by Capt. Joe Kent
Clear Lake and the stretch of Galveston Bay out of Seabrook is where this avid angler developed his passion for fishing. The era was from the mid 1950’s to late 60’s. Crabs galore along with a bountiful supply of speckled trout, redfish, croaker and pan fish all roamed the waters from the mouth of Clear Creek to the Seabrook and Kemah flats and beyond.
During that era, many bait camps dotted the landscape along the shores of Clear Lake and all along the Clear Creek Channel and Seabrook. A good number of the camps rented boats which were either wooden row boats or the higher quality aluminum variety suitable for placing an outboard motor on the transom.
Hardly any of those boats exceeded 15 feet in length and most were in the 12 to 14-foot range. The row boats were mainly confined to Clear Lake and the bayous and creeks emptying into it. Typical of the aluminum boats was the Lone Star open boat that could handle up to a 12 horsepower motor. On a good day, the small boats could be found as far as five miles and farther out of the mouth of the channel which was marked by the famous Jimmy Walker’s Restaurant.
Most of the better fishing took place to the west of the channel as you entered Galveston Bay although during calm conditions the Houston Ship Channel drew a lot of the small craft.
Fishing the spoil banks of the ship channel was a given for catching fish and just about every variety of saltwater species could be found roaming the spoils at one time or another.
Scotts Reef, just a stones throw out from Muechke’s and Oddo’s Bait Camps, was one of my favorite spots. The oyster shell reef was an excellent fishing spot during the summer and fall, and attracted a lot of fish and fishermen. It was noted for producing large croaker.
Wade fishermen could be found early and late just off out from shore from Jimmy Walker’s and along the Seabrook side around close to the two bait camps mentioned above.
Artificial baits were just beginning to make their appearance in saltwater and most anglers used shrimp, live and dead for bait.
Beginning in the mid to late 1960’s fishing fell off, as the water became polluted from runoffs from the upper reaches of both the Houston Ship Channel and Clear Creek. At that time many anglers, like me, moved farther down the bay system to the Texas City and Galveston areas.
Today, I am happy to say that this whole area is beginning to bounce back. Clear Lake has begun to produce some nice fish, especially flounder, reds and a large variety of pan fish. Speckled trout still are not making it into the lake in large numbers.
During the winter, the Seabrook Flats is known as one of the better spots to wade fish and has been producing good quality speckled trout and reds for anglers tossing artificial baits.
Heavy boat traffic, especially on weekends and holidays is the biggest drawback to fishing Clear Lake and surrounding areas. Anglers have been keeping their fishing locations around the lake close to their vest; however, it is difficult when so many are seen fishing the canals around the numerous yacht basins along the lake.
Today, there are few public fishing places around Clear Lake and a boat or kayak is almost a necessity for fishing the area.
Clear Lake has not had the shrimping activity in recent years that it once had. Advisories issued by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department have kept the commercial craft off the lake and that likely is a reason fishing has bounced back.
While the water quality is improving, Clear Creek and the whole Clear Lake area continues to be under a seafood consumption advisory and before consuming your catch check the Texas Parks and Wildlife Website for their recommendations as to what to eat and what not to consume.
Perhaps we will see a return of the bait camps, as conditions continue to improve; however, don’t bet on the rental boats returning, that likely is a pleasant memory of the past.