Hail April!

Everett Johnson
Here on the Texas coast, in terms of fishing participation, April is when the rubber meets the road. Improving weather, a brief taste of salt perhaps during March's spring break, great tides, a general sense of rebirth in the estuaries, and the beauty of Texas in bloom completes the setting. Even though autumn and early winter can arguably bring the year's best fishing, the throng of anglers headed coastward cannot all be wrong; April is great too!

Too often, though, we hear tales of fishermen who have not prepared well for the "opener" if April could be termed such. Outboards neglected during the hunting months tend to be cranky on the first outing and tempers flare in long lines at boat launches. Boat trailers burn up rusted wheel bearings and dry-rotted tires explode on highways. Boating and launching skills get rusty too, adding drama. The upshot is that the first really big trip sometimes turns out to be less fun than had been anticipated.

I know it sounds corny, but a trip to your favorite boat dealer or mechanic's shop is where the season's first big excursion should start. In this age of ethanol-blended gasoline and injected outboards, fuel systems deserve attention by expert technicians and electrical systems definitely need a pre-season shakedown. Batteries suffer during downtime, sometimes to the point of being unable to hold a charge. Very frustrating; just ask anybody that's been "next" at a busy boat launch.

Adrenaline and high expectation have a way of pushing boating safety and courtesy on the water to a backseat. Incidents of bay rage become common while near-misses and otherwise easily avoided accidents grab headlines and top all tales of fishing success at marinas.

In this issue we have included two tales to increase on-the-water safety awareness. Beck Haynes of Port O'Connor, lifelong boat operator and angler, relates the importance of kill switches. She is lucky to be able to share her experience. During a visit yesterday, I witnessed how an outboard propeller can mangle a leg. A gruesome image of what ignoring simple operating protocol can cause.

Also included is Joe Hunt's story of his stringer getting wrapped in the prop while his buddy picked him up after a wade. Joe is no rookie and he too was lucky, way luckier than Becky. His account of how quickly and innocently everything happened should be a serious reminder to all wade fishermen.

Honestly, I could not begin to estimate how many hours I have operated boats with the kill switch tether draped across the throttle lever. And even though I have always fully understood the danger of climbing a boarding ladder with the engine running, I can recall a few times when haste in reaching the next spot seemed to justify it. However, after speaking with Becky and Joe, I assure you these foolish stunts are all in my rearview.

Before heading to the coast this month, give your equipment the attention it deserves.
And above all, please remember to think safety first and always display the greatest courtesy to your fellow fishermen, even if they are clearly in the wrong. We all live to fish, so let's all be safe and courteous while we do it.