This morning I fished with Phil M. of Killeen. The mission of this trip was stress relief!!
Pre-frontal conditions put the predators in overdrive this morning — of 86 fish landed over half were legal (18+ inch) hybrid striped bass .
Phil is an east Texas native, a Viet Nam veteran, a husband, father, and grandfather, and a lay leader at Memorial Baptist Church in Killeen where he now serves as the facilities/maintenance manager. Phil and his wife, Casey, recently lost two family members close to them and this trip was something I could offer to bring some cheer and a day away from the daily pressures of life.
We got going well before dawn this morning. Phil is a “systems” kind of guy, meaning he likes to know how everything comes together, so, I invited him along for the “whole enchilada” of launching the boat, catching bait before the trip, finding fish with sonar, and then cashing in on catching the gamefish we’d located. Afterwards, he stayed for reloading the boat, draining the bait tank, scrubbing the deck down, refueling, trailering back home … the whole works.
We had to search a bit for the live shad we used as bait this morning, but, at our forth stop (at Area 1200) we found what we were looking for. I’ve netted shad in Belton for over 20 years now and this morning’s haul of about 220 baits in four throws was the most robust bunch of bait I’ve ever collected. These baits were big, fat, long, and wide — and frisky coming out of 66 degree water. Over 15% of these threadfin shad were 4.5″ long or longer.
As is typical this time of year, where bait can be found on windblown shorelines, the hybrid striper and other gamefish are often not too far behind. We found all the fish we needed right on top of Area 1199, just a short distance from where we netted bait.
As we got our first lines in the water around 7:20a, the skies were still very murky due to thick cloud cover (to the point of drizzle). The fish were active and up high in the water column. We set our baits 15-17 feet below the surface and kept them there through the first 2 hours.
As the wind lessened and the skies brightened a bit, the fish pushed down further. From 9:30 to 10:30 or so, we set our baits down at 17-18 feet, and from ~10:30 to the end of the trip around 12:30, we fished the baits around 21-23 feet down.
We boated a total of 86 fish today including 1 largemouth bass, 29 white bass, and ~56 hybrid striped bass. Of these 86 fish, only three hybrid were “short fish”; all other white bass were over 10″ and all other hybrid striper were 18″ and longer. All of the keeper-sized hybrid were in a tight shot-group size-wise, all going right at 18-20 inches and right at 3.00 to 3.50 pounds. Phil’s largest hybrid weighed in at 3.75 pounds on a certified scale
Today’s outstanding fishing was due largely to weather. We fished during the last hours of a warming trend with diminishing southerly winds and nice grey cloud cover which would give way to a mild cold front with cooling, northerly winds (which began around 12:45p). As we enjoyed success at Area 1200, I had a credible report of like success from another fisherman who boated ~30 hybrid until his bait ran out in the vicinity of Area 369/382. The fish were simply turned on today!
Phil enjoyed a few “firsts” today. This was the first time he’d ever fished for hybrid striped bass, this was the first time he’d ever used circle hooks, and this was the first time he’d ever used reels equipped with bait clickers.
No sooner did we hit the bank following our trip than Phil had a text headed to Mrs. Casey about our big day!! Mission accomplished.
Later in the day I saw Phil massaging his shoulder and chest muscles. He then informed me that “…those fish liked to wear me out!”.
TALLY = 86 FISH, all caught and released
Start Time: 6:30a
End Time: 12:35p
Air Temp: 67F at trip’s start.
Water Surface Temp: 66.4F
Wind: Winds were SSE15 at trip’s start, tapering off sharply around 9:30 to light and variable.
Skies: Skies were grey in advance of an approaching cold front.
Holding the Line Guide Service