Fishing in Sloughs and Gators

Short version: This morning my daughter and I went to a local park to go fishing. After a few minutes a 6 foot gator showed up to see what was going on.

Over the course of about 15 – 20 minutes, the gator slowly worked its way to within about 8 – 10 feet of the bank.  the day was getting hot, and the gator was getting a little too close, so my daughter and I decided to pack up and go home.

Alligator at Magnolia Ridge Park Steinhagen Reservoir

Long Version:  The day started off around 10:30am when my daughter decided it was time to drag herself out of bed so we could finally go fishing.  I had already been up for a couple of hours, had gotten my shower, brushed my teeth, and even made a trip to the store to pick up a couple of low carb blue rock star energy drinks.

While I was waiting for my daughter to get ready, I went through my tackle box, sorted through some of my fishing gear, rounded up the fishing poles, loaded a small ice chest with drinking water into my truck,,,,, finally we were ready to go.

As we were driving out to the park, the wind was hitting the side of my truck pretty good.  With the wind like it was, I figured the water around Martin Dies State Park would be stirred up pretty good.   So my daughter and I changed plans, and went to Magnolia Ridge Park.

As my daughter and I stopped at the entrance of Magnolia Ridge Park to talk to the attendant, I noticed the lady was eating on a burger.  And I must say, that was a nice looking burger.  After talking for a few minutes, the attendant told me where she got her burger at.  As my daughter and I entered the park, we made a u-turn, went back out to the main rode, and drove to the local country store to get us a cheese burger.  It was lunch time anyway, so why not.

Time to eat – I do not remember the stores name, but its right across the road from a rest area that over looks Dam B.  We placed our order – 2 cheeseburgers, with everything, but cut the onions.

While we were waiting for the burgers to be cooked, my daughter and I walked across the road and looked over Dam B.  I think its rather neat how the Neches river winds its way from Jasper, all the way down to Sabine Lake.

After talking about the Dam and the lake for a few minutes, my daughter and I walked back across the road to the store, got a fountain drink to go with our burgers, then drove back to Magnolia Ridge Park.

There is a spot at the very back of the park where there are some camping areas and a nice bathroom – that is where my daughter and I went.

When we arrived at the spot, I ate my burger and walked along the waters edge looking for a place to fish.  There was a nice cypress tree that was growing on the edge of the water, there were also some open spots in the water that were not covered by moss.

Here is the thing with the tree – fish like to hang out under trees, and the tree provides shade to keep the hot sun off my head. In a survival situation take shade when possible. Its not a good idea to stand out in the hot sun when its 100 degrees.

Fishing Steinhagen Reservoir Woodville Texas

Why do fish like to hang out under trees? Maybe its the change of water temp, with the water under the tree being cooler then out in the open water. Maybe its the occasional meal when a bug falls out of the tree and lands in the water.

The first line in the water was not for perch, but for catfish.

A few days ago I went by a local sporting goods store and picked up some leader material to make homemade leaders. The leader had a swivel where the line was going to be tied, then two 30 pound cable attached to the other side of the swivel. One cable was about 10 inches along and had a weight attached. The other cable was about 16 or 18 inches long and had a #1 hook attached.

The hook was baited with a worm, then cast about 40 feet off the bank. As I cast the bait, something splashed in the water no more then about 6 feet off the bank. There are only a few things that get that close to bank, and one of them is an alligator.

When the rig was reeled in, there was so much moss in the water that it got hung up and the line broke.

Ok, enough with the catfishing, the moss is too thick, lets see how the perch are biting.

The good thing about the perch, the moss stopped maybe 8 – 10 feet away from the bank. This provided a nice place to drop the hook and worm without getting hung up.

Those perch must have been hungry. As soon as the worm hit the water, they went after it.

East Texas Perch

It was at this time that I saw what had splashed in the water a few minutes earlier, and it was a gator. Gators are a common sight around Southeast Texas. When I was growing up in Bridge City, gators were a common sight in the bayous and marshes. There were lots of times when I passed a gator while hydro-sliding down Cow Bayou.

As long as you keep your distance, don’t harass them, don’t try to hand feed them, keep small pets and children away from the water, everything should be good.

Unlike cats and dogs, gators are not interested in being petted. A little scratching behind the ears is not going to win them over, so don’t even try.  With their thick skin, is a gator even going to feel you trying to scratch behind its ears to start with?

As more fish were caught and thrown back, the gator zeroed in on the commotion in the water.  Over the course of maybe 15 – 20 minutes, the gator moved from about 30 feet away, to about 8 feet off the bank.

The gator appeared to be about 6 feet long.  At that length, I do not think he posed any real danger to myself or my daughter.  As long as we did not go into the water, everything should have been fine.  But even with this knowledge, I could not help but to feel uneasy with our unwelcome guest so close at hand.  Although I have been around gators for most of my life, there is just something about being so close to a top level predator that is difficult to describe.

SouthEast Texas Alligator

The weather was getting a little hot, the gator was a little too close for comfort, so my daughter and I packed up and headed home.

When my daughter and I decided to go home, it was more then “lets go home”, I felt that I needed to set an example for her to follow.  That example was to give wildlife their room.

We had intruded into the gators home.  I could have thrown a stick across the gators head and drove it away, but what kind of example would that have set for my daughter?  That we go into nature and drive the animals away?  No, we have to share our planet with nature.

Even though the gator did not pose a danger, I felt it was important to set an example for my daughter and that example was why we went home.

On top of giving wildlife its space, my daughter, my wife and I had plans on going to the movies later in the evening.  My wife and I were going to go see Green Lantern, and my daughter wanted to go see some penguin movie with Jim Carrey.  So lets go home, and get freshened up before we have to go to the movies.

While we are on the topic of gators, how about a video from July 2010 where I spot a gator on the Angelina River. Some friends and I were out in the boat, when we spot a gator tearing chunks off of a dead turtle.