Girl Friends

During the summer of 1954, speckled trout fishing had been excellent along the broad sand flats from Galveston’s East Beach Lagoon around to the base of the South Jetties, a curving distance of approximately two miles that was protected from any wind except north or northeast. This area, at the far eastern tip of Galveston Island and the western side of Bolivar Channel, between the Island and Bolivar Peninsula, is also the mouth of the Galveston and Houston Ship Channels. It was good fishing and just plain fun to go down there and watch the ships and the girls.

The week before this day’s events, my cousin and fishing buddy, George Pyland, and I had made a killin’ on school trout on the north side of the flats. The fish were everywhere, plugs or live shrimp, even a bare hook. We spread the news among our fishing group and everyone eagerly awaited a break in the weather.

The break in the weather came the following Saturday morning when another fishing buddy, Bobby Baldwin, called saying, “Fishing look good around the flats this afternoon”. My reply, totally unacceptable to him was, “I can’t go fishing this afternoon because I have a date”. His girl friend, out of town for the weekend, didn’t like fishing anyway, so he was free all day and tonight. However, my girl friend was game for anything, she wasn’t a fisherman (back then gender wasn’t a problem), but liked to wade out and watch us fish. After tempting me with, “I’ll buy the gas”, all of $.18 a gallon, I called my girl and told her of the change in plans and she reluctantly agreed to go with us.

The tide was running in and the wind was light as we bought shrimp at Bobby Wilson’s East Beach Bait Camp and headed for the flats. Bobby, to my right, and I were about 30 feet apart and girl friend was behind me, my stringer floating off to my left with the breeze and incoming tide as we waded out about 75 yards into waist deep water. The fish were there and we started catching some nice specs, up to two pounds, that we strung on my stringer, still floating away from us.

With 7 or 8 specs already caught, my cork went under and as I set the hook I remarked, “Hey, this is a real nice fish probably a big red”. My companions watched intently as I struggled to keep the line tight as the fish bored towards me. Ten feet in front of me a beautiful five foot long, black tip shark cleared the water, mouth open, the teeth getting my attention and hit the water, splashing some on me. My question was, what do you do when a big shark hits your speckled trout outfit, then runs 15 yards towards you, and all the while I was thinking that it was a big red, until it jumped out of the water in front of me and then stripped off all of my line?

The shark headed off to my right towards where I thought Bobby was located, but my valiant fishing partner and girl friend had already halved the distance to shore, leaving me alone to battle this denizen. Not much of a battle, 15 pound braided line on a Shakespeare Direct Drive reel and a fiber glass popping rod, all being no match for an 80 pound shark. The line was tied on the spool of the reel and popped as the shark stripped it, then I headed straight for the shore where my stalwart friends were awaiting me.

That area, the East Beach Flats including Bobby Wilson’s Bait Camp no longer exists. Natural erosion assisted by a small hurricane that came up the channel in the mid 70’s, complete with north and northwest winds, changed the landscape, eliminating one good fishing spot.

At least the shark didn’t get the fish on my stringer, but my girl friend never went wade fishing with me again.