About “The Last Best Place” on the Texas Coast

 

 

Baffin Bay

Baffin Bay Aerial Map

With a world class fishery encompassing virtually the entire Texas coastline, why do so many people look to Baffin Bay when the subject turns to trophy trout? It’s a proven fact that large trout can and have been caught in every bay system in the state. Just recently, March 31, 2012 to be exact, a thirty-one inch ten pound plus trout was caught out of Galveston Bay (not exactly a trophy trout Mecca).

Matagorda Bay has always produced some very nice catches over the years as well including several nine pound fish and even a handful of ten pound trout in just the last three years (2009-2012). Sabine Lake has them, Port Mansfield, Arroyo City and South Padre Island definitely has them. So once again, why Baffin Bay?

A recently published book by L. Scott Murray – “World Class Texas Trout Tomorrow”, has stirred up a lot of interest with trophy trout seekers. It contains stories of many personal best catches by some of the best anglers across the state of Texas. As stated above, virtually every bay system is represented in the myriad of stories but the vast majority of the stories have one thing in common— Baffin Bay!

There are almost as many theories as there are fishermen but there have been a few that hold water in the opinion of this

Baffin Serpulid Worm Rock

author. Dr. David McKee discusses in his book “Fishes of the Texas Laguna Madre”, the effects of a hyper saline environment on growth rates of fish. Homeostasis is the regulating of a system that maintains a stable, constant condition. Maintaining homeostasis is easier in a hyper saline lagoon like Baffin Bay and the fish are able to add weight quicker. They do not have to constantly regulate their body chemistry to allow for the changes in salinity like the fish in an estuarine system.

There are no rivers or creeks that flow into Baffin. So the only fresh water that enters the bay is from rain and or runoff. There has been very little this year and many other years historically. After all, this area is known as the Wild Horse Desert. The closest passes to the Gulf of Mexico are the tiny Packery Channel well to the north and the East Cut near Port Mansfield to the south. Baffin is virtually a landlocked bay system.

Because of this, there is little to no tidal influence on the bay. It is still possible to key on water movement but one must understand how it works down here. One analogy is that Baffin is similar to a pan of water with a fan on one side. As the fan blows across the surface, the water slightly lowers on the side nearest the fan and slightly rises on the side away from it. As the fan speed is lowered or stopped, the water seeks to level itself and causes a slight current. Picture this happening over the entire surface of the bay during a twenty-four hour period and you can see that there is the potential to predict water movement even in an almost landlocked bay.

Another factor that significantly impacts growth rates is fishing pressure. As popular as Baffin Bay is, the remoteness of the bay system limits access somewhat. Plus, there are a lot of great fishable waters in the Upper Laguna Madre on the way to Baffin. The famous “Rocks” are another reason that keeps boat traffic down. These lower unit wreckers are the remains of Serpulid worm reefs built hundreds if not thousands of years ago. They are scattered almost randomly throughout the bay and at many places are very close to the surface. They are like fish magnets as they hold many small crabs, shrimp, baitfish which in turn attracts larger baitfish and apex predators like trout and redfish.

So the rocks serve a dual purpose as a deterrent for many to run their boats in the bay and a nursery for the creatures involved in the food chain.

Living on the bay affords a unique perspective as well. In the spring and early summer, the cool runs early in the morning along the King Ranch and Kenedy Ranch shorelines give one a relaxing view of this land. Its undeveloped shores will most likely stay that way throughout most of our lifetimes. Witnessing wildlife of all kinds and survival of the fittest struggles on a daily basis, it is as Capt. Sally so eloquently put it, “The last best place”.

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