Thursday, October 30, 2014

A Texas Tuna Fishing Adventure

Left to Right Karl Oestreich, Ed Thomas and Tim Miller
 
 
About three months ago a friend of mine told me that he and his sons were planning a fall Tuna fishing trip out of Port Aransas.  I mentioned that I would like to go and pushed it to the back of my mind. Later he called and said they were going in mid October and I needed to call Dolphin Docks to reserve and pay for my place on the boat.  There were to be no more than 15 fisherman on the boat and we would be running 200 miles offshore to fish for Black Fin and Yellow Fin Tuna.  As the day of the trip drew closer I spent some time getting my gear together for the trip.  We were to ship out on a Saturday morning and spend all day getting out to a Drilling ship some 200 miles offshore.  It was a typical drive from Lampasas to Port Aransas.  My fishing buddies were Karl Oestreich and Tim Miller out of Lampasas and Karl's son Blake Oestreich, who works summers as a deckhand for Dolphin Docks.  Blake made a special trip to go along as one of the deck hands on the Dolphin Express for this adventure, he proved himself to be the voice of experience on this trip for our group.
 
After an enjoyable dinner of grilled tuna at a local restaurant I had a night of little sleep as I anticipated the next morning.  A quick breakfast and we took all our gear to Dolphin Docks to load on the boat.  At 7AM fourteen fisherman, deck hands Blake, Jake and Michael along with captains Tim Oestreich and Timmy Oestreich shipped out for the 50 hour trip.  We would all live and fish closely together, sometimes too closely for the next fifty hours. 
 
 
The trip out was a long trip of around 13 hours with no stops, some spent the time in the galley, some resting in their bunk or topside taking in the waves and sun.  Somewhere around 30 miles out the water color changed to a beautiful rich blue which would surround us until our return.  At around 7:30 that evening lights were visible on the horizon and we were told that was our destination.  As we arrived at the gigantic drilling ship it looked like a small city at sea.  The waters around the lighted ship were boiling with life, as the captain called "drop em" to signal to start fishing.  Hookups were almost immediate, we caught Black Fin and several Yellow Fin tuna within minutes.  Then the captain of the drilling ship ordered us to stay several hundred yards away as they had a robot sub and equipment operating.  I don't know that we could have hurt anything but our Captain was obligated to stay the requested distance away.  We continued to catch fish all night but just not like our first foray into the depths. 
 
 
We spent the next day travelling to a floating production platform and trying to catch some rest from being up all night before.  Rest was possible but sleep did not come as we headed on to the platform.
We arrived just before sunset and were treated to the largest gathering of big Maui Maui or Dorado as many call them, that anyone on board had every seen.  The seas had grown higher and the winds stronger as we began fishing.  A fish was hooked now and then but it was not till well after dark that the bite began.  We spent the night fishing hard to catch Dorado and Yellow Fin Tuna.  It was the hard work of the Captains and Crew that resulted in the number of big fish caught that night.  They were running around the boat chumming, baiting hooks, cutting bait, gaffing fish, while trying to net live flying fish that came up to the boat.  Many times a large fish would take someone completely around the boat tangling lines and people.  The crew worked miracles sometimes in getting people and lines untangled and landing the fish.  There were disappointments sometimes as fish were lost.  I had a big Yellow Fin cut off at the back of the boat after fighting it up from the depths.  I also had a very big Dorado break the line at some point where it had been abraded in some way.  Some of the crew were constantly casting flying fish lures or live flying fish to the Yellow Fin.  As soon as they got a hook up they handed the rod off to someone that had not caught a Yellow Fin or Dorado and went right back to work. I caught an 85 pound Yellow Fin tuna during this time and by the time I reeled it up and it was double gaffed and hauled on board I had no strength left in my arms.  They hung limply at my side for most of an hour.  One can only imagine the power of these monsters of the deep.
 
Our entire group of fisherman and the Catch on the 50 hour trip
 
 
Yellow Fin Tuna and the fisherman that caught them on the 50 Hour Trip
Left to right Tim Miller and Karl Oestreich
Left to right Captain Tim Oestreich, Karl Oestreich, Ed Thomas and Tim Miller
 

This trip was one of the hardest and most memorable I have every been on.  I hope to go again sometime as health and finances allow.  If you have not made a long offshore trip for Tuna this should be on your bucket list.  I have a freezer full of wonderful fresh Maui Maui and Tuna and have already enjoyed several meals of healthy fish that I normally would not be eating at our table.  I want to thank Captains Tim and Timmy for  all the hard work and effort.  Michael, Michael D, Jake and Blake I don't even know what to say about the effort you put into the trip.  I do know that without you guys the trip would not have been the success it was.  I can see that the crew of the Dolphin Express cares about the success of the fisherman and this is not just a job.  Thanks again, hope to ship out with you again in the future.  Wild Ed

Yellow Fin Tuna

Monday, September 22, 2014

Game Cameras Give Preview of Season to Come


Our small place in Lampasas is surrounded by tracts 200 acres or less with some as small as 28 acres.  I understand that people want to get a small place in the country and get out and hunt.  What I don't understand is putting four or five hunters on a small tract and killing all the bucks that come through. On one small tract you can hear four feeders go off within minutes of each other.  If not for the Texas antler rules in place we would not have any bucks at all in this area other that what comes off of the big places to chase does.  My family has not killed a buck in years yet every buck over 8 points that we watched on our cameras last year was killed by the end of the season, several of which I don't think even made the minimum width. One place that is under 30 acres took four bucks and another under 100 acres took five bucks that we know of.  The deer population can not produce any trophy bucks and may not even survive with this kind of hunting pressure.  It is sad when people can only manage wildlife because of the laws. 

Now that I've spoken about that I will climb down off my soap box and show you a few of the pictures from our cameras.  All of the bucks we have seen should be left to grow as none are mature but I bet that few to none survive the season around here.  It is addictive to watch the wildlife coming to the feeder and I can't wait to see what else shows up each week.  I have a friend that I gave a camera and he is also getting hooked on seeing what comes to his feeders.  Get one and put it out, I bet you will enjoy it also.  Wild Ed








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Thursday, September 4, 2014

Lake Buchanan Striper Fishing

Jason's granddaughter and the days catch
 
 
Now that I am supposed to be retired I hope to get my boat in
 shape and get out on the area lakes to chase fish.  It has been
 many years since I used to fish Lake Buchanan so I have been
hanging out over at the Austin Bass Fishing Forum to catch up
on the latest techniques.  One of the members of the forum
has agreed to be my guest author this week with a how to for
those of you that would like to chase stripers and hybrids on
your favorite lake.  Jason has put together an article that will
teach you how to be successful on your next outing.  Hope you
enjoy it, I sure did. Wild Ed

 
 STRIPER FISHING
  
Lake Buchanan is one of the best lakes in Central Texas to
catch stripers and hybrid stripers.  Stripers are a salt water fish
that can live and grow in fresh water but they will not
reproduce, they are all stocked in the lake by the Texas Parks
and Wildlife.  Hybrids are a cross breed of a striper and a
white bass.  These fish will also not reproduce and they are
stocked in the lake by TPW and the professional guides that
fish and make their living on Lake Buchanan.  Hybrids will
not get near as big as the stripers but are just as enjoyable to
catch!  There are not many Texas fresh water fish that will put
up a fight like a striper; we are talking about pole bending
drag squealing kind of fight! 

So let’s talk about how to catch these fighting giants:

(Lake Buchanan record striper 41” over 27 lbs)

Stripers and hybrids will bite on just about anything if your timing
is right, but their food of choice is shad!  Early morning you might
see schools of fish chasing shad to the surface splashing around, at
this point they will bite almost anything you throw into the feeding
frenzy – white,  or shiny works best – try not to let your lure sink
too deep (and don’t be afraid to throw live bait into the middle
either).

The easiest way to catch fish would be to hire a guide and let him
use his knowledge to put you on the fish.  Expect to pay about $450
with tip for a 4hr 4 person fishing trip which includes the cleaning
of your fish.  You will usually meet your guide at 7 am, but you can
also schedule afternoon trips.   That being said there are no
guarantees that you will catch your limit (5 per person, and they
must be above 18 inches long)  – and if you limit out in 45 minutes,
you will be done fishing and heading back to the dock by 8:30

Hiring a guide not your thing? Want to try it yourself? 

We will start with the best but not the easiest method first.  It
begins with waking up about the time the bars are closing (2:15 am
for me) heading to the store to buy ice and red bull energy drinks
to stay awake.  Driving for 2 hours with my eyes constantly

scanning for the road side deer whose only intention is to ruin my

fishing trip!  I usually arrive where I launch my boat about 5 am

After a short boat ride we drop a green light in the water.  A bait

tank is a must to keep your shad health and lively.  Your tank must

provide circulation, aeration, and filtration and being insulated is a

bonus. 
 
An Internet search will provide you information how to make one
for under $75 that will work but not well in hot weather.  Bait
Jacuzzi makes a nice 18 gallon tank for under $250 shipped that
works very well!  Bait tanks like the professional guides use will
run you about $600 and up but the weekender can get by with a
much less expensive tank.  Fill your tank with water and add 1 cup
of salt per 10 gallons of water, maybe some ice if the water is
above 75 degrees, now you’re ready!  Grab your cast net and start
throwing.   Sometimes you can catch the right bait easily in 10 to
15 throws, other times you will throw the net until you think your
arm might fall off!  Just know it is worth it!  I will usually keep and
assortment of different size shad as sometimes they like the big
5-6” shad and other times the much smaller ones, better to have
and not need, than need and not have!  Don’t put your shad directly

into your bait tank if at all possible, let them swim in a bucket
first and then use a dip net to transfer them to the tank.  Once they
are caught they will urinate and defecate and you want to let that
happen before you move them to your clean water   (I have 2 bait
tanks that I use, one built into my boat and the other an 18 gallon
Bait Jacuzzi, in hind sight I wish I had bought the 26 gallon Bait
Jacuzzi tank)

       If waking up early and catching of shad is not your thing
 you can always buy jumbo minnows and perch which will catch
fish but not nearly as well as Shad.

     Now you have bait, it’s time to go fishing!  The equipment I
use is bait caster rod and reels with 20lb line, 3/4oz weight, swivel,
and #2 circle hooks (circle hooks can help the fish from becoming
gut hooked in case it is not a keeper)  At Lake Buchanan anywhere
from the dam to about 3 miles down the lake are good hunting
areas.  Your hunting will be much easier with electronics.  Sonar
and a chart plotter that you understand and know how to use will
make you much more successful!  Look for the fish on top of
underwater humps near the deeper river channel (right now 30-35
foot of water is where I am finding them).  Hook your shad
through the nostrils for best results, drop them to the bottom
and reel up 3 to 5 turns to start with, watch your sonar to get the
right depth where the fish are as they swim through.   Most of the
time the fish are much more active on cloudy days with decent
winds, yet I have caught plenty of fish on no wind, sunny,
extremely hot days!  If your bait dies put on a live one, check them
every 10 minutes or so – dead bait will work, but once again not a
well as lively shad

Lake Buchanan has a tremendous amount of blue cats that are only
about 10 inches long that love to kill and eat your shad.  It is very
easy to tell the differences between catfish and striper bites.  A
catfish will nibble and tug at your lines while a striper or hybrid
will bend your pole straight down to the water in one bite.  If
you’re getting nothing but catfish bites, it’s time to move, they will
kill all of your bait in a short amount of time!  Once you get that
striper to bite (and you are using circle hooks) don’t try to set the
hook, simply leave the rod in the rod holder and reel up about 5
times rapidly before you remove the pole form the holder.  (A
rapid pull using a circle hook will pull the hook right out of their
mouth!)  When you hook that first one be ready, they are schooling
fish and usually when there is one there are more!

Once you have your limit, keep them on ice until you’re ready to
clean them.  There a many ways to clean a fish and with stripers or
hybrid there is no wrong way,  unless you like fishy tasting fish you
need to remove the red meat that runs along the spine.  If you do
that you will end up with an amazing piece of fish that can be
grilled, blackened, or cooked any way you like.

Labor Day weekend 2014 was a great fishing weekend for me!

Saturday:

We got there at 5am – caught shad easily and were heading to catch
fish by 6:15.

Conditions – calm very little breeze, sunny, not a cloud in the sky

We arrived at one of my spots just as the sun came up.  Along with
the rising sun the top water action came alive.  I was throwing a pet
spoon that had about a 2’ leader attached to a casting float so I
could really toss it out there.  My friend was using an umbrella rig
to start with and then a large floating lure; he caught fish with both
types of lures.  We both caught 3-5 fish but only one keeper.  Once
the top water stopped, we then switched to live bait and proceeded
to catch lots of undersize fish mixed in with the keepers and my
 biggest striper to date a 28”  just shy of 7 pounds.  We left the lake
 about 12:30 one fish short of our limit as with no breeze it was
miserably hot.  Fish today liked large shad 5” or bigger.  We found
another boat and gave them all of our left over live shad as I
always do!
Jason's Big Fish
Sunday:

Arrived at the lake at 5 am, shad was not as easy to catch the size
 we were looking for, but by dawn we had more than enough.
 
Conditions – constant 8 mph wind and 95% cloud cover until 8:30
 
am  (perfect conditions)

We arrived at the same spot as Saturday a little after sun up – we
saw no top water action so we decided to use the shad. The 2nd fish
 I caught was a 26” Hybrid that weighed 7.22 lbs. (the record
hybrid for Lake Buchanan is 24.5”, by the way that is still the
record, because I filleted and grilled that bad boy knowing that it
was a record fish and not caring to go through all it takes to certify
a record fish on a holiday weekend)  By 8:30am we were one short
of our limit and the clouds were going away.  By 9 am the cooler
was full and we decided to do some sonar exploring which yielded
about 7 more keeper size fish that were returned to the lake
unharmed.  The fish today wanted small to medium shad.  Before
we left found another boat and gave them all of our left over live
shad!

I have been fishing Lake Buchanan for the last 2 years and I am
addicted to it!  I hope this will help some of y’all get hooked up on
some good fun……………and hey, take a child with you, show
them there are fun things to do outside away from a TV and an
 Xbox

 

And for safety – before heading out to Lake Buchanan check the
winds anything over 15 mph will make this lake dangerous for
small boats.  White caps happen at 10 mph and huge waves at 15
mph!

Stay safe and reel ‘em in

Jason Weisberg
 
Jason and some good Buchanan Stripers