Beach Party

During the late spring of 1970, the wind refused to blow, maybe in the afternoon it would gust to 12 or 15, but by nightfall it would lay, this was very unusual for the upper Texas coast! The clear, blue/green water came right up to the beach, closely followed by the pelagic species of fish, cobia, bonita, ling, little tunny and king mackerel that were caught off of both Galveston Jetties, and the bonus, the big, golden, gulf shrimp, on the incoming tides, could be seen, jumping in what masqueraded as the surf and the shrimp boats came in close, over the second sand bar and plied their trade not 50 yards off the beach!

Normally the big shrimp are found in deep water, miles out in the Gulf, but the calm conditions had them crowding the shoreline. We, Jim Buck, Norman Shelter and myself figured that we would seine them, just like seining for bait in a river.

First off, Norman had a 300-foot, net that his dad used for seining speckled trout from the surf, we considered this a despicable practice, but would use it for this shrimping occasion. Jim had a 10-foot skiff and I had a 5 HP motor and he could pull the end of the net out into the surf, past the third sand bar, where the water was over our heads. Then he would turn and pull the net back to where the pullers would take over.

We had to find some pullers quick and, luckily, our friends and their families filled the bill. Along with the explanation of our plan, we invited; Gary and Kathy, Vic and Shelly, Tony and Dee, and all their kids, and all 3 couples quickly accepted.

At 8:30 AM, the next Saturday morning, the weekend after Memorial Day, we were all on the beach, by the Jamaica Beach subdivision, complete with all of our equipment including a big, black, cooking pot, like my Grandma Bryan used to make lye soap in. We were ready!

Our planning was perfect and all went as planned, Norman and I anchored the land end of the net, Jim ferried the end out into the Gulf, turned and came back a ways, then Vic, Tony and Gary took over and pulled the net up toward the beach. All was fine until the pullers felt a big push, not a tug, but a push. Like something big trying to break through the net, Norman and I were in ankle deep water, but the pullers were waste deep, and feeling the push, they dropped the end of the net and made speed for shore.

The first thing that we could see was the wake, then the dorsal fin of a big shark, circle out of danger, our estimate was that it was well over 6 foot long. The pullers, unanimously, refused to go back into the deep water and volunteered to become the anchormen, leaving the job of finishing the pull to Norman and me. We questioned if anything would be in the net, but waded out and finished the job! The kids loved the excitement!

The shark escaped, but the net had made a sack, and, sure enough, there were 5 specs, many, crabs and over 50 pounds of huge gulf shrimp. We built a fire, filled our pot with 3/4 water and ¼ salt water, added a box or shrimp boil, pulled one claw off of each crab and threw the crabs back in the Gulf, filleted and diced 2 specks, releasing the other 3, and cleaned and headed the shrimp, put it all into the pot, along with some corn on the cob and potatoes, and waited for everything to cook.

To say the least, we drew a crowd of interested onlookers. Six of us fit the part of “beach bums”, Norman, Jim, myself, our wives and our kids were brown as natives, and our 6 guests and their kids were getting sunburned! The food was ready to eat, then it dawned on us, we had no plates or eating utensils, so off to Red’s, Seven Seas Grocery to pick some up. Of course Red and all of his hangers on wanted to come to the festivities! Why not, we had enough fresh shrimp and crab claws for all!

The party ended at midnight, and to say the least, we didn’t go fishing the next morning!