The Lure of Fishing

By Chief Warrant Officer Adam Wise, USCGHOUSTON – “Gone Fishing” a slogan often seen on office doors meaning that its occupant has departed on vacation, but to the avid sport fisherman this simple phrase holds an almost religious reverence. The lure of fishing amongst a certain sect of our society can often be mistaken for a form of madness.

Case in point; the 48-year-old Texas fisherman who found himself being pummeled by wind and waves as he clung to the pilings of a navigation aid in Chocolate Bayou, near Freeport, Texas, as a fierce cold front bashed the Gulf coast.

How did the intrepid fisherman get into such a predicament? Such thoughts must have come to the minds of the Coast Guard helicopter crew as they slowly circled the unlucky fisherman in preparation to rescue him.

The Texan was a victim of “fishing madness”, and aliment that has infected many, its symptoms can vary from the comical to the deadly. Fortunately for the fisherman it was the former.

He had been lured into going fishing on the morning of Nov. 28, 2006. It was a very pleasant morning on the Gulf Coast; humidity was low, winds were light and the temperature was in the low 70s, a fisherman’s paradise.

It is true that the 28th was a Thursday; normally a work day, but that did not stop the dedicated sports fisherman. Neither did the weather forecast of a massive cold front sweeping across the country and due to hit the Texas coast later that morning. The lure was too strong, and off he went in his 20-foot boat, determined to land the “big one” or a least escape the hustle of life in the bliss of fishing.

After cruising about for the perfect fishing spot the Texan spied a range marker, a sort of road sign for boaters that is used in shallow waters. It consists of several wooden poles sunk into the floor of the bayou with several cross beams supporting large signs that show mariners the safe waters.

Maneuvering his boat alongside the range marker, the fisherman hastily tied his boat off and climbed up the pilings for the perfect perch from which to fish.

No sooner had he climbed onto the pilings than the cold front struck. The temperature dropped more than 25 degrees and a 40 mph wind shredded the gentle morning breeze. Clinging to the pilings, the Texan watched in horror as his hastily tied knot gave way to the fierce storm; his boat was swept away and capsized.

That old adage of “a bad day fishing is better than a good day at work” seemed to be very wrong. In few short minutes the wind and rain was making a day at work seem like heaven. Fortunately, the fisherman had his cell phone. He must have been mumbling a prayer that he would not drop the phone as his numb fingers clumsily dialed the number for the Coast Guard.

A watch stander at Coast Guard Station Freeport received his call and dispatched a crew with a trailered boat. It took about 12 minutes for the boat crew to arrive at the Chocolate Bayou boat ramp, but the situation had taken a turn for the worse. The winds had blown most of the water out of the bayou and it was now too shallow for the rescue boat. The watch stander then requested the assistance of a helicopter crew from Coast Guard Air Station Houston.

It took about 45 minutes, but there was no mistaking the sound of the Coast Guard helicopter as it approached the fisherman on his precarious perch. The pilot maneuvered the helicopter into position and lowered the rescue swimmer.

The Coast Guardsman made his way to the fisherman, talking calmly as he carefully wrapped a strap about him. Once the strap was secure, the rescue swimmer signaled the helicopter that they were ready to be hoisted. Up they went and a few moments later, both were inside the comfort of the helicopter.

The fisherman was taken to Chocolate Bayou public boat ramp where he had started that morning. He did not require any medical attention, the cold wind and rain had washed away his fishing madness. His bad day of fishing, turned out to be a good day to be rescued.

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