So, what do guides do on their days off? Well, speaking just for myself and my friend Bruce Shuler of Getaway Adventures Lodge down in Port Mansfield, WE FISH!!
It was really nice today to fish alongside Bruce. With someone so knowledgeable on board I didn’t have to provide guidance, untangle lines, unhook fish, or do anything except reel in my share of the 110 finny friends that cooperated for us today.
We began our day before sunrise hunting for topwater and, just moments before sunrise it began in earnest, increased very dramatically at around 7:05 with the brightening and complete rise of the sun, then stayed steady for about an hour, and finally tapered down to zero by around 8:40. Any day with over an hour of topwater is a good day, and we made hay while the sun shone and caught ’em up while we could.
This photo shows the variety of bait sizes present for the white bass and hybrid to feed on during this morning’s early feed. Every one of these was regurgitated on by boat deck by fish we landed.
Bruce lips one of our larger fish taken today. This one came on the downriggers. Most of the topwater fish we caught, hybrid included, were smaller than this one. Topwater tends to be an exciting quantity over quality affair this time of year.
The fish we found were a mix of white bass of all sizes, as well as short hybrids. In this early morning topwater the white to short hybrid ratio was roughly 1 to 6. I used a Cork Rig on top and Bruce threw a blade bait just sub-surface and we did equally well. All of this action took place between Area 027 and 014. By the time the action ended, we’d boated 73 fish and returned all of them to the water.
As this early bite came to an end around 8:40, we checked a few areas for bait and fish with sonar and found some stratified hybrid hanging around 24-26 feet over a deeper bottom along the breakline near Area 84. Bruce had never fished with downriggers before, so we rigged up a very basic spread with 2 rods and 2 ‘riggers, and equipped each rod with a single spoon (1 a white Pet, 1 a White Willow) and began working the area over in staggered ellipses. We boated 2 hybrid and 2 white bass in 5 passes before the fish began to thin out. We then headed out in search of more bait and fish, but found things pretty scarce.
We did come upon a small group of fish showing 20-30 arches just suspended off bottom along a breakline at Area 154. We vertical jigged right over top of these fish and boated 1 drum and had more missed strike and that was it.
We had about decided to call it a day with 78 fish boated, but, since Bruce primarily wade fishes in the shallow waters of the Laguna Madre, he hasn’t really kept up with all the advances in sonar, including the side-scan imaging. We decided to idle over some submberged trees, the tops of which come to within 20 feet of the surface, and which are rooted in about 55 feet of water, just so he could see a side-by-side comparison of the side-imaging versus traditional sonar.
Well, as we were headed to this timber patch, we saw several “popcorn” schools of white bass feed on topwater for just seconds at a time but ignored them, knowing they’d soon disappear. Then, we spotted a school working bait up into a corner nearer to the shore (at Area 180) than any of the other schools we’d seen. I commented to Bruce that schools like that will sometimes stay up when they’ve go the bait penned in like that. We kept an eye on the fish and on the pretty view of the submerged timber we were seeing on sonar and, once Bruce had the oppportunity to compare the images, we made our way over toward the schooling fish. In all, they stayed up for about 20 minutes — just long enough for us to shoot for and surpass the magic 100 mark.
By the time this school was finished feeding, we’d boated 32 additional fish, again with Bruce throwing a blade and me throwing a Cork Rig, and the two of us doing equally well. We both really needed to be on our way to appointments later in the day, so we jokingly agreed to drive back the the ramp with our eyes closed so were weren’t tempted to make any more stops for “popcorn” white bass!
TALLY = 110 FISH, all caught and released
Start Time: 6:30a
End Time: 10:40a
Air Temp: 78F at trip’s start.
Water Surface Temp: ~88.6F
Wind: Winds were light from the SSE at around 3-5 at the start of the trip, slowly slacking off to near calm by trip’s end .
Skies: Skies were bright and clear the entire morning.