The clients I had on my boat was one that I had never taken out before and had come to me after what they described as a "not what they expected" day with another guide.
The man and his wife had quizzed me pretty well about my style of guiding, and as they arrived early that morning to meet me, the woman asked in a very serious manner: "Now, Capt. Mac, will my husband and I catch fish?"
The fishing had been slow with a full moon and water levels were so low one would think that it was January and February, not June. My response was, "Well, yes, maam. I believe we will, but we are going to work for our fish today, probably moving a lot and casting til your arms are sore."
"I see," she said. "So we are going to fish and we are going to catch fish."
I was a little confused but thought I understood her point and said: "We are not going to sink the boat with fish, but you will put some keepers in the ice chest and should have enough to fix for supper, and hopefully maybe a few more. Some days its fishing and catching and some days more just fishing, but in either case, I will work hard to put you on fish."
"Well, let me say right up front that I know you can out-fish us, so my husband and I concede that and would like the opportunity to fish and catch ourselves," she said.
I had missed her point completely, but was catching up quickly.
"Maam, I dont really fish that much with you, for I stay busy baiting hooks, netting fish, and focusing on keeping us on feeding fish. If you and your husband want, I can cast some for you until you get the hang of it. Im one that you might say encourages my clients to participate as much as possible in their fishing trip."
That changed her whole mood at the dock, and as her husband toted their ice chest to my boat, she proclaimed in a very cheerful voice: "Bill! We actually get to fish today!"
As the day progressed, I learned they had been on a guided trip where the guide did most of the catching, and while the guide seemed to have a good time, the clients were disappointed in the trip. Of the 15 fish they brought back and cleaned, 12 were caught by the guide. Our trip that day was a success with limits of trout, a few reds, and a few black drum, and the clients happily did the catching and me the netting and cleaning. At the end of the day, the wife told me: "Now, Capt. Mac, thats a fun day of fishing!"
Over the years, I have heard this story way too often, where the guide does the catching and the clients get to watch, especially on artificial-only guided trips.
Of course a guide is going to out-fish most of his clients, for the waters are tilted in the guides favor: his boat, his rods, his baits, and hes playing in his home waters--not to mention hes probably on the water fishing over 150 days a year compared to most clients that might get to fish 3-4 days a year.
The real question is: what in your opinion is a guides primary role? Only the paying client knows.
I believe my job is to teach clients how to catch fish on that particular day using techniques that work for me, and in all honesty, some are more teachable that others.
The point is, they are learning a new skill, and though they might not limit out in an hour, at the end of the day the fish in the box are ones that they caught and most find a deep sense of satisfaction that carries them right up to the dinner table when the delicious filets are eaten. "Fish just tastes better if you catch it," I had one lady tell me.
If people want to watch a catching clinic, they can turn on the outdoor channel and watch any number of fishing shows that take 200 or so hours of fishing film and condense it into a 30-minute catching frenzy. When they pay me money to take them fishing, they want to catch fish, not watch my testosterone flow all over my 23-foot boat as I load the ice chest with fish.
Can anyone really think thats a fun day for a paying client? A good fisherman does not always make a good guide. The motivation for a guide to be catching the fish is mostly self-serving, though some do have the interest of the client in mind.
Unfortunately, they miss the mark for a lot of paying clients. The guide will catch fish so the client goes back with fish to eat, so they look good when they get to the fish cleaning station, so they can put pictures on their websites, and--heres the big one--because its just flat fun.
Some believe that catching with clients on the boat is a benefit of the profession, and some have told me they would seriously consider not guiding if they didnt get to fish. Truth is, I seldom get to fish, and my wife Lisa knows my style of guiding is not usually fishing for my clients. So, when she asks if I want to go fishing with her, I jump at the chance.
On my days off, you can usually see me at the boat ramp launching my boat, where more than once I have been asked, "You going out by yourself? Dont you ever get tired of fishing?" I seldom get to fish, and when I do get to fish, I cherish it.
There are times when I know my clients are not catching fish and I ask if they want me to help. Some say, "Yes! Please help!" while others say, "No, we want to catch our own."
The point is, I leave that up to the client: its their trip, their water time, their money, and I strongly believe they have a say in it.
On the other side of the coin, some clients couldnt care less, just see the guide catching fish as a normal guided day, and appreciate the guides efforts to get them more fish. Some want the guide to hook the fish and hand them the rod; some will just sit back, drink a beer, and be as happy as a feral hog in a sour mash mud hole while the guide loads the box with fish.
Legally, you might be surprised what the TPWD has to say about whose fish the guide just put into the box. Suffice to say, if Im asked to help, its usually just hooking the fish and passing the rod to the client to reel it in. There truly is no right and wrong here (with the exception of the letter of the law), just guide style differences.
You, the client, need to ask questions of your potential guide and select one that fits your particular style. If you dont ask, then dont complain. The catch is, you decide when a catch is a Catch and when its not.
• • •
Copano Bay - As cold fronts hit target the deeper water of Smiths Channel especially if the water temperature drops more that ten degrees. Cut mullet, or menhaden work well here for reds, and flounder and trout will hit cut bait more often than you might think. Live shrimp on the hot days towards the first of the month under a cork just off the shallow shell of Lap Reef works well for trout and reds. Shell Bank Reef is a good wade using medium size croaker for trout.
St. Charles Bay - Drifts across Big Sharp Point using sand eels in pumpkin/chartreuse and red shad is good for reds and some keeper trout. Red action is good at the mouth of Big Devil Bayou using cut mullet or mud minnows on a fish finder rig.
Aransas Bay - Hamilton Reef is good for trout using free lined croaker and some reds frequent this area early morning and late evening. The deeper transitions off of Live Oak Point are good for trout using soft plastics in new penny and electric grape colors. On colder days target the deep water off of Nine Mile Point for reds using cut mullet or finger mullet on a light Carolina rig.
Carlos Bay - Cedar Reef is still good for reds on high tide using finger mullet free lined. The deep-water transition off of Cedar Point is good for trout using croaker. Free line the croaker and let it swim from shallow to the deep edge as most bites happen in this area.
Mesquite Bay - Rattlesnake Reef is good for reds using mud minnows on a light Carolina rig, high tide early morning is best. Wade fish the south shore line of San Jose close to Cedar Bayou using free line croaker for trout and reds.
Ayers Bay - Keeper black drum are good on the west shoreline close to Rattlesnake Island using peeled shrimp on a light Carolina rig. As I have said before a patient hook set is required here so slow down and give a three count before setting the hook. Gaff top are plentiful on the mid-bay shell using cut squid or dead shrimp under a cork.
THE BANK BITE
The cut between St Charles and Aransas Bay is the best place to be as the first cold front makes its way into the coastal bend. Fish the whole area from shallow to deep using free lined shrimp for red trout and some flounder. If the current is strong through the cut use a medium weighted Carolina rig to let the bait down into the water column. Access to this area is through Goose Island State Park.
Heres wishing you tight lines, bent poles, and plenty of bait.
Contact Capt. Mac Gable at
Mac Attack Guide Service,