My cellphone rang around 2 p.m. last Sunday. On the other end of the line was an excited Killeen native, Trey Goodnight, son of Weldon Goodnight Jr., and grandson of Weldon Goodnight Sr.
While fishing Stillhouse Hollow Lake with two of his friends, Spencer Arredondo and Preston Ellis, the men detected a concentration on crappie holding amid the limbs of a submerged tree in deep water while using their Humminbird sonar in down-imaging and side-imaging modes.
The crappie were all suspended about 15 feet beneath the surface in deeper water.
Armed with spinning rods and reels, the three friends went to work using sensitive braided line to detect the often-subtle strikes crappie yield as they remain motionless and open their mouths while flaring their gills, thus producing a vacuum capable of moving a baitfish or jig backward into their mouths.
Goodnight, the superintendent of Weldon Goodnight Construction, said, “I was ecstatic when I saw this crappie come to the surface of the water.”
He had good reason to be excited. All three friends suspected the fish had recordbook potential.
Arredondo, CEO of Americlean Carpets, and Ellis, part owner in Ellis Air, had the presence of mind to suggest Goodnight phone me to assist in weighing, measuring and witnessing the catch of the outsized crappie.
We met at one of the courtesy docks on Stillhouse where, on a certified scale, the fish registered 2.25 pounds and measured 15.02 inches in length.
Based on those statistics, the fish is pending as both the Stillhouse catch-and-release record for black crappie, and because we took the extra step of weighing it, will also eclipse the current rod and reel category record black crappie which was caught in 2005, weighing 1.46 pounds, and measuring 14.0 inches.
Goodnight, Arredondo and Ellis fished just two areas during their time on the water Sunday. The first gave up the record fish, as well as five other fish, in about 90 minutes of effort. The second area gave up eight more fish in about an hour of effort. All 14 fish were of legal (10-inch minimum) length.
Goodnight’s presentation consisted of a 1/16-oz. Strike King Mr. Crappie crappie jig in “Crappie Thunder” color, which is a combination of “junebug purple” and chartreuse. The jig is a soft plastic jig with a solid body and a skirted tail.
Goodnight said they used the jigs both bare and tipped with minnows. The minnow-tipped jigs produced about 60% of their fish.
The three men have been friends since their high school days. Goodnight attributed his interest in fishing starting with his introduction to the sport by his father and grandfather as they made spring pilgrimages to Lemon’s Fishing Camp on the Colorado River (now known as Colorado Bend State Park) to fish for white bass and crappie.
The next day, I received a call from Killeen resident Taji Johnson.
Johnson is on active duty with the U.S. Army stationed at Fort Hood and is assigned to an air defense artillery unit.
Johnson and I first met when he hired me to provide him with sonar training several years ago.
On this day, he was fishing with a friend, retired Command Sgt. Maj Lee Walker, also a Killeen resident.
The two first became acquainted through a fishing app called “Fishbrain” back in 2016, just before Johnson deployed to southwest Asia. Following his return, the two made arrangements to meet in person. Johnson endeavored to help Walker learn about crappie fishing, while Walker endeavored to help Johnson learn about white bass fishing.
The two men took to Belton Lake on a damp, cool day with a mild cold front easing its way into Central Texas from the northwest.
Before the afternoon rains began, the two enjoyed success as they looked for fish-holding cover in 15 to 25 feet using side-imaging.
Once they found cover with potential, they moved atop it, used their Minn Kota trolling motor to Spot-Lock on it, and fished vertically with the aid of Garmin LiveScope.
Johnson was using a Bobby Garland crappie jig with a black belly and chartreuse top on a ¼-oz. jighead tipped with Berkley PowerBait Crappie Nibbles in chartreuse color.
Johnson spotted a large, single fish holding right on top of a branch directly beneath the boat while viewing with Garmin LiveScope. He lowered the jig, jigged it a few times to get the fish’s attention and then held the jig still. The large crappie mouthed the bait, providing enough sensation for Johnson to react to. He set the hook, fought and landed a 15-inch white crappie.
Doubting that the crappie would beat the rod and reel category (which applies to both kept fish and caught-and-released fish) white crappie record which measured 16.50 inches and weighed 2.34 pounds, Johnson opted to enter the fish in the catch-and-release-only category.
The minimum size for such an entry is 15 inches, and no prior entries in that category had been made.
Walker served as a witness both to the measurement and to the live release of the fish.
Johnson and Walker landed nine other fish, all of legal size, during their outing before being forced off the lake by intensifying rains.
Johnson was first introduced to fishing by his grandfather on his mom’s side, who resided in Riesel.