FULTON — They came pushing grocery carts and pulling wagons filled with live bait, tackle, long surf rods and chairs.
One even had a baby carriage loaded with everything, but the baby, and that included a couple of Little Caesars pizza.
It didn’t matter that the wind was blowing upwards of 30 miles an hour. It was Saturday and as the sun was setting the crowd began to arrive at the Copano Bay Fishing Pier for an evening of fishing fun.
Creatures of habit, everyone seemed to have their favorite spot. Some stayed close to the ends. Others happily walked farther down the 9,000-foot, former Highway 35 causeway that spanned Copano Bay leading into Fulton and Rockport to where a drawbridge used to operate.
Completed in 1931, the 20-foot wide bridge became obsolete in 1967 when replaced by an adjacent modern structure. It then became the Copano Bay Fishing Pier, a six-acre state park. In 2005 operation of the pier was transferred to the Aransas County Navigation District.
They cast their lines over the old railings and down 20 feet or so to the water below in hopes of catching anything from croakers and hardheads to flounder, trout or drum, either the red or black variety. These aren’t sport fishermen out just to enjoy a day of fishing. This is a crowd looking to catch something to eat.
And then it happens. One of the fishermen’s rod tips begins to shake. He pulls it from its holder, sets the hook and quickly reels the fish through the water and, like an up elevator, to the pier above. In a single move, he snaps it over the railing, over his head and onto the pavement.
Although the reuse of the old bridge makes the pier unique, it is just one of hundreds of popular public fishing areas stretching from Galveston Bay to the tip of South Padre Island. Some, like Copano, are piers. Others are jetties or beaches, but they all attract a diverse crowd catching a variety of fish.
There are obstacles to navigate when fishing the more popular spots to make the trip successful. For example, piers, jetties and beaches are going to be overly crowded on weekends, with lighted piers swamped on weekend nights. While most fishermen are cooperative and give each other space, going weekdays is likely to result in more space to fish.
Picking the right time of year, and whether to fish a lighted pier will help determine what can be caught.
“Spring, summer and fall are all good times to go, but the fall is arguably the best time of year to target most species. For Gulf piers the water is typically clear and calm and Gulf spawning species are prevalent like red drum. Wind and rough water is the pier angler’s biggest concern. Night fishing on lighted piers that cast a light upon the water’s surface is good for spotted seatrout and other species that are attracted to the light,” Morris said.
He added that beach shoreline fishing might produce shark, tarpon, Florida pompano, king mackerel, cobia, jack crevelle and other near shore Gulf species.
Live bait, especially shrimp, is often the bait of choice, but Morris said artificial lures can be affective for trout under the lights.
“Most shark and bottom anglers use cut fish or relatively small whole fish for bait on the beach piers, while others may use live bait under floats when the current is not strong or slide lines. This keeps the bait in one spot and near the surface. It works wonderfully for tarpon, king mackerel and other Gulf species,” Morris said.
For more information on state public access fishing sites along the Texas Gulf Coast go online to http://www.glo.texas.gov/ or contact the Texas General Land Office at 1-800-998-4GLO for a copy of the Texas Beach & Access Guide.
Information on handicapped accessible sites is located online at http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/fishboat/fish/recreational/wheretofish/wheelchair.phtml.
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