WISDOM /’wiz-dem/ n. – The quality of having experience, knowledge and good judgement.
With the year that we had, “wisdom” is the word that we can carry into 2016. From January to December, there has been something new and different that I have learned along the way. It constantly brought change and a new understanding of the sport we love. Not just fishing, but kayaking as well. The definition above explains it all: experience, knowledge and good judgement.
For starters, the weather that we have witnessed this year has been unreal. All of Texas has had a record amount of rainfall, which in turn, brought a abundant freshwater inflow. It also could not of come at a worse time of year for a saltwater angler. It fell directly at spring when every baitfish and gamefish decides to move into the lakes and estuaries for their annual spawn. At the time every angler cussed Mother Nature for her wrong doing. At the time that is! The freshwater kept a vast amount of trout and reds on the southern end of the coast. It did not take long for people to adjust and get on the action. After all, the fish were literally piled up; you could not go wrong.
The freshwater also brought good fortune to the marsh flats as well. It has been several years since I have seen the Widgeon grass as thick as it was this year. With grass like that, you have to completely change your style of fishing. The typical popping cork, She-Dogs and Redfish Magic were not going to work in that. So you have to think outside of the box. I am going to venture out and say that 95% of the redfish I caught this year came off of Bass lures. After all, bass fisherman spend a majority of their time pulling fish out of grass beds. My rod stayed tied with a Zoom Fluke all summer. After that I decided to try a favorite weedless topwater, a Spro Frog. I think I have stumbled onto my favorite topwater for redfish. They would absolutely inhale it! This year was like nothing I have ever seen so adapting to the changes was necessary.
I also have been able to experience new places and a few new species of fish. I fished Delacroix, La for the first time and let me tell ya…. their claim of it being “A Sportman’s Paradise” is exactly that! Not to many places can you catch a black bass, a trout and a redfish within a few short cast. Also not many places you can make a 5 minute paddle and sit in a pond and cast at 30+ redfish in a morning!
This year I believed that I was a fisherman and that I was always ready for any challenge a fish could bring me. Captain Ahab’s Moby Dick, Hemingway’s Marlin from Old Man and The Sea, who cares I was ready for it! I trusted that my mind and body was prepared for any fish that comes my way. Well this summer I decided to hang into a Ling. What in the hell did I get into when I set the hook!? It felt and pulled like I hung into Red October! After a 20 minute battle I won but damn! Seriously, this is the only time in my life that I legitimately thought about passing the rod off to someone else. I now have respect for the bigger fish of the sea after that encounter.
Mother Nature also blessed coastal anglers with a summer full of light north winds and calm seas. This in turn lead to once in a lifetime moments on the water for me.
I was able to stand waist deep in the Gulf while surrounded by a countless number of trout and bull reds. I found a afternoon where the trout were so thick you would kick them when walking through the surf. You could see them blowing bait up in a circle of 100 yards out and 200 yards across. It was nothing like I have ever seen before.
I also got to witness huge schools of Bull Reds chasing mullet in the Gulf. That was a sight that I was fortunate enough to capture with my camera. It was absolutely insane to see the carnage that this school of fish was capable of. I guess when you work as a team anything is achievable.
With all of the sights and new comings I observed, I was able to gather some knowledge from it as well. I learned when to use certain lures at the right time; there is a right and wrong time for even your favorite lure. I found out that a redfish will eat a frog and a trout will smash a topwater in the whitecapping swells of the surf. If the weather conditions were not favorable, I figured out how to take advantage of it on that day. I also learned that there is no such thing as to far of a paddle; A new spot is always worth scouting at least once, no matter the distance.
Now I believe that I personally have came a long way in this aspect of the sport and that is good judgement. I do not know how many people actually read this but if you have made it this far, please do not stop now. If you get anything out of the things that I write, take this to heart.
Back in late January, I went and fished Keith Lake cut on a bitter cold and windy day. I was by myself and there was not another soul in sight. The tide was coming in quick and where it met the choppy lake the water began to collide and made much bigger waves. I, of course, was not wearing my life jacket and had waders on. I fished all morning flawlessly and never thought twice about that day until later that afternoon.
I got home and the local news had a story about 2 kayakers from Galveston that had died on that cold morning. Neither of them were wearing their life jackets while on the water. We both fished the same conditions and the thought of how easily I could of been in the same situation scared the hell out of me. I actually lost sleep at night for a week or 2 thinking about Port Author Fire Department dragging Keith Lake for my body. All because I did not want to wear my life jacket. Stupid thing is that I own one and was sitting strapped down in the back of my kayak. What good is it doing right there?
Ever since that day I have not made a trip where I did not have on my PFD. Good judgement is the greatest quality a angler can have while being on the water. It can and will save your life when a certain situation arises. People being rescued and deaths occur several times every year while a majority of the time it can be avoided. Wear your PFD and never underestimate Mother Nature. Be smart before launching and while you are on the water.
Tomorrow starts a new year and I for one am ready for it. If it is only half as good to me as 2015 was, I will be grateful. I have had opportunities come my way that I never could of imagined were going to happen. I have visited new places, explored new waters and met some great people along the way. I have witnessed nature at its finest and sceneries that even Picasso could not paint. That is what keeps me around and those are the things I live for. Tomorrow starts a brand new year of adventure for me….it was real 2015!