Before seven in the morning, a kid passes me on his bicycle, carrying a five gallon plastic bucket, with bait and tackle inside, and a fishing pole resting on his handlebars.
When the kid, who just whizzes past me, makes a left turn towards the water, a block further down, I know he is going fishing and joining another fisherman where the water meets the land.
There are fishermen on this jetty every morning, just at sunrise, and sometimes in the evening, at sunset. While you can catch fish other times of day, fisherman tell you when the time is best to bait a hook, cast out, and wait for the fish to bite.
This Santo Domingo park, by the Napolitano Casino, will soon have its walkers and exercise people. City crews are putting down new sod and walkers, taking fresh air on a cool morning, can use a new swing set installed the other day by the parks and recreation department work crew. I watched some of the workers test the swing out, laughing, happy because it was almost quitting time.
At the end of the concrete jetty I am heading for, these two compadres already have their lines in the surf and are watching the sun come up over a not too distant shipyard.
Fishermen are eternally hopeful.
If you don’t try to catch anything, you won’t catch anything.
The kid’s bicycle is laid down close to him, and, if he is lucky and is using the right temptation, he will take some fish home for breakfast this morning, in his five gallon bucket.
The creek is in better shape today than fifty years ago.
Then, creek banks were crowded with brush. Now, you can stand on the bank and easily cast your tackle. There are still cat tails in the creek but they are controlled by a local wildlife biologist for a monthly stipend.
Fifty years ago there were perch in the water, small fish that strike impulsively, put up a fight, and have lots of bones to work around at the dinner table. We ate them fried in a blanket of corn meal along with cornbread, black eyed peas and Texas toast fixed by Grandma. In the creek, we kids waded in undershorts seining for minnows to use as bait. For city kids, the creek and the ranch were a place to look forward to visiting when school shut down for the summer.
The water today is dark, opaque, ten foot deep in the middle. It’s surface is a mirror reflecting trees on the other side of the bank. Like so much of nature, you can feel a lot more beneath the surface than you can see.
Growing up, I had no idea I would be fishing the creek when I got old.
He circles his target, turns himself into a projectile by tucking his wings to his body,and disappears head first into the surf. When he comes back to the water’s surface, he shakes his wings and recomposes, a fish struggling in his enormous beak.
Not long after, a fisherman wades into the pelican’s same fishing hole, net in hand, and the pelican takes off like a seaplane from an Alaskan lake.
The fisherman moves slowly, studies the waves, the light, the wind.
Positioning himself, he casts his handheld net with both hands,lets his net fall to the bottom, then draws it back towards him with a rope line, hand over hand. When he drags his net onto the beach it holds silvery fish twisting in the bright sunlight.
He and his friend transfer fish from the net into a plastic bag, then lift up and climb back on their bicycles and pedal home, the net draped over a bike’s handle bars to drip dry.
If you live simply, how much of the day needs to be used up working?
What is so important to us that we work sixty hours a week?
There is the Hotel Zone which is a strip of bars, restaurants, hotels, retail shops along the main road running along the beach all the way south to a biosphere nature preserve called Sian Kian. Then there is the Mexican town of Tulum where locals live. You can find tourists in the town of Tulum and locals in the Hotel Zone, but each is a different slice of Mexican pie.
This restaurant,Matteo’s, is in the Hotel Zone, towards the north end, and features, according to the sign, ” The Best Fish Tacos on Earth. ”
When questioned, these two kids maintain that the tacos are really the best in the Universe, but agree this would be difficult to prove since Mexico doesn’t send up space ships to verify.
In mid day, the restaurant is doing good business and fish tacos are swimming out of the kitchen.The kids give a thumbs up and let their picture be taken. I’ll be back for the best tacos on Earth.
This Lagoon was formed 23,000 years ago after an explosion on one on Mombacho’s bad hair days.
It is fed by a number of surface and underground water sources and is one of the first Nature Preserves created in Nicaragua to preserve the country’s natural landscape.
In tourist season there are kayaks in the water, swimmers, picnic’s and family outings, hiking, diving and other recreation. The Preserve has public areas that give access to the water for free or private businesses that let you use their facilities for six to seven dollars U.S. a day. A round trip shuttle to the Lagoon is $15.00 from Granada, if you go with a group tour, and you can spend most of the day at the Park working on your tan..
This morning locals are washing clothes,bathing, swimming, wetting a hook, and kayaking . The water is unusually clear and the bottom of the lagoon is covered with scattered lava rocks, small and large, reflections of clouds floating on the water’s surface.
In the old days, Hollywood came out with a movie called ” Creature from the Black Lagoon. ”
Believing in things we can’t see is difficult, but it doesn’t mean they don’t exist.
One good thing about being human is most really bad stuff we aren’t going to live long enough to see.
When Mombacho throws a big fit, again, it will shake out this entire country.
” Some days you do better in the boat and some days better on the beach, ” the fisherman in coveralls tells us as he opens his cooler and shows us his Pompanos and Whiteys, game fish in this part of the Gulf of Mexico.
The bottom of his cooler has five or six small fish and a small plastic container filled with fresh cut shrimp that baits his hooks.
He and his wife have been here before sunset.
You cast your weighted and baited hooks out as far as you can, plant the handle of your pole into the sand and watch till its tip starts to bend like a scoliosis patient. When you see that peculiar bend, you reach for your pole, set your hook, and fight your catch out of the sea.
This fishing spot is towards the north end of South Padre, past tall condos and hotels. The angler’s big white pickup is pulled off the beach thoroughfare made by tire tracks. Its tailgate is down and a tackle box is close at hand.
” How much is a daily license? ”
” Fifteen bucks…. ”
” What’s the limit? ”
” No limit…. ”
We don’t have fishing poles but next time they will be stowed in RV cargo holds with golf clubs, lawn chairs, firewood, and tarps.
Next year, seeing how things are going, we will probably have to have a license to pick up shells. For cash strapped governments, every day is tax day.
Seagull Charley doesn’t come when you call his name.
Without a fish for Charley, he ain’t going anywhere and won’t push tennis balls with his beak or do circus tricks.
You can train most anything to work for food and attention but this morning Charley strolls the beach watching for his opportunity. What he catches is his and he will share only if he has a mind too.
There are dining opportunities on this beach all the way north to Corpus Christi and south to Mexico and when waves go out Charley quickly covers his little piece of real estate.. He doesn’t own anything but his feathers but his rules are self preservation, a full stomach, taking care of mama Charley and the kids.
When Charley takes flight, this Padre Island beach seems more isolated, less friendly.
In air, between sand and sea, Charley is free,and,oddly enough, he makes me feel free too.
South Padre Island is accessible from Texas highway 100 via the Queen Isabella Bridge that connects Port Isabel, Texas on one end and South Padre Island on the other.
When you hit the beaches there you have miles and miles to walk and mornings men and women carry Wal- Mart plastic bags looking for seashells. South Padre is a favorite haunt for Spring Break revelers as well as retired folks.
Pier 19 is a local restaurant and tourist center where you can have breakfast, schedule fishing or dolphin tours, buy in the gift shop, fish off the pier, look at photos and memorabilia from past decades.
Out front of this eatery is a huge shark caught by Captain Phil Cano on February 30, 2004. Its mouth is open, blood drips down the sides of its jaws, teeth are pointed and ready to bite again. You can see the monster from blocks away.
The problem is February 30.
Once the date is suspect it is easy to start questioning the rest of thIs fish story.
Truth doesn’t matter much in a place where weather changes often, time stretches, and you only need shorts, a T shirt, a ball cap and sneakers to be part of the gang.
In April, college kids arrive, prices escalate, parties go late into the night. Pier 19 will be booked solid and some libertine will hang a bra on the shark’s front tooth.
That will make a Texas size story, but, for now, this post is all imagination waiting for reality to catch up.