Specs Along The Channel

August is probably the hottest month along the upper Texas coast with the water in the shallow bays, East and West Galveston Bay and Christmas Bay, heating up to the mid eighties causing the big trout to seek cooler water. The cooler water we were heading out to this mid August morning in 1968 was along the Houston Ship Channel. The channel was begun in 1875 and not really completed until 1914. In the late 1990’s and early 2000’s it was widened to its present size of over five hundred feet, with a depth of forty-five.

The weather forecast was a good one, light winds, tide coming in, with scattered thunder storms, in the afternoon. Our plan was to finish up by lunch, so we didn’t anticipate any bad weather or problems.

In my seventeen foot, deep vee pictured, we, my Dad and Uncle, Alvin Pyland, better known as Unkie, launched at the bait camp at San Leon and made the short run out to the ship channel. We went about two hundred yards on the Smith’s Point side of the ship channel and started our drift. In the years before the ship channel, at low tides, cattlemen would drive their herds across the five, plus mile, wide bay, using the reef that extended from Eagle Point to Smith’s Point, but the channel changed all of that!

Our tackle was six and a half foot popping rods, red, Ambassaduer reels filled with fifteen pound, mono line. We used a popping cork with a three-foot, leader, a light weight and a small treble hook. Our bait was live shrimp. We’d cast out, pop the cork, reel up the slack, repeat the process until we either had a strike or we retrieved the rig back to the boat, then, cast back out and repeat the process.
Unkie and my Dad cast out and hadn’t made one or two “pops” when they had big strikes, both fish were good ones, taking line and circling the boat, a sure sign of a big trout! Netting Unkies fish first, a real nice five pounder, my Dad’s fish put on a show around the boat for us and we could see that is was a little bigger than Unkies.

Finally I cast out, popped the cork once and “bam”, had a big strike. A twenty-yard, first run, highlighted this fight, along with two circles of the boat, with a lot of wallows on top before my Dad slipped the net under the spec, a twin of his.

We were probably fifteen miles up from the Galveston Jetties, the mouth of the Houston Ship Channel and in the distance, south of us, the morning’s first big tanker was heading our way. My Dad said, “Boy, you’ve never seen the wake these big ships throw up, have you?” “What wakes?” was my answer. Unkie chimed in, “Six or seven footers, that’s what and we’d better get everything in the boat squared away!” This got my attention quick. We quit fishing and knowing that if you’re in heavy seas, you head into them and don’t get caught broad side, I started the engine and here the came the wake.

Looking at the wake, it came toward us, obliquely, in a long line, soon it was only fifty foot from us, then, here it was! The deep vee in my boat’s hull cut smoothly through the seven foot, wake and rode up and down it. It would have swamped us if we’d been broadside to it!

Going back to catching specs, before the tide changed we put a dozen more five to six pounders into the cooler. We experienced three more big wakes, got back to the launch ramp before noon, filleted the fish and missed the forecasted thunder storms.