Unlucky Feline

I was way down in the spool with the eerie pull of what I knew was a large Tiger Shark, she was slow and steady. I could feel her consistently heavy stride as she continued to pull line off. I was growing concerned. I started this battle with a bait about 600 yards out and now she was an additional 500 yards into her initial run. She was pulling about 42 pounds of drag ---with no indication that she cared or even knew I was there.  No head shake, no change in speed,  just a steady powerful stride.

Being a one man camp, I knew I would need help. Confident I'd get her to turn eventually, I began to S.O.S. the neighboring camp with my spotlight. I could see their silhouettes walking around their camp but they were about a half a mile away and with the late afternoon sun still shining down on me, I could only hope they would see it.

My mind wandered through the past, all the dues I had paid to get here. I reminisced about a trip I had made with Paul Lipinski in 1990, 25 years earlier. It was the pre kayak era, baits were paddled out on a windsurf board; it was the very first time I went fishing exclusively targeting sharks. 

I finally got her to turn, I still had 100 yards or more on the spool. She came in heavy but I was getting a lot of line back on the spool. Her second run was exactly like the first, slow and steady with a consistent stride. It was a solid run, maybe 300 yards till I got another turn. My confidence at this point was high, I just had to endure to get her to the beach but I knew a healthy documented release was pivotal on getting some help.  I was still flashing my spotlight when I could see the neighbor's silhouettes walking around their camp.

You think about a lot of things when you're hooked up on a solid fish. You question your gear, the line, the leader, the hook… It can take you on a spiral of anxiety and emotion. My confidence was high. I was fishing a fresh reel that had a ton of new braid on it and I was fishing my favorite leader, an 20' mono and coated cable combination with a quality Circle Hook. My main concern at this point was getting some help. I have always been a conservation minded fisherman and I took a lot of criticism as I built my business based on conservation. My mind was already racing, how much a catch like this could mean in promoting it but I would need a healthy release.

Eventually, I got the neighbor's attention and they came down to check on me. Right off I could tell they were good people, genuinely concerned and wanting to help anyway they could. I gave them a briefing on what was about to happen, turns out, nobody in their camp had ever tail roped a shark. That wasn’t ideal but I was grateful for the help, "Ok then, Wesley, I'm going to pass the rod off to you and I'll go tail rope it myself. You just have to hold on and keep the line tight." Just as we were finalizing our plans, my good friend Matt Hyde drives into camp. Matt and I had fished together for years and I was sure happy to see him. The plan changed and Matt was officially the man with the tail rope.

Another hour of give and take was wearing me out. I was still holding significant drag and the burn in my quads had been increasing exponentially since the initial run. There were several more runs before I could get her over the bar, just to have her run back over it again when she came to the next bar. Patiently, I dismissed the desire to put more pressure on her. This was working, I just needed to endure the battle.

Everything went as planned, 2 hours and 20 minutes into the battle Matt got a rope on her tail and the neighbor boys helped pull her in to shallow water. We took photos, put a tag in her, took a fin clip DNA sample, and measurements for the Texas Shark Rodeo. The Rodeo is put on by Sharkathon and the scientific information is passed on to Harte Research Institute and the Guy Harvey Research Foundation. It all happened as quickly and efficiently as the many other smaller sharks Matt and I had put on the beach, the fluent knowledge and fluid motions saved precious time. Feeling good about the timeline, we took a moment for a couple extra photos and then the crew worked together to get her back out and over the sandbar for the release. When she was in waist deep water, we spun her around and pushed her forward into deeper water, she immediately gave a left swing of her tail, then a right…" that’s it boys let her go". A very simple healthy release. As we exchanged high fives and walked back to the beach, Matt mentioned with a giggle, "that was the first shark I ever tail roped." I said, "Man, I'm glad I didn’t know that."

 
Texas Tiger Shark Report

I like to get the shack beach board to start my adventure...

It's late afternoon on Wednesday before Memorial Day weekend. I plan to fish a couple days and head home before the crowds show up. The north end was weeded out just as the recent reports had said but the south end was said to be fishable. By sunset I was down in the 30s, the beach still unfishable. The conditions were forecast to improve overnight so I camped for the night.

The next day the fog hung around till mid morning. I was slowly moving south, kinda road hunting. Once the fog burnt off it would be a great day, I wasted the morning away traveling south.

By mid day the sun was shining. There was less weed on the beach and the surf looked clean and fishable. I was eager to take advantage of the conditions while they lasted.

Conditions continued to improve all afternoon. I had high hopes for an evening deployment but I was eager to get a big bait out.

By late afternoon I had small deployment out, a 3/4 Jack, its tail section, some fresh ladyfish, and live mullet for a fresh bait opportunity.

The little tail section rigged on a 20/0 circle hook got picked up agressively. Fish on! It was a strong heavy fish, I was convinced it was a big bull.

My first Texas Tiger taped out at about 102" with a 43" girth. Lots of contrast on this young girl, a real pretty shark.

She was fairly calm on the sand, I was able to get a Harte tag in her and get a DNA sample too.

And a healthy release!

 

 

 

 

 
Mid May Cold Front Report

I intended to head out around 0430 in hopes of making the sand by sunrise... here's a pic of the sunrise. I'm running 15 min late. The north wind is still blowing and forecast to switch mid-day to the south, which has again set up the mid coast for a great fishing window.

As I hit the sand, conditions were pleasant and I wasted no time getting a full deployment out because I knew the window would only last until the wind change. I had a productive morning...

The winds finally switched to the south and quickly dirtied the water and chopped the surf. The high road is the only road on the Texas coast right now. The sargassum weed has made the low road quite dangerous with sink holes and road blocks leaving nowhere to go, and no access to the high road.

 
420 Shark Report

With the Sargassum weed piling on most of the Texas coast, I was determined to find a window of opportunity. The warm weather and light fishable weed had aligned with the rising surf temps to create some very fishy conditions.

The water was clean and full of life. The morning bite was going off with the occasional school of feeding Jacks passing through. The bait rods were productive but very high maintenance with the weed rolling in the surf. Frustrated with the weed, I began to sight cast and I was quickly rewarded with a couple' Jacks on the Shell'.

With prime baits, my efforts were focused on getting a small maintainable spread deployed. The battle to keep the weed off my lines was almost constant. I would occasionally paddle out in the kayak to get stubborn weed off the lines. It was hard fishing in the weed with minimal relief during the low tides but the bite was on…

I got a reminder to stay alert and in the safe zones... this sandbar quickly curled up and almost got me!

As the trip went on there was more weed rolling in. I had whittled my spread down to only one line that required constant attention. Time after time I would paddle out removing the weed from the line. The bite was slower than it was but still rewarding.

I also caught this very cool 'dirty' blacktip. This shark challenged my ID skills with its bronze color but I have consulted with several more experienced and educated people and everyone agrees its a blacktip or at least a hybrid blacktip.

A great trip! My efforts paid off and upon submitting my catches into the Texas Shark Rodeo website I am currently the top angler based on most inches…

 

2014 Texas Shark Rodeo

Top Anglers

Based on most inches of shark caught

Top Anglers

       

Angler

 

Total Inches

       

Kennedy, Steven

 

761.77

 

Updated

Zirkel, Danielle

 

644.5

 

4/29/2014

Clark, James

 

553

       
 
Sandbars and Monster Reds

As another cold front was blowing through Texas I was watching the NW wind that was again predicted just before the switch back to the SE. A fantastic combination for fishing the mid coast Texas surf but the meteorologists have a hard time accurately predicting just how a front will finish. I have heard it said that the gulf coast keeps the weatherman humble.

I headed out before light and made the sand by early morning. The water conditions were as good as they get on a Texas beach. The light NW wind was present and the surf was clean and clear.

 

I made my way up the beach, bait fishing in a couple spots that looked good. I caught a few whiting and managed to castnet a couple pony mullet too. When I reached a spot that suited me for running baits, I wasted no time kayaking a live bait assortment. The deployments were exciting as several large Jacks would be trailing my kayak as I paddled out but wouldn't take my offering. Anyway, in a short time after deployment I got my second shark of the year.

 

The next morning conditions had plummeted. The stout SE wind had turned the awesome surf to turmoil. I rolled up the beach looking for fishable waters. The turmoil had dirtied the water and the steady 10-15 wind was heavy. The whiting bite would produce an abundance of live baits which proved irresistible to the Bull Reds.

 

The bite would come and go with the tide. We caught a few black drum, a southern ray, some slot reds and more bull reds too. We had plenty of fresh bait for afternoon and evening deployments.

The surf waters of the Texas mid coast are in the high 60's (about 68) in mid April... that's simply unprecedented and as I write this, another cold front is blowing through. What a crazy Spring!