Years ago, I had a good fishing buddy, Jack, who enjoyed fishing as much as anyone I’ve ever known loved it.
He was fanatical about fishing and usually went two or three times a week, even when the weather turned cold or rainy like we had this past weekend.
I love to fish; however, I usually draw the line with inclement weather. Actually, the worse the weather, the better he liked it.
Along with his obsession with fishing came an obsession of bragging about his catches. He was consistent about his bragging, always staying at or near the legal limit.
Ironically, his bragging was usually pretty close to what he caught. On more than one occasion I have popped by his house and asked to see his fish after one of his trips. He always had a good mess of fish, so most of his bragging was probably true.
A group of us made several trips down to Lake Okeechobee over the years and of course he would be one of the group. On one particular occasion, his bragging got all of us in trouble.
We stayed together most of the time with two men to a boat. This particular morning, we all went to the landing on Indian Prairie to put our boats in.
Now if you have ever fished on Lake Okeechobee you know the fishing is excellent and, unless you are a total novice, you can catch the limit of hand-size bream nearly every time you go.
That day was no exception, and we all had the limit (100 per boat) when we came out about 11:30 that morning.
We always waited on everyone to load their boats and go back to the Dew Drop Inn, where we were staying, to eat lunch together. Just as we were waiting a couple of game wardens drove up, right in the middle of our boats. They were extremely nice, standing with us while we waited on Jack and his partner to load their boat. That little gathering was usually a place Jack liked to brag and that day was no exception.
Neither one of the game wardens had offered to count our fish or check our licenses. I guess Jack did not see their vehicle or the game wardens standing in the group of 10 guys.
“Well, we got our limit,” he blurted out with me and a couple of fellows trying to cut him off with hand signals.
About the time he said it, he realized who was standing with us. He then added insult to injury by asking them if they wanted to count his fish.
At that point they said they would like to see his fish and both of their licenses. They counted every single fish in Jack’s boat, and he had been right: he had a 100 fish exactly.
During our conversation before Jack arrived, one of the fellows told them where we were staying and how many days we would be there.
Neither game warden offered to check any of our fish or licenses, just Jack’s.
They stayed there for a few more minutes and then left.
Before they left, however, one of them stepped in the middle of our group and told us it would be to our advantage to not be seen on the lake that afternoon, because they knew we already had our daily limit.
“I might drop by and see y’all North Florida fellows at the Dew Drop Inn before you leave, too,” he told us.
In all the years since that day, we have never let Jack forget the day he almost got ten fellows in trouble with his bragging.
By the way, we never saw those game wardens again.
Byron Spires is a retired newspaper editor. He has written dozens of short stories and serials in the Havana Herald. He recently published “The Curious Life of Marci Bell: Part I,” in a series of three books. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.