Coast Monthly reels it in with Jeremiah Sullivan, a 35-year-old Santa Fe native who loves to fish. When he isn’t fishing or hunting, he works as an operator for a Texas City oil refinery.
Tell us about yourself and your family.
I’m happily married for almost a year to my beautiful wife, Lisa Michelle Sullivan. I used to admire this young lady with long black hair running around our block and little did I know I would build up the courage to ask this lady out on a date — and this would be the date that would change my life.
I began to tell Lisa from our first date that my passion for hunting and fishing was stronger than anyone’s she has ever met. I wanted her to understand this was a passion I had in my blood and not something I did for pictures and attention. I love to hunt and fish so much that it has consumed my life in the past. Little did I know that Lisa would come to love and understand this passion more than anyone else and this would lead to me finally building up the courage and realizing that this is the woman I want to never be without and to spend the rest of my life with.
We are now happily married with my youngest step-daughter Madelyn Paige Sullivan, oldest step-daughter Tori Renee James and our new grandson, Declan Henric Robert James.
How did you get interested in fishing?
Santa Fe is close to the water, so growing up, my father always had me outside in the garage working on the boat if needed so we could be fishing every weekend no matter the weather. I don’t know if my father had any idea how my early entry into Mother Nature and the outdoors would come to grab ahold of me as much as it did. My mother, Becky Sullivan, father, David Sullivan, grandfather, grandmother, uncles and aunts were always outdoors my whole life. When my father would take me fishing, we would give it our best shot every time. I can never remember having a bad time, whether we caught fish or not; it was about our time together in the outdoors.
When did you become obsessed with fishing?
When I came to realize at a very early age that I had so much fun fishing, even when we didn’t catch a thing, I think I realized that I had an obsession for fishing and the outdoors.
I can remember one time, in particular, when I was around 5 to 8 years old, my father and grandfather, J.T. Bethea, took me to the back of Carancahua Lake. I remember the tide was falling out as hard as I had ever seen. We had caught some mullet and were going to try and catch whatever we could. It was August, if I remember right, and we pulled up to a little drain and started fishing. Little did we know we would catch flounder for three hours.
I remember we ran out of bait, so my father was on the bank running back and forth catching mullet, shrimp, shad or whatever was alive and he would throw the bait from the bank to my grandfather and me and we were catching big flounder as fast as we could throw our bait out.
At the end of the day, I think we had 17 or 18 big flounder and this was not normal for my father and me to get a fishing day like this. This day has never been replicated ever again so far in my life.
What do you like about wade fishing?
After many, many years of hard wades, long hours and many days of not many fish at all, I began to become successful at wade fishing and this made me love and enjoy it even more. I feel that when I am wade fishing, the peace and quiet and being one with nature in the water is so enjoyable for me. When I first started wade fishing, I could wade for hours and sometimes days without seeing another wade fisherman. This completed my feeling of wanting to be out in the middle of nowhere and in charge of any decision I needed to make. I was away from it all and this was my goal.
How do you know when the fish are biting?
When wade fishing, I pay very close attention to water levels, tide movement, wind direction and the moon. In my experience, all of these factors, when lined up correctly, will get the fish eating. Back when the bays were loaded to the brim with trout, redfish and flounder, the fish would just eat and eat and eat. Nowadays, with so much pressure and the decline in fish population, it’s more challenging to catch these fish. But with this challenge, the days I am successful makes it just as much, if not more, enjoyable for me than the best day I’ve ever had.
Where are your favorite wade fishing spots?
It would have to be the surf, and I love to fish with artificial and live baits. When the surf gets flat and green from the end of April through September, I love to be there throwing top waters, plastics and sometimes Fat Boys corkys. The surf can be some of the best fishing there is in the Galveston Bay complex. When it’s right, I think it’s hard to be beaten as far as catching fish and the enjoyment of being in the surf, even though some refuse to wade fish the surf because of bad experiences and sharks.
Do you have any good luck charms?
I used to be a little superstitious when fishing, so I always had a good luck pair of shorts, shirt and hat. The older I get, I find that when I am going wade fishing, if I tell myself I am going to go find some good water with bait activity and just get out and enjoy the day, I will be successful. If I have a good luck charm, I would have to say my wife. We are always lucky fishing together. The first time she ever went blue marlin fishing with me was in Bermuda and we ended up catching the biggest fish of my life so far and won the tournament. I will definitely never forget being able to have her with me in paradise witnessing the fish of a lifetime.
Tell us about your boat.
As much as I love to wade fish, I have to have a good boat to get me where I am going. I used to fish this big bay in a 15-foot Weldbilt my dad bought from my Uncle Mike when I graduated high school. I had a good, dependable trailer and a 25-horse Tohatsu that I still use to this day for duck hunting. This boat would get me wherever I wanted to go as long as I could get to a boat ramp that was close enough for me to make a run with the right wind. This little boat will not handle rough water very well.
Lucky enough, I graduated college and got a good job, which allowed me to purchase a boat with my father. My father came home from work one day and said, “Jeremiah, a guy at work has a 22 Pursuit with a 225-horsepower Mercury and it holds 125 gallons of fuel.” At first, he told me the price and I was reluctant because all I could think about was fishing and I had a good little boat, so I passed. It took about a year before I finally came to my senses and we ended up getting the boat motor and trailer for a deal.
We re-certified the fuel tank and put on a nice big T-Top. It was one of the best investments we made. This boat has allowed me to wade fish anywhere in the bay in almost any conditions with the opportunities to go offshore a short ways and tarpon fish on the beach. This boat allows me to have 100 gallons of fuel and five guys and we can pull up on a shoreline and get out and wade and at the drop of a hat we can be 20 miles offshore.
The best thing I like about our boat is it didn’t cost a fortune and is paid off. It has good high side with a self-bailing hull. This boat is very seaworthy. We now have a 225 four stroke Yamaha, which allows me to fish all day most days and burn less than 20 gallons of fuel.
What was your best fishing day?
I would have to say it was the last time I had the experience of fishing with my long-time friend, Tim Landen Turner. Tim was much older than me, very quiet, very private and lucky for me, he would become my mentor in my early wade fishing days and took me by the hand and taught me everything he knew about fishing.
Our last day of fishing was with Tiger Boone and Capt. Jacob Reaves. We took Tim for his final fishing trip to the South shoreline in East Bay and when we stopped the boat, the fish were literally jumping out of the water. I could not believe that this would be our luck. We took Tim out to get away from the house and fish a little and we ended up catching trout every cast for about three hours. We wore Tim out and took him home for a nap around noon.
When Tim woke up we got back on the water, we commenced to catching trout again. I have thought about this experience since this day and it seems as though we were guided to this particular spot for Tim to finish this life with an epic day of fishing and it will be a day I will never forget.
What advice would you give beginner anglers?
I know we are all excited to go fish and starting out, when at the ramp, don’t pull up in front of the boat launch with a line full of people and start loading your boat. People aren’t doing anything wrong doing this, but 10 boats behind you may have everything ready to launch and head out. They will be in the ramp and out before you finish loading the boat, and nowadays we need to do this to keep the line moving. There are a lot of folks ready to hit the water and this will speed things up so everyone can get to their spot as early as possible.
Secondly, when backing your boat in the ramp, please turn your headlights off. There is nothing more frustrating than backing your boat in the water and all you can see is someone’s high beams in your mirror. This not only holds up the traffic, but is dangerous.
When you are running through the bay, watch for people making drifts. Pay attention to the wind and tide and run behind the boat instead of in front of it. This is the courteous thing to do. Now you have made it through the bay and are getting to the shoreline where you want to wade. If there are boats in the area, slow down to an idle a really good distance off the shoreline. And please never run by someone who is in need of help. I have spent enough time on the water that I have needed plenty of help and have been blessed that people have stopped to help me.
Always remember, be safe, be courteous, be patient and always remember no one owns the water. It’s all of ours to share. Good wade fishing to all.