Day Trips

Texas coastal fishing piers provide the means to walk on water

Day Trips
Photo by Gerald E. McLeod

Texas coastal fishing piers provide the means to walk on water. With or without a fishing pole, taking a short walk on a long pier is no ordinary day in the park.

In general, it seems to take a lot of work to fish, particularly from a pier. Many fishermen push shopping carts or pull wagons piled high with chairs, tackle boxes, and coolers with rods sticking out of the pile – like long pins in a cushion – to a favorite spot along the railing. Then it's hours of waiting punctuated by a few minutes of excitement, if you're lucky. I would rather be a spectator and just enjoy the breeze, sunshine, and view.

Along the Texas coast there are 98 public piers, according to the Texas General Land Office's Texas Beach & Bay Access Guide. You can access a free download or order the guide at www.glo.state.tx.us/coastal/access/index.html or by calling 800/998-4456.

Most fishing piers charge a nominal entrance fee or per-rod fee, but some will let nonfishermen walk the planks for free. What's biting, besides the mosquitoes, often depends on the location, depth of water, and season. The majority of the piers are wheelchair-accessible. Unless the pier is in a state park, a state fishing license is required.

One of the longest piers on the Texas coast is actually a bridge with the middle cut out. In 1967, the highway department replaced the bridge over Copano Bay and left the old structure to the fishermen. The north pier is 2,500 feet long, and the south end of the former causeway reaches 6,190 feet into the bay. At a little more than 25 feet wide, it's hard to imagine driving across the old bridge on a dark and stormy night.

A former state park, Copano Bay Fishing Pier has concession stands at both entrances operated by the Aransas County Navigation District. The lighted pier is open 24 hours, seven days a week. The pier is five miles north of Rockport on TX 35.

Nueces County operates 18 public piers, more than any other governmental entity on the Texas coast. Two of the best are Bob Hall Pier and Horace Caldwell Pier.

At the north end of Padre Island, Bob Hall Pier reaches out over the surf in Padre Balli Park. The first of the three Bob Hall Piers was built in the 1950s. After two of the wooden structures were blown away in hurricanes, the current T-shaped pier was built with reinforced concrete. At 1,250 feet long, it reaches water deep enough that tarpon, a large fish with a sail along its back, have been caught from the pier.

Owned by the county but operated by a concessionaire, the Ozone Bar & Grill at the entrance to the pier serves a good taco and cold beer, plus it sells and rents fishing tackle. During the day, surfers gather in the breaks caused by the pilings. At night, fishermen gather around the lights.

Another popular surfing spot is around the Horace Caldwell Pier, extending 1,240 feet over the waves at the end of Beach Street in Port Aransas. The concessionaire is working on reopening the snack bar and bait shop. It's a nice walk to the T-head at the end of the pier during the day or under the lights at night.

The city of Fulton operates a fishing pier near the harbor that offers a nice view of the passing boat traffic. The fishing pier at Goose Island State Park in Rockport is more of a trip into nature. The lighted wooden pier stretches 1,620 feet to several islets and oyster banks. The price of admission to the park includes access to the pier and the state champion coastal live oak tree.

The Port Lavaca State Fishing Pier is part of another old causeway that was recycled. What was once touted as the longest fishing pier in the world, at 3,200 feet, was considerably shortened after the wooden structure caught fire twice. Extending into Lavaca Bay, it is a popular place to catch redfish, sheepshead, trout, flounder, and drum. The city manages the pier, beach, boardwalk, observation tower, and a recreational-vehicle park at Lighthouse Beach Park.

870th in a series. Day Trips, Vol. 2, a book of "Day Trips" 101-200, is available for $8.95, plus $3.05 for shipping, handling, and tax. Mail to: Day Trips, PO Box 33284, South Austin, TX 78704.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Copano Bay Fishing Pier, Bob Hall Pier, Horace Caldwell Pier, Padre Balli Park

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