Shawn’s Guide Service puts you on the fish
Captain Shawn Reese displays the 18-pound catfish caught aboard his boat July 11.
SAN ANTONIO -- When it comes to fishing our local waterways, there is no shortage of professional guide services. Anyone who has spent time on or near the water has seen the many vessels marked with company names and websites, patiently escorting eager anglers in search of big fish. The choices are many for those interested in hiring such services, but “buyer beware,” as not all guides are created equal.
Through a friend of mine, I was set up on a half-day charter at Calaveras Lake with Captain Shawn Reese, owner of Shawn’s Guide Service. Expecting to rise early enough to beat the sun to the lake, I was a bit surprised to learn we would be leaving the dock at around 2 p.m. While it seemed odd, it meant I got to sleep in much later than anticipated, and I was happy to oblige.
By the time I met up with my buddy Eric, iced down our beverages, and made the short drive out to the lake, I began to question this whole excursion. The sun seemed to beam down mercilessly, as I parked the truck and went for the ice chest. Eric said he would carry it to the boat and I made no efforts to fight him on the matter.
As I approached Shawn’s boat, I began to feel a bit better. The spacious 25 footer was equipped with a pair of bimini tops, and finding a comfortable spot in the shade would clearly be a nonissue. Shawn had the boat ready to go, and we shoved off moments after climbing aboard.
We made a short trek out across the lake, and nearly immediately began trolling as Shawn switched from his primary 225-horsepower outboard motor to a 25-horse trolling motor. He had pre-rigged four separate rod and reel combos with a variety of artificial baits, and quickly dropped them over the side with the aid of four motorized downriggers. Before I could catch up to what was happening, four lines were in the water and Shawn was using his electronics and years of experience to find us some fish.
Shawn’s experiences on the local lakes date back more than two decades, as he began guiding in the ’80s as a means to making some extra money.
“I saw guides out here making money and I thought I could do it, too,” he said. “I had to learn it all on my own, though, and there were many sleepless nights.”
Shawn stuck with it, though, and is now one of the area’s most successful fishing guides. And after what seemed like just a few minutes on the water, we hooked into our first fish of the day as I
happily reeled in an 18-pound blue cat. It wasn’t really what we were after, though, and a spirited debate began
aboard the boat. Eric began searching his aging memory banks for the catchy acronym he has on his own boat, telling of the actions we should take. His vote was to photograph the fish and release it.
“C.P.R.,” Eric said. “Catch, photograph, and release.
“These fish over 10 pounds are the producers,” he continued, now with all the confidence in the world. “It’s up to you, but I think we should throw it back.”
You got it, buddy.
The catfish went back into the water and the line followed suit. We were back in motion and still after the prized redfish.
Shawn kept the boat moving, using his equipment to constantly search for schools of fish in the open waters. With the touch of a button, he was able to move the lines up or down in the water table, doing his best to match the depth of the fish he located with his equipment.
“This time of year, the best fishing out here is in the afternoon,” Shawn said; finally, an answer as to why we got such a late start. “In the mornings, the oxygen levels are really low and the fish aren’t active. As the day goes on, the water gets stirred up and the oxygen increases. That’s when the fish start moving.”
Hmm. Mystery solved.
Shawn seemed to truly have his finger on the pulse of the lake. He knew not only which area lakes offer the best fishing at which times of year, but also how the fish behave during different times of the day. He discussed the different species of fish and the seasons they have. It is through his extensive experience that he has garnered this knowledge, and is one reason he can offer a guaranteed catch to his customers.
“No catch, no pay,” his website reads.
But fair warning to those looking for a “free” trip: Shawn has never had a day without a fish.
After a bit more time on the lake, we
got into the reds. Eric pulled up a nice one in the 15-pound range, and I pulled in a pair of 12-pounders. Eric also reeled in a channel cat that would have been
good eats, but eventually opted to throw it back.
As far as fishing trips go, this was a bit different for me, but still tons of fun. It was nice to just show up with nothing but a license, drinks, snacks, and sunscreen -- to just hang out with friends until someone yells, “fish on.”
Shawn supplies all the equipment, and his boat can comfortably fit four or five people. He does corporate bookings, and can arrange for multiple boats if needed. He is also a licensed U.S. Coast Guard captain for coastal charters, and will book offshore trips during summer months June through September. The key species for these trips are kingfish, Spanish mackerel, shark, and others. Bay trips are also available for redfish, trout, flounder, and drum.
The quality and quantity of the catches varies of course, but Shawn said his best trip put 100 catfish in the boat in two hours. That’s nearly a fish a minute.
Rates start at $240 for a four-hour trip with up to four fishermen. Advanced booking is preferred, but not always necessary.
“Don’t be afraid to call last minute,” Shawn said. “If I can take you, I’ll take you.”
Shawn has guided a variety of people over the years. He said many of them have different levels of interest in fishing, and explained that some are just happy to be out on a boat. I know I was.
At the end of the trip, I classified it as a complete success. I got to spend time on the water with a good friend, I tried a different method of fishing from what I was used to, and took home some fillets ready for the grill. It was a good day for us, and odds are that it will be a good day for anyone who books a trip with Shawn’s Guide Service.
For more information or to book a trip, call Shawn at 210-649-2760 or 210-288-4972, email email@example.com, or visit www.fishtrips.com.