PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

August 22, 2012

CHESTER MOORE: Bull reds a symbol of conservation

Chester Moore
The Port Arthur News

PORT ARTHUR — As the full moon shined over the calm, clear surf, I noticed a hint of bronze in the water.



    To the eyes of a pre-teen obsessed with all things related to the ocean, it was a magical night when anything might happen. Sure, I was on Dirty Pelican Pier on the Bolivar Peninsula but to me I was looking at Earth’s last great frontier.



    Upon closer examination, I noticed the bronze I saw in the water was a massive bull redfish swimming under the lights of the pier.



    For years, I had heard tales of hard-fighting, gigantic redfish, but this was my first-ever personal encounter.



    I was in total awe.



    At that point in time, these fish were still on the comeback from brutal overharvest, however nowadays they are pretty much commonplace. In some ways, they are underappreciated.



    We are entering the time of year when bull reds (the mature breeders in the population) congregate in the surf, around the jetties and even in the ship channel for spawning.



    Lately there have been reports of massive schools of them roaming off the surf between High Island and Sabine Pass. We are talking acres of giant redfish.



    That is an awesome thing!



    Thirty years ago we were not even sure if viable redfish populations would exist again but bag and possession limits set by the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (including gamefish status) and a stocking program that began as a dream of TPWD and then Gulf Coast Conservation Association (now CCA) allowed what is arguably the greatest fisheries comeback ever.



   If you have a child in your life that has been wanting to catch a really big, hard-fighting fish, this is the time of year to make it happen. Throwing a surf rod baited with cut mullet out past the breakers or lower a live croaker at the jetties can be a magical experience for youngsters.



    The powerful fight and social networking ready photo opportunities a bull red provides are second to none and they do not require a distant offshore or out of town trip. We can do it just a few miles from our homes.



    Each bull redfish caught represents a teachable moment.



    Explain to children what happened to the fishery and how protecting the breeders has given them this opportunity. I took a couple of big bulls that were deep-hooked during the first few years trophy tags were allowed but now release them all.



    That is your choice but I guarantee you kids will be excited to be able to put one of those giant fish back into the water and swim off. Let them be part of the release and make sure and document as much as you can via photos or video, which we can all shoot on our phones these days.



    Conservation is not a state of mind. It is an action and the mere existence of bull redfish is a reminder of what forward-thinking conservationists accomplished so many years ago and what we continue to see happen in the all important redfish fishery.



    You cannot have slot-sized eating reds without the big ones. They are all important and despite my love for redfish on the half shell, I think I enjoy catching, photographing and releasing those big bulls even more.



    It brings me back to my first bull red sighting and reminds me the seas are still an exciting place.    



(To contact Chester Moore, e-mail him at  cmooreoutdoors@yahoo.com. You can hear him on "Moore Outdoors" Fridays from 6-7 p.m. on Newstalk AM 560 KLVI. you can find him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/extremewildlife.)