The fall season is always my favorite time of the year. It’s not too hot or cold down here in beautiful N.C. The only thing I don’t like about the fall season is raking leaves. But wait, I just heard over the news that you should leave the leaves on your yard to help build up the soil. What a blessing!
One of my favorite things to do in the fall is go to the coast and fish. Why, I have fished off just about pier in North and South Carolina. The only thing bad about fishing off the piers is if the fish aren’t biting there’s no need to be there and if’n they are biting, there’s too many fishermen to contend with.
Surf fishing can be fun, but I just can’t seem to get my bait far enough out in the ocean to catch a big one.
Why, I’ve even been 16 miles out in the ocean on a charter boat. But it seems when I get out of sight of land, my stomach gets a little queasy. Another thing about half-day fishing trips is that you spend more time riding than you get to fish.
My most favorite type of fishing at the coast is to take a boat and fish in the inland waterways, inlets and around the rocky jetties. Why, you don’t know what you might catch. It could be a small spot, pinfish, sea trout, whiting, shark, stingray, flying fish or any other sea going fish. Fishing at the coast can be like a box of chocolates, you don’t know what you going to pull out next.
I’ve helped fill coolers — or in earlier times, lard stands — full of fish. But ever’ now and then you might get skunked, cause that’s why they call it fishing.
My friends and I really enjoy putting our boats in at Southport and fishing in the mouth of the Cape Fear River. This is a most beautiful place with all the old lighthouses surrounding the harbor while Bald-head Island lies just to the south with Fort Caswell on the sandy point.
One word of warning, and that is to stay out of the shipping lane as the large ocean-going cargo ships make their way in and out of the harbor. When the loaded ships come in they are sitting low in the water. Why, I’ve counted as many as 18 large shipping containers setting end to end on the top decks as the pilot boat guides the ship through the harbor. When the ships are unloaded and are coming out of the harbor, they sit way up in the air. Why, they make our little fishing boats seem mighty small as they bob around from the large ships’ wakes.
On one of my many trips to Southport, three of my friends and myself were fishing out of a new 20-foot fishing boat that one of them had just purchased. The boat had a nice center console and lots of room to fish from.
As we made our way out into the harbor, I counted at least 100 small boats, each full of fishermen hoping to fill their coolers with fish. After we anchored the boat, I was the first to get my double rig baited, with squid and shrimp, and into the water. Just as I reached down to rig another pole, something ‘bout jerked my first rod right into the ocean. I quickly grabbed my rod and set the hook — or hooks as it turned out to be. It was me and whatever it was on the other end of my rod. The drag on my reel started to zing as I could hardy make any headway pulling the fish in. Finally, after about 10 minutes of steadfastly pulling and tugging, I thought I was going to see what on the other end — but it was not to be. For just about then, I saw a large silver streak flash below our boat. I also felt something give. No, it wasn’t my line breaking, no-sir-re! It turns out, whatever it was had bitten my hooks right into. When I reeled in the double rig, the only thing left was two little eyes from the each hook.
You know I never did figure out what bit my hooks off. Why, could have it been several large blues or maybe even a shark, but whatever it was big and had lots of teeth.
As our evening of fishing came to an end, the sun was going down in the west, and we had just about filled our cooler to the brim with fish. We pulled up our anchor and headed toward the boat landing at Southport. Several more boats were making their own way in and the water was real choppy. Our captain and two of the other guys were standing behind the center console and I was setting on our fish cooler in front of the boat. The air was starting to cool, but the salty mist of the water felt good on my sunburnt face as I was in my own little world thinking about our great day of fishing and fellowship.
You know, timing means everything and as we made our way through the wakes of the other boats, the front of our boat seemed to dip sharply into one of the waves. Before I knew it, a wave came crashing over the front of our boat right into my lap, washing me off the cooler and into the back of the boat. Won’t hurt none, but I was a drowned rat, I want you to know.
When we finally made it to the boat landing, I poured about a gallon of salt water out of each shoe and if’n I could, I’d have rung as much out of my underwear.
I rode all the way back to Rockingham, sitting on a wet towel in front of the heater vent, and still wearing my wet underwear.
Folks, if’n you learned anything from this here story, you just might want to take a change of underwear next time you go a’ fishing.
J.A. Bolton is a member of the N.C. Storytelling Guild, Anson Co. Writer’s Club, Anson and Richmond Co. Historical Societies and author of his new book “Just Passing Time.”