When it comes to fishing in Galveston, you have two choices: the gulf or the bay. Galveston is a barrier island off the coast of south Texas just down the road a piece from Houston. On the north side of the island is Galveston Bay; the south side faces the Gulf of Mexico. The bay yields an abundance of speckled trout, red fish and flounder, but the Texas state record for the largest tarpon ever caught was set when a 220-pounder was pulled out of the gulf. Anglers have a tough choice when it comes to deciding where to fish.
Talk About a Grandfather Clause
Before casting that first line, fishermen need to know that a Texas fishing license is required for everyone -- locals and nonlocals alike -- taking fish out of Texas public waters. The license covers every legal means of fishing from bow fishing to rod and reel. This requirement is exempt, however, in two instances: Kids under 17 don’t need a license to fish, and neither do Texas residents born before September 1, 1930. That’s not to say all seniors are exempt from licensing. Texas seniors 65 years old and older born after September 1, 1930, need a license to fish.
Rocking the Sea Cradle
One reason fish is so plentiful in Galveston Bay is because it's an estuary, a body of water where salt and fresh water combine to make a nutrient-rich virtual marine-life nursery. A popular spot to cast your line into all this abundance is at South Jetty on the eastern tip of the island where the end of Seawall Boulevard meets Boddeker Road. Another good spot is the pier at Seawolf Park across the channel on neighboring Pelican Island. Just take the Galveston causeway over to Pelican Island, and follow Seawolf to the south end. The fishing pier features restrooms, showers and a snack bar. It’s open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.
The Reel Deal on the Beach
The Gulf of Mexico coast of Galveston Island offers a wealth of fishing from its wide sandy beaches and numerous rocky jetties. Galveston Island State Park is particularly popular with anglers since you can surf fish in the gulf and then head over to the other side of the island and cast your line into Galveston Bay without ever leaving the park. The rocky breakwaters along the Seawall are also popular spots to hook a few flounder, sheepshead, bull red or even an occasional bull shark or tarpon. You can fish all these places for free, but remember the rule for sharks: One per person, per day, is the limit.
A Little Pier Pressure
There are two fishing piers on the gulf side of the island, the Galveston Fishing Pier at 9001 Seawall Blvd., and the 61st Street Fishing Pier at 6101 Seawall Blvd. Both charge a fee. But since the world’s record 30-pound smooth puffer fish was caught off the same pier where the Texas state tarpon record was set, the catch is probably worth the cost. The Galveston Fishing Pier, where both records were set, is the longest privately owned pier between Texas and Maine. The double deck structure on its end features a sit-down restaurant. The distinctive purple and yellow 61st Street Fishing Pier, meanwhile, features a bait and tackle shop where equipment is available for rent or purchase. Its topside observation deck serves snacks, soft drinks, beer and margaritas for those who just want to watch the action.