As a child, I never thought or dreamed of the year 2020 in its current state of existence; yet here I am, fishing in the future. I will spare you the complicated details of my opinions with the only exception being the subject of fishing. The winter of 2019-2020 in Rockport, Texas has been unusually warm and fishing patters have deviated drastically as a result. In general, fish adapt to abnormalities within seasonal changes much faster than humans can perceive them. I can’t tell you the number of times that I have been too late or too early. The only remedy is to take notice of your own faults and learn from them. I believe this to be true in all aspects of life including fishing.
Not long ago, my good friend Matt Sullivan sent me a picture of his father David with a hideously large collection of giant speckled trout. Turns out he didn’t actually catch them, he picked up the frozen carcasses after the deep freeze of 1983 that killed an estimated 20 million fish. It took years for the ecosystem to recover but nature is resilient. We have been fortunate not to experience a catastrophe on that scale since 1983 in terms of fish kills. Despite the occasional crisp 40 degree mornings, this winter has been the warmest that I can remember in Rockport for years.
So what does that mean? The typical winter fishing patterns have been more reminiscent of early spring on many days. The fish have been very shallow for this time of year making for some exciting sight casting opportunities. On a recent trip, we fished a school of several hundred oversized redfish mixed with black drum in inches of water. They were constantly on the move and we had trouble keeping up with them at times. After about an hour of missed attempts and frustrating losses the school finally settled down and began to slowly cruise within our casting range. That’s when all hell broke loose.
We caught and released about a dozen oversized redfish ranging from 29” to a massive 38”. On occasion we would catch a nice keeper sized drum for dinner. It’s difficult to describe the feeling that you get in the pit of your stomach when your cast lands in the middle of hundreds of giant angry fish and then the drag begins to scream. It’s the sort of moment that gets stuck on repeat in your mind. My customers eventually became tired so I got in on the action while they had lunch. Not a single boat wake lapped the side of my boat that morning; we had it all to ourselves.
With spring and summer just around the corner, these types of days will become more frequent. The waters on the Texas Gulf Coast will gradually warm. I will continue to use a combination of live and dead shrimp for bait and lures such as the “Double D”, “Corky” and “Down South” plastics. On unusually warm days, a top water bait such as a “Spook” or a “Rapala Skitter Walk” can produce some explosive surface action. In time the pattern will continuously evolve to that of summer and once again, everything changes. Until then I will continue to enjoy the cooler temperatures and mild winter because I know that the dog days of summer will be upon us before we know it.
I frequently get asked questions regarding the Hurricane Harvey recovery efforts, the state of the community and how it has affected the fishing. I can sum up all the answers in one statement: Rockport is alive and well! If you are interested in visiting the charm of the Texas Coast, Rockport, Texas and experience the world class fishing and wildlife I have some suggestions for you.
If you prefer a hotel check with the Lighthouse Inn near Fulton Harbor. It is centrally located to all boat ramps, restaurants and bars, on the water, lighted fishing pier, restaurant and bar within and beautiful to say the least. Mention that you are fishing with me to receive a discount. If you prefer a vacation rental (house) located on the water check with Miss Kitty’s Fishing Get Away. Beautiful water front rental houses are also available that can accommodate large corporate groups with catering as an option (ask).
Fishing licenses and any other outdoor related gear can be found with my friends at Tackle Town. As a fishing guide, I will provide you with everything that you need for fishing and safety except for a fishing license, foul weather gear, food/drink, and personal items. You can find just about everything you need for outdoor related activities at Tackle Town. They even have great beef jerky.
I frequently leave from different boat Ramps based on circumstance and conditions. Any boat ramp that I depart from on most occasions is located within a 15 minute drive from any location in Rockport. These are the three that I most often frequent; Goose Island State Park, Copano Bridge public ramp and Cove Harbor public ramp. At each location you will find restroom facilities and dining locations nearby.
It is hard to imagine what the world will be like in another decade. I am continuously baffled by the news and it shows just how random and unpredictable the world can be. My advice for a fear mongered society is to go fishing. Yes, I did tell you that I would spare you my opinions but I included the word fishing so it counts! In truth, fishing is my life and it has been the therapy that I needed during difficult times. The other day I took a good friend fishing with stage four cancer. I’ll never forget his enthusiasm, curiosity and smile that day. During times of fear, it takes a great deal of courage to face the fear instead of running. Mike, your smile and attitude that day convinced me that you have the strength to endure. I am inspired.
-Capt. Johan Coombs
“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”