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Cutbait or Fish
Wednesday, May 13, 2009 • Posted May 13, 2009

My wife and I recently spent a weekend in Rockport, Texas, which is very similar to regular Texas, except it’s damper and windier, and smells like fish. There is a very good reason for this, but I can’t remember what it is.

We go to Rockport as often as we can, which is not really all that often. We go so that, when I run into friends who also go to Rockport, we can talk about it. I know lots of people who go down there, and come back with stories about catching lots of fish, such as reds and specs and sheepsheads and such. Usually we don’t catch a lot of fish, for some reason, so I tell my friends they weren’t biting. Which is true, but that’s mostly because we like to go kayak fishing without a guide, and we don’t know what we’re doing.

The thing to do if you want to go fishing in Rockport is engage a guide. You might think that’s a waste of money, especially if you own a boat, but it’s not. Especially if you’re like me, and you get lost as soon as you leave the dock. Plus the guides know where the fish are, which is very important if you want to catch any.

I always assumed the fish were everywhere, but that is evidently not the case. There’s water all over the place down there, and the fish can go anywhere in the water, so it stands to reason that just about anywhere you decide to fish you would have a pretty good chance of catching something. If you believe that, you are, as they say in Rockport, dumber than a wet anchor. At least, I say that when I’m in Rockport.

No, the fish stay in certain spots, for some reason. And the guides know where they are, pretty much. The problem with fishing with guides is that they expect you to get busy and cast and jerk your pole around and entice the fish. That’s a lot of work, and although I admit it’s usually successful, my idea of fishing has always been to just sort of kick back and relax. I throw the bait out there and let it sink, and then I lay back and wait for something to happen. What usually happens is I go to sleep, which is kind of the goal, anyway. Sometimes I forget to put the bait on the hook, in which case I get to sleep longer.

On this trip I decided to fish with live bait. My wife and I, and our friends, John and Vicky Jefferson, planned to ride out with Captain Tommy Moore on his birding boat, The Skimmer, and he was going to drop us off among some islands, in kayaks, and come back for us in three or four hours. Right next to Captain Tommy’s dock slip is a bait shop, so I went in there to buy some croakers to use for bait.

But they were out of croakers, so I bought some perch instead. The lady put them in a bucket of water for me, and I was all set. But then, when we got out to the islands, and Captain Tommy put us out in our kayaks, and I got ready to fish, I opened the bucket and my perch were all belly up. Live bait fishing works best when the bait is alive.

I decided to try dead bait fishing, instead. But they don’t call it ‘dead bait fishing,’ because that sounds, I don’t know, morbid, or something. They call it cutbait fishing. So I cut my dead perch up and tried cutbait fishing.

Now, later that evening, while we were eating supper at the Boiling Pot, we talked to some folks who had spent the day fishing with cutbait. Between three of them they had caught, supposedly, at least 60 reds, although only a few of them were big enough to keep. So, obviously, the fish were biting cutbait. Only they weren’t biting my cutbait. Nothing was biting my cutbait. I never got a nibble the whole time I was out there. There were fish, I know, because I saw them swimming around in the water, but they ignored my cutbait like it was something disgusting. Which of course it was. Let’s face it, chopped up perch is pretty revolting. But fish are supposed to like it.

Well, they didn’t like mine.

I didn’t really care. I had a nice, long nap in my kayak, and then spent the afternoon in our room at the Pelican Bay Resort taking another nice, long nap. You have to do that, to make up for getting up way too early to go fishing. It’s the law.

We may not have caught any fish, but I’ve figured out why. It’s my old rod and reel. Next time I think I’ll get a new one . . .

Kendal Hemphill is an outdoor humor columnist and public speaker who never catches fish, but always manages to obtain an impressive sunburn. Write to him at PO Box 1600, Mason, Tx 76856 or jeep@verizon.net

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