As late winter and early spring rains fall, the changing of the seasons signals the start of the annual Texas white bass spawning run.
With bluebonnets beginning to bloom in portions of southern Texas, recent heavy rains and the coming of spring mean have special meaning to many anglers around the state:
It's time to grab the ultralight tackle and heat up the peanut oil in the fish fryer!
Why? Because one of the most anticipated events on the Lone Star State's annual fishing calendar, the spawning run of white bass, or sand bass as they are also known, is getting ready to happen at streams and rivers across the state.
In fact, in some cases, the run is already underway.
"We know anglers have been catching some male white bass since the beginning of February, but the spawn was delayed this year because the temperature and the water flows weren't ideal," said Richard Ott, a Tyler-based Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Inland Fisheries District Supervisor, in an agency news release.
"What we've been waiting for is a good warm Gulf rain to come up here and entice female white bass to make their way up stream. The rain we had this week is going to turn things on for sure."
While some mid-February rains were cold — there was even an ice storm in some Red River counties — the rainfall the final week of the month has rivers and streams primed in many historic spots in the northern, eastern, and central portions of the state.
Historical hotspots over the years have included Guadalupe River above Canyon Lake, Colorado and Perdenales rivers above Lake Travis, and Sabine River above Toledo Bend Reservoir.
In the central portion of the state, TPWD notes that white bass angling opportunities and public access points can also be found on San Gabriel River (above Lake Georgetown), Navasota River (above Lake Limestone), Llano and Colorado rivers (above Lake Lyndon B. Johnson), Yegua Creek (above Lake Somerville), and Bosque River (above Lake Waco).
In and around the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex, some potential hotspots include rivers and creeks feeding into Lake Texoma, East Fork River and Rowlett Creek (Lake Ray Hubbard), Hickory Creek (Lake Lewisville), the Elm Fork of the Trinity River (Lake Ray Roberts), Nolan River (near Cleburne), Brazos River (above Lake Whitney and below Possum Kingdom Lake), Caddo Creek (above Lake Tawakoni), and creeks that feed into Lake Fork, home to some of the largest sand bass found in the region.
While TPWD notes most riverside properties in the state are privately owned, the agency says numerous public access points can be found at a variety of TPWD State Parks, on designated Texas Paddling Trails, at leased River Access and Conservation Area spots (RACA), and at many highway and bridge crossings.
Directions to public access sites at these waterbodies can be found here.
The agency also points out a few more specific spots for sand bass anglers to consider:
- Colorado River: TPWD says anglers can fish for white bass without a fishing license above Lake Buchanan at Colorado Bend State Park. The state park offers an unimproved boat ramp, bank access, and wade fishing.
- San Gabriel River: TPWD notes anglers can find white bass fishing above Lake Granger at the Dickerson's Bottom public access points also known as "The Steps." The agency says this location can be found three-quarters of a mile east of State Highway 95 on County Road 347.
- Neches River: TPWD says anglers can find public access above Lake Palestine at Chandler River Park. This RACA site — also supported by the East Texas Woods and Waters Foundation — has a boat ramp, a kayak launch, and nearly 6,000-feet of river frontage for bank fishing.
- Sabine River: TPWD reports anglers can find public access above Toledo Bend Reservoir at the Grand Bluff Boat Ramp, including some 275 feet of river frontage and a single trailer boat ramp. Public fishing access at this River Access and Conservation Area (RACA) site is available through Aug. 31.
- Frio River: In the waters above Choke Canyon Reservoir, TPWD points to public access spots for white bass at county road and highway crossings, including the Highway 99 bridge.
Why all the fuss as the red buds get ready to bloom around the state?
Because, as waters warm into the upper 50s and beyond, sand bass begin congregating at the mouths of rivers and creeks, eventually moving upstream to complete their spawning activities.
And when you find one sand bass at this time of the year in Texas, you'll likely find a proverbial boatload!
Once a suitable spot has been found, small lures on lightweight spinning tackle — things like a Blakemore Road Runner, Mr. Twister Grub Tails on a jig-head or spinner, small crankbaits like a Rapala Shad, small lipless crankbaits like a Bill Lewis Rat-L-Trap or a Strike King Red Eye Shad, small inline spinners like a Yakima Rooster Tail, or various small marabou crappie jigs — can all work to catch dozens of spawning sand bass running up a stream.
For fly fishermen, a 5-, 6-, or 7-weight fly rod with a floating line, lightweight leaders featuring 4- to 8-pound tippet, and a chartreuse/white, red/white, or blue/white Clouser Minnow tied on can prove to be a deadly combination for a day of catching one white bass after another.
(Editor's note: If you plan to keep some for the table, keep in mind the limit for white bass is 25 per day with a 10-inch minimum length limit in most locations across the state. For more specific information on bag limits and fishing regulations, check out the 2017-18 TPWD Outdoor Annual or the agency's Web site at www.tpwd.texas.gov .)
Whatever tackle an angler chooses to use in this springtime quest, the fishing is usually somewhere from good to great, and on some days, even spectacular.
The one, two, and occasionally three-pound sandies will eagerly smash lures and flies if an angler is in the right spot. And when they do, the fight on ultralight tackle is superb, as is the taste of fried sand bass filets on the dinner table.
While sand bass might not be the biggest piscatorial critters swimming in Texas waters, intercepting a spawning run on a flowing tributary during a Lone Star State spring is some of the best fishing action that the state has to offer.
And you can take that to the bank. Or better yet, to a deep fryer sizzling with hot peanut oil!