By Gaige Davila
Photos courtesy of the Mock family.
Raymond “Skipper” Mock, a local fishing guide, father, brother, uncle, can lay claim, perhaps better than most, to living and dying by the tides of the Laguna Madre.
Raised in Port Isabel, Skipper was, is, a physical mythos of the waters that surround his hometown and South Padre Island. He swam with sharks in Hawaii; rode a jet ski alongside his partner, Karen Watt, for 1800 miles from South Padre Island to the Florida Keys; won fishing tournament after fishing tournament; and regularly took then-Texas Governor Ann Richards out fishing for redfish.
So when Skipper, complaining of leg pain, was hospitalized and died shortly after, the Laguna Madre community were, understandably, floored.
Nobody is exactly sure where Skipper contracted vibrio, a flesh-eating bacteria found in warm saltwater. It could’ve been from Skipper needing to pull his boat out of the muck and seagrass of South Bay recently, or the numerous times he pulled his boat in and out of the water.
About 80,000 people are infected with vibrio a year, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The bacteria is described as “flesh-eating” because of the lesions that develop on the skin soon after infection.
Victoria Mock, Skipper’s daughter, said her father was in good spirits the day he was hospitalized, on July 23. He told his son, Corey, that he would be fine and to continue on with his day.
Later that day, Skipper was put under anesthesia in the ICU by doctors who needed to examine the wound on his leg more closely. That night, doctors amputated his leg, attempting to stop the bacteria from spreading. He never woke up, staying in critical condition for 6 more days until his organs failed, unable to fight against the vibrio. He died on July 30, at 61 years old, at Valley Baptist Medical Center in Brownsville.
“It was kind of a roller coaster of whether he was going to pull through or not,” Victoria told the PRESS over the phone. “He was in critical condition from the moment they put him under for the surgery.”
Victoria, who has been living in Des Moines, Iowa, for the last five years, flew down to be with her father.
“It sucked to see him like that, but the community really stepped up and reached out,” she said.
Fishing’s Future Founder and CEO Shane Wilson, also a local, organized a fundraiser for Skipper, raising their goal amount of $17,000 in less than a week. That money is now going towards Skipper’s medical bills and organizing his estate, Victoria said.
But the outpouring of support didn’t stop there. At this year’s Texas International Fishing Tournament (TIFT), tournament organizers paid special tribute to Skipper, ending with Shallow Sport Boats co-owner Wes Hudson posthumously awarding Skipper the Good Sportsman Trophy.
“It’s amazing, outstanding and incredible, the amount of people that he touched in his life,” Victoria said. “It’s difficult to put into words.”
She continued, “the people that saw me grow up and knew my dad that you might forget about and then they reached out and said, ‘oh man, I haven’t talked to you in so long.’ People that you don’t think of very often come back and you realize how much of an impact my dad had on their life and their families. It’s incredible to see the amount of hurt from the community and how hard this hit everyone.”
One of the last phone conversations Victoria had with her father was him walking her through how to prepare fish they had caught on her last visit to South Padre Island, laughing as she reminisced about the unexpectedly final guidance she received from Skipper. He loved to cook, she said, leading the culinary duties for family events.
Keeping Skipper’s spirit alive is easy, Victoria said: “Keep fishing.”
This Sunday, August 8, Skipper will be remembered alongside his friends and family at Parrot Eyes, at 5801 Padre Blvd on South Padre Island, where he ran his fishing guide business from.