May 26, 2024

Hardcore Game Fishing

Game Fishing News

Port Isabel fishing: the Complete Guide

Reading Time: 8 minutes

Nestled in the extreme south of Texas, Port Isabel is – at first glance – an unassuming coastal hideaway. But rich in history and blessed with temperate weather all year round, it’s the perfect relaxing day trip away from the crowds of South Padre Island. Local anglers know that there’s a lot more to this town than its easy-going lifestyle. Port Isabel fishing is anything but slow.

Remote it may be but, in angling terms, Port Isabel is in the perfect location. At the very southern tip of the hyper-saline Lower Laguna Madre, its marine ecosystem is comparable to that of South Florida – just without the fishing pressure. Outside of the bay, beyond South Padre Island, the Gulf of Mexico beckons. Here, the sky’s the limit: King Mackerel, Tuna, Mahi Mahi… No matter what sort of fishing you’re looking for, Port Isabel probably has it. Let’s dive in.

Port Isabel Fish Species

The clear, salty waters of the Lower Laguna Madre and the influx of water from the Gulf of Mexico make the area around Port Isabel irresistible for all sorts of fish species. This is the place to come for a “Texas Slam,” thanks to the real possibility of catching Redfish, Trout, and Flounder in the same day. But it’s also home to some species that you would never expect to catch in the Lone Star State. Here’s what to look out for.


Four anglers on a fishing boat – two standing behind two sitting – with each holding a Redfish caught on an inshore fishing trip from Port Isabel, TX, on a sunny day
Photo courtesy of R&R Outdoor Adventures

Very little gets an inshore angler’s heart rate up like the sight of a Redfish’s spotted tail darting through expansive grass flats. The acres of unusually clear, shallow seagrass beds in the Lower Laguna Madre make this experience a year-round possibility in Port Isabel.

Although the fish move between the lagoon’s different types of flats throughout the year, they’re almost always nearby in waters less than 2 feet deep. This makes for exciting sight fishing for experienced anglers – although the fish will always respond well to easier techniques, too.

Speckled Trout

An angler in a baseball cap and sunglasses holding a large Speckled Trout in front of his chest on a sunny day in Port Isabel, with the water behind him and a shoreline visible in the distance
Photo courtesy of Eat Sleep Fish Repeat Charters

One of the most popular sport and eating fish in Texas, Speckled Trout famously reach larger sizes in the Lower Laguna Madre than almost anywhere else in the state. The Texas record came from these waters and catching a gator over 30 inches is always a possibility. No one knows exactly why “Specks” get so big around here, but the theory is that it’s due to the exceptionally salty, shallow water in the bay.


A smiling angler in a baseball cap and sunglasses standing on a fishing boat in Port Isabel, TX, holding a large Snook, with the water and mangroves visible behind him on a sunny day
Photo courtesy of Crystal Flats Guide Service – 48 Years

Yes, you heard us. Port Isabel looks out onto just about the only place in Texas where you can fish for Snook. In fact, this is the only place you can reliably find them in the continental US outside of South Florida! Big “Linesiders” visit these warm, clear waters all year round, sunbathing in the shallow flats in summer and fall, and congregating around structure in deeper waters in the winter and spring. They’re far from the easiest fish to catch, but the challenge makes it all the more rewarding.


A woman ahanging over the side of a boat in the crystal clear waters of the Laguna Madre on a clear day, holding a Tarpon by its mouth, with its body visible beneath the water
Photo courtesy of Tula Charters

Anyone who thinks inshore fishing will only land you something small has clearly never seen a Tarpon. “Silver Kings” can reach up to 200 pounds and these monsters visit Port Isabel’s Brazos Santiago Pass every summer through fall. As well as large migrating fish, you can also find the occasional juvenile Tarpon in the Lower Laguna year-round.

Sport fish through and through, Tarpon are famous for their acrobatics on the end of a line. Even though Texas allows you to keep up to one Tarpon a day, most people prefer to release them after bringing them to the boat.

What else?

An angler in a camouflage blue shirt, sunglasses, and sunglasses holds a large Red Snapper aboard a Port Isabel offshore fishing charter on a sunny day, with the deep waters visible behind him
Photo courtesy of KP Fishing Adventures

These inshore superstars are far from the only fish you can catch in Port Isabel. The local waters are also home to tasty inshore fish like Flounder, Black Drum, and Sheepshead, as well as Spanish and King Mackerel. Mangrove Snapper is a particularly popular target that puts up a fight and cooks up a treat.

Head into the Gulf, and you can hook up on a variety of Shark species, as well as Grouper, Snapper, and Jack Crevalles over the reefs. Further out into federal waters, anything from Mahi Mahi to Marlin becomes a possibility depending on how far you’re willing to travel.

How to Go Fishing in Port Isabel

Possibly the best thing about this fishery is just how accessible it is. Scores of boats moor close to the city’s central attractions, while the state’s longest fishing pier reaches out into the entrance of the Lower Laguna Madre. Whether you’re fishing with a guide or going it alone, you have plenty of options.

Charter Fishing

You can’t beat local knowledge, and Port Isabel fishing guides have plenty. Whether it’s sight fishing for Redfish or multi-day offshore adventures, they know the local fishery better than anyone. And, they can introduce you to the local culture, too. Port Isabel fishing charters usually offer one or more of the following services:

Bay Fishing

A view across the turquoise waters of Port Isabel to a center console boat that operates as an inshore fishing charter, with the captain busy at the wheel on a clear day
Photo courtesy of Crystal Flats Guide Service – 48 Years

The bay fishing Port Isabel has on its doorstep is an inshore angler’s paradise. That’s because it takes place in the Lower Laguna Madre. All the inshore fish we mentioned above swim here throughout the year, and bay fishing trips are the perfect way to target them. Try your hand at limiting out on Trout and Redfish, all while admiring Port Isabel’s lighthouse from the water.

Offshore Fishing

Port Isabel offshore fishing charters could take you anywhere from a couple of miles off the shores of South Padre Island to the continental shelf. It all depends on their licensing – and your stamina!

Half day trips will usually see you fishing the nearshore artificial reefs for Snapper and Grouper. On a full day outing, federally-licensed guides can take you to deeper waters for Amberjack and Red Snapper (when in season), as well as Blackfin Tuna and King Mackerel.

But the real fun starts at the continental shelf. Longer Port Isabel deep sea fishing trips can see you catching Blackfin and Yellowfin Tuna, Wahoo, and even Sailfish and Marlin.

Pier Fishing

A view looking back from a ship on the Brownsville Ship Channel in Texas, with the wake of the boat visible on a clear day

The fishing pier in Port Isabel is the longest in the Lone Star State. Pirate’s Landing Pier runs adjacent to the Queen Isabella Causeway, close to where the Lower Laguna Madre meets the Gulf of Mexico. This makes for great year-round fishing for all the species that come in and out of the Laguna. Not only does it have wonderful fishing, Pirate’s Landing also offers family-friendly food and fun to top off a long day on the water.

As if that wasn’t enough, it’s only a short hop to South Padre Island’s North and South Jetties. They flank the entrance of the Brazos Santiago Pass where it enters the Gulf of Mexico, adding Tarpon and Mackerel to the list of potential catches.

Port Isabel Fishing Spots

Thanks to its location at the intersection of the Lower Laguna Madre and the Gulf of Mexico, there’s somewhere to fish whichever direction you travel out of Port Isabel. But go out on a boat, and you’re likely to fish one of these areas.

Lower Laguna Madre

An aerial view looking towards a bridge over the Laguna Madre in Texas on a cloudy day, with murky waters visible in the foreground

The largest continuous shallow-water estuary in North America, the Lower Laguna Madre is mostly made up of grass, mud, and sand flats. The average depth is only 2–3 feet deep and it’s home to about three quarters of all of Texas’s coastal seagrass beds. This keeps the water exceptionally clear and makes an ideal habitat not only for fish, but also for dolphins, sea turtles, and all sorts of birds. This a world-class fishing destination and a wonderful place to simply enjoy the natural world.

The Intracoastal Waterway

The Gulf’s Intracoastal Waterway starts at Port Isabel’s Brownsville Ship Channel and runs north up the entire length of the Laguna Madre, and beyond. This deeper section of the Lower Laguna is a favorite haunt of Black Drum, along with Flounder, Trout, and Redfish when they’re not on the flats.

South Bay

A short hop south of Port Isabel, South Bay merges into the Boca Chica Wildlife Refuge. This extremely shallow body of water is as good for wade fishing as it is for drift fishing with a skiff, although watch your footing if you’re fishing without a boat. The oyster reefs in the west of the bay attract lots of bait fish, drawing Redfish, Trout, and occasionally Snook into the shallows from March through November.

Brownsville Ship Channel

A view from a beach towards a fishing pier in South Padre Island, Texas at sunset, with the bright sun visible in the distance creating an orange hue on the horizon

The deep water channel that connects Brownsville with the Gulf of Mexico provides easy access to deeper waters for inshore fish around Port Isabel. This makes it a good place to fish for Snook in the winter, while the channel’s edges are good for Flounder all year round. Snapper, Redfish, Trout, and Black Drum are also common visitors to this busy waterway.

The Channel meets the Gulf of Mexico at the Brazos Santiago Pass, which offers fantastic fishing for Tarpon, as well as King and Spanish Mackerel.

The Gulf of Mexico

Head out of the Brazos Santiago Pass, and the possibilities are almost endless. The Port Isabel Reef and the Rio Grande Valley Reef are just two of the numerous productive fishing grounds within easy reach of Port Isabel.

The continental shelf starts to drop around 30 miles offshore, making deep sea pelagic fish a possibility on an extended day trip. Some Port Isabel deep sea charters even go as far as 120 miles out on multi day excursions in search of Tilefish, Swordfish, Marlin, and multiple species of Tuna.

Port Isabel Fishing Tournaments

The largest saltwater fishing competition in the Lone Star State – the Texas International Fishing Tournament – takes place in Port Isabel and South Padre Island every summer. During the first full weekend in August, the local waters are buzzing with anglers looking for the biggest and the best of bay, Tarpon, and offshore fishing. Whether you’re competing or eyeing up the catches at the dock, this long weekend showcases the local fishery at its best.

Rules and Regulations for Fishing in Port Isabel

Just like everywhere else in Texas, anglers fishing Port Isabel need a license. You can purchase these online or at numerous locations throughout the state. We also recommend checking the saltwater bag and length limits before you fish. Of course, any licensed local guide will ensure you’re fishing on the right side of the law.

Port Isabel: Your Launchpad for Saltwater Explorations

A view from above towards the Laguna Madre from Port Isabel, TX, on a sunny day, with the town visible in the foreground and the water in the distance along with a bridge

As unassuming as it may seem, there’s a lot to Port Isabel beneath the surface. Spanish explorers first landed here in 1519. Nowadays, SpaceX launches its own historic missions just a short hop to the south. The urge to explore runs throughout this not-so-sleepy city and this energy is at its best aboard a fishing boat. So try your hand at fishing in Port Isabel and see what new discoveries you’ll find at the end of your line. Just don’t forget to tell us how it goes.

What’s your favorite Port Isabel fishing spot? Did you find one of the area’s sneaky Snooks? Anything else you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments below!

The post Port Isabel Fishing: The Complete Guide appeared first on FishingBooker Blog.

By: Cat
Title: Port Isabel Fishing: The Complete Guide
Sourced From:
Published Date: Thu, 07 Sep 2023 08:57:49 +0000

Share This