That Was Close

The summer of 1957 found me still boatless and awaiting a 6, week stint at ROTC Camp at Ft. Hood.  The fishing around Galveston Island’s East Beach Flats was still good for small to medium speckled trout, but my fishing buddy, Richard Foster and I had been hearing stories about the fabulous catches behind Earl Galceran’s camp near the old coast Guard Station at the far end of West Galveston Island.  At the time we didn’t have a boat and we couldn’t figure out how to get there.  Earl’s camp was really several thousand acres leased by the high rollers in Houston for dove, quail and duck hunting, plus it had access to some of the best trout water in the state.  No bait was used here, only Dixie Jet silver spoons, with a yellow buck tail attached, my old scared up, spoon, over 50 years old, is pictured below

Like the Rockport and Port O’Conner area today, grass grew in abundance and the holes in the grass reminded me of holes in the moss in fresh water lakes.  Still, how do we get to it?

My fishing buddy, Richard, came up with a good idea, why didn’t he and I go ask Earl Galceran, at the time already a fishing legend, if we could fish behind his place.  We could sight our lack of funds, honesty and Ralph’s newly commissioned status as reasons we could be trusted not to do any damage to his property or equipment, or, we could just go down there and act like members and 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.”  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’s place we drove to a parking area, parked, grabbed our rods and stringers and headed for the bay.  Out came Earl Galceran, 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, at our backs a light southeast wind was blowing as we looked out over trout paradise. With a slight ripple on green, clear water with grass growing and swirling right up to the surface, no hesitation as we headed right in.

There was a hard sand/shell bottom and I couldn’t believe the grass, but on my first cast, the spoon landed silently past a hole in the grass.  Beginning a rapid retrieve, whamo, a 3, 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, getting a firm grip behind its gills, I slid him on the stringer and looked over at Richard who was in the middle of a fight with a nice fish too.

“This is some place,” exclaiming as I sailed another cast past a likely looking hole in the grass, another hard hit, but 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, this one’s hooked solid and I was soon stringing another 3 pounder.  Several of my casts caught grass, then, whamo, another fine fish, this spec rolled around on the surface, but soon I was adding it to my stringer. Not 30 minutes of fishing, wonderful conditions, bait in the water, trout all around and Richard and I had a half dozen fine trout, solid 3 pounders.

Wait a minute my stringer was caught on something.  That something hits my leg.  That something was a shark!  “Shark,” I yelled, stepping back and looking 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 4 foot plus black tip, clipped off the last 2 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 shark.

Hearing Richard laughing, I didn’t think this was funny at all being left with 3 trout heads on my stringer, heart racing and he was laughing.  Earl Galceran must have kept these sharks around as pets to feed on his “guest’s” fish.  Quickly getting out of the water, I sat on the bank for a while cooling off and by that time Richard, still laughing, came out of the water with 5 nice ones on his stringer.  He said “You ready to call it a day.”  Not replying, I just turned around and started back to the car.

In 1970 I went back to this place by boat, 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 had changed in Lower West Bay to anchoring on reefs, fishing under the birds or drifting, very little 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 Foster went on active duty at Ft. Hood as a Platoon Leader in a basic training company.  One of his recruits was Elvis Pressley, but that’s another story.