Kenny, it certainly was a different place then.
Few snowbirds and winter rates after Labor day. There were motels ON THE BEACH with kitchenettes and A/C for $8-10 a day. No buildings over 3 stories on the island. The swing bridge across the channel. The paved road ended at the water tank (bed & breakfast now?) and that is where we would park to wadefish the back side of the island.
NOBODY there. Uncrowded days fishing & surfing the jetties.
And the drive from Houston took all day cause 59 went thru EVERY little town between here and there.
Haven't been down since they built the bridge across the Laguna Madre.
Another paradise lost.
Out of Port Mansfield, north through Red Fish Bay, up the inner coastal a few miles there is a cut...might be the one mentioned in the article..It had been cut from the innercoastal water to the gulf side. In 1954 it had filled in and was only open on the innercoastal side. We parked a quarter boat there and worked on the Island. At night we fished and floundered..The best of both I ever experienced using our frozen shrimp for Fridays meal, we furnished fresh fish for the twenty guys aboard plus we carried some home. 5 lb. flounder were no unusual along the innercoastal there...
I grew up fishing the lower Laguna and may write something one day about the "good ole days". The one thing I remember the most were the trotlines. We used to dodge and cuss those things on every trip. They were literally everywhere. Picture this...you're drifting along in the gin clear water sight casting to reds and trout and you approach a long trotline. The main line is 3' above the surface of the water. There are hooks hanging down about every 3'. You have to go to the front of the boat and grab the line and raise(stretch) it over the console and motor. The whole time the thing is like a spring loaded trap just waiting for you to let go so a hook can dig into your flesh. Now imagine that if you want to keep drifting you've got another trotline coming up about 50 yards away. Time to do the drill again. We thought nothing of this routine as it was necessary to fish the shallow flats. When I look back now it's a wonder I still have both eyes and all my fingers.
But not intentionally. Ocassionally we would run into them. That's when things got real exciting. You would hit the line and it would stretch quite a bit before breaking. If it didn't break at the point of contact then all those hooks and line would come zipping through the air. My brother got hooked bad once by a zinging hook. Lucky for him the leader material broke and he cut the hook out. Ouch.
at night in the mid-sixties with my friend and his family. All we had were two rented aluminum flatbottoms with those old shorty 9 1/2 h.p. Evinrude engines. I don't remember having problems with trotlines. Maybe we didn't put-in that far South.
I do remember leaving our camp site along the beach and going back for more ice. That night during a full moon when the water was like glass and everything was dead still, as the boat was cutting along through the water, big shrimp were jumping out of the water and landing in the boat by the hundreds. I'll never forget 'the night of the free bait!' LOL! CF?
Catn', Thanks for the great article. We lived in the valley (Raymondville) when I was a kid, from about '55 to '59, only 25 miles west of Port M. and rented a cabin there for about $25 a week, a lot of money in those days.
Dad would haul me and my brother out in his little wooden 15 footer with a 30hp Evinrude to fish and duck hunt all over the Laguna back then. Along with the deer, javelina, white wings and other critters, it was a pretty good place to be if you wanted to hunt and fish.
Many nights we'd go to a platform along the ICW and set up lights for some night fishing. Dad would walk around the back of the platform pushing a triangular, hand-held seine and get more than enough shrimp for the night in one haul. There wasn't much fishing pressure back then and no limits on trout size or numbers. The only limit was the one Mom set as she threw fish over the back of the platform because she knew we had enough to clean and freezer space was limited. A typical evening was 80+- specs, wish I knew now what size they were, but I'll guarantee we weren't keeping any little one's.
And this wasn't sport fishing, no fillets ... everything was gutted, scaled, fried whole and eaten. The valley was a poor place to be in the 50's, but I didn't know till many years later just how rich a sportsman's area we lived in. The article also reminded me of when Dad also worked with 2 other men to catch and sell their fish. No one would believe what they used to catch per day.
Thanks for a walk back in time. I'm not sure I'd like the Laguna as much today, haven't been there since '65, but I've been thinking of going back for some time.
We moved to McAllen in 1968 and at least once a month my dad would take us fishing to SPI. We fished Mexiquita, Holly Beach, basically anywhere from Jim's Pier back to the south by boat. The ol' boat engine wasn't the most reliable back then. Purdy's Pier and the Jetties were a blast also.I can remember crossing the old causeway and being fasinated by the contruction of the new one. Now it appears that another causeway is going to be added. Andy Bowie park was waaaayyy down the island then. Now it is located right next to a condo. Doesn't seem so far now. As a kid, SPI was great. Fish in the morning with dad and then play at the beach all afternoon. Shortly before my dad passed away I was going with some friends to fish and he made a comment to me. He said he always regretted not being able to buy the 2 acres of land that was offered to him and my uncle on the island. I asked him how much? $5000 in the early seventies. He said they couldn't afford it, each with wife and 3 kids, on their government salaries. The place sure has changed but I will take it over Galveston all day, any day of the week. Thanks for the memories.
Great article. I grew up in McAllen and started fishing on Purdy's Pier with my mom, and renting those "Cabana's" near the jetties on South Padre Island from 1966 when I was eight till around 1970. Those childhood memories were awesome. I fished a lot with a friends of mine' dad quite a bit during the late 60's and early 70s at Port Mansfield and SPI. I can't think of a better place to grow up. We used to cross the old causeway before the new one was built and I remember the "Thump" "Thump" as we crossed each portion of the seam in the road on that bridge. My mom worked for the "Texas Highway Dept" in Pharr, and we were all excited about the "New" causeway when it was completed. As an adult I cant tell how much fun I used to have wade fishing up near Three Islands and up near those spoil islands near the Land Cut. If I would have not moved to NC for a new jobi in 1990, I'm sure I would be offshore fishing out of SPI now. Although I mostly offshore fish now, the memories of those endless grass flats and spectacular bay fishing in the Lower Laguna Madre, still fill my head. I constantly think about my childhood down in the valley and how awesome the bay fishing was and hopefully still is, along the lower Laguna.
Haven't seen you posting in a while. When are you headed back to our neck of the woods? Still looking to hook up with you and getting GPS coordinates on all your old hotspots in the Laguna LOL. Later, Aubrey
You are right about Port Mansfield they were building the first gasoline pumps there in 1954 and there were only two families that lived there plus a one room coffee shop. In the winter we were worked Padre Island from Port Isabell to Corpus.on a 104' Quarter boat for Sun Oil. In the winter commercial fisherman left those **** trot lines up all winter and did not run them..dead fish were always hanging on them..mostly reds. They baited them with red plastic flagging ribbon...We pulled them up with our tractors when we saw them or had time...to stop some of the slaughter...Never in two years did we see a game warden out there.
Thanks for the kind words BF's. I came back to McAllen two years ago to see my Mom, and made a trip to PM with an old friend, just to see it again. Unfortunately, I was unable to fish. I sill fish those awesome flats everyday actually. All I have to do is close my eyes, and I'm there! I'll come back "Home" someday I hope! Itâ€™s obvious, that you are the man up Baffin Bay way. I never fished that far north, but I always enjoy your pictures and postâ€™s. Tight lines. Funny thing is that Bud Rowland was quite the celebrity when I was there. He had a killer show on TV and used to own a Carpet Place. I had no idea he would someday hold the speckled trout record. Go figure.