Thomas (left) made some memories today for everyone with the 20+ pound monster smallmouth buffalo he landed with no small amount of effort.
Fishing is still very much “off” versus the normally stable, predictable, consistent fishing that Stillhouse typically affords in the summer months. The water is definitely off-color, having a tea-like brownish cast to it caused by decaying vegetable matter instead of the clear green cast it normally has. White bass seem not to be using the bottom much at all — I suspect this is because much of the bottom they would normally occupy at this point in the season (25 to 35′) still has remnants of dying hydrilla on it. This hydrilla died as a result of the rising water leaving it growing too deep for sunlight to reach.
So, scattered, suspended fish are the norm, and also quite apparent is the abundance of young-of-the-year shad present. The flooding had flushed ample food into the lake for all newly hatched fish, and has offered shallow cover which enhances survivability of cover-loving species like largemouth and sunfish.
Since the fish are scattered and suspended, downrigging is the go-to option, allowing consistent, efficient coverage of the horizontal band of water the fish are using. Today, that band was 21-24′ below the surface over deeper bottoms ranging from 37-50 feet.
We began our day downrigging and, within minutes had both rods bent, allowing both Thomas and Matthew an opportunity to put into practice the “theory” we’d discussed at the dock about how to use the equipment. Not long after this twin hookup, Matthew brought in a single and Thomas countered with a double (2 fish on 1 rod at the same time). Despite seeing abundant fish life on sonar, the fish were relatively inactive — a result, I suspect, of the abundance of natural forage in the area.
Seeing a change of pace was in order, we left the downrigging behind and headed to shallow, protected water and targeted sunfish using slipfloats and live bait. The boys wore out the sunfish population bringing both bluegill sunfish and green sunfish as well as a single juvenile largemouth bass into the boat on their poles.
I appreciated that James showed up with a great, fatherly mindset of being there to help me help the boys versus being there to catch a bunch of fish of his own. This allowed me to focus on the boys’ success and to be on the lookout for opportunities for him to come alongside his sons and enjoy some real highlights. The highlight of the day, by my estimation, came around 9:50am.
We decided we’d leave the successful panfishing behind and head back out to open water where we’d previously encountered abundant, but reluctant, white bass. As we idled into the area, sonar looked good, again showing both bait and suspended gamefish around 24 feet. We got our downriggers in and both boys landed an additional white bass right off the bat. Then it happened … as we reset our rigs and trolled another 50 yards or so, Thomas’ rod sprung up, indicating a fish large enough to pull the line out of the downrigger release clip on its own accord had struck. The rod looked like it was going to be ripped right out of the downrigger’s rodholder before we got our hands on it and began to fight the fish. Several minutes (literally) passed as Thomas battled the big fish, during which time I maneuvered the boat with both the outboard and trolling motor to keep us from blowing aground thanks to the wind now blowing at around 13mph.
James helped move equipment out of the way to keep the fish from contacting anything abrasive, and he also made ready with the net. Finally, we saw “color” off the port gunnel and there it was — a smallmouth buffalo nearly too big to fit in my net. In fact, as James scooped the fish with the handle of the net, I grabbed the front rim for extra support due to the fish’s weight and size. My 15 pound BogaGrip scale maxed out, but, I estimated the fish’s weight at about 23 pounds. Towards the end of the trip James and I both agreed that catching a fish so big while being so young had the potential to spoil a kid!!
When all was said and done, we wound up boating a total of 37 fish today. As we beach the boat, I called out to another long-time Stillhouse angler who is very good at finding and catching both black bass and white bass. He zeroed today, confirming my observations of how mixed up the ecosystem on Stillhouse is right now.
TALLY = 37 FISH, all caught and released
Start Time: 6:45a
End Time: 10:45a
Air Temp. @ Trip’s Start: 75F
Water Surface Temp: 84.5F
Wind Speed & Direction: S7 increasing to S13 by trip’s end
Sky Conditions: 60% cloud cover in the first hour, steadily decreasing to 30%
Note: Stillhouse is at 623.75 and is being held steady due to the need to drain water off of other Brazo River reservoirs
AREAS FISHED WITH SUCCESS:
**Area 1570 downrigging for white bass
**Area 189 for sunfish
**Area 1430/1435 downrigging for white bass
Owner, Holding the Line Guide Service
254.368.7411 (call or text)