Holy Mackerel!

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I packed my gear on Thursday night, knowing that I don't think clearly when I wake up at 4:30 in the morning. My plan was to leave early to beat the traffic, and to try to get some fishing in on Friday. I left the house at 5:00, but I ended up returning home after 15 minutes because I realized that I had forgotten my fishing license! I'm glad I remembered before I got too far down the road. I was supposed to pick up my friend Jim at 5:30, but when he called to complain about my being late, he realized that he forgot to pack his license too. So it all worked out. We left Jim's house by 6:00, and were on the road to San Luis Pass.

We arrived at the beach house by 10:00am, so we made pretty good time.
The house looked good -- the last time I was here, I had to evacuate because of hurricane Rita. The owner of Lands Innd at Texas Beach House Rentals told me that there was a 13 foot storm surge that washed out the foundation, and the stairs to the deck. The deck and stairs had been repaired, and the foundation was replaced.

We unloaded all of our gear, had a bite of lunch, then headed out to fish the shallows on the Galveston side of San Louis Pass. The toll bridge had been repaired since my last visit as well. It was $2 each way. I took my 4-wheel drive Toyota truck, which handled the sandy road from the bridge to the beach with ease. There were a lot of people fishing the shallows. We found a cut-through that brought us to a relatively empty spot. There were some wade-fishers about 200 yards off shore. I tied on a jig head with a salt-water assassin, then waded out into the water. I found a spot about 100 yards from the shore where the water was deeper, and a slight current was running through. There were noticeably more mullet in the deeper water, so I made a few casts. On about the 10th cast, something swiped my bait and cut my line. I later learned that it was probably a Spanish Mackerel. Someone told me that they were catching them recently. They had sharp teeth, and would likely cut your line if you didn't use a wire leader.

Foolishly, I didn't bring a spare lure, so I turned to start walking back to the truck. As I did so, I noticed that a truck and van pulled up directly beside my truck. I had left my truck unlocked, and I had an expensive rod and reel in the back of the truck. This looked like the perfect opportunity to snatch my gear, so I high-tailed it back to the truck. I was only being paranoid, because the guys in the truck and van were getting ready to go fishing, too.

Jim and I decided that the fishing was pretty slow, and we decided to drive around to where the bridge met the water. There was a great shady spot under the bridge, so I parked the truck. Jim had this little lure that looked a lot like a mullet, so I suggested that he try it out. I kept the same jig on my line, and we waded out under the bridge. I know the currents can be bad under the bridge at San Luis Pass, but it was pretty calm at this time of the day. After about an hour, Jim hooked and landed a nice Spanish mackerel. I did not catch anything.

A friendly local fellow who was giving up for the day gave me the rest of his live shrimp. I tied on a popping bobber about 2 feet above a small steel leader, where I hooked a shrimp through the tail. Everyone has a preferred method of hooking a shrimp. Some like to hook it just behind the heart, but I prefer to hook them through the point at the end of the tail. I find that the shrimp stays on the hook longer, lives longer, and has more action in the water. Despite my efforts, I got only one bite, but did not catch any fish.

Eventually we got the call that Alan had arrived at the beach
house. Alan was the third member of our party, who had arrived from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. We decided to call it a day, and headed back across the bridge to the beach house. As we drove across the bridge, we saw a guy holding up what looked like a 40 pound Jack Crevalle on a boat below the bridge. It was huge! The boats were fishing the channel that was just outside of our casting reach from our position under the bridge. At this moment I was truly regretting that I did not bring my boat!

When we got back to the house, Alan was lounging on the deck with a beer in his hand. This was my first chance to meet Alan, and we all hit it off right away. Alan had some funny stories about Louisiana. By the time we had a few beers, Joey showed up. Joey is a friend of mine from work, and he had driven in from Austin. The whole party was assembled, and we were pumped up to catch the big ones!

I fired up the grill, and cooked some fajitas on the deck. We stayed up a little later than we should have, but the fishing guide told me that we would leave out at 7:30 in the morning. We all got a somewhat restless sleep, anticipating big action in the morning.

On Saturday morning, we grabbed a quick breakfast (I find that microwave Jimmy Dean sausage biscuits don't taste very good, but they fill you up enough without giving you an upset stomach), and headed out to the dock.

We departed from Bridge Bait, which is underneath the causeway bridge from Freeport to Surfside. I was familiar with the place, because it was the same spot I launched from on my Redfish trip in September.

Captain Michael Jennings from Cowboy Charters was there to meet us at the dock. The boat was gassed up and ready to go, so without much delay we were on our way. The boat was a 29 foot Pro-Cat, with a 10 foot beam. It was a center-console boat, with lots of room to fish. There was two 200-HP Yamaha motors, so we had lots of power to work with. The boat ride was smooth and stable, until we got out past the jetties.

The wind was blowing out of the South West at about 10-15 mph, with 20 mph gusts. The seas were 2 feet and 'snotty', which is a nautical term taught to me by Captain Mike. 'Snotty' means that the waves are sloppy and not consistent, so the boat had a definite pitch and roll. I find that as long as you keep your knees flexed, keep your eyes on the horizon, try to find some shade, and drink plenty of water you wont get sea-sick. Unfortunately, Alan did not follow this advice, so by the time we got to the 35 mile mark, he was chumming.

Poor Alan did not get any better for the rest of the day, but he held on like a trooper. When you are 35 miles from shore, you don't have much choice!

Along the way out to sea, as we passed some mats of floating
sea-grass, Captain Mike circled around slowly looking for Ling. Another name for Ling is Cobia. Cobia like to hang out in the shade under mats of grass, and they are very curious. If you circle around and peer into the water, you might see one looking back at you.

We met up with two other boats about 35 miles out. Capt. Mike said that we were looking for a pile of rocks on hard bottom. The water was definitely a different color than when we left the shore. The water color steadily changed the further we got out, going from brown to green, and finally to blue. You could see well into the water, but where we were it was 120 feet deep. Capt. Mike baited a ribbon fish on a drift-line, and let it drag out behind the boat as he baited the other lines with cut fish about 1 foot below a 1 oz egg sinker. Before any of the weighted lines hit the water, I had fish on! It was a nice keeper-size King Mackerel, and it put up a terrific fight.

After the first fish, we landed a few small red snappers, and one more decent King, but the fishing was rather slow. Joey hooked a small sharpnose shark that put up a nice fight.

According to the captain, there is a sparse line of rock piles that extends out about 10 miles from where we were fishing. On the radio, we heard that another party was catching 30-40 pound wahoo at the other end of the line. I wanted to go out further, but Alan was still really sick, so we decided to fish our way back toward land.

We stopped over the wrecked remains of a oil rig that had broken loose a few years ago, and fallen over. The rig had been towed away, but there was still a considerable amount of cover left behind. We dropped our weighted baits to where the sonar was marking fish, and instantly started catching large red snappers. We fished this way for the next couple of hours. As we drifted south of the wreck, the fish got smaller. After releasing about 10 fish in a row, the captain brought us back to the up-current side of the wreck, and we started catching large ones again.

We saw a Green Sea Turtle, which I understand is quite rare. In fact, they are on the endangered species list. I was busy with a large fish on the line, so I didn't give it much more than a glance. From what I could see, it was very beautiful. Eventually, we bagged the limit of snappers, and headed back to the dock.

Upon reaching the dock, I collected the money and paid the captain. The trip was $750 plus gas, and we used 80 gallons! So, it came out to about $990 plus tip. Split 4 ways, it was about $275 each. Not bad, for a great day of fishing. The weather was great, and the captain was very personable and helpful. I highly recommend Cowboy Charters -- we will most likely use them again in the fall.

Back at the beach house, I fired up the grill. Jim heated up the fry-daddy. When we caught the mackerel, I was tempted to release it, but the captain said that it tastes good grilled. After following his advice, I had to say that mackerel tastes awful. It smells about as good as it tastes. I will never keep a mackerel again. The snappers were delicious, though. We cubed them, lightly battered, and lightly fried. Ordinarily, I would grill or broil a snapper, but we were exhausted from the fishing trip, and took the path of least resistance. After dinner, we divided up the catch, and used a seal-o-meal to keep the fish fresh. I have several nice filets in my freezer; but I'm afraid they wont be there for long!

We tried to watch a basketball game, but all of us had crashed out by 10:00pm.

On Sunday morning, everyone slept a little bit late. We were all too sore to go fishing, so we cleaned up the beach house, packed up our stuff, and headed home. All-in-all, it was a great trip. We are already planning the next one, which will probably take place in late October when the big fish are more common.

About me

  • I'm Scott Gaspard
  • From Austin, Texas, United States
  • I really like to fish. I go every chance I can. You can pretty much bet that at any given moment, I'm using whatever spare cycles I have to plan my next trip.
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