This morning I fished with Dave H. and his brother-in-law Larry S. As you can see from the photo below, Dave looks an awful lot like Santa Claus, and in fact, he does a lot of volunteer work as a Santa Claus in and around Austin.
Here Santa (a.k.a. Dave) shows two presents he pulled out of Stillhouse on a well-worked bladebait.
Happy Birthday, Larry! Although not our target species, we always put a few largemouth in the boat while fishing Stillhouse for abundant white bass.
I first got to know Dave through his work in and participation in the Austin Fly Fishers. Since meeting back in 2009, we’ve been fortunate enough to work together to make the S.K.I.F.F. program (Soldiers’ Kids Involved in Fishing Fun) available to the children of Ft. Hood’s deployed soldiers. Dave gave this trip as a birthday present to Larry.
As we met shortly before 7 AM, a moderate fog was blanketing the area. Fog is typically accompanied by calm wind, or vice versa, and neither is particularly helpful to fishing. Due to the low light conditions, I chose to start up shallow. We began our search for fish at Area 717/745. Due to the shallow depth and flat taper of this area, I chose to start us off using blade baits (Reef Runner Cicadas) cast horizontally. We fished these “lift drop style”, and in so doing kept them near the bottom. We knew fish were in this area as sonar clearly showed both game fish and shad, however, for the first 15 minutes we couldn’t draw strike. I told Dave and Larry not to worry, that when the light level hit a certain point, the fish would turn on. And that’s exactly what they did. We stayed on these fish for nearly 2 hours for two reasons: 1) we were consistently catching fish albeit at a moderate pace, and 2) we didn’t have many other options given the persistent fog and calm. We wound up catching exactly 25 white bass and one largemouth bass off of this area before moving at around 9:15 a.m., after these fish finally shut down for good.
For the next hour or so, I checked a number of different areas at a number of different depths all with little result. Finally, over a patch of very deep, very clear water, just as a light northwest wind begin to ripple the surface, a few gulls and terns begin to fly and point the way to schooled white bass that were just becoming active. We moved in, observed sonar closely, found numerous large schools of white bass in the bottom 25% of the water column, and began to fish for these right on top of Area 1157. Due to the feeding posture of these fish, we went first with a “smoking” presentation using TNT 180’s in three-quarter ounce white and silver. In 90 minutes time, we boated an additional 47 fish, including three largemouth bass and 44 white bass. Nine out of ten of these white bass went 13 to 14.5+ inches.
Because neither of the fellows had ever done any downrigging, and because these fish were deep, schooled, and still active, I offered to do a down rigging demo as they learned by O.J.T. I set one downrigger up with 40 feet of line behind the boat and 48 feet of cable beneath the boat. We trolled a pair of Pet Spoons on a tandem rig, and on our very first pass Larry came up with a nice double (see photo below, courtesy of Dave). On our next pass, Larry did all the rigging and was rewarded with another nice, plump white bass of his own.
Larry doubles up on the downrigger!! Two at a time!
By about 12:15 p.m., the winds had gone calm again, what few birds remained were now resting on the surface, and the fishing died hard. We knew we had seen the best of it today, and decided to head back in with a tally of 73 fish boated despite the tough conditions.
As typically happens this time of year, the days around the holidays are all booked now, but there are still a few half day trips before the holidays open including:
Monday, Dec. 10th, 7:15a to 11:15a
Monday, Dec. 10th, 2:00p to 6:00p
Saturday, Dec. 15th, 7:15a to 11:15a
Monday, Dec. 17th, 2:00p to 6:00p
Tuesday, Dec. 18th, 7:15a to 11:15a
Tuesday, Dec. 18th, 2:00p to 6:00p
Wednesday, Dec. 19th, 2:00p to 6:00p
Thursday, Dec. 20th, 2:00p to 6:00p
It just takes a phone call to 254.368-7411 to make it happen. Fishing will only get tougher as the cold fronts come more frequently and with colder and colder winds. Our water temperature (incredibly!) is still in the mid-60’s. Take advantage of it while you can!
TALLY = 73 Fish, all caught and released
Start Time: 1:45p
End Time: 5:55p
Air Temp: 69F at trip’s start.
Water Surface Temp: 65.1F
Wind: NW12-13, changing to NNW10-12 around 4:30, then tapering to NNW8 by dark.