The beauty of inshore fishing is that you can get excellent fish not far from the shore. The next time you book a fishing trip in Texas, remember there is one inshore fishery you absolutely need to explore: Corpus Christi.
Experienced anglers have long known all the qualities of fishing Corpus Christi Bay – a bountiful stock of Redfish and Speckled Trout and nearly limitless opportunities for sight casting and fly fishing.
But, this has been attracting a different kind of angler in recent years. More and more young people regularly flock to pass some quality time around the bay chasing Reds.
And it’s quite a trend. According to our data, the number of online bookings around Corpus Christi Bay area has risen more than 20 times in the past three years. In 2015 there were about 50 trips booked online. Last year, over 1,100 trips took place around the flats, lagoons, and marshes in the area.
By far the largest number of anglers who booked trips in Texas on FishingBooker came from Texas itself. But what’s surprising is that major urban centers are leading the way. Compared to locals, city dwellers are the ones who book fishing trips online much more often. This means that the customer base for local captains and guides has grown significantly. Hardcore anglers are joined by fishing enthusiasts who don’t have the chance to unplug by the water every day.
It was once hard to imagine that fishing trips would take place without meeting the captain beforehand – but this has changed, and it seems to be benefiting everyone. In 2015, online fishing charters for Corpus Christi Bay were worth about $41,000 – while last year the local captains and guides earned $777,000 from online bookings alone.
Additional income is not the only benefit captains see from online booking sites. Captain Jack Cooper of Team Liberty Guide Service notices the change. ‘The calendar system is already set up, and all administrative functions are done. Those things are invaluable for our kind of business, in my opinion.’
The biggest advantage of online booking systems for Capt. Jack – who’s been in the business since the 90s – is that it lets him focus on fishing and not worry so much about bookings. ‘It has allowed me to focus on boat maintenance and putting people on fish. I can focus my attention on things I need to be focusing on. And it also makes it easy for the customers. They can book a trip at their convenience.’
Capt. Derrick Dongog of Angler Management Gulf Coast also finds the online booking option beneficial. Whether it’s a personal website or an agency, it saves him time as he doesn’t have to answer the phone constantly. ‘People want to talk to someone, and even though they use the computer as it’s easier for them, it’s good to have someone [in the customer service team] on the phone who can help out.’
The New Angler
Captains have recognized the change in customers who come fishing. Although he still prefers talking to the customers over the phone, Capt. Jack realizes that a lot of younger anglers like to be able to book fishing trips online. ‘The new generations like to fish, there’s still a lot of outdoors folks out there, but they love to be able to get online and book trips.’
A lot of clients are people nearing their retirement, but there is a rise in the number of anglers in their twenties who spend the weekend or spring break fishing these waters.
In recent years, recreational fishing has become a big thing, especially now when it’s easier to find a charter weeks and months before you actually go on a trip. That gives more flexibility and greater reliability and the numbers show that customers greatly appreciate that.
The aftermath of Harvey
The hurricane had a big effect on the whole area. Even though some other places took the spotlight, the towns looking out onto Corpus Christi and Aransas Bays, such as Rockport, Port Aransas, and Corpus Christi, are still recovering from the damage.
The hurricane has left scars on the settlements, but local anglers say fishing has improved. The pressure is significantly lower, which will help fisheries revitalize, but also allow early birds to catch a hefty fish. Despite extremely low tides this time of year, fishing is solid, and will continue to improve, especially as the spring sets in.
It will take a while before things get back to where they were, but captains haven’t noticed a significant drop in the number of charters. Being able to keep their online calendars updated helps guides and captains not lose potential customers. Captain Jon Darnell of Laguna Lure Fishing ad a number of online bookings after the hurricane and it has helped him get back to the game. ‘It definitely helps. I had some bookings from my repeat customers, but there were also some online and it has really helped.’
Of course, captains rely heavily on returning customers, but online bookings can give that extra push to get them back on their feet in short time.
What do you like the best about booking fishing trips online? Captains, has online booking affected your business and how? Let us know in the comments below!