In each of the 14 years I have operated my fishing guide service, the week of our local school districts’ spring break has been the single busiest week of the year.
I typically book two trips each day, Monday through Saturday, then weather determines if I am able to actually conduct each of those trips.
This year was no exception to the bookings, but weather impacted last week to a greater extent than in any of the years past. We fished in light fog and drizzle on Monday morning, light fog on Monday afternoon, heavy fog on Tuesday morning, had high winds and rain on Wednesday, and then had a significant drop in temperatures thanks to two cold fronts coming through in rapid succession late in the week.
When weather is so unstable, and especially when the air temperature drops significantly, fishing gets tough and typically happens in spurts instead of being consistent.
Nonetheless, a number of Central Texas families took to the water and enjoyed whatever our local reservoirs provided. From crappie to black bass, from hybrid stripers to drum, and from white bass to blue catfish, vertical jigging did the trick this week for fish which are still in deep water thanks to the still-chilly water conditions.Belton and Stillhouse Hollow surface temperatures ranged between 54 to 57 degrees last week.
STEVE WEBB, HEIGHTS MULTISPECIES ANGLER
On Monday morning, I welcomed aboard Steve Webb of Harker Heights. Webb is a longtime employee at McLane’s in Temple and fishes with his wife, Bo, and daughter, Bailey, every chance he gets. Both were to accompany him Monday but fell ill, so, come 7:45 a.m., it was just Webb and me aboard.
Webb appreciates the role well-tuned sonar plays in successful angling, and so as we fished we got to compare notes on the use of sonar, shared some tricks of the trade when it comes to Humminbird units (Webb uses a Humminbird Helix), and, I got to introduce him to the Garmin LiveScope technology.
During our four-plus hours on Stillhouse, we landed 71 fish. We really had to work for them in the first three hours, but, as the skies brightened through the fog (though still quite foggy), the fish turned on and we sat along a breakline parallel to the Lampasas River channel and picked off fish after fish as we worked our slabs precisely as allowed for by the LiveScope technology.
BRIAN HOUSE AND THE KIDS
On Tuesday morning, and in an even heavier fog than we endured Monday, I met up with Brian House of Harker Heights, his son, David, his daughter, Claudia, and Isabella Hagains of Killeen, a friend of Claudia’s. All three kids are students at Saint Joseph’s Catholic School in Killeen.
The heaviest fog cleared slightly during our first hour on Stillhouse Hollow, allowing for about three-quarters of a mile of visibility. We did a bit of flatline trolling to see if the slow warmup we had enjoyed since the previous Wednesday had brought fish any shallower, but results were scant.
We moved out to deeper water and I brought everyone up to speed on how to use the snap-jigging tactic effectively. We had limited success at two areas and moved to a third area — the deepest we would fish — and found what we were after.
The sonar screen just came alive with fish which were heavily congregated together in about 38 feet of water and on a sloped segment of bottom. I could tell by the posture these fish appeared in that they would not require the slow snap-jigging method we had been using, but would instead respond to a faster tactic which I refer to as “smoking.”
Indeed, as soon as my four anglers’ baits touched bottom and they began using this smoking tactic, the fish started coming over the side of the boat. The bite went soft one time thanks to a cessation in the wind for about 25 minutes, but once the wind returned, the bite fired right back up again. When noon rolled around, we had managed a total of 77 fish, including a 4.25-pound freshwater drum landed by David House.
THREE GENERATIONS OF HANLONS
After losing Tuesday afternoon and all of Wednesday to weather, I met up with the Hanlon family of Temple on Thursday morning. Aboard were Stephen Hanlon, his adult son, Tavish Hanlon, and Tavish’s 9-year-old son, Conner Hanlon.
We had a tough go of it after experiencing two cold fronts come and go in under 24 hours, leaving clear, bright skies and high winds in their wake.
Although our tally was only 13 fish on that morning, everyone enjoyed the time on the water, and Conner took a few more steps forward toward becoming the marine biologist he envisions becoming thanks to his onboard experience.
Once again, the go-to tactic was snap-jigging with small slabs, although before the wind came up and while the light level was still low, we were able to pick up two white bass and a single largemouth in under 17 feet of water by casting Cicada bladebaits.
WELCH CREW FROM COPPERAS COVE
As the week wound down, the weather moderated a bit. After treating a Houston family of five to a 34-fish outing on Thursday afternoon, I stayed off the water to avoid the clear, windy, cold conditions forecast for Friday morning, then got back on the water on Friday afternoon as more comfortable temperatures, a lighter, more easterly breeze, and most importantly, some cloud cover, all moved in.
Joining me on Belton Lake were brothers Josh and Steven Welch, and their mom, Carol Welch.
We once again used snap-jigging and a slow version of the smoking tactic in combination with the Garmin LiveScope technology to put a total of 55 fish in the boat before they quit biting right around 6:50 p.m.
As I came off Belton Lake, the surface temperature was still only 57.7 which is pretty cool for this time of year. The best of our spring fishing definitely still lies ahead, barring major flooding.