Sharks – Almost My fingers

During the spring of 1957, Richard Frazier, an ROTC buddy of mine, and a newly commissioned 2nd Lt. In the U.S. Army, and I had been hearing stories about the great fishing behind Earl Galceran’s camp near the old Coast Guard Station at the far west end of Galveston Island. It was a private place and without a boat, we couldn’t figure out how get to it?
Earl’s camp was really several thousand, prime acres, leased for dove, quail and duck hunting, plus it had access to some of the best trout water in the state. At the time, live bait wasn’t available in the immediate area so our only option was artificials, like the Dixie Jet silver spoons, pictured, with a yellow buck tail attached.

Richard had an idea that since we couldn’t sneak into the area, why didn’t he and I go ask Earl Galceran, already a fishing legend, if we could fish behind his place. We could sight our lack of funds, honesty and Richard’s newly commissioned status as reasons we could be trusted not to do any damage to his property or equipment. Or, my idea, we could just drive down there and act like members, wave and smile and just wade out and start fishing.
We choose the latter approach, correctly thinking, “Always beg for forgiveness and never ask for permission.” If apprehended, we would plead ignorance of the private property and say we were just following the road to West Galveston Bay.
Arriving at the open gate to Earl Galceran’s we drove to a parking area, parked, grabbed our rods, and stringers and headed for the bay. Out came Earl, we smiled and waved, he smiled and waved and went back into his trailer. Whew! We must have looked like members.
Reaching the edge of the bay, a light southeast wind was blowing at our backs, as we looked out over trout paradise, a slight ripple on green, clear water with grass growing and swirling right up to the surface. Like the Rockport and Port O’Conner areas today, grass grew in abundance and the holes in the grass reminded me of holes in the moss in fresh water lakes.
No hesitation and in I went and found a hard sand/shell bottom and I couldn’t believe the grass. On my first cast and spoon landed silently past a hole in the moss, I began a rapid retrieve and whamo, a three pound, spec nailed the spoon and the fight was on! When a big trout hits, you know it, a jarring, pounding, rod bending hit, not the sideways, slow hit of a big red picking up a shrimp. Landing the trout bare handed, I secured a firm grip behind its gills, slid it on to the stringer and looked over at Richard who was also in the middle of a fight with a nice fish.
“This is some place,” I exclaimed, as I sailed another cast past a likely looking hole in the grass, and got another whamo! The hook pulled out, no fish. What I didn’t know then, but have since learned, the trout lurk in the grass beside the holes and ambush baitfish as they swim through the open area.
Another cast, another jarring hit, and this one’s hooked solid and I’m soon stringing another three pounder. Several casts catch grass, and before you know it, whamo, another fine fish soon to be on my stringer. Thirty minutes of fishing, wonderful conditions, bait in the water, trout all around and three solid three pounders on the stringer. What a day this will be!
Wait a minute, what’s going on? My stringer was caught on something. That something brushed my leg. That something was a shark! “Shark,” I yelled, as I stepped back and looked down at my stringer, which was tied, not looped, onto a belt loop of my jeans. Another lesson learned, “Never tie, always loop.”
Two bites and the shark, a four foot plus, black tip, clipped off the last two trout on my stringer, swirled around me, brushed my leg again, and came up to the surface and grabbed the last trout, all of this right by my right hand that was futilely trying to pull the fish away from the snapping jaws! The shark won, bit off the third spec and swished away!
I heard Richard laughing. I didn’t think this was funny at all. I’m left with three trout heads on my stringer, heart racing and he’s laughing. I guess Earl Galceran kept these sharks around as pets to feed on his “guest’s” fish. I quickly got out of the water and sat on the bank for a while cooling off and by that time Richard, still laughing, came out of the water with five nice ones on his stringer. He said “You ready to call it a day.” I didn’t reply, just turned around and started back to the car.
I went back to this place by boat in 1970. A big chemical plant had been built in the mid ‘60’s, on Chocolate Bayou which feeds into Lower West Galveston Bay above Earl’s old place and the grass was gone. Trout fishing changed in Lower West Bay to anchoring on reefs, fishing under the birds or drifting, with not much wading. Earl Galceran moved to a houseboat set up in the Chandleur Islands off of the Louisiana/Mississippi coasts. From what I have heard, he took some of his sharks with him.
That summer, Richard went on active duty at Ft. Hood as a Platoon Leader in a basic training company. One of his recruits was Elvis Pressley.