Now That’s a Fishing Family!!, 77 Fish, 30 April 2012

This afternoon I fished with returning guests John, Kelly, and Matthew M. of Troy, TX. Mom and Dad promised Matt a trip per month as an incentive for him to keep his grades up, and, so far, he’s gone 3 for 3. Great work, Matthew!!

Kelly hefts one of her two 5 pounders and Matt chips in with another keeper landed just seconds after Kellie’s came over the side.

And, of course, dad “hooked ’em” tonight, as well!

This morning I netted enough live shad for my morning trip and for this afternoon’s trip and kept them iced down in the heat. By trip time, they were still in great shape.

Prior to our trip beginning, I did a good bit of scouting to be sure I could take this family right to the fish when they arrived. In doing so, I encountered the first significant, sustained topwater action I’ve seen so far this year. I found these fish in two distinct areas: Areas 367 and 136. These were mainly small white bass with perhaps one keeper for every 4-5 throwbacks, and small hybrid stripers feeding on newly hatched shad. The shad spawn is in it’s 6th week and these must have been early bloomers. I used both a Cork Rig when fish were on top and a bladebait when they briefly sounded to land 39 fish between the 12:30pm and 1:45pm.

Knowing that topwater is rarely reliable enough to put clients on, I continued to seek out fish in other areas, as well. I boated 5 white bass in the midst of Areas 171, 725 and 163 and saw plenty more where they came from. I marked this spot to return to it. I also boated one short hybrid at Area 1077, but saw larger fish on sonar.

As our trip began, we went to Area 171/725/163, put down 4 rods with live shad and immediately put 4 keeper hybrid in the boat. Just when things were looking good the wind ramped up another 4-5 mph and between the wind and swells we just couldn’t stay on the fish we’d found. We tried a few times to reposition and boated 3 white bass as we tried, but finally punted on this area.

We dropped back to Area 1077. It was fairly well protected from the wind and, as we idled around looking for the spot on the spot, we saw some good looking “hooks” or fish arches on sonar indicating some sizeable fish awaiting our baits.

We got baited up and, over the next 2 hours, put 25 more fish in the boat including 2 hybrid weighing in at 5.00 pounds (way to go on that Kelly!!). We boated a handful of white bass and 2 blue cats in the mix, but the vast majority of these fish were solid, keeper hybrid striped bass.

Around 7:45 the bite softened as the skies dimmed. I gave Matthew an option of sticking with our current spot or changing things up a bit and going hunting for some topwater white bass action. The changeup appealed to him so, off we went looking for surface feeding white bass. We checked back at Areas 367 & 136, but no one was home. We never did find any topwater, but I liked Matthew’s “roll the dice” attitude and willingness to try something without a guarantee.

With just a bit of “seeing light” left, we put some baits back down at Area 1077 but the bite was done and so we called it a day with the 32 fish we’d boated in addition to the 45 I’d taken on my pre-trip scouting efforts.

TALLY = 77 Fish, all caught and released.

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Start Time: 4:15p

End Time: 8:35p

Air Temp:86F at trip’s start.

Water Surface Temp: 72-73F

Wind: Winds were SSE16-17 for the entire trip.

Skies: Skies were overcast but bright grey.

Environmental Note: Elevation was 594.10 ASL releasing water at 111 cfs, with normal full pool at 594.

Got a Question for You … 18 Fish, 30 April 2012 (AM Trip), Belton Lake Fishing Guide Report

This morning I fished with a promising young 7 year old fisherman by the name of Colter B., who was accompanied by his mom, Christy.

This 4.75 pound, 22.25 inch hybrid was Colter’s first fish of the day. It’s hard to improve on that!!

Colter and his mom, Christy, with one of our “short” but feisty hybrid boated this morning

The shad spawn and corresponding white bass and hybrid bite continued today. Netting shad was once again a simple chore so I was more than ready to go when our 7:15am meeting time rolled around.

I believe Colter asked 15 questions in as many seconds aboard my boat, and I tried to answer them all. I found that short answers worked best, as long answers would get me in a backlog as Colter asked more questions while I was still answering his previous ones!

Well, we began our day near Area 1069 over 30′ of water. Fish (which turned out to be hybrid) were suspended just 3-4 feet off bottom here as seen on sonar. We positioned ourselves accordingly and got 4 lines in the water. Less than 4 minutes went by and we had our first strike resulting in boating our first legal hybrid of the day. We were off to a good start! Over the next 30 minutes or so, we would boat 3 more keeper hybrid, but then the bite dried up and we had to go search out more fish.

I tried downrigging a bit just for variety’s sake and to put lines in the water as I slowed swept over potential fish-holding areas with sonar. We came up with little on sonar and on the downriggers and so decided to move locations entirely.

Our next stop came at Area 1076 in about 38 feet of water. We again put our baits down amongst suspended fish, this time coming up 5 turns of the reel handles to get our baits at the depth the fish were using. We had somewhat slow but steady action for nearly 2 hours here and boated an additional 14 fish with at least as many “bite offs” where the fish (typically smaller fish) would either tear off the bait without getting hooked, or would maul the bait thus killing it and requiring the hook be rebaited.

As is typical for most 7 year olds, the novelty of the whole encounter wore off after about 3 hours. Each time a school of fish would pass by and a frenzy of activity would occur, Colter would comment, “This is fun.” Then, after just 6 or 7 minutes of quiet he would comment, “I think I want to go back now.”

By the time all was said and done, Colter landed 18 fish including hybrid striped bass, white bass, and several blue catfish. He did a great job on each one and didn’t give up, even on the big ones that took a while to get to the net.

As we headed back in Colter had already formulated a plan to pick wild blackberries that he’d spotted on his was down to the boat at the start of our trip. On to the next adventure …

TALLY = 18 Fish, all caught and released.

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Start Time: 7:15a

End Time: 11:00a

Air Temp:70F at trip’s start.

Water Surface Temp: 72-73F

Wind: Winds were SSE10-11 for the entire trip.

Skies: Skies were overcast but bright grey.

Environmental Note: Elevation was 594.10 ASL releasing water at 111 cfs, with normal full pool at 594.

Gale Force Fishing — 31 Fish, Belton Lake Fishing Guide Report, 28 April 2012

This morning I fished with returning guests Mike B. from the DFW area, his 12 year old daughter, Bailey, and his 9 year old son, Blaine. Mike was just along for the ride and let the kids do all the fishing today.

This 4.25 pound, 22 inch hybrid just about wore Bailey out. Her reeling hand was red and cramped by the time this rascal came to net.

This hybrid took Blaine’s live shad in 42 feet of water and tipped the scales at 5.25 pounds, measuring 23.25 inches.

The word for the day was WIND in capital letters!! From start to finish today our winds were over 15 mph which hurt us in a few ways. First, it made some good fish-holding areas unfishable due to heavy swells. And, it led to a lot of short strikes as the boat moved both up and down and side to side in the wind, thus taking the bait away from fish as they mouthed our shad, especially when we were dealing with smaller fish (white bass) and/or tentative fish before and after the feeding spike from ~10:30a to ~11:30a.

Nonetheless, we persisted and the kids were troopers to wait out a pretty slow early morning bite to get to the “good stuff” later on. Fortunately, the shad netting went well pre-sunrise this morning and so we could afford to lose all the baits we did to short-striking fish!

We found limited success at Area 1075 early, catching 3 short hybrid there. We moved several times finding a lot of bait but much less in the way of gamefish near that bait. At Area 174/180 we found both bait and gamefish in the lower 1/3 of the water column and picked up 4 more fish here including 1 keeper hybrid, 2 short hybrid, and 1 white bass.

We made our last stop at Area 305/1076 on a gentle break into 42 feet of water. There was abundant bait and gamefish here and no sooner did we get our baits in the water than we had fish pounding them. This went on for nearly 2 hours, however, our strike to catch ratio was very low — probably yielding 1 fish for every 3-4 strikes. This was very much tied to the wind, and, to some extent to the kids’ excitement. The wind caused unavoidable boat movement that essentially jerked baits away from the fish as they began to mouth the baits. The kids occasionally let their technique slip a bit and pulled their rods up high as they took the rods out of the rod holders, thus adding to the situation caused by the wind.

When all was said and done we had boated 31 fish including several keeper hybrid, several blue catfish, a channel catfish, and numerous white bass and short hybrid stripers. Our best two hybrid weighed in at 4.25 pounds and 5.25 pounds.

As they stepped out of the boat Blaine thanked me for helping him catch his big hybrid, and Bailey gave me a farewell hug, then they drove off for a nice lunch over at the Dead Fish Grill overlooking Belton Dam.

TALLY = 31 Fish, all caught and released.

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Start Time: 7:45a

End Time: 12:30p

Air Temp:70F at trip’s start.

Water Surface Temp: 70-71F

Wind: Winds were SSE18-20 for the entire trip.

Skies: Skies were overcast but bright grey.

Environmental Note: Elevation was 594.12 ASL releasing water at 115 cfs, with normal full pool at 594.

Give a Man a Fish and You Feed Him for a Day…, 56 Fish, Lake Belton Guide Report, 27 April 2012

This morning I fished with long-time returning guest Pitt G. of Austin. I’ve fished with Pitt on Stillhouse, Georgetown, and Belton before, but this was the first time we’ve used live shad on a trip of his.

This healthy, hard-fighting Lake Belton hybrid slammed a live shad and tipped the scales at 4.75 pounds.

Pitt is never so much interested in catching the fish as he is in figuring out how the fish are caught. Accordingly, he always arrives prepared with some key questions he’s looking to get answers to. Some have to do with electronics, some with wind and weather, some with seasonal transitions. His questions are always good ones and it makes for a great trip to be engaged in conversation in between fish.

Since our last trip together Pitt has added a trolling motor with i-Pilot technology and a single Lowrance HDS-10 to his own boat, so, many of his questions had to do with getting the most out of his new gear, as I have identical equipment on my boat.

Shad were a bit tough to come by this morning but, as the old song goes, “…I get by with a little help from my friends.” By trip time, I had more than enough bait and we set out in search of hybrid.

Between the time I finished collecting bait and the time Pitt arrived, I did a bit of scouting to try to find active fish to immediately put him on once he arrived. I was fortunate to find fish at the third area I searched with sonar, so, when Pitt arrived, we headed right there and got to work.

As has been the case over the past several trips, we could scarely get 2 of the planned 4 rods in the water before our baits were hit and the game was on.

We stayed on Area 1075 the entire trip boating a mixed bag of keeper and short hybrid, keeper whites, 2 blue catfish, and a largemouth bass.

By around 10:15 a nagging back injury was telling Pitt he needed to not overdo it, so, we decided to wrap it up a bit early. By this time we’d already boated 56 fish including 4 keeper hybrid, the largest of which (pictured above) went 4.75 pounds.

This is going on the 5th week of the shad spawn, so it won’t be lasting much longer. We’ll keep making hay while the sun shines, though!

As we headed back in, we did so at idle speed for quite some distance as I constantly changed screen views and manipulated screen variables so Pitt could appreciate the different capabilities of his own sonar unit the next time he fishes from his own rig.

TALLY = 56 Fish, all caught and released.

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Start Time: 7:45a

End Time: 10:30a

Air Temp:74F at trip’s start.

Water Surface Temp: 73.6F

Wind: Winds were SSE16 for the entire trip.

Skies: Skies were partly cloudy on a fair blue background.

Environmental Note: Elevation was 594.18 ASL releasing water at 325 cfs, with normal full pool at 594.

A Little Coaching Goes a Long Way! 113 Fish, Belton Fishing Guide Report, 23 April 2012

This morning I fished with returning guests Joe O., the Athletic Director at Central Texas Christian School in Belton, his dad, Mr. Joe O., and their long-time friend and retired Temple High School baseball coach, Larry H.

(L to R) Mr. Joe O., Joe O., and Larry H. with a hybrid tripleheader taken on live shad as a hungry wolfpack moved beneath our boat in 23 feet of water. Joe’s was the largest of the day going 3.75 pounds and 19.75 inches.

This was a jovial bunch, already poking fun at each other before they even hit the courtesy dock. I went over the plan for the day, which was to target hybrid striped bass and white bass using live shad. I gave a dockside demo on how to use the equipment, how to set the baits out and adjust their depth, and then we were off.

We didn’t go very far at all, finding fish at Area 676 in about 23 feet of water. We attempted to get 4 rods out, but had 2 fish in the boat already before that task was accomplished. We fished this area for about 2 hours. The fishing ebbed and flowed some, but, we never went more than 3-4 minutes without action, and wound up boating 6 of our 7 keeper hybrid at this location. By around 9:30 the action was getting soft, so, we decided to try our luck elsewhere with 35 fish boated up to this point, all on live shad.

The coaching part came in where our use of circle hooks was concerned. Circle hooks are a great catch and release tool, as they are designed to slip back up out of a fish’s throat or gullet and catch on the corner of their mouth, just avoiding deeply-hooked fish that would be injured or killed. The trick with circle hooks is that you have to just reel the fish in without any rod tip lift, and certainly no hookset. For folks that have come from a largemouth bass fishing background, this is a reaction that is tough to “unlearn”, but, being coaches, these fellows were all coachable, and, after a few missed fish due to technique, we got them polished up and upped their hook to catch ratio as a result.

We looked at a few different areas, none of them with enough fish or bait to hold my attention until we came upon Area 1074. Here, in about 32 feet of water, we found a heavy concentration of fish holding that magic 18″ off the bottom indicating they were in feeding mode.

We got baits down and Joe popped the first fish, another keeper hybrid (our 7th of the day), but, all the rest of the hybrid we boated here would turn out to be just shy of the 18 inch mark. In all, we boated and additional 78 fish here. Once the first few fish ate our baits and were reeled in, the rest of the school pulled upwards and suspended and responded well to a slab fished through them. This was the first time this Spring where I saw bait and a slab go head to head where the slab performance became more efficient that using bait. Fish were as willing to hit the slab as they were bait, and, given they were much easier to release due to reduced chances of deep-hooking when using the slab, put the slab’s performance ahead of bait for the last hour or so of our trip. As always, I’ve got TNT180’s tied on in 3/4 oz. shad colors (white, silver, silver halo, etc.).

Evidently Mrs. O. was planning on feeding all 3 of “the boys” a nice meal closely resembling Sunday dinner, and it was to be served at 12:00, no excuses.

Regardless, Mr. O called with an excuse at around 11:45, blaming their tardiness on Larry’s refusal to set down his rod. Mrs. O. (who had obviously been down this road before) said 12:30 and no later! So, we pressed on until 11:56 and even then Larry suggested we troll back to perhaps catch “just one more”.

We ended this beautiful, clear, cool, dry day with 113 fish.

TALLY = 113 FISH, all caught and released

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Start Time: 7:30a

End Time: 11:55a

Air Temp:61F at trip’s start.

Water Surface Temp: 72.1F

Wind: Winds were NNE6-8..

Skies: Skies were fair with 20% high thin clouds.

Rockpointe Church Crew Gets a Day Out of the Office! 45 Fish, 19 April 2012

This morning I fished with returning guests from Rockpointe Church in Leander, TX. Today’s crew consisted of Shane (church’s Small Group Leader and Building Project Leader), his teenaged daughter, Grace, the church’s Youth Pastor, Mario, and one of Mario’s volunteers, Eddie.

Shane and Mario landed this double of just-keeper sized hybrid all of 5 seconds apart.

And just minutes later Eddie and Grace landed this pair of largemouth from the exact same area.

The festivities began right away when “it was announced” that the person catching the first fish got the honor of buying everyone else lunch. Mario was the winner of that contest, so, when he made a call to his wife to check his balance to see how big of a lunch he could afford, Eddie suggested he push the envelope and ask her for a boat loan while he was at it! Eddie, by the way, is from southern California and had only been fishing once before at the age of 12 and remembered landing only a small sunfish during that trip, so, he really made up for lost time today by boating a number of nice fish and demonstrating good technique as he did so.

We’re now in week three of the annual shad spawn on Belton and the shad were fairly easy to catch at Area 502. Today the gamefish were a bit less cooperative than they have been, but that was mainly a function of high winds slamming into the high percentage areas the fish have been using — I think there is plenty of good fishing yet to come before the spawn comes to a close.

Some wind is always good for hybrid and white bass fishing, but, when live bait fishing, too much wind is counterproductive; this happens when swells begin to form and lift the boat up and down over and over again making the live bait appear unnatural and also causing more trauma to the live bait. To some extent longer leaders can help buffer the problem, but they only do so much.

We also encountered small and tentative fish today that killed or stole our baits without being hooked — this also leads to reduced productivity.

Regardless of these downside factors, we still caught plenty of fish and some good quality fish, as well. Areas 1068, 1070, and 1073 all produced today, with 1070 and 1073 providing most of the action.

We used only live shad today. I did experiment from time to time with slabs, but the fish were just not interested.

Congratulations, Rockpointe, on the construction of your new building, I know that has been a long time in coming! After 10 years of putting up and taking down folding tables and chairs in your temporary accommodations, you won’t know what to do that first Sunday!

TALLY = 45 FISH, all caught and released

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Start Time: 7:45a

End Time: 12:45a

Air Temp:59F at trip’s start.

Water Surface Temp: 72.0F

Wind: Winds were SSE15 with regular higher gusts.

Skies: Skies were fair with 20% clouds.

Other Notes: Reliable source reported topwater action to the north of Area 502 in the evening.

A 100% Abby Fish !?! Belton Lake Fishing Guide Report, 104 Fish, 16 April 2012

This morning I fished with returning guests John C. and his two children, Jacob and Abby. On our last outing we boated 82 fish primarily fishing bladebaits for smaller white bass and short hybrids back in March of 2011. Today, we boated 104 fish using live shad.

A nice family portrait of John C., his son, Jacob, and his daughter, Abby (and one unlucky Belton Lake hybrid striped bass)!

Fishing this morning was a pretty simple affair, once the bait was caught. I often refer to this as “the fishing trip before the fishing trip”. Belton Lake’s shad spawn is in its 3rd week now and the gamefish are keenly keyed into live shad. This morning I netted a few shad early on at Area 499 and then completed the chore with a visit and 2 throws of the net at Area 502. By 7:15 most of the visible spawning activity was over.

As I motored back to the agreed upon pickup location after netting shad, I watched sonar as I went, and found what I was looking for at the 25 to 30 foot transition right at Area 1071. I picked up my guests, return to Area 1071 about 15 minutes after finding fish there the first time, and again located these fish just 60-70 feet from where they had been a bit earlier.

We put four lines down to start with and waited to see if rods #5 and #6 would be required … they weren’t!! We picked up one white bass almost immediately, followed by a short hybrid. After those fish were brought up through the water column, they attracted other schoolmates and it was game on from that point forward. We caught fish non-stop from 8:00am to about 11:10am, then the action began to get noticeably softer.

At first, Abby, who is on the petite side, struggled a bit to get the rods out of the holder once a fish struck and exerted downward force on the rod. Just by luck of the draw she was also the last one I showed how to set the baits out. So, because of the help that either her dad or I provided, she didn’t have that independent feeling of catching a fish on her own as her brother and dad had done. Eventually, she put all the pieces together and let the bait down on her own, adjusted the depth on her own, detected the bite on her own, and boated a fish on her own. We pronounced that first fish to be a “100% Abby-fish”. She went on with new found confidence to land a bunch more!

By 11:30 the kids were worn out and we left ’em still biting.

Every once in a while an aggressive congregation of fish would pull up off the bottom and chase a hooked schoolmate and then stay suspended. When I saw this happen I had Jacob take a spinning rod with a slab and work it around those suspended fish. He got the hang of this method and started boating fish regularly when they were suspended. Then, not to be outdone, Abby joined in and did well, too. I noted that the fish we got on the slabs definitely averaged smaller than those we got on bait, and that only suspended fish were willing to strike at the artificials. I jigged a slab on the bottom to try to tempt bottom hugging fish but they remained totally disinterested.

We enjoyed great teamwork today from rigging up the rods prior to our first drop to working together to make sure hooked fish didn’t tangle other lines, to making sure we maximized our number of baits in the water — we were all there for the same reason and the better we cooperated the better our results were.

By trip’s end we had boated a total of 104 fish including 1 channel catfish and 103 hybrid stripers and white bass. Of the hybrid, 7 were of “keeper” size, exceeding 18 inches, with our largest weighing 3.25 pounds.

I suspect that this weekend’s very unstable weather hindered the fishes’ feed somewhat, as most of the fish we caught were a bit thinned out — not a single fish regurgitated shad, and not a single fish had a big, bulging belly full of undigested food.

TALLY = 104 FISH, all caught and released

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Start Time: 7:45a

End Time: 11:30a

Air Temp:55F at trip’s start.

Water Surface Temp: 72.0F

Wind: Winds were NNW12-14 for the entire trip.

Skies: Skies were mostly cloudy on the heels of a mild cold front’s passage yesterday around 11am. Skies went from 60% to 80% cloudy with an occasional drop of rain falling on my drive home.

Environmental Note: Elevation was 594.69 ASL, with normal full pool at 594.0 ASL; a slow release of 855 cfs was underway today.

Medic!! Someone Get a Medic!! Belton Lake, 94 Fish, 09 April 2012

“Medic!! Someone get a medic!!” This poor man’s hands and arms are cramping from reeling in fish after fish!!

Don was truly a one man show this morning — single-handedly boating 94 fish. This 5.25 pound hybrid hit early in the trip on live shad and was among the largest hybrid we would catch.

Later, Don put this nice 3.75 pound largemouth in the boat. It came on a deadstick slab held 2′ off bottom.

The shad spawn on Belton Lake continues. During this time of year the gamefish that prey on them follow them in close and seem keenly attracted to them. The bite always seems faster, more aggressive and more productive during this spawn time than at other times of year when live shad are used.

Today was a guide’s dream day and I spent it with Don T. of Harker Heights, who makes his living as a paramedic working on an ambulance crew out of Georgetown. I showed up, launched, and searched for all of 4 minutes for shad. I threw the net 2 times for all the bait I needed and waited for Don to arrive. We headed to an area where I’d been doing well over the weekend (Area 1070), spent all of 8 minutes searching with sonar and found what we were looking for without another boat anywhere near by (at least for a while!). We intended to fish 6 live bait rods and, honest to goodness, never got even 4 rods in the water, baited, and left in the rod holders. The fishing was that good!

We caught most of our large keeper hybrid (4 to 5.25 pounds) in the first hour with 2-4 lines out. Then, the fishing picked up, with mostly borderline hybrid making up the catch, going 17-19 inches and either side of 3 pounds. During this time we put two baited lines out on one side and used slabs on the other side of the boat. Every time we hooked a fish and reeled it up, schoolmates would follow leading me to think that working a slab from bottom to top would produce, and it did. We caught several white bass, hybrid (short and keeper) and one largemouth on the slabs, but, the real deal was the live shad today without a doubt.

For the last 1 1/2 hours of our trip we could literally (LITERALLY!) only keep one rod baited. The shad was typically struck by the time our rig hit the bottom. During this time we didn’t even bother using a rod holder. Don just let the bait to bottom, adjusted it to the depth we were seeing fish, and held the rod still for 5-8 seconds and waited for the tip to bury under the water and let the circle hooks work their magic. During this spree, most of the fish were short hybrid and decent white bass, but man was there a bunch of them!

Lively shad, circle hooks and good technique (not trying to “set the hook” and waiting until the fish truly had the bait) made for great success today.

We boated a total of 94 fish, and missed a few more. We boated 3 largemouth, 1 small mouth, and the balance was made up of hybrid and white bass. Of our first 23 fish boated, all were hybrid and 18 of those surpassed 18″. After that, I couldn’t keep up with the numbers in my head, but used my trusty “fish clicker” to keep tabs on the grand total.

Don had never done much more than wet a line for catfish with his dad prior to this trip. I told him we was going to go home spoiled because rarely have I ever seen fish stay so aggressive for a full 4 hours like they did today. Further, Belton rarely fishes well on a bright, calm day, but, against all odds we chalked up an awesome morning on the water.

A special thanks to Don’s wife, Gail, whose idea it was to get him a gift certificate for this trip!

TALLY = 94 FISH, all caught and released

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Start Time: 7:30a

End Time: 11:45a

Air Temp: 63F at trip’s start.

Water Surface Temp: 73.4F

Wind: Winds were near calm with a ripple from the NNE.

Skies: Skies were fair.

Ryan, Ben, and a Boatload of Hybrid, Belton Lake, 07 April 2012

This morning I conducted a fishing trip under the Ft. Hood “SKIES” program and put two young men whose dad is serving in Afghanistan on the water in search of the mighty hybrid striped bass!!

Ben boated this outsized 7.00 pound hybrid in the closing hour of our trip. This is one of 7 keeper (18+ inch) hybrid he boated today.

Ryan held up his end of the deal putting exactly 7 of his own keeper hybrid in the boat. This one taped out at 19.25″.

Ryan (12) and Ben (10) are the sons of Chief Warrant Officer (CW5) and Mrs. William B. of Ft. Hood. William is currently serving at Camp Marmal, Afghanistan with the 1st Air Cavalry Brigade.

I had planned a morning of live shad fishing on the heels of a great trip yesterday, but, the shad had other plans.

If you’ve ever spent much time chasing after shad, you know it can be the fishing trip before the fishing trip. There is a narrow window of time to catch these little critters — too early and you just “nickel and dime” three or four at a time, too late and you might as well be throwing your net in the Sahara. I finally got a bit of bait but then wound up with nothing but short fish hitting in two different areas (two 8″ hybrid, and two 11 inch white bass), Area 1019 and Area 814. Other boats within seeing distance were doing about the same.

By 10am, we knew we needed a new plan, so, with the wind picking up and much of the weekend traffic departing because of it, I was able to cover some ground using downriggers with large baits. We were going to try to make this a quality versus quantity affair with the boys’ permission.

This gamble definitely paid off. Most times with kids aboard I focus on quantity to keep their hands and minds engaged and to contend with short attention spans, but, these boys had a “go for it” mentality when I mentioned big fish, so off we went.

In our last two hours of fishing, both boys boated 7 keeper hybrid each — 14 keepers total. These fish were very, very loosely schooled and were holding just about a foot off the bottom in 25-27 feet of water between Areas 1069 and 812. We ran our baits at 2 feet and at 4 feet above the bottom (thus 1 and 3 feet above the fish).

The best of the bunch was little brother Ben’s 7.00 pound hybrid, weighed on a certified scale. I measured it for submission as a catch-and-release record, but it fell 1/8 inch shy of the 25″ minimum for this category.

By 11:45, the time we’d agreed upon with mom to be back at the dock, Ryan’s fish count stood at 9 and Ben’s at 8. We called mom for a 15 minute extension! Mom gracefully granted the request and took little sister to Sonic while she awaited our return. 7 minutes into borrowed time Ben stuck and landed his 9th fish of the day. So, there we ended it — even Steven, 9 fish per brother.

TALLY = 18 FISH, all caught and released

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Start Time: 7:30a

End Time: 12:00 noon

Air Temp: 66F at trip’s start.

Water Surface Temp: 73.2F

Wind: Winds were ESE at 8, increasing to SE13.

Skies: Skies were foggy, then cleared around 8:45a to partly cloudy.

The Lions Roared! Belton Fishing Guide Report, 101 Fish, 06 April 2012

This morning I welcomed aboard returning guest Joe O, his old running buddy, Eddie D., and a student athlete that both of them are mentoring at Central Texas Christian School, Noah S., age 15.

Coach O. showing he’s still got the touch!! As usual, he landed the trip’s big fish today. Noah said over and over again how he was amazed at the quantity and quality of fish we were boating.

Dr. Eddie and Noah boated these fish simultaneously (doubles were a common occurrence today) on both live shad and on slabs.

First and foremost, the shad spawn on Belton Lake is in full swing. I saw the strongest activity of the past 10 days or so this morning (possibly coinciding with the full moon). This is an annual event that lasts for ~6 weeks and involves a pre-sunrise movement of spawning shad right up to the bank where they can be seen by the millions moving slowly along as the females drop their sticky yellow-orange eggs onto wood, rocks, weeds, sticks, etc. and the males fertilize them. By sunrise the effort begins to slow only to repeat the next morning. This spawn often coincides with some of the fastest hybrid action of the year.

Today, we began our efforts with downriggers set from 12-14 feet down and trolled the circuit from Area 356 to Area 132 several times over, boating 6 fish including 2 short hybrid and 4 barely legal white bass. Things were a bit tough early on as the wind was slack and the skies were bright, but, as the morning progressed, the winds picked up from the NE, then swung ENE, and the skies went from clear to fair, then developed high, thin clouds.

As this wind came up, we moved to the most wind-exposed area we could find, Area 1068. We got e-anchored and, simply put, got bit and stayed bit as long as we had bait in the water. There really was no ebb or flow, the fishing stayed strong and steady the entire time from 8:45 to 11:30.

We boated a total of 101 fish, with more hooked and missed. Our catch consisted of a mix of white bass and hybrid striper. We landed 13 “keeper” hybrid of 18+ inches, and twice as many short hybrid. The balance of our catch consisted of white bass, most right at 11 inches. Those that were longer were also thinner. We also boated one chubby blue catfish and missed a smallmouth at boatside as he jumped.

About 2/3 of the way into our stay at this very productive area, we encountered a large school of suspended white bass passing beneath the boat. We quickly swapped over to spinning tackle and worked 3/4 oz. TNT slabs through these fish. Only white bass would strike these spoons — the hybrid would have nothing to do with them. As soon as we put a few live baits back on, the hybrid began nailing them again. This is not unusual when they are so keyed in on abundant shad.

The boys’ kitchen passes expired at 11:15 and we even pushed that a bit in order to break that elusive 100 fish mark, and, by 11:30 or so we were blessed to be able to do just that.

Thanks, Coach O. for the fun, friends, and fellowship!! You represented the CTCS Lions well!!

TALLY = 101 FISH, all caught and released

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Start Time: 7:15a

End Time: 11:30a

Air Temp: 56F at trip’s start.

Water Surface Temp: 73.2F

Wind: Winds were NNE4, gradually turning more easterly and ramping up to ~7-8mph .

Skies: Skies were clear, then went fair by the time the winds were ENE.