Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Dale and Michelle

LIfe has blessed us in so many ways, not least of which is the friends we have made throughout the years. Two of our dearest are Dale and Michelle from Gillette, Wyoming,(I taught with Michelle and met Dale when he was a Uniserve director. Renita and Michelle took girl trips and danced together). So it was great when Dale called and said they were thinking about coming down during Christmas break.
They arrived here on the 27th and I made my shrimp ettoufee,(Actually Connie's recipe). It was well received, which was good as I made it a bit spicy for some. We sat and talked of the possible adventures and decided to fish the Port Aransas Jetty and to explore Mustang Island State Park and the Padre Island Seashore.
Shortly after they left a strong cold front arrived and plunged the temperatures from the upper 70's to the upper forties so we loaded up the cars and prepared for a blustery day at Port Aransas.
We forgot to get bait and found out there wasn't any live shrimp on the Island, so we went to a seafood market and bought some small bait sized shrimp. At the jetty we found a spot and cast out, using split shot. letting the current wash the bait into the rocks. It didn't take long and we were snagged. Now we had been told that this method was snaggy but that it did produce sheepshead, so we continued using it until our patience was at an end,(and my tackle box was rapidly emptying). Switching to surf sinkers and rigs I cast out and caught a hardhead catfish. Another cast and another fish. While I wasn't always hooking them the bites were furious and it didn't take too long to convince Dale to switch rigs. Soon he was catching fish also. Catfish, croakers, and whiting gave us action and made us forget the cold north wind. A couple arrived and cast out sand lice, catching a really nice black drum. Dale talked with them and they gave us one, which we promptly put on to no avail.
The tide went slack and the bite stopped, something our new friend Pete had told me about. Renita and Michelle decided to go sightseeing, after lunch, so the didn't see the tide coming in. It was really amazing to see the murky water moving fast through the channel. The pelicans rode the edge of the mud line eating confused bait fish as the darted out of the murky water, into the clearer bay water that had filled the pass. The girls arrived and we called it a day. No fish fry that night but our friends took us out to a local seafood restaurant.
The next day arrived, along with easing winds and so we headed to the beach. Stopping first at Mustang Island State Park, Dale and I checked out the jetties, while Renita and Michelle shelled and beachcombed. There were a lot of ghost shrimp holes so I returned to the truck and got my minnow bucket and shrimp sucker. Dale got good at finding large holes and it didn't take long before we caught some nice bait.
Leaving the park we headed south to the National Seashore. We drove out on North beach, set up the lawnchairs, and had a nice box lunch picnic of friend chicken. It was so nice to hear the roar of the surf, I think Dale liked that the best! The surf was pounding the shoreline with waves of six to eight feet so fishing was out of the question. Michelle and Renita talked as the ever present seagulls edged nearer, hoping for handouts.
All to soon it was time to go. We did stop at the park headquarters and drive out on the beach at the end of the road. Driving home we got caught in a traffic jam at the ferry. A combination of rush hour and having two bays closed for repairs made for an unpleasant hour long delay. We finally crossed the pass and drove home, arriving tired from the long day at the beach.
The next morning arrived and Dale and Michele had to head back to Wyoming, all to soon. While Dale and I drove around and bought shrimp and pineapple oranges, Michelle and Renita walked out on the pier. They were blessed with the sight of dolphins cruising back and forth. The wind died and they were able to see the clear bottom. Dale and I arrived at the pier and they pointed out all they had found. It was a moment of peace that you hope will never end......
All to soon the time for them to leave arrived and we headed back to our home to say our goodbyes. Thank you Dale and Michelle! Clear skies,

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Fishing Big Tree

I set the hook I knew that the fish was not a small red. It fought stronger than anything I had caught.......
At Christmas dinner, George and I had talked about going fishing, as Renita and Val had shopping on their minds. The next day we loaded into George's car and went in search of bait, intending to wade fish St Charles Bay, near Big Tree.
The bait search was not good as place after place had an out of bait sign or had taken down their bait flag. Duh, none of the shrimpers had gone out for Christmas, and many had even taken off till New Years! We were able to find one bait stand that had fresh dead shrimp,or at least he claimed it was, and so we bought a pint and headed to St Charles Bay.
It was with some trepidation that I followed George out, as we passed the alligator warning sign. George had assured me that the gators were somewhere else keeping warm, and so we waded out, past the duck blinds and cast our dead shrimp. The bites were almost immediate! George caught a red fish and then another. As usual he was giving me another fishing lesson.
Finally I caught a red, and then another. Then a fish bit and took off! It worked the drag and ran in a series of strong powerful runs. I realized then that I had something different, on a black drum. I was impressed with the fish, and it was a small legal one, they grow to huge sizes as fifty pounders are not unheard of.
The bite stopped as the tide went slack, but it was a fun morning, catching three species of fish, reds, sheephead, and black drum. We returned to the park where I watched George clean the black drum. Fresh fish for supper! Clear skies.

A Texas Christmas

Merry Christmas everyone!

Last year we were blessed to spend Christmas with my sister and her family, so we were a little concerned as Christmas drew near and this Christmas would be our first without family. Needless worry.
We decorated an artificial tree and put lights both inside and outside, (Renita talked me into it and as usual she was right). Our other neighbors also decorated their rvs and so the park was brightly lit up at night.
We went to Christmas eve mass which included a half hour of caroling, singing all the favorites. Two young ladies led the congregation,(college students?), and one of the singers had one of the best soprano voices I have ever heard. Mass ended and we stopped for some takeout as the parks festivities were to began.
Every year the rvers get together and have a different kind of gift exchange. Everyone buys a ten dollar gift and then the fun begins with the exchange. When we entered we were each given a bingo number, mine was forty one and Renitas was fifty six. As the exchange began the person with number one went up and selected a gift and opened it in front of the crowd. Then came number two, and so on. Now when your turn arrived you had a choice, either open a new gift of steal one from someone who had unwrapped theirs. The last rule was that a gift could only be stolen three times and then it was safe. Stuffed toys, bottles of wine, and a box of the tv advertised towels exchanged hands often. Renita got a embroidered towel and I got some fishing lures! A fun time.
Christmas morning awoke to find that Santa had found our house, in Texas. All is well! At one pm we gathered to celebrate Christmas with a huge Christmas buffet, the park had supplied turkey and ham and the tables overflowed with desserts and other entrees. Everyone had outdone themselves. It was like being at fifty family meals as everyone had made their special favorites We brought my key lime pie and Renitas sugar free cranberry sauce, (made from scratch).
Each table had a song and ours was drawn first. Singing jingle bells we took our plates up and feasted on the meal. It was too good as both of us pigged out, but isn't that what you are supposed to do for Christmas? We sat and talked with our new friends, George and Val from Colorado.
Later we talked with Patty and Matt, and even got a note from Jenny,(She is in Nicaragua and she called the next day). Again, we have been truly blessed. Clear skies.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

THe Fishing Learning Curve

I saw him set the hook and land another nice fish. He cast out and was immediately onto another. He had a fish on every cast! It wasn't very long before he had his limit of ten speckled trout!
Mimicking him I cast parallel to where he was fishing, so as to not disturb him and caught a small fish. While the fishing was good for me he was catching six fish to my one, and they were bigger!
Unable to contain myself any longer I waded over to him, as he was leaving and congratulated him on his nice fish. Luckily he was in a kind mood and as we talked he said it was the best fishing he had had this year. He even gave me a plastic body and told me what jig size he was using.
The next day Renita accompanied me to all three tackle stores until I found the same lure and jig head. She was glad to get rid of me as I went fishing and even got the spot he was fishing. As I begin to cast, the same guy showed up waded out and caught a fish on the first cast. Another repeat of the day before, his six fish to my one.
Puzzled, and frustrated, I finally realized my stupidity. I was getting snagged on the oysters and he wasn't. Looking at my jig head I saw I had on a quarter ounce jig instead of the eighth ounce he had told me.
The fish stopped hitting soon after but at least I had three nice fish and a fresh fish dinner was assured. The next morning I returned and caught two,one keeper, before an oyster boat moved in and the keeper fish stopped biting. We had fresh fish for for dinner.
Now I wouldn't say that I am at the top part of the curve, but at least my speckled trout learning curve is staring to go up. Clear skies.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Sock Hop

Everyone knows what a sock hop is, but what is a jelly roll and who sang "Wake up little Suzi" ? Here are some more, what word was used to describe having fun and what was the fad toy of the fifties? These are some of the questions that we didn't know at the parks annual sock hop.
Wine and beer, along with ice tea and decaf coffee flowed freely as we rocked to the oldies but goodies. Heck we even saw one couple have two beers as we drank our whataburger ice tea. Prizes were handed out during the spot dances, best costume awards were given, and the dance prize was easily won by the oldest couple in the park, Earl and Raebell. They really knew how to dance!
It was confusing at times, with the Elvis impersonators, looking the same but it all worked out. We sat and met Doris and Charlie, who are from West Fort Worth and that's what its really about, meeting new people and listening to their stories. We enjoyed the evening and even stayed up and partied until 9 pm!
Oh and by the way the answer is an Elvis style haircut and the Everly Brothers(At the sock hop we were told it was Danny and the Juniors but a sharp eyed reader, Connie Snyder, promptly corrected me. It turns out it was the Everly Broters who took the song to the top the week of October 4th 1957. Danny and the Juniors hit was "At the Hop", in December 13 1957. A special thanks to Connie!). A "kick" was the word for fun and the hula hoop was the fad. We only got two of the ten questions right. Clear skies.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Surf Fishing

The happy hour group had planned a surf fishing adventure, so when we heard about it it was a natural to learn from the experts. So after a late start we headed for Port Aransas and the Gulf side of Mustang Island.
As we were not pulling the house there is a much simpler way to go, by ferry! We started by taking Texas 35 south and then east on to 361, managing to miss the left turn and instead going right to Ingleside. Hmmm, somethings wrong! Backtracking we got on the right road and found the Ferry. We loaded up front and had a great view of the channel. Dolphins! AS we watched several pods swam around the landing and two gracefully cleared the water in smooth leaps that only dolphins can make.
Once on the other side it was a quick and easy drive to the beach where we stopped for a moment, and then headed south to find the group.
Sure enough, they were at the beach marker they had told us. Most were wading and fishing is huge surf, or at least huge surf for here. We parked at the end of the line and as I readied my pole Renita took a lawn chair to where the ladies were sitting and watching,(Some were fishing also and had their own waders and Betty was catching quite a few fish).
Planting my pole spike I cast out, or at least tried to with the heavy three ounce weight. My cast was not very far as the weight was simply too much for the rod. Again I cast out and again was frustrated by the weight simply overloading the rod. Switching to another pole, I used a lighter sinker. While this allowed me to cast further, the surf quickly washed me ashore, grrrrrrrrrr. Realizing that I didn't have the right equipment, I put my poles away and grabbed the camera.
People were catching whiting. Wayne even caught a pompano! I was suitably impressed and Renita was having a good time chatting with the other non-fisher persons.
Lunch was served as the group fired up a grill and cooked hot dogs. As the surf continued to build, and after having to move the truck we decided to head home. The tide was also coming in and the road was narrowing. We had to drive though a wave at one point,(Which necessitated a car wash)!
Back on regular road we returned on the ferry, (alas no dolphins). Not getting lost the trip was much quicker. A good dues day. Clear skies.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Wade Fishing

Renita and I attended Happy Hour and one of the people we met is an obsessed fisherman form Colorado, George. George fishes about every day and invited me to go wade fishing with him. Of course I agreed and better yet Renita said it was okay, as long as she had the truck.
So the next morning, after bouncing around the house like a kid, we saw George walking his cat. We talked and agreed to take off at 9:30 am for a spot that was nearby. Loading our gear into his car we first had to go and get some bait shrimp.
Now bait shrimp are live, and sell for 10 dollars a quart. Its really surprising how large they are as they dwarf the shrimp buckets we ate back home,(I think they use smaller shrimp for those)! Anyway we put the shrimp in our buckets and put an aerator in each bucket. The shrimp are really delicate so you need an aerator for even a short drive.
Driving along Fulton Beach Road we passed a wood piling where George pointed out a place to fish and then continued down the road until we came to the bridge over Copano Bay. There we pulled off to the side and donned our waders and gear. Everything felt bulky and out of place as we walked along an oyster reef and it wasn't until we waded out that the gear seemed comfortable.
A cold wind blew from the southeast, really a warm wind but the cold front had cooled the water down and it wasn't long before the chill started to set in. I hadn't worn enough clothes! Added to the chill was the lack of fish and it was awhile before George finally caught three small trout, all 14 inches,(The speckled trout here, really closer to walleyes, have to be 15 inch minimum. Sheephead have a length limit of 14 inches and redfish must be 20). Finally, after watching George, I started to add some slow retrieving motion and caught two under size fish. Things weren't quite as cold!
After taking a short break, the afternoon sun warmed things up and we got into a frenzy. George caught three trout and urged me to wade over and share his spot. Soon we were both catching fish, including a sheepshead. Enjoying the sun and fish the time went quickly. We even caught a couple of 15 plus inch fish so some fish went into the fish basket. The flurry continued for a while as we would cast, pause and then retrieve, with most bites coming on the pause. The trout would hit with a tic which was followed by a run. Of course I had forgot my net so landing them was a challenge.
Looking at my watch I saw it was 4 pm and time to get home. Thanking George, we returned to the rv park tired but in time to brag about our fish. Renita was already there, sitting in the ladies area, as I pulled my chair up and joined her. A great day of learning, and thanks again George! Clear skies.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Rockport/Fulton and Watersedge

The drive to Watersedge Rv Park was short and uneventful. Lucy greeted us at the office and Myron led us to our spot and helped us to back in. We got a spot in the upper level, where we wanted to be. The rest of the day was busy, unpacking and setting up the satellite dish as this is going to be our home for the next three months.
The next day was also busy. We made a Walmart run for drugs and did some other shopping. That afternoon we went to the, "Happy Hour", gathering and the evenings event was the Winter Texan Fish Fry!
Now some people think that retired people sit around and drink all day, and there probably are, but our happy hour is a gathering of fellow campers who talk of the days events, about things coming up, and share fish reports . Its a great way to meet people from all over!
The Winter Texan Fish Fry,(free), is a yearly event put on by the people of Fulton to thank us for coming down and spending money. The emcee unabashedly said that the money we brought kept the town going though the winter months! The meal was good, all the fish you could eat, supplemented by raw oysters on the half shell! The oysters were really good but not as fat and salty as the Grand Isle oysters we had last year. During the meal, a local band entertained us with music, reminding me of the music we had heard in New Orleans. Finally it was time to walk home so we met and thanked the mayor and the servers and cooks before leaving. Clear skies.

Padre Island National Seashore and Fish Pass

We spent another few days at Mustang Island before making our last move to our winter camp. One days trip was to the Padre Island National Seashore and the rest of the time was fishing and cast netting at Fish Pass.
The first stop at the seashore was to recheck out the camprgound at Malaquite Beach. Its a simple campground with asphalt pads, definitely dry camping, but you can see the surf from almost all of the campsites. Last year we had checked it out and were not impressed, this year we thought it was a nice spot, and large enough for us to park our house!
From there we bought shrimp at the park store before driving out on the beach, for fishing and shelling. The beach sand seemed kind of rough in places and I was nervous so we only drove about five miles south before stopping. There was a lot of seaweed and I cast out and soon had enough seaweed to choke a horse. Renita had better luck shelling and quickly found some nice saw tooth pen shells.
A park ranger stopped by and gave me some advice about surf fishing, He also told me not to be too concerned about getting bumped by sharks, hmmmmmm....
He told me three things: first to cast between the second and third set of breakers, second to use a small hook and piece of shrimp, and third to not wade out to deep as it wasn't necessary. All the advice was good as the fish bit almost as fast as I threw out,(I caught two redfish, four whiting, an Atlantic croaker and a catfish.
The next day we went to fish pass and practiced cast netting for mullet,(I actually caught some even though my net is a little small. We drove down to a spot to fish but it was already full so we watched them catch several nice redfish. A dues day.
Anyway it was time to head to Watersedge and our winter camp so we put the shells and fishing gear away and packed our house for the move. It had been a really good time at Mustang Island State park. Clear skies.