Running With The Bulls on the Bolivar Peninsula – Part 2

| December 15, 2015

bull reds galveston bolivar peninsula #fishing

NOTE – We’re picking up where we left off – with Immanuel Salas fishing on the Bolivar Peninsula recently.


Dinner plate sized white belly is hard to miss flip flopping through the air.  It reminded me of a similar experience the Texas Fly Caster had told me about, one that led me to look it up on the interwebs, even to a video of it.  Supposition would suggest the flounder, vainly believing themselves invisibly camouflaged under a sheet of sand with only eyes and teeth exposed, would hunker down when big predators came by, but the dolphins echo-location would detect them against some ocean bottoms and they could shovel them up off the surface with their noses and begin a game of ultimate Frisbee. A game culminating with knocking the hapless flounder out of the water where disoriented and battered, it was an easy meal for a usually juvenile dolphin.  Sounded like a lot of fun to me.  I relayed this to Mom, it seemed this is what she witnessed and she was now more pumped than ever.  Problem is, I couldn’t imagine flounder getting tricked into eating when 10 foot bottlenose were plowing through a flounder football feast.  It did tell us flounder were present, and with our limited mobility decided to hunker down. We hoped the mammals got full and moved out, and the flounder vanity combined with a changing tide would turn them on. That never happened either.

The dolphin pods did get incredibly close though. Standing in just over waist deep water (much too deep most flounder-men would tell you), the dolphin popped up just within casting range.  Four, maybe five movers and shakers and stirring up huge plumes of mud in a sudden swirl of action and fishy violence.  That momentary vortex sucked me in and, I’m not sure why, but I cast into the fray.  The 1/8oz jig and Gulp hit the water and I started counting down until the jig hit the bottom.  I got to “one”.

Something jacked my bait, yanking the rod forward fiercely and out of reaction I struck back, just enough power to set a hook, not too much to break off … many fisherman wouldn’t have gone for a strike there.  But I was beginning to take it personally, like he threw the first punch and it was a good one.  So we were into it now. There was a toilet flush where the pod disappeared and the rod tip was nearly bent over to the water as line is peeling off in bursts.  For a second, I fear I foul-hooked a dolphin, then realize he would have already have broken me off, broken the rod or me.  Mom is ecstatic and cheering me on like I was back in Pee-Wee football at the Irving, Texas, river bottoms.  I looked past her to see two hungry flounder fisherman, and think to myself, “great timing, now these guys are going to jump in here with us.” I don’t think so. I eeked out between drags zings.  I could feel tail thumps on the line, and the inability to move the fish when he slowed had me concerned it was as small shark.  I’d hoped sharks followed the rules of not playing where dolphins play, and hoped more – that this could be a big bull red drum.  One of the flounder fisherman voiced it for me “That’s a big bull.”  As if to give him a slimy, fin-shaped high five for the correct guess, the bull red drum swept as tail across the surface of the water.  I felt energy in my face and realized it was a smile.  “Oh my gawud!”  I heard Mom exclaim.  Her eye sight was good enough to see that copper flash for sure.  Maybe the red could see that line of piling off to my right because he bulldozed his way that direction, leaned my rod this way and that trying to change his mind, he thought about it … and quickly disagreed.  He took drag that I had set for flounder and I now realized didn’t have the stopping power I needed.  So I decided to break another fishing rule (anyone keeping count so far?): I was going to adjust the drag mid fight.  The problem is when your drag system is under pressure and you tighten the drag the mechanism places a lot of stress on the line and breaks can happen.  When the fisherman is under pressure they may tighten the drag too much in their excitement and exceed the break strength of the fishing line and breaks can happen.  This fish had convinced me he was going to spool me, stripping off all the line on my reel, leaving me with nothing but a frowning face or that he’d get me into structure and wrap me nasty, so it had to be done.  The technique is not refined, but I poise my hand over the drag adjustment knob then, pull smoothly but firmly against the fish and when I felt him stop, I’d bow as if to a tarpon, lower the rod, easing tension on the line and adjust the drag knob and smoothly bring myself back into full contact with the fish.  I had to do this twice.  The second time gave me the traction I needed.  We wrestled back and forth, buried the rod butt in my gut, held the rod at noonish, one hand on the reel, the other above it for leverage and the 6’6” All Star Instinct fast/medium held in there, as it has for six years. I’m a fan.


He did another tail wave as my Mom got closer, but I was so concerned with losing it I wasn’t “excited”, feeling really in the zone, focused and walked big boy around the park a couple of times, really wearing him (us) down.  He’d show belly but never really roll to his side.  Normally I lip reds and while I could see actual teeth, slot reds have the threat of teeth, but these were teeth-teeth, I was really concerned I couldn’t find enough of a grip in his maw and that he’d twist out of my grasp, possibly twisting some part of me with him.  So the undersized flounder net came into action.  I readied the net, guided the red round once more and slid the net over the front half of his body.  He thrashed and struggled, but with one hand on his tail and being more trapped than netted, I walked to shore.

Texas Bull Red

That’s when I got excited.  Been a long while since I’ve targeted reds, spent most of this year chasing kings, and hadn’t caught a 30-inch’er in about two years and now I had this behemoth at my feet.  Roughly taped at 36”, easily surpassing the other (barely bulls) I’ve nabbed before, I can’t guess the weight.  I recently visited Cabela’s (and left without buying anything!) and saw a mounted 38” that weighted 19 pounds for perspective, but this guy seemed heftier.  Irrelevant. I’m not a numbers guy. I just knew this was a big beautiful fish.  I popped the hook and headed to release him, but Mom wasn’t having it.  I release these big guys, even higher end slots.  They are the breeders and the genetic champions we need out there making more champions.  But I knew this guy could feed my mom for many meals, I always fish with Prudhomme’s Blackened recipe in my kit and we had a gumbo that still needed making and big red was definitely gassed, may not make it tough I secretly hoped he would.  We had plenty of fishing left to do so I strung him up with the flounder fish basket, the foam float ring with a mesh net, and tied it off to those damnable pilings, far away from shark respecting me.  Handling this fish is when the full weight of the catch really landed on me and I found myself elated, but I also chastened myself.  In the future; be present.

And we continued to fish.

END NOTE  – Thanks for your story! I appreciate entertaining, informative and technical stories about Texas fishing from anyone wishing to contribute to our overall learning. Of course, we have an editorial board that has to have a look before publishing, but we’re (me, myself and I) are pretty easygoing.

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Category: Adventure, Culture on the Skids, Reader Contribution, Texas Gulf Coast

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