Dad Battles OPFOR; Daughters Battle Fish — 78 Fish w/ Aliyah & Kensleigh

WHO I FISHED WITH: This morning, Wednesday, August 9th, I conducted the 2023 season’s 5th S.K.I.F.F. program trip for military kids separated from their military parents.

Joining me were Aliyah and Kensleigh Womble. Their stepdad, U.S. Army Sergeant First Class Bart Palmieri, is currently battling the heat and the OPFOR (opposing forces) in California’s Death Valley on a rotation through the National Training Center there at Fort Irwin. Upon his return, a multi-month deployment is likely.

SFC Palmieri has been in the military for 14 years and manages logistics like water, fuel, and ammunition.

The girls’ mom, Courtney Palmieri, found out about the SKIFF program through Mrs. Denise Igo‘s Fort Hood Area Events Facebook page.

ABOUT SKIFF:  This fishing trip, like all SKIFF trips, was provided to this military family at no charge.  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.

Here is how the fishing went…


Here’s an up-to-date calendar so you can check availability:

Next available dates are 21-24 Aug. (AMs)

PHOTO CAPTION: That’s Aliyah and me with her first legal hybrid.  She made a long, cross-wind cast, counted her MAL Mini down to a 4-count, and retrieved smooth and fast.  Thanks to Manuel Pena for the camera work.

PHOTO CAPTION:  It was my turn to take photos at the end of the trip.  That’s 6-year-old Kensleigh standing in front of Manuel, and 11-year-old Aliyah “gripping & grinning”.



PHOTO CAPTION: This was Aliyah’s final fish of the morning, caught just as her mom returned to pick her and her sister back up after good morning of catching.


WHEN WE FISHED: Wednesday, 09 August 2023 (AM)


With an infant at home, Mrs. Palmieri decided it best to leave her older girls in my care and keep the baby out of the heat and wind. For that reason, I very much welcomed the assistance of Austin Fly Fishers’ member Manuel Pena, who joined me this morning to assist.

We started off the trip dropping some bait in an area I’d hoped to catch catfish from later. Once that chore was out of the way, we began hunting for white bass. The white bass were, thankfully, quite cooperative today. At exactly 6:44 AM they begin to feed on the surface under low light conditions and stayed up for around 40 minutes. Manuel and I assisted the girls in landing 38 white bass as we downrigged on the perimeter of these schooling fish using a Pet Spoons behind three armed umbrella rigs.

Once this action died, we were able to do some sight-casting as fish began to “popcorn” feed over open water. By “popcorn“ I mean they would churn the surface briefly, then disappear, then crop up a few yards away, and continue this process. Today the frequency at which these fish appeared was quite high, thus we did not have to move far nor wait long between seeing schools show themselves on the surface.

During this time, Manuel did the casting for Kensleigh and had her reel in hooked fish while I showed Aliyah how to cast and retrieve in order to catch her own fish. This action lasted until approximately 8:45 by which time we had landed 74 fish including one largemouth bass, two hybrid striper, and 71 white bass, all of which were legal.  All sightcasting fish were taken on the MAL Mini.

We moved on and gave our baited area a try for catfish. Unfortunately, we had whitecaps and swells by this time, which really jerked our slip floats around far more than I would desire. We did land two channel cat and missed several other strikes before changing our game plan and wrapping up the trip with a final round of downrigging. Aliyah landed a final legal hybrid, and Kensleigh landed one last white bass when we noted mom pulled up in the parking lot and wrapped it up right at 10 AM with 78 fish in the boat.

TALLY: 78 fish caught and released.

See a tutorial on the Smoking Method here:

Here is a tutorial on the Sawtooth Method:

Find the entire family of MAL Lures  here:

OBSERVATIONS:  Here was the water temperature profile down to 50′ (taken on Lake Belton, Monday, 07 Aug. 2023):

0 feet, 86.4F
5 feet, 86.5F
10 feet, 86.7F
15 feet, 86.7F
20 feet, 86.7F
25 feet, 84.7f
30 feet, 77.9F
35 feet, 72.7F
40 feet, 68.2F
45 feet, 65.6F
50 feet, 64.3F



Start Time: 6:30A

End Time: 10:10A

Air Temp. @ Trip’s Start: 82F

Elevation: 15.87 feet low, 56 CFS flow

Water Surface Temp: 87.5F on the surface.

Wind Speed & Direction:  SSW 7-8 thru 8:30, then ramping up to SSW14-16

Sky Condition: 0% cloud cover cover on slightly hazy blue sky.

Moon Phase: Waning crescent moon at 39% illumination.

GT = N/A




Area vic 1937 – downrigging around topwater schools at low light

Areas B0230G to B0027G & 491 – sight casting

Area 1506 – catfish

Area B0082C – downrigging


Bob Maindelle

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)





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WHO I FISHED WITH: This morning, Wednesday, August 5th, I welcomed aboard the Puente family who signed up for a family fishing trip through the Fort Hood SKIES Program.  Joining me was Mrs. Denise Puente and her three children, Mario (age 13), Cecilia (age 7), and Pablo (age 5). 

The kids’ father, U.S. Army Master Sergeant Mario Puente is a combat engineer with 18 years in the military. SKIESUnlimited stands for Schools of Knowledge, Inspiration, Exploration, and Skills.

SKIESUnlimited offers dozens of activities for military and Department of Defense kids of all ages, ranging from gymnastics to piano lessons, from academic tutoring to various forms of dance, and more. To participate in such courses, children must first be registered with Child and Youth Services. Registration is free and is accomplished by contacting Parent Central Services at 254-287-8029. Once registered, parents may go online to enroll their children for the myriad courses available, including my own “Fishing 101”.


PHOTO CAPTION #1: From left:  Cecilia, Mario Jr., and Pablo Puente with three of the 153 fish they landed on a trip which saw each youngster catch the first fish of his/her life.  

WHEN WE FISHED: 05 August, 2020, AM  

WHERE WE FISHED: Belton Lake  


This morning, we began and ended with white bass, and fished for sunfish in the middle  … a sunfish sandwich on white bass bread!

Since I had two young children aboard, and since none of the kids had previous fishing experience, I opted not to use any tactics involving casting this morning.  So, when the white bass began to feed on topwater as I anticipated they would on a southerly wind, we ran twin downriggers each equipped with 3-armed umbrella rigs in and around the schools to take singles, doubles, and triples for the first 50 minutes of the morning.  Once the sun’s rays struck the water, the topwater action was over. By this time, the kids had landed 34 fish, including the first fish each had ever caught.

We moved on to deeper water and found sparse action near Area 313/B0186C, and picked up 6 more fish here.  By now, Pablo was “spoiled” by the easy, early fishing, and was getting pretty antsy pretty quickly. I decided to head up shallow and target sunfish.  Mario got the hang of this instantly, then Cecilia got to where she could present to and land fish independently, which left Denise to work one-on-one with Pablo, and me to untangle lines, unhook fish, and re-bait hooks.  We parked in one boat-sized area, fishing within 20 feet of the boat on the port and starboard sides, and landed exactly 101 sunfish here before the bite waned, the air heated up, and Pablo needed another change of venue.

I suggested since we’d begun the trip with downrigging, and then got to experience sunfishing, that we might now once again use downriggers to find more white bass, but, this time, to fish for them vertically using spinning gear and MAL Lures, once (if!) a school of this species was found on bottom using sonar. Fortunately, we made a move to the right place at the right time and were able to put a final 12 fish in the boat, including one fish per child using the MAL Lures retrieved straight up off the bottom in about 32 feet of water. Pablo’s statute of limitation expired at the 3.5 hour mark, and we called it a great morning right at 10AM with 153 fish landed for our efforts.  

TALLY: 153 fish caught and released  

OBSERVATIONS:  Southerly breezes had the fish back in a feeding mode and making up for lost time from yesterday.  


Start Time:  6:30A

End Time: 10:00A

Air Temp. @ Trip’s Start: 75F

Elevation:  1.62′ low, -0.04′ 24-hour change, 51 CFS flow

Water Surface Temp:  83.4F

Wind Speed & Direction: S6-8 the entire morning

Moon Phase: Full moon +2 today

GT = N/A  



**Area 018 to 811 – downrigging in and around topwater schools for singles, doubles and triples (36 fish in 50 minutes)

**Area vic 313 to B0186C – another half-dozen fish on ‘rigger from out of smaller, suspended, roaming schools **Area B0032G – sunfish galore **Area vic 1576 – late morning white bass; downrigged to find; MAL Lures worked vertically to catch


Bob Maindelle  

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)   Website:




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#BeltonLakeFishingGuide #stripers #stripedbassfishing #rockfish #sandbass #freshwaterfishing #fishing

#bass #bassfishing #whitebass #panfish #crappie #fishingonaboat #fishingtackle #fishinglife #fishingsport

#fishingaddict #fishingpicoftheday #fishingtime #fishinggear #fishingday