Orange anglers win big time in CCA STAR tourney

 Ashton Sumrall, 8, of Orange with a prize catch weighing 6.5 pounds

The CCA STAR tournament final results are in and Southeast Texas anglers did real well. In the StarKids Scholarship Gafftop Division, this year’s winner is Ashton Sumrall, age 8, of Orange, with a prize catch weighing 6.5 pounds. The StarKids Scholarship Gafftop Division provides a young angler between the ages of 6 and 10 with a college scholarship totaling $50,000 for catching the heaviest gafftop. Big time congratulations to Ashton. But get this – Ashton’s dad, Troy, caught the heaviest gafftop in the inshore division, 7 pounds, 8 ounces, and won a Shoalwater 19 Cat with a Mercury outboard and McClain trailer.

Over 47,500 fishermen registered for the tourney, according to STAR.

Sabine Lake trout

Finally some cool weather has hit Southeast Texas, and with that cool breeze, you can fully expect fishing on Sabine Lake to really come to life with lots of trout holding under flocks of sea gulls. It’s a time when fishing is as easy as it gets on both Sabine Lake and East Galveston Bay.

Another excellent fishing option is to target bull reds in the surf and at the Sabine and Galveston jetties. Big reds, fish in the 28-inch-plus class, began showing up in the surf about two weeks ago. Some of the top catches have been along McFaddin Beach and Bolivar Peninsula. A fresh dead mullet, cut in half, is one of the best baits you can use to catch bull reds. Another very good place to soak mullet for bulls are the boat cuts along the Sabine jetties. On an outgoing tide it’s best to set up on the Gulf side of the cuts. That’s where numbers of big bulls will be feeding.

Open seasons

The South Zone season on doves is open. Ditto that for the Central Zone. We’re just coming off the teal season that turned out to be remarkably good once we had a good push of birds down through Southeast Texas and into the coastal marsh ponds, and flooded fields.

Bow season on deer opens this Saturday.

But there is one other big hunting event that opens up on Saturday, Oct. 1 – it’s the archery-only season on deer. That’s a huge deal for lots of hunters here on the right side of Texas. It’s especially good for bow hunters in the woods surrounding Southeast Texas where the bucks go into rut right about now. The woods west of Beaumont, around Nome and on over toward Winnie, hold plenty of deer, and some are bucks that are in the rut right now. As far as I know, the bucks in Southeast Texas are the first to start chasing does anywhere in Texas. As we get more cool fronts through, the bucks in the Pineywoods, up around Jasper and on up towards Huntington, will go into the rut. The woods up around Lumberton provide a good opportunity for bow hunters.

The unique thing about the early archery season on deer is that we get a full month of hunting prior to the gun season opener Nov. 5. That’s a big deal, especially if you happen to be hunting a fresh line of scrapes that a buck in rut is tending to.

So what are your chances of getting a shot at a trophy buck during the archery season? With bow or gun, it’s right around 50 percent. That’s because there is an estimated 3.6 million deer running wild across Texas. You don’t always need a gun to score big on a record-setting buck. Second, you don’t have to be hunting on a sprawling ranch to get the shot of a lifetime.

One of the all-time highest scoring bucks in Texas history was shot on a tiny piece of land in Grayson County, 60 miles north of Dallas. That non-typical buck scored just over 260 B&C points. Robert Taylor took the deer on his 4.7-acre property with his bow in December 2012. That’s right, his entire hunting property is only 4.7 acres.

And then there’s A.J. Downs’ state record open range archery buck taken in 2012 in San Jacinto County. The 28-pointer scored just over 256 B&C points.

The biggest free-range whitetail ever taken in Texas came from Houston County in 2013. It was shot by Mark Lee. He first spotted the buck in the summer of 2012. Almost two years later, Lee finally got a shot at the 31-point buck, which measured a gross score of 278 5/8.

Big bucks in East Texas? You bet. It’s just a matter of being on stand as much as possible.

Toyota ShareLunker Season begins Oct. 1

For over 30 years, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s (TPWD) Toyota ShareLunker Program has created awareness of the value of catch-and-release fishing, provided 13 pounds or heavier largemouth bass to support Texas’s selective breeding program and generated nationwide interest in Texas bass fishing. This year, TPWD is implementing changes to fully incorporate ShareLunker offspring into hatchery brood stock.

While the ShareLunker season will continue to run each year from Oct.1 through April 30, only those entries collected between Jan. 1 – March 31 will be accepted as brood stock for spawning.

During January through March, every ShareLunker that TPWD staff determines to be capable of spawning will be transported to the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens. In recent years, pure Florida largemouth bass have been primarily used for spawning due to limited hatchery space. Starting this season, TPWD staff will attempt to spawn all ShareLunker, bass regardless of genetics. However, only pure Florida ShareLunker offspring will be incorporated into the hatchery brood stock program.

In addition, although ShareLunker entries will still be accepted from private waters, ShareLunker offspring will not be stocked back into private water bodies even when the ShareLunker is donated from private waters.

ShareLunker catches can be reported 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by calling (903) 681-0550. For complete information and rules of the ShareLunker program, tips on caring for big bass and a recap of last year’s season, see The site also includes a searchable database of all fish entered into the program.