Whether fish are biting or not, islander finds pleasure in the sport
Charlotte O’Neal, 63, has been fishing in Galveston County nearly half her life. Born on Galveston Island, she lived in Hitchcock for several years. She returned to Galveston when she was 12 and has lived there ever since. O’Neal worked as a cook at Leon’s World’s Finest In and Out Barbecue on the island for more than 15 years and is now retired.
You might find her distributing food to those in need at the Galveston County Food Bank at Holy Rosary Church, or you might find her fishing. O’Neal shares some of her experiences fishing the waters in and around Galveston.
How long have you been fishing and how did you learn?
I’ve been fishing 30 years. I just picked up a rod and started fishing.
How often do you go fishing?
I don’t go as often as I used to because of health problems, but before that, I went fishing every chance I got. I did go fishing this morning.
Were they biting? What did you catch?
I caught six whitings, three specs and one redfish.
What bait do you use?
Now, whiting, they like dead, peeled shrimp. The specs like live shrimp, and the reds will bite anything, basically.
What type of rod and reel do you use?
I use an Ugly Stik rod and a Curado reel.
Do you have lucky charms or fishing superstitions?
Not really, but my fishing hat does say: “Fishing for Jesus.”
What’s the best time to fish?
This time of year, early in the morning, because it gets so hot.
What’s your favorite spot to fish?
It used to be 29th and Seawall, out on the rocks, before they dredged it. I used to catch everything out there: flounder, sharks, whitings, reds … everything.
Do you have a new favorite spot?
This morning, we went to 39th and Seawall on the jetties, but I think they might be biting everywhere today. My nephew also has a boat, and we take that out on the bay side. He has a spot out there. We went one day, and oh, we must have caught about 30 or more sand trout — big ones.
Can you recommend any other equipment or advice for the beginner angler?
All you really need to fish is patience. Sometimes, you’ll catch something and sometimes you won’t. Just enjoy yourself.
Do you have a great fish tale?
I was fishing a couple of years ago on 8 Mile Road on the beach side. I brought in a 36-inch red. It took me about 30 minutes, and I had to walk it to shore. I was younger back then.
What do you like most about fishing?
Even though you’re not catching anything, you can sit there and talk to God. It can give you peace and calm.
Do you have a favorite recipe for the fish you catch?
You know what, I don’t even cook fish anymore. I give it away. When I was eating fish, all I did was fry it — that’s probably why I can’t eat it now. The doctor says no. Some people like to bake their fish, but not me. I’m a simple person; I like the basics.
Charlotte’s Simple Fried Fish Recipe
Any fish gutted and cleaned
Sprinkle fish with salt and pepper
Dredge fish in cornmeal
Fry in hot grease
Cook until done (golden and flakes easily with fork).