Bay City man still missing in San Antonio Bay

Joe Ames, 62, went fishing in San Antonio Bay near the wildlife refuge Wednesday. He has not returned from the trip. The Coast Guard and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department continue to search for him.

SEADRIFT - On Saturday, Margie Ames, of Bay City, waited for word about her 62-year-old husband, Joe Ames, in the living room of their second home in Seadrift.

She last saw him Monday evening in Bay City.

"He was happy as a lark," Ames said. "He loved to fish."

The Coast Guard and Texas Parks and Wildlife game wardens spent Saturday searching for her husband, who has not returned from his Wednesday fishing trip.

Joe Ames spent four to six days a week fishing in Seadrift and returned home for two to three days.

The couple had a routine when he was away. He called every night at 9 p.m. to give Margie Ames the fishing report.

Tuesday night, Joe Ames told his wife he planned to fish near the wildlife refuge the next day.

He typically launched around daybreak and returned as late as 4 p.m. if he did not hit his limit earlier.

He did not call Ames Wednesday night.

She was surprised but not alarmed. She assumed her husband had a hard day of fishing.

She left him a voice mail message at 9:30 p.m.

"Did you fall asleep?" she said. "Did you forget about me?"

Nine o'clock rolled around Thursday night, and there was still no call. She left him another message.

"Let me know you're OK," she said.

Ames was worried.

Friday morning, she called her nephew who was supposed to fish with her husband Thursday.

Her nephew had called Joe Ames to let him know he could not make it but never reached him.

And the fisherman never called back.

Ames called her husband's good friend. The friend had last exchanged text messages with him around noon Wednesday.

Ames decided she better drive to Seadrift to check on her husband. She and her son arrived about 2:30 p.m. Friday.

They did not stop at the house because her husband's truck and trailer were not there. They found his truck at the harbor.

The missing fisherman had a good rapport with the bait dealers on the docks. They had not seen him for two days.

Ames went to the police station to report her husband's disappearance, and the officers followed protocol. They questioned Ames and checked the house to rule out foul play.

The police chief called the Coast Guard and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, and the search began about 4 p.m.

Joe Ames' boat was found anchored near the wildlife refuge about 5 p.m. His wallet and cellphone were still onboard, but his waders were missing.

Coast Guard officers searched for Joe Ames by boat and helicopter until 8 p.m. Parks and Wildlife game wardens also searched by boat.

They resumed their search early Saturday morning.

Her husband has a heart stent and a pacemaker, Ames said. But he was healthy otherwise.

She speculated that he could have had a stroke or a heart attack in the afternoon heat. Alligators, sharks and sting rays also entered her mind.

"A shark has bitten a fish off his stringer before," Ames said.

Ames and her husband of 32 years have owned their Seadrift fishing retreat for about three years. He hoped to have a long, happy retirement, she said.

Joe Ames had started fishing again after he retired from Conoco-Phillips eight years ago.

"Joe was close to the Lord," Margie said. "He was caring, hardworking - a good husband."

Ames hoped her husband did not suffer if a tragedy did happen.

The Coast Guard searched by jet, helicopter and boat Friday. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department searched by boat.

"The goal is to find him," said Lt. Tyrone Conner, public affairs officer for the Coast Guard. "We will keep searching."

"I hope they find him," Ames said. "If it was meant for the Lord to take him, I hope I have some sort of closure."

His happiest place was on the water, she said.

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