Thanksgiving Week – Take the Time to Get Outdoors

Tom Behrens – I enjoy deer hunting, but I think I would give a slight edge to waterfowl hunting over deer hunting. There is something just about those still dark mornings, finding your way across a deeply plowed field pulling a bag of decoys out to set up before daylight. Or maybe its standing thigh/hip deep in water in flooded timber on the upper end of Toledo Bend Lake waiting for the duck flying action to begin.

However, at the end of October, Texas Parks & Wildlife Biologists were reporting the drought conditions across the state could pose some challenges for waterfowl hunters.

Add the US Fish and Wildlife Service report that waterfowl populations were lower than in previous years. Most of the duck species saw substantial decreases since the last survey, 2019. There was no survey in 2021 due to the COVID 19 threat. Drought conditions over most of the prairie-parklands region, the most important breeding area for ducks coming to Texas, was playing a significant role in the decline. Blue winged teal and red head ducks were the only duck species that saw population increases.

“The drought that occurred in 2020 and 2021 had a large impact on success in Texas,” said Keven Kraal,” TPWD Waterfowl Program Leader. “The total estimated duck harvest was down 41 percent in 2021 compared to 2020.”

However, cooler/colder than normal November temperatures, along with accompanying rain has brought some waterfowl flights down into the coastal areas of Texas.

On Sunday, Nov. 13, five-man limits that included gadwall, teal, pintails, and wigeon were reported in Matagorda. 0ther mixed limits were posted from the south Texas area.

The Texas coast region still needs a lot of rain as the marshes are reported as being  salty; many of the wetlands are dry and the overall amount of freshwater is extremely limited.

As for the deer hunting, Alan Cain, TPWD white-tailed deer program leader stated that  deer hunters and landowners report seeing lots of deer, especially younger deer.

“Part of that is a result of a good fawn crop the last couple of years. There are more bucks in those age classes relative to bucks in the four-to-six-old range.” Harvest has been light to this point but is not unusual considering the warm weather in October.

Cain added, “As we move into November, and closer to the rut, the older bucks should increase movement activities in search of does, hopefully presenting an opportunity for a lucky hunter. Overall antler quality is down a bit, but there were still some great bucks harvested during the archery season and managed lands deer program season.”

A check around at the angling results at Fayette County Reservoir we find the bass are on points and along dam rocks with various shad color crankbaits and plastics. “Catfish catches are good with punch bait and chicken livers in 12-20 feet of water, on tight lines over chum,” said Weldon Kirk, Fish Tales Guide Service.

On Lake Conroe, bass were reported as transitioning to deeper water as the water temps cool. At the Sunday Moring Bass Tournament at Stow-A-Way Marina Ty Russell weighed the winning catch of 4 fish weighing 16.46 pounds. Russell also had big bass – 6.31 pounds. Fishing Guide Captain Bryan Brawner said he has been catching bass along and over brush in water 9-15 feet deep, fish a diving crankbait.

Capt. David Dillman, Galveston Bay Charter Fishing reports speckled trout and scattered redfish are being caught along the shorelines of Eagle Point. Live shrimp under popping corks are bait and method of choice. Gas wells are good for black drum and a few oversized redfish, with anglers fishing live shrimp on the bottom.

In West and East Matagorda Bays fishing between fronts is producing the best bites. Redfish can be caught on drains and reefs. “The ace in the hole for catches of trout and redfish is the Colorado River,” said Captain Charlie Paradoski.

Whatever your choice – hunting or fishing, Thanksgiving week is a great time to get outdoors with friends and family. Slice off a big piece of Turkey breast for me! Happy Thanksgiving, God Bless.

“Photo Courtesy – Michael Thuman”