Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Charged up Fishing Hole

 Most folks who spend a lot time outdoors have had at least one uncomfortable experience with electrical storms and lightning. I’ve personally had my wits frazzled a few times by sudden flashes of ultra bright light and the ensuing “crack”, “rumble” and “roar”. However, one time while fishing, an electrical storm actually  formed above my buddy and me causing some pretty weird things to happen.
I think we're gonna need a bigger motor.
 One overcast afternoon in June, 1980, James Johnson and I ventured out on to Lake Whitney which is located about a hundred miles south of   Fort Worth. We had hopes of catching a view big stripers (not "strippers"; as Spell-check insists). At that time Lake Whitney was known for producing some of these feisty boogers that weighed over 35 pounds.
After launching my little 16 ft boat, we headed for the Brazos River channel where the water depth drops, from the lake’s average depth of 25 feet, to over 80 feet. The fish had a habit of staying down in the river channel and, from time to time, came up to feed at edge of the drop-off.
 When we got close to the area  we wanted to fish I turned off the 115 hp. outboard and. James  took control of the boat using the electric trolling motor. When the first group of fish appeared on the depth finder James turned the electric motor off and the boat slowly drifted while we baited our hooks with pumpkin seed perch. We were using two identical rigs— they were both seven foot fiberglass rods fitted with steel Garcia reels  with 17 pound test mono line. We then let the one ounce weights carry the baited hooks to the bottom.
 The air grew heavy and still. Thick black clouds dropped to within a hundred feet of the surface of the lake and churned above us. The atmospheric pressure fell  causing the lake to seem stagnant and fetid.
 As we drifted slowly in the direction of our lines, I reached into the ice chest for a beer. That’s when James said, “Dennis, look at your line”.
 I quickly looked up and saw that, instead of the slack line floating on the top of the water, it was rising up into the air. James stopped reeling in the slack and the line from his reel also began to rise up toward suspicious looking,  low clouds. We looked at each other and laughed.
 I asked James, “What in the world is going on, man?”
 Before he could answer my reel started making a slow clicking sound about as loud as chop sticks being broken in half. The volume and rapidity of the clicks increased and then, James’ reel started to do the same thing. We exchanged puzzled looks as our lines appeared to be nearly touching the dark ceiling that hung above us and the noise from the reels continued to get louder.
 I hollered above the noise to James “Reel in and let’s get out of here before we get struck by lightning”.
 I started the big motor and headed away from the spot as quickly as possible. Less than 20 seconds later there was a bright flash of light and loud explosion behind us. We turned around and saw a juniper tree smoldering from a lightning strike. The tree was on the side of a cliff on the opposite side of the channel;  about 100 feet from spot we had just vacated.
 We headed for the boat ramp and got the boat loaded on the trailer during a downpour. When we made it to higher ground we stopped to talk about what had just happened. We decided that an electrical charge was building in the dark clouds above us and the static electricity was drawing the line upward. The clicking sound must have been produced by a charge that traveled down the fiberglass rods and into the reels where it began arching between the ball bearings inside.
 That was enough excitement for one day , so we headed to the lake house to drink beer and celebrate being delivered from near disaster. In those days it seemed we could always find some reason to celebrate as long as we had plenty of beer on hand.

1 comment:

  1. I enjoyed this one Dennis. Remind me to tell you about the time a tornado drove me off of a small lake in Indiana.