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Ray Sasser: Some catch-and-release fish just don't know when to quit

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Ray Sasser, Outdoor Writer

Johnny Procell is a colorful and expert angler who bills himself as the Cajun fishing guide. On a recent fishing trip to Lake Ray Hubbard, Procell was guiding a Wyoming couple and their Dallas friend.

As the wind picked up, Procell moved to a windblown point. As he neared the point, he noticed the splashes made by feeding fish. Most of the splashes were small, but a few were big.

Procell's clients could not cast very far, but there were so many fish that it didn't matter. After the clients had landed about 10 fish apiece — mostly small hybrid stripers with a few big sand bass mixed in — the angler in the middle hooked a big fish.

The fishing guide backed his boat into open water, and the angler soon had a 10-pound hybrid at boatside. Procell reached down to land the fish, the boat swung and the fishing line was dragged across the hybrid's sharp gill plate. The line was cut and a big fish got away, along with Procell's prized fishing lure.

Within seconds, the angler at the back of the boat was hooked to another big fish. She quickly fought the fish to the boat, and this time Procell locked his BogaGrip on the fish's lower lip.

That's when he noticed something in the fish's mouth. It was his fishing lure, hung solidly in the fish's lower jaw by both sets of hooks.

"In over 60 years of fishing, I've never seen or heard of anything like that," Procell said.

When fish get in a feeding frenzy, they sometimes defy logic, even regurgitating a full stomach so they can continue feeding. Humans, it seems, were not the original bulimics.

Years ago, my late friend Rusty Cox was fishing at Ray Roberts Lake. He had a 24-foot offshore boat but often fished closer to home. Cox and his son, Casey, used a cast net to catch threadfin shad for live bait.

The elder Cox was fishing off the bow of the boat and Casey was at the stern, 24 feet away. Rusty Cox caught a nice largemouth bass that swallowed the bait and was deeply hooked. Rather than risk hurting the fish by digging around with pliers to remove the hook, he cut the line and released the fish.

In the time it took a bass to swim 24 feet, Casey Cox got a bite. When he landed the fish, he spotted his dad's hook, solidly imbedded deep in the fish's throat.

You'd think that being hooked, fought, handled and released with a hook left in its gullet might discourage a fish from making the same mistake 15 seconds later, but a fish's instincts sometimes overpower what passes for a pretty simple brain.

Fish also can be fiercely territorial. A couple of years ago, I was bass fishing in the spring with businessman James Feagin. I cast an oversized plastic lizard next to an island, in a little spot out of the strong south wind. It was a perfect place for a spawning bass, and I got an immediate bite.

I must have cut my line by jerking it against the fish's teeth. Also, I'd been too lazy to retie the line, which had landed multiple fish and been dragged over several logs and stumps.

While I was tying on a new hook and attaching a sinker, Feagin cast his smaller plastic lizard into the same spot and got a bite of his own. No more than 30 seconds had passed between my cast and Feagin's, the difference being that he landed the fish. It was surprisingly small and still had my lure pinned inside its mouth by my hook.

The fish was likely a male. His first job was to fertilize the eggs laid by a female. His second job was just as important. He was genetically tasked to guard the eggs against all threats. He apparently took his job seriously.

Calendar

SATURDAY, DEC. 9 -- Dallas Fly Fishers fly tying session 10 a.m.-noon at Orvis Dallas, 8300 Preston Road. For details, call 214-265-1600.

SATURDAY, DEC. 9 -- Second split of South Zone duck season begins.

SATURDAY, DEC. 16 -- Dallas Fly Fishers fly tying session 10 a.m.-noon at Orvis Dallas, 8300 Preston Road. For details, call 214-265-1600.

SATURDAY, DEC. 16 -- Sandhill crane season begins in Zone C.

MONDAY, DEC. 18 -- Second split of dove season begins in North and Central Zones.

MONDAY, DEC.18 -- Woodcock season begins statewide.

SATURDAY, DEC. 23 -- Dallas Fly Fishers fly tying session 10 a.m.-noon at Orvis Dallas, 8300 Preston Road. For details, call 214-265-1600.

SATURDAY, DEC. 30 -- Dallas Fly Fishers fly tying session 10 a.m.-noon at Orvis Dallas, 8300 Preston Road. For details, call 214-265-1600.

FEATURED PHOTO: A hybrid striper bends Tony Parker's fishing rod at Lake Tawakoni, which also has abundant of striped bass and white bass. (Ray Sasser/DMN)