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December 1, 2012

Look what's cooking on the Texas Gulf Coast

Padre Island a haven for wildlife, snowbirds

George and Cindy Fitzpatrick are hosting a seafood smorgasbord, and you’re invited —well, that is, you’d be invited if you were camping at the Malaquite Beach Campground on Padre Island National Seashore along the Texas Gulf Coast.

Redfish, speckled sea trout, black drum and whiting are on the menu, perhaps even a smattering of flounder taken from the Laguna Madre — one of only six hypersaline lagoons in the world. George dips his catch in milk, rolls it in flour with special fish seasonings, fries it up and serves platefuls of succulent seafood to his hungry neighbors. In turn, other campers arrive toting an assortment of salads, fresh baked bread, chips and dips, and of course ice cold beer and wine. Life is good.

“I enjoy doing it,” he said. “Besides, I can’t eat all this fish myself.”

George, a semi-retired roofer from Michigan, fishes when he’s down here. You’ll find him everyday along with his black Labrador, Buddy, fishing the Gulf of Mexico from the beach — two poles sticking out of the sand, the line baited with shrimp cast out beyond the breakers, Buddy splashing around in the surf in search of his own catch.

“He feels he has to do his part as well,” George explains, raising his voice above the rolling surf.

Look north and south, up and down the beach, and you might see other fishermen wading into the water, maybe a husband and wife walking hand-in-hand along the beach, and perhaps a heron keeping a watchful eye on those fishermen (just in case one gets away), but other than that, you won’t see much other human activity.

Padre Island is a barrier island, but unlike other barrier islands that stretch along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts, Padre Island is the most untouched by human development. The National Seashore stretches 60 miles and within that span all you’ll find are rolling sand dunes spotted with purple goat’s foot morning glory (blooming in the spring) or yellow mist flowers (blooming in the fall) and an incredible array of birds — laughing gulls, brown and white pelicans, plovers, raptors, ducks and herons, among many others.

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