THE RED SNAPPER BATTLES GOES ON AND ON

This is a letter sent by Capt. Bob Zales, of the Panama City (Florida) Boatmens Association and the National Association of Charterboat Operators, to Doug Gregory – the Executive Director of the Gulf of Mexico Fisheries Management Council- about the Council’s recent decision (again) to rescind the rule that requires charterboat operators to obey the more stringent of federal or state regulations when fishing in state waters. This effectively keeps captains holding federal permits from fishing in state waters when federal waters are closed.

March 17, 2014

Mr. Doug Gregory
Executive Director
Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council
1401 Constitution Ave., NW
Washington, D.C. 20230

By email: doug.gregory@gulfcouncil.org

Re: Section 2.13 Action 13 of RF 30B

Dear Doug:

On behalf of the membership I wish to provide additional rationale to justify the recent Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council action to rescind the current provision of Section 2.13 Action 13 of Reef Fish Amendment 30B. The Federally permitted For-hire fishing vessel owners have opposed the current requirement from its inception as it has caused unnecessary economic and social harm to the vessel owners, their families and communities while also violating National Standard 4 by discriminating against the vessel owners and the recreational anglers who choose to fish off of For-Hire vessels rather than their own vessels or a friends vessel. This action, contrary to the stated purpose and needs in every related NMFS/Council document, has not prevented recreational harvest overruns of red snapper. It has only served to discriminate against federally permitted for-hire vessel owners and the recreational anglers who choose to hire the vessels by preventing them from harvesting red snapper in state waters when those waters are legally open. It has also caused a shift in the percentage of harvest among for-hire vessels and private recreational anglers within the recreational fishing sector.

This action was a punitive measure pushed by Dr. Roy Crabtree, Regional Director for the NMFS Southeast Region. In addition, we now believe this action was orchestrated to further the efforts of the NMFS and Dr. Crabtree to arbitrarily shift the percentage of harvest among the for-hire vessels and private anglers for the purpose of pushing sector separation within the recreational sector to further enhance the efforts by the NMFS and Dr. Crabtree to reduce fleet capacity and create catch shares in the recreational fishery.

In the spring of 2008, Dr. Crabtree, Southeast Regional Director of the National Marine Fisheries Service, pressured the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council to enact a regulation (Section 2.13 Action 13 of RF 30B) to prevent Federally permitted For-Hire Charter and Headboats from fishing in state waters when federal regulations closed the EEZ and to prevent those vessels from being able to fish under less restrictive regulations in state waters. Essentially this regulation requires these vessels to comply with federal regulations regardless of where they fish.

This action was in retaliation to the Florida Gulf For-Hire Charter and Headboat owners because at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission meeting in February 2008, the owners and operators of those

“Dedicated to the conservation and enhancement of our natural marine resources”
vessels along with many recreational anglers, state legislators, local community leaders, and other stakeholders requested the FWC to keep Florida waters open to recreational red snapper when the NMFS closed the EEZ. The NMFS proposed and approved regulation was directed at the federally permitted vessels and those recreational anglers who choose to hire those vessels and was done to punish those who supported the state action. After continued pressure by the NMFS Southeast Region on the Gulf Council, the Council recommended the regulation (although the vast majority of the federally permitted For-Hire Charter and Headboats owners opposed the proposal) in August 2008. The NMFS approved the regulation in record time to be effective in May 2009 prior to the opening of the recreational red snapper season the following June.

The GMFMC at their April 18th 2013 meeting voted 9 for, 6 against, with 2 absent to request an emergency action by the NMFS to rescind and remove the regulatory authority created by Section 2.13 Action 13 of RF 30B regarding the for-hire fleet which requires vessels with a Gulf of Mexico Charter Headboat Reef Fish Permit to fish by the stricter of federal or state regulations and replace it with the status quo alternative that was included in Amendment 30B of that section which is Action 13. Federal Regulatory Compliance; Alternative 1. No action. All vessels with federal commercial or charter reef fish permits are subject to applicable federal reef fish regulations when fishing in the EEZ, and are subject to applicable state reef fish regulations when fishing in state waters.

With a different Gulf Council membership, at the February 6, 2014 Council meeting, the membership voted 9 for 8 against to also rescind the provision. This Council action was forwarded to the NMFS to approve again. It should be highlighted that the council membership was different at both meetings which resulted in the same action. It is clear that the for-hire vessel owners, recreational anglers, supporting businesses, communities, and State Resource managers do not support the punitive action approved in 2009 and fully support the removal of the provision.

During discussions at the Council table before voting both Dr. Crabtree and Mara Levy (NOAA General Council) made statements that they clearly did not intend to approve the measure based on their opinions that there was not enough rationale to approve the measure. As stated above, this was the second time within a year that the Council membership (different council members at each meeting) approved a motion to rescind the action approved in 2009. In addition we now know that the NMSF stated “purpose and need” for the action, to curtail the overruns of recreational harvest of red snapper, have not occurred. To the contrary, the alleged overruns continue and in 2013 they were the highest on record. By preventing federally permitted for-hire vessels to fish in state waters when those waters are open the percentage of harvest by private recreational anglers within the recreational sector has steadily increased.

We now argue that this shift of harvest level was purposely orchestrated by the NMFS in order to convince federally permitted for-hire owners to support sector separation and catch shares. It is evident, and has been since the reauthorization of the Magnuson Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act in 1996, that Section 407 (D) (1) “establish separate quotas for recreational fishing (which, for the purposes of this subsection shall include charter fishing) and commercial fishing that, when reached, result in a prohibition on the retention of fish caught during recreational fishing and commercial fishing, respectively, for the remainder of the fishing year; and “ that no matter what part of the recreational sector that is prevented from harvesting recreational red snapper as long as any other part is allowed to harvest the quota will be met and/or exceeded and the recreational red snapper fishery will close. Under the historical and current recreational data program it is impossible to prevent recreational overruns during a projected season so the regulation provision of amendment 30B serves only to discriminate against and punish federally permitted for-hire vessel owners, their customers, supporting businesses, and communities. To this point, Dr. Crabtree also made the statement during debate prior to the vote that without the requirement of 30B, sector separation could not happen. This statement alone is clear and undeniable evidence that the primary purpose of the push by Dr. Crabtree to approve the provision of 30B to prevent fishing by federally permitted for-hire vessels was for the sole purpose of pushing and implementing sector separation within the recreational fishery.

The owners of these vessels have suffered great economic harm and in some cases have left the For-Hire Charter fishery due to the regulation. The communities along the Gulf of Mexico have suffered severe economic and social harm due to the regulations as most depend on tourism for their continued survival. Fishing activity and the desire to seek that opportunity is critical to the vessel owners and the infrastructure that supports them which provides extensive support to the local fishing communities. The discriminatory regulation has caused for-hire vessel owners to lose customers and altered the social behavior of recreational anglers.

Another reason for this action, singling out the Federally Permitted operators, was revealed at the February, 2013 Council meeting. The purpose stated was to use the Federally Permitted Charter and Headboats as a political pawn to keep the States in line with the Federal rules. Playing politics with peoples’ lives, livelihoods, and recreational fishing enjoyment has not set well with our Governors and State Fishery Directors, as you can tell from recent States’ actions.

In summary our additional rationale is simply stated. The provisions of Amendment 30B to restrict fishing by federally permitted for-hire vessels has only discriminated against these fishing vessels, the recreational anglers who fish on these vessels, created negative economic and social impacts to these owners, their crews, their customers, supporting businesses, and communities, altered the percentage of harvest of users within the recreational sector, created havoc and dissent within the fleet, turned vessel owner against owner over the push for sector separation and catch shares, caused unnecessary negative social impacts, and has not accomplished the primary goal of the NMFS purpose and need to prevent recreational overruns of the recreational red snapper fishery. It is clear that this regulation is useless as a management tool, has caused dissent and distrust of the NMFS while only serving to harm vessel owners, their families, and communities.

It is imperative to the survival of the For-Hire Charter and Headboat fisheries, keeping and increasing jobs on the vessels and infrastructure, and the continued economic and social support for our local fishing communities that the Council request be approved and enacted ASAP. We know that there are mechanisms used by the NMFS to expedite this type of process. We urge you to use those efforts for this action to rescind this regulation so that it will become effective ASAP.

Sincerely,

Capt. Bob Zales, II
President

In other related news. captain and crew of charterboats in the Atlantic will again be able to keep recreational limits of reef fish species for themselves, in addition to the limits allowed their passengers. Unfortunately, this will not apply as yet yo boats fishing in the Gulf of Mexico.

For those who wish to comment on these matters:
Dr, Roy Crabtree – roycrabtree@ nooa.gov
Gulf Council – info@gulfcouncil.org

Posted in Regulations & Rules - Saltwater Fishing | Comments Off on THE RED SNAPPER BATTLES GOES ON AND ON

THE HERMIT

This one is an old favorite. It first appeared on the back page of Saltwater Sportsman, back when they ran a lot of Fiction/Humor on that page. Since then it has appeared in other places, but not here. One day – soon, I hope – I intend to bundle all these old Fiction/Humor pieces together in a book.

The stretch of land between the mouth of the “New” Brazos River and the outlet of the San Bernard River below Freeport, Texas can technically be called an island. This is because it has the Gulf of Mexico on the south, and is cut off from the mainland by the Intracoastal Waterway on its northern boundary. The beach along its roughly two mile length is usually strewn with driftwood that floated down the Brazos, then was carried up the surf by the channel running parallel to shore. This timbered bounty ranges in size from mere twigs to huge tree trunks. In seasons of extreme flood conditions, a dead cow or two may also come to rest in this isolated habitat. A shallow marsh lake joins the Gulf in a lagoon which varies in size and depth from season to season, depending on tidal surges and surf deposited sand. The normal inhabitants – other than mosquitoes and horseflies – are rattlesnakes, coyotes, shorebirds, sand crabs, a few range cows, and the old man.

My regular deckhand, Jack, “Six Pack” Pierce, and I had waited for a calm day to run the boat close to the beach so I could wade ashore and conclude my business while Six Pack circled back out past the breakers and pretended to drift for tarpon. We were trying not to draw the attention of passing boats, and risk giving away the location of the old man’s “sand castle”. Not that anyone could find it if he didn’t want them to. Neither could I, for that matter, even after several visits over the past year. Although I knew full well that the primitive habitation was somewhere in the sand and driftwood tangle close to the juncture of the lagoon and “Lost Lake”, I couldn’t get my eyes to pick it out in the afternoon light. I didn’t see the old man, either, until he spoke to me.

“Are you gonna stay out here in the sun all day, or can we go inside for a drink?”

These sudden appearances can be spooky, but he makes his entrance pretty much the same way each time. Once he led me to the entrance it was much easier to trace the outline of the shelter he’d made from sand piled on top of brush, materials scavenged off the beach, and old plastic tarps I’d provided months ago. It was braced on the inside and disguised without by driftwood timbers bleached nearly white by the harsh coastal sun and frequent saltwater immersions. Inside, the place was fairly spacious, cool from the insulating properties of many feet of sand, and almost dry. The coals from the cook fire (in cold weather it was also his only source of heat, so it was almost never extinguished) smoldered in one corner, with the small amount of smoke produced pulled out by a cross breeze through a pipe embedded in the sand that emerged back in the dunes and down the beach a bit. Furniture was sparse, and either crudely fashioned from cast off materials or driftwood, except for the bedding and some cushions he’d grudgingly allowed me to donate.

If I had to hide out from someone, this would be the place I’d pick,

I passed the bottle, plastic glasses, and the small insulated bag of ice cubes across and waited until my drink was given back to hand over the ritual cigar for inspection and approval. There were more smokes in the knapsack I’d brought, as well as another bottle and some canned goods, matches, antacids, and the latest issue of several magazines. After a sip of the sour mash and a puff on the Cuban seed chairman, he nodded and passed me a folded piece of paper. The old man had been a Gulf shrimper and sometimes commercial fisherman, among other things. In return for the goodies I brought, he dredged up old LORAN numbers of “hangs” and other worthwhile fishing spots from his steel trap of a mind. All I’d tried so far had paid off for me.

“Good stuff, both the sippin’ whiskey and the seegar. Swappin’ material, for sure. That spot I just gave you is a hang we tore up a good net on, barely ten miles off the beach. Always had a few good sow snapper on it. Just don’t you be tryin’ to load the boat for your tourist customers! Always leave a few for brood stock. ‘Course it may not be worth it to you to keep swapping for all my old numbers, with what I read about the crazy snapper laws in these magazines you keep bringin’.”

“Maybe I’ll just give all that up, become an outlaw commercial and sell my catch in beer joint parking lots.”

“Naw. If you wuz gonna be illegal, you ought to go piratin’ with me, like I keep askin’ you to. That ol’ 31 Bertram would make a fine pirate vessel, all black and sleek – and already flyin’ the flag. Just need to prop her right. Gotta find a better crew, though. That big ol’ deckhand of yours is probably sleepin’ off the afternoon beer already!”

“Six Pack can be a man of leisure at times, but you need to get that pirate stuff out of your head.” I knew he had a small boat hidden somewhere on the island, and when we first met he was supplementing his existence with occasional night raids on camps along the San Bernard, maybe the Brazos, too, – just helping himself to a few unguarded beers, maybe some basic fishing tackle – and a little food. In his mind this pilfering put him in a class with Blackbeard.

I had first seen his fire on the beach from the other side of the Brazos, while we were both surf fishing on several long fall nights. Knowing no one could be over there without a boat, I assumed the red glow came from a daytime lunch fire someone forgot to put out that had been fanned to life by the sea breeze. I used to let my imagination tell me that the small blaze was mosquito smoke tended by the ghost of some long departed shark fisherman, watching over my activities – a kindred spirit, pardon the pun. As it worked out, I was almost right, except my ghost wasn’t quite in the afterlife yet. I guess he had been watching back, because he let me approach, first by small boat, then on foot, and soon became another in a long line of offbeat friends it has been my good fortune to get to know in my often misspent lifetime.

“Well, what’re you gonna do to make money with the boat, if they keep closin’ fishin’ seasons an’ puttin’ limits on everything so tight that yer charters don’t think it’s worth the price to go out no more?”

“Six Pack’s got some good ideas. Burials at sea, porpoise watching trips. Bird watching. Booze cruises down the ditch and around the harbor. Maybe start a little passenger shuttle between here and somewhere. He’s got a thought about weight-loss and sun-tanning cruises for, shall we say, ‘full-figured women’”.

“THAT, I’d like to see! A bunch of big ol’ gals barfin’ over the side and getting’ sunburnt on their backsides – an’ payin’ you for it, too! That boy may not be as useless as I thought! Ha!”

“Not sure those sort of things would work for me, though. Laughs are fine, but to make an honest living with the boat I’ve got to fish for something. I’m thinking about heading south, trying Mexico or the islands. Somewhere with deep water and big fish close to shore, less regulation – or need for it – and more pretty girls. Speaking of fishing, you really need to go out with us sometime, help me find some of those holes you gave me. I’m not sure the LORAN TD’s calculated correctly into Lat/Long on some of them. If I had your eyes on the bottom machine it would sure help me to pick them out.”

The old man shook his head. “Nope. I caint do it no more. That’s pretty much why I’m shore bound now. If I get out there, I’m just gonna want to go and keep goin’. That’s why my damn kids sold the shrimp boat out from under me years ago, but this time on the beach has made me realize they wuz probably right. A Viking funeral might be what I come to in the end, but I’m not really ready to let loose of life just yet. Even if I caint trust myself to be on the water anymore, I can get by here just bein’ beside it all the time. Never bein’ out of earshot of the sound of the surf, or out of range of the smell of salt keeps me goin’ better than any medicines or machines them damn doctors could hook me up to. Naw, I’ll be alright as long as I can stay by the water, and to do that I got to stay hid out. Those daughters of mine are just like their mother was – if they ever find out where I’m at, and that I’m still alive an’ fishin’, they’ll likely send the National Guard over here to root me out.”

He took a long draw on the cigar, finished his drink, and pushed the cup to me for a refill. “Listen, I’ve been doin’ some thinkin’. If you ever get to where people an’ things is closin’ in on you, like they wuz with me, an’ you think you might end up hurtin’ somebody if you don’t get some relief from the pressure, you’re welcome to come bunk here for awhile. Livin’ on a diet of crabs, rattlesnakes, fish, an’ bird eggs might even do you good, long as you ain’t too picky about how – or if – yer food is cooked. We could have the fat boy come by an’ bring us booze an’ seegars. I could show you some bull red holes down the beach that would make it worth your while, an’ if I had some help, I could take a shot at them big ol’ sharks I keep seein’ cruisin’ the inshore gut on moonlit nights. Even if there are regulations and laws that apply to this here island, they don’t affect me that I can tell! No women or tax collectors, either!”

Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn grow old and retire to the beach.

“You never know. I might take you up on that. Got to get back to the boat now, though, before the tide turns and we have to shove her off the second bar getting out. I’ll be back when it seems like you’d be getting anxious for a smoke and a drink.”

The old man walked me back to the beach, shook my hand, and thanked me for the provisions. I was almost to the surf line when I heard him speak again.

“Tell you what, Cap’n. If you ever do decide to head south, I’d think I’d like to crew for you. These little Texas winters are startin’ to get damn uncomfortable for my old bones, down here by the water.”

When I turned around to answer, he was gone. His skin is so weathered and the old khaki shorts so faded that he blends into the driftwood and sand like a human chameleon. I could no longer see the sand castle, either, – just sea oats and blowing sand and whitened sticks and logs. It’s been the same after each visit, a complete and total disappearance. Sometimes I wonder if the old hermit and his crude hut even exist, or if I just dream the whole thing after too much offshore sun and beer, like Six pack thinks.

At other times I wonder if this is just a vision my mind cooked up to hang onto its sanity, or maybe a sign that it is already too late for that. Wading back out to the boat, I wonder if it even matters?

Posted in Humor/Fiction | Comments Off on THE HERMIT

CLOSE ENCOUNTERS

CLOSE ENCOUNTERS – OF THE OIL RIG KIND!

Like They Say, You Can’t Make This Stuff Up!

My first “charter boat” was a 24 foot, deep vee, outboard powered hull – a fine sea boat for it’s size, but sometimes a little less boat than a customer was looking for. There were several larger vessels available for me to schedule trips on, but when Dan offered me a sweet deal to run trips on his boat, it perked my interest more than usual. A 33 footer custom built on a surplus Navy utility hull of Uniflite manufacture, Chick Sharp of Freeport, Texas had made this one special. With its rounded chine and wheelhouse cabin, it had a down east lobster boat look, but the huge open deck and Pipe Welder’s tower said pure sportfishing boat. A pretty vessel, with teak foredeck and mahogany rails, it was powered by an old Cat V-8 diesel – slow, but dependable and fuel efficient. Dan proposed that we pay expenses up front and split the remainder of the charter fee between us, which was better than most owners were offering me. The only hitch was that he wanted to be aboard as crew.

The thing about Dan, you see, is that he had a little drinking problem. The morning our first charter group – two couples from Ft. Worth, Texas – arrived, he had already been in the rum bottle before daylight, or didn’t get out of it from the night before! As we cleared the jetties and headed out across a slick Gulf of Mexico, he was entertaining the two wives by showing them pictures of his wife, cat, bird, and whatever else he had snap shots of in that long, accordian style wallet he had unfolded for them. One of the husbands grinned and asked me if there was an extra charge for the entertainment.

“No Sir, but you don’t get a refund if you get tired of listening to him, either. Ya’ll will likely never see him again after today, so I hope you can keep him amused. I have to hear all his stories on a regular basis, ‘cause like a lot of drunks, he talks in an endless loop – repeating himself over and over. If he starts in on me, I’ll run the boat from the tower – he won’t climb up there when he’s drinking. The good news is, we don’t really need him on this trip – just his boat. If he falls down and can’t get up, just roll him out of the way. If he falls overboard, well, let’s just say we might not hunt for him too long before going back to huntin’ fish.”

When I turned to deliver the last of my little speech, I noticed both customers were holding large mugs filled with stout smelling Bloody Marys, and I had seen them load a big bourbon bottle aboard. You folks will probably get along with ol’ Dan just fine, was what I was thinking to myself.

It was a fine day to be on the water, but the fishing was a little slow. We tied up to a favorite rig early, and although I hooked a nice snapper for the older of the two ladies – who sat in a chair and declared that this was her kind of fishing, “A good-looking man hooks the thing and reels it up for me, too!”, as she worked on her own Bloody Mary – the men folks weren’t doing so well. After catching a few bluefish, triggerfish, and spadefish, they were ready to move. A short run to the east put us at another rig, where the snapper were more cooperative, but the older couple were both sick by now, and the other couple couldn’t seem to connect with the fish. As time began to run out, I picked up my favorite snapper rod and began to catch their fish for them. Dan joined me in the effort, but had no better luck than the customers – probably something to do with lack of coordination, at this point. The week before, two guys on my boat had pronounced me a “natural born snapper fisherman” because I had “the touch” that day, and caught fish after fish while neither of them got a hookup. The truth was, on the previous trip a group of total rookies had out fished me badly, but that’s why it’s just called fishing.

Well, on the way back in, Dan was getting talkative, so I finally climbed up in the tower to get away from him. It was a fine evening, flat seas, mild temperatures, fish hitting all over the surface of the water – and me up high enough that it seemed I could see forever. I could see far enough to notice a shrimp boat coming out from Freeport on a course that was too close to a collision heading for my liking. Every time I changed my direction a little, however, the shrimper changed his also. I didn’t have the speed to get by him, so when they got too close I slowed to barely making way to let the other boat pass. Instead, they came almost to a stop and pulled alongside us. There were only three men on the boat that I could see, the skipper and two deckhands. It might have been just me, but the skull and crossbones they had painted on the bow after the vessel name made me a little nervous. The skipper came out of the wheelhouse – not a normal procedure – and asked if we wanted to trade beer for shrimp. This is a time honored tradition along the Texas coast, but this boat was just leaving port – they shouldn’t have had any shrimp to trade, and it was a little early for them to start drinking. I yelled back from the tower that we had no beer on board, which was true enough. Then the fellow from the shrimpboat asked if we had any whiskey to trade. I looked down at my passengers, who held up an empty bottle, and told him no, he was too late for that, too.

“Don’tcha have anything to drink?”

“I started out with a personal six-pack, and there might be two left, but that’s it.”

“Well, we need to trade for something. I’ll pull up closer and put one of my guys aboard, and he’ll get those two beers from you.”

As the shrimper was trying to back to our stern, I yelled that I wasn’t interested, gave the old CAT all she had, and spurted in the other direction! I wasn’t sure what these folks had on their minds, but I didn’t think I wanted any part of it. I’ve always thought the big Gulf shrimpboats looked a lot like pirate ships out on the water, and I wasn’t sure but what this crew might have had a little shakedown action in mind!
The rest of the trip was uneventful. I ran the boat from the tower – even though it was getting chilly – until just before we turned from the canal into the marina, when Dan grabbed the lower station controls and started weaving the boat. I climbed down and replaced him at the helm, and pulled the boat up to my dock to unload the fish and customers. I told Dan if he’d hold on for a bit, I’d help him run to his house on a nearby canal, but while I was filleting fish, I heard the engine roar to life and watched him swerve towards home. One of his neighbors said he got the boat in OK, but couldn’t manage to walk up the steep bank to his house, finally had to crawl up it!

The next day, Dan came by to talk about what he remembered of the trip. The shrimpboat episode worried him more now than when it happened, evidently.

“What if those guys were trying to rob us? We didn’t even have a weapon on
board.”

“Oh yes we did. I had my brief case with my normal backup equipment I carry on other folks’ boats – a handheld VHF, a handheld GPS, a compass, and a 357 magnum – but it was down in the cabin and I was way up on the tower where I couldn’t get to it in time.”

“I’m not sure I like you bringing a gun on my boat and not telling me.”

“Wouldn’t take a trip with you without it, ol’ buddy. Never know when I might have to put you out of your misery!”

The other thing he wanted to talk about was the chain of events that had left him hanging off one of the rig legs like a big ol’ drunk monkey!

This had been a winter charter, and the days were still a little short, so when we got a good box of fish we elected to head back in early, due to the slow cruise speed of the single diesel. Dan used a short rig hook that you toss over a cross pipe on the rig. It has a piece of stainless cable taped along the bend of the hook which is supposed to come straight when pulled on hard enough to break the tape, thus springing the hook off the pipe. It had worked well enough on the first platform, but something went wrong on the second one. Dan had gone forward to try to shake it off, and I eased the boat up until the pulpit was just short of kissing the rig. After a few good shakes failed to dislodge the hook, Dangerous Dan decided to put his left arm around the platform leg nearest the crosspiece it was so securely looped around. He was sitting on the base of the pulpit and leaning against his bow rail when a little freak wave came up from the flat surface of the Gulf and lifted the bow about three feet. When it fell, the nose piece of the bow rail disconnected, Dan went through it, and was left dangling from the pipe as we drifted a few feet away! He was hugging the pipe with both arms now, kicking his legs wildly, and squealing and hollering – it was one of the funniest things I have ever seen that I didn’t have to pay money to watch! One of the male customers asked me if he should go up to help, but I was laughing too hard to answer. In less time than it takes to tell, I had the pulpit positioned directly beneath Dan’s posterior, and had stopped laughing enough to yell at him to let go and drop back on the boat.

“No, no! I’ll fall in the water!”

“If you do, we’ll try to pull you out. No, hold on a minute, we need to get a picture of this before we rescue you!” Unfortunately, nobody on board had a camera!

Three times I had the pulpit touching his butt, and the last time I guess I jarred him loose from the rig leg, because he fell back through the bow rail – which parted again – and landed on his back with his feet in the air, – still kicking! This was as funny as watching him grappling the rig, and I suffered another fit of laughter as the boat drifted back in the current. When he got himself straightened out, Dan came running back to the wheelhouse, where I was still giggling.

“Damn you, Holmes, if you ever tell anybody about this …”

“TELL them? I’m going to write this story up for the whole country to enjoy!”

“Well, just don’t tell my wife, she might get worried.”

“Oh, she’s the first one I intend to share this tale with, – she’ll get a big kick out of it! Honestly, Dan, I know you can’t see the humor in this right now, but I promise you it was priceless!”

Of course, I changed Dan’s name here to protect the guilty, but I’d swear on a Cummins diesel turbocharger that the story is true. The charter business has its ups and downs, but it can be damn interesting, at times!

Posted in Humor/Fiction, Uncategorized | Comments Off on CLOSE ENCOUNTERS

NEWS FROM THE 2014 TOWA Conference

This year’s Texas Outdoor Writers Conference is being held in New Braunfels, Texas. It began with a COC meet and greet Thursday night (2/7/2014) at the Gristmill Restaurant in Gruene. Those who have not visited Gruene should really make a point to do so, it is well well worth a trip. Funny thing about Gruene, they pronounce it “green”. Seems like “Groin” would fit that spelling better? Neat place, though.

On Friday the meat of the program began, starting with a report from the Dallas Safari Club during breakfast on the troubles surrounding their recent auction to allow a hunter to take a “nuisance” Black Rhino, proceeds to benefit Rhino conservation. If you have followed this case, you can probably guess the story was about hunter harassment and death threats.

Another speaker talked about water problems, and how the lower Colorado River watershed lost” 50,000 acres of rice land last year due to drought and upstream water diversion – which is generally to blame for very low numbers of geese on the Texas coastal prairies this year.

We were told pronghorn antelope numbers are very low, also due to drought. on the other hand, mountain lion numbers and sightings are up, statewide – also black bear.

The chance to meet with TP&WD Directors usually yields some interesting info. Did you know it is illegal to kill game animals – such as squirrels – with an air rifle or handgun? Do you care? Evidently this rule is left over from the days when air rifles and their projectiles lacked the power to cleanly kill such animals. With modern air guns, this is not the case. There are specialized air rifles capable of killing deer, hogs, and even larger game. (Again, while such a gun might be able to kill a deer, it would only be legal to use on non-game animals in Texas, such as feral hogs and exotics.)

This may change at the next Texas Parks & Wildlife Commissioners meeting, in March. Commissioners are expected to approve allowing Texas hunters to use air rifles of at least .177 caliber with a velocity of 600 fps or higher on small game animals. This might be welcomed especially by those who wish to shoot squirrels in areas where gunfire would not be safe – or welcome.

I have a pellet gun that meets those requirements, and have dispatched raccoon and ‘possums pests with it, so I am sure it would do the job on squirrels.

By the way, even though there is no closed season on squirrels in Brazoria and many other counties, they are still considered game animals, so are not legal air gun targets yet. Rabbits, however are not game animals anywhere in the state.

No word yet on larger air rifles for big game, but if the ruling for small game passes, it would take effect September 1, 2014.

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HOPE FOR THE SAN BERNARD!

This from Jan Edwards, of Friends of The River San Bernard:

Under the federal R.E.S.T.O.R.E. Act, monies from the fines and penalties paid by British Petroleum for the Deepwater Horizon well blowout will be divided among the five Gulf States. Texas stands to get a $2 billion slice of the pie. This money must be used on projects:

Within 25 miles of the coast

Within 25 miles of the coastal zone

Within 25 miles of a tidally influenced section of a stream,bayou, or river.

The San Bernard River mouth dredging falls right in the middle of these requirements, and has been named a top priority for Brazoria County, and is also listed on the NOAA/Texas Sea Grant Hydrological Inventory of Coastal Projects that need funding. With the amount of money potentially available, a jetty or jetty system seems to be not out of the question.

This might be a sort of payback, since the jetties at the mouth of the “old” Brazos River – now the Freeport Harbor entrance – are largely considered responsible for the problems at the San Bernard, as well as beach erosion in Surfside.

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I NEVER GET TIRED OFF…

Pictures of bobcats on my property! When I was in high school, chasing a couple of hounds in the piney woods every free minute I had, a shot at a cat like this would have been a special event. Now, a shot OF a cat like this is maybe more special. I had three such “shots” of what I assume is the same cat this week – which makes it a good week, indeed (so far).

Once I would have thought getting a shot AT this cat would be special, now a "shot" OF it is more special!

Once I would have thought getting a shot AT this cat would be special, now a “shot” OF it is more special!

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WAITING TO INHALE?

If this doe is waiting for the feeder to throw some corn, she's in for a long wait, as it is a gravity feeder - and empty.

If this doe is waiting for the feeder to throw some corn, she’s in for a long wait, as it is a gravity feeder – and empty.

In the past, I filled this feeder with oats, coons didn’t much like them, neither did hogs, but the deer ate them just fine. This year, those varmints decided get more fiber in their diets, and ate ALL the oats as fast as I could fill the feeder – which led me to stop filling it. Since this doe is obviously interested, I think I’ll try it as a protein/mineral feeder. Mostly I have found that hogs and coons don’t eat the protein, but the deer didn’t like it much, either.

Oh, well.

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HOLOGRAPHIC PISTOL SIGHT UPDATE

The Burris Fastfire III mini-holographic sight that is slide-mounted on my 10mm Glock G20 semi-auto pistol is working out great! Pretty easy to sight in, is holding up to the slide “recoil” well, and is a definite accuracy aide. Yesterday I shot it again – from a rest at 25 yards the first shot went center of bullseye. Walking up to around 15 yards and firing offhand made a second hole in the paper touching the first. Only fired 6 rounds – of Remington FMJ ammo – and all of the following shots at 25 yards were unfortunately not as good – probably due to my abilities more than the pistol or the sight, but all were within the “9” ring, and all would have been good shots in the vital area of a hog. A final check shot at a flower pot at 50 yards also went dead center with a direct hold. I think this one is ready to hunt, and should shoot to point of aim from zero to 50 yards, but I do need to check it at 75 and 100 yards, just for grins.

Not as smooth with the .460 Rowland 1911 and the C-More STS sight, though. Shots were considerably higher than point of aim, and the sight felt it had loosened somewhat under the recoil from the Rowland cartridge. While “milder” than a .44 magnum revolver, the Rowland 1911 does come back at you with authority! It was especially noticeable after shooting the 10mm. I plan to take my .44 magnum Ruger Super Blackhawk next trip and compare recoil with it. After I got home I took the sight off the slide mount and re-bedded it, put new Lock-Tite (blue) on the screws, hoping it stays secure – if not, will resume searching for red Lock-Tite! I do not feel that the sight itself has suffered any from the recoil, seems to be up to the task.

The recoil from the Rowland is much more noticeable to me when shooting off a rest. Offhand, it is less apparent. Mainly I feel I just need to shoot it a lot more (tough work, but somebody has to do it!). Will also be ordering some new Starline brass for it, as my fired cases show a “dent” – probably from the extractor – that will keep me from using them for anything but reduced power loads.

On this subject, none of the brass fired from the 10mm exhibited the infamous “Glock Smiles” that are especially common with high pressure loads in the unsupported Glock barrels. I am using the Glock 6″ “Hunter” barrel, and think the 24# recoil spring and stainless recoil rod I went to are helping to keep it in battery. I will still probably not load max or near max loads for the 10mm except in new brass.

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Hunting Hawk?

There is a pair of hawks that live on my woods property that I am quite friendly with. They frequent my feeders hunting for rabbits and squirrels, and in turn alert me when something larger approaches as I sit in a stand.This particular camera often has pictures of parts of squirrel on it taken as they climb past the window – I built the box it’s in to look like a bird house to hopefully disguise it somewhat from trespassers – so I am wondering if the hawk was looking in the window to see if anyone (edible) was home? I should add that there is a “ledge” under the window he appears to be perching on.

This hawk appears to be checking my trail camera box to see if a squirrel is living inside?

This hawk appears to be checking my trail camera box to see if a squirrel is living inside?

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Winter of MY Discontent!

This morning, Thursday, February 13, 2014, is a pretty one – sunshine, almost no measurable wind, and the temperature is nudging towards 50 degrees (F). In many recent years on the upper Texas coast, mid to high 40’s would be considered COLD, but the winter of 2013-2014 has seen several freezes here. In fact, my weather station said 32 at 5:00 AM, when I got up today. There was frost on the ground and on my truck – something as rare here as snow is a bit further north. I am not aware of any fish kills along the Texas coast, but here at the Oyster Creek World Headquarters of Mikes Texas Hunt-Fish several nights dipped into the mid to high 20’s for lows. Luckily, temps did not stay that cold for more than a few hours, and the extreme – for here – cold snaps did not hit us really fast, so marine life possibly had time to detect the change and move to deeper water or the shelter of a mud bank.

This has also been a fairly wet winter, at least when compared to the recent drought seasons. These weather fluctuations are not uncommon to Texas residents, and should be beneficial to fish and wildlife in the near future.I doubt we had enough freezing time to do much to the skeeter population, or to some of the plant species we really don’t consider necessary – but every little bit helps.

As I have recorded here previously, my own deer season did not go real well, but in retrospect I continued to learn about these animals and their habits, and hope this added knowledge will make a difference next year.

Not being a big fan of cold, wet weather, I have spent much time in the past couple of weeks remodeling my office area, better organizing my reloading “bench”, and otherwise attempting to improve my writing environment. We will be traveling to New Braunfels towards the end of this month for the annual Texas Outdoor Writers Association conference, which is a good excuse to see more of the lovely Texas countryside beyond my normal haunts. With warmer weather and perhaps not as much rain or wind, I will be shooting my semi-auto hunting pistols enough to get them well sighted-in with the mini-holographic “red dot” optics. I have pigs to kill, both to stop them from interfering so much with my deer hunting efforts, and to fill our new freezer with ribs, hams, shoulders for pulled pork, and sausage meat (the backstraps rarely last long enough to go in the freezer). Need to try out and enjoy the new chimney pipe I installed on the old Ben Franklin wood stove in our cabin, but other than that, I am ready for spring!

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