I can think of at least three versions of that song, but none of them make that appeal for the same reason I do. After a month of mind-clogging reports and discussion everywhere I turned of leaking crude oil, tar balls, oily wildlife, threatened livelihoods, and far-reaching negative impacts with no end in sight, the need for a BP FREE ZONE became evident.
It was Memorial Day weekend, which typically sets things abuzz here at the local marinas round about the Thursday before, with hundreds of sport fishermen launching in anticipation of the Houma Oilman’s Rodeo. However, this year, due to the oil gusher, yet one more iconic event was canceled, making the list of cancellations about as long as my arm and all faces hanging about as low as my knees.
My long holiday weekend started that Thursday with a very good vibe during the wetland tour with the Dutch Doctors, leading to my proclamation of a “BP FREE HOLIDAY”. With that thought in mind, I removed myself from every discussion that had anything to do with the oily mess, didn’t listen to the radio, didn’t watch TV news, or read the news. Seriously. That was the only way I could get away from the disaster.
It was imperative for my own well being, because there is still no sign of the oil within my tour boundaries as of this writing. So, would judgmental folks prefer me to sit inside, sinking deeper into depression over that which I have no control; or would I rather jump in my boat and let the yet untouched water and wetlands chase away those oily demons for me?
So, early Friday morning, as I sat drinking my coffee and reading Fruitless Fall (sent to me by the author–I’m famous you know!), a thought rudely interrupted my reading,
“Why are you sitting here on such a gorgeous morning? It’s almost June, and do you remember what the red fishing was like last June? Hm? Do you? Just because the fishing rodeos are canceled, doesn’t mean you can’t fish.”
And I stopped reading, because yes, I do remember. I remember it well, so well that before I could make the conscious decision to go fishing, the book was lying on the coffee table, and my body was headed out the door. Within fifteen minutes, I was on my boat, headed toward that same honey hole. It didn’t matter to me that it was already 7:30. The fish were calling me, and I knew right where to go.
There were no other boats in sight–the cancellation of the rodeo was their loss and my gain–so I moved right into my spot. About thirty yards away from the spot, I slowed the motor to barely an idle so that I could observe the fishiness of the water and check the wind direction. All systems were go, so I drifted in with the Cajun anchor in hand, knowing that I would throw it down into the water just past the starboard bow. That would keep the boat positioned allowing me to cast along the left and right, luring the reds and bass out from the under the lily pads, and then 180 degrees around the sides and stern of the boat.
Schools of minnows swirled innocently in the falling tide, weaving in and out amongst schools of mullet. As I observed their behaviors, I wondered how they could all come to the same spot to eat breakfast and also become breakfast at the same time. While wondering, I mindlessly made my first cast into the fishy water. No bite.
It was already 7:45, but if memory served, the reds kept banker’s hours last June and didn’t show up to eat until around 8 or 9, so maybe that would be the case today. Second cast of the H&H gold spoon and WHAM! And then whir, as the voracious red peeled the line off the reel.
“Yea, baby! They’re here!!!!!” my voice bounced off the bank and echoed around the cove.
That red felt like a monster as it raced first to the stern of the boat and back to the bow again. My Berkley rod held its own and bent beautifully under the weight of my catch. I grabbed the net on one of the passes from the bow to the stern and simultaneously opened the side gate, holding the fish steady with my strong left hand and arm. Fishing alone last June, I learned that the pontoon boat is too high off the water to hoist a big fish up onto the deck without breaking the tip of the rod or losing the fish.
After netting the fish, I quickly grabbed my camera and snapped the photo of the first red of the summer, tossed it into the box without measuring it-obviously over sixteen inches long–and cast the gold spoon out into the teeming water again.
ZIP! Another red, bigger than the first. The bite was definitely ON! The action was smoking.
With an average of one fish caught every five minutes, I had five keeper reds and three keeper bass in the box in less than an hour. For the next few minutes, I played catch and release with the reds, as the legal limit is only five. Right at one hour of fishing, the tide came to a standstill, and the fish stopped biting.
There were no more minnows swirling, no more mullet leaping, and no more bass and reds bullying their way through the middle of the fray.
Breakfast was over. Just like that.
I read a book. I had a thought. I acted upon that thought. My thought led me right. The fish did not disappoint.
My morning was euphoric, the rest of which was spent recording unfamiliar bird calls and other interesting marsh sounds with my voice recorder. My intention was to transfer them to this computer and make an audio file so that you could enjoy the sounds, too, but it does not come with transfer options. That means, I have to buy a more expensive one; and oh by the way, my birthday is next month.
About an hour later, with the temperature rising rapidly, I turned off the recorder, cranked up the engine and said goodbye to the lazy gar that kept me company rolling the surface here and there around the boat. I vowed aloud to be back soon to do the whole morning over again. During my trip, all that mattered, was soaking up as much of the beautiful marsh of southern Terrebonne Parish and its creatures as I could, while I could.
And I’m very glad I did.
Soaking up the sunshine and living life in the Louisiana wetlands,
PS: Once again, I am so thankful for a life in the Louisiana wetlands, and a way to make a living sharing the majesty here with others. Even though the oil leak is a very bad thing, I encourage all of you to go see the beauty while you can. Take a ride. Go see that old friend down the bayou whom you haven’ t seen in years. Take a Saturday or Sunday drive and appreciate what we have, while we still have it, and I promise you will be glad you did.