Waterman's Journal

Sep 16, 2009

Final Days of Summer's Surf Shark Fishing

Surf Fishermen Along the Texas Gulf Coast are Ready for Anything !

Location: Padre Island National Seashore, Texas

Along the coast of south Texas resides one of the most pristine beach habitats found in the U.S. The barrier Island(s) that echo the coast are home to some of the best surf fishing in the Gulf. Padre Island National Seashore stakes claim on this, the largest undeveloped portion of barrier island in the country. With over 60 miles of protected national seashore, it is about as remote as you can get for surf fishing. Anglers drive at times the entire length all the way to the Port Mansfield cut to seek out superb fishing, everything from Speckled Trout, Redfish, Jack Crevalle, Tarpon, and Sharks.

Below: Currents from warm Caribbean waters feed into the Gulf, bringing rich currents that run into and along the barrier islands of Padre Island.

The Final Dog Days of Summer winding down!

Oz checks in with the Waterman's Journal with a detailed report of one of his latest beach adventures down the National Seashore...

With the endless rains finally letting up, Scott Nelson and I decided to plan a last minute trip down the beach, for we knew the activity would finally turn back on. We kept debating when to leave... Saturday or Sunday. With a bit of rain lingering around Friday evening and Saturday morning, we decided to wait an extra day. Plan was to leave around noon on Sunday for low tide. I woke up around 9am, with the truck packed already with big baits, and saw the calm conditions, slightly lower temps, and full out sunshine. It is going to be on!!!! I Call Scott and tell him to hurry up so we can leave early. I run to the store and grab another 100lbs of ice and pack the rest of the truck. Scott meets me at the house and we hit the beach around 11am. NW wind has blown the surf flat (not like it hasn't been flat the past couple of weeks).

Below: * Conditions are looking down the *Padre Island National Seashore ...

Going down the driving isn't too bad... a little slow and bumpy but 2WD. Looking into the water we see Tarpon covering the first 10 miles. They are blasting bait on the surface. Too far to cast and was more anxious at what we would find down south. Make it past the high banks and we come across Nickaway and Ralph Wade tearing up the Redfish. At 80+yrs Ralph is still kicking ass on the beach!

Below: Texas Legend Ralph Wade still going strong from the surf at the young age of 82.

Scott stayed behind for an hour or two and slayed some Reds with the guys. I continued on and wanted to hit the jetties to see what it looked like. If it were clear enough I would probably spear some dinner. I get down the beach and for some reason decided to stop and inspect the Nic. from the yak. Water was green but the N winds were blowing pretty good. There was some fish but not enough activity to make me want to fish it.

I hop back in the truck and continued south. The water was very clear, about as clear as it gets along our coast. As I was driving I something catches my eye in the 1st gut. It was a school of slot Reds moving north.. maybe 100 strong. I get out and cast real quick but no dice. I do a U turn in the truck and go back a couple hundred yards ahead of them. I get out and grab the video camera hoping to get underwater video as they cruise by. I get out on the first bar and inch my way into the gut. Here they come! They come hauling through pretty quick. As they pass I look again to see 3 Bullsharks following right behind. I high-tail it back to the 1st bar. I notice a couple Blacktips behind the Bulls and behind them either 2 Ling or couple more Blacktips. Pretty cool.

I Get into the truck and continue to the jetties. Finally get there after slow driving. The water was pretty clear but due to the tide rushing out it dirtied up the water in the channel just enough to where you couldn't see. I see more schools of Reds along the rocks fixing to head up the beach. I look around for a while, throw some lures... and decide screw it, going to drive back up the beach and setup camp so I can get baits out for night. 3 Hours later I am setup and have a few baits rigged up.

Below: Jack Crevalle rigged up as large shark baits to be deployed by kayak...

Scott shows up as well and rigs up some big baits. He sets up camp a couple hundred yards down and we dig out the 2-way radios. Another hour or so pass and we begin to run the baits out. I have 4 large baits, Scott with another 3 up the beach. It will be interesting to see what happens.

Below: **** Shark Rods rigged and setup on a custom platform designed for surf fishing.

While roaming around, Scott finds an interesting crab.. don't know the species but seen them before somewhere.

Below: Scott shows off a curious beach creature crusing the camp.

*Anyhow, as nite falls and things begin to get quiet. I see Scott up the beach fighting a fish. I get over there and help him land a pesky *Blacktip Shark that picked up one of his big baits. Unfortunate waste of a big bait but what are you going to do. We release the fish and about an hour later another of his big baits gets cut off this time. Bummer. That's beach fishing for you. Anyway, the wind begins to die and the flying pest come out. It is clear dark skies and I decide to take some long-exposure pics on the beach. Here is one of Scott's camp up the beach... notice the Big Dipper about to scoop up his truck!

Below: Long Exposure Night Picture taken looking up the beach..

Below: A Long-Exposure pic of the dunes....

Around 3:30 am the Moon starts to rise. I am awakened by the Avet 50W roaring for a few seconds. Fish drops the bait. We'll I'm up again, i'll take some more pics. Here is a long exposure of the moon coming up over the calm seas.

Below: Moon is rising over the Gulf of Mexico in the early morning hours.

About a half hour later the 12/0 gets rocked, but no hook up. Hmmm. At least there is something around scoping out the baits. I manage to go back to sleep for a bit. Come sunrise there are Pelicans and birds everywhere dive bombing anchovies. A little bit later the Avet gets picked up again... runs... then drops. About 5 minutes later it gets picked up once again and I feed it to him and then set the hook. I get strapped in. Fish-Finally-On!

Below: Oz hooked up on a good size shark from on top of the platform

Scott rocks on over wondering what the chaos is about. I have my baits other than the 12/0 in and begin to work the fish to the beach. I knew it was a decent fish but was curious to as what it was. I had thoughts and suspicions and knew it was one of two fish.

Below: Duking it out on a Monday Morning!

After about 10 minutes the shark manages to get wrapped up with my 12/0 leader. It was a stale mate so I hop in the kayak and go out to free up the mess. I pull up the first leader, which was the 12/0's, and remove the weight. I grab the other leader and pull up the fish. I was curious and just had to know for sure. I start pulling up and see the shadow levitate on up. Hmmmm... good size.. dark. Then I finally see what it is. Hell Yes. I remove the weight, free the other line, and get back to shore. Scott is up on the platform helping me out. I get up there and he asked "did you see it??". I just looked at him am smiled. Told him to get the tail rope. He asked.. "What is it? What is it???". Smiled back, and told him... Tiger!

Scott hops down, probably still not believing me but knew it was a good fish anyway. A few minutes later we get the fish on the first bar. Water was crystal clear and you could see everything. Scott finally see's the fish and starts smiling himself. I get down and help him leader the fish and we get her to the beach. Another Texas Tiger! This is the first Tiger on the old custom Ozinator Breakaway rod built by Kcon a few years ago... the mojo must be with the Avet 50W I threw on there, which you can also pick up at Roy's Bait and Tackle for your Sharkathon adventure!

Below: A tail-rope used to subdue the Shark.

Below: A beautiful Monday-morning Shark!

Below: The Shark was a toad with a skinny tail. She was the size where she was just starting to fill out.

We get a quick measurement. Tried a couple times and could only stretch her out to 9' 11". That's ok, don't need to waste the sharkathon mojo just yet. We grab a couple more pics while we have the chance...

Below: Oz poses with a Texas Tiger Shark.

Below: Smile for the camera darling.

Below: One last photo before the release.

Scott switches cameras and gets the video camera for the release. Here are a couple screen shots from the video...

Below: Oz releasing the Tiger ...

Below: Here she is, on her way... returning to sea as the apex predator she will resume to be.

Bad-ass... another successful Tiger release. Looking back on things, I am almost certain this was the same shark that picked up the two Jack baits just a few hours before.

The trip (and past few) were finally worth it. Scott and I decide that since it is still early to pack up and head down to the jetties to snorkel/spearfish/kayakfish etc. As we finally get down there we see Jacks blowing the hell out of the anchovies just off the jetties. I'll put the spearfishing on hold and hit the kayak instead. I get out and start chasing the birds. I end up landing one Jack after several minutes. After a while a small tern gets wrapped up in my line. I get him in the kayak and make sure he is ok. I'm not sure if he knows exactly what the heck is going on so I let him chill in the kayak... and name him lucky.

Below: The feather friend hangs out for a bit .

Below: Lucky poses for a pic and decides to fish with me for a couple hours.

I continue to throw Spoon'rs trying to get Jacks. I then hook into a King. Oh well. Boat the fish after a few minutes on light tackle. I was using the Ultima Hard-Core Mono (60-80lb) for leader material. It is by far the hardest, most abrasive resistant hard mono on the planet, and is excellent for leader material for Skipjack, Tarpon, Spanish, Jacks, and I have landed several Kings such as this no problem with very little affect to the mono. Interested in this new product that is making its US debut very soon, you can contact Nick at Breakaway for more info.

Below: A decent King Mackerel is boated.

I duke it out at the jetties for a while but things slowed down. I hop in the water and look around while Scott is hammering the Trout, Redfish, and Mangroves. Scott gets his fill and takes off to head on home. I decide to stay another night and run baits once again. I pack up at the jetties and travel aways back up the beach. Within a mile of where we were the previous night, I come across a Blacktip that was washed up. It had been clearly hit by a large shark. Was this Scott's Blacktip he released the night before??? And could it have been the Tiger from the morning that hit this fish? We'll never know, but interesting nonetheless.

Below: A Blacktip Shark had been hit by a larger Shark.

I get to where I want to be and get the remainder of my big baits rigged, including a 3/4 Jack that I caught from the yak earlier.

Below: Another Sexy Jackfish bait is rigged, along with a couple others

Come sundown, just in time I have 4 big baits out once again. Lets see if history repeats itself.

Below: Rigged and ready for action on night 2!

Things were quiet this night. The weed started rolling in from the constant North winds. It was there, but due to minimal wind and current it was fishable. Baits sat all night... very quiet. Late in the night the fresh Jack gets a short run by a mystery fish. Come sunrise I pick up the baits and head all the way back down to the jetties once again to take advantage of the clear water. I snorkeled a bit and saw Reds, Trout, Snook, and many other fish. I begin to fish and start to hammer the Trout. After a while I get a 24" snake to the yak.

Below: Oz gets in a decent Trout from the kayak.

Fished for a bit more as I waited for the tide to roll out. I started getting into the Mangrove snapper and played with them for a while before finally packing it up.

Below: A Mangrove Snapper makes a mighty tasty sandwich!.

Mid-afternoon, I load the truck up and prepare for the long haul off the beach. It had been an incredible trip and shows that just one shark can make the trip. It was very cool to me for the Tiger is my obsession. It is the reason I run big bait after big bait after big bait down the beach. They are undoubtedly one of the coolest sharks we have and one of the most productive predators on the planet. For me, landing and releasing 3 Texas Tigers from the surf in just over a year is incredible. Thanks to Scott for helping out with the fish, and being there to see it. I always look forward to next great battle on the sea, kayak, or from the platform.

See you guys at Sharkathon!

- Oz

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