Little kids win big in CCA STAR tourney

Kids racked up the money for college scholarships by making some great catches i

The summer-long Coastal Conservation Association STAR tourney posted some impressive stats that were topped off by solid trout caught from one end of the Texas coast to the other. But even more important is the catch by Laken Bellanger of Orange. Laken, 9 years old, is the StarKids Scholarship Gafftop Division winner with a catch that weighed 7-6, and is worth a $50,000 college scholarship.

“The 26th annual State of Texas Anglers’ Rodeo closed on Labor Day with some pretty exciting action down to the wire, even more proof that anybody can win anytime,” says Gina Rice, STAR director of operations. “A fifth tagged redfish was caught Sept. 4, plus an 8-year-old lady angler took the lead in the StarKid Scholarship Division with an 11 pounds sheepshead on the last day of the tournament. And for the first time ever in the history of the tournament, the StarKid $50,000 Scholarship Division was dominated by little lady anglers, ages 8, 9 and 10 years old. That’s what we call girls with ‘reel’ power.”

In the big trout division, the heaviest was caught on the middle coast and weighed 9 pounds, 14 ounces. The winning trout on the upper coast 9-13. The South Texas winner weighed 9-2. In the offshore division, the heaviest king weighed 53-7. The winning dorado was 36-7, and the heaviest ling weighed a whopping 85 pounds, 9 ounces.

A total of 10 tagged redfish were caught, but only five were confirmed winners. Each will be presented a 2015 Ford F-150 “Texas Edition” XLT SuperCab, 23-foot Haynie Big Foot boat rigged with a Mercury 150L Pro XS OptiMax motor and Coastline trailer at this week’s STAR awards ceremony. That’s about an $80,000 prize for each of these lucky anglers.

“Over 48,000 registered for the 2015 STAR, a new record,” says Rice. “And approximately 7,000 new members were recruited into CCA.”

The StarKids Scholarship Flounder Division will provide a young angler between the ages of 6 and 10 with college scholarships totaling $50,000 for catching the heaviest flounder. This year’s winner is Adair Bates, age 10, of Corpus Christi who caught a flounder weighing 3-15.

The Houston Community Newspapers StarKid Scholarship Sheepshead Division provides a young angler between the ages of 6 and 10 with a college scholarship totaling $50,000 for catching the heaviest sheepshead. This year’s winner is Maritza Martinez, age 8, of Baytown with an 11-pounder.

“Awarding these scholarships is truly the highlight of the year for STAR and makes a serious statement toward getting kids on the water,” says Rice. “We couldn’t be happier for these kids and their families. The kids are really what the tournament is all about. They are the future generation that will keep the vitality of our precious marine resource going for years to come. This brings our total awarded scholarships to $5,525,000. It’s true that CCA does not make a dime on STAR, but we all reap big dividends with new anglers and kids coming into the sport and learning about conservation. “

Kids get a big break with early season hunts

Starting with the Oct. 1, opening of squirrel season, young hunters can get a jump start on the 2015-16 Texas fall seasons, with more special youth-only weekend hunting seasons on the horizon. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department biologists say range conditions and wildlife populations are ripe for success in the field.

The youth squirrel hunting season provides mentoring opportunities for the next generation of hunters for this Pineywoods tradition.

Likewise, young waterfowlers will get first crack in the South Duck Zone the weekend of Oct. 24-25. TPWD has also set aside the weekend of Oct. 31 – Nov. 1 as youth-only seasons for white-tailed deer, Rio Grande turkey statewide, and for waterfowl in the North Duck Zone.

“The statewide special youth-only hunting weekend for white-tailed deer and Rio Grande turkey is open to licensed youth 16 years of age or younger,” says TPWD’s Steve Lightfoot. “Hunting for ducks, mergansers and coots during the youth-only waterfowl season is open to youngsters 15 years of age or younger, and no state or federal waterfowl stamps are required. Popular wildlife management areas for waterfowl hunting along the coast will be open for the special youth-only season.”

A Special $7 Youth Hunting License is required for all hunting activities and can be purchased at most sporting goods stores. Licenses may also be purchased online at or at (800) 895-4248.

Research institute, OCEARCH team up to tag Gulf sharks

The Harte Research Institute (HRI) for Gulf of Mexico Studies at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi is teaming up with leading shark-tracking nonprofit OCEARCH to build the most extensive shark-tagging program in the Gulf of Mexico region.

This October, OCEARCH is bringing its research vessel the M/V OCEARCH to the Gulf for a multi-species study to generate previously unattainable data on critical shark species, including hammerhead, tiger and mako sharks.

The OCEARCH vessel is equipped with a lift system that safely lifts the shark from the water. Scientists then attach tags, draw blood and assess reproductive status using ultrasound, along with a host of other scientific data collection methods that would otherwise be impossible on such a large, powerful, and dangerous animal.

The data is needed to understand the interaction between large predators and the oil and gas platforms currently present in the Gulf, and how this relationship compares to natural reefs and other ocean features.

Anyone can follow the OCEARCH expedition by accessing the free online Global Shark Tracker or by downloading the Global Shark Tracker App.