Just over two weeks ago, three of us were sitting in a boat on the waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The fellows who were with me were Gary Taylor from Rhinelander and “The Osseo Jinx,” Tom Twesme. We had spent several weeks on the waters of the Gulf fishing for red drum and salt-water sheepshead.
During the many years I have spent trying to catch fish that put up a good battle, I had been told to fish for salt water fish. Thus we have spent some time during the past four years searching for a fish that would put a good bend in our rods.
This year we spent a month near Port Aransas, Texas searching for a fish that would live up to its reputation as a fighter. The target fish were saltwater sheepshead. They come in toward the rock jetties. A jetty is a long man-made rock breakwater that attracts sheepshead during their spawning process.
As mentioned earlier, the three of us were looking forward to catching some fish that were more than 15 inches which is the minimum legal size. Tom set the hook when he felt a fish pick up his shrimp. It seems that almost all the fish along the jetties feed on shrimp, thus we were using them for bait. When Tom set the hook his rod bent almost double and the fight was on. After a good fight, Gary slipped the net under the fish and Tom began to remove the hook. Sheepshead have a very hard mouth and most of the time a pliers is needed to remove the hook.
After Tom had the hook removed, he took the sheepshead and walked around the center counsel toward the rear of the boat. He got caught in one of the rods standing in the center counsel and stopped to remove the hook from his jacket. We were fishing in the ship channel and as Tom was removing the hook a large ship was passing our boat sending out a large wake that caused the boat to rock quite severely. My back was toward Tom when I heard a noise behind me followed by a loud splash. I spun around and there was Tom in the water with his head being held up by his yellow life preserver.
To answer the question that has often been asked: the fish landed in the bottom of the boat.
Although Gary’s boat had a ladder on the back, Tom needed assistance to get into the boat wearing his heavy water-soaked clothes and shoes. Gary reached for Tom, grabbed him by the collar of his jacket and pulled him into the boat.
The life preserver Tom was wearing was a Coast Guard approved, inflatable life preserver that automatically inflated on contact with the water. We were very impressed with the performance of that life preserver that brought Tom to the surface immediately after he went into the water.
All three of us were wearing this type of life preserver and had agreed that they are very comfortable and we hardly knew we had them on. Tom’s life preserver had been a recent purchase when we arrived in Texas after being strongly encouraged by his wife to buy it.
We had noticed, even before Tom’s “swim” that many of the fishermen, border patrol and coast guard personnel in that area were wearing them. Several of those life preservers have been purchased as a result of Tom’s adventure. We all agree that the self-inflating life preservers are definitely worth the purchase price.
This year we caught fewer fish than we had last year. The Gulf Coast had experienced a cooler than usual winter and we believe that the cool water temperature was the cause of the relatively slow fishing. Fishing did improve as the weather warmed and we caught our limit of sheepshead one day.
With my limited experience I would agree that salt-water fish actually do fight harder than fresh water fish. We thoroughly enjoyed the time we spent on the waters of the Gulf. While fishing in the area of Port Aransas, it was interesting to watch the constant parade of ships and barges entering and leaving the ship channel as they proceed to and from the Port of Corpus Christi.
Yes, we have made arrangements to return to the Gulf in 2015.
Longtime Northwoods outdoors personality Roger Sabota writes a bi-monthly column for the Star Journal.