Galveston Bay-Speckled Trout Protection

November 24th, 2015

Survival & Handling of our Speckled Trout

Last fall, a small group of us were wading the flats near the mouth of the Trinity River out fall. At the time, there were at least a dozen or so anglers, all catchin’ and releasing speckled trout and redfish. The reason I dare bring this sensitive issue up, at least one in five fish was under the state size limit (15 inch) minimum. From this writers and guide prospective, I can assure you now that most of undersize fish were seen floating and the rest probably never made it…………………..

Over half of this group of good fishermen released the undersized trout and redfish with care and consideration. Undersize redfish have a thicker skin with fingernail like scales……….The procedure of the remaining anglers ranged from roughly jerking the hook from the fish’s mouth to holding the fish in a vise-like grip while the hook was being removed. One fisherman in particular, could be heard downwind, removing the hook and then hurled it as far as he could, so I do not catch that one again. I doubt that any of those fish survived after being handled in like manner. This writer has read a number of studies about the percentages of fish that survive being released. Good arguments can made for both sides of survival and mortality. Almost all those lip hooked and handled carefully make it. Most of the others and those that are hooked in the gills will probably not see the light of the next day. Water temperature plays a significant role in their survival rate. Summer time with the oxygen being depleted, mortality is near 100%, while this time of year, survival is almost assured.

In recent years, this writer has become much more careful about releasing fish. Something to do with maturity. When I fished early in my career, in the late 50’s and 60’s, I kept just about everything except piggy’s and hardheads. It was not unusual to keep several ice chests full of all the above-mentioned species. I sold speckled trout at the market in Galveston, along with my grandpa, from anywhere from 10 cents to maybe 15 cents a pound sometimes. There were no size or bag restrictions then, so it was commonplace to have 10-12 inch specs on our stringer or in an ice chest (Igloos came much late). No one then thought we would eventually face a major decline in our fish population (major freezes & pressure). We were then part of the problem, not the solution, as some would say nowadays. It’s human nature to take everything now, without consideration for the future…………………..

If a fish is to survive, it must be handled as little as possible. If it becomes necessary to hold the fish, wet your hands to prevent the protective slime from being wiped off. Then use a hook degouger or needle nose pliers to extract the hook. If the hook is deep in their mouth or near their gills, cut your line and release the fish with the hook still in its mouth. Chances are good the hook will rust and fall free. After the hook is removed, lower the fish gently back into the water. If necessary, work the fish back and forth slowly into the current to allow the water to flow over their gills. Hold the fish by the tail section. Gills are to fish what lungs are to us fishermen. Most times, the fish will swim off with an excellent chance of survival. Never under any circumstances actually throw the fish back into the water. Unless the fish is of the jumping’ species, like tarpon or shook, and speckled trout are not, the hard shock of hitting the water will stun the fish to the point that it will not survive. It will swim off, only to die later…………………..

As always keep in mine, carefully released fish today, has an equal chance to grow and mature for our children and grandchildren. As my Dad once told this writer,” Leave it a little better then you found it”.

God bless you and your families.

CaptPaul Marcaccio
U.S.C.G. & T.P. & W. license

Flounder-Best Kept Secret

October 31st, 2015

Flounder Fishing – for Everyone

Successful flounder fishing is not for everyone. If you simply cast out the bait and wait, you may catch a flounder or two, but in general you’re in for a disappointment and frustration. Successful hook and line flounder fishing rates right at the head of the class. If you can successfully catch flounder on hook and line, you have bragging rights and should consider yourself an expert.
This writer can give a lot of tips on catching flounder, but when it comes to actually setting the hook in the mouth of a flatfish, it all boils down to two items: “Concentration and Experience”!
“It seems everyone else can catch flounder except me.” I hear that so often this time of year, when the flounder make their migratory move to the Gulf.

First off, the flounder has no swim bladder. This simply means the fish goes through life swimming or lying on or near the bottom. They are unable to suspend themselves motionless at any depth. Furthermore, it doesn’t have the fin structure nor body shape for fast swimming. It tends to move in short darts that appear to be fast, because when flounder move they raise a lot of silt off the bottom.

The fish normally feed from ambush, lying partially hidden on the bottom until food matter moves or drifts close by. The fish quickly rises off the bottom, grabs the food and sinks right back to the bottom. This is where your experience comes into play. Most fish tend to engulf the bait. The flounder instead, hold it tightly with its teeth for a few seconds before ingesting. Some marine biologist says the fish does this to kill the bait before taking it deep into its mouth.
If you try to set the hook the instant you feel a pick-up. Odds are excellent you’ll tear the hook out of the bait and give the flounder a free meal. Instead, wait approximately ten (10) seconds before striking or setting the hook.
This writer prefers to palm my reel, letting the line run lightly between my thumb and forefinger. You would be surprised at what the flounder telegraphs up the taunt line. You can feel the fish working the bait, and you can feel when the fish takes the bait deep into its mouth. That’s the moment of truth to strike and set the hook. Experience this a few times and you will never forget it………

Since flounder normally feed on matter that drifts close by, successful flounder fishermen and women are those who fish every foot of the bottom within casting range. Do this by inching the bait along the bottom. When you feel the line taunt, treat it as if a flounder has grabbed the bait and not as if the hook fouled a snag. Wait the magic ten (10) seconds before setting the hook. This tackle can be modified to be used with a float in wading depth. Rig the float to hold the bait just a few inches above the bottom. Cast up current and allow the current to carry along the float so a lot of bottom can be covered.
When a flounder takes the bait, the float will stop moving and simply lean over in the current. Wait the magical ten (10) seconds, and then set the hook. If the float starts moving against the current, you can bet money that the infamous blue crab has grabbed the bait and moved off with it.
There are a number of good terminal rigs for flounder. I prefer a slip sinker attached to the line followed by a swivel, then 18 to 24 inches of leader line (20 to 30 lbs.) followed by a wide gap (circle hook) either #2 or #3. The best bait is either live mud minnows or finger mullet. When the bay temperature cools down less than 70 degrees. Live shrimp will also work as well.

The most effective artificial lure is any soft plastic bait. Bass assassin, shrimp tail, or shad tails. Use either 1/8 to ¼ oz. lead head. I prefer the Norton lazer screw on hooks or the new Bass Assassin screw on as well. Work the bait right on the bottom with your yo-yo effect on lifting and dropping the rod tip. I prefer the new All-Pro titanium rod made by Fishing Tackle Unlimited in either 6-1/2’ or 7’. It’s called the GREEN ROD…………………..

Hopefully, these tips give you a leg up on your next successful flounder trip.
Good luck and good fishing.
See y’all outdoors on Galveston Bay.
Capt. Paul Marcaccio