“What do your plans look like tomorrow?” “Well actually, Chuck is taking us out fishing for a mandatory company fun day. This is the first day we’ve all taken off since February, and we get to go dock shooting together at Lake Palestine.” My wife, who is glad to see we’re going to have a good time, asks the inevitable next question that generally follows the announcement of my next hunting and fishing adventure. “What time do you have to leave?” “I’ll probably get up around 4:15. “You’re getting up at 4:15 on your day off?” “Yeah, I get to sleep in fifteen minutes.”
The next morning finds us in deep east Texas a little after 6:00. There is a light chop on the water and we are witnessing a blood orange sun starting to work itself over the horizon. We launch at Lake Palestine Resort, then head to a southeastern shoreline to get out of the growing wind. We pull up to a row of big boathouses, all of them in six to seven feet of water. “What do you think?” “Shoot man, they all look fishy. Let’s just start here and we’ll move ‘til we get bit.” Not even bothering with the side scan, we drop our trolling motor down and the first shots take place at 6:33. Fish on at 6:35.
“That’s a good start man, that’s a good start!” We don’t kill them on the first dock, but now we have confidence in our area. Moving quickly, we give the fish a three shot limit. If we all shoot three times and nobody gets bit, we go on to the next dock. Once a fish is caught, we call out it’s location, so everybody can focus on shooting in that area. Getting a school of fish fired up and hitting them with five jigs at a time is an extremely effective way to stack a cooler. The line twitches and the pole bends, and a coordinate would get called out. “Second pole from the right, two poles back.” Doubles and triples usually following quickly afterwards.
Some docks held fish, and some didn’t. The one thing that is continuously getting piled on is the b.s. In fact, I would say it is deeper than most of the water we’re fishing in. Lake Palestine is turning out to be a candy land for this dock shooting business. With it’s steep hills and massive boat houses, finding deep water with lots of structure on it is not difficult whatsoever. We haven’t side scanned a single dock, and at 7:57 we’ve got forty keepers on the ice.
After playing out the first row, we take a short drive east, and take aim at an area with some very deep water, most of which is 12-15ft. “This is nuts. There are more deep water dock in this one area than there are total for all of Cedar Creek. This place is a gold mine.” Chuck, who rarely gets to actually just ride in a boat, is showing an excited smile that I usually only see on the coast. He is the best shooter that I know of, and is solely responsible for teaching me the art when I was still a customer of Big Crappie. “What do you think, Charley?” Taking off his billionth crappie, all he can say is he’s just glad we finally got to do this.
This is the second time we’ve ever fished Palestine, and the first time for any of us to ever dock shoot the lake. “When was the last time we all fished together? February?” “Man, it had to be sometime in January or February. We’ve all been too busy fishing to go fishing.” Nobody has to say that we’re all enjoying the rare opportunity to get to spend this time together on the water. The fish are doing most of the talking anyways.
As fun as that first row of docks was, this second row is absolutely ridiculous. We hit two docks in a row that spit out fifteen to twenty fish a piece, almost doubling what we already have in the box. It’s not just crappie either. Bass, catfish, bream and sandies are all making an appearance this morning. Today is about on thing, and one thing only:crappie. Being an equal opportunity angler though, I am happy to oblige anything that bites my hook.
We take a quick break after striking out on a dock. A few snacks and drinks are passed around, all of us taking a moment to reflect on what has so far been one heck of a morning. “How many you think we got?” “Shoot, I bet we’re pushing a three man limit right now.” “What time is it by the way?” Looking at the Humminbird, Greg comes back with “a little after nine.” “Geeze, I think Greg needs to start guiding us more often.”
The next to last dock we hit is the one we’ve all been waiting for. The president of P.E.T.A. could drive up and tell this dock would hold fish. Only a foot or so off the water, this dock has a lot of square footage and it sits in almost fifteen feet. It looks to almost be divided into sections, which is exactly how we fish it. We spread out on the big Skeeter, and all fire a shot into our designated area. “Fish on!” “Fish on!” Multiple doubles and triples are being taken. Emphasis on the word “multiple.” I’ll put it to you this way, we’re pulling crappie out so fast that we have two bass boats watching us.
“We’re going to need to get a count when we leave this dock.” Usually, when five people go out fishing, the last thing they worry about is getting a limit. Then again, I’ve never shot docks with five professional fishermen. I’ve never seen a five man. I’ve seen a handful of four man limits, but never a five. “Chuck, you ever see a five man limit? He pauses. “No, I’ve never seen a five man limit.” Hooking another fish in the face, the boss man steps off the trolling motor and R.D. steps up to hold us still. A period of time goes by and I hear the word “ninety-four.”
“You have ninety-four fish in that cooler?!” Looking toward the front of the boat at Chuck and then towards the back live well, I immediately start laughing. “Dude, I got at least a dozen back here!” Now everybody has stopped fishing. I start pulling fish out of the live well. A couple of them flip slime and water right in my face. “I don’t blame you.” I toss out an even dozen fish on the boat floor when I realize the live well is much deeper than I remember it being. I always use the ice box towards the front of the boat. There actually ends up being twenty-two crappie in the tank. “We have one hundred and sixteen crappie on this boat right now. We’re going to do it.”
One of the bass boats comes by and mentions the events he’s been watching go-on at this dock. Chuck and him talk about the fishing, and he moves on down the road. We go back to firing at will, hitting the dock at a little different angle to get behind some of the support columns. We start picking them up again quickly, finding the fish hiding right near the bottom. We lost a few, but when it was all said and done, we pulled somewhere between forty and fifty keepers off this one dock.
It is now 9:51, and we are trying to pick our last spot. There is an air on the boat that I can only compare to what a baseball team might feel when the pitcher is throwing a no-no. We’re all thinking it, but nobody says much. Crappie are very keen on humbling the angler, but we’re feeling good about it.
A smaller dock on a point looks like a good place to pick up the last five. There is a very steady crosswind, making it difficult for the jig to fall and the line to be read. The next five will be a challenge to get, and everybody wants to catch the last fish. So, we shoot, and we shoot some more. Nothing. More shooting. Nothing. Chuck takes a shot in front of the dock and lets the wind blow the jig underneath it. Bingo. He puts another four fish in the boat real quick, laughing the whole time. “Ya’ll going to make me do this by myself?!” He stepped down and I got on the trolling motor. I shot in front of the dock, let it fall, nothing. I shot again, and this time dropped my rod tip so the line could fall faster in the high wind. The pressure changed and I set the hook.
Number 125 came in the boat and I raised both fists with the fish still on the jig. Everybody cheered and the world was as perfect as it could be. I didn’t know what to expect but I sure didn’t expect this. What an absolutely perfect morning with four other guys who form a very important bond in my life. Rarely do we get to fish together, very rarely. Yet, we’re on the water side by side almost every day of the week. We help take care of each other’s family by making sure all of us are always on fish, and when something goes wrong, everybody else steps in to help.
The boat is back on the trailer a little after ten. When the doors on the truck get shut, you want to talk about some real happy customers. Hungry customers, too. We started naming off the items on the menu of Dairy Queen; everything from burgers to chicken fingers. I was thinking about that dip cone. We get to Frankston, whip around the truck and find a place to park. Piling out, everybody’s still talking about food when Greggo looks at his watch. “I sure hope you boys like eggs with your steak fingers because this place is still serving breakfast!”