Puerto Penasco- St. John’s Bay

On one excursion to Rocky Point, several of the locals asked me to accompany them to “The Cut”, a two hundred foot wide, cut and channel leading from El Golfo into a small bay, St John’s Bay. The trip was ten miles down the beach, not hard packed sand like along the Texas coast, but fine volcanic sand, which refused to pack. It is a ten, mile trip from Hell, four wheel drive all the way. Tires deflated to eight, yes eight pounds each! Skeletons of disabled trucks littered the beach. If you broke down, chances were the truck just stayed, rusted out and sank into the sand.

But once at the cut, when the tide started moving, the fishing was wonderful and the action was terrific! My 3/8’s ounce Mr. Champ spoon with a small sardinero attached, abruptly stopped like I was hung up on a rock or something, then it, whatever it was, took off on a long run, and later, the bonefish came in grudgingly. It was probably 18 inches long, was streamlined and was full of fight!

On this trip I caught my first and only bonefish along with several nice snook. We loaded up on two to three pound, corvina, a fish resembling our Gulf Coast white trout, but this trout grows to a size of up to thirty pounds!

It is a very enjoyable, exciting experience to make a suspense filled trip to a remote fishing spot, hammer the fish and then come back out in the dark, engines roaring, sand flying and finally making it back to civilization in one piece. I made a total of 4 trips to the cut! Wow!

Rock Hopping

Being in college, this was way before the time we even thought about owning a boat, in fact, fishing boats back then, were few and far between. Our choices were wading, renting a skiff, but we didn’t even have an outboard motor, or rock hopping on the Galveston Jetties. The following is a story about one of the rock hopping days.

It was a beautiful summer day on the beach in Galveston, the girls out in force with their 1950’s, “skimpy” bathing suits, nothing like now a days Bikinis, light wind from the southeast and no waves crashing on or over Galveston’s South Jetty. However, this trip, Bobby Baldwin and I didn’t have eyes for the girls, but we had walked out the concrete walkway then, holding on to our rod and reels and carrying our live shrimp in a bait bucket along with one tackle box, literally climbed out on the slick, rocks of the jetty, ending up a hundred yards past the topping.

This was to be our fishing spot and our target for the morning would be speckled trout. Both of us were armed with six foot, popping rods, direct drive reels spooled with fifteen pound braided line, both reels having the luxury of a star drag system and later in the morning, mine would be tested severely! We were both using popping corks with a two to three foot, leader, the bait of choice was live shrimp. We’d cast along the rocks and slowly reel in while popping the corks, the pop simulating the sound a trout makes while feeding on the surface, hopefully attracting other fish to the shrimp.

Casting our baits out, it was no time until both corks went under, setting the hooks, mine came back hookless, but Bobby was fast into a Spanish mackerel and obviously, my leader was cut by another’s sharp teeth! Swinging his mackerel up on to the rocks, in our haste to get to fishing, we both remembered we’d left the net in the car, so for the morning we practiced swing and catch the fish. This proved much easier said then done, since a three, pound trout doesn’t swing very good, let alone they’re slimy and hard to hold on to!

Threading the mackerel on to the stringer, it dawned on us there was no place to tie it off, our choices being a cleft between two of the massive stones used to construct the jetty, or loop it around the tackle box that was wedged in securely, we chose the tackle box. Wouldn’t you know it, after I rehooked and cast out, I had a big strike, with the fish wallowing and splashing on the surface, quickly identifying it as a big trout, I tried my best to land it, but as I swung it up out of the water, it didn’t swing very good, the hook dislodged and, plop, back into the deep with it. Smaller trout, along with the occasional mackerel, were no problem, but how do you tell a big fish not to eat your shrimp?

We’d caught maybe a dozen trout and two mackerel, when I cast out and had a huge strike, really a pole bender! All I could do was hold on as the reel’s star drag was zinging as the unknown fish took out line. Zzzz, zzzz, zzzz, the star drag was singing as the fish headed down the jetty for parts unknown. Finally the end of my line was reached, pop, it gave way, leaving me with an empty reel and unbowed rod. That was some fish!

With me with no line and since I drove, I called it a day and Bobby followed suit. The fishing and catching was fun, the rock hopping proved to be dangerous because a friend, not two weeks later, slipped and fell, cut his leg, that required ten stitches to close. This one event brought our rock hopping to an early end!

Years later, I finally figured out what kind of fish was probably on the end of my line. After catching many kingfish on light tackle, I bet it was a fifteen pounder that stripped me. It was too fast for a shark, they fight more doggedly; not a tarpon, no jumps; not a big redfish, no head shaking and not a king size speckled trout, no wallowing; had to be a king!

Growing Up – Watermelon Patch

As WWII ended, spending most of my summers at my grandma Bryan’s house, outside of Marlin, was an exciting time for me. But, as boys in a rural setting will do, we decided that we needed more excitement than just catching crawdads.

One afternoon, my cousin, Dan, said that he thought stealing some watermelons would be fun. I quickly agreed with him. Our first job was to find a patch with some ripe melons. He figured that down the lane from Grandmas, Uncle Tom Norwood’s patch would be just about ripe.

To both of us, being 10 years old, Uncle Tom was a menacing figure. Tall, erect, a retired schoolteacher and, we later discovered that he was also a former slave. Before, or during, the Civil War, he was born into slavery and at the time he must have been over 85 years old. His wife, Betty, approximately the same age and a former slave too and when we were younger she was a very caring nanny to both Dan and I. Being the closest patch around, we picked Uncle Tom’s.

We figured that it would be better if we stole the melons during the afternoon since the high temperature then would probably keep Uncle Tom inside. Down the lane, short pants and tennis shoes clad, we snuck and ahead, spotting the melon patch. Climbing through the fence we noticed some sticker kind of low, bushy flowers growing among the melons. We soon found out that these harmless looking “flowers” were really bull nettles, Cnidoscolus texanus, or stinging nettles, a very poisonous plant known to kill small animals, even small dogs. The little hairs along the leaf packed a wallop, especially on bare legs!

Finding two ripe melons was easy. The hard part was getting them out of the patch. The first thing I did was to brush against a nettle. Wow, that stung as bad as a yellow jacket (then)! Then Dan brushed against one, howling, and the race was on! Our goal of stealing melons was quickly forgotten as we dropped ‘em and scrambled out of the patch and hightailed it home.

Our legs were on fire as we told our Grandma what we’d done. In no uncertain terms, she scolded us for even thinking of taking one of Uncle Tom’s watermelons, but, kindly, she told us of an old Texas remedy for bull nettle stings, pee on the sting. We peed on each others legs and the stinging abated and we never thought again about stealing watermelons again!

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 one 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 one 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 me any help, he was laughing at my antics if he’d just take one of the rods I woulda’ been 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 one 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.

State Records Are For Eatin’

Dewey Stringer called and wanted me to go offshore with him the coming Saturday to check out his new boat; a twenty-three foot, deep vee, cuddy cabin, with a two hundred horsepower, outboard motor. Without being coerced, I accepted the invitation!

Our plan was to head east out of the jetties to a new rig, five miles past the Heald Banks and fish in about eighty feet of water. Dewey said he had heard that some big kingfish were in the area. He was right!

His new boat ran fine for the one-hour trip to the new rig. The rig was about a hundred foot square and trolling around it, we found the water to be between 80 and 90 foot deep. We were the only boat so we tied up and the current drifted the boat and our cigar minnow baits in an easterly direction.

We caught several average size kings, fifteen to twenty pounds, and then, I had a hard, jolting strike and the fish took off to my left, north. The run was powerful, more than any other king I’d hooked before and soon the fish has “spooled” my twenty pound line, and I’m down to three turns and could see where the end was tied to the spool.

Dewey untied us from the rig and as he started the engine, we were drifting east and the fish was heading north. He headed toward the fish, allowing me to get back some line and the fish then headed west, circling the rig. I knew he was going to “cut me off” on the rig so Dewey sped up and the fish headed north back toward us. As we say in Texas, “This was a goat rodeo!”

I’m thinking, this is some fish, who knows what variety? Dewey says, “He’s been on for twenty minutes. What do you think it is?” I had no idea, but finally I started working the big fish back slowly toward the boat. Noticing we’d drifted almost a mile from the rig, I “rasseled” the big fish up to the boat. “What a king!” we both exclaimed!

Dewey only had one gaff and no flying gaff, so we decided that he would gaff it toward its head and I’ll, while holding the new rod high to keep the line tight, grab it at the junction of its body and tail. We coordinated our efforts; hauled the fish into the boat, applied the coup-de-grace with a short billy club, and heaved it into Dewey’s big cooler. Except the head and tail extended outside of the sixty, inch cooler!

Exclaiming, “This fish is longer than I am. It must weigh sixty-five or seventy-five pounds.” Dewey confirmed my comments and then, trying to fit it into the cooler, and not thinking, we cut off the king’s tail and head and tossed them overboard. Now it fitted!

After the excitement, as we relaxed, our estimate was that the king, did indeed, weigh between sixty-five and seventy-five pounds, maybe a new State record! We had no camera and took no pictures, however, we ate it! Kings, with their firm meat, are very tasty fried, broiled, boiled in crab boil, grilled or cooked in a fish soup/stew. To remove the fishy taste, all traces of the bloodline, on each side of the fish, must be removed!

This fish may have been the third state record that I have eaten. That may be a state record too!


I understand that Phoenix, Arizona was hit by a sandstorm on July 3rd of this year. The following recounts another sandstorm that hit Phoenix in 1971, that hit my newly moved into home there.

At first, moving to Arizona in mid-January, 1971 was a challenging experience, but as we became acclimated, the entire family thoroughly enjoyed the State and its many outdoor activities. Along with our acre lot and diving pool, our house, a four bed room, Spanish colonial period style, with stucco walls and a courtyard, was very comfortable. During mid spring of that year, the family had survived a tornado that had hit our mountain, Mummy Mountain and bounced over our house, tearing into northern Scottsdale and yes, it did sound like a freight train.

Come June 1, into the pool we went. The water was still cool, but wow, our own pool! On a pleasant summer afternoon, only 110 degrees, we were enjoying the water when we noticed, moving rather fast to our southeast, a funny looking cloud and before we knew it the funny looking cloud was within two miles of us, rolling in our direction. So like the flatlanders we were, we kept on swimming and playing and soon it was a block away when we figured out that the cloud was made of sand.

It was a sand storm with epic proportions and it blew over us for the next 15 minutes! No one was hurt, but everything, including us watchers, was a mess and liberally doused with a covering of fine sand. The sand seeped into our house, our cars, and our beautiful pool had almost an inch of sand on the bottom.

If you are a beginner in pool maintenance, try cleaning sand out. After this storm we hired a professional and in their local and national advertising, the Arizona Chamber of Commerce never mentions tornadoes or sand storms.

When I was a little boy, my mother told me a story about her childhood in west Texas, about it raining during a sandstorm. She said it rained mud and that the mud was much harder to remove than dust!