A S THE YEARS HAVE SET IN with the baby boomer generation, and those even much younger, I see as well as hear more grunts and more groans and get emails that allude to the fact “Father Time” is taking its toll on mature anglers.
This is not limited to us older folks though, as even young anglers now tell me a day on the water (and in some cases a half day) seems to be about all they can handle. I too feel my energy waning as I approach the end of a fishing day, especially since my lack of fishing because of Harvey.
I was off the water for the most part for about five months having higher priorities which demanded my attention. My first several trips back into our beloved bays were nothing short of eye opening. After about four hours I was flat worn out!
What the devil was wrong with me? It wasn’t like I was glued to a Lazy Boy Recliner for God’s sake! I was hitting it every day, putting our lives back together here in Rockport. I venture to say with much confidence I worked harder those past five months than any time in the last eight years, so what gives?
The answer was something I learned as a youngster, but time allowed me to forget, or so it seems. I was reminded in a casual conversation I had with a veteran while drinking a cup of coffee.
I had arrived early for breakfast at a favorite hangout. An old man with a limp wearing a USS Hornet cap sat at another table. “Catching any fish?” he asked.
“Yes sir,” I responded, “mostly trout and black drum.”
“Well,” he half grinned, “my son and I got skunked, and I found out I have lost my “sea legs” for sure ’cuz I am flat worn out from yesterday’s fishing.”
Hmmm, I thought, is it possible that was my problem?
“I was on the USS Hornet” the veteran said. “It was a Yorktown-class aircraft carrier. During World War II in the Pacific Theater, she launched the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo,” he stated proudly. “I was at sea for more than two years pretty much non-stop, but you couldn’t tell it yesterday on my son’s boat.” He grimaced and shook his head.
“Thank you for your service” I said.
“It was my duty” he replied, as he stared into his cup of coffee like its black water was a portal to a view of the past.
The term “sea legs” is the ability to adjust one’s sense of balance to the motion of a ship at sea. That all sounds well and fine but how does it work? It’s not just about large ships and it’s not limited to the open sea. It applies to any boat from the smallest dingy to even cruise liners.
Cruise liners have done their best to eliminate the sea legs adjustment period from their ultra-luxurious floating Taj Mahals. However, those with inner ear sensitivities still must adjust to the pitch and yaw movement, which is impossible to completely eliminate.
For those who are fortunate enough not to get seasick, a fatigue factor still accompanies one’s lack of sea legs. Within the scope of a bay boat: it’s all about constant movement.
Once you step onto a boat your brain compensates for the movement the water applies to the craft. Most don’t realize this until they step foot on land again. Not only is this condition energy consuming it also can be mentally draining.
Some believe sitting will eliminate this phenomenon. Although it helps a bit, your body is constantly balancing itself—even sitting.
Seasickness and sea legs are two different conditions with the common source being a boat in motion. The fatigue I speak of may or may not be accompanied by seasickness. Fortunately, I’ve never been seasick or motion sick, although I have seen my share of this debilitating condition. I’m darned happy it has not paid a visit to me.
How does a boat angler avoid this thief of fishing time? To start, be in good physical condition. Those who suffer the most are those who are way out of shape and carry a lot of excess weight.
Watch someone who just seems to be in tune with the water, the boat, and the wind. They may as well be standing in their living room, they seem so at home.
When you see it, you will know it. They are truly in a rhythmic dance with the elements. They don’t waste motion and are efficient with most angling and boating tasks. Also notice the sides, the front, and the aft of the boat is where most of the movement occurs.
Seasoned seamen will hang close to the centerline of the boat, meaning the helm or console. It’s not by accident that most coastal boats are center console. That’s where the Captain hangs out, and it’s known as the soft spot on most boats.
Watch The Deadliest Catch just once and you’ll see what I’m talking about. Those grunts working the traps are getting beat to hell while Capt. King Crab is sipping coffee and talking to the camera. The reason? He is in the centerline, the soft spot, the area of least yaw and pitch.
Weekend guides suffer the most from this. They have an off-the-water day job during the week and have bought into the glamour of guiding during the weekends. By the end of the day Sunday they look like they were rode hard and put up wet.
Most people having never had sea legs, wouldn’t know a sea leg if they were to grow one. I do applaud these guys and gals though, most are tough as woodpecker lips.
So, what’s the answer? There isn’t one really, no one solution fits all. The Ironman approach is to fish about 15 to 20 days straight. Usually by the end, you will acquire a pretty good set of sea legs.
The best approach is to start slow and not marathon your first day of the year on the water. Two or three hours is plenty of time. Pick a few good spots, then call it a day.
Your wife and kids will love you for it as well as your out-of-shape buddies. When you wake up the next morning, your body will say thank you as well.
We old timers need to heed this advice, ten fold. We do not need to be on the water 8 to 10 hours a day. If we Ironman it like that, we will be visiting the local drug store for painkillers.
There truly is a tempo to the wind, the waves, and our boats. For those who have never experienced this, I truly hope someday you will.
It is going with the motion, not against it, stay in rhythm with the tempo and you’re going be more comfortable. Being comfortable means you will fish better, more productively and longer.
“I’m looking forward to some good old Texas heat,” one angler jokingly remarked to me at a local bait stand.
“It’s rare” I quipped back, “but I do believe you’ll get your wish today.” We both laughed. All but a few bait stands are back and running, but the heat does take its toll on their bait. This goes double for the live wells on an angler’s boat. Anglers should be refueling themselves with mostly water during these really hot months and keep their bait cool as well.
Copano Bay: Early mornings the red bite is good at Copano Creek with live finger mullet the best choice. Free-lined is best here or a very light Carolina rig. Wades on the northwest shoreline with croaker on late evenings is good for some keeper trout. High tide is best here.
St. Charles Bay: Drifts across Cow Chip are producing keeper reds. A weedless-rigged Berkley Gulp shad in new penny color works well here. Some trout and black drum are hanging in the area at the mouth of St. Charles Bay adjacent to Aransas Bay. Live shrimp under a rattle cork works well here.
Aransas Bay: The north shoreline of Mud Island is a good spot for reds using finger mullet or cut mullet on a medium heavy Carolina rig. Traylor Island is a good spot for trout, especially where cuts in the island occur. Croaker free-lined here is the right approach.
Carlos Bay: The mouth of Spalding Bight is holding some keeper reds using mud minnows on a light Carolina rig. These are best fished on a falling tide. The southeast shoreline of Ballou Island is a great wade for reds and trout using soft plastics in anchovy and root beer colors. Stealth here is important, and it’s best fished on high tide.
Mesquite Bay: The mouth of Cedar Bayou is a good wade for trout using free-lined croaker. The Gulf trout will egress Cedar Bayou and hang out in this area. Still some black drums on the east shoreline; fresh dead shrimp under a silent cork is best here.
Ayres Bay: Wades from Second Chain Islands to Ayres Point is a great spot for trout using mud minnows or croaker free-lined. It can get boggy here, so place your steps cautiously. The west shoreline just off Rattlesnake Island is still a good spot for some black drums and sheepsheads. Cut squid or fresh dead shrimp on a light Carolina rig works well here.
THE OLD LBJ FISHING PIER is closed, but the pilings that support the old bridge are a good spot for reds and sheepsheads. Some really large black drums hang here as well. Braided line works best. Short wades to the pilings can produce some good action. Free-lined live shrimp is hard to beat here. Be very careful in this area as it’s got a lot of old fishing line tangled on the old pilings. Here’s Wishing You Tight Lines Bent Poles and Plenty of Bait!
Email Capt. Mac Gable at [email protected].com