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Kayak fishing the Lone Star State...

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By Ron Mc
We just got back from 4 days on Arroyo Colorado, we stayed in the Spencer Bell house (where we also stayed last year).
The cooler weather and big wind over Friday and Saturday was a big boon to the dock fishing under the lights, making it easy for everyone who tried to catch a limit.

I'll give you the tallies up front - I caught 4 limits, Lou caught 3 , Susie caught 1 and Dad caught 1.
We strictly stuck to our bag limits for calendar days, and everyone laid off in the evening if they had a limit from the early morning.
We kept a few injured 15-16" trout, but we were shooting for 17" minimum, and everybody's limit stringer included a 20-22" (male) schoolie spec.
The most productive lure was Tsunami SS3 in blue back, with black back a close second. Got a few fish on Hogy's epoxy jigs, both 3/8 oz and 7/8 ox (which will literally cast halfway across the Arroyo). My dad grazed through everything in his tackle box, and probably got one fish on everything he tried, old-fashioned spec rigs, cocahoe, some curly-tail thing.
The bait shop across the street got one charge of shrimp while we were there, Susie caught her limit on shrimp, and Lou caught about one-quarter of his fish on shrimp.

When the going got tough, dead calm and spooky fish, next to live shrimp, the most productive lure was a spec rig (tandem) tied on 2-inch swim shad, with glow up front, and blue back in back.
Had to vary retrieves to find what make the fish strike, and also fish different depths to find where they were willing to strike.

ImageWe brought home 104 vacuum-sealed fillets, split between 3 households - every single fish I filleted was a male.

The most productive way to fish was sunset to about 9pm, take a nap, and get back up about 2 or 3 am to hit it again. Often arriving to fish the wee hours, would find schoolies so thick under the light, would catch 4 to 5 fish in consecutive casts.

Oddly, we had a very-well secured stringer with five 18"-22" fish stolen from the dock Sunday night, between 9pm and 2am - can't imagine anyone committing a class B misdemeanor over a few fish - I'm pretty sure I know who did it, and that part is even stranger, and included a 2nd class B misdemeanor - another story for another time.
Also brought home 276 MB in photos, so won't give you the whole play by play for the week, but a few choice photos.

This is my stringer, arriving Thursday night and getting up Friday morning (17-21").
and since you don't see too many photos of me
Lou arrived Friday afternoon, and called my dad and me in from our only power boat foray to Green Island, where we caught 1 trout between us.
Saturday morning photo with mine and Lou's overnight limits.
I filleted every fish, mostly after a good breakfast and before a morning nap.
Susie flew into Harlingen Saturday - Lou and I weren't fishing Saturday night, and this is Susie's limit
ImageShe caught all these on live shrimp, using the XUL rockfish rod, 4-lb test, and had so much fun, Lou went to the computer and bought her a matching rockfish rod on ebay.
Susie's stringer included this 20" schoolie (the hook grabber is exactly 15")
My Dad turned 90 this year, and this is his stringer from early Sunday morning.
ImageDad looks a little younger than usual in this photo. :mrgreen:

one more gratuitous pile of fish photo
and one more gratuitous sunset
Last edited by Ron Mc on Thu Nov 07, 2019 10:45 am, edited 2 times in total.
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By Ron Mc
It was a load of fun - I didn't put the fly rod together, was having too much fun with the XUL - forgot to mention I caught a double on the 4-lb XUL and tandem - netted the first fish and lifted the 2nd by the strong leader.
I have 2 of these from when my daughter was growing up dock fishing.
Also, Susie cooked us a Perfect southern-fried meal of fresh fillets from the ice water bowl.

Brought the cat this trip, and gave her the fin strips from the fillets - kitty sushi
This is when she finally understood the purpose of dragging her away from her cozy home and hauling her in the truck for 5 hours.
She took over the top back bedroom, mostly sat on that window sill to watch the birds, and defended the stairs when anyone tried to climb into her bedroom.
We had a pair of owls that flew around us and flirted almost constantly in the dark.
Last edited by Ron Mc on Thu Nov 07, 2019 9:57 am, edited 2 times in total.
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By karstopo
That dock light fishing there seems to possibly have the highest action to effort expended ratio around. Did any other fish besides the numerous trout make an appearance? Any snook or redfish or did all the Speckled trout crowd them out?

Has to be fun to walk out the door a few steps and immediately get on fish. And if you eventually tire of the action, it’s just a matter of walking a few paces back inside, no half or full day twiddling your thumbs on a boat to contend with.
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By Ron Mc
Hi bro, it was really too cold for the snook, and I got an 18" red prospecting a little deeper (longer countdown).
We caught a few massive ladyfish. I caught a surprising number of croaker on the small Hogy's.

Saturday morning, I limited on 8 casts. Lou and I were joking about it when I made my 2nd cast that didn't catch.
It was only this easy in the big wind - the fish were really spooky in the dead calm, and had to call on skills.

My dad caught all his fish sitting in the chair on the back of his boat (in the lift)
Actually can't quite see the rear deck swivel chair on his boat in this photo - it's blocked by the pier

The live bait rig Susie used on the XUL was a weightless 3" cigar cork (Mansfield mauler) with a 4' light fluoro leader.
You could also use a popping cork if you extended the depth to 4' with an added leader.

Some things to keep in mind about Arroyo City. The nearest gas and groceries is Rio Hondo, a dozen miles away.
There is one exceptional restaurant, Chillie Willies, with epic hamburgers, onion rings that copy Huts, and great fried fish.
We traveled once into San Benito to eat exceptional Mexican seafood at Blue Marlin.
A great brunch stop on the drive home is Pepe's Patio in Riviera and, of course Van's BBQ on the leg from Corpus to SA.
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By TexasJim
Hey, Ron, nice time and catches! I was down there from the 27th thru 29th. I took two kayaks to Harlingen to visit my long-time music buddy from the Virgin Islands. On Tuesday, we bought some shrimp from Best Little Bait House and put the yaks in about 500 yards west of there. I hooked up a big red and fought him for a while until he broke my line off. Later, I saw my rattling cork and grabbed it and the fish was still on, but the cork slipped off the line. I caught a hardhead and a short trout. Later, I hooked up a tarpon about 2-1/2 feet long. He did some acrobatic humps and dives and finally broke my line(15 lb. mono).
Wednesday, we launched at the Port Mansfield ramp, and fished close to shore, as my buddy isn't a strong paddler. I got some hits on artificials and my buddy got a keeper trout on a gold spoon. The front was close, so we didn't fish long, and headed back to Raymondville and I headed north.
I hadn't been to Arroyo City for eight years, and was surprised at how many waterfront properties are derelict there. I looked at all the dock floodlights and figured if everyone turned theirs on at once, the power grid would have a meltdown!
Next time I'll have my flats skiff, and more time to get out to the LLM. Glad y'all had a great time. TexasJim
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By Ron Mc
awesome Jim, thanks for that report, especially baby tarpon - if you give me a heads up, maybe I can join you.... :mrgreen:

of course we were staying in luxury - a must when you take women - but rentals there are a Great buy for anywhere on the TX coast.

for a boys-only trip, boys are willing to stay anywhere with basic needs, a great fishing dock, and a great enclosed deck for staging gear.
This is 5 doors down from the Spencer Bell house, and where we stayed 3 years ago on a boys-only trip, good digs even with an occasional dock roach.
And of course you don't bring women to a dive like this.
Last edited by Ron Mc on Sat Nov 09, 2019 12:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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By Ron Mc
when we originally planned this trip, there were going to be two other fishermen, who found they had priority plans.
The original plan was to take two kayaks both for mothership in the power boat to Rattlesnake Bay, and to fish the Arroyo lights - paddle out into the dark and cast back toward the lights.
Both Sunday and Monday calm evenings would have been great for kayak night fishing.
We had two empty bedrooms, not counting the cat.
Couldn't justify hauling the extra boats with everyone coming able to fish off the dock - it greatly simplified the packing.
Will save this plan for another trip.
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By Dandydon
Thanks for that big numbers fishing report with family smiles in abundance. As Karstopo said, it's hard to beat night fishing under good lights that draw in your fish. I used to make week-long trips to the legendary Baja Laguna Fish Camp on Mustang Island outside Corpus Christi.
Before trout limits, we'd land about 100 trout per night there, sometimes 10 casts in a row on that 150-ft. lighted pier. Those days are gone, but the great memories (and photos) remain.

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By Ron Mc
Dandydon wrote:Thanks for that big numbers fishing report with family smiles in abundance. As Karstopo said, it's hard to beat night fishing under good lights that draw in your fish. I used to make week-long trips to the legendary Baja Laguna Fish Camp on Mustang Island outside Corpus Christi.
Before trout limits, we'd land about 100 trout per night there, sometimes 10 casts in a row on that 150-ft. lighted pier. Those days are gone, but the great memories (and photos) remain.

thanks DD.
It's not entirely fish in a barrel - it's only that way for short periods of time when everything is going just right for you - schoolies in close, aggressive feeding behavior, and wind to provide stealth cover for you.
It can be frustrating to see a hundred specs in the light slowly nipping bait and refusing everything and every-how you offer it - my dad spent a couple of days that way, at first wanting the fish to feed on his schedule - no, you have to fish on theirs (next morning he got up at 2:30a and limited).

As soon as you figure out their feeding pattern and begin getting strikes, they change it.
It's also harder to catch the smaller nursery trout that live under than lights than the larger traveling schoolies that move through the lights - seems like a paradox until you spend some time on the dock watching the fish sign.
There's no surer way to put them down (send them to the next light) than to cast constantly - a chair on the dock, a cigar, and flask of rum while pondering the fish sign and catching up on conversation with the guy or girl in the next chair, hugely improves success and catch rate - stand up and cast only when the sign is right.

At one specific time, I told Lou exactly what worked (then), countdown 6 seconds, medium retrieve, uneven rod snaps. Next cast, he caught a 20" trout. See?
Susie was a quick learner - she had never used a spinning reel before. I told her it was easier for women to learn to fish, because they treat fishing like music, while men more often treat it like aggression.

I raised two girls doing this - we had a ritual at Fulton Beach pier. Dinner at Cap'n Benny's, trip to the bait shop (to this day, my younger daughter loves the smell of a bait shop), catch 60 nursery trout under the light, then ice cream.
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By Dandydon
We both have some precious NIGHTTIME fishing memories.

One 1993 week in November I was alone at the Baja Laguna Camp which can sleep about 20 people on about 60 isolated acres, mid-Mustang Island. Being compulsive I fished that magnificent lighted T-head pier 5 nights in a row, the final 2 nights while a true norther blew in.
The first 3 nights in light SE winds I caught over 75 specks per session, about 75% legal up to 4.5 lbs. Of course I kept only 10 culled fish each night. They were biting hard on old Norton Sand Eels & 5" Bass Assassins in all colors.
But the game changed when the norther hit. I went from catching a trout every 3 casts to one every 20 casts. And to fight that N20-30 mph wind, I had to cast as hard as possible behind & parallel to the pier. That gave me 10 seconds or so to get a strike as the lure rushed high in that current. The last night I finally scratched out 10 legal trout, but holy cow (!) all were legal up to 6 lbs. Somehow that wind roused up bigger & better trout in less visible water.
I'll share a couple of Baja Laguna photos next time I log in via computer.
Some of my best lawyer friends used to own it; now it's mostly a bird observation ranch.
P.S. We also used to play our electric guitars there very, very loud.
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By Ron Mc
that's a great photo anyway, and a great story - thanks for posting both, and please feel free to post more.

Of course the memories here are the friends and, especially, my dad's 90-y-o fishing trip - he honestly looks 20 years younger in that limit stringer photo. I've shared this with my nephew, who'd do anything for Ma'am-ma and Grandad. Boy, he was jealous he couldn't break away from work - we certainly had room for him - next time we'll get kayaks there, too.
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By Dandydon
Found a few old Baja Laguna pics (below) from 1990. Before my rich lawyer buddies bought the ranch in bankruptcy, it was privately-owned & booked by several famous Texas governors for stupendous fishing, poker game & whoring marathons commencing in the 1940s up to the 1960s.
For 25 years I went down there twice a year & had my own key to unlock the highway gate, ranch house & turn on all those bright halogen pier lights. The place was always fully stocked with the finest liquors, cold beers, weed, whites & wine (my salute to the 70s band Little Feat!). My rock band played as loud as The Who out there. Paradise? Maybe.
We would catch fish most the night, sleep 'till noon, then drive about 10 miles to Port Aransas for the best Tex Mex brunches I ever ate. Drive back to the ranch, eat fresh fish, prepare our gear for the nightly pier; wash, rinse & repeat. Some of the best times of my life.
All those dreamy memories center around fishing, but as some wise man once said: fishing is a great excuse to interact intensely with your best friends.
I'll never forget fishing & cavorting all those years with my best lifelong friends..
And now I gotta fish with Shoffer, Watson & Kickingback! Life can be oh so cruel! Ha ha.
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By Ron Mc
hey, that started great and ended cold - :mrgreen:
Beautiful place and excellent photos.
My buddy Randy has a big lot with a slab and utilities on Lavaca Bay about a mile from Indianola. There's also a collapsed fishing pier they're grandfathered on.
He's talked about rebuilding the pier and turning the slab into an RV pad with utilities. It would be a good landing and a short drive to Charlie's.

editing-in this ps a week later - had some awesome spec tacos last night - should have taken a photo of those :mrgreen:
My buddy Lou vacuum-sealed the small fillets just for me and tacos.

After the every-Sunday-morning bicycle sprint (I was first to the Alamodome after 7 fast miles in a tight lead group - everyone much younger than me) - oh yeah, stopped in Walmart for cat food. Decided to check produce for taco sundries, hot pico, limes, corn tortillas - they had a "Southwest" cabbage blend, which I found is perfect for fish tacos.

This is the freezer in the Arroyo house - Lou has my fillets segregated
Last edited by Ron Mc on Mon Nov 11, 2019 2:14 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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By spiny norman
Great report Ron! Good to see your dad still plugging away. I remember the good time I had fishing with him way back when. What year was that? :?
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By Neumie
Dang, y'all were certainly on the fish for y'alls trip. Amazing all the trout y'all caught were males. Come to think of it, but I'm guessing most of our trout were males as well.

Thanks for posting the trip with all the great pictures.
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By Ron Mc
Neumie wrote:Dang, y'all were certainly on the fish for y'alls trip. Amazing all the trout y'all caught were males. Come to think of it, but I'm guessing most of our trout were males as well....

thanks Josh - couldn't had a better 90-y-o celebration fishing trip with my dad - never know if there will be another, but I wouldn't put it past him.
And the coolest part is the fish come to you.
spiny norman wrote:Great report Ron! Good to see your dad still plugging away. I remember the good time I had fishing with him way back when. What year was that? :?

Whit, we were out together 12 years ago for my dad's 78th birthday party, last weekend in September, at the big house in Palm harbor. We had a lot of friends staging through the bedrooms over 5 days, including Ewell and Steve.
We had a great mothership to Allyn's Lake - still have my photo folders organized to find these.
ImageDad drift-fished St. Jo shore while we paddled Allyn's Lake

and we since found and fixed the throttle link problem on the Johnson smoker :mrgreen:

That day on B&R 6 years ago (when you lost your glasses), it was a case of great minds- we randomly showed up at the launch - me with my daughter, and you with friends from Lewisville.

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