On the Road to Port Mansfield; Area Volunteer Cleanup Well Underway

My longtime friend and fellow shooter Mark Hall of CoastalPhotos.net and I will be spending a few days with Capt. Terry Neal of Port Mansfield next week, fly fishing the flats and sight-casting to tailing redfish. We will also fish with Capt. Randle Hall of Geaux Deep Charters on his 31-foot Bertram, named (naturally) “Geaux Deep,” and take advantage of the opening weekend of white-winged dove season while we are at it.Port Mansfield Dock
The end result, with any luck at all, will be a “Three Days in the Field” travelogue tentatively slated for the January ’09 issue of Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine. These pieces are essentially journal compilations, written as we go, and are hopefully half as much fun to read as they are to execute. For once, after two previously-scheduled blow-outs, the wind conditions down Mansfield way look very promising.
Aside from conventional fly fishing, we’ll be using inshore Black Salty baitfish on the flats as part of a sight-casting experiment. As of late, I have done a lot of fishing with Woodee Rods’ 7-1/2-foot fast-action spinning rods (www.woodeerods.com), fitted with U.S. Reels SuperCaster and Doug Hannon Wave Spin spinning reels. Both carry 6-pound-diameter, 20-pound-test Sufix superline, and both cast like the proverbial wind.
They’re fun and effective to fish any time, but when the wind gets too high to allow for effective fly casting, these specialized spinning combos step right in so we never miss a shot at an in-range redfish.
Always on the lookout for yet another good story … and particularly to construct our regular podcast interviews on Great American Outdoor Trails Radio Magazine (www.gaot.net), with host Jim Ferguson, we will also fish Offshore Saltys for red snapper in Texas waters and then fish the big XL-size baits aboard the Geaux Deep with the utilization of the “kite fishing” technique.
Sunset HouseThe kite fishing goal is to … catch this … hook and land a Texas sailfish. This is one time that, no matter how many fish meet the gaff or how many palomas go in the bird bags, I strongly suspect we are going to return home with some great stories.
Half of the fun is the travel, and Hall and I have learned how to appreciate and capitalize upon every single precious moment of it.
It’s been a while since we tried to fish a wind that didn’t have a name, so we are really looking forward to this one.
Check CoastalAnglers.com next weekend for a rundown of some of the details, and what we learned.


Speaking of learning something, Capt. Neal called me yesterday to let me know that he and 8 other volunteers recently spent a day that was purely focused on retrieving the scattered detritus of Hurricane Dolly from Port Mansfield-area waters. The stuff was presenting a serious navigational hazard, and although Neal and crew didn’t get all of it, what they did extract substantially reduces the possibility of getting a pier piling through the fiberglass.
“Dolly tore out a lot of the piers on the north and south sides of town,” Neal told me. “A lot of the big pilings that were holding the ends of the piers down were gone. As for as structural damage goes, there was not anything serious,” he added. “There was, however, some wind damage due to lost shingles and water getting blown into some facilities. Redfish Release in Grass
“After the storm,” Neal continued, “we started going out and seeing so much debris in the bay that it was scary. It was packed in all the way up the west shoreline, including a bunch of 15-foot-long, 12-inch-diameter pilings hung up on the shallow grass bars with their ends protruding out of the water. Still,” he noted, “they were very hard to see.
“So, the first thing we did was identify them, using Styrofoam pool noodles so people would not run over them,” Neal explained. “Then, 8 or 9 guys volunteered their boats and brought deckhands to help with the cleanup effort. We tied the pilings on to ropes and pulled them in.”
By the time Neal and volunteers were through, they had towed approximately 100 pieces of heavy debris to shore.
“There is no guarantee we got it all,” Neal cautioned. “In fact, it is certain that we didn’t, and a lot of what remains is submerged … in some cases, right below the surface. A lot of it this stuff sinks real fast. Boaters still need to be very careful running the west shoreline.”
According to the veteran flats fishing guide, there is also scattered debris south of Port Mansfield that will be marked and picked up within the next several days. “A few of the fishing cabins on the Intracoastal Canal completely disappeared,” he said. “We’re talking about entire houses that are gone. We need a good low tide to be able to see it all, and it may be the first hard cold front of this fall before we get a really comprehensive look.
“We had a big storm surge with Dolly,” Neal continued, “and although most people don’t realize it, we got another substantial surge with Hurricane Gustav.”
The good news?
“Gustav brought in a lot of green, Caribbean-clear water,” he reported, “and the East Cut is stacked full of trout. I know that because I was out there scouting for reds for the trip we are making next week, and instead of redfish, caught a limit of trout blind-casting with a fly rod. I was throwing a chartreuse Clouser minnow fly. (For the record, Neal’s son T.J. owns East Cut Saltwater Flies, and ties what are without a doubt some of the finest fly-rod offerings available anywhere. For more info, check the Web at www.eastcut.com).
“As for redfish,” Neal added, “they are everywhere. On any given day of wade fishing you will find at least several concentrated pods of quality reds working their way across the flats, feeding on crabs and other bottom forage.”
For more information on Port Mansfield, from one of the area’s premier pros, contact Capt. Terry Neal of Terry Neal Charters at 956-642-7357. Check the Web at www.terrynealcharters.com or send email to terry_r_neal@msn.com.
To check out the offshore scene, contact Capt. Randle Hall at 956-689-1911, check the Web at www.geauxdeep.com or send email to captainhall@geauxdeep.com.
By the way, we’ll be spending our down time at the Port Mansfield Sunset House, a comfortable and nicely-appointed hotel situated at 1144 S. Port Drive in Port Mansfield. For information or to book a room, call 1-800-311-4250, send email to portmansfieldsunsethouse@comcast.net or take a look on the Web at www.portmansfieldsunsethouse.com. Aside from owning the hotel and doing an awesome job of maintaining and operating it, owners Ed and Debbie Freeman are also veteran outfitters who can hook you up with quality fishing and hunting trips in not only Texas but Mexico and elsewhere.
Plus, they are just bona fide nice folks.
We are, as Willie memorialized it, “On the Road Again.”
We’ll be back in touch soon as we hit town. Meanwhile, no matter where you are boating, pay close attention to the water and be safe out there.


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