By Jeff Warren

Outdoor Explorer

Last weekend I made a road trip to the coast with some members of my kayaking club. We paddled the Lighthouse Lakes Paddle Trail near Aransas Pass.

This paddle trail on the Texas Gulf Coast is one of 18 paddling trails designated and marked by Texas Parks and Wildlife (TPWD).

A designated paddle trail means that all the put-in and take-out points are easily accessible and clearly marked for kayaking and canoeing. Details and maps of all 18 designated paddle trails are available on the TPWD Web site.

The Lighthouse Lakes Paddling Trail was the very first paddling trail designated by Texas Parks and Wildlife. It is a series of loops varying in length from 1.25 to 6.8 miles.

Paddlers can either follow the well marked trails or customize their own route using the TPWD trail markers. The area consists of shallow tidal lakes and channels dotted by mangrove islands.

The islands form a virtual maze of beautiful scenery with abundant seagrass, bird watching, and fishing. Prevalent species of fish include red drum, speckled trout, and flounder.

We arrived at our motel in Rockport on Friday evening in time to grab dinner at a local restaurant.

Our motel had a 1,000-foot lighted fishing pier so after dinner we spent a few hours fishing under the lights. We turned in early planning a full day of kayaking on Saturday.

Saturday morning we drove to Aransas Pass and took the State Highway 361 causeway towards Port Aransas. The launch point is about 4 miles from downtown Aransas Pass. We launched near trail marker 60 and had to fight the incoming tidal currents and a strong east wind to cross the Aransas Channel. We had checked the tidal charts and low tide was at 3:55 a.m. so we knew the tide would be slowly rising throughout the day.

Our plan was to explore the paddle trail and fish some of the tidal channels connecting the Lighthouse Lakes with the Lydia Ann Channel. We decided to paddle upwind so our return trip would be easier.

We found that the tide was much lower than we expected and there were several places our kayaks bumped and dragged over scattered oysters.

If you paddle this area, use extreme caution around the oyster beds because the shells are very sharp and will severely scratch your kayak. They will also cut your feet if you decide to get out and wade.

I recommend waders with sturdy boots if you plan to get out of your kayak for some wade fishing.

We paddled about 3 miles towards the historic Lydia Ann Lighthouse which is a very visible landmark in this area. We had to drag our kayaks through one very shallow area.

We were able to find a channel which connects the Lighthouse Lakes area with the larger bay and we caught a few redfish that were riding the incoming tide into the lakes.

The fish were all caught on live shrimp even though we tried several other combinations including jigs, spoons, and top-water lures.

We beached our kayaks on a small island and had a shore lunch of homemade smoked chicken sandwiches and contemplated our next move.

Noticing that the wind had really picked up and was blowing well over 20 mph now, we decided to head back to the take out point.

The trip back was much easier since we had the wind at our back. All we really had to do was steer our boats. The waves weren't too bad in this area because of all the islands which block the wind and break up the waves. We did have a few whitecaps by the time we made it back.

We got our boats loaded on the truck at about 3:30 p.m. and we were completely worn out by this time so we headed back to the motel for some rest, dinner, and some more night fishing on the pier. We had a great day exploring and fishing the Lighthouse Lakes area and everyone is looking forward to our next trip to the coast.

If you decide to try this trip, pay close attention to the tide charts and the wind forecast. Be sure to use the buddy system and let someone know your paddle plan.

Bring a tow rope for your kayak and wear boots or waders to guard against jellyfish stings and sharp oyster beds when wading.

This area is best paddled at high tide and with calm winds.

Even though we didn't paddle under the best conditions, we still enjoyed the beautiful scenery, abundant wildlife, and clear water of this tidal estuary.

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