Coastal waters look really 'good'
Last week, I was exiting a local Matagorda restaurant when I noticed a crew of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department biologists pulling up in the parking lot. I knew what they had been doing that morning - the boat, nets and slimy shirts gave it away.
So I asked, "How are our bays doing?"
"Good," the biologist quickly responded.
"Off the record, really, tell me what it looks like," I pleaded.
"It looks good," she said.
TPWD run gillnet surveys throughout the spring to determine the health of our bays. They collect data from traditional sites and plug those numbers in a formula that determines the state of our fishery.
When biologists determine "good," they are normally talking about the state of speckled trout, since their scientific observations have determined speckled trout is the most targeted species by Texas saltwater anglers. Generally, when lots of speckled trout are being caught, fishing is good; when trout are tough to come by, fishing is slow.
They (bays) have not always been good, and when I have been told that by biologists, our catch rates suffered. However, in the past, when TPWD biologists have told me the bay was in good shape, our catch rates were steady.
Mind you, this is not official data. As a fishing guide, it goes without saying I am on the water a lot. And as fisheries biologists, they are on the water a lot. Our paths cross regularly; plus, dockside creel surveys conducted to collect data on users (anglers) puts us in contact regularly.
I also talk to shrimpers regularly. Information gathered from this group gives me a clue where fish might be since fish follow shrimp.
Last spring, a biologist told me there were tons of redfish in East Matagorda Bay according to their gillnets. Guides wondered where all these redfish were hiding because we certainly were not catching them regularly.
Then June rolled around, and with it came better fishing weather. Winds subsided, waters greened, and thermometers rose. We found the redfish - lots of them. Large schools began slicking over deep reefs that normally held only speckled trout. I can't remember a summer when I caught more redfish in East Matagorda Bay - and those fish have held through 2013.
A week after the prophetic biologist told me Matagorda Bay was in good shape, winds subsided, waters greened, and thermometers rose. We found speckled trout - lots of them. Large schools began slicking over deep reefs. I can't remember a better week for trout pushing 5 pounds or better.
One trip in particular I released a 30, 28, 27, 26 and two 25s and brought to the dock more than two dozen of the healthiest fish I have caught in five years. Catching remained consistent until the cold front blew through Thursday, but on those five days, my boat released 10 speckled trout over 5 pounds.
The good news is Sabine Lake, Galveston, Port O'Connor and the rest of the coast are enjoying similar results.
It's a good time to be a salty Texan.
Bink Grimes is a freelance writer, photographer, author and licensed captain. (firstname.lastname@example.org)