We finally got all our gear together and made it to the river by mid-afternoon. Getting the boat launched at the Flat Tub landing was a chore but a liberal application of internal bug repellant took care of the worry and aggravation. Finally, we were underway downriver to a deep hole where we knew there had to be a barrel of catfish waiting. We baited our poles and started the waiting game. Doctor P.U. Nasty, my partner, decided we needed to move up a little ways and put the brand new trolling motor in the water and touched the pedal. Within seconds a Flathead catfish, an invasive species, that weighed at least twenty pounds floated to the surface right by the boat and just lay there, belly up, waiting to be netted. Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, Doc wasted no time in netting the huge catfish and had no sooner netted the one when another floated up.
Doc hesitated and looked at me saying, “I smell a rat. Them game wardens may be in on this. You know they got it out for us.”
Indeed, the wardens had been after us for years and delighted in finding the smallest infraction we committed and always gave us a ticket. I think it had something to do with Doc and a warden’s sister, or so the story went. For sure, though, something wasn’t right: But what?
We looked around, and seeing no wardens, finally determined that the trolling motor had a short in it. We examined it carefully but could not find anything suspicious. Dropping it back into the river, Doc pressed the pedal and, lo and behold, three more Flathheads came up.
Doc looked at me and grinned as if the hand of Divine Providence had touched him. “Hallelujah, Geech. It’s the hand of God. We gon’ load the boat. Grab that other net.”
We caught so many Flatheads in that small creek off the river that the boat was nearly swamped as we made our way back to the landing. Upon our arrival, a local group of fishermen saw our catch and let out a yell for everyone to come look. Unfortunately this included one warden that had just driven up and he knew something was amiss, that no one could catch this many catfish legally.
He searched for a ‘telephone’, dynamite, or any other evidence but, finding nothing, reluctantly could only watch as Doc and I drove away with our catch, explaining out the window, “It’s all in how you hold your mouth.”
With God on our side, we put in to rid the Ocmulgee of the foreign Flathead invaders, which are quite tasty if prepared right. Day after day, week after week, we worked our way up river from one landing to the next. All too often we would no sooner load the boat with fish when we would run into a boatload of rangers. They would tear our boat apart looking for any illegal means of catching catfish but never found one. If Doc hadn’t got likkered up and told one of his buddies about the trolling motor, we would have made it alright. Unfortunately, this buddy got likkered up, too, and stopped at a beer joint just north of the Ocmulgee River at Jacksonville and bragged to everyone in the joint, including a plainclothes warden, about the trolling motor and, having a big laugh, told how we were getting away with murder right under the nose of the law.
Oh, Lord did this ever fry the warden’s gizzards. They sent a hit squad to catch us and it did not take long to find us up about the China Hill landing with a boatload of fish. Now it was the warden’s turn to laugh as they arrested us, confiscated the motor and the fish for evidence, and dragged us up before what they thought would be the “Hanging Judge.” Here, Divine Providence intervened again in the form of a new judge, one that loved redbreast fishing and hated the Flathead catfish for the damage it had done to that venerable sport. He fined us a hundred pounds of catfish, which we had and then some, directed our motor be returned, and sent us on our way.