Back from the Navy
Like I told
you last month, I couldn't wait to get home.
The war was over and I'd had enough of life aboard ship; I was ready to
get back to fishing. Mother and Dad
still had their old 14-foot wooden boat and their five-horse Sea King they'd
bought before I left in '43 and I started right back fishing with them but I sure
wanted to get one of my own. It was kind
of tough to scrape together enough money to do it all on my own so me and
Raymond Adcock went partners on a brand new boat, motor and trailer.
We got us a 12-foot Yellow Jacket boat, one of the best available at that time and a new 12-horsepower motor. The boat and motor both cost right at $200 apiece so Raymond bought the boat and I bought the motor. We split the trailer right down the middle too, so we was equal partners on the whole outfit.
We still fished some with Mother and Dad, but with that boat, me and Raymond could really get around and we did. We began running across San Antonio Bay and up into Welder's Flats and we always found good fishing back up in there. We started going over to Steamboat Pass and wading all of the First Chain of Islands area. Before long we were loading up extra gas cans when we left and running all up around Bayucos Island, Grass Island and Farwell Island and then out to Pass Cavallo. We fished hard in those days and sometimes camped right where we were when it got dark.
Right after the war was when pretty near everybody gave up pole and line fishing and started using the new level-wind reels like the Shakespeare Service. Dad got one and Mother took one look and said she wasn't interested in fishing with that new-fangled thing, but after watching him landing trout after trout and having all that fun she finally gave in.
Mother was as good a fisherman as any I've ever seen and very competitive; she was never one to be outdone. I can only remember beating her a few times catching trout with shrimp and popping corks and I don't know if Dad ever beat her. I think he started coming close and that was when she changed her mind about those new-fangled fishing reels. They used those old Service reels right up into the late 50s when Dad's health began to fail and they finally had to give up fishing. I used them about that long too.
Mother and Dad would be down at Carroll Island for a day or so and Raymond and I wouldn't get off work until Friday afternoon. We'd load up as early as we could and take off but I don't ever recall making it to Bob Hopper's place before dark. Back then there were lots of ice plants around and that's where everybody went. Our iceboxes weren't near good as we have today so the ice was the last thing we'd get. Then by the time we'd stop at a few joints it was always dark when we got there. Many a night I navigated down there and we'd be looking for their campfire and lantern. We never had nothing but a compass to run by, but we knew the bay good as anybody and even if we got turned around a little bit we always got in safe.
Fishing has changed an awful lot in my lifetime. I can remember back when the net fishermen were still working, those guys really made a haul. We'd see them in front of the lakes like Contee and Pringle and down a little ways further south by South Pass Lake; they knew when to be there and how to set those nets. I don't know how they brought all those fish back.
Trotline fishing was really big back then too you know. The commercial fishermen used them and so did the sportsmen, everybody did it back then. I did it too and we'd have several hundred feet of lines out every night. I used to cut 30 or 35 yaupon stakes on the way to the bay just to hold my lines. We kept what we could eat and sold the rest. I couldn't even begin to guess how many loads I sold at 25-cents a pound.
I have seen some incredible catches, and unfortunately lots of those fish went to waste. The lines would have a fish on every hook and for whatever reason the fisherman who set the line never came back to get them. When the tide fell they would hang there and rot on the hook.
Plastic was brand new right after the war and somebody figured out if you put it on a trotline hook and let it flutter in the current it would catch fish. It was so good in fact they eventually made them stop using it and then they went to other things. I mainly used mullet and perch and caught plenty. Several wash tubs filled with gutted and gilled trout and chipped ice was nothing for a night's fishing back then, but most of the trout were small, very few of them would have been legal today.
Mother and Dad taught us never to waste a fish and we never did. We always took plenty of ice and no matter how many we caught we gutted and gilled them and chipped ice over them. I'd say at least half the time we'd plan to go for two or three days and end up cutting the trip short because we had every box filled and iced down and didn't want our fish to spoil and go to waste.
I honestly believe that getting the gill net fishing and trotlining for trout and redfish stopped was the best thing they ever did. Lots of folks made their living at it and most everybody made a few bucks when they could, but fishing is way bigger business and supports far more people today than gill netting and trotlining ever did. I think anybody that was around and fished hard back in the 40's and 50's would agree that sportsmen are catching way bigger fish than we did back then.
The redfishing in San Antonio Bay was always good, from the time I was a kid until right now. I don't think there is a better bay around for redfish. I can remember catching lots of reds, and big ones too, down there at Carroll Island even before I went to the Navy. But the trout fishing is different. I don't think I ever caught a trout bigger than 20 or 21-inches growing up; we caught tubs full of them but mostly 12 to 14, or maybe 16-inches. I remember seeing a gill net one time in front of Contee Lake that had a bunch of trout around 25 or 26-inches and they were the biggest I ever saw. The man running the net complained he was having a bad day but it looked pretty good to me. I see guys bringing in trout now-a-days at 28 and 29-inches, we never had anything like that back then.
We were talking there about boats and motors a minute ago and those big trout in that gill net just reminded me of a funny story that happened right about that same time. I think it was around 1947, I'd been home from the service a year or so and me and Raymond Adcock had bought that new Yellow Jacket. Mother and Dad finally had that old 5-horse Sea King pretty well used up and they went in and got them a 16 horse Mercury. Dad and I got to clowning around and I asked him how fast he thought the Yellow Jacket would go if we put his motor on there with ours. Well, we did, and I don't know how fast it went but it seemed pretty fast to us. I took mother out in it and we went fishing. On the way home we knocked a hole in it and had water spraying everywhere. We fixed the boat and had a good laugh but that was the last time we put two motors on it.
Come on back next month for Part III of Kutch's story!