What do you do when a five foot black tip shark hits your speckled trout outfit, runs fifteen yards towards you (I thought it was a big red fish.), jumps out of the water ten feet in front of you, splashing water on you and, then, heads for Mexico, stripping off all your line?
In the spring of 1954 trout fishing had been very good 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 protected from any wind except north or northeast. This area was at the far eastern tip of Galveston Island and the western side of Bolivar Channel that cuts between the island and Bolivar Peninsula. This 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. We always tried to plan our trips when the wind was light and the tide were coming in.
The week before today’s event my cousin and fishing buddy, George Pyland, and I had made a “killing” 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 awaited a break in the weather.
I got a early morning call from one of my partners in crime, Bobby Brown, saying “Things look good for the flats this afternoon”. My reply was “I can’t. I have a date”. This was totally unacceptable to Bobby. His girl friend didn’t like to go fishing and he was free today and tonight. My girl friend was game for anything. She didn’t fish but liked to wade out and watch us fish. After saying, “He would buy the gas”, all of $.18 per 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 when we bought shrimp at Bobby Wilson’s East Beach Bait Camp and headed for the flats. Wading out about seventy-five yards to waist deep water, the fish were there and we started catching some nice specs, up to two pounds. Bobby, to my right, and I were about 30 feet apart and girl friend was behind me, my stringer floated off to my left with the breeze and incoming tide.
My cork went under and as I set the hook I remarked, “Hey, this is a real nice fish probably a big, red”. I struggled to keep the line tight as the fish bored toward me, my companions watched intently. Ten feet in front of me a beautiful five foot long, black tip shark, cleared the water, mouth open, teeth getting my attention, hit the water splashing some on me, and headed off to my right towards where I thought Bobby was located. My valiant fishing partner and girl friend had already halved the distance to shore and left me alone to battle the denizen.
Not much of a battle, fifteen pound braided line on a Shakespeare Direct Drive reel and a fiber glass popping rod, all being no match for an eighty pound shark. The shark headed to my right and I headed straight for the shore where my stalwart friends waited for me. At least the shark didn’t get the fish on our stringers!
This 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, completely changed the landscape, eliminating one good fishing spot.
Girl friend never went wade fishing with me again.