Looking for an outdoor vacation getaway that the whole family can enjoy? Then you surely will want to hit some of these locations this summer.
Still planning your family vacations for the summer?
I sure hope fishing is on the schedule, no matter where you’re hoping to pass a few days or even weeks in Texas.
The Lone Star State is second to none when it comes to fishing destinations. However, many of the hotspots simply aren’t kid-friendly. Baffin Bay in remote South Texas (for speckled trout) and Lake Fork in East Texas (for largemouth bass) are truly “trophy” waters for these sought-after species. They are hands-down the best places to fish hard if you’ve got the time, money and know-how. But when we’re talking about young anglers, those spots just aren’t easy to fish. Wet wading for trophy specks and flipping and pitching for lunker bass doesn’t appeal to 99 percent of youngsters, especially if they’re new to angling.
There are a number of other spots with similar characteristics, but the worst thing you can do is take a young angler out and set them up for hard fishing — and, potentially, failure. The last thing you want is a day on the water that might make them never want to pick up a fishing rod again.
With that in mind, the goal this month — and throughout this summer — is to focus on family-friendly, kid-friendly waters where you can take your youngsters and have them do the catching, and lots of it. While you’re en route, either coming or going, there also are plenty of places for a quick diversion or two that can be fun, as well.
Here are some locales in Texas where memories are just waiting to be made. Don’t forget a big cooler (or two) to bring home your kids’ catch!
SURF’S UP IN SOUTH TEXAS
Saltwater fishing locales are tailor-made for family fun and some of the best fishing in Texas is accessible simply by driving up to the water, getting out and planting a few poles in the sand.
Padre Island National Seashore (nps.gov/pais/index.htm) is a treasure for many reasons, notably because it offers miles of excellent fishing, and you just never know what you might catch.
Just north of PINS sits Bob Hall Pier, which historically has been the best fishing pier in Texas for both number of species caught, as well as size of those critters. Black-and-white photos from decades past show huge fish of all kinds brought up from the depths below, and little has changed. If you plan to hit Bob Hall during the summer, plan on having company, although most anglers who frequent the area are more than friendly. Access fees are nominal ($2 per person and $2 per pole) and nearby amenities and facilities are plentiful.
Watch The Video Gallery Above To Help you Improve Your Family Fishing Fun!
While you can access a lot of territory along PINS in a car or light truck, it’s advised to use a 4-wheel-drive, raised vehicle if you plan on driving farther down the beach to Big Shell or Little Shell. PINS has more than 60 miles of beachfront and most of it is primitive in nature. While Hurricane Harvey damaged some of the public campsites, most of them are still open.
If you’re looking to connect on a number of sought-after saltwater species, the surf is the ideal place to fish. There are few places in the world where you might be able to catch redfish and trout, and perhaps mackerel, jacks and even sharks.
If your focus is on simply catching fish, don’t overlook whiting. That species won’t grow to the same sizes as other surf dwellers, but they nonetheless put up a good fight when weighing upward of 2 pounds, especially on light tackle. The ticket to filling a cooler with filets — there’s no bag or length limit on whiting — is using natural baits including shrimp and cut bait. They usually are found in schools cruising near the bottom.
That same cut bait may bring in a jack crevalle, which would be a surprise for a young angler!
Consult TPWD’s Outdoor Annual wherever licenses are sold for more on saltwater fishing regulations.
Along the Way: Nearby Corpus Christi (visitcorpuschristitx.org) offers numerous family-friendly attractions. Chief among those are the Texas State Aquarium (texasstateaquarium.org) and the Lexington Museum on the Bay (usslexington.com). If you make a trip during the summer, be sure to catch a baseball game at Whataburger Field, home of the Corpus Christi Hooks (cchooks.com) the Double-A affiliate of the Houston Astros.
The National Seashore hosts Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle hatchling releases typically from mid-June through August on Malaquite Beach in front of the Visitor Center. Nearby Mustang Island State Park and Goose Island State Park sustained heavy damage as a result of Hurricane Harvey last August. While these areas offer some of the best public land uses in Texas, check with TPWD before making plans that involve these state parks.
REMEMBER THE ALAMO
Braunig and Calaveras lakes are within a half-hour of an urban population of more than 1 million folks, but many may not realize just how good the fishing is on these bodies of water.
This pair of freshwater reservoirs southeast of San Antonio is known for harboring superb metropolitan fishing for a number of species, but one stands out: redfish, and big ones to be exact. TPWD has stocked millions of redfish fingerlings in these urban fisheries for years, and although they can’t reproduce, the reds adapt well to freshwater and grow quite large, feeding on a number of baitfish and other smaller game fish species. Catching a 10-pound red in saltwater bay systems along the Texas Gulf Coast isn’t a regular occurrence for even the most seasoned of anglers, but hauling in 15- to 20-pound reds in these freshwater haunts is actually quite common.
The lake-record red at each spot tipped the scales at 30 pounds or more!
These lakes are hotspots in the winter as fish gang up near the heated discharges that flow into the bodies of water, but the fishing is good spring, summer and fall, too, and not just for reds. Braunig and Calaveras have good populations of channel catfish, and each lake is rated excellent by Texas Parks and Wildlife for hybrid stripers, another species that has been regularly stocked.
If you’re looking for the go-to lure for multiple species, you simply can’t beat cut bait. Big channel cats — those up to 7 or 8 pounds — will take almost anything smelly you dangle in their direction, but cut shad or even shrimp will work, too, and you just might catch a huge redfish in the process!
Each lake features a public access park offering camping, picnic areas and boat ramps, in addition to good shoreline access for bank fishing. A few RV sites with hookups are available for rental, and a fee receipt for Braunig also provides admittance to Calaveras, and vice-versa. Check the TPWD website for fishing and access updates.
Along the Way: San Antonio (visitsanantonio.com) has become a travel destination second to none in Texas. More than 30 million people visit the city annually and there is no shortage of things to do. The obvious spot to head is downtown, in the heart of the city’s historical district. The River Walk and Alamo draw millions of visitors and there are plenty of spots to dine and stay for a while. The nearby La Villita area almost always has weekend events and festivals all year long, especially around Día de los Muertos.
One family-friendly destination that must be included on your trip list is the San Antonio Zoo (sazoo.org). More than a million people visit the zoo each year and it’s among the best in the country. There are special events scheduled regularly, and the educational components included in exhibits and regular displays also are first-rate for children of all ages.
CATCH UP ON LAKE TEXOMA
The first rule of successful fishing is “fish where the fish are.” The second should read something along the lines of “fish with those possessing more experience than you.” In the case of family fishing excursions, you simply can’t beat hiring a guide, especially one versed in taking youngsters. More important, such guides double as being patient teachers.
If you’re discussing Texas fishing hotspots, Texoma should be near the top for its catching potential. If you’re discussing who to go with, you can’t beat Striper Express Guide Service (striperexpress.com). Bill Carey and his son Chris have decades of combined experience taking families fishing. More than that, they just love being on the water and cater to personalities of all kinds.
I fished with Chris and a husband-and-wife team around Memorial Day weekend, and even though the weather was a bit rainy, the fishing was on fire. Texoma is the prime lake for striped bass in all of America. The 75,000-acre body of water that sprawls over both Texas and Oklahoma just northwest of Denison features a self-sustaining population of stripers. It also is among the best overall bass lakes for white bass, largemouths and even smallmouths. There’s also excellent catfishing!
The mass of stripers in the lake makes for relatively easy fishing, especially if you locate schools chasing gizzard shad and other baitfish. Bird activity near the surface and bait busting near the top are dead giveaways that stripers are on the hunt below. The voracious fish will take a variety of baits and can be caught using a plethora of techniques, including everything from trolling and downrigging to throwing topwater plugs and vertically working jigs.
The ideal scenario would be to find a school of fish and get within a stone’s throw for easy casting, even for youngsters. Just make sure you tell them to hold on!
Along the Way: The Texoma area offers a multitude of side trips and amenities. Visit laketexomaonline.com for more information on local wildlife refuges, hiking and biking trails, and equestrian opportunities.
THE BEND IN THE RIVER
Colorado Bend State Park, west of Lampasas and southeast of San Saba, may very well be the most diverse state park in Texas. There’s something for everyone when it comes to outdoor pursuits and it’s only a couple of hours north of Austin.
The state park offers exceptional hiking and biking opportunities, and there’s even caving adventures for youngsters starting at age 4 and up!
One of the recreational highlights at Colorado Bend is the fishing that the park offers along the scenic Colorado River. With more than 6 miles of river access, there’s plenty of space to explore your new favorite fishing hole. The white bass run in the spring is simply amazing and the fish can be caught at this time of year, too. A number of artificial lures work, but the easiest setup is to fish small jigs on light tackle. The casts won’t be long, so even the novice angler will be able to get right into the fish.
As with other state parks, Colorado Bend allows anglers to fish without fishing license or stamps. Simply pay the park entry fee and you’re ready to go. If you don’t have any fishing gear or forgot something, don’t worry. Many state parks loan fishing equipment for use in the park!
Along the Way: Lake Buchanan, one of Texas’ best overall fishing locales, is located 10 miles south of Colorado Bend. Buchanan is rated excellent by TPWD for stripers, hybrids and catfish and there are numerous guides used to taking out families and putting them on fish. A quick search online will yield plenty of prospects.
If you’re in the mood to go a bit more primitive, there are a number of campsites open at Buchanan.
It’s time to go fishing in Texas. Make sure that this summer vacation is one complete with plenty of family memories — and tasty filets for everyone to enjoy!