“This one is pulling a whole lot harder than the others,” announced my grandson as he jumped off the back deck and skirted the center console. When you are 9 years old, every fish is a monster, but he had already caught enough fish Thursday morning for me to value his mid-battle assessment of the fish pulling on his string.

There was no doubt it was a gafftop, but that was not a bad thing on this particular morning. Andrew was looking for that one catfish that might earn him a college scholarship, compliments of CCA, and this one held promise.

We had been through so many trout and ladyfish in the first two hours of the trip that he had already decided to sleep over at the house that night so that he could get an earlier start the following morning.

With the makings of a fish fry already in the cooler, we dropped the cast net on a school of shad and headed farther out into the open lake. It was so calm that it was difficult to drift, but it mattered little to a mixed bag of gafftop, croaker, ladyfish, and specks. It was very seldom that he was able to pop the cork even one time before it disappeared beneath the surface. Each hook set was prefaced with a resounding, “Got him,” and we would guess at the weight of each fish half-way through the battle.

While they are fun to fight on light tackle, I usually do my best to keep gafftops out of my boat. By the time he eased this one along side the boat, however, I was seriously considering getting out the net. I do not handle many gafftop, but this one looked big enough to be of value.

I opted for my Boga Grip as the fish was well hooked and we watched the scale sink to just over the five-pound mark. The digital scales confirmed the fact that we were a couple ounces shy of fourth place, but the catch was worthy of a few high fives.

The near miss only whetted his insatiable appetite for pursuing a winning catfish. I have never caught and released as many gafftop catfish in my life. He did the catching and I did the releasing repeatedly for two solid days. Having now handled a staggering number of those slimy critters, I can assure you that a six-pound gafftop is a sizeable fish.

Three and four-pounders put up a great fight and we weighed any number of them that appeared much larger in the water. We also caught our fair share of one-pound specimens that provided little more than a threat to reward carelessness with a painful puncture wound. Andrew allowed me to take advantage of an incredibly good trout bite on those brief occasions when he stopped fishing long enough to cool down with everything from Gatorade to plain old water. As far as he was concerned, they were too easy to catch and they were worth no money to him. He did get moderately excited over a 23-inch trout that tested his drag until he realized it was not a catfish. It appears that I now have a 9-year-old bounty hunter on my hands!

While on the subject of money and fish, start making plans to fish the 21st annual Orange County Association of Retarded Citizens’ tournament the first weekend in August.

The largest speck, redfish, flounder, and bass are each worth $250 and there are six other categories that will earn you a $100 for the largest fish. The lowly, but coveted “Don Hubbard” mudcat will even earn you enough money to cover your gas for the day. The entry fee is still only $25 and there will be 31 winners. This is one tournament that you do not have to win to enjoy!

I am going to remind you again next week, but I wanted you to start making plans in advance. Run by the Center at 905 W. Park Ave. and tell John Thomas you want to sign up or give him a call at 866-1363.

In years past, regardless of how bad the conditions had been all summer long, the OCARC tournament ignited the Sabine Lake fishing. We have had very little measurable rainfall thus far this summer, however, and the fishing has been surprisingly good ahead of the much-anticipated event.

I will try to save you some gas prior to the tournament with a current report, but the most consistent bite when the wind permits thus far has been the jetties and the short rigs. Good tide changes are mandatory when fishing that area on both the channel and Gulf side of the rocks. A Swimming Image and MirrOdine have worked very well at first light on trout up to 7 pounds.

The live bait bite remains strong on the north end of the lake and the trout and reds are finally starting to harass huge schools of shad throughout the day. The larger trout and reds are hitting live mullet or shad fished on the bottom, but the popping cork approach is yielding better numbers.

We did very well this week fishing spoons and swim baits under the schooling shad. At times, it was difficult to get anything beneath the ladyfish tearing up the bait on the surface, but the heavier lures seemed to do the trick. Chrome and bone patterns have both been very good in topwaters and suspending baits like the 2000 or Catch V.