By BOB PALMER
Jimplecute News Editor
UNCERTAIN – Billy Carter still remembers the first time he was paid as a fishing guide. One of the owners of Johnson Ranch Marina was 12 years old in 1962 and made a whopping $5.
“It was a lot of money. I was making $1.50 mowing yards,” Carter recalled Wednesday.
The client did not snag a trophy bass, however. “The guy was from Dallas and said, ‘I need somebody to show me how to catch fish,’” the talkative Carter said.
The man from the big city offered to pay someone $5 if he could catch one fish.
Young Billy took the challenge. “He dropped that minnow inside a hollow stump of a Cypress tree and pulled out a chain pickle,” Carter said. “It’s like a pike. They are a lot of fun to catch but not good eating. He paid me $5 and took me back.”
This May, high water on Caddo Lake flooded the Johnson Ranch Marina – “about waist high.” The water has receded, and the marina is open, but Carter can still not serve food. “We can’t get the floors dry enough to put down linoleum,” Carter said.
Carter stays busy as a fish guide and giving Go Devil tours of Caddo Lake. The type of fish Carter will chase depends on the day. “I have a 24-foot pontoon,” Carter said. “We catch what’s biting. If its crappie, it’s a crappie day. If it’s yellow bass, it’s a yellow bass day.”
Carter’s personal favorite is yellow bass. “Crappie fishermen think yellow bass are trash fish,” Carter said. “I like them. When you filet them, it’s sweet white meat. It’s my favorite meat out of the lake.”
Carter’s 1844 Red Devils can go through cuts and places most people don’t know exist.
“It’s a very unique ride,” Carter said. “They’re not noisy like airboats.” Carter has also swapped fishing stories with some of the rich and famous and worked on several movies filmed in the Caddo Lake area.
“Two for Texas,” “Universal Soldier,” “Snake Salvation” with NatGeo, and “Return of Boggy Creek” are some of his films. George Strait, Jean Claude Van Damme and Michael Vincent are a few who trusted Carter to put them on fish.
“I’ve also carried a lot of people out that did not want to be known,” Carter said. Although Carter was not the guide used that day (Henry Lewis who died last year was in the boat), Carter remembers one celebrity clearly.
“I pulled up at the camp one day,” Carter reminisced. “Everybody had a badge and a gun. President George W. Bush was there.” Carter had a friend who wanted him to give the president an Uncertain t-shirt. “George stepped out of the boat and I helped him out and gave him the t-shirt,” Carter said.
Billy and Dottie Carter are partners in Johnson Ranch and own Spatter Dock Guest Houses. As far as Caddo Lake goes, Billy likes to say, “I know pretty much every inch of it. Always something new around the bend.”
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