There are literally hundreds of licensed fishing guides along the Texas Coastal Bend. Honestly, it is not that hard to get a fishing guide license. After Hurricane Harvey, hundreds of storm-chasing contractors descended on Rockport, Port Aransas and Aransas Pass. Along with their crews, they brought their boats. Dozens of them ran out and got their guide license and began running trips on the weekends. This is not intended to disparage part-time guides, because there are some very good ones, but merely intended to illustrate that knowing more about your guide is important.
While becoming a licensed fishing guide is not that difficult, being a professional fishing guide is. A successful professional fishing guide has dedicated a lot of non-income producing time to learn everything they can about the bay system, fish tendencies and affects of tide and weather on fish. They have invested in quality equipment, taken safety classes and committed themselves to doing everything they can to make sure their clients have a safe and successful trip.
Things to consider when hiring a fishing guide along the Texas Coastal Bend:
Like any business professional and wine, a fishing guide gets better with time. But “20 years fishing Aransas Bay” is not the same as being a guide on Aransas Bay for 20 years. That subtle difference is important but should not be the only qualifier when picking a guide.
The guide that has successfully been in business for 15 or 20 years probably has a huge client base and may be hard to book. A young enthusiastic guide may be easier to book on short notice and offer over the top customer service in order to build the new business.
Where do they fish
The Texas Coastal Bend offers a huge variety of fishing areas and most guides offer trips to a variety of habitats and possibly multiple bay systems. Look for a guide that promotes the specific technique or bay area that you are most interested in. For instance, a guide that promotes fishing in Redfish Bay and Nueces Bay as their main area may not be as effective in Baffin Bay or the Upper Laguna Madre.
Even within the bay systems, guides may tailor trips to specific habitats. Fishing the backwater sloughs of Mesquite Bay and Nueces Bay are very different than the open waters of Aransas Bay or Corpus Christi bay. The type of boat the fishing guide runs can have a huge effect on what type of water they can run and consequently what type of habitat they can access.
How do they fish
Most guides along the Texas Coastal Bend can target a variety of fish and use multiple techniques to pursue them. For instance, a bay guide may tailor a trip to target the species you want to catch whether it be redfish, speckled trout, flounder or black drum. Or they may offer live bait or artificial bait techniques.
Some guides specialize in specific techniques, like fly fishing for redfish or gigging flounder at night. If want a multi-species trip, choose a guide that offers it. If you want to work on a specific technique, look for a guide that does that.
To legally lead paying fishing trips along the Texas Coastal Bend bays, a professional fishing guide must have at least two licenses;
- A US Coast Guard (USCG) Captain’s License
- A Texas Parks and Wildlife (TPWD) All Water Fishing Guide License
While this is the base line credential requirements, many professional fishing guides do much more to support their industry and further their professional training. An example of this is joining professional organizations like:
- Port Aransas Boatmen, Inc.
- Coastal Bend Guides Association
- Coastal Conservation Association
- And others
Many even go the extra mile and get extra safety training like:
The final piece in picking a professional fishing guide is personality. There are a lot of fishing guides in the Texas Coastal Bend, find one that fits your needs. You are about to spend 4 to 8 hours on the water with someone. You might as well like them!
Take time to visit with your guide on the phone. Try to get a feel for how they approach trips and how well you click with them. You might like the hard-core guy that is not as friendly but gives you the best shot at getting your personal best redfish or speckled trout.
If you want someone that is friendly and willing to teach, ask them specific questions about how you are going to fish. At the end of the day, you want to spend time on the water with a fishing guide that meets your needs and knowing their personality and focus will make your guided fishing trip experience the best it can possibly be.
No fishing guide is perfect for every client. The professional fishing guide to fish with in the Texas Coastal Bend depends on what you are trying to achieve by hiring a fishing guide. Consider the unique combination of experience, techniques, bays and habitats fished and personality that best fits your needs and go have a great day on the water.