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Kayak fishing the Lone Star State...


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By Ron Mc
#2324534
We rent this giant house on Arroyo Colorado for a new moon every winter, and invite family and friends to join us - the cast changes every year.
This year, we were joined for the first two nights by Michael (mwatson), whose company we enjoyed immensely, and were impressed with his fishing skill and persistence.
All four days and nights we had the prevailing SE - no fronts made it this far south - highs in the low 80s, and lowest low was 65 - we had a choice subtropical vacation.


While we kayaked a bit during the day on Friday, the reason to be here is the night-time dock fishing under the lights. The drill is fish from sunset to 9 pm, take cat-nap breaks and get up again to sample the dock through the night.

Through the nights, we fished with dolphins, an alligator, a big gar which I sight-fished and wrestled a bit, pelicans, blue heron, night heron and egret.

The results varied with the bait and tide - the bait ranged from native poecilids, to finger mullet and balls of tiny glass minnows moved by the tide and wind currents.
In the apparent slaughter below, please note, every fish we filleted was a schoolie male, which travel 20 mi/day to chase bait.
Thursday sunset on the arroyo


Michael can vouch this isn't exactly fish in a barrel, but takes stealth and skill to find where in the water column of the deep barge channel, and exactly how, the fish are willing to feed.
We honored our calendar day bag limits - starting new at midnight every night, and sticking to the 5-fish bag before the next midnight.
Michael fished hard Thursday night into Friday's wee hours, and had to release 2- or 3-dozen nursery trout that live here.
I'm not sure if we put a fish on the stringer Thursday night - bait under the lights was pretty sparse.

The house is located where the barge channel and natural arroyo diverge to opposite ends of Peyton Bay on LLM.
Friday we launched kayaks - I turtled getting in, but it was easy enough to get back in pushing off the bulkhead.


We crossed the barge channel to fish the natural arroyo, found small specs on the first shelf, and Michael chased slashing redfish against the bank.
Otherwise, it was a great paddle.
I overheard Lou and Michael chasing a wayward popping cork charged with a catch. Michael said he spent more than a few casts trying to snag it.


When I drifted to it, snagged it with a double-treble plug on the 5th cast - but it turned out to be a hardhead.


Lou's wife Susie flew into Harlingen Friday night, and Friday night was going to make up for the previous 24 hours.
Michael warming up at sunset.


Susie and Lou added fish to Friday night's stringer, and I got up later to add four, but Michael's trip was made by this 21" male schoolie trout.


While I added those four specs, my evening was made by an 18" snook caught (and released) on my UL baitcaster.


This stringer became Saturday's fish fry - Susie is a phenomenal cook, and chases the rest of us out of the kitchen.


These were caught on a mix of live shrimp, 2" tandem, 2" UL plug, and this half-ounce 3" Tackle House Rolling Bait, which let me sample deep, and was my best lure for this trip.



Michael stayed for the fish fry, and a few more casts before heading home Saturday evening.
Everything came together Saturday night.
The bait was thick under our light - every time your line moved by the dock, 100 glass minnows jumped into the air.

Lou and I went into the evening with my single and his 3-fish remaining bag limits.
After I put my last on the stringer, I realized after casting out another shrimp, I should be done until midnight. Saturday was also my mom's birthday, and yes, I called her.
Hey Lou, if I hook up, you take the rod. Sure enough, I did, he did, and together we landed a 22" schoolie male.
Taking this one home for Mom - she loves those big trout.

It got better into the evening and after midnight.
Susie landed her lifetime schoolie spec, 24.5 inches - on XUL, and two 50-yd runs.
Guys, this was a male trout, and rare enough, the state keeps a 28" record male speckled trout.


The fishing was good into the wee hours, and our Saturday night stringer included the biggest and thickest male schoolies we've ever caught here - 16" to 25"


and every one a male - proof Susie's 25" trout was a schoolie male.


First thing in the morning, the pelicans lined up for our filleted carcasses. One wise old brown didn't want the carcasses, only the rib trim.


I think I slept most of Sunday day, while Susie enchanted the most phenomenal Waygu beef pot roast that melted in our mouths.
But before dinner, I was having fun yet with a small sunset snook.


Lou and I agreed we would not fish past midnight, but finish our Sunday limits (1 and 2) and sleep to prepare for the pack out.
We were done by 10:30, Lou added a thick 19" stud, and I added 4 fish tacos to our ice water bowl.
We fished with good company.


packing out Monday morning - we'll see you next year, old friend


on the drive home, I made the good call to swing across SH 44 through Robstown and down to Water Street for lunch at Thai Spice - this only added 20 miles to our drive.
I had the shrimp and flounder


I think my friends got tired of hearing me purr.


December new moon was one for the books.
Last edited by Ron Mc on Tue Dec 14, 2021 4:07 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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By Dandydon
#2324537
Thanks for posting one of the best fishing reports in TKF history. You hit all the nails on the head, Ron. The photos of Susie's cooked fish made me hungry. Kudos to her for that 24.5" beauty of a Trout.

Now you know our Hobie Navy is for real having fished with Watson. It's always fun to compete in catches with Shoffer and Watson. One of us almost always limits out on something.

You made me feel like I was there with those detailed descriptions and photos. Congratulations on your Snook, something I've never caught. The green lure you liked had the same color pattern as my beloved SkitterWalk which hooked 8 specks 7-9.75 lbs one wading trip in 2003.

I feel bad having missed your Arroyo trip but appreciate the report and look forward to out-fishing you all next year, lol.

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By mwatson71
#2324554
First, I want to thank Ron, Lou, and Susie for the invite and the gracious hospitality. I can see why they all get together as it is a great group that I can hopefully fish with again.

Ron’s description of the events is spot on.

I arrived on Thursday night around 7:15p, later than I had hoped because 45 minutes into my drive I realized that I forgot my money clip and had to turn around. That turned out to be somewhat an important error as I missed the sunset bite that Lou managed to string the first trout of the trip. I fished tiny tandems most of the night and managed a number of dinks and one speck just over 15” that I released.

During the kayak trip the next morning, I managed a few small bumps but saw a small school of decent reds blowing up bait along the shoreline. I pedaled over and threw my Vudu shad at them but couldn’t get any takers. I reached back for my other rod that was rigged with the tandem and realized it was not in my rod holder. As it turned out, I managed to leave it on the dock.

I had some work to do that afternoon and later fished the sunset bite with no real success. It wasn’t until later that night that I managed my 21” trout on a glass minnow tandem which made the fishing part of the trip worth it. I say “the fishing part of the trip” because even if I had been skunked, it would have been a great trip just finally getting to meet Ron and Lou and Lou’s wonderful wife Susie.

I had to leave on Saturday to get back for some family stuff but I was convinced to stay for the Saturday fish fry and glad I did. Susie made a wonderful fish fry and hand cut french fries with a salad with a homemade charred lemon vinegarette.
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By Ron Mc
#2324556
Michael, thanks for chiming in. You fit right in with this group, and we're looking forward to fishing and feasting with you again.

I forgot to mention Susie's excellent dessert after the pot roast. She made a peach + blackberry cobbler that was to die for.
It fit right in about the photo of the fishing pelican on Sunday night.
____________________________________________________________________

I'm going to add here that the Arroyo is the most successful conservation project in Texas.
When my dad and I ran up from S. Padre in the '90s to fish Green Island, terrible brown tides came out of the arroyo and polluted large areas of the LLM flats. They were caused by fertilizer run-off from citrus and sugar cane farming, combined with the tidal zone reflux.

In 2005, they began a project to save the arroyo. On maps and from the air, you see large tile fields along the arroyo from Mission to Laguna Atascosa. The tiles hold the agriculture run-off, and allow the nitrogen to evaporate before discharge into the Arroyo.


Our house, btw, is across the arroyo from where the natural channel and the barge channel diverge - it's forth to the left from the vacant lot.

We had a bit more turbidity in the arroyo this trip, which was probably from dredging upstream in the barge channel.
It didn't slow down the fishing much...

ps - my lifetime spec, 27", came from the slope of the Green island flounder hole.
Last edited by Ron Mc on Fri Dec 10, 2021 11:49 am, edited 3 times in total.
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By Dandydon
#2324558
My oh my! It's not like Watson to forget money clips and fishing rods when he usually slays the gamefish around me...

Thank God he redeemed himself with that big 21" male Trout! Mike is the master of VUDU Shad and tandems.

I know he rarely screws up when Capt. Dandydon is around. I keep a tight ship and clean deck. Hope I'm invited to the Arroyo next year. Although Susie can obviously out-cook me, I promise to help wash dishes and tell some amazing & true international stories while sipping some Makers Mark No. 46.

One question: How far is the house from the actual bay, and is that accessible for fishing?

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By Ron Mc
#2324559
btw Don, thanks for your kind comments above.

Michael caught fish like crazy - he's just not counting the nursery trout - honestly, they're tougher to catch than the schoolies, because they live there, and they've seen it all.
We've seen them in pairs on the surface, pushing the live bait closed-mouth to test it.
Except for the guys who cast-netted mullet, everyone who came across from Dos Rios lodge talked about fishing glow tandems at night.

Also should mention, part of our enjoyment were the families across the arroyo at the lodge docks, with the kids catching and hooting all night, catching and hooting all day.
At the lower end of the lodge bulkhead, fishing the wild arroyo bank, one kid was hauling up flounder after flounder during the day - and of course releasing them.

Last edited by Ron Mc on Fri Dec 10, 2021 11:54 am, edited 3 times in total.
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By Dandydon
#2324577
That kayak trip to the bay isn't too far for me. If the docks aren't producing, I'm willing to go far to find gamefish.

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By karstopo
#2324578
A tour de force of reports and trip, Ron. All those years of experience and expertise are plainly evident. Thanks for taking us along.
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By Ron Mc
#2324579
Thanks kars - we had a lot of fun.
I've been honing my finesse tackle for winter glass minnows, and Arroyo is the first-best place to use it.
Next-best are the Estes Outside Beach passes to Aransas Bay all winter into spring.


this was my first year to try UL baitcaster, and it worked better than spinning tackle for the little plugs, but spinning is still better for tandem rigs and long-leader shrimp rig.


@DD
Our trip from Tomae to Rattlesnake Bay 5 years ago, I lost a sow trout that had to be 30", and Steve paddled over another that size.
Beautiful water - skinny grass with deep sand holes.

It would be killer with a power boat mothership on the prevailing SSE to be dropped at Rialitos Point and picked up at Horse Island in the arroyo.
The power boat can cross the ICW and drift the killer deeper flats up to Green Island.

Last edited by Ron Mc on Thu Dec 09, 2021 10:16 am, edited 4 times in total.
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By Dandydon
#2324584
Ron, sign me up for that great MOTHERSHIP idea! I've long wondered why more pro guides (with big powerboats) don't offer such service. You can always tow a Yak or two by rope, but that can cause handle damage to the hull.

More ideas for next year...

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By shoffer
#2324660
Sounds like a fun trip, guys and RonMc gave us a stellar report per his usual standards, so thanks for that!

Sorry I was unable to make it, but I do love fishing in that part of the world. Grassbeds and sand potholes make for some fun wading and drifting!
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By Ron Mc
#2324664
Hi Stewart, thanks for posting and for your kind comments.
You could hang your power skiff in the boat lift, for a 15-minute trip to Rattlesnake Bay


It worked out to be a bang-up trip. Susie's work question didn't settle until noon on Friday, and she flew in Friday evening, which made it nice for all of us.
________________________________________

Michael, you asked the question about whether the Arroyo is salt or brackish. I was looking at watershed conservation reports, which are extensive. They said the tidal boundary extends above the turning basin for Port Harlingen.
Considering LLM is hypersaline, normal freshwater inflow is 150 cfs, where we were at is much more salt than brackish.
When the fishing peaked, the tide current always reversed the arroyo flow at the dock.

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By Dandydon
#2324883
Ron, you know an old guy like me hates to drive...

So if Shoffer & I are invited next year, I'll surely attend if he'll do the driving and bring his sleek fishing skiff.

I gotta have variety in my life and access to deeper waters...

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