One really neat thing about moving from teaching high school to middle school is how much the students marvel at the little bits of arcane information I sometimes spring on them. I can pass along some little factoid, such as historians are able to tell the exact date of the first performance of Sophacles’ tragedy Antigone because there was a lunar eclipse on the same day or that the 47 Ronin was actually a play based on historical events as recorded by the Japanese historian Edo (although the original work lacked supernatural creatures and special effects). They get a kick out of learning these bits of trivia. Granted, it’s the sort of information that only drama geeks can appreciate, but it still counts.
Even so, I believe strongly that every student—even middle schoolers—should have a well-rounded, multi-faceted education. I may draw a paycheck as a Theatre Teacher but my kids should be exposed to all the knowledge at my disposal.
Knowledge such as:
There are Some Monstrous Flounder Out There
I was talking to Mark Lingo, the Lower Laguna Madre Coastal Fisheries Leader, about flounder in Lower Laguna Madre when he shared with me the little known fact that some really big ones—upwards of 10 pounds or more—hang around deep rocks in state waters. The same rocks that shelter vast schools of red snapper are also havens for these bathmats with eyes. Lingo said that these big flounder park themselves around these rocks and spend their days waiting for some hapless small red snapper, grunt, or other morsel to happen by and turn into a meal. It would come as no surprise if someone were to luck into a state record flatty off of one of these rocks while trying to catch a snapper.
I’ve been tempted to get an SS Jig – or similar bucktail – and bounce one on the sand to try for one of these flounder. The only problem would be trying to get my offering past a hungry snapper.
But oh what a happy dilemma!
Tarpon Fight Dirty
Anyone who has ever hooked into a big silver king knows this to be a fact. But until I talked to Larry Dahlberg, host of Larry Dahlberg’s The Hunt for Big Fish, I had no idea how dirty.
One year at ICAST, I recounted to Dahlberg how Larry Haines, a Port Isabel fly shop owner, had almost been killed by heat stroke while fighting a record-class tarpon off the Boca Chica side of the Brazos Jetties. During the course of the eight hour battle, the fish had sounded to the bottom of the Brownsville Ship Channel and a slugfest ensued where Haines gained and lost again the same few short feet of line.
Dahlberg wasn’t surprised and explained what was happening: a big ‘poon will stick his nose in the mud and sand at the bottom of the pass with the current. When you gain line on the fish, all you are doing is turning the fish a bit. When you lose the same amount of line, the fish has turned back into the current and went right back to his nose-down position.
It is an exhausting fight and pretty much a stalemate until either a) your tackle fails or b) you find a way to drastically change the angle of pressure on the tarpon (which is exactly what Haines did, boarding a friend’s boat and managing some vertical pressure on the fish – it didn’t help, though, because the fight lasted another four hours before Haines collapsed).
Tarpon…they can be real jerks!
Personal experience can be a harsh teacher. A bruised cheek and a mouthful of fish slime and scales underscored that for me one June morning. I was wading Community Bar in Port Mansfield and tossing a gold spoon to some very cooperative speckled trout and redfish. I saw some bait working near a crab trap buoy in deeper water and waded into near-chest deep water to make a few casts at the leaping bait. My shuffling must’ve startled a large mullet, because the next thing I knew, a 13-inch long silver missile launched directly in front of me. The problem was that the frightened fish leaped right at me.
The force of the one-pound slimy bullet pegging me right in the face stunned me and sent me staggering backwards (worse yet, I dropped my rod into the ultra-saline Lower Laguna Madre water). I am forever thankful for my Wiley-X sunglasses because they may have saved me from a worse injury than a puffy cheek. Undaunted, I recovered my rod and reel and kept fishing. And I even managed to catch a couple of trout from around that buoy.
But my cheek throbbed for days afterwards and I had to think of an excellent lie to tell my summer school colleagues. Why? Because I doubted they would have believed that I was assaulted by an industrial sized baitfish (or maybe I didn’t want to admit to it).
For the record: Mullet slime does NOT taste like chicken.