“The Tithe”

“The Tithe” Wintertime speck from PINS surf - 6.75 pounds.

From the bottom of my heart I want to thank Jay Watkins for his article in the January issue of TSFM. From my perspective we live in an age when good ol' common sense and logic are very rare and Jay's article is packed with both based on 30 years of in-the-field experience. His viewpoint is shared by not only yours truly but many other longtime anglers.

To quote Jay, "For the life of me I can not understand the status quo in trout regulations when we have seen dramatic increases in fishing pressure and reductions in limits of most other game fish species."

Me neither, Jay. With no charters the entire month of December I took a couple of days to drive down to Port Mansfield and fish with Brother McBride and Capt. Tricia. Lots of fish. Lots of good fish.

Limit was changed to five fish per day in the Lower Laguna and those using live croaker to insure large catches didn't make the expensive and long trip to Port Mansfield for five trout. Uncrowded bays and less pressure on the resource have resulted in steady, quality catching. No Ph. D required to figure that one out.

This month marks fifty years since I started fishing on Padre Island and fifty-two years in local bays. This entire length of time there has been constant change in all aspects of the coastal zone. Saltwater Texas is faced with numerous very real problems and issues but the one that stands out above all the others is the tremendous increase in fishing pressure. Unless all of us work together and act responsibly, the wonders we've been able to enjoy will not be there for future generations to enjoy. Just Keep Five!

I have been blessed to have reached many goals in a wide range of saltwater fishing endeavors. The big sharks, tarpon, snook and many other species that lots of folks only dream of catching I've been allowed to catch. But way back in 1977 I learned something that changed my life.

I looked down at this unbelievably massive 746-pound tiger shark I had just landed from the surf and was totally overwhelmed by its size. Then on the way to town I got to wishing it had been just a bit bigger and that's when I realized they aren't ever going to be big enough. From my perspective you see, there was no "big enough." I realized right then I needed to change my perspective and I realized that my love is the hunt for the fish, the being there; not how big they are or how many we put in the box.

The upcoming Fourteenth Annual Big Shell Beach Cleanup on Saturday March 14th is going to be the largest and most complex event ever attempted to rid the coastal zone of debris and trash in the Coastal Bend. Unless you have been on the PINS beachfront from the 18-mile to the Port Mansfield jetty since Hurricane Ike you cannot imagine what it's like down there. It looks like 42 miles of continuous landfill. National Park Service (NPS) personnel and equipment are going to be working partners in this year's event supplying both manpower and heavy equipment and working side by side with volunteers.

Friends of Padre, Inc. (FoP) has received $27,000 in donations to support the effort as of this writing. FoP will be contracting end-dump 18-wheeler trailers which will be staged as far south as conditions allow; hopefully in the area of the 16 mile. Small trailers can dump there rather than continue all the way to Malaquite and this will allow them to make multiple trips which will increase the amount of trash we can move dramatically. FoP will also be contracting at least one large 980 front end loader and NPS will have two in the work area. Capt. Everett Johnson and Mr.

Jim Mayo will be bringing smaller 4 wheel drive front-end loader tractors.

The all-volunteer effort on the morning of March 14 will begin at the 16 mile and head south as always. Volunteers with 4-wheel drive vehicles are encouraged to bring any tools they feel may be helpful in lifting and dismantling bulky items.

Volunteers bringing trailers might consider bringing ropes or straps for securing loads in rough terrain. Nails are going to be a huge problem this year and it is strongly suggested all participants wear protective footwear.

Vehicle operators will want to insure they have tire plugs, Fix-a-Flat and a plug-in air compressor available. Volunteers are welcome to leave at 2:00 pm and will be afforded rides out but the event itself will continue as long as daylight permits.

Under the direction of PINS Facility Manager, Larry Turk, PINS personnel have been working long and hard hours to remove hazardous materials since Ike. They will concentrate their continuing efforts on removing debris far to the south between now and the cleanup date.

As it stands now, I will join this effort two or three days before the official cleanup date. Volunteers are welcome and we will be supported by trucks, trailers, equipment and men hired by FoP. We will stockpile debris on the south end of the Big Shell in an attempt to keep from tearing the Big Shell to pieces before the event.

Driving conditions in the Big Shell are currently bad and if it becomes necessary during the volunteer event we will use front end loaders to pull stuck vehicles and trailers out of the Big Shell area. Very probably the trash stockpiled south of Big Shell will be moved north after the event.

We need any and all help we can muster this year. Donations are tax deductible and can be sent to "Friends of Padre, Inc." P.O. Box 1420 Round Rock, TX. 78680. Any companies with trucks or large trailers to assist would be invaluable. Refreshments will be available at Malaquite; as always.

I am writing this on 29 December and already this event has become quite time consuming. It will become more so as time goes on. Numerous people have asked me how I can possibly do all this without pay during a time of serious personal financial problems. The reply is simple. The white man goes to church and puts money in the collection plate to support the efforts of the church. It's called a tithe; giving 10% of what you make back to support your beliefs. Coastal Texas is my church and I'm simply paying my dues to help my church. So was Jay Watkins when he wrote that article. All of us who love Coastal Texas and try to keep it healthy and beautiful for future generations are simply paying our tithes. Updates on cleanup plans will be posted on my web site at www.billysandifer.com

The two days I spent in Port Mansfield with Capt. Mike McBride and Capt. Tricia have got me all pumped up to be on the bays for a change. After all, 'tis the season for chasing them big ol' Baffin and Upper Laguna trout.

Tell you something; any of you who doubt the effectiveness of using single hooks on your plugs could very well be missing the boat. You catch less grass, don't injure as many fish and hookup per strike ratio is excellent.

Tell you another little tip; working out with weights will sure keep down the aches and pains that can accompany those long winter wades.

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