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The Galveston Jetties

September 1st, 2019

jettywreck The Galveston Jetties

A Double Edged Sword for Anglers

By Capt. Joe Kent

The Galveston Jetties are comprised of two sets of Granite Rocks known as the North and South Jetties that extend close to five miles out from shore. The South Jetty is located on the Galveston side while the North Jetty has its home on the Bolivar side.

The jetties were built to protect the Galveston/Houston Ship Channel from erosion and wind in order to keep the entrance to Galveston Bay open for all vessels.  Construction began in the late 1800s and was completed around the beginning of the 20th century.

The jetties brought a new dimension to fishing, as the rocks attracted all types of crustaceans and fin fish.  Early on, anglers would catch grouper, mackerel and even red snapper along the rocks.  Tarpon were also plentiful for jetty fishermen.

While most of those species are rarely found around the jetties any longer, the rocks continue to attract a wide variety of both inshore and offshore fish as well as fishermen.

While the virtues of fishing are high on the benefits offered by the jetties, there are dangers that lurk.  Early on the most common fatality came from small boats rounding the end of the North Jetty to fish the Gulf side.  Many times the attendant at the South Jetty Lighthouse would call in a distress report after observing a small boat capsizing in the turbulent waters at the end of the North Jetty.

For that reason and others, a cut was constructed in the North Jetty not far from shore and was and still is called the North Jetty Boat Cut.  It too added another dimension for fishing and safety for boaters.

For years, the greatest peril facing jetty fishermen in boats were the strong currents found along the channel side of both jetties.  Often the current would change so rapidly that boaters did not have time to react and found their boat pushed into the rocks with major damage resulting.  Wakes from large vessels also were potential trouble makers and while those perils continue to exist, boaters are more aware of them today.

In recent years still another danger has emerged and that has been caused by the subsidence of the century old granite rocks.  This has been a gradual process; however, the sinking continues.

Today, the submerging rocks are probably the greatest of the perils.

I have fished the jetties for well over 50 years and recall my early offshore fishing days when I would return from a trip and see the jetties from at least five miles away.  Today, that is not the case, as the rocks do not become clearly visible until within a mile or less.

The big dangers come in poor light such as night time navigation or in the early morning hours.  For several years now multiple mishaps have occurred where captains misjudged the end of the jetties and crashed into the rocks.  The picture accompanying this article is a good example and was taken in August of this year.

During periods of higher than normal tides, such as during storm tides associated with events in the Gulf, much of the jetties are under water or barely above the surface.

While it is not feasible to raise the rocks or economical to add new layers, there are things that can and should be done.  First and foremost is adding lights or lighted buoys along both jetties.

Signs also would help alert newcomers about the dangers.

While these suggestions might not eliminate all tragedies, they would be a major step and could save some lives and preserve this iconic fishing territory for generations of anglers to come.

Memorial Day Weekend

May 3rd, 2017

birdsworking2 Memorial Day Weekend

Birds working. Photo by Kelly Groce.

The start of our summertime coastal fishing

By Capt. Joe Kent

While not the official start of our summertime fishing season, Memorial Day Weekend often offers excellent conditions for both inshore and offshore fishing.  For many anglers it is their first run of the year to offshore waters.

Others focus on the jetties and bays, with all areas capable of producing some nice fish.

Most years, the water temperature has reached the 80-degree mark and, while not as warm as in the mid-summer range of July through mid-September, it is at the point when all of our summertime fish are around.

The bay waters are not so warm as to keep trout and other fish that are sensitive to dissolved oxygen levels, in deep water.  This means that wade fishing the shorelines continues to be a viable option for catching trout, reds and other fish.

During May, the jetties begin turning on with trout activity and other fish join the prized specks in feeding up and down the rocks.  May through August is prime time around the collection of granite rocks known as the North and South Jetties and many locals add still another designation, that being the Bolivar Jetties for the North and the Galveston Jetties for the South.

Regardless of which designation you use, Memorial Day Weekend is a great time to fish them.

Bird action in both East and West Bays will continue until the waters warm to the point that the fish go deeper.  Normally that does not take place until late June or early July.

kent king Memorial Day Weekend

Polly Kent with Joe Kent’s 48 pound ‘smoker kingfish’ in 1972.

Memorial Day Weekend is a Holiday Weekend that I always have looked to as the time to head offshore, conditions permitting.  My first Memorial Day trip was in 1972 and what a trip it was.  King mackerel were thick beginning about 10 miles south of the Galveston or South Jetty.  Before that I had made an offshore trip in my boat only four or five times over the previous years.

A learning experience it was.  One of the largest kings I have ever caught was landed that day.  It was a real “smoker” that weighed 48 pounds on the unofficial scales at Wilson’s South Jetty Bait Camp.

Wayne Tucker, operator of the bait camp, said the king was one of the largest he had seen.

For years thereafter Memorial Day Weekend was set aside for offshore fishing and the percentage of times we were able to make it beyond the jetties was higher than normal for offshore trips.

Some of the largest pelagic fish which include kings, ling, sharks and Dorado make it to the shallower offshore waters during May and early June, with Memorial Day right in the middle of that timeframe.

Besides good fishing and statistically good weather, the Memorial Day Weekend does not normally have the intense heat we experience later in the summer.  One advantage of fishing offshore during this time is that the crowds are much lighter than for inshore fishing.

While inshore fishing is in its prime, the weekend is one of the busiest on the water.  Normally, that does not bode well for fishing and one way to escape the heavy concentrations of boats is to head out from the jetties and enjoy the offshore.

Don’t forget the sunscreen, as the sun is intense, and that warmth of the season along with good fishing and crabbing, make Memorial Day Weekend a very special time of year.

Keep up with Joe Kent’s daily fishing report here.