LeBlanc: Fish tales that are seldom heard

Recently I was participating in a high-level, highly technical conference when some information came to light that I feel those who are deeply seated in the love and lore of outdoor activities might find interesting. This high-level conference involved a couple fishing guides, a gunsmith, and me.

This meeting was held at the 105 Cafe, just east of Conroe High School. We met there because the food and service are fantastic. Oh, I guess I should also mention another important fact and that is the owner also tolerates us.

One of the items that surfaced was when one of the fishing guides brought forth the necessity of keeping garden tools sharp. He pointed out that his wife recently came afoul of a copperhead in their yard and he retrieved a shovel and striking the viper behind it's head with the supposedly sharp end of the shovel only broke its back instead of cutting its head off as should have been the case. So we all agreed that shovels and hoes should be kept sharp as one never knows when they will run upon a pit viper in the garden.

Then we turned to fish and the potential dangers of handling the fish even though it is an almost daily event for all of us.

Catfish can be difficult to handle because they are slimy and have dorsal and pectoral fins that are long, sharp, serrated, and when they puncture the skin the wounds will as regularly as not become infected.

Seeing as how fishing guides handle so many catfish it is not unusual for them to get stuck often, but normally not badly. One guide was said he carries a bottle of alcohol in his first aid kit and when he gets stuck he just washes the area with the alcohol and keeps on fishing.

The other guide brought to the forefront an experience he had with a small channel catfish one of his parties had caught one time and the fish was just under the legal keeper length of 12 inches. Fishing guides do not want to be too rough on those small fish and use almost any safe means available to get them off of the hook and back in the water in good shape as these under size fish are next years keepers.

In this case the guide used and old tried and true method used by many where the angler will grip the shank of the hook with a pair of pliers, pull the fishing line tight and flip the catfish over and they will come off of the hook and land back into the water. One drawback to this method is the catfish on occasion can end up in your lap or back in the boat so one must be careful. On the occurrence being discussed the catfish flew backwards and buried the dorsal fin to its full length in the muscle of his right arm just below his elbow.

Naturally, as Murphy’s Law is alive and well, infection set in and the poison from the wound settled in the joint of his elbow and he was in a sling for about six weeks.

A similar accident happened to a saltwater fishing guide I know in the Rockport area, when he was removing about a 12 inch gaftop catfish from a hook, but in his case the fish came off and one of the fins opened up a cut in the back of his right hand that took a number of stitches to close.

Not to be outdone the gunsmith told of a time he had caught a good size Palmetto Bass on Lake Conroe and when he removed it from the hook it flipped out of his hands and landed on his foot. He had shoes on, but a hybrid has a pointed, rigid, spike in the anal fin and that spike went through his shoe, the toenail of his big toe, and into his toe. He said it just wouldn't heal, so one day he got to looking at the area and found a piece of the fin had broken off in his toe. He removed the broken fin and soon was back on both feet.

I patiently awaited my turn and when it came, offered the tale of when I was fishing on the Sabine Lake once and was in the process of removing a hook from a black drum when it flipped and I ended up with the hook stuck almost completely through my left hand between my thumb and index finger. It was buried deep so there was no option but to push the hook all the way through until the barbed point came out of the top of my hand, cut off the barb and then pull it back out the way it went in.

I would not recommend this practice as a relief for boredom, but it is a good case for always having a pair of wire cutters with you when you are fishing.

So folks, things can happen when you are playing in Mother Nature’s backyard and you need to be prepared. Always have a first aid kit with you complete with wire cutters and keep your tetanus shots up to date.

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