A lot like fish, fishermen seem to move with the current and just when you think you've staked out that perfect little getaway on the Gulf, along comes the rest of the world.
However, Seadrift, Texas likes to boast as being the "last frontier" and I think they may just have a point. As the only town positioned on San Antonio Bay, this community serves as a base and access to the leading edge of the inland bay system. Even better, it tends to be a little overlooked by the sportfishing crowd.
Located in Calhoun County about thirty five miles south of Victoria on Hwy. 185, Seadrift makes for an easy drive from Houston, San Antonio, Corpus Christi, and all points in between. Furthermore, it is an alternative launching location for those hoping to cash in on the early spring search for trophy trout.
Always in pursuit of that record-setting spec, my fisherman-husband, Wayne, finds this location especially interesting. "By the time you start to read in the papers of large speckled trout being landed in Baffin Bay and around Corpus Christi", he says, "it's time to move the chase up the coastline as the fish work their way into the shallower bays, feeding heavily in preparation for their spawn.
"A real hot-spot for this activity is Panther Reef, a long, shallow oyster reef running through San Antonio Bay. Putting in at Fulghum's or Port O'Connor, requires navigating across Espiritu Santo Bay. Not only is that a fairly good distance, it's a little nerve racking - particularly if you're fond of the bottom of your boat.
"I've found", he continues, "that launching at Seadrift, is a much straighter, shorter boat drive to Panther Reef. Besides, there's plenty of good drift and wadefishing in San Antonio Bay and as much as I'd like to land the world's largest speckled trout, I always get a kick out of amassing a Texas Triple Crown of trout, redfish, and flounder."
Furthermore, as the Guadalupe River feeds into San Antonio Bay, an excellent environment for bait fish is created. The prospects for getting into some dandy catfishing increase as you move upwards into Guadalupe Bay and the mouth of the river as well.
With a population of only about 1500, Seadrift's lack of congestion is no indication of lack of accommodations. The Seadrifter at 106 W. Bay can be reached for reservations at 361-785-2031. Freshly remodeled and sporting The Harbor Inn Restaurant right next door, it's a convenient spot for the weary fisherman to land. The Bay Motel, at 322 N. Broadway requires no detours from Highway 185 and can be reached at 361-785-2226.
Most any right-hand turn off the highway will take you to Bay Avenue, where most of the fishing action is taking place. However, turn at Main and follow it the few blocks to the harbor in order to reach the public boat launch. Cost is three dollars and as usual, a Fish Finder Map will be of great assistance in navigating and locating prime fishing areas.
Should you decide that a guided trip is more in order, Bay Rat Guide Service, based out of Victoria, can be reached at 361-572-3851. Offering trips to the back bays of Seadrift and Port O'Connor, Capt. Gary Gray can also be contracted for offshore excursions, duck hunts or combination duck/fishing trips, and Matagorda Island Shuttles. The island, which is a state park and wildlife management area, is a mecca for birders and anyone else who desires to experience some of the last existing miles of truly pristine coastline.
For the sportsman, the attraction to Seadrift is obvious. But those of us "in tow" might be surprised to learn that this small city is a home to a great many murals. They dot the town - from Barkett's Restaurant on Hwy. 185, to the school bus barn at Fourth and Baltimore, to the Assembly of God Church. Why, even Mr. Junior Helms has one painted on the back of his garage on Bay Avenue! A complete guide to the murals can be found in the "Seadrift Success", the community's newsletter. A tour of the town is quick and painless - as of present, there are no traffic lights within the city limits.
Another amazingly well kept secret is the annual Texas Water Safari. Since 1963, Seadrift has served as finishing point for the "world's toughest boat race". Beginning in the Hill Country at the headwaters of the San Marcos River and ending at Bayfront Park, this marathon canoe race covers 260 miles of rivers and bays and certainly is not for the feint of heart. Traditionally held the second weekend in June, full details and application information can be obtained from Spencer Canoes at 361-357-6113, or by writing Texas Water Safari, 9515 FM 1979, Martindale, TX, 78655.
As an excellent place to stock up on fresh seafood, Seafood Harvest, at the end of Bay Ave and Main St., approaching the harbor, specializes in crabs. They offer Blue Claw, soft shell, and Rock Crab claws, as well as bait.
Local residents like the Hardings and Realtor Bonnie Smithley, are enthusiastic about Seadrift's appeal and prospects for the future. Bonnie, who seems to know what there is to know about the area, is quick to point out that new signage marking the entrance to Seadrift is under construction and that a new R.V. park has recently opened on Bayfront Ave. A park project along the bay front is also underway with a matching grant from Texas Parks and Wildlife. It should include a fishing pier, playground equipment, a hiking trail, and new restroom facilities. By all indications, Seadrift is poised and ready to receive fishermen AND their families.
"If you are familiar with fishing the bays, you'll know what to bring to Seadrift," says Wayne.
"Pack your Jumpin' Minnows and your touts - red and white, chartreuse, wine, and pumpkin colors are my stand-bys. I'd recommend using as light a jig head as you can cast; I like about 1/8 ounce. It allows the bait to fall a little slower and reduces your chances of hanging up on the oyster beds. Using Berkley's Power Shrimp Tail or a Cocoho has a similar effect and the Power Shrimp is scented - a plus when you're coaxing a stubborn redfish. If the water is off color, attaching a popping cork, a rattling cork, or a Mansfield Mauler to your tout is also a fine idea. The rattle is a good attraction and once again, it helps to keep your bait off the oysters. And, bring along a good, long stringer; chances are you'll need it. Work the oyster reefs, grass islands, and crab traps, paying attention to birds hitting the water, and slicks forming on the surface."
The islands and inlets around Seadrift also offer refuge when the weather is uncooperative or for those who enjoy anchoring and letting the fish come to them. Live bait with popping corks, finger mullet, and croakers are the cuisine of choice for trout, redfish, and drum. Trophy trout are particularly partial to the croaker. Flounder can be coaxed from the sandy flats with a medium to small sized free-shrimp.
And, if you notice a great many crab-trap floats, it is with good reason. This area is prized by the crabbing industry and a chicken neck and dip net make for an enjoyable and productive afternoon landing one of the Gulf's prized delicacies. Do remember that when it comes to rock (or stone) crab, do not harvest the entire creature. Remove only one claw, then release it. This enables it to defend itself, survive, and regenerate another claw to replace the one that you'll be enjoying at dinner.
"I'd also strongly advise you to bring along a large can of mosquito repellent," Wayne adds.
"That's not unusual for the coast but the bugs seem to be especially vicious this year."
By and large, this "last frontier" needs only to be discovered and enjoyed. So go ahead and tell your buddies that you're headed to Corpus, Rockport, or Port O'Connor. Then avoid the crowds and slip into Seadrift. You're under no obligation to tell them exactly where you caught those fish - they'll find out soon enough.
For more information about Seadrift, visit the Seadrift Chamber of Commerce website.