Port Aransas, Texas, is smack dab in the middle of the Texas Gulf Coast, in the heart of the area known as the Coastal Bend. In Nueces County and surrounded by the Gulf of Mexico, Corpus Christi Bay, the Lydia Ann Ship Channel and the Corpus Christi Ship Channel, Port Aransas is the only town on Mustang Island, one of the longest barrier islands in Texas. The town’s population of about 3,480 quadruples on any given weekend due to its proximity to Corpus Christi, just a 30-minute drive away. During the summer, Port Aransas is party central for people from all over Texas, who come to take advantage of the beaches, nightclubs and restaurants that line the waterfront.
For billfishermen, Port A’s proximity to deep water in the Gulf of Mexico is its main draw. While anglers can indeed catch billfish in this region year-round, without a doubt the summer months offer the best odds of increasing your catch numbers for all pelagic species. Kevin Deerman, captain of Legacy, the tournament-winning 56 Viking, says that the close access to the edge of the continental shelf, coupled with numerous structures within a 60-mile radius, make this port tops on his list. Productive spots, such as Bakers and Hospital Rock, are only a 35-mile run away, and catching sailfish, white marlin and blue marlin there in the height of the summer is a real possibility. Bakers and Hospital Rock are very close to Port A, but there are many other known spots for day-tripping anglers to explore, such as Dutra (69 miles), the Dumps (66 miles), Colt 45 (77 miles) and the East Breaks (73 miles).
In addition to the proximity to deep water, another draw to Port Aransas are the rigs that line the ultradeep canyons. These “spars” usually sit in water that’s at least 5,000 feet deep and are basically giant FADs. Perdido, almost due south at 155 miles, is where many Poco Bueno Tournament qualifiers have come from. I was the angler on the Legacy crew in 2010 when at Perdido, we put a 450-pound blue marlin on the board at Poco for a third-place finish. Other spars in the area are Hoover/Diana (138 miles), Boomvang/Nansen (132 miles) and the permanent rigs Tequila (106 miles), East Cerveza (121 miles) and West Cerveza (132 miles), which are extremely popular billfish hot spots. The Legacy crew won the Port Aransas-based Texas Legends Billfish Tournament this past August with two blue marlin releases that came from Boomvang/Nansen — with yours truly as the angler on both fish.
Competitive anglers should be aware that during the late spring and summer there are tournaments pretty much every weekend out of Port A, quite literally. These events cover all saltwater species, both inshore and offshore. Some of the most notable ones are the Pescado Shootout, which occurs in May, the Powderpuff Tournament in June, the Deep Sea Roundup in July, the Texas Legends Billfish Tournament in August and the Texas Women Anglers Tournament at the end of August.
“The location of Port Aransas makes it an ideal home base due to the ease of getting to all of the big tournaments in Texas,” says Brian Phillips, captain of the 58-foot Sculley Mojo. “It’s an easy run to Port O’Connor for Poco Bueno and the Houston Big Game Fishing Club’s Lone Star Shootout, as well as the Bastante Tournament in Rockport, not to mention running down to Port Isabel for the Texas International Fishing Tournament.” A large portion of the fleet of private sport-fishing boats that ply the tournament circuit here in Texas call Port A home.
Port Aransas is a rare destination fishery that offers so many options for any fishing fanatic that deciding what you want to target on any given day can be laborious. I have seen people catch a sailfish in the morning at Baker’s and then come inside and catch a limit of speckled trout and redfish in the afternoon at the jetties. For the traveling angler, there are numerous charter options. From Kelly Owens’ Deep Sea Headquarters, you can fish on one of three headboats (Gulf Eagle, Pelican or Kingfisher) or charter one of the sport-fishers, Caliente, a 43 Viking, or Tica Rica, a 31 Bertram. Numerous charter operations operate out of Port A and are just a phone call or mouse click away.
Make no mistake, there’s more to Port Aransas than just great fishing. A unique characteristic of this area that makes it truly special is the prolific number of great restaurants and fantastic bars and clubs that line every inch of waterfront and street in this party town. Every good day of billfishing deserves a post-fishing celebration, and the locals are more than willing to point you in the right direction for a great meal, a good drink or a rocking band. If you are ever in Texas and have a hankering to catch a billfish and a great time all in the same place, you’d be doing yourself a favor by adding Port Aransas to your bucket list — trust a Texan, you won’t regret it.