A Story by busterlee

Fishing until the night is gone



It was 10:33 pm on a warm damp night in mid July.  Most people were in bed but I was in my truck, dragging my little bass boat up highway 431 toward Lake Eufaula.  I had tried fishing during the day in south Alabama but in the summer months it was just too hot. I gave it up. Severe sunburns and heat strokes didn’t appeal to me much.  Night fishing was like extending the spring straight through the summer and fall. On some nights it was downright chilly and I’d wear a sweatshirt. Even on the hot nights it was still tolerable but on those nights the dew would accumulate on every exposed surface.  I learned early on to wipe the water off of my vinyl seat before I sat down.

The back roads were all mine as I left the highway and headed toward my preferred boat ramp on Thomas Mill Creek.  It was strange how calm and quiet it was as I weaved between the pines and turned into the lot. A solitary streetlight revealed a deserted patch of asphalt, a dumpster and a small wooden pier next to a concrete boat ramp.  Off to the side in the trees there were two cars almost out of site. I hoped that they belonged to secret lovers. Maybe I wouldn’t disturb them much. They might notice me as I prepped my boat for launch but I was sure that they would find more interesting things to do.  I didn’t like to think of the other possibilities since I was alone and unarmed. Within a few minutes my boat was tied to the pier, my truck was locked up tight and I was on edge, anxious to leave the land as I stepped on the weathered two by six wooden boards of the pier.  I untied my rope and stepped off and into my Bass Tracker. It slid out toward open water as I turned the key and broke the eerie silence.

The water was smooth and lit dimly by private boat house lights as I eased at half throttle toward the main lake.  The air over the water was cool and bumps raised on my arms. I considered the sweatshirt that was tucked away in storage but understood that I wouldn’t need it after I stopped to fish.  

I knew where I was going to fish before I left home.  There was a long shallow rocky point next to the main lake.  It was dark there except for the distant lights on the Dam, miles away.  I could find the place I wanted to fish by watching the contours of the shoreline and my depthfinder.  When I was in the general area I would watch the depth and when it started up sharply I would shut the engine off and put down the trolling motor.  I fished there up and down the point, keeping track of my position by the depth changes.

Sometimes I fished for an hour or more between bites.  I didn’t mind too much because it was so peaceful, so private, relaxing.  I did a lot of thinking out there on that point. I don’t know that I figured out anything but I cleared away the clutter.  I tossed out a lot of the garbage that had been stressing me through the week. I fished. I drank coffee from my big steel thermos.  I ate stinky sardines and saltine crackers. I fished some more.

I got tired.  My eyes started trying to close.  I thought to go home but I needed to be there at 4:00 am.  I had to be there at 4:00 am and if I stayed till then I might as well watch the sunrise.  I needed a nap. I knew better than beaching the boat on the shore. If you ever got within fifty feet of the shore the mosquitoes would cover you up.  I needed to be away from the bugs and the snakes if I was going to try and relax enough to sleep.

I cranked the engine and moved the boat to the middle of the lake.  I shut it down and laid across the back casting deck with my head on a rolled up jacket.  Looking back this was not as safe as I had hoped since there was occasional barge traffic on the lake.  My navigation lights were on but barges don’t steer around fishing boats. I was mostly worried about some crazy fisherman traveling at sixty miles per hour running through my boat.  I tried to nap with one eye open. I rested but I didn’t sleep at all.

When I gave up on sleeping I headed back to my point.  It was 3:15 am. I found the incline on the depthfinder.  I stopped and began fishing. I was a little discouraged since I had been fishing all night and didn’t have anything in the live well.  Bass caught on Eufaula had to be sixteen inches long to be legal. You either caught good fish or went home empty handed. I kept checking the time.

I didn’t remember the exact minute that it started but on a previous trip all heck broke loose between 4:00 and 4:30.  I got hits on every cast. I caught plenty and then right as the sun broke over the horizon it was over. It was like the bright light from the sun had vaporized the fish.  On that day I continued fishing until 9:00 am but caught little else. I checked my watch again. It was 3:36.

I poured myself another cup of coffee and rested while I tried to regain my energy.  I didn’t know if the fish would bite at all but I had to find out. I had to know. I couldn’t leave until I knew.  The coffee was sweet and creamy. It was still just warm enough but not hot. It opened my eyes a bit.

I drifted away in thought.  I recalled the night that me and my nephew Ryan had fished that same point.  It rained a little and we caught a couple of really nice fish but we left too early.  It was a good night. It just didn’t last long enough.

I checked my watch again, 3:46.  I started fishing, casting and positioning the boat.  My pulse quickened. I didn’t know why but I was sure the pattern would repeat.  I caught nothing but I kept plugging away. I wanted to stay but I was tired and the drive home alone with the sun shining in my face would be hard.  Cast after cast there was nothing. I started to lose hope. It was 4:23.

Then just like some kind of switch had been flipped it started.  I set the hook. I landed the fish. Over and over, fish after fish, I measured them and kept the ones over sixteen inches.  I tossed the rest back and continued. I was laughing. I was proven right to wait. I caught my limit. The bite slowed.

I glanced to the east.  There was a faint glow in the dark sky.  I spun my seat around and held my rod across my legs.  I watched. On the Georgia side of the lake I saw the outline of the trees.  Slowly I could see more and more of the shoreline then the fog over the water.  Brighter and brighter until everything was in view except the sun. It broke over the trees, just a line.  Without thought I laid my rod down beside me. It moved too fast, up from behind the eastern treeline. Colors sprang to life in the sky and across the landscape.  I was surprised by the suddenness, by the change. I’d seen it before but it was always a surprise. I felt the warmth on my skin and then a chilling breeze blew across my body.  The fog slow danced on the surface of the lake. It danced to the warmth of the rising sun.

There was nothing left to do, nothing more to gain.  You take what you get. You don’t hang on. Just put up your gear and glide away.  Maybe someday you’ll be back again. Maybe not.

I’ve seen a lot of sunrises, most of them when I was alone.  I’ve taken time for them. I’ve enjoyed them. I’ve waited for them, sometimes for hours.  They’re all different, the clouds, the colors, the fog over the water but they always come.  Sunrises are one of the few things you can depend on in this world. There’s something comforting about that kind of constance.  One day I’ll be gone but hopefully someone who knew me well will bother to get up early while it’s still dark. Maybe they’ll wait for it, watch the light slowly expose the secrets of the night, see the glow on the horizon and then see the sun paint the sky and make the day new again.  Maybe they’ll feel the cooling breeze on their skin, take a deep breath and remember how much those fleeting moments meant to me. Maybe, maybe not, but the sun will still rise.

© 2018 busterlee

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Added on July 14, 2018
Last Updated on July 14, 2018
Tags: sunrise, fishing, boating




I like to write. I don't know if my writing is worth reading but that doesn't seem to matter much. I think that I need to write and I know that I enjoy it. I believe that 90 percent of what we do i.. more..