“BURNING” CAN LEAVE YOU BURNING
After 25 plus years of fishing with me at least a half dozen times a year, John Markum still struggles to catch a fish.He casts poorly, even with a spinning reel, and hasn’t a clue when catching depends on altering his speed of retrieve. Every bite, however, is a happening and he celebrates after every fish he catches.He is equally passionate about soaking up every aspect of the outdoors and constantly points out everything from shorebirds to cloud structure.We should all have something that we enjoy as much as John enjoys being on the water! Partially, per his request, we long ago decided that rather than schedule trips in advance, I would call him any time the bite got especially easy and that invariably coincides with birds working over schooling fish.The Houston angler doesn’t care if every fish is another throw-back sand trout as long as something is pulling on his line. Because the redfish and trout had been consistently schooling after the latest cold front, I gave him a call. The following morning we were, however, greeted with a 20 mile per hour southeast wind that totally wiped out the prospects of hustling birds in the open water. As disappointed as we both were, I still had two short stretches of the semi-protected Louisiana shoreline that had been holding decent numbers of slot reds. After breaking out the Frogg Toggs to repel the cold spray off the white caps, we made our way across the lake.While I squinted and focused on each wave, John was steadily pointing out lone pelicans and the horizontal smoke coming off the stacks of the refineries.He misses nothing! The east bank was indeed fishable, but before I could even shut the big engine down, we both spotted the tower boat “burning” the shoreline a hundred yards ahead of us.I very seldom see this practiced on the open lake and never on the weekend.We have learned a number of good things from visiting redfish and trout tournament fishermen, but this method of locating fish or at least eliminating water for tournament day is not one of them. “Burning” is simply a matter of plowing through extremely shallow water and spooking resident redfish to determine how many are in the area.It is obviously much quicker than fishing to collect the same data and these fishermen have no intention of fishing for those fish that day anyway.Most of the “burning” takes place in shallow backwater marsh lakes just prior to an upcoming tournament. Regardless of whether or not the fish are there, the bottom is permanently scarred by the churning props and acres of pristine marsh grass is left floating on the surface.The practice flies in the face of everything good about fishing. I am not sure as to how beneficial “burning” the main lake shoreline can be, but the boat left the once clear water in its wake chopped up and muddy. As John pointed out, the egrets wading the shoreline for their next meal were forced to forage elsewhere as were we. With our first spot already laid to rest, we ran to another spot that been holding both redfish and sheepshead a mile ahead of the carnage.We had two slot reds in the box and John was gleefully tussling with a fat sheepshead, when I noticed that, incredibly enough, that same boat was headed our way. They stopped long enough to watch John fight his fish before idling around us and resuming their “burning”.I frequently witness inconsiderate acts on the wate, but this crossed the line.It was a combination of the fact that they had twenty-seven miles of shoreline to exploit their distasteful method of locating fish and the fact that I recognized one of the two fishermen that resulted in our chasing them down.
“We have a tournament in two weeks and we didn’t know it was you anyway,” was not a satisfactory answer to my initial question as to what the hell they were doing.“Does that mean that it would have been alright if it had been someone you didn’t know,” I replied.With our discussion rapidly heading in a southerly direction, I eased away rather than strain a good relationship over fishing. We managed to box a flounder and two more redfish before yielding to the wind.That night that friend called just to tell me that there were a lot of redfish holding on that shoreline. “You’re right….they were there before y’all arrived,” I replied before hanging up.