Date: September 20 – 23, 2012
Report By: Chris
Weather Conditions: Sunny, light current, light wind, flat calm surf, muddy water, temperature in the high 80’s
This weekend marked one of the most important events in the course of a young man’s life, my bachelor party. Instead of doing the normal drunken, shenanigan filled party that most do for their bachelor’s party, I opted for a weekend of drunken, shenanigan filled fishing!
Months ago we found the perfect house in Crystal Beach, Texas. Thursday afternoon, we all hit the road with our sights set on the beach. We were going to be there for the long weekend in hopes of putting our biggest shark yet on the beach. Now is also the time of the year on the Texas Upper Coast when Bull Red Fish are schooling in the surf, so we were hoping on getting our hands on a couple of them also.
We finally made it to the beach in the late afternoon on Thursday and were greeted by cool weather, a calm breeze, flat water, and above all else a beautiful house as close to the beach as you can get. We were right on top of the dunes! We settled in, picked out beds and waited for the rest of the guys to arrive while relaxing on the porch drinking a few cold ones.
Once everyone who was supposed to show up that evening was there, we decided to do a little fishing. We pulled the trailer out on the beach right in front of the house and started getting some shark rods rigged up. We tried to catch some fresh bait on our sabiki rigs with no luck. Nothing but little hardheads could be caught. Luckily, we came with plenty of fresh stingray, cow nose ray, and whiting.
We rigged up one rod with a cow nose ray, one with a southern stingray, and one with a bull whiting. We quickly got the lines paddled out and were soon enjoying each other’s company in some folding chairs waiting on a fish.
Once night crept up on us the action was fast and furious. First, the rod with the cow nose ray started to scream! The shark took a long hard run with the bait. I scurried up the ladder onto the platform, pulled the rod out of the holder, and tightened down the drag and… nothing. The shark must have missed the hook. Oh well!
A few minutes later one of the rods rigged up for bull reds took off strong! We decided to let Tommy B. get this one. I handed off the rod to him and it was pretty clear that he was hooked up to a nice sized fish. We could see that this fish was doing some strong head shakes, so we weren’t sure if it was a red or a small shark. Tommy made short work of the beast and as the fish emerges from the wade gut we can tell it’s a nice bull red!
After a few pictures, Tommy got it back in the water and it swam off strong. Amid all the chaos and lack of preparation, we didn’t get a measurement on this fish, but I’d say it was in the low 40” range.
Now we just had one bait out for sure; the southern stingray. Not too long after we released the bull red, the last rod bends over and starts to scream. I again hustled up the ladder, grabbed the rod, and slowly tightened down the drag and… fish on! Once I got the drag fully tightened down, the fish kept pulling hard! I thought that we had a monster! Then all of a sudden it just felt like dead weight. I was actually thinking that we had lost the fish.
By the time I had reeled up to the 2nd sand bar the fish decided to come alive. I could feel head shakes and the fish finally pulling back. There was definitely something hooked, but what? Once everyone was finally able to grab the leader, I loosened the drag, set the rod down, and went to help. They grabbed the fish and pulled in a nice 5 foot black tip!
It had been a long time since we had caught anything but bull sharks, so it was nice to see a different species. Not the monster we had been hoping for all summer, but another beautiful fish!
By the time all the action was over, it was only about 9 PM. We had plenty of time to clean up, grab something to eat, and play a few games of beer pong before calling it a night.
Well we didn’t get up as early as we had hoped Friday. Actually what had even woke me up at all was my head pounding from the night before. Nevertheless, I was up, and fortunately, so was Tommy and Billy. We decided to go ahead and see if we couldn’t get into some trout since the conditions were as perfect as they were the day before.
We hit the beach armed with various artificial lures as well as a cast net just in case some live bait started running through. This is where my biggest mistake of the trip happened. I forgot to bring my camera out with us wading. I had just purchased a new waterproof digital camera for times like this and I forgot it. The morning turned out to be one of my favorite fishing mornings ever.
There were millions of hand sized shad schooled up in the surf! Millions! Predator fish were busting them left and right! We even saw what appeared to be a 5 foot blacktip go aerial through a school of shad just like you see on Air Jaws on Shark Week. Birds were diving everywhere, bait was jumping and predators were going nuts!… and I forgot the camera.
We tried with artificial for about an hour with only a few ladyfish, sand trout, and gafftops caught before switching to live bait. I was able to cast net more than enough shad for us to use. Once we switched to shad the action was on.
We caught countless huge gafftops around 20”. Tommy caught 2 sharks around 24-30” that I was able to identify as fine tooth sharks, and then we got into the bull reds. I hooked 3 big bull reds, but landed 2 while wading chest deep. If you have never caught a bull red on light tackle, you should try it! They pull like a freight train.
By noon or so, the shad schools moved out deep and we were worn out. We decided to go in, get cleaned up and eat some breakfast.
The rest of the day wasn’t very eventful as far as fishing, but as far as bachelor party shenanigans it may have been one of the best. Without giving too many details, I’ll just say we played a game of wise wizards and drank 170 beers between 9 guys. We all ended up passing out between 2 and 5 am. Fishing in the morning wasn’t looking good.
No one made it up for a morning wade! I didn’t make it up until almost 11. We had some guys that were out cold until 1 or so. As you can imagine, we weren’t very active that afternoon. We all nursed our hangovers with some of Billy’s homemade red beans and rice and Bloody Marys.
Around 4 or so, we decided to get shark camp set up for one more night. Since it was now Saturday, the beach was ridiculously crowded. We usually purposely go out of our way to avoid crowds, but there was no avoiding them here. We had never really fished with this big of a crowd and knew that it would pose some challenges, but we gave it a try anyways.
In no time we had the trailer set up at the high tide mark and began kayaking lines. We set out 2 bull red rods rigged with the last of our whiting left over from a previous trip, while we rigged up some shark rods for long drops.
No more than 10 minutes after I got back from kayaking one of the bull red rods, we saw it bend over and start to take some drag. I grabbed the rod, slowly tightened down the drag and we had another fish on! I made quick work of the fish and had this nice red landed on the beach.
Once we had him released it was time to get some shark rods out. Again we rigged up a cow nose ray, a southern ray, and our secret weapon, a big, fresh, bloody bonita that we had been saving for this trip. Due to a certain level of intoxication that I maintained all weekend, I didn’t get all the nice bait pictures that I usually do. We quickly got all the baits deployed and camp set up.
We couldn’t keep bait on the red fish rods more than 10 minutes at a time without them getting picked off. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to hook into another red all day.
Right around dinner time, a rod rigged with cow nose ray took a nice strong run. Josh got to the rod just in time for it to slow down to a stop. He left the rod and waited to see if the fish was there and… nothing. A few minutes later the same rod takes off again for a short run with the same outcome. Finally, once the fish took another short 3rd run, Josh decided to bring it in. We were pretty sure that we had a small blacktip hooked.
This battle was pretty uneventful and very reminiscent of the fight with the blacktip from the night before. He felt nothing until the fish reached the 2nd bar and decided to fight back, but Josh made short work of the fish and ended up landing a nice 55” bull shark.
By the time we beached the shark we had drawn a huge crowd. It was a pain in the butt trying to get pictures and get the fish unhooked safely with strangers taking their own pictures and even posing with us while we try to get our own! It was chaos! We finally got the shark unhooked, measured, and let go, while people from the crowd were yelling, “Why are you letting it go?!?!” Some people just think all sharks should be killed I guess.
The shark swam off strong, the crowd dissipated, and we were able to settle back into camp. The rest of the afternoon and early evening was uneventful. That is, until nightfall.
Once the sun set and the stars came out, so did the sharks. Our first run was on the bonita. It was a strong short run that got our adrenaline going. There was no hook up so we let the bait sit. 30 minutes later, I heard the loudest scream I’ve heard yet coming from the bonita rod. Line was blasting off the reel at a super speed. The fish had the bait for at least 30 seconds as I shot up the ladder, grabbed the rod, tightened the drag, and nothing.
Since this is how the last 2 sharks we caught felt at first, I decided to reel in just in case. I realized there was nothing on the rod after a few minutes, but decided to bring it in the rest of the way anyways. What we found was just scraps of the once 10 lb. bonita.
We had one more short, quick run that evening. The cow nose ray got picked up for about 10 feet and then dropped. We waited an hour or so and decided to reel in the rest of our lines. We found that the cow nose had a huge chunk missing. This may have been our biggest shark of the year had it found the hook. The bite was at least 12” across, which would have been bigger than the 7’ bull we had landed the previous trip.
The night ended with a low key night of porch drinking. I couldn’t have asked for a better bachelor’s party or any better people to share it with. We made some great memories as usual and I think I got a few new people hooked on shark fishing.