PORT ARANSAS, Texas — ‘Where They Bite Every Day’ is the longheld motto for this Gulf Coast town that’s been a fishing mecca since the late 1800s.
“As far as fishing goes, this town has a very rich history,” said Capt. Dee Wallace, who grew up in Port Aransas fishing for anything and everything. “People were coming here to tarpon fish — the town used to be called Tarpon — when the Comanches were still raiding up in north Texas.”
Wallace, whose crew set 11 IGFA records on a round-the-world fishing expedition, now runs historic Fisherman’s Wharf, headquarters for this week’s the Yamaha Bassmaster Redfish Cup presented by Skeeter.
“Fisherman’s Wharf and Port Aransas are one of the best-kept secrets in the world,” Wallace said. “There’s rich sport fishing, from bay fish to deep sea, everything.”
This week, it’s all about the redfish. B.A.S.S. has set its stage in between Fisherman’s Wharf and Grumbles Seafood Company, which hosted the angler meeting dinner. Wallace’s second-floor office in the latest rendition of Fisherman’s Wharf has “the best view in town,” and it’s where he conducts the business of yacht sales and promoting fishery.
“They’ve been great to open this historic area for us to set up shop, not only for the weigh-ins but production and service trailers as well,” B.A.S.S. tournament director Hank Weldon said. “This is an interesting place from how old it is, and how many hurricanes it has made it through.”
Wallace was happy to host the event. It fits right into the town’s tourism and fishing.
“We took this event for exposure … and we didn’t have a fishing tournament going on right now,” Wallace said.
Port Aransas hosts several dozen tournaments each year, including the Texas Legends Billfish Tournament. Last August, the winners brought in a 737-pound marlin, the largest ever weighed in Port Aransas.
Wallace said another gem at Fisherman’s Wharf is the Port Aransas Deep Sea Roundup, the longest running tournament on the Gulf Coast heading into its 86th year.
“There’s usually about 600 entries on average,” Wallace said. “This is an everyman tournament. Second place was won on the Wharf Cat (one of their charter boats) last year. You can win it on the jetties, you can win it on the beach. It’s kingfish, snapper, anything.”
Wallace said the Redfish Cup anglers might be interested to know they are weighing on historic ground. It where travelers on trains, ferries and cars ended up to wet lines, and the site where Farley sport fishing boats were first made starting somewhere around 1916.
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt visited Port Arkansas in the 1930s to chase tarpon, and Wallace said it was out of a Farley. Across the street from Fisherman’s Wharf is another historic place, The Tarpon Inn. One of its walls are adorned with tarpon scales, signed by anglers dating to the late 1800s.
“The original fisherman’s Wharf started sometime in the 40s, right after World War II,” said Wallace, noting structures were destroyed and rebuilt after a number of hurricanes. He said some of the pilings at the dock below date to the turn of the century.
The town of about 3,500 is a definite summer destination as it swells to upwards of 60,000, but Wallace just wants everyone to know why Port Aransas holds the moniker as “Fishing Capital of Texas.”
“It’s excellent fishing, especially right now in October and November,” he said. “This is the second weekend of hunting season. Everybody that can be, is hunting. You can shoot a world class deer and catch a world class redfish in the same day.”