John Jefferson writes a weekly outdoors column for the Victoria Advocate.

Jefferson fish

Sam Caldwell, Official Texas State Artist in 2004, fishes in Aransas Bay with a hefty stringer of redfish, caught on cut crab. The current limit is now three reds per day between 20 and 28 inches.

I had decided to write about the closing weeks of the Coastal Conservation Association’s 2020 STAR tournament when I got an email enticingly entitled, “Psst-they’re still out there!” from my friend, Dylan Sassman, assistant tournament director.

And they are. Dylan was referring to the winning fish in the largest prize-awarding fishing tournament in history. CCA and its sponsors partner to give away a million dollars’ worth of merchandise and scholarships every summer. If you haven’t already entered, as we have, there’s still time.

But not much. The tournament runs from Memorial Day to Labor Day. This year it ends at 5 p.m. Sept. 7 – the first Monday in September. But you must be a member of CCA and be registered in the STAR tournament.

The tournament’s glamour attraction is the Redfish Division. The first five anglers to catch a current year-tagged redfish (and pass a polygraph test) will receive a new Ford F-150 pickup truck, a boat, motor, and trailer! The second five win everything except the truck. There are also handsome prizes for winning other species divisions. Be sure and read all the rules.

And join and register. Every year, there are heartbreaks due to non-registrations. This year, there have been seven. If that were me, I’d lie down and eat black sand.

So far, there have been four of the luckiest Texans imaginable – two guys and two girls – certified as winners. One of them will only be in the third grade. Eight-year-old Marilyn Monroe (her real name and age) caught the second tagged redfish while fishing with her family near Texas City. Kids under age 18 are awarded a $25,000 scholarship in lieu of a truck. Of the other three reds caught, two were around Corpus and one came from near Baffin Bay.

Bait information wasn’t available, but redfish can be caught on shrimp, mullet, and a variety of artificial lures. If COVID-19 closes boat ramps again, know that wade fishermen have caught many instead of onboard boats. Both methods are legal.

My largest three reds fell to artificial lures – one to a copper penny-colored sand worm, another to a topwater lure fished near the shore, and one to a flashy red/silver, iridescent, soft plastic that Larry Bozka gave me. But my best redfishing day ever is illustrated by the attached photo of longtime friend, Sam Caldwell, with the stringer of reds he and I caught in Aransas Bay one morning.

During an outdoor writers’ event, Caldwell and I were paired in the drawing. We fished with a guide and used cut crab from one of his traps. It didn’t take long. We were on fish almost instantly and began catching reds in the 20 - 25-inch class. Each one ran with its power from where hooked around to the other side of the boat before finally coming to the net.

We were the only boat to limit out. We fed the rest of the writers that evening!

Sixty redfish were tagged. Fifty are “still out there.”

John Jefferson, “Woods, Waters and Wildlife” columnist, may be reached at 512-219-1199 or on his website, johnjefferson.com.

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