Thoughts On Living Off the Land on the Texas Coast, Including Sharks, Jellyfish, Crabs and Stingrays

While many take summer vacations to all-inclusive resorts, last week we pointed the family covered wagon to an incredibly sleepy fishing village near East Matagorda Bay. Since we were out of arm's reach of convenient fast food -- the nearest drive-thru being a half-hour drive -- I (jokingly) told the kids this was a great opportunity learn a little bit about living off the land. "Let's try to catch our food."

Added to that, I explained that in case of a zombie apocalypse, they should run for the coast because it's a virtual buffet.

Luckily, we stopped at an H.E.B. on the way down so we had actual food to eat or we certainly would have lost weight on vacation, which would have been nightmarish.

Here are some things I learned during our summer vacation and how I wouldn't last one day living off the land or sea.

1. While at the beach, watching a man wade-fishing 50 yards from where your kids are swimming reel in a 5-foot-long black tip shark can put a big damper on a day of frolicking in the surf, but leads to an amazing sand castle contest.

2. Watching a powerful and amazing black tip shark flail on the sand while tiny waves tease its back fin is actually a bit heartbreaking.

3. Fishermen who filet 5-foot-long black tip sharks (which is an old shark and the meat probably isn't that great anyway) and then leave the shark on the beach to rot all day in the sun cheat that amazing creature of any amount of dignity by reducing it to a gory public spectacle.

4. Only slightly more enervating than watching said shark being reeled in is watching another fisherman 50 yards the other way snap a line as he tries to reel in something even bigger. How could something be even bigger?

5. While I'm certainly no marine biologist, I sense a correlation between big sharks and dozens of kamikaze birds frantically diving into the water in the same area. At this point, it's been noted: We're in their world.

6. Stingrays are here and there and everywhere. And if you hook one while trout fishing in the bay, releasing it is extremely tedious business. Oh, we saw one of those get reeled in on the beach too. Good times.

7. Jellyfish are here and there and everywhere too. Seriously, always have a pool key code for a backup plan.

8. Catching crabs with chicken necks tied to bamboo poles is oddly serene and peaceful.

9. Preparation is key. If you catch a few keeper-crabs, be completely prepared for everything involved in keeping them alive until it's time to cook them. Or just let them go right away. (Yeah, just let them go.)

10. Always, always, always wear proper shoes on a boat. Pushing a bay boat off an oyster reef ain't for flip-flops. (For the record, I had on proper shoes.)

11. No matter how abundant and flourishing sea life may appear to be, it's never easy.