Outdoors: White bass coming soon to a river near you
There aren’t many things that make me happy to wake up for at 4 a.m., but fishing is one of them, and with conditions improving as Central Texas sets up for the spring spawning seasons, I imagine the lines at local donut shops will be getting crowded a lot earlier.
Warming temperatures and the promise of much-needed rainfall in the forecast are key ingredients to turning on the spawn. We’re still significantly short in terms of overall rainfall, but as things fall into place for the white bass, crappie, largemouth bass, and striper spawns, a little infusion of rain might be enough to get things going.
Lake Waco is currently more than 4 feet below normal level, and a lot of areas where we’d normally find largemouth bass and crappie setting up beds are not even under water. If you fished the lake before the 7-foot pool rise in 2003, you can probably fall back to some of your old honey holes to find good fishing.
The white bass spawning run typically moves northward from the coastal region during February, and some good reports from Austin-area anglers last week, along with the beginnings of positive signs around Centex streams, indicate that Waco is next in line.
White bass, or sand bass, usually move from the main bodies of lakes to stage up at the mouths of tributaries before heading upstream to do their business, and males are the first to make the journey. Then, the larger, egg-laden females will follow, but factors like water temperature, stream flow, and others can affect whether or not eggs are dropped and fertilized upstream.
A number of sand bass never make the pilgrimage, opting instead to stay in the main lake and do their baby-making on sandy or rocky wind-blown points and other areas with water movement. Eggs have to stay suspended or they risk sinking to the bottom and becoming covered with silt and dying.
If you’re fishing a river or creek, look for places where the river channel cuts to the bank, where gravel bars build up and drop off, and other deep-water holes. Fish tend to school up near the bottom in channels adjacent to gravel bars and sand flats, so getting your bait down to the sweet zone will yield more bites.
Best bets for bait include ghost minnows (bait shop minnows will work, too), small jigs and spinnerbaits, tied flies, and suspending crankbaits. Keepers must be a minimum of 10 inches, and 25 fish per day per angler is the limit.
Also, make sure you can tell the difference between a big sand bass and a small hybrid-striped bass, because there’s a different size and bag limit on those. White bass have a single tooth patch on their tongues, while hybrids have two. The game warden knows the difference, and you should, too.
The Ivie itch
I don’t know who O. H. Ivie Reservoir is named after, but I imagine he’s a lot more famous now than he was when he was alive.
The little lake that’s located between here and San Angelo has, in recent years, become a major player in the Lone Star State’s big bass game. Last week alone, the lake yielded three ShareLunker bass on consecutive days. ShareLunkers are largemouth bass weighing in excess of 13 pounds.
The largest of those fish weighed 17.06 pounds, and is among the top 10 all-time big bass caught in Texas. So many fish have been entered into the TPWD’s breeding/stocking program from O. H. Ivie that they’re just releasing any more fish from there back into the lake. That’s a good problem for a lake to have.
The spawning collection season continues through the end of March. Lake Waco’s one and only ShareLunker entry was caught nearly 14 years ago by Ricky Culverhouse. His 13.87-pounder was donated to the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center for spawning, then returned to the lake to live out the rest of its days.
Ukraine on my mind
There’s a lot of bad news going on around the world, and whenever times like these come along, if I’m fortunate enough to be out of the direct line of trouble, I do something in honor of those who aren’t so lucky.
At the risk of sounding callous, I’m going fishing this weekend. There are millions of people living through a tyrant’s attack in Europe who don’t have that luxury. If it was me in their position, I’d be glad to know that somebody, somewhere, was enjoying a day doing something they love.
Free fishing in Texas
I hope everybody helps me celebrate my birthday this year by taking part in the Texas Free Fishing Day on June 5. Both freshwater and saltwater fishing will be open to all, and it’s hoped that experienced anglers will take advantage of the free day to introduce others of all ages to the sport.
It’s hoped that a good day of fishing will translate to more people taking part in the sport on a regular basis, and a Year-from-Purchase All-Water Fishing Package would be a great way to end that day. This freshwater/saltwater option is valid from the date of purchase through the calendar year.
Also know that kids 16 and younger can fish for free year-round in Texas waters, and fishing in Texas State Park waters doesn’t require a license for anyone. Size and bag limits still apply.
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