On Friday, Nov. 27th, I picked up Thomas and Trace McGuire at their home in Harker Heights, TX, headed to Belton Lake for a morning of white bass and hybrid striped bass fishing. This trip was booked through the Fort Hood SKIES program.
9-year-old Thomas McGuire with a hard-pulling Lake Belton hybrid striped bass.
7-year-old Trace McGuire with one of two fish he caught at the same time on two of the three lures attached to the 3-armed umbrella rigs we were using.
The fishing has really been spotty lately, and although a cold front was due to arrive today around 1-2pm, it was to be a wet cold front that arrived on a wind shift from the SSE through the E and to the N. The fish typically do not respond as enthusiastically to the approach of wet cold fronts as they do to dry cold fronts which arrive on a wind shift from S, through W, to NW. So, we launched and I really wasn’t sure what to expect in this season of transition.
As we got going, I immediately began scanning for birds working over top of gamefish pushing baitfish to the surface.
We saw some moderate action in this low-light period just following the cloud-obscured sunrise. I saw lots of scattered, suspended bait and gamefish mixed in with the bait, so, we hooked up our downriggers and got down to business.
The fish responded positively to our offerings, and, within the first 20 minutes the boys each boated a hybrid and a white bass. With this solid start under our belt, I felt confident that we could continue to work the downriggers with success, and, the boys enjoyed setting out the lines and lowering and raising the downrigger balls, so, things were good.
The bird activity continued to grow and be more helpful right through the 9 o’clock hour. We essentially drove from one patch of birds to the next and enjoyed single and double hookups on our 3-armed umbrella rigs once we got under the birds.
At 9:30, things got ominously calm and quiet. By 9:40, a strong N wind began to churn the water into whitecaps and the temperature dropped from 70F to 52F in an instant. The cold front had arrived much earlier than forecast.
We had been rained upon all morning and were damp. The boys’ mom had prepared them well for the wet, but the added cold was a bit more than the boys were ready for. We stayed as long as they could endure, but, when hands started stinging and lips started quivering, I knew it was time to head to the ramp.
We saw an immediate downturn in the fishing as the cold front hit — just the opposite of what I’d expect with the arrival of a dry cold front.
We got back to the truck, loaded the boys in the cab, cranked up the heater and they soaked in the warmth as I got the boat on the trailer and ready for travel.
Between the two of them, Thomas and Trace managed exactly 19 fish, all but one of which came on the umbrella rigs. There was definitely opportunity to take fish via casting to them with barely sub-surface retrieves as they pushed shad to the surface and gave their locations away, as well as to take them via a vertical presentation, but both would have required more 1-on-1 attention than the wind would allow for, so, we kept it simple, and simple was effective.
SKIES Unlimited stands for School of Knowledge, Inspiration, Exploration and Skills. SKIES Unlimited classes are open to children of active duty military personnel, retirees, Department of the Army civilians, and to Department of Defense contractors. To enroll in SKIES Unlimited activities, children must be registered with CYSS at Building 121 on 761st Tank Destroyer Avenue (right across from the Chili’s restaurant). Call (254) 287-4592.
There is no charge for registration; parents must bring an ID that shows their affiliation with the military, the child’s shot records, and the report from a recent physical exam. While the SKIES Unlimited programs are not free, many military families are eligible for sizeable credits toward SKIES Unlimited activities. There is a $300 “Army Strong” credit available to each child when their parent is deployed.
TALLY = 19 FISH, all caught and released
Start Time: 6:30a
End Time: 11:00a
Air Temp. @ Trip’s Start: 70F falling into the low 50’s with the approach of a cold front
Water Surface Temp: 65.5F
Wind Speed & Direction: SSE12-13, then going briefly calm and turning NNE15-18 around 9:30a
Sky Conditions: 100% grey cloud cover.
Note: Elevation was 594.9 feet above sea level, with 594 feet being full pool
Other: GT= 0
AREAS FISHED WITH SUCCESS:
**Area 015-019 downrigging early parallel to bank
**Area 084 under birds for a short time
**Area 1070-1641 spotty but continuous action under rapidly moving birds
Owner, Holding the Line Guide Service
254.368.7411 (call or text)