Product Reviews: Tested by a Winter Texas Coast

Stacking them with a Thule Stacker

I recently spent a few days down at the Texas Coast with some family and friends. We were able to take advantage of the beautiful weather to do some paddling back in the bays, attempt a little fishing and have lots of fun! Naturally, for Christmas, I acquired a few items from ACK and couldn’t wait to try them out. Among them were a Wool Buff Headwear, a Yak Attack ParkNPole Stick, Thule Stacker and a Sandbar FlatFire Charcoal Chimney starter.

The Wool Buff was awesome. When the mornings were a little brisk and slightly breezy, it kept me warm. It also helped shield my face and neck from the wind, sun, and spray. The beautiful thing about wool is that it works to keep you warm when it’s cold, but also keeps you cool when it warms up. I highly recommend trying one of these out, especially if you are spending significant time in the outdoors. I plan on using this for hiking, running, and backpacking as well.

The Yak Attack ParkNPole Stick works very well. Some of its benefits over other stakeout poles I own and use is that it is lightweight, has a comfortable handle that doubles as a push pole, and it floats if you drop it in the water. I was able to pole my Tarpon while standing when I encountered some pretty skinny waters.

Firing it up with a Sandbar Charcoal Chimney fire starter!

Fire — humans have an innate attraction to it for obvious reasons but when it comes to grilling with charcoal a chimney system such as the Sandbar FlatFire Charcoal Chimney is the best. Personally, I dislike the taste and the idea of having lighter fluid fumes near my food, and it takes longer. This system uses no lighter fluid, takes only a few minutes to create glowing red coals (all of them), and only requires a few sheets of paper and a match to light. Plus, here’s the best — it folds flat. I spent four months hauling around a round chimney on a road trip. I wish I had found this solution a lot sooner. All in all, a must have, and I liked it so much I bought one for my father as well.

Last but not least, the Thule Stacker enabled me to bring all 4 kayaks on one vehicle. A slick system, I have used this several times to haul multiple kayaks. Sturdy and easy to install, the Stacker makes it easy to bring your friends along for a paddling trip.

Can’t wait to get out again soon!

Kristian @ACK Austin Store

Gulf Coast Redfish Fever!

An early fall Redfish round up by Kristian Kolflat

It wasn’t my birthday weekend but it might as well have been! The late summer, early fall seasons provide some of the best redfish fishing here on the Texas coast. So good, that before I can even finish making my plans to hit the coast, I usually come down with a serious bout of “redfish fever” — it’s the only thing on my mind. My last trip was fairly eventful but in an effort to enlighten others with the same experience, I brought along two longtime friends with the hopes of catching some big ones and having a whole lot of fun….and that we did.

Kristian proudly showing his catch for the day

During the fall months, redfish begin to group together into schools for feeding, mating and seasonal movement before winter. Over time, anglers have caught on to this annual “run” and they themselves begin to school into the back bays, flats and jetties along the coastline. Not only is the fishing phenomenal but the beaches tend to be free of seaweed, the water warm and crystal clear, and aside from fellow anglers and paddlers, there are far fewer people in the area. I personally consider this to be one of the best times of the year to be there, so off we were.

Before we left, I had to deal with the fact that my midsize SUV could only hold one or maybe two kayaks at a time but by utilizing a Thule Stacker, I was able to load all three Wilderness Systems Tarpon 120’s with room to spare for one more. We (and our kayaks) arrived safely and it was time to wet our lines.

Day One:
We launched into one of the many back bays with live shrimp and fresh dead menhaden as bait and paddled about a mile and half before reaching the cut, leading to a destination that always proves to hold a few fish. My comrades were impatiently excited and begin to fish before we even get out of the channel. Despite the fact that I am trying to shake off this “redfish fever”, I patiently paddle on a little farther and find a shallow point at the intersection of three waterways. I toss a shrimp under a popping cork and within a few seconds, BAM the fever is broken and I have my first keeper on the stringer!

Kristian and his buddy enjoying another successful day

As the day went on, we split up and explored the bay each on our own, all secretly wishing to find the best fishing hole first. I spotted a small school of reds just under the bow of my yak so decided to quietly drop anchor and cast a few lines out. Glad I did because from this point on, every time my friends looked over my way, my rod was doubled over — this was quite possibly one of the best fishing days I have ever experienced in a kayak. I caught my limit in reds released the rest and even landed a few small trout, a bonnethead shark, a large mullet, skipjack, pin-perch and absolutely no hardheads or stingrays. What more could an angler ask for? A few redfish also made it onto my buddy’s kayaks but before we knew it, the south wind picked up and it was time to head back home.

As I was getting beat in a game of horseshoes on the beach, I wondered if the next day would be as good? No way, not possible. Two awesome days of fishing in a row? Never.

Day Two:
After two seconds of discussion a unanimous vote puts us back in the exact same waters as the previous day. However, as noon rolled around nobody caught anything and our hopes were fading fast. We did see some fellow anglers in the distance catching reds all morning long. No luck for us so we decided it was time to stalk the flats on foot. With my kayak anchored down, I began wading in about four feet of water and threw two lines out. Once again BAM! One doubles over, I set the hook but I miss. I reload, shoot again but this time I’m fighting what I believe is a keeper. The sky brightens, the clouds clear and the fear of going home empty-handed on day two begins to subside. The tide turns and so does the fishing. I turn around to scope out the horizon only to be greeted with two reels zipping away — both mine. I grab one and then the other, set both hooks and perform an awkward dance of holding and alternating between two fighting redfish shooting through the water like bullets. Game on! In the background, my two friends and what seemed like everyone else on the flat is cheering me on like it’s the game of the season and the last shot determines the championship. It turns out that one of the two fish was a half-inch too short so I released her. However, within a few minutes my rod doubled over again and once again, I finished off the day with a full stringer. That night, we enjoyed fresh redfish, fried and blackened at Jay’s Seafood and Spaghetti Works in Port Aransas, Texas.

The trip was over far too quickly and instead of curing my “redfish fever” it simply spiked it even more. So much that I’m considering heading right back down for another weekend of phenomenal fall fishing in Texas soon. If you ever get a chance to visit the area during this time of the year, I high recommend it and be sure to bring your kayak or rent one from one of our stores.

Kristian @ACK Austin

P.S. We couldn’t leave without first walking down the jetties to see what others were catching and knowing that it’s a good time of the year for catching bull reds in the surf. Sure enough, we saw a lot of them being caught. I enjoy keeping a few fish for dinner here and there but these larger reds are not good for eating and are in prime spawning age groups. Here is some age/size information to use before you consider eating that 35-year-old bottom feeding fish that just gave you the fight of a lifetime. Take a picture, throw it back!

Redfish Age and Size*
1 year = up to 15″
2-5 year = 15-29″
6-10 year = 29-38″
11-35 year = 38-44″

*These are rough estimates from a variety of resources. Accurately determining age can be difficult due to habitat, gender, health and a variety of other factors.