Capt. Chuck Uzzle

For the Record

 

As the mercury creeps up into a more comfortable range outside as well as on the

water, don’t let that fool you into feeling too secure at this time of the year.

January and February on the Texas gulf coast can be down right brutal with all

the rank

weather we receive at this time of the year. Bone chilling winds coupled with

humid overcast days can make even the toughest fisherman wish for a warm spot in

the truck and hot cup of coffee. When late winter fronts pass through and

temperatures outside sag down near freezing most anglers take precautions and

wear the best foul weather gear they can get their hands on. Nobody forgets to

grab that windproof jacket or the thermal underwear because those are no

brainers. With spring time approaching we tend to forget just how cold it can

get on the water as well as in the water. The one piece of outerwear that nearly

every fisherman does without is the most important, a life jacket. Yes I am just

as guilty as the next guy when it comes to not wearing a PFD (Personal

Floatation Device) but that is going to change this year, that’s my own personal

resolution for 2008 and I will tell you why.

Several years ago I met a guy who became one of my best friends; I actually took

him on his first real saltwater trip into Sabine lake as well as many trips to

Toledo end. This guy took to the sport of fishing like there was no tomorrow and

he got pretty good at it along the way. Before too long he purchased a boat and

was fishing every chance he got, mostly in Sabine lake because it was close to

home. He figured out some of the subtleties of the sport and seemed to

understand how to fish and where to go, he had found his hobby.

During one stretch of winter months my friend, who mostly fished by himself,

made what appeared to be another normal trip out on the bay. The weather was a

little rougher than he liked it so he decided to head for a protected shoreline

on the east side of the lake. Now if you have ever been on Sabine lake you know

there is little traffic in the wide open middle part of the lake, especially on

choppy days. Now my friend is making his way across the lake as best he can

considering the waves and direction of the wind. All was going according to plan

until he had motor trouble, which was the first problem. As the boat stalled out

and drifted helpless against the conditions it was just a matter of time before

he started taking waves over the transom. It was just minutes until the boat

began to stand nose up sink. Can you imagine the feeling?

Within minutes the boat was completely capsized and floating miles from any

shore with my friend clinging to the bow eye for dear life. Now mind you this is

winter and the water temps are low 50’s so you can just visualize the shock his

system has just gone through. While telling me his story he said he really

thought he might die before someone came to help, either from drowning or

hypothermia. Some 30 minutes into the horrifying ordeal he spotted a crabber

nearby running his traps, calling to him did no good as he was just too far

away. That must have been tough to see help so close yet so far away. After

another 20 minutes in the water his prayers were answered as 2 men in another

boat happened to see him as they were headed back to the dock. They kind

strangers gave him a slicker suit to put on and rushed him back to the dock to

seek medical attention at the coast guard station. A warm shower, cup of coffee,

and dry clothes were welcome reminders that he had reached dry land and indeed

was safe. Every time we fish together I thank the big fisherman upstairs for

those 2 men who saved my friends life.

That story really hits home when it’s someone you know and realize that just as

easily could have been me or you. Now I agree that the old style PFD’s were

uncomfortable and bulky, that’s why nobody wanted to wear them. I am guilty of

only wearing one if I have my son Hunter in the boat with me instead of wearing

one all the time. With all the new styles of PFD’s out there you can surely find

one that suits you, I have fallen in love with the suspender style models that

can inflate on their own or can be inflated manually. They are comfortable and

easy to fish in which means they are less of a hassle to wear. In addition to

the PFD it’s a great idea to add some sort of signaling device to the PFD, like

a whistle. The sound of a whistle can be heard much farther that your voice,

especially if you have been screaming for a while or get cold. I have waded with

anglers who wear just such a set up and it has many helpful uses. I know one

fisherman who used the whistle to signal for help when he got stuck by a ray and

couldn’t walk. Just something to think about next time you head on the water.