Like a moth to a flame they say. There’s nothing like a good storm, and today surely didn’t disappoint, as I was right there in the mix with it. With the barometric pressure doing quite interesting things, and an incoming doozy of a rainmaker from the west to make landfall shortly, it was bound to be interesting. By 9am, friends with Turtle Science and Recovery gave me a heads up as they rounded up the patrollers to shelter in place. There were reports over the radio of 90mph winds, and it’s safe to say no one wanted any part of that. But time waits for no man, and I suppose I kept right on fishing through it all. Thankfully, the south end of Padre avoided the worst of it and we made out without the high winds, and only some good rains.
The last ten days of April are now over, but they didn’t disappoint. They are known to be the birdiest period of the spring migration on Padre Island’s remote stretches, and this year was impressive. The barn swallows have been migrating north along the foredune ridge every morning for several weeks, throughout the day. They have been quite numerous, and extremely noticeable. The North flows and East flows that have come through have brought quite a few rare birds to the beachfront as well. The prickly pear cactus is in bloom, and spring is in full on effect.
Hit the beach Monday for what was forecasted to be the best day of the week weather wise. Spent some time visiting with Pirate Eddie and Micah as they were leaving. Beach was deserted otherwise and the fishing report over Saturday and Sunday was interesting to say the least. 30 miles of camp after camp was reported, and it’s not even May yet. The best charter experience is going to be during the weekdays from here until fall.
Everyone has to hit rock bottom. And if you haven’t, then it’s coming. Some of you have told me your stories, and some of you don’t have to. It’s written on your faces just like I’ve had it written on mine a time or two. As long as we get back up and give hard times a swift kick in the hiny, then we’ve won-win, lose, or draw.
“The lights of Captain Billy Sandifer’s “Coyote Lair” office were unusually dim, but then again, it was 2100 hours, or 9 o’clock at night. I sat across from him, defiantly staring him down as he gave me the same look. The silence was palpable. I wanted to hear what he had to say, but he was going to make me wait, and there was no way I was going to appear to actually want to hear him tell me much of anything. Finally, out it came. “Coe-linn I’ve been trying to figure you out for years, although I now doubt you are able to be figured out. And I suppose that’s ok. The surf is where folks go when they want to get away from the world and they need to leave it at their backs and they need to turn around the other way and face Mother Ocean instead,” Billy Sandifer declared. He waited for my response, but I had none. He was right.
—Conversation with Captain Billy Sandifer, guide on Padre Island National Seashore for over 20 years.
Today was the day. Very light SE winds, the tide dropped back out to normal predicted levels, and the water was trout green. The pompano came out to play, as did a few other species.
I do hope the gentleman finds the help he needs from this morning. We’ve all been there. There’s no judgment here. Thankful he was ok after the night he obviously had.
Be kind to each other, and tight lines.
A long time ago, an old time fisherman told me something. He said, “Son, the surf zone is like a room!!! When the water is high it fills up the room!!! And when the tide is low and the water is out, the room empties out! Do you understand boy!? Do you!?” And then he poured himself a stiff drink, because it was 830 am, and of course, very late in the day by beach standards. Hah.
He wasn’t wrong. Thursday found us with above prediction tides and the water continuing to impede driving and push into the backbeach. An astute fisherman will take note of where structure is located prior to these high water events. At that point, the day is a game of discovering what each “room” holds as one travels down Island. Regardless, the last 10 days of April are usually regarded as the birdiest days of the spring migration, and I for one have learned to love each and every flying critter that graces our beaches with their beautiful breeding plumages. A man is never lonely even in a lonely place once he understands what he sees around him. If you venture down island, remember the birds are traveling and apt to be tired and resting whether on the sand or backbeach vegetation. We are their guardians.
There’s nothing like having your eyes opened. And that’s exactly what happened yesterday when the unmistakable sight of washed in sea floor deposits caught my eye. There’s various areas on Padre that are closer than others to nearshore outcroppings of Pleistocene sediments, and when the spring longshore currents change, there are times when cold water upwellings make their way to the beachfront. The deepwater offshore becomes agitated and stirred up, and when it comes into shore, we will often see clay seabed deposits and sometimes, dirty and cold water. In all likelihood, this won’t last long, but the above average fisherman will take note of colder water which is quite wont to produce only rays and hardheads much of the time.
As for the large shark left to rot with its jaws and head cut off, and stomach cut open—the people that continue to participate in these actions are putting the past time that so many of us love in peril. This 60 mile portion of Padre is a National Park, not a fishing club on private property. We have no right to shark fish down there, and actions like these do NOT help our cause for those of us who enjoy doing so responsibly and with concern for the resource.
April is a month on Padre that I wait all year long for. There’s just something about the various bird species that make their long journey back north from Central America to as far north as the Artic Circle.for the summer to come. Cattle Egrets, White Ibis, Ruddy Turnstones are just a few that you might see this time of year. While some species do in fact stay on Padre year round, the majority migrate back and forth, thus the Island’s designation as part of the Migratory Flyway.
The cool front came through overnight and with it, beautiful temperatures and lower humidity. A perfect day to be on Island. The NW flow was forecasted at 15-20 to increase in the afternoon hours to 20-25. It hit the low 30’s before coming off Island, and gusted at over 38 knots at Bob Hall Pier, but nevertheless it was a great day to be alone on the beach. Many will not and do not fish unless the conditions are perfect, and for a lover of the beach, there’s no more peaceful time to go than during these blows. The traffic during better weather windows tends to shut down the bite for more desirable species such as trout, and it can be solid trucks on some days. The animals come out because it’s deserted, and one learns how to be a better fisherman, testing the limitations of gear and self.
“Although internet is by far the fastest and cheapest way to advertise your services to the largest number of people, it actually comes at a dear price. The more self-promotion a guide does on internet, the more pressure he brings on a particular area or fishery and, often, it is an area or fishery already overburdened by the number of current users. The reality of it is that the more guides promote certain locations, the tougher the fishing becomes there.
Several non-productive charters as the result of crowds that read your stuff on the internet will quickly outdo any good the internet promotion may have originally done. And what about the fishermen who learned of the spot and were enjoying it long before the internet guide who is basically fishing for customers told the entire world how many he caught there yesterday? More than likely he is going to arrive at his sweet spot to find it looking like a boat dealer's parking lot.
It is for this very reason that you will most likely find the fishing report on my website outdated. I made my mind up many years ago that I would not put my personal gain over the well-being of the resource. I call it turning the wolves loose. I've observed for years that one good fishing report on internet can dramatically increase the number of users the following weekend and that traffic can ruin the fishing. The crowds are their own worst enemy; their very presence brings an end to that which they seek. So, the fishing is good but the catching varies from day to day. So do the conditions. But we're still having lots of fun most days and there's not a whole lot of people down there.”
—Captain Billy Sandifer, guide on PINS for over 20 years, article from 2007. Rest in Peace Billy.
“Loose lips sink ships!”
—My dear friend and mentor Ralph Wade, WW2 vet and beach fishing pioneer. Rest in peace Ralph, you are missed.
Truer words were never spoken. In a day and age where just about everything folks do ends up on the internet, I do believe I share Billy’s and Ralph’s sentiments. It’s a fine line to walk, that’s for sure. But the old timers would never let the news slip, not even to eachother.
For reasons unclear, I suppose I missed Ralph all day yesterday. And if he had been still with us to go visit, I woulda darn sure went to sit with him and visit.
Today was storming with a 4-6 ft sea and occasional 8 footers predicted, and 15-20 knot winds from the SE—— nothing better for a lover of the Island. There’s nothing like fishing in the storms, alone with your thoughts and the wind and the waves. Today was just such a day. The water was murkier, and it took some grinding, but the fish were there in some of the typical haunts.
You just can’t beat a quiet day on Island, a limit of reds, and some drum. Ya’ll take care and see you on the sand. Take care of the resource and be kind to one another.
You win some, you lose some, and you realize some days none of it really matters anyways. Today was one of those days, just a good day for riding. The winds are up, and the seas are elevated, it would be a good day to check out the reopened Yarbrough Pass, and fish the Harnell 542 for the first time. The birds are returning back to the beach in good numbers and variety again, and jacks are in the surf and things are as they should be for April. The tides remain running high through the daylight hours, and at times have been running a foot above normal, but this is again all par for the course for the springtime beach fisherman.
A while back, a good friend of mine became ill. He’s been building rods for many, many years and I absolutely hated to see him sick. It took the summer, fall, and winter but he’s better now, and back to building rods. When he called with a 542 blank, virgin, he had me from hello. Of course, everything is original Harnell, no stupid nonsense, no chevron wrap, no weird neon colors, just business. The reel seat is a awesome new model Aftco, but the guides are period appropriate. At 10 ft in total length, this rod is destined to be a casted bait shark catching buggywhip. The original new white Harnell grips are icing on the cake.
These rods are Steve’s legacy. Thanks again my friend.
The 2019 Cleanup is a wrap, and it was a great success once again. Over 75 tons of trash removed from our first estimates. If you have never participated, this is a yearly event and a great way to give back to the beach that we all love so much. Although this was our first year without Captain Billy now that he has crossed the bar, the tradition and the event will continue to carry on and he would be proud.
Report as follows.
Made a dinner table trip last Wednesday, and despite a solid Norther rolling in that morning, scratched out a few pompano and a limit of redfish. And came across a rather unruly duo of Javelina, a first on Island!
Report as follows.
Sue and I made a long anticipated trip to one of the back island dune fields, and it definitely didn’t disappoint! Sue is the Padre Island National Seashore Artist in Residence. Her pictures documenting Padre Island National Seashore can be seen as she releases them on her website at www.where-2-next.com or on her Instagram at instagram.com/suewolfe4943.
Report of the trip at this link:
Had some wonderful repeat customers of mine along for a fishing charter, and even though the cold fronts and weather weren’t quite optimal, they told me, “Let’s go regardless, and we’ll just enjoy the beach and the day!” Great plan! That is a wonderful way to enjoy the longest undeveloped barrier island in the world, and all it has to offer. Not only did we fish HARD but we had a quite tasty grilled sirloin hamburger lunch and then enjoyed some flounder and trout fishing along the channel and mama even relaxed and enjoyed a good book in the late day sunshine!
Had a blast recently with a very awesome couple that was interested in shelling, maybe a little fishing, and a fun day on the beach! Thanks for a great trip guys! Hope to see you again!
If you’ve been interested in learning how to catch wintertime fish such as the tasty pompano, there are still a few dates in January available, inquire for availability and let’s go fishing!
Fishing has been hit or miss with the strong fronts that have come through, but in between storms the beach has been beautiful and the fishing good!
Thanks for another great trip Sue! Pleasure was all mine! Counted numerous species of terns, herons, egrets, plovers, and more.
A big thanks to Mark and wife for an awesome day fishing charter with a smidgeon of sightseeing thrown in! Hope to see you again guys! Pleasure was all mine!