Thursday, August 29, 2013

Surf Fishing

 When driving a truck I used to love laying over anywhere within walking distance of the ocean. I could always spend a day doing nothing but watch the waves although the main thing I liked about it was to dig my fishing pole out of the truck and see if I could catch anything.

   On one trip I ended up getting stuck down on the Texas coast for a week end. I was close enough to the coast to be able to drop my trailer and bob tail over by the beach. Nice thing about having a sleeper on the truck it's just like having a motor home. I spent most f the first night sitting by a small fire, drinking coffee and listening to the waves. The next day when I woke up there were some guys on the beach doing a little surf fishing. I wondered down to see how they were doing and what they were catching.  They were catching fish that looked like big perch to me, they told me the name of them but I can't remember what it was, I do remember that they said they were good eating so I decided to give it a try.

   I didn't have the same kind of fishing gear that the other guys had. I only had a small spinning reel where most of the other guys had big surf reels but I did notice that one of the guys was wading out into the surf. I figured if I waded out also I'd be able to get the lure far enough out to be close to where they were fishing.

   I waded out till I was about knee deep and started casting away, to my surprise I got a hit on my third cast. I was so surprised that I missed setting the hook and lost that one. That fish didn't get hooked but I was! I figured this was going to be lots of fun and a pretty easy way to get me some supper. It only took about four more casts for me to get another hit and that time I caught it. It wasn't huge or anything but it looked like it was big enough to fit in a skillet. I carried it back to shore with the intention of cleaning it and taking it back to the truck to put in the cooler for later.

   Now, I really only needed one fish for supper but I was enjoying wading around in the gulf and catching them. Since it was a long time till I needed to worry about supper I decided I'd wonder back out and see if I could catch something bigger. The only part of the deal I didn't like was the need to carry whatever I caught all the way back up to the cooler. While I was thinking about that my little pea brain came up with a plan (any one who has been reading anything I've ever written will know what happens when that occurs), I dug through my tackle box and found my fish stringer. It was the metal kind with the snap hooks to hold the fish. My brilliant plan was to hook the end through my belt loop. That way I could hook whatever fish I caught to the end snaps, keeping them in the cool water and leaving both hands free for fishing.

   Back down to the shore I went. I went out knee deep to start with but didn't even get a bite so I slowly worked my way till I was just a little over waist deep. The waves had picked up a little since the first trip so I was really having to be careful not to get knocked on my butt every time one came rolling in. I must have been out there fighting those waves for close to a half an hour before I managed to catch the first fish. I was pretty happy even at that because this one was a little bigger than the first one. I stuck my pole under my arm and got him attached to the bottom hook on my stringer. I could feel him tugging at the stringer but I knew he was no where big enough to make me fall so I ignored him and went back to fishing. I was in a hot spot now because it seemed like I got one at least every other cast. Most of them I turned loose but I still ended up with three good sized ones on the stringer over the next hour. I figured I only had another hour of day light but I was having so much fun I decided to stick it out and see if I could get at least one really big one. The other guys had already left but one of them stopped by to see how I was doing and showed me the snapper he'd caught that must have weighed at least ten pounds. That's what I had my heart set on even though he told me it was really rare to catch something like that while surf fishing.

   The sun was just starting to slide below the horizon when I finally decided to call it quits. The waves were picking up even more and I was starting to have a real problem staying on my feet. I hadn't caught a big one but I had added one more to the stringer. I could feel them yanking on the stringer and I had to brace myself a little extra each time a wave came in because they seemed to be adding an extra yank every time a wave came in.

   I was reeling in my line for the last time when  I felt a really hard yank from the stringer.  It took me by surprise because I hadn't felt anything near that hard in all the time I had been out there. For some reason I just thought it had been a combination of all the fish jerking on the stringer at the same time a wave had passed and continued to reel in my line. The next thing I knew there was an even harder yank and I was over my head in the water.

   Talk about being confused! I had no idea what was happening. I knew the fish had yanked me off my feet at the same time my brain was telling me there was no way those little fish could do that. I went down so quick that I hadn't been able to even get a good breath before I went under and now I was trying to push myself off the bottom and get my head above water. Part of me was panicking and needing to breath while the other part realized that I was pushing against the sand with both hands which meant I had dropped my fishing pole somewhere. I finally managed to get to my knees which put my head above the water. I took a huge gulp of air which turned out to still be mostly water which made me start coughing and gasping trying to get rid of the water and get air at the same time. Just as I got a good breath there came another hard yank to my side and back under the water I went.  

   I still had no idea of how I had ended up in the water but all I wanted to do was get out of it! I was trying to push against the bottom with my hands so I could get my legs under me. I stabbed my right had toward the bottom when I felt something like rough sand paper move under it causing me to all onto might side. More confusion! What in the hell had I put my hand on! My brain was sparking trying to figure out what it had been at the same time my body trying to let me know that if I didn't get some air right now I was going to be in a world of hurt. I had managed to roll over and get both hands on the bottom and was able to finally shove myself up. Thank god there was a break in the waves and I was bale to get my feet under me and stand up. I turned my back to the waves to help kept my balance and was doing my best to cough up water and breath in some air at the same time. I just stood there for at least a minute  trying to catch my breath. My eyes were burning from the salt water and I was having trouble opening them all the way so all I was getting was a fuzzy view of the water in front of me. I caught a glimpse of something dark moving through the water in front of me but I still couldn't see well enough to tell for sure what it was.  I was just beginning to straighten up when I felt another hard yank from my side and damn near went back down it the water. It wasn't quite as bad this time though and I was able to stay on my feet. What was going on? All of a sudden two things came together in my mind, hard jerk and something dark moving through the water! I didn't have any trouble at all standing up straight and getting my eyes wide open at that thought. I whipped my head around a couple of times to see if there was anything in the water and sure enough, there it was, a dark grey fin cutting through the water, heading right toward me!

   This time my brain knew exactly what to do! It was telling RUN,  the problem was my body wasn't listening. I really wanted to run but my legs just didn't seem to want to cooperate. I guess it was kind of lucky that I was already wet up to my waist because the only response my body did make would have been real embarrassing if I hadn't been. I just stood there, frozen, and watched that fin come right up my right side. There was a big swirl in the water and I felt that hard yank again. For just a second I thought the thing had taken a big bite out of my leg and the only reason I wasn't feeling any pain was because I was in shock. In the next second I realized I was wrong when I saw my stringer come floating to the top of the water. I realized  the yanks I had been feeling had been that shark grabbing the fish I had on the stringer!  I still just stood there like a dummy watching the fin move away from me through the water and was still standing there with my mouth hanging open when it curved around and started coming back toward me again. Finally the brain and the body started working together! Now, mostly I seem to have trouble getting the hook either snapped or undone from them cheap stringer but this time I had the stringer off in a split second. I didn't even think of what I was going to do once I had it loose from my belt loop, I threw it right toward that fin, turned and took off running toward the shore. I didn't know if the shark would go for the fish or come after me and I sure wasn't going to wait around to see. Normally trying to run through the water, even when it's only knee deep is a real pain but this time  it didn't seem to take me more than a couple of seconds to make it back to dry land. My knees gave out after a couple of steps onto the shore but I still crawled another 50 feet away from the water before I stopped.

   I sat there on that beach shaking like a leaf and trying to catch my breath. No sign of a fin in the water. I don't know if the shark went for the fish or if I scared him off when I threw the stringer at him but at least he was gone. It took another 20 minutes before I was calmed down enough get to my feet and head back up to the truck. I noticed along the way why I was able to get the stringer off so quick. I hadn't bothered to open the hook like I thought I had, since my belt loop was flopping around I figured I had just yanked it off.
   I went surf fishing several times after that but never again did I ever hang a fish stringer off my belt!