by Berry C. Williams
One Saturday afternoon in September, one of my best fishing buddies and I went out in my new 14-foot Barbour with a new 15 HP Buccaneer motor. We were determined to catch red fish or “channel bass,” as they are sometimes called. We made our way about 6 miles northwest of Punta Rassa up San Carlos Bay past the power lines to Duffey’s Creek where one can get excellent catches. We chose the upper entrance to Duffey’s Creek where the water is deeper and fished the mangrove banks on our right. Finding nothing, we crossed the sand flats and entered the narrower creek lined on both sides with mangroves. At the end of the creek were a deep hole and a fine oyster bar. When we got within 100 yards of the hole, I cut the motor and glided to within casting distance, stealthily set out the anchor and tied up.
Because red fish are wary fish, one has to be quiet when fishing for them. A dropped oar or banged bucket will send them scattering. For my money, though, the red is the finest fish to be caught in these waters. Actually, it is a red sea bass and can be caught by trolling or casting, on any tide—high or low, incoming or outgoing. Reds will take spoons, plugs or live bait. I prefer fishing for them with live shrimp, fiddler crabs or small pinfish. Their favorite haunts are oyster bars, sandy or shelly bays and piers.
The place we’d chosen was ideal, with a good ripple on the water, and the tide was incoming, giving more depth to our fishing hole. I made the first cast and was rewarded with a 4-pound red, which I got quietly into the boat without a net and into the fish box without dropping him on the deck. Frank next came in with one larger than mine and we gleefully set about to make a record haul. We had gotten three more reds when into our quiet and teeming creek plowed a typical “outing” boat. I have no objection to the bona fide fishermen and am willing to share my fishing holes with them. But I do object to these “outing” boats that come out on weekends loaded down with beer and half-clad women draped on the bow. The boat that roared into our creek was amply supplied with both.
The boat roared past us and slammed on the brakes right over our fishing hole. Thinking “hell fire and damnation,” Frank and I reeled our lines in. We knew our squatters wouldn’t get the smell of a bite the way they were fishing and would probably follow us to our next spot, so as I left the creek, I angled to the left toward a sand bar. I told Frank to raise the motor so it would clear the bar and we glided across. I then gave the boat full throttle. In 2 or 3 minutes, here they came, full speed ahead. To our immense satisfaction, the propeller of their boat hit the bar full force. Frank and I roared merrily on.
Approaching the north end of Chino, we crossed a grass flat and I had to stop and lift the motor to clean the grass off the propeller blades. That’s when I noticed indications of trout over the grass bed. We eased the anchor over, rigged trout lines, put on floats, and started casting. Although neither Frank nor I particularly cared about fishing for trout, we hit the jackpot that day on some of the finest spotted trout I have ever seen. We could cast in any direction and come in with one. We caught so many, our bait began to run low. We started pinching our shrimp in half, but that didn’t diminish the number of fish we were catching. When we had only 25 or 30 shrimp left, Frank suggested we cut the shrimp into tiny pieces and see how many we could catch on one shrimp. Frank cut one shrimp into three pieces and caught nine trout. He’d pull the trout in without losing the bait and use the same bait again.
But now, our fish box was overflowing, our ice was gone, and in the hot sun, the fish were dying. Trout won’t last long unless they’re on ice, so Frank and I had to take our red fish and our eighty-eight nice trout on into Punta Rassa.
It was certainly a day to be remembered, a day Frank and I have lived over together many times since.
Berry with red fish catch at Punta Rassa, 1957