Captain Gary Cooper is remembered as a veteran Port Aransas fishing guide who was adored by visiting guests and locals alike.
“He was a damn good angler, and people really liked to fish with him,” said Captain Alex Porter, a longtime Port Aransas fishing guide who had known Cooper for many years and was a close friend.
“There was never a bad thing ever said about Coop.”
Cooper, 69, was killed when his boat and another collided in the channel outside Dennis Dreyer Municipal Harbor in Port Aransas on the morning of Saturday September 10. (A story about the incident is on this page.)
Cooper lived on North Padre Island but had previously lived in Port Aransas for many years.
It operated from the original Woody’s Sports Center docks and later from the rebuilt Woody’s a short distance away, Porter said.
After Woody’s closed in December last year and the property was sold to make way for condominium construction, Cooper began operating out of the Island Moorings marina, Porter said.
Cooper had been on the waterfront for decades and was one of the most experienced fishing guides in Port Aransas.
“It’s a great loss,” said Glenn Martin, owner of Woody’s. “He was a favorite of mine. He was top of the list at Woody’s. Just a great guy. … The kids loved fishing with him. He had a list of regulars as long as your arm.
Some out-of-town clients would go fishing with Cooper six or eight times a year, timing their vacations specifically to coincide with the dates the guide was available, Martin said.
Ruth Maspero of Port Aransas said Cooper’s ability to find fish was only part of his charm.
“His fishing prowess was legendary, but his story made everyone tremble,” said Maspero, who said she had known Cooper since the late 1970s and had fished with him on several occasions.
Reese Greene called Cooper’s death a “heartfelt loss to this community and especially to his fishing family.”
“Coop had an engaging smile and laid-back style,” said Greene, a longtime former owner of the Bill Busters fishing charter business in Port Aransas. “His professionalism was top notch. His clients never had to worry if he showed up for their fishing trip. Maintaining his tackle, rods, reels and boat was a priority for Coop, and a reason his fishing schedule was full.
Cooper’s son, Justin Cooper, knew his father was well-liked, but he was still surprised by the large number of people who reached out to the family to offer their condolences.
“I’m shocked at how many people knew him,” said Cypress resident Justin. “I knew he was a resident of Port Aransas and loved, but getting all these texts, emails and Facebook messages…it’s pretty unbelievable.”
Port Aransas guide Rene Lopez said Cooper was highly respected in the local fishing community.
“He’s one of the last of what I guess you would call legends in Port Aransas,” Lopez said.
No service had been announced by Monday, September 12, the deadline for this edition of the South Pier. (Keep watching South Jetty’s website, Facebook page and print edition for updates.)
Dan Parker can be reached at [email protected].