Latest News

UFO Encounter – Fish’s Version

ufo_15370Yesterday I was swimming along one of my favorite grass beds minding my own business. I picked up a nice, baby shrimp and settled down to enjoy it. About half way through my delicious snack, I saw floating down to me another shrimp. It started dancing in front of my eyes tempting me to eat it. So I did …

The next thing I know I was being pulled up toward the light, shrimp and all still in my mouth. Needless to say, I am freaking out and start resisting the light, but it is too strong and up I go. As I look up into the brightness, there is a huge ship above me and I am being pulled directly under it.
Suddenly, I am scooped up and brought on board the ship, with weird looking aliens staring at me. There is no atmosphere in this place, so I cannot breathe and sit there gasping for air.

One of the aliens restrains me while the other holds this silver box up that makes these bright lights and he keeps pointing it at me. They all seem to be speaking excitedly in some weird language and I am beginning to wonder if this is the end.

Then they lay me down on this thin metal table and stare and jabber some more. Next thing you know, they throw me off the ship. I was loose from their tractor beam and could breathe again. Needless to say, I swam like hell and never looked back.

My fish friends, I am telling all of you this as a warning. It could happen when you least expect it. You could be minding your own business, hanging out in the crowd, and next thing you know WHAM!

You can call me a liar, but it really happened. I have this little tattoo on the inside of my lip here to prove it. See it? I know I certainly learned my lesson! Don’t trust anyone, and if something seems to be too good to be true, it probably is.

I do not know if the dancing shrimp had anything to do with it, but I have eaten lots of them before with no alien encounter. Maybe it was just that one…hey look, a yummy crab! I am kind of hungry. What the … whoooooooooaaaaaaaa!

The Fish

MaryHelen’s Argentine Steak

coverThis is a classic Argentina Chimichurri sauce.

  • 2/3 cup sherry vinegar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3/4 cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
  • 3 tbsp. chopped fresh oregano
  • 6 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 3/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 4-3/4 inch thick rib eye steaks

In a shallow non-reactive dish large enough to hold the steaks in a single layer, add the first 7 ingredients and mix well. Save 1/3 cup of the sauce in a separate bowl. Dry the steaks before putting them in the marinade and turn to coat both sides with the marinade. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 6 hours. Remove meat from refrigerator 45 minutes prior to grilling and allow to come to room temperature.

Gas grill the steaks directly over the heat, turning once, until nicely charred and cooked to your liking. (About 3 ½ – 5 minutes per side for medium rare.) After removing the steaks, let them rest covered with foil for 2 – 3 minutes before serving.

Heat the reserved sauce and spoon over the steaks.

Redfish Lodge and the Environment

Redfish Lodge has always been concerned about the environment, but until now we have concentrated on the fishing aspects. For many years now our night fishing has been catch and release only with artificial bait. We choose to do this to help protect the fish population in Copano Bay. Now we hope to make significant improvements in the day to day operation of the lodge itself by improving our recycling efforts.

Guests will notice receptacles for plastic water bottles and aluminium cans in their rooms and in both lodges. We will separate paper and glass from the rest of our trash. Rockport itself only recycles glass and aluminium but we hope with the help of BFI, our local waste management company, we can recycle paper and plastic as well.

The very nature of a fishing lodge is not environmentally friendly. Our boats and vehicles burn a lot of fuel and we even pack our fish in disposable plastic bags. We have been unable to find any viable alternatives. There are 42 billion plastic bags used every year worldwide, a figure that increases by a half a million bags every minute. Most bags are not biodegradable and paper bags are not a great substitute. More greenhouse gases are released in their manufacture and transportation than in the production of plastic. The solution of course would be to ban their use, but only the country of Ireland has been successful thus far.

In addition to our on-property recycling efforts, our modest contribution is to provide as your bed amenity a complimentary tote that we hope will replace plastic in your everyday travels. Bring it to the grocery store, the mall, or anywhere else you would normally use a paper or plastic bag. And think of Redfish Lodge while you are there.

Fishing Is Fun (Unless You’re The Bait)

“What are we using today, captain?” is the most commonly asked question when the boat makes its first stop of the morning and the rods come out of the holders. The answer can vary greatly and depends on a number of factors. The following is a set of guidelines to help you understand why we use the bait we use when we use it.

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As a rule, the bait fishing season can be defined in five primary parts, with a few extras thrown in to confuse everyone, guides included. First is brown shrimp season, it begins in March when the spring tides bring warm water into the bays after a cold winter. Brown shrimp, and another shrimp called a “hopper” come into the bays to spawn, and the shrimpers await them with open nets. As a rule, these shrimp vary in color from brown to orange and even red, and are smaller than typical table shrimp with a much harder shell. This makes them great bait because they are hearty and stay on the hook better. They are commonly fished under a popping cork, and catch all of our gamefish species. They are usually available until late May or early June, when they head back into the Gulf.

Croakers begin showing up at the bait stands at the end of April, also courtesy of our local shrimp trawlers. At first they are very small and fragile. The transition from brown shrimp to croakers happens by the second week of May, depending on the weather. Croakers are a great trout bait, and are good for redfish and flounder as well. While shrimp may still work, the warm waters also bring undesirable fish species such as gafftops, ladyfish, and hardheads to feed on the shrimp. This makes it more difficult to target reds and trout. Croakers last until the beginning of September, when they have simply grown too big to use for bait. They are usually freelined or used with beads or small split shot in heavier currents.

fish_fun_15258aThe departure of the croaker signals the start of piggy perch season, and there is an overlap between the two. Some small piggies start showing up in June and by late August they are just the right size. Throughout much of the summer, guides will carry croakers and piggies to have both options to offer the fish. While piggy perch are a good trout bait, they excel at catching redfish, and do so until late October. Like croakers, they are usually freelined or used with beads. Some piggies are caught in shrimp nets, but most are trapped in wire perch traps baited with crab pieces.

In October and early November, blue crabs become the most important bait in the boat. The croakers and piggy perch are gone for the year, and the water is still too warm and full of undesirables to fish with white shrimp. Redfish begin to school up and feed the grassy shorelines for these shrimp, and they eat crab with enthusiasm. Crabs are caught in traps in the bay, and are usually cut into bite-size pieces and freelined on grass or in sand holes. They are fantastic bait for reds and black drum. Crab season may last from one to six weeks, depending on when the first strong cold front of fall arrives. This event cools the water and moves all of the ladyfish, gafftop, hardheads, and pin perch out of the bays making shrimp a viable bait once more.

By late September, white shrimp begin showing up in the bays. They are larger than their brown relatives, and are more familiar table fare in homes and restaurants. Some, however, make it to the bait stand and subsequently onto the hooks of coastal anglers. Once the water cools in late October to early November, this becomes the best bait for trout, reds, drum, and flounder as well as an occasional sheepshead thrown in for good measure. White shrimp are caught in shrimp trawlers, and represent the last feeding frenzy the fish will have before the hard times of winter set in. This is why the migration shrimp schools are often chased by trout and redfish for long distances. Their feeding activity is often given away by “working birds” over these schools of shrimp, a common sight in late fall. These shrimp are often fished under a cork, or freelined if they are large enough to cast.

These are the basic guidelines to the bait season, and may vary slightly depending on changes in the weather or water temperature. There are fill-in baits that can be used in areas or times when the fish are feeding single-mindedly on one food source. The most common of these events is the menhaden migration which happens in May and/or June. Millions of these small silver fish flood in through the jetties with the tide and become an important player in the bait game. They may range in size from that of a dime to as long as six inches, and become the only thing on the minds of trout and reds for days at a time. They can be caught in a cast net or shrimp trawl, and must be iced immediately to maintain freshness because they will not survive in a livewell. They can be freelined whole or cut in half depending on the size, and their strong smelling oil is irresistible to gamefish.

Another part-timer is the mullet, a staple in the diet of trout, reds, and flounder. They are available all year and can be caught in a cast net. Small ones are fished with small weights or freelined, and larger ones can be cut into chunks. They work best in times and areas where the predators are feeding primarily on mullet, and it is necessary to “match the hatch”. Mud minnows are another readily available bait, popular among flounder fishermen and great in the cold of winter due to their heartiness and availability. They catch reds and trout as well, and can last days and even weeks in a livewell or trap in which they are caught.

As you can see, “what are we using today, captain?” is a question whose answer is based on season, science, migration, and even a little voodoo. One thing you can be sure of, the right bait catches the most fish!

On Schedule With the Fish

One of the most frequently questions at Redfish Lodge is “When is the best time to catch … ?” or “What is the best bait for …?” or “If we book in October, what can we expect to catch?” To help give you an idea, we have put together a handy reference chart to cut out and put on the fridge so you will always know when to visit and what you can catch.

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Of course these are only guidelines to increase your odds of catching your target species. These fish can be anywhere at any time, so the best thing to do is have your bait in the water as often as possible. When booking your trip, use these guidelines to pick a time frame and let the gang down at Redfish Lodge know if there is something specific you would like to catch and they can gear up to provide you with the best shot at that fish.

Redfish
When Fishing Is Best: March through May, September through December
Preferred baits: Live shrimp, mullet, piggy perch, menhaden, crabs, mud minnows; Lures designed to imitate above baits such as topwaters, soft plastic shrimp, gold spoons, swimming shad, sand eels
Trophy Red: Possible anytime, best chance in October and November; Crab, piggy perch, big mullet, or lure

Speckled Trout
When Fishing Is Best: February through December
Preferred Baits: Croakers, piggy perch, shrimp, mullet; Lures such as topwaters, sand eels, Corkies, or swimming shad
Trophy Trout: February through early May; Corky, topwater, croaker, piggy perch

Surf and Jetty Fishing
When Fishing is Best: July through early September
Preferred Baits: Croakers and piggy perch for trout and reds; Ribbonfish and crankbaits for kingfish; Piggy perch and mullet for ling; shrimp or shrimp imitations for tripletail; Mullet or menhaden for tarpon
Trophy Surf or Jetty Fish: Any time there is an opportunity to get out there

Black Drum
When Fishing Is Best: February through early May, September through November
Preferred Baits: Crabs, shrimp, sea lice; Limited choice of lures, mostly by accident
Trophy Drum: February through early April; Crab or sea lice

Flounder
When Fishing is Best: March through May, October through November
Preferred Baits: Shrimp, mud minnows, mullet; Soft plastic lures, jigs
Trophy Flounder: October and November; Mud minnows, jigs

Kingfish
When Fishing is Best: May through September
Preferred Baits: Ribbonfish, mullet, hard tails; Diving crankbaits, Russell lures, squid jigs
Trophy King: May through September, Live mullet, crankbaits

Fly Fishing
When Fishing is Best: July through September
Preferred Baits: Shrimp imitations such as ghost shrimp, snapping shrimp, grass shrimp, or small poppers; Finfish patterns such as sea-ducers, needle nose, mud minnow, clouser, or spoon fly; Crab patterns such as crazy Charlie or merkin crab
Trophy Fly-Caught Fish: March or April for trout, August or September for Reds and Drum

Chris’ New Menu Items For 2007 Season

Appetizer
Caribbean shrimp ceviche with pineapple and avocado.

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Salad
Applewood bacon wrapped scallop on a bed of watercress salad drizzled with ginger and lime vinaigrette.

Meat Entrée
Crab and shrimp stuffed lamb chop with a cabernet reduction sauce.

Fish Entrée
Broiled redfish topped with crawfish and shrimp covered in a honey rum glaze.

Dessert
Triple layer Swiss chocolate with Bacardi and raspberry reduction.

Oversized Fish

Why was a 47-inch redfish weighing in at 35 pounds caught in Copano Bay in May of 2006?

This fish represented the fourth time in three years that the Redfish Lodge record was broken and was also recognized by the State of Texas to be the largest redfish ever to be taken from this bay system!

sams_red

In recent years, Rockport anglers have been the beneficiaries of a fishing trend that has everyone scratching their heads and smiling. Oversized reds, which are redfish in excess of 28 inches in length, are being caught in the bay systems of the Coastal Bend with greater size and frequency than ever before. While they have always been residents on the jetties and near shore rigs, bull reds (as they are commonly known) can now be found in great numbers throughout the shallow bay systems of Central Texas. While no one is complaining about this trend, several anglers and biologists alike have began to wonder why this is happening.

The natural life cycle of a redfish calls for the fish to be born and grow to maturity in the bays and estuaries and then permanently migrate to the Gulf of Mexico by the time they are 7 to 10 years of age and 28 to 32 inches long. The spawning portion of their life begins after this migration and can last in excess of 20 years.

When this trend first began in the late 1990s, biologists suggested that it had to do with an error in the hatcheries. The reds, which the hatcheries began releasing in the late 1980s, may have been born into water that was too warm. Therefore, the first few graduating classes from the hatchery preferred the warmer bay over the cooler gulf and never left. By the time these fish reached ten years of age, they were noticeably larger than the wild redfish in the bays. Stocked redfish had no genetic markers to positively identify them from wild reds, however, so this theory was never proven. Additionally when the water temperature problem was corrected, the trend seemed to stay the same.

The introduction of the oversized redfish tag on a Texas fishing license in 1994 suggested that the trend was here to stay. The spawning population in the gulf was not declining, as a matter of fact it was steadily on the rise. With the number of keeper size and undersized reds was also increasing, but not as significantly as the bulls. Biologists now suggest that the influx of big reds may be “migratory” fish moving in and out of gulf passes with the huge masses of baitfish such as menhaden and mullet, and may stay in the bays until the food supply runs out. Another theory is that the population density of the gulf is at an all-time high and that they are simply not needed out there.

The fact of the matter is that the abundance of big redfish is due to a perfect growing recipe:

Oversize Redfish Recipe
1. Close the commercial fishing industry.
2. Add one CCA stocking program.
3. Season with healthy baitfish population,
4. Skim out a significant freeze.
5. Simmer for 17 years, and enjoy.

Why Not Wade?

Wadefishing is a very popular method of fishing throughout the middle and lower coasts of Texas. It is done in areas where concentrations of fish are high and the bottom structure is favorable for walking, such as hard sand or a shell reef. It can be done with bait or lures, although lures are usually more conducive for this type of angling. Equipment includes the usual rod and reel, a wade belt to hold your extra tackle, a stringer if you plan to keep fish, and a rod holder. Redfish Lodge supplies all of these items if you elect to wade during your stay. If the water is cold, waders should also be on your accessory list; They will keep you warm and dry, yet are comfortable enough to walk around in. In the warmer months, a pair of wade boots or old sneakers will do.

wading

Wadefishing offers many benefits over fishing from a boat. The first and foremost is exercise. Walking is great to keep you fit and help you lose weight, while being good for the knees and back because of the slow pace and the fact that a great deal of your body weight is being supported by water. Best of all, it is a one-way trip and your guide will bring the boat to you when the wade is over.

The fishing benefits are numerous, starting with the ability to control your pace. If there are a lot of fish, you can stop and cast repetitively. If the fish are scattered and infrequent, move faster to an area of higher concentration. This eliminates drifting quickly over a big school of hungry fish in the boat or anchoring just short of a hot spot. Also, wading is much quieter than fishing from a boat. The slap of the water on the hull and the sound of feet on the deck alert fish, especially big fish, to your presence and make them more reluctant to strike. Walking quietly can put you in casting range of the fish without them knowing you are there. This is the number one reason that most trophy specks are caught while wading. A group of three to four waders can cover a wider swath of water down a shoreline or reef that can the same group of fishermen from a boat. This improves your odds of finding the fish and concentrating your efforts where they are feeding. Seeing a school of feeding redfish while you are wading allows you to stay within casting distance of them indefinitely, even if they are moving across a shallow sandbar or into the wind as most feeding reds do.

Water temperatures typically range from five to fifteen degrees cooler in the water than in the air. For much of the Texas summer being in 80 degree water feels a lot better that being on a 93 degree boat. The peace and solitude of a wade, just you and the fish, is a great way to enjoy the quiet and watch the birds and wildlife. Plus, there is a satisfaction in knowing that you beat a fish on his own turf and in his own element. Until you have caught your first big red or gotten your hand on that monster speck while you are in the water with them, you will not understand. And once you have caught that fish, you will not understand why anyone would want to stand in a boat.

Some people view wadefishing with trepidation for a couple of reasons. The first is usually stingrays. If you heed the advice of your guide and do the “stingray shuffle,” this concern is all but eliminated. A stingray has to be pinned to the bottom by your foot before he becomes dangerous. Otherwise, they are very docile and shy animals. If you slide your feet along the bottom it is impossible to step on a ray, and therefore impossible to get stung. If you still feel uneasy, get a pair of stingray proof wade boots from your local tackle store and worry no more.

Vibrio is another hot topic in the news lately that keeps unapprised people out of the water. It is a virus that lives in saltwater environments and can be fatal to humans. The strain that is found in Texas favors hot water over 82 degrees, which only happens for a short time during the summer. If you do come in contact with the virus, it needs a breech in your skin to enter your body. If it does enter your body, a normal immune system is perfectly capable of destroying the virus before you know you have it. If you do contract it, you will show symptoms in only a few hours. Go to the hospital immediately, tell them the circumstances, and IV antibiotics and hospital observation will generally clear it up. If you are elderly, overweight, have a circulatory immune disorder, or a large open wound you may want to pass on the wadefishing or wear breatheable waders even in the warmer water. Overall, your chances of being hit and dying from the common flu virus are far greater than dying from vibrio. The odds are stacked in your favor.

If you think you may want to try wadefishing during your trip to Redfish Lodge, let us know in advance and we will have a guide and gear specially prepared for you. You will quickly see that all of your questions will be answered, your hesitation eased, and your fishing rod bent. Give it a try, you’ll love it!

Why Redfish Lodge?

Brian –

I just wanted to let you know again how much I enjoyed the trip this past week. I do not know when or even if I will get back to RFL, but if I don’t get back for awhile, this past trip was a great way to remember the relationship I have had with you guys over the years. This trip will go down as one of a handful of fishing experiences I will remember and treasure for a long time. The wade we did Friday morning along the St. Charles shoreline was truly a once in a lifetime experience. The setting, the weather and the fish all cooperated to make it a truly memorable event.

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Sheila Barley of Alto, New Mexico, does battle with a giant black drum in Corpus Christi Bay while her husband Milton looks on. She was fishing the March drum run with guide Brian Holden on a trip to Redfish Lodge. These drum make their spawning run every March and can vary in size from 25 to 70 pounds.

I think I have been coming to your place 2-3 times a year for at least 10 years. What I always tell people that I like about RFL is that you always know what to expect. You are reliable, consistent, and first class. The rooms are always immaculate, the food excellent, especially since Chris has been the chef, the service from the night staff very gracious, the people genuinely friendly and helpful, and on top of everything else, surprisingly consistent fishing. It is a place I can bring anyone from the most elitist fly fishing fanatic to the most novice non-fisher person and be assured that they will enjoy themselves and have a great time. Hopefully some of the recommendations I have passed around will generate you some additional business as it has with people like the Bamberger folks. Good-luck to everyone at the Lodge and especially to you personally. You are a fine person and I am sure you will be very successful at whatever you choose to do as your life unfolds.

Gary Miertschin
former VP of Commercial Operations for Solvay Polymers
long time guest of RFL

Shallow Minded

In the colder months of winter, it is easy for anglers to look to the steep drop-offs and mud holes as their first and last fish-holding structures. However, you may find yourself wading out deeper than the fish while they are in a feeding frenzy between you and the shoreline. There are some signs to tell you when it is time to shallow up.

shallow

Look for the baitfish moving into the shallows. Often you will see a progression of the bait moving shallower as the day goes on. Be sure to follow them up, because that is what the gamefish are doing. Even if you have been having good luck most of the day in the chest-deep waters off the drop, start looking for the signs if the fishing slows down. The fish may have moved up shallow and left you behind.

This is especially true of winter days with lots of sunshine. On a sunny winter afternoon, the shallow water can be as much as five degrees warmer than the deep water. Take advantage of it before the sun drops and the water cools. The temperature of the shallow areas is just as fast to cool of as it is to heat up, so make sure your chosen fishing spot has easy access to deeper water with more stable temperatures. This is where the fish will retreat with the setting sun. Guts of deeper water that run parallel to the shorelines, especially those with dark, muddy bottoms, are a prime place to target winter fish. They can move into warming waters and leave cooling waters with minimal effort, giving them maximum comfort and accessibility to food.

Choose a shoreline or structure that appeals to the fish, not the fisherman. Protected shorelines and green water look great, but the fish want no part of them in the winter. Get on the windward shoreline, the water will be dirtier there and the bait will be thicker. Dirtier water means more particles of suspended sand and silt, which helps it warm faster. The light rays from the sun hit these particles and turn into heat energy, warming the surrounding water. The presence of more bait is due to the fact that they will take the path of least resistance, and that often means blowing with the wind. A fish’s metabolism is slowed dramatically in the winter, so it does not want to waste precious energy fighting wind and current. Predators know this, and will wait downwind for the bait to come to them, therefore applying the same energy conservation principles.

Now that you have the fish located, it is time to catch them. Shallow water presents some challenges for lure presentation. The water may be too cold for topwaters, and there is not enough water for the up-and-down motion needed to make a sand eel appealing. Swimming baits such as the Norton Bull Minnow or the Hogie Shad are great choices for aggressive fish as they swim well in shallow water and cause a lot of vibration. However, these soft plastics need to be reeled quickly to vibrate, and a lethargic winter fish may not want to chase something that fast. If so, try a curl-tailed grub like the CT Mullet or the Berkley Power Grub. They maximize motion and vibration with minimal forward movement, so they are very effective when retrieved at slow or moderate speeds. Twitch baits like the Catch 2000 or the Corky Fat Boy work well for a slow retrieve in water where the visibility is good, but stick with the vibrating soft plastics in water with poor visibility.

In summary, always keep an eye out for the signs that tell you where the fish are and what they are doing. Apply observation of surface activity combined with knowledge of bottom structure to set up a drift or wade. Don’t get pigeon-holed by tactics that you thought always applied and waste a lot of energy casting to fish that are not there. Be a student and an observer, and the fish will show themselves.