By Alice Liles
Alice’s note: This story first appeared in my blog The Bright Lights of Muleshoe on July 26, 2020. Now I realize this is not a story about Muleshoe, but for those of you who have been landlocked here for a while, I thought it might be a nice diversion to see some water! And if you have not been to South Padre Island, this will give you an idea of what you might see and do if you decide to make the trip someday. And if you drive, like we did, you will see a whole lot of Texas that perhaps you have not had reason to see before
We chose the hottest week of this summer to make the two-day trip down to the southernmost tip of Texas to play in the water and eat lots of shrimp and fish at South Padre Island, across the causeway from Port Isabel. All three families-us, Caroline’s, and AJ’s-got themselves down there on their own, and we all met at the hotel.
By the time we unpacked and got settled in, everyone was ready for some shrimp, so we overdosed on shrimp at Louie’s Backyard. Korben and his girl friend Ave posed by their sand castle-type sign, sand castles being a big deal here, as evidenced by the sand castle display we saw on the way in. There were many, but I only took a picture of this eagle.
Back at the hotel, we made our way to the beach, just to be sure of the path to get there-only a short block away- and checked things out. We found the usual sea gulls, sea oats, and beach chairs and umbrellas, which were not the usual, as they were neatly arranged the virus-required fifteen feet apart.
The next morning, after a quick breakfast and a trip to a souvenir shop for a straw hat, Bill and I hit the beach. He set up the umbrella and chairs where he planned to spend most of his beach time, and I hit the water, which was colder than I thought it should be, and I had a hard time taking the plunge and finally getting all wet.
Bill put our umbrella next to this couple who had a Trump flag and an A&M flag by heir umbrella, and I used that as my marker to get back to where I started when I was in the water. The undertow would take me down the beach, and I could gauge how far I had drifted by looking for those flags. And sometimes it was a bit of a distance down the beach. So I would float back to shore and walk back. And then do it again.
Eventually everyone made it out to the beach at one time or another.
Later we bought fishing licenses for the deep sea fishing tomorrow, went back to the beach to play in more cold water, and got too much sun until everyone started getting hungry again. So that night it was more shrimp and fish, this time at Lobo Del Mar. We ate outside on the deck and watched the sun go down in the Laguna Madre.
The next morning it was up at 5:30 to leave by 6:00 for the fishing trip. Caroline had reserved two boats, the Salt Walker and the Reel Madness for the eight of us who chose to take the adventure. The limit was six people per boat, thirty-eight foot sport fishing boats, hence the need for two boats, four passengers and two guides in each. I was in the Reel Madness, and we were in the lead. The sun was coming up as we left the boat dock and were in open water.
Out on the open water, our first mate, Matt Johnson, set up an outrigger on each side of the boat with lines and bait, baited fishing poles he set up on the back of the boat, and we trolled for a time. You can see the Salt Walker boat behind us.
As we trolled I took the opportunity to see what the view looked like from the top deck. Had a nice visit with the ship captain, Todd Lohry, and watched him consult his on-board equipment for the best place to fish. He had all kinds of programs on the computer for finding the best place to fish. He also commented about the fact we weren’t having much luck with the trolling and said just coming off a full moon always messed with the fishing. The moon affects the tides, pulling the cold deep water into the beach and taking the warm shallow water out to sea. Aha! I wasn’t dreaming it; the beach water was colder than it should have been. So apparently fishing is best in the days before a full moon. And swimming would be warmer and more pleasant, too.
The trolling continued to be unsuccessful, so Todd consulted the computer and we sailed to the location of some deep underwater rock formations where red snapper were known to hang out. The boat came to a halt, the hooks were baited and dropped, and sure enough, the fish were biting.
Everyone but Ave, who, bless her heart, was the only person on either boat to get sea sick, caught fish. I caught a nice red snapper with lots of help from Matt, since I truly know nothing about fishing, and one was enough to satisfy me that I had been deep sea fishing. After that I was just the photographer.
The others caught more red snapper, king fish, and jack fish.
Then there was the excitement when a barracuda took the back half of a king fish Colten had caught! It all happened so fast I didn’t get a shot of the barracuda, but here is what was left of the poor king fish.
The group on the other boat was catching fish as well.
When we had our limit and time was up, we headed back the twenty-two miles to the island.
As we made the turn into the harbor and pier, in the distance we could see the buildings at Boca Chica, the SpaceX aerospace installation of Elon Musk in the Valley. We thought about driving to see it more closely, but it would be an out of the way loop of a trip and was said to be closed because of the virus and general security anyway.
As we turned to head into the harbor an pier, in the distance we could see the causeway between Port Isabel and the island.
Back at the dock the fish were displayed properly for a group picture.
Matt and friend then quickly filleted about four red snapper for us to either take home on ice or have one of the restaurants cook for us for that night’s meal. Bill wanted to take the catch back to Muleshoe, so that’s what we did.
We had some time after the fishing adventure, so we visited Sea Turtles, Inc. where they rescue and rehabilitate the sea turtles. They had expanded the facility, and it was nice to see the new exhibits and turtles. On our last visit to Padre we were able to be there for the release of some newly hatched babies, but there were none to be released on this trip. We did see this one who only had one flipper left, and they had outfitted him with a rudder for more accurate swimming.
We ate at Dirty Al’s, a place close to the dock, another good meal of shrimp and fish and raw oysters, the last of which I chose not to partake. And we had time to do the beach again, but no one seemed up to the task this time, so I hit a souvenir shop or two and everyone just sort of lounged around and visited.
The next morning everyone headed home on their own schedules again. We had our fish safely packed on ice for the two-day trip home, stopping at the lake house for the night before driving to Muleshoe the next day. Caroline and crew made it a two-day trip as well. It’s pretty darn far down to the other end of the state from up here, ya’ know. AJ and crew made it home to Kyle easily in one day. I checked the odometer when we pulled in the garage: we had put 1744 miles on the car and hadn’t even left the state!
But it was a fun trip with new adventures and time with family, and Bill and I, at least, will relive it every time we eat a fillet of red snapper for the next few weeks.
And one of these days, I suspect we will make that drive again.
To read the original story and see all the pictures in color, and there were many, go to www.aliceliles.com . The newspaper version can also be read at www.muleshoejournal.com .