Big Wakes

Going out this morning in August of 1968, we knew that we’d be sweaty when we came in. Hoping we’d be sweaty from catching speckled trout, but August is probably the hottest month along the upper Texas coast with the water in the shallow bays, East and West Galveston Bay and Christmas Bay, heating up to the mid eighties this caused the big trout to seek cooler water.

The cooler water we were heading out to this morning was along the Houston Ship Channel. The channel was begun in 1875 and not really completed until 1914. In the late 1990’s and early 2000’s it was widened to over 500 feet, with a depth of 45. The weather forecast was a good one, light winds, tides coming in, with scattered thunder storms, in the afternoon. Our plan was to finish up by lunch, so we didn’t anticipate any bad weather or problems.

We, my dad and uncle, Alvin Pyland, better known as Unkie, launched at the bait camp at San Leon and made the short run out to the ship channel. We were in my 17, foot deep vee, a really good big bay boat. Crossing over the Ship Channel we went about two hundred feet past it, then started our drift.

Our tackle was 6-1/2 foot popping rods, red, reels filled with 15 pound, mono line. We used a popping cork with a three-foot, leader, enough weight to keep the cork upright and a small treble hook. Our bait was live shrimp. We’d cast out, pop the cork, reel up the slack, repeat the process until we either had a strike or we retrieved the rig back to the boat, then, if no hit, cast back out and repeated the process.

Unkie and Dad cast out and hadn’t made one or two “pops” when they had big strikes, both fish were good ones, taking line and circling the boat, a sure sign of a big trout! Netting Unkies fish first, a real nice 5 pounder, my dad’s fish put on a show around the boat for us and we could see that is was a little bigger than Unkies.

Finally I cast out, popped the cork once and “bam” had a big strike. A twenty-yard, first run, highlighted this fight, along with two circles of the boat, with a lot of wallows on top before Dad slipped the net under the speck, a twin of his.

We were probably fifteen miles up from the Galveston Jetties, the mouth of the Houston Ship Channel and in the distance, south of us the morning’s first big tanker was heading our way. My dad said, “Boy, you’ve never seen the wake these big ships throw up, have you?” “What wakes?” was my answer. Unkie chimed in, “Six or seven footers, that’s what and we’d better get everything in the boat squared away!” This got my attention quick. We quit fishing and knowing that if you’re in heavy seas, you head into them and don’t get caught broad side, I started the engine and here the came the wake.

Looking at the wake, it came toward us, obliquely, in a long line, soon it was only fifty feet from us then, here it was! The deep vee in my boat’s hull cut smoothly through the 7, foot wake, then rode up and down it. It would have swamped us if we’d been broadside to it!

Going back to catching specks, before the tide changed we put a dozen more 5 to 6 pounders into the cooler. We experienced three more big wakes, but got back to the launch ramp before noon and missed the forecasted thunderstorms.