On Monday morning, Rick Hill of Temple and his 13-year-old son, Colton, went fishing together on Stillhouse Hollow Reservoir.
The pair launched from Stillhouse Park, near the only marina on the lake.
Father and son got an early start this particular morning, with first lines in the water by around 5 a.m.
They began probing rocky points using Texas-rigged Berkley Power Worms. After 30 minutes, Colton had picked up a single small largemouth of just 12-13 inches.
Colton, a Bonham Middle School student and athlete, decided to make a change in his presentation, switching out the worm for a jig tipped with a trailer.
Now using a Strike King blue and black half-ounce jig with a Rage Tail Craw in junebug color on 20-pound monofilament, he continued working the same rocky point off which the small largemouth had come.
Colton felt a jolting strike and set the hook on what he knew was a sizeable fish. He immediately called to his father for help with the net, thinking a chunky largemouth was on the other end of the line.
Hill netted the fish for his son and Colton then attended to the fish to get it unhooked. Because it was still dark, Colton did not notice the fish was a smallmouth until he got close and noticed the dark coloration and the vertical bars on the side of the fish.
What Colton thought was a big largemouth was, in fact, a really large smallmouth instead. As father and son compared notes and considered their outsized catch, they thought the fish might be lake record material and, after waiting until the Texas Parks and Wildlife offices in Temple opened, phoned in to inquire about what to do. All the while the fish was kept in good condition in the boat’s livewell.
TPWD referred the pair to me in my capacity as an official TPWD Weigh Station, complete with a certified scale.
As fate would have it, I was on Stillhouse with a guided party just a few miles away. We linked up in order to weigh, measure, and photograph the fish, then release it.
Colton’s smallmouth weighed in at 3.25 pounds and measured 19.125 inches. Under TPWD rules, for a fish to be entered into the catch-and-release category records, it must exceed a minimum length determined on a by-species basis. Colton’s smallmouth eclipsed the 18-inch minimum required for smallmouth bass, thereby clearing the way for his fish to become the Stillhouse lake record smallmouth bass in the Junior Angler catch-and-release category.
An entire set of records is maintained by TPWD for Junior Anglers, defined as those anglers under the age of 17 who are not yet required to have a fishing license.
Stillhouse has a number of open slots in the Junior Angler catch-and-release category for which no fish has ever been entered. For example, no sunfish (minimum 10 inches), no longnose gar (minimum 50 inches), no crappie (minimum 15 inches), nor any channel catfish (minimum 30 inches) have ever been entered in this category.
Colton, who has fished his entire life and who is a two-year member of the Cen-Tex Bass Hunters bass club, said his dream is to go fishing for peacock bass in the Amazon River in South America.