I’ve known Mike McRae for almost a decade, and we talk fishing every time we’re together. The irony is that we’ve never actually fished together. He was the PE Coach at Summers Elementary, and I was the Tech Lab teacher during the fall of 2006. I knew the first time we met that he either spent more time sunbathing than the cast of The Jersey Shore, or he was a die-hard fisherman. There was no in between.
Here’s the difference between Mike, and other fishermen – he doesn’t just talk a big game about fishing, he lives it. He thinks like a fish, he stalks fish like a fish, he eats like a fish (seriously he once ate fish six times in a week), and I think he might even have gills likes a fish. This isn’t me telling a fish story, he’s a living, breathing fishing machine. “Coach” McRae is currently the PE Coach at Pinemount Elementary, and the second he’s off the clock he fishes like there’s no tomorrow. It’s why I call him the Kingfish Whisperer.
When he’s at home, he’s fishing off his family’s dock, catching bass and big specks. When he’s not at home, he’s probably towing his 20-foot Cape Horn towards Suwannee. His parents, Dr. Barney and Mary McRae, raised Mike and all of his brothers (Skip, Norman, and Chris) on the water. They’ve owned a house in Lake City (currently on Lake Jeffrey), and on the Suwannee River since 1972. That’s what they knew growing up: eat, sleep, fish, eat, sleep, fish, and repeat.
The unique thing about Mike is that he is completely unselfish. He catches enough fish between fresh water, salt water, and other waters to feed a village. So, what does he do? He basically feeds a village. He’s like the Santa Claus of fresh fish fillets. When Mike’s done fishing, he fills his sleigh (truck) with a sack (cooler) of presents (perfectly filleted fish), and then distributes them from Suwannee to Lake City. He probably leaves a trail like the gingerbread man of fish carcasses on the back roads he frequents.
He’s like the Santa Claus of fresh fish fillets.
I love eating fish, but there are some fish that I’m not crazy about. Bluefish and their pelagic friends, kingfish, Spanish mackerel, aren’t my favorite. I’ll make a smoked dip out of them, but that’s generally it. Mike brought me a bag of Spanish mackerel to Summers Elementary one day – already fried, and leftover from the night before. This was a recipe for disaster (literally), or, so I thought. That fish tasted like it was the freshest grouper I had ever eaten. From that day on I never turned down a bag of fish from Mike. It could have been mudfish, and I’d have ordered seconds and thirds.
Mike posted a report several weeks ago that featured a banner day of redfish and big trout, and I had to experience it for myself. Was he really catching fish in the middle of the dog days of summer, while everyone else was struggling like the Big 12 trying to find a defense. He must have been using old photos on Facebook I joked, but I knew if anyone was catching fish out of the unusually warm water on our local flats it had to be him.