Published on November 10, 2020

Good memories of father, son fishing in Christmas Bay

By Roy Edwards
The Bulletin

In a previous column I recounted fishing in Christmas Bay with my son back in the day and catching a monster of a ray that must have been 6-feet long. It’s size and weight forced us to cut the line and let “Jaws” live to fight another day. It was also getting late, and we were tired.

The rest of our father-son fishing weekend wasn’t that adventurous, but it provided an opportunity for spending quality time together and catching a bunch of fish.

The next morning, Robbie was up at the break of dawn, ready to go again. After a hardy breakfast at Sy’s, we bought more “fresh-dead” shrimp, reloaded the boat and took off. The wind was out of the east, so we could drift the full length of the bay.

We were fishing for croakers, which have a relatively small mouth. Your bait needs to be small enough to snap up in one gulp.

I peeled and headed the shrimp, throwing the waste behind the boat as chum. Most of the bait shrimp were big enough to make several baits. The bait should be just big enough to cover the bend of the hook. When making several baits, always cut the shrimp with a sharp knife as cut bait stays on the hook better than bait that has been pinched apart.

Cast your baited hook into the wind. As the boat drifts away from the bait, the line stays tight, and the fish hook themselves most of the time.

If you don’t catch a fish in five minutes, check to see if you have lost your bait.

Most of my tackle back then consisted of Ambassador “red” reels. Casting with those reels requires a prolonged learning curve and an “educated thumb” to prevent a dreaded “bird’s nest” backlash. Since Robbie had never used a “red reel,” the fishing went like this: peel, head and cut up a shrimp. Bait the hook and cast. Hand the rod to Robbie and take the rod he had reeled in. Take the fish off. If Robbie wasn’t looking, pitch the fish back into the bay and re-bait, cast, etc.

This routine went on all day. I never caught a fish that day, and I threw back at least two fish for each one I put on ice. Around 4 p.m. Robbie admitted he was tired and hungry. When you take a child fishing, and he says he has had enough, it’s time to stop fishing and go in.
We reloaded the van, put the boat on the trailer, ate a couple of more burgers at Sy’s and headed for home. Robbie climbed into one of the bunks and slept all the way back to Houston.

Sunday morning was fish-cleaning time. Robbie and I cleaned 131 fish, and this was with me never catching a fish and throwing back at least two for every one I boxed.

Over the next 20 years, I made a bunch of drift-fishing trips on Christmas Bay. Most of the trips were between good and fantastic. The only “not-so-good” trips were on still days when there was no wind to push the boat along.

Drifting Christmas Bay is a great way to teach children and people who don’t normally fish about how much fun you can have when something tries to yank the rod out of your hands.

Although we caught mainly croakers, Christmas was almost always ready to put something new on the end of your line. Some of the other catches included: speckled trout, sand trout, gulf trout, redfish, black drum, flounder, blue fish, piggy perch, white tip and bonnet head shark, puffer fish, whiting, Jack crevalle, hardhead and gafftop catfish, mangrove snapper, and one unbelievably ugly inshore lizard fish. I’m sure we caught additional species, but these are the ones I recall.

A note about hardhead and gafftop catfish: A study conducted by Texas A&M in Galveston several years ago concluded that of 150 of each of these two, 65% of them had live vibero (flesh-eating bacteria) on the spines, in the body slime, or both.

My Uncle Clyde’s fishing buddy was struck by a four-inch Hardhead on his right knee. Seven days later, the doctors amputated his right leg.

I no longer allow anyone I fish with to touch a saltwater catfish.

I either cut the line or grab the fish with a metal Handi-Gaff. Don’t use the plastic type as it does not hold well, and they can break.

I am sure that there are many shallow water bays on the Gulf Coast that could be as productive as Christmas Bay. That bay was just convenient for me when I was living in Houston.

Take a child fishing. Remember that the only thing more fun than catching a fish is helping a child to catch a fish.

(Write Roy in care of The Bulletin. Email: john.bulletin@gmail.com. Snail mail: The Bulletin, PO Box 2426, Angleton TX, 77516.)