T he response is: Yes, you do. Put down your whine.
The statement was “I don’t have time to go fishing.”
I said as much more than once, probably closer to a dozen times, this past summer. Friends and co-workers who call themselves fishermen would call me or loiter around my desk to boo-hoo about how they hadn’t been fishing in a while because they were so, so, so busy.
Quit making excuses. If you want to go fishing, there’s time in anyone’s week to go. Stop telling yourself (and others) otherwise.
I’m as busy as anyone and possibly busier than most. Won’t bore you with details, but the plate is full. Then again, it’s not so full that I can’t “go fishing.” I just can’t drop what I’m doing to sling lures at some of the places I’d most like to visit or revisit.
The key for me, as it can be for anyone, was to accept my schedule’s limitations and work around them. I can’t race off to the Laguna Madre for skinny-water reds or fly over to Florida to chase snook or blast down to Mexico for striped marlin on a whim—as happened more than once in my past —but I can fish.
For avid, driven fishermen, the secret to getting through a time-challenged stretch of life starts with modifying your expectations, not lowering—modifying. Not your standards, your expectations.
Fishing is available in some shape or form within relatively short distance of us all. To make sure that’s true, I stuck a push-pin in the middle of a map of downtown Houston. From that point, I identified within a 10-mile radius at least a half dozen places where, with a little determination and potentially a clothespin for your nose, you could catch fish.
Not bonefish or tarpon or smallmouths or rainbow trout, but fish—on hook and line and lure (or bait, if you insist.)
The list of players in these water bodies includes a variety of sunfish, at least two species of catfish and two more of carp, and the occasional longnose or spotted gar that might be a foot long or might be three feet long. I was surprised recently by a gar as long and thick as my leg that rose from the murk of a rice canal, right at my feet, and then submerged and disappeared.
Would I eat these fish? Probably not, but I’ve spoken with other fishermen who say they’ve dined on fish from those places for years. I’ve traveled 1,000 miles to catch bonefish, and I didn’t eat any of them. There’s a difference, I know, but the point is valid.
The easiest way to find these close-to-home fishing holes is, as you might guess, to open your eyes. If I see water that looks fishy, I look for (legal) ways to access it. If there are signs that say fishing isn’t allowed, I move on. I consider no sign to be a welcome sign. The couple of times I’ve wandered onto restricted shoreline—accidentally, of course – I’ve left as soon as I was asked to do so.
In the suburbs, around my home, there’s more accessible water than in the city. Neighborhood lakes, city parks, natural bayous, manmade bayous, irrigation canals—they all have fish. They just don’t have trophy fish.
If you want to fish badly enough, it’s easy to accept the sounds of traffic over those of seagulls. On the plus side, heavily so, it’s also nice after a long day of fishing to be five minutes from home and not five hours that includes two hours getting through an international airport.
It’s been my good fortune to travel much of the world and catch some of its most exciting gamefish—and call it “work.” I won’t lie and tell you the thrill is the same catching four-inch panfish on rubber spiders as it is getting a permit to slurp a crab fly on a white-sand Honduran flat, but they’re both fishing.
So is throwing stinkbait into the middle of a municipal-park pond and hoping for a catfish to call it supper. So is sitting on an overturned bucket, staring at the little cork that’s suspending a live shiner off the nose of a fat crappie.
That’s important to remember. Not everyone may be as fortunate as you or me. Not every fishermen owns a boat or travels with tackle or owns fancy gear. But they—we—are all fishermen.
As an “older” fisherman now—except on trips with equally competitive peers— I get great pleasure in helping other people catch more fish. If my lure is working on the Surfside jetty, and the man next me isn’t catching anything, but is doing his best with what he’s got, I’ll offer my plug or jig and show him how to work it.
Any time one of my son’s friends confesses to never having caught a fish but wanting to do so, I have just the place.
It’s less than an acre of water but absolutely loaded with sunfish. On any day, especially under cloud cover and armed with half a loaf of bread for chum plus vanilla-soaked kernel corn, I confidently can guarantee not only “a” fish for that child, but at least a dozen.
Joe Doggett and I used to pass lunch hours (which often turned into lunch afternoons) in rubber boots, standing shin-deep in Braes Bayou and fly-casting tiny popping bugs at white amur. Our snooty friends never joined us, but some real fishermen did. Sight-casting to 20-inch fish in six inches of water is cool wherever you can pull it off.
My latest “fishing” hole is an irrigation ditch alongside a country club where I play golf. I’d bet there aren’t six members who realize how many big gar are there, but I do. They’re a blast to tease with little top-waters.
The fish are there. You want to fish or whine?
Email Doug Pike at
Email Doug Pike at [email protected]