One big blue cat

Tony Montoya with a record-setting 52.6 pound blue catfish he caught from Lake Brazos last Sunday, proving that river monsters aren’t just something to see on a television show.

Social media can be a great and powerful tool. Facebook, Instagram, and other platforms connect people who have similar interests, went to high school together, family members who otherwise would never see or hear from each other, and entertain and inform us on subjects ranging from the silly to the profound.

But as we’ve seen way too often, social media can also be a tool for deception, and anybody with an internet connection can say whatever wrong-headed things they want. Even more unfortunate is the fact that a lot of people can’t tell the difference between facts, lies, and more dangerously, half-truths.

This unfortunate reality came out in all its idiotic splendor on Friday after a news report about a kayak angler on Lake Waco went overboard and had to be rescued by first responders.

Browsing through the comments on local news sites, I was reminded that a lot of people who chime in on politics, sports, and general news stories have no background in what they’re talking about – but their posts carry just as much weight as somebody who is an expert in the field.

An alarming number of the commenters, tapping into their ignorant wisdom, questioned the angler’s judgment for being on the water in cold and rainy weather conditions.

Those commenters no more understand fishermen than they do sports or politics. That, in my opinion, which I can substantiate with facts and evidence, is why our country is in the mess it’s in right now.

People made statements about the stupidity of the angler for being on the lake in cold, rainy weather, but what these landlubbers don’t understand is that fish bite in almost any weather conditions.

Moreover, there weren’t any wind or weather warnings issued by weather services. It was a good day to fish.

In fact, the angler was doing what he was supposed to do. He wore a life vest. He had a viable means of communication in case there was an emergency. He called for help, and help came. It worked like it should, and thanks to the responders, the story had a happy ending.

Some of the best hunting and fishing trips of my life have happened when most people were hiding out from the weather. Granted, there are stupid people who try to ride out hurricanes and other natural disasters, causing first responders to dutifully risk their lives to save the unwise.

But this dude was just fishing at an ordinary lake on an ordinary day. Everybody did everything right and the system worked.

As Sargent Hulka once said, “Lighten up, Francis.”

Two records all in a day’s work

Most people who set big fish records have the decency to wait for the fish to be certified before they set another record. But Tony Montoya ain’t playing by those rules.

Last week, the longtime Tribune-Herald outdoors contributor destroyed the Lake Brazos blue catfish record with a one-day catch that shattered the old record twice.

Montoya and Cody Cox were fishing the river last Sunday morning, catching a few fish here and there, and while Montoya was taking one off the hook, he noticed another rod bouncing a little. “I picked it up, and it slammed the bait,” he said.

He fought the fish to shore and Cox helped get it in and weighed. It was a 40.8-pounder, which topped the previous record by a pound. Satisfied, they decided to head out and do their regular Sunday business, agreeing to meet back on the riverbank later in the day.

About 15 minutes after they had reunited, shortly before dark, Montoya’s fishing pole folded over into the water. “I pulled back but there was no pulling back. It was like I was pulling in a log,” he said.

Montoya slowly made progress, but when the fish got close to the shore, it turned and torpedoed its way back out toward the channel. “We locked eyes,” Montoya said. “I’ve caught a lot of big fish, but the fight from a giant blue is just raw power. Every thrash of its tail stripped line, and every time I got it closer, it turned and took more away.”

Time after time after time, the pattern repeated itself, but each of the fish’s runs became less intense. “When I got it to the bank, Cody ran down and grabbed it. The fish rolled and cut his knuckles up, but he dragged it in,” Montoya said.

When they looked at it, they knew it was a record fish. Montoya said he doesn’t feel exactly right having his name in the books, because he couldn’t have gotten it ashore without Cox’s help.

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