By Roy Edwards
When I was much younger, one of my favorite activities was flounder gigging.
It is the best of hunting and fishing. There is something very primitive about wading around in the water with a torch (lantern) in one hand and a spear (flounder gig) in the other, looking for something to eat.
I’ve walked the flats of Galveston Bay, Christmas Bay, and Port O’Connor, to mention a few, but my favorite was the far eastern end of East Matagorda Bay.
For many years, there was natural drainage from the Bay into the Gulf, known as Brown Cedar Cut. It closed more than 50 years ago, but while it was open, it was the only reliable fish pass into East Matagorda Bay east of the Colorado River.
Fishing in the area in and around the pass was as good as or better than fishing the now-closed Rollover Pass on Bolivar Peninsula.
The lure of Brown Cedar Cut was its remote location. Although just west of Sargent, the cut was accessible only by a multi-mile boat ride or by a four-wheel-drive vehicle down a treacherous stretch of beach.
Purely by accident, on a boat trip to Brown Cedar Cut, Billy Rogers (brother of singer Kenny Rogers) and I found a pair of hard-sand circular flats on the west side of the cut.
I say “by accident” because we found those flats at full throttle in a v-bottom boat. After several hours of pushing, pulling and poling, we finally got the boat into water deep enough to run the motor.
Sitting in the boat and taking a well-deserved rest, we started talking about the possibility of floundering the area. We found a couple of pieces of driftwood and using them as stakes, we marked the western edge of the flats.
The next weekend, armed with our Coleman lanterns and flounder gigs, we took off from the Sargent boat ramp and headed west in the Intracoastal Canal. We took the second boat cut into Matagorda Bay, paralleled down the reef in the middle of the bay to the tripod, u-turned at the tripod and headed for the flats that we had marked.
We anchored the boat at the western-most flat and started checking our gear. By sundown, we had our lanterns fueled and lit, our stringers attached to our belts and our gig points sharpened. We drank a couple of Cokes, ate a couple of sandwiches and were in the water about 30 minutes after sundown.
We each picked up a dozen or so flounder that night and decided to make those flats a regular destination. Over the next 20-plus years, we took a lot of flounder from that area, but one trip sticks out in my memory.
It was a Friday night in late October. The weather was mild. The wind was out of the southeast at 12-15 mph, and the water was clear. The weatherman said that there was a blustery cold front due in on Saturday afternoon with a severe drop in temperature and 30-40 mph winds out of the northwest. There was a new moon that Friday night - which is prime time to go gigging - so off we went.
We got out of Houston late and got to Sargent after full dark, launched and headed for the flats. As we went across the bay, we saw several flat round floating objects in the light from our Q-Beams. Knowing that cattle grazed on Matagorda Island, we decided that the southeast wind had raised the water level on the north beach side of the island and that cow patties were floating off the beach and were being blown across the bay by the southeast wind.
We anchored at the first flat and geared up to go gigging. After wading and gigging for a couple of hours and noticing a dozen or so cow patties float by the edge of the lantern light, Billy gigged another flounder, and I eased over to hold his lantern while he strung his fish. We were only about 6 feet apart when one of the “cow patties” floated through the lantern light between us.
But it wasn’t no cow patty. It was circular, about three inches high, and the outer rim was about as thick as my forearm. It had a diamond embossed pattern on the upper side. There was a triangular head and a segmented tail sticking upright in the center. Rattlesnake. A big, obviously unhappy, rattlesnake.
I looked at Billy, and Billy looked at me. Neither of us said a word as we started high-stepping back to the boat. After thoroughly inspecting the boat to make sure there were no stowaways, we fired up the engine and made it back to the boat ramp in record time.
After recovering the boat, and settling down in my old fishing van, we started talking about the situation. The only thing we could come up with was that the snakes sensed the coming Blue Norther and were taking advantage of the southeast wind to cross the bay to higher ground bordering the Intracoastal Canal.
One thing for sure, them weren’t cow patties.
(Write Roy in care of The Bulletin. Email: email@example.com. Snail mail: The Bulletin, PO Box 2426, Angleton TX, 77516.)