For San Antonio anglers seeking summertime saltwater action, the question of where to fish is as big as how to fish for the Texas trifecta of speckled trout, red drum and flounder in the bays. Options abound, making the roughly three-hour drive to the area from Rockport-Fulton to Corpus Christi one of the unique destinations in the country, thanks to the barrier islands, which protect bays and estuaries from the battering waves of the Gulf of Mexico. San Jose Island lies off Fulton to Port Aransas; Mustang Island goes from there to near Corpus Christi; Padre Island, the largest barrier island in the world, then stretches to the tip of Texas. That long swath of coastline offers a wide range of fishing opportunities. Those without a boat can fish from piers, bulkheads, beaches and jetties — well more than 100 just from Cove Harbor North in Rockport to Fulton. Another option is wade fishing, walking into the calm, shallow bays from public access points.
Stingrays, though, can cause serious injuries, so proper foot and calf protection or shuffling feet are advised. Access points for wade fishing include Tin Can Reef, a sandbar on the Aransas Bay side on the south end of Copano Bay Bridge; the shore on St. Charles Bay by the Big Tree; the flats by the pier at Goose Island State Park; and the ski basin in downtown Rockport.The more adventurous can surf fish on the Gulf side of the barrier islands, where anglers are challenged by breaking waves and guts, the deeper areas between the sandbars that are highways for fish to cruise up and down the beach. The guts get progressively deeper.
Anglers can stand on the first sandbar and cast into the first gut, then move on to the second or third, if they dare. While redfish and trout are there, so are species not typically found in the bays, such as jack crevalle, pompano and shark. Kayaks offer more mobility and access to the shallow waters of scores of creeks, sloughs, estuaries and back lakes that wind through mangroves and marshy, grass-covered areas. The Texas Parks & Wildlife Department has developed a number of paddling trails, including the popular Lighthouse Lakes Paddling Trail near the historic 1857 Lydia Ann Lighthouse on North Harbor Island and the Mustang Island Paddling Trail on the western shore of Mustang Island in Corpus Christi Bay.
For those who want to fish with more assurance of success, guides offer trips that range from bay boats and wade and kayak fishing to off-shore excursions for kingfish, marlin, tuna and shark. The jetties at Port Aransas, one of the most popular fishing spots on the coast, are just the ticket for landlubbers who want a mix of bay and offshore fishing. While the North Jetty, at the southern end of San Jose Island, is only accessible by boat, the South Jetty, at the northern end of Mustang Island in Port Aransas, is easily accessible by vehicle. Constructed of large blocks of granite, the jetties protect the ship channel from the Gulf of Mexico. The South Jetty also offers anglers more than 8,000 feet of fishing that extends off the beach and well into the Gulf. It’s a long walk to the end, where waves spray water high into the air. The rocks not only can be slippery, but they also can rob anglers of gobs of tackle. Long rods and long-handled nets are musts.
While Florida is known for its redfish and speckled trout along with snook one guide prefers the Rockport-Fulton area to the Florida Keys. Capt. Ron Matson of Reel ’N With Ron Guide Service moved from Florida to Rockport about 11 years ago. “The shallow-water bay fishing is so good and there is so much here. And there are plenty of good shorelines and estuaries in the back lake areas,” Matson said. “The Florida Keys are not that big. If you’re in an area with 15-20 boats, the spots are all taken up. “With hundreds of miles of shoreline here, it’s not hard to get away from the crowds, even on busy weekends. And there are so many boat ramps. If you move through the northern sections of these bays, they’ll swallow a lot of boats. And the farther north you go, you see fewer signs of man. It’s more wild.”