Redfish in Rockport Part 1

| March 28, 2009

Texas Gulf Coast Fly Fishing Rockport Texas
One of the places to launch from, and fish from at night – the Goose Island State Park Pier.

It all started to come together as I was passing across the Copano Bay bridge back into Rockport. The sun had finally beaten back the fog inland, a distinct wall to the west, and the indistinguishable line between sky and water had given way to a third pristine day. The common retort pointed to the “fly guy”, the only fly guy around, was “man, you got lucky – perfect weather – no wind!” I knew they were right. After all, I am a Valley Boy, and know the wind blows all the time.

I stopped at Rockport Tackle Town not knowing what to expect, but roll with whatever I found, as the Gulf air flowed between my ears carrying away my troubles like a slow inshore tide. I knew I had to check out the store, and see what the apparent epicenter of fishing supplies for Rockport had to offer. As I walked in, it was plain to see they were a balanced business of typical fishing gear, tourist trinkets and tee shirts that provide the real profit margins. Fly tying supplies were sheepishly stored on some pegboard, dead center at the back, nothing there that screamed, “The Missing Ingredient!”

Laid back. Those were the words I encountered most when I mentioned Rockport, Texas, as a potential destination for a short trip to see if a DIY for Texas Gulf Redfish would be practical. The first two places that came to mind had their own downsides, the danger factor at the Sabine Pass area, and the impracticality of being boatless in Port O’Connor, Texas. Sean Polk, at Orvis Dallas, pointed me toward Rockport as a place that was custom made for kayak fishing and it sounded like it was off the radar enough to minimize the spring break crowds.

And there were crowds – driving toward Rockport the highways were loaded with spring breakers, usually two-by-two, a driver at the wheel from some corn state, and a passenger asleep with their favorite pillow from home wedged against the window sound asleep. It was one of those annual migrations, much like bird migration patterns, except with luck the joining of DNA would be thwarted by all means, and the grazing would be mostly of the hops and barley variety – with a ganja cloud chaser.

As the path veered from the migratory routes toward what is a fishing enclave and not much more, the spring breakers disappeared in the rear view mirror, the smell of salt, the spike in dampness, all began to slow motion to a long denied and dormant pace. Because I had little sense of where I was, the first night was spent at the entrance of the Goose Island State Park (GISP), because there’s nothing more annoying than someone driving around in the middle of the night looking for a place to stop. And I knew it was going to be slim pickings when it came to campground sites because there were still local families that were enjoying spring break in their own “back yards”. (This is a topic for later economic discussions)

Car sleeping isn’t that difficult after what turned out to be a 470 (the long way it turns out) mile, last minute, change of plans. All I had to do was wake up, look for 54Bravo (a contact I made through Texas Kayak Fishing Forum), get a tent site, unload gear and fish all day. From GISP it was only six miles back into town over the bridge, so the first order on waking and cracking creaking joints, was to go back into town for McDonalds coffee. That done, I stopped at the park entrance on the way back where of course there were no sites of any kind available, and the park lady laughed controllably. Fish all day, and car sleep again? This was going to be interesting. I had a pretty good idea of where to find 54Bravo, so I went out to the peninsula and looked on the eastern wing, but he was already gone. Fish all day, no one to give the lay of the land, and car sleep again? This could be … painful.

Oyster Shells Rockport
Oyster shells are razor sharp, and can put an early end to a fishing trip if you stumble and fall on them.

At the Goose Island State Park Pier is a parking lot where those who fish on the pier, and kayakers, park and launch – just off the edge of the parking lot to the west side. It’s an easy in and out. From the vantage point of the pier, a tantalizing series of reaches to islands formed by oyster banks, sand and what looks like dredge piles, wait for exploration.

This is where due diligence to the tides, the tidal charts, kicks in – full force. In the winter months and into early spring, there is generally less water – so you are navigating in a situation where some passes between islands will have to be portaged especially during low tides, and simply cruising over shell banks can lead to a major redesign of your kayak bottom. Tides were outgoing early, out pretty much all day, and coming in at the end of the day and through the night.

As always, I zipped my PFD and loaded up and followed the growing armada of kayaks heading eastward toward islands and shorelines afar. The shell banks which channel their way under the pier and form a kind of razor sharp pinball cushion, giving a rudderless kayaker a real workout, but by the time I arrived at a distant bank, steering was becoming less an issue. Beaching the kayak on a regular basis, and getting out on the shell banks or islands is a great way to break up the rowing exercise, and keep your cast grooved if you aren’t fond of kayak fly casting from a seated position. I also decided to dispense with the Amas to allow for a longer rowing strokes to cover the distances, but that meant there wouldn’t be any standing in my Tarpon 140 for casting.

The water along the shell banks, and between the islands still felt cold, and I saw boats moving and drifting shallows to the north. So I skirted the shoreline around to keep the calm water and wind break. By now flats boats and air boats were headed for areas well beyond our muscle powered armada. I marveled at the obnoxious sound, and sight of the air boats. They were huge aluminum bottomed boats, some with engines as loud as airplanes. They can go wherever they choose as they are not bound by a lower unit dragging bottoms, and that is a blessing and a curse – actually many curses and a single blessing. The blessing is they don’t plow deep prop furrows into the flats. The curses you probably already know.

As I was making my way around to the north, I saw something floating about fifty yards offshore and about five-hundred yards distant. It was a funky log that floated at that back and front, and back and was sunken at the middle. It was easily twelve feet long … and then it moved. I sat there, stopped paddling, and looked at it. Yup, it moved. More visible, and then submerged, a swish … of the tail. Yup, an alligator just out for a swim, to warm it’s blood in the spring sun and maybe take in a snack or two. Five hundred yards would be just enough … where’s my ‘gator knife? Oh yeah, I didn’t read the part about gators in the chamber of commerce brochures.

I gave the reptile his space, made my way around to the west, stopped at a couple more shell banks to see if I could hit on something in a good north / south marked boat channel running between the shell banks. There was nothing going there, but back off to the east was a large cove, perfectly windless, and the boats and kayaks were starting to move in to it. I knew the kind of bottom there – mud and sand would warm the water more than the channels and shells, and that would draw Reds in as the day warmed on.

Up to this point, I had spent a lot of time working baitfish patterns because there was such a visible abundance of baitfish moving, and I had seen little sign of shrimp, and thought it too early in the year for fish to be keying in on shrimp. But once I beached on the shoreline of the cove, I decided to give a pink and white shallow Clouser a go – it seemed that could bring the best of both worlds – a bait pattern in shrimp colors.

Tomorrow – Fish On! – Redfish in Rockport Part 2

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Category: Fish Podcasting, Fishing Reports, Texas Gulf Coast

About the Author () is where to find my other day job. I write and photograph fish stories professionally, and for free here! Journalist by training. This site is for telling true fishing news stories, unless otherwise noted.

Comments (2)

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  1. shannon says:

    Top of the old head. Nothing much in there anyway. Wait! There’s more…shannon

  2. Cindy says:

    I just read that whole thing… dang.
    also, do you remember all this stuff off the top of your head or do you use some journaling method?

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