Eric Boenker provides Reel Time Adventures for those who seek catfish
Lisa Boenker proudly displays one of the fish she caught while fishing with her husband, Eric, on Calaveras Lake. The couple limited out at 25 fish each within just a few hours.
Wilson County NewsJuly 6, 2011 4,078 views 1 comment
When he isn’t busy working at his full-time job in San Antonio, Floresville resident Eric Boenker can generally be found at one of the area’s nearby lakes. You see, for Eric, a day off work doesn’t involve sleeping late or completing his “honey-do” list. For Eric, it means a day on the water -- and another chance to fill an ice chest with catfish.
Eric’s days “off” begin well before the sun comes up in South Texas. He fills his old Thermos with piping hot coffee and kisses his wife of 25 years, Lisa, goodbye. With his 21-foot, center-console boat in tow, Eric fires up his pickup truck, reaches over to flip on the headlights, cranks up a Jamey Johnson CD, and heads toward water.
After reaching his chosen destination, there’s usually time for a short rest. It turns out that the lake parks don’t actually open their gates until 6 a.m., and it’s not like Eric to show up late. Along with other dedicated fishermen who begin to form a line, Eric waits patiently at the gate. He doesn’t mind the quiet time, though. It’s a good opportunity for another sip of coffee.
On many mornings just like this, Eric makes the trip alone. Some days he enjoys having the company of family and friends, and still, at other times, Eric gets, well, a little more serious about things. OK, maybe not too serious. Eric, as it turns out, also works as a guide, and is the owner of a new catfish charter service he calls Reel Time Adventures.
For Eric, a lifelong fisherman, working as a guide is about more than just helping people catch fish. It’s about sharing his love, passion, and enthusiasm with others.
“You know, I just really enjoy seeing the smiles on their faces,” Eric said of his past clients.
“There is also a negative stigma about catfish that I’d like to help change,” he said. “I want people to learn that catfish are not trashy, bottom-feeding fish -- they are much more complex than that.”
Spend a few hours on the lake with Eric and you will learn a lot about catfish. Among those lessons will likely be that catching these whiskered fish can be very exciting -- and a whole lot of fun. While some people may not put catfish on the same level as other sport fish, Eric and his clients often see it differently.
“You know, when we really get into the fish -- when the catfish are biting aggressively -- it can get really fast-paced on the boat,” he said with obvious excitement in his eyes. “And when we’re done, most people don’t realize how many fish we really caught. When we get back to the cleaning station and I open the cooler, the response is, ‘Wow, we caught all those?’ And I enjoy hearing that.”
Eric’s passion and contagious enthusiasm stem from a lifetime of fishing. He spent his youth fishing for a variety of species, but really got serious about catfish in the early ’90s. His mastery of the local lakes came later, after moving his wife and two sons to South Texas in 1998.
For Eric, the evolution in mindset from angler to guide was both quick and natural, but his decision to actually do so came over a much longer period of time.
“I’d been kicking around the idea for a few years,” Eric said. “Whenever I’d take family and friends catfishing, they would say, ‘You should be a guide.’ Eventually, I decided to take the plunge.”
Like any good guide worth his salt, Eric has made every effort to learn the local lakes he frequents, and has a good understanding of the fish’s patterns and behaviors, and how they change with the seasons and weather conditions.
“There are so many ways to go after them,” Eric explained. “Sometimes we are drifting deep water, and other times we are working points and structure, finding drop-offs, or fishing in the shallows.”
Once the fish are found, Eric thrives with his labor of love, and it becomes clear just how much he truly enjoys working as a guide -- helping others to their fill of catfish.
Eric’s hands are rarely idle, as he keeps busy on the water by rigging lines, baiting hooks, removing fish, or filling any other need that may arise. And if the action slows a little too much, or things get just a bit too quiet, Eric is likely to break things up with a joke, or by singing a verse or two of whatever Merle Haggard song might be stuck in his head.
“You should get a radio for the boat,” this writer softly suggested.
“Got one. Why? Don’t you like my singing?” he replied.
Truth is, it did put a smile on everyone’s face. And, if the fish aren’t biting, the time passes better when you’re laughing and having fun.
Eric guarantees he will do everything he can to make his clients’ trips successful, but he is a realist, and understands there are still always factors beyond his control.
“Putting people on the fish every time is definitely the most challenging part of being a guide,” Eric said. “Sometimes it really doesn’t matter what you do -- the fish simply will not bite.
“I’ve seen the lakes go from being fantastic where we catch 75 to 100 fish in three hours -- to just catching four or five fish in five hours,” he added. “But I guess that’s why it’s called ‘fishing’ and not ‘catching.’ But I hate the slow days. The slow days are awful.”
Fortunately for Eric, the fishing has generally been pretty good when he hits the water for a Reel Time Adventure.
“When the fishing is good -- it’s real good,” he said. “I can recall many days when everyone in the boat hit their limit.”
For those who choose to spend a day on the lake with Reel Time Adventures, things don’t get much easier. Eric said there are only a few things to bring, and he will provide the rest.
“Adults need to bring a fishing license, any drinks and snacks they want, and I’d also suggest sunshades, hats, and sunscreen. Oh, and a cooler to take home their catch,” Eric said. “Children under the age of 13 need to bring their own life jackets due to sizing issues, but that’s it.”
Aboard Eric’s wide, roomy boat, fishermen will find everything needed for a successful day on the lake, including rods, reels, bait, tackle, ice for the fish, and plenty of room for up to four anglers.
“And if their party is larger than four people, I can arrange for an additional boat and guide with a little advanced notice,” he added.
When the day is done and everyone has had their fill of fun, Eric goes back to work to send his clients home on a high note. He gladly helps with any group and fish photographs that need to be taken, and then methodically fillets and bags every fish that was kept from the day’s trip.
“Honestly, all you really need to do is show up,” Eric said. “Everything else is taken care of.”
Oh, and just as a side note to those of you who are into hunting and fishing -- a combination fishing trip and duck hunt is currently in the works. Eric’s son, Justin, owner of Woods-N-Water, is a duck-hunting guide, and the two are working on package trips to Choke Canyon.
So, if you haven’t been fishing in a while, or just have a hankering for a mess of freshly caught fried catfish, Eric is ready to help with your next set of Reel Time Adventures.
Just remember, when the gates open in the morning, Eric is likely to be there ... you might as well join him.
For more information, or to contact Eric Boenker, visit www.reeltimeadventures.com or call 210-218-0912.