From my ledger in 1987. Saturday, May 30. Teacher workday. Drove my school bus to the bus shed to park it for the summer. We could leave as soon as we finished turning in grades and reports. I finished at 10:30 and Jean came to pick me up. To Charleston to check trotlines. One was hung and I stood up in the middle of the boat pulling real hard. The line came loose and I fell back, hitting the back of my right arm just above my elbow on the back seat. Thought it was broke but finally quit hurting. Drove to the Templeton place and dug a lot of worms. Home and to high school graduation. Later that night took the worms and fished at Akard Slough a hundred yards up river from Bluff Bank. River high enough that water is backed up in it. No current in the slough. Had a Coleman lantern and my coon hunting headlight to see by. Got three rods set out at 11:15 p.m. Thirty minutes later I was untangling an old throw line so I could bait it out when from the corner of my eye I could see one of the corks heading out to the swift water in the river. Several gar had been surfacing nearby so I thought it was one of them. I picked up the rod and started reeling the new Zebco 33. Immediately I could tell it was a pretty big fish. The line wasn’t strong enough to “hoss” the fish. Planning on fighting it carefully for a good while I looked at my watch and it was 11:40.
The drag was set so the fish could strip out line instead of breaking it when he made a run. He would strip off some line and I would carefully reel him back closer. After I turned him back from the swift water in the river a time or two he decided to go up the slough, passing my other lines on the way. As he came back close to me he made a hard run, bending my rod double. Before I could give him any slack the line broke up above my cork which was slowly going under. I thought about jumping in and grabbing the line. For a while I stood there mad at myself for not “playing” the fish better. Then it hit me he had been up the slough by my other lines. Maybe the line was tangled around one of the others. I picked up one of the rods and started reeling the Garcia 5000. The fish was tangled in that line and I still had a chance to catch him. I walked along the bank a ways and found a sloping place where I might get him out easier. The drag was set light so he wouldn’t break it again. Gradually he tired and came in closer and closer. When a few feet from me I pinched the line between thumb and finger so he would pull it out if he made another run. He did jerk the line out of my hand and I went back to the rod again. Soon the fish was so tired it came to the edge of the water and I got my hand in its mouth. I had “fought” the fish for twenty minutes. It was a 22 pound flathead catfish, my biggest to date on a rod and reel.
Previous biggest had been a 16 pounder caught two years ago in the same spot. After fishing until 3:00 a.m. and only catching one or two small catfish I headed home. Home at 3:20 a.m. and woke Jean up. Had her to get the video camera ready. Back outside and put the fish on my back. Walked in the door while she filmed. She mumbled something about waking people up all hours of the night and went back to bed. I cleaned the fish on a pecan tree limb on the east side of the house. Got to bed at 5:10 a.m. Saturday, June 20, 1987. Nephew Rodney came to our house at 5:00 a.m. and we drove to Red River north of Bonham to launch a boat. Jean was with us so she could take the pickup back home. Listened to blues music on a cassette tape on the way to the river. B.B. King, Bobby Blue Bland, and Muddy Waters.
On the water and rolling at 7:25. By using maps of Fannin and Lamar Counties we could tell where we were. The river was high so we mostly floated but at times would idle along using a four horsepower Evinrude motor. At the first bend west of Duplex we started seeing white pelicans, the first I’d ever seen.
Over fifty of them. Also seen were snowy egrets, little blue herons, least terns, and bank swallows. At 8:25 we were north of the Tulip Community. The river was so high it was going out in pastures in some places. Steep banks were caving off, making loud noises as they hit the water. At 10:00 we could see
houses on the Texas side. A woman was out in the yard and I hollered to ask if we were north of the Elwood Community like it looked like according to the map. She said we were. Next week—Fighting brahma bulls on the bank.
That 22 pounder mentioned above don’t sound too big now that we have people catching 60-70 pounders at the spillway and in the lake but back then it was a pretty good catch. As I write this Friday, the catfishing has slowed somewhat at the spillway but crappie are really turning on. Wesley Houchins, Matt Ingram, and Trenton Jones had a big stringer of crappie Thursday afternoon that they caught downriver from the spillway.
I wonder if clouds ever look down and say, “Hey look. That one is shaped just like an idiot.” Silence is golden—unless you have a puppy. Then silence is suspicious, very, very suspicious. Four out of three people have trouble with math.