Category Archives: Fishing

Prepare for Inspection

In the spring of 1958 I was a newly commissioned 2nd Lt. in the U.S Army and spent the next 6 months at basic officers training at Ft. Lee, Virginia. By the time I left, I had found several nice fishing places there, including the Ft. Lee Officers Club Lake.

Atten-hut! Lt. Bryan, pen and paper in hand, enters squad tent to inspect the troops.

Spartan quarters, but weren’t the short sleeves cute?

One unique trip, several of my friends, that were “good ‘ole Texas boys”, and I went Shad fishing in the Appomattox River, in downtown Petersburg. The locals used light/medium tackle with a weight and several treble hooks attached above the weight and cast this across the river and jerked it back. We followed suit and soon had a “mess” of good size, Shad!. There were so many, we laughed saying they were shoulder to shoulder, that each cast brought in one or two.

Keeping a few we tried baking them and they proved awful, tasting too fishy, being full of bones and smelling up the kitchen. We later found out that Shad should be smoked or dried. One Shad trip was enough for us!

The Officers Club Lake provided fair fishing for Bass and Bream, keeping us in fresh fish. It was nice because I could call ahead, reserve a boat and motor and be fishing 15 minutes from my house. As they say, “RHIP”, rank has its privilege, even though I was a 2nd. Lt.

Stuck in my memory was a quick, evening trip to a small public lake. It was just before a March cold front blew in. A friend of mine in Texas had told me about jigging, using a Hawaiian Wiggler, an early, in line, weed less, spinner bait with a hair skirt covering the hook – a good bait for thick cover.

Early Spring Bass

Our part of the sovereign state of Texas has enjoyed several days of beautiful weather, and on March 11, it got the best of my Grandson, Colton Mitchell and myself. Colton finished lifting weights around 5:30 PM and after picking him up we headed out to a large, stock tank near Goldthwaite in quest of a few hungry Bass!

A Cold, Cold Swim

WW II had ended in August 1945, almost all of our service men were home, the great depression was a dim memory and a new consumer economy was just beginning to heat up. Rationing of gasoline and food had ended and folks now had time to think of leisure activities.

In February of 1947, our neighbor, Dave Miller, with my Dad’s help, had just completed, in his garage, a 14’, flat bottom, skiff. The construction predated, by many years, the advent of electric powered, hand tools and this boat was completely made by hand, from the sawing of the ½” marine plywood, until the last of 4 coats of spar varnish was applied. Power for the boat was supplied by a brand new, 5 HP, Johnson Sea Horse and another of Dave’s friends had made him a crude, trailer for the boat. Dave and my Dad were going to be able to really “go after the big ones” now.

Bad weather postponed the “christening” and “shake down cruise” of the new boat until early March and the saltwater canals near Freeport, Texas were chosen. During the war, a large chemical company had built a huge plant just outside of Freeport and this effort included a series of canals that were connected to the Brazos River, that were used for moving finished product and construction equipment around the sites. The canals were 10’ to 12’ deep and offered protection during cold snaps to the many Speckled Trout, Redfish and Flounder that inhabited them.

My Dad performed the “christening”. He opened a beer, took a sip, poured a few drops on the bow and then finished it. He and Dave then headed out into the canals to find some fish and their first stop only yielded a few small ones.

Moving to a new spot, and as he said, “Playing the fool”, my Dad was sitting, facing Dave, on the small, front deck of the skiff as Dave turned into another canal. My Dad didn’t see the turn coming and piled head first into the cold, cold water! Thank goodness, he was a good swimmer and as he popped to the surface, Dave, laughing loudly, quickly came about and retrieved him.

My Dad was soaked, his watch ruined by the salt water and they faced a long trip back to the launch area. He survived the ordeal, but never liked my Mother or me bringing up this “swim” to him.

Dave went out and purchased some floating, life preserver type, seat cushions and several years later he told me, “Jon, back then I never thought about any kind of life jackets. When we crossed the flooded rivers in Italy, we were never issued any!” Dave was a Captain with Texas own 36th Infantry Division during the bloody fighting up the Italian “boot”!

Under The Lights

Continuing my initiation into the world of Speckled Trout fishing, a cold January afternoon, my Dad and I met Dave Miller, a good fishing friend, at a non descript, bait camp, near Matagorda, Texas, where the Colorado River empties into the Gulf of Mexico. We were going to fish for Specks at night under some bright flood lights.

This old picture shows some of the specs we caught that night

The principle was simple, the reflection of the lights on the water draws small fish and shrimp in to feed on the minute sea life and the abundance of small bait draws the larger predators, the Specks. The action can be fast and furious, and it was!

Starting about 8:30 PM, the three of us beat the water to a froth and to show for the effort, had only caught and released 4 small Specks. Dave and I choose to take a nap on the couches inside the bait camp and two hours later, my Dad woke both of us exclaiming, “Get up quick and come see all the fish!”

“All the fish” was right. The tide was coming in and with it, bringing in stained, almost sandy, water, and in the reflection of the large lights, the water was dimpled by hundreds of Specks slashing through the thousands of bait fish carried in with the tide!

Savoring the spectacle for maybe 5 seconds, our primal urges kicked in, and we began casting into the melee. Using a Tony Acetta #7, silver spoon, with a yellow buck tail attached, every one of my casts resulted in a solid strike and a spirited fight and a 1 to 2 pound Trout flopping on the dock.

This action continued for nearly 30 minutes. Then, the tide changed heading back out to the Gulf and with the water movement, the bait and predator fish followed. As hot as the action was, it was all over now. Nothing remained except for us to clean and ice down the fish, collect our tackle, bid adieu to the camp operator and start our two hour drive back to West University, a Houston suburb.

At the time, my family didn’t have a freezer, so all of our friends and relatives enjoyed the fish we happily gave to them

State Records Make Good 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 are 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 can see where the end is tied to 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 know 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 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 pounds! 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 blood line, 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!

What A Duck Hunt

Bill Paxon and I met on a Friday night at our Duck/Fishing lease near Danbury, Texas, ate a steak at the local cafe, that was a steak I still remember, and turned in early in preparation the next day’s Duck hunt. Up well before the sun, we had bacon and eggs prepared by Mrs. Atkins, the wife of our leases’ guide/caretaker, stepped outside and were greeted by a calm, bright, early morning with the new day just a strip of orangeish light on the eastern horizon.

We went through the motions of loading my decoys, I now had 24 plastic ones, and our guns and followed them into the skif, started the engine and putted out to our Duck blind, all the while, knowing that such a bright, clear, blue bird day would lead to at best, not many Ducks flying. There would be a flurry about shooting time and, after that, it would stop completely.
We “hit the nail on the head” and had one flight of Green Wing Teal buzz our decoys right at shooting time and we obliged by shooting 4 holes in the sky. We waited for 45 more minutes, saw no Ducks and decided to go Bass fishing. We started the motor, picked up the decoys, putted back to the dock, oiled and put our guns up, got out our rods and reels, replaced the outboard with a trolling motor, started fishing and 50 yards from the dock and Bill soon picked up a small Bass.

In the old picture, Bill holds up my 3 for 3 on Bass. The bad, old picture shows the smallest of the 3 is mostly hidden by the 2 bigger fish.

Bill was using a motor oil colored, worm, rigged Texas style and I had on my trusty, yellow Piggy Boat, spinner bait. A few casts after Bill had scored, I had a hard strike and was into a real nice Bass. Two jumps later I “lipped” it, hefted it up and estimated its weight at 3 pounds. Another cast into the same spot, another hard strike and I was tied up with a real nice one. No jumps, but several “wallows” later and one nice run and I “lipped” this one, hefted it up and guessed, 5 pounds! Wow, two in a row, so I cast back into the same spot and was greeted with a bone jarring strike. This one pulled out all the stops; runs, “wallows” and 3 jumps later, I “lipped” it, hefted it up and guessed 4 pounds!

Wow, 3 casts in a row, 3 nice Bass, 3,4 and 5 pounds and Bill just sat and watched the show.

This wasn’t a bad Duck hunt, anyway!

A Score Of 9 On The Dive

As the summer passes I’m really getting the feel of the little Whaler. I find a short cut from Jones Lake to upper West Galveston Bay and the fine fishing around Greens Cut, the wrecked shrimp boat, and North and South Deer Island.

Randy, my son, and I were heading out, under the railroad bridge, to chase the birds around Greens Cut. He said, “Dad, let me drive the boat.” “Why not,” I reply, adding, “We’ll take my shortcut. Be sure to cut real close to the stake that you will see shortly. This stake was the right side of a four foot cut, in a live oyster reef. We found out the width of the cut on this trip, At the then tide level, about twelve inches of water covered the reef.

We are skimming along close to thirty-five miles per hour and I tell Randy, “See the stake? Steer close to it and we will be OK,” and then we enjoy one of those moments of miscommunication, and CRUNCH! We hit the left edge of the reef, missing the cut. As the boat suddenly stops, I go flying over the bow, tuck quickly and cover my head with my arms, do a flip, and crash down, on my back, into the twelve inches of water covering the reef.

Randy is half in and half out of the Whaler. When we hit the reef, he had the presence of mind to pull back on the throttle, idling the engine, and it had no shear pin, so it should be OK. Randy gets all the way out of the boat saying “Gee Dad, I’m Sorry. We missed the cut!” I stand slowly, I’m not hurt bad, my shirt is shredded and my back is cut up. I tell Randy, “Don’t worry, I’m OK. Let’s lift up the front of the boat and make sure it’s not damaged.”

The boats fine, Whaler can really make ‘em, we still have our shrimp, there’s not much wind and the tide is coming in, so I say, “If you’ll wash off my back with salt water and clean out the cuts we’ll go ahead and fish.” Later that morning, while we were catching Speckled Trout, Randy says, “Dad you’re a tough old guy! I thought you were going to end our trip after my wreck.” I thought to myself, old, I’m not even 50.

A 13′ Boston Whaler

The low railroad bridge across Highlands Bayou, Bayou Vista’s outlet to Galveston Bay and Jones Lake, prevented large boats from passing under it, so I became a 2 boat fisherman. I owned a 20” Cobia that I used for going offshore and fishing around the Galveston Jetties, but I needed something that would make it under the low bridge.

The new railroad bridge over Highlands Bayou, Bayou Vista, Texas. This one has 6′-7′ clearance, the old bridge had 3′ plus, a really tight squeeze. This picture was made at noon on Aug. 15, 2007 when Tropical Storm Erin was just coming ashore. I was fixin to get wet, but nothing like the ravages of the flooding in our midwest brought on by Erin!

That something was a 13’ Boston Whaler, no motor, no steering controls and a worn out trailer. Quickly I fixed 2 of the missing items. One fix, a new galvanized, trailer and, the other, being a 20 HP, Mercury with manual steering. My steering position was a small cooler/bait bucket placed by the transom. Maybe a little light on safety issues, but the boat would run over 30 MPH and would be great for fishing in Jones Lake.

So what was one of the first things I did with my Whaler? Roy Collins a former Galveston Bay fishing guide, and I trailered it to the base of the Texas City Dike, put in there and go screaming of to the northeast to drift around Dollar Point. Definitely “big water” and not the best place for a 13 footer, even a Whaler!

There were probably a dozen other large boats drifting in the Dollar Reef area. Never having drifted in the Whaler before, I mistimed and misdirected my first drift and before I knew it I was drifting into a twenty-three foot Mako. I yank the starter cord and nothing. Yank, yank, yank, still nothing. Roy grabs the side of the Mako to hold us off, while the Mako’s owner is giving us some very clear instructions, “#@$%^&*#. Keep that little thing away from my boat. Don’t drift into my engine! #@$%^&*#!”

We clear the Mako and I see we are about to drift into some fishing lines from a twenty-one foot HydraSport. Yank, yank, yank, motor won’t start. More instructions from the HydraSports owner, “#@$%^&*#, keep out of our lines. Don’t you know what you are doing! #@$%^&*#!” Very embarrassing! Yank, yank and then I remember, Viola, turn on the Mercury’s on/off switch, which I did, yank, put, put, put, put, put, it started and we eased away from these awful predators.

Getting control of our drifts, we began catching some real nice Speckled Trout, when a small rain squall popped up south of us and was heading our way. We really didn’t pay much attention to the squall and kept on fishing and catching fish. Then it started to rain, better said, then the bottom fell out. Blinding rain and the next thing I know water is up around my ankles, the gas tank is afloat and the rain is still pouring down! At the time I didn’t have a Tempo Two-Way drain plug on the boat that would have let the water drain out, so the water keeps rising and we start bailing. I pour the shrimp out of the thirty-three quart cooler that I was using as a bait bucket and seat, and we finally make headway against our small flood.

Ankle deep, the rain stops. I start the engine, pull the drain plug and gun the engine. We jump up on a plane and the boat drains. Whew, that was close! I reinsert the plug and we go screaming back to our trailer, and I think to myself, no more big water for this little boat.

I will say one thing about the little Whaler, it didn’t sink. These boats are made with positive flotation, and as their advertisement shows, you can cut one in half and it won’t sink!

I bought and installed a Tempo Drain Plug that afternoon.

A New Link – Ultimate Fishing

Tom Banks, from Australia, recently posted a story on Outdoor Odyssey’s, Sept 3, Blog Carnival, and while proofing it, I found that his blog, Ultimate Fishing, was a natural for a link swap. He has some good information and fishing stories on it. Check it out, you’ll like it!

G’day, Mates!

A Fishing Party?

New Year’s Eve of 1981 was a memorable event because we, the three couples that collectively owned the house in Bayou Vista; Jerry and Sammie Masters, my brother-in-law and his wife, Jim and Pat Buck and my ex-wife and I, decided to jointly put on a big New Year’s Eve party in our new beach house.

The party was rolling along and around 10:00 PM I had lost interest in all of the small talk and went down stairs and was sitting on the boat dock when I heard the unmistakable “pop” of a trout hitting the surface right out from where I was sitting. “Pop”, another one, and I was up in a flash and into the ground floor of the house and out with a rod, reel and silver spoon with a yellow bucktail attached.

The rod that I grabbed had a silver spoon with a yellow bucktail already rigged up and Jim grabbed one with a 52M, MirrOlure attached.

The only light was from a full moon overhead as I whipped a cast almost across the canal and began a rapid retrieve and “Whamo” a good trout nails the spoon and the fight is on. Now I think, how am I going to land this fish with no landing net since I’m standing at least three feet above water level. In my haste I had forgotten to bring out a net! I swing/flop the Trout out of the water into the yard, run to it, get the hook out and carry it inside and put it into a forty-eight quart cooler, sans ice.

Back outside, this time with a long handled net, and cast again, and again “Whamo” another Trout, which I subdue, net and add to the cooler, just as Jim Buck comes downstairs asking, “Brother-In-Law, are you OK? I thought you may have fallen in,” as he sees me putting a fish into the cooler.

He grabs another rod and reel, this one with a M-52 Mirror Lure attached and makes a cast. We catch four more Trout before the school moves on, all nice fish two to two and one-half pounds. We wash our hands, get some ice out of the fridge we have downstairs, cover the fish with it and go back upstairs to the small talk.

Nobody else missed me but Jim.