As The Crow Pulls

During the spring of 1994, Carl Parkinson and I had been out to the Galveston Jetties trying to catch some gulf trout, white trout or sand trout, Cynoscion arenarius, and after filling up our 88, quart cooler with the early arrivals, were cruising back in. We headed back through Galveston harbor, under the bridge to Pelican Island and followed the channel out to the Intercoastal Waterway, when we thought we’d see if any speckled trout were around Swan Lake.

Cutting across the bay, as we approached Swan Lake, we saw, what appeared to be a boat up close to the bank. The closer we came to the boat, we saw a woman sitting in it and we saw that a man was pulling it with a rope. Pulling up to the boat, we saw that the man was a friend of ours, Danny Bourgeois, not only a friend but he was one of my employees and one of Carl’s coworkers!

Speaking to Danny’s wife and almost shouting over the motor’s idling, I asked, “Danny, what in the world are you doing pulling the boat?” His response was what we expected from someone from south Louisiana, “It broke down back along the Intercoastal, the float stuck closed, I couldn’t fix it and was pulling it back to the launch ramp,” and he’d already pulled the boat almost two miles! This particular ramp was between the railroad bridge and the Galveston Causeway, over a mile away, as the crow pulled!

Offering Danny a motorized pull back to the ramp, he declined our offer and said, “It’s no problem me pulling the boat back because the water’s shallow, not over 3 feet deep and we don’t have anything else to do this afternoon.” “Danny, do you want us to go on to the ramp and wait and help you load the boat,” I asked and “No thanks I can handle it,” he replied?

This story really happened, but you had to know Danny, if he couldn’t fix it, he wasn’t going to let the motor beat him, he’d just pull it back in, then fix it! Pulling away, we weren’t surprised at his refusal of aid, anyway, one time a real smart guy said, “Whatever floats your boat!”

Turkey Sign

In 2009 I was scouting around trying to find turkey sign.  Our County and the surrounding central Texas area had been under a severe 24, month draught and turkey sign was almost nonexistent, no tracks, no feathers, nothing.

Before sunup I hid myself close to one of my corn feeders, in the bottom of a cedar tree behind some buck brush and was pleased over the success of my concealment.  One problem however, my field of view was about 10 feet, but this didn’t worry me because I was just wanting to hear a tom gobble in response to my clucking.

Snuggling into my hide, I began scratching on my hand held turkey call.  Cluck, clucking for around 30 minutes with no results, I was getting discouraged when in the distance I heard a tom gobbling!  Responding with small clucks, I was amazed that the tom was coming on in.  Soon out of the corner of my eye, I saw the turkey, a fine looking tom, craning his neck and trying to find the feathered seductress.
Closer he came, until he was right on top of me and I started snapping pictures.  The big bird walked within 6 feet, right past me and finally moved off in turkey frustration on not finding a suitor.

Being a beginning photographer, or even if I was a pro, it would be hard for me to beat these pictures.  About the hunting, no luck on turkeys, this big ‘un was the only tom I saw all season!

In The Nick Of Time

March is a terribly unpredictable month for fishing along the upper Texas coast. Based on weather forecasts, a person could plan a trip two days away and when the day of the trip was reached, the wind could be blowing a gale, bucketfuls of rain, or it could be perfect. This particular day Carl Parkinson, a neighbor, friend and employee, and I had planned a trip to try and catch some big, spawning, black drum, not terribly good table fare, but great pullers! The day turned out OK, wind around 12 from the southeast, with 1 tide coming in all morning.

Having just purchased a used, 24, foot, boat with 2, 120 HP motors, this would be a good shakedown cruise for it. With no problems we launched the boat at the State ramp in Jones Lake, cruised down the channel until we intersected with the Intercoastal Waterway, under the Galveston Causeway and staying in the Intercoastal it passed through Pelican Island, we turned to the north side of the island and anchored up.

In the distance, north of us, we could see the end of the Texas City Dike, we baited up with a crab, attached the halves on to our hooks, cast out and waited for a drum to gobble them up. After a short wait, tap, tap, tap on my rig, setting the hook the drum took off stripping line from the reel. Stopping its run, the drum came in grudgingly, until I got it up to the boat, then it thrashed around until Carl grabbed the line and the fish’s tail, securing it. Smaller drum, under 5 or 6 pounds are quite tasty when filleted and fried, but this big fellow, 25 pounds or so, wouldn’t be that good, so Carl removed the hook and released the fish.

Rebaiting and casting back out, we sat for a good 30 minutes with nary a nibble. Suggesting that we move across the Houston Ship Channel to some 10 to 12 foot deep sand flats that I knew of, Carl took the anchor in, I cranked up to outboards, planed out the boat and we sped east, toward the ship channel. Thinking nothing of it, a huge tanker was heading up the channel too, but we’d just steer around it. We sped closer to the huge ship and gauging my right turn to steer behind the tanker, I turned the wheel and nothing happened!

We were really closing in on the big ship and my boat wasn’t responding and I yelled to Carl, “The steering is stuck, oh sXXX!” As I cut the engines back, we were still coasting right toward the tanker, but quick as a flash, Carl grabbed the fish knocker (billy club) out of the under gunnel storage and in the nick of time, whacked on the exposed mechanical steering equipment and, as a crash seemed imminent, the steering loosened, the wheel responded and we turned right, just behind the tanker!

In the past, Carl had been one of the first ocean racers in this part of the country and on several occasions he’d had mechanical steering problems that were solved with a good whack. Corrosion on the rod inside of the steering line turned out to be the problem, but that was too close for comfort and as we headed back into the launch ramp, I decided that I’d take the boat back to the dealer and replace the mechanical steering with hydraulic. This fixed the steering problem, but I didn’t want to ever again get into a loosing race with a big, tanker!


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?

More Outdoors Pictures, March 23, 2011

On our ranch last week, a great tragedy occurred, exact date unknown, with a cow trying to eat one of my game cams, resulting in no pictures from it.  We didn’t find the evidence until this past Saturday afternoon and quickly changed the game cams location.  Hopefully the new spot will get some great wildlife “shots”.

However, the remaining game cam placed at the corn feeder was clicking away and got some good “shots”. Of all things, first to show up was a cottontail rabbit.

The next day 5 deer showed up, but 10 days ago there was 6.  The only casualty I’ve seen around was a spike that got himself smacked by a car on the county road, but the 6 deer that were at the feeder were doe.

This next “shot” was different and this is the first time that 3 coons have showed up.   They must really be hungry, because it’s a wonder that they aren’t fighting.

Last “shot” was a squirrel climbing up one of the feeder’s legs, I’m sure trying to get to the corn thrower.  The feeder is enclosed, but I’ve seen the results of squirrels unscrewing the nut that holds the cover in place and really mess up the wires!


In the early spring of 1963, O.H. Buck, (Buck), my father in law, and I took off around 3:00 PM for a night of fishing and camping out. Our destination was a 400, acre reservoir, just east of West Columbia, Texas, where Buck had a family membership. Back then it was called a reservoir because during the spring and summer, water was taken from it to irrigate the surrounding rice fields, but since then, the property has sold many times and is now called Tenneco Lake Number 1 and is probably used for plant cooling and employee recreation.

Not much setting up of camp was needed since we were sleeping in the pickup’s camper, only chairs and the propane stove were unpacked before we slid the 12 foot skiff off the camper and into the water. Electric motors were all that was allowed on the reservoir so off we went to catch the last hour and a half of fishing. Our rod and reels were still in the camper, but this trip wasn’t going to be the usual plug casting and reeling in, but jigging. This was brand new to me, but boy, did I get an introduction!

My first introduction was to the, so called, tackle, a 16 foot, Calcutta, cane pole, wrapped
with 60, pound test, braided fishing line. The wrap began about 3 feet from the butt end of the pole with a wrap every 6 inches and to hold the wrap in place, every 18 to 24 inches a half-hitch knot was tied in the line around the pole and a drop of glue had been put on the knot. For the last 2 feet of the pole, the wraps were no more than 2 inches apart, tied with a secure knot on the tip, but the line with the hooks attached hung down about 10 inches.

The first hook was attached about 8 inches below the tip. The hooks can be one of several sizes, but, to prevent straightening, must be steel, long shank type. Buck said that when he attached the first hook, he then clipped the line below the hook, then slipped another hook of the same size over the point of the first hook, slid it to the first hook’s curve, then crimped it on.

Before we started fishing, Buck attached two pork rinds, one spotted green the other white. He told me, as he attached the spotted green rind to both hooks, that this was the best color scheme. He then attached the white rind to the bottom hook.

Buck would be jigging and I would be driving the skiff and he told me to creep along the bank, keeping the skiff about 10 feet out. The long pole allowed him to jig the baits along the bank, along any fallen tree, around a stump, or any other obstruction. As we slowly moved along, Buck really worked the baits carefully.

He carried the rod butt along the bottom of his forearm, grasped the pole securely and gently tap, tap tapped, the rod tip on the surface. The tip made dimpled circles in the water, the pork rinds jumped and slid below the surface and not 50 yards from starting a bass smashed it. He didn’t set the hook, but just held on to the pole. Then he hand over handed the pole back until he jerked the bass, a 4 pounder, into the boat. He made it look so easy!

Bass aren’t the only fish that will hit the bait. Goggle eye perch, rock bass or one of many local names such as, warmouth bass, chinquapin, shellcracker, mason bream, tupelo bream, mongrel bream, yellow bream, stumpknocker or GI (Government Improved) bream will also strike viciously at the jigged bait. These smaller fish do fry up well and are most welcome on the stringer!

When Buck and I jigged it was usually around the edges of a pond or lake in water from 1 foot to 4. Don’t hesitate to fish over an area 2 or 3 times, because Buck believed that a bass would finally hit the bait out of frustration! Once, on a bet, he and I fished around the stumps and fallen timber on Lake Sam Rayburn’s south side in up to 20 feet of water and hammered the bass. He would jig around each stump, beside and under the fallen timber, sometimes just jigging out in the open water, but he pulled the fish up from the depths and, needless to say, he won the bet!

Now days, the hardest part of all may be finding the right Calcutta, cane pole, or even finding one!

Slim Pickins’

Early spring means that the big, black drum, Pogonias cromis, 20 to 40 pounders, will be coming into the shallow water to spawn. Early spring also means that fisherman who’ve sat out the winter hunting or watching football and basketball launch their boats, or unlimber their bank fishing tackle to go after these early arrivals. These big drum aren’t spectacular fighters, aren’t particularly good table fare, but they sure pull hard and after a hard winter spent hunting (and working), they liven up things until the specs and reds get active.

The run of the big drum was heating up so Carl Parkinson, a neighbor and fishing friend, who lived 5 houses down from me in Bayou Vista, had picked this mid March, Saturday morning to try our luck with these bruisers. Luck was with us because the wind was light out of the southeast and the seas should be almost flat. Our destination was Fleenor Flats, between the Galveston Jetties so we launched my 22 foot, boat, chugged down the canals, opened it up in Jones Lake, sped under the causeway, through East Galveston Bay, through the harbor and out to the flats. Fleenor Flats is a sand bar around 13 feet deep that causes a tide rip, since the gulf currents come swirling between the jetties and the much deeper Houston Ship Channel, this provides a smorgasbord of bait fish for the finny predators.

For the 2 hours that we soaked our split crabs threaded on circle hooks, we were hoping to find the drum stacked up there awaiting a favorable tide before they moved inshore. What we found was slack water with minimum movement and no fish. Our tackle was medium weight rods and reels loaded with 30, pound line which should be sufficient for these bruisers.

Pulling up the anchor we cruised around the South Jetty looking for a tide line that we found about 9 miles out. With nothing better to do, we flipped our crab baited, rigs behind the tide line and waited. Our wait was short lived when I had a big strike and the fish took off making a long run. My guess was a jack crevalle, Caranx hippos, or jackfish, bruising fighters, but poor table fare. After a 20, minute fight with a lot of pulling, Carl reached down and lifted the jack up by its tail and removed the hook, guessing it was a 15-18 pounder, he slid it back into the water.

Another bait, another cast, another short wait and then I was jarred with another big hit! The fight was similar to the first one, a lot of runs and pulls and after about 20 minutes the jackfish finally tired and Carl tailed this one, probably 20-25 pounds, then the jacks moved on and we sat for another 30 minutes, before heading back toward the jetties.

Half way back in something, that looked like a good sized, fish, was floating belly up and pulling up to it we saw that it was a black drum, almost expired. Carl grabbed the fish, keeping it in the water, righted it and to resuscitate it, gently rocked it back and forth. Very soon Carl’s efforts paid off and the 30-35, pounder flopped around and then headed for safer climes. We felt good for saving this fish, probably exhausted from a long fight, but we could not figure our why the jackfish hit the split crab, slim pickins’ we guessed?

Dead Reckoning

Catching a break in the usually rambunctious March weather, light wind and favorable seas, Norman Shelter and I launched my 18, foot, tri hull out of the marina in Freeport, Texas, made the short run out of the jetties and up the coast to our fishing spot. This was an unusual spot, less than 10 miles out in the Gulf, where remains of an old coral, or shell, reef still harbored fishable quantities of red snapper.

A friend had passed the location of this reef to me, but this was way before Loran and GPS, and we’d have to “dead reckon” our way to it. The reef was in less than 25 feet of water and our landmarks were, two oil rigs farther out in the Gulf and a big tower on shore. Of course, to specifically locate the reef, we had greased up a trusty window sash with 50 foot of line. When we arrived at the approximate location of the reef, we dropped the window sash down to the bottom and when we hauled it back up, if it came in with a mix of sand and shell on it, we could be reasonably sure that we were on the right spot.

Scrupulously following the directions, our first try for the reef was a success, the window sash came back with sand and shell on it so we anchored up. Our rigs were medium weight boat rods, light offshore reels spooled with 30 pound, line and double drop, bottom rigs, with a small weight. We baited up with dead shrimp, cast out our rigs and it wasn’t long before I felt the angry grab of a fish!

The fish was overmatched against my tackle, but fought gamely until Norman netted it and I deposited the 18, inch, gulf trout into the cooler. These are good table fish with firm flesh, unlike the sand trout that can get mushy if not cleaned quickly. By the time I had rebaited, Norman was fast into an unknown fish that turned out to be another 18, inch gulf trout. Snapper had been on our menu, but we’d take a mess of gulf trout too.

We boxed 4 more of the metallic looking, gulf trout, then we let out 25 more feet of anchor line, let our window sash down and were rewarded with more sand and shell, we were still on the structure. Casting out, before the bait had reached the bottom, Norman and I both had solid strikes and reeled in 2, 12 inch, red snapper. Into the cooler with them, we baited up, cast out and were rewarded with 2 more strikes and boxed 2 more snapper. We kept this up for 15 minutes and had boxed at least 20 snapper, when I had a big strike and the fish took off for Mexico!

This wasn’t a small snapper, but something with a lot of pull that turned out to be a good sized kingfish. Sorry to say when Norman tried to gaff it, he knocked the king off the hook and we didn’t land it. This was a very early kingfish, the bigger ones come in early to spawn and then move farther out into the Gulf.

We caught 2 more snapper and Norman had a nice fish on when, whoosh, up came a 4 foot, shark and robbed the fish off his line. My rod was bent with another fish, when the line went slack and I reeled in a snapper head, sans body, a victim of another shark. We rebaited, cast out and had 2 more strikes, good snapper that were cut off by the sharks and I said to Norman, “Time for us to go back in!”

We upped the anchor and headed back. This wasn’t a bad day, a box full of good eatin’ fish, we lost another nice one, but then the sharks showed up! Maybe we should have tried to catch one of them? Back then we wouldn’t eat a shark, but now, if properly prepared, bull and black tip sharks are quite tasty.

Scouting, March 14, 2011

Yesterday afternoon I went over to a neighbors place scouting around for a stray coyote or other predator.  Not seeing any of the 4 legged variety, I was lucky that I took my camera along, because what did I find, but several turkey tracks.

Last Thursday afternoon as I was going into the same place, the rancher was coming out and he told me the small creek was running now and he was going to put cows back in the next day, last Friday.

This little creek is a strange one because when it gets bone dry around here, this one starts flowing and for some reason, it draws turkeys, but as I walked in down the same right of way the only tracks that I saw were deer.

It has been so dry around here, no significant rain in over 6 months, I was afraid that this coming turkey season would be a wash out (that’s really a bad play on words).  It was encouraging to see the tracks, to know that a gobbler was stalking around, looking for a hen, there’s even a faint cow track below the turkey’s.

Yesterday was a different story, plenty of cow tracks, no deer, but the turkey walking along really got my attention.

More Outdoors Pictures, March 13, 2011

Last week I put out 2 game cams, 1 on a feeder and the other on a well used game trail.  We hadn’t been seeing many deer, bucks or doe, so, surprisingly, this herd of 6 doe showed up at the feeder.

At the same feeder, just after midnight, this coon appeared and it looked like he was trying to climb up and get all the corn.

A couple of hours later, 2 more coons arrived.  Probably the climber found the pickins’ good at this spot, so it went and got its buddy.

Wondering what the game trail cam would have and, with the warm weather, if it would have anything, mid Saturday morning, this young buck posed for a profile “shot”.

In the past, by mid March, the bucks had shed their antlers, but this one hadn’t.  Last week one of my friends commented that he’d just seen a nice buck and we both conversed that it was sure late for them to be sportin’ horns!