Under The Birds

During the spring of 1970, drifting around Greens Cut in Galveston West Bay, I caught, at the time, a personal record, 29, inch, 7-1/4 pound, speckled trout.  In the late fall of 1991, just before deer and quail season opener, I tied, or maybe surpassed this feat.

We wouldn’t be deer hunting that year because our rancher had hired a ramrod for his ranch who would be using the house that we’d used for the past 10 years. The end result of the rancher’s decision and my frustration was that on opening day of quail season, I didn’t have a place to hunt.  Solving the problem was easy I’d just go fishing!

The last weekend in October, the quail opener, just after sun up, found my son, Randy, his friend, Doug and I drifting toward a shell island in Jones Lake, with a light wind blowing from the north and the tide, that just changed, was rushing in.   This morning’s tide wouldn’t be high until well past mid morning and as Randy spotted a shrimp hopping on the top of the water, he looped a cast, a shrimp under a weighted popping cork and was rewarded with a solid strike, a nice spec’ and the fight was on.

Many times, foraging fish will drive shrimp to the surface, causing the shrimp to hop around trying to escape the hungry predators.  When sea gulls, always on the lookout for an easy meal, spot these tell tale dimples in the water they rush over to inhale the hapless shrimp.  A well placed, cast usually results in a savage strike from a spec’ or a red.

Randy’s fish was netted and put in the cooler and Doug and I, both with fish on, soon boxed our own specs’. The action slowed and we moved out into the lake to start a new drift and about 200 yards ahead Randy spotted 3 gulls circling what must be fish ‘on’ shrimp and a closer inspection showed 2 birds floating on the water, another sure sign of fish.

Cutting back the throttle, we eased toward the birds and Randy and Doug let go with two long casts and started vigorously popping and retrieving their baits, and bam, bam, two hard hits.  Under these birds there was a nice school of specs’ and for the next few minutes we thinned their numbers.  The fast and furious action ended and admiring our almost full cooler we decided we’d try one more spot and maybe pick up a couple of reds.

Easing several hundred yards towards a channel marker, we started our drift over a hard shell bottom.  If a red or a trout were around, the shrimp couldn’t burrow in the mud and would be inhaled by the predators.  Casting toward the channel marker, and only keeping my line tight, I let my rig sit for several minutes and didn’t pop it.  Then one pop of the cork and it disappeared and I felt the weight of a very nice fish.  The fish made a long run and I couldn’t tell what it was, until, a long way out from the boat, it started to circle us.  While a red will burrow his nose in the bottom and grudgingly fight a fisherman all the way to the boat, this tactic, circling, is reserved for big trout and after a long, spirited fight, Randy slipped the net under the monster spec’.

The trout was shining, the black spots seemed as big as dimes, it was a beauty laying in the net on the bottom of the boat.  The big fish was spent from its loosing fight, then I noticed one egg had slipped out of the fish’s vent and right away, as I carefully measured her, 29-1/2, inches, a new record for me, I told Randy, “Slip the net and fish back into the water.  We’re letting her go!”

It wasn’t long before I gently removed the fish from the net and it swam off.  In our cooler we had enough fish for several messes and we were happy that this big one, that measured over 29 inches and probably weighed nearly 8 pounds, would be free to spawn for the second time that year!

More on Jones Lake, Randy and I had been fishing in Jones Lake, the shallow 4 to 5 foot estuary of Highlands Bayou, for almost 12 years and were familiar with the reefs and underwater structure.  It was a year around, except for very cold fronts, fishing place and I have caught nice fish, specs’ or reds, in every month of the year.  Adding to this, in 1988 Layla and I bought a canal home in Bayou Vista on Highlands Bayou, just a mile by water from Jones Lake.  We sold the home in 2005, retired and moved to our ranch in Mills County, Texas, so for 26 years we hammered the fish in Jones Lake!

P.S. It was just as good on my last trip as it was on my first one, see my post “[A Hot New Spot]”, May 14, 2007!