THE MORNING BROKE COLD with a fine drizzle that seemed to chill to the bone. It didn’t matter what you had on, the moisture just got under your skin.
I was wrapped around my thermos of coffee like a well-worn blanket. Definitely need more clothes I thought.
No worries about my bait today, I said to myself, having fought the heat the previous summer, which often kills good bait.
I was alone at the dock on St. Charles Bay, and I convinced myself it was likely to remain that way. No one except me, was dumb enough to go out in this cold, wet, winter weather.
My clients this day were hard core anglers, and I knew they would show up. Luckily, I had confidence we would find the bite. I prayed the thick-as-soup drizzle would burn off and blue bird weather would prevail. The forecast, though, was not on my side. Wet and cold, it was gonna be for three days.
I was relatively new to guiding having been in it for only three years. I needed the money.
At that young age, I thought I was indestructible, so weather was never going to be an issue. Now in my sixties, I recognize I was perfectly and absurdly in error.
About the time I had persuaded myself to soak up the dry heat in my truck, a small foreign vehicle carefully backed into the center of the boat ramp. The driver seemed very particular on which side of the ramp where they were choosing to back their boat and trailer.
When I tell you this guy pulled up and back at least five times, I am not exaggerating. Is there a problem with his brakes? Brake lights? Is he practicing backing? Has he been toking on a number or pulling on the bottle to cut the wet cold?
I was getting tired just watching him. After what seemed like the everlasting end of time, it seems the boat, now begging to be put into the water, was ready for launch.
I was now back at my boat. I knew that if he had this much trouble on a vacant double boat ramp he was more than likely gonna slam into my boat approaching the dock. Instead, he jumped out of his truck, boat, motor, and trailer still on the ramp, and came quickly over to where my boat was tied up.
“Would it be too much of an inconvenience to move your boat?”, he asked???
“Say it again?” I stated.
“Can you move your boat? You are in my preferred spot.”
“Sir, there are six other places you can tie up,” I informed him. “As you can see we are quite assuredly alone and likely to stay that way this morning.”
The look he gave me was not one of anger, but rather angst/confusion. I’m not a boat ramp hog, nor do I believe my frequent use of such assures inalienable rights to same, but I was, by thunder, here first.
My mind raced to understand before the now-stirring of my pee and vinegar took hold. Seek first to understand then to be understood I told myself (a life lesson we men especially need to embrace).
“Can you move forward a bit then,” he asked, “and I will dock behind you?”
“I can’t get out then. You will have me ‘dock locked,’” I said, now with a tone that was approaching bewilderment, anger, and panic. Whoever this bird was he wasn’t flying with both wings, or at the very least his feathers had been severely clipped.
I was cold, wet, and had clients coming. My coffee tasted like it had sour cream in it. “Hold just a second sir,” I said. “I will move over to the far slip,” having decided I was not up for confrontation this a.m.
“Thank you” he simply stated and proceeded to launch his boat. I saw nothing in his mannerisms that suggested he was ailing or limited other than the grey matter between his ears.
Having tied up and meticulously parked his trailer, he made his way over and matter of factly thanked me for moving. “Hate to start my day on the wrong foot” he said. “I take it you’re a guide?”
“Yes,” I mumbled, thinking why else would I be out here?. “Have always wanted to see a guide’s boat and how it is set up.” This guy wasn’t going away, so I tickled my curious side awake and thought, let’s see what makes this conundrum standing before me tick.
“Which side of the boat do you fish from?”
“All sides,” I said sipping my soured coffee.
“I could never do that,” he said, “I fish from the right side only.”
“You’re a starboard caster” I said, trying to be engaging.
“No, I am a right-side fisherman.”
Hmm, okay I thought. “Nice boat,” I said, “it looks new.”
“No, it’s 10 years old. I wash and wax it after each use and do not allow it to be in the sun.”
Do you hold an umbrella over it while you fish? my smart aleck side thought, but instead “Looks like you keep it in good shape.”
“Why such a big motor?” he asked about my 175 Black Max Mercury.
“Most folks run 200hp or above. I just like the V block of this motor, and it’s got a reliable track record.”
“It’s too loud” he stated.
“My motor is small, and the decibels are very low even at full throttle. A loud motor disrupts my whole day,” he said.
What do you do if a gull craps on you, I thought, head to emergency care?
His questions came like machine gun fire.
“Where’s your live well?”
“It’s where they built it on this particular boat.”
“Mostly inefficient” he said. “Do you have a way to cleanse your hands?”
“I wash them in the bay water.”
“Can make you sick,” he said.
I was already sick, but not from bay water.
“Is there a wash down here for my trailer? Salt water is so corrosive.”
Not a bad idea I thought. “No, but you’re in luck, the rain will wash it for you.”
“Your rods and reels need to be upgraded. I change my line after every trip. You don’t have a GPS? That’s dangerous.”
“What’s a GPS?” I said.
“Hmmppff “he responded. “Your ship to shore radio is good for only 16 miles, I would think you would have at least a 100-mile unit. I’ve never heard of a Redfin boat, where are they made?”
“Around Dallas / Fort Worth,” I grunted.
“It’s too big I think, would be bad on a windy day. I never fish on windy days.”
“How often do you fish?” I asked.
“Maybe once or twice a year.”
There is a God in heaven I thought.
“I pick the days when no one will be here and there is no wind. I don’t mind the rain, it’s cleansing you know.”
And cold and wet? I was thinking.
“I can’t stand crowded boat ramps. It is upsetting to see people dabble through launching their boat, and it’s a sheer waste of time.”
Like the 15 minutes it took you to back your trailer, I thought. He was rapidly replacing the wet and cold that had gotten under my skin.
“Is that your spare anchor?” he snobbishly asked.
“We’re not gonna talk about anchors today” I pointedly said. I had just bought my Super Hooker anchor and was quite proud of it. To this day it’s still on my boat.
Of all days for my clients to be late, I thought. Time for a diversion.
“Sir, looks like your rear tire is low on your truck.”
“Oh no, no. I let the air out because I get better traction on slick boat ramps. That enables me to negate the inefficiencies of a 4wd truck.”
He then glanced over at the only other truck in the parking lot, my 4wd 3/4-ton Power Stroke Diesel. This was getting painful.
“Where are my clients?” I said out loud.
“That’s inexcusable,” he said. “Timeliness is next to Godliness.”
OFGS I thought. “They are gonna miss the bite if they don’t get here pretty quick.”
“Oh Really?” he almost shouted.
“Yes, it’s been early the last few days” I truthfully stated.
He all but ran back to his boat and said he enjoyed the chat. “You won’t tie up in my spot will you once you are back?”
I shook my head in amazement. “No, I wouldn’t dream of it.”
To this day I still think about this guy. Although I try to find the positive things in everybody, there was very little, if anything, I found likable in him. I counted myself fortunate to never run across him again and often thought that the bay waters of the Gulf Coast were no place for such an idealist.
You take what life gives you down here and make it work. That’s the allure here. It changes constantly. To me it is no place for such a person. Then I did an inventory of where I stand today.
I have a GPS. I have better reels and rods. I carry hand sanitizer because of bacteria. My truck is a more efficient 1/2-ton, six cylinder.
My boat has a lower profile, which helps with high winds. My new/old motor is much quieter, and I like that. My live well was custom-built and strategically located pretty much where he recommended.
Now, living on St. Charles Bay and paying for a new boat trailer I, if I have time, hose my trailer off after launching my boat. Laugh if you want, it works.
I get up two hours earlier to avoid crowds at bait shops and boat ramps, and I get antsy when someone piddles when launching their boat. I hate to admit it; but I, too, prefer certain boat slips/docks when mooring. The ropes and ties are all just the right length.
He may have been more of a prophet or visionary; and I, as age progresses, feel these same characteristics. Is it perfectionism or just needing the comfort of the familiar? There are worse things, you know—and leave my anchor out of it.
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COPANO BAY: The mouth of Mission Bay is still a go-to spot. Black drum frequent this area, and a peeled shrimp on a light Carolina rig is best here. If you can find live finger mullet this is a good place to fish them as well. Reds frequent this area especially on changing tides. There are some trout off the grass lines around Newcomb Point. Live shrimp is best under a silent cork or free-lined.
ARANSASBAY: Drifts down Traylor Island using soft plastics in new penny and power baits in holographic gold and black back are good for reds and trout. On warm days, the fish are shallow, and deeper on cold days. The pot holes on the north side of Mud Island are a good place for reds using cut mullet free-lined.
ST. CHARLES BAY: The dark mud of Cavasso Creek is a good spot for reds and black drum. Use jumbo shrimp on medium Carolina rigs for the reds and peeled shrimp on light Carolina rigs for the black drum. The north shoreline around Salt Creek is a good spot for reds on warmer days. Free-lined cut mullet or menhaden works well here.
CARLOS BAY: Carlos Trench is still the best place here. Fish the shallow edges of the shell on warmer days with deep running lures such as Rat L Traps in electric chicken and purple colors. Some black drum on Cedar. Peeled shrimp under a silent cork works well here.
MESQUITE BAY: Northeast pocket (on the northeast shoreline) is a good place for sheepshead and black drum using fresh dead shrimp or frozen shrimp. Free-lined is best or a light Carolina rig. The shoreline just off Third Chain Islands is a good spot for trout and reds using live shrimp free-lined. Changing tides are best here.
AYERS BAY: Far East shoreline is a good spot for reds using finger mullet on a light Carolina rig or soft plastics like new penny-colored jerk shad. The area just off Rattlesnake Island is good for trout and reds using Berkley Gulp shrimp under a silent or bubble cork.
Email Capt. Mac Gable at email@example.com