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
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.