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On fishing, hunting during winter months

Thursday, November 29, 2018

My two winter passions are duck hunting and coastal fishing.  It’s difficult to do both at the same time. 

Last week my wife, Beth, and I were in Corpus Christi on business. We had only one day to fish. Fortunately, it was a great weather day. The cool front that passed earlier in the week was history. By our fishing day, Saturday, we were on a warm-up. If it had still been really cold I would have been fishing by myself.  Beth would have created an excuse not to go. I don’t mind fishing in very cold weather. Just put on more clothes.

We launched the boat at first light with gentle winds and temperatures in the mid-50’s. We started in some subdivision canals where fish often gather after a strong cold front. But most of the fish had exited. I caught a black drum and a good redfish. All that Beth could catch were skipjacks. Skips are great fighters but no good for the table. They also mess and bleed on the boat and fray your leader.

We hit a little cut that flows into the Aransas Channel that was full of speckled trout. We probably caught 25 in a short time. But all were too short. Most of them were about 13 inches, 2 inches short of legal keeper size. But it was hot action and lots of fun.

A shoreline of the Intra Coastal Canal produced several small trout and two keepers. Beth caught one of the keepers. I also put a keeper flounder in the icebox.

Then we entered our favorite winter grass flat. It didn’t disappoint us. Redfish were on the flat and hungry. We switched to Berkley Gulp shrimp and the redfish loved them. New penny and white-chartreuse tail were the best colors. Many of the reds were 17 to 19 inches in length. Good fighters but not keepers. But about every third redfish was a big keeper. We put four in the icebox. By early afternoon we had all the fish that we wanted to clean. It had been a great morning.

Last week I hunted ducks every morning. My son, Tim, and I traveled to Pilgrim, Texas (about 12 miles from Gonzales) Tuesday. A rancher friend had volunteered for us to hunt this season on a wetland that he created with a continual flow of water from one of his oil wells. 

Tim and I crawled into some natural cover with our two labs, Annie and Winter, about 20 minutes before legal shooting time.  Not long after legal time ducks began to buzz the pond.  Where we set up was not the best for a North West wind.  But that was the hand we were dealt so we made the best of it.  Ducks would not come right into the decoys because of the wrong wind but several passed overhead and we sent them crashing into the marsh. Annie and I had just stepped from behind our cover to chase a cripple when Tim’s 12 gauge sent a big duck crashing into the water.  Annie was on it immediately. “I think it was a mallard,” shouted Tim.

It was - a big greenhead.  That made our day.  We don’t kill many greenheads where we hunt.  Maybe this Gonzales marsh was going to be different.

After the hunt we built a blind across the lake, using some palm fronds that Beth and I had brought home from Aransas Pass.  We are ready for the next season, opening December 1.

My neighbor, Tom Ray, and I hunted a private lake the next day near Kyle. The hunt didn’t start well. Just as the eastern sky was beginning to lighten two ducks passed right outside our decoys and landed. They began to swim toward the decoys.  A little closer and they were about to feel hot steel crashing into them.  While watching them swim closer we heard a quack in the decoys.  A big gadwall had landed right in front of us.

“You shoot the two birds and I’ll shoot the gadwall when your shot scares him,” I whispered.

Tom shot and missed twice.  The gadwall went straight up and I missed three times.  I could not believe it.  Maybe the manufacturer forgot to put shot in my shot shell.

Later in the morning I glanced over my shoulder and saw a group of about 35 ringneck ducks very high but dropping rapidly toward our deeks.  Tom was texting.  He quickly tossed the phone as the flock banked in front and came straight at our decoy spread. Just outside the decoys they began to climb like fighter jets. We emptied our shotgun magazines and birds began to fall.  Four of them folded into the lake and the pasture behind.  Annie was hot into action.

That flock made our day.  It’s not often when you actually decoy that many ducks at one swish.

San Marcos Record

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