For­mer Low­coun­try ‘bait boy’ passes along the tricks (and mem­o­ries) of trade

The Island Packet (Sunday) - - Sports - BY COLLINS DOUGHTIE Spe­cial to The Is­land Packet/ The Beau­fort Gazette


Does it seem that child­hood mem­o­ries stand out brighter and clearer than mem­o­ries that may have been cre­ated just a few years ago or in my case, just yes­ter­day?

The mem­o­ries I had while fish­ing with my dad when I was a young­ster just seem to hold a clar­ity that is al­most spooky. For in­stance, not only can I re­mem­ber the event but also vividly re­call the small­est de­tails about those trips that would prob­a­bly slide right by me now that I am an adult. Maybe it was in­sa­tiable child­hood cu­rios­ity that causes such clar­ity but what­ever it is, I can re­mem­ber things that hap­pened to me as a child a whole lot clearer than any­thing that has hap­pened since.

I was one of those pesky kids that never shut up. You know the type I’m talk­ing about where ev­ery ques­tion is closely fol­lowed by an­other ques­tion. “What is that?” “What makes it do that?”


And on and on it went. Be­ing the youngest of five kids, I can only imag­ine the pa­tience my folks had to prac­tice, es­pe­cially af­ter go­ing through the same ques­tion and an­swer pe­ri­ods with my four older sib­lings. With two chil­dren of my own, I’ve had my share of ques­tions but the way I saw it, their cu­rios­ity needed an­swer­ing be­cause it was cru­cial to the process of learn­ing.

I may be bald­ing and a tad wrinkly but un­der that dis­guise, I am about as child­like as they come (or so I have been told on a reg­u­lar ba­sis) and this at­tribute comes in mighty handy when I take kids fish­ing or hunt­ing.

A fish­ing trip not long ago was a per­fect ex­am­ple of this ca­ma­raderie when I went with Martin, a pre­co­cious, red-headed third grader, and his fa­ther Ron. Sport­ing a brand new set of state-of-the-art braces on his teeth where ev­ery other metal piece was a dif­fer­ent flu­o­res­cent color plus fire en­gine red hair, Martin was about as cute as they come.

Ev­ery time I glanced over at him, I felt as though I was look­ing at a comic book char­ac­ter be­cause, in ad­di­tion to be­ing a liv­ing kalei­do­scope of col­ors, he was a pis­tol.

Kids to­day seem way smarter than kids from my child­hood and when you talk to them, many times I feel like that child was re­ally an adult that stepped in front of a shrink­ing ray gun.

Martin was no ex­cep­tion. Hav­ing cut his teeth on fish­ing with his dad in fresh wa­ter lakes, Martin wanted to catch red­fish, which gave me a chuckle be­cause of his red hair. I won­dered if it was a kin­ship sort of thing, but if it was red­fish he wanted to catch, so be it.

I had just re­turned from a trip the night be­fore and be­cause I had got­ten back very late, I hadn’t had time to catch bait. So off we went in search of some fresh mul­let and pos­si­bly a few live shrimp. As I pulled back the throt­tles at one of my fa­vorite bait-get­ting spots, I told Martin that he was go­ing to be “bait boy.”

From ex­pe­ri­ence, be­ing “bait boy” is great for kids and it en­tails pick­ing up the crit­ters that drop out of the cast net and putting them in the live well.

Not only did we catch mul­let and a few small shrimp but baby crabs, a small floun­der, squid and a host of other crit­ters.

Kids re­ally seem to get off pick­ing up and ex­am­in­ing this by-catch,and with ev­ery new species comes the ques­tions: “What is that?” “How big do they get?” And on and on it went. It’s a great learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence for them and it gives me the op­por­tu­nity to ed­u­cate them on how im­por­tant it is to re­turn the small crea­tures to the sea so that they can get big while keep­ing the ocean well stocked.

Those are the small­est mem­o­ries that I was talk­ing about ear­lier, mem­o­ries that will hope­fully stick for a life­time.

With bait in hand off, we went in search of red­fish. It didn’t take me long to see a spot­ted broom tail of a red­fish scour­ing the oys­ter beds for food.

Qui­etly slip­ping the an­chor over­board, we be­gan fish­ing with chunks of mul­let un­der a cork. I don’t think five min­utes had passed when one of the thun­ders be­gan swim­ming away like the bar­rels in the movie “Jaws.”

I coached Martin as he held the rod, telling him to let the line come tight be­fore reel­ing. Like a pro, he fol­lowed my in­struc­tions to a “t.”

When I fi­nally told him to reel like crazy, he hooked into a red that in­stantly went hay­wire and be­gan pulling out line with ease. I knew it was a big red and as much as Martin wanted to pass the rod off to his dad, I en­cour­aged him to fin­ish the fight.

When I fi­nally eased the red­fish into the boat, Martin’s eyes were like saucers.

Though the fish was too big to keep, Martin will never for­get that fight.

For the next hour or so, we landed an­other five fish, all but one too big to keep. Martin was fired up. From there we de­cided to go af­ter some trout. Us­ing live shrimp, it was a troutorama.

As his dad fished off the bow, I helped Martin from the stern and it was dad ver­sus lad.

We caught some beau­ti­ful trout and it was af­ter Martin’s sixth trout that he said it.

He looked right at his dad and al­most non­cha­lantly stated, “Yep dad, I was off my game there at first but now I’m in the groove.”

Out of the mouth of babes.

I was laugh­ing so hard my stomach hurt.

So all in all, it was won­der­ful day for Martin and his dad.

As for me?

I just hope that day re­mains in Martin’s mind for all time be­cause it will for­ever stick with me.

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