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County
Calhoun
Region
Gulf Coast
Nearby
Parks
Matagorda Island Wildlife Management Area
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Matagorda Island Wildlife Management Area Information:
The 56,688 acre Matagorda Island is now jointly managed as a WMA by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The 56,688 acre barrier island is one of the five barrier islands located on the Texas Gulf Coast (Gulf of Mexico), and is the only one entirely owned by the public. The island is magnificent in its near pristine, windswept environment, and it’s almost total isolation. It is located 55 miles northeast of Corpus Christi, is from 1 to 4 miles wide, and is 38 miles long. The north end is separated from Matagorda Peninsula by Paso Cavallo, and the south end is separated from St. Joseph Island by Cedar Bayou. The west side (bayside) is located approximately 5 miles off the mainland, and across Espiritu Santo, San Antonio and Mesquite Bays. Until the ferry service ended with the burning of the ferry, the TPWD had a presence on the island, and managed the north end of the island as Matagorda Island State Park. The park is now managed as a WMA. The south end of the island is part of the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge Complex owned by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The TPWD is responsible for public use management of the island, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is responsible for wildlife and habitat management. A Limited Public Use (LPU) Permit or an Annual Public Hunting (APH) Permit is required for all persons, except for youth under age 17, who must be accompanied by a permitted adult. The boat dock located at the former TPWD headquarters area is located approximately 11 water miles from Port O’Connor. (979) 323-9553. Island access is by private boat or charter boat from Port O’Connor.
 
Matagorda Island Lighthouse, 1852:
The 1852 lighthouse is located on the north end of the island. It was built to serve as a beacon for ships passing through Pass Cavallo to the Port of Indianola on Matagorda Bay, which at that time was the 2nd busiest port in Texas. The iron sections for the 55 foot lighthouse were cast by the Baltimore firm of Murray and Hazlehurst. A wooden light keeper’s cottage was built nearby for the first light keeper, James Cumming. The reflecting lamps in the tower’s lantern room were first lit on December 21, 1852.
 
Camping:
Camping is permitted in designated campsites. A primitive campground at the dock area has 13 sites which are available on a first come/first served basis. These sites have some shade, BBQ pits and fire rings. The outdoor shower and toilet facility near the dock are available for use during public hunts or other scheduled events. A Limited Public Use (LPU) Permit or an Annual Public Hunting (APH) Permit is required for all persons, except for youth under age 17, who must be accompanied by a permitted adult. Camping permits are waived for hunters participating in scheduled hunts. 
 
Biking & Hiking:
Biking and hiking areas include the north end of the island through the former park headquarters complex and down the road to the lighthouse including the beach. These activities are permitted during daylight hours, and are prohibited during hunting season. Guided nature tours are periodically scheduled. A Limited Public Use (LPU) Permit or an Annual Public Hunting (APH) Permit is required for all persons, except for youth under age 17, who must be accompanied by a permitted adult.
 
Birding:
The island is located on the Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail, Over 300 species have been documented on the island, including passerines, wood warblers, buntings, orioles, tanagers, thrushes, terns, gulls, black skimmers, American oystercatchers, white and brown pelicans, artic peregrines, short-eared owls, whooping cranes (winter on the bay side), white-faced ibis, storks, wild turkeys, roseate spoonbills, herons and sandhill cranes. Aplomado falcons are often seen hunting in pairs. The slowest season is the summer when only 37 species nest on the island. The most active seasons are spring (March-May, peak April), fall (August and September peak), and November to February for winter residents.
 
Birding - Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail, Central Gulf Coast Region:
Calhoun Loop: Port Lavaca, Point Comfort, Magnolia Beach, Indianola, Port O’Connor, Seadrift, Longmont, to Austwell
Texas Bird Checklist with Photos
Calhoun County Bird Checklist with Photos
Callahan County Bird Checklist for North Central Texas
Matagorda Island WMA Bird Checklist, Port O’Connor
Matagorda NWR Bird Checklist, Port O’Connor
 
Fishing:
Shallow water wade fishing is available on the bay side, and surf fishing is available on the gulf side year round. Bank fishing is allowed at the docks on the island. Except during public hunts, visitors may access the gulf front for fishing by hiking or biking through the headquarters complex. Common species include redfish, sea trout, pompano, Spanish mackerel, and tarpon. (979) 244-6804. (979) 244-7697.
 
Hunting:
Matagorda Island public hunting (including waterfowl) is administered by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Approximately 20,000 acres of upland habitat are available for hunting. The hunter check station on the island is approximately 11 water miles from the mainland and takes about 45 minutes to reach; all hunters must check in. Special Permit hunts may be offered for white-tailed deer, feral hogs and mourning dove. (979) 244-6804. (979) 244-7697. Hunting Map & Information
 
Hunting Waterfowl and Dove:
Waterfowl hunting is allowed by Annual Public Hunting Permit in the bayshore marshes which include Pringle Lake, Contee Lake, South Pass Lake, Long Lake, Pat’s Bay, and others. Hunting species include rail, snipe and gallinule. Hunters must check in and check out of the manned hunter check station which opens at 5am. Hunters choose pond sites based on a first come, first served basis. At 5:30am, The TPWD vehicles will depart headquarters to begin dropping off hunters.
 
Hunting White-tailed Deer:
White-tailed deer hunting is by special permit. Hunters are chosen in advance by a drawing, and all hunting is done from 12 foot high deer stands. Deer hunters must arrive at the hunter check station on the island by 11am on the morning of their scheduled hunt. A briefing will be given, after which hunters will be transported to the hunting stands they have been assigned to. Standby hunters without a permit must report to the Port O’Connor office by 8am to complete the application process; the drawing occurs at 8:30am as vacancies allow. Camping is allowed in designated primitive camping areas.
 
Hunt Texas Online Connection:
More than 95% of Texas land is privately owned, making it hard for hunters to find affordable hunting opportunities. The Texas Parks and Wildlife has a huge public hunting program, and has developed a new service to help hunters find hunting places. This new service is provided free by the TPWD. It allows landowners to list available hunting leases or spots that have opened up, and allows hunters to find private hunting leases according to their preferences. 
                      
Hunting, Texas Parks and Wildlife, General Hunting Information
Hunting, Public Hunting on State Lands, TPWD
Hunter Education
Hunting Season by Animal
Texas Parks & Wildlife Department Donations