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Sunday, April 29, 2001

Wading for Tonight

The Coastal Bend is full of tucked-away angling gold mines, and some of the best ones don't even require a boat. Local afficionados give insight into some of the wade fishing hot spots.

By David Sikes

David Sikes/Caller-Times
Team Oso co-founder Ron Martinez, a Miller High School coach and teacher, spends his recreational time submerged in the sport he loves, wade-fishing.
I know of no surer way to experience the essence of angling than to immerse in the fish's realm.
   To wade the flats, bay shorelines or gulf surf is to stalk fish without trappings and laborious preparations. Simply put, wading - whether with fly or other light tackle - arguably is the purest form of angling.
   This method also is the great equalizer; it requires transportation to land's end only.
   Often in the Coastal Bend, expensive bay boats ferry anglers to waters that also are accessible by car or truck. With fishing, being there is everything. How you got there is inconsequential.
   Members of at least two local wade-fishing clubs - Team Oso and Texas Stringers - agree that when fish and angler create the only ripples in sight, senses are keen, skills are sharpened and the world is right.
   Rockport fly fisher Chuck Naiser said the wade angler's steps on the water should mimic those of a long-legged bird on the prowl. This characterization scratches the surface of a notion embraced by many waders: Become one with nature and satisfaction is heightened.
   To those who wonder why they should get out of a perfectly good boat to wade, the answer is the same response given to a similar question asked of skydivers:
   The explanation is in the experience.
   Team Oso members and Arnold Quintanilla of Texas Stringers were instrumental in compiling this list of wade-fishing spots. Most are accessible without a four-wheel-drive vehicle, depending on weather and road conditions.
   A few could be more easily accessed with the help of a kayak or canoe to float past muddy bottoms or deep water.
   These suggestions should not be considered a top 10 list, nor are they listed in any particular order. And while I visited many of the spots, I did not fish them all. For details on certain locations I relied on members of Team Oso and other anglers, who frequent these spots.
   It is my desire to amend this list for future publication or to compile a list of different locations, based on reader suggestions:
   Goose Island State Park
Paul Iverson/file photo
A channel that runs under a raised section of the lighted Goose Island State Park pier creates a fish-holding dropoff. Pets are not allowed.

   The park's fishing pier has steps leading to a shallow oyster reef. The bottom is firm, with lots of shell. A sturdy pair of wading boots, such as the Predator reef boot or the Hodgeman reef boot is advisable. A channel that runs under a raised section of the lighted pier creates a fish-holding dropoff. No pets are allowed on this handicap-accessible pier. Most anglers use live or dead shrimp, which is available at the park's bait shop. Soft plastics work here too. Flounder also can be caught near the pier, mostly in spring and fall. Flounder gigging is common in the shallows near the pier.
   Trout, redfish and sheepshead feed around the shell and in the channel, particularly during a moving tide. Fishing is best during a light wind or a moderate north wind. A hard southeast wind makes fishing tough at Goose Island.
   Call the park at (361) 729-2858. It's open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. But you can fish overnight for a fee. A park fee is required.
   Copano Bay East Shore
David Sikes/Caller-Times
The East shore of Copano Bay is one of the more remote shorelines on the list, ideal for fishermen who don't enjoy a crowd. This area is protected during a southeast wind, providing relatively clear water most of the time.

   This is one of the more remote shorelines on the list. So if solitary angling is your oyster, go for it.
   This stretch of Copano shoreline along Live Oak Peninsula is near the Aransas County Airport. The bottom is hard sand topped with crushed oyster shell.
   At one time, roads ran perpendicular to the shore to drilling pads. During extreme low tide, these shell roads are visible. But mostly they have eroded away, providing fish-holding contours.
   This area is protected during a southeast wind, providing relatively clear water most of the time.
   Trout love it. Most anglers use live shrimp under an Alameda Rattling Float. But topwater plugs or a red shad or plum Bass Assassin will draw strikes also.
   Italian Bend
   Remnants of an old causeway provide structure at this remote spot.
   The bay bottom is mostly hard, with scattered patches of soft mud. Redfish, trout and flounder are found here year round. Stingrays abound in summer. So shuffle your feet and wear reef boots. Black drum are caught here in winter.
   Park on the roadside. The shore is lined with cordgrass. The average depth at 50 yards from shore is two feet to three feet.
   This shore is protected during winds from the southeast wind or the north.
   Brown & Root Flats

Click to enlarge

   This expanse of shallow grass beds riddled with oyster reefs is a redfish haven.
   It's located just north of Port Aransas, on the west side of State Highway 361 (the road between the ferry landing and Aransas Pass).
   After a rain, a four-wheel-drive vehicle is advisable on the dirt road, which parallels the fence along the Brown & Root property. Parking along this road is only available in spots on the water side.
   The bottom of this flat is mostly firm. But a kayak could help traverse the soft stuff and cover water more quickly.
   Reef boots are a must to negotiate the shell.
   Tide movement has little effect on this flat. Most anglers fish depths of two feet or less.
   It's a good spot for tailing reds, particularly between May and October. Most anglers use topwater plugs, flies or gold spoons.
   Portland Shoreline
   This stretch of Corpus Christi Bay shoreline is a favorite summer trout spot of early morning anglers. Guts and bars parallel the shore, much like a gulf beach. The bottom is hard sand.
   Topwater lures, shrimp, croaker and soft plastics should work. But these waters often provide an endless supply of finger mullet to use as bait, so bring a cast net.
   Northward, toward the Reynolds plant, is a drainpipe that has carved a depression in the bay bottom. The bottom is soft near this prime redfish washout.
   Waders who head south toward remnants of the old Long's Pier will find another hole, past the second bar near pier's end, where trout concentrate.
   Wading pants will keep jellyfish tentacles off your legs in summer.
   Indian Point
David Sikes/Caller-Times
Whether fishing from the pier or wading, Indian Point Pier is a popular fishing spot. The pier is located relatively close to Corpus Christi, right over the Harbor Bridge, past North Beach and on the way to Portland.

   If the fish aren't biting off the pier, avoid the planks and get wet.
   Most any summer morning, urban waders can be seen dotting the waters just south of Indian Point Pier, on either side of the causeway.
   East of the bridge, in Corpus Christi Bay, the bottom is mostly firm. Depths vary from knee deep to about four feet. A gut runs parallel to the top of the pier's T, then curves toward the causeway. South of the pier is scattered shell.
   Park either under the causeway or use the Indian Point Pier parking lot.
   Most anglers use live shrimp under an Alameda Rattling Float or soft plastics on quarter-ounce jigheads for trout.
   West of the bridge, in Nueces Bay, waders park under the causeway or along the feeder road between the point and the old Gunderland Marine building.
   On the west side of the causeway in Nueces Bay are acres of shallow flats with scattered oyster reefs. It's muddy in spots, but mostly firm footing.
   Oso Bridge
   There are several wade-fishing spots along Ocean Drive, but the most popular is where the waters of Corpus Christi Bay merge with the much shallower waters of the Oso Bay.
   During any given spring or summer weekend, a member or two of Team Oso can be found waist deep on the east side of the bridge between Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi and Corpus Christi Naval Air Station.
   Parking is good, though roads can be slippery after heavy rains. Traveling from downtown, turn right on a path, either just before of just after the bridge.
   This is an excellent launch site for paddlers who want to fish the Corpus Christi Bay shoreline or enter the interior of Oso Bay, the bottom of which is dangerously muddy in spots.
   A gut runs under the bridge and into the bay. Most anglers wade far enough into the bay to cast to either edge of this gut.
   Packery Channel
George Gongora/file photo
The opportunities along State Highway 361, between North Padre Island and Port Aransas, begin at Packery Channel. Parking is easy and the bottom mostly firm at this popular fishing spot.

   The opportunities along State Highway 361, between North Padre Island and Port Aransas, begin at Packery Channel.
   This could change, of course, depending on whether the channel is reopened.
   Parking is easy and the bottom mostly firm near the Packery Channel bridge and along the waters west of the highway. This shoreline, roughly between the first two bridges, is called Packery Flats.
   Nearer to the second bridge (over 1852 Pass) is a redfish spot, marked by three poles in the water. Perpendicular to the shore, just past the second bridge, is an oyster reef that is only visible during low tide.
   Follow this reef to a line of seagrass that borders a dropoff. Cast left, toward the poles or toward the JFK Bridge. Tailing redfish sometimes can be found near reef or the grass on summer mornings. This, I know firsthand.
   Fish Pass
   On the backside of Mustang Island, any number of westbound dirt roads off Highway 361 will lead to wade-fishing waters that are protected during a southeast wind. But just past the new church, the second road past the second billboard leads to a popular area called Fish Pass.
   Parking is convenient near water's edge. And anglers here typically are willing to give advice freely.
   The bottom is mostly firm and seagrass is plentiful along this shoreline. The water is shallow enough for children to wade in spots.
   Trout and redfish can be caught in a number of guts and holes, within 150 yards of shore. North of where the road empties, within easy walking or wading distance, is a cove bordered by a channel on the north and shallow water on the south.
   Here, mullet congregate in thick schools.
   At first sight, this looks like a topwater plugger's dream. But most fish are caught on shrimp and soft plastics.
   Wilson's Cut
   Two wade-fishing areas flank this popular undeveloped boat ramp, which leads to the waters around Shamrock Island.
   To the south and north are protected coves with hard bottoms, deep guts, shallow bars and plenty of grass beds.
   Typically in either spot, fly fishers stand beside anglers using bait, each seeking their own brand of redfish thrills.
   Anglers generally park near the makeshift boat ramp. But if you plan to fish the northern area, there's plenty of parking near the shore. Just follow the path that veers to the right of the cut.
   Either of these waters is prime redfish staging areas in the fall. But trout also are commonly caught while standing in knee-deep water with a variety of baits and lures.
   Riviera Pier
   This remote pier juts into Baffin Bay between the mouths of Laguna Salada and Cayo del Grullo, near Kratz's Boat & Bait Camp and Baffin Bay Cafe. North and south of the pier is firm sand and scattered rocks. Big trout lurk along this cliff at sunup.

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