Thankful on Thanksgiving

Thankful on Thanksgiving

Today is the 49th straight day of red tide on PINS. This is the most widespread red tide event I ever remember and there is really no way of knowing when it will end. It seems as if the red tide has become more resilient and harder to get rid of nowadays than in the past. Used to we'd get a cold front or two at the most and it would dissipate, but in the past few years we've had them continue through any number of cold fronts with low temperatures and last into February. You can go on your computer and search for TPWD Red Tide Status and get the latest updates and the PINS website has updates as well. Don't take your dog to the beach during or for some time after the conclusion of a red tide event as eating fish killed by the red tide will kill your dog. PLEASE - Trust me on this one.

The Seventeenth Annual Big Shell Beach Cleanup will be held on Saturday, 25 February, 2012. The date was changed (from our traditional March date) to avoid the possibility of getting trapped by a change in speed limit from 25 mph to 15 mph on the first of March. That would leave little time for us to pick up trash as most of our work day would be consumed driving to and from the work area. Over the years we have consistently received comments about the event taking place during Spring Break and this will eliminate that issue. Upon checking the past six years of climatic data in my log books I find that in a typical year we have better weather conditions in late February than in March; so it's all good.

Everything else regarding the cleanup will remain the same. We'll be meeting at the Malaquite Pavilion and will start the event promptly at 0700. We need 4-wheel drive vehicles and stoutly built lowboy trailers for hauling trash. Volunteers without 4-wheel drive are welcome and will be provided transportation to and from the work area. All volunteers will be back at Malaquite by 2:00 PM. Sturdy foot wear is recommended as chances are that many fish killed by the red tide will be on the upper beach near the fore dunes and a constantly danger to folks wearing sandals and tennis shoes. Gloves, water, sodas and snacks will be provided in the work area and food will also be available at Malaquite at the conclusion of the event - if you think you might want a sandwich during the event feel free to bring one. This event has never rescheduled due to inclement weather but it is possible that it could be rescheduled if the red tide is still active. I don't expect that to happen as cold fronts are coming closer together now and hopefully it will be out of here before too much longer.

Updates will be available on my website, the Friends of Padre, Inc. web site and the fishing message board at During the cleanup, be extremely careful to avoid driving among the many piles of dried-up fish carcasses located high on the beach near the dunes as it will result in flat tires. This will be an event where vehicle operators will be well advised to carry tire plugging kits, Fix-a-Flat and a small air compressor that plugs into your cigarette lighter. Of course these should always be standard items for beach travelers to carry all the time down island anyway.

The Friends of Padre, Inc (501-c-3 non-profit group) was thrilled to be presented with a $1,500 grant check on 03 November to aid in carrying out the Big Shell Cleanup from design engineer, Laura Paul, and all the fine folks at CH2MHill. CH2MHill is an engineering firm with an office locally. CH2MHill personnel have participated in the last two beach cleanups and even rented 4-wheel drives to use during last year's event. The support of local businesses for this event has proven hard to come by but is increasing a little at a time and it's most gratifying to see and is much appreciated. What doesn't make sense to me is what appears to be the total lack of support of the event by North Padre Island businesses. One would think they have the most to gain of all from this event yet show no interest in it what-so-ever.

We've added two gung ho individuals to the staff of the Friends of Padre and shuffled some responsibilities around and I feel really good about the potential of this group to accomplish many good deeds in times to come. Jay Gardner is now the secretary-treasurer and Aaron Baxter has been added to the board and I could not be more pleased.

Since traveling long distances on the beach is not an issue for the Port Mansfield cleanup effort, Miller and Kathie Bassler will be having their third annual Port Mansfield-based cleanup on March 17, 2012. They tell me their event is a real hoot so you Rio Grande Valley residents might want to join in.

It's Thanksgiving and I've sure got plenty to be thankful for this year. I believe that trying to make an honest living guiding in the surf of PINS is as difficult and demanding a career as saltwater Texas has to offer. No new revelations there; I was well aware of the demands and difficulties I would be facing when I started guiding there twenty-two years ago. In reality that is one of the main reasons I chose to focus on guiding in the surf rather than in the bays or offshore. Things that are accomplished too easily have never been of much interest to me. They seem of little value and I tend to thrive in the constantly changing and challenging environment that the surf affords.

All that I have ever hoped for was to make enough money to continue to do what I was doing from one year to the next and living hand-to-mouth is an old story around my house. As time went on it seemed to get harder and harder to get by with each passing year. At first I was ready to blame it on me getting old but I soon realized that wasn't the problem. Unprecedented amounts of sargassum that arrived earlier in the year in larger amounts than we were used to and stayed longer than in the past became the norm more than the exception. Cold upwellings of offshore currents that used to impact the surf zone occasionally began impacting the shoreline in peak fishing season almost constantly and turned crystal clear water to off-colored and the number of red tide events and the lengthy duration of these events all added up to make already tough times tougher.

As much as I loved my 25' Panga I didn't have enough charters on it in the current economy to break even and in June I sold it to a dear friend to financially ward off the wolf at the door. Then the V.A. gave me 70% service-connected disability and that helped me hang on but just barely. Then we lost our wonderful fall fishing season to this lengthy red tide event and along with it all the charters I had to have to support my wife and me through the winter months when we have very few charters. Then when I was in the process of considering what to do next I got a letter from the V. A. advising me that after 22 months of mulling it over they had declared me 100% military service-connected disabled on 31 October, 2011 for mental and health issues from serving two tours in South Vietnam. Wow. Talk about dodging the bullet.

I will continue to guide some surf fishing how-to trips, light tackle, and naturalist's charters on PINS but I financially no longer have to depend on them for our sole support. I am downsizing and want to use my twilight years spending a lot of time down-island on walkabouts studying the island and taking Billy fishing for a change. Who knows, I might even take a shot at writing that book everyone has been ragging me about for the past thirty years. Here is wishing you and yours a healthy and prosperous New Year.

If we don't leave any there won't be any. -Capt. Billy L. Sandifer