Fishing Fever Even Worse
[Editor: this article first appeared on www.ronsfishingblog and may only be used by permission of Ron Speed]
This week I am going to tell you about the worst case of fishing fever that you have ever heard. Last week I told you about how I got started out fishing helping my granddad catch bream for trotlines. This was the start of my fishing fever. Today I have 2 stories that I hope you enjoy and I promise you will have a hard time believing either one.
Let us fast forward from my bream fishing to 1963 when I was a senior at Texas A&M University. I actually had graduated and was teaching Physical Education and working on my masters. One day I got a call from the office saying I had a visitor in the office who wanted to talk to me. It was the superintendent of schools at Hereford, Texas way up in the panhandle of Texas not far from Amarillo. His last name was Stevens but and I can’t remember his first name. Mr. Stevens was a graduate of A&M and was on a recruiting trip looking for teachers and coaches.
We talked about 30 minutes and he offered me an assistant coach & phys ed job. I remember asking him what kind of fishing they had in Hereford. His answer I will never forget. Mr. Stevens said they had the very best fishing in Texas 300 miles in any direction. He got a big chuckle out of his answer. I told him I would let him know about me taking his job in a couple weeks.
The kicker in this whole deal is that I had looked on a state map of Texas and drawn circles around every lake in the state. I then sent out my resume to every high school in those circles. I had graduated in January and there were no schools looking for coaches & teachers in January.
I wound up taking the Hereford job as the pay was good and I really needed the money. I had worked my way through school working 7 days a week for the phys ed department and some odd jobs. I was ready to go out in the world and get my life started. Everything went pretty well until the next March and I was dying to go fishing. I had made friends with another assistant coach who loved to fish. His name was Clyde Coleman and he was from Anadarko, Oklahoma. Clyde introduced me to the manager of the local Gibson Discount Store. Gibson stores were the Wal-Mart of that time.
The three of us got together and planned a weekend fishing trip to Lake Falcon on the Mexico border. YES, THAT’S WHAT I SAID. Weekend trip to Falcon. Crazy–Yes. But that’s what fishing fever can do to a human. The name of the man who managed the Gibson’s store was Worley and—again–I can’t remember his first name. Worley had a station wagon and we decided to go in his vehicle. We started packing a couple weeks in advance and on a Friday after school the 3 of us left around PM. We took turns driving and sleeping. The driver would drive and when he got tired, he would move to the back of the wagon and sleep. The shotgun rider would move to driver and the sleeper would then go to shotgun. We always had 2 guys awake watching the highway.
After an all night drive, we found ourselves at the Bluebonnet Cafe in Zapata, Texas where we ate breakfast and then proceeded to the lake to go fishing. We fished all day long for black bass around the Tiger Islands in a boat rented from Redwood Lodge. That night we left the Texas side and went up a river on the Mexico side to an old village the lake had covered with water. I believe it was called Guerrero but am not certain. We stopped at Redwood before going across and bought minnows. We then crappie fished all night long taking turns sleeping in the boat. Then at daybreak, we went back to bass fishing all day Sunday until 3 pm, when we loaded up and started back to Hereford.
After all night driving we went straight to Hereford High school where Clyde & I took showers and dressed for our first class. I think we made it with about 45 minutes to spare.
We all three had a wonderful time and caught lots of fish. In fact, we made that same trip 2 more times that spring with the last trip coming in April. Just a nice weekend fishing trip…. RIGHT! To save you looking at a map and adding up the miles I will tell you it’s almost 700 MILES ONE WAY and it takes almost 12 hours one way. You all have heard of BUCK FEVER AND NOW YOU HAVE HEARD OF FISHING FEVER.
That summer Clyde & I decided that we would spend the summer at Falcon Lake catching catfish and selling them to a guy named Jack Storm out of San Antonio, Texas. Jack had the monopoly on buying the catfish from Falcon. Clyde & I went to the upper end of the lake where the river joins the lake. We put up a tent and fixed a mattress in the back of my old jalopy pickup. There was an elderly couple from Mississippi there staying in an old house trailer. We got to know them pretty well and they told us we wouldn’t catch enough catfish to make any money using trotlines.
They were furnishing a local Mexican man a boat and motor and wooden catfish traps they made in Mississippi. They were furnishing the Mexican the traps, rotten cheese as bait, and the boat for a 50% share. They had around 20 of the wooden traps all up and down the river and mostly on the Mexico side. It was very rare that this Mexican didn’t come into camp without a boat totally full of catfish. Maybe 300 lbs on one run. Clyde and I were lucky to catch 20 lbs a night.
One day I heard the Mexican tell the old man that there were some commercial fishermen from Monterrey, Mexico camped on the Mexico side. They were using gill nets to catch gar fish but were having really bad luck. They had asked the Mexican-American to let them use one of his wooden traps for a couple days as they wanted to catch enough catfish to pay gas to go back home. The guy told them no as that was his living and he couldn’t afford to help them.
Maybe 2 days passed when the Mexican-American came into the camp looking like trouble. He told the old man the guys had taken his wooden trap anyway and he was going to their camp to teach them a lesson. He grabbed his 30/30 out of his pickup and he took off to the Mexico side. Clyde & I were sitting with the old man and woman watching all this take place.
In about 1 hour, the man came roaring back into the cove and said he had taken all their motors off their boats and dropped them in the lake. They had their nets rolled up on the bank and he set fire to them and came on back. He was very, very angry and nervous as he waited on the guys to come over to the Texas side. After about maybe an hour he left to go up the river and away from the other guys’ camp. He had 3 sons who were swimming in the cove and he told them something we could not hear.
The old man from Mississippi told Clyde and me he hoped they would not come looking for his helper as he would surely kill them all if they came for trouble. Maybe an hour later here came 3 men from the Mexico side in a small 14 foot boat with maybe an old 10 hp engine. They putt-putted to the mouth of the cove and asked the boys where their father was. The boys told the men he had gone upriver and they turned upriver to find him. In about 30 minutes, we heard the sound of a 22 rifle, then a second shot and then all quite.
A short time later the boys’ father came running out of the brush with his shirt almost ripped off. His face was scratched and his pretty white straw hat was gone. He was cussing every breath as he went to his truck to get the 30/30 and shells. He ran over to a nearby mesquite tree and laid the rifle in a fork. He shouted to us that they had tried to kill him with the 22 rifle and if they came into the cove he was going to kill them. He made his boys get out of the water and told the old man & his wife to take cover. He didn’t tell Clyde & me to take cover as we had long ago moved out of the line of fire and were sitting in our lawn chairs behind some big trees.
Here comes the small boat with one man in the front, one man sitting on the middle seat with the 22 rifle and wearing a long sleeved white shirt and one guy in the back running the motor. They stopped the boat, killed the engine, and called the name of the guy who had put their engines in the lake and set fire to their nets. The guy hollered back at them in Spanish and told them to leave and to not come into the cove or he would kill them. They hollered back that they were coming to get him to pay for the damages or they would kill him. OH MAN OUR FISHING FEVER HAD BROUGHT US THE THIS PLACE AND TIME FOR A REAL GUN BATTLE.
I got out of my chair and lay down on the ground with my eyes shifting from the guys in the boat to the guy with the 30/30. The kids were in the pickup hollering at their dad “Come on, let’s go!” The old couple were in the old house trailer hollering like hell but we couldn’t understand them. The guys in the boat fired up the old engine and here they came into the cove. I heard the 30/30 bark and I looked to see the guy in the white shirt bend over dropping the 22 rifle. Within 30 seconds, his white shirt had turned totally red and the guy in front came back and held his head while they turned and left the cove.
All was quite except the guy who shot said, “I told them to leave me alone and that’s what they get.” Clyde & I decided that it was probably time we went back to Herford for this summer. I never heard anymore about this tragedy but I am certain the guy who got shot didn’t get back to the Mexico side alive. I would also bet that no report was ever filed in Mexico.
Clyde & I decided to come back the next summer with wood slat traps and barrels of rotted cheese and maybe a 30/30.
GOOD LUCK WITH YOUR FISHING AND WEAR THAT LIFE JACKET