Merrill Memories: A Day of Field Research

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Another in our “Canoeman Remembered” series

 With the untimely passing in 2002 of our beloved pal Merrill ‘Canoeman’ Chandler, we continue our memorial series of articles authored by the man himself. In this commentary, Merrill recounts a joyful and quite productive trip last fall with top Bay area guide, Fox 13’s Capt. Doug Hemmer and “Doc” — the one and only Doc of Goofy jigs fame.

By Merrill ‘Canoeman’ Chandler (1929- 2002)

Capt. Mel, Doc of Doc’s Goofy Jigs and I joined the demonstrative fishing guide of Fox 13’s “Fish and Chip” fame, Capt. Doug Hemmer, on a fish scouting trip. The red tide has been showing up on occasion around the Tierra Verde flats so Capt. Doug invited us to do some fishing and looking.

On our way out to the fishing locale we saw pelicans diving on bait.

“The last time that I came through here it looked the same but when I returned the whole area was teeming with dead and dying fish.” Doug said. “Let’s hope it isn’t that way today.” I replied.

As we rounded an island we saw at least fifty of those beautiful white pelicans who show up this time of year. All were perched on a sand spit that was decreasing in size with the incoming tide.

Because of the low tides, Capt. Doug took us to a deeper channel with a shallow grass flat off to our right. Capt. Mel and I were tossing CAL jigs, while Doc was using one of his new designs, called the “G2”. Our skipper, Capt. Doug was equipped with a MirrOlure Top Pup plug. We each fired in a different direction. Doc boarded the first fish — a nice near keeper `trout. Capt. Doug, standing on the bow, tossed his lure almost out of sight to reach a likely location. About the second twitch he enticed a nice sized trout to partake of his flashing lure. I guess that I was not holding my mouth right because it was a spell before I caught my first fish.

Capt. Mel was using a MirrOlure when I heard him say, “Let Merrill do it. He has done it before.” I knew by the tone of his voice that I was in for another “Hookectomy.” Not being up on the latest techniques I used the old fashion method called “yank the shank.”

This delicate procedure consists of a fishy pair of somewhat rusted pliers applied to the shank of the hook and on the count of three {yank on two} a sharp jerk on the hook and presto the barb is out. I might add a copious amount of flesh is removed from the location.

Doc’s Goofy 2 – a Goofy Jig enhanced with a bucktail – was doing the job and it was not long before Capt. Mel switched to one of those G2s.

We made a few drifts in the area and caught some nice fish on each pass. The G2, being the lure of choice. The breathing action of the hair tail was just what the fish wanted. That is the reason that we all have tackle boxes bulging with all kinds of lures. You never know what menu they prefer. Be prepared.

What a beautiful day to fish. I had my folding chair set up aft so I could kick my feet up and watch all that was going on. I find it almost as enjoyable watching people catch fish as doing it myself. Almost, I said.

We tested numerous spots with high success rate at each place.

Capt. Doug knows the area like the back of his hand so we were not in want of pulls.

He then took us to a likely redfish area and set his “Power Pole” in the sand. I guess it was the first or second cast that Doug made that produced a strong fish. Soon Doc was on and then Mel joined in on the fun. Bedlam was a calm place compared to the action that we were experiencing. Doc and Doug had a pair of husky bluefish and Mel was fighting an oversize redfish. I pulled a couple small trout and got out of the way as everyone was following their charge around the boat.

Everyone except yours truly caught bluefish but as hard as they were pulling I was just as happy to sit back and watch.
We all had an enjoyable outing and it was especially gratifying for Doc. His new design, the G2, proved to be the lure of the day.
I wonder if the “Hookectomy” would qualify me for brain surgery. Negative. I couldn’t afford the mal-practice insurance.