Texas Road Trip - Part 2 E-mail
Friday, 23 October 2009 09:38

mecca

The mecca of kayak fishing in the Port Aransas area.

It was time to head up to Corpus Christi . Slowride Guide Services and Kayak Rentals (www.slowrideguide.com) is just north of Corpus in Aransas Pass and has been there 12 years now. I originally met Dean at a tournament in Titusville , Florida several years back and ran into him and his wife and partner, Jennifer, at Charles Wrights place in Everglades City a few winters back. Their business is one of the oldest guide services in the kayak fishing world. It is also home to the Texas Kayak Fishing School . Perfect timing so I sat in on the class. The winds were at their strongest from the most recent weather system so the normal on water Saturday morning session was cancelled. The class is scheduled as a 3 day event - Saturday through Monday. The first two mornings are spent on the water and the afternoon in the classroom. It is the most comprehensive class for kayak fishing in the world and while it is geared towards Texas coastal kayak fishing and more specifically (link for school article) Dean’s local waters it is of great benefit to any kayak fisherman, especially those new to the sport or not catching fish. Any expert will benefit as well as Dean is a very knowledgeable fisherman. 

Sunday morning the winds were light so I joined Dean and the 3 students on the water. I had a hit early on that was probably a red but the flats mostly held mullet. At a variety of cuts small trout were caught. I concentrated on redfish but when I determined it wasn’t meant to be I found an old boat channel and staked out the kayak. I caught about three dozen trout from tiny to around 14”. It was fun and then we returned to shore and I grabbed lunch and then back to class. 

The water’s around Aransas Pass are phenomenal for kayak anglers who love flats fishing especially but there’s still bigger water in the main channels and you’re not far from the Gulf of Mexico either. The potential of the area is overwhelming as there’s a lot of water. The great part is all the flats can be accessed from one road, the causeway out to the Port Aransas ferry. It was such a shame that the Texas wind machine was in full bore. I would have loved to have had the opportunity to explore the place. Dean told me camping is allowed anywhere along the causeway and there are RV parks around too. With its close proximity to the town that bares the same name which is literally only a few minutes away I can see why it is such a popular place for kayak fishermen. If you do decide to fish the area being that there’s so much water I’d highly recommend booking Dean for at least a day or two to learn the lay of the land. One of the students in the class had been fishing the area for weeks and hadn’t caught a redfish yet. He was only able to catch trout. I have no doubt that he can catch reds now. 

Monday morning I headed to Louisiana where I was hooking up with guide, Mark Brassett, of Calmwater Kayaking. Mark has a part time mother ship operation based in Port Fourchon, which is just above Grand Isle and two hours south of New Orleans . The port is the 4th busiest in the US and almost a third of all the oil produced in this country comes through there. Mark uses a pontoon boat which he affectionately calls his motorized dock. It is well suited for the task. He can transport up to six kayaks and anglers to remote locations. We headed out the first morning and had to go through the heart of the port to get to one of his favorite spots. It was fascinating to see all these huge ships and everything the port encompasses. We ducked off of Bell Pass and took a cut to a large bay. We were in another world. The mother ship was anchored and we hopped in the kayaks. 

black drum

My first black drum ever and my 61st species of fish caught from the kayak.

He has a fleet of WS Rides. They’re very stable but WS in their attempt to adapt their terrific phase 3 seat into the kayak blew it. The seat back is too far to the stern and it is very uncomfortable. Mark plans altering this as he’s very handy. He made his own stakeout poles and I really liked the design. After anchoring the boat we launched the kayaks. Mark directed me head up the channel and he’d catch up. It was low tide and there had been a full moon. The fish were most likely full from heavy night time feeding but as they say the best time to fish is when you can and you certainly can’t catch them if you don’t try. Mark headed up a channel. All I found were mullet where I had gone so Mark came and got me. He had just lost a big red in the 3’ range. Mark loves catching trout and his tackle reflects this. He uses very soft rods with mono. The stuff is much too wimpy in my opinion and he loses a lot of fish due to inadequate hook sets. This wasn’t going to be the last time this happened during our time fishing, whereas I landed every red I hooked. Mark needed to make a phone call and went back to the boat. I continued down the channel. I saw a big red working. The tail was huge and it was crashing bait. So I worked towards it. I spooked a couple fish on the way. I didn’t get any fish throughout the entire channel and then hit a shallow bay full of mullet. On the far side there were reds working over an oyster bed. Still no hook ups and by now Mark had caught up to me. He anchored at the outlet of the bay and proceeded to catch trout. I joined him and we caught a bunch. They were small. We decided we’d work the outside on our way back to the boat. This way we’d make a complete circle and not cover any of the same water. I got a bump and then a second - then hooked up. It was not a red and I called out that I had a black drum, my first ever and my 61st species of kayak caught fish. So it was a successful morning despite not getting a red. We headed back in to run some errands and have lunch. We drove down to Grand Isle and Mark showed me around pointing out various spots and what species were available there. On our return to Port Fourchon we passed a bay with a bunch of birds sitting on the water. Mark told me that at this time of year schools of reds often crashed bait there and the birds were probably waiting for just that. Mark called Danny and Christine Wray and they joined us for a nice sit down lunch a Toupside Restaurant in Port Fourchon. They own Calmwater Charters and their operation is full time. They offer kayak fishing too and live on Grand Isle. We invited Danny to join us for the afternoon session. While he ran back to Grand Isle to get fishing gear we switched out a couple of the Rides for my Hobie Revo and Native Ultimate. Danny has a fleet of Ultimate’s so he used my Native while I took the Revo. I left the mirage drive in the boat and used the plug that comes with the kayak. What a delight to have a comfortable seat again. I couldn’t sit in the Ride anymore. We went back to the same spot since we knew it held fish. Danny hooked up first with top water on his first cast on a fish he stalked. Outside the channel I got a nice upper slot fish. We took some pics and worked the channel. Again the channels’ reds eluded me but once in the lake I started connecting again by the patch of oysters I had found. Mark got fish too. We all got fish. 

danny with a nice red

Danny with the first red of the afternoon.

The next morning we went back to the same area. I immediately went to the channel and there weren’t any fish there. Then I hit the oyster bars in the bay beyond and nothing. At the outlet the trout weren’t home and then I got a couple of taps and a hookup. I saw a big tan shape and at first thought a bull red but then the thrashing tail of a 5’ shark and it was over. The tail had broken my line. Shortly after that Mark caught up. He had landed three reds on the other side of the channel on the outside. So we headed back and I got three reds and another black drum. I spooked a school of sheepshead too. There was a bay as we entered the area and I asked Mark if he’d ever fished it and he said he hadn’t so we went in and explored. I caught my lure in some oysters and when I retrieved it I spooked a red. Mark disappeared which meant he found a creek. I went over to investigate and it looked very promising. At the end was a lake where I found Mark. Mark had seen a big red leaving a little creek. He said the fish was ¾ out of the water. He tossed his lure in front of the fish and it took. Again his wimpy gear thwarted him as the fish found the only clump of oysters in the vicinity and broke him off. There were more reds around but they were spooky, still we tried without a sniff. There was another creek off the main channel so I headed in first. Off a smaller arm I saw a red plowing water so I stealthily headed in to see if I could catch it. The creek was narrow and required stealth and careful maneuvering. I didn’t find the fish but the arm looped back to the main channel and the fish had probably gone around. There was an oyster bar blocking me from making the circuit so I turned around. When I caught up to Mark he told me his first cast at the outlet produced a 25”. We’re both sure it was the same fish. We worked our way back to the boat and headed back in. Mark had grabbed a bunch of oysters while out on the water and we had them with some wasabi. That was a great snack. 

Mark

Here’s Captain Mark as he pilots the mother ship to the fishing grounds.

We went down to Grand Isle to do some shopping and exploring. We picked up some huge 10 count shrimp and fixings. Mark showed me more fishing spots. When we got back to his place we cleaned the kayaks and gear and put everything away. Mark was heading back to his real job and I had decided to stop off and visit Troy for the weekend over in Beaufort , SC. After that I’d head back to NJ. I had thought about Florida but I didn’t really have the time and the mileage getting to Josh or Dee’s was 2/3 of that heading home - wrong direction. Troy ’s made sense. Mark made up a boil that included the shrimp, corn, potatoes, onion, garlic and seasonings. It was excellent. After pigging out we settled down to watching some fishing shows on TV. Danny called and remember when I mentioned those birds sitting on the water waiting the previous day? Well they weren’t sitting anymore. They were wheeling and diving over redfish. We decided to take a drive over as it was around the corner. Sure enough there were birds and big crashes. It was almost dark and as tempting as it was by the time I’d re-rigged and gotten on the water, it would be dark. So I took video instead and reformulated my plans. I decided to stay on and hopefully get a crack at those fish. Besides I wanted to do some exploring and check out RV parks and rentals for the following winter as there were a lot of options here. I haven’t mentioned yet but there are miles and miles of beach and the oil rigs offshore. The rigs are within range of a beach launch and attract a lot of fish - blues, kings, big reds, cobia, jacks, amberjack, big snappers and false albacore to name some of them. The pass and bay over by Danny’s and adjacent bay get schools of big jacks too, bruisers. Then there’s the hole with the big reds and the ……………….. You get the idea. Lots of potential and winter is off season from a tourist perspective. Sounds like a great place to spend a winter to me. Over a dozen species of fish all kayak accessible. 
Back to those crashing reds, Mark said the small ones would go 10 plus pounds and they’d range up to 30 at times! Also they’d hit anything tossed at them. What a great fly rod scenario and an opportunity to shatter my personal best redfish. So I stayed on and figured I’d write and take a drive over several times during the day to check if it was happening. It was less than two miles from the house. I had writing to catch up on and needed a break from being on the water if they didn’t happen. It was worth the commitment. Well the reds didn’t appear so I was able to catch up on my writing. A system was showing up for the weekend so I decided I might as well head north a couple days early. The fishing would be getting going in a few weeks and I could probably target ice out trout and musky. So it was time to get on the road again. The trip north was uneventful. I hit rain in New Orleans and it pretty much stayed with me until central Virginia . I left about 10AM on Saturday and arrived in New Jersey 6:30PM Sunday with a stop over to catch some sleep in Tennessee . 

One additional note on traveling, each state has a road alert system. Usually there will be a blue sign indicating which AM station has updates. However reception is often bad. They also have the same info available by dialing 511. Once dialed you plug in the road you’re on. Using the system I was able to avoid an accident clean up by hitting a restroom for a potty stop and grabbing breakfast Sunday morning. Later I got stuck in an accident and called to get the status. It wasn’t on the recording yet so by hitting a number on my cell I got a live person. Turns out it had just happened and emergency vehicles had just arrived, so they didn’t have any info yet. They did know that it was my mileage marker so I knew I was close. It turned out it was only about a five minute delay. 

 

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