I n 1979, I lived through the record rainfall and flooding caused by Tropical Storm Claudette on Chocolate Bayou, below Alvin. In those days I didn’t have as much to lose as I do today, but still I lost most of it.
In trying to look for a good side to this natural “disaster,” I noted how the bayou was affected. The flood waters flushed out decades of silt and pollutants and actually left clean sand bottoms in some spots. Fishing in the months after the flood was the best in many years—and not just in the bayou. West Galveston Bay all the way to San Luis Pass and beyond also felt the cleansing of the flood.
The massive rainfall from Hurricane Harvey should produce even more noticeable changes to the bays and coastal bayous, as well as the San Jacinto, Brazos, San Bernard, and Colorado Rivers.
When I drove around immediately after the storm, in the Freeport area, at least, the storm surge appeared to have been minimal. Since the winds on the upper coast were not excessive, most damage is/was from freshwater—no drought to end 2017 and begin 2018.
As such things often do, Harvey has changed residents’ lives in many ways. My wife and I were prepared to evacuate from Oyster Creek, but cautiously. The levees around us protect from even a massive storm surge, and also from flooding of Oyster Creek.
At the highest point during the storm, our front yard had merged with the roadside ditch, and was steadily creeping towards the house. Fortunately, it stopped and began to recede in the middle of the night, and it was practically gone by morning.
This house was built in 1954. It has only had water in it once, during Hurricane Carla in 1961, before the levees were built. We have had damage from a tornado since we’ve lived here, and I lost my boat in Oyster Creek to Ike, but otherwise it has been a safe place to live.
We have been looking for a place to live farther from the coast and its storms. Ironically, most of the spots we were considering from West Columbia southward had much more flooding than we did in Oyster Creek. My thinking now is how beautiful those hills/mountains around Gatesville are!
One thing we had considered was to build on our acreage outside of Brazoria, but several days after the storm passed the county road (CR 244) was barricaded and underwater over a mile away from my drive. I’m expecting damage to my tractor, mule, and RV when I finally do get in.
I suspect this flooding was due to a drainage creek leading to the Colorado River backing up a couple of miles beyond my back deer stand. As far as I know, this has never happened to this extent before.
All this water in the Galveston Bays and tributary streams will have a long-term effect on fishing, shrimping, and crabbing. Historically, this should mostly be good. Flooding storms are nature’s way of cleansing the watershed.
Perhaps the old lady has sent us a message that more cleansing was needed than usual? Sandbars and channels will be moved, shell reefs re-arranged, and new cuts formed.
In some cases, this could be very good news. For example, if the water re-opens the closed mouth of the San Bernard or “cuts” a new course to the Gulf through the marshes and barrier island. Having that Gulf outlet closed only intensified the flooding upstream on that river, some of which will probably flow past my stands.
After Claudette, “cuts” were formed through the beach below Freeport, and these certainly extended through the nearshore sandbars as well. While surf fishing for reds at one of these points the week after the storm, I hooked and landed—from the beach—a 27-pound king mackerel. This is a big reason I don’t believe even a tremendous flood changes the Gulf salinity much—or, at least, not enough to chase “offshore” fish species to deeper water.
Offshore fishing will also be different after this weather event. Fingers of lower salinity freshwater will reach into the Gulf, but these bring nutrients not normally found in these spots, which brings baitfish species that, in turn, bring sportfish. Overall salinity should not change much, and only temporarily if it does, but some inshore reefs might also be “pressure washed” by the flow from the receding storm tides.
Location: Keeping the time of year and temperature of both air and water in mind, look for changes in the bottom—new or deeper channels, cuts, or sand in spots that were deeper before. All these sorts of changes can attract and hold fish. Major channels, such as jettied passes, should be better than they were in the recent past, and with deeper “holes” for cold water protection.
Species: Trout, reds, flounders and various pan fish should all be available, and the black drum run is likely to be very good this year.
Bait: As always in winter, live bait is good, but not always available. Blue crabs are a traditional drum favorite, but they will also eagerly take the oversize cousins of shrimp known as “se-bobs.”
Best Time: Whenever it’s comfortable to get out. The occasional sunny, calm day in February is a welcome reminder that our mild winter is about over.
Email Mike Holmes at [email protected]