The Best Kayak Fishing in Texas
Angler Jenn Nolan says kayak fishing in Port Arthur is the sweetest spot in Texas. She is a presenter at the 62nd annual Texas Outdoors Writers Association Conference, sentimental about fishing Port Arthur, and willing to share tips. “And HONEY, if you’re thinking about visiting Port Arthur, won’t you come fish here soon? The fish are waiting to bite,” Nolan says.
We’re a “soul-mending, salt water paradise.”
When asked where my favorite fishing spot, or “honey hole” is in an area, I typically respond with “in the water” jokingly or in the marsh, in the back lakes, over by the bridge – very vague. But, when asked to write specifically about my VERY favorite fishing spot, you know THE honey hole, I’m eager to share every detail of the most special place on the water to me. It always will be Port Arthur’s Texas Bayou, where the honey is a little sweeter. On top of the quality fishery, this is the friendliest fishing town in Texas.
I discovered Texas Bayou when my son was just becoming a teen in 2015. Being my third child, I knew all too well how quickly we would disconnect. He would be an awkward teen soon enough, and then in a blink, a man. I wanted to take him on a memorable mother-son trip, so we loaded up the mini-van and turned on the GPS. We heard Port Arthur had great fishing so we just typed in Port Arthur and zoomed in. We ventured around many areas and fishing spots like Walter Humphrey State Park, Keith Lake, Bailey’s and the Rainbow Bridge. We even surf fished at Sea Rim State Park, but the last spot we visited became the last spot that we ever looked for.
“… this is the friendliest fishing town in Texas…”
There are many reasons why I love kayak fishing in and around Port Arthur, but the largest reason for my devotion to this fishery is easily narrowed down to the marsh systems. The miles and miles of marsh shore lines are never ending. I’ve easily spent over 1,000 hours fishing the waterways, drains and back lakes of the marsh systems here. There are still many more miles to explore.
During my explorations, I am always chasing my next biggest redfish. It doesn’t matter if it is a tournament trip or a relaxing leisure day at Texas Bayou, I hunt for the same fish. My approach is simple. I start by researching tides and winds and make sure I am going to catch the falling tide with the wind in my favor. Then I fish my way back, targeting shoreline and drains with soft plastic finesse, slow popping and dragging along the ledges and shorelines. If the bite is off, I will beat that same shoreline up on my way back out with my popping cork. Sometimes its just about getting them to come out and eat. These strategies and tactics for approaching the marsh systems have been key to my success in Texas Bayou and other inshore fisheries around Port Arthur.
Hooked on Texas Bayou
I recall the fish that hooked me to Texas Bayou. That day I was throwing chartreuse gulp on a popping cork. It’s such a memorable fish now, but I recall being a bit embarrassed about the fish. Although, we had spent years fishing, I had never landed a legal slot red on a lure and I just dove into the tournament world and started eating up knowledge as quick as I could.
It was a beautiful sunny day, temps were low and the wind was high, tides were running a little low and were falling… something I learned later to be beautiful music in the marshes of Texas Bayou. We only had about 30 minutes left in the tournament and I still didn’t have a fish. At the time, I was fishing in an 8-foot, sit-in pelican kayak, trying to pick up a late one, fishing the last drain before leaving the marsh…and it just happened. I could never turn away from this moment forward. This fish was the defining moment in my entire life’s pivot and what propelled me into the life of a free spirited fishing dreamer.
As I set up on that last drain, I turned and cast back toward the shoreline with little confidence. One pop. I thought I was hung on a tree underwater; I wasn’t in 24 inches if that. I probably fought this fish for five minutes or so, got her tired and lifted her on. She was just under 28. Big exhale. Shaking and overjoyed, this is the moment I fell in love with it all. I just about lost my mind, the fish ended up weighing in at 9.2 lbs and that fish hadn’t been beat at a weigh-in for any of the UCKA tournament series until a year later. I was blessed to be able to bring in a 9.6 and beat my own record. Today I still hold the record of the heaviest fish weighed in with no bonus, this was the true weight of the fish.
Successful Honey Hole Hopping Takes the Right Tools
What I fish with has a lot to do with my success here. I am a light tackle minimalist on the water. I have my staple 1/8 and 1/16 ounce jig heads, I prefer the notched neck, they hold the lure on best for me and are easy to switch out. Assorted flavors of the local fare and favorite among the locals, Chicken Boy lures are the majority of my plastics choice here. The Whippin Chicken, Chicken on a Chain, is my very favorite with the same in Chicken on the Bone coming in a strong second. I usually have a popping cork spinning rod to the side rigged with a VUDU shrimp from Egret Baits. This, combined with an Egret swimbait and my Chicken Boy assortment, join my medium light rods, outfitted with bait casters. That’s about all I need to bring ‘em to the boat. It never hurts to keep some Berkley Gulp on hand for those lock jaw days and hard bites.
H&H Rods really provides a great fast action, lightweight rod, which is my preference to finesse the fish in these skinny water back lakes. My gear is lined with 12 or 17 lb fluorocarbon, I prefer the Berkley Vanish. Additionally, a good light weight, deep mesh net that floats and some fish grips and plyers to properly handle and release the fish are must haves. I prefer the Pro Fish Gear line, based right here out of Texas. Catch and Release is something I strongly encourage. If you are recording or keeping, make sure you have a proper measuring device and a cooler with ice or a stringer to bring your fish back to the launch.
“I Owe My Success in the World of Salt to Port Arthur.”
The fisheries here and the friends that I’ve made along the way have helped me grow in the sport and made me who I am today. I mean I did it. I. Did. It. Me. Sweet!
Port Arthur is the reason for all my success in general. This place brought me peace and healing and connected me with my family and new friends. Port Arthur is not only the friendliest place to fish in Texas, but it is also a peaceful place with a plentiful fishery surrounded by amazing backwater marsh scenery and water fowl. The marshes are Mother Nature’s zoo, a unique jungle full of curious critters and apex predators. It is not a place for the faint at heart. More of a fishery to heal broken hearts.
A “Soul-Mending, Salt Water Paradise”
The back waters of Texas Bayou even brought me the best fishing and life partner I could have ever dreamed. I am telling you, there is nothing sweeter than Texas Bayou for this wild haired, barefoot, salty girl.
Port Arthur has allowed me to create priceless memories for my family and achieve many personal goals. The fisheries in Port Arthur, specifically in Texas Bayou, have provided healthy resident fish for tournaments, first place titles and several top 10 finishes, not to mention record holding weights. The waters and miles traveled in between, healed many places in my heart and soul. Each opportunity and adventure I found in Port Arthur has led me to another beautiful, friendly place or person.
My family and I enjoy attending many fishing events and tournaments in the area. We have had opportunities to speak on safety and other relevant issues out at the S.A.L.T. Club on Pleasure Island. Giving back to the community in which we fish is so important to us, we love the town of Port Arthur and celebrating its salty flavor with the locals is another drop of honey in the pot. We have enjoyed the cultural uniqueness and family atmosphere here in Port Arthur, We just love fishing and spending time here. Our family loves surrounding ourselves with the kindness and love that has been shown to us throughout the years here.
-Love on somebody today, Jenn
Follow Nolan’s adventures: Jenn Nolan Fishing; team MacNauti; Champions Outdoors; Jackson Kayak Fishing team; Line Cutterz Elite; Kidzfish2; Reel Girlz; Heroes on the Water.