Finding Nemo in Aransas Pass

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Jim called me on Friday at about 11:00am. Apparently, he was so ready to go fishing, that he couldn't get any work done. We had intended to leave early Saturday morning, but Jim wanted to leave early. I said, "What time do you want to leave?". He said, "How about 1:00?". It takes me about 30 minutes to get to Jim's house from mine, so he pretty much meant "How about right now". I was planning to take my time after work, to get my boat ready and my stuff together. I have to admit that I wasn't getting much work done either, so I told him that I would make a couple of calls to see if I could leave early, and if I could break away we would try to leave by 2:00. We decided to try to get a motel, but I packed my tent and a couple of cots, just in case we could not get a room. So, I wrapped things up, got everything packed, then hit the road.

We arrived at Aransas Pass at about 5:30. It took three and one half hours, and a full tank of gas. We thought we were lost a couple of times, but we still made pretty good time. Since there was another 3 hours of daylight left, we decided to do a little fishing, then look for a motel when we were done.

The boat ramp I had found on the Internet was easy to find, and there was lots of room. It was a four lane ramp, and there was plenty of dock space so launching was easy. We were on the water in about five minutes.

I had researched the area on the Internet, and programmed my GPS unit with what looked like might be a couple of good fishing holes. I was a little uneasy about navigating the bay; there are lots of underwater ubstructions, and the water depth can go from twelve feet to six inches very quickly. Luckily, there was what appeared to be an experienced boater in front of us, so I followed him into the flats.

The GPS is a great tool, because it draws a line that tells you where you have been. I figured that as long as I did not hit anything on the way into the flats, I could just follow my trail back out. So, this is exactly what I did.

There are channels cut through the flats that are marked with white poles, but since the poles on the right and left of the channel are the same, it is sometimes difficult to tell if you are looking down the middle of the channel, or off to one side. After a while, I got the hang of it, so there were no major mishaps. I did manage to run up on a sand bar once, but I saw it before I hit it, so I was able to shut down the motor and slow the boat down before my motor skeg hit the bottom. I saw a few other boaters that hit sand bars and reefs at full throttle, and from the looks on the captain's faces they did not get away so lucky.

A bass boat has certain disadvantages in these waters. The obvious ones being the low freeboard makes any kind of wave action difficult to handle. The not so obvious disadvantage is that because you are seated and close to the water, it is difficult to see obstructions in the water until it is almost too late to react. Because of this, I used just enough throttle to stay on plane, but did not get into a hurry.

My fishing plan was to work the deeper area just past hog Island. My thoughts were that at low tide, the fish would be hanging out in the deeper holes next to the flats. As the tide would come in, the fish should try to ambush any bait that was moving from deeper water back into the flats. When we arrived at about 6:00pm, the tide was at its lowest. I eased the boat back into this hole, past some very shallow grassy sandbars. I cast a red and gold weedless spoon toward the incoming tide, and worked it back to the boat with the tide. I was trying to mimic a bait fish, and apparently it worked because on about the fifth cast, I caught a very nice keeper sized Speckled trout. I thought that this was a very good sign, but it turned out to be the only keeper we caught that day.

Catch of the day

At about 7:30, the tide started coming back in a big hurry. I moved the boat back out into the main channel, because we could see some Redfish tailing in the grassy areas adjacent to a small island on one side of the channel. I tried to use my drift sock, but it is much better in the wind than in the current. There was not much wind, so the drift sock moved at about the same speed as the boat, so it did nothing to slow us down. We made many casts into the shallows, and even went back a couple of times to work the area again. I caught a small Redfish, and Jim and I both had larger ones on the line that let go before we got them up to the boat. My line kept getting fouled because the spoon I was using was spinning, causing my line to get twisted. Eventually, I made a cast that snapped my line, and caused me to lose my favorite spoon. It was beginning to get dark, and I did not feel comfortable navigating these relatively unknown waters after dark, so we headed back to the dock.

After loading the boat back onto the trailer, I filleted the trout I kept so that it would be easier to carry. I managed to find a water hose and a bar of soap, so I cleaned off as much of the fishy smell I could before I got into the truck. The first stop we made was Walmart, to stock up on fishing spoons. Unfortunately, they only had the standard brass and chrome versions, so I could not replace my lost spoon.

Finally, we got something to eat, and started looking for a motel. After finding about five motels with no vacancies, I was beginning to worry that we would have to pitch the tent after all. It was hot and muggy, so I was not looking forward to this. Luckily, a friendly front-desk attendant at the Best Western made a phone call, and I managed to get the last room in town. The room was not very nice, but it beat the heck out of sleeping in a tent. I was thankful to have a shower and a bed, even though I dared not sleep under the covers.

We set the alarm for 5:00am on Saturday morning. Jim snored all night, but when the alarm went off he claimed that he did not sleep a wink. I kind of laughed, because it was I who did not sleep a wink. I was still somewhat rested, and now that I was at least partially familiar with the water, I was ready to do some fishing. We cleared out in a hurry, and headed toward the dock. As soon as we left the hotel, you could see a line of about 100 trailored boats, waiting to launch at a nearby boat ramp! There appeared to be some kind of tournament, and I hoped that all of the boat ramps were not this backed up.

We stopped at about three bait stores along the way to our launch point, and all of them were completely sold out by about 5:00am! You have to start early if you want to get live bait around here! The preferred bait are croakers, but there was some shrimp left, so we picked up a pint. Jim found a bait store that had a few croakers left, so we got what we could. I prefer to fish with artificial lures, but if the fishing is tough, it is good to have a backup plan.

The water was a few feet deeper in the morning, because the tide was at its peak. The water clarity was very good, and the wind was very light. It looked like it was going to be a very good day.

The first spot we tried was a large open area beyond a line of grass beds that were adjacent to the main channel. There was a small cut through between the channel and this area that we idled through. We spent about 30 minutes here, made many casts, but did not catch any fish. We decided to go back up the channel to see what other fisherman were doing.

We followed a boat past hog Island, and headed toward the Old Causeway, which is a series of small islands left over from an old washed out bridge. When we motored up to the spot, you could see the trout everywhere! There was jumbo shrimp jumping out of the water, and the trout were having a feast in the shallows. I parked the boat in a good spot, and we tried just about everything to catch one.

Nothing worked. Eventually, I put on a popping bobber and a shrimp, and cast past the drop off to the deeper water. I almost instantly caught a small sheepshead. The trout were really working in the shallows, and we saw a few redfish as well.

This prompted us to pole our way further into the shallows, which was a mistake. My bass boat did not pole very well, and all we managed to do was to get ourselves stuck. Jim had to get out and pull on the bowline as I pushed with the pole. After wasting about 20 minutes trying to get back into the deep water, we were both exhausted. So I moved the boat about 20 yards off the deep water break, and anchored down.

I cast my popping bobber toward the break, using a shrimp for bait. I started catching small trout. Jim wasn't catching anything, but he was trying. I caught a small redfish on a spoon, but most of the action was from the live bait.

There was lots of traffic in the channel, including a couple of larger shrimp boats, so when I got the opportunity I moved the boat around to the backside of the island, where another channel cut from the main channel into the flats. I anchored here, and started catching fish once every 15-20 minutes.

Eventually, I felt bad that Jim wasn't having any luck. Jim did not have a popping bobber, and I only had one. Since I knew there were fish here, I decided to use artificial and let Jim use the bobber. The water was very green and clear, and the sky was very sunny, so I used a chartreuse salt-water assassin on a jig head. Although Jim started catching fish at last, I actually caught several on that jig, including a couple of nice keepers. I rigged my other rod with a small weight, and a croaker. I cast out and used my rod holder to tight-line the croaker off the bottom. After a while, I caught a very nice trout on the croaker! Jim caught a few trout, and a small needlefish.

What the heck is that?

By about noon, we were running out of water, and it was getting extremely hot. We decided to go back to the dock, and take a break. I cleaned the fish that I had caught before we headed back out, so we could put the fillets on ice in the cooler. I was afraid that keeping those fish in my live-well all day was not very humane, and I did not want to risk killing the fish and spoiling the meat. The livewell in my boat is not very efficient (which is a big reason why I usually catch and release).

After lunch, we headed back to the same spot. This is when I miss-judged the entrance to the side channel, and ran up on that sand bar. After we anchored down, we saw two others hit the same sand bar. Someone should plant a pole there, because it is easy to miss.

We did not catch any fish here for the next couple of hours, and the wind started picking up. I saw a couple of small thunder-heads on the horizon, and it was unclear whether they were approaching or receding, so we headed back toward the ramp. We fished a couple of cuts along the way, but nothing worth keeping. I decided to head east along the ICW on the south side of the flats. I was looking for a couple of good cuts from the flats out into the channel. The fishing was slow, but I did find a spot where there was a couple of large fish in the area, apparent by occasional splashing, and a few large wakes chasing bait in the shallows. I put on a red weedless spoon, and tried to cast ahead of these larger fish. Eventually I got one to grab my lure, and it was huge! I think it was one of those wall-mount sized trout, because it bent my rod all the way over. I got a couple of good splashes out of it, and managed to get it about three fourths of the way back to the boat before it threw the lure. Damn! That one would have made a great picture, and who knows? It might have been an entry in the CCA Star Tournament. Oh well. That would have ended the day on a very positive note. The wind was really howling now, so we decided to call it quits, and headed back home.

Now that I have experienced navigating shallow bay waters, I'm not so timid about taking my boat. I'm planning another trip to San Luis Pass in the fall, but I imagine I will make at least one more trip to the coast before then. Until then, I will leave you with this picture of Jim, and his big fish of the day.

Jim's Nemo is really hard to find!

About me

  • I'm Scott Gaspard
  • From Austin, Texas, United States
  • I really like to fish. I go every chance I can. You can pretty much bet that at any given moment, I'm using whatever spare cycles I have to plan my next trip.
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