The first split of the duck season closed with a bang on Nov. 25, with lots of great reports coming in from hunters at the J.D. Murphree Wildlife Management Area and the McFaddin National Wildlife Refuge. The second half of the duck season will open Dec. 8 and run through Jan. 27.
Goose hunts have been hit and miss. Best shoots have been on windy days over rice or plowed fields west of Beaumont in the Winnie area.
Beaumont hunter Warren Claybar says their hunts on leased land in the Anahuac marsh have been excellent for gadwall, pintails, widgeon and teal.
Hunts on leased land in the Sabine marsh have been very good, as well. Hunters there have taken good straps of gadwalls, widgeon, teal and a few greenheads.
One thing we don’t have is an ample supply of freshwater on the ground. Lots of ponds are drying up. As the freshwater evaporates, so will the ducks. The best thing that could happen to Southeast Texas right now is to get at least a few inches of rain.
Sabine Lake flounder still moving through the pass
Catches of flounder are excellent in Sabine Pass. Guide Jerry Norris says the run is still going strong. He’s been working flats along the Louisiana shoreline with 3-1/2 inch black/chartreuse Wedgetails. The bite has been best on outgoing tides in 2 to 4 feet of water in the pass. Some of the heaviest flounder are being taken near the Louisiana LNG plant with white curl-tail jigs tipped with small pieces of fresh table shrimp.
Fishing under the birds is beginning to slow down on specks and sand trout, but the redfish bite is about as good as it gets. The best way to catch big Sabine reds is to look for schools moving across the surface. They look kind of like a boat wake, but it’s really fish. Another option is to use binoculars to locate reds feeding on the surface. One of the best lures for taking Sabine reds is a 5-inch Wedgetail rigged on a 1/4-once jig head. You can cast them a country mile and reel them on or just under the water’s surface. Best colors are white/chartreuse or pink/white/yellow.
Illegal gill netting up along the lower coast
Mike Cox with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department reports that with more than a month left in 2012, state game wardens already are looking at a record number of seizures of illegal gill nets and long lines in Texas and U.S. waters along the lower coast.
“On Nov. 7, the TPWD patrol vessel Captain Williams discovered a three-mile-long gill net about 6 miles north of Brazos Santiago Pass and 7 miles offshore,” said Cox. “Dropping 30 feet deep, the net contained 17 greater hammerhead sharks, 13 unidentified sharks (because of their advanced decomposition), eight black drum, six tripletail, a large red drum, and several hundred triggerfish. Game wardens confiscated the net and released all live fish entangled in the net.”
So far this year, game wardens working aboard the Captain Williams operating along the lower Texas coast have seized 138,080 feet of long line, 53,840 feet of gill net, more than 6,000 sharks, 300 red snapper, 211 red or black drum, 21 gag grouper and two sailfish.
“All of the illegal fishing devices are believed to have been set in Texas or federal waters by commercial fishermen operating out of Mexico, particularly from the village of La Playa Bagdad, which lies about nine miles south of the Rio Grande,” said Cox.
“Illegal gill netting has an adverse impact on shark species and also traps a wide variety of Texas game fish,” said Special Operations Chief Grahame Jones of the TPWD Law Enforcement Division.
Sharks, the most common target of these vessels, are harvested not only for their meat, but also for their fins. Shark fins, used for soup, are considered some of the world’s most expensive seafood, and high demand supports a worldwide black market.
In another recent trend, the U.S. Coast Guard recently found illegal long lines with hooked live brown pelicans being used as floats.
“They sometimes use live pelicans in an attempt to hide the lines, since they know we are looking for more traditional floatation devices,” said Sgt. Dunks, who pilots the Captain Williams.
Dunks says that arrests in gill netting or long line cases are rare. When the commercial fishermen are caught in the act, the only charges that can be filed are misdemeanors punishable by fines. However, the illegal fishing equipment and vessel can be seized.
Robert Sloan can be reached by e-mail at sloan288 [at] aol [dot] com.