by Jerry LaBella
With the arrival of fall, a sort of wild hiatus occurs, and not just along the Gulf of Mexico, either. Frenzied surf anglers also pepper the shores from as far north along the East Coast from Delaware all the way down to Florida.It is here that the sandy seashores become a pincushion for sand spikes and 8 ft. surf rods, not to mention the miles of tire tread prints from various 4 X 4 vehicles.
The key target for most of these pursuers is bull redfish (bull red drum).
What makes this type of fishing appealing to many anglers is you don’t have to have a boat to tango with these brutes of the surf. With a minimal investment of a rod and reel, ice chest, and some items discussed later, an angler can have success otherwise limited to those with a boat.
Accessibility is the key with this type of fishing, and it comes in many forms. You can fish off the beach, a bridge or jetties, or other structure if you have the proper equipment. Obviously, without a boat one would at least have to have a vehicle that would allow for the transporting of all the needed gear to the location of choice.
Careful planning is important because this kind of angling is more often a waiting game. Therefore, to make it more pleasurable you need to bring all the needed amenities: lounge chairs, sun canopy, refreshments, radio, etc.
There’s nothing real technical about this type of fishing, which basically involves casting a beefy piece of bait into the surf and waiting for a hookup. There’s no need, either, for any fancy working of the bait to enhance a strike. What will be important, nonetheless, is that you periodically check the bait to make sure you haven’t lost it and to keep it freshly changed about every 30 minutes or so, depending on bait type and how hungry bait thieves become.
The saying that “the more, the better” is definitely a principle to follow when considering how many rods to use, but don’t put out more than can comfortably be handled. Use no more than two rods per person and try to place baits in as many directions as possible, leaving a comfortable distance between each. Likewise, when fishing from a pier or bridge you would want to fish both sides, giving consideration to other occupants. Then, after everything is setup, pay attention to where the strikes occur, and relocate the rest of the rods and reels undergoing less action to that vicinity.
Once all the rods and reels have been cast out, the handles will have to be placed in a supporting device called a sand spike, or rod holder, which is driven and secured into the sand away from any lapping waves. This device may also be used wherever there’s a place with a railing or similar fixture (bridge rail, pier post, etc.) so that it can be taped or tie strapped securely to an up right.
A sand spike can be purchased at most sporting good stories, but you can construct one very easily. All you need for a sand spike is a 4 foot length of 1 3/4 PVC from your local hardware store. With the use of a hacksaw, cut one end on a 30-45 degree angle and the other end square. Clean the rough edges by scraping them with a razor knife. The angled end is driven into the sand; the other end is for the rod handle to go into.
To prevent loss of rod and reel you must make sure that the drag on spinning reels are set loose enough with bail closed. On bait casting reels, set them in free spool ratchet position, before placing them in the sand spike. After placement, test to see if they will remain secured in the spike by pulling out the line in front of the rod tip, simulating a fish strike. Adjust drag tension accordingly so that spike will not be pulled from the ground or fixture to which you attached it.
The game of patience begins when all lines are out and you’re laid back sipping on a cold one, waiting to be pleasantly interrupted by the loud clamoring sound of your reel’s drag. When that happens, set the hook immediately and get the other lines out of the water. On bait casting reels put the reel into lock mode (fighting position); on spinning reels tighten the drag enough to set the hook and allow for the run.
Despite popular theory, it’s not necessary to wait before setting the hook when catching bull redfish or black drum. These fish can engulf a fist-sized bait in one inhalation. If you wait a few seconds before setting the hook the fish may become gut-hooked, making it less likely to survive if you decide to release it.
Fight the fish long enough so that it wears down, and don’t be overly concerned if there’s a lot of wave action. Keep the line taut and use the waves to your advantage by allowing the surf to bring the fish right on the beach. Once landed, keep it clear of the lapping waves or it may be sucked back out to sea.
Fighting a bull redfish from a structure is an all together different challenge. Here drag tightening and rod manipulation can make a difference between landing or losing the fish. If a fish is headed for structure, such as piling legs, rocks, etc., and the present drag setting is unable to turn him, you may take a risk on tightening the drag more to head him off.
However, if that’s unsuccessful, you might try the “gambling tactic” if you are wary of line breakage due to abrasion.Since fish fight and run at the sensation of resistance, put the reel in free spool or break the bail open, which ever is applicable, and hope it steers clear of the potential obstacle. Allow the fish a few seconds and resume the fight with your rod tip pointing to where you want it to head–hopefully out of cover.
Fishing above the water from a pier or bridge presents a different challenge. Such places can make it difficult to landing the fish unless you have a bridge gaff handy. Remember, the longer the fish stays idle in the water, the more likely it’ll rest enough and rebound, possibly putting you back in the same situation you just got out of.
Like the sand spike, the bridge gaff is also something you can make. This device allows you to gaff the fish and hoist it up to where you’re located. This piece of equipment is nothing more than a very large treble hook fastened to a 1 ft. long shock leader of 200 lb. mono with about 1 pound of egg sinkers directly above the treble hook eyelet. A 30-40 ft. length of 3/8 rope is then tied to this leader after making a closed loop with the use of barrel crimps.
Landing a fish with the bridge gaff is relatively simple, if you have an assistant to direct the hook so that it gaffs the fish under the mouth area. Once the fish is gaffed, immediately place the reel setting in proper position to relieve any line tension (i.e. break bail, etc.) just in case the fish breaks free from the gaff it won’t snap your rod in two due to the fall.
Tackle is critical when scuffling with these broad-shouldered surf-runners. It is therefore important to use at least 25 pound test mono line, but braided line in at least the 6/30 class will be a better choice, particularly where structure is eminent.
A stiff surf rod of 8 or more feet in length, with a reel of no less than 200 yards capacity will be mandatory. This type of rod makes for longer casts and added leverage for maneuvering these heavy-duty redfish away from critical structure.
A simple, effective leader to use is a fish-finder rig. This rig allows the fish to take line without feeling the resistance of the sinker. These are especially useful when fishing the surf since the line will basically stay where you cast it.
A fish-finder rig consists of a 2-3 ft. length of 40 pound mono leader with an 8/0 hook on one end and a barrel swivel on the other. On the tag end of the fishing line slide a large snap swivel (eyelet end) up the line and place a pyramid sinker (at least 4 oz.) to the clip side of the swivel. Then tie the tag end of the fishing line to the leader at the barrel swivel. Depending on size of bait, current and waves, the sinker weight might need to be increased or decreased. Pyramid sinkers are the key here since they will dig into the sandy bottom and hold your line in position.
When using this type of leader setup, some have been puzzled when casting heavy baits with too light a sinkers. What takes place is a short cast with the bait traveling way beyond the sinker location. If this happens, increase sinker weight to equal or more than the bait’s weight. This will allow the sinker and snap swivel assembly to remain nearer the leader section during the cast, preventing it from double backing and entangling itself.
Many baits work well when going after bull reds; but make no mistake about it, fresh is best. Squid, mullet, pinfish, porgies, croaker all work well. But many veteran anglers choose whole or cracked crab because it is least prone to be taken by sharks, catfish, or picked clean by bait fish.
Nevertheless, no matter which one you choose, one thing is for sure – when the surf’s red, the bull’s will be fed!
By Danno Wise
One of the most anticipated annual occurrences along the Texas coast is the bull redfish run. Although the run can happen anytime between July and October, September is typically prime time for oversize red drum. It is during the ninth month that every day truly offers redfish aficionados the opportunity to catch a fish of a lifetime.
Anglers looking to hook into bull reds can find them in three areas during September - beachfronts, passes and bay waters. However, the central figures in the unfolding drama of the bull red run are the Gulf passes. In order to consistently be successful pulling bull reds during the run, fishermen need to understand the underlying purpose for these passes and the reason the redfish are drawn there.
For starters, as are many of nature's more glorious events, the bull red run is all about spawning. Bull reds, which are actually mature female red drum, move from the open Gulf, where they spend most of their time, close to shore and, specifically, close to Gulf passes that connect Texas' various bays to the Gulf of Mexico. Simultaneously, recently sexually matured male and female redfish begin to filter out of the bays, where they've spent their formative years, to the beachfront in order to congregate with the spawning stock. In this instance, the passes act as open doors for the redfish leaving the bays looking to start the second stage of their life in the Gulf waters.
Once these two groups get a chance to mingle, the passes play yet another important role in this ritual. According to biologists, redfish actually drop their eggs along the beachfront and rely on tidal currents to sweep them through the passes and into the protected bay waters, where they newborn redfish will have a better chance of survival once hatched. These same bay waters will be home for the first few years of each red's life, until they mature to the point they, too, can join in the annual beachfront spawning ritual.
Of course, unlike salmon, bull reds have no qualms about feeding during their spawning ritual. Therefore, anglers located schools of bulls have a very good chance to hook into them. The key is located the schools and presenting baits in the proper way.
Redfish leaving the bays typically do so in fairly large groups. These fish start 'ganging up' during late summer, preparing for their trip to the open Gulf. Over the course of a couple months, each of these large groups will meander through the bay and toward the pass. Typically, these schools will follow some sort of defined boundary, such as a shoreline or channel edge while making their way to the open Gulf.
Although these schools of freshly matured reds may be using deep channels as a road map to the spawning grounds, they will usually travel over the shallow shelves paralleling the deep channels. And, while these schools typically travel at good clip, they will stop and mill around while feeding. At times like these, anglers can wade to or stake out a boat within casting distance of a school and pluck fish from the perimeter without spooking the main school.
When working a school of feeding reds, fly rodders are at a distinct advantage in that they can quietly present their offering to fish on the fringes without causing a fish-spooking splash. Conventional tackle fishermen are best served using spinning rigs and casting weightless or lightly-weighted lures to fish around the edges of the main pod.
Cruising fish will also eat. However, they will rarely deviate far from their designated course. And, anglers need to toss something that gets their attention.
When most anglers think of bull reds, images of surf fishing come to mind. Without a doubt, many big bulls are pulled from the beachfront suds each summer and fall. By and large, the majority of fish caught from shore are subdued by fishermen armed with heavy surf sticks loaded with natural baits such as cut mullet, skipjack, cracked crab or jumbo live shrimp.
The primary reason for this is bull reds spend their time along the beachfront essentially cruising in big loops. In areas where the water clarity isn't good enough to allow fishermen to see approaching schools, laying out set baits only makes sense. However, from the mid-coast down, where beach-bound and boating anglers can both identify roving schools, lures and flies come into play.
For fishermen with the ability to spot fish moving along the shoreline, holding fire until the fish are within range is the best bet. Boating anglers are, of course, at an advantage in that they are able to position themselves in front of moving schools - and stay with a school as it moves up and down the beachfront. Beachfront and jetty fishermen are more reliant on the kindness of schools willing to move within casting range.
As schools approach, anglers should be at the ready. The biggest mistake in this scenario happens when fishermen misjudge the depth of the swimming school. Clear water tends to make fish appear closer to the surface than they actually are. Most often, even sighted fish are at least 4 feet below the surface. And, though this fish will readily eat, they won't stray far from their path to do so.
Essentially, this means fishermen need to toss offerings that will quickly sink into the fish's line of sight. Fly rodders should use heavily weighted baitfish patterns paired with sinking lines.
Whenever reds are found in passes during this time of year, they will be on the move. Therefore, anglers working inside passes should employ the same strategies as beachfront fishermen working along the beachfront. If the water is too muddy to see, set baits on the bottom and wait for passing schools. If the water is clear enough to sight fish, hold your fire until a school moves through.
In either instance, fishermen are usually able to attack fish in passes with equal success whether they are in a boat or not. The reason for this is two-fold. One, passes are generally relatively narrow and fish usually follow the shoreline to some extent. Secondly, most major passes are lined with jetties, which provide excellent perches for bull red seekers.
While bull reds don't require extremely heavy tackle, anglers wanting a realistic shot at subduing one of these brutish drum should use a little beefier sticks than what are normally employed for bay use. Conventional tackle fishermen can typically get by with 7-foot medium to medium-heavy rods paired with a reel capable of handling 175 yards of 12 pound test. The exception to this would be surf fishermen, who need slightly longer rods fitted with reels capable of holding around 250 yards of line. Fly rodders should use 9 or 10 wt sticks paired with either intermediate or full sink lines.
Whether fishing the bay, beachfront or in passes, anglers should know that every day they wet a hook during fall they have an excellent opportunity to land an over-size redfish.
by Danno Wise
There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that August is a summer month. However, the red hot redfish action that is generally associated with fall fishing actually begins in the weeks leading up to Labor Day. That means August through October is prime redfish time. And, this includes a variety of areas along the coast. In fact, late summer begins a period of angling excitement when fishermen tackle redfish of all sizes in a variety of venues, with a variety of techniques and using a variety of baits and lures. So, although we are only talking about a single species, the diverse places and ways to catch redfish this time of year means that anglers can literally do something different every single day of the month.
Shallow flats and shorelines
Contrary to popular belief, not all inshore fish are found deep during late summer. In fact, August is the time maturing reds in the back bays will begin ganging up and working their way down to the Gulf passes for their annual spawning ritual. And, as single become doubles, doubles become pods and pods become schools, they we be more and more common in shallow water – over skinny flats and along shorelines.
Keeping with the theme of variety, shallow water fishermen are presented with a myriad of methods that can be productive on late summer reds. When found on the shallow flats, redfish can easily be taken with a variety of natural baits, such as shrimp, mullet, and crab. A variety of artificial lures, including topwaters, spoons and soft-plastic jigs, will also work – not to mention the streamers, attractors and poppers cast by fly fishermen.
Regardless of what bait or lure is being thrown, there are a variety of ways to target redfish in shallow water this time of year. For natural bait fishermen, they most basic method is to anchor down and fish bait on the bottom, general in sandy potholes or along the edges of grass beds. A modified bottom fishing method that has developed in Deep South Texas is known as “humping.” The basic purpose of humping is to cover water while bottom fishing. This technique involves casting downwind of a drifting boat with a bottom rig, then reeling steadily, but just fast enough to keep slack out of the line as the boat drifts toward the location of the bait. Once the boat gets close to the bait, it is reeled in and recast. This method can also be used by wade fishermen walking toward their bait while reeling.
A number of natural bait fishermen choose to freeline their baits instead of anchoring them to the bottom. This method can be used with live or dead bait, but is most commonly used with live shrimp, finger mullet or crab. It involves using either no weight or just enough weight to cause the bait to get below the water’s surface. Anglers then allow the bait to swim naturally around structures such as potholes while maintaining enough tautness in the line as to detect strikes.
Another method of natural bait fishing pioneered on the shallow grass flats of South Texas is casting mullet strips. Essentially this involves hooking a mullet fillet on a 4/0 Kahle hook and retrieving it like a soft-plastic jerkbait.
Popping corks and maulers can also be utilized on flats from 12 inches to 4 feet deep. The larger, oval and cupped faced models should be used in deeper, darker waters, while cigar shaped versions are better for shallower or clearer water. Both natural and artificial baits can be hung beneath corks and maulers. Good examples of lures and baits that can be effectively used beneath maulers and corks include live shrimp, finger mullet, pinfish, live crabs, artificial shrimp, soft-plastic jigs and lipless crankbaits.
When fish are not sighted on flats, anglers should employ fan casting – casting at small angular increments in front of the boat drift or wading direction in order to effectively cover as much water as possible. This method can be employed by both artificial lure and natural bait fishermen.
Another effective method to use when fish aren’t sighted is selective blind casting. This basically involves casting lures and baits to potholes, grass edges and other likely fish-holding structures. Anglers should also cast toward slicks, nervous water, active bait and any other sign of active fish.
Of course, for many fishermen, there is only one satisfying manner in which to catch redfish in shallow water – sightcasting (this is what most people relate to fly fishermen, although long rodders can be productive both sight-casting and blind-casting). When sightcasting, anglers may see tailing fish or may see fish beneath the surface when visibility is good. Later in August, it is also possible to see entire “herds” – giant schools of redfish – working the flats.
Which brings us to another point -- how to work a school on the shallow flats. It is critical to be able to work school efficiently to catch multiple fish from one school. To do this, anglers should first determine the direction in which the school is moving. Then, look for any “stragglers” that may not be tight against the main “herd.” Casting to fish that are not right next to other fish is the first preference. If the school is bunched tight, anglers should attempt to cast to fish that are at the near edge. Hooking fish on the edges allows anglers to “steer” the fish clear of the remaining school without spooking them.
Jetties & passes
Again, the annual redfish run starts in late summer and that means Gulf passes and the jetties that line them will be hot spots for both slot-size redfish as well as big “bull” reds.
Of course, knowing redfish are found in Gulf passes this time of year and actually finding and catching them are two different things. In order to fully understand how to locate schools of bull redfish during the annual run, it is important to understand why they migrate to the beachfront each year. In short, bull redfish run has everything to do with the continuity of the species' life cycle – it is a spawning ritual that must be fulfilled every year.
Redfish are unique among Texas inshore species in that they do not live, grow and die in the same body of water. Redfish are born in backwater estuaries and marshes. As they grow, they move out into bays and saltwater lakes, where they will spend the next few years of their lives. Once they reach sexual maturity - usually around 28 to 32 inches - they move into the open water of the Gulf of Mexico. They spend the remainder of their lives in these open, deep waters. But, each year they return to the Gulf passes to spawn, giving Texas inshore anglers a great opportunity to tangle with “oversize” reds.
As is the case on the shallow flats, there are a variety of lures, baits and techniques that will account for redfish in Gulf passes and near jetties. Around the jetties and in passes, most reds are taken on natural baits such as mullet, jumbo live shrimp or crabs. Each of these baits can be fish on the bottom or, when fishing around jetties, freelined. However, artificial lures such as ½-ounce jigs, swimbaits, 1 oz spoons and lipless crankbaits will take their share of redfish near the rocks as well.
The beachfront is the most accessible of all redfish venues. And, every stretch of beach from Boca Chica to Sea Rim will be producing redfish during late summer. Again, variety is the operative word when talking about targeting redfish in the late summer surf.
Both natural baits and artificial baits will produce fish in the surf. At times, anglers choose to combine the two. When pursuing bull reds, some fishermen opt to pin a big live bait - either mullet or shrimp - to the bottom and wait for a school to pass by. While waiting, they will often pass the time by throwing spoons, jigs, sinking plugs or topwater plugs into the first two guts.
In areas such as Boca Chica, South Padre Island and Padre Island National Seashore, where the surf is clear enough to allow schools of redfish to be easily sighted, anglers pursue schools on foot, in boats or in vehicles and toss artificial lures to them. Heavily weighted, fast sinking jigs and swimbaits are the best choices for casting to cruising schools of beachfront bulls.
As you can see, there is no reason to wait until October to get in on outstanding redfish action. After all, the legendary fall fishing for reds along the Texas coast actually begins in August. So, any anglers growing weary of fishing deep structure for schoolie specks during late summer can always sight-cast the shallow flats or probe the close beachfront or pass for redfish of all sizes.
Day 0 – Wednesday - Off the Water Day – no competitors or any of their equipment allowed on the water for any reason except repairs or maintenance with prior approval and accompanied by RWS staff or designee. There will be a White Tablecloth Captains Meeting early that evening and there may be “required attendance” events during the day as well.
Day 1 – Thursday – All teams. Random order blastoff. Bag Limit: Two (2) slot redfish.
Day 2 – Friday – All teams. Reverse order blastoff. Bag Limit: Three (3) slot redfish.
Day 3 – Saturday
Day 4 – Sunday
Ah yes, southern Louisiana! There’s nothing quite like it.
With 40% of the nation’s coastal wetlands it is the best place to catch fish and hunt critters of every description. It is indeed a true Sportsman’s Paradise.
But for how long?
For far too many decades the creel limits of Louisiana have been much more liberal than other coastal states. For far too long the annual killing rate of inshore fish has risen steadily. For far too long the pervasive sentiment has been “there’s just so many we can’t ever catch them all”. Perhaps several decades ago, before the splendor and natural beauty and bounty of Louisiana was discovered, these creel limits and thoughts made sense.
They no longer do.
Prior to the boom in recreational fishing, tournament fishing, and guided trips over the past 10-15 years there was little serious damage to the vast fishery of coastal Louisiana. The harvest was but a fraction of the total. It was an easy thing for it to remain self-sustaining.
Perhaps it no longer can.
I would submit to you that within the next ten years we will see a continued and significant decline in the numbers and quality of inshore species in Louisiana unless a reduction in creel limits and sensible management plans are enacted. More guides need to promote catch and release formats. The state needs to remove the ability of customers to keep the captains limit too.
Louisiana is second only to Florida in recreational harvest and is second only to Alaska in commercial landings. Creel limits and fisheries management are not easy considerations for a state that realizes over $800 Million in total economic impact from recreational fishing alone. When the recreational number is added to the $2.4 Billion in total economic impact from commercial fishing it becomes a staggering $3.2 Billion-dollar discussion.
Think on this a minute – four people who do not regularly fish book a guided trip for redfish and trout. They leave the dock at 0700 and are usually back before 1000 with 25 reds, 100 trout, and a smattering of black drum and sheepshead. These fish are cleaned, bagged and put on ice. The erstwhile anglers, after many smiling bragging-board pictures, haul their catch back home where a few of the fillets are actually consumed. But, the majority are consigned to the garbage dumps or used for pet food after they are freezer burned. It is unreasonable to expect that this quantity of fish will be properly maintained and eaten in an expeditious manner. It is, quite simply, a killing waste and it is hurting the entire ecosystem.
Not convinced yet? Read on dear friend.
In the coastal parishes of Louisiana there are 730 licensed guides. If these guides are making a living at their craft (and I assume they are) they will likely average 150 trips per year across the board. These trips will be to catch reds and trout. SO, let’s average four clients per boat X 150 trips X 730 guides X 5 redfish per angler and captain = 150 X 730 X 25 = 2,737,500 dead redfish. And the trout harvest is worse, much worse 150 X 730 X 125 = 13,687,500 dead trout (This is the maximum potential. I am aware that limits of trout are not always fulfilled every day.)
But wait, there’s more.
There were 260,000 Resident and Non-resident saltwater licenses sold in LA in 2017. Some more simple math reveals additional terrifying numbers. Let’s say that the average number of fishing trips for recreational anglers is 20 and that on 15 of those trips they fulfilled their creel limits of trout and reds. 260,000 X 15 X 5 = 19,500,000 redfish in danger of demise. And the number of trout is exponentially worse with a potential downside of over 390,000,000 trout removed from the fishery. And that is if the average number of annual trips by these anglers is 15! It is likely much higher than that.
When combined, the potential annual recreational and guided impact is a stunning 22.2 Million redfish and 403.5 Million trout in Louisiana alone. These numbers do not include the allowed commercial quota for resale.
Now, before you all get the tar and feathers and gallows rope ready for Ol’ Gritter I would ask you to reflect a little on your fishing experience over the past 10 years and give serious thought to the numbers and quality of fish you saw and caught then and now. I can honestly tell you that I have not spoken to a single individual, guide or otherwise, that has said the fishing was better now than it was 10 years ago. In fact, there is an almost universal sentiment that it is significantly worse. Perhaps you will consider why it is so very unusual to catch a speckled trout over 2-3 pounds in LA. Seems pretty simple to me that if we are killing several hundred million 12-inch trout every year that it becomes a foregone conclusion that larger fish would be a much rarer commodity.
The issue is that Louisiana has been discovered. And the influx of anglers to this amazing paradise is not going to slow anytime soon. In fact, all trending analyses predict a continued upward swing in numbers as more and more people discover the simple joys of a few days on the water.
Thus, my thought that a reduction in the creel limits and a more sensible size restriction would benefit the entire fishery making it much more sustainable while not affecting the bottom line economic impact at all.
I have fastened my armor and prepared for the onslaught……..begin!
Over many millennia Mother Nature created some of the most unusual, unique, and diversified ecosystems the planet has ever seen. One of the most successful and spectacular of these areas was in the southern part of the North American Continent that would later become known as Louisiana.
A vast area of marsh and land interspersed with beautiful woodlands, waterways, lakes, bayous, and grasslands all nestled right up to the vast ocean known as the Gulf of Mexico. Pristine and perfectly balanced, this wonder of nature existed in harmony for thousands of years.
At first it was not a big deal. The master predator known as Homo Sapiens lived a life that was in harmony with nature as well and the impact on the existing environment was nominal.
Enter – Civilization.
The perfection and bounty that was southern Louisiana was rapidly and voraciously pillaged and destroyed. First by Big Sugar and quickly followed by Big Oil, Big Gas, and Big Shipping. In the name of “progress” these entities were allowed to continuously and, perhaps irreversibly, destroy one of the wonders on the world in the name of $$$$!!
Untold numbers of politicians and land managers of this incredible resource made their very substantial living and built significant personal wealth from the fees, bribes, and kickbacks paid by corporations to allow them to skirt rules and become literal scofflaws at regulations. They promulgated a culture of resource rape unparalleled in the history of the entire coast.
Pipeline canals were blazed throughout the marshlands running willy-nilly over the entire area until it looked like a veritable roadmap of straight intersecting lines. These straight-line canals and waterways created a diversion of existing water flow patterns and allowed rapid water flow and swift destruction of the coastlines of these fragile areas. Gates, fences, posts, wellheads, fittings, wrecks, pipes, lines, hardware, drums, and detritus of every description was simply abandoned in the marsh because it was cheaper to do so than to clean it up.
Vast quantities of poisonous waste products were simply thrown overboard or jettisoned from construction sites and machinery to contaminate and kill local wildlife. No heed was paid to the enormous destruction caused by these companies and individuals because “progress” and financial happiness was everywhere.
Except, at the level of the natural inhabitants of the marshlands where there was only anguish and death on an unimaginable scale. And when, finally, some of the havoc was brought to light, there was a petulant and half-hearted effort at a “clean up”.
An effort that was, and is, a standing joke.
It is nearly impossible to run a boat for any length of time in the marshes of south Louisiana without hitting some piece of discarded junk from the heyday of canal and well construction. And I cannot understand why it is still allowed. Unmarked wellheads, gates, fences, pipes, buoys, sunken debris, wrecks, barges - all of these are the responsibility of the companies that put them there and they should be held accountable for cleaning them up.
Additionally, because of this raping of the marshlands that was known as dredging, well-building, canal cutting, and pipe laying, the places where there was solid land previously utilized for homes, growing crops and grazing cattle have been rapidly disappearing. So, the people that owned these lands now claim the water above it and wish to restrict the use of said water as though it were their personal lawn. Barriers, gates, chains, pipes, ropes, and more – including surveillance equipment – are being utilized to selfishly maintain control over their “lawns”.
Yet, the only group popularly, and loudly, singled out as “destructive” is the recreational and competitive anglers of the region.
For some reason, boaters running freely across open, navigable waterways are being despised as the culprits for all the land and coastal ecosystem devastation. When the reality is that it is the very companies that paid these landowners, politicians, and regulators billions of dollars to allow themselves the destructive latitude to create the Gordian Knot it has become.
Landowners vs Anglers. The outcome is a foregone conclusion, and no one really wins anything.
Except for the companies responsible for it all that foment the angst between these two parties thereby staying in the shadows and safe from exposure of their misdeeds.
I would submit to you that there is a better solution.
These same influential landowners would be much better served to join forces with the angling community and like-minded politicians thereby utilizing their financial, lobbying, political strength, and resources to force the companies actually responsible for the loss of their land to clean up their despicable mess and restore the marsh to some semblance of normalcy.
This would be an extraordinary coalition that could force an unprecedented effort to mandate a massive cleanup of this ecosystem that has been so battered and abused by those that profited from their malfeasance.
I watch with interest.
Words are funny critters. Sometimes they are solid, definitive, and bold. Other times they are shady, weak, and fickle. But words are how we communicate with each other in speech, reading, and writing. SO, how do we keep up with this conundrum that words sometimes create?
We DEFINE them.
We give words specific definitions, so everyone knows exactly what each word means – right?
Often words have many different meanings depending on the context of their use, so it is extremely important to understand exactly how a word was used in relation to the other words around it to really know what it means.
Now I say all that to say this – the topic of “burning” shorelines with boats, specifically “tower” boats is a subject of great interest to a lot of people. And, frankly, it should be a topic of interest to a lot more people than it is. If you are a competitive angler, it should be in the very forefront of your mind along with a plan to DO something about it.
I have stated the obvious here before and I’ll repeat it again – if we don’t police our own ranks and hold the culprits responsible for their actions it will be done for us and it will be done in a way that suits the fancy of bureaucrats who may not even know which end of a rod to hold on to. This issue has become a hot button with people who don’t know a redfish from a mullet. The reason for that is that it is not being touted and decried as an “illegal” way to find and/or catch fish. No, it is on the chopping block because it is causing irreparable harm to the ecosystems of the marshes and estuaries of our coastal regions. And THAT, dear friends, is something a whole lot of people care about.
I can clearly remember 10-15 or more years ago when I was trolling along through back ponds and flats in Louisiana looking for reds and they would literally come up to the boat and swim right along with me making happy grunts all the way. I have had, on many occasions, redfish come right up to the spinning prop of my trolling motor to see if it was something to eat. I have sat my boat in one spot and caught reds without making a cast. I would simply have a few feet of line out and go “dobbing” for reds by just letting the lure straight down in front of them as they cavorted around my boat.
So, tell me – when was the last time you saw redfish acting like that? Many of you will have to say ‘never’ because you came to game after the changes were wrought. Some of you have only come to the game in the last 2-4 years and you may never see that kind of behavior. And it is we, my friends, it is WE who have done this. And it must be WE who correct it.
With those thoughts on our mind let us look a couple of words. Let’s examine “burning” and “tower”. Most of the rhetoric I have heard and read has centered around the word “how” – as in, “How do we stop people from doing this?” or “How do we define burning?”
I am about to help you with that.
But first let’s see if we can define a “tower” boat. Top drive? Dual helm? Six feet? Ten feet? Flat bottom? Vee hull? Shallow draft? Deep draft? Specific make? Model?
The more people you ask, the more complex - and obscure - the definition becomes.
Well, ok then, let’s have a go at “burning” shorelines? Fast? Slow? Ten feet off the bank? Twenty yards off the bank? Using a TRP? Standard lower unit? Can ONLY done by “tower” boats? Can be done by ANY style boat? What exactly IS this thing called “burning” to locate fish.
Same result. The more people you ask, the more complex – and obscure - the definition becomes.
Now we get to the meat of the matter – How do we define “burning” so we can make a rule to stop it. This also brings us to an interesting quandary because the more we try to define “burning” in this context, the more complex the definition becomes and the more vague and obtuse its meaning. In fact, the only thing you can honestly say about the practice is that it is a method of using a boat under power, usually on plane, to cover large areas of water with the express purpose of locating fish.
Now we have something to work with because purpose means intent. And, there is no question in anyone’s mind that they did or did not perform an action with the purpose, the “intent”, of locating fish.
Each one of you knows, in your own mind, what “burning” is. SO, if you do it you simply cannot hide from that intent and it will sink your boat on a polygraph because you WILL fail the question. You see, your intent to perform an action is a powerful thing and it cannot be diluted or refined. It is INTENT, it is in your mind, it is a part of your conscious will, and you simply cannot subjugate that intent when asked about a specific action.
Now, and without a specific written definition, we can hold people accountable for their actions by indicating that the purpose and the intent are illegal in tournament activity including ALL prefishing activities.
I would submit to you, whether you agree with my little word trial or not, that you CANNOT defeat a polygraph if a question is phrased about an “action with intent”.
All that needs to happen now is for EVERY angling competition, tour, and trail to insert a rule making it illegal to utilize a boat (any boat), on plane (yes, you know what that means too), with the intent and for the specific purpose of locating fish.
Ya’ll chew on that bone for a bit. I have some fishing to do.