Fish Tales

fish catch 1930s

A nice catch! circa 1930’s

Fish Tales

© 2013 Steve Hathcock

We are coming up on the 75th Texas International Fishing Tournament (TIFT) which will commence with registration from 3-8pm at the South Padre Island Convention Center on Wednesday July 31. 1  With a little luck and good weather there will be plenty of happy anglers by the tourney’s end on Sunday August 4th. The following fish tales illustrate how fickle the sport can be…..

 May, 1917 Brazos Island  southern bank of Brownsville Ship Channel:

R. B. Creager of Brownsville and his friends witnessed a battle royal like none any of them had ever seen.  Wanting to do a little tarpon fishing, Creager had waded into the shallow waters of the pass between Brazos and Padre Island. After several hours, he finally succeeded in hooking a fine tarpon that was about six feet in length. Spectators gathered to watch as Creager battled with the giant fish, gradually working him toward the beach. Finally he had the tarpon within six feet of the land when suddenly a large shark appeared and “made a lunge for the silver king.” Striking the victim in the side, the teeth of the shark tore out a great piece of flesh. The attack put new life into the exhausted tarpon as it struggled with all its might to elude its new enemy. Creager could only stand by helplessly as the huge man-eater lunged at the captive fish, each time tearing off huge chunks of its flesh. Sometimes the shark, which Mr. Creager estimated to be between nine and ten feet in length, would be almost completely out of the water as it positioned itself for another chunk of fish. The one-sided battle went on for several violent minutes until finally the tarpon was torn to shreds and devoured entirely by his giant foe, right before the eyes of the spectators. At length, in some manner, the shark became entangled in the line by which the tarpon was held. Suddenly Creager realized he had more trouble on his hands. The shark made for deep water, running out for about a hundred yards. Finally the line broke and the monster disappeared. It was one of the most novel combats ever witnessed in these waters. When the battle was ended the water was covered with blood and not a trace of the tarpon could be seen.  see following video of typical shark attack on hooked tarpon.

May 14, 1942. 7:30 am: Brazos Santiago Pass: Armed with a light reel, a bamboo pole and 42 pound test line, A. F. Pierce, (an oil field worker from Lubbock) was fishing off the beach near Brazos Santiago Pass (southern tip of Padre Island) when hooked the huge fish. Pierce could only hang on to the line after that, taking only 20 minutes off for lunch and refusing to relinquish his rod to many eager volunteers. His opponent took no time off at all.

After fighting for several hours, the fish surfaced long enough to be identified as a giant grouper, one of the larger species in Gulf waters. (Experienced anglers guessed it weighed 500 pounds.) Seven times or more Pierce brought it near the breakers, where waiting harpooncrs tried to finish the fight. Each time the fish rallied and headed out to sea. A determined Pierce fought the monster throughout the day and as darkness fell upon the scene spectators turned on their headlights to provide illumination for the unfolding drama. Shortly before midnight Pierce staggered to the shore and viewed his prize not more than several dozen feet into the surf.  All were spellbound as swimmers armed with harpoons

A giant grouper caught off Padre Island. Circa 1918

A giant grouper caught off Padre Island. Circa 1918

waded neck deep into the breakers to put an end to the battle. But with a sudden lunge, the huge grouper snapped the line and swam lazily away. On the beach an exhausted Pierce collapsed and his friends quickly carried him to a nearby hospital where he was given sedatives. Physicians said he was grievously disappointed, but otherwise his condition was not alarming. Veteran sportsmen said Pierce set an all-time record for these parts in battling such a large fish with light tackle and even though he had lost his fish Pierce was now entitled to call himself a professional angler.

 Brownsville Herald May 28, 1917: The largest sea bass ever caught with a tarpon hook and tackle was landed in 25 feet of water in front of the coast guard station on Brazos Island Sunday after more than 3 hours. The fish, which weighed 460 pounds, measured 7 and-a-half feet in length. The giant fish was hooked by Dr. J. Cole of Brownsville. At first the doctor thought he had hooked a sting ray and was ready to cut the line when he caught sight of the fish on the end of his tackle and there was “no turning loose”. The giant fish was played for over three hours before being landed in front of the coast guard station on Brazos Island. The boat carrying Dr. Cole and his comrades was too small to handle the added weight of the fish so Captain Reed of the Coast Guard agreed to tow the fish to the wharf at point Isabel. There, a gang of men of men helped haul the fish from the water to the Rio Grande train which was nearby. From there it was hauled to Brownsville where it was placed on ice. There was no record of what happened to the fish from that point on.

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