Rockport may sometimes be known as Rockport-Fulton (even though they’re legally two separate places). Its nickname - the Texas Riviera - comes from its location. Rockport is surrounded by five bays and just 30 miles south of Corpus Christi, meaning it’s home to many marine life. Because of its balanced aquatic ecosystem, Rockport eventually became home to many endangered species such as the whooping crane and the ruby-throated hummingbird.
Rockport’s founding happened after the civil war. When people were settling down, some expressed wanting to live in a place known as the Live Oak Peninsula. Sensing the desire, Joseph F. Smith (the founder of Saint Mary’s town in 1850), alongside Thomas Mathis and J.M Mathis from the Morgan Steamship Line, built the pier that would serve as Rockport’s foundation. Morgan Steamship Line held a monopoly for transport and trade for many years until the Fulton’s and some other members created railroads to break the Mathis’ control on the vehicles.
While initially into ranching, herding, and cattle raising, Rockport eventually turned to fishing, shrimping (being one of the more prominent shrimp suppliers in the US), and tourism. Although shrimping suffered a bit of a slump during World War II, the ship-building industry brought Rockport’s economy back to life.
Rockport holds the title of one of the most popular fishing destinations in Texas. The city is cordoned off by five different bay systems that allow anglers to experience various kinds of fishing. Fishing charters can tell you which bay system will have the targets of your choice. These bays include Copano Bay, Aransas Bay, St. Charles Bay, Mesquite Bay, and Redfish Bay. The five bays then serve as the primary sources of fish that challenge the different anglers of Texas. These bays have their variety of saltwater and freshwater fish that anglers can go after.
The first place to stop is Redfish Bay, home to Rockport’s designated saltwater fish: the redfish. Redfish Bay is home to many oyster beds and grasslands that attract the redfish to stay and spawn. The marshes and mangroves in the bay allow redfish to swim around in peace. Unlike the other bays, however, Redfish Bay is considered relatively shallow. But being shallow means it’s the perfect place to go kayak fishing or fly fishing. But remember, redfish are tenacious fighters. They will struggle for a long time, so timing your yank will be one thing to be aware of. But anglers say that Redfish Bay’s the best place to go because, among the redfish, the bull redfish (or the bigger redfish) are swimming among them.
If you’re done testing yourself in the smaller bays, Copano Bay is the next place to stop. Copano Bay is one of the more oversized bays in Rockport and is home to the speckled sea trout. Though not as tenacious and ferocious as the redfish, the speckled sea trout still makes it to the Big Three of Rockport. The speckled sea trout stay in Copano Bay due to its unique reef system, which allows it to coexist properly with other redfish. Speckled sea trout are a common opponent among South Texan anglers. It’ll be rare to find an angler who has not dealt with a speckled sea trout in Rockport. If you’re planning to haul in some speckled sea trout, anglers recommend heading over to Copano Bay State Pier to test out your pier fishing skills.
But what’s the third member of the Rockport Big Three? It is the fluke and is found all around Rockport. The fluke is considered exclusive to the Texas Coastal Bend, tolerating somewhat saline waters. Some anglers have found them in saltwater bays like Baffin’s Bay, though. If you’re looking for big ones, you surprisingly don’t have to go very far. The bays are not too salty, the bigger fluke (nicknamed “Doormats” because they’re as big as one) usually stay around there, and most of them are female. If you head out a little towards the Gulf of Mexico, there are male fluke there. And like every place in Texas, what’s the authentic way to go fishing for fluke? It’s via flounder gigging. Texans take pride in creating the authentic flounder gigging experience for tourists, especially in Port O’ Connor. Though a small town, Port O’ Connor is another place with fishing charters specializing in flounder gigging.
Aside from Rockport’s Big Three, red snapper is another fish that’s considered prized in Rockport. They’re caught all year round in Rockport’s waters because it’s just a hop, skip away from the Gulf of Mexico. The red snapper is an elusive fish but is quite an impressive catch considering that they grow up to 40 inches. Unlike Rockport’s Big Three, the red snapper is only found offshore, around 9 miles away from Rockport’s bays.
Although some are endangered, Rockport considers sharks as one of their big game fish alongside mahi-mahi, blackfin, yellowfin tuna, and an occasional blue marlin. Rockport is home to the bull shark, the hammerhead shark, and the Texas signature blacktip shark. These big fish come in during the late summer to winter when the blackfin and yellowfin tuna come out to feed. Sharks always preferred pelagic fish, which both Tuna species are. Some anglers even said that a Shortfin Mako Shark - one of the most aggressive shark species - may appear. Anglers recommend going Heavy Tackle Fishing when duking out with these predators to minimize the number of injuries on both you and the fish.
In Rockport, Port Aransas is famous for holding the annual Saltwater Sweeties Tournament and Babes on the Bay Tournament for women. There are some charity tournaments, such as the Saltydog Fishing Tournament, wherein proceeds go into funding scholarships.
Rockport, TX has all-year-round available fishing. Rarely do you find a time that’s bad to go fishing in Rockport save if you’re going for the blackfin or yellowfin tuna. Redfish are what makes fishing in Rockport always available. January and February are the months to go ice fishing for speckled sea trout. March, April, May is Spring Season where some cobia or mackerel might make its way to Rockport. But peak season for Rockport fishing is from August to November. While June and July are the perfect months for red snapper, August to November brings in the big game fish such as the blackfin tuna and the yellowfin tuna, which means the sharks will be out to feast on these pelagic big game fish.
The best thing about fishing charters in Rockport is you can tailor your trip according to your ability. They have charters for all ages, too, so you can take the entire family fishing without having to worry about anything.
The Big Tree is one of Rockport’s oldest trees (around 1,100 years old) and was named one of the largest trees in Texas. One fun fact about this tree: it survived Hurricane Harvey - a category four hurricane - relatively unscathed? As a Live Oak, it’s gained fame for being home to the endangered whooping cranes that fly around in Goose Island State Park.
Home to many endangered species, Rockport’s Aransas Wildlife National Refuge preserves Whooping Cranes and other endangered species. They’re well-known for having a vast aviary that serves as homes to several kinds of hummingbirds, including the famous Ruby-throated Humming Bird. Because of their long service, Aransas Wildlife National Refuge has been considered one of the top 10 national wildlife refugees. Other places within the wildlife refuge include Heron Trails, where people can see baby herons being taken care of. People can go birdwatching and sometimes fishing and hunting in the area. But to go hunting and fishing, you must secure a permit first.
Feeling fancy and want to have a relaxing drink? Then, head over to the Winery at the Bay in Rockport. A boutique winery that brings in juice from different parts of the world to ferment it into Rockport’s finest wines. Want a specific kind of wine that tickles your tastebuds? Some people even custom-make their wine at the Winery at the Bay.
The Texas Maritime Museum showcases the many marine life that lives in Rockport. From saltwater fish to large predators, the museum lets families learn how the people in Rockport balance both tourism and the natural habitat of these creatures. While people may not be too fond of museums, wait until May. Because in May, the Texas Maritime Museum hosts the Rockport Wine Festival and breaks out the kegs of its finest wines.