The sign is plain: triangular and bright red with white numerals. It stands in Galveston Bay alongsid the ship channel, marking the way opposite its green counterpart. I had to visit it; decades have passed since I last lingered around marker 44.
When my dad and I fished out of April Fool Point marina in San Leon, Texas in the late ’60s and ’70s, two places were common stops for us: Dollar Reef and marker 44. The former usually brought us a good chance at croaker, gulf trout, sand trout, gafftop and pesky hardheads while the latter was often cited in fishing reports for the speckled trout moving up and down the channel. While I don’t remember us catching a lot of speckled trout near marker 44, I do remember it being a beacon, a friendly “face” in the bay, and I recall feeling anxious as we approached it for fishing. Near it we caught various types of fish and watched large ships going to port or returning to the gulf. We noted the flags, guessed about the cargo the ships contained and rode the large wakes of the ships. There were times that boats lined up along the channel, all participating in the catching of fish that moved along the underwater highway. Yesterday, when I visited marker 44, there were no fishing boats nearby, but a bright orange ship headed into port to be loaded (it rode high in the water), a tug pushed two barges toward toward the port, and two shrimpers plodded along with nets out.
Marker 44 was one of the places that dad and I shared and I remember it more for the memories than its productivity; I prefer to remember things on that basis.