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May 27th, 2007

aransas and the ocean

We got up early Saturday and, post-raisin-bran, drove to Aransas National Wildlife Reserve. It's thirty miles north of Rockport, up the coast. The road there features lots of open fields and wetland prairie. The way is like a teaser for this "birder's park", because all kinds of birds are in evidence.

When we arrived, we were the only visitors there other than a few stray folks who came to fish. We found it was Rachel Carson Day. Little signs on wooden stakes about her life were here and there. A knowledgeable and kind local park ranger led us along the Rail Trail, which runs by all sorts of little wetland marshes. We and a couple of women from Corpus Christi walked by alligator and leopard frog, wildflowers and butterflies. The place was alive with birdsong and color. We had such a very good time. On the drive back, we saw two roseate spoonbills, all gorgeous pink, flying over Spring-green fields. They looked great in that setting.

We stopped by a Mexican restaurant on our way to our next event which was very authentic and good. I had to hunt a bit on the menu to work out something within my eating plan, settling at last on a capable meal of roasted shrimps.

We then went to Port Aransas to go deep sea fishing. This was a "party boat" experience, as I like the inexpensive ease of going in fairly don't-try-to-understand-'em-just-rope-and-throw-and-brand-'em groups. We had gone with this fishing outfit in January for a graceful half-day bay fishing trip, aboard a gentle and fun little party barge. This time, we did a longer trip, five hours, on a 70 foot huge boat out into the open ocean.
When we arrived, a prior fishing party had just returned, each fisherperson bearing huge grouper and mackerel.

We got on our boat around 4. We drove a fun hour and a quarter out into the ocean, enjoying the splash and vigor of it, and the taste of saltwater from stray waves. The fishing did not work so well. Nobody caught any fish on the boat, and a number of people were seasick from the bouncing around during our drift. I thought nausea might get the best of me for a moment, but I was fortunate--my main symptom was just a kind of weariness. But when we revved up, sans fish, to go home, I revved up, too. We got to land in good order, and I once more felt great.

We went to our favorite seafood place in Rockport, Charlotte something or other, where the flounder was delightful.

Lessons learned? One can never have too many butterflies or wildflowers. Also, I am a creature of piers and bays, and not of the open sea.

Bullethead Catfish.

This trip I enjoy reading Nevil Shute's "Around the Bend", a novel which combines solid narrative plotting with a nice plot theme about a form of grace. I had only read his "On the Beach" prior to reading this novel. The book is just the thing I like--middlebrow "midlist" fiction of its era--neither experimental nor mere tired genre fiction.

We went fishing at the Copano Bay pier today, where the fellows who ran the bait shop kept it spotless and an actual pleasure to visit. The weather was so fine, however, that we decided to go hiking at the wildlife refuge again. We drove to the Aransas preserve, and walked by a "Big Tree", which was a live oak over 450 years old. We walked on the boardwalk by the salt marshes, seeing a cute striped kingsnake on the trail. We climbed to the observation tower, and looked from on high through my (very handy) pocket 8 x 20 monocular at herons fishing in the marshes. We inadvertently startled one heron under the boardwalk, who flew away, emitting a kind of complaining call as he flew.

We saw deer along the roadway, placidly eating grass. As we drove from the refuge, a wild javelina (related to a pig) scampered across the road. We headed to Austinwil, a nearby town of 700.

Austinwil has a wooden fishing pier which juts into a bay. When we arrived three fellows were fishing on a grassy knoll near the pier. That looked good to us, so we picked an isolated place nearby and cast out. Within moments I had a bullethead catfish on the line. He was a goodish size. I posed for a picture and then threw him back. Then my wife caught another bullethead catfish, which we promptly photographed and threw back. This ocean catfish is not considered a delicacy, but we would have thrown them back even if they had been the most succulent seatrout in the ocean. We fished a while longer, enjoying sitting in deck chairs while things nibbled at our bait squid, and a cooling wind blew through.

We drove back to the restaurant Charlotte Plummer's once more, where we each had a nice redfish. Then we called it an early and entirely satisfying day.

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