A Little Exploring

One fishing trip, during the early summer of 1979, would change my fishing patterns completely. My Uncle, George Alvin Pyland, better known as Unkie, Dave Miller, a friend, and I, in my new seventeen foot, deep vee, packing an eighty five horse outboard, were heading in after a morning of fishing around Swan Lake, east of the Galveston Causeway.

We headed under the big bridges of the Causeway and were preparing to turn east into the channel to the Pleasure Island Bait camp, when Dave said, “Look at those new channel markers going toward Tiki Island and Jones Lake.” We turned west into the new channel and started a little exploring, not knowing of the changes that it would bring to our fishing.
Unkie said he had fished Jones Lake once and remembered it being shallow. Dave said it was new to him, so we followed the new channel markers; bamboo poles with flags on them, stuck into the sandy bottom and cruised under the Tiki Island Bridge. Tiki Island, at the time, was a new bay home development, and has since grown into a large, up scale community (with permanent channel markers).

Entering lower Jones Lake, we idled the motor and slowly headed toward some low lying islands and reefs that ran southeast to northwest and bisected the main section of the lake. Two of these islands had small, crude, fishing shacks built up on pilings, very basic accommodations that four years later, in 1983, would be blown away by Hurricane Alicia.

The lake is not big, probably five square miles. Not deep, probably five feet at its deepest, but the bottom, in 1979, was studded with live oyster reefs and clumps of grass. Now, most of the grass is gone but some live reefs still remain.

We headed toward the second island/reef, just about in the middle of the lake, and I said,
“We’ve got some dead shrimp, let’s try a few casts.” Starting our drift in almost four feet of water, little did I know that my first cast would change my fishing tactics for the next twenty-six years.

My popping cork hit the water and within a minute, the cork started moving slowly to my right, against the incoming tide, and Unkie said, “It’s a red, give him a second to get the bait in his mouth good. Now hit him hard!” Which I did, getting a good set on the small hook, and the red took off, almost spooling my Ambassadeur 5000C that was packed with fifteen pound, line.

To get some line back, Dave started the boat and the chase was on. What a fight, long runs, swirls at the top of the water, head shaking, which was really the red trying to rub the hook out of its jaw on the bottom, and finally we got it to the side of the boat and it was too big for the landing net, so Unkie got a good hold behind its gills and heaved it aboard.

Unkie holds up the big redfish, thirty-three inches long and we estimated that it weighed fifteen pounds. That day I caught one more, red twenty-nine inches long. This was all before a twenty to twenty-eight inch slot limit was set for the finny battlers.

For the foreseeable future, I was hooked on Jones Lake!