Take the kids fishing tomorrow
Ricky Hannon was in the process of covering any exposed skin on his daughter, Grace, with sunscreen as I approached the small opening in the cane that they had staked a claim to for the afternoon. His two small sons were already tending fishing rods resting in holders plugged into the soft mud bordering the canal.
I had stopped on the west side of Hwy. 87 south of Bridge City to watch the kids fish and the Hannon’s were the first group I met. “This is not my favorite spot,” pointed out the elder Hannon, “but the flounder started biting a little bit this past week and word travels fast.”
Over the course of the next half hour, I did see several nice flounder taken by the bank fishermen as well as a three-pound catfish and a slot red. Most of the afternoon anglers were fishing on the bottom with frozen shrimp and several of them had at least two rods in the water.
More importantly, most of them had at least one wide-eyed youngster in tow. While Dads, Grandpas, and Uncles baited hooks and offered encouragement, the kids monitored crab lines and celebrated every catch.
The popular fishing spot was alive with conversation, the delighted shrieks of the children, and the steady drone of high-speed traffic only a few yards away.
“I used to feel sorry for all the people that fished here as I traveled back and forth to my job, but things have changed,” said Roland Garza. “Now, I think they had it right all along and they were feeling sorry for me!”
Garza said the first time gas took a major jump two years ago that he sold his bay boat and bought a smaller aluminum rig. Due to the latest increase in gas prices, he recently sold that boat and has done well fishing areas that he once drove past without a second thought.
“I love to fish,” he stated, “but I don’t fish just anywhere for the sake of fishing. I fish the revetment walls on the lake, the piers, the beach, and I wade the north end of the lake when I have time.” He was quick to point out that depending on water levels, the Entergy Intake canal can get very good for both flounder and redfish.
It was evident by his choice of tackle that Garza was there for the bite rather than the meat. He visited with the live bait fishermen as he filtered his way in and around them flipping a plastic grub against the far bank with a seven-foot graphite and Curado casting reel.
“The high gas prices have been a blessing for my family,” offered Leonard Taylor. “It used to be a big deal or a special occasion for me to load up both boys and go to the jetties in the boat, but it doesn’t work like that anymore. Now, they grab their poles and pile in the truck and we can be fishing in twenty minutes. We have already fished together more this summer than we have in the last three years!”
By the time I made it back to the Hannon’s location, they had two drum, three croaker, several crabs and a flounder swimming in their styrofoamcooler. “We are down to one last hook,” Ricky said while laughing, “But at least the crabs are still biting.”
You do not have to catch blue marlin or ten-pound bass to keep youngsters excited about fishing. And, as any one of the afore mentioned fishermen would tell you, “You do not even have to own a boat.”
The very essence of fishing is anticipating the bobber slipping beneath the surface or the tightening of the line as an unseen fish tries to steal the bait. When Dad, Mom, or any mentor is along side to share the moment, fishing is even more special.
I would readily agree that while we are blessed with a tremendous amount of productive water in this area, there is a real need to develop more areas to afford access for the fishermen without a boat. Until that happens, however, I would suggest the following options.
The juncture of the intake canal and intersecting ditches at the foot of the Rainbow Bridge on Hwy 87 may be as productive as it gets for family fishing. The piers that are still intact on Pleasure Island, as well as the lighted pier at Umphrey Park, are also good spots for a variety of saltwater fish and they, too, are family friendly.
Those areas will safely accommodate supervised children as well as adults. For the hardcore angler, walking the rocks on the revetment walls, wading the flats on either end of the island, and surf fishing the beaches can produce spectacular results.
The easiest option for freshwater bank fishermen requires a little legwork and diplomacy. Most tanks and farm ponds in this area are home to bream, catfish, and bass. Virtually all of these venues are also enclosed and located on private property.
While liability, keeping livestock inside the fence, and leaving the area cleaner than you found it are all important considerations for landowners, many of them will let you fish if you honor their wishes and take the time to ask permission. On most days, you will have the pond to yourself and the catching will be better than you ever anticipated.
If you are respectful, ask the landowner if there is anything you can do for him while you are there, and show your appreciation at the end of the trip, you may very well wind up with your own private fishing hole for years to come!
Regardless of your choice of venues, arm the kids with tackle that works, pack plenty of snacks, cold drinks, and sunscreen, and fish only as long as they want to fish. A good day of fishing is still more about sharing quality time with the kids than lamenting the cost of gas!