Yes, it’s February not June. But according to Donnie Mathes, a 28-year game warden on Fort Hood and avid fisherman of Belton Lake, this isn’t such a bad time to throw a line in the water.
“There are known great spots to fish at Belton Lake,” Mathes said. “I guess you’d call these known great spots ‘the secret spots.’ But since it’s still pretty cold out, and there are fewer fishermen out there, if you know those spots, you won’t be fighting for them right now.”
Overall, Mathes said, this past week has been difficult.
“It has been a lot tougher fishing this year than in prior years because we had so many days when the temperature was in the 20s,” he said. “One of my friends was fishing on Belton Lake on Wednesday and he said the surface temperature was in the high 40s, so it was pretty slow fishing.
“In January, we had a warm day every once in a while. But you need more warm days in a row to really help warm that temperature up at Belton Lake. Fort Hood has 19 managed ponds, actually small lakes, and those warm up a lot faster than Belton Lake. The maximum depths on these small lakes is around 20 to 25 feet so they’ll warm up a lot faster. Belton Lake is over 100 feet deep in some places.”
Mathes said that for those fishing Belton Lake right now, white bass is often the goal.
“White bass will run up the rivers and creeks to spawn,” he said.
“Of course the shallower the fish are in the water, the easier it is for fishermen to find them.
“And white bass are a schooling fish. If you can find a big school, you’re apt to catch a bunch of them.”
Mathes recommends live bait for catching white bass.
“Shad and minnows will usually be better than the artificial lures,” he said. “But a lot of people are using the artificial lures — they seem to like the challenge. It’s a little bit of an ego thing, they challenge themselves to fool a fish with artificial bait instead of live bait.”
So, it’s cold outside? Mathes calls that “a good opportunity to fish.”
With a laugh, he said, “If you’re a diehard, this is the time to go. If you can deal with the cold, you can do quite well.”