I was at a friend’s house the other day and one of the old-timers from Hilton Head Island who was also there pulled me aside. In his hand was a copy of the “Sea Pines News” from July 1968.
He said he had been cleaning up around his house when he came across a handful of these relics from the early days of Sea Pines. He had tabbed a page in the newsletter and told me I should read the story.
Not thinking much about it, I took the booklet home. It wasn’t until the next day that I turned to the page he had marked and began reading. The story had a picture of this goofy-looking kid sitting on the edge of a lagoon with a bucket beside him and a fishing rod in his hand.
At first it didn’t dawn on me who that kid was until I read the first sentence: “Fourteen-year-old Collins Doughtie was at his usual post with his usual equipment doing the same old usual thing.”
All I could think at that point was that really me? Did I really look that goofy? And look at those skinny legs!
The story continued: “There he sat, opposite the Lake House, with his feet dangling in the water. Two spectators – a well tanned Chris Depkin and a scaly-backed alligator – watched in silence as Collins did what he does best. And what, pray tell, is that?
“Well, Collins is probably the Sea Pines champion when it comes to tossing out a string with a dead shrimp attached and reeling in prize-winning channel bass.”
I’ll stop there for any of you who don’t know what a channel bass is. A channel bass is what was later called a “spot-tail bass,” and then the name was changed to “redfish.” It’s sort of name evolution that changed as these great fighting fish became more popular over the past 50 years.
Also, to clarify the “dead shrimp” part of the story – that wasn’t at all what I was using. Even way back then, I had a secret bait that I never, ever divulged to anyone. That bait was an entire blue crab with its shell and legs removed.
The story went on: “ ‘No one else seems to know how to catch them,’ Collins said rather lackadaisically. Then, as a second thought, he added, ‘That’s a good thing…’
“Several minutes before our conversation he had landed one that would have weighed, oh, probably 13 or 14 pounds. A little knot of golfers quickly gathered and were gesturing wildly to each other with disbelieving eyes and out-stretched hands.
“Collins shrugged his shoulders, unhooking the squirming fish and calmly tossing him back into the deeps. ‘I like to hook ’em and let them fight awhile and then put ’em back,’ he said matter-of-factly.
“He did, however, keep one of his most recent catches. This was a 24 pounder which measured 43 inches. This one will be mounted and will grace the wall at the Sea Pines Ocean Course pro shop.
“Ho-hum, Collins Doughtie has done it again. So what else is new?”
Time has a way of dulling memories but as I read that story it all came back like it was last week. I remember sitting there, legs crossed, waiting for the slack in my fishing line to start straightening out as a big “channel bass” took the bait and started running off with it.
I also remember the golfers stopping play and watching, no doubt tying up all those behind them waiting to tee off.
It was also nice to know I practiced “catch and release” before the practice became popular.
But the part that really got me was how little I have changed since I was 14. Why would I say something like that, considering I am covered with age spots and what little hair I have is now gray?
It’s because I went fishing in Sea Pines just last week, used the same “secret bait” and hauled out a 45-inch-long channel bass. And yes, I had quite the gathering of golfers that stopped play to watch me catch that fish – much to the chagrin of those behind them!
Collins Doughtie, a 60-year resident of the Lowcountry, is a sportsman, graphic artist, and lover of nature. email@example.com