A Lifetime of Memories: Part IV

Raymond “Kutch” Albrecht

I know we've already covered lots of stuff about how it was, but sometimes I wonder if today's fishermen really understand how much the sport has evolved. You know when I was a kid we all sold fish, it was very acceptable then to bring in a big catch and invite a bunch of folks over and then sell what you couldn't eat before they went bad. We didn't really think about what would happen to the fishing back then because all we had been taught was catching and eating and selling. We all enjoyed rod and reel fishing but even the best fishermen I knew had trotlines and gill nets in their garage.

My dad ran lines and nets and so did I. I remember one really cold winter day after Mom and Dad moved off the farm and bought a little place at Seadrift, I think it was 1955 or thereabouts because they had just finished that new canal that went up to the plants, you know the Victoria Barge Canal. I'd been married for seven or eight years and moved to El Campo and working for CPL and I didn't get to fish with my folks too much anymore so Miss Alice and I were anxious to get down there. Daddy had been out trying to get his nets in right before another bad norther was supposed to hit and he had more tubs of fish than I'd ever seen. That new cut was just full of them and he made a haul. I think he had over 800 trout and I helped him gut and gill them. I do not recall a single one of them over 18-inches long; most of them were 12 to 15. There sure were a lot of small fish in the bays back then.

That Barge Canal brought a lot of changes to that end of San Antonio Bay. I can't tell exactly why but the oysters and crabs were thicker than I'd ever seen within a couple of years. We could pull up to pretty near any reef out there and pick up a five gallon bucket of nice oysters as fast as if they were on your sidewalk. They were awful good eating. My dad ran a bunch of crab traps off the piers and along the docks there in town and he could catch enough to keep Mother busy. She was the best around with her stuffed crabs, everybody loved them. Mr. Cap Bauer that owned the big dredging company would come by once or week or so and he'd buy a great big box to give to the men living on his dredges and crew boats. He'd give Mother another order and say, "You make the best crabs in the world, someday I'm going to put you in the business and we're gonna get rich." Mother would laugh at that and say something like, "Captain Bauer you're already rich and buying all the crabs I can make, how could we ever go into business?"

We talked a little bit about renting boats over there at Indianola from old Ed Bell and I forgot to mention we used to rent them at Port O'Connor too. That cove back up there by the old lighthouse was one of the best fishing holes for miles around in the summertime. I'll never forget going there to rent boats; you had to be early if it was a weekend. Sometimes people would be standing there waiting for one to come in so they could take it back out. Now there's something you don't see anymore and another way that fishermen just don't understand how good they got it today.

You asked me about floundering and I got off the track and didn't answer, but I never was too big on floundering, although I did go with some of my friends from time to time. Red Wigginton was a flounder man and a damned good one. I don't know if you ever met Red but he was Harold Lee Wigginton's daddy and Harold was quite a flounder man too. Red lived to be in his nineties I think and just passed away not too long ago. One day he came over and said, "Kutch I'd like you to go floundering with me, the weather looks like it's going to be good tonight and we can get a mess of them." Well, old Red knew his business that's for sure, I think we had every box full and headed back to El Campo before mid-night. If I remember right we had 75 or 80 and there was some five and six pounders in there, we had a ton of fish that night.

After we talked about the old tackle, you know Mom and Dad and their cane poles and then Mother complaining about them new fangled reels, I wish I'd kept some of that old stuff just so folks could look at it and see what we had to fish with. I know I been saying it a lot but the gear you can buy today sure does make it easy. Just look at the GPS thing Barbara and Jimmy have on their new boat, that thing will tell where you are, where you're going, how deep the water is, when the tide is going to move and when the moon is due to rise. We didn't have nothing like that when I was young.

I'd like to say I've had a great life fishing all up and down this coast. I've enjoyed catfishing on the rivers and trolling for winter trout; going to the power plant there at Point Comfort made some great memories, and those old times at Hoppers and Carroll Islands were special too. For a man that served all over the Pacific during the war and has suffered two major heart attacks and survived open heart surgery I'd say I've had a pretty good run. The doctors all said I was washed up and CPL gave me retirement in 1975 after thirty years and I been fishing pretty hard ever since. Some of the best of all came there at Shoalwater Flats down on the Lane when me and Miss Alice had that little place there with Barbara and Jimmy and all the good people down there. It would be hard to pick out which was best but we sure had it nice there at Shoalwater. In your memory there all always some big days or big catches that stand out but I'll tell you honestly, I think today's fishermen have it better all the way around than we ever did. The new laws from the Parks and Wildlife and things that groups like CCA do for the bays has made it better than ever. Things are warming up and we've got the boat ready and we're anxious to go, I think the reds are going to be thick in Shoalwater Bay and down in Welder's Flats this spring. Maybe I'll see you when I get down there.