Talkin' Outdoors

The weatherman is just doing his job but his forecast for the next week or so does not make him the most popular guy on TV. He’s saying our chances at rain are dwindling as a big dome of high pressure settles in over our area. What that means, as we know from past Julys, is that temperatures will rise and rainfall chances will go south.

School is out, vacation time is here and we look for chances to lay aside chores, pick up our rod and reel and go fishing. However, you risk heat stroke if you spend unprotected time on the water under such harsh conditions. My solution? Go fishing under the cover of darkness.

When I was growing up out on the rural route, summer was a fun time for kids this time of year. We didn’t head for Disneyland or the mountains; we headed through the woods behind our house for Molido Creek, a meandering little stream that lazily wandered along beneath a canopy of oaks and beeches, swirling over a submerged log or stump. Often just past where the water moved fastest was a dark and deeper pool. These pools provided cool, refreshing swimming holes during the day but at night, they were transformed into just the right location for one of our favorite activities. During summer, we set out hooks.

This method of fishing was quite simple in comparison to going fishing today. My brother, two cousins and I tromped barefoot through the woods armed with the barest necessities for a night of catfishing. We’d take along a hatchet for cutting poles, a can of night crawlers, a spool of black braided fishing line, and another can that contained fish hooks and sinkers.

Selecting strong slender saplings for our poles, we tied on line, hooks, sinkers, skewered on a big gob or worms, stuck the poles into the bank overlooking the deeper holes, and that was it. On a few occasions, we brought along blankets, flashlights and cheese, crackers and Vienna sausages and spent the night on the creek bank, occasionally waking to check hooks during the night. As a rule, though, we slept in our own beds and daylight found us making the trek through the woods to see what our hooks yielded.

There was a special thrill when approaching one of our sets to see the pole dancing a jig. Hauling it in, we’d find a catfish, not just any catfish but a bullhead — we called them mud cat — which got their unattractive moniker because when they were cleaned and fried, that’s what they tasted like.

As we grew older and were permitted to drive, we headed for Saline Bayou to set out our hooks. The poles we used were stouter, hooks larger and the bait upgraded to small bream. Our catches were not as frequent as mud cats on Molido but what we hauled in were of higher quality. Channel cats, blue cats and an occasional Opelousas catfish made for some tasty table fare when fried up alongside a platter of French fries and hush puppies.

Today, lots of anglers still go for catfish at night but there is a variety of other species more easily caught under the cover of darkness. Night fishing for bass, working dark spinner baits along an inky shoreline or casting a plastic worm under the glow of a lighted pier can produce lots of fun.

Crappie fishing at night is also a fun sport and more recently, people are catching striped bass at night around the lights.

Whichever species you choose to pursue, it is much more comfortable to give them a try after the scorching sun disappears. It’s hard to beat fishing this time of year “by the light of the silvery moon.”