Early last week, I saw a picture on social media that grabbed my attention like a hungry catfish latches on to a shad.
In fact, that’s just what happened at Ron’s Marina One, the fishing barge at Lake Waco’s Airport Park, when some friends got together to catch some crappie.
Longtime anglers Marvin Douglas and Manuel Liendo were fishing at the barge on Tuesday when Douglas went back to his truck to get more bait. While he was on his errand, something swam up and took an easy meal.
When Douglas returned, he saw his pole was out of place and going into the water. So he picked it up to see if there was a fish on the other end of the line. And there was.
At first he thought he was hung up, and he began to assess how to get his rigging unhooked without snapping the light-gauge 6-pound test line. Soon, however, he felt the distinct movement of a fish, and his goal changed from not losing his bait to catching whatever was hooked on to it.
The fishing barge was one of my go-to places back in the 1970’s and 80’s, especially when the weather conditions were on the extreme side. You could escape the heat, cold, wind, and rain at the barge, which offered both fishing from the deck outside and an inside area. The fact that it was regularly baited out made it a predictable place to bring home something for the skillet.
During the 90’s, it was transformed into a restaurant or two, but it has once again taken its rightful place as a fishing spot. The owner offers day passes for $5, or for a $50 per year membership fee, you can fish any time you’re able.
So the fight was on, and Douglas knew that he had a whopper. He also knew that if he was going to get it in hand, he’d have to do some fancy finessing since he was holding a small fishing pole with light line.
For a while, all he could do was try to hang on while the fish tired out enough so he could gain the upper hand, but the drag on his reel was malfunctioning, meaning he had to free the spool and allow some line to strip off whenever the fish made a run, then crank it back in to maintain enough tension to stay in the fight.
The battle lasted nearly half an hour, and finally, he managed to bring the fish to the surface. Meanwhile, Liendo had started capturing video of the fight using his cell phone, but after the fish caught a glimpse of the anglers, it took a nose dive and headed back toward the bottom.
After Douglas was able to bring the fish back up, Liendo put his phone down to help net and lift it, and the trio was able to finally net the big yellow cat over the rail and onto the deck. The fish weighed nearly 50 pounds, and, although not the lake record, which was set by Tribune-Herald outdoors contributor Richard Parrett back in 2003 (59.5-pounds), it was almost certainly the biggest ever caught from the lake on 6-pound test.
Douglas said that by the end of the fight, the little crappie pole’s gears had been stripped out and it was rendered useless, adding that hand-lining the fish into the net was what it finally took to get it in.
The fish will be the guest of honor at Douglas’ next fish fry, and the ravaged fishing pole will likely be mounted on his wall next to the photos at the top of this column.
Congratulations on beating the odds, feeding your friends, and making a legendary story, Marvin and Manuel. Fish on!