Bob Maindelle Guide Lines Nov. 4

Jerry Blalack, a Harker Heights retiree, holds one of the last Belton Lake hybrid striped bass landed prior to the massive changes brought on by recent flooding and cooler temperatures. The accompanying article suggests how anglers may make the most of the flood-imposed downtime. 

If you know your Scripture, you will recall that even before “The Fall,” Adam had work to do; work was

not a punishment. I believe people have a basic need to work.

Since retiring to run my fishing guide service several years ago, fishing has become my work. Not working as a result of the recent flooding forcing closure of most ramps on our area lakes, I feel, is not healthy for me and is therefore not an option for me.

The need to work, therefore, has led me to discovery of several things as I intentionally plan to engage my mind and hands each day.

DISCOVERY OF NEW FISHERIES

Although the lion’s share of the fishing trips I conduct with clients on board take place on Belton and Stillhouse Hollow lakes, our current flooding situation has goaded me into discovering and fishing new bodies of water or new segments of water which time, budget and my fishing-for-hire schedule made me hesitant to do.

For example, last week I fished Lake Georgetown. Although I have fished Georgetown before, I’ve never taken the time to map it thoroughly. It took me under 40 minutes from the outskirts of Harker Heights to drive to this lake which feels a lot like a miniature version of Stillhouse. I launched out of the Cedar Breaks Park operated by the Corps of Engineers on Monday evening.

Georgetown was 7.7 feet above full pool, but not flooded to the point where access has been prohibited.

On this trip I took a leisurely pace and spent time simply graphing the bottom of the reservoir, marking waypoints and identifying potential fish-holding areas for the future. On this evening, I saw only two other boats on the water.

I found schools of shad suspended around 30 feet and caught white bass from near this bait using vertical jigging tactics on parts of the lake I had never explored before.

Walter E. Long Reservoir near the Austin-Bergstrom Airport in Austin, Lake Bastrop near Bastrop, Fayette County Reservoir between La Grange and Fayetteville, and Granger Lake near Granger are all currently open to anglers willing to expand their repertoire while our local lakes remain off-limits.

If time does not allow for actually visiting these more distant locations, simply poring over the topography maps built into the chartplotter portion of your sonar unit can reveal new fishing locations on any body of water you choose to study.

For those not insisting on fishing from a high-powered bass rig, some smaller waters most in Central Texas have likely never heard of also await discovery. Places like Bullfrog Pond, Kingfisher Lake and Tadpole Pond in Travis County and places like Devine Lake, the Vizcaya Ponds, and Lakewood Lake in Williamson County are but a few locations open to shore- and light craft anglers.

DISCOVERY OF YOUR ELECTRONICS

In addition to guiding, this season alone I conducted 55 on-the-water sonar training sessions for anglers of all skill levels, thus introducing them to their own sonar units.

Most anglers tend to be impatient, especially when it comes to using new “toys.” Few sonar owners bother to read even the “quick-start guide,” and next to none read the full owner’s manual which gets into the nitty-gritty of the many menus and sub-menus found on today’s modern units.

Taking a Saturday morning off the water to sit in your boat while parked in your driveway with your sonar unit in demo-mode while reading through the owner’s manual and pushing buttons to see how they impact your on-screen view can be enlightening.

So if, like most anglers, you do not know what “CHIRP” stands for, if you do not know how to edit a waypoint, adjust your clock for daylight saving time, change the color of a trail, waypoint or track, or select a specific frequency band for your side-imaging, you are probably among those who would benefit from taking a “breather” off the water while things settle down from the recent flooding so as to return to the water better prepared for the time you invest now in getting to know your unit.

PREVENTIVE MAINTENANCE

Even if all of our ramps on all of our Central Texas lakes were open right now, fishing would still be difficult. Not only did a massive amount of water come into our reservoirs, but the water temperature dropped rapidly from the high 70’s down to the high 60’s in under a week.

Additionally, a substantial, abnormal current is now flowing through Belton and Stillhouse as the Corps of Engineers tries to release waters downstream as quickly as is safely possible.

Why not use this time to pay some attention to your boat, motor, and tackle so when things return to normal, you are not hindered by preventable delays?

Here are some things to think about: How old are your batteries, and have you checked the fluid levels in them lately? Is there corrosion of any sort on the terminals which could use some wire-brushing and some dielectric compound applied?

What about your boat trailer? When is the last time you had your bearings repacked with fresh marine grease, checked the air pressure in your spare tire or replaced your frayed winch strap?

And your outboard motor? A new set of spark plugs and an impeller will help you get longer life out of your motor, not to mention dosing your fuel tank with some ethanol-fighting chemistry, especially if your boat is going to be sitting unused for a spell.

As for your tackle, are your reels in need of some attention? Have you been itching to try to replace your bearings with some of the long-casting aftermarket bearings now available? Does the last 20 feet of the braided line on your reel look like recycled dental floss?

The list goes on; hopefully you are chuckling by now and the point has been made.

Discovering these issues now will help you make the most of whatever fishing we may still get in before year’s end.

DISCOVERING REALITY

The reality of this most recent round of flooding is that we are going to have limited boat access to Belton and Stillhouse for a while.

Let’s do the math. Belton has been letting water out at nearly 4,000 cubic feet per second all week. A day’s worth of this kind of discharge is now getting us a drop of about 3 inches of water daily. Belton ramps may reopen when the water drops another 3.6 feet to 605 feet above mean sea level. At three inches per day, that is another two-plus weeks of waiting, not including the time it would take for the roads to dry sufficiently to support vehicle traffic.

More rain means more delays, and, although other variables are certainly in play than those in my oversimplified example, the bottom line is that we all have some time on our hands to do some discovering of our own.

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