One More Cast

In 1970, the spring and early summer fishing for Trout had been as good as it gets. I had set a new personal record with a seven pound trout caught just out from Greens Cut.

We had not had a damaging freeze on the coast for sixteen years and game fish and bait fish 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.

I had 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 eight years old and had been fishing with me for the past two years. He was fun to take along, he could bait his own hook and never grumbled about getting up early or cleaning 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.

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. I told 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 by 7:00 AM at the Jamica Beach launch ramp and started our fifteen minute trip to Pleasure Island Bait Camp. 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 one 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 speed toward the nearest ones and begin a morning of catching Trout as fast as we can, 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 seventeen foot, deep vee, Lamar 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 Trout, the northern storms getting closer. We paused to look at them 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, heading east, right down the bay and right toward us. We were one mile east of the Causeway and it was about one mile west of it. Plenty of time, keep fishing.

Craak! Boom! Lightning hits a channel marker not three hundred yards from us and Unkie utters his infamous remark, “I’ve got time for one more cast.” He casts and hooks a nice one, which we take valuable time to land. During his fight with the fish I get Brad’s life jacket on him and don one myself. Craak! Boom! Another bolt hits a channel marker not one hundred and fifty yards from us. “Let’s get going,” I yell as the rain starts to batter us.

Really getting pounded by the storm, we notice we can’t head back to the bait camp. Almost a solid wall of lightning between us and the camp, and the storm is still heading our way. Full speed ahead to the northeast, our only partially open choice. Northeast of us lies 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 is to smooth the bay waters for the Texas City harbor and channel, however, and I repeat, however, we are heading in on the rough side! The wind hits us now, the waves building up, all working to slow our speed. We barely keep ahead of the lightning, but the rain is awful!

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

Plowing on through the rough water, we finally spot the dike and can make out a bait camp on our side and head straight for it. Closing on the dike, I anchor the boat with the bow pointing into the storm, which has slacked off some. We get out of the boat and wade to the shore/dike and some smart aleck on the dike says, “Kinda rough, wasn’t it?”