For my birthday, my best friend Mattias drove up from Austin to spend the day fishing, cooking gumbo, drinking beer and watching UFC 101 Saturday. We met up with indy ag and his wife at the crossing on the Navasota River around 7 Saturday morning and put in. The goal was to take home a couple of eater catfish and, hopefully, land a big alligator gar. This time I came prepared with a steel cable noose loosely patterned after the one Strider uses with great success.
You can see the near-vertical slope in the background. Easy putting in. Taking out? Not so much.
It was a perfect day on the river. No rain and a nice breeze that would come along just as the heat was starting to border on intolerable. We were the only human critters on the water, but there were plenty of other critters to be seen, including a hawk that was none too pleased to see us and was very vocal in voicing her displeasure.
This water snake didn't seem to mind us:
Although, this crane (a little help with exact species identity, please!)
did not enjoy our presence as much.
Heading upstream, Matt and I passed under the fallen willow tree and set up shop bottom fishing while waiting for indy ag and his wife to catch up. Once they arrived, we headed upstream to a spot indy ag had scoped out on a previous trip. It was a perfect spot along a bend in the river that opened up to a wide flat, so the four of us could fish the river for catfish while spreading out cut bait in the open flats for gar.
indy ag and indy ag-ette set up.
Fishing with chicken livers, punch bait and live bait, we produced tons of hits from the catfish, but they were all either small, tiny or miniscule. Lots of strikes were missed, and the ones that landed weren't much to brag about. This was the first dink that I caught, and he was a harbinger of fish to come:
Turning him over, I see that something had taken a nice chunk out of him:
Well, back into the water you go. If you can avoid the jaws of the bigger fish for another year, you'll be eligible for the stringer treatment!
We catch and release a dozen undersized channel and blue cats, when finally Matt sets his hook into something good, and lands this nice, chunky blue. And by blue, I mean BLUE! The picture doesn't really do it justice, but it was the most vibrant blue of any blue cat I've ever seen.
To the stringer with you!
Like I said, we were catching lots of small fish, but this is ridiculous:
I won't be taking home any big-fish awards with this guy any time soon.
Unfortunately, none of our cut-bait lines could entice a strike from the monster gar lurking in the big pool. However, one of indy ag's catfish lines produced a hit, and could it be:
Yes, the first gar of the day:
It's not an alligator gar, but it's a start.
indy ag offered me the gar, as I wanted to take one home to use in the gumbo, but I passed on it, thinking we'd land a bigger one later. That turned out to be a big FAIL on my part. Before releasing it, I took a few pics of him holding his first gar by rod and reel, but somehow those pictures got erased. EPIC FAIL on my part.
Tiring of dink cat after dink cat, we elected to head upstream and moved into uncharted territory for us. At the top of the pool, I came face to face with a monster gar that must have pushed 100#, as it came up to gulp air. Seeing that beast come up and flash those teeth would've made my hair fall out if mother nature hadn't already taken them from me!
We traversed a couple of lenghty portages as we moved upstream in search of new spots:
Matt and I found a sandbar and put out cut bait in search of bigger and better fish. Our new spot immediately began producing results, as we got several strikes from gar that we missed. Finally, Matt set his hook into something good. Not a gar, but a hefty catfish in the 5-6# range. Unfortunately, as I tried to scoop it with the landing net, the treble hook somehow worked itself loose and flew out of the fish's mouth, and we watched lunch swim away.
A little while later, the slack in Matt's line slowly began to straighten. He engaged his reel and firmly set the hook. The hook on the other end didn't budge. "You hung?" I asked. He quietly muttered, "I don't think so." I looked back at his line and the taught line started to move out, and his drag started to click. Excited to see him catch a monster flathead, I told him, "I'll grab the net," when the water's surface exploded, as a gator gar broke through it. "I'll get the noose!" I exclaimed, as Matt struggled to keep the fish out of some nearby hangups. The gar, estimated at 30#, zig-zagged at our feet with tremendous speed as I tried in vain to get the noose around its upper mouth or tail. Still green, the gar evaded my efforts and finally broke off and returned to the deep.
Several more runs resulted in missed strikes and broken lines, but we never came any closer to landing an alligator gar. The sun was starting to get high in the sky, and the beer and air conditioning back home started to sound better and better, but I was determined to not go home empty-handed. We paddled back to the launch in stages, as we fished spots we had skipped, as I searched for at least one keeper catfish, and Matt searched for the gar that got away.
Finally, in a little riffle below a portage, I waded out and cast a chicken liver just upstream of a stump. A slight tick on the end of the line, and I set the hook into the keeper cat that had eluded me all day:
Calling it a day, we headed back to the launch, struggled up the hill and headed for home.