I love fall in Texas. The air is crisp. Life begins anew. Cooler weather and shorter days get deer moving more during daylight. Overhead, geese are honking as they wing southward to marshes and fields along the coast. Holiday tamales are cooking in the kitchen. Fish sense winter is nearing and begin to load protein in the form of crawfish, shad, bluegills, shrimp, piggy perch – and assorted fake food, like soft plastic imitations of the aforementioned live bait.
Reports of plentiful catches have been hitting my computer for weeks. Most messages have come from saltwater venues since many Texas lakes and streams were inundated with rain and runoff, stymieing fish and fishermen, alike. But, even if all inland waters were clear and fishable, there’d still be glowing accounts of fine catches in the bays between the mainland and the Barrier Islands. It happens almost every year. Last year was an exception due to Hurricane Harvey. But the weather had less effect on the fish than it did on the accommodations and supplies that fishermen need -- like food, gasoline, live bait, drinking water, and a place to lay their heads after a day on the water in the sun.
Capt. Frankie Eicholz (361-701-7711), in Port Aransas, told me some locals were fishing the week after the hurricane. But he said due to lack of accommodations, many anglers stayed away. Sandy Jumper at the Rockport Chamber of Commerce, Jeffrey Hentz at the Port Aransas Chamber, and John Bowers at the Aransas Pass newspaper echoed that. Many hotels were damaged beyond occupancy or filled with emergency workers or those there to repair or rebuild.
That gave the fish a break, of sorts. TPWD biologists confirmed that fish harvest could be a little lower in 2017 due to reduced fishing pressure. Less fish being caught meant perhaps a larger carryover into this season. Supply and harvest could be in direct proportion. Maybe that’s what’s happening.
A good example of that was recounted to me by a friend from church. Austinite Tommy Welch told of an incredible sporting harvest in mid-November. They fished out of Port Mansfield with Capt. Daniel Land, of Texas Sportsman Charters (361-876-7610). The first day, using live shrimp, they filled the live well with a limit of trout for each of the three men. But the remarkable thing about the outing was that they boated 15 spotted sea trout (aka speckled trout, or simply “specks”) over 25 inches long! Those were mature, trophy trout! Many anglers fish a lifetime without ever catching one that large. Many experienced saltwater anglers treat trout that large with the same reverence that bass fishermen have for big bass. Welch and his team released all the monsters, keeping smaller trout for the table.
The next day, they all limited on ducks!
A similar report – minus several huge trout -- was received from Capt. Sally Moffatt at Baffin Bay Rod and Gun, the only Texas coast lodge that is Orvis Endorsed for fishing and wingshooting!