No question about it, the Louisiana Gulf Coast is known for its world-class fishing.
Yet, if you’re an angler who has accessed the Gulf from Cocodrie, Venice, Pecan Island, Point à la Hache and other coastal towns in the state more times than you can count — do yourself a favor and set your GPS to Matagorda, Texas, for a change of scenery.
About a five-hour drive from Lafayette, Matagorda is south of Houston where the Colorado River meets the Gulf of Mexico, and its bay is one of seven major estuaries dotting the Gulf Coast of Texas. Like most coastal fishing towns, Matagorda is sparsely populated, with a little more than 400 residents. Compared to fishing off the coast of Louisiana, you don’t have to go as far out to catch fish as the water gets deeper faster.
Kyle Landwehr, Lafayette resident, purchased a fishing camp in Matagorda in 2005 and often takes his 21-foot boat, “The Saucy Wench,” out in the Gulf.
“Unlike Galveston, for example, Matagorda is not overcrowded, and the fishing is damn good,” says Landwehr. “I particularly enjoy fishing for flounder and redfish in the fall, and coming back to the camp and watching football on TV with my friends.”
In addition to renting a house, Matagorda is home to Full Stringer RV Park, which offers both cabins and RV space rentals with daily, weekly and monthly rates. Modern and clean, the park has many amenities including a laundromat, swimming pool, barbeque pits, a catch and release fishing pond, WiFi, cable TV, and two covered pavilions with picnic tables.
The only two places to get groceries in Matagorda are Stanley’s and Dollar General, so it’s best to stop at H-E-B in nearby Bay City.
You’ll need to get your fishing license from Stanley’s or online. I recommend going to Rawlings’ Bait Camp, Buddy’s or The Harbor to get your fishing bait--and the staff will be happy to advise which bait is best for catching which fish.
There are merely a handful of restaurants, with the fanciest being Waterfront at the harbor. Be sure to mingle with the friendly locals over a game of pool and a cold beer at The Cove or Plugger’s.
“Fish on!” could be heard every few minutes when six of us were fishing for Red Snapper in my dad’s 31-foot Jupiter, “Flea Flicker,” last July. While it took two hours for us to reach our destination 40 miles out in the Gulf of Mexico, all of us caught our limit in less than 20 minutes.
My dad, Johnny Balensiefen — a former Lafayette resident — has enjoyed deep sea fishing all over the globe and has made Matagorda his new home, primarily because he says, “the fishing here is outstanding.” He calls Matagorda a “secret spot,” so he’ll probably blame me if he starts seeing lots of Louisiana license plates in town. (Whoops!)
And if you’re too tired or sunburned to clean and fillet your fish, there are typically people at the dock who will do it for you. Last summer, I saw a guy expertly fillet a Red Snapper in about 30 seconds — and I’m not telling fishing tales, either.
No boat? No problem.
Besides fishing, Matagorda Beach is the main attraction to visitors. Matagorda, meaning “thick brush,” is also popular with hunters and bird watchers alike. People can also be spotted fishing and crabbing off the piers and canals.
“The kids particularly love catching crabs, and they’ll fill an ice chest full in an hour or so. And best of all, no pier-pressure,” Landwehr said, with a laugh. Get it?