We drove sixty miles of bumpy shoreline – swerving between the encroaching surf and the fluffy loose sand, rumbling over the wrack: seaweed, stray shoes, broken plastic.
The full moon rose over the Gulf. We drove three hours, land crabs scuttling across the headlights – eyes lighting up on the beams. We’d waited for the tide to go out to open up the beach, drinking hot rum in the Texas sun for eight hours before the trip even started.
But our leader, Captain Ken Jones, was clear-eyed and confident. He piloted the group for my brother’s bachelor party to a remote jetty on the Texas coast.
We made camp at midnight on a protected patch of sand behind grassy dunes. The inlet lapped at the shoreline just past the fire ring. Tents assembled in the moonlight, the jetty called.
God only knows how long it was – it felt like miles of steep, irregularly pitched chunks of rosy granite marching out into the ocean. Spraying waves crashed on both sides.
I’d been on jetties before like this.
Some people, Ken and Nate specifically, loved jetties and this kind of fishing. It’s one of those situations where more skills, more effort, more balls all paid off. Walk longer, cast further, venture closer to the crashing waves.
All eight of the guys on the bachelor party were fly fishermen. But most were practical about it. Drunk, tired and blind was no way to fly fish the unforgiving surf. Instead, most of us used spinning rods with big jigs and soft plastics. We started quickly hooking up with big bull redfish.
Landing them was a miracle. Capt Ken would find a cauldron, a place on the edge of the jetty that would fill up on an incoming wave. You timed the surf and hauled the fish into the basin on an incoming swell. Ken, standing in swirling water up to his chest, would wrangle the 40-lb fish in that little hole and haul it up to you for a photo.
Then he would drag his ass back to the waters edge, to be swept away or taken by one of the many tiger sharks, while releasing this beautiful fish.
After a couple hours sleep, when the sun came up and the dolphins were jumping in the inlet behind our camp, we headed back out. Sea turtles were swarming the rocks, eyeballing the bleary gringos on our march to the tip of the jetty.
But we stopped short. A school of big Spanish mackerel was slashing bait just inches off the rocks. The wave would pass, and then a ball of ladyfish would push through, followed by a wave of jacks. From sun-up to whenever the Red Bull ran out, the fish roved the shoreline and we caught them on flies on every cast.
Later that day, Nate and I swam in the surf to cool down, and watched the beaky mackerel slashing through the green crashing waves, tearing up baitfish at top speed. Too much hot rum in our systems still to realize we were swimming within proximity to Nick Symmonds soaking shark bait.
Needless to say, we swam all afternoon without incident.
That evening we ate Spanish mackerel and drank more rum. As the moon rose up out of the horizon, we headed back out on the rocks. Tarpon were exploding off the mouth of the inlet. In the moonlight, we watched tarpon blast minnows ten feet into the sky, and a silver fish the size of Nate would hang in midair for a moment, curled like a giant comma.
That night was one of the more bizarre fishing experiences of my life. Everyone on the jetty was spooled multiple times. A couple fly rod hookups, but mostly spinning gear with huge popping plugs. We cast out as far as we could, popped back toward the rocks, and then WHAM. Fish on. 300 yards of line gone in thirty seconds. The fish were pushing 100lbs. We never came close to landing a big one. We did manage to land one thirty pounder pictured below, but every other fish was gone in seconds with all of our line.
Topwater full moon tarpon, too damn big to land = bachelor party success.
We hung up the fishing some time after midnight, out of line and out of gear. Headed back to Port Aransas on the morning low tide. The rest of the trip is not fit to describe on this family-friendly fishing blog.
Many of you are wondering if Captain Nate really is getting married, or if this was really just a ruse to have a bachelor party. As far as I can tell, the wedding is on, and a large Pacific Northwest contingent will be descending on Ohio’s Steelhead Alley next month to see what the hype is all about. We’ll be sure to post photos.
If you happen to be in Texas, you need to look up Captain Ken Jones. Also, if you find my liver washed up on the beach, ship it to me. I’ll pay the freight.