Day Out{side} Island Surf Fishing

Follow Allyson on a Day Out{side} shore fishing in South Padre Island for the first time.

By Allyson Shulte
Fish Ambassador

Over the holidays, I went fishing in the ocean for the first time. And before I go any further, let me say that ocean fishing is AWESOME. If you haven’t been, take this as your sign to plan your trip! You won’t regret it.

My partner, Daniel, and I ventured down to South Padre Island, Texas, for a few days to visit family. Daniel’s dad, Mark, is a fishing enthusiast (to say the least — this guy is an expert!), so we knew we were in for a good time. As soon as we arrived in South Padre, he was already telling us about all the crazy things he had been catching recently … sharks, fish of many varieties and even stingrays! I couldn’t believe it. Up until that point, I had only ever been fishing in neighborhood lakes and ponds, which were often stocked with the perfect “catch and release” type of fish. The ocean was a whole new ballgame.


The night before, we prepped our plan. We wanted to head out early to make sure we would enjoy as much of the low tide as we could. Luckily, there are resources like Tide Forecast to help time your fishing expedition with the tides. Since we knew that low tide would end around 8 a.m., we wanted to build in plenty of time in our plan for breakfast, driving time and prep time when we got to the beach.

Before we turned in for the night, we scoped out a perfect spot on Google Maps. Using the satellite view, Mark taught us to look for the spots in the ocean with sandbars and troughs; apparently along and between sandbars are some of the best spots in the ocean to catch fish! If you’re not able to identify sandbars ahead of time, another option is to identify sandbars by looking for the white foamy-looking waters that form once the breaking waves roll over them. Troughs are the openings between two sandbars, which is a common spot for fish to hang out. We pinned a few locations that looked interesting and set our alarms for bright and early the next morning. I was already hooked and we hadn’t even begun!

Getting Ready

The next morning, we all woke up and started packing the car with everything we would need for a day of fishing. A lot of the normal fishing gear was packed: saltwater fishing rods and lures, angler pliers, gloves for handling the fish and ground spikes for the rods. But, there was one tool in particular I had never seen or heard of before: a shrimp pump!? We’ll come back to this.

With the car loaded and ready to go, we drove out to the spots we pinned on Google Maps the night before. Once we scoped out the perfect location, we got to work collecting bait, which in this case, was going to be shrimp. I was so eager to learn what this mysterious shrimp pump was and how to use it. Mark explained the tool and where to catch shrimp. All up and down the shore you could see little lumps of sand that would bubble, indicating a shrimp was just underneath the sand. Among the family, we paired up into groups of two — one person who was always looking out for the next shrimp location and the other person who was using the shrimp pump to get them out of the ground. We collected all the shrimp we caught into a central bucket. A word of advice from the wise (aka, Mark): Catch plenty of bait beforehand; it goes quickly!

Allyson using the shrimp pump to catch bait

Once the bait was caught, the ground spikes set up and rods ready to go, we were ready to start casting.

Time To Fish

Mark was the first to cast, as we were all waiting in excitement to watch the master work his magic. He had been catching fish all week, with great success. He pointed out the best spots in the waves to aim for and reminded us to aim for the edge of the sandbars and in the troughs. This was a new thing to me and Daniel at first, but we quickly learned how to identify the best areas.

I’ve always thought of fishing as a sport where you sit down and wait for the next fish to bite, but ocean fishing was very different. We had three rods cast out at any given time, and even with five people we all stayed constantly moving between all three rods: adding bait, casting, watching for a bite, reeling them in, releasing the fish, adding more bait and repeating.

The first few catches were catfish. Mark reminded us not to touch their fins or whiskers and showed us how to properly use the gloves and angler pliers to safely catch and release them without injuring ourselves. Catfish have fins that are pointed and very sharp, and punctured skin could result in serious pain. We kept casting and adding bait as we waited for something more exciting.

All of a sudden, Daniel’s mom, Louise, yelled, “Look!” As we were taking a catfish off one of the fishing rods, we all turned to see another fishing rod bend drastically, indicating a big catch! I ran over to help reel in the catch, and it was HEAVY! I’d never caught something this big before, and I couldn’t believe the weight! Daniel helped me to reel in the rest of the line, wrestling the stubborn catch. Fast forward a few minutes, and we pulled a stingray onto shore! Ocean fishing was living up to our expectations.

One exciting catch was a stingray.

As the day went on, we had a few more exciting catches. We caught a small whiting that Mark told us would be great bait to use to catch bigger fish. We cut up the whiting and put it on the hooks, cast out the lines and waited. It didn’t take long before one of the rods was ready to reel in! And this next one looked BIG. People driving by on the beach stopped to see what could possibly be at the end of the line, looking at the bend in the fishing rod. As the catch got closer and closer, we couldn’t believe what we saw — a shark fin!! We caught a baby shark! But wait … that wasn’t all — there was also a stingray on the line! We all gasped at the catch the new bait brought us, and we celebrated with some photos before releasing them both back into the ocean.

Reflecting On The Day

Our first time shore fishing in South Padre Island, Texas, was fun, exciting and successful! I was exposed to a new side of fishing that I had never experienced before, and it left me wanting more.

Looking back, there are a few things I’m really glad we did and am thankful to have had Mark show us the ropes on.

  • Identifying the best areas along the shore to fish, and the prime locations for casting among the waves. Remember to look for sandbars, and try to cast along or between them.
  • Planning our morning based on low tide. By looking up the tide forecast, we were able to budget travel time and prep time to ensure plenty of time for prime fishing.
  • Identifying locations on Google Maps ahead of time by using the satellite view. While you can scope out spots the morning of at the beach, it helped us save time to pin a few locations that looked good for fishing the night before.
  • Using and catching our own bait. The shrimp pump was fun to use, and shrimp are a great bait for saltwater fishing as fish are attracted to the scent and movement.
  • Collecting plenty of bait beforehand. Once we started casting, we were reeling in catches back-to-back for a few hours! We were thankful to have had plenty of shrimp bait on hand before we started, so once we got to casting, we could just keep going.

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