The Pass

The Pass
We have all fished or hunted in certain places that, for whatever reason, left an impression on us. Perhaps it was a ridge or creek bottom where wild turkeys roamed, or a point on a lake or beach where the fishing was especially good. It might even have been an old stock tank on Grandpa's farm.
One of the places that has left a distinct impression on me since my first visit there in the late 70s is Pass Cavallo at Port O'Connor. Pass Cavallo is not a place I have fished more frequently than others over the years, but it has never failed to provide me with a vivid memorable experience. Like most passes, Pass Cavallo is temperamental. It is racked with sandbars, deep troughs, and powerful currents. But it also can provide some very good fishing and you are never quite sure what you'll see or what will happen when you go there. For that reason, I always look forward to going back.
In the Fall of 1990, I was fishing with my dad and a friend near Pass Cavallo. We had spent the day fishing in and around the old Coast Guard Station and Decros Point, and as evening approached, my dad was ready to head to town. My buddy and I wanted to keep on fishing. The boat was fairly well-stocked with food and water that afternoon, so we convinced Dad to drop us off for the night on the J-hook at Pass Cavallo near the beachfront. Our plan was to fish for bull reds and sharks while he got a good night's sleep in town. He could then pick us up at first light a few hundred yards back down the shore along a protected sandbar. Dad thought it was a bad idea but, we assured him we'd be fine and he reluctantly agreed. As sundown approached, we packed gear out of his boat and onto the sand and he headed back to town.
This was not the first time we had camped at Pass Cavallo. We beached our flat bottom boats there many times, resourcefully rolling the hulls up from the water's edge on long PVC pipes which we then used as rod holders. It was a great place to fish.
Stuck on the island that night, we listened to the rumble of the waves and looked back toward the distant winking lights to the north. In spite of it being a potentially hostile place, the narrow spit of sand where we set up camp was peaceful and relaxing. And aside from a few mosquito bites and coyotes digging through our stuff, nothing bothered us. That night we managed to catch some big redfish and a few sharks, and as the first glow of light appeared in the eastern sky we could hear the sounds of speckled trout and Spanish mackerel working the troughs near the beachfront, beckoning us to break out the fly tackle.
As soon as it was light enough to see I noticed a boat approaching the shore from the direction of the old Coast Guard station. It was my dad with a nervous grin on his face. As he pulled up he said, "Well… you guys get any sleep?"
That trip has really stuck with me all these years. Perhaps it is because I now have boys of my own and understand what must have gone through my dad's head when he pulled away from that beach. He understood and shared our love of adventure, trusted us to make good decisions, and no doubt said a prayer or two as he motored back toward town.
Another trip that really stands out in my mind is when I first took my wife Pam (who was then my girlfriend) to fish for redfish at Pass Cavallo. Pam had done a little fishing before we met, mostly freshwater. She was excited to try saltwater fishing so I suggested we try to catch some big redfish from the beach. We borrowed her grandfather's old Lone Star v-hull boat, loaded it down with a few surf rods, and after a short boat ride from the Fishing Center in Port O'Connor, we beached it near the J-hook.
It turned out to be one of those remarkable days. Throughout most of it, a large school of bull reds nestled in just off the shoreline and we landed many along the clean sandy shores of the Pass. These were big fish, many near or over 50 inches. Both of us got so sore from fighting them that we ended up using a spare life jacket as a cushion for the butts of the rods. In the months that followed I tried to remind Pam that saltwater fishing was not always that good.
Another trip was not nearly as fun. We had been camping at the Big Jetties and one member of our group arrived a few days late. I agreed to make the run back to town to pick him up. After an uneventful trip back to the boat ramp, we loaded his gear in my buddy's old flat bottom and headed back out. The end of the Little Jetties in POC had been a bit rough on the way in, so as the sun set, I elected to run back out through Mitchell's Cut and across to the cattle pen shoreline as a more protected route. As we exited Mitchell's Cut and headed into open water the steering cable on my buddy's boat broke and somehow took out the electrical harness with it, simultaneously killing the power and the controls to the motor. The boat died immediately and began to drift helplessly on the shoulders of the outgoing tide toward the Pass, which had grown angry and riddled with nasty standing waves.
I frantically tried to find an anchor, but there was none. It had been inadvertently removed by one of the campers in our group. Eventually we managed to get the wiring harness hooked back up and got the motor started. But there still were no controls, so as I applied the throttle, my friend bear hugged the 90 hp cowling and steered the boat by hand. Somehow we managed to get the boat out of the grips of the Pass and back down the shoreline where we eventually reached our group near the foot of the Big Jetties.
Pass Cavallo will always hold a very special place in my memory. Looking back on these trips reminds me of how many personalities it has, both good and bad. And how, over time, certain places can and will engrain themselves in your history .