When you get to be a man of a certain age, you likely will have accumulated enough fishing gear to supply a small tackle store. The same may be true for women but I’ve been married far too long to make any further speculations about the fairer sex. Getting a chance to fish with someone new, on a new boat, in waters possibly unfamiliar, means you get to dig through and assemble a pile of all the right stuff. No one wants to get caught short or look like they don’t know what they’re doing.
With a new sun rising over Newport, I was 45 minutes early to a six o’clock fishing trip with Joe Teixeira. Everything I needed was packed into two bags, including the tin of brownies my wife made me bring as a simple offering. Who doesn’t like brownies? My 3 rods, all less than seven feet, had reels spooled with fifty pound braid as I thought we were headed into the Bay for blues and bass, which lately have been largely pretty small. Also packed were far too many lures for every bass, fluke, tautog, sea bass or weakfish we might encounter. Stepping onto his beautiful, classic bass boat, Chief One, Joe Tex gave me a dose of elevator eyes, looking me over from boots to hat, with a glance to my rods and two bags of gear. “So”, he asked me, “You fish much?” I had been sized up and figured out before we even left the dock.
At 81, Joe Tex is a wealth of real stories, not the kind people yarn on about to make clear how important or skilled they are, but the real ones. He has been here and there, raised a fine family, run a business, presided over the Jamestown Town Council and worked his way to the top of the fire department. He has seen more than this column could ever detail. Depending on wind and waves, he goes fishing almost every day with his close friend Billy Raymond. The Dutch writer, Isak Dinesen gave us “the cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears or the sea.” That’s Joe.
When he pulled in at 5:45 clenching a big cigar through a big smile, I knew he was the real deal. His boat is the simple kind of perfect; tied alongside Contenders and Whalers and lots of polished white plastic, the easy lines and open space are a reminder of how boats used to be built. It wasn’t that many years ago that Jamestown and many other ports were full of these smart fishing machines. As we steamed out of Fort Wetherill and away from the Bay, Tex loaded his one rod with his one lure. He had a faded green Plano big box, the kind we all used to have before our lives became so soft-sided. Yes, I peeked inside; a handful of big, reliable swimmers, darters, Atoms and Danny’s. Decades of practice knowledge and a few mistakes helps refine your needs. I didn’t need half of all I brought and suspect that if Tex had broken off, he would have just replaced the lure with another just like the first.
We fished around Brenton Point and over an old wreck. These have been hard waters to navigate in poor weather and the author John T. Brennan noted that “so many bodies were pulled from this particular stretch of coastline that it was commonly known as Graves Point.” This was water he has worked for fun and as a charter captain but a strong north wind made it difficult to stay side-to as we pitched lures to small areas of bait, blues and bass. By days end we had caught a few of each, he had run the boat to a few good spots to let me fish more and we had a heck of a time. Over a coffee later that morning, we shook hands and I remembered just how important a few hours fishing can be. Thank you, Joe Tex.
And speaking of tackle stores, NOAA Fisheries service surveyed16,000 independent, small business bait and tackle stores in 2013 to determine their collective economic impact. Turns out this first-of-a-kind study showed our local hangouts contribute $2.3 billion to the country’s bottom line. Pretty impressive and it shows the importance and power of shopping local. Surely it’s easy to pick up diapers, fertilizer, antifreeze and some new line or spinner baits at one of those all-consuming, multi-national box stores. Surely it is far more important to pick up a new popper and chat with Peter at the Salt Water Edge or get your new Thom Cat fluke rig and your stones busted a little at Breachway Bait and Tackle or kill a half hour listening to Elisa at Snug Harbor, who knows everything happening on the south coast. Ron Mouchon’s passing is a reminder that life is an event, often an ordeal and in the large picture, a short one at that. You won’t get that chit chat or advice passing through the linen isle trying to find the Uncle Josh’s.
According the 2014 study, Regional Competitiveness, the State of Local Business & Organizational Purchasing in Rhode Island, “a dollar spent at a small local business stays in the community longer than the same amount spent at a large national chain. This is because local vendors are much more likely to spend money at other local businesses, to support community endeavors, and to maintain jobs in times of economic hardship.” We need tackle stores and we need them to stay local. Enough said.
RIDEM is looking for volunteers to help collect data on fresh water bass at fishing tournaments from now until October. Measurements and weights will be recorded and scale samples taken. If you have some free weekend time and want to learn about largemouth bass, you can contact their volunteer coordinator, Jennifer Brooks at Jennifer.firstname.lastname@example.org.
DEM will hold its fourth annual “Women’s Day at the Range” on August 1. Instructors will provide training on safety, handling and shooting shotguns, bows and arrows, handguns and rifles. No experience is needed with all firearms, ammunition, and safety equipment provided along with one-on-one instruction from DEM’s range safety officers and hunter education instructors. DEM Director Janet Coit said, “Don’t miss this opportunity to enjoy the outdoors with family and friends and hone your skills on the target range.” Cool. Two sessions will be offered starting at 9am at the Great Swamp Shooting Area in West Kingston. Even better, hot dogs and drinks will be provided free of charge by the Federated RI Sportsmen’s Clubs. Each session is limited to one hundred people so you will need to download a registration form at www.dem.ri.gov/programs/bnatres/fishwild/pdf/womrange.pdf then send it along to email@example.com.