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Saltwater Fishing Adventure off the Texas Coast

Adventures in Searching for Saltwater Fish

by Linda Aksomitis

The pelican, with its tremendous wings at full span, looked like a pterodactyl diving into Matagorda Bay after its prey. With a splash, it grabbed an unsuspecting fish from the salt water, then was airborne again. I watched the power of nature at work for a few minutes, then realized the pelican definitely had the advantage fishing, and we'd need to move our boat again.

I'm not much of a fisherman, or fisher-person either for that matter, so Captain Walt had his hands full when I stepped into his Kingfisher Guide Service boat that Saturday morning. The worst part about fishing is getting picked up at 5:30 a.m.-while one of the best parts is watching the sun rise over the multi-shaded blue world of Matagorda Bay, Texas.

Matagora Bay, Texas
The boat in the early morning light of sunrise.

Face into the salt-water spray, I watched the changing scenery along the Inter-Coastal waterway as Captain Walt took us out to sea. Behind me, he and Alan, a real fisherman from Florida, discussed the previous night's storm that had knocked power out in Matagorda for several hours. The big question was would the water be too rough in the Bay for fishing, since we'd already had to rule out the Gulf of Mexico?

Luckily, we hit a calm after the storm, and the water was smooth. It was time for my first saltwater fishing lesson. The live brown shrimp, which we used for bait, weren't nearly as repulsive as the grub worms I remembered my Grandmother threading onto my hook, when I was a child at a small Saskatchewan lake. She loved to fish and I figured, since I was named for her, that I'd be bound to find the experience exciting. With a quick cast I was soon sitting, staring at the float bobbing along in the water.

"If it goes down, reel in," said Alan, cheerfully throwing his own line out past mine. "Reel in a bit now and then to keep it moving, so the fish follow it. Don't let the line lay slack."

It bobbed a few times. I wound the reel, but it was a waiting game. My mind wandered to the women's salt water fishing club in Florida, from the early 1900s, that I'd read about when deciding to pursue this adventure. They must have enjoyed the sport to defy tradition and take up a man's hobby. And of course, I admired all those Women of the Year named by the American Sportfishing Association. With their examples for inspiration, I couldn't wait to catch my big one!

Captain Walt got the first bite. But, it was a disappointment - just a stingray - so back it went.

Captain Walt checked my gear. "Fishing on credit I bet," he laughed.

I stared at him blankly.

"The fish have likely eaten your bait." He grinned. "Reel in and I'll fix you up."

I was back fishing. Then I felt it. It wasn't a gentle little tug like they'd told me to expect at all. It was a full-fledged yank! I started reeling. The demon on the other end of my hook fought back.

"Hey you guys, I can't do this!" I yelled. My wrists ached. The rod bent into a bow I thought would surely snap. It was all I could do to wind the reel. I wondered if my Grandmother would have enjoyed this fight - likely. I worked harder.

"Sure you can," said Captain Walt, getting the net ready.

I leaned back and braced my feet to keep from losing my balance and being pulled in by the fish, instead of getting him out. I reeled some more. It didn't get any easier.

Trout Fishing
Captain Walt with the SECOND biggest trout of the day.

Finally the fish rose out of the water, hanging off the end of my hook. It was a shark. Just my luck, my first saltwater catch had to be one of the most ferocious in the sea.

"Too bad," said Alan. "I thought maybe you had a Red on the line." Adrenalin still pumping through my veins, I wished it had been a big Red. That would have made my Grandmother proud.

With Captain Walt's guidance, I learned the technique of picking up a shark so it didn't get even with me by taking a bite of my hand. Unlike a fish, it felt leathery, without a slippery slimy texture at all. I gently released it into the water.

We decided to move the boat and drop anchor in a new place. My next hook caught in a reef below the water and snapped. The only good thing was I watched Captain Walt assemble all of the intricate little pieces of a fishing line.

Alan was the next one to reel in a fish - a beautiful seventeen-inch trout. We were on a roll, casting and re-casting as the fish nibbled the legs off of our little shrimp. Captain Walt pulled in a trout too. I felt left out.

Then I got a bite. It was immediately obvious I didn't have another shark. Compared to it, this was a cakewalk - or a catfish to be precise. It had swallowed the hook entirely, so Captain Walt had to use his tools to reach down its throat to dig the hook out before I could release it.

I soon became preoccupied watching a dolphin diving right beside the boat. Of course I was only fast enough with the camera to get it going down, never the graceful arch as it cleared the water. The dolphin had better luck fishing that we did, so we were forced to pull up anchor and move again.

Third time's a charm, right? Well, in this case it was. Back to drift fishing, we were soon reeling in the catch. I had another one on my hook!

I reeled. It followed, then tightened my line. Up and down, I watched it glide below the surface of the water with aquatic grace. Now I knew the excitement that kept my Grandmother out fishing day after day.

Captain Walt held the net out over the edge of the boat and grabbed the whopper dangling off the end of my fishing rod. "She's got you beat, Alan," he said. "This trout's gotta be twenty inches or so."

"Really," I grinned. The woman getting the catch of the day when I was fishing with two male pros was a good thing, I figured. "I've got to have some pictures!"

Alan grabbed my camera, while Captain Walt and I readied the trout on the measuring board at the rear of the boat. The trout struggled, flipping and flopping in every direction.

"Here he is," said Captain Walt, handing me my prize.

Alan aimed the camera.

Shrimp Boat on the Intercoastal Waterway
A shrimp boat on the Intercoastal Waterway.

The trout wasn't ready to have his picture taken. With a tremendous effort, he lunged towards the saltwater a few feet from his nose. Swoosh! He slithered through my hands, right into the water beyond.

The camera snapped, but the picture showed Captain Walt and I staring overboard, laughing.

So there I was…staring after the big one who won his freedom. Thrilled with my catch, even pictureless, I cast my line again and relaxed, keeping my eye on my float and the nearby shorebirds. Adventures rarely turn out how they're planned, and mine in Matagorda Bay was no exception - it was much better.

MORE INFORMATION :

You can visit Captain Walt Schelle online at his wife's web site- http://www.matagorda-bay.com/ You'll find everything you need to know about the virtually undiscovered fishing paradise in Matagorda Bay, Texas.

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