Blue-winged teal, speckled trout, and redfish are a classic Gulf Coast combo
By Will Brantley
Tim Soderquist has been without power for seven days, and now teal season is nearly over. Hurricane Ike tore through Galveston a week ago, but folks in coastal Texas—where September teal hunting is almost a religion—are resilient. With family and friends accounted for, Soderquist and hunting partners Jason McKey and Todd Willingham aren’t about to let the last few days of the teal season slip away. And they’ve invited me to join them.
Worries about the catastrophic effects of the storm are far from our minds the first morning. We’re anxious about our teal prospects, and Soderquist tells me this area, near Bay City, barely received any rain. After situating blind bags and gun cases in the September greenery, Soderquist attempts to teach me how to sling Texas-rigged teal decoys lasso-style from the levee into the shallow impoundment. I do pretty well on my first throw in that I avoid striking McKey or Willingham. A DU regional director and former regional director, respectively, my hosts put the final touches on the spread by repositioning errantly thrown decoys.
Daylight isn’t long in arriving. Idle chatter about the alligators living in the Colorado River behind us and the baited lines these Texans have set to catch them takes a more serious turn with the first sighting of teal. “Small flock at 11 o’clock,” Soderquist whispers before pleading to them with four shrill quacks on a bluewing call. I can hear the teal peeping as they skirt the outside edge of the decoys and bank around behind us for another pass, and I answer them with my own whistle.
September bluewings can be pretty accommodating when they want to be. Wings hiss overhead, and the little ducks are suddenly over the decoys with their yellow legs outstretched and chalky-blue wing patches flashing. Our opening volley knocks down four teal, and Soderquist’s 18-month-old Lab, Grace, eagerly takes over.
The next flock arrives minutes later, and with a light crosswind, they make a nice approach over the decoys on cupped wings. Our shooting isn’t stellar, but it’s respectable. After a lull in the action, the morning is capped off by three teal that make two wary circles before finally committing to the decoys. Our shots are quick and efficient, and none of the birds escape. While two of us are one teal shy of our limits, everyone is happy. We decide to call it a morning and head back to camp for breakfast. There’s little time for me to stay and celebrate, however. I have a fishing trip scheduled this afternoon in Seadrift, Texas.
A few hours later, waves are lapping against the hull of Jason Wagenfehr’s flats boat as it glides to a stop near the shoreline of Matagorda Island. Wagenfehr is one of several guides at Bay Flats Lodge, which caters to both inshore anglers and duck hunters (bayflatswaterfowl.com).
The hurricane, high tides, and abundant baitfish have given game fish plenty of water and reason to roam. But we manage. I cast a 1/8-ounce jighead tipped with a soft-plastic paddle tail. Wagenfehr is slinging a surface walker. Mullet are breaking here and there, but the guide doesn’t see the kind of activity he’s looking for. We regroup and move to another shoreline, one that’s typically too shallow for fishing but is just right given the high tide.