Category Archives: Fishing

Specs Along The Channel

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 causing the big trout to seek cooler water.  The cooler water we were heading out to this mid August morning in 1968 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 five hundred feet, with a depth of forty-five.

The weather forecast was a good one, light winds, tide 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.

In my seventeen foot, deep vee pictured, 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 went about two hundred yards on the Smith’s Point side of the ship channel and started our drift.

Our tackle was six and a half foot popping rods, red reels filled with fifteen pound, mono line.  We used a popping cork with a three-foot, leader, a light weight 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 repeat the process.

Unkie and my 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 five 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 my dad slipped the net under the spec, 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. 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 foot from us, then, here it was!  The deep vee in my boat’s hull cut smoothly through the seven foot, wake and rode up and down it.  It would have swamped us if we’d been broadside to it!

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

The Storm NOAA Missed

The summer of 1987 was the calmest weather I can remember.  Back then, we could plan an offshore trip a week ahead, and the weather would cooperate so Bob Baugh and I planned a trip one week ahead, and sure enough, ended up sixty miles out of Freeport, Texas, in his Formula, the “Bill Collector”, at a rig in one hundred and ten feet of water.

We cruised around the rig checking for bait- fish and noticed not five feet under the surface some small amberjack, so I cast out a cigar minnow and a bigger amberjack quickly darted in and snatched the bait, and the fight was on.  I finally subdued the fish and we netted and released it, a 20 pounder.

After we tied up to the rig, we really got a workout from several sixty to eighty-pound amberjacks, members of the tuna family, and pound for pound, they are the hardest fighting fish in the Gulf.  We were using eighty-pound class tackle and after each bout with a big ‘jack we would take a five or ten minute break.

During one of these breaks I got out a new bay rod that I wanted to try out and baited up with a cigar minnow and cast it out behind the boat and let the bait drift with the current. We noticed a squall line looming to our east but didn’t worry about it since NOAA was predicting calm, storm free, weather.

For every five big, amberjack we hooked, we may have landed one.  If, they get their head pointing down, you’re done for and he’d cut you off in the rig.  After loosing another one, I was re-rigging and I happened to look up and noticed the squall line getting closer.  “Bob, should we worry about the weather?” I asked.  He replied, “Naw, don’t look like a problem.”  We laughed later, over his reply.

Just then, my new rod bent nearly double and the line was peeling off at a rapid rate.  Bob says, “I told you that new rod was too light for these big fish out here!”  As I set the hook I was rewarded by a big, bull dolphin clearing the water by about ten feet and took off for Mexico in passing gear!

What a fight this bruiser put on!

Jump, jump, jump, while running away from the boat, the dolphin was “turned on”, each jump silhouetting the neon, green/blue/gold fish against the approaching dark blue squall line.  If I had been an artist, it would have made a beautiful picture.  Captain Bly (Bob) spoiled it saying, “We better git, that storm looks like a good one.”

“Horsing” the fish in wasn’t an option.  I would get him near the boat and jump, jump, run!  We finally got the bull subdued and into the boat and the wind changed from south and hot to northeast and cool.  Oh, oh, I’ve been down this road before.  We quickly whacked the dolphin on the head, put him into the big cooler, un-looped the rope from the rig and Bob backed away.

Then Bob did something funny. He reached into the boat storage area, got out a motorcycle helmet and slipped it on.  He wore very heavy glasses (this was before he had corrective laser eye surgery) and he used the helmet and visor to keep the rain out.  He wiped the clear visor with a towel and told me, “We’re going to get wet, so find you a place and hold on.”

We headed directly into the storm and broached each wave crest, probably eight footers, the rain, worse than when I was caught in a severe storm in 1982, and like then, this storm was between us, and the shore.  Wind was about forty miles per hour and no lightning, but the rain almost obscured the bow of the boat, ten feet in front of us.

All we could do was trust the LORAN, (this was before GPS), and keep going for forty miles. The easy one hour run took us two and a half hours.  The last twenty miles were in relative calm seas and the last five miles were spent in a race with a twenty-four foot Proline.  Our speed on the LORAN was fifty-two miles per hour and we won this joust by half a boat length!

The Bull Dolphin weighed thirty-one pounds. NOAA never said anything about the storm that never was!

Gig ‘Em Aggies

All day long I had been trying to get a hold of my son, Randy, to help me with a sticky problem on my blog.  Finally, in the evening he called me, very frustrated.  He had “snuck” off and gone fishing, a noble achievement!

He was frustrated and had lost several nice bass, because he had made a mistake of epic proportions. He forgot to put the hook on the, new H&H spinner bait, better known as Piggy Boat, That he had just purchased at a large sporting goods store.  This particular product comes from the manufacturer in a plastic bag and the fisherman must add the hook to the spinner bait before using it.  In Randy’s excitement and impatience to get to the fishing at hand, he had neglected to attach the hook.

As I laughed at his omission, my thoughts went back, years ago to a hastily planned fishing trip that I went on with my Uncle Gus, George Alvin Pyland.  He like my Dad was from Marlin, Texas.  That particular summer I was working on another of my Uncle’s, Shelton Gafford’s ranch outside of Marlin.  My chores were finished early and I went into town to make a purchase at the local sporting goods store, which happened to be owned by Sam Pyland, Uncle Gus’ brother.

When I walked into the store, surprise, there was Uncle Gus talking with his brother.  We hugged and shook hands and exchanged some small talk, and one of our favorite subjects, fishing, came up.  Mentioning that Uncle Shelton had gotten me permission to fish in a stock tank, not fished by it’s owner, and planted with bass by the state five years ago and that I was on my way out there as soon as I picked me up a couple of yellow Piggy Boats. Uncle Gus volunteered to go with me.  He was in town for a short visit and would be happy to “help” me thin out the bass in this tank.

I don’t know who made Piggy Boat spinner baits, I guess the Piggy Boat Company, but I do know that the company that made Piggy Boats was sold to H and H, the current manufacturer and H and H now has been sold to a large retailer.  But, whoever the owner, this particular spinner bait remains one of the best baits for stock tank, small lake and stream fishing for bass.  In saltwater I have even caught red fish and speckled trout with them.  Then, like now, they were sold in a small plastic bag with the hook not attached. You can see from the picture below that the hook is not attached, also notice the price of $1.10, I bought this plug about 15 years ago and it clearly shows inflation!

Uncle Gus had no tackle, but I had an extra rod and reel with me, and he purchased two Piggy Boats with yellow skirts, told his brother good bye and we headed out to catch some bass.  Arriving at the stock tank that was in the middle of a one hundred acre field covered with red buffalo grass, I got out of my truck, walked to the edge of the water and made a cast and was into a nice bass immediately.  Uncle Gus said, “Wait for me Jon Howard” as he hurriedly attached the Piggy Boat to his line.

Uncle Gus looped a cast along the bank near us and had a strike that almost jerked the rod from his hands, the bass ran toward the center of the tank, jumped, mouth open and the Piggy Boat came flying back towards us.  Uncle Gus was a salt water, fisherman of great skill and perseverance, but muttered, “Dang, that’s funny, the hook didn’t get set good even with that hard strike.” as he prepared for another cast.

Another cast, another jolting strike, another lost fish caused him to mutter, “Jon Howard, these bass are harder to hook than specs.”  He was a great Uncle to me, and a good Christian man, but when he lost his third bass I was afraid my rod and reel were going into the water.  Before that happened I asked him, “Why don’t you bring your rig over and let me check the hooks?”  “What hooks?” he replied.  I tried hard not to laugh, but in his haste and excitement he had forgotten to attach the hooks to his spinner bait.

Slipping the hooks on his lure, he cast out and, whamo, another hard hit, but this one was hooked good, soon landed and put on a stringer.  We both got to the business of catching bass, along with a couple of goggle eye perch, and ended up with a nice mess of fish.
The story ended well, but after Randy’s “hook” problem, it got me to thinking, you  know, both Randy and Uncle Gus are former students at Texas A & M!

“South Of The Border, Down Mexico Way”

By the spring of 1972, I had found a new salt water fishing paradise, “South of the Border, Down Mexico Way”. The upper end of El Golfo, the Gulf of California, is the final destination of the western Colorado River. The same river that roars through the Grand Canyon meekly trickles into the top end of El Golfo at San Felipe, Mexico. Sixty miles southeast of San Felipe is Puerto Penasco (a tilde should be over the “N”), or Rocky Point as the local Arizonans called it.

Yes, local Arizonans. At the time, around 200 families had established an American colony there centered around, fishing and relaxing. The beach houses were minimum standard, but sufficient for occasional use by their lessors. At the time, Gringos couldn’t own property in Mexico. The two best facilities at Rocky Point were the boat storage area, patrolled by the local police and fenced with concertina wire around the top, and the boat launching equipment.

My boat, at the time, was an eighteen, foot, Falcon Skip Jack, tri hull, with two, sixty horsepower outboards and two internal, twenty four gallon gas tanks. Loaded out it would cruise at twenty-five miles per hour and had a range of a hundred miles. We caught some very nice fish, sea bass, grouper, corvina, snook, bonefish and queen trigger fish. I won a category of a tournament there in 1973, with a ten, pound trigger fish. On top of that, we once saw and came within twenty feet of a fifty, foot whale!

An unusual feature of Rocky Point was the extreme tidal fluctuations caused by its location at the top of El Golfo, which is several hundred miles long and for a large body of water, very narrow, fifty to a hundred miles wide. Tidal pressure going in and out causes wide fluctuations at Rocky Point. I was told the Bay of Fundy, in Nova Scotia, is the only spot in the world with greater tidal fluctuation.

In early March of 1971, after the move to Phoenix, Arizona, I found out what was to be my new saltwater fishing spot. Rocky Point, Mexico, no drugs, no shootings back then, just good ol’ saltwater fishing!

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!

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!

One More Cast

In 1970, the spring and early summer fishing for speckled trout had been as good as it gets. I had set a new personal record with a 7-1/4, pounder, caught just out from Greens Cut.  The big speck is pictured below.

We had not had a damaging freeze on the coast for 16 years and game fish and baitfish stocks were at record highs.  Weather permitting, the Galveston Jetties were loaded with keepers, the weather had cooperated and our freezers were already full of filets.

Having received another promotion with the large computer company and with that had purchased a beach house at Jamaica Beach, ten miles west from the end of the Galveston Sea Wall.  Launching at Jamaica Beach I was now five to ten minutes from some great bay fishing spots; Green’s Cut, the Wreck, Confederate Reef and North and South Deer Islands.  My favorite South Jetty spot was only thirty minutes by boat.

My son Brad was nine years old and had been fishing with me for the past two years.  He was fun to take along, could bait his own hook and never grumbled about getting up early or cleaning up the boat and tackle.  My uncle, and his great uncle, Alvin Pyland, Unkie, and I had planned a trip on a Friday morning to sample some of the great trout action, under the birds, on the east side of the Galveston causeway.  Below is Unkie with 2 nice specks!

This area, ten or twelve square miles, bounded on the east by the Texas City dike and Pelican Island, on the south by Galveston Island, on the north by the mainland and west by the causeway, had been a consistent producer all spring.  Telling Unkie to be at The Pleasure Island Bait Camp, our bay fishing headquarters, at 7:30 AM and be ready to fish.  Brad and I had the boat in the water at the Jamaica Beach launch ramp by 7:00 AM and started our 15 minute trip to the Pleasure Island Bait Camp.  Noticing storm clouds in the Gulf south of Galveston Island, rain was coming, what’s so different about that?

After picking Unkie up at the bait camp, buying a quart of shrimp, we headed out to find the birds.  Trout feeding on shrimp push the shrimp to the surface, where sea gulls see the disturbance, and always looking for a free meal, the gulls literally swarm over the shrimp and feeding trout.  This is fast and furious action, trout are “jerked” into the boat without using a net, and many times we would use artificial baits rather than taking time to re-bait the hook.

Seeing several groups of birds in the distance, we sped toward the nearest ones and began a morning of catching specs as fast as we could, and a morning of, we did not know then, high adventure.  We noticed the storms I had seen earlier had moved almost to the Island and storm clouds were gathering north of us over Hitchcock and Texas City.  Being in the bay, in a 17, foot, deep vee, boat, we felt secure since we were but a short run back to the Pleasure Island Bait Camp.  Then the southern storm moved onto the Island, and we found out later that it dropped ten inches of rain there, and shortly, most of that fell on us.

We kept fishing and catching specks, the northern storms getting closer.  We paused to look at the storms and noticed they both seemed to stop right at the edge of the bay.  Storms north and south of us, and birds working, we started back fishing. I have since learned to not tempt Mother Nature.

All of a sudden a large electrical storm, lightning popping all along its front edge, filled the gap between our northern and southern storms, barreling east, right down the bay and right toward us.  We were one mile east of the Causeway and the new storm was about two miles west of it.  Plenty of time left, keep fishing!

Craak!  Boom! Lightning hit the channel marker not 300 yards from us and Unkie uttered his infamous remark, “Looks like I’ve got time for one more cast.”

He casts out and hooked a nice one, which we took valuable time to land.  During the fight with the fish, I got Brad’s life jacket on him and donned one myself.  Craak!  Boom! Another bolt hit a channel marker not 150 yards from us.  “Let’s get going,” I yelled as the rain started to batter us

Really getting pounded by the storm, we noticed we couldn’t head back to the bait camp. There was almost a solid wall of lightning between us and the camp, and the storm was still heading our way.  Full speed ahead to the northeast, our only partially open choice.  Northeast of us lied the Texas City Dike, a nine mile, red granite wall built out into Galveston Bay (this was some of the last granite mined at Marble Falls, Texas).  Its purpose was to smooth the bay waters for the Texas City harbor and channel, however, and I repeat, however, we were heading in on the rough side!  The wind hit us now, the waves building up, all working to slow our speed.  We barely kept ahead of the lightning, and the rain was awful!

We keep heading northeast and kept getting pounded by the storm, wind, rain and four- foot waves, which are huge for the bay and the distance between the wave crests was probably only ten feet.  Very rough!  Wave tops in the Gulf in four-foot seas are 24 to 27 feet apart, but lots of up and down for us, and luckily the drain plugs in the boat did their job.  At least we didn’t swamp.  Looking down, I thought Brad likes this and glancing over at Unkie, he doesn’t have a care in the world, however I was scared to death!

Plowing on through the rough water, we finally spotted the dike and could make out a bait camp on our side and headed straight for it.  Closing in on the dike, I anchored the boat with the bow pointing into the storm, which has slacked off some.  We got out of the boat and waded to the dike and some smart aleck on the dike said, “Kinda rough, wasn’t it?”  If not for my nine, year old son, there would have been fisticuffs!

No cell phones then, so I went into the bait camp and called my ex-wife in Jamica Beach to tell her of our ordeal and ask to bring my car and boat trailer so we could get back to Unkies car.  It had rained ten inches in Galveston and everything was flooded, she’s stranded out on the Island and couldn’t get into town.  We’re stranded on the Texas City Dike and can’t get out and the storm was now picking up in intensity!

All I could do is call a cab, leave Brad and Unkie to watch the boat and go slowly through the water, back through Galveston (city of) to Jamaica Beach, pick up my car and trailer and drive them back over here and get the boat. At least the fish had ice on them.

Sometimes I am a slow learner!



Jim Buck and I were fishing in lower West Galveston Bay, having good luck on specks, with some five or six pound, gafftopsail catfish, (gafftops), thrown in. Gafftops are slimy, slimy, but offer an excellent fight, and when fried, offer excellent table fare. After each gafftop that we caught, we had to clean the slime off of our line and leader and if we kept one to eat, we ended up with a major chore cleaning our cooler.

We noticed a storm forming west of us but, as usual, thought nothing of it and continued to catch fish. Soon, common sense overtook our desire to catch fish, and we headed back to the east and the safe harbor, at Jamaica Beach. We were making thirty-five in my boat, but it seemed, that the faster we went, the storm went faster.

Running along the shore from Snake Island and taking the sharp turn into the Jamaica Beach, channel, I cut the engines and coasted up to the dock. One boat was loading and we were next. The wind was blowing at least sixty, slamming things around, but thank goodness, the loading ramp, at water level, offered about 4 feet of protection. If we raised our heads, the blowing sand and spray was like needles.

Peeping over the edge of my boat’s deck, looking north toward the mainland, I saw a small boat, fighting the storm and heading our way. Nothing unusual, a small boat heading in, but as I looked closer, I saw a waterspout right behind it. He was going about twenty-five and the waterspout was keeping up with him, not catching him, but staying about a hundred yards to his rear.

The small boat cleared the north end of Karankawa Reef and at full speed, made a hard right, across the bay, toward the Jamaica Beach channel. Lucky for him the waterspout continued east towards Green’s Cut. Soon the back edge of the storm passed over us and we successfully loaded our boat on the trailer.

We then helped the lone fisherman in the small boat that the waterspout chased. He was wet, scared and glad to be ashore and away from the waterspout. He said, “I thought it had me and I was afraid to turn because I thought it would follow me.”

We never saw him again. I bet he took up a safer hobby!