On Galveston: November 2008

Everybody is trying to get their lives back in order and my thoughts and prayers go out to all our readers that were affected severely by the storm. We are Texans, we are resilient and we are tough; we will make it back, I am not worried about that.  It is just a huge inconvenience that everyone is going through and like I said, my thoughts and prayers are with you.

Our area bays took a severe beating during the storm but the bay waters, for the most part, are already back in surprisingly good shape, at least to the eye. The true water quality is another question though as we incurred lots of chemical and oil spills.

One good thing coming out of all this is that the saltwater intrusion into some of our marshes is killing off exotic aquatic plants that are a detriment to the system. I’m talking about water hyacinth and giant salvinia. These non-native plants can thrive in freshwater to the point of choking out more beneficial aquatic plants, depleting oxygen and blocking sunlight. So if you’re looking for one good thing to come from Ike this may be it.

The surge from Ike was really incredible in the upper reaches of Galveston and Trinity Bay. It reached 22 ½ feet up here in Anahuac and up the Trinity River. North of I-10 at Sulfur Cut the river level marker went to 22 feet 8 inches. We are seeing a lot of the oaks and cypress trees dying from it and parts of the marsh are looking real brown. All the duck camps along the river, bayous and in the marsh up there, even the famous CV Dell hunting lodge, have nothing left but pilings and slabs.  

The west side of the Galveston Bay System is toast from La Porte all the way to Texas City.  Houses along the shoreline are destroyed or heavily damaged for at least four blocks inland.  It looks to me like 4th Street will now be 1st Street after this storm in San Leon. Debris is stacked everywhere and that west side is going to be very dangerous.  All the debris from San Leon, everything from 2x4’s to telephone poles, parts of houses, oil tanks, shrimp boats, you name it, it is in the water and posing a hazard to navigation.  

Trinity Bay is the same way along the eastern shore which is one of my favorite wade fishing spots. All the homes from Smith Point, White Herring and Oak Island are all in the bay over there.  Some of them ended up way over on the western side where I live.  East Bay is full of nothing but Bolivar. Crystal Beach, Gilchrest, Caplin and Emerald Beach suffered 97% devastation.  That should tell you something. There are a lot of dead animals in amongst the debris. It has been very dry since the storm and we could use some serious rain here to help jump-start the recovery of our eco-systems and wildlife. It is the same over in Sabine, but enough of the devastation, let’s get to our fishing.  

Believe it or not, fishing right now on a scale of 1-10 is an 11 as far as catching numbers of redfish and trout.  The bays are swelled with herds of fish and there has not been a lot pressure or traffic on them to break the schools. When you get on a school of fish you can sit on them for two hours and never stop catching.  Schools of trout anywhere from 16 to 26 inches are being enjoyed by the few anglers able to get out there.

Redfish are the same way here in Trinity and also in East Bay but it is a lot more difficult to fish East Bay right now, the debris fields are just incredible.  The fishermen I know that are getting out are giving excellent reports and I am probably going to start back up next week. After all we’ve been through and so many friends losing businesses and homes I just haven’t felt right about it yet.

Same thing over in Sabine, a lot of my buddies that are going over there say the lake is on fire. It is absolutely stupid the amount of birds working and the big fish that are under them. Topwaters or tails, just get something in the water and you are going to catch a fish. Tons of shrimp are popping all over the lake along with lots of shad and glass minnows and the open waters themselves are looking pretty healthy.  

We don’t know what the long-term effect of the chemical and oil spills and the huge amount of seawater entering the backcountry might be. There is still a lot of oil sheen in Clear Lake and the water is turning black in some marshes, which is a sign of lots of decaying vegetation and oxygen depletion.  We had a fish kill in many parts of the marsh system, the storm just zapped them. Freshwater fish died from the saltwater and saltwater fish died from lack of oxygen.  Only time will tell how this whole thing plays out and how well the important forage species such as shrimp and crabs are able to recover. I think Sabine and Calcasieu may have more trouble recovering as their marshes are more freshwater and brackish oriented than ours.

Right now the fishing is awesome in the Galveston Bays and Sabine and we’re praying for a repeat of the scenario we had following Hurricane Alicia back in ‘83. We had incredible fall fishing after that storm. What we do not need is a repeat of the “F-word” meaning a big freeze this winter.  Freezes seem to have a way of coming to our coast right after a bad hurricane so let’s all keep our fingers crossed.  We are set for a great fall fishing season and I hope everybody can find a way to get out and enjoy it.  It’ll be a great way to get your mind of the storm and all the trouble it brought us.  Happy Thanksgiving; we’ve been through a lot but we still have a lot to be thankful for!