Fly Fishing the Texas Coast

Fly Fishing the Surf: Big Shell Beach

Big Shell Beach commences below Little Shell, about 3 miles south of Yarborough Pass, and extends about 10 miles farther south. Big Shell is a favorite area for surf fishermen, especially in the late summer and fall.

At the 29-mile marker, beach travelers come to the Codo del Diablo, or Devil's Elbow, the name Spanish explorers gave this wind- and current-lashed stretch of the Gulf of Mexico because it is shaped like a man's arm bent at the elbow. This is where the Texas coast makes a left turn-a feature that means good things for surf anglers. The same devilish winds and currents that earned the area its name are still present today, creating the guts and bars that make the fishing so attractive when the winds moderate and the surf clears. Along this stretch, Clouser Deep Minnows and streamers will draw the immediate attention of trout, ladyfish, and jack crevalle, as well as pompano and palometa.

About 40 miles down the beach, flyfishers have the opportunity to cast around submerged structures, from big pieces of beached driftwood to rusted boilers from sunken ships. This is also where Sandifer grabs his binoculars to look for schools of tarpon beyond the breakers.

At mile marker 50, well out in the surf, travelers can see the smokestack of the Nicaragua, a Mexican steamer that ran aground during a storm in fall 1912. The wreck of the Nicaragua is about 10 miles north of the Mansfield channel. Here the beach begins to take on a different look, with dogleg turns and sharp ridges at the water's edge. At times, anglers can spot solitary redfish in the mid-20-inch class, cruising the clear, shallow guts a few feet from the beach. It's also the last stretch of beach near the Mansfield jetties. Here, Sandifer says, are a number of washouts patrolled by big trout.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


Sign up to Away's Travel Insider

Preview newsletter »