Use caution this Memorial Day weekend
Memorial Day Weekend is the official start of summer and the first of three summer holidays. It will be the first time some boats have seen the light of day since last summer, the first time rod and reels have exited from a dusty corner of the garage and first time some mariners have driven a boat in over a year.
Increased boat traffic, especially from inexperienced boaters, elevates the propensity for an accident. Mix those elements with an alcoholic beverage, and the percentage for disaster skyrockets.
Expect increased patrols from Texas Game Wardens and local law enforcement with the heightened traffic. Treat the boat like you would a motor vehicle, unless, of course, you don't obey drunk-driving laws. BWI (boating while intoxicated) is a serious offense and carries the same penalties as DWI, so don't ruin your holiday weekend by being stupid.
Game Wardens will also be checking for the basic boating requirements: life jackets, fire extinguishers, a noise-making device, a throw-able floatation device and up-to-date boat registration.
Much like defensive-driving, practice the same principles in the boat. Be aware of skiers, tubers and jet skis. Steer clear of other boats and idle in "No Wake" zones. Basically, give others the respect you would hope to receive.
RED SNAPPER SEASON OPENS JUNE 1
Snapper season never closes in Texas waters (9 nautical miles out), but deeper federal waters often hold better structure and bigger fish. This year's recreational red snapper season runs 40 days, June 1-July 10, with a two-fish limit.
Ask any seasoned offshore captain and they will tell you the quality of fish has improved tremendously over the past few years, with 20-pound-plus fish becoming the norm. Known for their superb tablefare, more big water anglers fish the Gulf during red snapper season than any other time of the year.
Red snapper are managed by using an annual catch limit for the entire Gulf of Mexico, with 8.080 pounds of allowable catch for 2012. Catch limits will be increased to 8.690 pounds in 2013.
CCA STAR BEGINS MAY 26
The Coastal Conservation Association's annual STAR Tournament begins this weekend. Used primarily as a membership drive, CCA's summer-long tourney includes prizes such as new boats for the largest speckled trout and tagged redfish, while offering scholarship opportunities for college-bound youth.
Boats and scholarships are also offered for some of the less targeted species like sheepshead, gafftop and flounder.
Go to ccatexas.org for more information.
Bink Grimes is a freelance writer, photographer, author and licensed captain (email@example.com)