We don’t any more need to commemorate Memorial Day by gathering at a cemetery than we need to practice our faith by showing up at a church. Showing up or not showing up doesn’t make us any more or less appreciative or faithful. I’ll be remembering my friends and family members who died while serving our country — with fireworks, loud music, some tears, and a toast – from the front yard.
These past months have taught us that buildings, festivals, ceremonies, and other gatherings are valuable — but not necessary to make us who we are, and just because some politician says it’s safe to look down the barrel of a gun doesn’t mean I’ll stick my face in front of it. God gave me better sense than that.
The past 10 weeks or so have been the most trying times in most of our lives. A lot of us have learned new skills (I’m still working on my new lock-picking set), and some of those new endeavors come with some pretty big risks.
With Memorial Day weekend coinciding with the state’s re-opening of most businesses and activities, area lakes and rivers are sure to be packed with people looking for some water recreation. If you’re one of those folks who has recently bought a boat, you’ll need to know that boating rules and regulations are as important to know as those related to driving an automobile.
First of all, there are very few signs, dividing lines, shoulders, or other traffic-related guides when you’re on a lake or river, so you have to know the “rules of the road” for the water before you get there. There are clear regulations for who has the right-of-way based on location and expectations based on types of craft.
All passengers under the age of 13 are required to wear U.S. Coast Guard-approved personal flotation devices at all times when underway, and every craft is required to have a PFD for every person aboard.
There are requirements for horns/whistles, lights, mirrors, fire extinguishers, engine kill-switches and more. Make sure you have your boat equipped with all the required safety devices, because game wardens will require proof if they pull up alongside – and they will.
Also, be sure to have a sober person with a valid driver’s license at the helm. Ever heard of DWI? Well, there’s also something called BWI, and it carries the same penalties. As one of my law enforcement friends says, “A designated driver isn’t the one who has had the least to drink.” Plus, you can’t stick your 7 year-old in the driver’s seat and expect a good outcome.
It’s also a good idea to have a first-aid kit on board to deal with any injuries that don’t require a trip to the doctor. Most cuts, bruises, stings, and other emergencies can be dealt with using a well-stocked kit, and without one on hand, it can be a long ride back to the ramp.
And if our weather forecasters are right, the majority of us will be looking at rainy, and even stormy weather for most of the holiday weekend. If you’re new to boating, you’ll be surprised at how fast a thunderstorm can appear out of nowhere.
Being on a boat during a storm is about the least pleasant thing that can happen to you on the water. In the old days (BC — Before Cellphones), you really had to pay attention, but since local television stations have weather apps, there’s no excuse for being caught off guard.
Lightning, heavy rain, and high winds will cause you to wish you’d never gotten out of bed that day. If you wait for the first flashes, raindrops, and gusts before you start toward shore, you’re asking for trouble. Even if you make it before the big stuff hits, you’ve still got to make it to the truck, back the trailer down the ramp, load up the boat, drain the water out, and otherwise get things road-ready before you can leave.
If you’re new to boating, make sure to imagine the worst-case and make plans to avoid it. That goes for just about anything else, too. Be smart and stay healthy. Check the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department website for all the information you need to know.
Fish are biting; folks are catching
Catfishing legend Danny King says the pattern has changed from shallows to deeper water fishing as cats shift into their spawning pattern. “This is the time when you float your corks into four to eight feet of water up against rocks and timber,” he said. “It’s a lot of fun catching them with floats, and you can catch fish from a pound to big ones.”
King urges anglers to catch, photograph, and release the bigger, spawning catfish to help keep fisheries strong.
Waco angler Keith Rodriguez (Fish On Texas! on social media) says that rising water temperatures are triggering a strong white and hybrid bass bite at Lake Waco in early and late hours of the day around submerged structure and drop-offs. “You can find a school of fish and just drop down a slab,” he said, “and pull them up one after another – along with blue cats waiting below.”
He’s also finding success while actually trying to catch blues by drift-fishing using cut shad.
Further on up the road at Lake Whitney, pro guide Clay Yadon (Reel Deal Striper Guide Service) says it’s a great time to be a fishing guide. “We’re whacking them every day,” he said. “The fish are coming off the spawn, and they’re looking for something to eat as they move into their summer pattern.
He says channel edges and humps with deep-water access in 25-30 feet of water are holding good schools of fish. “They show up in the same places every day looking for some shad to eat, and I feel like it’s my duty to be there to make sure they find something,” he said.
There’s still some topwater action taking place early in the day (and even later on cloudy mornings) along wind-blown shorelines. “Look for egrets standing on the banks hopping up and down picking up shad,” he said. “Make sure to keep a reasonable distance and make long casts with topwaters and swim baits.”