Fishing on the near side of the Sun
Its 4:30am on a Saturday morning but not the typical Saturday morning around these parts. This is an unusual fishing morning. All the honey-doos have been finished and the weather forecast calls for light Southeast winds with a four-tide day, almost unheard of for this time of year. The fishing tables all for an excellent fishing day, the moon is in the correct phase, my trick knee feels great, and every other superstitious angler folklore is primed for a super day of fishing. The only drawback to an otherwise perfect day of fishing is the temperature. Looking out the kitchen window while sippin my morning coffee I notice the temperature gauge reads 82%. Something must be wrong with the darn thing as I turn on the weather report much to my dismay. The weatherman calls for an otherwise perfect day of fishing, except the present temperature is just like the gauge reads 82 with a high in the upper 90s predicted, may even break a record by the end of the day.
Heading out the garage to pull the cover off the boat and wash off the dirt dobber nest this information turns out to be correct. After a few short minutes of hooking the boat to the truck and packing the fishing gear I return to the house to change my sweat-soak shirt for a dry one. Within the next half-hour the rest of the fishing crew is awakened and we head out the driveway with our next stop Galveston. Making our way down I-45, a trip I have made several hundred times during my fishing career I could drive it in my sleep, and according to my fishing partner have done several times. Pulling into our usual bait camp just over the causeway we see the white flags flying, time to stock up on a few live shrimp and some ice before launching the boat.
With a new cup of coffee I question the attendant hows the fishing been lately as he rings me up. " Trout been biting real good the last couple of days as well as the reds and flounder." " The water is green all the way to the beach, and things look just as good today as the past couple." Music to my ears, especially since this day has been marked on the calendar for the last month. Typically I would find some overcast day on the way down with light to moderate squalls predicted early morning with things looking to get worse as the day wears on, but not today. The wind, tides, and water are just about perfect. We were soon to discover the only drawback to an otherwise perfect day. As the bait attendant handed us our shrimp I soon discovered some ill effects the unseasonably warm weather was having on the ocean inhabitants. My otherwise lively shrimp seemed to be floating like they would look more comfortable on a bed of ice with $7.95 a pound marker on the glass rather than my future bait. The Master Baitsman shows me a trick on the little known art of shrimp CPR. With a few thumps to the undersides of the lack luster shrimp and in no time they were scurrying around the live well looking for some cool water. A technique that I had to perform several times it turned out during the course of the day of fishing.
With revived shrimp in hand we head to the boat launch a few miles down the road. Unloading the trucks content into the boat. A drill done the same several hundred times and also usually done while still in a semi-sleepwalking state of mind. Making one last check that all the younger fishermen were awake and not left in the truck, the plug was firmly attached to the transom, we throttled down headed straight for the boat cut. Still dark we saw the slight glimmer of the sunrays dancing off the few clouds on the horizon. The water is slick calm. A skiers wet dream and I vowed once again to dust off the old skies and bring them along one of the days, but only I never do. Within a few minutes we were throttling down pulling up to our old honey hole. With Marine like efficiency we store the life jackets, set the anchor, and bait our hooks before the wake stops from our boats arrival. The shrimp refuse so sink in the Jacuzzi temperature waters but with a little added weight they eventually make their way to the bottom.
Within minutes we have our first hit. Rods bent and line spooling I can tell this is going to be a Red, and in short time my intuitions are confirmed. Little coaxing is needed to release him from the hook. In fact the only thing that slows down our 28-inch friend is the lid on the fish box. As soon as it is lifted, we here the sigh of relief as he settles down into the ice looking for a beer to make his experience worth while. Soon the word is out, red after red impale themselves on our hooks, looking for a way to beat the heat. Instead of the normal by-stander angler I have been forced to become the fish box bouncer. Checking redfish IDs to make sure they are in the legal limits before they can enter the Hammer-Time Cantina. With a little Jimmy Buffet on the juke box for some ambiance music it soon dawns on me the ice as wells as the bruskis are soon become a premium. I never knew Redfish were such party animals or should I say get so loaded to the gills.
Suddenly they turn off as quickly as they turned on. We look off unto the distant horizon and realize the sun is beginning to crest over the water. Like something from the movie Deep Impact we watch as the rays move along the water toward our direction. What once was just green water suddenly begins to boil under the direct rays from the yellow ball sitting on top of the water off in the distance. Instead of waves rolling effortlessly toward the beach, we see waves of steam heading in our direction. We retrieve our anchor and simultaneously grease ourselves down like sausages on a skillet with 100 proof sunscreen. You know the one that has Edgar and Johnny Winter as the spoke persons for its product. Guaranteed to keep even the whitest ass redneck from becoming any more rednecker! Frantically we throttle the boat down heading toward some protected waters in a race to beat the suns rays. We head toward one of favorite wade-fishing spots that have been lucky for us in the past. Unfortunately for us the sun has long since gained on our half-ass fast boat, should have opted for the 150 Mercury instead of the 135.
Cruising the coastline we see the damage that Mother Natures heat lamp has inflicted upon our once pristine water. Shoreline that under normal summers would be emerald green slick calm water only to have its mirror-like surfaces broken by tailing reds disturbances. Are now little more than dried up mud beds, with crack getting bigger each second the sun rays bake them like an oven gone amuck wired by Tim Taylor the Tool Man. Carcasses of fish of every species lay scattered all along the drying shoreline, Trout, reds, flounder, whitings, croaker, and hardheads. A empty feeling from the pit of our stomach comes over us as we see the destruction that come to our fallen comrades that we spend most our free time pursuing. Although not much sympathy is wasted on the thousands of hard head drying on the mud flats. We stroll along the drying shoreline gathering the perfectly preserved dried fish carcasses like tourist at a New Brunsfel smoke house. Their fish-jerky bodies have just enough saltiness embedded in them to go nicely with the few beers that the Red fish have left over from their fish box blowout. We soon have the empty boat spaces filled with cords of fish jerky corpses. Being sure to stay in the legal possession limits not sure if we are checked how the game warden would interpret this form of fish gathering since no hooks or rod and reels were involved in their capture.
Soon we were back at the Marina along with the hundreds of other fishermen that had enough sun and fun for one day. Most were like us with similar fishing experiences for this new type of El Nino summer fishing, fish boxes loaded down with overheated fish and salted fish jerky coming out their ears. Game Wardens walked from boat to boat scratching their heads in disbelief. Looking through their books for some kind of president on whether it was legal to gather sun-dried fish off oven-baked shorelines. Only those fishermen with illegal size game fish were taken aside and questioned. As for us we cranked up the AC headed back toward Houston. With enough fish, either jerky or regular style to make it through several nice fish frys parties. This new style of summer fishing may suck for the poor fish, but for the average angler its like shooting fish in a barrel, only you dont need any bullets.