According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ (USACE) Fort Worth District website, as of June 3, Belton Lake was 21.91 feet above full pool and still rising. Stillhouse Hollow Reservoir stood at 18.58 feet above full pool and was slowly dropping.
Given that water can be released at no more than 10,000 cubic feet per second into the Little River below Belton and Stillhouse, it is clear that our local reservoirs will remain in a flooded state for several months.
Faced with this fact, I began exploring local options to keep my fishing guide business in operation through these next few months as Belton and Stillhouse slowly return to normal.
WALTER E. LONG RESERVOIR
Located between Decker Lane and Toll Road 130, near the Austin-Bergstrom Airport, lies Walter E. Long Reservoir, formerly known as Decker Lake. Despite its urban setting, this lake produces high numbers of quality largemouth bass, thanks, in part, to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s management of this lake as a “slot lake.”
At Walter E. Long, bass between 14 and 21 inches must be released.
The lake has a variety of forms of cover available to its cover-loving largemouth bass, including many acres of cattails extending out from the shoreline into 2-to-4 feet of water, a variety of submerged aquatic plant life, rip-rap covering the face of the dam, borrow pits and spoil piles out in deeper water, a hot-water discharge canal leading from the electricity-generating operation on the lake, and a bit of submerged wood and man-made cover, as well.
As I interviewed local anglers there this last week, a common complaint about this lake was that it was subject to closure without notice, especially on the weekends. I investigated this with the Austin Parks and Recreation Department and found this was not the case. Rather, anytime the lake would be closed to the general public (for a triathlon, for example), the APRD is required to provide notice in the form of signs posted at the lake a minimum of two weeks in advance. Further, anglers can check on access status by phoning 512-927-8363 Monday through Friday between 6:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. Normally, the lake’s gates open at 5 a.m. Admission costs $5 Monday through Thursday, and $10 Friday through Sunday.
According to the Texas Parks and Wildlife’s website, Lake Georgetown covers 1,297 acres (compared to 6,429 acres for Stillhouse and 12,385 acres for Belton).
Currently, the lake is 11.77 feet above full pool. As I scouted this lake this past Thursday, I spoke with USACE gate attendants at each of the three parks that maintain boat ramps, including Cedar Breaks Park, Jim Hogg Park, and Russell Park.
They all indicated that due to the closure of so many other lakes, Georgetown is seeing higher than normal use right now. According to USACE policy there, once the parking lots are full, no further admission is permitted. On busy weekends, anglers will do well to arrive early in the morning to avoid being shut out. Typically, Cedar Breaks is the first park to fill up, followed by Jim Hogg, with Russell Park, which is farthest from Georgetown and Interstate 35, being the last to fill up.
During my reconnaissance, I noted that despite the high water, the water was still clear and green, although the waters adjacent to Russell Park, which is farthest upstream, had much floating debris in it.
Georgetown is not known for its largemouth bass fishery, primarily because greatly fluctuating lake levels and a lack of aquatic vegetation do not provide ideal cover and habitat for this species. The lake does have a solid population of white bass and has been stocked heavily and consistently with hybrid striped bass.
BELTON PARK AT BELTON LAKE
As USACE Belton/Stillhouse Lake Manager Ronnie Bruggman mentioned in his interview in last week’s “Guide Lines” column, boaters may launch off of the concrete road that leads from the parking lot to the inundated boat ramp at Belton Park, located between Frank’s Marina and the Dead Fish Grill off of FM 439.
I used this ramp this past Friday and will warn readers that they need to be very capable of backing a trailer a long distance (approximately 60 yards) and around a gentle curve in order to take advantage of this lone public access point on Lake Belton.
Once a boat is launched, there is limited room to beach the boat while going to park a tow vehicle. Doing this with a partner is highly recommended. Also, be prepared for a long, uphill hike to retrieve your tow vehicle as you prepare to depart. On weekends, there will, no doubt, be a bottleneck here.
Despite the flooding, fish are still quite catchable on Belton. On Friday, I guided 9-year-old Ethan Munoz, of West Fort Hood, to a 27-fish day, which included white bass, hybrid striped bass, largemouth bass, blue catfish, bluegill sunfish, green sunfish, longear sunfish, freshwater drum, and blacktail shiners.