This month's adventure
A 70 mile stretch of uninhabited coastal island, Padre Island National Seashore (PINS) hosts myriad species of wildlife and incredible year 'round fishing opportunity. Padre Island begins at the edge of Corpus Christi, and follows the coast down to Port Isabel. A shallow water bay named Laguna Madre separates North and South Padre Islands from the mainland of Texas. I summoned the company of a few of my good friends and we loaded our camping gear for an extreme weekend of Padre angling. I used HNL maps F115 (Lower Laguna Madre) and F116 (Upper Laguna Madre) for this trip.
When and Weather
My buddies and I made the trip to North Padre in early May. Over a three day period the winds ranged from 10mph up to a steady 25-30mph. Temperatures were very bearable, never exceeding the mid 80s. There is really no part of the year that you can't find excellent fishing somewhere along Padre Island.
Tackle and Gear
I honesty had more fun preparing for this adventure than I have for the majority of my recent fishing trips. Our goal was to paddle offshore and fish the oil rigs from our kayaks one day and fish the Laguna Madre the other. I spent several evenings prior to the weekend building offshore rigs, consisting of kingfish rigs, shark leaders, as well as other heavy duty rigs. I feel like I could write an article just on "do it yourself" offshore rigs. Use my contact info at the end of this article if you have any questions in that regard.
My favorite offshore/surf setup is my 7' Shakespeare Power Stick paired with an offshore Abu Garcia reel. I have it spooled with 30lb mono.
I am a lure chunker at heart but for offshore fishing, bait is the way. Crossing the HWY 361 bridge over the Laguna Madre as you leave Corpus, you will pass a few well stocked bait shops; Cos-Way Bait and Tackle, Red Dot Pier, Clem's Marina, and Billing's Bait Stand. Be sure to read the fishing reports before you embark on your trip to PINS to see what the fish are eating at the time. However a few large mullet, some ribbon fish, and cigar minnows should serve you just fine.
Hitting the water
When fishing offshore in a kayak, safety precautions should not be taken lightly. Part of the prep in any offshore trip is watching the weather and wave activity. The website swellinfo.com is a great tool to watch what the surf and winds are going to be doing on your desired day of fishing. For my trip, the forecast was good leading up to the weekend, but in the passing of one day the "tide" changed. We were met with 5ft seas and winds approaching 30mph from the east. This nixed the plan to go offshore. We did however launch the kayaks into the surf and practiced battling the rough water as well as offshore reentry techniques.
With inshore gear in tow, we turned to the Laguna Madre and made the best of a windy day, fishing around Bird Island Basin. I was very pleased when my good friend Laurent found trout holed up in a channel running through the shallow water. He was throwing a 3" Gulp shrimp on a light jighead.
Where to eat and where to sleep
Padre is a great place to make a camp and fish adventure. Bring your tent and camping gear and enjoy the seclusion of the island. With no cell phone signal and a wide open natural landscape you are truly separated from the world as you drive farther down the island. Rake away the seaweed and you have a perfect spot to throw up your tent, right on the beach. Some people choose to camp at Yarborough Pass next to the Laguna Madre, and others camp at Bird Island Basin where there is a more organized camping area with restrooms and the like. There is an additional fee for camping or parking at Bird Island.
If camping is not your forte, Monterrey Motel and Passport Inn are conveniently located just as you are driving out of civilization.
RV's can be parked right on the beach. An RV spot can also be found at Balli Park near the Bob Hall Pier.
When camping, of course a portable camping stove or grill will be the perfect solution to cooking your meals. We cooked steaks and then put foil wrapped sweet potatoes over a bed of hot coals, making for one heck of a camping meal. The HEB in Corpus off Staples Dr. had all the groceries we needed.
La Palma Mexican Restaurant, Johnny D's and Island Italian Restaurant are within a whispers distance of the previously mentioned motels and are sure to soothe your taste buds if beach cooking isn't in your plans.
The Other Angles
Padre Island really has it all. At the very north end of the island is the Bob Hall Pier. It is probably one of the best fishing piers on the Texas coast.
Multiple locations along the beach allow access to the Laguna Madre for some serious skinny water bay fishing. Bird Island Basin is the first launch area you will come to as you enter the park. This is also a hot spot for windsurfers, so be ready to navigate through them as you get to your fishing hole. 15 miles down the beach and you will find Yarborough Pass, a land cut to Laguna Madre. 4wd is really a must for navigating Yarborough (or any of the island for that matter). In fact, the entrance to Yarborough was so sanded in, we actually weren't able to fish this area. Continuing down the island to about the 60 mile mark is the Mansfield Channel, another spectacular spot for catching a number of game fish.
With 70 miles of beach, it really doesn't have to be said that surf fishing is plentiful. It is impressive seeing the true blooded surf fisherman drive by with their custom rigged trucks with rods and gear protruding from all angles.
Padre Island is an awesome area and very manageable for do-it-yourselfers but do not come to PINS unprepared. Being more or less removed from society, it's not worth getting stuck deep down the island with no backup plan or emergency tools. Here is my top 5 list of priority items beyond the obvious food and water: 1) First aid kit 2)VHF radio 3) Extra fuel 4) Spare tire(s) and jack(s) 5) Light source. I also recommend baby powder to combat the sticky/sandy beach feeling when going to bed.
To me PINS is a camping/fishing destination. There are plenty of other places along Texas' coast to get a motel room. Sitting around a fire under a clear south Texas sky with your buddies is about as good as it gets. The stories reminisced upon after the fact, such as raccoons taking your only loaf of bread are priceless and can not happen from a hotel room.
If you would like more information on PINS, visit www.nps.gov/pais/
Malaquite Visitor Center - 361.949.8068
For questions regarding this article, I can be reached at 936-776-7028, by email to [email protected], or find me on Facebook to follow along in my outdoor adventures.