Gut Check Time

One Sunday afternoon in late April of 1970, we were down at our beach house in Jamaica Beach, on the west end of Galveston Island, and, Norman Shelter and I decided to take a run out to the Galveston Jetties to try and hook up with some white, sea trout or sand trout, Cynoscion arenarius. These are fine eating fish, but because of their soft texture they are difficult to freeze. The best way to try and keep them for any length of time is to freeze them in water and be sure to squeeze the air out.

With a light wind out of the southeast and big, 10, foot swells rolling over both the north and south jetties, it was a strange day and I had never seen anything remotely resembling it before. Both jetties served their purpose well and broke the big swells, but as Norman and I rounded the end of the north jetty, it was gut check time. We should have gone through the boat cut in the north jetty, but decided that the shortest way to the fish was to go around the end. So, at an angle, I raced up the side of 2 big swells got my timing, then sped down the front of the next one and, just like that, we were safely into the calm water.

Anchoring up, we bated our lines with fresh, dead shrimp and cast back toward the rocks. We were fishing on the bottom, right among the rocks, about 35 feet down, with 6-1/2 foot, popping rods, red, Ambassaduer reels, loaded with 15 pound line. Both of our casts were met with solid strikes and after short battles, we boated a couple of nice, sand trout, 2 pounders. Good fish, since the bigger ones like this were usually caught miles, off shore. Both fish had a mouth full of small teeth, no spots like speckled trout and a pretty, a bluish hue covering their heads.

This was repeated over and over until out 88, quart cooler was full of fish (and ice). Then, Norman said the famous last words, “I’ll just make one more cast.” He cast out toward the open gulf, the bait had no more hit the water and he was greeted with a savage, strike! The fury of the strike identified the fish, hurling the king mackerel 10 feet or more out of the water then the king ran, stopped, but on the light tackle, began another run! Rasslin’ with the anchor, it finally pulled loose and I started the motor. As I came about, the king, a nice one, 40 pounds or more, spooled Norman, hit the end of the line and the line gave a popping sound as it separated from the reel.

Since our cooler was full and our anchor was up, we decided to go on back in, we headed back to the yacht basin to take the boat out, but this time we smartly chose to use the boat cut! Anyway, we didn’t have room for the kingfish!