Each year, thousands of travelers head to one of the dozens of beach towns that dot Texas‘s 350 miles of coastline. Surfers gravitate toward Galveston, spring breakers head to South Padre Island, and families with small children love Corpus Christi. The coastal town of Port Lavaca, however, hides under the radar.
Nestled halfway between Galveston and Corpus Christi, Port Lavaca provides the quintessential laid-back Texas gulf coast experience without crowds. It has the sandy beaches and surfable waves of other beach towns, but what sets it apart is its world-class fishing and birding scenes. Anglers from near and far travel to Port Lavaca for a chance to catch speckled trout, snapper, reddish and flounder. Birders with binoculars in hand travel here in droves in hopes to spot as many as 400 species of birds that migrate through the area each year.
Both activities are beginner-friendly, so visitors don’t have to be a professional angler or birder to take part in the local pastimes. Once all the fish are caught and birds are seen, Port Lavaca also offers a wealth of history that begs to be explored.
The deep-sea waters stretching into the Gulf of Mexico are calling, with a bounty of tarpon, mackerel, sailfish and marlin. But it’s not all about wrestling 50-pound fish in Port Lavaca. The large bay system surrounding the port provides some of the finest inshore saltwater fishing anywhere in the nation. From shore fishing to shallow-water boating to chartering deep sea boats, Port Lavaca and Calhoun County have plenty of opportunities to snatch a redfish, speckled trout, flounder, snook, sheepshead, black drum, pompano, and mangrove snapper.
Shallow Water Fishing
Port Lavaca’s limitless bays produce shallow water conditions where you can fish from a small boat, a kayak, or by simply wading into the water. If you trust yourself to fish with one hand and paddle with the other, kayak fishing is a great way to explore the area. The eco-friendly style of fishing offers a distinct mobility advantage with the ability to cruise through marshes, hug the banks, or skirt around tree trunks and other obstacles.
If you’re looking to enjoy an afternoon of fishing check out Port Lavaca’s newest D-Head pier, complete with shade structure, at Lighthouse Beach Park. Just down the road is the pier at Bayfront Peninsula Park, where you will find pier fishing as well as great places around the bank to set up a lawn chair and cast your line. A little Texas heat doesn’t slow down the fishing here – both piers are lighted for night fishing.
On the outskirts of town, set up a pole at the Indianola Fishing Marina. The marina provides everything you need for a relaxing day of fishing – covered fishing deck, live bait shop, and fish cleaning station, as well as a restaurant that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, and a beer bar. The pier’s structure attracts a wide variety of fish giving you access to deep water fish without the need for a boat.
Texas’s offshore or deep-sea fishing attracts travelers from all over the world the promise of reeling in and wrestling an epic 70-pound marlin from a boat in the middle of the ocean. Charter fishing services are available in Port Lavaca if you want to brave the gulf in hope of tuna, cobia, Dorado (Mahi Mahi), wahoo, sailfish and marlin. While there is no bad time for fishing in Port Lavaca, the best time to catch big fish is early summer through mid-September.
The Texas Gulf Coast is the epicenter of birding in the United States. With 613 documented species of birds sighted, Texas exceeds all other states in opportunities to view a wide variety of birds. Two major migration patterns – the Central and Mississippi Flyways – converge over Port Lavaca, resulting in a vast array of migrating birds flying through every year.
Port Lavaca is part of the Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail, a network of trails, bird sanctuaries and nature preserves managed by the Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife. The pristine, unspoiled landscape attracts more than 450 bird species. Less common birds spotted in Port Lavaca include Roseate Spoonbills, Reddish Egrets, Wood Storks and a wide variety of unusual gulls. Birding is best in the winter when birds are migrating to warmer climates.
At the Lighthouse Beach and Bird Sanctuary, walk out into the salt marsh on the Formosa Wetlands Walkway to spot Seaside Sparrows, Nelson’s Sharp-tailed Sparrows and Clapper Rail Looks in the marsh along the walkway. The Alcoa Birding Tower located at the end of the walkway is a great lookout point for gulls, terns and Brown Pelicans in the bay.
The two-acre shoreline Six Mile Park is another great birding stop. Reddish Egret, shorebirds and terns are often spotted here. The park empties out into the bay providing great opportunities for wade fishing so don’t forget the fishing gear.
When you need a break from the birds and the fish, dive into Port Lavaca’s past at the Calhoun County Museum and the Halfmoon Reef Lighthouse
The Calhoun County Museum tells the story of the county’s natural and maritime history with artifacts such as the Fresnel Lens from the 1852 Matagorda Island Lighthouse, an 8-foot diorama of the town of Indianola and items recovered from the ship of the 17th-century famed explorer Robert La Salle.
From 1858 until 1943 the hexagon-shaped Halfmoon Reef Lighthouse guided ships from the Gulf of Mexico through Pass Cavallo past the treacherous mud- and oyster-filled Halfmoon Reef and safely into Matagorda Bay. Today the lighthouse is the Lone Star State’s oldest surviving wooden lighthouse. In the 1980s, county officials moved it to its present location where it serves as a small museum, welcoming travelers entering Port Lavaca from the east on Highway 35.
Texas Tidbit: If you are traveling through Port Lavaca during a weekend make sure to save Saturday night for the Bayfront Beats Summer Concert Series. The free concert series runs every Saturday night in July and August at Bayfront Peninsula Park.