Waterman's Journal

Jul 27, 2011

Mid-Summer Surf/Kayaking Safari

As Tropical Storm Arlene was barreling down on Mexico, the extended surf forecast was looking ultra primo for the Texas coast. Could this be the first true mega weather window since last year??? I think soooooo. I knew this was going to be a long hard trip, and had preparations to attend to before I could take the truck down. Bizzy allowed me to bring the truck over to his shop so we could weld some modifications and fixes to the platform. A few quick minutes and she is as good as new. The next couple of days were spent with maintenance and painting the rust away on the Suburban.

My initial plan was to rock down and kayak fish. It is time for large grander Kings in the yak which are a blast on topwater. Also, as always I am ready to bomb out some big shark baits for at night. This year there really has not been crap for shark fishing windows between the weed and wind so much of the time has been spent in the kayak. Brad (CrustyHobie) was going head down and likely join for some kayak action as well. While the weather was looking primo, I have no idea what the water conditions or weed are or will be like. That is a chance I'm going to have to take.

Anyhow, all day Sunday I spent packing the truck like a tetris puzzle so everything would fit accordingly. A friend of ours Amy from out of town wanted to join in on the adventure and I said no prob but I'm duking it out for 4 days minimum... if she wanted off the beach at anytime, sorry but she'd have to hitchhike (just joking..... not really). The truck is loaded down heavy, perhaps heavier than it's ever been... 200-250lbs of ice, 50lbs of bait, 120qt full of 70 frozen bottles of water/drinks/food, 2 kayaks on top, tentcots & crap, and an arsenal of gear. I will be ready for anything!

Come Monday morning (still up from the night before) the adventure is about to begin. Running about an hour late, I hit Stripes at 6am to grab my epic breakfast tacos and top off fuel. By sunrise I am on the beach. The surf had calmed down as expected and is looking good. Water color green, some weed.. not too bad as of now. I drive down and the further south I go, the more weed that is on the beach. Only real mistake this trip I made was not driving down on low-tide. Even though the tide came up high days before with the storm surge of Arlene, the driving is still a mess. Around the high banks I had it in 4WD for a while... and the truck was getting hot. My transmission was also getting hot and acting up and started to scare the hell out of me. I made it past the high banks and took it slow and easy til I got down south. At this time I had already decided that I will do everything possible to lighten up the load on the way back... fortunately gas/food/ice/drink consumption should help out.

We finally get down to where I want to be, though the weed is in the guts and washing in. Not the best sign. Anyhow, I want to fish the kayak without having to roll down to the jetties so I decide to set up camp. About an hour later Brad comes rolling down, all giddy about the flat surf... and wants to immediately head out in the kayak. I myself personally wanted to catch up on sleep for a couple hours... but then as I look at the calm shimmering surf I knew I had to get out there. So that is what happened. We both kayaked far offshore in search of birds or any chaos to be found. It was surprisingly quiet. Water was green but with virtually no visibility. The water was all stirred up. In addition the current was still rocking from the tropical storm. I trolled around covering a lot of area with no results. Brad did what he could as well before switching to drifting ribbonfish. After what seemed like forever without a fish Brad hooks up and gets in a medium King.

That would be the only King of the day. While tireless pursuit continued, I was getting desperate and throwing light tackle while drifting baits. I was throwing some 4" Gulp Shrimp I had. I have trouble getting Trout to hit these and they prefer the 3" at any rate. I have countless packages of these 4" guys I bought at a close out and can't figure out what to do with them. I hook up on something and get it up to see it is an undersized Cobia. Well, guess these are all offshore Gulp now.

After a while I finally did get hooked up on a bait and it ended up being a feisty Blacktip Shark.

Things had once again slowed down quite a bit. No surface action was depressing. Then after a while when we were about to head in, we have a couple of Ling swim up to the kayak. The only thing I had rigged and ready was the Gulp that I had caught the previous Ling on. Instantly the smaller of the two had bolted toward and sucked it down... NOOOOOOOO!!! Dammmit, not the undersized one! A couple of seconds later it spits the bait just as the bigger of the two Cobia sucks it down... HELL YEAH!!!

At least we have a fish now. While it was bigger than the other one, I am not 100% certain if it is legal size. It looks like it but can't take that risk. I did not want to down-right gaff him, but wanted to precisely and carefully lip gaff him. After about 5 minutes of what could have been dubbed special olympic tryouts, I finally lip gaff the fish and get it in the yak. I measure and the fish is roughly 40"... finally... and a keeper Ling too, some of my favorite table fare of all.

We get back to the beach and once again take an accurate measurement to be sure. And yep, while not a grander, it is a keeper ling.

As I'm back to the beach the wind is blowing and the weed is stacking up in the close guts pretty good... arrrrggggg.. Oh well. I tried casting lures and topwaters for Trout but it just wasn't happening. I made the decision skip out on sharkfishing tonight... not worth the hassle or loss of terminal tackle. As it got dark I grilled up some burgers and then called it an early night. I slept like a baby.

Come morning I didn't want to wake up, but Brad was amped up to get an early start and head out there in the kayaks. Well, I can't let him have all the fun.. I get geared up, chow down on a few poptarts and head out. Bird action is still virtually non-existent. There is some action but not much. I troll around for a while and NOTHING. Man, this slow bite is killing me. This water clarity sucks and is muting the bite. I switch to topwaters so maybe I can attract some fish in... or annoy them to death... I begin to throw a custom popper that Kevin made... one of the prototypes. It throws a killer splash and echos a thunderous sound. After a few minutes I get something to crash the lure.... thinking it was a shark at first, it turns out to be a Jack. Sweet.

Yum Yum...

Well we duke it out there for a while. Things remained amazingly slow. I did get two more fish crash the topwater... on one the hook straightened and the other the hook pulled. The second one was a Blacktip for sure, the first one may have been a shark or a Jack. Anyhow, there were some weed patches moving around but fortunately the current wasn't as strong as the previous day. We spent the rest of the afternoon chasing a keeper Ling that wouldn't hit ANYTHING. The fish had lockjaw and would look at topwaters, storm shad, and gulp... but never suck anything down. Very frustrating. We continue to duke it out but it just wasn't happening today. We call it a day and begin to head in. Then out of nowhere Brad points up in the sky... it's a bird, it's a plane, no it's a bird... a Frigate bird. Pretty cool though, unlike annoying seagulls, the rats of the sea, Frigates are large pelagic predators that hardly ever encounter land. It seems this one was interested in the ribbonfish Brad was disposing of. When it was all said and done, there were not 2, not 3, not 4, but 5 Frigates buzzing the kayaks. Wow. Then just as quick as the arrived, they were gone. But while they were there, it did allow me to snap off a ton of pics - here are some...

As we kayak in, I notice the weed had lightened up quite a bit. It is still there but will the current slowing down, I just may be able to get baits out. Therefore, when I got back I made the executive decision to get the Ocean Kayak ready for bait deployment...

Brad packs up and leaves me a mongo size Jack for bait. As he leaves Bo Depena shows up. Excited about the surf conditions, he is ready to get into some fish. While not much was happening for the rest of the evening, I invited Bo to camp with us for the night. Meanwhile I rigged up the big Jack, making two baits. Also manage to come up with a 3rd fresh bait. Right at sundown I get baits out.

Around 11pm the Jack roast gets picked up and runs fast and hard for a few seconds... then drops it. I get up wondering if it will pick the bait back up... sure enough... takes off, then drops it again. WTF? At first I thought that something was fishy and maybe it was on there and the weight hung up on something etc.. but no, it dropped the bait. While weed was bouncing on the line, there was no fish on it at that moment. Then it picks it up for the 3rd time and hauls ass, then drops it again for the last time... WILD. I bring the bait in to find... NO BAIT. Whatever. Anyhow, the smaller 3rd bait gets picked up... small fish. Instant Blacktip. Get it to the beach... 4 1/2' Blacktip. Bo releases the fish. I go to sleep and the last bait stayed out (weeded out) untouched the rest of the night.

Come morning the weather looks awesome... again for the 3rd morning in a row. Flat and nice as seen in this pic courtesy of Bo.

While I wanted to sleep in, Bo wanted to go out in the kayak. Man... I just wanted to rest, but is sure looking purty out there. Screw it, I'll go in the kayak again. We kayak offshore and actually see birds working today... scattered but working. It is a better sign. We both troll around. I actually brought a couple live Mullet out to troll around. First one got crushed, second one got cut off... probably shark. Meanwhile Bo gets hooked up trolling a rapala.

Bo gets in a solid Jackfish... cool deal.

I would throw topwaters and have Jacks come up and inspect... but not hit. I then change to bait... and get hooked up...

After a while I get a Blacktip up to the yak...

We stayed out for a while but action was minimal. I saw a Ling cruising around but once again couldn't get it to hit. We began to head in. As we kayak in the sargassum was moving in THICK. It was non-stop weed bomb after weed bomb. ARRGGHHHH... just ain't fair. Anyhow, we get back to camp. I really want to shark fish but it is not happening where we were at. After little debate, both Bo and I pack our trucks and head south. Bo was heading all the way to fish the jetties in the morning, I just wanted to head south and get out of the weed.

Amy and I roll down south and get to a spot where the weed has cleared somewhat. With time running out, I rig up the fresh Jack I got the day before, and Bo's super fresh Jack from the morning...

Finally, have 3 killer fresh baits out... something is going down tonight!!!

The moon is a couple hours from setting just as it got dark. Hopefully this will be an interesting night.

I get the camp set up and squared away and being making dinner of BBQ riblets. Yum. Damn good.

From sundown on I would be in the kayak every 30 min removing weed off the lines. It was getting bad. Around 11pm again a bait gets picked up. It's the Jack roast again. The line slacks up. I get the rod and reel in a few yards of line and think I feel the fish... I wait and then it takes off with a short speed burst of a few yards. Hmmm.. Well there's a fish messing around, that's for sure. A few seconds pass and it begins to come in slowly. I am convinced it is a small 6' Bull. I would reel in about 50 yards, then it would turn and run about 15-20yds... then repeat. I finally get the fish over the 2nd bar and into the first gut. Instead of coming over the first bar it did a right turn and slowly started swimming up current for about 75yds. By now I am convinced without a doubt it's a Bull... maybe upgrade my prediction to between 7-8' though. Well, the shark turns and heads back down this way in the gut and passes the lights of the platform. I could see a dorsal and tail in distance... decent fish. Even now I am still convinced it is a Bull until it passes the truck once again, this time with its tall erect dorsal slicing through the water... Could it be?? A friggin Hammer???? Bizarro. I get the fish as close to the break as possible and then hop down of the truck and go leader it. Sure enough, a Hammer... a Great Hammerhead... I grab the pliers and measuring tape as Amy snaps some photos.

I get back and I get the hook out (btw thanks to catchsharks.com with some experimental terminal tackle) and tape her out at 104 inches. Then we get a few pics...

Try not to spend too much time messing around and get her back in the water. While the fight itself was probably a short 15 minutes, I didn't want to waste time. She was already bleeding a little from the hook but with the hot dirty July water I had to get her going on her way soon. I was walking and swimming her out for a while but she was just not wanting to budge... I kept at it and she finally kicked off. With the water a dirty green I couldn't see what direction she went in but at the moment glad she took off.

Well that was pretty cool. My first decent Greater Hammer from the surf... one missing on my beach resume. I have a feeling if that fish was a foot or two longer than the fight would have been exponentially a bit more challenging. But so far the Avet 50W's have been dominant beach kings. A couple hours later, after being all tucked away in my tent cot the other half Jack bait gets picked up... runs good for a few seconds and drops it.... never picks it up again. In the morning I get up and in the yak and go get the two baits still out... one untouched, the other that got hit looked like it been crunched by a dumptruck... good shark but just didn't want it I guess.

Anyhow, I am out of bait and have to resort to my cownose rays I brought. I have 4 whole rays about 10-15lbs each. I get one, cut it in half and run two baits out immediately with it. Then I take two other rays and rig them whole for later that night. I let the hang and ripen in the sun.

The two baits I ran sat out the entire day untouched. I then get ready at sundown and replace them with the nicely cured cownose that been toughening up all day...

Once again I have 3 decent baits out. Of course, nothing beats a fresh Jackfish but I'm not going home if I have some sort of bait to run.

Come dark the weed has lightened up big time and is not hardly an issue. Things are looking good (except for the previously frozen backup baits). I cooked up some world famous beach-style hotwings... damn they were good. Even the Ghost Crabs were quite pleased...

I would stay up waiting for something to happen... nothing would. By midnight I go to sleep. I wake up early, around 5:30 or so for some reason. Light is just on the horizon. I can't really go back to sleep for some reason so I just lay in the tent cot. After a while one of the lines goes slack. I'm not cut off... I reel in and catch up to some tension. All I feel is the weight. Then I get some resistance and fish begins to make a small run. I pin the drag down hit it with a hook set as it is running... this fish whatever it is won't evade me this time... ARRRGGGRRRRRGGRRRRHHHH!

The fish stops after it's short run and slowly comes in. I'm convinced... again, that it is a Bull. Then the weight hangs up. I just wait to see what happens... a twitch here... twitch there... not moving much. Then the line goes slack and it comes in and then the weight grabs again. I'm not using any different weights than usual... these sharks are just being sluggish... must be the high water temps. Anyhow, after about 5 minutes of the weight being stuck, I decide to go out in the kayak and just remove it from the leader. I get out there and when I get near my leader float, it begins to move slowly away from me. Come here little bully...... I grab the leader... get the weight off, then pull up more out of shear curiousity... here comes the fish... looks like a Bull.... actually decent size... wait... TIGER!!!? Interesting. Well as I took the weight off she decided to swim all over the place. I get back to the beach to continue the awkward fight.

The shark crossed over one line and was on the verge of crossing another but stopped and turned. Fortunately nothing got tangled and things worked out.

After a few minutes I get the fish over the first bar. It's being stubborn but typical. I hop down off the platform and go leader the fish...

Interesting... so the Hammer ate the Jack and the Tiger ate the ray...

A beautiful sunrise Tiger...

A healthy lil female... in a couple more years she may begin to pup.

I go and grab the pliers and tape... This fish taped out at exactly 100" with yet another 'nubbed' tail.

A couple quick pics...

Getting her back in the water for the release...

Swimming off into the sunrise...

Well pretty cool I must say. A Greater and a Tiger back to back nights. Works for me. Well while tired, I can't sleep now... I'm pretty excited. I chill out and have some morning poptart breakfast and scavenge for whatever remainder food is left and then sit and relax.

About an hour later the 3rd line, with a smaller fabricated bait consisting of jack/ray goes slack. I grab it and reel... I can feel twitching... feels like one of those annoying pup sharks but has weight... what the heck. Well this is certainly odd. Anyhow I slowly bring in the line and finally get it to the first bar when I can see what it is... arrrggggggggg whatever. It is a damn turtle...

As I get it further inspection would prove that it wasn't hooked... not by me anyway. It had some crappy offshore snapper or jetty style leader with some braided line in addition wrapped up around one of its flippers, and that somehow managed to get tangled in my leader. Lucky for the turtle (which I believe may actually be a loggerhead) it crossed paths with me because I was able to cut free quite a bit of the line and leader that was wrapped around him. Further inspection shows of a tag on its flipper...

After quickly cutting away the mess I let the turtle go on his way... a lot better off then he had previously been.

Well a Tiger and a Turtle in the morning... the beach never ceases to amaze me sometimes. I have one big bait still out. I will leave it out until I pack up to head off in the afternoon at low tide. Meanwhile I finally castnet some mullet and cast a couple rods out in the wade gut (which is high tide right now). Soon I hook up and get in a solid roughtail ray around 25lbs. Its a big bull male which will go back into my vastly depleted bait storage.

I cast back out and about 30 min later I get a big fish to pick it up... it happened so quick but I think it was a 4-5' Tarpon that ate the live Mullet. It greyhounded over the bar but since it was shallow it never really got air and couldn't see it well. If it wasn't a Tarpon then it was a skinny water Blacktip. Regardless, there was some extremely rare terminal tackle failure at the 3 way swivel... cheap ass crimps.. Anyhow tough loss.

I duked it out for a couple more hours hours and as the tide was receding, and ironically the wind picking up, it was time to go. Got all packed up, probably 300lbs lighter than before excluding gas... so good news for the truck, lets hope she makes it off. For some good mojo I decide to give her credit and add to the tally.... "One moreeeee for the good guyssssssss"

Well this beach adventure was much needed. Despite the mass amounts of sargassum present, it was worth it having paid the dues maintaining lines 100yds offshore the kayak in the darkness of the night. Kayak fishing was vastly lacking but hopefully the water will clear up soon. Come August the beach will be alive past the 3rd bar with anchovies and Bull Sharks. If we get a break in between then perhaps it will be good. Forecast looks fair to partly sunny the foreseeable future with small surf but the wind will be blowing. Hopefully it blows the weed out. Full moon coming up this week... maybe, just maybe I can go on a scavenger hunt for some fresh bait and if I can obtain what I'm looking for, then I may just run some baits again. But for this past trip... My first true size Greater and 7th beach Tiger ranks up there once again as a superb adventure. I will be back out there soon to hook back into the monsters and stop messing around with these dinks. Thanks once again to Brad, Bo, and Amy for joining in and helping out on this fun outing.

Til next time...
See ya on the sand!

- Oz