Just got back from 5 nights in the Spencer Bell house with Lou and Susie, Steve and MA.
The difference this time - I wouldn't call the dock fishing a bust, but we never saw a single schoolie, and only had one night and one day of sporadic finger mullet.
We were fishing nursery trout the whole time.
The good thing about Arroyo, the nursery trout are bigger than most places - but they also quickly get wise to everything you offer. The dearth of the traveling schoolie specs had to be related to the dearth of bait. Seems like everything is late this fall, late hurricanes, and the shimp and mullet migrations equally late. The locals blame the lack of bait on the abundance of jellyfish.
Don't get me wrong, everyone had a great subtropical vacation, with high every day at 80, and low every night at 70.
Even our day trip to South Padre, climbed the lighthouse, and on our way out stopped at all the good bait stands in the shrimp fleet harbor, and no one had live bait.
We did, however, have a great meal at the South Padre Brewpub.
And speaking of meals, here are those famous Huts-clone onion rings at Chili Willies in Arroyo City. We also sampled from the menu their version of calamari, fried shrimp, and chicken-fried steak. They cook a remarkably perfect burger.
We mostly stuck with our dock fishing plan. It begins with watching all the birds fly out in the hour before sunset.
Then fish on and off, dictated by the fish action, intermittent naps to let the fish warm back up, and concentrate on meals and entertaining the girls during the days.
The nursery trout were all directly under the lights, and you could see them. They were feeding on invisible glass minnows and scattered poecilid minnows. The poecilid minnows were well-imitated using a 2" swim shad spec rig.
We saw closed-mouth specs in pairs pushing poecilids on the surface to test them, and most of the time the bait would get away. At other times, we saw the baitfish skipping across the surface, ending with a feeding slash.
Success catching came from retrieves that duplicated the immediate bait motion - staggering slow retrieves most of the time, to quicker active retrieves when the nursery trout were feeding in earnest. And always varying count-down to fish different depths in the water column to find where they would feed.
We caught a lot of 14" trout, and the trip fish was 17" - Lou caught the most fish, including a small snook, but was never able to add to the stringer. Lou also caught the most hardheads on lures I've ever seen by anyone.
We were able to put together one Excellent fish fry.
Susie does this better than anyone (including my mom...)
The beating NE wind arrived on Sunday, and Sunday night fishing picked up a bit. It also moved some finger mullet in from LLM. We saw a few being slashed, and were able to vary our lure size. I caught fish on 3" swim shad, and had a blast with fast retrieves on YoZuri twitchbait.
The wind laid enough on Monday morning to let us paddle down the natural Arroyo. This was an entertain-the girls paddle, and no one brought a rod - too bad.
First, we had to work out launching from the dock, and there was a nice step-down in the boat slips that let us get in.
Then, we had to work our way out of the slip through the boat lift hardware.
Going down the natural arroyo the left bank is the mainland side and steeper
(this photo is going back in)
The right bank going down the natural arroyo is the island side, mostly shallower with large patches of mangrove marsh.
Here, Lou saw our first redfish.
Along this bank we saw more redfish, patches of finger mullet, and slashing trout.
We made to where the natural arroyo narrowed, began splitting into fingers,
and found a good beer-thirty wind break from the building NE wind against this island bluff.
going back in, we surfed
That evening, we got the word that Jerry's had a charge of live shrimp, which made our last evening under the dock.
(also, another plug for Jerry's great tamales)
Must have caught 20 under-size trout in no time, added keepers to our new stringer, then they ignored the shrimp, except to play with it or occasionally bite a tail.
So another nap, and got back up at 1:30 am to finish the shrimp and finish out this nice stringer. .
Lou and Susie headed back first thing in the morning, but Steve and I spent our last two hours before packing out with another foray down the natural arroyo, this time with rods.
The wind would soon build for us, and gave us a nice technique using our drift socks to parallel the mangrove marshes. Unfortunately, it was just another good paddle.
We saw one redfish, no patches of finger mullet, and no slashing trout.
Waiting on barge traffic for the last channel crossing.