Birdin’ Season

Getting a fast start on the birdin’ season on West Galveston Bay, in mid May, Dad and I arrived at the foot of the Galveston Causeway and drove on to Pleasure Island Bait Camp, bought us some live shrimp, launched the boat, sped over to around Virginia Point and started looking for birds. With a good tide coming in all morning, both of us knew, or so we thought, that the fish and shrimp schools would collide along the Intercoastal Waterway, between Pelican Island and the causeway.

Just what is birdin’ season you may ask? Along the Texas coast, sometime during May, depending on the water temperature, brown shrimp migrate back into the bays. Game fish, namely speckled trout attack these schools of shrimp, the feeding activity pushes the shrimp to the surface and the ever vigilant, sea gulls, always looking for an easy meal, congregate in mass to gorge on the feast, hence birdin’ season. Back in the ‘60’s, the trout in these early schools would be anywhere from 2 to 6, pounds, a 6-1/2 is my personal best.

For this foray we armed ourselves with 6-1/2 foot, popping rods, with red reels, loaded with 15 pound line and under the popping cork had a 3/8 ounce weight, a 2-3 foot leader with a number 8, treble hook knotted on, real trout poison. We slowly, cruised the bay in a big circle for over 2 hours and were quickly loosing interest, we hadn’t even baited up yet, then near a channel marker we spied a group of birds hovering over the water and no other fishing boats were in sight!

With the slight wind behind us, we carefully putted in position to drift close to the birds and when about 100 foot upwind, baited up and unleashed our casts that were met by 2 big strikes, nice fish! The fish circled the boat forcing us into “The West Bay Shuffle”, around the boat once, the drag and rod pressure finally tired the specs, nice 4 pounders that we netted and slid into the cooler.

More casts into the milling horde of gulls, it’s a wonder we didn’t foul hook one and my dad was into another nice trout, but my cast was met with a big strike, never getting the hook set, I reeled in and helped him with his fish, a mirror image of the first 2. We stayed with this school of trout/shrimp/birds for 45 or more minutes, the birds broke up once, but 10 minutes later, got back on the fish/shrimp and the action picked up once again. We ended this trip with 17 nice, speckled trout, 2-4 pounds, a good haul!

For years, whenever I passed by this channel marker, I remembered my birdin’ season kickoff and looked closely to see if any birds were hovering over the water, waiting for the shrimp to pop up!