Tag Archives: live bait

Port Aransas Texas 9/30 – 10/1/2014 Fishing Report

Gulf Coast King Mackerel
My ‘Patriot’ Color Scheme Rod with a Daiwa Saltiga Lever Drag Reel

After a few less than stellar trips, we finally found a couple of days that looked promising so we made the trip from Austin. Tuesday was ok, we got there a bit late and missed the morning bite. The upside is that we also missed the showers that were blowing through early morning. We did get about 15 smacks and 5 pompanos. Skip jacks everywhere. No takes on the slide rigs. Water conditions were nice.

Wednesday was the ticket. We got there before daybreak and set up. A friend who stayed on the pier overnight had just landed a 8 ft bull shark. Huge Spanish Mackerel were hitting just before light. I threw out an old silver Abu Koster spoon (anyone know where I can get more?) that I had for a while, with a rod that I had just built. It was based on an MHX 8′ 6″ blank rated for 8-15lb. The first cast had several strong whacks that did not connect. Half way through the retrieve, something solid connected and smoked out 20-30 yds of line off my Daiwa Certate 3000. I was slowly pumping it in when the fish suddenly stopped and made a high speed run quartering back to the pier. I reeled slack line frantically and ran to the side to get on top of the fish. This was where the high gear ratio of the Certate came in handy. I had to lean far over the railing with the rod to keep the fish from the pilings.  I thought I was going to either break the line or the rod! Fortunately as is typical of Spanish Mackerels, when you get them to this point, they have pretty much burnt themselves out. This was a huge one too! The largest I’ve seen this season. Easily 25-26″ and fat. After landing the fish I discovered that the 10′ of 30lb test mono top shot was frayed to hell and needed replacing.

Spanish Mackerel
Magnum Spanish Mackerel

During the entire day any kind of silver spoon produced the bigger fish. Green and white jigs worked well too. Some pompano were even caught on green jigs and silver/redhead Gotcha plugs. Aside from the little baby pomp I caught with the Sabiki while catching bait, all the Pompanos caught were larger fish in the 15-17″ range. This continued most of the day till we were all worn out. We had to work our way through lots of Skipjacks which was exhausting. They were tearing up schools of small shad everywhere. The water was literally boiling. Pompanos were mixed in there too but were harder to catch because of the Spanish Mackerel and Skipjacks. We started packing up about 5pm. The last rods to be packed were the slide rigs. While I was cleaning up gear, the slide rigged bait on my self built rod with the Saltiga Lever Drag 30 popped of the release clip and the reel started screaming. I let the fish have his head for about 15 -20 secs by leaving the drag at strike setting. Just enjoying the shrill scream of the reels clicker before tightening up and setting the hook. Seems I burned him up by letting him run so far because he came in quite docile. He was quickly netted and decked. A 25 lb king mackerel is a real nice way to end a trip. Bait was a feisty juvenile Jack Crevalle.

During the day we also saw a huge school of bull reds. The run should start real soon. And a small pod of 2-3 ft tarpon. We also got quite a few 4 ft black tips that we threw back.

Bait balls consisting of mainly of 1-2″ shad were everywhere and the Spanish Mackerel and Skipjacks were just destroying them. Winds light SE/E 6-10 mph, seas were 1-2 ft with no chop. Water was clear green but towards end of day when winds picked up, there a light chop and the clarity diminished. Water temp hovered around 80-81F.

Final tally was a 2 man, 2 day possession limit of 60 Spanish Mackerel (we threw back many smaller fish of less than 16″) and about 17 very good sized pompanos. And countless Skipjacks!

Overall it was an incredible trip with good company, meeting some new friends and catching up with some old ones. Even met a really nice couple from North Texas that recognized me from this blog! What more could a man ask for?  Tight lines!


Port Aransas TX Report – Kingfish

Daiwa Certate 4000, 20lb Power Pro Line, Live Bluerunner, IRW Custom Rapier 10ft 15lb class rod
Daiwa Certate 4000, 20lb Power Pro Line, Live Bluerunner, Rapier Built IRW Custom 9ft 15lb class rod

Thanks to the wonders of the internet we found a good two days with perfect weather for fishing. Trying to repeat the killer 2 days we had last week.

First day morning was beautiful with light winds clean water. Bait plentiful but fishing was slow with piggies killing the live shrimp no matter how far you cast. So we resorted to lures. Caught about 20 Spanish Mackerels of good size. Winds picked up and swung around to ESE and kings showed up. Had two piggies on slide rigs taken without hooking up. 3pm a 3 ft blacktip nailed one of the baits that was landed and released. Finally at about 4 pm, nailed a 40lb king. Using 9 ft steelhead type rods with Stella 4000 sized reels and 20lb Powerpro, they were fun to fight! Had one more hit just before dark that pulled out at the net.

2nd day was even nicer. Flat calm seas with almost no wind. Big Spanish Mackerel were everywhere. Caught limits of them up to 4 lbs with small jigs. No pompanos like last week when we landed almost 40 of them. Winds picked up afternoon and swung from N/NE/NW to E/ESE/SE. Slight chop on the water. I knew it was now on!! 3pm first knock down on the slide rig. It took both baits we had out and cut the second line off. Did not hook up for some reason. Second knock down took 180 yds of line off my Daiwa Saltiga 30 and pulled off. Third knock down was the charm.

KIngfish that did not get away

We saw 3 huge kings circling the live piggy. I lowered the bait slightly deeper and game was on when one of them quickly turned and nailed it. After 4 blistering runs I landed a 45 lb king. On the fourth knock down we saw a huge Kingfish come out from under the pier, jump clear out of the water and nail the bait. It took 180 yds of line on the first run. I was pumping it in when it started to greyhound out in the distance while taking line. I’ve never ever seen that before from a Kingfish. What followed was big explosion of white water and she flew clear out of the water! A huge tail of tiger shark waved in the air. Water turned red and a big oily slick covered the water. I knew then that the fight was over and I had lost. See picture for the outcome. Last knock down of the day was on a live piggy on a float just at dusk. Line cut by another fish after the first run. This was one of the better days we’ve ever had on the pier.

2/3 of a 54″ Kingfish
Garlic and ginger basted Kingfish Steaks

All in all a very good trip to end the season for me. Lot’s of meat in the freezer and dinner on the table.

Gulf Coast Spanish Mackerel and Pompano Tips

Florida Pompano
A typical Florida Pompano (about 18″)

I’ll share this method that we use with great success just about everywhere we fish for Pompano and Spanish Mackerel or ‘Smacks’ as they are often called. In Hawaii, this method is also called ‘whipping’. A very successful method if you have the right gear. We often get other species like kingfish, bluefish and Jack Crevalles this way too.

  • 8-10′ fast action rods. 8-15 lb class. I like Steelhead 2 pc rods
  • Spinning reel: 4000 size with 20lb power pro
  • Terminal rig is basically a bubble float that you fill with water for casting distance (clear because any other color will invite strikes that will cut you off). In the picture I’ve rigged the float up with quality BLACK swivels at each end. Makes it easier to change leaders when cut off.
  • 6-7′ 30# mono between the float and lure(length allows the lure to ride a bit deeper and keep the strikes away from float)
  • 5″ of single strand coffee colored wire 28# to 35# test tied to lure (short length is all you need. I personally only use a 3″ section)
  • Lures of choice are chartreuse speck rig jigs. Because they are so cheap to buy. Spoons and plugs work too but cost much more. Plastics don’t last long. 1/4 oz is best as they have a much heavier duty hook. It’s pretty sad to be catching fish every other cast and see some new guy come along with a nice Rapala or Mirrorlure and try and get in on the action, only to lose a $5-6 lure on the first cast. Color is VERY important. We’ve tried others but Chartreuse is THE BEST color for smacks. You get two to a pack. Just cut off the mono and tie on with wire. One lure per rig is enough. You cannot work two effectively. You can buy them here: http://www.hhlure.com/products/speck-redfish-rig

Method: cast as far as you can, feather the spool at end of cast and the lure will fly ahead of the float and straighten the rig when it hits the water. Useful when it is windy because if you get the lure wrapped over the float, the smack will hit it and cut you off. Whip the rod on a fast retrieve to make the float splash on the surface. Pausing between the splashes will allow the jig to sink a bit. The big ones seem to like the slower retrieve. Sometimes fast and frenetic whipping will often drive bite shy fish crazy. You will often see 3-4 fish fighting over the lure during a retrieve. When you have a fish on try and hold rod up when fighting the fish to keep as much of your line out of the water . Often other smacks will try and hit the lure that is already on the fish or even the float itself. Anything that is a knot or swivel will create a bubble trail in the water during a fight and will invite strikes and subsequent cutoffs.

You may substitute the bubble float for a conventional float (a Launcher float is great for this) and the jig for a live shrimp on a small treble and that will work extremely well too when the fish are fussy.

Splash Rig
Simple Splash Rig

When the smacks are not around, I do away with the wire and tie on a banana jig for pompano.  The pink and yellow color works really well for them.  The colors mimic the ghost shrimp that Pompano feed regularly on. Pompano are generally bottom feeders so to target them you need to have a longer leader (5-7′) so the lure will have a chance to get down to them.  When retrieving, splash the float a couple of times and let sit for 4-5 seconds to allow the lure to flutter down deeper.  The surface splashing will draw their attention to the jig.  Often you will see two or three of them cruising the surface chasing or following the float. When that happens, stop your retrieve and they will go back down after your lure. Here’s a pic of some of my favorite banana jigs.

Doc's Goofy Jigs
Doc’s Goofy Jigs

Pompano season is coming up soon (Sept – Mar).  Best time for them is when the seas are calm after a north wind.  Light northers along the mid to south Texas coast will tend to push bait out from the beach and the pompano are there to feast on small crabs and ghost shrimp. Down there we call these days ‘pomp days’ and are an anxiously awaited event when pompano can be caught right in the surf.

Pompano are also primarily sight feeders so clear water is good time to fish for them but they do rely on scent to locate food (see my post about chumming).  I have fished for them overseas with live bait in murky water and was being out fished by the locals 10 to 1.  They told me to lightly step on the shrimp to get some of the juices out.  It seemed counter intuitive to me to step on a perfectly good live bait but it did worked.  Which is why I have often seen people catch pompano on the pier with fresh dead peeled shrimp when water conditions were far from clear.   These days I always tip my jig or even my live shrimp with a little bit of peeled dead shrimp when I am hunting for them.

I have heard that the best bait for pompano are ghost shrimp but I have never tried catching or have ever used them.  Apparently they are not difficult to catch with store bought ghost shrimp pumps.  I might give them a try this year as I heard they are good for sheephead too.

I know that many folks do really well with shrimp tipped with Fsh Bites. I’ve tried it and can testify that it really works!

That’s all. It doesn’t get any simpler and cheaper. Trust me these techniques really work. Just don’t learn it so well and crowd me out when you see me whipping away happily on the pier.  We were doing this very successfully on 91st pier 12-15 years ago until some others caught on to this technique. Then it became impossible to fish that way anymore as we almost always got crowded out. Now we just fish somewhere else.

A nice Kingfish caught on light spinning tackle
Spanish Mackerel and Pompanos
A mess of Pompano and Spanish Mackerel

Chum much?

Chumming on the pier?
Let’s face it. If you want to catch fish and if you are like me, you’ll do anything. I admit I’m a bit obsessed about everything that helps me catch more fish. So..the toils of my obsession I am going to share with you so that you might catch more fish.

The idea came to me one day as I recalled how we used to chum when we fished offshore for Yellowfin Tuna and all manner of game fish including snappers. We’d often barter 6 packs for by catch with shrimpers and head out to the rigs and anchor up current. We’d slowly toss out pieces and chunks of scrap fish till we had snapper literally right aft of our stern. We’d do the same with chunking out at the floaters and teasing the tuna out to our boat. Since I don’t go offshore much anymore, I applied the same thinking on the pier where I now almost exclusively fish.

Whenever we’d hook a Spanish Mackerel (Smack) or a Pompano on the pier, I often grab a couple of live shrimp (or dead, or some cut bait) and toss it out into the current. It keeps the school around till we get another line out to them. This works really well since Smacks and Pompano move around a lot and when a school shows up you want to keep them around as long as possible.

In the last 4-5 years I’ve been keeping all our leftover bait fish (shad is great) and shrimp, grinding them up in my meat grinder when I get home (I like the cheap $18 meat grinder from Academy). I even use the leftovers after filleting our catch. I grind everything up, heads tails, bones and all. I then put measured amounts on the mixture in a blender with 50% water and a few table spoons of Menhanden oil. You can buy Menhaden oil anywhere on the internet these days. I often also add some leftover bread to soak in the oils. I pour the resulting slurry into a gallon or sometimes quart sized empty milk bottle and freeze them up. I’ll make up 1 gallon or 2 quart sized bottles per day of fishing.

On the pier, I cut a hole in the bottom of the frozen bottle and hang it over the water with a rope. As the slurry melts it’ll provide a constant drip of stinky goodness into the water. Over the course of the day you’ll actually see an oily slick as far as the eye can see. This often keeps bait fish around the pier and subsequently their predators. Not to mention that it’ll draw predators from miles away. Pompanos love shrimp so I always make sure my chum has a good component of shrimp in it. Chumming does have occasional unusual and unexpected results. Once we had so many Skipjacks around the pier, it was impossible to fish. They were so thick they were hitting bare hooks and anything thing that fell into the water…pieces of paper, pennies, cigarette butts etc. We’ve also had large schools of Redfish patrolling up and down the pier. Hitting everything we threw at them.

If you are as nuts as I am, give it a try and you’ll be surprised what you kind of fish you’ll draw in.

Cobia ling
Light Tackle Cobia

This Cobia and his much bigger girlfriend was circling the pier under the chum bottle for and hour or so but neither would hit anything we put out. They would look at our offerings and turn away. I finally dug around in the bait bucket and found the largest live shrimp we had and free lined it down to them. As soon as the shrimp was in the water, they turned around and fought over it. The smaller of the two was faster and took the bait. 30 back breaking minutes later, we landed him. Since then we’ve caught quite a few more. Some much larger than the one in the pic.

Nice Cobia
Nice Cobia

Please fee free to add what you know or your experiences regarding chumming.