The 'Other' Available Species
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As a rule, 90 percent of Texas saltwater anglers fish for two or three different species, at most. The top two, of course, are the red drum and speckled trout. Flounder usually swim in a distant third. Below this upper tier of saltwater species sits a heap of oddly assorted fish that are seldom caught. When they are found on the business end of a hook, most Texas anglers view them as a nuisance.
Among this group of miscellany are a few good fighters, some excellent table fare and at least one good looker. So, why do Texans view them with such disdain? Social pressure, I guess. But for visitors, unhindered by peer pressure, they represent a beautiful bounty. Most Winter Texans like them so well in fact, they actually try to catch them. Why not? They're here. They bite. They fight. What more could you ask for?
Prince and princess among these vagrants would have to be the whiting and pompano.
Whiting, or Gulf Kingfish, are a mottled brown, rather homely looking fish. However, they are plentiful in the surf, easy to catch and sport some of the tastiest fillets available. They feed on the bottom and are not finicky. A wide assortment of live and dead baits will take them. Most often they are caught on fresh dead shrimp, squid or cut mullet. Due to a smallish, underslung mouth, they are apt to pick a hook clean before the fisherman is aware of the bite. For this reason, more durable baits, such as squid, can produce more fish. Light wire circle hooks also help increase the catch ratio.
Pompano are not only delicious, but are one of the more eye-catching fish to swim in the near shore waters. In Florida, pompano are sought with such vengeance that they are tightly regulated. Texans, on the other hand, don't get too worked up over this silvery sportster.
Pompano like to run the clear, sandy surf, picking off small baitfish and crustaceans. They can be taken on small jigs or spoons, as well as natural baits such as sand fleas and shrimp. Pompano will usually feed in the mid to lower portions of the water column.
Another advantage to fishing for both whiting and pompano is their tendency to stay in large, tightly-packed schools. Once the fish are found, anglers usually experience consistent action. The downside is neither of these fish get much larger than a pound or so on average, leaving something to be desired in the fighting department.
However, winter fishermen looking to test the mettle have come to love another overlooked silverside. Jack Crevalle, one of the hardiest fighters in the Gulf of Mexico, are a favorite of beach running visitors.
Much like the pompano, jacks are revered in Florida, but shunned in Texas. The argument goes that since jacks fight so hard and are not edible, they waste valuable fishing time. A quick glance reveals that many hard-fighting fish, most notably the tarpon, are not considered edible, yet are highly sought by fishermen.
For most shore-bound anglers, the jack represents the best opportunity to catch a true heavyweight. Fish in the 25 to 35 pound class regularly cruise within casting range of dry sand. And, make no mistake, jacks can fight. A tilt with one of these bruisers can easily last a half-hour or more. But, then again, what better way to spend 30 minutes than tied into a fish that easily dwarfs even the biggest speckled trout?