Back in the 1970s, my family couldn't afford to take vacations to exotic fishing locales like the Bahamas, or even Florida for that matter. Our idea of "exotic" was Rockport Texas, which back then was just a small fishing community right in the middle of the Texas Gulf Coast. During that era, Rockport wasn't the swanky coastal town it has since become. These days it is almost as well known for its arts and entertainment activities as it is an angling destination. Fifty years ago, however, it was VERY MUCH a fishing community.
I still have very vivid memories of what Rockport was like back then. There were a few local restaurants, with Kline's Diner being the most well-known. Max's tackle shop was located just around the corner from Kline's right on Aransas Bay. And, scattered amongst the fishing cabins and locally owned homesteads were numerous hotels that had suffered the brunt of the constant wind and salt spray, along with the occasional tropical storm or hurricane. Names like The Sea-Gun Inn, Sportsman's Manor, and The Sand Dollar, have provided temporary shelter to many, many Gulf Coast anglers over the years, and as is common in coastal communities, each one of them had a lighted pier.
However, the hotel that to this day still holds a special place in my angling life is The Balboa Courts.
I am not exactly sure how my family got connected with The Balboa Courts Hotel, but that was where we stayed just about every time we took a fishing trip to the coast during the 1970s and 1980s. Blaboa like the others, also had a fantastic fishing pier just a short walk from the strip of "kitchenettes" where most people took shelter after a long night of pier fishing. As a young man, I spent many many nights fishing under the lights of the pier at Balboa Courts, and many many days wading the edges with a cast net, harvesting live bait for the next night of fishing. That pier was, and probably still is a sure bet for a night of frantic Speckled Trout fishing, along with the occasional surprise of a Redfish or Flounder as well.
I have written extensively about my old running buddy/fishing partner, Jesse Alonzo in past Front Pages. I do believe, that the last time I stayed at Balboa Courts was with Jesse, probably around 1996 or so. I distinctly remember fishing off the T-Head of the pier with J.J. the night before our infamous trip to the Mission River...GREAT MEMORIES.
Last month, my mom and I decided to take a day trip down to Rockport to revisit some of the old places that hold special places in our lives. The town has changed a lot, and unfortunately, there's been a ton of development over the years, and sadly it no longer has the small fishing town vibe. I know many people call this "progress" but for me personally, it is ANYTHING but. I much prefer the smell of a local baitstand stand with a fresh load of live shrimp in the baitwell, to that of $8 a cup gourmet coffee.
Towards the end of our trip, we decided to go see The Balboa Courts where my family spent so much time and created so many good memories in our younger years. As we traveled the bayfront drive, the pier where I spent so many hours as a kid was still there. The hotel, however? Well, it was nowhere to be found. It took us a few minutes to get our bearings, because..well...the hotel simply wasn't there? Looks like the real estate was sold, and in the name of "progress", the hotel infrastructure was bulldozed, and a multi-million dollar mansion now sits on the very spot where I laid my head so many nights after long stretch of pier fishing. Thankfully the pier is still there as a gentle reminder for all of us who spent countless hours under those lights that our angling past is still alive as long as we choose to remember it.
Hope you all are having a great week,