The Perfect Situation

As things sometimes will do, events happened to cause me to change my entire attitude about salt water, fishing. Bobby Baldwin, my high school fishing buddy and close friend, had access to a twenty-three foot Formula, deep-vee boat with a hundred and sixty-five, horse engine and Mercrusier outdrive, a real boat! We took it offshore fishing twice and both times stopped by the Galveston Jetties where I was shown a spot, on the Gulf side of the South Jetty that became my honey hole for the next forty years! I caught the biggest trout of my life there in 2000, but that’s another story.

During the spring of 1966, severe flooding over the Trinity and San Jacinto Rivers and the headwaters of Buffalo Bayou had flushed out Galveston Bay. The bay water was fresh and muddy and almost all of the baitfish had left and taken up residence at the jetties and along the beachfront and were quickly followed by the trout, red fish and flounders.

The flooding and bad, bay water combined to present a real opportunity to catch some fish and try out my new boat, a sixteen, foot, semi-vee, pushed by a seventy-five horse, outboard. This particular day in May 1966, my Dad, being retired, and I had decided to sneak off early in the morning, fish my South Jetty spot and be back in town by 10:00 AM so I could make my afternoon appointments.

We bought a quart of shrimp and then put the boat in at Bobby Wilson’s Bait Camp and sped at thirty-five miles per hour, around the East Beach Flats, no more wading for us (only if it was too rough to get around the end of the South Jetty). No problem today since the wind was blowing lightly out of the north- east.

Just after sunrise we motored up and slipped up close to the jetty, quietly dropping the anchor and letting out enough line so that it would grab hold. Looking up and down the jetty, we were the only boat out. We ended up thirty-five or forty feet from the rocks, in ten feet of water. The depth dropped from zero to ten feet in forty feet! The tide was flowing to our left toward the beach. It is funny that when the tide is flowing out of the channel you get a reverse effect on the Gulf side of both jetties. Bait fish were crowded against the rocks. We knew the trout were here.

Daddy had just the right tackle; a new, red Ambassadeur 5000 reel with fifteen pound line, mounted on a six and a half foot fiberglass “popping” rod. I was armed with a Mitchell 300 spinning reel, ten, pound line and a semi-stiff, six and a half foot spinning rod. Ok unless I picked up a big red or jackfish. We were free shrimping with a BB size split shot attached about ten inches above a small, treble hook. Trout poison! For the record we had two coolers, a foam one for food and drinks and a new forty-eight quart Igloo for the fish. Funny thing, at that time, Igloo was one of my customers.

We baited up and cast toward the rocks, dragging the shrimp slowly along the drop off and whamo, whamo, we are both into two very nice fish. We began the “Jetty Shuffle”, which was circling around the boat, passing rods under each other to prevent tangling or lines crossing, al thel while keeping pressure on the fish. We netted both fish in the same landing net, removed the hooks and placed them in the new forty-eight quart cooler. The fish were identical, twenty-six inches long with their tails curling up the side if the cooler.
We shook hands, baited up and cast out and whamo, whamo, two more nice fish! We repeated this over and over until we had the new, forty-eight quart cooler full to the top with a minimum of ice left in it. Twenty-nine trout, all twenty-six or twenty-seven inches long, almost two hundred pounds of fish. All of this in less than two hours!

My Dad, John H. Bryan with the four specs we kept after selling the others!

Looking up, I saw Wayne Thomas, a real jetty pro, and one of my old college and baseball playing buddies, pulling up slowly outside of us. I yelled across the water, “Wayne, let me pull up the anchor and you all ease in here and you can catch some fish.”

Making my afternoon appointments on time, I read in the next day’s Houston Chronicle, that Bob Brister, the Outdoor Editor, wrote that the “jetty pros” hammered the trout at the NORTH Jetty. Funny, I guess he really could keep a secret.