Instead of celebrating being single, I wanted to celebrate being married with my friends.
My best man from my wedding, Curtis, got permission to use his uncle's camp on the first road in Grand Isle. All year long I had been looking forward to this trip, but unfortunately the week before the trip when rigging up the boat I had a horrible accident.
In a haste to finish hooking up my new Humminbird side-imaging depth finder before work, my accident-prone self reached into the battery box wrong. My wrench touched both terminals for a split second.
The jolt of a quick spark was not an issue until my ring started sizzling on my finger. My polished tungsten wedding band was now blackened, blemished and searing my flesh at several thousand degrees.
Unable to pry it off due to a tight fit, I stuck my hand in the freezer and prayed. Before the swelling got too bad I was barely able to rip it off, but the damage was done.
I was permanently branded with a wedding brand.
The deep second- to third-degree burns fried most of my nerves and blood vessels, turning the finger white. Even worse, I'm left handed.
Probably needing, but not wanting, a skin graft, I attempted to heal the hand naturally and opted for no surgery. After a week, the finger still had near zero use and low mobility, with a color still mostly white to yellow.
The doctor said it it turns black or gets infected I may lose the finger, but grim news doesn't get me down.
Fishing and working out with my hand would be the last thing most people would consider, but I'm not most. After working out everyday since, including an hour after the incident, and buying every type of waterproof glove and bandage I could find, I was going on my fishing trip no matter what.
The hand therapist said to keep moving my finger each hour, each day. My interpretation: "Cranking in big bullreds and trout was just the type of therapy my finger needed."
We arrived Friday evening to fish. I'm usually the kind of guy who leaves the dock in predawn darkness and returns to the launch after sunset. Except, with a badly burned finger to tend to, I decided to fish like a normal person for a change, scratching my hardcore desire to catch every fish in the sea.
The conditions were very windy Friday and Saturday. We scouted all new spots in the bays those first two days, fishing with only artificial lures and catching a few small trout at most spots. Yet none of these locations produced loads of fish or any lunker trout.
In the attempts to avoid the wind, we caught a few trout on topwater and chased after small reds and flounder in the shallows of the marsh.
Wanting to catch something big, I went to my favorite rig midday Saturday. We hooked up with several bullreds using 6-inch live mullets. Each cast had a big bull hit within a couple minutes.
The only problem was with our light trout tackle — these reds loved pulling us into barnacle-laden pilings. I was able to pull one out with my 20-pound-test fluorocarbon leader to grill on the BBQ pit.
Saturday night, the guys went out drinking and having a good time on the island, but I stayed in the camp alone to watc the playoff basketball game. As a non-partier, rigging lures for the next day's trip while watching sports with a protein shake instead of an adult beverage in my hand is my idea of a good time.
Curtis wisely came in earlier than the rest to sleep.
The next morning, Curtis and I awoke well-rested in darkness to dead-calm conditions. It was time to really get on the fish.
The other guys were snoring away as we laughed on the way out.
We bought 50 croakers, and then launched out of Fourchon. The topwater bite was far from spectacular, but the few hookups were fun.
Fishing with Vudu shrimp under corks landed us a few smaller trout, too.
Then we decided head out 20 miles toward my favorite rig in West Timbalier to test out our croakers on my secret suspension rigs. Instantly, we started hooking up with nice 16- to 20-inch trout on every cast.
Then, I saw my hungover brother, accompanied by Ren and Jory, showing up to the spot, too. Zack read my mind on where I headed, knowing that with good conditions that our Cocodrie home turf would produce.
With ominous clouds on the horizon and wanting to scout new area, Curtis and I headed to some rigs to attempt to finish off our limit closer to the launch.
We started hammering the trout one after another, but a black sky and roars of thunder convinced us to leave them biting for another day.
My brand-new 75-horsepower Yamaha was nearing its 10-hour break-in point, but I never ran it hard until that moment. It was time to truly break that motor in.
Thank heavens I repowered my boat, which now runs over 40 mph — the old 60-horsepower it could only hit 27 mph with a loaded boat. Every second on that full-throttle run in was needed, as 40-mph wind guss and sideways rain hit us just as we entered the canals from the open water.
Though once we got to the launch, the good feeling from outrunning the wrath of this storm subsided as I noticed my brother's boat trailer was still boatless.
Zack had arrived to fish around 8 a.m., just as the clouds began to develop northward, but the 10- to 30-percent rain forecast didn't scare him because they started hooking into big trout and redfish on croakers at each of the two rigs they fished.
Little did he know the showers developing were far from scattered and approaching in all directions.
On the first day of Zack's party last year, we all toughed out the roughest seas I had ever experienced in Lake Pelto, under small-craft advisories and 25-mph winds. I thought that was the roughest water Zack or I would ever see again. Those 4- to 5-foot seas were no comparison to what was headed my brother's way.
Zack — who only had been able to fish for one hour — tried coming in, but the storm's initial temperature-dropping wind field put an end to that plan. They anchored behind a tiny island. He was stuck with more than 10 miles of the cross-chopped 5-foot-plus seas of an angry Timbalier Bay between him and the launch.
With no rain gear and a solid green, yellow and red radar screen on their phone across the entire coastal portion of the state, Zack and Ren did something they hadn't done since they were kids: They busted out the big, orange lifejackets.
Plowing in at under 2,500 rpms and 8 mph with his nose as high as possible, the waves not only crashed over the bow of the boat but the sides as well.
I knew my brother could handle dangerous seas, but I was really worried about my friend Jory, who wasn't an everyday angler. He had not seen much rough water, though he had made a few choppy trips with me before. I didn't want him to have a terrifying time.
Come to find out Jory thought the trip across Timablier Bay was one of the coolest fishing experiences ever. Jory, who travels on yearlong mission trips around the world to help build houses with his church, is an adventure junkie like myself.
Afterward he told me he had once ridden out a Category 2 hurricane in a tent along Mexico's southern coast. Jory asked for me to take him back fishing, preferably in even rougher conditions, whereas Zack and Ren, who aren't such crazy nuts, don't care to see a wave larger than a ripple ever again.
Luckily everyone made it back safely, and we headed home to clean a nice mess of fish.
My burned finger survived all the fishing without any problems, as I was careful to keep it dry and clean the entire time. It is still far from healed, and over half the wound is still white, but plans of frogging this coming weekend are already in motion.
Even though Zack and my fishing trips were to celebrate our marriages, we plan on making these bachelor-style fishing weekends an annual event so all the guys can get some quality fishing time in. Since we always bring home plenty of fresh fillets to cook up, I'm sure our beautiful wives will gladly let us go — as long as they check the weather forecast first.
Click here to read the story about my brother's bachelor fishing trip.