Rock Hopping

Being in college, this was way before the time we even thought about owning a boat, in fact, fishing boats back then, were few and far between. Our choices were wading, renting a skiff, but we didn’t even have an outboard motor, or rock hopping on the Galveston Jetties. The following is a story about one of the rock hopping days.

It was a beautiful summer day on the beach in Galveston, the girls out in force with their 1950’s, “skimpy” bathing suits, nothing like now a days Bikinis, light wind from the southeast and no waves crashing on or over Galveston’s South Jetty. However, this trip, Bobby Baldwin and I didn’t have eyes for the girls, but we had walked out the concrete walkway then, holding on to our rod and reels and carrying our live shrimp in a bait bucket along with one tackle box, literally climbed out on the slick, rocks of the jetty, ending up a hundred yards past the topping.

This was to be our fishing spot and our target for the morning would be speckled trout. Both of us were armed with six foot, popping rods, direct drive reels spooled with fifteen pound braided line, both reels having the luxury of a star drag system and later in the morning, mine would be tested severely! We were both using popping corks with a two to three foot, leader, the bait of choice was live shrimp. We’d cast along the rocks and slowly reel in while popping the corks, the pop simulating the sound a trout makes while feeding on the surface, hopefully attracting other fish to the shrimp.

Casting our baits out, it was no time until both corks went under, setting the hooks, mine came back hookless, but Bobby was fast into a Spanish mackerel and obviously, my leader was cut by another’s sharp teeth! Swinging his mackerel up on to the rocks, in our haste to get to fishing, we both remembered we’d left the net in the car, so for the morning we practiced swing and catch the fish. This proved much easier said then done, since a three, pound trout doesn’t swing very good, let alone they’re slimy and hard to hold on to!

Threading the mackerel on to the stringer, it dawned on us there was no place to tie it off, our choices being a cleft between two of the massive stones used to construct the jetty, or loop it around the tackle box that was wedged in securely, we chose the tackle box. Wouldn’t you know it, after I rehooked and cast out, I had a big strike, with the fish wallowing and splashing on the surface, quickly identifying it as a big trout, I tried my best to land it, but as I swung it up out of the water, it didn’t swing very good, the hook dislodged and, plop, back into the deep with it. Smaller trout, along with the occasional mackerel, were no problem, but how do you tell a big fish not to eat your shrimp?

We’d caught maybe a dozen trout and two mackerel, when I cast out and had a huge strike, really a pole bender! All I could do was hold on as the reel’s star drag was zinging as the unknown fish took out line. Zzzz, zzzz, zzzz, the star drag was singing as the fish headed down the jetty for parts unknown. Finally the end of my line was reached, pop, it gave way, leaving me with an empty reel and unbowed rod. That was some fish!

With me with no line and since I drove, I called it a day and Bobby followed suit. The fishing and catching was fun, the rock hopping proved to be dangerous because a friend, not two weeks later, slipped and fell, cut his leg, that required ten stitches to close. This one event brought our rock hopping to an early end!

Years later, I finally figured out what kind of fish was probably on the end of my line. After catching many kingfish on light tackle, I bet it was a fifteen pounder that stripped me. It was too fast for a shark, they fight more doggedly; not a tarpon, no jumps; not a big redfish, no head shaking and not a king size speckled trout, no wallowing; had to be a king!