The twilight cod

The whole thing probably started with “Gilligan’s Island.” Being marooned on a deserted island, even in the company of a lovely woman such as Mrs. Howell, seemed a terrible fate. The show must have taken all the allure and enchantment out of the ocean for me. Then when the movie “Jaws” came out I was in junior high school, an impressionable age, and it definitely made an impression on me. For years I couldn’t go near a lake or river, and I avoided bathtubs whenever possible. Even when I took a shower I kept a close eye on the drain hole. I was 24 when my wife and I spent our honeymoon in Corpus Christi, and I never got more than ankle deep in the Gulf of Mexico. A few years later I learned to ski on Brady Lake, but I was always nervous when I had to sit in the water and wait for the boat to take off. The first time I ever floated down the Llano River in a canoe I was 36. Just as I was coming to terms with my fear of deep water, and the evil creatures that live in it, I went to see “The Perfect Storm.” I was 39, an impressionable age, and now I’m back to avoiding bathtubs. I doubt I’ll ever be able to get on a boat with George Clooney again. Russell Smith, who writes about the outdoors for the San Angelo Standard Times, evidently doesn’t have this problem. Russell recently went fishing off South Padre Island with Captain Randy Rogers and caught a 100 pound shark on a rod and reel. Of course, Russell doesn’t have to worry about being pulled overboard as much as I do. At 150 pounds I’m a good 10 or 15 pounds lighter than he is. After fighting the shark for over 30 minutes, Russell finally got it up to the boat and . . . turned it loose. Obviously he didn’t want the beast in the boat with him, which means he wasn’t San Angelo’s Chief of Police for nothing. Nobody in their right mind drags an irritated 10 foot shark into a 23 foot boat. He told me he just didn’t want the shark, but I know better. Russell may also have heard about the cod that was caught recently off the coast of Australia. Some fishermen in a trawler were fishing for cod near Townsville when one of them fell overboard. If you’ve ever seen one of Mel Gibson’s “Mad Max” movies, it will come as no surprise to you that the rest of the guys on the boat continued to fish, not just for the rest of the day, but for at least two more days. They did, however, stop long enough to let the police know that their friend had gone for a swim. Now, you may be saying, “Kendal, you’re being too rough on those fishermen. They probably stayed out there to look for the guy.” Maybe so. But how do you explain the fact that two days after the guy went into the drink his head was found inside a cod caught by none other than his good buddies on the trawler. They may have been looking for him, but they weren’t looking very hard if they still had time to fish. But the big coincidence here is that Russell caught his shark using a whiting for bait. I had never heard of a whiting, so I looked up “cod” in my encyclopedia (if that doesn’t make sense to you, you haven’t been reading my columns very long). As it turns out, cod is a species of Gadus, and is the name given to an entire family of fish which includes haddock, pollack and, you guessed it, the “Minnow.” I’m kidding, of course. The cod family includes haddock, pollack and whiting. Can’t you just almost hear the strange music, almost smell the cigarette smoke, almost hear Rod Sterling saying, “You are about to embark on a journey . . .'” This whole deal sounds like much more than a coincidence to me, and if you feel the same way you should probably increase your medication. But there’s more. About six weeks ago I decided to face my fears and get over this unrealistic aversion I have for deep water. I knew it wouldn’t be easy. Just thinking about it sent cold chills up my spine. But I finally took the bullfish by the horns, so to speak, and started writing fishing reports for 35 Texas lakes. What I do, basically, is get reports from people at the various lakes about what fish are biting what baits at what times, and then write up a report once a week and send it to J. P. Greeson in Dallas. J. P. is in charge of the TPW Texas Fishing Reports, and he compiles my reports with his and those sent to him by Bink Grimes, and then puts them on the internet at Daring’ Absolutely. Foolhardy’ Maybe. But I’m starting to overcome my fears, and a man does what a man’s got to do. I’m already a lot more comfortable talking about fish than I used to be, and I think I’ll be fine as long as no one catches a 100 pound cod in Lake Nasworthy . . . Kendal Hemphill is an outdoor humor columnist who needs an on site reporter at several lakes, including Bastrop, Brownwood, Coleman, Colorado River, Fayette, Proctor, Somerville, Squaw Creek, and Steinhagen. Write to him at PO Box 564, Mason, Tx 76856 or email

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