‘Old fashioned’ fishing good enough for some

Published 3:51 pm Monday, February 23, 2009

A hardscrabble life growing up in the hills of Choctaw County pretty much determined how Gray Mosley goes about anything these days, including his fishing trips to the Tombigbee River.

Self-sufficiency was the model Mosley learned and continues to follow, whether it’s sawing and milling his own lumber to catching his own bait for a fishing trip. From his axe and chainsaw to his trusty boats—a 1972 Ouachita bomber-style boat with a 50-horsepower Mercury and a 1981 Polarkraft Jon boat with a 40-horse Evinrude—Mosley’s tools may not be the latest and greatest, but they suit him just fine.

When fishing is on his mind, the obvious goal is to catch enough fish to eat. But to allow the number of fish in the box to determine the quality of the fishing trip is a mistake, according to Mosley.

“You don’t catch them every time you go,” Mosley said. “It’s just not going to happen. People get caught up in how many fish they catch. A mess of fish is really all you need. If your catch eight or 10 crappie big enough to get a good fillet, that’s enough to feed several folks.

“What I do is just old fashioned fishing—an old man and old boats. They have been used several times. But I take care of them. That’s why they still run so well to be as old as they are. I don’t have anything new but fishing tackle. Boats don’t catch fish.”

Bait does catch fish, though, and it’s hard to find it any fresher than what Mosley takes to the river.

“This community we live in is called Red Springs,” he said. “I guess whoever named it was because of the red sand and there’s a spring in most every hollow around here. Of course, they feed down through the hollows and create bigger streams as they go along. These streams are filled with what I call branch minnows. Some people call them creek minnows, but some people call a creek what I call a branch, too. I just put a little barrel trap in there and catch enough bait to go fishing.”

When Mosley launches his boat, he goes on a “milk run” to the spots that have produced for him over the decades.

“Probably 20 percent of the water holds 90 percent of the fish,” he said. “You learn these places that are productive. That’s what I concentrate on. I look for structure. If you’re fishing in the river, you look for a good treetop—oak or hickory that’s been there for some time. The leaves are all off, and the branches are clean. Water depth, especially in the river, is important. If you can find treetops up on a shelf, which was the old riverbank before they built the Coffeeville Lock and Dam, that’s ideal.

Mosley said he doesn’t really understand why some fishermen launch their fancy rigs and run miles and miles before they wet a hook.

“They’re passing some of the best fishing there is,” he said. “That’s my opinion, but I don’t think you need to run 15-20 miles to fish.

“The main thing is to find fish close by and concentrate on that. That’s the way I operate. I don’t know a lot, but I catch enough to feed my family and share with my neighbors.”