Fishers of Men Went Fishing for Fish — 84 Fish — Stillhouse Fishing Tour, 09 April 2013

This morning I welcomed Ted D. and Andy M. aboard. These two men are partners in ministry from Hill Country Bible Church in Austin and decided to fish for fish today as a little respite from fishing for men.

Good wind, good cloud cover, and rising water temperatures equated to non-stop fishing today for white bass on Stillhouse Hollow.

Ted serves as a pastor on staff at Hill Country Bible Church, leading their small groups effort, and Andy is a layman who leads a small group along with his wife, Amy. Since Ted serves in the same capacity at his church as I do in mine, we really hit it off and had a lot to talk about in between fish.

We experienced a second consecutive day of heavy overcast and strong southerly winds, having a net warming effect on the water temperatures.

As we began the hunt for fish, we immediately came upon a helpful flock of about 14 Bonaparte Gulls that helped point the way to fish for us for a full 2.5 hours.

At first they worked up shallow in the vicinity of Area 089/054/1054 during which time we threw bladebaits horizontally.

Next, the birds transitioned to near the river channel in the vicinity of Area 419 during which time we began to vertically jig with TNT180 slabs. These fish were tight to the bottom here and for many yards to the N. and S. of this area.

Finally, the birds moved off and worked near a broad, mid-depth flat in about 27 feet of water near Area 566, with action extended well S. of here, all the way to Area 1195. We made a number of “short hops” in this area to keep up with the birds and fish, and stayed in the fish right up until just after 11am.

Since we were catching many small fish, I left this area altogether and spent about 30 minutes quickly searching elsewhere for some better sized fish, but found little and so returned to spend the remainder of our time fishing for the fish we’d located earlier.

Just to experiment, we also ran some crankbaits in the vicinity of Area 116 and found some larger white bass scattered throughout this area.

By far the most aggressive action came at sunrise and for about 30 minutes thereafter during which time we saw some light topwater feeding in shallow water.

Fish ran on the smallish side today. Given the way these fish looked and acted, I’d dare say these were some of the first, early-season male spawners that have now returned to the main lake, and they’ve returned very hungry. Add to that good wind, good cloud cover, and rising water temperatures, and the mix was just right for a very fishy day today. A cold front due in tomorrow will stifle this to some degree, but, spring fishing usually bounces back very quickly. We’ll see!!

TALLY = 84 fish, all caught and released

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Start Time: 7:15a

End Time: 11:15a

Air Temp: 69F at trip’s start

Water Surface Temp: ~64.4F

Wind: Winds were S to SSE at 14, gusting regularly to 20mph.

Cloud Cover: 100% grey skies with the orb of the sun visible through the clouds at most times.

Happy 18th Birthday Fishing Trip — 82 Fish — Stillhouse Hollow Fishing Guide Report, 06 April 2013

This morning I welcomed Nick E., the birthday boy, aboard, along with 3 friends — brothers Andrew and Christian W. of Killeen, and Sam(antha) of Kempner, all in celebration of Nick’s 18th birthday.

Everyone caught plenty of fish this morning on all 4 methods we employed — trolling, casting, jigging, and downrigging. From L to R: Andrew, Sam, Nick, and Christian.

Andrew was the anchorman today. He boated this nice 3.00 pound largemouth from out of 18′ of water casting a bladebait on a shallow flat.

First, kudos to Nick’s parents, Joey and Laura. Of all the things a kid could want to do, and of all the places a kid could want to be on their 18th birthday, to be spending it in pursuit of fish on a boat amongst friends speaks well of how that kid was raised. That is a blessing from the Lord!

Nick has been long-time friends with Andrew and Christian through their church, Memorial Baptist, in Killeen, and Nick knows Sam through a robotics club both of them participate in over in the Copperas Cove/Kempner area.

Everyone arrived on time, bright-eyed, and eager to both learn and to catch fish. We covered a few safety basics followed by a few fishing basics and then headed out to hunt for fish.

We began our day in the vicinity of Area 116 flatline trolling. On the first half of our first pass everyone landed their first fish, 3 of which went 13+ inches. We were literally only 12 minutes into the trip and everyone was already even more excited than when they’d arrived and were anticipating more to follow.

From our vantage point near Area 116, we could see for quite some distance. I spotted 3 herons, an osprey, 6 cormorants, 4 terns and a gull all working over the same small patch of water — something was going on!! We brought our trolling lines in, headed for the action, and cashed in on the very first few minutes of what would be a lengthy, moderate feed which would go for over 2 hours between Areas 556 and 1194. The depth here was 16-19 feet, and so I taught each teen how to cast a spinning rod and we threw bladebaits and worked them along the bottom for the entire time here and caught fish steadily throughout this time. We boated exactly 58 white bass and 1 largemouth bass in this area during this feed.

Around 9:45a the skies began to clear and the wind began to ramp up. The brightening skies brought an end to the shallow bite and it was once again necessary to go hunting for fish.

We were fortunate to find fish at the very first mid-depth spot we searched — Area 334. At this location, just a few yards back off the channel lip, I found tightly bunched white bass holding tight to the bottom. We hovered over top of these fish and began to vertical jig for them. This was a new technique, and it was difficult to learn from a moving boat being buffeted by the wind as badly as we were, but, the kids got the hang of things pretty quickly and we wound up boating 13 fish here including 12 white bass and 1 drum before the wind continued to increase and made line control nearly impossible for my boatload of beginners. We then changed over to downrigging to access these same fish, but to do it on the move. We boated another 6 fish here via downrigging, including 4 white bass and a double catch of short largemouth bass for Sam (two fish caught simultaneously on one rod). By the time 11:10 rolled around, the sky had nearly entirely cleared and the winds were reaching a peak near 20 mph. The fishing shut down pretty quickly thereafter and we called it a great morning and headed on in.

TALLY = 82 fish, all caught and released

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Start Time: 7:15a

End Time: 11:15a

Air Temp: 53F at trip’s start

Water Surface Temp: ~62.2F

Wind: Winds were SSE at 7 at trip’s start, quickly ramping up to SSE18 by trip’s end.

Skies: Skies were 80% cloudy with diffuse light coming through.

Those Utah Boys Can Fish!! — 109 Fish, 05 April 2013 — Stillhouse Fishing Tour Report

This afternoon I met up with Curtis W. and his neighbor and friend from church, Devin H., both from the Austin area for some white bass fishing on Stillhouse.

Curtis and Devin, both originally from Utah, have adapted well to Texas species and methods. They boated 109 fish this afternoon.

Curtis has been fishing with me for 3 years now, ever since his wife first bought him a fishing gift certificate for Christmas; his usual fishing partner (his son, Josh) was sick this week and couldn’t make it. Devin is a salesman in the water-softener business, has 2 young children, and was invited along in Josh’s place.

After the clouds broke yesterday around 5:30pm, ending a cold, wet spell of about 3 days’ duration, I got out on the water to try to pin down the locations of both fish and bait. Spring cold fronts tend to move the fish around, although, due to the generally upward trend in the water temperatures, they don’t tend to turn the fish off very long. I was able to find fish consistently and so felt very confident going into this evening’s trip that we’d do well, especially given the favorable wind and weather conditions.

The bite began slowly (which is very typical for afternoon trips) and peaked just before sunset. We found significant populations of fish at 5 distinct areas this evening.

First, we found smallish, schooled fish at 25-28 feet right on the breakline at Area 103/995 and jigged for these fish right on bottom with 3/4 oz. TNT180’s in white. We left here with a tally of 16 fish.

Next, we moved a few yards to the west and further up onto the 20-22′ flat near Area 702 and saw fish strung all along the bottom for several yards. This dictated the use of bladebaits, so we threw bladebaits for a while and caught plenty of fish, but, they too were smallish. We took our tally up to 38 while at this location. I’m not one to leave fish to find fish, but, we’d hoped to find some better quality fish, so, this figured into the equation and we decided to move on as the fishing was tapering off.

Our next stop came in about 33′ of water at Area 1192. This was our most productive spot of the evening. We vertical jigged here and quickly boated a total 61 fish, including a number of fish surpassing the 12+ inch mark. When our first batch of fish here moved off, I did a short-hop up slope and we again contacted fish up in 27-28 feet of water.

As the sun was setting this bite died and we headed to shallower, more well-illuminated water. We hit Area 807/810, put 4 fish in the boat really quickly, but decided to keep moving shallower as it was clear there was not a bunch of aggressive fish here as indicated by the lack of “follows” by schoolmates showing on sonar behind our hooked fish.

Our last stop came at Area 1193. We found a small school of fish just about wrapping up their last-light feed in ~18 feet of water here. We slowly “eased” our baits here and picked up a final 6 fish, bringing our grand total to 109 fish, including 108 white bass and 1 small largemouth bass.

Both Curtis and Devin grew up in Utah, so, for Devin who’d never been out with me before, all of the techniques and baits we’d used tonight were new. He enjoyed the exposure to the different “Texas” methods we used and left looking forward to returning with one of his own kids before too long.

TALLY = 109 fish, all caught and released

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Start Time: 4:15p

End Time: 8:15p

Air Temp: 69F at trip’s start

Water Surface Temp: ~62.2F

Wind: Winds were SSE at 7-9.

Skies: Skies were fair with a very high, thin white covering of clouds over top.

Rancher, Soldier, Fisherman! — Belton Lake Fishing Guide Report, 01 April 2013

This morning I fished with Nolan E., a Montanan now living in Copperas Cove, and serving in the U.S. Army Transportation Corps as a logistician.

We had to work for every fish we caught today, but, by the time we came off the water we’d secured Nolan a legal limit of hybrid striped bass (5 fish, each 18+ inches), all caught and released. Nolan saved the best for last, catching this 3 3/8 pound hybrid just minutes before we wrapped up.

First off, Nolan is a genuinely nice fellow. He comes from a family of ranchers in central Montana and is a soft-spoken, very likeable young man. In fact, that is the very reason he and I fished together today. A few weeks back, Nolan found a used fishing boat on Craig’s List, and went to the Austin area to buy the boat from an older gentleman by the name of Mr. Jessie J. Jessie was so impressed with Nolan, his service to our country (multiple tours to Iraq), and his demeanor, that, unbeknownst to Nolan, he called me up after selling the boat and paid for a fishing trip for Nolan so he’d have some idea of how and where to use his new purchase. Who does that these days?!?

Nolan, a staff sergeant, met his wife (also in the U.S. Army) while in Iraq. Her family is originally from the Dominican Republic and now lives in Perth Amboy, New Jersey, which is just a few miles away from where I attended 5th – 10th grade, so, we had some things in common which made for fun conversation despite the slow bite today.

So, anyway, today was the day of that trip courtesy of Mr. Jessie J. I guess the National Weather Service wanted to pull and April Fools’ joke on all of us fishermen, and forecast an 8-9 mph NE wind with 30% cloud cover beginning before sunrise. What we got was a bright sky, and calm winds with no clouds until around 10am, and what breeze did finally blow blew light and variably from 2-4 mph from the N to the E. If you follow this blog, you’ll see time and time again for Belton and Stillhouse that calm, bright conditions are to be avoided as they always add up to tough fishing. Today was no exception.

So, we got dealt a bad hand on the weather, but we were persistent and methodically searched out small, lethargic groups of fish holding very tightly to the bottom using sonar while idling very slowly over large expanses of water, and we found fish. We put a lot of bait and a lot of chum in the water to stimulate the fish we found, and, in the end, put together a respectable catch of hybrid striped bass.

I’d given Nolan the option of fishing Stillhouse strictly for white bass with artificials, or using live shad on Belton for hybrid and he chose the quality over the quantity, so, our sights were set today on the hybrid.

We enjoyed limited success at several areas including: Area 473 (bait and slabs — white bass only), Area 815 (bait and slabs — white bass only), Area 187/954 (bait and slabs — white bass and hybrid on both), and Area 677 (bait only – whites bass, hybrid, and crappie).

Again, bait size seemed to make no difference, although the smaller baits seems to result in a greater strike:land ratio.

TALLY = 23 fish, all caught and released

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Start Time: 7:20a

End Time: 1:15p

Air Temp: 53F at trip’s start

Water Surface Temp: ~65-66F

Wind: Winds were light and variable 2-4 from N through E.

Skies: Skies were bright and clear until around 10a, with 30% cloud cover developing thereafter.