Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Asian Eyes' USA - Texas Bob Hall Pier

              Oct/12/2102: After the American Football match that night at South 
Bob Hall Pier in 
Corpus Christi
Austin, I drove my rented Toyota Yaris over to Terence's house. We had planned a fishing outing where I had always wanted to lay my hand on a fishing rod to fish in Gulf of Mexico since I last doing so in Dec 1992. At the ungodly hour of 1.00 am, Stephen, Terence and I set out to Corpus Christi, with Stephen on the steering wheel. The destination was Bob Hall Fishing pier which we planned for a 2 days fishing action. 
         The pier was built of reinforced concrete, was designed like a giant Chinese puzzle. There are no bolts or pins. Instead gravity holds the pier together. The pier cost $1.3 million dollars and the Federal Government offered up the funds. The current pier was constructed in 1982, opening in 1983. There are user fees, which are kept in a special fund to maintain the pier and ensure it remains usable by the public. The pier is 1,240 feet long and 15.5 feet wide. It has a T-head at the end that is 165 feet long and 19 feet wide. The two main attractions of the pier are the Barnacle Bill's Pier House and Grill and Fishing. Residents of Corpus Christi head to the pier to fish from its deck. Quite often many different fish are caught and even sharks. Barnacle Bill's Pier House and Grill and Fishing sits on the edge of the pier over the water. Guests can have a fresh sea food meal each day and look out to the horizon on the Gulf of Mexico. The place is definitely filled with ambience, and at night many couples walk along the beach and pier.
           It was a 4 hours overnight drive. I was asleep at the back of Stephen's car, dreaming of fishing rod that curved like a question mark with a big fish pulled hard from the bottom of the sea. When the line snapped I sprang was up from my sleep. The car had just rolled over a hump and the hand brake that Stephen pulled hard jolted me up. We had arrived at a gas station where he intended to relieve himself. It was 5 am in the morning and it was still dark. After his restroom visit, Stephen got a caffeine fix while Terence continued dozing off. After the refreshment we drove on until we reached a bait shop that was already open for business. We bought some 50 live shrimps and a pound dead shrimp and off we go to Bob Hall Pier. On the way I noticed a tall chimney with white smoke billowing near to horizontally. I pointed it out to Stephen and Terence and explained that it will be a windy day. We pulled in into another gas station, this time to load up ice and to have breakfast. We reached the pier at slightly over 5 am. It was still dark but the pier was open 24 hours. There was a soft breeze billowing from the sea. No one was at the ticket counter, so we just strolled in onto the pier that jutted out towards Gulf of Mexico. Ah, the smell of the ocean, the sound of the waves and the shriek of seagull, all familiar sight and smell from yesteryear memory rushing back to me. Just blissful.When we arrived at the pier, the wind was billowing from sea to land, and the sand on the parking lot was sent swirling. We heard the waves lapped against the beaches from the parking place. There weren't many people on the pier and there no one was manning the entrance gate. We strutted our stuffs onto the pier and Terence guided us to his favourite spot, somewhere near the centre of the pier. 
           The sky was still dark when I lowered a rod with dead shrimp as bait into the sea. It had been 20 years since I last fished in Gulf of Mexico and my hand was trembling with excitement from the adrenalin rush. The current were pretty swift, so I had chosen a heavy sinker. Before long I felt a tug on my line and I quickly flicked up my rod. This set the hook and the fish make a run for its life. "A fish, a fish", I shouted excitedly. It was our first fish but it was not a question mark bend on my rod, indicating it was not a big fish. Before long a wriggling fish, about one foot long, wriggling at the end of my line. "A catfish", I blurted out, disappointed, and flopped the catfish on the jetty floor. It was glistening white, shiny and deflecting the yellow light from the jetty light. I used a pair of pliers to snapped off the barbs from top fin and from both side fins before unhooked the fish. I took a close look at it before asking Terence if he wanted to keep it. He just shook his head and I threw it back into the sea. Ah, my first American fish on hook after so may years. 
           I had more fishes hooked up but unfortunately they are all catfish. About 6 or 7 catfishes later, I hooked a small one, this time about 5-6 inches long. Thinking it was small I let my guard down and tried to unhooked it with its bard still attached. The fish flinched and before I knew it, it's left barb embedded itself into the side of my ring finger. "Ouch, Terence, help", I shouted. Terence, quickly came running to me on hearing my cries. "I got stung. Help me cut the barb", I told Terence while grimaced in pain. Terence tried to cut the barb with the pliers but each time he tried, the fish wriggled feverishly, causing more pain. "Stop, stop", I told Terence. I repositioned the fish and finally the barb came out loose and blood oozed out of my finger. Terence help to gingerly unhook the cat fish and threw it back to the sea. I wrapped my injured finger with a piece of cloth and walked down the pier to a sink to have it washed. I let the running water over the finger for about 5 minutes, and later went to our cooler box and applied some ice on it. It started to swollen and my finger felt a little bit numbed. Not a good start for fishing.
              The sky had started to lighten up. Terence's friend, Frank make his appearance and he parked himself close to us. After the introduction, Frank started to fish using a cast and retrieve method to target Spanish Mackerel. Terence used his rod with Apollo hooks to jig for bait fish. Apollo hooks are small hooks with a feather attached to its jig tip and small fishes attracted to the feather and attacked the shiny gold plated hooks. He caught more that just bait fishes - Shad, small jacks, manhaden and Indian mackerel were double,triple or sometime quadruple hook up. Stephen and I also quickly changed to Apollo hooks and soon we were hauling fishes. Shouts of excitement and wide grins were exchanged every time we landed fishes on to the pier. I soon forgot about my catfish's inflicted wound and just use my bare hand to  grabbed the squirming fishes flopping to get away. Then Stephen shouted that he caught a Spanish mackerel and he showed us with a pride. I took the chance to snap photographs for my blog. Before long Stephen and I also landed some Spanish Mackerel and Ladyfish too. 
              It was about 9.00 am when a lady who managed the pier soon make her round to collect the entrance fee. It was $4 entrance fee per person with 4 rods maximum permitted. The validity was for 24 hours and expired at 5 am the next day. Terence paid for me and I got a ink stamp to my left hand indicating that I had paid up. After the brief interruption, we continued on with our fishing. The actions continued on but by now the fishes hooked by our Appollo hooks as many of the hooks now was missing, was getting lesser and lesser. Occasionally Terence will cursed to the wind when some of his hooks snapped when hook a larger fish - big Spanish Mackerel or Lady fish. By 10 am, it was getting hotter and almost all our Appollo hooks were shredded or snapped. We had switched to live shrimp baits, cut fish bait or dead shrimp. The kind of fishes that took our baits remains the same as we used Appollo hooks, but the size are larger.Soon our cooler box started to being full.  He himself also landed some big Lady fish and Spanish Mackerel. He had never cooked Lady fish before, but this time he will try to do so. Seeing that we took almost all the fishes we caught, other fishermen also offer their unwanted catch to us. Terence gladly accepted them.
            I was startled by an air gun shot from the beach. Straining my eyes towards the beach I noticed a group of naked people rushing to the sea and before long I saw board surfers trying to ride the splashing waves.  It turned out to be a Texas state board surfing competition event going on that day. Some of the surfers swam close to our fishing line and I was concerned I may snagged a big prize. I looked at my watch and shouted to Terence and Stephen, "30 minutes before we packed up, guys. Lets finished off the baits". I continued fishing with a cut fish as bait and threw it into the sea.  A moment later there was a tug and I pulled hard. Before long a big Ladyfish, about 2 foot long, flopped on the pier. The final fish was caught by Terence on a live shrimp. It was a "Whiting", a sandy bottom feeder species found in Gulf of Mexico that I had not seen for so long. It was a nice eating white fish, akin to a small redfish without the dot at the tail. Hurray to Terence. With the final fish in the cooler, we cleaned and packed up, vowing to be back later in the evening. I had forgotten about my injured finger until Stephen enquired about it. The swollen had subsided by then but I still had some slight pain when I tried to bend my ring finger toward my palm. We exited the pier at about 11.00 am, by now crowded with people and officials watching the surfers in action. The cooler box was so full that Stephen and Terence had trouble trolley it to our car. The contents spilled out not only once, but twice. 
            End of first fishing session with 2 more sessions to go. This first fishing session was memory repeat all over again for me. Here are some pictures I took at the pier at the first session:
I was jolted awake when we arrived at a deserted gas stationed at 5 am in the morning.
Stephen in front of a bait shop where we stop for baits.
View of Bob Hall Pier from the beach towards the pier at around 6 am in 
the morning.
Entrance to Bob Hall Pier in the still of darkness with drizzling rain
My first fish caught from Gulf of Mexico in 20 years time - catfish, a thrash fish that I threw back to the sea. Adios amigo, don't eat my bait again.
The catfish close up, glistening against my camera flash - it's little buddy later stung me in my right ring finger, ouch!
Dawn break at Bob Hall Pier, a breathtaking view, but could not stop me from fishing .

Terence changed his rod to Apollo hooks, hoping for more actions in catching bait fishes.
Stephen was all teeth with his 4 fishes hook up.
Terence with his 3 fishes hook up .
Terence with his first Spanish Mackerel, one of the many more like this was caught as we progressed on.

The rules - one of them being entrance permit expire at 5 am the following day. 
Bob Hall Pier from the end of the pier and faced toward the beach. Note the waves had started to swell.
Anglers taking a breather at the end of the pier, waiting for a big fish's pull.
Solar power at work at the pier.
A bird-friendly way to dispose off mono filament line that is transparent and may trapped and choked birds to death.
My new friend met at Bob Hall Pier, Frank Fisher, with his Spanish Mackerel caught through casting method.
Terence with his bony Ladyfish. They were no good eating but fun to catch.
Terence caught our final fish for the day, a Whiting, a good eating white fish.
A surf boarders who swam close to my line who I hope I do not snagged him.
A day time view of Bob Hall Pier before we call it a day after our first fishing session.

Sand shifting, blown by gutsy wind that picked up steam, at Bob Hall Pier parking area as we were leaving.

A day time view of Bob Hall Pier before we call it a day after our first fishing session.

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