By Russell A. Graves
The sun was just peaking over the water when we launched from the boat ramp near Rockport. Beautiful and calm, the waters of Aransas Bay sit behind the expansive San Jose Island and are isolated from the enormous Gulf of Mexico by the protective barrier islands. To the west, the gulf’s water is decidedly briny with a salinity of about 36 parts per thousand. Further east, the Aransas River flows freshwater in Copano Bay, which then empties into Aransas Bay and creates a brackish estuary that is flush with fish and other wildlife species.
I live in the Panhandle, and before me is more water than I’ll ever see in a lifetime up there. As the boat eases through the water near San Jose Island, roseate spoonbills cruise over the water while crabs skitter from the sand. Although I am here to fish, I enjoy watching the bay’s wildlife almost as much as I do reeling in speckled trout.
The rich waters of the Texas bays fed by freshwater nutrients from inland Texas rivers mix with equally rich gulf water to create a natural nursery.
Numerous species of fish lay eggs where the fry will grow and return to the gulf. The rich and protective habitats of the estuaries protect and grow a number of fish species including the mystical Atlantic Tarpon.
The tarpon is a member of the Megalops genus, which includes all of the tarpons of the world. The species that inhabits the waters off the Texas coast is the Atlantic tarpon that has a range from the Gulf of Mexico all the way to Africa and down the eastern coastal areas of North and South America.
The fish has even been documented as far north as Nova Scotia. While it lives most of its life in the open water, the tarpon is also found in rivers and estuaries that border open waters.
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