The thaw begins. After a long, cold winter which dropped water temperatures in our two local reservoirs (Belton Lake and Stillhouse Hollow Reservoir) to record lows and kept them there for an extended period of time, we are finally seeing a slow warmup, with the fish beginning to respond positively.
The anglers have adjusted. Fish are cold-blooded creatures, therefore their metabolism varies with their body temperature, which closely matches the temperature of their surrounding environment. When temperatures and metabolism are low, fish do not feed often, nor aggressively, and they take a longer time to digest what they’ve eaten. For anglers, extended cold means slowing way down in whatever technique they choose. Using smaller lures or baits, and fishing these lures or baits vertically, so they hang nearly motionless, often pays big dividends in cold water.
On March 10, Dr. Ben Vacula, of Belton, fished at Stillhouse Hollow with his daughters, 10-year-old Madeline and 8-year-old Olivia. The team boated a nice catch of 10 white bass, one crappie, and one yellow catfish (a lake record featured in the Herald on March 14, “Vacula reels in record catfish”). Most of their catch was taken on slowly trolled crankbaits moved at less than 1.8 mph in around 15 feet of water.
On March 11, the Smith family, Nathan and Angela, their 16-year-old daughter, Jordanne, and their 10-year-old son, Ryan, took a morning trip on Stillhouse Hollow. After the water warmed the previous day and cloud cover retained that heat overnight, the fish were much more active than they were the day before. As the family cast bladebaits in 15-18 feet of water and retrieved them slowly, targeting schooled white bass, Jordanne hooked and landed a 15.5-inch white bass. This qualified her to receive a Texas Parks and Wildlife “Big Fish Award.” Big Fish Awards are given to anglers catching fish exceeding a set length for a particular species. The minimum length for a white bass award is 15 inches.
On March 13, after the north wind blew hard and cold the previous day, making fishing impossible, brothers David and Matthew Macy braved the elements and boated a dozen white bass on Stillhouse Hollow. David and Matthew are the sons of Chief Warrant Officer 4 (CW4) Rob Macy and his wife, Monica. CW4 Macy is currently serving in Afghanistan with the 3-227 Aviation unit.
The Fort Hood S.K.I.F.F. (Soldiers’ Kids Involved in Fishing Fun) program pairs children separated from their parent due to that parent’s military duty with a local fishing guide for a four-hour fishing trip free of charge. The program is sponsored by the Austin Fly Fishers and is intended to show support for the soldier, provide something of worth for the children to look forward to in what is often a difficult time of separation, and give the non-deployed spouse a break from single-parenting. Kids whose parents are away due to deployment, gunnery, NTC or JRTC rotations, military schools, or unaccompanied tours all qualify. Call 254.368.7411 for more information.
A spring break “stay-cation” paid off for the Knight family of Georgetown in a big way. Under damp, dark skies this past Saturday, Jeffrey Knight landed an 8.25 pound yellow catfish on Belton Lake while fishing with his wife, Robyn, 13-year-old daughter Jaelyn, and 10-year-old son Jace. The family caught a “mixed bag” of fish including hybrid striped bass, white bass, freshwater drum and largemouth bass in addition to the big catfish. A combination of slow trolling, slow downrigging, and vertical jigging with slabs was the key to success under these foggy, still conditions. The family also enjoyed other local venues including TopGolf, Austin’s Cathedral of Junk, and indoor skydiving at iFly!