“Back already?” asked by Mike, the perplexed Myrtle Grove Marina operator.
“What can I say? It was easy pickin’s today,” explained my Dad.
“Good for you, but what you gonna’ do the rest of the day?” Mike asked, since it wasn’t even 0730.
“I don’t know,” responded my Dad, “I guess we’ll figure something out...”
The clarity of this conversation from over 25 years ago resonates with me now more than ever. The backstory was tranquil. My dad and I had the speckled trout dialed in on the local bays of Myrtle Grove, Louisiana, and that cool, damp, foggy November morning provided the backdrop for an epic trip. We showed up first in line, and waited on HWY 23 until Mike the Marina Operator would unlock and open the gate at 0600. He then proceeded to hoist our boat off the trailer into Wilkenson Canal, the main navigational waterway for the area. Almost every weekend, we’d visit Mike and bring him a dozen glazed donuts from Belle Chase’s “famous” Don’s Café in trade for our launch fee.
The navigation was simple in Myrtle Grove, and pitch dark runs were nothing of concern. Timed just right, the 75 ponies powering our 16’ Flatboat, led us to the mouth of Bayou Dupont and Bay Round with a faint glowing east sky - barely bright enough to see our baits hit the water.
The contour of the spot was equally as simple. A main bay shoreline earmarked with lush grass flats nearby to a crosspoint tide source (Bayou Dupont). In typical fall fashion, the speckled trout would bury in the grass and ambush shrimp and small finfish from the nutrient rich nursery, and our rods laced with H&H avocado sparkle beetles became the perfect bait of choice. In short, limits (25/person/day) came quick and often, but this day was a little different.
From the very first cast plus 50, my Dad and I had a limit of speckled trout sitting in the 90 quart Coleman. To say that the trout were plentiful and ravenous was an understatement. No matter what or where you threw, the result was the same - a speckled trout flopping on the floor of the boat. It was incredible, but unfortunately, it was short lived.
My dad and I both fueled with ego and ambition decided it was “the cool” thing to leave the bite and head back to the launch. Barely after 0700, we figured returning to the marina with a limit of trout would impress the strangers still in-line. We yearned for their acceptance in hopes that the whispers they spoke were about us and our fish catching capability. In other words, we wanted them to wish they were us.
Little did I know at the time that this mindset would shadow the angling world. In this hyper competitive environment, fueled by social media, we yearn to prove we are the best by displaying impressive dock shots or sponsored laden tournament jerseys. We get so blinded by our public image to impress one another that we forget how to take care of a public resource. By no means is this targeted at anyone, but instead a self-reflection of the path of which I chose.
Shortsided as it may have seamed, I took for granted how good our fishery was that day. “Surely we’ll come back and do it again tomorrow,” is what I thought, and fortunately we did. But here’s my point, after growing up and logging close to 100 trips a year with my dad, I’m now 3 states away and have been for 12 years. If we’re lucky we might make 2 trips a year, and whether we catch em or not, it’s the chance to share a boat with a man whose taught me so much that makes the trip. So with sincerest purity, I encourage all the anglers trying to make their mark in the fishing industry to not lose sight of what’s important. Instead, be less competitive and foster more relationships. Spend less time trying to legitimize your pro-staff status and more time safeguarding the resource for which that position even exist.
Unfortunately our maturity, or lack thereof, got the best of us that day – such is life. Instead, through my own personal growth as a man, angler and father of three, I realized the trout, or how fast we caught them, was the least of importance. Now moving forward, If I’m ever blessed to be given that opportunity again, and presented with the question as to whether or not to leave. My response would be, “No way...I have no desire to “share” this with anyone but you.”
Tight lines, God Bless and never forget the journey.