From Home School to Fish School, 53 Fish, 18 Sep. 2012, Stillhouse Fishing Guide Report

This morning found me back on Stillhouse with father and son team Jeff and Spencer D. of Killeen for some post-frontal white bass action.

Spencer (L) and Jeff (R) with 4 of the 53 fish we boated this morning. The fish were hungry after having their routines interrupted by an early wet cold front these past four days.

At one point in our trip Jeff boated a double and Spencer brought in a single within seconds of one another. The 3 fish were all of different year classes — I’d estimate them as 2012, 2011, and 2010 year class fish.

Spencer had only been fishing once before, but that was enough to give him “the itch” to want to go again. He has the good fortune of being home-schooled and his dad has the good fortune of having an other-than-Saturday/Sunday weekend in his line of work, so, this Monday offered a great opportunity to cash in on some fishing. The lake was deserted and the fishing was great.

Last Thursday a cold front slowly made its way into Central Texas turning the winds northerly and the skies wet for a few days. The fish get put off of their feed at such times, so, they were ready to eat again this morning and get back to a routine.

Summer patterns and tactics are still firmly in place — we downrigged to find ’em and fished vertically and horizontally to take advantage of what we found for as long as it would last.

We had consistent results from the very beginning of our trip to the very end. At first, downrigging for scattered suspended fish holding just above the thermocline was the rule. We enjoyed our best success at Area 1112/041 working modified Pet Spoons on tandem rigs. Fishing in this fashion we boated 19 fish by 8:40, including 1 largemouth bass, 2 drum, and 16 white bass and including 5 sets of doubles (2 fish caught on the tandem rig at the same time).

Around 8:40 things got quiet here and we had to go looking once again. We contacted fish again around 9:15a and put 5 more white bass in the boat over the next 30 minutes using downriggers over top of Area 1133. As Jeff was reeling in yet another double, the sonar absolutely lit up with fish as we glided to a stop when I took the outboard out of gear. I set the trolling motor to hover us over this spot and we got the ‘rigging gear in as quickly as we could and got to work with our slabs (TNT180’s in 3/4 oz. and with a white/silver color scheme). We used a smoking tactic to coax these shad-chasing predators into taking our baits and they cooperated nicely. In our final 35 minutes we brought in a total of 29 fish (26 white bass, 1 drum, and 1 largemouth) as the school beneath us stayed active. Then, like someone flipped a switch, it was over. The sonar still showed fish, but they were done feeding. With an appointment to get to in Killeen, we called it a day at the 3+ hour mark and enjoyed a cool, comfortable ride back to the dock.

TALLY = 53 FISH, all caught and released.

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Start Time: 7:00a

End Time: 10:15a

Air Temp: 68F at trip’s start.

Water Surface Temp: 78.6F

Wind: WNW5-8.

Skies: Skies were 80% cloudy.

This blog entry was authored by Bob Maindelle, owner of Holding the Line Guide Service, Belton Lake Fishing Guide and Stillhouse Hollow Fishing Guide.

Cats on the Move and Whites on the Top; 32 Fish, Belton Lake Fishing Guide Report, 18 Sep. 2012

This evening I headed out on Belton Lake with Dan S. of Washington state hoping for some topwater action now that the weather has straightened out following our recent cold front.

Dan is a combat engineer serving in his first enlistment in the U.S. Army at Ft. Hood. The year ahead will be an eventful one for him — he’s set to marry next month and will deploy to Afghanistan shortly thereafter.

As a gift, his parents got him a fishing gift certificate earlier in the summer and, with his training schedule being as it has, he only now has had the opportunity to redeem it.

We were ready to go last Thursday when the cold front arrived earlier than either me or the weatherman anticipated and so we postponed until the return of a favorable wind so that we could hedge our bet on experiencing some topwater action — something Dan has never seen in his fishing experience on the Yakima River back home.

As we got going we searched over Area 651 with sonar and, at around 37 feet, found a massive school of small blue catfish going 12-16″. By massive, I mean there were literally several hundred fish packed into a very small area. We downrigged (yes, intentionally used a moving, artificial lure very successfully for a catfish species) for 5 catfish and a small white bass and intended to stay longer, but a nice cloud bank to the SW brought an early dimming of the sun’s direct rays and so we headed elsewhere thinking we could find some better sized white bass and perhaps some hybrid in so doing.

We headed over to Area 1129 and, after a bit of searching to the E and W of here, found fish right on top of this area in 24-27 feet of water. Funny thing, although we picked off one fish after another with a horizontal presentation using the downriggers and although we were able to stop the boat and set up atop several dense schools of fish, these fish nearly flat refused to take a presentation with a vertical component to it. We cast bladebaits and slabs and worked them vertically and diagonally to no avail. Every time (and this repeated 4-5 times in a 40 minute span) we went back to downrigging and ran those baits perfectly horizontally, the fish responded and we hooked up. Weird, huh!?!

We quickly put 9 more fish in the boat before sunset, then, at and after sunset the fish made a movement shallow and we were able to follow them and only then began to take fish on the cast once they were in less than 12 feet of water. Eventually, near dark (well after sunset) the fish actually began to break the surface and feed on topwater, but it was light and short-lived, but, enough for Dan who had never seen such a thing to witness it and pull a few fish from off the top on the Cork Rig I designed just for this kind of fishing.

We wrapped up our trip around 8:30 with 32 fish boated including 5 blue cat, 2 short hybrid, 25 white bass, and at least 2 more hybrid that pulled off right at boatside.

Sorry I don’t have photos — we decided to catch fish instead of take pictures of them, and by the time it was all over with, it was too dark for a quality photo.

TALLY = 32 FISH, all caught and released.

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Start Time: 5:30p

End Time: 8:35p

Air Temp: 77F at trip’s start.

Water Surface Temp: 78.6F

Wind: WNW5-6.

Skies: Skies were 80% cloudy.

This blog entry was authored by Bob Maindelle, owner of Holding the Line Guide Service, Belton Lake Fishing Guide and Stillhouse Hollow Fishing Guide.

UFO Sighting at Belton Lake — 07 Sept. 2012, 77 Fish, Belton Lake Fishing Guide Report

This evening I fished on Belton Lake with fishing buddies Robert S. and John S., both currently stationed at Ft. Hood serving with the 36th Engineer Battalion.

The fishing really turned on near sunset with some great subsurface action prior to sunset and moderate topwater schooling action thereafter. We didn’t want to stop catching them long enough for a photo before it got too dark!!

Robert and John have read this blog for a long time and have just shaken their heads at the quantity of fish my clients catch in the summer months while the two of them often struggled to put single digits in the boat on their hard-earned weekends.

So, they called me up and asked for a lesson on downrigging, and specified Belton as that is where they like to fish. We had everything set for Saturday, Sept. 8th until the weatherman spoke his piece. Cold front … 25 mph winds sustained … gusts over 30mph. I made a quick phone call to John and Robert to find out if their schedule would allow us to bump up a few hours to fish in advance of the front on this Friday night; and it did!

As we got going, I covered some basics about summer time fishing … about the thermocline, about horizontal motion, about feeding windows occurring early and late in low light conditions, about matching forage size, and more. I urged them to be patient as the trip unfolded, as we typically catch as many or more fish in the last hour of a summer evening trip than we do in the first several hours of the trip, combined.

So it was tonight. We downrigged successfully for what we found to be very lethargic fish. We found that the 28′ mark was the key depth tonight, just a few feet above the top of the thermocline. For our efforts primarily in and around Area 685/905 and Area 478, we boated 16 fish up until 7:05 PM, including white bass, channel and blue catfish, and drum (no hybrids, not even short ones, strangely enough). Both Pet Spoons and the White Willow performed equally well tonight used on tandem rigs.

At 7:05, we ran sonar slowly over Area 814/1129 and found a heavy school of white bass just “waking up” and going on their pre-dusk feed, lifting off bottom in pursuit of shad. We e-anchored over these fish and worked them over with 3/4 oz. TNT180 slabs, moving just a few yards whenever sonar indicated the fish had moved out from beneath us. We kept up with this school down beneath us for about 20 minutes and in that short time boated an additional 29 fish very quick in this manner.

As this tapered off the white bass began to force bait to the surface and, on the light SSE chop, we could begin to see “wolfpacks” of fish feeding on small shad in the vicinity of Area 1070/010. We broke out our rods rigged with Cork Rigs and wore the fish out as long as they remained on top, putting another 29 fish in the boat. All I could do was take fish off as John and Robert made short, accurate casts and kept the fish coming in the boat.

After everything died down, we slowly retrieved blade baits near bottom to comb out a few more still-active fish from the many inactive ones now settled back to bottom. We put a final two fish in the boat this way and called it a night with a tally of 77 fish boated. We caught 5 times more fish in the last hour of fishing than we had in the entire balance of our trip.

And now about that UFO (unidentified floating object). Well, it happened like this … as soon as it was pitch dark and the winds got really still, John, Robert and I spotted this eerie green glow to the northeast of us — about 100 yards away. Slowly, ever so slowly, we crept closer with our trolling motor down running as quietly as we could. Was it an alien craft downed in the water? Was it a Las Vegas-style casino being erected on Lake Belton? We still weren’t sure. Closer we crept … now just 20 yards away. The light was now near-blinding. I put my polarized glasses back on … at that moment a voiced boomed forth out of the light “Hey there, Bob!!”. Well shoot, this was no alien — it was Bill T., long time Belton angler with a new night fishing accessory affixed to his fishin’ rig. A picture is worth a thousand words …

Bill T.’s new night fishing light system. LED-based, 12-volt powered, and ~5 amp draw. Don’t laugh … those green lights attract fish, sure enough!! Sorry I mistook you for an alien, Bill. You really are a handsome guy.

TALLY = 77 FISH, all caught and released.

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Start Time:

End Time: 8:15p

Air Temp: 101F at trip’s start.

Water Surface Temp: 84.5F

Wind: SSE 5-8.

Skies: Skies were fair and cloudless.

This blog entry was authored by Bob Maindelle, owner of Holding the Line Guide Service, Belton Lake Fishing Guide and Stillhouse Hollow Fishing Guide.

About that Whole Thermocline Thing … 06 September 2012, 18 Fish, Stillhouse

I have had quite a number of e-mails come in this summer concerning the success I’ve had by targeting fish holding just above the thermocline (typically with downrigging equipment).

Subscribing to the notion that “a picture is worth a thousand words”, I’ve inserted the above photo which clearly shows what the thermocline looks like on my Lowrance StructureScan with the contrast set to 74%.

Once you identify the thermocline, you must target your fishing entirely above it. Rarely will any fish of any kind be found below the thermocline, as the water here is oxygen poor, despite the fact that the cooler temperatures at that depth might otherwise be more desirable. Most of the fish I catch in the summer months are found at the bottom of the upper, warm layer of water just above the thermocline, known as the epilimnion. Just FYI, the cold water layer found beneath the thermocline is known as the hypolimnion.

As for the fishing, well, I had a little wrinkle in the fishing plan today — the folks I was supposed to take out had a medical emergency to tend to in San Angelo, so, I took lemons, and made lemonade by doing some scouting on parts of Stillhouse I don’t normally fish this time of year. I love to catch fish on topwater — size and species do not matter if they are hitting on top where I can see them rush the bait and take it. Today, I found loosely schooled bunches of small

(6-8″) white bass and even smaller (5-6″) largemouth. These fish were chasing very small, late-hatch threadfin shad on the surface and thus gave their positions away. I boated a mix of 18 fish, all caught and released to grow and fight another day. This action took place in the first 90 minutes after sunrise. As soon as the topwater action died, I departed.

TALLY = 77 FISH, all caught and released.

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Start Time: 7:00a

End Time: 8:40a

Air Temp: 76F at trip’s start.

Water Surface Temp: 84.5F

Wind: SSE1-2.

Skies: Skies were fair and 205 cloudy.

This blog entry was authored by Bob Maindelle, owner of Holding the Line Guide Service, Belton Lake Fishing Guide and Stillhouse Hollow Fishing Guide.

Working (in the Stern and in Front of the Camera) on Labor Day!! SKIFF Trip #9 for 2012 — 58 Fish

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 which serves to put the children of deployed or deceased soldiers on the water at no charge to their families…

Joseph (L) and Dillan (R) display 2 of the white bass we picked up just seconds apart as our spread of Pet Spoons intercepted some aggressively feeding white bass holding ~26 feet under the surface. That’s Grandpa Brotherton in the middle.

03 September 2012 (Labor Day)

Dear Friends of SKIFF,

Today I fished with brothers Dillan (13) and Joseph (11) Gibson of Kempner, TX. The boys are the sons of the late SSG Theodore Gibson who passed away several years ago during an unsuccessful rescue attempt of eldest son following a boating accident. SSG Gibson was serving with the 1st Cavalry Division at the time he and his son passed away, and was a combat veteran of the Gulf War. The boys are being raised by their maternal grandparents, Bob and Vicky Brotherton. Bob is a Viet Nam era veteran of the 101st Airborne Division.

We were also glad to have Mrs. Sophia Stamas on board today. Sophia is a reporter with KCEN-TV (NBC channel 6 out of Waco) and is responsible for the “Military Matters” segment of each newscast. Her intent today was to feature the existence and scope of the S.K.I.F.F. program. Her report will run today (03 Sept. 2012) during the 5p and 6p news hours.

The boys both arrived with some fishing fundamentals under their belts, including the ability to cast, albeit with closed-face equipment. They quickly adapted to the spinning and casting gear I introduced them to and off we went.

We’ve enjoyed a 3 day streak of SW winds (very favorable) and the fish were ready to feed. We divided our trip into two distinct adventures — the first 3 hours spent in open water in pursuit of white bass, and the last hour spent in shallow cover in pursuit of sunfish for variety’s sake.

We found hungry white bass schools in the vicinity of Area 040/481 and primarily used downriggers to keep our presentations consistently deep enough to attract these fish. Over the 3 hours spent in this area, we boated 25 fish including 24 white bass and 1 largemouth. 21 of these 24 white bass came on modified Pet Spoons, with the remaining 3 taking blade baits cast from a fixed position after we located particularly heavy concentrations of fish as we downrigged and then stopped over top of them to work more thoroughly for them.

Our last hour was spent in the vicinity of Area 1098. We used slipfloats and attempted to finesse sunfish out of heavy, submerged cedar brush. The boys were very accurate with their presentations and were able to place their maggot baits in small holes in the cover and were handsomely rewarded for their efforts — 33 sunfish in less than 60 minutes!!

As we returned to the dock, Mr. Brotherton reported that he and his bride were able to enjoy a peaceful breakfast together as the boys were out with me. We took a few photos at dockside to commemorate the trip and then parted ways.

I thank each one of you for being a part in the engine that drives S.K.I.F.F. Sophia Stamas’ reporting efforts today will no doubt bring some new and much needed attention to our program. Although the number of troops deployed from Ft. Hood to Afghanistan is limited right now, this TV spot will definitely help let folks know we are ready and willing to serve them. Ft. Hood’s population is so transient that even established programs and businesses here have to keep publicity up in order to get recognized and stay recognized by the community. Thank you once again for your ongoing support!!

TALLY = 58 FISH, all caught and released

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Start Time: 6:45a

End Time: 11:05a

Air Temp: 77F at trip’s start.

Water Surface Temp: 85.6F

Wind: SSW7-10.

Skies: Cloudless and fair.

SKIFF Trip #8 for 2012 — New Lake Record!! Stillhouse Hollow, 01 Sept. 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 which serves to put the children of deployed or deceased soldiers on the water at no charge to their families…

Mattieu caught 3 sets of “doubles” today (that’s 2 fish at a time on one rod rigged with a tandem rig). These are 2 of our 4 largest white bass.

Ryan proudly displays this pending Lake Record crappie, measuring 14 3/8″ and weighing 1 3/8 lbs. Ryan also boated the first fish of his life earlier this summer while fishing with an uncle near DFW. Hey Kevin Van Dam, look out for this little guy — he’s on the fast track!!

01 September 2012

Dear Friends of SKIFF,

Today I fished with Matthieu Bull, the son of Staff Sergeant Erik and Mrs. Suzanne Bull of Killeen, TX. SSG Bull is on a year-long deployment to Kandahar, Afghanistan where he serves in an Army engineer battalion. Matthieu is a brand new 6th grader going to Manor Middle School, and is big brother to 2 younger siblings.

To fill out the boat today, I also welcomed Mr. Al N. and his 5 year old son, Ryan, aboard. Ryan just started Kindergarten at Saegert Elementary School in Killeen. The boys hit it off well and did a great job of helping one another and taking turns catching the fish so all was pretty even by the time the trip had concluded.

Our conditions today were ideal — a moderate SW breeze with wind having just returned to this direction from a NE blow over the past 3-4 days. Traffic was light as folks either traveled this Labor Day weekend, or opted for dove hunting.

Simply put, we got on fish within 10 minutes of our start and stayed on them for 3 hours and 15 minutes straight. By 10:15am we left the fish still biting in order to introduce a bit of variety in advance of Mrs. Bull’s return to the courtesy dock for Matthieu.

70% of our effort today came on the downriggers in an area bounded within Areas 1130/1132/196. We ran twin ‘riggers with tandem rigs, thus putting 4 baits in the water at a given time. We found very willing schools of white bass ranging in size from a half-dozen up to 50+ individual fish in the school. Most of the fish were solid, 3 year old 12.50-13.75″ fish. We used modified Pet Spoons to imitate the small threadfin shad these white bass have been foraging on and caught fish very consistently within 6 feet of bottom. As one boy caught a fish, the other would bring in the downrigger ball, then they’d swap roles and do it all over again. Over the course of 3 1/4 hours, we boated exactly 60 fish, including 2 drum, 1 crappie, and 57 white bass.

Of these 60 fish, 14 of them came in a flurry of action as we e-anchored in the vicinity of a large, active school of white bass which we initially located as we were downrigging for them. We worked these fish over thoroughly with Cicada blade baits and the fish responded well to a hasty retrieve.

As we neared the 4 hour mark, both boys were ready for a change of pace, so, we left the still actively-feeding white bass behind and went shallow to target sunfish using poles and slip floats baited up with maggots. We spent all of 30 minutes or so getting the hang of things in this very delicate style of fishing, and the boys were able to put 6 more fish in the boat fro off of Area 200.

One special note: the crappie that Ryan N. boated will replace the existing Junior Angler Lake Record which has stood since 2009. Ryan’s crappie measured 14 3/8 inches and weighed 1 3/8 pounds on a certified scale. Congratulations, Ryan!!

I thank all of you Friends of SKIFF, and in particular the Austin Fly Fishers for providing opportunities like this for kids whose parents are serving in harm’s way, or have given their lives doing so. I appreciate your efforts.

TALLY = 66 FISH, all caught and released

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Start Time: 6:50a

End Time: 10:50a

Air Temp: 76F at trip’s start.

Water Surface Temp: 85.5F

Wind: SSW7-10.

Skies: 40% early morning cloudiness decreasing to 20% cloudiness by trip’s end.