For 88 years, anglers have practiced their sport at Eagle Point
For three generations, the Valentino family has owned and operated Eagle Point Fishing Camp in San Leon, a popular gathering spot for anglers on 9 acres that jut sharply and precariously into Galveston Bay.
The camp, established in 1929 and known as Camp Eagle Point, at one time had several cabins, more than 100 skiffs for rent, a long pier and cafe, General Manager Eric Valentino said.
“People would row out to fish since there were no outboard motors available,” Valentino said.
Today, the camp is a scaled-down version of its former self, consisting of boat slips, an indoor boat shed, ramp and an RV park where the cabins used to be.
“I started coming down here when I was 4 years old,” Valentino said. “As I got older, I’d come to work with my dad at 3 or 4 a.m., put boats in the water, shrimp with my grandfather — it was exciting. Then I went off to college and enjoyed a career in sales for several years, but came back here full time in 2013.”
Capt. Winfield “Windy” Marshall, bait and tackle manager, has been working on and off at the camp since he returned from Vietnam in 1973.
Marshall and Valentino have shared many fish tales.
A typical day for Marshall begins at about 3:30 a.m. By 4 a.m., a long line of boats are waiting to ramp.
But you might find Marshall sitting in an easy chair behind the counter when business is slow, so he can rest a bit.
The ambience is typical bait shop décor — hooks, weights, lines, corks, anchors, nets, gloves, buckets and life jackets. And of course, there’s the bait.
Five 1,000-gallon tanks are out back for suppliers to unload their haul. Live bait — shrimp and croakers — catch the most fish, Marshall and Valentino agree. But Eagle Point also has a supply of fresh unfrozen dead or frozen dead bait.
Shrimpers Duc Nguyen and Thu Le come in early most mornings with their haul. Le, despite her size — she’s less than 5 feet tall and weighs about 90 pounds — can lift 60- to 70-pound boxes of shrimp without a problem.
Fishing season is from May 1 through Oct. 1, when the majority of anglers come down, Valentino said.
Marshall, an expert guide, shows anglers where the fishing slicks are and where the fish are feeding. There’s a pattern, he said.
“They start in the spring, coming in from the Gulf on their way to fresh water to spawn,” he said. “They come down the ship channel, go up to the San Jacinto River and Trinity River and spread out.”
The fish people catch the most of at Eagle Point are speckled trout, redfish and Gulf trout, respectively, Marshall said. But 95 percent of the fish is caught by just 5 percent of the anglers, he said.
Both Valentino and Marshall agree that fishing is 90 percent talent and experience, and 10 percent luck.
“In the old days, anglers would come down here and fish constantly,” Valentino said. “They had more experience, therefore, they caught more fish. Nowadays, people don’t fish as much. You have to practice fishing, just like anything else you want to be good at.”
Aside from Valentino and Marshall, Capt. David Dillman and Ray Repczynski are part of the fish camp team. Valentino’s father, Johnny Valentino, is retired, but still comes in occasionally.
“We’re not a fancy place,” said Eric Valentino, who now brings his 1-year-old son to work sometimes. “I want him to have some of the experiences I’ve had here.”