Pop the top for reds and trout

A popping cork fished over a live mullet, shrimp or mud minnow

One thing is certain in the world of fishing – corks will almost always lead the way to more fish, especially when you are after reds and trout during the hot summer months.

Last Saturday, I was fishing on Keith Lake, along with a ton of other fishermen, and not doing too well with lures. But there were mullet everywhere. The solution was simple – rig up a popping cork, use the cast net to box a couple dozen finger mullet and see what happens. The end result was three reds and two trout within an hour.

It’s tough to beat the combination of a popping cork and live bait. The noise that a cork causes will get the attention of nearby fish. And when you throw in a live baitfish like a mullet or mud minnow, only one thing can happen – the cork goes down and you’re hooked up.

Fishing with a popping cork is definitely not rocket science, and much easier to use than a lure. It’s about as simple as fishing gets. You attach a popping cork about three feet above a hook, add a couple of lead split shots and you are good to go. The main thing is fishing this rig over shallow flats most of the time. For example, on Sabine Lake, a popping cork is deadly on the flats up around Coffee Ground Cove. Ditto that in the bayous and along the shoreline in Sabine Pass. You can also use a popping cork along the edge of the jetty rocks.

There are three live baits that work really well under a popping cork. They are shrimp, mullet and mud minnows. A cast net can be used to catch mullet. Perch traps are best for catching mud minnows, and shrimp can be bought at a local bait camp. The size of the hook used with live bait is very important. You don’t want to use a hook that kills the action of the bait. Thin wire live bait hooks are best. My favorite is a No. 4 treble hook.

You never know what you’re going to catch with live bait. I was talking to Buddy Oaks recently, and he said their guides fishing out of Hackberry Rod and Gun Club on Lake Calcasieu were using live shrimp under a popping cork to catch tripletails holding close to crab traps.

Fishing with live baits is good year-round. But right now, when the water temperature along the coast is borderline hot, trout and reds tend to prefer live baits.

37 deaths on Texas waters this year

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is urging the public to be extra vigilant when it comes to water safety in the wake of five tragic drownings this month. Thus far in 2018, there have been 37 open water drownings, compared to 30 over the same time period a year ago.

“We’re seeing a spike this year in the number of open-water drownings,” said Texas Game Warden Assistant Commander Cody Jones, TPWD’s boating law administrator. “We cannot stress enough for folks to recognize potential risks and hazards and know their limitations while out on the water. Fatigue, alcohol impairment, and unforeseen dangers such as cross currents, underwater obstructions and undertow, can lead to tragedy.”

Jones reports that game wardens conducted boating safety checks on over 3,100 vessels on July 4, resulting in 320 tickets and 334 warnings issued. Among those, 11 arrests were made for boating while intoxicated. Game wardens also investigated nine boating related accidents, none of which resulted in fatalities.

“We appear to be seeing more designated drivers out on the water, so boaters are being responsible,” Jones noted.

Prior to the July Fourth holiday, TPWD’s Law Enforcement Division participated in Operation Dry Water over the weekend of June 29 – July 1 as part of a nationally coordinated boating under the influence (BUI) awareness and enforcement campaign.

Over the three-day Operation Dry Water weekend, game wardens made contact with 7,081 vessels, issued 762 warnings and 680 tickets, while making 19 BUI arrests.

Gulf of Mexico shrimp season opens

The Gulf of Mexico commercial shrimp season for both state and federal waters opened July 15. The opening date is based on an evaluation of the biological, social and economic impact to maximize the benefits to the industry and the public.

In making its determination, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Coastal Fisheries Division used the best available data from samples collected during routine trawls and bag seines in June.

The Gulf season was closed to protect brown shrimp until they can reach larger, more valuable sizes during their major period of emigration from the bays to the Gulf of Mexico. The closure also helped to prevent the waste caused by the discarding of smaller individual shrimp.

Federal waters (from 9 to 200 nautical miles offshore) will open at the same time that state waters will open. The National Marine Fisheries Service chose to adopt rules compatible with those adopted by Texas.