Fishin', drinkin', and cussin'. Sounds like fun doesn’t it? Well, it did to the bunch I hang around with. Plans were made. The concept being for three of us
old mature guys to invite our sons for a striper
fishing trip on Lake Texoma, one of the best Striped Bass lakes in Oklahoma. While
the dads had enjoyed this adventure on several occasions in the past, the boys
had not. It was to be a family thing, a good time had by all. Wholesome
Christian entertainment…sort of.
My surgeon, the one who operated on my torn rotator cuff, was not at all enthused about my upcoming trip.
“You’re telling me that you’re willing to risk tearing up that shoulder again for a fish?”
I tried to explain that the great majority of the fish we catch at Texoma range from 3 to maybe six pounds or so, no big deal. Besides, I’ll just have the guide net mine when I get it to the boat. No strain, no pain. The good doctor gave me one those looks that said, not too smart a fella are ya?
The day started off with a new record being broken. No, it wasn’t a monster fish, but it was the earliest for the first cold beer to be popped; 5: 51 a.m. shattering the previous record of 6:05. (Note that the time was A.M. and not P.M.) The holder of the new record shall remain anonymous, after all, what happens on the lake stays on the lake.
Five in the morning is like late afternoon to our guide who had risen from his warm bed at three that morning to go out on the lake, stand on the bouncing bow of the boat, alone, in the dark, and cast a throw net, time after time, to catch shad, the preferred bait for stipers. He baits all the hooks, takes the hooked fish off the line, and then, back at the dock, cleans the fish, and last but certainly not unimportant, cleans up the empty beer cans from the bottom of the boat. Still think you want to be a fishing guide for a living?
My first fish of the day was typical, about 4 or 5 lbs, maybe 12 inches long. Within seconds, the guide had me re-baited and back in the water. I’d no sooner reached for a beer, when the pole bent over double. YES! Then, UH OH, as I thought about my shoulder and all the little stringy tendon fibers inside hanging on for dear life. The fish took off, seemingly headed for Texas. The drag on the reel couldn’t hold him and I could hear it complaining, the tension on the line making it sing in protest.
Eventually, the fish tired and I began to slowly work him back to the boat hoping the shoulder would hold together just this once. Soon, he was in the net and I finally laid eyes on him. Oh wow. It was the biggest fish I’d ever caught in my life. I’d like to say that we carefully weighed him with certified scales, but the guide said he’s a twenty pounder easy. And since that particular guide has seen hundreds of thousands of stipers in his day, I’m taking his word for it.
“You want to get it mounted?” he asks.
I had no good place at home to hang the thing and considering the cost, I declined, whereupon the guide unceremoniously threw my trophy back in the lake! “We got other fish for eating. He said. “We’ll let him go back, grow bigger, and give someone else a thrill.” But I did get a snapshot or two.
The rest of the morning was hit and miss. Small schools of fish would pass beneath us and we’d catch a dozen or so before it moved on. Then it’s back to using the fish finding sonar and hunt for them again. A lot of the guides work together to find the fish. If one boat is having a field day, jerking them in right and left, he will let his buddies know. They will then slowly motor up to him and tie on. This works to everyone’s advantage; the more bait in the water, the more likely it is to start a feeding frenzy.
There are, however, a couple of drawbacks to this strategy, especially if one of the boats is full of guys drinking beer since 5:51 a.m. and the other boat is loaded with a party of Amish folks, complete with traditional straw hats and beards. While both vessels had a common interest, catchin’ fish… drinkin’ and cussin’, ...not so much. To complicate matters, half the party in the boat next door were women. Now as everyone that has ever sipped a brewski knows, you don’t really buy beer, you only rent it. What goes down, must come out. And when you have three or four women smiling at you, all wearing that Jesus Loves Me look, and you got to pee…well, you can see the problem.
But our guide, bless his little thoughtful heart, had brought a 5 gallon bucket along for just such occasions. If the ladies with the hankies on their heads noticed a steady stream of men going to the rear of our boat without a fishing pole, they didn’t acknowledge it. However, there was no such easy fix for the other problem of mixed company, a little cussin’ now and then. Hey, you get a big ol' Striped Bass on the end of your line and just try not to say, “Holy shit, look at the size of that sum bitch.” Can’t be done.
By noon, we had our limit and were back at the dock where we switched from beer to Bloody Mary’s and watched the guide clean our fish. A fine time was had by all.
Drinkin’, fishin’, and cussin’; it just don’t git no better than that. It’s a family thing.