One More Cast

In 1970, the spring fishing for speckled trout had been as good as it gets with me setting a new personal record a 7, pounder caught just out from Greens Cut.  We hadn’t 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.

After receiving another promotion from the large computer company, I had purchased a beach house at Jamaica Beach, 10 miles west from the end of the Galveston Sea Wall.  Launching at Jamaica Beach, I was now 5 to 10 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 30 minutes by boat, less time than it took us to drive and launch it at the yacht basin!

Brad was 9 years old and had been fishing with me for the past 2 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, aka Unkie, and I had planned a trip on Friday morning to sample some of the great trout action under the birds, on the east side of the Galveston causeway.

“Unkie” and a nice mess of specks!

This area, 10 or 12 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 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 our15, minute trip to Pleasure Island.  I noticed storm clouds in the Gulf south of Galveston Island.  Rain coming, what’s different about that?

After picking Unkie up at the bait camp and 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 can be 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 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 storm that I had seen earlier had moved almost to the Island and storm clouds were also 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  Pleasure Island.  Then the southern storm moved onto the island, and we found out later that it dropped 10 inches of rain there, and shortly, most of that fell on us.

We kept fishing and catching specs, 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 a mile east of the causeway and the new storm was about 2 miles west of it.  Plenty of time left, keep fishing.

Craak!  Boom! Lightning hit a channel marker not 300 yards from us and almost to himself, Unkie uttered his infamous remark, “Let me make one more cast.”

He cast out and hooked a nice spec, 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 that because of the lightning, we couldn’t head back to the bait camp because almost a solid wall of lightning was between us and the camp.  Full speed ahead to the northeast, our only partially open choice.

Northeast of us lay 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 then, the waves building up, all working to slow our speed.  We barely kept ahead of the lightning, and the rain was blinding!

We kept heading northeast and kept getting pounded by the storm, wind, rain and 4 foot waves, which were huge for the bay, since the distance between the crests was probably only ten feet.  Very, very rough!  Wave tops in the Gulf in 4 foot seas are 24 to 27 feet apart.  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 toward Brad, I believe he liked this and glancing over at Unkie, he didn’t have a care in the world.  Personally, 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 on the dike, with the bow pointing into the storm that had slacked off some, I anchored the boat.  We got out of the boat and waded to the shore/dike and some smart aleck on the dike said, “Kinda rough, wasn’t it?”

No cell phones then, so I went into the bait camp and called my ex-wife in Jamaica Beach and told her about our ordeal and asked to bring my car and boat trailer to us.  It had rained 10 inches in Galveston, everything was flooded and she was stranded out on the island and couldn’t get into town.  We were stranded on the Texas City Dike and couldn’t get out and the storm was now picking up in intensity.

All I could do was call a cab, leave Brad and Unkie to watch the boat and then cabbed slowly through the water, back through Galveston and out to Jamaica Beach.  Picking up my car and trailer, I drove back to the dike to load up the boat.  By the time we took Unkie back to Pleasure Island, the skies had cleared so we cleaned the fish and mused that this was a close call and we should learn from it, however  I did not profit from this experience!