Against The Clock

On a spring morning, just at first light, I lowered the 22 footer into the canal behind our Bayou Vista home, headed down the canal and chugged, speed limit 5 MPH in the canals, into Highlands Bayou. Cranking up the big, outboard I finally skimmed the back way into the Intercoastal Waterway.

Having a 11:00 AM meeting with customers, this would be a short trip, but hopefully a productive one. My destination, with the tide coming in all morning, was the sand flats that ran from Green’s Cut up to South Deer Island. The target was to find sea gulls working over feeding specs, the specs driving shrimp toward the surface and the birds gobbling up the shrimp the fish missed. Classic food chain stuff!

Armed with a 7-1/2 foot, popping, rod, 12 pound line spooled on a green reel, rigged with a popping cork over a live shrimp hooked through its horn with a small, treble hook, I was ready for action. The action wasn’t long in coming. Of all things, I noticed several shrimp hopping out of the water and casting right in front of them, bam, a big strike.

The fish took off peeling line from the reel, not the circling fight of a 3 or 4 pound trout, not the head shaking, weight of a big red, then the fish, a skipjack or ladyfish, (Bodianus rufus) cleared the water. They’re real hard fighters, jump a lot, but aren’t good table fare. Many times they will be feeding on shrimp, driving them to the surface where the ever hungry, birds will congregate over them. No birds this time, so I landed the skipjack, guessing its weight at 3 pounds and tossed it back into the bay.

Two hundred yards away there was another good sign, several birds were sitting on the water, probably marking one or more good sized, fish, maybe even a school that was just getting together! Lowering the trolling motor, I slipped silently to within 40 yards of the birds, quickly baited up and let fly a cast toward the center of the area among the birds. The splash of the bait and cork hitting the water caused the birds to take flight just as my cork disappeared and I felt a big tug! Another run, more jumps, finally the rod and drag beat the fish, another skipjack, identical to the first that I landed, I unhooked it and tossed back in. Thinking to myself, This spot is full of skipjacks so I’ll just move down about a mile and try my luck.

Moving the mile down toward South Deer Island, just ahead, several birds, one hovering over the water, looked very interested toward the depths, cutting the motor I drifted up and let fly a cast beside the bird. When casting with the wind a little slack will undoubtedly get in your line and the gull took this slack line opportunity to quickly grab my shrimp. As it grabbed the shrimp, it immediately took off, wrapping the line around one wing and unceremoniously plopping back into the water. Reeling in the squawking sea gull, before lifting it into the boat, I grabbed a towel, swung the bird into the boat and, in almost 1 motion, covered its head and eyes.

Thank goodness, the gull wasn’t hooked just squawking, so I unwrapped the line from its wing, uncovered its head and flipped it back over the side, where it caught the wind and sped away. Looking at my watch, 8:30 so I’d better get back in.

No luck today, no fish to clean, just some throwbacks, but some good memories!