Fishin’ Fools

When a guide agrees to take a group fishing, he’s never entirely sure what kind of knuckleheads he’ll share a boat with.

Crazy things often happen when anglers spend time on the water, and fishing guides become spectators at the comedy club of recreational fishing. In these true stories from the annals of some outstanding fishing guides, Louisiana Sportsman has changed some of the names to protect the guilty.

My stupid brother

Once as a guide and I fished around a bank, about 100 yards in front of us, two anglers fished the mouth of a creek. While we continued to cast, retrieve and move closer to the two anglers, the man in the front of the boat set the hook on a very big bass that then wallowed on the surface. Almost too big to jump, the bass had to weigh more than 10 pounds.

“Get the net, get the net,” the fisherman on the front of the boat screamed to the guy in the back of the boat.

The angler in the rear laid his rod down, picked up the dip net and moved in close to the other fisherman with his bowed rod, weighed down with the heavy bass.

As the fisherman brought the big bass to the edge of the boat, the angler with the net attempted to land the bass. However, instead of putting the big bass in the net, the fisherman mistakenly hit the fish with the leading edge of the net, giving that big sow bass a push point so that it broke the line and freed itself to fight another day.

When the angler who had hooked the bass saw his line drop limp in the water, his rod straighten, and the trophy bass of a lifetime escape, he screamed, “You stupid idiot! You hit the bass with the net and made me lose the biggest bass I ever hooked.”

At that moment, the man who had caught the trophy bass dropped his rod and hit his buddy, who still held the empty net, hard on the cheek with a vicious right hook. The impact caused the angler to drop the net and fall to his knees.

But the net man stayed down only for an instant and then came up swinging. Quickly, the two fishermen engaged in a brutal fist fight.

My guide put his trolling motor on full throttle, got to the fight as quickly as possible and broke the two men apart, saying, “Hey guys, break it up. Y’all don’t need to be fighting over a fish that got away. There’s plenty more in the lake. Come on, settle down.”

The two men moved to either end of the boat. The angler who had caught the big bass and started the fight said, “I just can’t believe my brother is so stupid that he couldn’t get the bass in the net and knocked the biggest bass off the line that I’d always dreamed of catching.”

I couldn’t believe my ears, and neither could my guide.

“You mean you two guys are brothers?” he asked.

“Yeah,” the attacker said. “I wouldn’t hit somebody like that if I didn’t know him.”

We all laughed. The two brothers made up and resumed their fishing as we motored away.

A lost cell phone

“I clip my cell phone onto the windshield of my boat,” said Anthony Randazzo of Belle Chasse, owner of Paradise Plus Guide Service. “Then if the phone rings, I can quickly pick it up and answer it. I don’t have to worry about my phone falling off my belt into the water, or it getting lost in the boat. The phone’s always handy, easily accessible and safe from the salt water, or at least that’s what I thought.

“On one fishing trip, my group found a school of speckled trout that were really biting actively. We were attempting to keep our baits in the water to catch as many trout as we could before the school moved. But one of my customers, in his excitement to cast back to the school, didn’t watch his jig as he started to back cast. When the angler brought the rod forward, the hook on the jig went into the case of my cell phone and snatched the cell phone off the console as the fisherman made one of the longest casts I’d ever seen.

“When the cell phone and the lure hit the water, the hook disengaged. My cell phone sank to the bottom. Although my customer was momentarily speechless, he finally said to me, ‘I can’t believe you’d hook your cell phone to the console.’ I told him I’d put the phone there so it wouldn’t fall or drop in the water. ‘But, I wasn’t counting on you hooking the phone and casting it out to the speckled trout.’”

Birdie, birdie in the sky

“I saw this happen and still didn’t believe it,” Randazzo mentions further. “We were fishing for speckled trout under diving seagulls. When one of my clients made a backward cast with his jig, before his jig hit the water, a seagull grabbed it and held it in its beak.

“Carrying the angler’s jig, the seagull flew back over our boat and then dropped the jig. The instant the jig hit the water, a speckled trout attacked it. My customer set the hook and caught a 4-pound trout. My group and I sat there, astonished.

“That catch had to qualify as one of the strangest things I’d ever witnessed on the water.”

Popcorn trout

I can’t think of anything worse than finding a school of speckled trout working under birds and having some yahoo run right into the school and spook both the fish and the birds.

Generally this will occur on weekends because numbers of inexperienced anglers don’t understand that they more easily can catch trout or redfish under working birds by positioning their boats upwind or upcurrent and then drifting within casting distance of the school.

To solve this problem, I’ve seen guides on Calcasieu Lake carry bags of popcorn in their boats. When some of that popcorn gets accidentally blown out of the boat, almost instantly, gulls will appear and start diving on the popcorn.

Once anglers see those birds working that popcorn, often they’ll crank their engines, run to the birds and spend 35 minutes to an hour fishing under the birds feeding on popcorn.

During that time, the guide and his party will find another school of birds working over trout and start catching those fish, while the inexperienced anglers will cast and retrieve to the birds working the popcorn.

I’ve seen other guides use potato chips to create a bird-feeding frenzy and decoy unsuspecting anglers away from birds working trout. No one will admit to participating in a dastardly deed like this; it just seems to happen from time to time.

Slick trout

To find and catch speckled trout consistently, fish slicks. When you spot an oily slick on the surface of the water, it’s usually created by predator fish like speckled trout and redfish that attack, kill and eat baitfish. The oil from the dead baitfish rises to the surface and shows keen-eyed fishermen where to find the feeding trout.

“Every day I go fishing, I eat a pack of sardines and crackers,” said Capt. Jeff Poe, one of the owners of Big Lake Guide Service in Lake Charles. “When I open my olive oil-packed sardines, I pour out the olive oil and start eating the sardines with the crackers. The olive oil leaves an oil slick on the water. I’ve had other fishermen pass by my boat, see that slick that’s drifted 10 to 15 yards away from my boat, quickly make a circle, get upwind of that olive-oil slick and start casting to it. I just chuckle and keep on fishing.”

Instinct overrides reason

“Several years ago, I had a party fishing at the jetties,” Poe remembers. “We were having a great day of fishing and catching plenty of nice trout. My customers’ hands had gotten slimy from taking the speckled trout off their hooks and putting them in the cooler.

“One of my clients, an older gentleman, hooked a big trout, as I stood right beside him. As soon as the trout hit, the fish jerked the rod out of my customer’s hand. I instantly dove in to get it.

“I had my billfold, car keys and everything you’d normally carry in your pocket in my pants when I dove in the water to retrieve my client’s rod. I remember that the water was really cold, but because I was heavier than the rod and dove right on top of it, I was able to grab the rod before it got to the bottom. Then I swam to the surface and returned the rod to my customer.

“Luckily, the fish was still on the rod. As I climbed back in the boat, dripping wet and freezing cold, my customer reeled in about a 5-pound speckled trout. I got the net, dipped the big trout, brought it to the boat, unhooked the fish, showed it to my customer and put the trout in the ice chest.

“Shivering constantly until we returned to the dock, I couldn’t believe I’d jumped in the water out in the jetties without even thinking. My customer thanked me after I cleaned his fish. However, he didn’t tip me for the trip or the fish cleaning.

“I decided I wouldn’t dive in cold water for rods anymore.”

Just stand up

According to the guides I’ve talked with, people seem to regularly fall out of boats when they go fishing.

On one particular trip with Poe, an elderly customer attempted to set the hook on a big fish before falling out of the boat.

“The man was splashing, kicking and hollering, and I really was afraid he was going to drown,” Poe remembers. “This time, I pulled my billfold and keys out of my pocket and dropped them in the bottom of the boat. But just before I dove in to save my customer, he stopped thrashing and somehow stood up. The water was only about waist-deep. Was I ever glad I hadn’t jumped in with the water that shallow!

“A year or two later, I was fishing a cut off the ship channel. The bottom dropped off really deep, and in the winter months, you could catch speckled trout and redfish along that drop.

“For some unknown reason, I still don’t know why, I fell out of the boat. The water was icy cold, and I panicked. While I fought to swim and stay afloat, my customers in the boat were really getting upset and concerned about me. Actually I was becoming concerned about me, too.

“Finally, I felt my foot touch something soft, and I leaned forward. That’s when I realized I was standing in only about 3 feet of water, and remembered my customer who had fallen out the boat a few years earlier.

“I told myself, ‘Stupid, stand up.’”

Not that kind of potty

Capt. Mary Poe of Big Lake Guide Service fishes over 200 days a year, and often guides lady anglers.

“I always carry a 5-gallon bucket in the back of my boat, so if ladies have to go to the potty, they can use the bucket,” she said. “I stand on the front of the boat and operate the trolling motor and the anchor. When someone says, ‘I have to go to the potty,’ I’m always eyes forward.

“On this particular day, I had some guys out fishing, who were laughing, giggling and having a great time. About mid-day, one of them said he had to go to the potty. Usually, a man would go to the back of the boat, go to the bathroom and keep on fishing. So I didn’t think anything unusual had happened. We all kept on fishing.

“About 20 minutes later, I pulled up the anchor and trolling motor, walked back to the console, cranked the engine and went to find another school of fish. When we arrived at the spot I wanted to fish, I put the anchor down. We all started to cast and retrieve.

“Soon, everyone started complaining about a foul odor in the boat. ‘Capt. Mary, you must have let some fish die in this boat,’ some of the men said. ‘It smells terrible.’ About that time, I noticed just how foul the smell was, but I couldn’t decide from which direction it was coming.

“The weather was unbelievably hot, and the longer we fished, the stronger and worse the odor became. I started wondering if perhaps a dead fish had drifted up beside the boat and gotten hung-up somehow. But I couldn’t spot a fish. Then I thought perhaps one of the guys had thrown up and not told me; however, I didn’t see any signs of vomit.

“Finally, I left the front of the boat, went to the back of the boat and then looked in the 5-gallon bucket that I carried for the ladies to use. I saw a clean paper towel on top of something. Well, you guessed it. When I removed the towel, I saw that one of my men customers had done No. 2 in my bucket.

“I laughed and then asked, ‘OK, who’s the culprit?’ No one would admit to the dirty deed. When we stopped at our next fishing spot, I noticed that the foul smell had subsided. After catching several fish at that site, I went back to the console to crank the engine to move the boat. Mysteriously, the bucket and its contents were nowhere to be found.

“I never learned what happened to that bucket, but I’ll never forget that day.”

The cabbage ladies

“We had two groups of ladies who chartered with us to fish,” Mary Poe recalls. “These ladies were extremely competitive, and had divided themselves into two teams — the pink team and the purple team. Each team had either pink or purple T-shirts and shorts or pants to match.

“A war was going on to see which team would catch the most and the biggest fish. I had the purple team, and noticed that the ladies fishing with me all had big shopping bags. I assumed they had lunches, soft-sided coolers and all the stuff ladies bring fishing with them in those bags.

“But was I ever wrong!

“Each lady had a towel on top of her shopping bag. We’d been fishing for a couple of hours, and my purple-team ladies were having a good time and catching fish. In a little while, a boat with the pink ladies team came by our boat.

“Without hesitation, my purple team members snatched the towels off the tops of their shopping bags grabbed whole purple cabbages from the bags and threw them at the pink team. I almost fell on the floor laughing. I never before had seen fishermen throw cabbages at each other.”

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