Two Lake Records in One Trip!! Decker Lake / Walter E. Long Reservoir Fishing Guide Report

This morning I with father and son team Rans and Brian O. of Austin for a trip on Decker Lake (a.k.a. Walter E. Long Reservoir) near the Austin-Bergstrom Airport.

As this hybrid, our 3rd fish of the day, came aboard after about 30 minutes on the water, Brian turned to me and said, “Well, we’ve already beat the results of any of our past trips to Decker!”

Rans boated this nice hybrid just after the passage of a disturbance that shifted our winds quickly out of the north and brought heavy cloud cover with it.

Brian, a dad of 3, works at Dell, and Rans is retired from a career in retail sales. One of Brian’s children is but 4 months old and is not yet in a “sleep through the night” routine, so, Brian was a bit haggard upon arrive this morning, but, the adrenaline from his first hybrid seemed to clear the fog for him a bit (aided by a great-smelling breakfast burrito and a Coke Zero, no doubt).

Brian contacted me about a month ago interested in fishing with his retired dad on Decker Lake, as that is near to them and so they wanted to learn to fish it better to up their results when they returned on their own. I don’t fish Decker very often and let them know that up front. Fishing a lake infrequently forces you to figure things out during the trip and do a lot more “looking” with sonar than a lake you fish regularly. Brian understood this and chose to stick with Decker, so, today was the day.

Before their arrival, I netted about 115 shad. Due to the 10mph S. breeze blowing before sunrise, what topwater action may have existed was not able to be seen.

There is definitely a “band of life” set up on Decker at between 17-21 feet, and a majority of the bait and insect life we saw on sonar was in that band. I gave downrigging a try first and we put one big drum in the boat after it fell for our Pet Spoon. As we downrigged, I saw bottom-oriented fish right at Area 006 and so we e-anchored and put baits down on these fish. We had near instant results and put a slot largemouth, 3 hybrid, and another drum in the boat. The best action came as the skies darkened and the wind picked up from the N. as thunderstorms up between Temple and Waco fell apart and sent outflow winds down our way. Once the winds slackened, the bite slowed. We boated an additional drum and a nice white bass at this time.

We downrigged a bit more without success here and then move on to Area 1095. We picked up a drum in 25′ right away and picked up one more hybrid here as well.

We moved on to the vicinity of Area 004 and downrigged one small largemouth.

We moved on to another patch of water between Areas 1087 and 1088 right as another disturbance moved into the area. This one was much stronger with gusts of wind peaking at 25+ mph, the lightest bit of rain, and ominous clouds. It was at the exact time that the winds suddenly increased that the fish began to feed hard for the first time all day.

Over the next 90 minutes we would more than double our catch, putting both hybrid and white bass on in the boat on pass after pass over these fish suspended right at 18-19 feet deep. The white bass we caught in this area were exceptional fish. Over half were within 1/4″ either side of 15 inches. Brian boated the largest white bass of all which measured 15 11/16 inches and tipped the scales at 2.25 pounds, beating the existing Rod and Reel TPWD Record. Next, it was Rans’ turn. He boated a 15 5/16 inch white bass which we chose to enter as the new water body record in the Catch & Release category. All of these large fish were long, with average body condition, and they had that “old” fish look to them — eyes a bit cataract covered, fins a bit messy, some bumps and bruises from many seasons in a fish-eat-fish environment.

As the winds from the disturbance tapered off, the skies cleared, the sun brightened the sky, and the winds shifted to the E., the fishing dropped off. We managed a few more fish when we slowed down with the fish and reverted to live bait. On a few occasions we saw schooled white bass beneath the boat and quickly broke out our jigging rods and landed 1 or 2 before the fast-moving schools moved on.

By 1:30p we’d seen all we were going to for the morning and returned to the dock. The paperwork and photos require to make the records official have already been submitted and their receipt acknowledged by TPWD-Austin.

TALLY = 28 FISH, all caught and released

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Start Time: 7:00a

End Time: 1:35p

Air Temp: 72F at trip’s start.

Water Surface Temp: 81F

Wind: Winds were varied today — see report above.

Skies: Skies were cloudy until a mild disturbance’s passage in late morning.

Father & Daughter Make Memorial Day Memories — 52 Fish — Stillhouse, 28 May 2012

This morning I met Will and Amy M. of Salado for a father-daughter fishing trip on Stillhouse Hollow. Amy is 9 1/2 years old.

Will and Amy boated white bass, crappie, drum, several species of sunfish, and largemouth today by employing several different techniques.

Amy landed our big fish of the trip today — this 2.50 pound largemouth that went for a doctored Pet Spoon presented at around 27 feet.

I received an email from Will inquiring about a fishing trip for him and his daughter; in it, he described their adventures together thus far, which included a few trips to Salado Creek, and a kayak trip up the Lampasas River during the annual spawning run. He was hoping to take things to the next level, so, we endeavored to do exactly that.

The first order of business was getting the basics of spinning gear use and casting down for Amy. In all of 3-4 practice casts she was able to learn to do all she would need to in case some topwater action erupted.

With that, we were on our way to the fishing grounds. We spent a bit of time looking for some topwater action but found nothing.

We then headed to search for white bass. We found fish consistently holding from 24 to 31 feet deep over deeper water generally from Area 1085, through Area 453, and on to Area 822. These fish responded well to our downrigged Pet Spoon presentation. In all, we boated 27 fish in this area by around 9:45. 25 of these fish came via downrigging (with one more hooked and missed), and 2 came via a vertical retrieve as we attempted to hover over a congregation of fish and work them over with slab spoons (which was minimally effective). Of these 27 fish, 4 were largemouth, 1 was a drum, and 22 were white bass.

Although the action remained steady albeit a bit slower than it was earlier in the morning, by around 10:30 or so Amy was ready for a change of pace. So, we got out the sunfish poles, went shallow, and put an even dozen bluegills in the boat in about 20 minutes’ time.

For the grand finale, we headed out to some deep breaklines and used live bait to target largemouth bass. We struck out at our first two areas over some mid-depth hydrilla, but then made up for some lost time and scored well over some deeper timber. At Area 1086 we boated an additional 13 fish including a ~50/50 mix of largemouth and white bass. Most of the largemouth came on our live baits, and most of the whites came via a “smoking” tactic using TNT180 slabs to match the forage size. Will also managed to boat a nice crappie in the mix, as well.

By about the 5 hour mark, as most kids her age do, Amy started to show signs that the novelty of this particular trip had about worn off. This is where the wise parent acknowledges that the time has come to wrap up if he or she desires to have a fishing partner for life. To his credit, Will did exactly that, and we called it a very good day right there and then and enjoyed the cooling breeze on our ride back in to the courtesy dock.

TALLY = 52 FISH, all caught and released

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Start Time: 6:45a

End Time: 12:05p

Air Temp: 73F at trip’s start.

Water Surface Temp: 79-80F

Wind: Winds were SSW8-10.

Skies: Skies were hazy at sunrise, clearing to fair by trip’s end.

Windy Whites!! 54 Fish, Stillhouse Hollow Fishing Guide Report, 24 May 2012

This morning I met Don and Jan W. of Belton for a husband-and-wife fishing trip on Stillhouse Hollow.

Jan shows 2 of our best 4 white bass. The grey skies and stiff south wind had these white bass feeding long and hard today.

Don shows a pair of 14+ inch white bass. Our best success came on downriggers used to target suspended schools feeding on shad.

Back around this time in 2011 Don and Jan’s grown children presented them with a combination birthday/Mother’s Day fishing gift certificate, and today was the day they chose to redeem it.

The weatherman called for south winds 15-20 in the morning, increasing to 20-25 in the afternoon with gusts to 30. I woke early to see how things looked and, around 5am the winds were every bit of 15+ mph, but I thought we could manage if the forecast held.

We began our day covering lots of water looking for some topwater action amidst the waves and saw one short-lived bit of schooling action lasting not even long enough to set up and cast to.

We then began looking for suspended or bottom-oriented fish by searching with sonar.

We found abundant and fairly heavily schooled white bass and bait from Area 1085, through Area 453, and on to Area 822. These fish were on the move and were primarily using the band of water from 17 to 24 feet over a deeper bottom.

By far the best success in targeting these fish came on the downriggers. We could simply do no wrong on them. Literally, every time we rigged and made a pass we caught one, if not, two fish on doctored Pet Spoons. We tried a few times to stop over top of some of the larger schools we found and cast to them. We used Rattle Traps, blade baits and slabs in different sizes and colors, but the fish just didn’t go after these presentations with anywhere near the enthusiasm that they did for the downrigged baits.

Don got the hang of the downriggers early on and was basically operating on his own catching fish after fish as quickly as he got his fish off, and his line down and set on the ‘rigger. Jan maintained that there were too many steps involved in the downrigging and stated that she now understood why Don had left her at the dock in years past when he was going to give downrigging a try at their old stomping grounds at Richland-Chambers Reservoir. Actually, she did just fine and was a good sport about it when an occasional misplaced hand or too-tight drag caused an anomaly.

We occasionally saw a fish or two from among the various schools of white bass come up and pop shad on the surface, but then refused to look at a surface presentation.

Between 9:45 and 10:30, we did have a bit of success more slowly working slabs among the suspended white bass, but still nothing to hold a candle to the downrigging.

By the time 10:45 had rolled around, the fish were still hitting, but we on the downhill slide of the morning feed. To this point we’d boated 51 white bass, most right at 13″, as well as 3 average largemouth. We decided to change the pace of things and hunt some outsized largemouth with live bait.

Unfortunately, most of the productive hydrilla beds that have been giving up largemouth for me lately were being slammed by the wind which was now going 18mph+. Fishing live bait from a boat pitching up and down on the waves is a difficult proposition. The bait never looks natural when it is being jerked up and down by the wind’s impact on the boat.

We tried several locations over top of hydrilla and one gentle hump without hydrilla, but all of these failed to produce in the hour or so that we set aside for this tactic.

So, we ended our day with the 54 fish we’d taken as of 10:45. The photos of the largest 4 white bass shown above are all fish over 14 inches — all very healthy looking fish. Along the way we got to talk about duck hunting, vegetable gardening, and a dozen other topics, and got to compare notes on how the white bass fishery at Stillhouse compared and contrasted with that of Richland-Chambers. I really enjoyed my company today!

TALLY = 54 FISH, all caught and released

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Start Time: 6:45a

End Time: 12:05p

Air Temp: 76F at trip’s start.

Water Surface Temp: 77F

Wind: Winds were S15-18.

Skies: Skies were 100% clouded at trip’s start, slowly clearing to 20% clouds on a hazy sky by trip’s end.

2 Casts, 11 Pounds of Bass, Stillhouse Fishing Guide Report, 21 May 2012

This morning I met Michael S. and his son, Colton, for a father-and-son fishing trip on Stillhouse Hollow.

Colton and his 6.75 pound Stillhouse Hollow largemouth taken off a deep hydrilla bed.

Michael and his 4.25 pound Stillhouse Hollow largemouth taken on a doctored Pet Spoon in 30 feet of water.

As soon as Colton hit the dock and introductions were over, I put a rod in his hands and we commenced to fishing for sunfish for two reasons: 1) our catch would serve as bait later on, and 2) it helps me evaluate what kind of kid I’m dealing with as I give verbal directions and observe to see how he would respond to my guidance. This helps me know how much guidance, how much detail, how much supervision, etc. is going to be required of me and what will or won’t be possible technique-wise during our trip. Fortunately, Colton is a sharp kid (what 11 year old guitar player isn’t?) and was eager to do what it took to be successful, so we were off to a good start. He put 9 sunfish in the livewell from near Area 667 in addition to the ones I’d already collected, so then we headed slowly out observing for surface action on the barely-rippled surface.

Surface action was in short supply today, so, our first efforts went into downrigging for white bass suspended at around 24 feet in the vicinity of Area 122. We boated only one fish here and saw pretty scant amounts of bait, so, we headed elsewhere.

We moved on to Area 822/1085 and worked the north/south trough here with our downrigger balls set for ~30 feet. I experimented with a doctored Pet Spoon set up today and that paid off well. From around 8am to 10:45am we stayed on the fish, boating a total of 22 over that span of time and missing 3 more. Of those 22 fish, 4 were largemouth bass (1 a keeper), 1 was a crappie, and 17 were white bass (all keepers with the largest 4 going 13-14 inches). Our largest fish taken on the downriggers came just as the white bass action was tailing off around 10:30. Michael’s rod went down and bent deeply down into the butt section. Seeing this was a large fish, I stopped the boat on a dime (normally, I just put it in neutral and let it drift to a stop) and let him work the fish without the added strain of our forward momentum. He brought a 4.25 pound largemouth to net which we promptly refreshed in the livewell, photographed, and released.

We’d already determined to spend our last hour specifically in pursuit of largemouth using live baits, and so, with the white bass bite dying out, we made the move to hydrilla. We enjoyed success at Area 479, boating 4 largemouth bass here. This was Colton’s time to shine! After boating a 2 pound fish and getting the kinks worked out on how to pull the rod from the rod holder, how to hold the tip, how to guide the fish into the net, etc., Colton got a big bite. When outsized largemouth take a live bait, they do it with authority. There is no nervous bait activity preceding the dirty deed — that rod just rips down into the water, the fish feels the steel, and they take off enraged. When Colton’s rod went down, he reacted immediately. Long story short, after a tug of war that left us unsure of the outcome for several moments, we slipped the net under a 6.75 pound beauty of a largemouth that had seen more than a few seasons. This fish had big eyes with those blue rings around the eyeballs, and some roughed up scales on her flanks, but, no evidence of any previous hook punctures or handling with dry hands. We let her refresh in the livewell and then took a few photos and got her back where she belonged. High-fives went all around the boat. We set out a few more baits, but, that was to be our last fish of the day. The best for last!!

TALLY = 35 FISH, all caught and released

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Start Time: 6:45a

End Time: 11:45a

Air Temp: 73F at trip’s start.

Water Surface Temp: 76F

Wind: Winds were NNW3 at trip’s start, going calm by 10:45a.

Skies: Skies were 10% cloudy on a hazy sky.

Grandpa’s Fish is Always Bigger (according to Grandpa)! 37 Fish, 19 May 2012

This morning I met Austin T. and his grandfather, Bill T., at Belton Lake. The winds were high and with an easterly component which rarely bodes well. Suffice it to say that persistence paid off …

Grandpa Bill (foreground) and Austin stuck it out today through 4 very tough hours to cash in on an end-of-trip feeding spree.

As I’ve reported on this blog previously, the shad spawn has ended. This doesn’t mean bait can’t be caught or that fishing live shad won’t work, but, what I’ve found over the years is that the daily, onshore movement of shad right at first light during the spawn tended to concentrate the gamefish in the vicinities where shad could be found, and kept those gamefish there feeding as the shad headed back to deeper water as the morning progressed. Now, the gamefish are generally deeper and are much more widely dispersed.

Additionally, today the wind was up so high that any surface action could not be spotted unless you were right on top of it.

So, we started off at some high percentage areas and, for our efforts, managed to boat just 4 average white bass, all on Pet Spoons, by downrigging them at ~27-30 feet, by 10:15. Other boats, many Belton Lake “regulars” or at least “weekend regulars” were criss-crossing the lake and running sonar telling me no one else was buckled down on fish, either.

At exactly 10:30, in the vicinity of Area 830/1083, as I maneuvered back and forth across the breakline there, I spotted, about 30 yards away, an abundance of shad skipping across the top of the water. I knew these were being pursued by gamefish, so, we immediately put our downriggers back out and went over that area. The closer we got, the more gamefish started showing on sonar. These were definitely white bass and hybrid in feeding mode!

Not 10 seconds after seeing the first few fish on sonar Austin’s rod went down, then Bill’s went down and we landed the first of three doubles that would come over the side in the next 90 minutes. Over that time span, we went on to land exactly 29 more fish including 3 keeper hybrid, some very decent Lake Belton white bass in the 13 inch range, and a few short hybrid, as well. The passage of time and increased recreational boat traffic in the area both eventually led to the tapering off of this action.

The action tracked from NW to SE which was into the wind, and the 18-22 foot depth range seemed to produce best for us. The fish ended up dispersing and settling down to the bottom at Area 1084. The last 20 minutes of the trip we sat right on top of Area 1084 and attempted “smoking” these fish with TNT180 slabs. We managed 6 more fish (5 whites and 1 short hybrid) fishing in this manner before things settled down for good.

This was an odd trip. The “feeding window” of about 90 minutes in length didn’t open until around 10:30 which is unusually late on Belton. Late May is always a time of transition and this year seems to be no exception.

Austin and Bill came ready to fish, but even more ready to learn how to fish. Over the course of the trip both got great exposure to sonar usage and interpretation, to downrigging, and to one vertical jigging tactic used with slabs — that of smoking. They went home itching to try to figure out how to adapt some of these things given their own equipment.

TALLY = 37 FISH, all caught and released

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Start Time: 6:30a

End Time: 12:20p

Air Temp: 74F at trip’s start.

Water Surface Temp: 75-76F

Wind: Winds were SSE12 at trip’s start, ramping up to SSE17-19 by 10:30, then tapering off to SSE12 by trip’s end.

Skies: Skies were 60% cloudy on a hazy sky.

SKIFF Trip #5 for 2012 — 42 Fish, Stillhouse Hollow, 18 May 2012

The following blog entry appears in the form of a report to those who support the Soldiers’ Kids Involved in Fishing Fun (S.K.I.F.F.) program …

This 19.25″, 3.625 pound largemouth crushed Austin’s live bait he had suspended just above a deep hydrilla bed right at sunset tonight.

18 May 2012

Dear Friends of S.K.I.F.F.,

This evening I welcomed aboard Austin Hall, the son of Staff Sergeant Kirby Hall and step son of Mrs. Julia Hall. SSG Hall is currently serving with the 4/227 Aviation in Kunduz, Afghanistan and is due to return within the month. Austin is 11 1/2 and is one of the quickest learners I’ve ever had aboard. He not only was able to do the tasks necessary to catch fish consistently, but he understood why we were doing what we were doing. I often have adult anglers aboard who don’t get such things, so, to have a youth show so much potential was a delight!

Also joining me today were Kyle and Marty Wall, the father and son videography crew who are very ably supporting SKIFF with their filming talents.

Our plan today was to fish for sunfish up shallow while it was still bright and hot, then, to move deep and downrig for white bass as we awaited sunset, then, to use some of the sunfish we’d caught to target largemouth bass around sunset. We worked the plan and the plan worked!!

We began our trip in shallow water at Area 200 using a simple pole rigged with a light slipfloat rig to suspend maggots in and around downed timber. In less than half an hour Austin had the livewell abundantly stocked with exactly 25 sunfish ranging from 2.5 to 6.5 inches. We held onto these to target largemouth bass with later in the evening.

Next, we headed for deeper water and began sweeping with sonar over some deep structure. We found nothing at the first two locations we searched. Then, at between Areas 820 and 1082, we began to see some bait, then gamefish, then things started happening. Over the next two hours we worked dual downriggers with Pet Spoons set down around 24 feet to tempt a mixed bag of 12-14 inch white bass and just-keeper 14″ largemouth bass. In all, we boated 13 fish in this area and via this method.

As sunset approached, we set up in a hover over a patch of bottom where, on a breakline, a patch of hydrilla grows on the shallow end of the breakline, but stops abruptly at the 22 foot mark on the deep end of the breakline. We positioned ourselves right on this transition. In the last 45 minutes of the day, using our previously caught sunfish, we drew numerous strikes resulting in 4 largemouth bass being boated. The largest 3 all exceeded 3 pounds, with the single largest tipping the scales at 3 5/8 pounds. We were excited! Austin and I were high-fiving! The film crew was high-fiving! The big bass was … well, he wasn’t high-fiving … but I’m sure he at least appreciated being released. I’ve rigged all of my bait rods this season with size 1 circle hooks and they do a wonderful job of catching gamefish right at the jaw hinge making release a snap and minimizing handling time.

As the sun lit the western horizon a beautiful peachy-pink color as it set, we called it a darn good day having saved the best for last, and headed back home.

Our film crew did a great job today. I look forward to sending you the end product that results from this trip. We’ve spent so many hours together now gathering film clips that they’ve come to anticipate what I’m going to do much of the time. It wasn’t uncommon for Marty to be holding the livewell lid open for us when I asked Austin to dip another live bait out for us, or to hand me a rag after I’d released a fish, or to start stowing rods when he knew we were headed to a new location.

Thank you all for your contributions, your notes of support, and all the many things you do to keep SKIFF afloat!


–Bob Maindelle


TALLY = 42 FISH all caught and released

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Start Time: 4:30p

End Time: 8:45p

Air Temp: 83F at trip’s start.

Water Surface Temp: 75F.

Wind: Winds were S15 at launch time, tapering to S8 by trip’s end.

Skies: Skies were fair with 20% clouds.

Of Ground Hogs and Hitch-and-Go’s, 55 Fish, Belton Lake Fishing Guide’s Report, 14 May 2012

This morning as the sun rose I met Larry, Joe, and Eddie, all life-long coaching buddies, at Belton Lake for what we hoped would be a continuation of last week’s topwater fishing showcase.

Eddie started the ball rolling this morning taking this nice hybrid on a slab worked meticulously by suspended fish and bait holding at about 30 feet over a deeper bottom.

Larry pitched in by taking this hybrid on an umbrella rig trolled through the same school of fish that Eddie’s hybrid came out of, after they turned off to the slab bite.

And, not to be outdone, Joe took this 11th hour hybrid literlly within minutes of our previously agreed upon end time of 11:00am.

While Larry has completely retired from coaching and enjoys the flexibility of travel and spending time with his grand kids, Joe went from retiring as a public school district superintendent to immediately take on the athletic director’s position at a Christian school in Belton. Joe called up Eddie out of retirement to coach for him. So, bottom line, if you didn’t know what the noseguard and the nickelback were supposed to do on a buttonhook or a coffin corner, well you pretty much couldn’t hang out in my boat this morning!!

Within 20 minutes following sunrise, which is the time topwater action typically kicks off this time of year if it is going to, it became obvious that topwater fishing was not going to factor in heavily to today’s plans. The shad spawn is over now, so, live shad did not figure in strongly, either.

One thing we did have working for is the gulls that have carried over unusually late this year. I estimated sighting ~400 birds this morning which I believe to be laughing gulls. These gulls were helpful in identifying where bait was located and, although the fish did not force much bait to the surface, in leading us to suspended fish on two occasions this morning.

We began our morning visually checking several areas where the fish had been holding into late last week. Finding little at these areas, I began checking deepwater areas. We first encountered fish at just NE of Area 815 in about 40 feet of water. The fish were holding in a horizontal band around 30 feet. We first began using TNT180 slabs in white and silver to tempt these fish and, after they turned off on the slabs, ran downriggers amongst them. We wound up with 18 fish boated at this stop and moved on. The fish included 2 legal hybrid, white bass, and short hybrid.

We moved on to between Area 1081 and Area 687 in the gut located here. I slowly idled over this area and hovered with the trolling motor every time I encountered a “wolfpack” of 15-25 fish. All 4 of us would slab for these fish seen on sonar. Typically, the bite was very aggressive with each of us catching 2-3 fish right away, then, the action would die as quickly as it started as the fish either moved on or turned off. We boated 24 more fish making 4-5 short hops around this general area, consisting of both white bass and short hybrid.

By 9:30, it was getting brighter and calmer. Most boats out looking for an early bite had called it quits by now and so the boat traffic was much reduced. Birds once again led the way to deep bait, and that deep bait had fish lurking nearby at Area 1011. We found and boated a mix of white bass and short hybrid here, as well. We put an additional 11 fish in the boat before things went soft.

We concluded our trip in the vicinity of Area 815, where we had begun. I ran one downrigger at 30 feet with an umbrella rig and another at 30 feet with a White Willow Spoon. Within 2 minutes our umbrella rig got slammed and we added a final hybrid to our catch. This one taped at 17.25 inches.

TALLY = 55 FISH, all caught and released

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Start Time: 6:45a

End Time: 11:00a

Air Temp: 76F at trip’s start.

Water Surface Temp: 74-75F

Wind: Winds were NNE4-5 at trip’s start going light and variable by 10am.

Skies: Skies were 60% cloudy on a hazy sky.

Environmental Note: Lake rose ~0.36 feet over last 72 hours due to recent rainfall.

Hey! This Kid Can Fish!! — 42 Fish, Stillhouse Fishing Guide’s Report, 12 May 2012

This evening I fished with a promising 11 year old angler from Copperas Cove by the name of Austin H. Austin’s dad is serving in harm’s way at Camp Kunduz, Afghanistan, with the 4-227 Aviation as a staff sergeant working in military intelligence.

Austin was a very fast learner so we covered a lot of ground fishing for panfish and white bass with floats, with slabs, with downriggers, and with live bait, and he did well at all he tried!

Most of Austin’s previous fishing experience came on some small ponds up in Maryland, and on the Copperas Cove City Park pond. Until this trip, the most he’d ever landed in one outing was 2 catfish, but, Austin had the basics down already and was willing to listen to the more advanced things I was trying to teach him — and this paid off handsomely for him.

We started our day up shallow using a slipfloat for sunfish which have moved up into shallow water with the the recent elevation rise we’ve had. He not only got down the technical aspects of bait placement and hooksetting, but also quickly started to process where fish were likely to be and where they weren’t. He put 26 sunfish in the boat from off of a 140 yard stretch of shoreline (from Area 455 to Area 456, which we retained for use on larger gamefish later on.

Next, it was off to Area 760 where we encountered some bottom-hugging white bass. We picked up only two whites and two drum both jigging and smoking 3/8 oz. TNT 180’s here and moved on. At Area 800 we found the same scenario — a few fish, but no big congregation and fish unwilling to “turn on” once schoolmates were hooked and reeled in. We got 3 whites and a small largemouth here, also on the TNT180 slabs.

Next we moved to Area 122 and saw a lot of suspended fish at 21-25 feet and but the downrigger on them, but came up clean an moved on.

We ended up our trip at just west of Area 433 where we used our sunfish to tempt some largemouth on the breakline from 18-22 feet. By the time night fell around 8:45p, we’d actually only boated one largemouth, but found a bumper crop of solid white bass here, putting exactly 7 of them in the boat before calling it quits.

TALLY = 42 FISH, all caught and released

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Start Time: 4:30p

End Time: 9:45p

Air Temp: 76F at trip’s start.

Water Surface Temp: 76F

Wind: Winds were NNW7-9 at trip’s start tapering just slightly by dark.

Skies: Skies were 50% cloudy on a fair sky.

Environmental Note: Lake rose ~0.52 feet over last 48 hours due to recent rainfall.

Chummily Chumming with her Best Chum, 57 Fish, Belton Lake Fishing Guide Report, 07 May 2012

I had a great time on the water this morning with a very nice married couple, Matt and Sarah S. of Austin. Sarah contacted me some time ago and got a gift certificate from me for Matt’s 37th birthday and today both enjoyed a day together, away from the workplace, and one which provided 3 solid hours of action.

Sarah insisted that I take this photo for reasons that all of you male readers with a competitive spouse will understand.

This hybrid of Matt’s was par for the course today. Plenty of fish, but on the smaller size so far as the hybrid were concerned. This one came early on a Cork Rig.

Once again the shad showed up right on que here in the 6th week of the shad spawn. I can’t believe this will go much longer, but, we’re still making hay while the sun shines. I netted an ample amount of bait with little effort and was ready to go for our 6:45am trip start time.

First, I assessed where both Matt and Sarah were in their casting abilities and got both to where they’d need to be for the early morning topwater action I’d hope to find. Matt’s casting was just fine, so, I only needed to show him how to work the Cork Rig I prefer in these conditions. Sarah was starting from scratch with spinning gear, but only needed 6-7 practice casts before she was throwing accurately enough and far enough for what I anticipated we’d encounter.

About 15 minutes after sunrise the first “early risers” started popping shad on the surface at Area 155, this action would evolve and trend WNW over the course of the next 3 hours, eventually ending at Area 1080, with fish lingering significantly at Areas 180 and 1078 along the way.

The topwater fishing was very exciting as gamefish chased shad, herons chased gamefish, gulls chased anything they could get their beaks on, and the sights and sounds of it all were up close and continuous. As is often the case, the fish taken on top trended a bit smaller than the fish we’d find suspended beneath once the action settled and we got some live baits in the water. Our catch was a 50/50 mix of white bass and short hybrid striped bass on the Cork Rigs. Toward the end of the topwater feed, as we witnessed the fish willing to strike the cork on the front end of the cork rig, I switched Matt over to a Spook Jr. and he did equally well on that.

By ~9:00 the topwater was tapering off, so, we switched over to fishing live shad and targeted groups of fish that had broken off from the fast-moving main body of generally smaller fish.

The switch to shad definitely upped our take of hybrid over white bass and the hybrid we caught were generally larger than the hybrid taken on topwater but keepers (18″ or greater) were in short supply. At Area 1080 we found a band of hybrid right at 28-30 feet deep over a deeper bottom and did best here before even this suspended, deep bite began to weaken.

Along the way we also picked up a freshwater drum and a largemouth with one other largemouth lost just at boatside as I got tied up netting one fish and couldn’t quite get to the other in time before it jumped at boatside and got off the hook.

Every trip has a little something that stands out in my memory. On this outing, I’ll simply state that Sarah was “taken” with the art of chumming and managed to tie this time-honored fishing tactic to an amusing play-on-words-game which Matt kept rather tight-lipped about. And that’s really all that needs to be said about that 😉

In all, we boated 57 fish this morning, with the last 45 minutes from 10a to 10:45a yielding nothing as the skies brightened, the wind died, and the fish turned off completely.

TALLY = 57 FISH, all caught and released

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Start Time: 6:45a

End Time: 10:45noon

Air Temp: 71F at trip’s start.

Water Surface Temp: 74F

Wind: Winds were SSE6 at sunrise, tapering to calm by the end of the trip.

Skies: Skies were hazy at sunrise, gradually clearing to fair by trip’s end.

Environmental Note: The elevation dipped .02 inches below full pool with a slow release of 95 cfs still underway.

One Saturday, Three Generations, Seventy-Four Fish, 05 May 2012, Belton Lake Fishing Guide Report

This morning I fished with returning guests Grandpa Jim S., his daughter, Shena, and Shena’s son, James.

Jim (R), James (C), and Shena (L) with a pair of hard-pulling hybrid boated at the same time. The fish were on a real spree today, feeding for nearly 4 hours straight.

This Belton Lake hybrid, caught on a live shad, was James’ first “big fish” caught while angling from a boat. Can you tell his grandpa is happy for him?

This father-daughter pair has been out with me on seven previous occasions, but today was a little different. Young James, now 7 years old got to come along for his first boat fishing trip ever.

Word on the bank (kind of like word on street) said the shad run was getting slim. So, as insurance against a baitless trip, I netted shad the night before on Stillhouse and put 109 baits in the tank. When I arrived at Belton, the shad were running full strength and I doubled my on-hand quantity to 220 so as to prepare for Monday morning’s trip, too.

At 7:15a we were off and running. Around 7:35 we encountered strong topwater action which began near the buoy at Area 492, then commenced SE toward Area 155, then SW toward area 687. We kept up with the fish with Jim and Shena on the front deck casting bladebaits and young James and I in the back downlining live shad. We all caught fish, but the bait fished down around 24 feet definitely was producing larger fish than the artificials were producing when fished up near the surface.

Eventually, the fish “hunkered down” near area 687 and we went with an “all-bait” program and were scarcely able to keep 4 rods in the water. In fact, for a 30 minute span we took it down to just 3 rods as that was all we could keep baited and tended to.

Most of the fish we caught today were hybrid in the 16-17 inch range, as well as some good quality 13 to 13.75 inch white bass.

After Area 687 cooled off, I observed a few birds working over Area 689. We motored over there and found fish feeding throughout the entire water column from the surface down to 26 feet.

We put our baits in the middle third of the water column and continued to catch mainly 16-17 inch hybrid with perhaps 1 in six or seven exceeding the 18 inch “legal” mark.

After all of the surface action cleared by around 11:30, I was still marking fish in the lower third of the water column and these fish were positioned off bottom indicating they were still willing to feed. We worked bladebaits down deep and off bottom for these fish and put our final 11 fish in the boat in this manner. These were all average white bass and 11-14 inch hybrid.

Our big laugh for the trip came when little James was playing with the dead baitfish I’d stored on top of the bait tank for chum. Grandpa made a corrective comment but then softened the correction with, “…but I guess young boys will just do that kind of thing” to which little James replied, “But Grandpa, you were a young boy too one time.” We all found that very humorous!

By trip’s end we’d boated 74 fish including 1 largemouth bass, 11 keeper hybrid, and the balance being a mix of short hybrid and white bass.

TALLY = 74 Fish, all caught and released.

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Start Time: 7:15am

End Time: 12:30pm

Air Temp: 74F at trip’s start.

Water Surface Temp: 75-76F

Wind: Winds were S9-11 for the entire trip.

Skies: Skies were hazy but bright, clearing to fair by mid-morning.

Environmental Note 1: Just as they did on the morning after the full moon in April, the shad spawn ran hard this morning, the morning after the May full moon.

Environmental Note 2:

Elevation was 594.01 ASL releasing water at 104 cfs, with normal full pool at 594.