Mysterious Fish From Texas Gulf Coast

unidentified fish1

This is a post which is open pandering for a fish identification. Over the weekend I was fishing off the Caldwell Pier in Port Aransas. It was about one in the morning and just a little after high tide. I caught the fish at about the third guts, about seventy feet south of the pier. It bit on a couple of previously frozen piggy perches rigged two feet from the bottom. When I was reeling it up, I thought it was just a whiting, because it was about the size of a large one. It wasn’t until I had it on the deck of the pier before I realized how odd it looked.

The gold color is an artifact of the camera and the light conditions, in real life it seemed more silvery, like a mackerel. I don’t recall the eyes being walleye like that, but they could have been.


After I took its picture, I decided to use the stainless steel forceps to get the circle hook out. And it’s a good thing I did, because it started biting the metal with an audible crunching sound. Its mouth wasn’t very big, but it was crowned with some Nosferatu bunny fangs and some finger-amputating strong jaws.

Any rate, I threw the thing back, and neither the guy at the bait shop and the guy at the tackle shop recognized it. So now I’m asking the internet in general.

Edit 11/11/13:
I posted this fish to the forum and it was the general opinion of the gentlemen there that this was a smooth puffer.

foam fly lure spider

The Foam Gaga Spider – Fly-tying recipe

The foam Gaga Spider takes all the delicious, buggy elements of sub-surface nymphs, and combines it with the fast and furious top-water action of a foam spider.


  • size 14 to 18 dry fly hook
  • beige thread
  • small plastic barbell eyes (optional)
  • brown goose biots
  • yellow/chartreuse crazy legs
  • brown and yellow foam
  • yellow dubbing
  • Aqua flash” instructions

For this fly-tying recipe, start the thread on the hook size of your choice. Tie on the barbell eyes. If you use these, they should be a light material, not the sinking barbells. At each end of the hook, tie on the goose biots to form antennas. Starting at the curve of the hook, twist on layers of the yellow dubbing until you build up a buggy nymph-like body. At the body’s midpoint, tie on three to four rubber crazy legs. Fold the flash into a bow and tie above the legs. Then fold the flash back and tie it so it angles back from the midpoint like the wings of a fly. The final layer is the foam, which is tied at the very top. Don’t go overboard with this, you only need enough foam to keep the hook floating. I would recommend a brownish layer to give a naturalistic presentation to fish observing it from below, and a yellow layer on top to make it easier to spot against the surface of the water for anglers observing from above.


A microscope. Just because.


I just bought this microscope from Goodwill. It was only five bucks and promised to enlarge things as much as six hundred times.

So far the only thing I know for sure is that q-tips may clean smudges, but they also leave a lot of tiny fibers on microscope lenses. The other big discovery: my spit is filled with lumpy stuff.


A Couple of Big Bass

I was biking through South Austin this evening and I noticed that some of the red buds had started to bloom already. As a fisherguy that of course made me think about a year ago, near the end of the white bass run when I finally managed to get myself into some white bass fishing. Okay, it was only one white bass. Nevertheless, to prevent anyone from finding out where I was during this particular fishing victory, I have obscured all of the identifying details of the location.
white and largemouth bass
There was a regular old bass too, of reasonable size. The two of them together made for a most gratifying pile of filets, which I fried up as soon as I got home.
whitebass and largemouth


Day Trips Fishing the Colorado River

Largemouth Bass by 973

When the weather’s right, the fishing team will head down to the old Colorado River for a little swimsuit fishing. Now that I’ve had some more experience with the Colorado, I would have to compare it to Lady Bird Lake, in that it’s convenient, but it’s also likely to give you a good fishing day just about as often as it completely shuts you out.

But if you get into the right spot, you can get into some decent largemouth bass action. The largie in the first photo here was caught on a spinner cast out into the center of the stream. There was no particular finesse to it, it was simply a matter of keeping the lure in the water for as long as possible.

Detritus Under 973

One of the more interesting sites in the Colorado is the bridge which crosses down by Austin’s airport. A pile of detritus and bleached sticks lies across the upstream side. There is at least as many manufactured objects in the pile as there are natural. I tried walking across it in my aquasocks and it felt spongy, because the whole mass was floating. I didn’t stay long. I had visions of falling through and drowning, my body held underwater by rusty nails and half-crushed bottles of polyethylene terephthalate.

Third Degree in Float Chair

Third Degree and I went on a semi-epic wading trip during the heat of the summer. You can wade for a kilometer at a stretch along the Colorado, but then there’s that ten-meter section where it’s up to our neck. For those deep sections I brought along my inflatable chair, a surprisingly versatile piece of aquatic hardware.

We stood on a steel pipe which crosses the river and cast into a hole on the downstream side which was known to hold some big bass. When Third Degree caught his precious mini-Rappala on an overhanging tree on the far side of the hole, the only solution was to put him on the inflatable chair and drift him after the lure on the end of the tether.

I hope you can appreciate the level of coordination I had to exert in order to take a picture of Third Degree with one hand, hold a rope so he wouldn’t float away to Bastrop with the other hand, all while balancing on a slippery pipe while thigh deep in a swift current.

Third Degree at the End of His Rope

I’m not saying it was tough for me, I just want you to appreciate how other people would find that tough.

Albino bluegill on beadhead prince nymph

Fishing Bull Creek

Most people know Bull Creek as the Austin park that’s constantly getting closed to swimming because of dangerous levels of fecal bacteria. But for those of us with fly rods and a penchant for urban assault fishing, it’s a collection of unsuspecting perch and largies.
Bluegill at Bull Creek
Third Degree and I hiked into the creek’s green space from the parking lot and the hordes of dogs and children. The first deep pool that was reasonably free of swimmers could only be accessed from the top of a ten-foot limestone cliff. That made fly casting an interesting challenge. The trees behind us made back-casting impossible, so it was purely a roll-casting game.

The water in the pool was reasonably clear, so we could see small bass and sunfish patrolling back and forth and rising to swallow our prince nymphs. It wasn’t until after I had caught a dozen little sunfish of various species that I noticed Third Degree was perched on a thin shelf of rock that protruded a couple of meters over the water. But it didn’t break under his weight, so I call that a victory.

Cliff fishing at Bull Creek

Cliff fishing at Bull Creek

We also moved upstream and prospected several pools surrounded by thickets of poison ivy. The green sunfish in particular were voracious there, taking my glow in the dark San Juan gummy worm on every cast. There was even a baby largemouth who took a black woolly bugger that was barely smaller than itself. You have to respect that sort of ambition.


Behind a Big Box Store

big box with line
The fishing team got a hot tip that if one were to go to the hinterlands of Austin, to the sprawling suburbs, that behind a certain big box store there was a rainwater runoff settling pond, and that within that pond were some of the most voracious bass in town.

So of course we all got together and put our fly rods together, and piled into the Big C’s Kia for the long expedition.

You might notice that this post does not have any pictures of fish in it.

We wet our lines for an hour and a half, even going so far as to explore a nearby creek that had some promising populations of green sunfish in sporadic pools. But then it started to rain and we had to make a mad dash for the Kia’s parking spot, back by the big box store’s loading bays and dumpsters.

A promising but unproductive creek

A promising but unproductive creek

So the moral of the story is that sometimes you can’t believe the stories that other fishermen drop on you.

Rolling the tamale
Food Frakker

Homemade Tamales

The great thing about tamales is that they’re the gift that keeps on giving. With a couple of dollars worth of low-grade pork, and pennies worth of spices, cornmeal and corn husks, you can make a pile of tamales which will keep in the freezer forever.

Mixing the corn mush

Mixing the corn mush

The trick to making a really good tamale, is you don’t throw away any of the fat. You start with some low-grade stew meat, or if you’re a traditionalist, the entire head of some unsuspecting livestock, and you crock pot it until the meat, fat, and bone, all go in their separate directions.

The fat can be skimmed off and added to the masa, the corn meal. You can make the masa from scratch or from a mix, but in non-drought times you can usually find this in the store, pre-mixed with lye and all the other tasty additives for a very reasonable price. I got a two-pound bag for a buck.

adding the gravy

Adding the Gravy

Then you can add the usual chili powders and salt to the meat. The broth left in the crock pot should be turned into a gravy and added to the meat.
Mixing up the pork

Mixing up the pork

Then it’s just a matter of rolling up the tamales in corn husks and steaming them. Even without really trying you will probably end up with way more than you bargained for. That two-pound bag of masa will swell in the steam.
A pile of pork and mush

A pile of pork and mush

Leftovers should either be frozen or given away to friends, family, and coworkers.
The steamed tamales

The steamed tamales

Food Frakker

Gizzards of Austin’s East Side


It had been a little while since I had visited the lunch counter at the back of the convenience store on Cedar Avenue and 14th Street. The ownership had changed, so they now offered more soul food and barbecue than they had before, but they still had gizzards. The proprietress fried me up a pile, and they were everything that gizzards ought to be, crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside, and greasy through and through.