Sunday, November 15, 2009


As I discussed in my last post THE FURTHER ADVENTURES OF BILLY RAY AND DANGEROUS DAN... , they took off Friday night for Matagorda Island and some surf fishing and beach camping.

Obviously, they didn't follow the sage advice that I've never followed as I discussed here in the The Kings of the Gulf of Mexico and the I pic, no fish posts about my friends who were just using regular old fishing tackle, not surf tackle, fishing with cut mullet and landed a huge King, amongst other fish.

I say obviously because they didn't catch any fish. I am now convinced that mullet is the "go to" bait for live or cut bait fishing in the gulf. For decades I suffered in ignorance, considering myself "above" the use of cut mullet for bait. But recently, I've seen some astonishing catches made with cut mullet, including the mighty Kingfish I wrote about months ago.

Billy Ray stopped by this evening on his way home from his adventure and regaled me with a few points of interest from their trip.

When Billy Ray called last Friday to invite me at the 13th hour (Hey, we'll be leaving for Matagorda from Brenham tonight. Will the wife let you go?) I had to opt out. I had plans both yesterday and today that had been set in stone long ago.

But other than not catching any fish, they had a good time. Except Billy Ray is not much of a beach sleeper. I'm guessing they slept in Dan's 4wd SUV that they took. Billy said he got a couple of hours sleep and that Dan said he had never slept better.

Billy Ray marveled at the hard core surf fisherman of Matagorda, who bring kayaks with them to paddle their baits out beyond the last sandbar. He was surprised that they were running six big rods at a time. I don't know why that surprised Billy Ray that much, except he doesn't do much surf fishing, because that's what Texas surf fisherman have been doing for a long time now. Some I know have used jet skis to get their baits out into deeper water for larger fish.

Billy Ray remarked that the topography of Matagorda Island, or at least the part he was on, had drastically changed since the Hurricane last year. The dunes were pushed way back, and he said it wasn't as much as a challange driving wise to get as far as they went this year with the 4wd. In the past, Billy said, they couldn't get as far down the beach as they did this time before hitting somewhat shakey driving conditions.

But when Billy Ray called on Friday to invite me I gave him other tips. For instance, this time they took a shovel. A shovel, of course, is especially useful in beach driving because one can get stuck in beach driving, and digging one's self with a nice full size heavy duty shovel is always a nice option. As are boards, to put in holes to drive out of.

And a tow strap, in case you get so stuck that you have to get someone to pull you out. Through years of 4wd ownership, I have found it to be true that having 4wd just means you can get stuck in more remote and hard to rescue places than a 2wd truck or suv.

Having done much beach camping in my time, I have to say that Matagorda is one of my favorite places to set up a fishing camp. The sand there is not as fine as it is on other Texas beaches to the north and south. It seems more coarse, and it seems much easier to get off of you than the sand in other places.

You really need a big surf fishing rod to hit the deep water at Matagorda. Many of the rods I've seen down there are in the 11' to 15' variety. And some guys with custom casting rigs are throwing baits and lures several hundred hards. New, a nice Daiwa 3 or 4 piece surf rod along with a large spinning reel might set you back a hundred or so, but on ebay you can get some bargains. Try to look for lined guides and a brand name, but as I talked about in this post,Cheap Saltwater Fishing Rigs so You can GO FISHING... , if nothing else, spend $40 bucks at Academy or Walmart on a spinning combo that is sort of medium heavy duty and get the longest rod you can and you can do pier, jetty and surf fishing.

Although I always like to throw out a long rod or two when surf fishing pretty much anywhere, I usually do most of my catching fishing from shore with conventional saltwater medium to light duty fishing gear, running anywhere from 8 lb to 30 lb test, with 20 lb test being the most common.

Billy Ray and Dangerous Dan also did some wade fishing at one of the land cuts, although I don't know which one. Once again, he doesn't listen to me. He knows when I wade fish (which is very rare these days, particularly in an ocean/bay pass-through), I wear some sort of serious life vest and usually drag a good sized boogie board with me.

I take the boogie board because it's good insurance. I've had several friends receive debilitating stings from various sorts of bottom dwelling rays in the Gulf of Mexico, some to the point of barely being able to walk.

Add to the possibility of an injury the effect of the ever-present treacherous Texas Gulf Coast undertow. Unless you've been ocean swimming, surfing, or knocked down while wade fishing or surf fishing and had a Texas undertow pull you under and spit you WAY OUT AWAY (if you're lucky) from your original location, you have no idea of the powerful force of nature that is an undertow. People drown all the time getting caught in undertows.

So having some sort of flotation, even to the extent of an SOSpender inflatable rig, makes all the sense in the world. I find that the Sterns fishing life vest with pockets is handy and safe, and if you're wading along and hit a deep spot or a sink hole, you're not going under.

The other concern about wade fishing is your stringer full of the fish you have caught and the bait that represents to certain predatory fish and sharks. I was twenty feet away from a fellow named Tom in 1979 when what he described as frickin' big shark BIT OFF his stringer and took his catch. Fortunately, we were using long 20' stringers just in case something like that would happen. His stringer was bit clean through.

That was in San Luis Pass, and Tom and I did the rest of our fishing that day from the beach and the shore. We had no interest in getting back in the water.

I've never had my stringer mauled by a shark but once in Rockport, whilst wading and fly fishing in a shallow corner of a remote bay, I had my stringer of redfish attacked by a very large hardhead catfish. I had to whack him with my rod to get him to leave.

So once again, Dangerous Dan and Billy Ray score zero against the fish. I've really got to start going with them. I think I could improve their chances exponentially.

First, I'd be doing some jetty fishing at Matagorda. Secondly, I would have fishing with some cut mullet. I also told Billy Ray to buy some of the soft plastic scented baits out there, like Powerbait and GULP!, in the shape of shrimp in natural and new penny colors, as I've been hearing good things about those baits.

Third, they didn't do any night fishing, which confounds the heck out of me. Billy Ray said they had a foot and a half deep fire pit they dug, and there was no shortage of burn size driftwood just everywhere. He said they had a raging fire both nights they were there. So I fail to understand how they could not break themselves away from their beer drinking (I'll make an "rush to judgement" assumption and assume that more than one ice chest was filled with beer and alcoholic beverages, perhaps a whiskey or a vodka or a tequila of a particularly expensive nature) and pontificating long enough to cast SOMETHING in the water from sunset to sunup, particularly if you're up all night enjoying the beach and the waves.

In any event, they didn't drown while wade fishing, and if you knew Billy Ray and Dangerous Dan like I do, you'd think that was a major accomplishment like I do.

Them boys. I'm gonna have to have a talkwith them one of these days.

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