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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!

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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.

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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!

2006 The Best Fishing Year In Redfish Lodge History

2006 was a year that will be remembered fondly by Redfish Lodge guests and staff alike. The staff will remember the largest crowd and the busiest season in our fifteen year history, with old familiar faces and fresh new ones as well. The guests will hopefully remember the best fishing year the lodge has ever had, with more fish of more species caught than any prior season. The Redfish Lodge and Aransas bay system redfish record was set in May with a 35-pounder, and we saw a handful of others in excess of 25 pounds. The lodge record black drum was broken in March with a 70.2-pound monster, and 102 catches qualified for the Wall of Fame. Overall the weather was good, with adequate rainfall and no close call from hurricanes. September saw a red tide give us a little scare, but it stayed well south of our fishery and went away without affecting us. (more…)

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.

sheila_001

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.

Redfish Lodge Enters the 21st Century

Being in a remote setting sure has its advantages for quiet, privacy, seclusion, and of course…fishing. It is not, however, conducive to having state-of-the-art telecommunications at your fingertips.

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We can brag that we have all of the above but fortunately the lodge is close enough to Rockport that Redfish Lodge is pleased to announce that we have advanced out of the dial-up dark ages by installing high speed WI-FI at our facility. Our guests can now access high speed internet from anywhere on our grounds using the wireless set-ups in their laptop computers. Check emails, surf the net, and send fish pictures all from the comfort of their rooms without phone lines or DSL cables.

Casting with laptop in hand takes special training and coordination so guests may have to put down your computer to catch fish. Fish are difficult to catch on the web, particularly oversized. Isn’t technology wonderful!

Tournament

March 11 Redfish Lodge and Moondog Seaside Eatery played host to the Chuck Scates Benefit Tournament. This event was held to raise money for former Redfish Lodge manager and current guide Chuck Scates, who lost his entire 2005 fishing season due to a battle with throat cancer, a battle that he thankfully seems to have won. The event was originally scheduled for last September, but a lady named Rita prompted the rescheduling. It consisted of a fishing tournament, barbecue, raffle, live auction, and silent auction. Lots of people, many of whom were Redfish Lodge guests, helped tremendously by fishing in the tournament, donating items, money, or services, or by volunteering to help out. Thank you to all those who participated. Your generosity was greatly appreciated.

chuck_scates_tourn

The tournament itself was a big success, despite winds gusting in excess of 40mph. Twenty-three teams hit the water at sunrise on the 11th, 17 of which fished in the guided division and six that were unguided. The goal was to catch and release the most legal size reds and trout, record them on a score sheet, and “weigh in” a total number of inches. Prizes were given to the winners of each division, as well as largest red and largest trout of the tournament. Law Rogers and Wayne Snow of Houston took first place in the guided division with a total of 160.75 inches of released fish. They were guided by Redfish Lodge’s own Cupe Adams. First place in the unguided division went to Bryan and Ronnie LeVrier of San Antonio with 20 inches. Big trout was a 24-incher caught by Bill Lockett of San Antonio with guide Duane Flowers of Redfish Lodge. The winning red was a 28-incher caught by Jimmy Babbitt of Houston while fishing with guide Rhett Price. All winners received rods and guided fishing trips that were donated by local guides. Thanks to all the guides that participated and donated trips.

The auction and raffle were very well attended, with a crowd in excess of 150 people. Among the auction items were beautiful pieces of artwork, guided fishing and hunting trips, gift certificates to local restaurants and hotels, jewelry, fishing tackle, and much more. The big raffle of the night, a Hewes Tailfisher with a Yamaha motor and trailer donated by Maverick Boats and Ronnie’s Marine, was won by Victor Pena of Houston. The generosity of the people in attendance and of all those who participated and donated made the event a big success, and Chuck’s medical expenses are now paid. For a complete list of sponsors, donors, and tournament winners, please visit www.chuckscatesbenefit.com.

Intro – Newsletter 2006

A fishing trip to Redfish Lodge brings to mind visions of speckled trout tailwalking on a hookset and reds ripping line off of a light tackle reel. But did you know that there are other, bigger fish to be battled in the waters surrounding Rockport? March presents an excellent opportunity to land a huge black drum from 40 to 70 pounds during their spawning run. The trips to the gulf surf in July through September often produce kingfish in excess of 30 pounds, huge cobia, and sharks that can weigh over 200 pounds!

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Fishing in the flats throughout the season may have you fighting a monster jack crevalle or even a tarpon. All of these fish are caught at Redfish Lodge every season, and most by guests expecting a red or trout. The next time you are out with a lodge guide and get a bite, hold on tight. You may be in for more than you bargained for!

Tonic

“Tonic”, the Redfish Lodge adopted mascot, is looking for a good home. She is a 4-5 year old Great Pyrenees who is housebroken, loves people, affection and open spaces. She has to sleep inside at night because she is afraid of the dark and is terrified of thunder. Cuddling and reassurance will get her through even the worst storms.

tonic

Tonic is a great watchdog, good with kids, but has never been exposed to cats (that we know of). She needs open space or a large fenced-in yard to roam. She has had all of her shots, is spayed and in great health. If you would like to take Tonic home, email Brian.

Unsung Heroes

Redfish Lodge has sent out thousands of comment cards over the last several years, and have learned a great deal from the responses. We know what to change, and what to keep the same. We ask if there was any staff member that made your trip a memorable one and many guests have responded positively. Our evening staff are often complimented for the culinary delights and attention to detail. The guides are mentioned often for putting guests on some great fishing. There is, however, a list of staff members who have never been mentioned on a comment card despite doing a great job day after day. They work behind the scenes to make sure that everything can go smoothly for the staff on the front lines. This segment is dedicated to them.

annAnn Gragg is our head housekeeper, and her very job depends upon never being seen or noticed. She makes sure that every guest returns from fishing to an immaculate room and a pristine lodge. She also makes sure that everything gets done in a very small window of time between the departure of one group and the arrival of the next group just two hours later. She routinely deals with weather-shortened fishing trips, late departures, early arrivals, and the disasters of those who elected to over-indulge the previous evening. Most impressively, she handles this huge responsibility while rarely ever being seen or noticed, and never being complimented on a comment card. Thanks Ann!

Eldon Flaherty handles grounds and building maintenance and always sees to it that everything on the property looks and runs perfectly. In addition, Eldon aids in guest transportation to and from airports and boat ramps as well as fish packaging and cleaning. He routinely deals with delayed airplanes, late airport arrivals, too many or not enough fish for guests, and the constant assault of the South Texas weather on our facilities. He is also on call for broken water lines in the middle of the night, electrical outages, and emergency grocery store runs if supplies run short. Again, his name has never appeared on a comment card. Thanks Eldon!

There is also the Boss who is hardly ever on site during the operating season. Aside from signing the checks his strategy is to encourage us to make Redfish Lodge the best in the world.