2016 was a very busy year for me and I am truly blessed and thankful for that. In life, we all encounter many twists and turns. Last year was full of steep grades, sharp turns, and unexpected potholes, most of which had nothing to do with fishing. I found myself questioning every choice I had made in life. It was a bumpy road but good thing I had heavy tread on my tires. It wasn’t the first time I had encountered difficult times. What hurts makes you stronger in the end and I can attest to that. I found a few things very helpful on my journey; friends, family and fishing. Friends and family was obvious but fishing was the supplement that ultimately wove my life back together. When I combined it with friends and family, I began to find myself again.
I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go but I force myself to. Regardless of my situation, I wasn’t about to turn down a kayaking trip down the Medina River with some of my closest friends. It had been a long time since this was even possible due to the record long Texas drought that reduced river water levels to a trickle so I borrowed a kayak, grabbed my ultralight, a few good lures and a few cold ones. I met my friends at the old river crossing that we always launched from years ago, and we paddled away in reverie. To my surprise only moments after leaving, I found myself chatting, laughing and casting during my darkest time. Holding a beautiful Guadeloupe bass in my hands was as good as holding my lost soul. I’ll never forget the day or those moments.
The simple message is; fishing can help and fishing can heal. Fishing brings friends and family together, it takes the mind away for the obvious and it can truly help the troubled mind. After that day, I found myself fishing with friends and family every second I could and each time was healing. I was able to find purpose that otherwise wouldn’t exist and to this day, I find myself fishing with family and friends. Sometimes we catch fish, sometimes we don’t, and sometimes we don’t even fish when going fishing. I have learned that catching fish is a bonus, what matters is each moment in time. When life has long expired, it’s the moments that we will remember, if we happen to be holding fish… Even better. I’m happy and smiling just writing about it.
With respect to what you have already read, my focus in writing this is not technical aspects; you can read that anywhere. 2016 has allowed me to focus on what’s important if life. For me, fishing definitely falls within that realm so I’ll briefly cover what’s important. A few specific events have occurred over the past few years that have helped fish population tremendously; rain, Cedar Bayou and trout limit reduction. I’ll briefly touch base on each of those.
The rain: In 2015, the coastal bend as well as most of Texas received the “drought buster rains” needed to allow the rivers flow. Fresh water is a crucial component to the productivity of salt water ecosystems. This rainfall event essentially seeded the bay with the components required for sea grass growth and productive spawning for everything from shrimp to fish. Crab and shrimp populations exploded in response to the fresh water and increased habitat in terms of sea grass. The large keeper fish of every species migrated toward the abundance of bait and habitat; so, I took advantage. Last spring was epic in terms of large quality trout. I didn’t see many fish considered to be true trophies but I found a ridiculous abundance that made my heart skip a beat when they broke the surface. I’m talking about 23-27-inch trout, …. Nice one for sure.
Cedar Bayou: September 5th 2014, marked the long-awaited opening of Cedar Bayou. Long awaited, you might be asking why? I’m speaking historically on the account of a few fishing guides that pioneered the fishing guide business in Rockport, Texas during the 1950’s and 1960’s. I have known them personally and I consider myself an apprentice to their knowledge as I have worked under them. The old salts referred to Cedar Bayou as the “mecca” of the Texas Coast. Cedar Bayou had been closed since I was eight years old so I never had the chance to experience the legends until 2014. Picture a saltwater river winding through sand dunes, 20 miles away from any civilization. It is the only pass on the Texas coast that remains open today, without jetties. Despite rumors of it silting in, I can attest to the fact that it’s open. I learned over the past few years that the legends were not myth. Id’ be humble saying that my greatest day of wade fishing for reds ever, occurred in Cedar Bayou a few months back. Redfish are not the only species that utilize the cut. Every species in terms of inshore and nearshore benefit from the hydrology.
Reduction of speckled trout limit: A 3% to 27% harvest reduction of spotted sea trout, dependent upon two categories (guided vs guided) was reported along the Texas coast after the bag limit reduction from 10 to 5 on September 1, 2015. I don’t second guess the data collected because it was my job during my internship with TP&W during college. I don’t second guess the data collected based on my experience as a fishing guide because I see the results daily. Not only have I caught larger trout but I caught more numbers during times that I normally don’t focus on trout. Over the past two years, trout fishing has always been an option vs forgetting about them during the typical down time for trout. With conditions, aside, if I could fish for trout I would and I caught them well year-round.
In life, at the end looking back, I’ll probably have many memories; some good and some bad. To this day, I can’t remember a truly bad day of fishing even if a fish hook had dug deep into my flesh past the barb. That type of memory and pain is subtle compared to other pains in life. I look back in the past with my friends and we laugh at the worst days of fishing while I think quietly alone at the worst days of my life. The memories of the worst days of fishing combined with the best, overshadow and heal everything that has happened in life. Hopefully tonight I dream of fish and if I do, I’ll sleep well and be ready for another day of fishing.
“Tomorrow, the sun will rise.” – Tom Hanks, Castaway
Capt. Johan Coombs