Couple has been fishing Galveston’s West Bay for 60 years
Anyone who has been fishing Galveston’s West Bay very long probably knows Cookie and Lloyd Pepper.
The Peppers have been a fishing duo for more than 60 years and are considered two of the best sources of information about the sport in the entire West End of Galveston Island — from Christmas Bay to the causeway.
During their 60-plus years of marriage, they’ve fished West Bay often and almost exclusively.
“As a child, I would visit relatives in Galveston and fish the nearby 17th Street Pier,” Cookie Pepper said. “The pier was operated by the county and free for everyone to enjoy. Benevolent anglers would leave their unused shrimp wrapped in newspaper for others to use, especially kids, and that was my main source for bait. Pleasant experiences fishing that old pier were the beginnings of my love for fishing.”
Cookie and Lloyd Pepper met in Houston, where both were raised in the Heights area. They would frequently fish Christmas Bay during their courtship.
But why drive all the way from Houston to Christmas Bay?
“For about three years, we fished with an avid angler named Frank Hoyt, and that was his favorite spot,” Lloyd Pepper said.
Later, the Peppers started fishing at what was known as the Galveston Fishing Club, a spot on the West End of Galveston. Members paid a $15 yearly fee for access to the club’s fishing grounds.
In 1961, Hurricane Carla destroyed the Galveston Fishing Club.
While still living in Houston, and soon after Hurricane Carla, the Peppers bought one of the first homes built in the newly developed Sea Isle subdivision and commuted there just about every weekend to fish West Bay.
In 1968, they moved their weekend residence to a canal in Terramar Beach.
“The wider canals, along with quieter surroundings, attracted us,” Cookie Pepper said.
A few years later, they became permanent residents of Terramar Beach, where they reside today.
Lloyd, an engraver by profession, continued his work in Houston and would commute back and forth during the week.
Cookie fished frequently with friends as her guests, so often, in fact, that bait camp operators would refer customers to her, thinking she was a fishing guide. During the late 1960s and early 1970s, she had to turn down so many calls for guided trips, she decided to get her captain and guide licenses to accommodate the requests.
Cookie obtained her licenses in 1971 and became the first female fishing guide in Texas. She operated under the name of “Have Rod Will Fish.”
“At the time, there was a popular Western series on television called ‘Have Gun Will Travel,’ and the name was a take-off from the title of that show,” she said.
Following his retirement in 1992, Lloyd obtained his licenses and the two set another record as being one of the first husband and wife guide teams in Texas.
Lloyd has the honorary title of “Mayor of West Bay” for his knowledge of the area and statesman-like approach in dealing with people. He also is a well-known and accomplished fishing rod maker, with more than 6,000 rods under the name of Rods By Pepper.
The Peppers also enjoy waterfowl hunting together and were active duck hunters until just a few years ago.
The late A.C. Becker, one of the first fishing editors for The Galveston County Daily News, and the originator of the newspaper’s fishing column, fished with the Peppers and would often write stories about their experiences in West Bay.
The Peppers’ favorite fishing trip together involved catching three large tripletails, with the largest tipping the scales at 91⁄2 pounds.
Today, the Peppers enjoy fishing on a limited basis and have a great interest in helping young people get involved in the sport. They’re active with Sea Center Texas, the large aquarium and fish hatchery at Lake Jackson. One of their favorite activities is helping with the free fishing days offered for children, they said.
Cookie and Lloyd Pepper are true legends of West Bay fishing.