Padre Island National Seashore

Padre Island National Seashore

Things To Do

Interpretive programs

Beach Walk

Come along on a leisurely 45 to 60 minute walk with a ranger and discover the wildlife of Padre Island and learn how it has changed over time. Discover the remarkable diversity of the Gulf beach and how currents converge on this barrier island to bring unusual items from all over the world. Discussions may also range into a wide variety of topics concerning the island’s natural and cultural history as well as current issues and problems facing the National Seashore today.  Bring a hat and sunscreen to protect yourself from the elements. This gentle walk is suitable for all ages.

Deck Talk

Join a ranger for an informal 30 to 45 minute talk on various aspects of the island’s natural and cultural history or to discuss some of the fascinating items that have been found on Padre Island’s shoreline. Additional topics include sea turtles, animal adaptations, marine debris, and native cultures. Check with a ranger at the visitor center for today’s topic. 

Birding Tour and Birding 101

This birding tour is offered every day with the exception of Monday. You will learn a lot about the birds of Texas including bird habitats, how to identify bird and a lot more. We are right on the central flyway and because of this south Texas is one of the best birding spots in the entire USA. Also, find out about birding basics and how to use birding equipment by attending the park's Birding 101 class, which is held Tuesday and Saturday. Happy birding!

Junior Ranger Program

This is a self-paced program for individual children ages 5 to 13. Come explore the ecology of the barrier island while learning more about the seashore and the amazing animals that survive in this unique habitat. Completion time is around two hours. Upon completion of the booklet, each participant is awarded an official Junior Ranger badge and is sworn in as a National Park Service Junior Ranger. Program booklets and pencils are available at no charge at the visitor center desk. Participants may receive help from family members, friends, or rangers to help them complete their activities.



For record catches in the upper Laguna Madre, follow this link.

For record catches in the lower Laguna Madre, follow this link.

Along with camping and windsurfing, fishing is one of the biggest attractions to the National Seashore. Visitors may fish along the entire length of the Gulf of Mexico beach and at Yarborough Pass and Bird Island Basin. Boat fishing, wade fishing, and kayak fishing may be done throughout the Laguna Madre portion of the park. Please note however, that fishing at Bird Island Basin may pose a safety hazard to other visitors. Bird Island Basin is used primarily for windsurfing and launching boats, both of which may become entangled in fishing lines. Wherever you choose to fish, please watch out for your own safety and fish so that your fishing lines and other equipment do not pose a risk to the safety of other visitors. Please be alert to the presence of children swimming or wading in the water near your lines or playing behind you where they may be hooked when you cast.

All Texas fishing laws apply at the National Seashore. To fish anywhere within the park requires a valid Texas fishing license and a saltwater stamp. The concessions store, the Padre Island Park Company sells basic fishing supplies such as small fishing poles, basic tackle and lures, and dead shrimp for use as bait. Copies of Texas hunting and fishing regulations are normally available at the Malaquite Pavilion Information Desk and at the concessions stand. Free copies of the Texas Parks and Wildlife saltwater fish identification guide are also normally available, but quantities may be limited. Other books on fishing in the Gulf and at Padre Island are available for purchase at the Western National Parks Association bookstore collocated with the information desk and museum at the Malaquite Pavilion. For detailed information on saltwater regulations and bag limits in Texas, follow this link to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's website.

Three areas within the park are renown for their fishing: Big Shell Beach, the Mansfield Channel, and Yarborough Pass. All three can be reached only by using a four-wheel drive vehicle. Yarborough Pass is located 15.5 miles south of the Malaquite Pavilion. Yarborough provides access to the Laguna Madre and is known for its flounder fishing along with red drum, black drum, and sea trout.

Big Shell Beach is located in an area between 18 and 28 miles south of the Malaquite Pavilion. In this area two currents meet bringing nutrients from opposite sides of the Gulf: one from the north and one from the south. A wide variety of fish accumulate off Big Shell to feed on the abundant nutrients or on other fish that feed on the nutrients. This area provides deep clear water close to shore and is a great place to fish for shark.

The Mansfield Channel is a popular fishing spot because it is one of the few channels connecting the Gulf of Mexico to the Laguna Madre. As a result, many fish journey through this narrow chokepoint when traveling between feeding grounds and nursery areas. As with Big Shell, the Mansfield Channel also has a wide variety of fish.

Many types of fish may be caught along the shores of the island, but some of the most common are red drum (also known as redfish), black drum, pompano, sea trout, whiting, jack crevalle, and saltwater catfish. Fishing for shark is also very popular with black-tipped shark being the most abundant. Shark-fishermen please note that the park no longer permits personal watercraft to be used in the park. Use of other craft, such as kayaks or zodiac boats, to tow fishing lines is still permitted.

At the National Seashore, most fisherman fish either in the surf (primarily in the Gulf) or from a boat (in the Laguna Madre). Surf fishing techniques differ from those used in fresh water. The Texas Saltwater Fish Identification Pocket Guide provides the following guidance on surf fishing:

"Many of the methods used to catch freshwater fish also will work in saltwater. Others must be modified. Freshwater tackle may not be suitable since it usually is lightweight and subject to corrosion. Plugs used in freshwater seldom work in salty climes, but some of the spoons are usable...Heavier tackle is required and conditions usually are rougher. The most successful anglers drive along the beach looking for signs of fish or for locations where fish are likely to be. Deep cuts near shore, schools of fish near the surface, fish-eating birds feeding, and heavy swirls can indicate fish. Some of the very best fishing is during or immediately after rough, cold weather when large cut baits are used. When clear water comes in near shore, various lures and spoons are used to catch red drum and sea trout. Bait stealers pose problems in summer, but even the good fish can be caught if they are spotted...Caution should be a byword in saltwater fishing. All boat safety rules should be observed... Wade fishermen should move slowly and avoid stepping off into potholes or deep channels. With a little effort and care, saltwater fishing can provide a rich reward."

Be aware that stingrays inhabit both shores of the island and may inflict painful stings in the foot or lower leg of anyone stepping directly upon them. This does not happen frequently, nonetheless care should always be taken when wading. The best way to avoid injury from a stingray is to shuffle one's feet instead of stepping. Using this technique, you will kick the stingray in the side, instead of stepping on it, and it will swim away.

Please be aware that all sea turtles in the Gulf of Mexico are either threatened or endangered with extinction and may become entangled in fishing lines or foul hooked. Please aid us in our fight to preserve the sea turtles by not casting your line where sea turtles are seen surfacing to breathe. If you hook or entangle a sea turtle, bring the turtle close to you and then lift it out of the water and cut the line close to the hook while avoiding the turtle's mouth and flipper claws. Do not remove the hook unless the turtle is lightly hooked and the hook can be removed without further injury to the turtle. If uncertain, do not remove the hook. Turtles that have serious cuts or have ingested or deeply embedded hooks, need veterinary care. Keep the turtle in the shade and call the park dispatch office at (361) 949-8173 extension 0 or the Visitors Center at (361) 949-8068.

For more information on fishing, contact the Malaquite Visitors Center at (361) 949-8068. The park's daily weather forecast is available at (361) 949-8175 and includes a brief comment on the day's fishing. To report poaching call the park dispatch office at (361) 949-8173, extension 0 or call Texas's Operation Game Thief at 1-800-792-GAME. Information leading to the arrest and conviction of a poacher may result in a cash reward of up to $1,000.


The most common use of the term "beachcombing" may be to describe the recreational activity of finding curiosities that have washed in with the tide. These items include seashells, sea beans (drift seeds), driftwood, lumber, plastics, and all manner of things lost or discarded by seagoing vessels and fishing activities. Books have been written to aide the identification of these occasionally strange and well-traveled items. Sophisticated recreational beachcombers use knowledge of how storms, geography, ocean currents, and seasonal events determine the arrival and exposure of rare finds.

Beachcombing today more commonly refers to the act of scavenging (or literally, combing through debris) along beaches or in wharf areas for items of value that are floating in the water (floatsam) or that have washed up on shore (jetsam). A beachcomber is one who practices beachcombing. The term beachcomber may also refer to people who practices beachcombing as a lifestyle. The beachcomber lifestyle includes, in addition to searching for items of flotsam that may have value, becoming totally dependent upon coastal fishing of fish and shellfish, and often abandoning totally one's original culture and values.