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The area is an assortment of bays and fishing opportunities that offer something for every type of angler. One of the drawbacks to fishing this area is the vast amount of water; some deep and some very shallow. Knowing the water is the key to finding fish. The best way I have found to learn a new area is to hire the services of a professional guide. By professional I mean a full-time charter captain who is licensed by the U.S. Coast Guard and the state of Texas. Finding the right guide might take a little time on the phone but it will be well worth the time spent. The Rockport /Fulton area has a number of good guides and a listing may be obtained by contacting the Chamber of Commerce. You will still need to make a few phone calls to narrow down the field but here again it will be time well spent. Talk to several guides before booking your trip and pick the guide you feel will work the hardest for you. A guide is a teacher and it is good advice to listen to what he is saying. He knows the areas where fish have been found lately and the right method for catching fish from this water.
I have had the pleasure of fishing with many of the guides in the Rockport area and will speak highly of them all. There are some trips that stand out in my memory more than others. These trips were not always the ones where we caught the most fish but they were trophy memory makers. For example, a morning spent wadefishing with guide Gary Clouse and Wyndall Lansford, a manufacturer's representative of the Storm Lure Company.
The morning started as do many such mornings by meeting my guide at Cline's Restaurant for a plate of eggs, et al. After a short drive and a quick launch, we were in Gary's boat heading for the water near Mud Island. The spot had been holding some reds and big trout and he wanted to put us on these fish before the day warmed.
It was a cool April day with a few clouds and lots of blue sky. A Chamber of Commerce day so to speak. Gary shut his big motor down and the boat slid into the clear water several thousand yards from a small string of islands. It took us a few minutes to arrange our gear and step into the water. We all were making casts before our waders were wet. Gary was throwing a plastic tout, Wyndall was casting a jointed Storm Thunderstick and I was fishing a Mel's chubby worm behind one of my Padre Poppers. As we fished along I was giving Wyndall a hard time about his lure. I called it his "reddish-blueish-pinkish-jointed-fishing-thang."
I was the first one to hook up. It was not a redfish but a fat spring trout in the 24 inch class. Gary told us the reds were in closer to the island so we all shuffled in that direction, fishing as we went. As is the case many times our guide was the first to put the barb of his hook into the jaw of a red. The big fish bent Gary's light rod almost double and in a short time Wyndall and I were ducking under Gary's line as the big fish made a circle around Gary. Soon enough the line, rod and a well functioning drag wore the big red down. The fish was photographed and released to fight another day. While Gary was fighting his red I had hooked two more nice specks. Wyndall and I had not even had a redfish make a pass at our lures at this point. We were having a great time razzing Wyndall about his "funny colored" lure. It was at just about this time that a fish made a boil behind my Padre Popper, missed and tried it again. This time I felt the hit and set steel into fish. It was not a trout because the line was leaving my baitcasting reel fast enough to burn my thumb. It was a good fish and was trying its best to use all my line. The fish gave a strong fight but soon yielded and was photographed and released to fight again. More importantly, the big female was still alive to spawn and help restock our bays the old fashioned way.
Just as we were laughing the loudest at Wyndall's lure, there was a sudden commotion near the end of his line. His lure vanished in a boil of water and spray. His seven foot casting rod flattened out and the fight was on. Both Gary and I could tell this was not your run of the mill redfish. The big red made three complete trips around Wyndall and had Gary and I ducking his line. At the same time we were trying to keep our lines from tangling with his, that's right we both had fish on, too. But Wyndall's fish was the one doing all the fighting and soon we had finished with ours and were watching the action. This is what fishing is all about. The fight when an angler pits his choice of equipment, his knots and his ability against a quarry who is fighting the only way it knows how. In the end, in most cases, the angler will win and the fish will lose. In this case the big fish was brought to the net after a long fight. After admiring the 30 plus inch beauty Wyndall swam the exhausted fish back and forth gently until it could swim away on it's own steam. A fitting end to a good fight.
As we loaded our gear back into Gary's boat I mentioned to Wyndall that I would never make fun of his funny looking lures again . . . well maybe just once more. It had been a good morning fishing just one of the many hot spots in the Rockport area.
If you are new to the Rockport area you will need to remember wind is a key consideration. The Texas coastal breezes can seem, at times, to be hurricane force and can be almost as damaging. A strong northeast or northwest wind can blow a lot of the water off the flats and create a hidden danger. Watch for very calm spots on a choppy day. These are shallow areas and can mean a broken prop or worse a lower unit. Stay in the channels until you learn where you can and cannot run your boat.
Some of the top fishing spots in the Rockport area are found where very shallow water is located near deeper water. One of the top spots for trout for boat anglers is near the California Hole Lighthouse and is called the Quarantine by locals. This is a good drift fishing area. The bottom here is rather soft and makes for very uncomfortable if not impossible wadefishing. A short distance away is Estes Flats, one of the areas more popular fishing spots. Located between the mainland and Traylor Island, Estes Flats is another great producer of speckled trout.
Many saltwater fishermen and guides alike enjoy fishing the expanses of Copano Bay. This bay is one of the very best bays for fall fishermen. It is a common practice to trailer the boats north of Rockport to Goose Island State Park and launch from the boat ramp in the park. There are other launch ramps but the park facilities are excellent and you can save yourself a long, and sometimes wet, boat ride. Try the old turtle pens for a mixture of trout and redfishing action. These pens are the leftovers from an old turtle packing plant of many years ago. The pens offer both drift and wadefishing. Other spots to consider in the fall would be Allyn's Bight, St. Charles Bay and Redfish Bay.
The wadefishing around Mud Island is some of the best the area has to offer. Located on the northeast side of Rockport proper, this area was designed with the wadefisherman in mind. The bottom is mostly sand and grass and what little mud there is is hard and very walkable. The southeast side of the island is the most popular due to it's ability to attract and hold redfish, the close proximity of deeper water and a good sand and grass bottom. This is a top area for fishing artificials. Some of the best producers have been Storm's jointed Thunderstick in both silver and gold. Touts and plastic shrimp-tails also should do the trick.
The Rockport/Fulton area offers saltwater anglers everything they need to pursue and enjoy a few days of fishing on the coastal bend of Texas. Motels, restaurants, marinas, party boats, fishing piers and a number of qualified and licensed fishing guides are all located close to the fishing action. The area Chamber of Commerce offers a wealth of information to anyone planning a visit to the area. To receive information about the area you may call 1-800-242-0071 or 1-800-826-64441 or write them at P.O. Box 1055, Rockport, Texas 78328.