Although I have been fishing most of my life. Only for the last 10 years have actually been from a boat. Four years of, which was spent chunkin lure after lure, in search of the virtually non-existent black bass. So for actually catching fish worth talking about I have really only been fishing for a short time in truly fishermens terms. Out of those countless hours of fishing, not nearly enough as far as I am concerned, too many if you should ask my better half. I can truly say you could count the number of times that I have actually caught fish on two hands, with quite a few fingers left over for future fishing expeditions. With three of those fingers reserved for freshwater acts of god, that only leaves a small number of digits for the saltwater portion of my fishing career to date. Now not to sound like a fisherman lightweight let me make my definition of catching fish perfectly clear.
First, spending any amount of money for a guide doesnt count as catching fish. Even the most novice of anglers like my once self have caught fish when in the company of someone who spends all their time on the water. But going back to the same location does count since it has been my experience that returning to the exact same spot after a guided tour doesnt always translate into the same results, so for argument sake those trips do count. Secondly, and most important the definition of catching fish is not by limit or size but by shear numbers. Maybe I should have made this number one on the list but since I hate to go back and correct myself youll get the importance. Hopefully somewhere in your fishing memory banks you can pull up a time or two when you caught so many fish that you actually got tired of catching fish. Unfortunately this does not count on sub species such as croaker, sand trout, or the dreaded hardhead. If that were the case then I would need a calculator instead of my fingers. No, to make the record books it must be some sort of game fish. Last but not least it must be truly a miracle day out on the waters. Say an act of God that even when told to a clergyman they would say it was truly a miracle.
Now that the rules of an outstanding day of fishing is clear, let me state for the record, of the actually amount of miraculous days of fishing in my career, three have been of the freshwater variety. Once was a boat -load of catfish out of a lake mind you, not one of them farms that would be breaking the rules. Secondly was another boatload of crappie under the 1097 bridge on Conroe under the lights. That is an iffy one since Im not sure if I was actually tired of the bites from the crappie or the mosquitoes. Either way we had more fish than I wanted to clean, the can of Off was dribbling out repellent like a manager with a mouth full of chewing tobacco auguring with an umpire, so it was time to call it a night. The third was on Lake Mead sitting on the back of a houseboat one summer night. We caught strippers from dusk till past midnight. And in true fishermen fashion we released all we caught. This was mostly due to the fact that it was our final night on the boat and we were out of ice. Although it was a nice feeling watching all those strippers swim back into the water after a nice fight. So sad to say three is the true amount of my miraculous freshwater fishing days, not much for 4 years of work. Which is probably why I switched over to saltwater.
Which leaves me with my saltwater career, those not graduating from Texas A&M should be able to figure out that leaves about five or so great days of fishing. Since the body of water is so much bigger in saltwater conditions than freshwater, the numbers of fish that take to make a memorable day on the water is also larger. Not that I have not had numerous days when taking a near limit in one species was easy enough, my saltwater standards are just higher than freshwater. In true Richard Nixon traditions let me say Im not a fishing Wouse! I would rather think its more that my days of getting away to actually go fishing suck. My first memorable trip came early in my saltwater career. It just happen to be a night trip on the jetties when all the conditions were right, the wind and the water in perfect condition with lots of tidal movement. Baitfish were busting the water everywhere with big specks not far behind them in a semi-feeding frenzy. Once the bait hit the water you had to start to set the hook or you would miss your hook up. Our boat limited out within a few short hours with a almost limit of reds and black drum to go along with all the specks. A picture perfect night of fishing that kept my freezer full for months to come. The down side was that since it did come so early in my saltwater career I had the misconception that all my fishing trips should turn out the same way. A fact that I soon was to find out isnt always the case. After numerous other trips of catching limits of croaker, sand trout and hardheads later came the second of my most memorable fishing expeditions.
It was a typical Hammer-Time fishing trip, again to the jetties off Galveston. The boat was loaded down with fishing tackle and fishing people, five in all, two adults and three younguns. The sun was hot and the water clear that particular Sunday and as expected the jetties were wall to wall boats as far as the eye could see from the boat cut out to the end. We found a small spot near one of our favorite fishing spots toward the end of the jetties and set anchor. Within minutes the first red was on. For the next two hours you were either hearing line spooling, fish thrashing about the deck, or the faint cursing coming from the other boats nearby that were forced to sit and watch as this miracle took place before them a few short yards away. I was able to catch two keeper reds before my duties changed from being a fishermen to just a deckhand. A constant challenge of netting and unhooking fish, getting them on ice and keeping up with the limit count and at this breakneck pace was not the easiest of jobs. Within hours we had met our red limits with a few tag reds to spare, the twenty or so trout, and eight black drum were thrown in for good measure. I can truly say it was the only time that every ice-carrying container on my small boat was fill to beyond capacity. The only thing that forced us off our hole was not the constant eyeballing from our jealous neighbors or the fish feeding frenzy coming to an end. No the fact was that we had run out of room and ice. One of the best feelings that a fisherman can experience is leaving a fishing hole when the fish are still biting. The other thing that beats that is watching five to six boats converge on said fishing hole once you pull out and watching the fight that is soon to ensue.
The last of my most memorable fishing trips came just a few weeks ago while on vacation. It was the typical vacation trip, a late start getting out to the fishing. With most of the crew staying back at the old homestead all ready full of sun and fishing over the last couple of days, with the only true die-hard fishermen of the family, my son and I making the trip. Also typical of this days events found me fishing the rocks atop the jetties in search of that CCA trophy trout that never seem to bite my hook, with my boy fishing off the boat looking for that bull red to grab hold of his rod. Then the miracle happened like God had waved his hand over the water and told his marine subjects we had suffered enough, it was time to let us enjoy a day on the water. Suddenly baitfish started busting the water everywhere, with Spanish Mackerel hot on the heels. My sons line began to sing off the spool before being cut by one of those toothy quarries. In no time I was back in the boat rigging up lines with steel leader and popping corks at a frenzy pace as I watched our neighbors lines hook up with these speedsters of the waters. Soon we were hooked up doubles, forced to bring in the other rods in fear something would hit them with no one to reel them in. The real challenges was stringing your quarry along in one hand and net your partner fish with the other. The winner was the one who got his fish off , in the box, and cast his bait hook in the first, with hook up soon to follow.
The next couple of hours were spent culling the fish that we were able to land and throwing back the juniors to fight for another day. While those reaching the magical twenty- inch mark or above found there way into the fish box for proof to my would-be fishing partners back at the house of what they had missed. Add the fact that a few fish hit our 30 pound test line and are still swimming as we speak, never getting to see what they were only added to the fun. Then the final piece to the puzzle of the great day on the water is that it happened with my son, my true fishing partner. Who, like me has had his fair share of disappointing fishing days out on the waters. When a day like this happens once in a blue moon, or should I say on a sunny Tuesday afternoon, only makes it that much sweeter. Im sure these days events will come up many a time later while we sit fishing, waiting for something to bite our hooks. Much the same as the other memorable fishing expeditions had come up on previous non memorable fishing days. Spent with live shrimp and anglers sitting baking under a Texas sky waiting for that magical sound of line spooling from a reel. With adrenaline pumping through your veins trying to figure out if it is a trout, red or something even bigger and better on the end of your line. With magical moments coming when the fish is in the net and you look at the big smile on your boys face as high fives are being given all around. That is what fishermen, young and old, live for. Those once in a great while times when the fishing just doesnt seem to be able to get any better, and if they could your too busy to notice anyway. A few of these trips can make up for a lot of others that just dont quite match up. Myself, I still have a few fingers left to keep counting on, then I guess Ill start using my toes. By the time I run out of digits Ill probably need assistance in baiting my hook!!!