Happiness is watching the sun rise on the bay

There is a town on the Texas coast that has become quite popular among McCulloch County residents. It is one of the smaller towns that is right on the bay and is filled with charm that parallels Brady, and what it has to offer. I was first introduced to Rockport four years ago when I was invited to participate in the Spring Fling, an annual event sponsored by the Rockport/Fulton Chamber of Commerce. At that first visit, I was just like a big redfish going after a croaker on a line in the flats, hooked. The town of Rockport still has the small town feel despite becoming one of the more popular tourist destinations for the coast. The chamber works hard each year to create an event that invites outdoor writer and media types to participate in a promotional effort with hopes of reciprocal coverage in a variety of media publications. Having grown up on the East Coast, I have a passion for saltwater fishing’not expertise’ but passion. I grew up with a grandparent who lived five houses from the Long Beach Island Bay in New Jersey. Summers at the coast were filled with multiple crabbing trips, surf and pier fishing trips and daily visits to the beach. After moving to Texas in the early ’80s, my trips to the ocean were effectively halted. In college, I made a visit to South Padre and Galveston, but fishing was never part of the agenda. Having been a landlubber living in the middle of Central Texas for 10 years now, when I got the invite to visit Rockport and stay in a local hotel, eat at local restaurants and fish with a local guide, I was giddy. Hitting the water on Compano Bay just before dawn and heading to the flats to wait for the first hit by a redfish is something that everyone should experience sooner rather than later. Catching a trout or even a hardhead or two is just part of the fun that everyone should participate in and the best way to make it a successful trip is to hire a guide. Plain and simple, even if you are an accomplished lake fisherman, don’t think that navigating the bay and finding fish is an easy task. Even with guides, Holly and I have had our share of time on the water without much to reel in. There is a hotel property in the middle of Rockport that has become a personal favorite of the Stewarts for a number of reasons. The Lighthouse Inn at Aransas Bay is located on Fulton Drive literally on the edge of the bay. Positioned perfectly right on the water, the balconies facing the bay provide a sunrise view that is second to none. There is something special about being able to wake up, pour a cup of coffee and step out the door and see shrimp boats heading out in the pre-dawn light with high hopes of a good catch. The Lighthouse Inn is a Victorian-style boutique hotel where you’ll find old-world charm, modern amenities and a level of luxury you might not expect at a laid-back, Texas resort. The rooms have bay view or pool view and the suites have kitchenettes which play perfectly into the ability to make an extended stay relaxed and convenient. The courtyard even has modern outdoor grills that can be used to cook the day’s catch. We fished this year with Capt. Jerry Timmins and Fish On guide service. Jerry is a laid back, retired police officer who fishes because he loves to fish. Holly and I were joined on the boat by local writer “Salty Saul”, a columnist for the Coastal Bend Herald News, a local paper there in Rockport/Fulton. We motored up to the first spot and after getting baited up and set, Jerry left us to wade the banks and use his cast net to find more bait. The weather this year had us firmly in its grasp as dark clouds loomed and rain showers spit on us at random intervals. The fish seemed to take a vacation from feeding and aside from a few small hardheads (saltwater catfish which are terrible eating) the only fish that made it to the boat that morning were a few small reds that Holly caught and one keeper trout I managed to pull in. We only fished half a day with Cpt. Jerry, but we enjoyed the time on the water. The lack of fish was far outweighed by the anticipation of our lunch date that was waiting for us just across the street from our hotel. The Boiling Pot, owned and operated by proprietor Dot LeBlanc, is the other best reason for staying at the Lighthouse Inn because it is literally right across the street from the hotel parking lot. One of two restaurants Dot operates, the Boiling Pot is a hands-down favorite for spicy cajun-style crab, crawfish, shrimp and more. To try it out much closer to home, visit the one in Austin. Same owner, same great food. A fun beach-style atmosphere complete with crayon-colored walls with notes from patrons past, provides ambiance that wills you to kick back and relax, all part of the attitude that has you feeling as if you can’t wait to plan your next trip. The sunrise on the Texas coast is worth making the trip. The same reasons out-of- towners make trips to the Heart of Texas hold true for trips to the Heart of the Texas coast. ‘JS ‘ To find out more about Rockport/Fulton, visit the chamber’s website at www.rockport- fulton.org. ‘ To make reservations or find out more information about the Lighthouse Inn at Aransas Bay, visit www.lighthousetexas.com. ‘ To visit the Austin location of the Boiling Pot, it is on the northeast corner of Sabine and 6th Street, one block west of IH- 35.

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