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As the southernmost bayside community on the Texas Gulf Coast, Port Isabel offers anglers a myriad of opportunities to fish for the species not found elsewhere in Texas. And, they are able to do so in one of the most picturesque bays in the United States-the Lower Laguna Madre. As one of the oldest ports in Texas, Port Isabel has served as an ideal access point for fishermen on the Lower Laguna Madre since the mid-1800s. However, recent years have seen anglers experiencing historically good fishing foe speckled trout, snook, redfish, tarpon, and more in these shallow, cleat waters.

The Lower Laguna Madre, which is sandwiched between Port Isabel and South Padre Island, the shallow grassflats between Port Isabel and South Padre Island yield plenty of impressive seatrout each year, including some of legendary proportions. In fact, the current state catch-and-release record fish (15.6 pounds) was taken by local fly fisherman Bud Rowland in 2002 within sight of the Port Isabel's Historic Lighthouse. Good numbers of "keeper" speckled trout are caught year around throughout the bay.

Perhaps, the biggest draw for anglers on the southern end of the Lower Laguna Madre are the miles of shallow sand flats and, more specifically, the large schools of red drum that swim over them. Sight-casting for redfish is hands down the most popular activity on the southern end of the lower Laguna. And, it is an activity that is available year around. Depending on the season, redfish will transition from sand flats to grass and mud flats. However, with the exception of a rare hard cold spell, there will always be redfish to be found in less than two feet of water.

Snook are another popular target on the South end of the Lower Laguna Madre. These fish are available year around. From spring through fall, they can be taken on the shallow flats of the Lower Laguna and South Bay, a small body of water that lies just below the Lower Laguna. During the heat of summer, snook are thick in the Brazos Santiago Pass and along the beachfront. In the winter months, linesiders are found in dense concentrations in the Port of the Port Isabel and the Browsnville Ship Channel.

Tarpon, too, are a big draw. Juvenile tarpon can be found year round. However, bigger fish-and more fish-show up in the late spring and hang around until the first hard notherns work their way through the area - usually late November or early December. The warm weather months also encourae kingfish, spanish mackerel, bonnita, ladyfish, jack crevalle, and other species to move into the Brazos Santiago Pass, which connects the Lower Laguna Madre to the Gulf of Mexico, where they are easy targets for inshore anglers.

Boating nglers can access the Lower Laguna Madre at the City of Port Isabel's pulic Boat Ramp on Pompano street. KJayak and wade fisherman have access directly into the bay at the Arturo Galvan Coasta Park, located at the end if 2nd St.

Not surprisingly, Port Isabel is ladden in history, giving visiting anglers a unique vacation experience. The town's proud centerpiece-the Port Isabel Lighthouse-saw service for both sides during the civil war. A number of historic buildings, which have been converted to shops, restaurants and boutiques form the square around the Lighthouse. Cattycorner from the Lighthouse Square are the Museums of Port Isabel - the Port Isabel Historic Museum and the Treasures of the Gulf Museum-both popular stops for visitors.

Port Isabel's history also extends to fishing. It was here that the state's largest fishing tournament - the Texas International Fishing Tournament - began back in 1934 as a way to draw visitors to the area. TIFT still draws visitors to the area. in fact, over 1,500 anglers participate in the event each August.

Getting to Port Isabel is relatively easy, although it does require some driving. The most convenient major airport is Valley International Airport in Harlingen, some 45 minutes away. Whether flying in and renting a car at the airport or driving down the entire trip, anglers must pass through Harlingen via US 77 South to the State Hwy 100/South Padre Island exit. From that point, follow State Hwy 100 east for 21 miles and you find yourself in downtown Port Isabel, just moments away from a memorable angling adventure.

Photos & text credit: Danno Wise.

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