Seven years ago I posed the question, “Do red snapper matter any more?”
That came after the frustration of government officials giving anglers a two fish bag limit and miniscule season in federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
Now the question is “Does offshore fishing matter any more?”
It certainly does to the relatively few who can still afford to pursue it but things are so radically different it is like these anglers are fishing an entirely different Gulf.
Oil companies are removing rigs at an alarming rate, restrictions have been put on amberjack and even triggerfish are under the microscope. On top of that the really big sharks are almost nonexistent and although fuel prices have been worse it is still too high for the average Joe, especially if those with diesel motors.
The offshore scene is dying a slow, agonizing death but it is not destroying the will of anglers to fish. Now they are simply focusing their efforts elsewhere.
Growing up we never had money and as a family we never let economic situations dictate our enjoyment of fishing. When we couldn’t afford a boat, we fished from the bank off of Highway 87 in Bridge City.
When things were even tougher, I would drive my back down to the gully by my house and catch mud cats, gar and grinnel.
I fondly remember the grand adventure of pursuing “Big John” the massive alligator garfish that live in that gully.
When I was in elementary school, some of high school boys came up with the idea of tying a nylon rope to the end of a truck, baiting it with a whole chicken attached to a shark hook and floating it out under a jug.
When the jug went under, they would crank up the truck and pull the behemoth ashore. All of the elementary school boys thought that was the greatest idea anyone had ever concocted.
The only problem was they were going to do it at the big pond on the high school agriculture department’s property where only Ag students could tread without getting in serious trouble.
We would have to watch from the road and hope they could fit the creature in the bed of their truck so we could get a glimpse.
Half a dozen or so of gathered at the gully that day to do some fishing and of course see which of these legendary fish was going to take the bait. We just did not see how they could resist a whole chicken..
We could see that the small crowd of Ag students that gathered to see the capture of Big John were scattering like ants. They were running all over the place.
Were our fabled fishes so humongous they would run from it? Did it attack one of the bystanders?
Our imaginations ran wild.
It turned out, they had pulled in a nine-foot long alligator that was not very happy at being hooked and pulled behind a truck.
I know many local anglers who had the same kind of upbringing and this generation is carrying a fish no matter what attitude into the new millennium, just like we did.
I have fished in Spain’s Segra River and caught seven foot long Wels catfish and have battled huge peacock bass in South America and in all honesty, those days fishing from the bank were just as exciting.
That desire to make adventures happen despite economics is exactly what the boom in kayak fishing in Gulf waters hails from. Thousands of hard working and adventurous anglers are finding they can have just as much fun offshore as the people who can afford far more luxurious modes of transportation.
No, they’ll never be pursuing marlin around the big floating rigs in the blue water but finding oneself amidst a school of 30 to 40 pound bull reds or being towed by a six foot lemon shark on the beachfront is every bit as exciting.
So to all of you hardcore Texas anglers who refuse to let questionable rules dictate where you will fish, this column is dedicated to you. Whether you are in a catamaran, bay boat, kayak or johnboat, make it a point to enjoy yourselves doubly when fishing this year.
It doesn’t matter if you are in Taylor’s Bayou or in the Gulf of Mexico, enjoy every moment on the water.
Don’t let the situation stop you. Get out there and fish!
(To contact Chester Moore, e-mail him at email@example.com. You can hear him on “Moore Outdoors” Fridays from 6-7 p.m. on Newstalk Am 560 KLVI or online at www.klvi.com and watch him Saturdays at 10 a.m. on GETV.org on “God’s Outdoors with Chester Moore.”)