Paddling Time: 2-5 hours
Due to its unique ecological features, South Bay was designated a Coastal Preserve in 1984. In addition to its extensive seagrass beds and stands of black mangroves, it also supports the only significant population of Easter Oysters south of Corpus Christi Bay. Because this is an extremely shallow bay, there is very little large boat traffic. Two interesting physical characteristics of South Bay are the “Table Top,” a very shallow flat covered by seagrass in the North West quarter of the bay, and the old Boca Chica channel that was the outlet for the Lower Laguna Madre to the Gulf before the ship channel was cut.
Because of the many oysters in South Bay, it is particularly important for paddlers to wear adequate footgear while using the area. While shallow, the presence of large numbers of shellfish alternating with sometimes silty, mucky bottoms make this bay unsuitable for wadefishing.
This is a remote paddling trail with no easy vehicle access. Take plenty of water and sunscreen. While launching on the north side of the Brownsville Ship Channel, be aware that large vessels often are moving much faster than they appear to be and have right-of-way in the channel.
Fishing in South Bay is outstanding, with spring, summer and fall providing the greatest diversity and abundance of fish. Anglers can expect to encounter red drum, spotted seatrout and flounder here. Common snook and fat snook are routinely caught in South Bay’s shallow waters, as are jack crevalle, gray snapper and ladyfish.
South Bay and its wind-tidal flats, shallow depths, associated vegetation and unique location provides excellent feeding, resting and wintering habitat for numerous types of migratory bird species, such as White Pelicans, Brown Pelicans, Cormorants, Gadwalls, Green-winged Teals and Redheads. A variety of shorebirds and wading birds may be seen year-round, and the extensive black mangrove stands are an important nesting area for roseate spoonbills.
South Bay is encircled by the Lower Rio Grande Valley Wildlife Refuge, which is known to support a population of rare Texas ocelots. Coyotes, bobcats, armadillos, raccoons and other small mammals are common on the shores of the bay.
Paddlers must make a short, open-water transit to reach South Bay. There is only one launch site at this time:
BASIC PADDLING TECHNIQUES
The basic step to getting started in basic paddling strokes is to hold the paddle appropriately. Paddlers’ hold over the paddle largely affects the kayaking performance. Hence, it is vital to employ the right paddling techniques for effective kayaking.
Grabbing the paddle also has to be done methodically. In order to paddle effectually, it is necessary to make sure you have a comfortable grasp over the paddle shaft. If you grab your shaft too tightly, or if you place your hands too close to each other, paddling will be a strenuous task. You should be able to hold the paddle in two easy steps.
The primary stroke for propelling a kayak forward with a paddle:
KAYAKING AT NIGHT
Paddling at night: Remember that you must carry one bright white light that can be exhibited in time to prevent a collision. It is recommended that you carry a lantern, flashlight, or other attached white light that will be visible from 360 degrees. Regulations state that canoes, kayaks, and all other manually driven vessels shall exhibit sidelights and a sternlight, and shall exhibit at least one bright light, lantern, or flashlight from sunset to sunrise when not at dock.
SAFETY REQUIREMENTS FOR ALL VESSELS
Operating Vessels without Required Equipment is Prohibited - No person may operate or give permission for the operation of a vessel that is not provided with the required safety equipment. An operator may not permit a person under the age of 13 to be on board the vessel while the vessel is underway if the person is not wearing a USCG approved wearable PFD. Marine enforcement officers regularly perform vessel safety checks to ensure the safety of boat owners and passengers.
All vessels including motorboats, sailboats, canoes, kayaks, punts, rowboats, rubber rafts, or other vessels when not at dock must have and exhibit at least one bright light, lantern or flashlight visible all around the horizon from sunset to sunrise in all weather and during restricted visibility.
Power Driven Vessels Underway: Power driven vessels of less than 20 meters (65.6 ft.) but more than 12 meters (39.4 ft.) shall exhibit navigation lights as shown in Figure 1. Vessels of less than 12 meters in length, shall show the lights in either Figure 1 or Figure 2.