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Security Zones Claim Some Unlikely Fishing Holes

Watch where you go when casting near industrial areas along the coast.

By Larry Bozka

The landscape surrounding the Bayport Channel near LaPorte is not likely to capture the imagination of Texas sporting artists. There are no shimmering flats here, no saltgrass stands slowly waving in the humid breeze or fat, tailing redfish plucking hapless blue crabs from calf-deep reefs.

Still, the fish are here … or at least very close to here. Frustrated by our quandary, Wayne Vinton sadly shakes his head.

“See that dock over there?— he asks. “Before the security zones were created, that was one of my best flounder fishing spots.—

Minutes earlier, we had drifted less than a boat length past a tall orange-and-white channel marker on our immediate right. We were about to cast our baits to the rocky shoreline ledge when a uniformed security guard clambered over the steep and grassy embankment and politely but firmly told us to move.

So we motored back inside the legal boundary. Vinton quietly slipped the anchor over, gazing at the nearby dock and the surfaced pod of finger mullet milling at its base.

“We might catch a few fish here if we stick with it,— he said. “But it’s nothing like what we could do if my other spots weren’t closed.—

For more than 20 years, Vinton, a 61-year-old fishing guide turned outdoor radio show host, has relied on some unlikely looking locales to put his customers on fish. They aren’t pretty places: Storage tanks with flaking paint connected by networks of pipes crowd the shores. Colossal cranes slump over the water with truck-sized hooks dangling from thick steel cables.

Vinton and others like him know that anglers, not fish, care about scenery. During favorable wind and tidal flows, the gravel-bottomed channels and barnacle-encrusted bulkheads of select industrial complexes brim with flounder, redfish, speckled trout, black drum and other popular gamefish.

The events of Sept. 11, 2001 have had far-reaching consequences, but many anglers remain unaware that one of those consequences is the closure of some highly popular fishing locales.

“A bunch of great spots in the Galveston area are now off-limits,— Vinton tells me, “including the Bayport Channel, the Texas City Turning Basin, the Coast Guard Station off the Intracoastal Canal near the ferry landing at Galveston (—a primo fall flounder hole,’ he ruefully adds), the Exxon Docks north of the Fred Hartman Bridge on Upper Galveston Bay and the Galveston Ship Channel near the San Jacinto Monument.—

Port and industrial waters near Beaumont, Texas City, Freeport and Corpus Christi were also affected by the closures.

Listeners to Vinton’s radio program frequently call with questions. He tells them there is, unfortunately, no single source from which to obtain a list of closed Texas locales. There is also no standard set of consequences for failure to comply.

In most situations, a verbal warning, like the one he and I received, is the norm. Individuals careless or foolhardy enough to break the rules a second time face anything from detention and subsequent background checks to fines. It’s safe to say that jail time isn’t out of the question for three-time offenders.

Marinas and boat ramps where security zones are listed are perhaps the best sources of information. The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, through boat shows and other public events, also works hard to hand out detailed listings of areas restricted by the Department of Homeland Security.

“I had seven —confidence spots’ in this channel before 9/11,— Vinton tells me. “Now,— he adds, “I have three.—

That said, he pulls the anchor and aims his boat toward one of them.

“Better do it now,— he says over the rumble of the engine. “There’s no guarantee it’ll be here tomorrow.

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