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Thursday, July 23. 2015
This year, 2011, Easter Sunday is very late falling on April 24th, but in 1978 Easter was very early, March 26th and that year my family and I took this opportunity to come back home to Houston for the holiday. Dub Middleton lived in West University across the street from my mother and I went over to see him, to see if I could talk him into a fishing trip on Saturday and after a lot of arm twisting, (haha), he finally agreed.
Our destination, in upper West Galveston Bay, was what we called the Triangle; Greens Cut on the north, South Deer Island on the east and The Wreck on the south. This area of the bay was studded with numerous oyster reefs, a hard sand bottom and was protected from the prevailing southeast wind. After buying a quart of live shrimp, we, Dub, Randy and I, launched the boat in Offats Bayou, sped out towards the bay, turned left towards Anderson Ways and, of all things, on the sand flats, a bird school was working over some, cornered shrimp, a sure sigh of speckled trout!
This was very surprising and very unusual, because the specs generally don’t start the birds working until mid May. Also, back in 1960, my first fishing trip taking the boat out by myself was to this very spot, where my cousin and I loaded the boat up with 2 to 3 pound specs, but since then, I’d never caught another fish in that spot.
Telling Dub to circle back around and come in on the tide side of the birds, we baited up our rigs. We were using standard popping rigs; 7 foot rods, black Ambassaduer reels loaded with 15 pound line, a popping cork trailed by a 3 foot leader, on to which was attached a small, number 8, treble hook.
This being the first bird school of the year, Dub came in a little close, breaking up the birds, but we cast out anyway. Rewarded with a big strike, I set the hook and the fight was on, then nothing, the hook pulled loose. We kept casting, with no results and 10 minutes later, started up the motor and headed on towards The Triangle. We sped past Anderson Ways, around Confederate Reef, over the old, Intercoastal Waterway and soon we saw The Wreck, cut the motor and cast out.
We couldn’t find the fish, or for some reason, the fish, specs and reds, weren’t biting, so we kept on drifting. After a while, my cork went under, I set the hook and was no longer in charge of the situation. A big fish, my first guess a bull red, was on the other end of the line heading for Greens Cut. The fish was running and taking out line at an alarming rate and I exclaimed, “Somebody start the motor and let’s chase this thing,” and the chase was on!
Down to a few turns on my reel, I could see the spool’s shaft and Dub finally started the engine, headed toward the fish, allowing me to reclaim some line. With the spool almost full, we neared the fish and my guess now was a big, shark, it took off again, but Dub almost kept up, keeping pressure on it. Now I was winning, the runs were shorter, the fish was avoiding a surface fight, staying around the bottom, changing my guess to a big ray, but frankly, I didn’t have any idea of what kind of fish I was fighting.
Everyone was excited to see what variety of denizen of the deep this was. The fish was heavy, but finally wrestling it to the surface, our question was answered, a huge jackfish, jack crevalle. Dub netted it, but we knew it was too big for our scale, a Fisherman’s Deliar, so we guessed at over 30 pounds, the biggest one I’d ever caught now or then. Removing the hook, we released the jack and as it swam away, voiced our surprise and raised some questions..
Having caught smaller ones along the Houston Ship Channel and the beachfront, what was a 30 pound jack doing way up in the bay, a good 15 miles from the deep water of the Gulf? Another surprise and question, what was this jack doing up in the bay in late March? Maybe this was why the specs and reds were off their feed?
Posted by Jon Bryan in Fishing at 08:05 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
Thursday, July 12. 2012
Many times during the summer we cleared the Galveston Jettyâ€™s before the sun was up. This was one of those times and in the dark we had stopped by our friendly, German bait camp operator, the same one that was the star of â€œInvasionâ€ on my post of July 8, 2010, picked up bait and ice, and found out from him just where the shrimp boats were anchoring up and culling. This would be a quick trip out and back, because all 3 of us, Max, Dewey and I had business to take care of back in Houston, we were all 3 top salesman with the same large computer company and business comes first, you know!
Dewey Stringer and I had conjured up this fishing trip on the spur of the moment, picking a Friday morning since we had a bad case of cabin fever, because it was too hot to work (ha-ha), we had conned another of our king chasers, Max Weber, to go along. We decided that we would leave early, before the sun came up, find some shrimpers culling their nights catch, then, load up on the kings and be back before 9:30 AM, that would fit in real good with our schedules.
Max spent the night with Dewey at his Tiki Island place and I stayed at my Bayou Vista canal home and all of us were up way before the sun, loaded up Deweyâ€™s boat, a 23 footer with a 200 horse outboard, and headed for the Intercoastal Waterway. Hand held spotlights blazing, we planed out his boat and sped under the bridges of the Galveston Causeway, under Pelican Island Bridge, through Galveston Harbor then turned right between the jetties and on out into the gulf.
We had picked a beautiful morning for our jaunt offshore, very light wind out of the southeast, slick seas with virtually no swells and at first light, sure enough, 20 miles out, we found 3 shrimpers tied together, culling their nights catch! We pulled up beside the 3 and made the almost, obligatory trade of beer for shrimp, packed the fresh shrimp in the big cooler, then set to catching some kings.
Max was first in the water and his line had barely settled when a hungry fish gobbled it up and took off. The long run against the lightweight tackle, assured us that it was probably a king, it was and after a lively tussle was gaffed and into the cooler it went. Our lines hadnâ€™t even settled good when both Dewey and I had big strikes, 2 more long runs and soon we had the 2 kings up alongside the boat and gaffed them too. We were 3 for 3 on kings and soon weâ€™d have the big cooler filled up!
Dewey had a big hit and off the fish took, but it wasnâ€™t fighting like a king. Shorter runs and a grudging, not give an inch pull on his line. It was a jackfish, jack crevelle, not edible, but what fighters! On the light tackle Dewey was struggling with the jack, the fight took over 20 minutes, for just after sun up with no wind, Dewey commented, â€œIâ€™m working up a sweatâ€. Max said, â€œIâ€™ll fix thatâ€ and with one swoop of a handy, bucket, filled it and deposited the contents over Deweyâ€™s head and shoulders. The 84 degree water was cooling and after that, as we were fighting fish, one of us would anoint the other. Believe it or not, it was cooling and refreshing.
By 9:30 we had limited out and filled the big, cooler with kings, but before we started in, we anointed each other one more time and took off. The big, 200 had us skimming over the flat seas at a record pace, we retraced our way in and were back unloading the boat by 11:00 AM. We iced down the kings and would clean them tonight, but anyway it was a great trip, even with the heat and all 3 of us made our appointments on time!
Posted by Jon Bryan in Fishing at 08:05 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
Thursday, June 23. 2011
Our computer services company was still growing and our business prospects looked good, so early in the summer of 1998, Bob Baugh and I decided to take a day off and go fish for tarpon. Over the past few years the tarpon had moved back to the beachfront in sufficient numbers that several fishing guides had started a fishery for tarpon, kingfish, jack fish and shark. To protect their newfound livelihood, they used medium to light tackle and vigorously practiced catch and release of tarpon.
We decided to get a guide and we chose Mike Williams, owner of Tarpon Express, considered to be the best saltwater guide in the Galveston area. Never having used a local guide before, we knew heâ€™d know about catching tarpon, where they were and most important, he was on the water chasing them every.
We met him in Galveston, at the gas station, at the corner of 69th Street and Seawall Blvd., followed him down the sixteen, miles of beachfront to San Luis Pass and launched his twenty-three footer, powered by a two hundred horse outboard. He had already picked up a supply of frozen cigar minnows that we would be using for bait. He had made the decision for us not to use artificial bait since he said the tarpon were really spread out and hadnâ€™t been hitting artificials for the past week. Thatâ€™s another reason why we hired him!
The morning was picture perfect, light southeast wind, tide rolling in bringing in the clear green Gulf water as we loaded up in the boat and motored under the San Luis Pass Bridge. Two hundred yards past the last sand bar simultaneously, Mike, Bob and I, spotted a circular slick about the size of a washtub. This usually means trout. Trout voraciously feed and while feeding, regurgitate their stomach contents and continue feeding, the slick being made by these contents floating to the surface.
Mike cut the boat back to neutral and since I was already baited up, told me, â€œJon, cast right into that slick.â€ Casting into the slick I was rewarded by a solid strike, the fish took my bait my, but no hook up and no fish. Quickly baiting back up and casting back into the slick, this time a big fish hit my bait, headed east down the beachfront, pausing only to clear the water and expose its silver, green sides â€“ a big tarpon!
Wow, my first real opportunity to land a big, tarpon. Having the utmost confidence in the fishing tackle, a seven foot, medium action, fiberglass rod Bob had made for me several years before, with an eighty pound, monofilament leader and twenty pound line wrapped onto a saltwater size, red reel,
The fish continued to run, then stopped, cleared the water again and just like the outdoor writers say, to create a small bit of slack in my line that acts as a cushion, I dropped my rod tip as the tarpon entered back into the water. Now, as he ran right back toward us, to keep the line tight, I reeled furiously. Another jump, another lowered rod tip, another long run, then I started to gain line as it wallowed on the surface, then Mike put a hand gaff right in the point of the tarponâ€™s lower jaw and I had my trophy!
Since this was only catch and release, we measured the tarpon as best we could, Bob took pictures of the fish in the water (he canâ€™t find the picture now) and we released it to fight another day. We estimated it was sixty inches long and weighed eighty pounds! I took the measurements to a taxidermist and had a shoulder mount made up of the fish coming out of the water. The mount was displayed in my office for many years and now, Bob has it.
We continued fishing that day, caught two kingfish, a five foot, black tip shark and lost several fish when they bit through the mono leaders. We did not see or connect with another tarpon. One good thing, as we were fishing, Mike cleaned the fish, so at the end of the day, we plopped them into the cooler and headed home. Another reason why we hired him!
Posted by Jon Bryan in Fishing at 11:35 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
Friday, October 29. 2010
On a fall morning, just at first light, I lowered the 22 footer into the canal behind our Bayou Vista home, headed down it and chugged, speed limit 5 MPH in the canals, into Highlands Bayou.Â Opening up the big, outboard I skimmed the back way into the Intercoastal Waterway.Â This was the same track Randy and I took several years earlier when he collided with a live, oyster reef.Â See my June 18, 2009 post, â€œA Close Callâ€. Â
Having a 11:00 AM meeting with customers, it would be a short trip this morning, but hopefully a productive one.Â My destination, with the tide coming in and a light southeast wind, was the sand flats that ran from Greenâ€™s Cut up to South Deer Island.Â The target was to find sea gulls (birds) working over feeding specs, the specs driving shrimp toward the surface and the birds gobbling up the shrimp the fish missed.Â Classic food chain stuff!
Armed with a 7-1/2 foot, popping, rod, 12 pound line spooled on a Shimano Bantam Curado reel, pictured below, rigged with a popping cork over a live shrimp hooked through its horn with a small, treble hook, I was ready for action. The action wasnâ€™t long in coming. Of all things, I noticed several shrimp hopping out of the water and casting right in front of them, bam a big strike. Â
The fish took off peeling line from the reel, not the circling fight of a 3 or 4 pound trout, not the weight of a big red, then the fish, a skipjack or ladyfish, (Bodianus rufus) cleared the water.Â Theyâ€™re real hard fighters, jump a lot, but arenâ€™t good table fare.Â Many times they will be feeding on shrimp, driving them to the surface where the ever hungry, birds will congregate over them.Â Landing the skipjack, I released it and continued my scouting for birds.
Two hundred yards away, several birds were sitting on the water, this is a likely sign of a school of fish that has that has cleaned up the shrimp in one area, or of one or two big fish randomly feeding.Â Pulling up to within 50 yards of the birds, the light wind and incoming tide soon pushed me within casting distance.Â Letting fly, when the cork and shrimp hit the water, it was one of those rare times when the cork kept going down, almost jerking the rod out of my hand.Â This was a good one!
Several trips around the boat, I slid the net under a 4 pound spec!Â Thinking to myself, Iâ€™ll keep this one for Laylaâ€™s and my supper tonight, then my 11:00 AM meeting flashed into my mind and by the time I motor back, clean the fish, hose out the boat, shower and drive the 45 minutes to my meeting, Iâ€™d better be scooting. Â
My salesman and I made the meeting on time and closed a big deal.Â Mixing business and pleasure was neat and these quick fishing trips were a big advantage of living right on the water!
Posted by Jon Bryan in Fishing at 09:01 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
Wednesday, May 6. 2009
Having caught and released my tarpon by 8:00 AM, we had continued fishing, hoping for another one!Â Two kings, two cut offs and one jackfish later we still hadnâ€™t seen or hooked a tarpon.
The tarpon were in and cruising along the beachfront early in the summer of 1998 and Bob Baugh and I had decided to take a day off and go fish with Mike Williams, owner of Tarpon Express, and considered to be the best saltwater/tarpon guide in the Galveston Bay area. We hadnâ€™t used a local guide before but figured heâ€™d know about catching the tarpon, where they were, and most important, he was on the water every day. Â
By the time we met Mike at 69th Street and Seawall Boulevard, he had already picked up a supply of frozen cigar minnows, that we would be using that day for bait. He had made the decision for us not to use artificials since the tarpon were really spread out and hadnâ€™t been hitting them for the past week. Thatâ€™s exactly the reason we hired him!
Continuing to fish hard we were rewarded with two more kings and lost several more, kings or sharks, we couldnâ€™t tell, since they had bitten through the eighty pound, mono, leaders. Â
After another cut off, I tied on a new â€œcircleâ€ hook, applied a cigar minnow and sent a long cast, looping out to the general area where I had just lost my rig.Â As soon as the bait hit the water, there was a sharp tug, a short run and airborne came a twisting, turning, black tip shark. Â
A long run, two more jumps and after a tug-of war, the four and a half foot, shark rolled over on its side beside the boat as Mike asked me, â€œIf you want to keep this one, Iâ€™ll gaff it?Â Good eatinâ€™!â€Â Replying to the affirmative, he gaffed it, whacked it on the head with two good licks and laid it out on his cutting board.Â Cutting off the sharkâ€™s head, gutting and skinning it, he held up, probably, twenty pounds of shark ready to be sliced and grilled.Â The shark steaks were greatly, enjoyed!
Black tips, and most sharks, are terrific fighters, offer real sport and the guides now release all of them they catch.
Posted by Jon Bryan in Fishing at 08:05 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
Tuesday, May 22. 2007
In the spring of 1966, severe floods over the Trinity and San Jacinto Rivers and the head waters of Buffalo Bayou had flushed out Galveston Bay. The bay water was fresh and muddy and almost all of the bait fish had left and taken up residence at the jetties and along the beach front, quickly followed by the Trout, Red Fish and Flounders. This presented a real opportunity to catch some fish.
Four of the Igloo full of Specs we caught.This particular day, Wednesday, May 3, 1966, my Dad, being retired, and I, had decided to sneak off early in the morning, fish our South Jetty spot and be back in town by 10:00 AM so I could make some afternoon appointments.
We bought one quart of shrimp and put it in the internal bait well on the new, 16ft Falcon, then put the boat in at Bobby Wilsonâ€™s Bait Camp and sped at thirty-five miles per hour around the East Beach Flats, no more wading for us (only if it is too rough to get around the end of the South Jetty). No problem today since the wind was blowing lightly out of the north- east.
Just after sunrise we motored up and slipped up close to the Jetty, quietly dropping the anchor and letting out line. The anchor caught and we looked up and down the jetty, we were the only boat out. We ended up thirty-five or forty feet from the rocks, in ten feet of water. The depth dropped from zero to ten feet in forty feet! The tide was flowing to our left toward the beach. It is funny that when the tide is flowing out of the channel you get a reverse effect on the Gulf side of both jetties. Bait fish were crowded against the rocks. We knew the Trout were here.
Daddy had a new, red Ambassadeur 5000 reel with fifteen pound line, mounted on a six and a half foot fiberglass â€œpoppingâ€ rod. Just the right tackle. I was armed with a Mitchell 300 spinning reel, ten pound line and a semi-stiff, six and a half foot spinning rod. Ok unless I pick up a big Red or Jackfish. We were free shrimping with a BB size split shot attached about ten inches above a small, treble hook. Trout poison! For the record we had two coolers, a foam one for food and drinks and a new forty-eight quart Igloo for the fish. Funny thing, at that time, Igloo was one of my customers.
We baited up and cast toward the rocks, dragging the shrimp slowly along the drop off and whamo, whamo, we are both into two very nice fish. We began the â€œJetty Shuffleâ€, which is circling around the boat, passing rods under each other to prevent tangling, all while keeping pressure on the fish. We netted both fish in the same landing net, removed the hooks and placed them in the new forty-eight quart Igloo cooler. The fish were identical, twenty-six inches long with their tails curling up the side of the cooler. We shook hands, baited up and cast out and whamo, whamo, two more nice fish! We repeated this over and over until we had the new, forty-eight quart Igloo cooler full to the top with a minimum of ice left in it. Twenty-nine Specsâ€™, all twenty-six or twenty-seven inches long, almost two hundred pounds of fish. All of this in less than two hours!
Looking up, I see Wes Thomas, another â€jetty proâ€, and one of my old college and baseball playing buddies, pulling up slowly outside of us. I yelled across the water, â€œWes, our cooler is full so let me pull up the anchor and you all ease in here and you can catch some fish.â€
I saw in the next days Houston Chronicle that Bob Brister, the OutdoorEditor, wrote that the â€œjetty prosâ€ hammered the trout at the NORTH Jetty. Funny, I guess he really could keep a secret.
Just gutting the fish, we got back to Houston well before 10:00 AM and sold most of the fish for over $100. My afternoon appointments were no problem.
My â€œspecialâ€ spot is still there and still a fish haven, less than a mile in from the end of the Gulf side of Galvestonâ€™s South Jetty. I have caught a whole lot of fish in my life from Florida, to the Gulf of California, to Hawaii, but no day equals the quantity and size, or the fast, furious action that Daddy and I had on May 3, 1966.
Posted by Jon Bryan in Fishing at 08:30 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
Tuesday, January 30. 2007
During the spring of 1981, by accident, Dana Sawyer and I â€œfoundâ€ a boat, probably a shrimper, that was sunk right off of the Galveston Ship Channel in fifteen feet of water, two hundred yards north of the old concrete ship. For some reason, whenever we caught the tide coming in and the wind and currents not too strong, we consistently caught fish, Speckled Trout and Red Fish, at this spot.
We had been drifting the flats north of the old Quarantine Station, on the west side of the ship Channel, with the depth recorder on, and noticed we had drifted out too far toward the Ship Channel and into deep water, when a â€œhumpâ€ appeared on our chart paper. This got our interest so we criss-crossed the hump several times and determined it was a wrecked boat about the size of a shrimp boat. This was before the days of GPSâ€™, and Dana didn't have a Loran, so we had no way of marking the spot other than triangulating on the old concrete ship, a channel marker and an oil rig.
We anchored over the wreck, baited up and let our rigs down to the bottom. Dana was right into a nice fish, but I was hung up on something. I had caught the wreck and in loosening up my hook brought up a small piece of wood. I netted Danaâ€™s fish, a nice Red, got my rig baited up and preceded to land a two pound trout.
We were on to something and for the next two years â€œThe Wreckâ€ was a fish producer for us and only a twenty minute boat ride from Danaâ€™s Camp! One memorable trip to â€œThe Wreckâ€ was during the summer of 1982. Alvin Pyland, my Uncle Gus, Dave Miller, a close friend, and I had spent the morning fishing the Gulf side of the South Jetty. As usual we had an enjoyable trip and a large Igloo Cooler over half full of fish.
The tide had been going out pushing baitfish around the end of the jetty and back toward the beachfront and we had caught Trout, Reds, Spanish Mackerel and even a Cobia. When the tide changed and started going in I suggested we try â€œThe Wreckâ€. Neither of my companions had ever fished it and didnâ€™t even know it was there. They had good success during the fall fishing for Reds almost directly across from â€œThe Wreckâ€ in ten feet of water on a shelf on the east side of the Ship Channel.
We pulled up my twenty foot Cobia, deep vee, in the vicinity of â€œThe Wreckâ€, and with the depth finder began our triangulating. Soon we were anchored over it and had our baits in the water, when â€œWhamâ€, Uncle Gus has a big hit from, obviously, a Red, a real nice one judging from the bend in his rod, and another, â€œWhamâ€ Dave has a big strike on his spinning outfit, and â€œWhamoâ€ I have a big hit from something. Wham, Wham, Wham, three almost simultaneous heavy strikes!
The fight is on! My fish, a three pound Trout, comes to the boat first, and Uncle Gus netsÂ it while still fighting his. Dave is locked in a line loosing struggle with something big and asks me â€œJon, start us up and get our anchor up. I canâ€™t stop this thing.â€
I have a dilemma, Daveâ€™s fish shows no signs of tiring and is heading north with the tide and Uncle Gusâ€™s fish is heading east toward the deep water of the ship channel. I split the difference and head at a forty-five degree angle between the fish.
Soon Uncle Gusâ€™s fish, an over thirty inch Red is alongside the boat and we net it, get the hook out and release it. Reds now had a twenty to twenty-eight inch slot and this one was too big. Dave is still struggling with his fish, which he thinks is either a record Red or maybe a large, Black Drum. I follow the fish and get the boat up beside it and we see it is a large, over twenty pound, Jackfish. â€œRecord Red, huh, haw, haw, haw,â€ we both laugh as I get the net ready. One more short run and the Jack is ours.
We get the hook out and release it. Jackfish are great fighters, more like sluggers, but have no food value. We find ourselves over three hundred yards from â€œThe Wreckâ€ and both of my guests say â€œWhy donâ€™t we go back and anchor up?â€ I comply.
Fishing â€The Wreckâ€ was a nice interlude, but a short one. Hurricane Alicia hit Galveston Island during the summer of 1983, the strong currents washing our favorite spot away forever!
Posted by Jon Bryan in Fishing at 14:50 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
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