10—24-2007 TRIP REPORT - EVERETT JOHNSON'S RAFFLED GUIDED TRIP from PACK TOURNEY 2006
It was the August 12, 2006 6th ANNUAL PACK FISHING TOURNAMENT & BAR B and I hurried my boyfriend, DICK McGONIGLE, and our friend VINH HA out of Dickinson Bay to avoid missing the weigh in and drawing for prizes – particularly the chance to win the big trip with full time guide, full time publisher of GULF COAST CONNECTIONS, part time biologist, ecologist, philosopher and humorist, EVERETT JOHNSON. I had taken copious notes on fishing Espiritu Santo and San Antonio Bays, as well as on celestial effects on fishing, from the front row at several fishing show seminars and speaking engagements. You might say Everett is on my “reeeel” short list of favorite speakers. I had spent my last $10 after eating before a PACK meeting on one ticket for the raffle of the guided fishing trip generously donated to the club by Everett – clearly the buzz of the meeting.
Well, the day of the tournament I won the drawing, the crowd exploded (I’m SURE I am the group’s most challenged fisherman) and due to our scheduling problems is has been 14 months of inquiries by club members on the status of the big trip.
Wednesday, October 24 2007 – Trip Day! Dick had called to see if the howling norther on Monday was still threatening the trip. Everett indicated his preference for weatherunderground.com voting to fish with winds kicking up later in the day. We met Everett and his lovely wife and guide Pam Johnson at their beautiful home near Charlie’s Bait Camp, with that hallowed building housing the GULF COAST CONNECTION publication right across the pasture on their acreage. The high consoled 25 foot Majek in the driveway looked imposing as a flats conquistador and was ready to go. With winds breezy from the northeast, a crystal clear sky, and choppy brown water down 2 feet from the norther Monday, our first stop would be Dewberry Island on Espiritu Santo Bay. The expectation was the drainage of the shallow nearby waters would leave reds and trout roaming up and down the shoreline. Many other boats and waders had the same idea, with no rods bent. Moving down Dewberry, Everett pointed out a large flock of pelicans diving in thrashing water – Jacks! Real Messy Eaters – Pelicans Love It! The flock and the commotion was rapidly moving down the shoreline of Dewberry Island toward us, and then passed us. Hundreds of pounds of ravenous jackfish visible at or above the foaming water at any given moment for 15 minutes. We followed the spectacle to view at close range till it seemed to fizzle out.
We then set out on a search for fishable water in the churned up bay. Crossing the bay toward Pringle Lake we skirted along the shoreline for protection through the pass next to South Pass Lake then cutting back through the swamps in an amazing display of shallow water navigation until we arrived in Pat’s Bay. We waded a pretty soft bottom for a while without success and certainly wondered if the big Majek would get back on a plane in that water. No need to fear – as the day went on we learned a foot of water was about all that was necessary, and 4- 5 inches floated it. Everett learned to his joy that he became a grandfather again at 10:00 a.m. We happily left seeking trout and reds. Further down into San Antonio Bay we passed our campsite with PACK from the previous weekend, and 3-4 miles later pulled up outside Cottonwood Bayou to learn the fine art of working that bayou in a winter tide mode. The trout were just around the side of the reef at the mouth just exactly as Everett suggested. Methodically we worked through the mouth of that bayou with the precision of a brain surgeon – trout after trout after trout! Though we kept many, a lot of undersized and legal were returned. We left to explore other waters, ending up in Twin Lakes Bayou. We employed a very different plan of attack leading to more trout and some undersized rat reds. But the show stoppers were an enormous looking 27 inch red and a fat 24 inch trout caught in shin deep water roaming along the shore of the island up in the center of the bayou. It was 4:00 p.m. and getting late - Everett had really put on the dog for us. We took a path back meandering around shell bars and through seemingly impassible back waters that were breath taking. The day was beautiful, and it was a complete outdoor experience. At the dock we were greeted by a carefree golden retriever. Fish were cleaned and more stories and anecdotes passed out. Meeting up with his wife Pam back at the house, we learned she had taken her Majek out scouting trout for the next day’s party. With another 2 weeks before a break in Everett’s bookings, Dick and I realized the breakneck schedule necessary for the Johnsons to maintain their top rate guide reputation and to publish a world class outdoor magazine - and keep a smile on their faces. After Pam showed us a few tricks regarding touts, Tupperware and Gulp, and gave us a tour of her boat, we said good by to them and their 3 pooches with hopes of returning soon. The trip was everything I had hoped it would be when I spent my last $10 on that raffle ticket.
To our fellow members, the above constitutes the trip report. In no way does my writing ability allow me to adequately describe the primer we were exposed to on wide ranging outdoor subjects including technique, gear, navigation (I was impressed that Everett without hesitation allowed a GPS so we could learn to navigate the area), ecology, recipes, weather, seasons, Espiritu Santo and San Antonio Bays, safety techniques and fishing hot spots. On our PACK trip to Panther Point, we should think more of fishing the base of Panther Reef and the straight 5 mile sand bar running 300 yards off the island between Panther Point and Second Chain of Islands, the latter particularly during summer months. I liked his use of a split ring and a swivel on the tout head. As a guide I would rate his attentiveness to his client (me!) as tops. I would say he brings to the water some of the publisher dilitante muckraker scientific, philosfizin humor of a Ben Franklin and Samuel Clemens mixed with a little Burl Ives thrown in. When you add his very charming fishing, cooking and publishing partner and wife, Pam, to the equation it makes for quite a show. To Everett, thankyou for a very generous donation sponsoring our PACK annual tournament, and for a great trip!
Lisa Bell, PACK Member
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