From live to fresh dead, these shops supply the serious and casual angler
Bait camps, freshwater and saltwater alike, sprang up during the Great Depression, when money was hard to come by but fish were not.
It was barter: Baiters, as they are known, provided anglers with live lures in exchange for a share of the catch. All were looking to put dinner on the table as the nation struggled with a collapsed economy.
In ensuing years, as prosperity returned, recreational fishing gained popularity and the camps flourished. Today, bait camps thrive along Galveston County’s bays and bayous, serving both casual and serious anglers.
Overhead, flags of various colors announce the varieties of live and fresh dead baits available.
Bait camps also provide snacks and beverages; some rent out everything from rods and reels to kayaks and boats along with oxygen tanks to keep bait alive during even the warmest day of fishing.
The fanciest bait camps boast docks from which to cast a line and dining rooms to savor the local cuisine or a cool beer at the end of a hot day.
And almost all are homes to cats of every hue and stripe, formerly feral felines that wisely have taken up residence.
Here are 10 noteworthy bait camps:
Aunt Margie’s Bait Camp
Aunt Margie’s on Offatts Bayou is a throwback, providing both live bait and tackle, as well as a spread of seafood, with an emphasis on fresh shrimp bedded in ice.
Fisherfolk can count on an abundance of bait, live and — as it’s known in the industry — fresh dead.
Out back is a dock from which to cast a line and, if need be, rods and reels are available for rent.
1811 61st St., Galveston, 409.744.6930
Bulldogs Bait Shop
Bulldogs is a relative newcomer on the island, having opened in 2012.
Bulldog — don’t tell anyone you read here that he was born Kevin Davis — “nobody knows me as anything other than Bulldog” — was introduced to fishing at the tender age of 2 and has been at it ever since.
Available bait, depending on the season, includes crab, croaker, mullet and squid.
Bulldog and Miss Bulldog are quick to offer tips for novices and provide such necessary accoutrements as bait and tackle, and a fresh catch of shrimp, crab, oysters and catfish for the home chef.
1813 61st St., Galveston, 409.740.2220
Bayou Bait & Tackle
A bit farther north along Offatts Bayou is the aptly named Bayou Bait Shop, which has everything for anglers venturing a ways out or staying closer to the shore.
Bayou Bait offers gear for deep-sea fishing as well as for those trapping crabs, necessary bait and an abundant stock of beverages and snacks to provision any fishing expedition.
6427 Broadway, Galveston, 409.741.2283
Smitty’s Bait House
Alongside Pelican Rest Marina sits Smitty’s, which offers tackle and bait, both live and fresh dead.
Here, anglers will find extra nets and line, bobbers and hooks to throw in the water and cold beer and ice to throw in the cooler.
And if you’re looking for tips on where to fish and the best bait for the type of fish you’re after, Smitty’s has those, and best yet, for free.
7805 Broadway, Galveston, 409.744.7705
Galveston Bait & Tackle
If this bare-bones bait camp were any farther out on the north side of the island, it’d be in the Intracoastal Waterway, which it abuts.
Here, at the base of the causeway, load up on live and fresh dead bait, as well as snacks and beverages, including cold beer.
9301 Broadway, Galveston, 409.740.1185
Sea Isle Bait Camp
On the other end of the island lies the popular Sea Isle Bait Camp at the refurbished West End Marina on West Bay.
After Sea Isle’s predecessor was all but destroyed by Hurricane Ike in 2008, lifelong shrimper Steve Rushing rebuilt the camp and opened shop.
Sea Isle is a destination for serious recreational anglers, concentrating on tackle and live bait: shrimp, finger mullet and mud minnows year-round and croakers in season.
The camp also stocks snacks, coolers and ice and beverages to fill them.
21706 Burnet Drive, Galveston, 409.632.0338
Louis’ Bait Camp & Restaurant
Just across the causeway, on Highland Bayou, lies Louis’, where visitors know even before they step into the camp’s comfortable bar they’ve arrived at a place “Where it’s always 5 o’clock.”
Regulars, those who fish and those who don’t, drop in to savor Louis’ lunch and dinner offerings. The shrimp and ravioli are specialties.
Of course, bait and all essential tackle are available as well.
3510 state Highway 6, Hitchcock, 409.935.9050
Hurricane Ike was cruel to the bait camps that before its arrival lined the nearly 5-mile-long Texas City Dike, wiping every one of them off their moorings.
Not so for Boyd’s Onestop at the foot of the dike, where it has served generations of serious anglers with a variety of live and fresh dead bait.
Grab lunch at the adjoining Boyd’s Cajun Grill Express.
Of course, bait and tackle, snacks and beverages are always available.
227 Dike Road, Texas City, 409.945.4001
Lee’s Bait & Tackle
Across Dike Road from Boyd’s is the similarly venerable Lee’s.
There, visitors can count on finding live bait year-round, including mullet, mud minnows and shrimp — and croaker in season.
Co-owner Brenda Rilat boasts that the mom-and-pop shop offers prices “a bit cheaper than anyone else.”
And, along with the requisite tackle, snacks and sodas, there’s plenty of cold beer.
230 Dike Road, Texas City, 409.945.5675
Bait by Hillman’s
One of the best-known bait camps on Galveston Bay is Hillman’s, where serious anglers can find live and fresh dead shrimp, squid and croaker in season.
Tackle, snacks and beverages are well stocked.
And at the end of a long day on the bay, stop in at neighboring Hillman’s Seafood & Fish House for an always satisfying respite.
5516 Hillman Drive, Dickinson, 281.678.6821