The Fish With the Dot on The Back!

When one fisherman asks another fisherman, who often fish the brackish and salt-water off of the Texas coast, whether the "Red" (short for red-drum) he was describing, "has a dot in the back?" it is pretty insulting, and yet funny at the same time. Well my friends, I did just that about 2 weeks ago. You must be thinking that either I am an amateur or that my friend, Minh (who we amicably call "Foo-Minh-Chu"), is a novice fisherman. I assure you we are not. Since college days when he and I were roommates in a 2 bedrooms 2 baths apartment that costs $450/month, some 12-13 years ago, we have been fishing together in just about every major lake and coastline in Texas, from Galveston to South Padre Island.

You see, it is not that he and I have not ever fish for red-drums and bull-reds off of the coast or in the brackish water, I just never heard of any red-drum that could live in fresh water. Reds, as they are often called, lived in salt water as well as in brackish water in the inlets and lakes close to the coast. My dear friend Matt (who will soon to be an attorney and used to be an intern at Smith & Garg in the Woodlands) once caught a bull-red (fully matured red-drum that is over size limit, over 27", though you are allowed to tag a few a years) as far as 32 nautical miles out to sea at an oil rig, and I am sure they can live further than that in deeper water. We also often catch these game fish in inlets and as much as 8 miles in-land.

However, Foo-Minh-Chu asked me to come to San Antonio, Texas to go fishing with him on Lake Calaveras (20 miles south of San Antonio) with his brother-in-law for striper bass and red-fish. Now, everyone knows that striper bass is a salt-water specie that has successfully been introduced to fresh water. These monsters can grow to 50+ lbs in fresh water and may even reach to well over 75 lbs. in salt water. What I did not know and would never expect is that red-drums can also live in fresh water and can also reach to its normal size in fresh water. So, when Minh asked that I join him to go fishing in Lake Calaveras for Reds, I naturally asked, "does it has a dot in the back?"

That weekend, my wife and I, along with Evi Huynh and Wayne, drove to Austin to meet-up with Minh. From Austin, Minh, Wayne, and I drove to San Antonio to meet Minh's brother and drove to Lake Calaveras. You see, I wanted to fish and see for the first time a "fish with the dot on the back" that lives in fresh water, some 300 miles from the coast.

We cruised on the lake at 39 knots on a 28 feet Triton with a 4 stroke Yamaha engine with 250 hp (what an amazing engine). After 3-4 hours of fishing, none of us caught anything. Minh and I decided to "cheat" and entered a section of the lake in which other anglers did not dare (for reasons I do not care to mention). After a few minutes, I was getting nibbles and bites. However, the bottom was so rocky that I lost 2 live shads. Minh, on the other hand, got a couple of nibbles; and like a true angler, he patiently waited until the monster took a gigantic bite on the live bait. After a few minutes of fighting, splashed out of the water was a gigantic fish with a dot on the back. I can't believe what I saw and Minh's luck! He began pulling the bull-red to shore. Because we did not have a net, I had to unhook the fish with my hand and held on to it with dear life, making sure that the animal would not escape my psychotic grips. We soon departed the area for fear that others would catch on.

You would think that Minh's luck (of course it's luck) ended with that catch of the day. Thirty minutes after he caught that monster red, the man caught another monster, but this time it was a hybrid striper bass, while fishing with a live shad on top-water. The striper was so fat it makes me look skinny, and I am "big-boned." Not only did Minh catch the 2 biggest fish of the day, he took up $60 of the "side-offer" to help with the gas.

I was amazed how Reds were able to live in the fresh water lake that is hundred of miles away from the coast. Apparently, red-drums can live in fresh water and even thrive in this environment. However, unlike stripers, Reds cannot reproduce in fresh water as they do in salt water and brackish water. As such, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department stock the lakes with juvenile reds every year, just so that anglers like Matt, Minh, and I can fish "the fish with the red dot on the back" in fresh water. Thanks, Minh, for the awesome experience even though I did not catch anything that day.

So, if you have any questions regarding where to find Reds, I would be the last person to ask. However, if you have any legal questions, please feel free to contact me in either our Houston office in the Westchase business district or at our Headquarters in the Woodlands. Happy fishing!

By Steven Tuan Pham, Esq.

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