself. (Usually he just rides on the back of mine or my wife’s.)

We stopped along the way and picked up some live shrimp for both my wife, Kristen, and my son, Camden. We soon found ourselves at our destination so we quickly unloaded and readied our gear.

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We were launching at the channel that connects Keith Lake to Sabine Pass.  The tide was really ripping out at an accelerated rate and I was nervous letting my son take out the kayak solo.  The plan was to put my wife in the water first to help him if there were issues. I would have my kayak ready to go just in case he needed a tow.

I shoved his kayak into the water and after a quick adjustment of his pedals for which I incorrectly installed (I’m not used to having the pedals set for such a small person) he pedaled and traversed his way easily against the strong current.

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On the way out, I worked a Gulp Swimming mullet and picked up a small flounder.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI reached the mouth of the channel shortly before Kristen and Camden so I worked the pink Rapala Skitterwalk a few times and landed a small trout. (I would end up catching 4 or 5 more trout all similar to this one throughout the next two hours.)

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We decided to pedal against the wind and drift back. After a while we made a stop to pull out some rain jackets we packed as a couple of rain clouds unloaded their chilling showers. Kristen and Camden began tossing their live shrimp under a popping cork and soon each caught a fish.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACamden landed his first trout of the evening.

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Kristen had landed a couple of fish, but was quite excited when she pulled in this slot red.

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Shortly, after this Camden hooked his biggest trout of the trip.

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The trout was all his Zebco 33 could handle.

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He was quite proud of his catch.

A really big dark cloud loomed on the horizon and the wind started to pick up so we decided to head back to the truck. We were hooping to beat the mosquitos before they came out in force with the darkness. The dark cloud from the storm made night fall hit early then anticipated and with the sun lost behind the dark clouds the mosquitos came out with a vengeance. We worked frantically to load up in hopes of limiting our insect bites.

It was a great night.  I think the family had fun. Hopefully, with short trips like this I can hook my boy and convince him to fish with me more often.

Operationfish.com signing out,

Todd Hart
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A Totally Top-Water Evening

Sunday (9-21-14) I headed out for an evening of fishing. I turned the Texan’s game on the radio and made the long drive to the coast. I had hoped to find some big trout and catch the last of the 5o slot reds needed to close out our Kayakwars.com tournament quota for the month.

I arrived at my launch spot and was greeted with beautiful weather and a nice strong incoming tide. I pedaled my way out to a bulk head located at the mouth of a large channel opening up to a much larger series of lakes. I was hoping to fish the bulk head for a while and then move out to some shell/mud area in the shallows in hopes of ending the night with some hefty trout.

I was pleasantly surprised to find  a nice aggressive top-water bit from some hungry large slot reds.  The action was fast and furious.

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All fish were caught in 3-4′ of water using a pink Rapala Skitterwalk. When the fish would miss the lure I would simply stop and wait a second or two before continuing the “walk the dog” back and forth motion. This usually enticed the reds to return for further attacks.

Todd Hart Redfish  9-21

A coup0le of the reds were a bit smaller only measuring about 21″. But most were in the 26″ range.  A 26″ red can really be deceivingly strong. They can really put a bend in your rod and pull your kayak in circles. During one of my many fights I actually dropped my net and found out the hard way it didn’t float very long. The fish pulled me away as I watched it sink.

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I soon found a new challenge in landing reds without the net.

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As the sun began to set, I moved to the shallows looking for trout. I found a couple, but they were all in the 16-17″ range. (I need 20″ trout or larger to count in the tournament.) I managed to hook one decently large trout, but was unsuccessful in landing him without the aid of the net.

The reds continued to bite. I lost my only two pink skitterwalks to the aggressive fish. Both times a red followed the bait to the boat and hit it right at the side of the boat and both times as my pole hit the kayak unable to bend the line snapped and my bait was taken away. I switched to a trout pattern Rapala Skitterwalk which failed to land any other fish. I’m not sure if it was the lure, the setting sun or the slowing of the tidal movement, but, whatever the case, fish seemed to stop biting. I called it a day and headed home.

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All in all, it was great night. I love fishing with top-waters and the Rapala Pink Skitterwalk has proven to be my favorite “go to bait”.

Operationfish.com signing out,

Todd Hart

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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.

Deep Sea Fishing Punta Cana Adventure ($105)

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
Backcountry.com Yakima

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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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