EXCERPTED FROM THE KILLEEN DAILY HERALD, 30 JUNE 2018:
It seems we humans have a thing for “firsts.”
We recall how Babe Ruth was the first to slug his way to 50 home runs in a season. We recollect how Roger Bannister was the first to break the 4-minute mile.
We celebrate the Wright brothers, who made the first mechanically powered flight in Kill Devil Hills, N.C., and the list goes on. But what about fishing firsts?
Thanks to the Angler Recognition Program run by the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, anglers can now preserve the memories of their first catch.
That is exactly what siblings Christian and Delilah Ycaro did last week while fishing aboard my boat.
The youths’ mother, Angel Garcia, contacted me requesting a free fishing trip for her kids offered through the Soldiers’ Kids Involved in Fishing Fun program to youths separated from their parents by their parents’ military duty.
The children’s step-dad, Army Sgt. Christopher Garcia, is currently deployed to South Korea where he works in the information technology field. Their father, John Ycaro, a veteran, and their step-mom, Alyssa Ycaro, reside in San Jose, California.
Angel and I agreed that Wednesday would be a mutually agreeable date on which to take the kids on their SKIFF trip.
From June through the end of August I always opt for a morning trip whenever kids are involved, for a number of reasons. Winds tend to be lighter, the morning bite tends to be longer and stronger than the evening bite, and, of course, mornings are much cooler and more enjoyable.
Angel drove Christian and Delilah to the boat ramp on Stillhouse Hollow Lake where we had agreed to meet, along with her 7-month-old baby. So she could care for the baby, Angel left the older kids in my care and met us back at the boat ramp some hours later.
I provided Christian and Delilah with a safety briefing and a basic introduction to the equipment they’d be using, prayed with them, asking the Lord for safety and success, and we then headed off to the fishing grounds.
On this particular morning, we began fishing in an area which had been impacted by the southerly winds for several days. In 30 to 35 feet of water, sonar clearly revealed great numbers of baitfish which appeared as suspended clouds in the water column beneath the boat. Soon, the gamefish there to feed on those baitfish began to show on sonar as well.
Using a pair of Cannon Digi-Troll 10TS downriggers, we presented Pet Spoons on three-armed umbrella rigs just slightly above the level at which the fish appeared on sonar.
The three-armed umbrella rigs each allow three Luhr-Jensen Pet Spoons to be presented at a given time, one on each downrigger, hence, there are six baits in the water in total.
By keeping the boat moving slowly forward, these Pet Spoons, which are similar in size, shape, and color to the young of the year shad that most gamefish are feeding on this time of year, appear to swim horizontally, parallel to the bottom.
We did not go even 50 yards before Delilah’s line sprang out of the downrigger’s release clip, indicating a fish had struck her presentation. As it was her first fish ever, I carefully explained what she needed to do to successfully bring the fish boatside. Delilah listened well and, after about a minute or so, she brought not one, but two fish to the surface at the same time, one a white bass and the other a largemouth bass. She had just earned her TPWD First Fish Award.
As soon as we measured, photographed and released Delilah’s fish, I put the boat back in gear and we worked on resetting her rod while Christian’s rod remained deployed. Within seconds of beginning to motor forward, Christian’s line also sprang out of the downrigger ball’s release clip, letting us know he, too, had connected with a fish … or so we thought.
As Christian worked to bring his fish in, it soon became clear that he, too, had hooked into a double. In this case, there were two white bass on his line. One was under the 10-inch minimum length limit, so we immediately released it, but the other larger fish we kept just long enough to measure and photograph prior to releasing it as well.
Just minutes into the trip we had already boated four fish and both kids had already earned their First Fish Awards. Christian and Delilah went on to catch and release 67 fish on this outing, including largemouth bass, white bass, freshwater drum and several species of sunfish.
Those wishing to commemorate their first catch may do so by going to tpwd.texas.gov/fishboat/fish/programs/ and downloading the PDF found under the Fish Records and Awards link. This form and a photo of the angler holding the fish are then submitted to the TPWD’s Austin headquarters at the address shown on the form. This can be done by mail or electronically.
Ron Smith of TPWD processes these applications and sends the applicants an 8½-by-11-inch certificate suitable for framing, complete with a gold, raised Seal of the State of Texas affixed to it. On the certificate, the details of the catch, including, angler name, date, water body, species, etc., are recorded.
Anglers requiring assistance in working through the submission process are welcome to call upon me for assistance at 254-368-7411 or email me at Bob@HoldingTheLineGuideService.com.
This program is open to anglers of all ages.