WHO I FISHED WITH: On Saturday, May 30th, I conducted the season’s 6th Soldiers’ Kids Involved in Fishing Fun (SKIFF) program trip with the DenHartog boys who, accompanied by their mom, Valerie, traveled down the day before from Rockwall, TX, to participate in this trip.
The boys’ father, US Air Force Major Adam DenHartog is currently assigned as the Senior Air Defense Liaison to Saudi Arabia, which is a one year deployment. The boys’ mom received her undergraduate degree in teaching from the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor in Belton in the early 2000’s and now substitute teaches in addition to being a stay-at-home mom.
ABOUT SKIFF: This fishing trip was provided to this military family at no charge. S.K.I.F.F. stands for Soldiers’ Kids Involved in Fishing Fun. This program began in May of 2009. It is funded by the donations and fundraising efforts of the Austin Fly Fishers and other organizations they have partnered with. S.K.I.F.F. provides the children of military personnel separated from their families due to duty commitments with the opportunity to go fishing. SKIFF trips are also provided, free of charge, to Gold Star families who have lost their service member while he or she was on active duty. In mid-2019, SKIFF also began providing trips to dependents whose parents are bona fide disabled veterans. I coordinate and conduct these 3.5 to 4 hour adventures on Belton Lake and Stillhouse Hollow Reservoir, just outside the gates of Fort Hood in Bell County, TX, year ’round. Call or text 254.368.7411.
PHOTO CAPTION: From left: Jason and Matthew DenHartog caught 48 white bass and 21 sunfish during their SKIFF fishing trip taken as their dad is deployed to Saudi Arabia with the U.S. Air Force.
WHEN WE FISHED: 30 May, 2020, AM
HOW WE FISHED: Although the morning was bright, we had enough wind to ripple the surface, albeit from the north. We began the trip by downrigging for white bass suspended over 35-50 feet of water with our downrigger balls set around 24-28 feet. The boys got the hang of using the downriggers pretty quickly and therefore were able to help rerig their own lines once fish were landed, thus allowing us to “make hay while the sun shone”. As we downrigged successfully, I began to note schools of feeding white bass forming up on the bottom amidst a strong presence of bait in the area. At one point, we were able to stop downrigging and Spot-Lock over once such school to work slabs vertically through them. We caught well this way, but the boys expressed a preference for the downrigging, so, we went back to that tactic until the novelty wore off on that.
At this point it was time to make a transition. We headed up shallow to aim for sunfish using floats and bait. The hydrilla crop is coming on strong this year thanks to clear water and rising temperatures, and this is home to thousands of sunfish of a variety of species: bluegill, longear, green, redear, and their hybrids. The boys got the hang of watching their floats (not the fish approaching their baits) and setting the hook quickly, thus avoiding time-consuming deep hook removal.
After making a few short hops in one cove and landing 21 sunfish, the boys were ready for another transition.
We went back to downrigging, found one nice school of fish which we slabbed for, and then rode the downrigging tactic out to the boys’ satisfaction right to the last minute of the trip. We landed another 19 fish in our closing hour.
TALLY: 69 fish caught and released
OBSERVATIONS: A nice blanket bait in the lower 1/5th of the water column in the vicinity of Area
Start Time: 6:45A
End Time: 10:45A
Air Temp. @ Trip’s Start: 63F
Elevation: 0.6′ high, 0.01′ rise, 1 CFS flow
Water Surface Temp: 77.3F
Wind Speed & Direction: N4-5
Sky Conditions: 15% white, thin hazy cover on a blue sky
GT = NA
AREAS FISHED WITH SUCCESS:
**Area 1114/644 – produced 48 fish in two separate stops, one at low-light, the other at the start of our final hour on the water
**Area 231 – produced 21 sunfish
Full-time, Professional Fishing Guide and Owner of Holding the Line Guide Service
Belton Lake Fishing Guide, Stillhouse Hollow Fishing Guide
254.368.7411 (call or text)