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A Texan Angler's Fishing Guide to South Padre Island, TX

A Texan Angler's Fishing Guide to South Padre Island, TX
Published: Thursday, February 11th, 2021
Updated on: Wednesday, July 28th, 2021

A barrier island on the south-eastern corner of the state of Texas that faces the Gulf of Mexico, South Padre Island (or SPI as the locals fondly call it) is the perfect destination for those looking to make the most out of their vacation. South Padre Island is a popular resort town in Cameron County, Texas. It was named after a Spanish priest, Padre Jose Nicolas Balli, who first settled on the island when he founded a ranch named Santa Cruz de Buena Vista in 1804. Prior to this, however, people—specifically, nomadic Native Americans, Spanish troops, and shipwreck survivors—have inhabited the island. In fact, the island was formerly owned by four different nations at different times with Spain being the first one to claim it; followed by Mexico after the Mexican Revolution; then the Republic of Texas; and finally the US following the US-Mexican War of 1845-1848. 

South Padre Island waters

But even with so many people setting foot on the island, formal settlements weren’t established until the good priest arrived. The whole island was primarily used for ranching when the first settlers arrived. It was only until the late 1920s when Colonel Sam Robertson arrived and first envisioned the island as the “Miami Beach of Texas”. Since then, the whole island has seen major transformations as concrete roads, causeways, piers, resorts, and hotels were constructed throughout the years until it’s become what it is now—a popular tourist destination that attracts over a million visitors each year, all year round.

South Padre Island boasts a number of relaxing and exhilarating activities that vacationers of all demographics would surely love. In March, for instance, the island is a popular spring break stop for both local and international college students. There are also so many water sport activities a thrill-seeker would enjoy including jet-skiing and kiteboarding. If you just want to relax, you can either just bask in the sun on the island’s white-sand beaches; or you can explore the shores on a horseback through various ecological tours, or maybe get to meet some friendly aquatic mammals by going to a dolphin-watching excursion.

South Padre Island: The State’s Mecca of Fishing 

Aside from the fun activities mentioned above, another way to enjoy the island is through fishing. As any Texan angler would tell you, SPI is truly an angler’s paradise as the island offers many fishing opportunities that a novice or expert would certainly appreciate. Well, it’s an island—so it’s not that hard to imagine why Texans see SPI as the state’s mecca of fishing. In fact, late in the summer, the Texas International Fishing Tournament happens here every year where lucky anglers could take home cash prizes that total close to a quarter-million dollars. Other fishing tournaments are held on the island every year including Ladies Kingfish Tournament, the Hooters Tournament, and the Redfish Rodeo.

Because it’s an island, of course, there are many ways for you to go fishing. One of the simplest ways is via shore fishing where you can target Tarpon, Snook, Redfish, Speckled Trout, and Flounder. You can also choose to fish on the sandy beaches, on piers, or jetties—either way, it’s perfect for those who simply want to satisfy their fishing itch without having to go all out.

If you’re looking for a bit of adventure or you want to experience the waters around the island without the crowd, you can also try kayak fishing. Yes, even if you don’t own a kayak, a South Padre Island fishing guide will be more than happy to point you in the right direction of where you can rent one and where you can paddle out and catch Redfish, Trout, Flounder, Snook, Spanish mackerel, and Sheepshead. If you want your kayak fishing more challenging, you can paddle farther out the Gulf and target a Cobia, Red Snapper, or Kingfish.

Now, if you want a REAL challenge, a South Padre fishing charter may very well be your cup of tea. There are two fishing charter options—one is to join a party boat where you can fish alongside other visitors; while a private fishing charter lets you experience deep-sea fishing with just the captain and crew for company. Of course, the first option will be much cheaper. Either way, fishing charters can open up all the possibilities for you as seasoned fishing boat captains will not only provide you with all the equipment you will need, but they will also take you to where real Gulf monsters like Amberjack, Dorado, Tuna, Marlin, and even sharks can be caught.     


South Padre Island’s Top Fishing Locations

South Padre Island Pier

For you to be able to enjoy South Padre Island fishing the best possible way, we highly recommend getting either a fishing guide or charter a fishing boat. Why? Because how else can you experience hassle-free fishing on the island? Yes, they’ll help you get the right equipment, give you helpful tips and techniques on how to catch certain species, and, of course, show you where you can catch them.   

Just to give you an idea, here are some of the top fishing locations in the area:

Inshore Fishing can be done three ways—you can do it on the beach, on a pier, or jetties. The following are just some of the most popular inshore fishing locations:

  • Holly Beach – located just north of Laguna Vista on the mainland, you can do some wade fishing and catch some Speckled Trout, Flounder, or Redfish along its grass beds. Just be careful though as it can also be dangerous, especially for the inexperienced angler as there are holes, drop-offs, soft bottoms, oyster shells, and stingrays here.
  • Pirate’s Landing Pier – situated on State Highway 100 beside the Queen Isabel Causeway, it’s the longest fishing pier in Texas where you can catch a variety of inshore fishes such as Trout, Croaker, Sheepshead, Flounder, Catfish, and a lot more. You can also buy or rent fishing gears and supplies at the numerous tackle and bait shops located by the pier.   
  • SPI Jetties – this location is the perfect fishing spot if you’re targeting bigger Tarpon, Sheephead, Trout, or Redfish without having to set foot on a boat. You can find it at the southernmost end of the island, within Isla Blanca Park. You can also rent or buy all your fishing must-haves on the tackle and bait shops at the entrance.

Nearshore Fishing can be done while on a kayak. With the help of a South Padre Island fishing guide, you can get to these fishing spots while experiencing Mother Nature in all her glory:

  • South Bay – within its enclave is an eight to nine-mile paddling trail where you’ll get the chance to fish for some Redfish, Trout, Snook, Jack Crevalle, Snapper, and Ladyfish along its flats while, of course, having the best views.
  • Brazos Santiago Pass – sure, you can catch Tarpon, Sheephead, Trout, or Redfish on the jetties beside the pass but doing so in a kayak is a totally different experience as you’ll feel like you’re one with nature here. Just a word of warning, though: this location, most of the time, is a busy pass that gets a lot of traffic so always be wary of your surroundings when you fish here.    
  • Laguna Madre Bay – a long and shallow body of water at the western side of the island, the bay is home to many fish species including Catfish, Croaker, Alligator Gar, Kingfish, Crevalle Jack, and a lot more. Now, imagine casting your lines in its pristine waters while having the front seat view of a Peregrine Falcon doing a high-speed dive into its waters to catch its lunch; or maybe friendly dolphins keeping you company while you paddle along its waters. Yup, all these are possible while kayak fishing in the bay.

Offshore Fishing can be done via South Padre Island fishing charters. If you want to head far out into the Gulf of Mexico and land some real monsters like Amberjack, Kingfish, Barracuda, Dorado, Tuna, and Marlin, then this is the surefire way to go! Top offshore fishing spots include Port Isabel Reef, Brownsville Ship Channel, Texas Clipper, and some deep-water oil rigs.  


When’s the Best Time to Go Fishing in South Padre Island

South Padre Island boasts warm weather all year round thanks to the region’s mid to semi-arid weather, with average annual temps of 74 degrees. This only means that it’s pretty much sunny here most of the time and yes, you can fish here throughout the year. But if you’re targeting a particular fish, here are the months when to best catch them:

  • Tarpon – May to November
  • Snook, Sailfish, and Bonito – April to December
  • White Bass – February and May
  • Red Snapper – June and July
  • Dorado, Striped Bass – May to June
  • Catfish – all year except May to August
  • Crevalle Jack, Kingfish, and Wahoo – from May to September
  • Yellowfin Tuna – December to February
  • Blue Marlin – they’re abundant in the open waters all year long
  • Spanish Mackerel – March to September


Top Ten Fish You Can Catch in South Padre Island, TX

The top ten fish species you’ll catch in South Padre Island, TX is Tarpon, Snook, Bass, Snapper, Dorado, Catfish, Crevalle Jack, Tuna, Marlin, and Spanish Mackerel.

A Texan Angler's Fishing Guide to South Padre Island, TX Fish species
Wahoo  fish

Habitat: Nearshore, Offshore, Reef

Weight: 15 - 35 Pounds

Length: 8" - 100"

Crevalle Jack 
Crevalle Jack  fish

Habitat: River, Onshore, Nearshore, Offshore, Reef, Flats Backcountry, Wreck

Weight: 15 - 60 Pounds

Length: 15" - 49"

Common Dolphinfish
Common Dolphinfish fish

Habitat: Offshore

Weight: 15 - 30 Pounds

Length: 40" - 83"

Red Snapper 

Habitat: Nearshore, Offshore, Reef, Wreck

Weight: 5 - 20 Pounds

Length: 19" - 39"

Indo-Pacific Blue Marlin 
Indo-Pacific Blue Marlin  fish

Habitat: Offshore

Weight: 200 - 623 Pounds

Length: 132" - 192"