Fishing is intrinsic to Port Aransas. What would you expect from a town that was once named Tarpon because the fish were so bountiful that even President Franklin D. Roosevelt was drawn to these waters? Over-fishing reduced the tarpon population years ago, but this year’s anglers will find ample opportunities to cast for flounder, kingfish, shark, mangrove snapper, ling, and Spanish mackerel.
“Our goal was always to reopen,” said Beth Owens, co-owner of Deep Sea Headquarters, a fishing charter acquired by her husband, Kelly Owens, in 1996. The Owens’ operations survived Harvey because they moved their boats to South Padre Island and Corpus Christi the day before the storm struck. Though Harvey shuttered Deep Sea’s dockside building and knocked out its phones, loyal clients promised via Facebook to keep their fishing reservations if Deep Sea could reopen. Within three weeks, the company started operating from an open-air headquarters under a palapa.
The Owens also own Red Dragon Pirate Cruises, a 70-foot ship that launches daily for themed outings, including a fireworks cruise planned for July 4. Since its return to service in December, the Red Dragon has welcomed families aboard for entertaining duels and fusillades in the spirit of 17th-century naval battles. On a recent outing, parents, grandparents, and children ranging from toddlers to teenagers bounded aboard after a tutorial by dreadlocked Quartermaster Ezekiel, who shouted in baritone, “Ahoy, scalawags!” The cruises include photos with the captain, sword fights, and cannon firings.
Woody’s Sports Center, a Port Aransas mainstay for half a century, is also back in business after significant damage to its retail store, headquarters, and docks. Owner Glenn Martin’s complex is ready for customers with its outdoor Back Porch Bar and lessee Patty Wilson’s window-service Harbour Lights Grill, which will cook your catch. As Martin explained with a grin, “They can buy my fuel, live bait, and ice and go fishing. After that, they can pay me to clean the fish while they have a cocktail.”
Though the city’s three long fishing piers suffered “catastrophic” damage and will be closed for the foreseeable future, City Manager David Parsons noted shoreline anglers can use the reinforced banks of Roberts Point Park next to the ferry landing or the rocky South Jetty.