Bolivar Beach Specks Rebound
June 23-25, 2009  Shakespeare wrote that it's an ill wind that blows nobody good, and maybe Hurricane Ike wasn't such an ill wind after all.  Fishing this summer on the Bolivar Peninsula, north of Galveston, has been better than it has been for several years, and my latest trip may have been the best ever.

I was afraid that the beachfront would be littered with hurricane debris, full of snags and nasty timbers studded with nails, but just the opposite is the case.  The beach fishing conditions are excellent, with hard sand bottoms and deeper troughs closer to shore than in the last few years.  Texas' current heat wave has dampened the persistent wind that plagued fishing throughout the spring, leading to some near-perfect mornings on the beach, with the breeze blowing off-shore and green water all the way to the beach.  I hit two mornings in a row that were absolutely "speck"-tacular.

After a late start Tuesday morning, I picked up only four trout, fishing about half-way between the Retilon Street beach entrance and the pilings in the Bolivar Pocket.  Had I been in the right place, I probably would have done better.  That afternoon in the Goat Island Marsh, fishing mainly the runouts into the ICW, I stuck three redfish, but only landed one, a 26" battler that took me down to the backing three times on the 9-weight. This one ate a Red Chaser, with a rabbit collar instead of hackle.

Wednesday morning started out golden.  I hit the beach at the same place, except just at daylight, and caught 7 straight keeper-size trout, 15 to 18 inches, on the white/red head foam popper, fished with my favorite 10-foot 7-weight rod.  I love fishing the topwater fly, but it's really tiring.  Instead of the slow twitch-and-sit style so effective on bass, specks want the popper constantly moving and constantly making as much noise as possible.  Try continuously working a popper with fast, hard strips and you'll see quickly how tiring it can be.  I picked up a couple more small fish, then they quit.  Not bad for an hour's fishing, but I figured that was it for the day.  Then the birds started showing up, gulls and terns working close to the beach and staying in the same spot.  I made my way up to the area they were working, noting that they were coming up with shrimp after every plunge to the water.  I caught some small trout, but nothing that matched what the birds seemed to promise.  As the bird activity died out where I was, I could see even more birds working up the beach to the north.

Up the beach, about where a wash crosses the beach north of Retilon Street, birds were pretty steady tight to the beach, and this time they were on decent fish.  This was probably about 8:00; from then until 10:30, action was steady on schoolie specks, most in the 12 to 14 inch range.  Even after the birds stopped working, the second gut stayed full of fish.  The fly of choice was any shrimp pattern, mainly my favorite Billy Trimble bucktail shrimp in pink, but just about any moderate size fly with some flash would work.  I caught fish on my own Genuine Imitation Plastic, on Ward Bean's Red-Faced Wobbler, and on half a dozen other patterns, most of which got cut off by either bluefish, Spanish mackerel, or small sharks.  I finally added a wire bite tippet, but never caught a toothy fish that way--just more trout.  I also caught three or four really big skipjacks (ladyfish) that smoked the drag on my reel.  I hooked one fish that could very well have been a king mackerel.  All I know is that the rod bent double, the drag started smoking, and something flashy and three feet long did its best to get to Cuba with my fly before finally coming unbuttoned.  Things finally wound down about 11 a.m., as the wind started to turn inshore and the tide headed for the bottom.  Afternoon in the marsh was a bust, way too hot to be in the boat and too windy to fly fish effectively.  I managed to move one fish but tried to hit him too quick and pulled the fly out of his mouth.  I came back to the trailer, changed to beach gear, and went across to try to get some mullet to put on the big rods.  Standing in the now-rough surf with the cast net, I realized about the time the second or third wave broke waist high on me that I'd left my phone clipped to my belt.  For the second time in less than two years, I proved that cell phones aren't waterproof, and that salt water is a great conductor.  About 30 seconds of pops and sizzles, and the phone is junk.  Luckily, the SIM card didn't get fried, so I didn't lose all my stored numbers.

Thursday morning started pretty slow.  I tried to fish the same area where I hit keeper fish the day before, but all I got was a few blow-ups on poppers.  Sub-surface flies didn't draw any action at all.  Although no birds were working, I relocated back up the beach where I caught fish the day before.  Conditions were still perfect, with clear water and only a light offshore breeze.  At first, things were still slow, but I started catching a few little trout.  Finally, about 8:30,  the bite got rolling, and I was catching nice schoolie trout on a white Gartside Gurgler, on about every cast.  That action subsided a little, and I switched over to conventional tackle to give my elbow a break.  Fishing a chartreuse Catch 2000, I picked up a few more trout but also had to contend with little sharks as well, and the headache of getting them untangled from the trebles was just too much trouble, so I went back to the fly rod.  This time, I tied on the old standby chartreuse and white Clouser so I could fish a little more leisurely than with the popper, and immediately caught two good keeper trout, in the 19- or 20-inch range.  I worked my way down the beach, picking up a trout every five or six casts, and eventually went back to a popper when the breeze died out, this time my favorite Charlie's Plopsicle.  Eventually things seemed to slow down, and I was getting pretty worn out.  I worked back to where I was even with the truck, and started the "five casts without a fish and I'll quit" game.  This was about 10:15.  At 11:30, I finally gave up.  Standing in one spot, with one fly (a chartreuse/white bucktail Clouser), I never went five casts in a row without hooking up, and nearly all the fish were legal size.  I have no idea how many trout I landed in that hour, but I know that I got to the point where I didn't really care if I caught another fish.  What finally persuaded me to quit was the congregation of 3 or 4 little blacktip sharks that began circling me waiting for the next trout to come in.  They never actually got a fish, but they were getting pretty worked up, and I didn't want to have my hands on a fish when one did decide to make a move.

Fishing this good doesn't happen very often, but when it does, it makes up for all the bad times.  If the wind turns westerly and the tide is right, I'll be back for more Bolivar beach specks.