Category Archives: Fishing

An Unusual Pet

My first trip to go Speckled Trout fishing out of Suwannee, Florida, provided me with a most unusual sight! At the time, mid 1970’s, Suwannee and the one bait camp and motel reminded me of Port O’Conner, Texas in the 1950’s when I went there several times with my Dad. Not many creature comforts, but marvelous Trout fishing. Suwannee had one up on Port O’Conner, the Suwannee bait camp has a pet Bass! Yes, Bass will live and do well in salt/fresh, brackish water.

On my first trip to Suwannee, walking out of the bait camp along a rickety pier to the guide’s boat, the proprietor said, “Sir, watch this and look down into the water right below us.” He picked up an old oar that was leaning against the side of the building and banged it three times on to the pier. Looking down I saw a big fish come floating to the surface, a huge Bass.

The proprietor then took a coffee can of dead shrimp and fish cleanings and dropped them beside the Bass, who promptly inhaled them. The Bass continued swimming around and he continued, saying, “We scooped her up in a long handled net this past spring and she weighed a little over 14 pounds. Ha, Ha, I think we’ll just grow us a new record here.”

I had kept my boat down there for the fall and winter fishing and in early March of 1979, prior to my move back to Texas, came down to Suwannee for one last fishing trip and to take my boat back to Atlanta. Walking in to the bait camp I exclaimed, “How’s everybody?” The proprietor smiled and said, “We’re all fine, but I got some bad news.”

Thoughts of a fish kill or a fishing ban flashed through my brain as he continued, “Some bastard snuck up the canal here Monday night two weeks ago and caught our Bass. I hope he chokes on the bones!”

A Quick Trip

About three weeks after my first trip to Suwannee, Florida, I get a call on Thursday night from the guide letting me know that the weather forecast is excellent for the coming weekend and, if I could, I should bring my boat down Saturday and plan on fishing in the afternoon since the tide was coming in then. Having nothing planned but “honey dos”, I told him that I would see him then.

Both kids, Randy, 12, and Suzanne, 8, loved to fish and my ex wife informed me she was going too, so a trip was on and we arrived in Suwannee at the only bait camp, showed the kids the “pet” Bass, bought some shrimp and checked with the proprietor about the status of the Manatees. No Manatees, so off we speed down the Suwannee River into the Gulf of Mexico.

We started fishing in 6 feet of beautiful, clear, green water and for the first 20 minutes didn’t have a hit, so I moved into 4 foot of water, but with much more grass on the bottom and, bingo, our first casts produced 2 nice Specks!

Kids are fun to fish with, wanting to closely check out each fish, touching the one or two big teeth in the Trout’s upper lip, and of course getting their fingers caught in the fish’s mouth, jerking back and finding the fish’s teeth firmly hold their fingers. Randy could bait up, cast and net fish. Suzanne was learning and now almost 30 years later both are accomplished “fisherpersons”.

Everyone caught fish and soon we had 30 nice Specks in the cooler. Since we were going to eat at the only restaurant in town, fresh caught Speckled Trout tonight on their menu, we headed in, cleaned and iced the fish down, cleaned the boat and made arrangements to store it in the very secure boat storage facility.

After cleaning up in our room in the only motel in town, we headed for the restaurant, which was extremely crowded. A 5 minute wait and in we go to be seated, and I see someone stand up, waving in our direction, the only fishing guide in town.

He is eating fish with his clients of the day and introduces me, as “This is the Texas guy I was telling you all about.” Continuing, “How did you do this afternoon?” And I replied, “We caught about 30 in 2 hours.” “See,” the Guide looks at his clients, “He ought to be guiding down here too! This fella’ can catch Specs!”

Sometimes a good day job can really interfere with your avocation

Way Down Upon the Suwannee River

While in Atlanta, the Florida coast beckoned to me and after several good “Kingfishing” trips to Destin, my Barber directed me to a spot, the Suwannee River, where I could fish for Speckled Trout, my first fishing love. Suwannee, Florida was a five hour plus, trip from Atlanta, considering our Government’s stupid, 55 MPH, speed limit on I-85.

Having grown up on the Texas Gulf Coast, the Suwannee was much like our bay fishing, except this was fishing directly in the Gulf of Mexico. The bottom dropped off at a leisurely pace of about a foot per mile, there was abundant grass, just like our miles of grass flats in the bays and all of the trips I made there, I never had a trip “blown” by high winds.

The first time out, leaving my boat in Atlanta, we, my ex wife and I, hired the only fishing guide, recommended highly by my Barber, and met him at the only bait camp, where he had his boat, a 24 foot, semi vee bottom, Pro Line with a 150 HP, Evinrude, gassed, loaded, the bait shrimp in his live well and ready to go. I had discussed our trip with him and had decided to furnish my own tackle.

A highlight of the bait camp was the 14-pound Bass, that was their “pet”. But that is another story.

We wound our way down the Suwannee River and once we entered the Gulf, made a hard right up the coast. We made good time down the river because our guide said at this time of the year, early fall, the Manatee, Sea Cows, weren’t an obstacle.

Reaching the desired spot, the guide cut the engines, baited our lines and said “Cast out behind the boat and we’ll trail our baits, drifting along with the wind and current. It won’t be necessary to reel them in until a fish hits, and most times, they hook themselves.”

We, and the guide, looped short casts against the wind, sat back in his lawn chairs and waited, and waited, and waited and nothing happened. He remarked, “The bite won’t start for a while, so we’ll just wait for it.”

Patience is not one of my strengths, so I told the guide, “I’m going to try it like we do on the Texas coast,” and moving to the bow, looped a long cast, with the wind, in front of the boat, started working my popping cork back towards the boat, never letting my line go slack; reel, reel, gently pop the cork; reel, reel, gently pop the cork and Whamo!

The cork goes under, setting the hook, the rod bows, the fish strips line off of the Black, Ambassadeur, 5500C, reel and takes off for Cuba! Soon, the guide nets a very nice, 3 pound Spec, re baits my hook (for the last time) and out flies another cast. Reel, reel, gently pop the cork and Whamo, another solid hit! My ex moves to my side of the boat and repeats my reel, reel and gently pop the cork and proceeds to tie into a nice Speck.

The guide sits back in his lawn chair and says, “I want to watch this performance.” A performance it was! Within one hour the two of us had boated 45 nice Specs and then told the guide we had enough fish to feed the neighborhood, so we head back to the bait camp where the guide begins his bragging about how the Texas people, we were no longer a well to do couple from north Atlanta, had shown him a thing or two about catching Specs. He and I filleted the Specs in no time and iced the fillets down.

As we were leaving the guide told me, “I will call you when the conditions are right. Bring your boat down and leave it here, you don’t need me to show you how to catch fish!”

Sailfish In Mazatlan Harbor

My second or third trip to Mazatlan yeilded this picture of a Sail clearing the water inside the harbor. Looking closely you can see the mainland in the background on the east side of harbor. The left, or west side, is dominated by a mountain that reminded me of Gibraltar.


On this trip the Captain put the lines out when we were about 600 yards away from the dock. The fish hit almost immediately and put on quite an aerial display, making 5 or 6 jumps and “greyhounding” for almost 100 yards.

The Sailfish on the wall of my den in Paradise Valley, Az.

The Sail weighed 110 pounds and was 97 inches long. I had it mounted, but sadly it was destroyed in 1983 when a tornado in north Houston, hit the storage shed where it was stored. A trailer park was right next to the shed and it was completely destroyed killing 2 people.


We took a trip to Mazatlan with the Schindler family and one event stood out.

A long fishing trip with no fish and four hours into our trip the Captain was fretting (in Spanish) about our lack of luck. We had seen some Sail Fish lolling about on the surface, but they weren’t interested in our baits regardless how skillfully we presented them.

Our trolling continued, four lines out on outriggers, and one by one, everyone in our party, 2 adults and 6 kids, started getting Mal-De-Mer, or seasick. It seems when one person gets it, it become contagious and spreads quickly. Taking turns, “chumming” for fish, Jack and I told the Captain to head back in, easily a one and one-half hour trip and as the boat came about to head back to Mazatlan, one of the four outriggers snapped, then a second, then a third and quickly, the fourth. The infirmed anglers quickly recovered, grabbed rods and the fight was on.

We had run into a school of Dorado, Dolphin, not Flipper, and the water behind the boat was churned up with the acrobatic fish. These were large Dorado, at least 25 pounds each, and on the medium tackle we were using, put up a great fight. As the fish wore down, the mate had his hands full getting them aboard, but he finally put the last one in the ice box.

Everyone was “up” for about 2 minutes, then the Mal-De-Mer hit again. We didn’t get a strike all the way in, but we kept “chumming”!

Rocky Point – The Seagoing Tractor

The funniest thing I have ever seen fishing, or around a fishing camp, occurred at Rocky Point. My first time to fish down there, early in the morning, we, Jim Buck and I, launched the Skip Jack off of the launch ramp like anywhere else. The proprietor of the camp told us in broken English that in afternoon when we returned the tide would be out, but don’t worry, just be sure to call him on the ship to shore radio and let him know when we would be back.

We fished hard and caught some nice fish, and while returning to the camp, called the proprietor as instructed. In broken English, he replied, “Beeg, wide Texas boat? OK, we get jur trailer and be ready for ju.” Breaking the connection, I asked Jim, “Get our trailer. What’s going on.” “Quien Sabe?” he replied in broken Spanish.

Nearing shore, I thought I was seeing things, there was a John Deere tractor coming our way. The closer we got to it, the more strange it looked. A tractor body, diesel engine and all, built up on fifteen foot extensions, with wheels below the extensions rolling on the sandy bottom and the drive shaft pointing down to the rear wheels at a forty five degree angle and out comes the contraption to tow us into the ramp area which is all on dry land now since the tide is out. Our trailer is waiting for us two hundred yards out from the launch ramp, hooked up to another tractor/contraption, rear wheels into the water just below the bearing buddies and a Mexican boy standing on the rear of the trailer, dwarfed by the strange looking vehicle pulling our trailer.

We secured a rope to our John Deere and it chugged up to our trailer, we untied from it, threw the line to the boy on the back of the trailer, he pulled us up to our winch and hooked us to the winch and the second tractor/contraption, we never found out the brand, which didn’t have a body on it, just engine, chugged us back up to the launch ramp and on to our car. We hopped out of the boat, backed the car up to the trailer and hooked up.

Walking up to the proprietor, I asked him, “How much?” “Two dollar,” he replied. I would have paid ten for that show.

Driving back to our campground I remarked to Jim, “I wonder how they figured those tractor contraptions out.” “Quien sabe,” he replied in broken Spanish.

There is more than one way to skin a cat.

El Shrimp Bucket

Being a good Texas boy, my only exposure to Mexico had been to the sleezy border towns and now, in 1971, to see the budding metropolis of Mazatlan, its traffic, 500,000 inhabitants, beautiful harbor and recent awakening to Gringo tourists, was a real eye opener.

My first trip’s accommodations were at the Playa Mazatlan, the “primo” spot in town. Right on the beach, clean rooms, but no air conditioning and once you got past the night sounds of Mexico, music, horns, laughter and the roaring surf, you slept like a log.

Sleeping in the first morning “south of the border”, getting up and renting a “Yeep”, a Volkswagen Monster, we headed south from the Playa Mazatlan to the harbor to set up a fishing trip. On the way to the harbor, on the left, as we rounded a long curve, there, on the corner of the first floor of a multi story building, was “El shrimp Bucket”. “I’ve got to stop there,” I shouted as I did a “uwey” and parked right in front.

There was a big patio inside the building, like the atriums we have now in our prime office spaces, and to the left was “El Shrimp Bucket”. Little did I know that the patio was part of the restaurant, but 12 years later I would witness a very strange display in that very patio, which is, as they say, another story.

Entering and picking a booth with an ocean view, I checked the menu. A bucket of shrimp for $4.95US and since it was 10:45 AM, why not have lunch. Lunch was served and mine was a full bucket of fried shrimp, not as good as Christie’s in Houston, but probably the second best. Fried onion rings and Guacamole was served separately, and washed down with Margaritas, this was a feast!

As we were leaving, I noticed a picture of John Wayne hanging over the door and he had signed the picture, as best I remember, “Best shrimp ever! Duke”.

El Shrimp Bucket became my headquarters in Mazatlan, but I never saw “Duke” there.


During the summer of 1971, all of our new friends in Phoenix were excited about Mazatlan, Mexico. At the time a quaint old town (now over 1,000,000 inhabitants) located on the mainland directly across the mouth El Golfo from Cabo San Lucas. Their excitement was because you could catch the Ferrocarril Del Norte (Iron Horse Of The North), ie Train, in Nogales, Mexico, right across the border from Nogales, Arizona. Then a 12 hour, plus or minus, overnight trip deposited the travellers in Mazatlan. Shopping and partying were the “sports” of most, but for me it was the fishing.

At the time, the only charter service was Bill Heimpel Star Fleet, or Flota Mazatlan. They had 26 to 32 foot cabin boats as shown in the background of the photograph. The boats were seaworthy and reliable, the Captains put you on the fish, with only one drawback, you had to keep all fish caught. Those not claimed, including the Sailfish, were given or sold to the locals. My last visit in 1983 was almost all catch and release.

My first trip out with Flota Mazatlan resulted in probably 15 Sails raised, 7 landed and 5 returned to the dock. The Picture shows two of them. I have caught Sails, Dolphin (not Flipper), White Marlin and raised a large Blue Marlin and lost it. I was on a boat that landed a 150 pound Blue. I made 8 trips down and always wanted to try the “small fishing”, but the excellent fare offshore and the fantastic hunting available lured me away.

More to come on Mazatlan!

Rocky Point – Saint John’s Bay

On one excursion to Rocky Point, several of the locals asked me to accompany them to “The Cut”, a two hundred foot wide, cut and channel leading from El Golfo into a small bay, St John’s Bay. The trip was ten miles down the beach, not hard packed sand like along the Texas coast, but fine volcanic sand, which refused to pack. It is a ten mile trip from Hell, four wheel drive all the way. Tires deflated to eight, yes eight pounds each! Skeletons of disabled trucks littered the beach. If you broke down, chances were the truck just stayed, rusted out and sank into the sand.

But once at the cut, when the tide started moving, casting a Mr. Champ spoon with a small sardinero, hooked through the mouth, and jigged slowly along the bottom, the action was terrific! There I caught my first and only Bonefish along with several nice Snook. We loaded up on two to three pound, Corvina, a fish resembling our Gulf Coast White Trout, but this Trout grows to a size of up to fifty pounds!

It is a very enjoyable, exciting experience to make a suspense filled trip to a remote fishing spot, hammer the fish and then come back out, in the dark, engines roaring, sand flying and finally making it back to civilization in one piece.

I made a total of 4 trips to the cut!


Rocky Point

By the spring of 1972, I had found a new salt water fishing paradise, “South of the Border, Down Mexico Way”. The upper end of El Golfo, the Gulf of California, is the final destination of the western Colorado River. The same river that roars through the Grand Canyon, meekly trickles into the top end of El Golfo at San Felipe, Mexico. Sixty miles southeast of San Felipe is Puerto Penasco (a tilde should be over the “N”), or Rocky Point as the local Arizonans call it.

Yes, local Arizonans. At the time, around 200 families had established an American colony there centered around fishing and relaxing. The beach houses were minimum standard, but sufficient for occasional use by their lessors. At the time, Gringos couldn’t own property in Mexico. The two best facilities at Rocky Point were the boat storage area, patrolled by the local police and fenced with concertina wire around the top, and the boat launching equipment.

My boat, at the time, was an eighteen foot, Falcon Skip Jack, tri hull, with two, sixty horsepower Johnson outboards and two internal, twenty four gallon gas tanks. Loaded out it would cruise at twenty-five miles per hour and had a range of fifty miles. We caught some very nice fish, Sea Bass, Grouper, Corvina, Snook, Bonefish and Queen Trigger Fish. I won a category of a tournament there in 1973 with a ten pound Trigger Fish. We once saw and came within twenty feet of a fifty foot whale!

An unusual feature of Rocky Point is the extreme tidal fluctuations caused by its location at the top of El Golfo, which is several hundred miles long and for a large body of water, very narrow, fifty to a hundred miles wide. Tidal pressure going in and out causes wide fluctuations at Rocky Point. I was told the Bay of Fundy, in Nova Scotia, is the only spot in the world with greater tidal fluctuation.

More coming up on Rocky Point.