Capt. Kevin shouted “Hang on!” and yanked the throttle of Catch’um Good wide open. The bay-fishing charter-boat quickly jumped on plane, skimming across the increasingly skinny water above the grass flat bordering the Intercoastal Waterway. When the sand bar on the edge of the channel flashed under the stern and they entered the deeper canal, he released his breath. He hadn’t expected to drag bottom but one never knew for sure.
He throttled back slightly steering the Catch’um Good in a gentle curve to center it between the channel buoys. Above the motor’s whine he shouted, “You guys will win the pot or I’ll eat my hat.”
Smiling and laughing, the three fishermen on their annual spring fishing trip agreed with thumbs up and head-nods. The wind made talking difficult. Each had their limit of two red drums, one just a whisker under the slot limit of twenty-eight inches, one over, properly tagged. Each fish weighed over eight pound and were hidden in the drink cooler. The fish box had a nice, but not spectacular catch of spotted sea trout. They would reveal the trout first to their buddies in the other boat when they met at The Duck-In Marina dock. After their friends had their laugh and claimed the pot, they would trump with the reds. Oh, it was going to be fun.
Bart was standing beside the Capt., holding the stainless cockpit rail to steady himself. Looking back he exclaimed “Uh, Oh! The Coast Guard is signaling pull over.” Where had they come from?
Kevin shut down the Catch’um Good. They were still gliding forward when the Coast Guard boat pulled alongside and two young, trim athletic officers jumped aboard. Another stayed on their craft.
“Give me your Guide License and insurance” the short officer instructed Kevin. He pointed a finger at the others: “Photo I.D. and fishing license.” Afterwards, he made a detailed safety equipment inspection.
The tall officer had opened the fish box and started measuring fish. Looking in the drink box, he demanded, “Why are these fish in here?” He squinted at the tape measure, hoping, it seemed, an untagged fish would nudge over the mark. Both officers had a stern, no-nonsense, take-no-prisoners attitude.
When the Coast Guard finished and motored slowly away, Bart asked Kevin, “What was that all about?”
“I’m not sure” he said, wiping sweat from his sunburned brow. “I’m glad I was legal in every way or I think I would have been in serious trouble.”
Harry asked, “Did you notice their spit-shined shoes; and the starched shirts and creased pants? That’s really strange out here on the water, isn’t it?”
“You’re right” Kevin replied. “Texas game wardens look like they sleep in their clothes. Since 9-11, the Coast Guard is controlled by Homeland Security. Those guys must be in training; or, looking hard for illegals. They really studied your I.D’s”
“They sure looked me over” Ignacio said laughing. “My suntan is a little dark. If they were looking for border jumpers, they missed one right under their nose. They miss most of ‘em I expect.”
“What’cha mean Ignacio?” Bart asked, reaching for a peach-nectar drink in the cooler. He wiped the fish slime from it before twisting the cap.
“Didn’t’cha see that Monarch butterfly flitting around, trying to land on the brim of that short officer’s cap? He kept swatting it away. That butterfly migrated from Mexico across the gulf and was looking for a place to rest before heading on north. He will never be back this way again but, amazingly, his offspring will.”
“Aw, Ignacio” Harry laughed, unwrapping a stick of Juicy Fruit. “You know more trivia than a fifth grader.”
“Look high” Ignacio said, pointing. “You can barely see them. Those are several hundred Red-tail Hawks circling, heading north. This morning, you saw the rarest birds of all, those Whooping Cranes. They will be heading out this month for Canada. In the spring God’s border-jumper’s are all around if you pay attention.”
Capt. Kevin chimed in. “My pastor said we are uniquely created. We may not be border jumpers… well, I don’t know about you Ignacio” he chuckled. “God has a plan for us, just like he does for birds and butterflies. He made me a fisherman. That’s what I like doing. When I have customers onboard, I try to catch’um good.”
“Amen” Bart said, as Kevin started the motor. “And we like catching ’em, be they fish or men.”
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