Veteran angler finds therapy on the water.
My Granny and her whole family survived on the Trinity River in Texas by fishing during the Great Depression. I’ve been catfishing since I was in the womb because my mama and daddy would drag a flat-bottomed boat out on the water when mama was eight months pregnant to go fishing on the weekends.
As a child I’d sit on a 5-gallon bucket on the river bank with a couple of fishing poles from early morning to dark, every day, throwing a cast net, sitting on bait, waiting for fish. We went from fishing with cane poles to gradually upgrading to rod and reel. We trot lined, limb lined, you name it—catfish is what we chased.
Every weekend, and sometimes in the middle of the week, through my teenage years, my daddy would take me out on the water. Our outdoors time was always spent fishing or hunting. We would hit several lakes over the course of a weekend, spending 3 days and 2 nights on the boat. Fishing all day and fishing all night is how my daddy kept me out of trouble and in line.
Instead of leaving me to my own devices with friends, daddy would carry me, and even my friends fishing to keep us out of trouble and help instill a passion that would ultimately define who I am. He taught me to never stop improving and to always try new tactics. He put a drive in me to be the best and always to learn. He didn’t settle for putting the bait on, cast it in the water, and wait. No, he taught me to actually study the water, the weather, new techniques, and the fish.
I continued to fish through my teenage years and early twenties but got away from fishing as an adult when I was raising six kids and working around the clock. After returning home from Iraq, my therapy was being on the water. That’s how I got back to fishing, fishing seriously.
Whether I catch the fish of a lifetime or no fish at all, it brings me balance. Between my relationship with nature and history of fishing, it reconnects me to who I am and helps make the world’s problems seem a little bit smaller.
It wasn’t until after I became a full-time fishing guide that my mama told me something I said as a small child. I told my granny that I was going to be a fisherman when I grew up. Realistically, it wasn’t anything more than a possibility for retirement. My granny has been one of the most influential people in my life. Taking her fishing on my guide boat would be her proudest moment, but a moment we’ll have to share on the other side.
I pass my love for fishing on to others by taking them fishing on my guide boat. I also work as a volunteer teaching hundreds of kids how to fish each year through the Texas Trophy Catfish Association.
Kids these days are very disconnected from reality, and in our current political climate, they are so confused on the most undeniable of biological facts. They don’t even know which bathroom to use. In a world where you can claim to be a man, woman, dog or cat, even an alien, and get out there and demand to be recognized as such, fishing simplifies it all.
The more you can get kids out in nature and teach them simple truths, the less the moral confusion in the world can get into their head. I like to show them the sense of accomplishment that accompanies success. And when the fishing trip is not successful, to just be content to enjoy nature itself. Bringing kids back to nature and seeing the smiles on their faces is more rewarding to me than making more money working anywhere else. Teaching them the importance of conservation so that it continues the tradition that I enjoyed so much all my life. To be able to pass that on to the next generation is a thrill.
My most memorable moment catfishing was going out with a buddy and landing a record-breaking 67-pound blue catfish on video. That, in turn, was picked up by Houston news, which is obviously one of the largest cities in the world. I never figured I’d be on the news without being in handcuffs.
I catfish because I grew up doing it and catfish is also my favorite food. Now that I’m a guide and inventor I have a major passion for the trophy side of catfishing and educating the younger generation. I can only hope that I’m able to instill a passion in these young children I work with just as my great mentors have instilled in me.
Bradley Doyle is a single father and US Army veteran. He is also the owner/operator of Bradley’s Guide Service (936-232-4683), a full-service fishing charter on Lake Conroe in Texas; the inventor and co-owner of Catfish Bubblegum and Bradley’s Bite Enhancer; and Vice President of Texas Trophy Catfish Association (TXTCA).
Organized as a 501c3 non-profit charity organization, TXTCA is involved with extensive community outreach aimed at getting children outdoors and teaching them how to fish. The organization has a mission to “To protect and preserve Trophy Catfish in Texas waters through spreading awareness, encouraging action, practicing CPR, and educating the fishing community with goals to improve state regulations.”