Shark Fishing off the Texas Coast

Myself and three friends all forming the Kayakwars team, Anglers Elite, decided to hit the coast near High Island Texas in search of bull reds and sharks.  We made our customary stop at the Sea Pony bait and Tackle shop (in winnie, TX) to pick up our needed supplies; large circle hooks, leaders and bait.

I like to use size 10 Eagle Claw hooks attached to heavy cable. These I just tie onto 30 lb mono. No weights are needed.  Just bait the hook with large chunks of cut mullet, cast it out and let it drift. Once in a while I’ll float my bait under a balloon.

On this particular day we paddled out to about 13′ in depth. We all spread out and cast out our bait. It wasn’t long before we all hooked up.

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Before the day was over we landed 17 sharks between the four of us.  I landed six myself.

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The sharks were not to terribly large. Most measured about 4 to 5 foot in length.

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Even small sharks possess great strength. They are made of all muscle and cartilage. You must always be careful with these creatures. They are flexible and powerful.

small shark7The tail whips can be painful. Be careful when holding the leader. When a shark decides to run that leader can rip right through your skin, trust me.  Gloves would be recommended.

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I’m not sure where all the bull reds have located to. this stretch of beach along Mcfaddin Wildlife reserve ahs been know for producing large numbers of redfish, but lately they have be MIA.

shark close-up

It has been just none stop sharks. And the sharks seem smaller then years past. The bigger sharks are probably hanging out with the missing bull reds (my two cents).

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Even 4 to 5 foot sharks could cause great harm to the fisherman not giving them the respect they deserve.

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Their teeth are sharp.

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Trying to remove the hooks can be hazardous.

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Sometimes the hooks just won’t come free or sometimes the sharks just won’t cooperate while removing the hooks. Always try to cut the leaders as close to the hooks as possible. A good pair of wire cutters is recommended.

Operationfish.com signing out,

Todd Hart

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Two Days, Two Spots, Two Types of Fish

Summer school is done and I have a bit of free time to fish. Unfortunately, my poor truck caught a sickness and has been getting treatment at the Ford dealer.  I have been forced to beg, grovel and tag along with my friends just to sooth my fishing bug. I have become “that guy”. The mooch.

Monday we went south towards the middle coast and fished along mixed shell and sand. Over shell we caught a couple of trout but mainly red fish. All fish were caught on topwater plugs.

Todd Hart Sun rise redfish2

The reds varied in size from tiny undersized to 26.5″.

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I landed four scoring slot reds.  All using pink topwater baits.

We found a few trout scattered throughout the bay system.  My buddy found one tiny location where he landed three nice sized trout between the sizes of 21 – 26″. I made my way that direction and landed one just around 18′. Then continued my trend of smaller trout. I think it’s a curse. (We jokingly laugh about how he can catch big trout until I get there, and then, they just disappear, instantly.)

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It was just that kind of day he landed most of the larger trout and I landed most of the smaller ones. (Someone has to do it.)

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(One of Grant’s many trout.)

My largest trout of the day was a mere 20-21″.

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The second day we tried fishing on the upper coast in the Galveston Bay area. We spent much of the morning fishing some structure with pink topwater plugs once again.

I landed some smaller trout and reds at first before finally landing my first scoring slot red of the day.

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I continued to grind it out and finally caught a couple of decent trout.

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Todd Hart Red F

 

And a couple more reds.

Todd Hart Trout F

As the day went on we decided to fish some shallow sandy areas mixed with grass.  I immediately landed a rat red and within a few more minutes landed this beefy fellow.

Todd Hart late moring red

He measured a nice 25.5″.

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The key has been the same for us the last couple of weeks. We try to find shallow areas containing a mix of shell, sand and grass. We make numerous drifts over the areas throwing our favorite topwaters. We could follow the tend that many other anglers enjoy this time of year, bouncing plastics off shell reefs and then moving into deeper water as it warms up, but we are searching for larger trout. Our quest for a 30 incher continues.

Operationfish.com signing out,

Todd Hart

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Summer Trout

Let’s face it, summer in Texas is hot. I mean real hot. Unbearably hot. However, natural laws of weather and climate mean its relatively cooler near large bodies of water, so pack up your kayaks and head to the bay.

I was sworn to secrecy and vowed not to give away my buddy’s favorite summer trout hole, but what I can do, is share with you the pattern in which we find fish on these terribly hot summer days.

Most people move to deeper waters and bounce plastics off the bottom while drifting over reefs. That’s fine for schooling trout, but if you want bigger trout try this advice. We still stick to the shallows. Often times we find trout over shell, but the bigger trout seem to be found scattered over areas with a bit of shell, sand and grass all mixed together.

Todd Hart trout 7-12-15

We cover a great deal of water casting topwater plugs like the Rapala Skitterwalk. Our favorite color is pink.

pink skitterwalk

Once locating some fish we make drifts over the area time and time again until we get a couple of drifts that no longer produce fish.  Then we move from that area in search of a new fish haven.

Future trophy trout

Here’s a future trophy trout. He wasn’t much larger then the lure he hit.

Try to find areas with cleaner water. That is not always easy when the winds are strong, but even slightly cleaner water in certain areas can hold trout.  Sometimes the conditions just make it impossible to find that “trout green” water.

I watched as my buddy showed me his honey hole. It was only the size of an average living/family room but it held numerous fish. (He has pulled out a number of beefy trout up to 29 inches out of this small hole over the past month.) The fish were easily spooked. After watching him catch one or two, we had to leave for about an hour just to wait for the trout to bite once again. The key to his honey hole was the mixed terrain on the shallow bottom. It held mixed sand, shell and grass.

Sometimes we search areas so shallow I’m forced to push pole. (I like to use the 8′ Yak Attack Park-n-Pole.) The wide platform area in the Hobie Pro Angler is prime for this type of fishing /hunting. You only need a couple of inches of water to displace the large flatter bottom of a Hobie Pro Angler.

Todd Hart push pole

Who says Hobie Pro Angers can’t traverse skinny waters?

These types of areas also hold nice red fish.

Todd Hart redfish 7-12-15

Of course, I would catch a tournament sized redfish on a non-tournament day.

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I’m as wimpy as the next guy when it comes to tolerating the Texas summer heat. I’m from Michigan where it doesn’t get this hot in the north. I was ready to go but my buddy insisted the bite was better mid day when the temperatures were the worse.

Every time he hit his “little honey hole” he pulled out trout ranging from 23-26″. And he was correct most trout came in late morning – early afternoon. I fished close to his secret area but just outside as so not to disturb or steal “his spot” and I did not have nearly the same luck.  Don’t get me wrong I caught some fish but not as many or as large as his.

Operationfish.com signing out,

Todd Hart

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Short Film Catching a Kingfish

Operationfish.com signing out,

Todd Hart

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New Favorite… Daiwa Arid Coastal

I fish. I fish a lot and I fish hard. My equipment suffers a great deal of abuse, especially my baitcaster reels. I use both baitcasters and spinning reels, however I use a low profile baitcaster when throwing a topwater plug and let’s fix it, I’m addicted to topwater action, therefore I spend 80-90% of my timing casting and retrieving topwater lures.

Most of my time is spent in the vast saltwater marshes of the Texas/Louisiana coast where I spend 8-12 hours per day casting and retrieving my favorite topwater baits, because of this I go through a large number of baitcaster reels. I have tried different strategies. I have purchased some moderately expensive reels that I often times have to take in for service and cleaning and I have used many cheep reels that I can just throw away when their preformance begins to falter.

My search for the prefect long lasting , well working baitcaster reel seems to be never ending. That is until I ran across the Daiwa Arid Coastal saltwater baitcasting reel while shopping at Fishing Tackle Unlimited. (By the way, they have a huge selection of reels and very informative actual fisherman/employees that can answer many of your questions.)

Arid coastal

It seems to handle the abuse I dish out as well as the extreme wear and tear afforded by extended saltwater usage.

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I have my Daiwa Arid Coastal spooled with 20 lb Power Pro braid. I can attest it casts a country mile, smooth and far.  The retrieve is fast and consistent. This has not changed in approximately two months of my hard use.

Daiwa specs

The carbon drag washers have done what they promise. I have yet to find an inshore fish it couldn’t handle.

Daiwa carbon drag

And it comes with a 100 mm “power handle” for cranking those hard fighting, larger saltwater fish in.

So far I give this reel a thumbs up and it will continue to be my go to reel. You can purchase this extraordinary reel for anywhere between $80-100.

Operationfish.com signing out,

Todd Hart

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Topwater Bassin’

Tropical Storm Bill passed through and the weather laid down so I took a friend out for an evening  trip of bass fishing after work.  We loaded up and left my house around 4pm and pointed the truck towards Lake Fayette. We passed through the last of rains on the way. As soon as we launched our kayaks the rains stopped and fish began to bite.

I caught all my bass on a pink Rapala Skitterwalk.  The first few bass I landed came over thick grass.  The extra water raised the lake level slightly so I could throw the Skitterwalk over thick areas that are usually off limits to such baits.

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My friend, Chris, followed my lead and cast into the same area and instantly pulled out a nice bass himself.

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There was bait everywhere along the shore. The bass were having a feast. You could hear and see bass hitting bait all along the shore line.  We continued working the shoreline casting wherever we heard or saw bass working.

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Most bass seemed to be in the cattails.   If I heard or saw a splash I just pedaled close and cast right to the edge. Most times I had to work the Skitterwalk very slowly.  A few twitches and pause. I tried to imitate a wounded fish. It worked quite well.

 

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I ended the evening with ten nice bass measuring from 16″ to 20″.

Todd Hart Bass 2 linecutterz

 

I missed 16 fish.  For a while, I was in slump and began keeping score.  Number of fish landed to number of lost fish/missed blows.  My score for the night was 10 landed and 16 lost or missed.

Todd Hart Bass linecutterz

 

Some areas held numerous fish. in one location under a low hanging branch I landed 2 and missed or lost 5.

 

 

 

Todd Hart Bass

It was a great night of fishing. Anytime I can have that much action using a topwater bait, I’m in heaven.  I love using topwater bait and that often leads to my downfall in the competitive fishing world. I just can’t seem to put the Skitterwalk back in the tackle box.

Operationfish.com signing out,

Todd Hart

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Kingfish Galore

The rain hit Texas hard this spring/ early summer and the rivers are overflowing their banks.  It has messed up some of my favorite freshwater spots but it seemed to have changed things for the better (for my prospective anyway) in the gulf.

Todd Hart kingfish 5

The dirty flood water is really out into the gulf at the mouth of these flooded rivers. Many people are worried about the impact this will have on the saltwater ecology. I can attest with first hand experience that it seems to be causing an “all you can eat” feeding feast at the mouths of these rivers. Normally, it is hard finding kingfish near the north Texas coast.  You really have to travel out a great distance to find the clean water the kingfish thrive in.  Right now, however, with all the bait fish being forced out of the rivers by this strong flood current the kingfish as well as other game fish have moved up close to feast on the buffet of bait.

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We found ourselves fishing close to the color change caused from the flood waters.

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At first we fished on the color change. And then we tried just outside the color change in the cleaner water, but we soon learned that the fish we sitting mainly in the dirtiest of water.

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The kingfish were everywhere in the murky water. We witnessed them jumping 6-10 feet into the air as they chased their prey.  I even had one jump over the bow of my kayak. Once locating the fish the action was fast and furious.

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We trolled ribbon fish . You can purchase ribbon fish at almost any bait store along the coast, especially those located at a marina.

ribbonfish

We placed the ribbon fish on the kingfish leaders pictured below.

kingfish rigs

It turned out that on this particular day. Pink leaders worked the best. (I wished I would have purchased more of that color.) My fishing partner, Grant, had mostly pink and he ended up having more hook-ups and ultimately more kings.

Once hooked up, hold on, for Kingfish can run with some real speed.

Todd Hart Hooked up 6-10-15

They can really put a bend in your rod and take you on a nice ride. However, their gas tanks tend to be short lived and after a couple of strong runs they die out.

kingfish

Don’t be fooled they usually have a little in reserve when they get close to the kayak.

Todd Hart running kingfish

They sometimes even make a couple of dives and circle the boat.

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Once they tire out I prefer to just reach in and grab their tails.

Todd Hart reaching for a  kingfish

Reach in quick, close to your kayak.

Todd Hart reaching for a  kingfish 2

Give it a good yank.

Todd Hart kingfish in the sun

I recommend. Not keeping your hands in the water very long. My friend Grant had this happen twice.

Grant half a kingfish

Sharks stole his fish before he could get them in his boat.  He prefers to use his fish grips for safety reasons.  I had to do that once as I hooked a kingfish in the tail.

Todd Hart kingfish hooked in the tail

There was no grabbing that tail. And let me tell you a kingfish can run a lot longer when hooked in the tail.

Some people like to use gaffs.  That is fine and dandy but you can only keep two kings per day in Texas. I want to catch, photo and release safely and as many as possible on my trips.

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You have to work quickly to keep them alive.

Todd Hart measuring a kingfish

A good long ruler is a must. All the kingfish I caught this day were between 37″- and 45″.

Todd Hart CPRing a kingfish

Taking pictures of fish that long can be a challenge.   If you can’t use the view finder you end up taking lots of poor pictures.

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I also use a GoPro mounted on a Railblaza (swinging) Camera Boom 600.  This serves as my “selfie stick”.

Todd Hart kingfish 2

It is great for documenting fish.  And many times I don’t have a friend around to take my photos.

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When unhooking these guys, take precaution. They have sharp teeth.  Unlike a bass they can not be lipped.

Todd Hart unhoooking a kingfish

I was wishing I had some longer pliers. I recommend long pliers. LOL.

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I found if you work quickly, both landing the fish and during the CPR process (catch, Photo, and release) the fish can survive.

We did land 19 kingfish that day between the two of us.

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We also caught a a few other saltwater critters.  Grant landed two nice Jack Crevalle.  These were hooked in the cleaner water.

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We also each caught a handful of pesky sharks.

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Todd Hart small shark

The sharks make it a costly venture.  Every shark means you virtually lose your kingfish leaders as well as your bait.

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The trip was fun and well worth it.  If you go pick a day with nice (safe) weather.  And please remember the current at the mouths of these rivers can be deceiving. Once the color change completely disappeared almost instantly and we found ourselves so far out we had a 90 minute pedal back to towards shore to find dirty water once again.   We were so busy catching fish we didn’t realize how far we drifted.  A second time we stayed closer to shore but drifted a couple of miles up the coast line.  It took us another 90 minutes or more to pedal back against the current when the day had ended.

Bring lots of fluid and sun screen. Tight lines and good luck.

Operationfish.com signing out,

Todd Hart

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Top Water Bass

Memorial day’s forecast called for strong winds and rain, however the weathermen had been incorrect all weekend.  They kept calling for poor fishing conditions and the weather turned out to be nice each day. Therefore, I decided to gamble on an early morning run, hoping the weatherman would once be wrong and all the boaters would fear the worse and stay home.

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It turned out my throw of the dice would be a winner. The weather was awesome throughout the morning with a bit of overcast and the wind and rains not starting until I left the water.

I got out on the water just before day break. I arrived at my target area as the sun came up. I decided to start with a top water plug. I had a pink Rapala Skitterwalk tied on from my last speckled trout bay trip so I gave it a throw. My first cast resulted in a  blow up and shortly after a hook up however, I was disgruntled as I lost the fish.  I continued with the Skitterwalk all morning with great success.

Todd Hart bass 1 5-24-15

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The fish were scattered in the shallow water.

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I would cast close to the shore and walk the dog back to the kayak.

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I just continued working the shoreline.

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often times I would have numerous blow-ups. If the first one didn’t hook up I would slow my retrieve and hope for another chance which seemed to more more often than not.

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I missed a number of blow-ups and lost a number of fish. I had to remind myself to set the hook with a bit more force than I am accustomed to when it comes for fishing for speckled trout.

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I found that often the bass would follow the bait almost to the kayak before striking.

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The lake had far fewer boaters than I expected for a holiday weekend. It was just a pleasant morning with hungry fish and little boat traffic.

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As the morning progressed and the sun rose higher the bite began to slow. The fish became fewer and farther between.

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Unfortunately, the action slowed and I went a long time with no further blow-ups. I was losing interest in the slower lonely conditions. I usually fish by myself to get away, reflect, relax and recuperate, but this was a holiday weekend. I was about to head in to hang out with the family for the remainder of the day when I had an unexpected, but welcomed visitor.

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He just followed me around and kept me company. He gave me someone to talk to and the cool thing is he never disagreed with me or posed an argument.

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He pretty much followed me all the way back to my truck. We parted ways and headed home to hang with the family for the remainder of the day.

Operationfish.com signing out,

Todd Hart

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Aerial Display: Jumping Black Tip Shark

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Todd Hart

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A Slow Day of Fishing is Still Better Than No Day of Fishing

Philosophers throughout the world and throughout history have always agreed upon one thing:  A slow day of fishing is still better than no day of fishing. OK, well,  maybe no renowned, intellectual, well published, thinker actually said that, but I think you’ll agree, they should have.

The morning started out rough. I made some bad choices the night before, causing the drive to be brutal. But after a stop at my favorite bait shop in Winnie, TX (The Seapony Bait and Tackle) where the proprietor, Rick, made us some custom leaders, loaded us with bait and sold us his guaranteed cure for a rough night of bad choices  (BSN Powder chased with a can of iced cold Coke) we were once again ready to tackle the surf and chase some larger game found in the big waters of the Gulf.

We were greeted with waves slightly larger than the forecast predicted. This seems to be the norm.

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(Chris Harris, the self-anointed “Grammar God” of Freshman English. At least that’s what he calls himself)

You can see from the pictures the waves were slightly larger than we hoped, but still nice compared to most days.

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We quickly set-up our rigs and pedaled out to 12′ of water.  We dropped anchor and waited for some action. We had a few runs but they were soft and the fish just seemed to drop the bait.

After an hour or so we moved out to 15′- 16′. This seemed to be spot as the number of runs increased. And I soon landed this red drum.

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We had to deal with a few gafttops, the slimiest catfish of the sea.  But eventually, I hooked up with a nice shark.

Todd Hart Shark at the kayak 3

He pulled me around for a good 15 minutes or longer.

Todd Hart Shark at the kayak 5

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A couple of times I was able to get him next the boat but he wasn’t ready to give up and he made a few runs resulting in soaking splashes and tail whips.

 

 

 

Todd Hart Shark at the kayak 7

 

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Finally, I was able to tire him out and pull him up.  He posed for this shot right before being released.

Todd Hart Shark at the kayak 2

All around us there were Jack crevelles bubbling and boiling the water as they chased large bait balls. This was the one time I didn’t bring any smaller set-ups to chunks lures so I was not able to entice any bites on my cut mullet.

We ended the day early, having to leave the water at noon as my wife requested my presence at her doctors appointment. the day was ended with me only landed one Bull red, one 5-6′ Bull shark and number of slimy gafttops. But as the titles states even a slow day of fishing is better than no day of fishing.

Operationfish.com signing out,

Todd Hart

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