Outdoor Notebook: Red Drum fishing in South Texas
Do you remember not too long ago when we were told that the groundhog did not see his shadow, thus we would have an early spring? The discussion among area residents seems to be about measurable snow day after day.
Those of us who live in northern Wisconsin have come up with a variety of activities to help deal with accumulating snow and temperatures near zero. For the most part, I can cope quite well with the snow, but can get along without the near-zero temperatures. Just a few minutes ago, the weather forecast for the day was for clear skies, temperatures in the low ’80s and relatively high winds out of the south. Oh yes, we have been spending some time in south Texas.
Several years ago, we started joining our long-time friends, Tom and Rosemary Twesme from Osseo, to travel during the latter half of February and the first part of March. In the beginning of those trips, we explored the southern states looking for warmer temperatures and some activities that we would enjoy. Three or four of those trips were spent in Florida, where we had an opportunity to experience many different parts of that state.
Three years ago, we ventured into southern Texas and began to explore. Our travels brought us to the island community of Port Aransas, which is located on the Gulf of Mexico near Corpus Christi. On that first trip, we were having lunch in a park along the shipping channel in Port Aransas. I checked on a pick-up truck with a Wisconsin license plate and found that Phil Kriesel, a friend from Rhinelander, was the driver. He and his wife, Jean, have spent quite a bit of time in the Port Aransas area over the past few years.
That year we spent a week in Port “A” and reserved a condo for the next winter for a month. We had an excellent time in 2012 and decided to return to the area during the winter of 2013.
This year, the first week we were in Port Aransas, we spent time on the beach early in the morning looking for ghost shrimp to use for fishing bait. Tom and I fished from shore along the jetties. These jetties extend out along the shipping channel into the Gulf. The fish we caught there were sheepshead. We found them close to the jetties in the rocks. This shipping channel is the route that ships from all over the world use to pass from the Gulf of Mexico into the large port of Corpus Christi. Many ships passed by as we fished from the jetties. It is interesting to note the country that each ship is from. We were able to download an application to an iPad that would identify the ship, the country it was from and the type of cargo it carried. There are also many barges being pushed or pulled by tug boats heading toward Corpus Christi or out toward the Gulf.
The sheepshead in saltwater are very different from those that live in the Lake Winnebago system. I have always been told that fish in salt water fight much harder than those in fresh water. That is definitely true and we had a great time fighting those fish. It seems that many of the fish in salt water feed on shrimp, so we used live shrimp as bait. While fishing along those rock structures, we lost a lot of tackle!
The best description I can offer for sheepshead is that they could be compared to a large crappie on steroids. The minimum size for sheepshead is 15 inches and when one grabs a sheepshead from the back, it is extremely difficult to hold. Tom and I were using open-face spinning equipment spooled with 20-pound line. Next year, I will use casting equipment. The daily bag limit is five fish per angler per day.
The second week we were here, we teamed up with Gary Taylor, who is from Rhinelander. He and his wife, Barb, spend some time in Port Aransas. Gary has a boat that he stores in south Texas and he was willing to take us fishing. He also helped us catch sheepshead from a boat, at which we were very successful. We found that it was much easier to fish from a boat than from shore.
The second time that we joined Gary in his boat, I felt a light bite and set the hook. A fish decided that it wanted no part of us or the boat. That fish fought for 20 minutes before we got a look at it. It turned out to be a 30-inch long red drum that fought harder than any fish I have ever caught.
As we all know, all good things must come to an end and our trip to south Texas has drawn to an end. To heck with the groundhog – we will return to south Texas in 2014.
Longtime Northwoods outdoors personality Roger Sabota writes a bi-monthly column for the Star Journal.