April 9, 2015 | by Mark McDonald
Catching a Memory

Russell and son find more than a fish

By Russell Graves
Field Correspondent, sportsandoutdoors.guru

LAKE CALCASIEU, LA. — By my best guess in talking to the locals, the 45-degree weather is a bit chilly for late March.  A cold front blew through and shifted the wind from the familiar southerly direction to the north. It isn’t a hard wind (at least by Texas Panhandle standards) but is steady nonetheless.

From my hotel, the drive is short and twenty minutes is all it takes for my son and I to turn onto Pelican Point Road where we arrive at our rendezvous with Big Lake Guide Service.  Calcasieu Lake is what the maps call it but people around here simply refer to it as “big lake.”

Its colloquial handle is more than fitting, it’s apropos.

From the dock, I make small talk with our fishing guide Brian as the sun comes up behind me.  Looking west I can just barely see the other side of the lake because it’s so far away.  As a natural, brackish water lake, this is a big one.  At just shy of 50,000 acres, this immense body of water abounds in redfish and speckle trout, though the lake averages only about 3 feet deep.

Once in the boat, Brian lowers it from the slip and we soon are skimming across the water in the center console vessel on our way to our fishing grounds.  Sun still inching toward the horizon, the air is chilly and I do not have a jacket, so I hunker on the seat behind the console using the windshield to block the wind.

The boat ride is short and as we drift to a stop, Brian points to slick spots on the water.

“There’s redfish feeding around here,” he says referring to the way that feeding redfish disturb the water’s surface and leave “slick” spots in their wake.  So we cast in their direction, using plastic jigs that mimic shrimp as bait and bouncing them across sand and oyster beds in the skinny water.

Unfortunately, the shift in wind and the recent inundation of water flowing into the lake from recent rainfalls left the water stained a cappuccino-looking hue.  The fish weren’t biting.  I wasn’t worried, not one bit.

The outdoors is and should be more attuned to the experiential lessons at hand.  I look to the boat’s stern and my 10-year-old boy is casting lures, and jovial.  He doesn’t care that we haven’t caught a fish, so why should I?  He’s happy so I’m happy.  That’s really all that matters.

Young Ryan Graves knows what to do in the presence of redfish. Set the hook, fight and win the fish, hold your prize for the camera, then smile.

Young Ryan Graves knows what to do in the presence of redfish. Set the hook, fight and win the fish, hold your prize for the camera, then smile.

“Daddy,” he always says before asking a question or making a statement spontaneously.  Truthfully I cannot remember the question he asked but I never tire of hearing him call me that.  The gravity and importance of that title is a honorable one and I do not take the responsibilities therein lightly.  I never have.  Considering all the negativity and selfishness that’s both in the world at large including that which many inflict upon themselves, being on a lake on perfect Louisiana morning not catching fish is a pretty good place to be.

A couple casts later, Brian in the bow of the boat sets the hook, and tells Ryan that he can’t reel it in. He needs his help – wink, wink.

Ryan hurries to the front and takes the bait-casting reel in his hand and commences the fight.  Ryan has caught fish before, so he knows the drill and plays the fish until he at the boat’s side and Brian nets him.

It’s a nice redfish and the only one we’ll catch this morning.  We take a picture or two and Ryan tosses him back into the water.

RGraves“Daddy,” preludes Ryan, as we climb into the SUV to head away from the docks.  “Can we come here again?”

One fish in four hours and he wants to come again.

“I’d love to,” I respond to him mussing his hair in the process.

While a limit of fish wasn’t in the cards today, the memories we made on this trip are abundant.




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