This past Friday morning I met Mrs. Tina Merker and her three children, Kaley (13), Candice (10), and Benny (6) on Belton Lake for the 2015 season’s 12th SKIFF Program fishing trip.
The Merker’s eldest daughter, Kaley, took this long-bodied 20 inch hybrid on topwater.
The Merker’s middle child, Candice, boated this just-legal 18″ hybrid striper on a cork rig worked across the surface.
Little brother Benny took this 19 inch hybrid on cork rig worked on top; and he worked up a sweat landing it. That’s a lot of hybrid for a little guy!
The children’s father, U.S. Army First Sergeant Benjamin Merker, is currently stationed at Camp Casey, South Korea. He is the senior non-commissioned officer in a forward support company working with a field artillery unit in support of the 1st Cavalry Division. He has served for 18 years. Mrs. Tina Merker is no stranger to leadership, either — she serves as the leader of her husband’s unit’s Family Readiness Group (FRG) which offers grassroots support and disseminates information to the families “back home” while their soldiers are away.
With the lunar cycle right on the new (dark) moon today, topwater action was strong and lasted a long while, aided by a bit of wind and a bit of cloud cover. All three kids managed to land 5 fish each during the topwater bite as I cast their lines for them and let them retrieve their baits through the frenzied action on the surface.
After the topwater action died, we enjoyed another full hour of solid downrigging action which tapered to nil by around 9:30. At that time we went up shallow and panfished for sunfish, small bass, and blacktail shiners for about a half-hour. We closed out the trip working slabs vertically through suspended white bass and, in the last 30 minutes, took our fish count from 47 to 71 as the girls really got the hang of working the slabs and caught fish after fish as I worked with Benny to chip in a few of our own.
During this trip both Benny and Candice earned their “First Fish Award” from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Dept. Each landed a just-legal hybrid striper as the first fish of their lifetime.
SKIFF (Soldiers’ Kids Involved in Fishing Fun) trips are provided free of charge to families whose children are separated from a parent due to that parent’s military service, thanks to the Austin Fly Fishers and a network of supportive individuals, organizations, and companies from all over the U.S. All it takes is a phone call from a parent to me at 254-368-7411 to reserve a date. SKIFF is open to children in elementary and middle school, as well as teens in high school.
TALLY = 71 FISH, all caught and released
Start Time: 6:40a
End Time: 10:45a
Air Temp. @ Trip’s Start: 79F
Water Surface Temp: 87-88F
Wind Speed & Direction: SSE9-11
Sky Conditions: 80% thin grey cloud cover under a fair sky; dissipating to 10% gradually over the span of the trip
Note: Lake has dropped 0.01 feet in the last 24 hours and now stands at 594.27 above sea level, with 594.00 being full pool
Other: GT= 0
AREAS FISHED WITH SUCCESS:
**Area 084 topwater for 1st hour of the trip
**Area 302/1070 downrigging for 2nd hour of the trip
**Area 492 panfishing
**Area 1577 smoking slabs late; popcorn white bass action visible
Owner, Holding the Line Guide Service
254.368.7411 (call or text)