Whites, Blacks, Crappie, & Drum!! — 67 Fish on Stillhouse — 25 Feb. 2012

This morning I welcomed back John and Kelly M. and their 14 year old son, Matthew, all of Troy, TX. With snowsuits donned and earmuffs on, we braved the chill and it paid off handsomely!

Matthew was beyond excited about landing this 3.25 pound, 20″ largemouth after boating several white bass just minutes earlier. When I asked if he knew he had a big fish on, he said, “Well, I did notice it was pulling a lot harder.”

(L to R) Matthew, Kelly, and John with 6 of the 67 fish we caught today — these were the best of the batch of the white bass we landed today. Only 3 of our whites were “shorts” – falling under 10″.

This family and I had fished together on Belton Lake back in the early fall primarily using downrigging and smoking techniques targeting white bass and hybrid. This morning we fished Stillhouse, primarily due to the great volume of fresh water that flooded into Belton since last Saturday’s rains causing a 4+ foot rise there. Such a rise typically scatters the fish and slows the bite for a while, so, we played it safe on Stillhouse where the rain’s impact was not so great.

As we got going, I was about to stop the boat over open water for the sake of doing a little jigging demo to show everyone the necessary tactics required for our cold water fish, but, as I was about to do so, I noted a bit of bird activity at Area 1043. Our forecast for this morning could have been better — light N winds due to turn S by midday. The question was how much wind would get going and how quickly? White bass just get very, very hard to catch in windless conditions. So, with a light W breeze blowing since around sunrise and a nice layer of cloud cover to boot, I wanted to make hay while the sun shone not knowing what the mid-morning was going to bring.

We got to where the birds were working, and, fortunately, they kept on working and pointed the way to bottom-hugging white bass on this main lake flat. I halted us over a solid congregation of fish showing on sonar, dropped a slab down to test the waters, immediately came up with a keeper white, and then got a rod in everyone’s hands along with quick but exact guidance on how to work their slabs effectively. Immediately everyone was catching fish. After 5 or 6 white bass were boated, Matthew hooted and hollered from the starboard rear corner that he had a big one on. I got the net and got back to him just in time to dip a nice 3.25 pound, 20 inch largemouth out of the water! We all ooh’ed and aah’ed for a bit, but went right back to jigging so as not to let the bite go cold on us. By the time things in this area settled down (which coincided with the calming of light W. breeze) we had boated 19 fish including Matthew’s largemouth, one drum, and 17 white bass, all of which were in the 11-12 inch range.

We searched over a few areas with sonar and found little, so we moved on. As we moved, a transition in the weather occurred in that we went from overcast with a W. breeze to bright with calm conditions. Bright, calm conditions are, in my opinion, the toughest conditions under which to catch white bass — and we were there! We found a few fish in around 34 feet just east of Area 1030 and, despite seeing them on sonar, got only 2 white bass and 1 drum to perk up and bite.

When conditions are tough, I often head to deep water. In times of environmental change (like the 2+ feet of new water coming into Stillhouse) and in times of tough environmental conditions (like calm, bright conditions), depth seems to have a buffering effect on these factors allowing for some fish to still be caught. So, we headed to deep water (40 to 50 feet) and looked hard with sonar. I say “looked hard” because even with the best sonar equipment, a white bass shows up as an image of precious few pixels in deep water. We looked over 4 areas before finding any fish at all, and, once we found some, the results were much the same as before … few fish showing and even fewer biting. We boated one white bass and one drum at Area 935.

As we went to search out additional deepwater areas, a light SSE ripple began to develop. It was slight, but it was better than calm. As we approached the area I was hoping to find fish on (Area 1042), the sonar lit up with fish — most right on or just off the bottom. This was good! I got the boat positioned over these fish and they stayed right there under us. We got slabs down and stared to work them and the fish responded. As the winds picked up from the SSE to perhaps 7 mph, the fish began to feed even harder. We’d all stripped out of part of our winter clothing by now, but, with that breeze coming up, we started putting it right back on again. Over the last 70 minutes of the trip we took our tally from 24 fish up to our final total of 67 fish boated using a combination of jigging and easing tactics on the trusty white TNT180’s in 3/4 oz.

TALLY = 67 FISH, all caught and released, including 2 largemouth, 2 drum, 1 crappie, and 62 white bass.

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Start Time: 8:00a

End Time: 12:45p

Air Temp: 42F at trip’s start.

Water Surface Temp: 55.5F

Wind: Winds were W4 at sunrise, then calmed from 9:45 until around 11:00a, then came around SSE7-8 to trip’s end.

Skies: Skies were overcast until approx. 9:45a, then cleared to fair.

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