Bob Maindelle Guide Lines May 8

From left, Aiden, Aaron, and Eliza Hall, of Belton, cashed in last week on the peak annual hybrid striped bass fishing which takes place from late March to late May each year.  Aiden captured this 3.25-pound, 19-inch hybrid striped bass using a live shad fished near the bottom in 49 feet of water.

There comes a time each spring when lengthening days, rising water temperature and increasing fish metabolism all translate into incredibly productive and consistent fishing for both quality fish and high quantities of fish on Lake Belton.

This window of opportunity usually runs from the last week of March through the third or fourth week of May. The more quickly the water warms to the point of stratifying, the sooner this consistent bite will end.

Thanks to this week’s cool overnight and early morning temperatures, we should enjoy at least two more weeks of this solid fishing.

Of the roughly 185 guided fishing trips I conduct each year, about 70 percent include at least one child. Based on this experience, I find that this seven- to eight-week window is ideal for introducing youth aged 10 and older to the sport of fishing.

Because the fishes’ rising metabolism drives fish to feed frequently and heavily, factors that turn fish off during the consistently hot and consistently cold parts of the year (such as winds from the north or east, passage of cold fronts, calm conditions, bright conditions, and rapidly rising or falling water) do not impact fish behavior near as drastically at this time of year.

Adults wishing to introduce youngsters to the sport can expect positive results more so now than at any other period in the annual cycle.

A case in point: This past Thursday morning I welcomed Aaron Hall of Belton and his two children, 10-year-old Aiden Hall, and 8-year-old Eliza Hall, aboard my boat. As Aaron put it, his crew was “… low on experience, and high on enthusiasm.” Aaron had only once before taken the kids out to fish off of a dock during which time the kids caught but a few small fish.

Within 20 minutes of launching we were hovering over top of a concentration of fish in 52 feet of water. So as not to disturb these fish, which were holding within four feet of the bottom, I used the GPS-guided i-Pilot feature of my trolling motor to stay in place versus letting down an anchor and risking disturbing these fish.

I supplied all of the gear for this trip, both fishing gear and safety-related gear, and first showed the kids how to use it, then had them show me they understood how to use it. With that addressed, we baited the circle hooks I use with live shad I had caught with a castnet much earlier in the morning.

All three of my guests let their live baits down toward the bottom, keeping them off bottom just enough to allow the fish to see them well. Our first strike came within minutes. Eliza was literally squealing with excitement when the tip of her rod was buried down beneath the surface of the water and the audible bait clicker on her reel sounded off. A hybrid striped bass had latched onto her shad and was trying to swim off with it.

Aided by her dad, Eliza battled the hybrid to the boat and stopped reeling with about 2 feet of line between the rod tip and the weight that took her bait to the bottom. This allowed me to slide the net under her prize.

Loud cheers broke out, cameras clicked, kids smiled and lasting memories were made right there and then.

Over the course of the four-hour trip, this scenario would be repeated a total of 35 times, as all three guests caught white bass, hybrid striped bass, blue catfish and even a smallmouth bass on the lively threadfin shad we used for bait. Several of the hybrid exceeded 3 pounds.

Results like this can be expected for older kids through the end of May. For those children under 10 years of age, the best fishing is yet to come. In June and July, as the water continues to warm and the hydrilla begins to grow on Stillhouse Hollow Reservoir, the sunfish bite will kick in, providing instant gratification for those younger kids with shorter attention spans and more limited manual dexterity.

Add to that some early morning topwater action and some consistent downrigging action for white bass, and you have sufficient variety to interest young children for all or most of a four-hour excursion.

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