First Trip of 2016 — Rick & Ricardo Net 115 on Stillhouse

Sorry for the gap in fishing reports since the Thursday after Christmas.  After Rebecca and I headed to New Hampshire on 01 Jan. and returned on 06 Jan., I had much church work backlogged that needed attention, and could not take out clients until my new Yamaha 4-stroke outboard had gone through the break-in period.  We are in the clear now…

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Ricardo plucked this large, aging male largemouth out of 36 feet of water from amongst a school of white bass.

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Rick and Ricardo each picked up several white bass stretching beyond the 14″ mark on this morning’s trip.

We all knew it was going to happen sooner or later. This year it was later — with water surface temperatures right at 60 degrees beyond Christmas, more seasonal weather then set in, dropping the surface temperatures steadily. We are now dealing with what is considered cold water for Texas. I measured 51-53 degrees this week on Stillhouse, and with the cold front that blew in around noon on Thursday, those temperatures will go even lower.

Anglers simply must remember that fish are cold-blooded, so their metabolism rises and falls with water temperature. Our Texas lakes are filled with warm-water species of fish which tend to get more sluggish, and which move less and feed less during the cold water period. This by no means creates a situation where fish are impossible to catch. Rather, anglers must adjust locations and tactics to be successful until lengthening days and warming trends start driving water temperatures back up again, typically in early March.

On Thursday, I fished with Belton anglers Rick Powell and Ricardo Cisneros on Stillhouse in search of white bass. Stillhouse is in great shape right now with clear, green water which stands right at the full-pool mark of 622 feet above sea level.

We had planned to meet at 7:15 a.m, but at 7:10 I received a text letting me know they were running late. My reply read, “OK, but don’t stop for coffee.” The three hours following sunrise tend to offer the best fishing of the day during the winter season. There are a number of reasons for this, but the main reason is that mornings tend to offer more bird activity. When light levels allow gulls and terns to be able to see well enough, they begin to patrol by air, looking for baitfish driven to the surface by gamefish. Looking for such activity can help avoid having to meticulously comb over acres of water with sonar in a much slower approach to fish-finding.

We were on our way by 7:25 a.m., and, just like clockwork, birds began to work over patches of water where I’d observed them working during my scouting trips late in the previous week and again on Monday. I slowly idled over the area these birds seemed interested in so as to verify the presence of gamefish with sonar.

During our first hour on the water, the conditions were near-calm with just a light southwest ripple on the water, but having studied the forecast, we knew more ideal, breezier conditions were ahead. The bite was a bit tentative during this period of calm winds. We caught fish both on jigging spoons (also known as slabs), and we caught fish on bladebaits worked horizontally.

Around 8:50 a.m. we spotted another concentration of bird activity about a mile away and headed over to investigate. Just as we arrived, the winds shifted from southwest to westerly and increased in velocity from near-calm to 10-12 mph. The fish responded positively and immediately. We sat in one area about 27 feet deep and caught 45 fish, including white bass, largemouth bass and a freshwater drum, in about as many minutes.

Once the bite at this area tapered off, we moved on to what would be our final stop of the morning. As often happens as the morning progresses and the skies brighten, the shallower groups of fish stop feeding as deeper groups of fish begin feeding. By starting shallow and ending deep, anglers can stay on fish for the full 3- to 4-hour window during winter mornings.

Once again, birds led the way to these fish which were holding on and just off the bottom in 36 feet of water. We used slow, intentional vertical jigging tactics with all-white ¾-ounce slabs equipped with stinger hooks to boat another 50-plus fish at this area in about 70 minutes.

By 10:45, the wind had continued to shift to the NNW, and the velocity was approaching 20 mph. As the gray clouds on the leading edge of the front gave way to clear skies behind it, the fishing began to drop off sharply.

Powell and Cisneros finished the day with 115 fish, including a number of white bass that stretched beyond the 14-inch mark, as well as several largemouth bass and a single gaspergou.

To recap, for winter success, keep an eye on the weather forecast for days with southerly winds or a wind shift in advance of a cold front, go early, observe for bird action, verify the presence of fish with sonar and then fish slowly and vertically for the fish you locate.


TALLY = 115 FISH, all caught and released






Start Time: 7:25a

End Time:  11:15a

Air Temp. @ Trip’s Start: 46F

Water Surface Temp:  52-53F

Wind Speed & Direction:  Light and variable first hour or so, then going W8-10, then steadily shifting and increasing through NW to NNW and from 12 to 17.

Sky Conditions:  100% light grey at trip’s start, clearing as a cold front moved in, around 10:30a

Water Level: 623.04 with 622.0 being full pool.  0.23 feet of water was released in the last 24 hours.

Other: GT= 30



**Area  089 – vertical jigging for fish found on sonar with initial assist by birds

**Area  702 – vertical jigging for fish found on sonar with initial assist by birds

**Area  1203 – vertical jigging for fish found on sonar with initial assist by birds


Bob Maindelle

Owner, Holding the Line Guide Service

254.368.7411 (call or text)




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