It was a hot afternoon and Jim Buck and I were fishing in lower West Galveston Bay, having good luck on specs, with some five or six pound, gafftopsail catfish, or gafftops, thrown in. Gafftops are slimy, slimy, but offer an excellent fight, and when fried, offer excellent table fare. After each gafftop that we caught, we had to clean the slime off of our line and leader and if we kept one to eat, we ended up with a major chore cleaning our cooler.

Paying no attention to the storm forming west of us we continued fishing and continued catching fish. What’s a little storm if you’re catching fish? Soon, as the storm came closer, lightning popping along its front edge, the wind picking up, common sense overtook our desire to catch fish, and we headed back to the east and the safe harbor, at Jamaica Beach. We were making 35 in my boat, but it seemed, that the faster we went, the storm went faster and this storm turned out to be a bad one!

The storm caught up with us, the lightning scary, after we passed Snake Island and taking the sharp turn into the Jamaica Beach, channel, I cut the engines and coasted up to the dock. One boat was loading and we were next. The wind was blowing at least 60, slamming things around, but thank goodness, the loading ramp, at water level, offered about 4 feet of protection. If we raised our heads, the blowing sand and spray stung like needles.

Peeping over the edge of my boat’s deck, looking north toward the mainland, I saw a small boat, fighting the storm and heading our way. Nothing unusual, a small boat heading in, but as I looked closer, I saw a waterspout right behind it. He was going about 25 and the waterspout was keeping up with him, not catching him, but staying about a 100 yards to his rear.

The small boat cleared the north end of Karankawa Reef and at full speed, made a hard right, across the bay, toward the Jamaica Beach channel. Lucky for him the waterspout continued east towards Green’s Cut. Soon the back edge of the storm passed over us and we successfully loaded our boat on the trailer.

We then helped the lone fisherman in the small boat that the waterspout chased. He was wet, scared, glad to be ashore and away from the waterspout. He said, “I thought it had me and I was afraid to turn because I thought it would follow me.”

We never saw him again. I bet he took up a safer hobby!

Memorial Day, May 30, 2011

Today, the day before Memorial Day, there are so many distractions, shopping, sales, parties and such, that we don’t even think about the signifigence of the day and why it is remembered. This brings me to the history of Memorial Day and one of an early childhood memory of my grandmother, Linnie Ross Sanders Wallace, telling me the story. She wanted to be sure that I remembered it and passed it on. Since that day, many years ago, I’ve researched the story and remarkably, her story and the true history of Decoration/Memorial Day are very similar.

In the North, tradition was that Decoration Day began in New York in 1868, but it really started in Virginia as the Civil War ended. Grandma Wallace, a Civil War Baby Boomer and yes, we had them then too, told me the outline, not including all of the details, of the story. Her Father, Levi Sanders, had spent 4 years fighting with the 6th Texas Cavalry, across Indian Territory, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee and Georgia. She made sure that I knew what “Decoration Day”, or in Texas known as “Confederate Heroes Day”, now known as our Memorial Day, was and just what it meant.

Within a month of the end of the Civil War, May 1865, ladies in Winchester, Virginia, formed a Ladies Memorial Association, (LMA), with the single purpose to gather fallen Confederate soldiers within a 15 mile radius of their town and provide them burial in a single graveyard. Once that task had been done they hoped to establish an annual tradition of placing flowers and evergreens on the graves. There were Federal troops buried along with the Confederates and they received the decorations also. Within a year, ladies across the south had established over 70 LMA’s and in the first year, these LMA’s had assisted in the recovery of over 70,000 Confederate dead!

The ladies of Lynchburg chose May 10 as their Decoration Day. This was the day that Lt. General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson had succumbed to wounds. The Richmond LMA had chosen May 31 because that was the day the populace of that town had first heard the guns of war.

Vicious Reconstruction laws not withstanding, by 1867, Decoration Day flourished across the South and it was a day that southern spirit and pride surfaced. Alabama, Florida and Mississippi celebrated it on April 30; North and South Carolina on May 10 and Virginia finally compromised on May 27. Texas celebrated “Confederate Heroes Day” on January 19.
Then in 1868, in the North, May 5 was officially designated Memorial Day. This was later changed to May 30, because no significant battle was fought on that day.

In May 1968, at Waterloo, New York, Pres. Lyndon Johnson “officially” recognized Waterloo as the birthplace of Memorial Day. Still later, our government intruded and made the last Monday in May, Memorial Day, a Federal holiday.

LBJ, who began his career as a history teacher at San Jacinto High School in Houston, should have studied his Civil War history a little closer.

The Pet Bass

In my post of May 19, 2011, [The Suwanee River], I mentioned the pet bass that the bait camp operator showed me. Now for “the rest of the story”

When my ex and I first drove into Suwanee, Florida, it reminded me of Port O’Conner, Texas, there was only 1 motel, 1 restaurant and 1, bait camp, just another sleepy, Gulf Coast, fishing village, but offering marvelous trout fishing!  This opinion quickly changed as I walked out the rickety, ramp to our guide’s boat.

At my barbers encouragement, on the first trip to Suwanee, walking out of the bait camp, the proprietor said, “Sir, watch this and look down into the water right below us.”  He picked an old oar that was leaning against the side of the building and banged it 3 times on to the walkway.  Looking down I saw a big fish come floating to the surface, a huge bass!  The proprietor then took a coffee can full of dead shrimp and fish cleanings and dropped them to the bass, who promptly inhaled them. The bass, they can survive in brackish water, continued swimming around and he continued, saying, “This past spring we scooped it up in a long handled net and weighed her, a little over 14 pounds.  Ha, Ha, I think we’ll just grow us a new record here.”

The fine trout fishing prompted me to keep my boat in Suwanee and in early March of 1979, prior to my move back to Texas, I went down to get the boat and for one last fishing trip.  Walking into the bait camp I exclaimed, “How’s everybody?”  The proprietor smiled and said, “We’re all fine, but I got some bad news.”  Thoughts of a fish kill or a fishing ban flashed through my mind as he continued, “We’d gone to the cafe for supper and we guess that some bastard snuck up the canal here Tuesday night 2 weeks ago and caught our bass.  I hope the S.O.B. chokes on the bones!”

A Double Header

We had tried the Gulf side of Galveston’s South Jetty, but it was just too rough to be comfortable. The wind wasn’t too bad, 10 to 12 out of the southeast, but the waves against the rocks just made fishing at this spot way too much up and down with always the potential of 1 of us getting green, or seasick. Deciding on a different tack, Mac Windsor pulled up the anchor while I slowly pulled the boat forward and soon we were cruising around the tip of the South Jetty.

Our new objective was the North Jetty and “slanty” rock near the end, on the Gulf side. This spot had paid off before and the only problem, there was just room for 1 boat, but maybe it would be open today, it was and we were in luck! With the jetty in question being 6 miles long and loaded with good fishing spots, just 1 place to fish in, seemed kinda’ funny, but the “slanty” rock with the washboard face, angling under the surface must have created enough hump to change the currents.

We came into the rocks quietly, carefully dropped the anchor, it caught, the boat swung stern to the beach and with the tide going out the channel, a backwater was created on the Gulf side of the jetty, forcing the water to head in on our side. We would be free shrimping using live shrimp with our 7 foot, popping rods, black reels loaded with 15 pound line, split buckshot clipped on 12 inches above a number 8 hook, trout poison!

We cast out into the Gulf and, as the bait slowly sank, the tide would carry it back toward the beach, with a strike being possible anywhere. Our first casts were rewarded with 2 good strikes, not the nibbling bump of a bait stealer, but good solid hits that turned out to be, after long runs and thrashing around the boat, Spanish mackerel, 18 inchers. We boxed the 2, noting that we were lucky to land these sharp toothed, mackerel. Before they moved on, we added another to the cooler, but had several cut-offs.

When the speckled trout showed up, both of us had hard hits from 2 pounders that we boxed and cast back out. Mac had a hit almost as soon as the shrimp hit the water and as my shrimp settled, whamo, a spec nailed it and headed south! After spirited fights, we netted both and flopped them into the cooler. Thinking this would be a big catch day we both baited up and cast back out, with no luck!

While we were waiting for a strike, I put my rod in a holder and got out another popping rod, but this had a spoon with a yellow, buck tail, why not make a few casts? About my third cast, I was rewarded with a nice strike and immediately the fish started a wallowing, splashing, surface fight, this was fun! Then Mac said, “Jon, you’d better check your other rod!” It was bent almost double, another fish and he added, “What’cha gonna’ do now,” as I placed the rod under my arm, clamped down my left elbow and picked up the other rod and set the hook into a nice trout.

Not offering any help, he was laughing at my antics, if he’d just take one of the rods I’d be OK. Deciding that fishing with 2 rods was unproductive and that I’d bit off more that I could chew, I decided to let the line go slack on the spoon and I quickly stuck that rod in a holder, concentrating on just 1 fish, I landed it, but picking up the other rod, nothing was there.

We ended up with a dozen specs and the 2 mackerel, but no double header for me this day.


This past Friday, the 20th of May, the folks in Mills County, I was in San Saba and just missed it, had a great hail storm! During the past 3 weeks, hopefully, our serious drought has finally broken, we’ve had over 3.6 inches of rain and yesterday’s was the hardest! Bad thing though, far west Texas, which is still under, according to NOAA a severe drought, hasn’t gotten any significant rain.

Crossing the Colorado River and coming into Mills County I noticed the oak trees had neat piles of leaves under their boughs, I thought Oh-oh, sure looks like hail to me. Driving on the 4 miles to my ranch, the last being almost 2 miles on a County Road, more leaves under the oak trees along with a scattering of good size, hail. The ground in my front and back yards were covered with quarter size hail and it had built up around my gutters too.

Walking around my house and checking for damage, none apparent, and walking out to the rain gauge, ½ inch and thinking, That’s over 3 inches this month. There being no garden this year, like the Bible says, I let it lay fallow this season, nothing was harmed, but remembering back to the hail storm we had on May 5, 2005, it was a doozy!

The constant lightning cast an eerie green glow as the storm hit from the northwest at midnight and waking us up, we went out to the front porch to watch as it closed in on us. Between Goldthwaite and my front porch, a tornado cloud came snaking down and Layla and I went streaking into safer quarters. This was one of several funnel clouds seen in the County, 2 touched down. We climbed under a mattress and lied down in our long hall and it started raining and hailing, and hailing and hailing, our metal roof was clanking with the large pieces of ice!

Finally it stopped hailing, but the rain was pouring down, over 5 inches in total and, because of the rain, we went to bed, but were up with the sun. We thought Bo, our cat, had been safe in the old house, Spike, our dog, was under the mattress with us, but on our inspection, the north facing windows had been knocked out with only jagged pieces remaining. Somehow, Bo had escaped through a window and found shelter somewhere safe.

Our cars, a new Suburban and a year old, Avalanche, left outside of course, were damaged the worst, totaling over $8,000. Then add in $1,200. for 2 new double pane, windows in the old house, plus an almost destroyed garden, gives an idea of the destruction. By far, wildlife was hit the hardest. Doves were nesting and had to start all over, the big hail killed turkeys while they were roosting, smaller birds not killed outright had eggs and nests destroyed, but ground dwellers like quail, could find cover and were spared.

Now, the big storm of 2005 is just a memory, but Friday’s hail could be the answer to a lot of prayers and could be the breaking of our, according to NOAA, severe drought!

Come On Down

With my work, both boys playing baseball and Suzanne well into her horses, the Suwannee River seemed to fall off my personal radar until 3 weeks after the first trip, a call from the guide changed everything. He called me and said, “Come on down. The weather forecast for the coming weekend is excellent and, if I could, I should bring my boat down Saturday and plan on fishing the incoming, afternoon tide,” adding, “I’d sure like to fish with you, but I’ve got clients all day Saturday.” With “honey dos” on the horizon for this Saturday, I told him that I would see him then.

Informing the family about the plans, Brad was staying over at a friends on Friday night and he was out, but Randy, 12, and Suzanne, 8, loved to fish, asked if they could go and my ex informed me that she was going too, so a trip was on, 55 MPH speed limit and all. We arrived in Suwannee at the only bait camp, showed the kids the pet bass which impressed them greatly, checked with the proprietor about the status of the manatees and were told, “No manatees,” bought some shrimp, launched the boat and off we sped down the Suwannee River to the Gulf of Mexico.

We, didn’t take a hard right as before, but started fishing in 6 feet of beautiful, clear, green water and for the first 20 minutes didn’t have a hit. Heading back toward the shore, we moved into 4 foot of water with much more grass. Bingo, our first casts produced 2 nice specs! Everyone caught fish and soon we had 30 nice speckled trout in the cooler. Since we were going to eat at the only restaurant in town and fresh caught speckled trout was on their menu, we headed in, cleaned and iced the fish down, cleaned the boat and made arrangements to store it in the bait camps very secure boat storage facility.

Kids are fun to fish with, wanting to closely check out each fish, touching the big teeth in the trout’s upper lip, and of course getting their fingers caught in the fish’s mouth, jerking back and finding the fish’s teeth firmly holding their fingers. Randy could bait up, cast and net fish. Suzanne was learning and now, years later, both are accomplished fisherpersons.

After cleaning up in our room in the only motel in town, we headed for the, now extremely crowded, restaurant. A 5 minute wait and in we went to be seated, then I saw someone stand up, waving in our direction, it was the only fishing guide in town.

He was eating fish with his clients for the day and introduced me, as “This is the Texas guy I was telling you all about.” Continuing, “How did you do this afternoon?” Replying, “We caught about 30 in 2 hours.” “See,” the guide looked at his clients, “He ought to be guiding down here too! This fella’ can catch trout!”

For the second time in my life this thought occurred to me, Sometimes a good day job can really interfere with your avocation!

The Suwannee River

“Way down upon the Suwannee River, far, far away” was written in 1851 by Stephen Foster, but it really wasn’t that far from Atlanta, in spite of our Country’s ridiculous 55 MPH speed limit that had been imposed on the driving public in 1974 and not repealed until 1995. At the time the river was a short 5, hour drive, actually closer than driving to Destin and the good thing, the speckled trout fishing, my first love, was outstanding!

Having grown up chasing specs on the Texas Gulf Coast, Suwannee was much like our bay fishing, except this was fishing directly in the Gulf of Mexico, with the bottom dropping off at a leisurely pace of a foot a mile. Plus, grass was abundant, just like the miles of grass flats in Texas’ bays and, best of all I never had a trip to Suawnnee blown out by wind.

My barber turned me on to Suwannee and gave me the name of the only fishing guide, so calling and arranging a trip, my ex and I left my boat in Atlanta and drove on down. At the time, 1975, there was only 1 guide, bait camp and motel, so directions weren’t a problem. After a pleasant night at the only motel, bright and early, we met him at the bait camp and previously had arranged to use our own tackle, 6-1/2 foot popping rods with 3 inch corks, 2 to 3 foot leaders with a number 8 treble hook attached. His boat, a 24, foot, semi vee, with a 150 HP, outboard was gassed, loaded with shrimp in the live well and ready to go.

As we walked out to the guide’s boat, the owner of the bait camp had to show us his pet bass, a 14, pound whopper! The camp owner thumped a paddle down 3 times and from it’s hiding place in the grass, the monster, bass slowly rose to the top, where it was pitched a few shrimp, that were immediately engulfed. Duly impressed, we wound our way down the river, seeing no manatees or sea cows and once we entered the Gulf, made a hard right up the coast.

Reaching the desired spot, the guide cut the engines, baited our lines and said “Cast out behind the boat and we’ll trail our baits, drifting along with the wind and current. It won’t be necessary to reel them in until a fish hits, and most times, they hook themselves.”

Including the guide, we looped short casts against the wind, sat back in his lawn chairs and waited, and waited, and waited and nothing happened. He remarked, “The bite won’t start for a while, so we’ll just wait for it.” Patience is not one of my strengths, so I told the guide, “I’m going to try it like we do on the Texas coast,” and moving to the bow, looped a long cast, with the wind, to the front of the boat, started working my popping cork back towards the boat. Never letting my line go slack; reel, reel, gently pop the cork; reel, reel, gently pop the cork and whamo!

The cork went under, setting the hook, the rod bowed, the fish stripped line off of the black, reel and took off for Cuba! Soon, the guide netted a very nice, 3, pound speckled trout, rebaited my hook (for the last time) and out flew another cast. Reel, reel, gently pop the cork and whamo, another solid hit and here came my ex to my side of the boat where she repeated my reel, reel and gently pop the cork and proceeded to tie into a nice trout!

The guide sat back in his lawn chair and said, “I want to watch this performance.” A performance it was and within an hour the 2 of us had boated 45 nice specs and then told the guide that we had enough fish to feed the neighborhood, so we headed back to the bait camp. As soon as we tied up the boat, the guide started bragging about how the Texas people, we were no longer a well to do couple from north, Atlanta, had shown him a thing or 2 about catching trout.

He and I filleted the fish, in no time they were iced down in the cooler and as we got into the car for the trip back, the guide told me, “When the conditions are right, I’ll call you. Bring your boat down and leave it here, you don’t need me to show you how to catch these fish!”


On a late spring Saturday morning, my father-in-law, O.H. Buck, my dad and I had driven into the bottoms along the Trinity River north of Dayton, Texas. We’d taken this opportunity to go camping, hunting and fishing and Saturday afternoon, both of them were hunting squirrels and I’d taken this opportunity to try out Buck’s jigging pole.

The only difference was that we’d rewrapped the rod and left over 6 feet of line on the tag end where a spoon was attached. Usually we jigged from a boat and used a short line with 2 hooks, but this time I’d be walking stealthily along the backwater, back from the almost level, bank, using trees for some cover, trying to make the spoon look like a small fish, darting about the shallows, for a better word, we called it dabblin’. In the same area this past duck season, while sneaking ducks, I’d come across a man using a cane pole and a long piece of line with a spoon attached. He was bass fishing, had several on his stringer, we both quipped that this was a good area for mallards and bass, but neither of us had ever encountered another group in this place!

Hearing Buck’s .22, pop in the distance, I knew that we’d have squirrel for supper, but my attention was focused on the long, Calcutta pole that I was dabblin’ in the shallow water of a slough off of the Trinity. My bait of choice, tied securely on the end of 6 feet of 60, pound, braided line, was a silver spoon, with a single hook and fluorescent attractor, that I dabbled along slowly, awaiting, what I had hoped for, was a savage strike from a largemouth bass.

The savage strike wasn’t long in coming! The 3 pounder set the hook when it engulfed the spoon and when its thrashing around subsided, I hand over handed the cane pole back towards me until reaching the fish that I unhooked, then walked back and tied the stringer to a handy tree near the water and slipped the bass on.

My dad’s 20, gauge, boomed, probably another squirrel, as I walked past where the bass had hit. Dabbling along, trying to use the trees for cover, 100 yards down the slough, another bass smashed the spoon and I held on, but this one was a 14 incher, not the big, splashing fight of the bass on the stringer. This was a keeper too so I unhooked it, walked back to the handy tree and slipped it on. Deciding that this wouldn’t work too well, me walking back to this particular tree with anymore fish, I carried the stringer until I’d fished a spot, then I’d find a tree, put the fish in the water and keep on dabblin’

Staying back from the bank was made easier with the long pole. However, it looked like the more hidden I became, strikes would follow, so trying to get my 190 pounds behind a 6 inch tree was impossible, but the pole helped me to get back away from the fish’s line of sight.

Walking almost a mile down the slough, I picked up another bass, a 16 incher that I slipped on the stringer, then turned around and walked back to our camp. This was really a different kind of fishing for me, sneaking along, dabblin’ the spoon in the shallows, waiting for a strike and most surprising, catching 3 bass. The bass would fry up real good for breakfast, too!

Birdin’ Season

Getting a fast start on the birdin’ season on West Galveston Bay, in mid May, Dad and I arrived at the foot of the Galveston Causeway and drove on to Pleasure Island Bait Camp, bought us some live shrimp, launched the boat, sped over to around Virginia Point and started looking for birds. With a good tide coming in all morning, both of us knew, or so we thought, that the fish and shrimp schools would collide along the Intercoastal Waterway, between Pelican Island and the causeway.

Just what is birdin’ season you may ask? Along the Texas coast, sometime during May, depending on the water temperature, brown shrimp migrate back into the bays. Game fish, namely speckled trout attack these schools of shrimp, the feeding activity pushes the shrimp to the surface and the ever vigilant, sea gulls, always looking for an easy meal, congregate in mass to gorge on the feast, hence birdin’ season. Back in the ‘60’s, the trout in these early schools would be anywhere from 2 to 6, pounds, a 6-1/2 is my personal best.

For this foray we armed ourselves with 6-1/2 foot, popping rods, with red reels, loaded with 15 pound line and under the popping cork had a 3/8 ounce weight, a 2-3 foot leader with a number 8, treble hook knotted on, real trout poison. We slowly, cruised the bay in a big circle for over 2 hours and were quickly loosing interest, we hadn’t even baited up yet, then near a channel marker we spied a group of birds hovering over the water and no other fishing boats were in sight!

With the slight wind behind us, we carefully putted in position to drift close to the birds and when about 100 foot upwind, baited up and unleashed our casts that were met by 2 big strikes, nice fish! The fish circled the boat forcing us into “The West Bay Shuffle”, around the boat once, the drag and rod pressure finally tired the specs, nice 4 pounders that we netted and slid into the cooler.

More casts into the milling horde of gulls, it’s a wonder we didn’t foul hook one and my dad was into another nice trout, but my cast was met with a big strike, never getting the hook set, I reeled in and helped him with his fish, a mirror image of the first 2. We stayed with this school of trout/shrimp/birds for 45 or more minutes, the birds broke up once, but 10 minutes later, got back on the fish/shrimp and the action picked up once again. We ended this trip with 17 nice, speckled trout, 2-4 pounds, a good haul!

For years, whenever I passed by this channel marker, I remembered my birdin’ season kickoff and looked closely to see if any birds were hovering over the water, waiting for the shrimp to pop up!

Morning Walk, May 13, 2011

Walking outside Monday morning I was greeted by a temp of 72 and the sun was 5 minutes away from peeking over the horizon.  Starting out, walking through the feedlot, flies were everywhere, before dropping me off they convoyed me for a quarter of a mile, at least.  Luckily, no bitin’ flies!  Several deer flushed around me, but I was just too slow getting the camera up!

The first thing that I saw of interest and was able to take a picture of was cow number 76 (71 is on its right ear) and she had tangled with a prickly pear, ouch!  Walking toward her, she threw her head, and luckily, the tuna, or nopal, that’s the leaf, flew off, saving the cow a real sore mouth.  Generally cows won’t eat prickly pear tuna unless the spines are burned off, but in drought conditions, like we’re in now, we may have to burn off the spines because the tuna are good sources of food and moisture for livestock.

About a half mile later, 2 deer popped up and stood around for me to get this “shot” of them and not liking what they were seeing, took off toward the thick stuff, but too late for me to switch to video.

Both “shots” confirm how dry it’s been around here, the grass should be green and growing, but it has been a real dry spring!  However, this turned out to be a good walk, good exercise, saw some deer, got 2 “shots” and, with the humidity, worked up a good sweat!