Wednesday, October 28, 2009


I've had numerous occasions of fantastic fishing where just everything came together like clockwork. There was that time in the 90's when I was at Walker's Cay, snorkling off the beach that is one part of that fine fishing island, when I found myself in the midst of about a gadzillion bonefish. Just everywhere and not too spooked at me being around. I hightailed it back to the beach and grabbed my trusty Orvis fly rod with a couple of different flies and streamers I had bought with the advice of an experienced Bahamian/Florida bone fisherman that lived in Houston.

I had a grand time wading the flats chasing and sight casting to bonefish. And even catching a few.

So Walker's Cay was a stunning experience, to say the least.

And there are tons of other fishing trips with family and freinds from the time I was a small child of 5 or 6 until now that were great and fun and memorable in their own way. I've fished in a lot of different places, yet there are so many more places I yearn to fish.

But back in my youth, in the early 1970's was the first wild fishing experience I ever had. We were staying in a condo called the Sand Castle on South Padre Island. Back then, South Padre was just in the beginning phases of development. There was the Bahia Mar (just opened), the Holiday Inn, the Sea Ranch and just a few other condos on both the beach and bay side. Much of what is now condos and the like on the beach side of the island was solidly full of stilt beach houses.

Lots of Houstonians went down there then, either owning a beach house or renting a condo on the bay side where you could dock your boat. An equal number of upper and middle class Mexican nationals vacationed there as well back then, and we once met the then Mexican President's helicopter pilot who was staying next door to us for a few weeks.

We had a family friend, Joe Leago, who lived part time down in next door Port Isabel, where he fished the Lower Laguna Madre with a passion for speckled trout and redfish. He supplied some of Houston's finest restaurants with fresh shrimp and fish, and by doing some of the driving himself he got to do a lot of Port Isabel fishing while still living in Houston.

Joe would take us fishing nearly everytime we went down there. He knew lots of fishing spots and tactics and knew a lot about nature and the ecosystem down there. I caught some of the biggest specks I ever have caught, back up in the grassey back bays of remote parts of the Lower Laguna Madre, fishing with Joe in those days.

But when we weren't fishing with Joe, we had our own boat and would go fishing ourselves. Joe was a morning fisherman, but since we were on vacation we'd often fish the evening as well. Back then, it seemed that the ecosystem at South Padre and Port Isabel and the Lower Laguna Madre was a lot more in balance than it is today, nearly 40 years later.

So one night I went fishing on the lighted pier that the Sand Castle had. It didn't go out too far, since the boat channel for the bay was about 30 or 40 yards from the boating channel that was cut into the often shallow bay. We had a boat and had been fishing for much of the morning and evening. But the family was tired and I was invigorated by the fishing action that had gone on that day, and since we had several quarts of live shrimp in the livewell left over from the day, I went fishing on that pier until the wee small hours of the morning.

I caught all kinds of fish and lots and lots of them. Lots of speckled and sand trout, a couple of redfish, some gafftop catfish along with the requisite nuisance hardhead cats, some flounder, croaker, dogfish, puffer fish, sheepshead, ladyfish, several kinds of different sea perch, a small baby shark and a HUGE black with yellow and blue markings Angel Fish. Yes. An angel fish. I kept and cleaned the specks and iced them down as I caught them, but threw the other fish back. There were some sort of grouper looking fish I've not seen before or since that seemed to be schooling for a while during that night, and I caught several of them as well.

I finally ran out of live shrimp and got a box of frozen shimp that was in our boats ice chest. I went through it fairly quickly, since I was fishing several rods at once. I was just about to walk down the dock to where the boat was moored and get another box of frozen shrimp when the parental call to return to the condo occurred.

Although I thought I was pretty grown up and could take care of myself at 12 or 13 or however old I was, finally the folks made me return to the condo about 1 o'clock in the morning or so. Of course, I had my Boy Scout knife should any trouble present itself. But that mattered not to the peeps. Reluctantly, and with deliberate slowness, I stowed my gear on our nearby boat and trudged up to the room, convinced that the fishing was just now getting good, although it had been getting great all night.

Every now and then, you take one of those fishing trips where everything goes right. You're hitting on all 8 cylinders. You're doing as much catching as you are fishing, or you're hooking big fish putting up memorable fights. You can be by yourself or with friends or sometimes, a bunch of strangers.

With me, thought, despite my love of catching fish, I enjoy the fishing as much as I do the catching on most occasions, especially when I'm with friends.

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