Date: March 23 & 24, 2013
Report By: Chris
- General – light, misting rain Saturday in the AM, overcast entire day Saturday, thick fog rolled in Saturday early evening and stayed around until after sunset. Cold front came through late Saturday night. Sunday was sunny and clear, but cold and windy.
- Air Temperature – Highs in the mid 70s lows in the low 60s
- Wind – 5 MPH South East Pre-frontal wind after the front moved though wind picked up to 30 MPH North West wind.
- Water temperature – 69 degrees
- Waves – 2-4 breakers with 1-2 foot swells past the breakers,
- Water Color – muddy and then cleared up to a nice green color with 2’ visibility.
The time had finally come for our first shark fishing trip of the year. I had spent the last few months preparing gear, developing new tactics, and studying as much as I could to make this season our best one yet. I still don’t know how I made it through the work week knowing that come Saturday morning I would be back at home on the sand.
The weather was going to be the main challenge we would face over the weekend. A strong front was going to roll in Saturday night that would bring strong winds and cold weather. It was going to be overcast and rainy all during the day Saturday, but nothing short of a hurricane was going to keep us off the beach.
Saturday morning finally arrived. Justin and I left the house at 7:30 AM and headed over to pick up Big Red, our shark fishing trailer, from the welder, who had been performing some maintenance and upgrades. He did a really great job and I couldn’t be more impressed with the work. He fixed a bunch of the welds that we were having problems with and devised a new system to make our rails fold up and down and to be pinned into place. After we got Big Red hooked up, we headed over to Craig’s to load her back up and head to the beach.
We were on the road by 9:15 AM with an hour and a half trip ahead of us. The excitement was killing us. I had read a report on Extreme Coast from the weekend prior in the same area that we were planning on fishing where the angler had caught 20 sandbar sharks in 2 days. The average size of his sharks was about 6.5’. That report kept me up every night that week! We spent the hour and a half drive talking about what our weekend might bring and that if we were to have half the luck that guy did then we would have a heck of a trip.
Finally, we arrived at a new spot that I had scouted in the off season at 10:45 AM. We immediately began catching bait, setting up shark rods with leaders and weights, and getting the kayaks ready to deploy our first baits. Big whiting, black drum, and sheepshead were plentiful in the surf. Our plan was to try a variety of baits and tackle setup to see what would work best. Our first baits went out right around noon; a huge meaty whiting, a nice sized black drum, and a bloody plate sized stingray were on the menu.
Within the next 45 minutes our biggest fears came to life. We watched our lines slowly start to bow and drift into the current. The seaweed had found its way onto our lines and was weighing them down and wiping them out one by one. We had even made special 2 lb. weights with stainless steel legs for this trip that didn’t stand a chance to the 50 lb. clumps that built up on the line.
At 2 PM we made a group decision to pack up camp and head to another spot that we had caught many sharks at in the past. The new spot was on the other side of a pass that leads to the bay system. We thought the pass could make a difference on the weed and conditions.
We couldn’t have been more right. As soon as we got to the new spot we were greeted with beautiful, much calmer, green, clear water. There were pelicans and seagulls diving in the surf. The best part was the seaweed was very scarce here. After being discouraged for the last few hours, this new spot gave us a second wind like a jolt of lightning.
Rushing to get baits out, we deployed 5 rods back to back. We again had a spread of baits that consisted of jack crevalle, stingray, whiting, sheepshead, and black drum. As I cross the 3rd sandbar, kayaking the 4th bait, I hear my brother on the two-way radio call to me and say, “Chris, you better drop it there and turn around. I can’t see you any more”. I turned around and realized that I could barely see the shore. A thick blanket of fog had overcome us at a tremendous speed. I kayaked about 50 more yards, dropped the bait, and headed back to shore.
It was now about 6 PM. Justin headed out for what would be our last bait deployment of the day. The fact was that the fog was just too thick. We couldn’t see anything past the 1st sandbar. Honestly, we probably shouldn’t have let Justin take that last bait out (A key to staying safe during this process is maintaining visual contact. If something happens to one of us we have a rescue kayak ready to spring into action). When he got back we all had a discussion and decided that it wasn’t safe to go out in the kayak any more, even though we had 2 other rods ready to go, tons of fresh bait, and a decent amount of daylight left.
Having deployed all the baits we could for the evening we decided to rinse off, throw on some fresh clothes and sit around the camp fire. I got undressed, rinsed off, wrapped up in a towel, and headed for my clean clothes in the truck as Justin went to take his turn rinsing off. Right when Justin starts rinsing off the 9/0 with a chunck of sheepshead starts a slow roll. I realize that we are the only 2 near the rod and we are both wearing nothing but towels. I climbed the ladder to the platform as quickly as I could ready to do battle in my birthday suit when the fish dropped the bait and decided not to come back. Thank God because that could have made for some of the most embarrassing blackmail pictures. Imagine a 230 lb white boy fighting a shark in nothing but a fighting belt. It’s enough to make a blind man scream.
Things remained pretty quiet until right as the sun went down. Almost every rod got picked up. We had 6 runs in 45 minutes without a fish ever committing to a bait. My guess is they were all small sharks because they only took about 10 feet of line each run and dropped it. We all sat around the fire as our adrenaline rushes slowly subsided after the frenzy of runs slowed and then stopped. We spent the rest of the evening talking about women, fishing, and the good old days and eating a beach dinner. Around 11 PM we all decided to settle in to our tents and call it a night. We still had 5 rods out at this point and we were pretty sure that 3 of them still had bait.
Sleeping on the beach is one of my favorite things to do. There is nothing like falling asleep under the stars with a nice gulf breeze carrying through your tent and listening to the sound of the waves rolling in the background, hoping to be awoken by the chaos of a reel screaming as a shark picks up a bait. That peacefulness ended around 3 AM, but not by the sweet sound of a screaming drag, but instead by the predicted cold front. Poseidon decided to let us feel his wrath. The winds were upwards in the mid 30 MPH range. Justin and Tommy’s tent collapsed. Craig’s tent pretty much collapsed. I thought that my tent cot was going to get tipped over. Chad was surprisingly comfortable. Fortunately, we all made it through the night, some with a little more sleep than others.
We awoke to clear, sunny skies and a furious wind. When we brought in our baits, my suspicion of small sharks toying with our baits was solidified. The jack crevalle roast was gone, the jack crevalle head was fully intact, the 2 rods with sheepsheads had the bait taken, and the rod with the big ray had a bunch of small 3-4” diameter bite marks taken out of it. With the 30 MPH wind sandblasting us and blowing directly into the gulf, we decided it wasn’t safe to try to kayak any more that morning.
We spent the next hour or so packing up and reflecting on our trip. We left the beach slightly disappointed yet fulfilled at the same time. We had our first skunking since July of 2011, but I feel that we couldn’t have fished any harder. We left nothing on the table. Luck just wasn’t on our side this weekend, but we still had a great time and were able to be back on the Texas Gulf Coast doing the activity I love most in life, fishing for sharks. It’s early in the year and we have a long season ahead of us. We’ll get ‘em next time.