Big Un’s

April 1970 offered some beautiful Gulf coast weather, light winds and warm days that had raised the water temperature to over 70, the speckled trout had spawned and now had moved onto the sand/shell flats prowling for food.  It was mine and Jim Buck, my brother-in-laws plan to intercept some of these monsters on the sand flats, on the south side of the spoil banks of the Intercoastal Waterway, just west of Greens Cut, but not as far as Karankawa Reef where the sand flats turned into mud/shell.  Two months earlier, on a warm February afternoon, the mud had offered us some good fishing, but now the specs had changed to their spring and early summer pattern.

Jim and I were using live shrimp under a popping cork, but weren’t blind casting and drifting. Our targets were the slicks made by the specs gorging and regurgitating bits of their prey. The oil released will pop to the surface as a pail or washtub size, shiny, oily slick and the trout will be under the slicks. A telltale sign produced by the slicks is a distinctive watermelon smell and many times we’d pick up the odor before we found the slick.

We were idling along in my new 17 foot, deep vee, cross wind to a light southeast breeze, and sure enough, Jim said, “I smell ‘em” and I also picked up the unmistakable scent. Scanning the immediate area, we both saw slicks popping to the surface less than a hundred feet to our left and cutting the outboard, we looped short casts between 2 of them and were both rewarded with solid strikes. After a few short runs, a boat circling battle ensued and we let the specs tire before slipping nets under them and claiming a brace of fine 3 pound, trout!

Restarting the motor, we continued looking and sniffing and came upon a tub size slick to our front.  Jim shot a cast toward it, popped his cork once and a spec smashed the shrimp and headed off across the bay. Rod tip held high, Jim’s fish began the first of 3 circles of the boat, each being closer, until laying on its side, I easily slipped the net under it and hefted a nice 5 pounder aboard. Jim had been fishing for specs for the past 4 years and this was his best one to date. He was happy and, smiling, told me, “I’ll drive the boat and you catch the next one!”

Within 15 minutes we both caught the scent and as I cast toward the emerging slick, I remarked to Jim, “I’ll bet this’l be a nice one.”  No sooner as the shrimp hit the water, there was a smashing strike! The fish headed “south” and all I could do was hold on. Finally, stopping the run, I was surprised when the fish headed back towards the boat. Most times a good spec will begin circling, conserving its energy, then really put up a scrap beside the boat, but not this one.

Reeling madly and barely keeping pressure on the fish, it rolled a short distance from the boat, revealing a flash of silver and we both remarked, “That’s some spec!” It made several short runs and stirred the water to “a froth” around the boat, but finally tired as Jim netted it and held it up for both of us to admire. We guessed that it weighed over six pounds.

We had already filleted the other three fish and belatedly decided to, at least, take a picture of the big ‘un!

We had four very nice specs in the cooler and called it a day. We loaded the boat and drove down to Red’s, 7 Seas Grocery, to weigh the big fish. Red, the owner, was holding court with several of his friends, and even though it was before lunch, he and his pals were well into the sauce. Declining his offer to join into the festivities, I asked if we could weigh a big trout that I had just caught? “By all means,” he replied.

Showing off the big fish, it brought “ooohs and ahs” from the group and placing it on to his meat scales, the meter stopped at 7 pounds, 2 ounces. This was a “best trout” for me for the next 21 years!

The Big Red

Because of the late hour, we had braved a huge storm in the early hours of the morning, we launched my 24 footer at the Galveston Yacht Basin, rather than making the 10 mile trip from Bayou Vista, by water. In and out launching was $3.00 and gasoline was still less than $1.00 per gallon, (the good ‘ole days).

The weather still looked a little “iffy” so we decided to buy some shrimp and fish around the Pelican Island Flats, near the old, sunken concrete ship, a good spot for spring time speckled trout. We drifted for about 45 minutes and caught a few small specs, then the tide started out, and of all things, the wind laid. I told my crew, Suzanne, Mike and his friend, Dick “Get your lines in, we’re going to the Gulf side of the South Jetty.”

Seven-miles out, there was no wind blowing as we rounded the end of the jetty and headed for my favorite spot, and since the tide was going out, the water on the Gulf side was moving toward the beach. As we anchored I noticed small fish hanging close to the rocks. A real good sign!

Changing from the popping corks we’d used when we were drifting, to a split shot 10 inches above a small hook, we baited up and cast toward the rocks. Dick got hung on a rock and had to break off and while he was re-rigging Mike had a big strike and was fast into a nice red fish, catch the conditions right at this spot and it always paid off.

We had been fishing for about an hour and had 5 nice reds and 2 trout, 4 pounders, when I heard a “Hmmpf” from Suzanne and saw her rod nearly bend double. A big red and he was moving down the rocks to our right, out to sea, as Suz held her rod up high and hung on. Soon we boated a very nice 28, inch, red, that she fought perfectly.

For a day that started as a washout, literally, we now had nice mess of fish, spanish mackerel, red fish, trout and a couple of big sheepshead. Our big cooler was close to half full of fish, so as the tide changed, we headed back to the Yacht Basin. We were 4 grubby, stinky, fisher persons with a box of fish to clean!

This particular day, we were the only boat that had gone out, so as we loaded the boat on to the trailer, we drew a nice crowd of onlookers who, when we got the cooler down and opened it, they appropriately “oohed and aaahd” over our catch. Mike, Dick and I were kidding around, chewing tobacco and spitting, and cleaning the fish when a well to do appearing lady came up to Suz and asked her, “Did you catch any of these fish?” and Suz replied, “Yes Mam, I caught the big red.” The lady replied “Good for you!”

We finished cleaning the fish and iced them down. Then, as Dick and I were lifting the big cooler up to Mike, he leaned over to grab it and, by accident, belched. We paid no attention and just kept loading the heavy cooler. The well to do lady turned to Suz and asked her, “Young lady, just who are those men?” Suzanne replied, “The big guy over there with gray hair is my dad and the big guy in the boat is my brother in law and the other big guy is Dick, a friend.” “Hmmpf, they’re gross!” the well to do lady said, as she turned and scurried off.

Even though Suzanne is a graduate from and former Texas Aggie, she has been fishing with me since she was 11 years old. She can bait her own hook, cast the bait out, land the fish with a net and take the hook out, all of this even though she is an Aggie!

Texas Independence Day

As a true Texan, 5 generations worth, I’m proud of my State, proud of its founders, proud of its heroes, proud of the Alamo, although the results weren’t to my satisfaction and doubly proud when General Sam Houston led his men to a rout of Santa Anna at the battle of San Jacinto in 1836! Being a 5th generation Texan carries no rewards except knowing in my heart that my relatives built a wonderful place to live and raise my family.

As Bum Phillips, former coach of the Houston Oilers, said “My dad’s buddy Bill had an old saying, he said “That some people, Texans, were forged from a hotter fire.” “Well, that’s what it is to be Texan. To be forged from a hotter fire.” This is the same Bum Phillips that said, when asked why he didn’t wear a hat inside the Houston Astrodome, “My Momma always told me not to wear my hat indoors!”

Along with Texas Independence Day, Texas A&M University, the seventh largest University in the nation and the largest University in Texas, also celebrates its Muster on this day, April 21st. The Aggie Muster is held to commemorate Aggies who have passed away the preceding year. In years past Musters have been held in foxholes and on ships of the Navy, now they are held in Afganistan, or wherever Aggies are present, maybe ballrooms or steakhouses or in the case of Mills County, Texas in a bank’s community room, also Aggie Musters have become one of Texas A&M’s most revered traditions!

When Suzanne and Randy were seniors in high school I told both of them, “You can go to college anywhere you like, but the money is going to Texas A&M!” Of course, both are now former Aggies.

The Honey Hole

My barber, Joe Riley, kept telling me about this great fishing place where he always caught (according to him) a bunch of fish. A trip was set up and we met at his Sugar Land, Texas home, we drove on down to the San Barnard River, actually where the Barnard crosses the Intercoastal Waterway. We were going to fish in a new spot for me, a place Joe called The Tripod, he said it was a good spot and we wouldn’t be troubled with other folks fishing there.

From the bait camp we bought live shrimp, ice, drinks, snacks and launched my boat for the 2 mile run, west on the Intercoastal, there we would turn into a little cut, not 50 yards wide, that opened up in a small, shallow bay. In the middle of the bay, I found out a few minutes later, was a gas well with a tripod shaped sign, hence, The Tripod.

As we entered the cut, Joe guided me to the left where he quietly slipped the anchor into the shallow, barely 3 foot, water. The tide was coming in toward us, bringing in green, fishy looking, water and, just perfect, the wind was at out backs, making casting easy! Cast toward the left of the cut and, keeping the line tight, let the current drift our rigs back over the fishing area, a reef along the left side. Today we’d be using standard popping gear, 6-1/2 foot rods, 15, pound line wrapped on red reels and a popping cork, but today was a little different, instead of using a 3 foot leaders under the corks, our leader was only 15 or 18 inches and no popping either.

Getting the feel of this new style of fishing, I cast out and began the drift with no results, but Joe, having cast out before me, was fast into a nice something that was stripping line from his reel. That something turned out to be a 3, pound redfish that I netted, Joe took out the hook and boxed it, remarking, “I didn’t tell you the secret. When your cork stops and acts hung up, set the hook because a fish has just picked up the shrimp.”

The secret being out, my next cast scored, the cork stopped, I set the hook and was into something that was splashing at the surface, probably a trout that turned out to be barely a keeper, 14, inches then. Swinging the trout into the boat, I grabbed it, took out the hook and boxed it too. We kept catching small trout and Joe mentioned, “Over the years I’ve fished here a lot, but never have caught a trout over 2 pounds and often, I’ve wondered why?” Having fished the same spot for almost 5 years, we never caught a big trout there either!

Later in the morning I cast out, drifted my shrimp above the reef, my cork stopped and I reared back, setting the hook and the fish took off, stripping line off the reel. After a grudging fight, Joe slipped the net under a big flounder that on my hand held scale was just over 4 pounds, a new record for flatfish for me! This was a real bonus, a big flounder that would be delicious baked. For me, this spot turned out to be a flounder haven where I boxed several that were over 8 pounds, whoppers! We ended the day with 32 fish in the cooler, flounder, reds and specs! Not bad for a new to me spot and I certainly would come back.

Over the years we had some excellent catches from The Tripod, but moving away and on our trips back I never had time to try it out, but after I returned to Houston, one afternoon, with the tide coming in Mac Windsor and I decided to check it out. Motoring west of the San Bernard River on the “Intercoastal” we started looking to our left for the channel leading to The Tripod. Not there and no Tripod either. We came about and began searching back toward the river and it was still not there.

Motoring all the way to Karancuha Bay, 5 or 6 miles, still no channel. All we saw was a spot on the south side of the Intercoastal where it was extra wide. We came about again and motored to the bait camp where the river and Intercoastal crossed and asked the owner, “Where’s that little cut, that channel leading back to the gas rig, The Tripod?” “Not there,” he answered. “A while back, that gas well blew up and rearranged everything. We call it the Blow Out Hole now. Good fishing in the winter!”

Now I found out why we never saw another boat there!


As I was running outside, just before the door slammed shut, the last words I heard Aunt Myree say to me were, “Jon Howard, you be careful and don’t play with that dog!” That dog in question was a terrier mix and my aunt and uncle, Myree and A.C. Turner, had put it on a leash attached to a clothesline in their backyard because it had been acting kinda’ funny. Their backyard was in Huntsville, Texas, one block off of old Highway 75 and my mom, dad and I had gone up to spend a spring weekend with them and their two, young sons, Bill and Roy Peyton, better known then as “Bubba”.

Once outside, being 5 years old, the first thing I did was go right up to the dog and try to play with it and it responded, not very playfully, by jumping up on my chest and biting me! Inside I ran bleeding and crying, impervious to all of the “we told you so’s”.

This event occurred on a Saturday morning and the first thing Monday the dog was killed and Uncle A.C. took its head to Austin and sure enough, the dog was rabid. My family got the results on Thursday and Friday morning found me along with my mom and dad in Dr. Talley’s offices, in the old Medical Arts Building, in downtown Houston, for the first of 22 rabies shots, spaced around my navel, timed every other day. It was the biggest needle I had ever seen, and thinking back, it must have held an ounce or 2 of an unpleasant looking, green serum.

The shots saved my life, but by the third morning, I resisted the shot so bad, that before it could be administered, it took 4 adults to hold me down. This went on for the next 19 shots and scarred me forever. Now, whenever I go into a doctor’s office, I have a terrible case of “white fright”. My blood pressure goes up 20 to 30 points and my heart rate up 20 beats or more per minute. In the past, I have fainted getting a shot in my arm.

Some how, I’ve survived for more years than I can count, survived 3 knee operations and a heart ablation which was very successful, another knee surgery is scheduled for May 15th of this year. I hope the doc doesn’t have to hold me down for this one!

Turkey Season, 2013

Last Saturday, I opened the season right next to my “Corner Blind”, not in it, but within 50 feet of it.  No turkeys sounded, in fact, I didn’t see anything but my decoy, that’s pictured below.

Saturday afternoon was much different, jakes galore!  Two jakes, young gobblers not a year old, came around my decoy, not quite gobbling, but wait till next year!  The jakes were stretching out their necks to see where the clucking was coming from, but the pics didn’t turn out, all I got was clumps of grass.

Monday was taken up with a doctor visit, to treat a stupid mistake on my part.  Three weeks ago I’d applied the wrong medicine to an impending fever blister, then played 5 games of Senior Softball (my performance was great) with the wrong meds on my lip, not reading “Don’t Go Into The Sun” label on the tube, resulting with a “fried” lip!  Having been to the docs on March 20th, he started treating me on that day, but finally, today, the lips healing

Tuesday morning things changed.  Coming back from San Saba, around 9:30 AM, I passed my neighbor’s place.  In November two years ago, Randy had shot a nice buck in the “Corner Blind” and we called the neighbor to see if we could go on to his property to look for the buck.  See my post “[Deer Season, November 27, 2011, (Perseverance)]”.

Anyway, in the back of the field next to the tree line, there stood a hen turkey, having the windows rolled up I couldn’t hear her, but she must have been clucking.  Then, from the other end of the field, running as fast as their short legs could take them, 3 small turkeys were running to the mother bird.  Thinking that she must have been bred in mid January, really early, with a 28, day gestation period for wild turkey eggs, the little ones must have been 3 to 4 weeks old, wow.

As I continued my drive, still watching the small turkeys, I noticed movement in front of my truck, then a gobbler nervously hopped over the fence on to my property and scurried into the thick stuff!  Another wow, but lightning was popping around and it looked like rain and I had work to do and couldn’t mess with turkey hunting, but by Friday the rain should have abated and I should be finished with the work!

Then it started to rain and by Wednesday PM we’d gotten over 1-1/2 inches, more rain the end of this week so, maybe, the current drought will be broken!