I spent a few days last week camping alongside an eclectic group of guys. Despite our varying backgrounds and personalities we shared a common interest. We’re all fishermen. But beyond our affinity for angling our jones is swinging a graphite stick to present hooks dressed with fur and feathers at creatures that swim.
The trip was planned months in advance, and the original plan was to camp and fish on secluded (or so we thought) and raw stretch of beach known as Padre Island National Seashore (PINS). Mother Nature almost nixed those plans. The drought and blistering hot conditions this year have wreaked havoc on the ecosystems in the area. The area was hit hard the few weeks leading up to our arrival with a bad algae bloom aptly named red tide.
Red tides are a normal occurrence, but the effects can vary immensely depending on algae levels. This year’s bloom was one of the worse in recent memory. There were hundreds of thousands of fish left dead on beached across the entire Texas coast. Generally, game-fish are not directly affected, but this year in addition to the small baitfish and non-gamefish that was ashore was a multitude of sought after species including: redfish of all sizes, speckled trout, snook, spanish mackerel, etc. When reports of red tide conditions at PINS started to pour in many of the individuals who committed to make the trip to had doubts. Luckily, no one back out because the area has many angling opportunities including many flats nearby that were unaffected by the bloom.
The first morning we waited until after daylight to make the trek down the beach to our destination. Between us we had four 4×4 vehicles following each other in unison down the soft sand. The vehicles were loaded down: camping, fishing, kayaks, canoes, and two boats on trailers. There’s safety in numbers when travel down the beach on PINS because the driving conditions fluctuate daily depending on rainfall, wind, and tides. While driving down the beach we made a few stops to assess the devastation caused by the red tide. The aerosol effects were very noticeable; we all began coughing uncontrollably when we exited our vehicles. The trek was successful as we ran into no complications on the way to our destination.
We quickly unloaded our provisions and hit the water. We split up in small groups (some by canoe or kayak and others by boat) going in various directions in search of fish. We found plenty of black drum in off-colored water or over sand with a few redfish mixed in. We also found some reds in slightly deeper water over thick grass. We fished for several hours and went back to camp to setup our sleeping quarters. We left our base camp was deserted but when we arrived back that evening we plenty of company. I guess everybody got the memo, or didn’t get the memo for that matter, that the red tide ravaged the beach. Our little slice of heaven became increasingly crowd later in the weekend and we even had some people setup camp practically in the middle of our camp. So much for solitude but we weren’t going to let that inconvenience ruin our trip.
That night under the moonlight we were serenaded by a few individuals on the trip who possess talents beyond casting a fly rod. Awesome show…
The second day we awoke to a beautiful sunrise and hot breakfast courtesy of the camp chef. The day on the water was a repeat of the day before except we got an earlier start. More black drum and redfish were landed.
The last morning we got a couple hours to fish before we packed up camp and headed home. We fished close to camp. A few fish were landed.
If you’ve followed my fishing progression over the years you’d notice that fishing has become less about catching fish. As much as the sport is about capturing cold-blooded, aquatic vertebrates the allure is in quality of the experience and not the gross quantity of the catch. I had a great time with a bunch of honks drinking, fishing, and telling lies. Good times.