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A beginner’s guide to island fishing - The Galveston County Daily News : Coast Magazine

October 1, 2014

A beginner’s guide to island fishing

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Posted: Sunday, July 27, 2014 12:00 am | Updated: 10:41 am, Sun Jul 27, 2014.

Tens of thousands of anglers fish the waters surrounding Galveston Island each year.

“Galveston’s a mecca for any angler,” Capt. Ron Wright, of Ron’s Fishing Charters, said. “Whether you choose to cast a line in the surf or from a jetty, pier or boat, Galveston’s got it all.”

In these parts, many residents grow up fishing and get hooked at an early age. But it’s never too late to learn. 

Here’s some tips on getting starting:

Baiting basics

Deciding what you want to catch will help determine where you cast your line and the bait you use. 

“Beginners should think of fishing like any other type of hunting,” said Capt. Steve Rushing, shrimp boat owner and manager of the West End Marina’s bait shop. “You need to research the habits of your prey. Find out where they live and what they eat.” 

Specific species of fish target specific species of bait, Rushing said. For example, croaker eat trout eggs and that makes them a natural enemy of the adult trout. Because croaker emit a “croaking noise,” they make good bait for big fish that linger in murky waters, such as trout or red fish. Live croaker is available May through October. Live shrimp is widely available all year, but as with any live bait, it’s more difficult to keep alive in summer months. There is less oxygen in warmer water so aeration is key. Rushing suggests using an aeration system and/or adding ice to your bait water if the temperature rises above 80 degrees.

Hook your bait so it can swim as it would naturally. 

“You want to keep it alive in the water; you want it to wiggle,” Rushing said. 

Hook your shrimp by the horn on top, just above the brain, or by the last section of the tail. Hook a croaker by its lip. Ready-to-go aeration, bait and instruction are available at West End Marina, 21706 Burnet Drive. Call 409-632-0338.

Casting from a pier

“We have a community of expert fishermen and women on site,” said Jimmy McClure, owner of the Galveston Fishing Pier and Jimmy’s on the Pier, a full-service restaurant. “Some people just don’t like to get wet so fishing in the surf is out of the question for them.”

Piers can be ideal for novice anglers.

“Most folks who fish on a pier are friendly and willing to give advice to beginners,” McClure said. “Or they’re eager to grab a net and help reel in a fish.” 

Galveston Fishing Pier, 9001 Seawall Blvd., sells a full array of fishing equipment and frozen bait. The pier is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Call 409-974-4383.

The 61st Street Fishing Pier, 6101 Seawall Blvd., also is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Snacks, drinks and frozen bait are available. Call 409-744-8365.

Chartering a boat

Movement is one advantage of fishing on a private or charter boat. 

“If the fish aren’t biting in one spot, you can quickly move about,” Wright said. 

A good charter captain will know how deep the water is, how the currents are running and what fish is biting and what bait to use.  

Wright suggests fishing during incoming tides and between sandbars. Beginners should keep it simple. 

“The more complicated your rigging, the easier it is to tangle up your lines,” Wright said.

To avoid injury, use the appropriate hook pliers and “keep your fingers out of the mouth of the fish. They have teeth.” Keep your catch fresh by putting it on ice. 

“Keeping it cold also makes is easier to filet.” 

Capt. Ron’s Fishing Charters launches from the boat basin at The Galveston Yacht Club on the east end of Galveston. Call 409-788-2462.

Jetty action

Galveston jetties are popular for fishing, accessible from the beach and have no admittance fee. The South Jetty, at the entrance to Galveston Bay, is the largest. To reach the South Jetty, take the seawall to its easternmost point and turn right on Boddeker Road, park at Apffel Park and take the walkover about 50 to 75 feet over the natural habitat. Keep in mind there are parking fees along the Seawall and at Apffel Park.

Practice really does make perfect, Wright said. He suggests buying a weight and tying it to your line to practice casting in your backyard. 

“When casting, let go of your line at a 45-degree angle, keeping tension on the line. If you leave slack on the line, it gives the fish opportunity to throw the hook from its mouth and escape,” he said. “When reeling in a fish, keep the tension on the line and retrieve more line as you can. It’s best to keep the rod tip up and when your fish slows down, reel in a little at a time.” 

Rods and reels

Academy Sports + Outdoor sells saltwater-ready rods and reels and will spool your reel for free if you if you buy it at the Galveston store. 

“You can walk in empty-handed and walk out all hooked up for less than $20,” Jeff Brody, Academy Sports logistics manager, said.

Brody suggests beginners start with a push-button or spin cast fishing reel. The store also offers a full line of fishing accessories and frozen bait.

Licensing and regulations 

If you’re age 16 or older and fish in public waters, you’ll need a license. Daily or year-round passes are available at most area bait shops, marinas, piers or at Academy, 4523 Fort Crockett Blvd. 

If you’re age 16 or younger and on a private charter, you’ll need an exempt angler tag, which can be purchased for $3. For a complete guide to regulations and exemptions, visit the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department at www.tpwd.state.tx.us

Online

• The Galveston County Daily News Reel Report by Capt. Joe Kent: galvnews.com

• Texas Parks and Wildlife Department: tpwd.state.tx.us. Click on “Take Me Fishing”

• West End Anglers: FishWestEnd.com 

• Search engine: Galveston tides today