Full recipe here: https://cudakilla.com/2016/05/31/jalapeno-fish-or-calamari-recipe/
Full recipe here: https://cudakilla.com/2016/05/31/jalapeno-fish-or-calamari-recipe/
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Floundering is fun! And we’re getting to the best time of the year for them. The cool fronts that come down at that time of year makes them feed like crazy before they move to the gulf to spawn. Look for them in the flats and then as the water cools, they’ll be in the channels leading to large bodies of water. Best place to find them is in the shallows very early in the morning and the drop offs as the day progresses. A good falling tide is great as they’ll be waiting at the drop offs as bait fish move off the shallows.
Rig with a sliding sinker, swivel and a short length of leader. Silver Johnson Sprite spoons and plastics work well too dragged on the bottom and flipped gently ever so often. Flounder are ambush species so whether you’re using bait or lures the key is to cover water. So casting and slow retrieves works better than a static presentation of casting with bait and wait. Live bait in the form of finger sized mullet work extremely well but are a PITA to deal with (difficult to catch and expensive to buy) so I personally mostly just use a jig head with a wiggly plastic tail like a flapping shad or a scented Berkley Gulp. Many of my friend love the Flounder Pounder and tandem style jigs. Color doesn’t matter but I find the darker colors work well in off colored water and darker days and light colors on bright days. Very often we’ll cut strips of any kind of bait fish like pin perch and tip the jigs with a tiny piece. Basically you will present the flounder with vibration from the lure wiggling, sight from the contrast of the lure against the surface, scent from the piece of cut bait. The only thing left is to find where they are at and give them a chance to jump on your hook!
My favorite technique is fishing on any pier by dropping a rigged mullet or a jig head with Gulp or any kind of plastic lure with lot’s of wiggle action and walking the length of the pier until I get a bump. Then reel up the slack until I am directly on top of the fish before I set the hook.
Some flounder tips:
Think of them as very slow moving landmines in a video game. You have to keep casting till you get a lure within striking range of one. Stop your very slow retrieve ever so often and just jiggle the lure to let them come to it. If you have been gigging you’ll see that flounder do not really move very fast or often (unless you tickle them with a gig then they take off like a rocket!). Casting a bait and waiting is one of the worse ways to fish for flounder.
When you do get a bump, do not set the hook right away. Wait at least 10-15 secs. Pull on it lightly a few times to tease them to swallow the lure (this also lets you know how big a fish you may have on). If you lift it gently you can actually feel how heavy the fish is. Once I actually coaxed a flounder right to the bank just by slowly pulling him in without setting the hook. Sometimes when I feel that I have a really good fish on that I can’t swing up on the bank, I will free spool the reel and go get my net before setting the hook. This shows that once a flounder has a lure, they will almost never let it go. Even if they are gorged, they will still hold a bait a long time because they are so full they are unable to swallow it. If you miss a strike, cast back to the spot again as they will not have wandered far. When setting the hook, my method is to reel the line till tight, drop the rod tip 10-12″ then snap set the hook hard once. 90% of the time, this style of hook set with a jig head will result in a hook point that penetrates right through the top cheek. I have never lost a flounder doing it this way. This is a firm enough hook set that will allow you to swing the flounder up onto the pier or beach without a net.
Another good tip is to walk into a spot that a rookie fisherman has just vacated or has lost a fish. Most folks work the lure too fast and do not cover the area thoroughly. The flounder may have followed their lure but because it is moving too fast are unable to catch it. Or has set the hook too early and lost the fish. The result is that this fisherman has unwittingly lured the flounder to almost at his feet and walked away. I have caught many a good flounder this way, to the chagrin of the fisherman vacating the spot. Also most flounder I have caught have been no more than 5-6 ft in front of me. Good luck and go get them! The big mommas should be around till at least Christmas or till the water gets below 40 degrees.
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.
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.
Please fee free to add what you know or your experiences regarding chumming.