Mystery fish, big waves & tan lines

Tip number one: The single most valuable item you can take is a good pair of binoculars. This is especially true if you do not really care much for swimming in extra salty water or visiting touristy places. You can simply sit on the beach and watch people at a distance without them knowing they are being watched. You can spend the better part of six days doing that. I spent so much time doing it there is a chair down there in my memory. It is simply called, The Sloan Chair and no one is allowed to sit in it. I suppose some day; the awning company will come get it.

Tip number two: If you intend to fish and dont know much about saltwater fish, take a guidebook with good pictures. That way, you will not do as I did and catch many fish you cannot indentify. Son Jason and I fished almost every day. We caught a lot of fish. Many of them were catfish. The rest were not and I have no idea what they were. I was told some of them were baby reds. That meant nothing to me but I assume that meant they were young red fish.

I know we did not catch any sharks or porpoise. I also know some big bird that was not a pelican caught as many as we did. Jason even had a Great Blue Heron adopt him. He, the heron, found begging fish from Jason was easier than catching them on his own. We named him Blue Neck.

We did not fish the first two days because they were having a special tropical storm just for us and it was not wise to wade out and fish. The wind reached gusts of 60-mph and blew quite a few things away. Jeanne rented an awning and four chairs from some company and after the wind calmed, they came and took the awning down. The next day, they put it back up. I decided not to even wonder about that. I just sat in my chair and watched things blow past me.

Tip number three: Take some insect repellent. Odds are great you will not need it. However, if the wind completely subsides, the flies will eat you alive. I know this for a fact. I filled some time killing flies before I bought some insect repellent.

Tip number four: Very Important!!! Stay away from Lulus. That is a restaurant owned by Jimmy Buffets sister, Lulu. It is an extremely popular place with a wait of 60-90 minutes if you arrive early. I have no idea how long it is if you arrive at a normal time. It is open air, no air conditioning and hot! It is also expensive and serves mediocre food at best. If you rent a house as we did, buy your food at the grocery and cook it yourself. You will enjoy it far more.

Tip number five: Take a large tube of Neosporin for the places the catfish fin you. I counted 14 such places on my hands and that is why I have not written his column sooner. I could not bend my fingers. Did I mention, we caught a lot of fish and some were catfish and some were not? Except for the ones Jason fed his pet heron, we threw them all back.

You will also need sunscreen unless you are like me and dont believe in it. Five of the seven days were Chamber of Commerce beautiful and we all got plenty of sun and had new tan lines. Some of those days, we waded out to a sandbar, stood knee deep, and caught a lot of catfish. We also caught some fish that were not and one that I am not sure was even a fish.

There are plenty of other tips I could give you such as, drive the land route to Ft. Morgan, do not take the ferry. You will save both time and money. If you get a map from MapQuest, throw it away before leaving home. Just take I-65 South to the Gulf Shores Parkway and take that to the Ft. Morgan Parkway. Do Not Follow The Map! You will save considerable driving time and gas.

Overall, we had a good time. Other than fishing, I did a large amount of nothing. I placed a chair on the beach and I sat. Some days, I sat as much as 12-hours doing nothing but watching and napping. I watched birds, boats, off shore drilling rigs, people picking up oil on the beach for BP, sand crabs, other people fishing, things blowing by and just other people in general. Then I napped. Did I mention they named the chair in my memory? It is called The Sloan Chair.

Everyone else stayed busy. Jeanne, my wife, seemed occupied babysitting, washing dishes, grocery shopping and doing laundry. She claimed to enjoy it. When not fishing with me and feeding his pet heron, my son, Jason, seemed occupied doing something with his I-pod or something. Rachael and Matt, daughter and son-in-law, played in the water some and watched TV.

The only other item of interest was a notation in the journal kept at the house since it opened. Seems a family from here in Lebanon, I believe they are named Brewington, rented the house back in 98. Now that is exciting! I bet they dont have a chair named after them.

Did I mention Jason and I caught a lot of fish, some catfish and some not?

Contact JOHN L. SLOAN /