IT CAN ALWAYS GET WORSE

Capt. Dickie Colburn

For The Record

Unfortunately, the longer I fish the longer my “It can’t get any worse than this…” list grows.Easily one of the most annoying and potentially dangerous mishaps involves wrapping a ghost crab trap around your prop.Colder weather only magnifies the problem as it invariably requires climbing out of the boat to solve the problem.
A ghost trap, by frustrated angler definition, is one of the countless wire traps lying on the bottom of the lake with no visible float to mark its presence. Before you can shut down the big engine the prop is hopelessly engulfed in a ball of wire mesh.Wrapping a submerged marker rope around the prop is equally frustrating, but seldom requires exiting the boat to remedy the problem.
So how can there be different degrees of “It can’t get any worse than this”, especially when dealing with the same issue?Aside from discovering that you don’t have anything to cut the wire with in the boat, the degree of this particular problem is usually based on how deep the mud is and the water temperature.Neither of those factors, however, contributed to the problem one day last week!
After standing on the dock in the pre-dawn darkness for the better part of two hours in a driving rain, we decided that the worst was over and eased our way down the Intracoastal.By the time we reached the lake, the wind had completely died and we were greeted with cool overcast skies.
It was one of those special October weather days you get only hours before the arrival of a front.We could do no wrong.The flounder stacked in the mouth of a small drain were eating a 3-inch Swim Bait like they had baled out on a two month diet the night before.At the same time, it was difficult ignoring several small groups of gulls working over trout only a short distance away.
She Dogs and Skitterwalks provided the most exciting bite, but the trout and small slot reds were eating tails just as well.And so it went until well past noon.The only negative was that Kyle desperately wanted to catch one oversized red before flying back to Indiana the following morning.His cousin and host, Kenneth, who fishes with me several times a year wanted it to happen as well.
Having finally decided that we would call it a day if we couldn’t find him a big red in the next hour, I idled into a small indention in the Louisiana shoreline while they split a warm Gatorade and a cold kolache.Less than a hundred yards off the bank the boat suddenly lurched forward and the engine shut down.
Not another crab trap in sight, but the symptoms were unmistakable.I trimmed the lower unit out of the water and half-jokingly asked Ken if he wanted to flip a coin as to who went overboard.I was shocked when he agreed, but started peeling off my clothes when the quarter came up heads.
“I’ll go,” he announced with surprising conviction.“Shanna would tear my butt up if she ever found out that I stayed in the boat while some worn out old guide stood half naked in the mud and cold water and I am sure that it would somehow get back to her!”
I handed him the dikes and gladly started putting my clothes back on when the “It can’t get worse “moment was upgraded.“Look,” shouted Ken as he pointed toward the open lake after cutting off only one or two pieces of wire.”The redfish we had been looking for were exploding out of the water under a mixture of terns, gulls and pelicans.
We quickly pulled Ken back into the boat and I started their way with the troll motor.We hadn’t gone fifty yards when they disappeared.We made several blind casts before they suddenly surfaced again even further away.And so it went for the next half hour as we chased them in vain with only the troll motor.
“A golden opportunity missed, but it could have been worse,” I reminded the frustrated cousins as I eased back to the shallows to finish removing the trap.“No…it’s worse than you think,” announced Ken while once again removing his clothes.“I dropped our wire cutters in the lake when you were pulling me overboard.”
His assessment was correct.It took two people in the water, a screw driver, a pair of vise-grips and a lot of cursing to finally clear the prop.Never say never!