by John Guthrie Ford
Some people, like the fellow in this article, are magnets for the unique and unusual. If the stars do influence things, then Byrd Lee Minter (1906-1997) was born under the Unique Experiences Star.
Byrd had some Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer DNA. Like Tom’s station in life, Byrd’s Aransas Pass family had resources allowing him to follow up on his Huckleberry adventures. The flights of ducks that blackened the sky over Redfish Bay intrigued young Byrd, and soon he was crouched down in duck blinds trying to call wily pintails to the decoys. He learned quickly, and in his teens started a duck guide business, carrying his hunters to the flats aboard one of his father’s shrimp boats.
Two decades later, Minter’s waterfowl business was a going affair. In 1946, the weather preceding the start of duck season was still unseasonably warm, and there were few ducks in the area; so few, that Byrd got on the horn and called his parties and canceled the opening day hunt. With his time freed up, Byrd went to the night football game in Aransas Pass to see the Panthers play.
It began to rain, and then the wind turned and howled like a banshee. The fall’s first norther had arrived with a vengeance, pushing in front of it thousands of ducks helter-skelter. The stadium’s brightly lighted field must have been a beacon of salvation to the exhausted airborne birds, because they began landing on the field in droves. So many came in, and stayed down, that the game had to be called! Byrd hurried home and contacted his hunters, telling them to come on down. Everyone had record hunts the next few days (in R.K. Sawyer’s “A Hundred Years of Texas Waterfowl Hunting.”)
That Minter started a hunting business in his teens is perhaps eclipsed by him getting a nickel to take classmates fishing in his rowboat when he was eight. Byrd’s intrigue with fishing led to an insatiable desire to fish offshore, specifically for billfish (sailfish and marlin). However, in the 1920s and ‘30s no one in Aransas Pass or Port Aransas went offshore. There was concern about sailing out of sight of land, and besides, the fishing action was tarpon in the Aransas Pass waterway— Byrd captained “Olita,” a large tarpon boat, for G.A.C. Halff, a wealthy San Antonian.
Byrd would not give up on his billfish passion. He discovered that there was superior billfishing at Guaymas, Mexico, on the Sea of Cortez, but he was stymied how to get there and fish enough to learn the art and science of billfishing. That is when Haiff stepped in. He told Byrd he would bankroll the project if Byrd could get “Olita” to Guaymas— that way Halff could come down and fish in his own boat. Minter jumped at the chance.
Byrd had a heavy-duty trailer fabricated for “Olita,” and in April of 1939 he headed out on the 1,300 mile adventure to Guaymas. On arrival, Byrd fished almost daily for the plentiful sailfish and marlin. Halff came down and Byrd showed him what he was learning. In late June, Minter towed “Olita” back to Port Aransas.
By then, boat builder James Albert Farley Jr. of Aransas Pass had finished Byrd’s offshore boat “Lucile.” In August 1939, Byrd fished two sports writers offshore and returned with six sailfish, for what many believe was the first offshore charter from the Port Aransas docks.
Byrd Lee Minter: eight yearold charter “captain” (rowboat), teenage duck guide/ businessman, spectator to a football field covered by waterfowl, transporter of a Texas fishing boat across a Mexican desert, and first to charter offshore from Port Aransas; a man definitely born under the Unique Experiences Star.
(Mark Creighton contributed substantially to the research on this topic.)
(First published in the Port Aransas South Jetty December 5, 2013)[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]