Saturday, March 20, 2010


This year spring break took us once again to Rockport and Port Aransas. Last year we stayed all week in Rockport in a very nice condo on the water with two fishing piers and visited Port A for an extended day at the beach and yearly Dolphin Cruise at Woody's Sports Center.

We had visited Port A before on numerous occasions during spring break over the past two decades. The crowds were never too bad but last year although the weather was nice there was hardly any spring breakers there it seemed on the Thursday we visited. We were able to get immediate tables and snappy service at Oceans of Seafood for lunch and Pelican's Landing for dinner. The beach had a few gaggles of spring breakers but they were greatly outnumbered by families. We guessed the economy had caused the downturn, as there were similar situations in other spring break meccas.

This year, if spring break attendance is any sort of gauge of the economy, then it's bouncing back well. I don't agree with that, but I do think that folks were out in force. There are families here, but far less than last year.

We took our great yearly dolphin cruise on a big boat that cruises the bays and inland waters of Port A looking at the plentiful dolphin, and then dredging a large net and catching all kinds of interesting fish and sea life that even I as an experienced Texas saltwater fisherman have never seen in quite a lot of bay, inlet, surf and ocean fishing. There were probably eight families on the trip this year on a Friday afternoon whereas last year there were probably 20 families. FWTW.

We caught no fish this year, but again as I stress to El Fisho Jr., it's not the fishing, it's the catching. We fished one morning in Rockport on a nice harbor pier and a fellow gave us some of his leftover shrimp as he docked his boat nearby. He had been fishing the pier the day before when I checked it out catching a small flounder and later some croaker and various sea perch on cut mullet. His boat fishing fared worse, with one red fish but lots of sheepshead.

In any event, we got to do some surf fishing, although there was no bird action where we were fishing, so we were just out there for whatever was going on. I had dual hook stainless leader rigs for the bottom since we were fishing the second gut and that would put the bait about mid water in a 3'-4' gut. We were using whole mullet on a #8 circle hook and the fresh formerly live shrimp from the day before which I had frozen over night on #8 treble hooks, figuring a mix and match was the best we could do in the pretty cold water and pretty high winds.

So although we skunked out it was nonetheless fun and just being outdoors was great. The harder plastic and non-water absorbent Nerf footballs (No, I get no endorsements from Nerf or anyone else, and I'll let 'cha know if I ever do get an endorsement) are great for the beach. They do well in the wind, don't bounce too far on even hard sand and don't get nasty like other kinds of footballs and the yellow and black color gives it good visibility.

We saw the killer Texas norther storm that blew in Saturday afternoon and got some great pictures of the cold front ZOOMING in at about 12:45 afternoon. We had been on the beach, down around marker 39. The spring breakers were out in force this morning in their camps, and although there was a fair amount of cruising when we hit the beach at about 11 or so, it was windy blowing in from the Gulf like normal.

Then, as the line of dark clouds moved our way rapidly from the north in sort of an arced configuration stretching for miles and miles, the wind began to blow from the norther, not so much cold at that point but hard and gusting to about 40 mph and then the hard rain came.

We had set up a smaller base camp today, not setting up the tent shade structure as we did yesterday. The ladies did some beach walking and shell collection and I messed around with El Fisho Jr.

Kudos to the Island Tackle Center located 207 W. Avenue G in Port A, the street through town from the ferry landing to get to State Highway 361. When I was fishing in Rockport on Thursday morning, one of my favorite saltwater pier and quasi-surf rods had part of the metal tip guide break from some corrosion on the back inside part of the guide I apparently had not cleaned well the last time I went saltwater fishing. It caused the plastic/ceramic insert ring to pop out and of course, the line came out of that guide through the break.
I went to Tackle Town in Rockport, but they were very busy and I was told come leave it and come back later, but since we were about to leave Rockport and head to Port A, I waited until I got to Port a and I took the rod into the Island Tackle Center, where I had never ventured before, and was assisted a very nice man named Greg who removed my damaged top guide and affixed a new replacement in under five minutes for a class A job.

I have some sentimental feelings for this rod. I have caught some large fresh water catfish as well as a ton of saltwater fish with this rod since buying it at an outfitter's shop in Rosenberg back in 1997 or 1998 for $20. 8 foot, 2 piece, heavy duty saltwater casting rod rated for 12-30 pound test and made by some company called PAC-HAWK, or maybe that's the name of the rod model.

In any event, it's a white rod with foam handles and a 12" yellow rod tip that is very useful in night fishing and surf fishing. It handles well and although I own far more expensive modern and vintage rods of the same type and general length, this rod became my favorite years ago. It does well for ocean and bay pier fishing and satisfies for surf fishing when I'm with the family. Although I favor a much longer rod for surf fishing, and have one, it's a bit cumbersome with it's 2 piece 6.5' length in the family truckster.

So I have sentimental as well as function attachment to this rod, and I did a quick fix with the superglue I carry in my tackle box (now) when in Rockport fishing Thursday morning. I glued the insert into the metal tip guide ring and then after letting that dry a minute or two, glues the split in the metal guide itself on the outside, all the while taking care to make sure none of the superglue got on the interior of the guide where it might Contact the line.

The MacGiver'd rod carried on well surf fishing the first day of beach fishing in Port A on Friday. During the driving rainstorm Saturday, whilst the family was bargain T Shirt shopping and hitting up the excellent Winston Fudge store, I went to Island Tackle where I met Greg, who works there with his owner dad and step-mom.

He told me he could have my rod as good as new in 3-4 minutes, and set about fixing it very properly with a very nice quality replacement rod tip guide. I got charged the grand total of $4 and some change, and I'm sure the guide he put in there cost nearly that much even wholesale. I have built several rods and repaired many rods and reels and am familiar with quality saltwater replacement guides. So he made like maybe a buck for his labor.

He was quite nice and we discussed favorite spots and we talked of our mutual like for Fish Pass and the deep guts in the surf at PINS. The next time we come down here, which could be as early as next month, I think I'll send the rod in advance. We looked at the other guides and they all had pretty severe corrosion in about a 2mm spot underneath each guide. Although I was and metal polish down my rod guides after fishing, obviously I've been missing a small spot even with my q-tip detailing.

So I think I'll post the rod in a PVC case I have for it and get the other rod guides replaced and then just pick it up. They had some nice surf spinning rods there too in shorter 9' and 10' lengths for very reasonable prices as well, although they were all two piece and I think I'd like to go to about a 3 pc. 12-13 footer for my next surf rod. Something to really get that bait out to that third gut on cold days like this week when I didn't want to get wet in that dang chilly waters.
Kudo's again to Island Tackle and Greg for not only having a great business, an extremely great work ethic, and damn reasonable prices. In fact, they're fixing to make some more money off of me.
Island Tackle had a sign posted out front for both rental tackle and "inexpensive" fishing tackle. They did indeed have some great deals on both long surf rods and shorter surf/pier rods as well as bay stuff. Their terminal tackle was well stocked and I could see the materials to make wire leaders to your order on the spot, just like in the old days at fishing shops. They had supplies for surf, bay and ocean fishing, and although I didn't see any fly stuff there, you can already get that at Port A Outfitters or over in Rockport at Tackle Town.
I'm also pleased to see that Orvis opened a storefront on the main drag in Rockport. I didn't get to venture in there, but will on the next trip. Likewise, saw a fishing business entitled Angler's Marine Center on Hwy 361 heading down towards Beach Access Road 1A on the left. Didn't stop in there either but again, I'm sure I will and see what kind of stuff they have in there.
Another fishing business in Port A is the BilMoore Hardware store which sells fishing tackle. Of course, Fisherman's Wharf and Woody's Sports Center and probably a few other places sell fishing gear. If you're just needing some hooks, leaders, popping corks or sinkers or a really cheap rod and reel for the kids, even the IGA grocery store in Port A has a basic fishing tackle selection.
I'll write more later about some of the other sights and sounds, and then run through a list of restaurant reviews about Port A. I'll talk about how they could probably use a little more law enforcement presence if they wanna get the families like us to keep coming down, as there were some bonafide "real" gang bangers from Corpus in attendance, with some being very hardcore with facial prison/cartel tattoos. I saw members of the what I believe is called the TexTones gang from both Corpus and San Antonio, flying their tatts and in one case, dressed in identical lighter blue shirts and short emblazoned with "Corpus Christi 361".
I know that in Houston and Austin the gangsters with the area codes tatted in The State of Texas outline are respectively the Houstones and the Austones, or that they sometimes sport a sports team tattoo from their city to clearly identify them as being from that contingent. I also saw a set of 4 very hard core gangsters from MS-13, and they were sporting very hardcore facial tattoos of the type I've seen by cartel enforcers and gang leaders.
Neck tattoos are almost common place amongst some of the milder versions of gangsters in Texas, but the extensive facial tattooing is exclusive to the most hardcore, in my opinion. There were plenty of neck tattoos in evidence, and based on their attire and seriously wheeled rides and the abundance of tattoos, I'm guessing most of the less serious and hardcore gangsters types are not on high school or junior college spring break but are down there to look for the college girls.
Whatever. But suffice it to say that perhaps 20 or so of the thousands of the kids down there on break were not in college and had been to the Pen and based upon the openly displayed gang affiliation they were "walking probable cause" for the police to stop and question.
From my job, I know that both San Antonio and Corpus have significant prison gang populations, particularly those from the old school Mexican Mafia and Texas Syndicate. But these were new school hoodlums, and there were a total of 9 of them that had the types of tattoos and clothing that just screamed hardcore.
And you hate to see that around a bunch of basically decent college and college aged kids just trying to have a good time at the beach drinking and whooping and doing those things that young Americans want to do. They had plenty enough police for the usual spring break issues, and it seemed like the police were exercising lots of discretion and getting intoxicated persons from the beach to their lodging or tents instead of merely looking to arrest every kid getting a bit blasted.
But I do think some more law enforcement for the harder core elements that were in attendance would be good. Mrs. El Fisho and a friend that came with us were hitting the stores on Saturday afternoon, and they came upon a bunch of plainclothes officers sporting external ballistic vests, raid jackets, lots of extra mags, dual handguns, gas and since Mrs. El Fisho has been around such things, she thought they looked like a raid team as they were riding in unmarked vehicles at the gas station they stopped at.
I'm hoping that was DPS Criminal Intelligence or perhaps some special Gang Unit out of Nueces County SO or Corpus Christi P.D, coming over the monitor the activity.
I don't think there is much if any youth or serious prison gang activity in Port Aransas outside of Spring Break and the Memorial/Labor/July 4th holidays.
That's what I want to keep thinking because one day soon I'd like to live there.
There was, of course, the obligatory Confederate Flag being flown from numerous trucks, and many had logos on them such as "Heritage Not Hate" or "Git 'Er Done" and so on. Interestingly, I saw three "Come and Take It Flags", two that were traditional with the cannon depicted and one that had a well-drawn M-16 Carbine instead of a Cannon.
There were a ton of "Don't Mess With Texas" flags and a few college flags, but lots of both American and Texas flags. The flags are always an interesting touch.

As far as fishing on the beach, although I went in up to my knees, the water temp was real cold and I really needed some kind of light weight diver or surfer outfit to be able to go much further than that. I don't care much for waders in general, particularly in surf, but a nice thinner wetsuit, the zip on variety that surfers use, would be good for getting about waist deep to throw that bait out past that third gut with a 12'+ rod. Future Ebay searches will undoubtedly involve looking for a deal on a used light wet suit of some kind.

More later about our trip and what we learned and where you can go in Port Aransas.

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