In memory of Boomerang Billy - 2CoolFishing
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Old 12-07-2010, 03:58 PM   #1
TrueblueTexican
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In memory of Boomerang Billy

In my early twenties we made annual pilgrammages down to Port Isabel Texas to fish till we dropped for whatever we could catch. We got hooked up with an old retired coastie who went by the name of Billy Boomerang. Billy was quite a character, a local ladies man, and always wore an open unbuttoned shirt, shorts, sandals and a captains hat set at a rakish angle on his head. A REAL Popeye in the flesh. Billy was in-famous or famous depending on your point of view. He made his living catching huge sharks, making custom surf rods, jewelry from sharks parts and his trademark boomerangs. These boomerangs are very valuable now.

My first impression of Billy was that he was insane. We bought him breakfast in a local eatery, where he told us some tall tales at 90 miles an hour, pestered the waitress to share some round steak time with him, farted as loud as he could and in general caused the tourists to shrink away from him.

We were driving him all over Port Isabel to take care of things since he did not own a car, I think we stopped at every lonely housewifes home, every bank, and every bait stand that first day with him. The energizer bunny could not have kept up with this fifty-five year old man.

We were to go shark catching with him that night. We were admiring his beautiful custom rod works. Having loaded our truck with Billys beautiful works of rod art, we were making appreciative comments about the handiwork. The rods were fitted with big custom Penn 9/0 reels spooled to the brim with 100# mono. Loaded for bear, no doubt about it. Billy thawed to us and we were invited into his one bedroom, un-airconditioned home. A real spartan bachelors pad, it was cluttered with beach combed flotsam and jetsam, jewelry in process, partially finished rods, boomerangs in various stages of completion, empty liquor bottles and nautical charts of the world. Billy was also an accomplished weather forecaster and many of the Port Isabel captains relied on his forecasts, he was usually spot on in forecasting bad weather.

After hearing his constant chatter , I came to the conclusion he was mad as the mad hatter, probably slightly autistic, and an idiot savant. Billy was the real deal, the more you listened to his craziness the more you believed him. I believe he may have been one of the most intelligent people I have ever met, in a crazy sort of way.

Just before it was time to go fishing Billy had us stop by a grocery stand on Padre Island. Billy came running out carrying two three foot long packages under his arm, jump in the truck and said GO. Hot on his tail was the store proprietor, screamin at Billy to pay for the bait !!! Well we scrammed as directed, Billy remarked "he wouldn't charge what I paid last time so I ain't payin," laughing like a Hyena.

Anyway that night we went out to the end of the former Queen Isabella causeway that had been turned into a fishing pier after the new causeway was built. We had brought with us what we thought were sufficient rods for sharking. Billy looked at our ten foot Striper Ugly Sticks and Penn 950 spinning reels and laughed. Well if you boys want to break some rods it ain't no skin off my nose. We proceeded to the end of the causeway, at which point the Intercoastal waterway channel was some 50' deep. There had been numerous holes drilled into the roadbed to provide for vertical rod props at the end of the concrete tarmac. Billy unwrapped one bait package and there were two ten pound Bonito laid head to tail. Billy says I will fish with one whole bait and cut up the second for you guys. Billy got out one of his custom 13' pool cue stiff rods, attached a whole Bonito with three of the biggest hooks I had ever seen to a 14' piano wire leader. I was wondering how in the heck he was gonna cast all that when he tells us to stand back about twenty yards. Billy walked out laid the bonito at rods length away behind him, took a running start and heave with the rod and gets the bait flying in big helicopter circles before finally flinging it off the causeway and some fourty yards away. Man that was impressive !!! It took strength to do that and a large amount of experienced technique !! We stood there gaped jawed at what we had just witnessed. Billy settled the rod in a hole and says OK bring your pop guns. We were pretty inexperienced sharkers back then, never having caught many over 100#. We got rigged and casted out just as it got dark, then sat back while Billy danced a sailing jig, farting , laughing like a maniac and tellin one crazy story after another about his Coast Guard service.

One of the guys with me was in the "yea sure" mode with Billy on most of his stories, and even more in doubt he was gonna catch anything. It was slow, about the only bites were from saltwater catfish pecking at the cut bait. As luck would have it the "skeptic" among us was the first to get a real bite, and what a bite it was. The Penn spinner was propped vertically in the hole, when we saw the rod do two quick shakes. Billy stopped his antics and told Byron to get ready. At almost the same instant he said that, line went screamin off the reel, faster than I thought a fish could run. So fast in fact that the rod was almost verticle to the concrete and Byron was unable to get the handle free of the hole. There was around 350 yards of 30# test Big Game on that reel - and it evaporated in less than a minute !! - KERPOW, it sounded like a 38 shot as it broke at spools end -- the drag on the reel was actually smoking !!! Billy was rolling on the concrete laughing his *** off !!! Tears were streaming down Billys face in the pier lights as he stood back up giving condolences to Byron.

Wasn't no shark he said, it was a big stingray, nothing runs as fast as those buggers in saltwater. We continued to soak our baits after that first period of commotion, the Penn Reel just abused was out of commission, the drag had actually melted down !!!

We had been sitting through a slack tide and it changed to an outgoing about an hour later, going on midnight I was thinking about a warm bed, when Billys reel clicked once. Billy looked like a birdog coming on point as he quickly focused on his rod. Click, Click, then about two minutes later, Click , Click, Click. Billy was getting into a stand-up fighting harness. Click ,Click, raaaa, reeeeeeeeeee, eeeeeeee, reeeeeee sounded the Big 8/0 Penn reel as something big ran with the whole ten pound bonito. Billy waited a twenty count and threw the reel into gear. Well you might as well have tried to stop a Ford Truck with a snoopy pole attached to the bumper. We could hear a monstrous splash in the darkness below the causeway as the big fish tore up into the shallow flat just off the edge of the ship channel heading toward Port Mansfield. Billy calmly let the fish run aganst a tight drag till about half the 800 yard yard spool had evaporated off the reel. The fish finally had enough of going toward port Mansfield and turned back in the ship channel heading back toward the jetties and the open Gulf. As the fish passed the causeway, we got a glimpse of a HUGE dorsal fin as the shark breached the top. Billy says its a Tiger, got real agitated, and asks us to call up a Mexican Shrimper he knew. We tried to call for boat help as the battle raged on out in the darkness. That big shark was waaay out there between the causeway and the Coast Guard station out toward the Gulf. Billy kept the pressure up but he wasn't making headway as the stubborn shark took fifty feet for every five that Billy managed to gain. Billy really wanted that shark, his idea was to get someone to harpoon it, which was why we were calling all over town to get boat help. Never did get in touch with anyone who would help. After around an hour we were pouring beer onto the reel to keep it cool. Billy was complainin and muttering to himself, about all I could understand was "don't get a second wind" -- which was what the stalemated shark finally did - it left town with 600 yards of Billys line after the TAIL of the shark whipped the mono ABOVE the 14'wire leader and it parted. I had NO idea such big sharks came inshore of the barrier islands on the Texas coast.

We fished with Billy many times when we went down there over the following years -- he was quite a town celebrity, seems every town has one

Screamin drags all !!!

John Kenneth McMahon passed away in 1985 -- a true character I was privledged to fish with, learned a lot from him -- Rip in peace Billy

Some of his everyday non- works of art Boomerangs he sold and demonstrated to tourists at SPI

http://www.flight-toys.com/boomerang/collectable/mh03.jpg
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Old 12-07-2010, 04:12 PM   #2
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Texasflag4

Good story thanks!
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Old 12-07-2010, 04:13 PM   #3
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Cool Story!

Cool story, thanks for sharing. I find myself looking back and wishing I had spent more time listening instead of talking, to men like "Billy"; they just dont make MEN like those ol' timers anymore. Thanks again!
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Old 12-13-2010, 12:30 AM   #4
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Great read...thank you
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Old 12-13-2010, 08:26 PM   #5
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cool story thanks you
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Old 12-14-2010, 08:05 AM   #6
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Anybody ever get a picture of Billy? I remember him on the beach near the SPI jetty, pretty much by himself. Walking around in the blowing sand. Didn't have an extra ounce of fat on him. Back then we stayed in the cinderblock cabins near the jetties, cost was $12 for the four bunks. And Matamoros only a half hour drive...We spent every day during spring break, driving our Volkswagon Thing up to the Mansfield jetties to fish. Got as sandy as the Afrika Korp...Some of the guys there before us, back in the 60s, said that if surf fishing for redfish was no good at night, they'd cast a mullet over the nearest sand dune and hook coyotes instead.

Billy sounds like a duplicate of the character Dean in the book On the Road, by Jack Kerouac. Very manic all the time, never stopped talking, looking for kicks. They drove across the country a few times in about 1957 before there were Interstate Highways. Lots of adventures. Lots of close calls...

Last edited by Trouthappy; 12-14-2010 at 08:24 AM.
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Old 12-14-2010, 09:12 AM   #7
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I have a picture

Of four of us in 1978, with Billy in the middle hands across shoulders , in shorts no shirts and barefoot, standing on the north jetty. I need to get that scanned into a digital file someday to post. Wish I had a few of his Boomerangs, the guy was an artist with one --

Ah such fond memories of SPI when it was still a two hotel beach !!!

There was an old wreck of a dude who used to live out on that jetty - slept on the rocks, we would pass by him sitting at the entrance to the rocks, he would always ask, hey man gotta match? Same question anytime you walked by, burned out hippie from the crazy days
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Old 12-14-2010, 09:25 AM   #8
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Back then they said Billy got cancer from using chemicals, while making his boomerangs...Not sure if that was true. We should have brought him with us to Matamoros, for our one night of cultural exchange...Back then during Spring Break we only had money for one meal a day, always a Gut-Buster at Burger King.
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Old 12-14-2010, 01:57 PM   #9
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Nice story, reminds me of Papa Earl up on lake Conroe.
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Old 12-15-2010, 09:32 PM   #10
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That was an amazing story. Very well written. Thoroughly enjoyed it. Thanks a ton!
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