In the past month alone, I have witnessed two near disasters that were fishing related and both could have and should have been prevented. Not surprisingly, both involved youngsters in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Had it not been for a young female driver with much quicker reflexes than I possess, there would possibly have been one more fatality in the county in the month of June. I was driving several car lengths behind her when she suddenly slammed on the breaks and skidded to a sideways halt on the shoulder of Hwy. 87 on the Bridge City side of Veterans Bridge.

She was already out of her Honda and screaming at a pair of adults that appeared to be scolding their young daughter as well by the time I put on my flasher and parked behind her. The five year old had decided to crab with her grandmother in the ditch on the other side of four lanes of traffic and no one had even noticed her dart out on the highway. The driver that miraculously missed her was still crying as she pulled back onto the highway.

I very seldom use the public launch under the Cow Bayou bridge on the north side of Bridge City, but it was late in the afternoon and I was trying to shorten the ride for my guest one day last week. I had tied up my boat at the end of the dock and was rigging up rods when four youngsters arrived on a pair of bicycles.

Because a fisherman was launching a small center console at the time, the kids raced to the end of the dock, heaved an inner tube into the bayou and proceeded to dive over the bow of my boat one after the other. By the time they all reached the inner tube they had pushed it into the path of another incoming boater.

Unfazed by the near miss, they laughed and waved as the surprised driver shoved his big engine in reverse taking water over the transom. I can sympathize with youngsters hunting a free place to swim close to home, but a boat launch is not that place.

When we returned at dark they were gone, but I could not help but wonder how many close calls they had experienced as there were numerous trucks and trailers parked beneath the bridge when I launched earlier. Every boater launching a rig has a mental list of safety aspects to consider when loading and unloading and having to dodge children swimming at the ramp should not be one of them.
Not that long ago, Orange County anglers were very limited in their search for a safe and advantageous launch from which to access the Sabine River or the Lake. Bluebird’s on Simmons afforded a good launch and decent parking, but it could get crowded very quickly and low water presented problems when exiting the bayou.

The single ramp under the Sabine River Bridge provided fishermen a decent launch, ample parking, and a terrific vantage point, but you never expected to return and find your tow vehicle still intact. There was no lighting and the possibility that the same vandals that looted your car were still hanging around eliminated any thoughts of ever using the ramp.

While the popular Cow Bayou site on Texas 87 can get crowded in a hurry on holidays and weekends, it is still rates as an excellent launch that draws fishermen from as far away as Houston. The turn-around is wide, accessible in both high and low water conditions and the dock is easily ascended once the boat is in the water.

The newest Orange City Park facility east of Simmons Drive is absolutely first class. A well lit massive parking area, four launches that are still usable under the lowest of water conditions and an adjacent pier to accommodate boatless anglers and crabbers all serve to attract scores of fishermen that include Louisiana anglers as well.

While both sites were constructed to safely accommodate area boaters, they were never intended to be used as public swimming holes. I urge every parent to please remind their children of this fact before this practice results in an accident that could have been prevented.

At the same time, fishing or crabbing in close proximity to any major thoroughfare is risky at best, but more especially when traffic is whizzing by at 70 mph within a few yards of preoccupied youngsters. It is hard to believe that viable bank fishing facilities are so limited in a county surrounded by such a fish rich ecosystem, but until that problem can be rectified, at least try to avoid heavily trafficked areas.

Let’s keep our kids safe and teach them to appreciate and enjoy this wonderful resource responsibly!