Rita fishing industry Houston hit hardest

Rita brings ashore far-reaching wrath for fishing industry
East of Houston hit hardest; some offer good reports

Early computer models put hurricane Rita ashore around Matagorda, but the storm ultimately laid waste to the Texas-Louisiana border. Between those points are many popular destinations. Some fared better than others.

Buddy Oakes of Hackberry Rod & Gun Club on Lake Calcasieu, La., a favorite among Houston anglers, said Monday that the lodge was inundated by tidal surge. What wasn’t under water endured hours of hurricane winds, and many homes may have been destroyed.

His information came secondhand via Internet and cell phone. Like most people from the region, Oakes and his family evacuated. They must wait to make personal loss assessments; according to Oakes, no residents are allowed back into Hackberry until
Oct. 3.

Some suffer terribly
Will Beaty of Central Flyway Outfitters, headquartered just south of Anahuac, said Rita clobbered his operation.

“It’s ugly; we got hit really hard,” said Beaty. “From the Trinity River (eastward), it goes downhill really quick. Our main lodge made it, but we lost a few outbuildings.”

That area is best known for its waterfowl and dove hunting. Waterfowl should find the habitat favorable; hunting potential depends on guides’ abilities to resume operations before the Nov. 5 opener. Dove season south of Interstate 10 continues through Nov. 10, but birds are scattered.

Despite fortifications after Tropical Storm Allison, some coastal piers were no match for Rita’s power.

“All the railing on the
T-head is gone,” said Mike Fitzhenry, manager of the Galveston Fishing Pier. “Three of those big concrete runners out there flipped up, then flipped back.”

Fitzhenry said repairs are under way, and a portion
of the pier should reopen Thursday evening or Friday morning.

Count on fast fishing once the pier is safe. Fitzhenry and his son soaked cut bait for two hours in the churning Gulf after Rita passed and fought an estimated 30 bull reds.

At deadline Monday, phone lines remained down to the Dirty Pelican Pier at Gilchrist and newly rebuilt pier at San Luis Pass.

Trout stacked in Trinity Bay prior to Rita will race ahead of massive freshwater inflow from the emergency release out of Lake Livingston.

“Trinity Bay is going to get wasted,” said James Plaag of Silver King Adventures.

In spring or fall, a rush of fresh water might send specks around Smith Point into East Bay. That may not be the case this time.

“We’re in a funky weather situation,” Plaag said, “because it’s still more like August. Those fish are more likely to go to the (deeper Houston) Ship Channel.”

Others moving on
Eagle Point Fishing Camp on Galveston Bay suffered relatively minor damage, but owner Johnny Valentino said he’s taking the opportunity to make overdue repairs.

“We’re up and running,” Valentino said. “The bay’s about a half-foot above normal. Conditions are beautiful.”

Bingo Cosby at Surfside Jetty Park said fishermen caught trout and reds there Sunday. Homes along the “front row,” on the beach at Surfside, suffered heavy damage. Sand is washed as far as two blocks inland in some areas, Cosby said.

Top post-storm fishing reports come from Port Aransas, apparent evacuation point for huge schools of
tarpon that stacked here
behind Katrina and left Galveston as pressure fell ahead of Rita.

“A buddy of mine told me (the tarpon) are eating the props off the boats,” Plaag
said. “They’re going to see
more tarpon down there than since Franklin Roosevelt was alive.”

Despite losing his possessions, Oakes looks forward.

“My mother always told me,” Oakes said, “that if you can buy it with money, it can’t be very valuable.”
By DOUG PIKE
Houston Chronicle

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