A Day on the Matagorda Bay: Fishing, Oystering, Shrimping,
Wildlife Viewing and More!

By Cheri Sicard and Mitch Mandell

capt jp arnold, a day on the bayMATAGORDA COUNTY , TEXAS, USA -- Sometimes, especially when you're a city slicker, nature can be all around you and still you miss much of the really incredible sites, sounds, flora and fauna right in front of your eyes. Why? Because you don't know where to look. Or what a certain bird's cry sounds like. Or which animals tracks are dotting your trails. Or what a certain ripple pattern on the water can mean. Face it, you need a guide.

Enter Captain JP Arnold, a retired commercial fisherman who has lived in Matagorda County his entire life. When JP retired from his successful fishing venture, he knew there was no way he could stay off his beloved Matagorda Bay. Instead he started A Day on the Bay Services with help from his wife Linda and brother Ozzie.

day on the bayThe Arnold brothers are like the coastal Texas equivalent of Crocodile Dundee. They were born and raised here and seemingly know every nook, cranny, inlet and island in these waters. If there are fish to be caught, James or Ozzie will know where to find them and how to best catch them.

But a Day on the Bay Services is far more than just a fishing trip and guide service. JP will customize your experience to be anything you want it to be. You might want to go oystering or shrimping, or you may opt to not fish at all, but rather enjoy a day of site-seeing and getting back to nature. With any activities you choose, you'll be educated and entertained by the brothers' seemingly endless knowledge about the delicate local ecosystems, wildlife habitats, and natural beauty along the way.

oystering, matagorda bayMost days on the bay will encompass both the modern day marvels of lochs on the intercoastal waterway as well as the isolated pristine beauty of the diverse natural wildlife habitats of coastal Texas.

matagorda bay oystering(Really) Fresh Oysters!

Oystering provided an especially memorable experience for me, since raw oysters are one of my favorite foods. In my hometown of Los Angeles they are usually far too expensive to indulge very often. My visit to Matagorda County represented the first and only time in my life when I actually ate my fill of raw oysters to the point where I couldn't eat another.

JP taught us how to use large heavy wooden tongs to scoop the shellfish out of the nutrient rich waters. As soon as we'd catch them, Ozzie would shuck the oysters of their shells and we'd eat them. (To be honest only myself and one other fellow traveler ate them, while everyone else looked on disgust. No problem, more for us!) If only I'd had the foresight to bring along a little lemon and horseradish.


matagorda bay fishingOf course, JP and Ozzie are excellent fishing guides, and Matagorda County offers some incredible opportunities for anglers. If you're experienced, these guys can show you where to get the big ones. If you're a complete beginner, JP and Ozzie can show you everything you need to know, and they have all the gear you'll need. Even complete novices like me are assured great results, as the photo at right holding my redfish catch shows.

Redfish are one of the fishing highlights of the Matagorda area. If you haven't tried it, it's a firm, mild fish with large filets that can feed a crowd. While you often find redfish fried (Ozzie's favorite method), we also like it grilled (click for recipe).

So whether you're visiting Matagorda County with a bunch of buddies who want to go fishing, or if you want to take the entire family on a nature adventure they'll never forget, consider spending a day on the bay with Captain JP or Ozzie. From natural beauty, to abundant wildlife, to man's maritime achievements and his impact on and conservation of the delicate gulf coast ecosystems, they'll show you where to look so you don't a single component of what makes a day on the bay in Matagorda County, Texas such a memorable experience.