A bad day at fishing is nearly as good as a good day doing just about anything else. – Me
When I was real young I would sit with my dad on the old pier (the old causeway bridge) at South Padre Island, Texas and watch the tip of our fishing rods. That was, as far as I remember, the extent of what we called “fishing” back then. We’d bait our old and stocky sea fishing rods with whatever was the bait of the day. The rods were thick and heavy and could handle just about any kind of fish that was willing to come within casting distance of the shore. Shrimp, squid, or any cut bait would usually do the trick.
My dad, may he rest in peace, was an old man when I met him. He wasn’t prone to running around and complicating things or making life difficult for him or anyone around him. He liked things simple. So when we fished we fished simple. It wasn’t rocket science. We’d go to the pier or the jetties at the island, pick a random spot, bait the hooks and cast them out as far was we could, and then pull out our folding chairs or large empty pickle buckets and sit and wait.
Fishing, in those days, was not a complicated thing. We weren’t looking for any particular fish that I remember. We weren’t planning to bring much home either. We just wanted to get something to bite at the other end of the line and see what was what. At the end of the day it never really mattered much how much we caught, or even if we caught any. We had gone fishing and that was enough.
Now, 45 years later, in my own life, nothing much has changed. Yes, fishing has gotten a bit more complicated. Fishermen today live in a world of fast boats, fish finding equipment, and plastic lures. It’s a fast paced fishing scene now. Much is done and said about how and how many. Plastic lures are king right now and catching the big fish on live bait is, at least in my new circle of fishing friends, nothing to brag about. Catching them on plastic lures, well, that takes talent.
Where I live now I have come to know a neighbor who owns a boat and fancies himself quite the fisherman, and, if forced to testify in court I would probably have to admit that he is. I have known him for about a year now and we have gone fishing several times in both fresh and salt water. Somewhere along the line we (those of us that fish with him) have dubbed him “Captain K(no)w Fish”. We did this because, well, he knows where the fish are. And, we joke, that is where they will stay.
Though I do miss going shore fishing like I did with my dad, there is something special to going out on the water on a boat. Our current fishing spot is anywhere on the waters just outside of Port Mansfield, Texas. The water is low and the fishing is some of best anywhere if you are looking for Speckled Trout and Redfish. Sometimes, in the early mornings especially, the water seems as still as the land and as shiny as a mirror. You glide over it effortlessly as the sun is coming up over the horizon and you swear to God there is no better view anywhere else in the world. It hits you that you are going fishing and with it there is always a hope that a fish will rise that is worthy of a story later.
There are many rituals to fishing with Captain Know Fish. A lot happens on the trip out to Port Mansfield. The truck ride out to the fish is just over an hour long. Right at the outset Captain Know Fish will say that he feels “very good about this trip”. Someone will almost always chide him and insist he is jinxing the trip when he says that. But he will say that each and every time, sometimes more than once. Plans are made on the way to the boat ramps. We have a long and lively debate about when and where and how. We talk about “what they are hitting on now”, the coming and going of the tides, and what spots may be good this time of year. We discuss recent conversations with friends and acquaintances who just “went out there yesterday” and gave up what specific magical lure the fish were biting on. Whatever it is at least one of us is bound to have it in our tackle gear because we all went out to Academy Sports + Outdoors store and stocked up whatever we could get the day or so before the planned fishing trip. It’s bad luck not to have at least one new lure in your tackle box when you go fishing. We leave nothing to chance.
Until, of course, when we get there. As soon as we are on the water and exiting the harbor it is our custom to completely forget what we just talked about in the last hour and a half. It’s just gone. Instead we decide to wing it. Somebody on the boat will look at the water and “read” what it’s saying and somehow we will almost always end up in some spot we hadn’t even discussed. We will look out and see birds over the water and remark that birds mean bait fish which mean bigger fish and we should go check it out. We never go check it out.
But once we’ve stopped somewhere someone will stick their rod in the water to see how deep it is (Red Fish and Trout love shallow water) and say “About 3 feet. Perfect.” Everyone on the boat will then race to be the first to put their lure in the water. The moment someone experiences a even a minor bite or brings a fish in someone will say “They’re here”, after which someone will snidely respond, “yep, they’re in the water”.
Captain Know Fish and the rest of the crew I fish with are much more experienced at this lure casting type of fishing than I am. The moment a fish gets caught on their line they can, for the most part, tell you what kind of fish it is long before it sticks its head out of the water. I get a hit on my line and all I know is that I have a fish. They get a hit and call out the type of fish and how long it probably is. Captain Know Fish always says “Thank You Jesus!” the moment a large fish finds the end of his line. Jesus never seems to concerned with what is at the end of my line.
Having access to a boat makes you a bit snooty toward shore fishermen. Most people with boats can’t see themselves fishing off a pier, jetties, or the shoreline of a lake. It’s just not them anymore. Just yesterday Captain Know Fish took his boat in for maintenance. The boat will be in the shop or a week or two so I suggested to him that we go to the jetties at the island, where, mind you, people have been recently pulling out bull redfish by the hundreds. He looked at me like if I was suddenly speaking a foreign language. I repeated myself and his eyes glossed over like if he simply couldn’t comprehend what I was saying. For a second they rolled back in his head like if he was having a stroke. I backed off. I can’t have him having a stroke. I don’t know anyone else with a boat.
The hope is always that we catch enough fish to have a fish fry sometime later. And we have had a few. It is always a good thing getting together with friends and family to eat and enjoy the catch. Nothing quite like it. But in the end it really doesn’t matter. There have been times we came back with just one or two fish and still, it was a great day. We were fishing.
That’s it for now. Catch up with me next time when we discuss Captain Know Fish’s rules about taking pictures with your fish (CPR-Catch, Photo, and Release) and what to eat after fishing (Whataburger v. Tucker’s BBQ). I might even tell you about the time I got stretched out like a cabrito (Google it) between the boat and the dock trying to keep the boat from drifting away. Yeah, it wasn’t pretty. See you then.