Texas' 2009 Fishing Calendar
October 04, 2010
The Lone Star State is blessed with great fishing from one end to the other. To prove it, here's 12 months' worth of angling for our finest game fish and the top locations for catching them. (Feb 2009)
Texas' waters offer some of the most diversified angling opportunities to be found anywhere in the U.S. But that fact shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone. Whether an angler wants to fish a coldwater lake, the warm waters of a power-plant lake, or any number of streams or rivers featuring spectacular yet varying habitat -- it's all here.
Add to that our hundreds of miles of Gulf Coastline and you have an angling paradise with a myriad of year-round opportunities.
To prove it, here's 12 months' worth of the best of the best angling in the Lone Star State.
Largemouths -- Falcon Reservoir
One of Texas' greatest largemouth bass lakes for decades, Falcon was "discovered" by professional tournament anglers only recently. Such relatively recent catches of bass as have been caught in tournaments alone have boosted Falcon's popularity and helped give it the recognition it deserves in Texas' trophy-bass picture.
Five-bass catches weighing 30 or more pounds are the norm at many tournament weigh-ins at this Texas-Mexico border lake. Bass of 10 to 12 pounds often hit the scales.
January's generally mild temperatures put fish in the pre-spawn mood. Some can be found still holding to rocky, deep structure along treelines near the main channel, while others are already prowling the shallows. Most veteran anglers at Falcon target fish that are between those two areas, staging along the brushlines in the creeks, or holding off the secondary points.
Many bass hold tight to the timber at this time of the year, making the lake a flipping-and-pitching angler's dream. Deep-diving crankbaits and double-bladed spinnerbaits also make a lot of catches when the fish are traveling submerged roadbeds or prowling the thickets of brush.
Blue Catfish -- Lake Texoma
Although many other Texas lakes offer some great fishing for blue cats, Texoma is by far the most popular one among anglers looking for trophy cats. Drifting with live shad often produces some spectacular blue cats on the Texas-Oklahoma border reservoir -- but February is juglining time for scores of anglers.
Texoma has produced the state's largest blue cat, a fish that weighed 121 1/4 pounds, along with numerous fish weighing from 35 to 65 pounds and more.
Texoma covers more than 74,000 surface-acres and has a maximum depth of 100 feet. During February, numerous groups of three to 15 anglers can be seen running large lines of jugs along the submerged banks of the Red River channel on the upper reaches of the lake. Their primary baits are cut or live gizzard shad, and many of the jugs are set in water ranging from 15 to 35 feet.
Texoma also is a great striped bass lake, so some jugliners go for the hard-pulling saltwater transplant during the lulls between checking and re-baiting their jugs.
Largemouths -- Amistad
Anglers who haven't visited Amistad since it was 30 to 40 feet low several years ago wouldn't recognize it today. Rejuvenated by recent years' heavy rains, Amistad has sprawling, deep draws and canyons full of submerged vegetation and large beds of hydrilla. The plentiful habitat offers anglers great action on everything from topwater lures and spinnerbaits along its banks, to Carolina rigs and drop-shotting deep hydrilla
Both the Devils River and Rio Grande arms of the lake are loaded with brushy flats, steep rocky cliffs, points with gravel and sand and a wide variety of other habitat for largemouth bass and other species. One of my favorite areas of the huge lake is the upper Rio Grande channel. Several narrow, winding canyons are found there, along with good spawning habitat along the main banks of the Rio Grande. When the spawn is over, the bass can frequently be found suspended above hydrilla whose growth has stopped at the edge of a deep dropoff.
The flats just out from the Diablo East boat ramp should never be overlooked, especially in March. Spinnerbaits and topwater lures work well there, as do Carolina rigs on short leaders.
Crappie -- Ray Roberts
April is a great month to fish for crappie on most Texas lakes, but Dallas/Fort Worth anglers are fortunate that one of the state's premier crappie fisheries is close to their homes. Ray Roberts has been a great crappie lake ever since it opened in 1987.
The lake has lots of timber on its upper reaches, plus numerous large logpiles that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers constructed when it built the lake. Crappie can be caught from these brushpiles, as well as in the stumps atop stock-tank dams and along submerged roadbeds and creeks.
Crappie often group together in large numbers. At Ray Roberts, it's not unusual for two or three anglers to catch limits in two to three hours.
A variety of crappie jigs work well on the crappie at Ray Roberts, but black and blue are my favorite colors. Many anglers prefer minnows, but jigs perennially outproduce live bait when the fish are active.
White Bass -- Richland-Chambers
Whenever my longtime friend and Richland-Chambers fishing guide Bob Holmes calls me to announce that the white bass are hitting, I drop whatever I'm doing and head for the big lake south of Corsicana. And if he reports that they're hitting on top, I get revved up even more!
Most of the top catches of white bass are caught between the U.S. Highway 287 bridge and the dam, especially around an area known as the 409 Flats. On my last trip there, however, Holmes took me to a school of fish that had been surfacing every morning for more than a week in the woods near Hickey Island north of the 287 bridge. The shad that the white bass were after were small, so we used clear Heddon Torpedoes to catch one fish after another, sometimes two at a time, for more than two hours.
Richland-Chambers also has a good supply of hybrid striped bass. At times the hybrids will be mixed in with the white bass, but generally it's all sand bass action when large numbers of fish are being caught.
During May, you can find schools of white bass by watching for feeding gulls and herons. If the white bass are deep, Slabs and other jigging spoons are hard to beat, as are Sassy Shads.
Bream -- Farm Ponds
Give me a telescoping fiberglass pole, a can of worms and a few cricket hooks, and I'll be a happy camper. Maybe it has something to do with catching bream as a young boy, or with the sweet, succulent taste of a deep-fried one; maybe both. Regardless, bream are fun to catch, and just as much fun to eat. And if you want a lot of action, most farm ponds have plenty
of them to give you that. There are many varieties, but my favorites are bluegills, redears, yellow sunfish and coppernose bluegills.
You can catch them on just about any type of fishing gear from spinning and spincasting to baitcasting and from a fiberglass or cane pole to even a willow limb. My favorite outfit is a 10-foot telescoping pole with a slip-cork, split shot and cricket hook. I like the cricket hook because it has a long shank for easy hook removal. A wire fish basket or an ice chest will be handy for holding fish. The only other thing I need besides a can of earthworms is a pair of needlenose pliers -- in case a fish takes the hook deep -- and a towel to wipe my hands on.
If you're into fly-fishing, bream will take just about any type of fly whether it "matches the hatch" or not. Small curly-tailed soft-plastic grubs and a variety of small artificials also can provide good action on spinning or spincast tackle.
Channel Cats -- Lake Tawakoni
West Tawakoni was named the "Catfish Capital of Texas" by the state legislature for a reason: The little community sits on the banks of a lake that has consistently produced large catches of channel catfish day after day and year after year. Most anglers who've fished it several times go home from each trip wondering how it can continue to produce so many fish.
Tawakoni guide George Rule consistently takes his customers to catches of 75 to 100. Generally, the numbers of catfish per trip depends on the number of customers on his boat. The limit for channel cats and blue cats in the aggregate is 25 per person. Although some blue cats are taken along with channel cats during July, most are small. Tawakoni does produce a lot of big blue cats, but Rule waits until about December to go after them with cut shad.
During July, the channel cats are through spawning and begin to head to deeper water. Rule baits out several holes in 16 to 23 feet of water with soured wheat or maize. He also chums the area occasionally with cattle range cubes. He broadcasts the soured grain around trees that he can tie up to and fishes vertically for the channel cats.
Using a No. 4 treble hook and egg sinker rigged Carolina-style, Rule baits his hook with Magic Bait Company's new Stick It punch bait. Many other punch baits are on the market, but Rule prefers Stick It, one reason being that extra fiber causes it to stay on his hook longer than other baits.
According to Rule, all an angler needs to do to find channel cats at Tawakoni is to bait out a hole regularly. Set the table and the fish will come.
Redfish -- Port Mansfield
Whether you wade the flats south of Port Mansfield or drift them in a boat, you'll be fishing in some of the best redfish waters on the Texas Gulf Coast. Live bait works well most of the time, but I, like Port Mansfield fishing guide Mike McBride, prefer artificials.
Also like McBride, I enjoy wading and either sight-casting or blind-casting for those tough-fighting redfish that prowl the grassy flats. Port Mansfield has some of the clearest waters anywhere along the Coast. August is a great time to find tailing reds feeding in the ultra-shallow waters, but even if you don't see a lot of those bronze-colored tails protruding above the surface, you can still hook up with some great action.
McBride watches the water closely as he motors across the flats. If he begins seeing several mud "boils" caused by spooked redfish, he knows that a school of fish is there, and he sets up to wade for them.
You can catch redfish on a variety of lures, but the old standby is a lead-head jig and soft plastic such as a Bass Assassin or something similar. In the past, if I were using spinning or baitcasting gear rather than my fly rod, I spooled my reel with monofilament. While wade-fishing with McBride last summer, I learned a new trick from him. "Try this spinning reel with braided line," he said. "The redfish have been hitting the lure really light, and you not only will feel the strike better, but you will get a better hookset."
Hybrid Stripers -- Lake Cooper
Now here's a real sleeper among Texas' hybrid striped bass fisheries. Everyone knows that lakes Ray Hubbard and Proctor offer good hybrid bass action, but the word really is only now getting out about the great hybrid striper action at Cooper.
Sprawling across 19,305 surface-acres northwest of Sulphur Springs in northeast Texas, Cooper is one of those "Rodney Dangerfield" types of lake: It gets no respect from anglers who haven't been there. But the lack of angler attention hasn't affected the action with the lake's hybrid striped bass, especially during the heat of the summer when they're rushing schools of baitfish to the surface in feeding frenzies.
The Lake Cooper record for hybrid striped bass is held by a fish weighing 11.22 pounds that was caught in 2004. September is a great month for topwater action, and you can expect to catch a lot of hybrids in the 4- to 6-pound range and sometimes larger. Topwater lures, Slabs, lipless crankbaits and Sassy Shads or similar lures all are good choices.
Bull Reds -- Sabine Pass
This time of the year sees cool fronts and stormy weather rollercoastering through Texas, and bull redfish often provide some of the best angling action during stormy conditions.
The Gulf of Mexico's beaches are the place to catch them at this time of the year, and those at Sabine Pass are among the best. You can catch them from the piers there, especially under the lighted ones at night, or you can search for movement at the surface to locate feeding schools of bull reds as they chase menhaden and other baitfish along the beachfronts. Live baits work great for wade-fishermen, too, but gold spoons and leadhead jigs with soft plastics can be as effective.
Bull reds are some of the hardest-pulling battlers in the bays, so use stout tackle for them. Surf rods rigged with circle hooks and steel leaders are best. If you're going to use baitcasting or spinning gear, remember to use a light setting with the drag; otherwise, you're likely going to lose some of your tackle to a bull red.
Smallmouths -- Lake Whitney
Find steep rocky ledges and you'll be in smallmouth bass country on this Brazos River impoundment.
The best area to fish is the portion of the lake between the Katy Bridge and the dam, especially the area along the west shoreline where creeks such as Steel, King, Big and Little Rocky provide excellent habitat for a fish that pound for pound is a much harder fighter than its relative the largemouth.
Main-lake points always are good places in which to find smallmouths on Whitney, especially on windy days, when baitfish become concentrated on them. Rocky shelves in 10 to 15 feet of water like those at the entrances to Big and Little Rocky creeks also are good bets, as are the rocky bluffs between Harbor Master Marina and the point between it and the dam. Another place that typically produces catches of smallmouths is the rocky shoreline at the
Lake Whitney State Park.
If any one lure has caught more smallmouths at Whitney than all the rest, it'd have to be a deep-diving crankbait in either red or brown crawfish-colored patterns. White Sassy Shads or similar lures and chartreuse soft-plastic grubs on leadhead jigs also haul in smallmouths when worked in a jigging motion above underwater ledges.
Yellow Bass -- Caddo Lake
Yellow bass aren't big, but they're as much fun to catch on ultralight tackle as are bluegills, and just about as good to eat. Don't expect to catch many yellow bass weighing more than a pound or so, but do expect to catch a lot of them in December at Caddo Lake, the only lake in Texas developed naturally (two manmade dams have been constructed since its natural impoundment). This cypress-studded gem lies northeast of Marshall on the Texas-Louisiana border and has great fisheries for largemouth bass, bream and channel catfish, too.
In December, large schools of yellow bass move along with white bass into the channels of the Sabine River, where the fish can be caught on a variety of lures. For yellow bass, go with something small, such as the smallest jigging spoon, soft-plastic minnow, leadhead jig or tailspinner that your tackle can handle. Or, go with live minnows.
When you locate a school of yellow bass, expect to catch 100 before you tire out; they're just that plentiful at Caddo. And don't forget to bring along a fillet knife -- you won't be disappointed with their flavor.