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Elite Redfish Series casts lines in Laguna Madre

As October, much of the nation is cooling down, trading sunshine for increasingly frigid temperatures.

But on South Padre Island, things are heating up this week with the return of the Elite Redfish Series.

Known as the Showdown on South Padre Island, the professional fishing tournament attracts a field of master competitors looking to hook redfish in some of the best fishing territory in Texas.

What’s at stake? Professional anglers could net a major payday, with prizes and more worth close to $100,000.

This major tournament happens through a partnership with the City of South Padre Island, the Showdown on South Padre Island and the Elite Redfish Series Championship. Competition started Thursday, Oct. 11 and continues through Saturday, Oct. 13.

To add to the excitement, this week’s tournament is the culmination of the most lucrative prestigious professional redfish tournament series in the country, organizers said.

“Our inaugural Elite Redfish Series Championship Tournament was a big success in 2017, that we wanted to bring it back in 2018,” said Pat Malone, Redfish Elite Series producer.

The Elite Redfish Series visits some of the best fishing locations across the Gulf Coast with 25 of the country’s best inshore, saltwater, redfish professionals competing, according to the South Padre Island Convention and Visitors Bureau.

“The Elite Redfish Series is the highest professional level that anglers from across the country try to qualify to join,” a SPI CVB press release states. “Fans and spectators will be able to follow the Skeeter/Yamaha Elite Redfish series pros as they compete in a high-energy three-day competition preceded by five days of official practice.”

For more information and official event details, visit http://theredfishseries.com.


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People Protecting Pelicans

It is dangerous work, but despite the hazardous conditions there is a small cadre of volunteers that risk their lives to rescue stranded pelicans on a deadly valley roadway. Richard Moore takes us out with two local volunteers that are dedicated to saving lives.

When a Brown pelican goes down near the Gayman Channel on Highway 48 between Brownsville and Port Isabel, there is a good chance Stephanie Bilodeau or Justin LeClaire will race out to rescue it.
 
For the past several years, when strong north winds force birds down along this dangerous stretch of roadway, Stephanie and Justin have been there to help.
 
Stephanie Bilodeau, "This is going to be our third year, and as a team we have probably rescued, gosh over 300 now."

Stephanie and Justin are part of a small group of volunteers that risk their lives to save pelicans from being struck and killed by vehicles.    
 
The concrete barriers erected by the Texas Department of Transportation to protect motorists from each other, create a deadly downdraft during northers that cause low flying pelicans to crash onto the highway.
 
Justin LeClaire, "Seeing these birds sitting on the roadway, there is nothing that they are going to do, they are going to walk across the highway.  It just doesn't work on a 75 mph highway.  They are going to get hit, so we have got to get them off."
 
The Texas Department of Transportation has been studying the ongoing tragedy for years and has finally promised to replace the deadly barriers with concrete rails that they say will solve the problem.  However, the fix is not scheduled until a year from now.
 
"We will do it as long as we need to.  It could be a very long winter." Says Bilodeau.
 
Thus far TxDOT has refused to lower the speed limit along this dangerous stretch of roadway.  However, a petition advocating a lowering of the speed limit that has just begun circulating has already garnered some 1,500 signatures.  If you would like to support this life saving effort go to change.org and search Highway 48 Pelicans.

Richard Moore Reports


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Rescuers work to save pelicans along highway

Whenever the National Weather Service alerts the Valley of an approaching cold front, jackets and hot java are not the only preparations taken by area authorities and volunteers in the Bahia Grande area.

Along a stretch of Highway 48 where the Bahia Grande ebbs and flows with the tide, pelicans find themselves falling out of the sky whenever winds exceed about 20 miles-per-hour. The problem is not the birds, rather the qualities of the wind as they return northward to their roosts in the evening hours. Solid concrete barriers in the median and north shoulder of the high-speed roadway deflect winds and create a vortex of air which forces the birds to the roadway.

Authorities reported more than 40 kills near the Gayman restoration channel Monday evening.

Tuesday evening, emergency vehicles from the Texas Department of Transportation, Texas State Troopers, Port Isabel Volunteer Fire Department, and Texas Game Wardens alerted motorists to reduce speed in the area known for pelican problems.

Researchers from Texas A&M, backed by Tx DOT, rescued birds as they landed near or on the roadway. Tuesday, Stephanie Bilodeau exited the passenger side of a red sedan with a pelican in her arms.

Rescued birds are then sexed, measured and tagged before release on the north side of the highway. The information gathered has aided in the understanding of the environmental impact of the busy highway which connects Port Isabel to Brownsville.

This year the research team spent extra time with a calm bird rescued by Bilodeau. Lianne Koczur worked to attach a solar-powered transmitter to the pelican’s back, held on by a thin piece of brown ribbon in addition to the usual gathering of vital statistics.

Pelicans are forced to fly over the roadway because of the separation of their roosting and feeding areas. Pelicans sometimes dive into the water to capture fish; deeper waters can be found in the channels and bay area.

The Texas Department of Public Safety sent a message Monday, urging vigilance along the highway during the evening hours between 5 and 8 p.m. With the change of seasons underway, cold fronts will pass through often, landing these many birds in trouble every time the north wind blows.

Herald reporters Mark Reagan and Gary Long contributed to this report.

By Jason Hoekema Staff Photojournalist


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SPI Fishing Days Expo returns to the convention center

The hottest spot for fishing this weekend will be at the South Padre Island Convention Centre.

That’s where anglers will be catching some great deals during the second annual SPI Fishing Days Expo on Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 20-21.

“It’s a fishing consumer show,” event director Angie Juarez told the Coastal Current Weekly. “We’re trying to provide an opportunity to shop for all your fishing gear under one roof.”

The show will be inside the convention center and will feature more than 40 vendors. Event organizers promise a great selection of many popular fishing brands.

“We will have vendors providing items such as gear, fishing apparel and more,” Juarez said. “And the vendors are both regional and local. There will be a few other things going on [here], so it’s an opportunity to go shopping and be entertained. We hear a lot of people telling fishing stories.”

Part of the purpose of this South Padre Island Convention and Visitors Bureau-sponsored event is to illustrate how the Laguna Madre area is a year-round fishing destination, whether fishing along the surf, jetties, pier or boat.

Along with shopping, the event will include seminars from various fishing guides and experts, such as Brian Barrera of DOA Lures. Local guide and photographer Danno Wise will speak on Topwater Tactics for Trophy Trout, for example.

Sponsor boat dealers include The Sportsman, Dargel Boats and Bayside Marine. Boggus Lincoln will be showcasing the latest Lincoln Navigator.

There will be a Cornhole tournament, a raffle, and a Kids Zone for the children to play.

“We want people to know that even though this weekend’s weather is not ideal for fishing, it’s ideal for fishing shopping,” Juarez said.

The expo is open Saturday, Oct. 20, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Sunday, Oct. 21 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $5, though military and first responders will be charged $3. Children 12 and younger are admitted for free. Paid admission includes a wrist-band, which can be used to return Sunday if it’s still intact on the wrist, Juarez said.

For more information, log on to www.SPIFishingDays.com. On social media, look for @SPIFishingDays on Facebook and Instagram.


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HalloWings to spread its wings again on South Padre Island

October is the peak season for monarch migration in the Rio Grande Valley.

But there’s more aflutter than passing butterflies this month when Hallowings Across South Padre Island returns for a three-day celebration featuring children’s activities, live entertainment, guided tours and more.

The fun begins Friday, Oct. 26, with a Boo Bash Movie Night at the South Padre Island Convention Centre. Halloween crafts begin at 6:15 p.m., and the movie (“Hocus Pocus”) starts at 7 p.m. Light refreshments will be provided. This event is free.

Also Friday, Oct. 26, the second annual Winged Gala will be from 6:30 to 9 p.m. at the SPI Birding & Nature Center, where the HallowWings weekend truly spreads its wings. The vent will feature live music, fine art, beer and wine tasting, and more. Tickets for this event cost $65.

On Saturday, Oct. 27, the HalloWings Festival continues when doors open at 9 a.m. at the SPI Birding & Nature Center. Along with vendors, attendees can also expect events such as Breakfast with the Monarchs, music from Leslie Blasing, UnLITTER Trashion Show, Illusionist Richard Blake, Mariachi Sol Azteca, Guided Bird Walks, Nature Film Showings, Monarch Talks, Butterfly Walks, Live Butterfly Tent, Food Trucks and more.

There will be a Native Plant Garden Crawl from 2 to 3:30 p.m. for $10 a person at the Native Plant Center, 6809 Padre Blvd. Admission to a Happy Hour and Shrimp Boil from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. will cost $20, also at the Native Plant Center.

HalloWings concludes Sunday, Oct. 28 with events such as Breakfast with the Pirates and more. For more information, log on to www.spibirding.com.


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Life on the Boardwalk: A Rare Visitor from the Caribbean

Late September and early October is a prime time for birding on South Padre Island. The seasons are shifting and birds are on the move! Birds are leaving their breeding grounds and most are migrating from northern latitudes to warmer climates in the tropics, riding south on the early and mild cold fronts of the season.

These northern breeders are the birds that we are accustomed to seeing pass through South Padre Island, but September and October are also a peak in tropical weather activity and a time when the Rio Grande Valley bears storms coming up from the tropics carried by the strong southeast winds that also occur during this season. These winds can sometimes bring with them birds from latitudes below us or birds straight out of the Gulf waters.

The winds and the weather can be erratic during this time of year as the earth tilts, and if you are a bird flying on the sake of the powerful push and pull of the shifting winds, it’s easy to get turned around and disoriented. Because of South Padre Island’s location on the map, it makes for a perfect resting place for a castaway bird.

Such is the case of a bird that was discovered here in the front gardens of the South Padre Island Birding & Nature Center on Wednesday, Oct. 3.  While talking to Diego, SPIBNC groundskeeper, under the shade of a tree in our front gardens, he directed my attention to the tree. “Mira esa Paloma,” he said as he pointed into the branches directly above us.

I responded with, “Diego, that’s not a regular pigeon!”

He had just spotted Texas’ third record White-crowned Pigeon! A bird ranging from the tropical waters of the Caribbean! The closest this species is seen from SPI are the Florida Keys, Cuba, or the coastal southern tip of the Yucatan peninsula hundreds, if not a thousand miles, away!

As a naturalist, these are the types of sights that make my heart race and send me running for my camera with sandals clanking all the way up the stairs to my office! How did this bird get here? Did it just fly across the Gulf of Mexico?!

All of the elements that I described in the beginning still don’t exactly explain how this bird got to our gardens and where it came from. That will remain a mystery and that mystery is what gives so much wonder and intrigue to a sighting like this! A curveball from Nature!

Word quickly spread about this extremely rare visitor and birders from across the RGV soon arrived for a look. The next day people from different parts of the state started to arrive, as well, from cities like Houston, Austin, San Antonio, Corpus Christi and Galveston to name a few.

Although this is the third sighting on record of this species in the state, it is the first record that has given Texas birders the opportunity to chase and get a look at. It’s been great to see so many people enjoy this bird and the camaraderie that it has produced.

Although the bird is lost, it did find a good place that sort of resembles home. This species inhabits coastal areas where they roost in mangroves and fly to feed in stands of fruiting trees. As of now, the bird seems to have found a nice roosting site in a dense tree where it feels safe and has developed a liking to the berries of the many Possum Grape Vines that climb up the trees and vegetation in the garden. There is no telling how long the bird will stay, but in the meanwhile, it will continue to dazzle visitors!

By JAVIER GONZALEZ


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It’s Personal: Walk for Women attendees share how breast cancer has affected them

They say it takes a village, but in this case, it takes an Island, to help those fighting breast cancer in the lower Rio Grande Valley.

For 15 years now, a large contingent of dedicated volunteers on South Padre Island have worked tirelessly to provide financial aid and support to individuals afflicted with breast cancer. What started as a small group of friends coming to the aid of a dear friend in her battle against the disease, has since evolved into a weekend of celebration, remembrance and fundraising to help numerous men and women conquer breast cancer.

Ana Maria Leos was once a donation recipient from Walk for Women (W4W), and though she doesn’t speak English, she expressed her gratitude via translation by her niece, Patricia Rogers. “I appreciate how much this event helps women with cancer,” said the sweet, elderly woman, her lined face breaking into a shy smile as she shared her thoughts.

Leos’ family travelled from Nashville, Tennessee to participate in this year’s fundraiser, with her son and grandson making their yearly donation of a pair of tickets to a Dallas Cowboys football game. Their family’s donation alone raises $4,000 for W4W.

By PAMELA CODY


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Favorite annual SPI event this weekend

As you’re walking along the beach this weekend, you might come across an array of sculptures in all different sizes created by people from the Unites States and other countries around the world such as Canada, Latvia and the Netherlands.

Sand sculpturers Walter “Amazin’ Walter” McDonald and Lucinda “Sandy Feet” Wierenga created Sandcastle days 31 years ago to shine light on the sculpting features of the Island’s sand and to highlight the importance of protecting coastal shores.

This year, 10 artists have been vigilantly designing, carving and chiseling buckets of sand into various sculptures, all in the hopes of winning this year’s “Masters of Sand” competition.

Yesterday, while working on her piece, Wierenga said with each and every year, Sandcastle Days keeps getting bigger and better.

For the past four days, she has been creating a sand sculpture with a subliminal message embedded into her massive six-foot tall creation.

“ It looks kind of Mayan or Aztec,” Wierenga said while describing her sculpture. “It’s really a calendar and it says ‘vote on 11-06-18’ because we’re trying to get people to get out and vote this year.”

Harlingen residents, Richard and Rosie Loya have been visiting Sandcastle Days for the past 10 to 15 years. Yesterday, while on the beach, they said their favorite part about the event is being able to see the creative talent of people from around the world.

“ I think that’s what makes it unique because it’s not just local talent,” Richard said. “It’s pretty neat because it gives everyone in the Valley an opportunity to see stuff that you normally wouldn’t see.”

Joris Kivits traveled from the Netherlands to participate in the “Masters of Sand” competition for the first time.

When Kivits began creating his sculpture, he said he didn’t really have a plan or an idea of what he was going to make.

He just knew he wanted to make something fun and so he titled his sculpture “Don’t Give Me that Look.”

For Kivits, sand sculptures are similar to a theater production.

“ You can enjoy it as long as it’s there, and then the memory and pictures are all that remain,” he said.

Today and tomorrow, sand sculptures will be offering free workshops to anyone who’s interested in creating their own masterpiece.

Participants will be able to learn how to carve cat and baby sea turtle sculptures, learn how to use sand carving tools and will also be given a quick course in hand stacking.

By ALANA HERNANDEZ Staff Writer


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Speed limit on Gulf Boulevard at South Padre Island lowered to 25 mph

The South Padre Island City Council unanimously approved lowering the speed limit on Gulf Boulevard this week.

The city council approved Councilwoman Theresa Metty's proposal to lower the speed limit from 30 to 25 miles per hour on the road that runs closest to the beach on the east side of the island.

Steven Schaefer lives on South Padre Island and remembers when Gulf Boulevard didn't have a bike and pedestrian-only lane.

"I think the biggest safety concern was before, they put these white posts in here, there was a lot of problems," Schaefer said.

Although Schaefer believes the road is safer, city councilwoman Metty feels the road should be safer.

In a statement to CBS 4, Metty said, "Moving traffic is just inches way from parked cars, where I've seen small children emerge from between parked cars, leaving almost no reaction time for vehicles to stop."

She adds that she would have liked to see the speed limit lowered to 20 miles per hour, but the council is not allowed to do that.

"We have issues on busy weekends, primarily and during the summertime," said Brian Bell, the general manager of one business along Gulf Boulevard. "You'll get just large amounts of people [around Gulf Blvd., so] the lowered speed limit makes a lot of sense."

Bell also believes the road has become safer with the added bike lane, but he says there are still drivers that go over the 30 mile per hour speed limit.

South Padre Island Spokeswoman Nikki Soto tells CBS 4 the day in which the speed limit will change on Gulf Boulevard is still pending.

by Santiago Caicedo


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Fall Beach Cleanup is Saturday on Island

No beach can stand on its own when it comes to litter.

This Saturday the Cameron County Parks Department is hosting its annual Fall Beach Cleanup on South Padre Island which will stretch five miles from Beach Access No. 2 to Beach Access No. 6.

“Plastic bottles, trash bags and cans — once in a while we’ll find a diaper,” said Blanca Macias, Adopt-A-Beach coordinator for the parks department.

Macias said last year 1,800 volunteers showed up to clear trash from one of the most popular beaches in Texas.

Parks officials say no volunteer group is too big or too small, and that as an incentive, Schlitterbahn is offering one-day admission for two persons at $40 for volunteers good for Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 15-16. Volunteers need only show the wristband they will be issued Saturday to activate the deal.

After the event, which runs from 9 a.m. to noon, hot dogs, chips and cold drinks will be available gratis for the beach clean-up volunteers.

“We provide gloves, we provide a data card that people can tally what they find out there, and then of course we provide the trash bags for them,” Macias said.

For more information, or to pre-register, call Macias or Edgar Yada at 956-761-3700.


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