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Contents Acknowledgements Introduction Texas Waters and Fishing Chapter 1: Notes on Means and Methods Sidebar: Fishing with Carrots Sidebar: It’s Stupid and Illegal Notes on Boats Chapter 2: Fresh Water Major Rivers Brazos Canadian Colorado Guadalupe Sidebar: Texas Water Safari Neches Nueces Sidebar: Mosquitoes Suck Pecos Sidebar: Hire a Guide Red Sidebar: The Caddo Lake Pearl Rush of 1909 Rio Grande Sabine San Antonio Sidebar: Woman Hollering Creek San Jacinto Trinity Sidebar: Remember Kids, Don’t Make Deals with Catfish Major Lakes Sidebar: Amistad, Then and Now Sidebar: Concho Pearl Sidebar: The Creature from Lake Worth Chapter 3: Freshwater Species Black Bass Largemouth Sidebar: Budweiser ShareLunker Program Smallmouth Spotted Sidebar: Calling all Fish Guadalupe True Bass White Yellow Striped Sidebar: Yeah, But it was a Mean Snake
Hybrid Catfish & Bullheads Blue Sidebar: The Life and Times of Splash the Catfish Channel Flathead Sidebar: Freshwater Man-Eaters Black bullhead Yellow bullhead Crappie Black White Sidebar: Watching Fish with Nuclear Physicist Sunfishes Bluegill Green Sunfish Sidebar: Bringing Home the Shell Longear Sunfish Redbreast Sunfish Redear Warmouth Sidebar: The Asia Turtle Trade in Texas Carp & Suckers Common Carp Mirrrror Carp Leather Carp Bigmouth Buffalo Smallmouth Buffalo Sidebar: Progress and Caviar Gar Alligator Longnose Sidebar: Taxidermy Shortnose Spotted Other Fish Bowfin Sidebar: Exotic Fish Chain Pickerel Freshwater Drum Freshwater Red Drum Rainbow Trout Sidebar: Gig ‘em (frogs not Aggies) Rio Grande cichlid (perch) Tilapia Blue
Red Mozambique Walleye Chapter 4: Saltwater Bays and Gulf Sabine Lake Sidebar: Gray Moby Galveston Bay Sidebar: Ghost Aquarium Matagorda Bay Sidebar: From Here to There San Antonio Bay Sidebar: Texas Seals Aransas Bay Corpus Christi Bay Sidebar: Forgotten Leviathans Laguna Madre Baffin Bay Gulf of Mexico Chapter 5: Saltwater Species Coastal Bay and close to shore Atlantic Cutlassfish Atlantic Spadefish Sidebar: Fish Stink Atlantic Stingray Sidebar: Wallets from the Sea Bermuda Chub Bonefish Bluefish Catfish Gafftopsail Hardhead Cownose Ray Sidebar: Burn, Baby Burn Croaker Atlantic Spot Sidebar: The Eyes Have It Drum Red Black Florida Pompano Jacks Blue Runner Crevalle
Horse-eye Ladyfish Lesser Electric Ray Pigfish Pinfish Seatrout Sand Silver Spotted Sheepshead Snook Southern Flounder Striped Bass Tarpon Whiting Southern King Gulf King Open Water Barracuda Bonito Atlantic Little Tunny Sidebar: Whales and Dolphins of Texas Cobia Dolphin or Mahi-Mahi, Dorado Grouper Gag Jewfish Nassau Rock Hind Scamp Warsaw Sidebar: Only a Phone Call Away Mackerel Cero King Spanish Sidebar: Green in the Gills Marlin Blue White Rainbow Runner Sailfish Shark Atlantic Sharpnose Blacktip
Bonnethead Bull Sidebar: Shark Attack Great Hammerhead Lemon Shortfin Mako Tiger Snapper Dog Gray Lane Mutton Red Vermilion Yellowtail Swordfish Trippletail Tuna Blackfin Bluefin YellowFin Wahoo Chapter 6: Clothing and Equipment Clothing Footwear Scales and Measures Nets and Gaffs Pliers and Dehookers Knives Waterproof Cases & Dry Bags Binoculars Angler’s List Chapter 7: Private Lakes and Resorts Chapter 8: Organizations Chapter 9: Manufacturers
Acknowledgements This is the page no author looks forward to writing. For it is the page where the author thanks many people without trying to offend the few an almost impossible task. Also, it’s not a very exciting page to write. In an attempt to make this as painless as possible, I have decided to simply shoot out my acknowledgements bullet style with short and to the point affirmations. That said, here we go: My biggest thanks goes to Karen, my wife. Thank you for everything. I love you. Thanks to John M. Hardy, Karen Boudreaux, Roy Hamric and Chris Ruggia for putting this labor of love together. Thanks to Mike Schoby at Gander Mountain for his continued guidance and support. Thanks to Chuck Wechsler at Sporting Classics and Under Wild Skies for his unwavering mentorship and patience. Thanks to Doug Howlett at Southern Sporting Journal. Thanks to John Tarranto and Brian Lynn at Outdoor Life. Thanks to Richard Sanders at Russell Moccasins and Walden Bork; Jessica Dant at J.L. Powell; Thomas Bouthillier at Strong Case; Jin Laxmidas at TAG Safari; Eddie Stevensen at Remington; Richard Gilligan at Meopta; Reed Berry at TZ Case; Jeff Wemmer at Texas Hunt Co.; Dick Williams at Surefire; Jim Markel at Red Oxx; and Chris Cashbaugh at SOG Knives for your generous support. Thanks to Neal Coldwell and Jerry Hammack of Neal Coldwell Taxidermy. Thanks to Garry Wright of Garry Wright Safaris. Thanks to Maria Ramos and the rest of the staff at the Fredericksburg Public Library. Thanks to Joel O’Shoney of PakMail Taylor Thanks to Avery Crowe and the rest of her family. Thanks to Champe Carter at Champe Jenning’s Jewelry. Thanks to my fellow members of the Alter Stoltz Society. A very special thanks to Roger Willoughby at Abercrombie & Fitch for showing me that this could be done. And thanks to many, many people I’ve failed to list here. Gayne C. Young Fredericksburg, Texas, 2008
Introduction Despite the dry, desert images many outsiders often associate with Texas, the state actually has a wealth of water. By the numbers, Texas has: •Almost 2 million acres of impounded water¬¬––more than any other state. •More than 80,000 miles of flowing water. •More than 3,300 miles of shoreline (including barrier islands). •2.1 million acres of bay fishing. •More private lakes and ponds than any other state. Within this immense watery environment are a host of freshwater and saltwater species unmatched by any other state. Both native and introduced species lure anglers, flyfishers, bowfishers and spearfishers throughout the year in search of food, sport and relaxation. In fact, so many people take to the waters that Texas ranks among the Top 10 in numbers of anglers from outside the state. According to an American Sportfishing Association report, nearly 3 million people fished Texas waters for more than 41 million total fishing days in 2006 (the latest year for available data). The economic impact is staggering. More than $3 billion in retail sales was generated by people fishing in Texas in 2006. This number is doubled to more than $6 billion when factoring in the ripple effect of gas, lodging, etc. Fishing is so popular because it’s fun, relatively inexpensive, relaxing and can put food on the table and in the freezer. Another reason for its popularity has to do with access. The state’s abundance of water ensures that good fishing is close to almost everyone, regardless of where they live. Information on these waters can be found in Chapter 2, which deals with freshwater rivers and lakes, and Chapter 4, which covers saltwater. Profiles of the species that inhabit the state’s waters can be found in Chapters 3 and 5. Other chapters include information on clothing and equipment, private lakes and resorts and organizations formed to promote and protect fishing. Scattered throughout the book are sidebars on history, products, myths and legends. In short, this book is for anyone interested in fishing in Texas, whether a pro or a beginner. The information was compiled from a variety of sources including archives, print and electronic media, interviews with fishing guides, lodge and marina owners, other writers, scientists, naturalists, and state and federal employees. The compilation of facts and opinions provides readers with an overview of fishing in Texas—past and present. This book is by no means the final word on fishing in Texas, nor should it be construed as such. It has always been and remains up to the individual to check with the correct governing bodies for changes in the law regarding fishing and boating. Fish on.
Chapter 1 Notes on Means and Methods There are four basic methods of obtaining fish in Texas: traditional rod and reel, fly fishing, bowfishing and spearfishing. Of these, fishing with some type of rod, be it traditional or fly, is by far the most popular. However, bow fishing and spear fishing continue to grow in popularity. Regardless of the method, all rely on the same basic principal for success; fish must be found before they can be caught or killed. This statement may seem elementary, but as anyone who’s ever fished can explain, this is often easier said than done. A number of factors contribute to where fish live, how they act and how they feed. Some of the more important of these include water clarity, abundance of food and cover, diet, water temperature, barometric pressure and the phase of the moon. Other influencing factors include time of year and the time of spawn. Information on most of these factors can be found in the chapters on freshwater and saltwater fish. In terms of barometric pressure, most fish are active when there are severe dips and rises in pressure such as before and after a storm. The moon influences fishing in that its gravitational pull effects tides and to a lesser degree, barometric pressure. The most successful fishermen are the ones who keep track of all of these factors. The easiest way to do so is with a fishing journal or fishing log. Logs can be as detailed as you like but the following basics should be covered: •Name of the body of water. •Time of year and date. •Weather conditions including temperature, wind direction, sky description (cloudy, clear, etc.) and barometer reading. •Water conditions including clarity and temperature. •Locations fished. •Bait used including type, size, color, presentation, as well as the depth fished at. •Number of fish caught including size and weight, response time and those that got away. Once fish are located a method of capture and or dispatch must be chosen. There is no shortage of information on any of the four methods of fishing used in Texas. Countless books, magazines, pod casts, Web pages, DVDs and TV shows offer instruction and advice on each area. As this book’s main purpose is to serve as a guidebook mainly for species in Texas and the best locations to fish, only the basics will be covered. For more in-depth guidance refer to the above or visit any local sporting goods stores. Even most super-stores, such as Gander Mountain or Bass Pro Shops, employ a knowledgeable staff more than eager to introduce new comers to the sport of fishing. Another option, and one that I wholly recommend, is to hire a local fishing guide. A local guide can teach you about the fish in your area, the best way to catch them and the best equipment to use. In a nutshell, fishing with a rod and reel of any kind involves getting food or something that resembles food in front of a hungry or predatory fish, enticing it to bite, get hooked and then reeling it to the surface. To do this it is important to match the size of the bait, hook, line and rod to the fish you’re trying to catch. While some species may cross over in terms of size and preferred diet, most fishing equipment is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. For example, a basic largemouth bass setup might consist of a 6 to 7- foot rod with matching reel and line rated at
between 6 to 10 (or even as high as 15) pound test. While this setup might work on species such as smallmouth bass and catfish, it wouldn’t last very long against a large alligator gar or shark. Because of personal preferences and the variety of fishing equipment on the market, a “basic setup” could have hundreds if not thousands of variations. Fisherman can choose between traditional rod and reel or fly rod, between a fiberglass or graphite rod. The options continue all the way to the store (which store?) and to the amount of money one wants to spend. While the best advice on equipment comes from experienced fishermen in the area you plan to fish (again, ask a guide), here are some basic standards for the most popular fish in Texas. Freshwater Species: Crappie, bluegill, sunfish and like-size saltwater species Rod:Ultra light spinning action or fly Reel: Open or closed-face spinning or fly Line:4-7 pound Species: Catfish, bullhead, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, white bass and like-size saltwater species Rod: Medium action spinning or bait casting rod Reel: Bait casting, open or closed-face spinning or fly (excluding catfish and bullhead) Line:6-10 pound Species: Carp, striped bass, and like-size saltwater species Rod: Medium to heavy action spinning or bait casting rod Reel: Bait casting, open or closed-face spinning Line:8-20 pound Saltwater Location: From bay to open water (match gear to size of fish being sought) Rod: Medium to heavy action spinning or bait casting Reel Bait casting open face or spinning Line: 18-60 pound monofilament or braided line Location: Open water for big game fish (match gear to size of fish being sought) Rod: 30-50 pound class standup Reel: Lever-drag bait casting, open-face or spinning Line: 100-200 pound monofilament or braided line Note: These are basics derived from interviews with guides, avid fishermen, game wardens and specialty store personal. Personal preferences may differ greatly from the above. The best advice would be to find what you like and stick with it. SIDEBAR: Fishing with Carrots E21’s Carrot Stix LTX represents the latest in cutting edge technology using a newly developed propriety method of integrating Nano level Cellulose Bio-Fibers into our blanks.” Huh? In simple terms, the Carrot Stix line of fishing rods from E21 are made from carrot fibers. Yes, those kind of carrots. These fibers give the rods superior strength over graphite rods with less weight. The rods were designed by Ken Whiting, or, as he’s known in the industry, the Wizard of Rods, and the 37th Bassmaster Classic World Champion, Boyd Duckett. The rods are extremely durable and offer superb control. As Duckett said, “If this wasn’t the sweetest rod I’ve every fished with, it wouldn’t have my name on it.” Carrot Stix rods are not edible.
The next two options for obtaining fish in Texas don’t allow for catch and release. They involve killing the fish outright and those who participate in these sports often compare their mode of fishing with hunting. Bowfishing involves shooting fish (in Texas waters only nongame from the shore or a boat utilizing modified archery equipment. As with angling and fly gear, personal preference dictates equipment choice but most adhere to the following guidelines. Compound or recurve bow with at least a 40-pound pull Heavy fiberglass fishing arrow topped with a barbed fishing point or arrowhead Reel 50 to 400 pound test game fish line Buoy or trailing marker Bowfishing is done during the day with archers wearing polarized glasses to help them see beneath the water’s surface or at night by utilizing bright lights mounted to the bow or boat, or both. Fish are shot with archery gear and then, depending on the size of the fish, either reeled in immediately or left to drag a buoy until it tires and can be landed and dispatched. Bowfishing is more popular in the eastern and southern portion of the state where thousands of pounds of carp and gar are taken annually. The least popular of the four major methods is possibly the most difficult and is more akin to hunting than fishing. Spearfishing involves divers (usually sans SCUBA tank) searching out fish underwater with a gun that propels a metal spear via either rubber elastic bands or compressed air. Guns are made from fiberglass, plastic, wood or metal and may be 2 feet to 6-feet in length depending on the size of the fish being sought. Much like hunters on land, spear fishers often situate themselves in or around underwater debris or weeds or wear camouflage wetsuits to better ambush or approach their prey. Spearfishing is popular in lakes such as Falcon and Possum Kingdom where water clarity is good and far offshore around oil platforms. Spearfishing in Texas is for nongame species only. Texas holds a wealth of fish species and an abundance of places to fish for them. Regardless of the method chosen, there is no shortage of fun to be had. Sidebar: It’s Stupid and Illegal The following “fishing methods”—a term I use for explanation purposes only¬¬––are not only stupid, but they’re illegal. Still, as Texas Game Wardens will attest, there is no shortage of idiots who continue to try them. In Texas, it is illegal to obtain fish by: Explosives ––Throwing dynamite or other explosives on the water’s surface in order to catch fish is about as stupid as it gets. Poison––Again, not really bright. Electricity-producing devices––Using electricity in water. I think I saw a cartoon warning me about the dangers of this when I was young. Snagging––Catching fish with a hook caught anywhere other than the fish’s mouth. Grabbling or noodling––What would possess someone to blindly shove their hand into a hole looking for fish? Not only that, but people who do this want the fish to bite them so they can pull it out. Notes on Boats In Texas, the term “fishing boat” can encompass anything from a kayak to an ocean-going cruiser. Rest assured though, the state of Texas and the Federal Government have a long list of
legal requirements for every type of vessel in this extremely varied realm. Boaters should check, and double check, the laws pertaining to the particular craft they own or are considering to own.
Chapter 1 Fresh Water More than 11,000 named streams and 13 major rivers flow through Texas. Combined, they meander through more than 191,000 miles of Lone Star landscape and feed more than 200 reservoirs. This wealth of water covers almost 7,000 square miles and accounts for more than 7 percent of the United States’ fresh water. But the water that Texans enjoy today is not the same as that first utilized by the earliest inhabitants of the state. Beginning with the Medina River in 1913, all major rivers in Texas have been dammed. While damming forever changed the flow and course of rivers in Texas it also made access to recreational water, in the form of major lakes and reservoirs, more accessible than ever. Dammed or not, rivers in Texas still offer plenty of great angling for a number of species. The major Texas rivers are: Brazos Near Washington the Brazos is “a narrow, shallow river. Its waters are limpid and trees of a prodigious height take root in its bed, stretching out their lordly branches, bower-like, over the current.”––Unknown early Texas settler. Legend has it that the Brazos River was first named El Rio de los Brazos de Dios by Francisco Vázquez de Coronado during his exploration of the Llano Estacado when he and his men were close to death from lack of water. Upon seeing the huge watershed, Coronado exclaimed it was “the river of the arms of God” reaching out to save them from certain death. This legend has also been attributed to stranded sailors searching for fresh water along the Gulf Coast and by Spanish miners in San Saba who found the river a savior much in the same way as Coronado. Legends aside, the Brazos has gone by many names. The river was probably called Tokonohono by Caddo Indians. It was christened Maligne by French explorer René Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle. In 1716, missionaries along its banks referred to it as la Trinidad. Today, the state’s third largest river is simply known as the Brazos. While there are three upper forks to the river (Double Mountain, Salt Fork and Clear Fork) the Brazos proper begins in Stonewall County where the Double Mountain and Salt Fork converge. From this point the river flows southward for 840 miles. During this journey it flows through most vegetation regions of the state, making it truly a “trans-state” river. Historically, the Brazos is important for a number of reasons. It was on the banks of the Brazos, in the small settlement of Washington, that Texas first declared its independence from Mexico. During this time and in the years just prior to the Civil War, the river was an important means of transportation. It was considered “navigable” by larger, commercial boats from the Gulf of Mexico to around Washington, a trip of about 250 miles. During this height of river commerce, the Brazos was still considered a wild and dangerous place. Settlers feared the alligators that could be found in high numbers from the Gulf to as far upriver as Marlin. Likewise many people feared the large alligator gar or “river sharks” as they were known that could often be seen gulping for air on the water’s surface. Although alligators no longer inhabit as much of the river as they once did, alligator gar can still be seen swimming the river in large numbers, some pushing upwards of 200 or more pounds. In 1929, control of the Brazos and its basin went to the newly formed Brazos River Authority which still controls the river and most of the lakes fed from it today. Prior to the damming of a large portion of the river, a young writer named John Graves made a solitary canoe trip along a
long section of the river in the 1950s. His journey was the basis for the classic Texas book, Goodbye to a River, published in 1960. It has never gone out of print. Today the Brazos, like most rivers, is an important source of water for power, irrigation and recreation. Major reservoirs on the Brazos include Possum Kingdom, Lake Granbury, Lake Limestone and Allens Creek Reservoir. The Brazos is host to a number of game fish including striper and several species of bass and catfish. For information on the Brazos River contact: Brazos River Authority P.O. Box 7555 Waco, Texas 76714 254-761-3100 www.brazos.org Canadian The valleys of the [Canadian] river here are variegated, occasionally firm, but often sandy or wettish and in many places drips or small springs ooze from the sandy bluffs, which form perfect quagmires in the valley.----Josiah Gregg, 1840 The river is about half a mile wide, generally shallow, though in some places belly-deep to the mules, and the water deeply tinged with sedimentary matter.---Lt. J.W. Abert, 1845 Carving a deep gorge throughout much of its 190-mile course across the Texas Panhandle, the Canadian River acts as a dividing line by separating the Llano Estacado and the North Texas High Plains. Portions of the Canadian are extremely hazardous due to the steep canyon walls encompassing it and the numerous beds of quicksand that lie within it and along its shores. For these reasons the river has been difficult to bridge even with modern construction techniques. The Canadian provided a livelihood for many ancient cultures beginning with the Pueblo and ending hundreds of years later with the Comanche. The later were driven from the area by early Anglos settlers who systematically destroyed the Comanche’s food source—the bison. The void left by this eradication was quickly filled by ranchers and cattle. Even today, cattle ranching, along with oil and gas production, are the predominant businesses of the area. Today the Canadian is known for its deep, scenic valleys and for Lake Meredith, which sits like an oasis amid the arid Panhandle. For more information on the Canadian River contact: Canadian River Municipal Water Authority P.O. Box 9 Sanford, Texas 79078 806-865-3325 www.crmwa.com Colorado The Rio Colorado is incorrectly named “red stream,” for generally during clear weather, which is very common, its water is of a transparent green and clearer than that of the Rhine. Only after protracted rains does it become somewhat muddy.---Viktor Bracht, 1848 The Colorado is the first of the clear water streams. Its still, lipid, blue-green surface appeared very charming, as the ferry-man slowly pulled us over.---Frederick Law Olmsted, 1854 Like many rivers in Texas, the Colorado has gone through many name changes during its recorded history. The river was probably referred to as Kanahatino by Caddo Indians and as Pashohono by other Indian groups. In 1684, Juan Domínguez de Mendoza and Nicolás López called the river San Clemente. Three years later explorer René Robert Cavalier, Sieur de La
Salle named the river La Sablonniere, French for sand pit The name Colorado, meaning red in Spanish, probably came about as a cartographical error. In 1690, Alonso De León referred to the neighboring Brazos River as the Colorado River during his explorations. Shortly thereafter, as the theory goes, the names of the two rivers were transposed on Spanish maps. What was the Brazos became the Colorado and vice versa. Because of this error, the Colorado was forever known as a “red stream” despite its relatively clear waters. Flowing more than 600 miles from its source in Dawson County to the Gulf of Mexico, the Colorado is the largest river wholly in Texas. During its lengthy course, the river flows through a mixture of high to rolling prairie, rocky bluffs, canyons and Gulf prairie regions. The river is one of the most heavily dammed rivers in the state, and it feeds several large reservoirs including Lake Buchanan, Inks Lake, Johnson Lake and Lake Austin. These “highland lakes” are extremely popular with boaters and anglers alike. The river itself is popular with canoeists, anglers and fly fishers who consider it one of the best rivers to fly fish in the state. For information on the Colorado River contact: Upper Colorado River Authority 512 Orient San Angelo, Texas 76903 325-655-0565 www.ucratx.org Lower Colorado River Authority P.O. Box 220 Austin, Texas 78767 800-776-5272 www.lcra.org Guadalupe I crossed a large river [Guadalupe] and traveled along the hillside, for there was no room between the river and the rocks than a vara [33 inches] in some parts, and in others a vara and a half, and the river close by, which was deep and had a fast flow of water which was never seen in the world.---Jose Mares, 1787 The Guadalupe was even more beautiful here than below, quick and perfectly transparent.--Frederick Law Olmsted, 1854 The Guadalupe River has been known as such since 1689 when Alonso De León first referred to the greenish clear waters as Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, or Our Lady of Guadalupe. Despite later being labeled San Ybón and San Agustín by explorers and colonists, the name Guadalupe stuck and has remained the river’s moniker for more than 300 years. The history of human settlement on the Guadalupe is far older with artifacts collected along the river’s shores dating back to the Archaic period. Centuries later, early Anglo explorers made note of several cultures calling the river home, including the Tonkawa, Waco, Lipan Apache and Karankawa indians. Major Anglo settlements along the river began as early as the 1720’s when several Spanish missions were established in the area. These were followed by more permanent and successful settlements in the 1800’s. Beginning in Kerr County, the Guadalupe River flows 230 miles before entering the Gulf of Mexico at San Antonio Bay. During its course, the river flows through the Hill Country and Coastal Plains vegetation regions.
The Guadalupe is home to a number of summer camps, recreational areas and water parks. It is popular with canoeists, tubing enthusiasts and anglers. The Guadalupe is especially popular with fly fishers who try their hand at Guadalupe bass (the state’s official fish) and stocked trout. For more information contact: Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority 933 East Court Street Seguin, Texas 78155 830-379-5822 Neches We found the Neches to be quite a river; clayey banks and muddy water.---A.A. Parker, 1836 The Neches River begins in Van Zandt County and flows 416 miles southeast before entering Sabine Lake near the city of Port Arthur. The river flows through the Piney Woods and Gulf Coastal Prairie vegetation areas. Its major reservoirs include Lake Palestine and Lake B.A. Steinhagen. Artifacts found along the river identify a number of early inhabitants, the oldest being the 12,000-year-old Clovis culture. The Indian population along the river reached its zenith around A.D. 780 with the arrival of the Caddo Indians. This Early Caddoan Period lasted until around 1260, long before the arrival of the first Anglo settlers in the 16th century. By this time the river was inhabited by members of the Hasinai Indians of the Caddo Confederacy. They referred to the river as Snow River or River of Snows. Decades later, the river was named after the Neches Indians by Alonso De León during his expedition through the region in the 1680’s. Attempts at colonizing the area by the Spanish began years later but none of the attempts were successful for extended periods of time. True settlement of the area by Europeans was accomplished in the 1820’s when settlers from the Southern United States began colonizing the area. This group utilized the river to ship staples such as trade goods, food and cotton to ships in the Gulf via flat bottom barges. During the early 20th century, the Upper Neches became the site of extensive logging. Runoff from this industry when combined with runoff from the lower region’s extensive rice farming and oil refineries led the river to become increasingly polluted. Today several governmental and private organizations are involved in the river’s cleanup. Despite high levels of pollution, portions of the river are still a haven for anglers seeking catfish and largemouth bass. For more information about the river contact: Lower Neches Valley Authority 7850 Eastex Freeway Beaumont, Texas 77708 409-892-4011 Nueces We forded it in very little water but its bed shows how furious its current must be at flood.--Nicolás de Lafora, 1767 The Nueces River was the first river in Texas to be given a place of prominence on a European map. It appeared as Río Escondido, or Hidden River, on a map attributed to Diogo Ribeiro in 1527. Despite this early notoriety, the river wasn’t fully explored until the late 1800’s. During the time in between, the river went through many misidentifications and name changes. In 1685, René Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle sailed up the Nueces believing it to be the Mississippi. Four years later in 1689, Alonso De León marched from Coahuila to find La Salle’s settlement and was so taken by the number of pecan trees on the river that he named (or
renamed) it Río de las Nueces, or River of Nuts. This name stayed until 1691 when Domingo Terán de los Ríos renamed the river San Diego. The Nueces River rises in Real and Edward counties and flows south-southwest for 315 miles before entering Nueces Bay near Corpus Christi. During its course, the river runs through mostly Hill Country and Gulf Coastal Prairies vegetation regions. Major impoundments along the river’s watershed are Choke Canyon Reservoir and Lake Corpus Christi. The Nueces River proper is extremely popular with fly fishers after bass and sunfish. For more information on the river contact: Nueces River Authority First State Bank Bldg, Suite 206 200 E. Nopal P.O. Box 349 Uvalde, Texas 78802-0349 830-278-6810 Sidebar: Mosquitoes Suck Mosquitoes suck. Actually only female mosquitoes suck. They do this because they are hematophagous (Greek for “blood eaters”) and need extra protein to help create and carry eggs. Females extract blood through a long feeding tube with a hollow needle tipped with interlocking mouth parts known as a proboscis. But much like a nurse taking a blood sample, mosquitoes don’t often hit blood on the first attempt. More often than not the female has to saw her proboscis back and forth under the skin in search of a workable pool of blood. Once found, the female will simultaneously suck blood as it also pumps in a type of blood thinner to help the meal flow freely. Most humans are allergic to these thinners and other skeeter drool that cause a reaction in the form of an itchy, raised whelp. Mosquitoes are voracious eaters and often suck two to three times their own weight in blood. That’s tantamount to an average Texan male eating between 400 to 600 pounds of bar-b-que in one sitting—a feat that’s often been attempted in the Lone Star State but never achieved. More than 80 species of mosquitoes are found in Texas and all of them are fond of people fishing. The best ways to combat their incessant attacks are: •Wear light-colored pants and long-sleeved shirts. •Wear mosquito netting over your face in heavily concentrated areas such as marshes and swamps. •Use commercial insect repellent with DEET (N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide). •A fairly new method of avoidance is ThermaCELL’s Mosquito Reellent Appliances. Developed in 2000, these handheld devices utilize a small, butane cartridge to warm a mat thus vaporizing a mosquito repellent. It contains no DEET and yet manages to provide a 15-foot square “mosquito-free zone.” Pecos It [the Pecos River] answered well the description given me by others, and was truly a “rolling mass of red mud”---nothing to indicate its presence but a line of high reeds growing upon its banks.---N. Michler, 1849 Beginning on the western slope of the Santa Fe Mountains in New Mexico, the Pecos River flows more than 900 miles before entering into the Rio Grande just above Lake Amistad in Val Verde County on the Texas-Mexico border. In Texas, the river runs through some of the most
desolate regions in the state. The only relatively large city along the river’s route is Pecos, which harbors less than 20,000 people. Despite this desolation, the river was home to some of the oldest cultures in Texas. The earliest known settlers were the Pecos Pueblo Indians who probably settled the area around 800 A.D. The first Anglo to reach the river was Francisco Vazquez de Coronado who explored the area in 1541. Forty-two years later the river was named Rio de las Vacas (River of Cows) by Antonio de Espejo who found the river heavily populated by bison. The River of Cows was later named Rio Salado or Salt River by Gaspar Castano de Sosa who found the water salty to the taste. This name, combined with the river’s harsh environment, curtailed further exploration for many years to come. Even today the river region is isolated and relatively void of inhabitants. Anglers planning to fish the river’s upper and middle regions should take the appropriate safety measures to insure a safe trip. Those anglers and fly fishers willing to face the hardships of the area are often rewarded with bass, catfish and sunfish. For more information on the river contact: Pecos River Compact Commission P. O. Box 340 Monahans, Texas 79756 432-940-1753 SIDEBAR: Hire a Guide Hiring a fishing guide is a great idea for several reasons. 1.They can offer instruction on a variety of methods of fishing. 2.They generally have great, if not the latest, gear and equipment. 3.They can help you to catch more fish. 4.They can familiarize you with a new fishing environment such as rivers, lakes and the Gulf. 5.Hiring a guide for a half day or one day of fishing is far less expensive than owning and operating your own boat and fishing equipment. 6.Most guides are certified by the United States Coast Guard, know what they’re doing and do it safely. 7.They often clean and package your catch. Red This [Red River] is the most remarkable and decidedly the filthiest river in the world…---Major John Pollard Gaines, 1846 The red man was pressed from this part of the West, He's likely no more to return To the banks of Red River where seldom if ever Their flickering campfires burn.---“Home on the Range,” fourth verse Flowing for more than 640 miles in Texas, the Red River is the second longest river in the state. From its beginnings in Curry County, New Mexico, the river flows from west to east across the width of the panhandle before becoming the Texas-Oklahoma boundary and then the TexasArkansas boundary. During its journey, the river flows through a multitude of vegetation regions, through Palo Duro Canyon, and fills Lake Texoma, the largest reservoir in the state. The river’s name comes from its red-colored water which is due in part to the large quantity of red-colored soil it carries in times of flood. This coloration has apparently always been the case as all of the European explorers who saw the river labeled it “red.” To the Spanish it was Rojo. The French named it Rouge.
The river was first mentioned historically in 1541 when the Coronado Expedition explored the upper reaches of the river as well as Palo Duro and Tule canyons. Despite this early exploration, the river wasn’t fully explored until three centuries later when Randolph Barnes Marcy mapped the river in 1852. Perhaps this lengthy period of exploration was due to the river’s hazardous conditions. Early travelers found the Red’s current extremely variable and difficult to predict. An abundance of quicksand along the river also made travel potentially dangerous, if not disastrous. Also of concern was the river’s high mineral and salt content that limited its usefulness in its upper regions. Today the river is much easier to explore. Anglers fishing the river will find good bass and walleye fishing as well as giant catfish. For more information on the river contact: Red River Authority of Texas P.O. Box 240 Wichita Falls, Texas 76307 940-723-8697 www.rra.dst.tx.us Rio Grande The river itself is here a small turbid stream, with water of a muddy red, but in the season of the rains it is swollen to six times its present breadth, and frequently overflows the banks. It is of fordable depth in almost any part: but, from the constantly shifting quicksand and bars, is always difficult, and often dangerous…---George F. Ruxton, 1846 The latter river [Rio Grande] is a wide, deep and muddy stream, and is destitute of timber---grass very scarce.---William Curless, 1858 Forming the Texas-Mexico border along the southern edge of the state, the Rio Grande is the longest river in Texas. Depending on the method of measurement, the river ranges between 889 to 1,248 miles from its entrance into the state near the city of El Paso until it reaches the Gulf of Mexico. Along the way, the river carves through an extremely varied series of landscapes. In the Big Bend region, the river cuts through desolate canyons of uncompromising beauty, 191 miles of which has been federally designated as the Rio Grande Wild and Scenic River. From there the river continues through several more canyons before filling two large reservoirs: Lake Amistad near Del Rio and Lake Falcon near Zapata. Below this, the landscape along the river opens to tropical valleys and irrigated citrus groves until it enters into the Gulf of Mexico. Historically, the river has gone by many names. The Pueblo Indians referred to it as Posoge or P'Osoge, meaning Big River. In 1540, explorer Hernando de Alvarado called the river Río de Nuestra Señora. In 1568, three stranded British soldiers named it the River of May. In 1581, members of the Agustín Rodríguez expedition called the river Río de Nuestra Señora de la Concepción as well as the Río Guadalquivir. In 1582, an expedition led by Antonio de Espejo referred to the river as both Río del Norte and Río Turbio. But it was Juan de Oñate who, in 1598 upon reaching what would later be El Paso, first referred to the river as Rio Grande, the Big River. This “Big River” has always been an important source of irrigation for both Texas and Mexico. In Texas, the Rio Grande waters an abundance of crops including cotton, peppers, onions, pecans and citrus fruits. The river is also extremely important to the cattle industry. Recreation on certain areas of the river proper is rare due to the remoteness of most sections. Anglers who try their luck on the river will find plenty of bass, gar and catfish.
For more information on the river contact: Lower Rio Grande Valley Development Council 311 N. 15th Street McAllen Texas 78501-4705 956-682-3481 www.rgrwa.org Sabine Its valleys here are marshy and low, and show signs of overflow to the height in many places of ten to twelve feet.---Josiah Gregg, 1841 It is a deep muddy stream, and gentle current.---A.A. Parker, 1836 Forming the eastern border of the state, the Sabine River flows 360 miles from its source in Collin and Hunt counties to the Gulf of Mexico. The Sabine has the largest volume of water at its mouth of all the rivers in Texas. The main reason for this is that, unlike other major rivers in Texas, the Sabine lies in an area of abundant rainfall. The average annual rainfall along the river is between 37 to 50 inches per year. This massive flow of water feeds two of the largest reservoirs in the state: Lake Tawakoni and Toledo Bend Reservoir, which impound 927, 440 and 4,477,000 acre-feet of water respectively. Topography along the river varies from rolling, pine-covered terrain to flat areas of cypress and other hardwoods. In fact, the name Sabine comes from the Spanish word for cypress, Sabinas. These vast forests along the river have been the center of the Texas logging industry since the days of the Republic when downed trees were floated as rafts to waiting ships in Sabine Bay. Cotton and other products were also transported in this manner. Today, logging continues to be an important industry along the river as does oil refining and processing. Anglers who take to the Sabine will find the fishing excellent for bass and catfish. For more information on the river contact: Sabine River Authority P.O. Box 579 Orange Texas, 77631-0579 409-746-2192 www.sra.dst.tx.us San Antonio It [the San Antonio River] flows over a pebbly bed and its waters are remarkably pure and wholesome; such is their transparency that small fish may be seen distinctly at the depth of ten feet.---Francis Moore, 1840 Rising just four miles north of downtown San Antonio, the San Antonio River flows 180 miles before emptying into the Guadalupe River near the town of Tivoli. Although the scene of several battles during the Texas Revolution, the river is most widely known for the San Antonio Riverwalk. This pedestrian river trail, lined with restaurants, shops and hotels, attracts millions of tourists each year to the Alamo City, making it one of the most visited areas in the United States. The San Antonio River is considered by many to be one of the most beautiful rivers in the state. Its spring-fed waters are gin clear and support a wide variety of fish. Due to its rather short course and the fact that a large portion of the river lies in a busy metropolitan area, portions of the river are not widely fished. Anglers who fish south of the city will find a river teaming with bass, tilapia and catfish. The river is also popular with fly fishers. For more information on the river contact:
San Antonio River Authority 100 East Guenther Street San Antonio, Texas 78204 210-227-1373 www.sara-tx.org San Jacinto Its [the San Jacinto] water is remarkably clear and wholesome.---Francis Moore, 1840 At just 85 miles in length, the San Jacinto River is one of the shortest rivers in the state. Because the Houston Ship Channel runs through the river’s lower course, the river is also one of the busiest. Commercial shipping traffic moves along the channel as high as 20 miles above the mouth of the river proper, making this section of the river unsafe and potentially hazardous for recreational use. Recreational use is quite popular above this area as well as on Lake Houston, the river’s largest reservoir. There are two versions of how the San Jacinto River received its name. The first is that the name comes from the Spanish word for hyacinth, which the river may have been choked with upon early exploration. The second version is that the river was “discovered” on St. Hyacinth’s Day, August 17. It’s not known which version is historically correct. The river is most famous as the sight of the Battle of San Jacinto. It was here on April 21, 1836, that Texas forces led by Sam Houston defeated the Mexican Army under the command of General Antonio López de Santa Anna, thus securing Texas’s independence from Mexico. Anglers who take to this rather short river will find bass, catfish, warmouth and bluegill. For more information on the river contact: San Jacinto River Authority P.O. Box 329 Conroe, Texas 77305 936-588-1111 www.sjra.net/index.php Trinity Along the banks of this stream [the Trinity River] there are numerous springs, bubbling up through the snowy sand, and rippling over the beds of white pebbles, till they pour their cold waters into the ample, clear, and deep pools of the main stream.---William T.G. Weaver, 1860 At 550 miles in length, the Trinity River is the longest river entirely in Texas. It also has more large cities and a greater population within its valley than any other river in the state. Major cities within its basin include Arlington, Garland, Irving, Richardson, Plano and Grand Prairie. Runoff from these areas along with industrial pollution has caused the Trinity to become increasingly polluted. The Texas Department of State Health Services has banned consumption of fish in and around some metropolitan areas. The Trinity River rises from three principal branches: the East Fork rising in Grayson County, the Elm Fork rising in Montague County and the West Fork rising in Archer County. The river proper forms a mile west of downtown Dallas. Throughout its course, the river forms a number of large reservoirs including Cedar Creek Reservoir and Richland-Chambers Reservoir. Given its length, high water volume, and the population within its vale, the Trinity was one of the most widely used rivers for transporting goods. As early as 1836, packet boats carried groceries, dry goods, cotton, sugar and cow hides back and forth from the Gulf of Mexico to as high as 50 miles south of Dallas. This shipping of goods fell off during the Civil war and eventually ceased with the completion of the railroads to Dallas in the 1870s.
Today the Trinity is popular with anglers seeking bass and catfish. For more information on the river contact: Trinity River Authority of Texas PO Box 60 Arlington, Texas 76004 817-467-4343 www.trinityra.org Sidebar: Remember Kids, Don’t Make Deals with Catfish The legend is one of unrequited love, selfishness and bargains better left unmade. As the story goes, a young Tonkawan Indian princess named Sirena was deeply in love with a handsome warrior in her tribe. Despite all her hopes, the warrior did not love her, instead seeing her as a foolish girl. After many flirtatious encounters with the warrior failed to change his feelings, Sirena fled to the tranquil banks of Salado Creek where she watched the springs slowly bubble to the surface and the fish swim lazily about the rocks. After months of rejection, Sirena came to realize that the warrior would never love her no matter how hard she tried. She ran to the banks of the river and wept beneath the full moon. Her heavy tears fell on the creek with a rain-like patter, sending out small ripples on the surface. Hearing the young girl’s pain fall upon his home, a giant catfish swam to Sirena’s side and rose high on his tail. Although he frightened the young girl when he spoke, Sirena listened intently to his offer. The catfish swore he could make the warrior love her if she would agree to his one request. In exchange for the young man’s love, Sirena had to come to the creek every full moon for one year. On those nights she would take the form of a mermaid, and she and the catfish would spend the evening swimming together in the pale light.* But if human eyes ever fell on her while she was a mermaid, she would remain one for eternity and forever be by the catfish’s side. Blinded by love, Sirena immediately agreed. The next day, the warrior began his courtship for Sirena and they were soon married. True to her word, every month when the moon was full Sirena snuck out of the village to swim as a mermaid with the giant catfish. On the night of the twelfth full moon Sirena snuck away from her husband’s side to swim with the catfish for the final time. When the moon reached its highest peak, Sirena snagged her tail on a fish hook partially buried in the rocky bottom. She pulled herself from the water to rest on a rock shelf jutting from the center of a deep pool. As she worked to free the hook, her husband awoke to find his bride missing. Looking for her, he quietly slipped through the woods. As he gazed over the pool, he was astonished to see his wife sitting on a rock in the form of a mermaid. Sirena looked up to see her husband staring at her in disbelief just as the giant catfish pulled her beneath the surface of the water…forever. From that sad evening long ago, it is said that Salado Creek has forever flowed with Sirena’s tears. So remember kids, don’t make deals with catfish. *The catfish probably requested something else in the original version, but this is a familyfriendly fishing guide. Major Lakes By definition there is only one “lake” in Texas: Caddo Lake, in East Texas. As a “lake” is a naturally formed body of water (scientifically speaking) the more than 6,700 bodies of
freshwater with a surface area of ten acres or more in the state are actually reservoirs, meaning they were man-made. Caddo Lake’s 26,800 acres is believed to have been formed by an earthquake in 1811 or 1812 or by a major logjam about that same time. Despite the technical terms of lake and reservoir, most large freshwater bodies in the state are colloquially referred to as lakes. There are 212 major lakes (those with a minimum of 5,000 acre-feet capacity) in Texas and together they constitute more than 97 percent of the state’s reservoir storage. While mainly built for water supply and flood control, these reservoirs offer a multitude of recreational uses. Many were also designed with anglers in mind and contain an abundance of habitat for both game and non-game fish. In addition, there are a number of privately owned lakes in the state that offer good fishing and recreation. A list of private lakes is provided at the end of the book. The following is a list of the most popular public fishing lakes in Texas. Lake Abilene City of Abilene 325-676-6217 Closest city: Abilene Acreage: 595 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, channel catfish, blue catfish, white crappie Alan Henry Reservoir City of Lubbock 3096 Lake Alan Henry Road Justiceburg, Texas 79330 806-629-4430 Closest city: Lubbock Acreage: 2,880 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, spotted pass, channel catfish, flathead catfish, white crappie Area guides Lake Alan Henry Fishing Guide Mike Stafford P.O. Box 65175 Lubbock, Texas 79464 806-794-7155 http://lakealanhenryfishing.com Alvarado Park Lake 104 West College Alvarado, Texas 76009 817-790-3351 Closest city: Alvarado Acreage: 437 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, white bass, channel catfish, crappie Amistad HCR #3, Box 37 Del Rio, Texas 78840 830-775-2437 Closest city: Del Rio
Acreage: 64,900 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, Guadalupe bass, catfish, white bass, striped bass Area Guides Herschel Black 315 Fox Drive Del Rio, Texas 78840 830-775-3639 Lake Amistad Guide Service P.O. Box 421072 Del Rio, Texas 78842 830-774-3484 www.amistadguideservice.com Glen McGonagill 205 Jodobo Drive Del Rio, Texas 7884 830-775-6720 Gene Peil HCR 3, Box 25J Del Rio, Texas 78840 830-775-7243 Charlie Rumfield P.O. Box 421072 Del Rio, Texas 78840 830-774-3484 South Texas Fishing Guides 210-213-2534 www.fishingguidesoftexas.com/stfg Sidebar: Amistad: Then and Now Or The Decline of the Male Body My friends and I started going to Lake Amistad near Del Rio right out of college when we were in our early twenties. There were three of us, and we spent mornings spear icing for carp, gar, and tilapia in the crystal blue waters of the lake and our afternoons drinking beer and frying in the semi-tropical sun on the white limestone cliffs above the water. At night, we headed across the border into Ciudad Lacuna, Mexico, for more beer, cheap Mexican food and fun nightlife. After gorging ourselves on all of the above, we’d head back to the lake to sleep on concrete picnic tables until morning when we’d begin the cycle again. This soon became an annual event that took place for half a week every July come rain or shine. After nearly six years, our bodies began to rebel against sleeping on hard concrete, and we turned to a cheap motel that catered to anglers on the far side of the lake. We stayed there for about three years until we decided to move the party into Mexico, and we made the Hotel San Antonio in Lacuna our official get-away home. September 11, 2001, ended our jaunts to Mexico. After the terrorists attacks, crossing back and forth into Mexico became too much of a hassle and too time consuming. We decided to move the tradition back to the States. But our lodging wasn’t the only thing that changed over the years. In the 15 years we had been going to the lake, our threesome became a twosome. My friend Joel and I got married, started a family, and incurred the kind of tremendous debt that goes along with
such things. Finding the time and the money to go to Amsted became harder and harder each year. Still, not a year went by that we didn’t make it. Some 18 years later, July still finds Joel and me spear fishing in the lake in the morning, drinking beer and basking in the sun on the cliffs in the afternoon. Nights are spent eating well, drinking a lot of beer and talking about how old we’ve gotten before going to bed early on a nice soft mattress beneath cool air conditioning. If you ever find yourself on Lake Amistad and find the idea of a concrete picnic table painful, give Allen Maxwell at Laguna Diablo a call. He’ll set you up with in a nice air conditioned cottage complete with soft beds, a kitchenette and plenty of peace and quiet¬¬––just the way us outdoor writers pushing 40 like it. Laguna Diablo Resort HCR 1, Box 4RC Del Rio, Texas 78840 1-866-227-7082 or 830-774-2422 www.lagunadiablo.com Lake Amon G. Carter City of Bowie 304 Lindsay Bowie, Texas 76230 940-872-1114 Closest city: Bowie Acreage: 1,540 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, channel catfish, crappie Aquilla Lake US Army Corps of Engineers 285 CR 3602 Clifton, Texas 76634 254-694-3189 Closest city: Hillsboro Acreage: 3,020 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, blue catfish, channel catfish, white bass Area Guides Texas Guide Fishing Service Mark Parker - Guide 3300 NE County Road 0092 Corsicana, Texas 75109 903-872-8285 www.fishingguidesoftexas.com/parker Lake Arlington City of Arlington 6300 West Arkansas Lane Arlington, Texas 76016 817-451-6860 Closest city: Arlington Acreage: 1,939
Predominant Species: Florida largemouth bass, white bass, hybrid striped bass, channel catfish, flathead catfish Lake Arrowhead City of Wichita Falls 1300 7th Street Wichita Falls, Texas 76307 940-761-7477 Closest city: Wichita Falls Acreage: 14,969 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, white bass, channel catfish, blue catfish, blue catfish, white crappie Lake Athens Athens Municipal Water Authority 501 N. Pinkerton Athens, Texas 75751 Acreage: 1,799 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, white bass, crappie, redear sunfish Lake Austin Lower Colorado River Authority 3700 Lake Austin Blvd. Austin, Texas 78703 800-776-5272 Closest city: Austin Acreage: 1,599 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, catfish, sunfish Area Guides Git Bit Guide Service Mike Hastings 512-773-7401 www.gitbitfishing.com Texas Hawgs Bryan Cotter 512-762-0190 www.texashawgs.com Averhoff Reservoir Zavala-Dimmit Co. Water Imp. District # 1 PO Drawer 729 Crystal City, Texas 78839 830-374-3703 Closest city: Crystal City Acreage: 174 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, channel catfish, white crappie B.A. Steinhagen Lake US Army Corps of Engineers Town Bluff Project Office 890 FM 92
Woodville, Texas 75979-9631 409-429-3491 Closest city: Jasper Acreage: 10,687 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, spotted bass, crappie, catfish Lake Balmorhea Reeves County WID Number 1 PO Box 185 Balmorhea, Texas 79718 432-375-2238 Closest city: Balmorhea Acreage: 556 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, crappie, sunfish, channel catfish Lake Bardwell US Army Corps of Engineers Rt. 4, Box 60 Ennis, Texas 75119 972-875-5711 Closest city: Ennis Acreage: 3,138 Predominant Species: White bass, hybrid striped bass, crappie Lake Bastrop Lower Colorado River Authority 3700 Lake Austin Blvd. Austin, Texas 78703 800-776-5272 Closest city: Bastrop Acreage: 906 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, catfish, sunfish Area Guides Git Bit Guide Service Mike Hastings 512-773-7401 www.gitbitfishing.com Texas Hawgs Bryan Cotter 512-762-0190 www.texashawgs.com Baylor Creek Reservoir City of Childress Rt 1, Box 283 Childress, Texas 79201 940-937-3684 Closest city: Childress Acreage: 610 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, channel catfish, white crappie, sunfish
Belton Lake US Army Corps of Engineers 3740 FM 1670 Belton, Texas 76513 254-939-2461 Closest city: Belton Acreage: 12,385 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, white bass, hybrid striped bass, sunfish, catfish Area Guides Wall Hanger Fishing Guide Service 254-394-3716 www.thewallhanger.com/lakes.htm#belton Benbrook Lake US Army Corps of Engineers PO Box 26619 Fort Worth, Texas 76126-0619 817-292-2400 Closest city: Fort Worth Acreage: 3,635 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, white bass, hybrid striped bass, crappie, blue catfish, channel Big Creek Reservoir Delta County Clerk 200 W. Dallas Avenue Cooper, Texas 75432-1726 903-395-4110 Closest city: Cooper Acreage: 520 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, white crappie, bluegill, redear sunfish Lake Bob Sandlin Titus County Freshwater Supply District 903-572-1844 Closest city: Mount Pleasant Acreage: 9,004 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, spotted bass, catfish, bluegill, redear Sunfish Area Guides Donnie Thomas Guide Service 903-537-4945 www.easttexasangler.com Bonham City Lake City of Bonham 301 East 5th Street Bonham, Texas 75418 903-583-7555 Closest city: Bonham
Acreage: 1,020 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, channel catfish, crappie. Area Guides Tinker’s Lake Bonham Guide Service 903-786-6331 http://tinker.net/ Bonham State Park Lake Texas Parks and Wildlife Department 903-583-5022 Closest city: Bonham Acreage: 65 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, channel catfish, bluegill Brady Creek Reservoir City of Brady 101 E Main Brady, Texas 76825-4523 325-597-2152 Closest city: Brady Acreage: 2,020 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, channel catfish, white crappie Brandy Branch Reservoir American Electric Power 2400 FM Road 3251 Hallsville, Texas 75650 Closest city: Hallsville Acreage: 1,242 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, channel catfish, bluegill, redear sunfish Braunig Lake City Public Service Board of San Antonio PO Box 1771 San Antonio, Texas 78292 210-353-2158 Closest city: San Antonio Acreage: 1,350 Predominant Species: Red drum, Largemouth bass, channel catfish, blue catfish Area Guides Southwest Fishing Charters Box 421 Adkins, Texas 78101 Jeff Snyder 210-649-2435 www.alamoredfish.com Lake Bridgeport Tarrant Regional Water District PO Box 4508 Fort Worth, Texas 76106-0508
940-683-2349 Closest city: Fort Worth Acreage: 11,954 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, white bass, hybrid bass, crappie, sunfish Area Guides Bug-A-Bass Guide Service Greg Lippincott 817-938-3718 www.bugabass.com Dave’s Guide Service David Everitt 817-269-3546 http://davesguideservice.net/ Taylor Made Adventures. 817-781-3613 http://taylormadeadventures.com/ Lake Brownwood Brown County Water Control and Irrigation District No. 1 PO Box 118 Brownwood, Texas 76804 325-643-2609 Closest city: Brownwood Acreage: 6,490 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, white bass, hybrid bass, white crappie, freshwater drum, catfish Lake Bryan Bryan Texas Utilities 205 E. 28th Street Bryan, Texas 77803 979-361-0861 Closest city: Bryan Acreage: 829 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, channel catfish, sunfish Area Guides Texas Hawgs Bryan Cotter 512-762-0190 www.texashawgs.com Lake Buchanan Lower Colorado River Authority 3700 Lake Austin Blvd. Austin, Texas 78703 800-776-5272 Closest city: Burnet Acreage: 22,333
Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, white bass, striped bass, catfish Area Guides Clancy's Fishing Guide Service 512-633-6742 www.centraltexasfishing.com Empty Pockets Guide Service 109 South Chaparral Burnet, Texas 78611 877-EMT-POCKETS www.emptypocketsfishing.com Fisherman's Corner 21910 FM 306 Canyon Lake, Texas 78133-2531 210-213-2534 www.fishingguidesoftexas.com/canyon_lake/index.html South Texas Fishing Guides 210-213-2534 www.fishingguidesoftexas.com/stfg Yankee Skipper Charter & Guide Service Capt. Tom Callahan 830-741-7151 www.fishingguidesoftexas.com/callahan Buffalo Creek Reservoir City of Iowa Park 103 E. Cash Iowa Park, Texas 76367 940-592-2642 Closest city: Wichita Falls Acreage: 1,576 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, channel catfish, flathead catfish, blue catfish, white crappie Buffalo Springs Reservoir Lubbock County WC&ID No. 1 9999 High Meadow Road Lubbock, Texas 79404 806-747-3353 Closest city: Lubbock Acreage: 241 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, white bass, striped bass, catfish, sunfish Caddo Lake Caddo Lake Area Chamber of Commerce & Tourism 984 TJ Taylor Avenue Post Office Box 228 Karnack,Texas 75661 Closest city: Marshall Acreage: 26,800
Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, crappie, catfish, chain pickerel Area Guides Caddo Lake Guides Service Paul Keith 6774 Spring Valley Dr. Shreveport, Lousiana.71107 318-455-3437 http://caddolakefishing.com Caddo Lake Tejas Guide Service P.O. Box 2166 Marshall, Texas 903-935-7874 903 926-5136 http://www.tejasguideservice.com/ Red River / Caddo Lake Fishing Guide Service Danny Dupont 318-996-7935 http://www.caddolakeguide.com Caddo Guide Service 168 Mossy Brake Road Uncertain, Texas 75661 903-789-3268 http://www.caddoguideservice.com/ Calaveras Lake City Public Service Board of San Antonio PO Box 1771 San Antonio, Texas 78292 210-353-2158 Closest city: San Antonio Acreage: 3,624 Predominant Species: Red drum, largemouth bass, channel catfish, blue catfish Area Guides Southwest Fishing Charters Box 421 Adkins, Texas. 78101 Jeff Snyder 210-649-2435 www.alamoredfish.com Canyon Lake US Army Corps of Engineers Canyon Project Office HC-4, Box 400 Canyon Lake, Texas 78133-4112 830-964-3341 Closest city: New Braunfels Acreage: 8,308
Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, Guadalupe bass, white bass, striped bass, catfish Area Guides Fisherman's Corner 21910 FM 306 Canyon Lake, Texas 78133-2531 210-213-2534 www.fishingguidesoftexas.com/canyon_lake/index.html JR’s Guide Service 830-833-5688 www.fishingguidesoftexas.com/file South Texas Fishing Guides 210-213-2534 www.fishingguidesoftexas.com/stfg Lake Casa Blanca Webb County 1110 Victoria Street Suite 208 Laredo, Texas 78040 956-721-2560 Closest city: Laredo Acreage: 1,680 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, Guadalupe bass, white bass, striped bass, catfish Cedar Creek Reservoir Tarrant Regional Water District Rt. 1, Box 175 Trinidad, Texas 75163 903-432-2814 Closest city: Athens Acreage: 32,623 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, catfish, crappie, white bass, striped bass Area Guides Bug-A-Bass Guide Service Greg Lippincott 817-938-3718 www.bugabass.com Cedar Creek Fishing Charters 214-369-9969 http://cedarcreekfishingcharters.com Chuck Rollin’s Guide Service 903-288-5798 bigcrappie.com Champion Creek Reservoir City of Colorado City 180 W. 3rd Colorado City, Texas 79512
325-728-5331 Closest city: Colorado City Acreage: 1,577 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, white bass, channel catfish, flathead catfish, white crappie, sunfish Choke Canyon Reservoir City of Corpus Christi PO Box 9277 Corpus Christi, Texas 78469 512-880-3000 Closest city: Three Rivers Acreage: 25,670 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, white bass, crappie, catfish Area Guides South Texas Fishing Guides 210-213-2534 www.fishingguidesoftexas.com/stfg Texas Hawgs Bryan Cotter 512-762-0190 www.texashawgs.com Lake Cisco City of Cisco PO Box 110 Cisco, Texas 76437 817-442-2111 Closest city: Cisco Acreage: 1,050 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, channel catfish, white crappie, redear sunfish Lake Clyde City of Clyde 110 Oak Clyde, Texas 79510 325-893-5339 Closest city: Clyde Acreage: 449 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, channel catfish, white crappie Coffee Mill Lake US Forest Service PO Box 507 Decatur, Texas 76234 940-627-5475 Closest city: Bonham Acreage: 650 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, channel catfish, crappie Lake Coleman
City of Coleman PO Box 592 Coleman, Texas 325-625-4116 Closest city: Abilene Acreage: 2,000 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, white crappie, hybrid striped bass, channel catfish, flathead catfish Coleto Creek Reservoir Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority PO Box 68 Fannin, Texas 77960 361-575-6366 Closest city: Victoria Acreage: 3,100 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, white bass, hybrid bass, crappie, catfish Lake Colorado City TXU 1601 Bryan Street Dallas, Texas 75201 214-812-8699 Closest city: Colorado City Acreage: 1,618 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, channel catfish, flathead catfish, white bass Lake Conroe San Jacinto River Authority Conroe Project Office PO Box 329 Conroe, Texas 77305 936-588-1111 Closest city: Conroe Acreage: 20,118 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, bluegill, hybrid bass, channel catfish Area Guides Catfish Killer Professional Catfish Guide Service Darrell Taylor 401 Mill Creek Dr. Willis, Texas 77378 936-788-4413 catfishkiller.com Wethook Guide Service Carl Bostick 936-718-7983 wethook.com Cooper Lake US Army Corps of Engineers
Cooper Dam 828 CR 4795 Sulphur Springs, Texas 75482-9745 903-945-2108 Closest city: Sulphur Springs Acreage: 19,305 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, white bass, hybrid bass, crappie, catfish Lake Corpus Christi City of Corpus Christi PO Box 9277 Corpus Christi, Texas 78469 512-880-3000 Closest city: San Patricio Acreage: 18,256 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, white bass, hybrid bass, bluegill, redear sunfish Lake Crook City of Paris 903-784-9299 Closest city: Paris Acreage: 1,060 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, channel catfish, white crappie Lake Cypress Springs Franklin County Water District 903-537-4536 Closest city: Pittsburg Acreage: 3,461 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, spotted bass, catfish, crappie, bluegill, redear Sunfish Area Guides Donnie Thomas Guide Service 903-537-4945 www.easttexasangler.com Lake Daniel City of Breckenridge 209 N. Breckenridge Avenue Breckenridge, Texas 76424 254-559-8287 Closest city: Abilene Acreage: 950 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, white crappie, channel catfish, flathead catfish Davy Crockett Lake US Forest Service PO Box 507 Decatur, Texas 76234 940-627-5475 Closest city: Bonham Acreage: 355
Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, channel catfish, crappie, bluegill Diversion Lake City of Wichita Falls 1300 7th Street Wichita Falls, Texas 76307 940-761-7477 Closest city: Wichita Falls Acreage: 3,133 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, white bass, catfish, white crappie Eagle Mountain Lake Tarrant Regional Water District 10201 North Shore Drive Fort Worth, Texas 76135 817-237-8585 Closest city: Fort Worth Acreage: 8,738 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, spotted bass, channel catfish, white bass, white Crappie Area Guides Bug-A-Bass Guide Service Greg Lippincott 817-938-3718 www.bugabass.com Lake E. V. Spence Colorado River Municipal Water District (CRMWD) PO Box 869 Big Spring, Texas 79721-0869 432-267-6341 Closest city: Robert Lee Acreage: 14,640 Predominant Species: Striped bass, white bass, largemouth bass, catfish Fairfield Lake TXU 1601 Bryan Street Dallas, Texas 75201 214-812-8699 Closest city: Fairfield Acreage: 2,159 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, red drum, catfish, tilapia Area Guides Falcon International Reservoir International Boundary & Water Commission PO Box 1 Falcon Heights, Texas 78545 956-848-5211 or 5212 Closest city: Laredo Acreage: 83,654
Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, channel catfish Area Guides Jim Edwards Guide Service 361-816-1316 jimedwardsguideservice.com Haralson Guide Service 956-744-6235 http://www.haralsonguideservice.com/index.asp Sugar Lake Guide Service P.O. Box 429 Alice, Texas 78332 361-668-3639 sugarlakeguideservice.com Fayette County Reservoir Lower Colorado River Authority 3700 Lake Austin Blvd. Austin, Texas 78703 800-776-5272 Closest city: LaGrange Acreage: 2,400 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, catfish, redear sunfish Area Guides Git Bit Guide Service Mike Hastings 512-773-7401 www.gitbitfishing.com Lake Findley (Alice City Lake) City of Alice PO Box 3229 Alice, Texas 78333 361-668-7210 Closest city: Alice Acreage: 247 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, crappie, channel catfish, bluegill, redear sunfish Lake Fork Sabine River Authority of Texas Box 487 Quitman, Texas 75783 903-878-2262 Closest city: Quitman Acreage: 27,264 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, white crappie, black crappie, channel catfish, sunfish Area Guides Bug-A-Bass Guide Service Greg Lippincott 817-938-3718
www.bugabass.com Marc Mitchell's Lake Fork Guide Service Marc Mitchell 478 CR 1211 Sulphur Springs, Texas 75482 800-657-1969 mitchellsguideservice.com Donnie Thomas Guide Service 903-537-4945 www.easttexasangler.com Fort Parker State Park Lake Texas Parks & Wildlife Department Fort Parker State Park Route 3 Box 95 Mexia, Texas 76667 254-562-5751 Closest city: Mexia Acreage: 725 Predominant Species: Channel catfish, blue catfish, white bass, crappie Fort Phantom Hill Lake City of Abilene 555 Walnut Abilene, Texas 79603 325-676-6038 Closest city: Abilene Acreage: 4,213 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, white bass, striped bass, blue catfish, flathead, catfish, white crappie freshwater drum Lake Georgetown United States Army Corps of Engineers 500 Cedar Breaks Road Georgetown, Texas 78628 512-930-5253 Closest city: Georgetown Acreage: 1,297 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, catfish, white bass, hybrid striped bass Gibbons Creek Reservoir Texas Municipal Power Agency PO Box 7000 Bryan, Texas 77805 936-873-2424 Closest city: Bryan / College Station Acreage: 2,770 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, catfish, white crappie, black crappie Lake Gilmer City of Gilmer
PO Box 760 or 110 Buffalo Gilmer, Texas 75644 903-843-2552 Lake Ranger 903-843-8206 x 206 Closest city: Longview Acreage: 1,010 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, catfish, bluegill, redear sunfish Gladewater City Lake City of Gladewater 519 East Broadway Gladewater, Texas 75647 903-845-2196 Lake Patrol 903-845-5041 Closest city: Gladewater Acreage: 481 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, crappie, bluegill, redear sunfish, catfish Lake Gonzales (H-4) Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority 933 E. Court Street Seguin, Texas 78155 830-379-5822 Closest city: Gonzales Acreage: 696 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, white crappie, catfish, sunfish Lake Graham City of Graham PO Box 1449 Graham, Texas 76450 940-549-3322 Closest city: Graham Acreage: 2,444 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, white bass, hybrid striped bass, channel catfish, white crappie Lake Granbury Brazos River Authority Route 9 Box 39 Granbury, Texas 76048 817-573-3212 Closest city: Granbury Acreage: 8,310 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, striped bass, white bass, catfish, crappie, sunfish Area Guides Mr. Whiskers Catfish Bait and Guide Service 817-279-213 mrwhiskerscatfishbait.com Granger Lake
United States Army Corps of Engineers 3100 Granger Dam Road Granger, Texas 76530-5067 512-859-2668 Closest city: Taylor Acreage: 4,064 Predominant Species: White bass, crappie, catfish Area Guides Tommy Tidwell’s Granger Lake Guide Service 512-365-7761 www.gotcrappie.com Grapevine Lake US Army Corps of Engineers 110 Fairway Drive Grapevine, Texas 76051 817-865-2600 Closest city: Grapevine Acreage: 6,892 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, spotted bass, white bass, white crappie, channel catfish Area Guides Bug-A-Bass Guide Service Greg Lippincott 817-938-3718 www.bugabass.com Greenbelt Reservoir Greenbelt Municipal and Industrial Water Authority PO Box 665 Clarendon, Texas 79226 806-874-3650 Closest city: Amarillo Acreage: 1,990 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, walleye, sunfish, catfish Lake Halbert City of Corsicana 200 N. 12th Corsicana, Texas 75110 903-654-4800 Closest city: Corsicana Acreage: 603 Predominant Species: Crappie, catfish Lake Hawkins Wood County District 3 903-857-311 Closest city: Hawkins Acreage: 776 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, black crappie, white crappie
Lake Holbrook Wood County District 2 903-569-6351 Closest city: Mineola Acreage: 653 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, white crappie, bluegill, redear sunfish Hords Creek Reservoir US Army Corps of Engineers HCR 75, Box 33 Coleman, Texas 76834 325-625-2322 Closest city: Coleman Acreage: 510 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, white crappie, catfish, sunfish Lake Houston City of Houston Public Works 611 Walker, 25th Floor Houston, Texas 77002 Lake Patrol 281-324-2250 Closest city: Houston Acreage: 11,854 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, white bass, white crappie, blue catfish, bluegill Houston County Lake Houston County WC&ID No. 1 Closest city: Crockett Acreage: 1,330 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, bluegill, redear sunfish Hubbard Creek Reservoir West Central Texas Municipal Water District 410 Hickory Street Abilene, Texas 79601 325-673-8254 Closest city: Abilene Acreage: 14,922 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, freshwater drum, white crappie, catfish, white bass Inks Lake Lower Colorado River Authority 3700 Lake Austin Blvd. Austin, Texas 78703 800-776-5272 Closest city: Burnet Acreage: 831 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, white bass, crappie, catfish, sunfish Area Guides Clancy's Fishing Guide Service 512-633-6742
www.centraltexasfishing.com Empty Pockets Guide Service 109 South Chaparral Burnet, Texas 78611 877-EMT-POCKETS www.emptypocketsfishing.com Lake Jacksonville Jacksonville Municipal Water Supply PO Box 1390 Jacksonville, Texas 75766 903-586-3510 Closest city: Jacksonville Acreage: 1,320 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, crappie, sunfish J.B. Thomas Reservoir Colorado River Municipal Water District PO Box 869 Big Spring, Texas 79721-0869 432-267-6341 Closest city: Snyder Acreage: 7,282 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, white bass, catfish, white crappie Joe Pool Lake US Army Corps of Engineers PO Box 872 Cedar Hill, Texas 75104 972-299-2227 Closest city: Grand Prairie Acreage: 7,470 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, white bass, white crappie, channel catfish Lake Kemp City of Wichita Falls 1300 7th Street Wichita Falls, Texas 76307 940-761-7477 Closest city: Seymour Acreage: 15,590 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, striped bass, white bass, channel catfish, blue catfish, white crappie Kickapoo Reservoir City of Wichita Falls 1300 7th Street Wichita Falls, Texas 76307 940-761-7477 Closest city: Wichita Falls Acreage: 6,028
Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, white bass, channel catfish, blue catfish, flathead, catfish, white crappie Kirby Lake City of Abilene PO Box 60 Abilene, Texas 79604 325-676-6038 Closest city: Abilene Acreage: 1,786 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, channel catfish, blue catfish, saugeye, white crappie, bluegill, green sunfish Kurth Reservoir Abitibi Consolidated Industries Hwy 103 East Lufkin, Texas 936-634-8811 Closest city: Lufkin Acreage: 726 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, spotted bass, catfish, crappie Lady Bird Lake (formerly Town Lake) City of Austin 124 W. 8th Austin, Texas 78701 512-974-6700 Closest city: Austin Acreage: 468 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, catfish, sunfish, carp Lake O' the Pines US Army Corps of Engineers 2669 FM 726 Jefferson, Texas 75657 903-665-2336 Closest city: Longview Acreage: 16,919 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, spotted bass, white bass, chain pickerel, crappie, sunfish, catfish Lake Lavon US Army Corps of Engineers 3375 Skyview Drive Wylie, Texas 75096 972-442-3141 Closest city: Dallas Acreage: 21,400 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, white bass, channel catfish, blue catfish, crappie Leon Reservoir Eastland County Water Supply District
Rt. 1, Box 157 Eastland, Texas 76470 254-647-3294 Lake Keeper 254-647-1976 Closest city: Eastland Acreage: 726 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, white crappie, white bass, flathead catfish, channel catfish Lake Lewisville US Army Corps of Engineers 1801 N. Mill Street Lewisville, Texas 75057 469-645-9100 Closest city: Lewisville Acreage: 90,000 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, bluegill, catfish, white bass, striped bass, crappie Area Guides Armstrong Outfitters Professional Guide Service 940-321-2757 www.bucketmouth.com Lake Limestone Brazos River Authority Route 3, Box 89A Thornton, Texas 76687 903-529-2141 Closest city: Groesbeck Acreage: 12,553 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, white bass, crappie, catfish Lake Livingston Trinity River Authority PO Box 360 Livingston, Texas 77351 936-365-2292 Closest city: Livingston Acreage: 90,000 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, bluegill, catfish, white bass, striped bass, crappie Lone Star Lake Lone Star Steel Closest city: Lone Star Acreage: 1,516 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, channel catfish, striped bass, white bass, hybrid bass, bluegill, redbreast sunfish, redear sunfish Lost Creek Reservoir City of Jacksboro PO Box 277 Jacksboro, Texas 76056
940-567-6321 Closest city: Wichita Falls Acreage: 385 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, white bass, white crappie, channel catfish, flathead catfish Lake Lyndon B. Johnson Lower Colorado River Authority 3700 Lake Austin Blvd. Austin, Texas 78703 800-776-5272 Closest city: Marble Falls Acreage: 6,534 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, white bass, crappie, catfish Area Guides Empty Pockets Guide Service 109 South Chaparral Burnet, Texas 78611 877-EMT-POCKETS www.emptypocketsfishing.com Mackenzie Reservoir Mackenzie Municipal Water Authority Rt 4 Box 14 Silverton, Texas 79257 806-633-4318 Closest city: Silverton Acreage: 896 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, white bass, white crappie, catfish Lake Marble Falls Lower Colorado River Authority 3700 Lake Austin Blvd. Austin, Texas 78703 800-776-5272 Closest city: Marble Falls Acreage: 611 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, catfish, sunfish Area Guides Empty Pockets Guide Service 109 South Chaparral Burnet, Texas 78611 877-EMT-POCKETS www.emptypocketsfishing.com Martin Creek Lake TXU 1601 Bryan Street Dallas, Texas 75201 214-812-8699
Closest city: Tatum Acreage: 4,981 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, catfish, crappie, sunfish McClellan Reservoir US Forest Service Black Kettle Ranger District RT 1, BOX 55B Cheyenne, Oklahoma 73628 580-497-2143 Closest city: Amarillo Acreage: 339 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, sunfish, saugeye, catfish, white crappie Lake McQueeney Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority 933 E. Court Street Seguin, Texas 78155 830-379-5822 Closest city: New Braunfels Acreage: 396 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, striped bass, crappie, blue catfish, channel catfish, sunfish Area Guides South Texas Fishing Guides 210-213-2534 www.fishingguidesoftexas.com/stfg Medina Lake Bexar/Medina/Atascosa County Agricultural District PO Box 170 Natalia, Texas 78059 830-665-2132 Closest city: San Antonio Acreage: 5,426 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, white bass, hybrid striped bass, catfish Lake Meredith National Park Service Lake Meredith National Recreation Area PO Box 1460 Fritch, Texas 79036 806-857-3151 Closest city: Amarillo Acreage: 16,411 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, walleye, small mouth bass, white crappie, channel catfish, flathead catfish Lake Mexia Bistone Municipal Water District 472 Whiterock Drive
Mexia, Texas 76667 254-562-5922 Closest city: Mexia Acreage: 1,048 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, white bass, crappie, channel catfish, blue catfish Mill Creek Reservoir City of Canton PO Box 245 Canton, Texas 75103 903-567-2826 Closest city: Canton Acreage: 237 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, black crappie, white crappie Millers Creek Reservoir North Central Texas Municipal Water Authority PO Box 36 Munday, Texas 76371 940-422-4051 Closest city: Wichita Falls Acreage: 2,212 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, white bass, hybrid striped bass, catfish, white Crappie Lake Mineral Wells Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Lake Mineral Wells State Park 100 Park Road 71 Mineral Wells, TX 76067 940-328-1171 Closest city: Mineral Wells Acreage: 440 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, channel catfish, crappie Lake Monticello TXU 1601 Bryan Street Dallas, Texas 75201 214-812-8699 Closest city: Mount Pleasant Acreage: 2,001 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, channel catfish, bluegill, redear sunfish Area Guides Donnie Thomas Guide Service 903-537-4945 www.easttexasangler.com Moss Lake City of Gainesville
940-668-4500 Closest city: Gainesville Acreage: 1,140 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, spotted bass, crappie, white bass, channel catfish Mountain Creek Lake TXU Electric 2233A Mountain Creek Pkwy. Dallas, Texas 75211 214-743-6600 Closest city: Grand Prairie Acreage: 2,710 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, channel catfish, white bass, white crappie Lake Murvaul Panola County Fresh Water District 154 CR 1839 Carthage, Texas 75633 903-693-6562 Closest city: Carthage Acreage: 3,397 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, crappie, catfish, bluegill, redear sunfish Nacogdoches Lake City of Nacogdoches PO Box 630648 Nacogdoches, Texas 75963-0648 936-564-3708 Closest city: Nacogdoches Acreage: 2,212 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, crappie, sunfish Area Guides Bill Crawford’s Guide Service 936-559-7354 www.texasfishingguides.org/crawford Lake Nasworthy City of San Angelo PO Box 1751 San Angelo, Texas 76902 325-657-4206 Closest city: San Angelo Acreage: 1,380 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, white bass, hybrid striped bass, white crappie, channel catfish, flathead catfish Navarro Mills Lake US Army Corps of Engineers Rt. 1, Box 33D Purdon, Texas 76679 254-578-1431
Closest city: Waco Acreage: 5 Predominant Species: White bass, channel catfish, crappie New Ballinger Lake City of Ballinger PO Box 497 Ballinger, Texas 76821 325-365-3511 Closest city: Ballinger Acreage: 591 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, white crappie, walleye, white bass, channel catfish, blue catfish Lake Nocona North Montague County Water Supply District 101 Cooke Street Nocona, Texas 76255 940-825-3282 Closest city: Nocona Acreage: 1,323 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, crappie, channel catfish, blue catfish, hybrid striped bass Oak Creek Reservoir City of Sweetwater PO Box 450 Sweetwater, Texas 79556 325-236-6952 Closest city: Bronte Acreage: 2,375 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, white bass, channel catfish, flathead catfish, white crappie O.C. Fisher Reservoir US Army Corps of Engineers 3900 Mercedes San Angelo, Texas 76901 325-947-2687 Closest city: San Angelo Acreage: 5,440 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, white bass, catfish, crappie Sidebar: Concho Pearl “Pearls are judged by four criteria,” explains award-winning jeweler Champe Carter, co-owner of Champe Jennings Jewelry. “Color. Luster. Shape. And size. The Concho pearl is unique in that it ranges in color from dark pink to lavender and is especially luminous. A quality Concho is beyond any other pearl on the planet. They’re really a Texas treasure.” The beauty of the Concho pearl was first detailed by Spanish explorers Hernán Martin and Diego del Castillo who, in 1650, explored the land around what is now San Angelo. The lavender colored pearls the men brought back to Europe from the region were so highly regarded that
Diego de Guadalajara was sent back to the region in 1654 to collect as many as possible. Some of the spoils of this expedition are said to be part of the Crown Jewels of Spain. For more than four centuries, pearl hunters have descended onto the Concho River (river of shells) and the lakes it feeds in search of the Tampico pearly mussel (Cyrtonaias tampicoensis) with the hopes that it will be one of the rare specimens that produces a quality, gradable pearl. Because of its rarity and the fact that it has never been successfully cultured, Concho pearls can be very expensive. “Again, it depends on the quality and the grade,” Carter said. “In our shop, we’ve got a near flawless 9.5 mm for just under $20,000. We’ve got a larger pearl, a little over 13 mm, that’s not quite as nice for around $14,000. “ Another reason for such high dollar costs is the fact that the Concho pearl is one of the few freshwater pearls left in the world. Also, the pearls are found in some of the nastiest, most dangerous waters in the state. Good pockets of Tampico peary mussels are generally found in stagnant waters full of submerged brush and often snake infested. Still, for something so rare and so beautiful many are willing to take the risk. But hunters may soon be searching in vain as the pearly mussels are becoming more and more rare, a fact that only drives the price higher. NOTE: A permit from Texas Parks and Wildlife is required to collect, or attempt to collect, Concho pearls. O.H. Ivie Lake Colorado River Municipal Water District PO Box 869 Big Spring, Texas 79721-0869 432-267-6341 Closest city: San Angelo Acreage: 19,149 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, white bass, crappie, catfish, sunfish Lake Palestine Upper Neches River Authority PO Box 1965 Palestine, Texas 75802 903-876-2237 Closest city: Tyler Acreage: 25,560 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, white bass, hybrid striped bass, crappie, catfish sunfish Area Guides East Texas Fishing PO Box 454 Frankston, Texas 75763 903-876 – 2381 www.easttexasfishing.net Mattern Guide Service 680 acre. 1221, Grapeland, Texas 75844 903-478-2633 www.matternguideservice.fghp.com Palo Duro Reservoir
Palo Duro River Authority PO Box 99 Spearman, Texas 79081 806-882-4401 Closest city: Spearman Acreage: 2,413 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, Palo Pinto Reservoir Palo Pinto Co Municipal Water District No. 1 PO Box 387 Mineral Wells, Texas 76067 940-328-7712 Closest city: Fort Worth Acreage: 2,399 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, white bass, hybrid striped bass, catfish, crappie Pat Cleburne Lake City of Cleburne PO Box 657 Cleburne, Texas 76033 817-641-3321 Closest city: Cleburne Acreage: 1,558 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, white bass, catfish, crappie Pat Mayse Lake US Army Corps of Engineers Pat Mayse Lake PO Box 129 Powderly, Texas 75473-012 903-732-3020 Closest city: Paris Acreage: 5,940 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, white bass, hybrid striped bass, spotted bass, catfish, crappie Pauline Reservoir West Texas Utilities Rt 1, Box 123 Quanah, Texas 79252 940-663-2057 Closest city: Quannah Acreage: 600 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, crappie, sunfish Lake Pinkston City of Center 617 Tenaha Street Center, Texas 75935 936-598-2941
Closest city: Center Acreage: 523 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, hybrid striped bass, crappie, sunfish Lake Placid Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority 933 E. Court Street Seguin, Texas 78155 830-379-5822 Closest city: Seguin Acreage: 198 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, white crappie, blue catfish, channel catfish, sunfish Possum Kingdom Reservoir Brazos River Authority Star Route Graford, Texas 76025 940-779-2321 Closest city: Fort Worth Acreage: 17,624 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, white bass, striped bass, white crappie, channel catfish, blue catfish Area Guides John Bryan's Hunting & Fishing Guide Service 1320 Calaveras Graham, Texas 76450 940-549-7427 www.fishandgame.com/johnbryan/index.html Proctor Lake US Army Corps of Engineers Rt. 1, Box 71A Comanche, Texas 76442 254-879-2424 Closest city: Comanche Acreage: 4,537 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, hybrid striped bass, crappie, catfish Area Guides Bug-A-Bass Guide Service Greg Lippincott 817-938-3718 www.bugabass.com Purtis Creek State Park Lake Texas Parks & Wildlife Department 903-425-2332 Closest city: Athens Acreage: 349 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, crappie, catfish, sunfish Lake Quitman
Wood County District 1 903-878-2238 Closest city: Quitman Acreage: 814 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, crappie, bluegill, redear sunfish Lake Raven Texas Parks & Wildlife Department PO Box 508 Huntsville, Texas 77342-0508 936-295-5644 Closest city: Huntsville Acreage: 203 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, bluegill, redear sunfish Lake Ray Hubbard City of Dallas Dallas Water Utilities 2900 White Rock Road Dallas, Texas 75214 214-670-8658 Closest city: Rockwall Acreage: 22,745 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, hybrid striped bass, white bass, catfish, white crappie Area Guides Bug-A-Bass Guide Service Greg Lippincott 817-938-3718 www.bugabass.com Outlaw Adventure 469-396-0558 www.texasfishingguides.org/alder/ Ray Roberts Lake US Army Corps of Engineers 1801 N. Mill Street Lewisville, Texas 75067 972-434-1667 Closest city: Denton Acreage: 25,600 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, white bass, channel catfish, crappie, sunfish Area Guides Bug-A-Bass Guide Service Greg Lippincott 817-938-3718 www.bugabass.com Get Bit Guide Service Dannie Golden 13501 Ponderosa Ranch Road
Roanoke, Texas 76262 682-237-0022 http://www.get-bit.com/ Lake Ray Roberts Fishing 972-317-2777 http://robertsonrayroberts.com/ Red Bluff Reservoir Red Bluff Water Control District 111 West Second Street Pecos, Texas 79772 432-445-2037 Closest city: Pecos Acreage: 11,193 Predominant Species: White bass, hybrid striped bass Richland Chambers Reservoir Tarrant County Water Control Rt. 1, Box 1660 Streetman, Texas 75859 903-389-3928 Closest city: Corsicana Acreage: 41,356 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, hybrid striped bass, white bass, crappie, smallmouth buffalo Area Guides Texas Guide Fishing Service Mark Parker - Guide 3300 NE County Road 0092 Corsicana, Texas 75109 903-872-8285 www.fishingguidesoftexas.com/parker Sam Rayburn Reservoir US Army Corps of Engineers Jasper, Texas 75951 409-384-5716 Closest city: Jasper Acreage: 114,500 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, crappie, catfish, white bass, hybrid striped bass Area Guides Bill Crawford’s Guide Service 936-559-7354 www.texasfishingguides.org/crawford Mattern Guide Service 680 acre. 1221, Grapeland, Texas 75844 903-478-2633 www.matternguideservice.fghp.com
Sheldon Lake Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Sheldon Lake State Park 15315 Beaumont Highway (Bus. 90) Houston, Texas 77049 281-456-2800 Closest city: Houston Acreage: 1,230 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, bluegill, catfish, crappie Lake Somerville US Army Corps of Engineers Box 549 Somerville, Texas 77879 979-596-1622 Closest city: Bryan / College Station Acreage: 11,456 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, white bass, hybrid striped bass, catfish, crappie Stamford Reservoir City of Stamford 201 E. McHarg Street Stamford, Texas 79553 325-773-2723 Closest city: Stamford Acreage: 5,124 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, white bass, catfish, white crappie, sunfish Stillhouse Hollow Reservoir US Army Corps of Engineers 99 FM 2271 Belton, Texas 76513 254-939-1829 Closest city: Belton Acreage: 6,429 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, channel catfish, flathead catfish, crappie, white bass Area Guides Texas Hawgs Bryan Cotter 512-762-0190 www.texashawgs.com Striker Reservoir Angelina-Nacogdoches Co. Water Control and Improvement District No. 1 18950 CR 4256 South Reklaw, Texas 75784 903-854-4559 Closest city: Jacksonville Acreage: 1,863
Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, spotted bass, catfish, crappie Sulphur Springs Lake City of Sulphur Springs 903-885-7541 Closest city: Sulphur Springs Acreage: 1,340 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, blue catfish, channel catfish, white crappie Sweetwater Reservoir City of Sweetwater PO Box 450 Sweetwater, Texas 79556 325-236-6952 Closest city: Sweetwater Acreage: 630 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, white bass, catfish, sunfish, white crappie Lake Tawakoni Sabine River Authority of Texas Iron Bridge Division Box 310 Point, Texas 75472 903-598-2216 Closest city: Greenville Acreage: 37,879 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, striped bass, hybrid striped bass, white bass, catfish Area Guides Bug-A-Bass Guide Service Greg Lippincott 817-938-3718 www.bugabass.com J&J Guide Service 617 Kingsbridge Drive Garland, Texas 75040 214-236-3320 www.lakeforkproguides.com/lakes.htm Lake Texana Lavaca-Navidad River Authority PO Box 429 Edna, Texas 77957 361-782-5229 Closest city: Edna Acreage: 9,727 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, blue catfish, sunfish, white crappie, white bass, hybrid striped bass Lake Texoma US Army Corps of Engineers Drawer A
Denison, Texas 75020 903-465-4990 Closest city: Sherman Acreage: 74,686 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, catfish, white bass, striped bass, spotted bass, smallmouth bass, crappie, bluegill Area Guides Bug-A-Bass Guide Service Greg Lippincott 817-938-3718 www.bugabass.com Tinker’s Lake Bonham / Lake Texoma Guide Service 903-786-6331 http://tinker.net/ Timpson Reservoir Shelby County Freshwater Supply District PO Box 106 Timpson, Texas 75972 936-254-2421 Closest city: Garrison Acreage: 223 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, catfish, crappie Toledo Bend Reservoir Sabine River Authority Toledo Bend Division Rt. 1, Box 270 Burkeville, Texas 75932 409-565-2273 Closest city: Jasper Acreage: 181,600 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, crappie, catfish, white bass, striped bass Tradinghouse Creek Reservoir TXU 1601 Bryan Street Dallas, Texas 75201 214-812-8699 Closest city: Waco Acreage: 2,010 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, channel catfish, red drum, crappie Lake Travis Lower Colorado River Authority 3700 Lake Austin Blvd. Austin, Texas 78703 800-776-5272 Closest city: Austin Acreage: 18,622
Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, Guadalupe bass, white bass, striped bass, catfish, sunfish Area Guides Git Bit Guide Service Mike Hastings 512-773-7401 www.gitbitfishing.com Texas Hawgs Bryan Cotter 512-762-0190 www.texashawgs.com Twin Buttes Reservoir City of San Angelo PO Box 1751 San Angelo, Texas 76902 325-657-4206 Closest city: San Angelo Acreage: 9,080 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, white bass, catfish, white crappie Lake Tyler City of Tyler Water Utility PO Box 2039 Tyler, Texas 75710 903-939-2724 Closest city: Tyler Acreage: 2,224 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, crappie, catfish, sunfish Lake Waco US Army Corps of Engineers Route 10, Box 173-G Waco, Texas 76708 254-756-5359 Closest city: Waco Acreage: 7,194 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, white bass, catfish, crappie Walter E. Long Lake City of Austin 124 W. 8th Austin, Texas 78701 512-974-6700 Closest city: Austin Acreage: 1,269 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, hybrid striped bass, catfish, sunfish Lake Waxahachie City of Waxahachie PO Box 757
Waxahachie, Texas 75165 214-937-7330 Closest city: Waxahachie Acreage: 656 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, crappie, catfish, white bass Lake Weatherford City of Weatherford PO Box 255 Weatherford, Texas 76086 817-594-5441 Closest city: Fort Worth Acreage: 1,158 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, white bass, crappie, channel catfish, sunfish Lake Welsh American Electric Power Rt. 4 Box 221 Pittsburg, Texas 75686-9109 Closest city: Mount Pleasant Acreage: 1,269 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, channel catfish, bluegill White River Reservoir White River Municipal Water District HCR 2, Box 141 Spur, TX 79370 806-263-4240 Closest city: Crosbytown Acreage: 1,418 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, white bass, catfish, walleye, sunfish White Rock Lake City of Dallas Parks and Recreation Department 830 East Lawther Dallas, Texas 75218 214-670-8281 Closest city: Dallas Acreage: 1,088 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, channel catfish, white crappie Lake Whitney US Army Corps of Engineers 285 CR 3602 Clifton, Texas 76634 254-694-3189 Closest city: Waco Acreage: 23,500 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, striped bass, white bass, crappie, catfish
Area Guides Blue Water Striper Guide Service 254-694-2450 www.fishwhitney.com/ Wichita Reservoir City of Wichita Falls 1300 7th Street Wichita Falls, Texas 76307 940-761-7477 Closest city: Wichita Falls Acreage: 1,224 Predominant Species: White bass, hybrid striped bass, channel catfish, white crappie Lake Winnsboro Wood County District 4 903-629-7317 Closest city: Winnsboro Acreage: 806 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, catfish, crappie, sunfish Lake Wood (H-5) Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority 933 E. Court Street Seguin, Texas 78155 830-379-5822 Closest city: Gonzales Acreage: 229 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, white crappie, catfish, sunfish Lake Worth City of Fort Worth Lake Worth Management Office 7601 Cahoba Drive Fort Worth, Texas 76135 817-237-6890 Closest city: Fort Worth Acreage: 3,458 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, white crappie, spotted bass, white bass, catfish Sidebar: The Creature from Lake Worth In the early morning hours of July 10, 1969, Mr. and Mrs. John Reichant and two other couples entered the Fort Worth police station shaking uncontrollably, their faces pale with fear. Patrolman James S. McGee and other officers listened intently to the three couples spin a tale that would be totally unbelievable and wholeheartedly dismissed had the ones telling the story not been so physically horrified. McGee said, “…those people were really scared.” The couples swore that they had been attacked around midnight by a 7-foot creature that jumped from a tree and onto their car while parked on the banks of Lake Worth. An immediate police investigation turned up no evidence of an attack other than an 18-inch scratch on the Reichant’s car where the creature had supposedly jumped. All officers agreed that the scratch appeared to be a claw mark.
That night the Fort Worth Star-Telegram newspaper ran a story based upon the information at hand with the title “Fishy Man-goat Terrifies Couples Parked at Lake Worth.” The next day Fort Worth resident Jack Harris saw the creature cross the road near the Lake Worth Nature Center. Harris tried to get a picture, but his flash failed. His sighting happened just before a crowd of between 30 to 40 people gathered at the bottom of a bluff near the center to hopefully see the monster themselves. In typical Texan fashion, many of the onlookers brought rifles with the hopes of bagging a trophy monster. Worried that someone would get hurt, police responded to the scene of the crowd just in time to witness the creature’s most famous act. As the crowd pushed toward the bluff, the creature appeared from the woods above. The monster seemed enraged as it let out a scream that Harris described as a “…pitiful cry—like something was hurting him. But it sure didn’t sound human.” Most onlookers panicked at the howl but some pushed closer to the bluff for a better look. Apparently enraged and before retreating into the woods, the monster reportedly threw a spare tire more than 500 feet at the crowd. In the panic to escape, one onlooker crashed his car into a tree. The next article to run in the paper read, “Police, Residents Observe But Can’t Indentify ‘Monster’.” The article quoted eyewitnesses as saying the creature was 7 feet tall, covered in grayish-white hair and weighed upwards of 300 pounds. Others described it as a big, white ape. All agreed that whatever it was, it wasn’t human. The monster was spotted many more times over the next few weeks. Jim Stephens swore that his car was attacked by the monster when he and two friends were out hunting for it. Mr. and Mrs. James Bramlett and Linda Gilliam tracked the monster through the woods around Lake Worth for a week during which they found the monster’s tracks and numerous dead sheep with broken necks. They also swore to have smelled the creature as well as heard it scream. On a separate occasion, five adults swore they saw the monster break a huge tree limb in anger. The most unusual encounter with the creature came about when a group of individuals said they had shot the creature. Although a large amount of blood was found as well as several 16 inch long and 8 inches wide tracks (carefully studied by more than 100 witnesses) the creature was never found. As the number of sightings grew more and more frequent, explanations were offered. Helmuth Naumer of the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History suggested the creature was a large bobcat, a theory shared by Fort Worth Park Ranger Harroll. While a few individuals found this explanation plausible, most argued that bobcats aren’t 7 feet tall, don’t resemble apes and are not capable of throwing old tires. Charles Buchanan swears that it wasn’t a bobcat that attacked him on the night of November 7, 1969. Instead, he swears it was a man-ape that pulled him from his sleeping bag around 2 a.m. and hoisted him in the air. Luckily, Buchanan had a bag of chicken he could throw at the monster. Maybe that’s all the creature really wanted to begin with, as he left Buchanan alone after he got it. The Lake Worth monster received more press when Sallie Ann Clarke self-published a book, The Lake Worth Monster of Greer Island, Ft. Worth, Texas in 1969. And while she hadn’t seen the monster herself before she wrote the book, she later went on record as saying she has seen it four times since. The last time in 1977. In 2003, frequent Texas Parks & Wildlife Magazine contributor Larry D. Hodge interviewed Rick Pratt, who was the director of the Greer Island Nature Center at the time of the first wave of sightings, for an article titled The Lake Worth Monster. In the article, Pratt stated he knew of
two boys who confessed that they were the ones who threw a tire at the crowd of onlookers in 1969. While this may or may not explain one of the Lake Worth monster sightings, it certainly doesn’t explain them all. Is the Lake Worth monster still around today? Some people say it is and every now and again a new sighting of the creature is reported. Until the existence of the monster is proven one way or another, anglers visiting the lake should proceed with extreme caution, especially at night. Always having a bag of chicken on hand just in case is a good idea as well. Wright Patman Lake US Army Corps of Engineers PO Box 1817 Texarkana, Texas 75504 903-838-8781 Closest city: Texarkana Acreage: 18,994 Predominant Species: Largemouth bass, white bass, hybrid striped bass, sunfish, catfish
Chapter 3 Freshwater Fishes
Black Bass There are four major species of black bass in Texas. Largemouth Bass Micropterus salmoides Also known as black bass, lineside bass, bigmouth bass and green trout, the largemouth bass is by far the most popular freshwater game fish in Texas. In a survey conducted by Texas Parks & Wildlife, anglers were asked to name the fish they most preferred to catch in freshwater. Anglers chose the largemouth bass 3-to-1 over striped bass, 4-to-1 over white bass and nearly 10-to-1 over flathead catfish and white crappie. Apparently, non-Texans love fishing for largemouths as well, as each year anglers from Europe, Africa and Japan (where largemouths are known as dekkahi) hit the Lone Star State’s waters hoping to land a big one. Texas largemouth bass are so popular in part because they were bred to be that way. Prior to the 1970s, largemouths in Texas were better suited to life in rivers and streams than in large reservoirs and impoundments. Additionally, Texas largemouths rarely got larger than 13 pounds in weight. For a growing population looking for angling action in the state’s ever expanding number of newly developed lakes, these two issues were definitely ones that needed to be overcome. Luckily, Texas Parks & Wildlife stepped in to help. In 1971, the agency brought largemouth bass from Florida to the now defunct Tyler Fish Hatchery. The following year, offspring from these larger and more lake-adapted fish were stocked in Texas waters. Over the next few years the process was repeated again and again with new stock obtained from Florida, California and Cuba. The results of these stockings were seen in under a decade. In 1980, the long-standing 43-year-old state record 13.5-pound largemouth bass was broken when a lucky angler landed a 14.1 pounder. Today, this fish wouldn’t even crack the state’s top 50 records. In 1982, an 18.18-pound largemouth bass was caught in Lake Worth. This type of continued success leaves little doubt that someday, some lucky angler will land the first Texas largemouth bass to surpass 20 pounds in weight. Largemouth bass are green in color with a white to light-green underbelly. The richness or shade of green is determined by water clarity. A horizontal stripe of dark green to greenish-black blotches runs along the middle of the body on both sides. The dorsal fin is nearly divided with the anterior portion containing nine spines and the posterior section containing 12 to 13 soft rays. Average weight is between 1 to 5 pounds with 10 or more pounds considered a good trophy. Fish weighing 13 pounds or more are considered exceptional. Largemouth bass are easily
distinguishable from smallmouth bass by examining the upper jaw, or maxilla. On largemouth bass, the maxilla extends past the rear margin of the eye. It does not on smallmouth bass. Largemouth bass prefer protective cover such as vegetation, logs, rock ledges or man-made structures like docks, bridges or sunken debris. They utilize this cover for ambush hunting, shade from bright light and protection. They prefer clear, quiet water but easily adapt to a multitude of environments. Their preferred water temperature is between 65 to 75 degrees, but they can tolerate extremes highs and lows especially when searching for food. Spawning takes place between February and May when water temperature reaches 60 degrees. Males construct nests on any solid, firm bottom other than mud or silt in between 2 to 8 feet of water. After fertilizing the 2,000 to 43,000 eggs deposited by the female, the male chases the female away and guards the nest alone. In addition to watching over the eggs, the male will also “fan” the nest to keep the eggs well oxygenated. As a rule, largemouth bass are generally solitary although immature fish will sometimes school. Largemouth bass are predators from birth. Fry feed primarily on insect larvae and zooplankton. Adults feed on other fish, including smaller bass, crayfish, worms, insects, turtles, frogs, salamanders and even birds. Live bait such as this generally works well for largemouths (minus the birds) as do artificial baits that resemble them. Colorful plastic worms, scented or otherwise, Carolina and Texas-rigged worms, jigs, spoons, spinner and buzz baits are also effective. SIDEBAR:Budweiser ShareLunker Program The Budweiser ShareLunker program began in 1986 to promote catch-and-release and the selective breeding of trophy-sized largemouth bass donated from public and private waters in Texas. The program was originally named Operation Share a Lone Star Lunker but was changed to Share a Lunker, Inc. when it merged with the Parks and Wildlife Foundation of Texas in 1993. In 1996, the name was changed to the Budweiser ShareLunker Program when Anheuser Busch became the official sponsor. As official sponsor, Anheuser Busch assists the program by providing prizes for anglers lucky enough to enter the program, operating costs and a specially designed truck that travels the state between October 1 and April 30 collecting entry fish. Since its inception, the program has received more than 400 13-pound-plus largemouth bass from anglers across the state for breeding and research purposes. Information collected has only reiterated the importance of catch-and-release and slot limits as the best tools for managing Texas waters for trophy-sized bass. Research has also established that it takes largemouth bass between 8 to 10 years to reach 13 pounds. ShareLunker bass can be seen at the Texas Freshwater Fishery Center in Athens. Anglers fortunate enough to catch a ShareLunker-size fish should adhere to the following: Tips for Proper Care and Handling of Lunker Bass 1.Land the fish as quickly as possible. Playing a fish to exhaustion diminishes its chance of survival. 2.If possible, refrain from using a dip net that has a mesh larger than one-quarter inch and /or is not a smooth mesh. When using a net, always make sure it is wet before it touches the fish. 3.Avoid excessive handling or dropping of the fish while removing the hook. The fish will benefit from remaining in water (boat livewell or a large cooler filled with water) while the hook is removed with needlenosed pliers. Hold the fish vertically by the lower lip while it is in the water so that the total weight of the fish doesn’t rest on the lower jaw. 4.Take the fish to a marina or closest certified scales as soon as possible. Transport the fish in a properly aerated livewell or a large cooler equipped with an aerator.
5.Before removing the fish from the transport container, have the certified scales ready for weighing. Try to arrange to hold the fish in the marina’s minnow vat after it is weighed. 6.To reduce stress when removing the fish from the transport container for weighing, move the fish as close as possible to the scales and holding vat before removal. If everything is ready before the fish is removed from the transport container, weighing time should be less than one minute. 7.It is best to sedate the fish in the transport container before weighing or taking pictures. Marinas and bait shops can supply the recommended chemicals. Wet your hands before handling the fish. Lift the fish from the water vertically by clamping your thumb on the bottom lip. To raise the fish into a horizontal position, support the fish’s weight by placing your off-hand under the fish just behind the anal fin. This method should also be used if the fish is not sedated. Don’t roll back the lip in an effort to paralyze the fish. This can damage the lower jaw and hinder or prevent the fish from feeding after being released. The fish should not be out of the water longer than 30 seconds. Persons taking pictures should have their cameras ready before the fish is removed from the holding container. Holding the fish out of the water two to three minutes, or holding it in a plastic bag without proper aeration, causes stress that can damage the eyes or cause a bacterial and/or fungal infection. Such damage could cause mortality even several weeks later. Note that stress is increased by extremes in temperatures and/or windy weather conditions. 8.Ideal water temperature for holding fish is 55 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit, and the water temperature should not be changed more than five or six degrees per hour. If water is aerated and treated with bacterial/fungal retardant, low water temperature may not be crucial. 9.Call Texas Parks and Wildlife Department as soon as possible with your name, where the fish is located, a telephone number where you can be reached and when and where you caught the fish. Be sure to include your area code when leaving a message on the pager. Every attempt will be made to collect the fish within 12 hours, sooner if possible. 10.To request pickup of a ShareLunker (largemouth bass 13 pounds or more, legally caught in Texas waters between October 1 and April 30), call (903) 681-0550 or page 1 (888) 784-0600 and leave a number, including area code.
Smallmouth Bass Micropterus dolomieu Like the largemouth bass, the smallmouth bass is actually a member of the Centrarchidae or sunfish family. It is green to greenish-bronze in color with a whitish underbelly. The brightness of the color depends on the clarity of the water. Dark horizontal lines run across the back and sides. Average size is between 1 to 5 pounds although fish weighing more than 7 pounds have been recorded. Smallmouth bass prefer clear, deep water with a gravel or rock bottom. They do best in lakes that are more than 100 acres in size and more than 30 feet deep. They also do well in swift running streams such as those in the Hill Country. Smallmouth are generally found in deeper water than are largemouth bass.
Spawning occurs in the spring when water temperatures are between 60 to 65 degrees. The male constructs a nest before attracting a female that will lay between 2,000 to 10,000 golden to yellow colored eggs. It is not uncommon for males to spawn with more than one female on a single nest. The male fans the nest until the eggs hatch after a period of between 4 to 10 days. He will stay with the hatchlings until they are capable of fending for themselves, usually after a month. Fry feed on zooplankton and insect larvae while adults eat smaller fish and crawfish. Smallmouth bass are not native to Texas. They were introduced from brood stock from Arkansas and Tennessee. They are well-known for their fighting spirit, and many anglers actually prefer them over largemouths because of this.
Spotted Bass Micropterus punctulatus Also referred to as Kentucky spotted bass and spotted black bass, spotted bass resemble a cross between a largemouth and smallmouth. In fact, the spotted bass is often confused for the smallmouth bass as their coloring and size is so similar. The spotted bass is so named because of its pattern of dark to black spots below the lateral line. Other ways in which spotted bass differ from smallmouth can be found in the configuration of the jaw and within the mouth. In regards to the jaw, the spotted bass’s maxilla doesn’t extend back beyond the eye. Within the mouth there is an elliptical spot on the tongue that is rough like sandpaper to the touch. Spotted bass are a small fish and in Texas anything more than 3 pounds is a good catch. Still, specimens around 5 pounds are occasionally netted. Despite its smaller size, spotted bass are considered a good fighting fish and many anglers prefer them exclusively due to their legendary fighting ability. Spotted bass are also considered to be a great tasting fish as well. Although found in such large reservoirs as Lake Alan Henry and Cypress Springs, spotted bass actually prefer water with a current. They also prefer a rock and gravel bottom. Spotted bass can be found in most streams and rivers in the Eastern portion of the state, from the Red River to the Guadalupe River (excluding most of the Hill Country). Spotted bass can reach maturity as early as one year although three to four years is more common. Spawning occurs when water temperature is between 57 to 74 degrees. Females may lay between 1,150 to 47,000 eggs. Males guard the nest during incubation and up to four weeks afterward. Hatchlings start by eating zooplankton before moving on to larger prey such as insects, crayfish and smaller fish. Sidebar: Calling All Fish In the late 1960s, lure-maker Bill Lewis placed a few BBs in a shad-type lure with the idea that the rattling sound it produced when pulled through the water would attract fish. His test of the new lure on Toledo Bend Lake proved so successful that he decided to market the lure. Lewis named his new “rattling trap” after his “rattletrap” of a car that was so beaten down he often had to manually operate the windshield wiper by sticking his arm out the window. Lewis’s rattletrap lure set the fishing world on its ear and sparked hundreds of imitators.
In 1997, Lewis’s son, William H. “Buddy” Lewis, took the noisy lure idea to new levels when he created Biosonix Systems, a company that would actively study the underwater sounds and vibrations created by feeding fish. Lewis hoped to create a device that would mirror those sounds and use them to attract fish. Several years later the Biosonix unit was introduced. The unit plays back the sounds of baitfish in distress (being eaten) through a patented underwater speaker. The user can control the sounds and volume. When used correctly, the sounds not only attract game fish, but trigger their predatory and competitive instincts. The unit works so well that after professional angler Kevin VanDam used one to help him win the 2005 Bassmasters Classic, fellow competitors cried foul. Since then, the Bass Angler Sportsman Society has prohibited the unit from future classics. Recreational anglers, however, can use the unit to catch as many fish as they like.
Guadalupe Bass Micropterus treculii Once thought to be a subspecies of the spotted bass, the Guadalupe bass was declared a distinct species in 1955. It is the official state fish of Texas and found nowhere else in the world. Because it has adapted to smaller streams, the Guadalupe bass is not a large fish and most specimens do not get larger than 2 pounds. Still, specimens weighing more than 3 pounds have been caught. Guadalupe bass are greenish-white in color and look almost identical to spotted bass. One of the few distinguishing features between the two species is in the number of splotches or spots each has. Guadalupe bass have 12 separate splotches along the side, while the spotted’s spots are species are so similar in appearance that often only the location where the specimen was caught or scientific analysis can be used to differentiate between them. Guadalupe bass are found in streams and reservoirs in the Texas Hill Country where it is popular with both anglers and fly fishers. Of these environments, Guadalupe bass prefer clean, deep water. They are most often found near solid structures, rock ledges and outcroppings, and jumbled or piled rocks rather than vegetation. Spawning is similar to the spotted bass with the Guadalupe bass reaching maturation at about one year. Females lay between 400 to 9,000 eggs. Hatchlings begin their diet with invertebrates and hellgrammites before moving on to fish and crawfish. True Basses There are three major and one hybrid species of true basses in Texas.
White Bass Morone chrysops Averaging 2 pounds in weight, white bass, also known as sand bass, silver bass, streaker or barfish, are white to silver-gray in color with dark gray to black coloring along the back. Several broken or incomplete lines run horizontal on both sides of the body. This pattern and coloration is similar to that of juvenile striped bass. Despite these similarities, there are several ways to differentiate the two species. White bass have one tooth patch on the back of the tongue whereas striped bass have two. Also, white bass have a single sharp point on each gill cover while striped bass have two. White bass are a relatively deep water fish, generally coming to the surface or into shallow waters to feed or spawn. They are mostly found in lakes but can also be caught in rivers and streams. Their preferred food is shad (gizzard and threadfin), but they also eat crustaceans, insects and other smaller fish. Schools of white bass often churn the water to froth after locating groups of shad near the surface. It is during these feeding frenzies that white bass are most easily caught, usually on spoons or spinners. Spawning takes place in early spring, usually between February and April, when water temperatures run between 58 to 62 degrees. White bass are free spawners in that they do not build a nest. Spawning takes place in mid-to-shallow water or near the surface and generally at night. Fertilized eggs, sometimes numbering up to one million, sink to the bottom until they come in contact with rocks, gravel, logs or other solid structures. Eggs hatch in two to three days. Fry subsist on invertebrates before moving on to larger prey. White bass has a good taste and is much desired by many anglers.
Yellow Bass Monroe mississippiensis Deriving its moniker from the yellowish-white color of its lower belly, the yellow bass is a small fish with adult specimens averaging between 5 to 10 inches in length and weighing between onehalf to 2 pounds. Because of its smaller size, it is not actively sought by most anglers although those who do pursue it swear by the enjoyment of catching one on ultra light tackle. Those caught are generally done so on spoons, spinners or live bait. Yellow bass usually move in schools, much like white bass, but as a rule tend to feed at deeper levels. Their diet primarily consists of insects, crustaceans and small fish. Although edible, yellow bass are not generally considered good to eat because of their small size and boney flesh. Yellow bass can be found in water sources between the Red River and the drainage of the San Jacinto River.
Striped Bass Morone saxatilis Also known as stripers, lineside bass or rockfish, striped bass are the largest member of the true bass family with specimens as large as 67 pounds having been landed in the state’s freshwater reservoirs. They reach even greater weights in saltwater, with some specimens tipping the scales at more than 100 pounds. Striped bass are silver in color with olive-green shading along the back. Seven or eight horizontal dark stripes run along the side of the body. The belly is white. Two sharp points come off the rear of both gill covers. Spotted bass are not native to Texas. Beginning in the 1960s, they were introduced to various reservoirs. Repetitive stocking is necessary as the species is not self-sustaining due to it requiring a minimum of 50 miles of river flow for a successful hatch (Lake Texoma fed by the Red River is the exception to this rule). Due to their large size, striped bass require a great deal of food. For this reason they are stocked only in larger reservoirs that can provide this abundance. Striped bass prefer cooler water and in summer months will retreat to the deepest water with adequate oxygen levels. They are piscivorous, in that they only eat other fish. They also generally swim in schools to catch their prey. Gizzard and threadfin shad consists of the bulk of their diet. Striped bass are most often caught on live bait, cut bait or lures that imitate small fish, such as silver spoons. Hardplugs and jigs also work well. While striped bass are truly monsters as far as Texas game fish go, their financial impact is even larger. Lake Texoma alone annually sees an influx of more than $20 million from anglers hoping to land these freshwater goliaths. Despite being great table fare, most anglers who pursue striped bass do so for the sheer pleasure of the catch (and release). SIDEBAR:But it was a Mean Snake There was a time when every freshwater angler worth his or her weight kept a pistol in the tackle box to shoot snakes encountered on the water. Times change, as does the law. Today, Texas gun laws are stricter than ever and carrying a firearm on public waters is prohibited.* On private waters, however, individuals can not only carry a gun, but they can shoot as many snakes as they like. Or turtles. Or nutria. A good choice for those who still cling to the outdated mantra of “the only good snake is a dead snake” is the “Judge” from Taurus. This small, 3-inch barrel, stainless steel revolver holds five .410 shotgun shells or the same number of .45s. Its rubber “Ripper Grip” makes handling it with wet hands relatively easy, and its fiber optics sights are easy to see even in bright sunlight. It should be noted that snakes are an important part of any ecosystem. Still, no one wants to remove an angry water moccasin from a fishhook. •Check all laws before purchasing, carrying or discharging a firearm.
Hybrid Striper Monroe saxatilis x Monroe chrysops Similar in coloring, mannerisms and preferred habitat (as well as taste), the hybrid striper is a cross between a female striped bass and a male white bass. It is also a stocked fish and is unable to reproduce successfully in Texas. Although an almost mirror copy of the striped bass, the horizontal dark stripes on the hybrid bass tend to be broken or patchy. Hybrids tend to mature faster than do striped bass but do not reach near the size of the latter. In fact, a hybrid weighing more than 20 pounds is a rare trophy. Catfish and Bullheads There are three major species of catfish and two major species of bullhead in Texas.
Blue Catfish Ictalurus furcatus Often confused for the channel catfish, the blue catfish is the largest freshwater game fish in Texas. While it averages between 5 to 10 pounds, weights of between 20 to 50 pounds are not uncommon. Weights in excess of 100 pounds are not unheard of in Texas but are fairly rare (catfish exceeding 350 pounds were reportedly caught during the late 1800s in the Mississippi River). As the name implies, blue catfish are dark blue in color with the blue fading to white along the belly. The tail is forked, and there are sharp spines at the rear of the dorsal and pectoral fins. The anal fin, running along the bottom rear of the fish, is extremely long and almost connects to the tail. The fin contains between 30 to 36 rays and is considerably longer than that of the channel catfish. Blue catfish are found in rivers and lakes throughout Texas, the only exception being the Panhandle and other northern portions of the state. In the summer, blue catfish generally move upstream toward cooler waters and downstream in the winter months to find warmer water. Spawning occurs in the spring when water temperatures reach between 70 to 75 degrees. Females lay upwards of 4,000 eggs in nests constructed in crevices, hollow logs and other protected structures. After fertilizing the eggs, males guard the nest until about a week or so
after they hatch. Newborns eat insect larvae before moving on to eating other fish, mussels, crayfish, vegetable matter and carrion. Most feeding is done at night. Like the channel catfish, blue catfish are most often caught on cut fish, live fish and night crawlers. They also respond well to stink bait. While it is safe to say that most blue catfish in Texas are caught on trotlines, good-sized blue catfish are highly regarded as good fighters and many anglers target them. Blue catfish are an excellent eating fish. SIDEBAR: The Life and Times of Splash the Catfish Lake Texoma, January 2004; Less than half an hour after landing a 56-pound catfish, 27- year-old Cody Mullennix’s reel began to scream. Instinct, years of fishing for big cats and the weight of the rod told him he had another big fight on his hands. What his experience couldn’t tell him was that by day’s end his catch would become the most famous fish in Texas. As the fight progressed, the blood drained from Mullennix’s arms, leaving them numb. He was cranking the reel from memory only. All his fatigue disappeared though when the water broke, revealing a catfish bigger than any he’d ever seen. The huge fish thundered back below the water’s surface with such commotion that Mullennix christened the animal “Splash” and vowed to land her. After a strenuous, lengthy fight Mullennix was finally able to drag Splash onshore. The sheer size of the fish sent Mullennix into a state of shock. He simply couldn’t believe how big the animal really was. Scales would later reveal that the monster blue cat weighed 121.8 pounds; a weight that placed her in the record books as the heaviest of her kind ever caught (a 124-pound blue cat was pulled from the Mississippi River the following year breaking Mullinnex’s record). Once the official weighing was completed, Game Warden Dale Moses suggested to Mullennix that Splash be donated to the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens. Mullennix, a firm believer in releasing any cat weighing more than 20 pounds to allow it to spread its genetics, agreed. Splash, the blue catfish, made her début in the fisheries main tank on January 14, 2004. She shared the facility with numerous other fish including several Budweiser ShareLunker bass, one of which was estimated to weigh slightly more than 16 pounds. During her first year on display, visitation at the fishery jumped 43 percent. People from across the country came to see Splash and to watch her eat large chunks of chicken from a diver’s hand. On her one-year anniversary at the fishery, more than 800 people came to see her and more than 100 children brought her homemade birthday cards. Less than a year later, on December 13, 2005, Splash died of unknown causes. Later analysis of her otoliths (small ear bones) by Heart of the Hills researcher Dave Buckmeir put Splash’s age at between 23 to 25 years. Her skeleton was preserved for a permanent exhibit to detail her life and times. Splash, you will be missed.
Channel Catfish Ictalurus punctatus Also known as willow cat, whisker fish, fiddler, forked-tail cat or lady cat, channel catfish are olive-brown to slate blue in color with dark spots scattered along the back and sides. These spots are often absent or obscured on older fish. The belly is silver-white in color. The tail is deeply forked, and there are stiff spines on the dorsal and pectoral fins. The anal fin is much shorter than that of the blue catfish, having only 24 to 29 rays as opposed to the latter’s 30 to 36. Channel catfish are a relatively small fish, usually averaging between 1 to 2 pounds, although specimens weighing as much as 36 pounds have been landed in Texas. Channel catfish are found in rivers, streams, reservoirs and private ponds throughout the state. It is by far the most abundant of all species of catfish in Texas and is highly prized as food. It is extremely popular with anglers, and it ranks just behind largemouth bass and crappie as the most sought fish in the Lone Star state. It is widely caught by both trotline fishers and rod and reel anglers. It responds well to a variety of natural and artificial baits including worms, grasshoppers, stink baits, cheese baits, spinners and jigs. They are strong fighters and often put up a difficult yet enjoyable fight. Spawning habits are almost identical to that of the blue catfish with the process beginning in spring when water temperatures reach around 75 degrees. Females lay up to 4,000 eggs in nests stationed in underwater cavities and crevices such as those found in rocks, root systems, undercut banks and logs. Males guard the nest until about a week after hatching occurs. Newborns primarily eat small insects before moving on to fish, mullusks, crustaceans, plant matter and carrion.
Flathead Catfish Pylodictis olivaris Found in rivers and reservoirs throughout the state, flathead catfish are the second most popular catfish species in Texas. They are referred to by a variety of names including yellow cat, shovelhead, pied cat, Opelsusa cat, Mississippi cat, mud cat and Johnnie cat. As the fish’s true moniker implies, flathead catfish have a wide, flat head with an equally wide mouth. Coloration depends on the water clarity in which it resides. Olive-brown to dark brown is generally the color scheme found in clearer water with yellowish-brown individuals found in murkier waters. Regardless of location or water clarity, most specimens have a yellowish to cream-white belly. The anal fin is relatively short and the tail is not as deeply forked as it is with the channel or blue catfish. Flathead catfish have sharp spines attached to venom glands located toward the front of their dorsal fin. In addition to tearing or piercing skin, the venom from these spines can lead to great irritation or a nasty reaction in some people. Persons who suffer after being “stung” should seek medical attention. Flathead catfish are the second largest catfish species in the state, just behind the blue catfish. Although most adults average between 5 to 10 pounds, individuals weighing more than 110 pounds and exceeding 4 feet in length have been caught. Spawning takes place in spring or summer whenever water temperature reaches between 75 to 80 degrees. Males select a nesting site in a hollow log, cave, crevice or undercut in a bank. Females will lay upwards of 100,000 eggs before leaving the male to guard the nest. Males are extremely protective of eggs and will even fan the clutch with their tail in order to keep it clean and well- oxygenated. Newborns eat insect larvae before moving on to an all-fish diet of shad, carp, sunfish, bass, catfish and other fish. Flathead catfish will eat any type of fish it can catch, even its own kind. Aside from spawning, most fish lead fairly solitary lives. Flathead catfish prefer deep water with little to no current and will seek these areas out even in streams and rivers. The best place to find them in most reservoirs is below the dam. Flatheads are most often caught on live bait, cut bait or artificial lures resembling smaller fish. Live sunfish are extremely popular and successful bait with anglers throughout the state. Flatheads are also caught on trotlines. SIDEBAR: Freshwater Man-Eaters The two divers were at 100 feet below the surface when they reached the dam’s intake valves. Outfitted with bolt cutters, oversized pliers and razor sharp knives, the men methodically began clearing tangled brush, fishing line and other debris from the heavy iron grates that covered the cylindrical intake tunnels. Freed rubbish and trash floated near the divers until the slightest push sent it slowly sailing into the zero gravity void of the lake’s depths. This menagerie of hovering garbage and the greenish-silted hue of the water painted a ghostly scene that few would feel comfortable working in, but for the two experienced divers it was work as usual. The men were used to the dead silence of the deep, a place where one only hears their own breath as it is pushed through a regulator or the faint thud of metal tools clanging against rusting bars suspended in algae-covered concrete. None of this bothered the divers. Each knew their job and each knew of the relatively safe environment a lake provided. Pushing aside a partially rotted elm branch lodged in the bottom third of a grate, the first diver noticed a dark shadow cross his upper field of vision. Turning to make sure that his partner was still to his right, the diver dismissed the shadow and continued working. He had just begun cutting a twisted storm of fishing line when the shadow loomed overhead once more. The diver
thrust his head upward to see the dark outline of a fish completely blocking out what little light the depths allowed to penetrate. As the shadow turned, the diver reached for his partner. The second diver rotated just in time to see a gigantic fish barreling toward his partner. Noting the intense fear in his coworker’s eyes, the first diver flipped around to see a wide gaping mouth larger than his body just a few feet from him. He immediately inflated his buoyancy compensator and rushed toward to the surface breaking all safety protocols in the process. The excess nitrogen in his blood combined with hair-bleaching fear manifested itself down the length of his arm and into his chest where it attacked his heart. After a week in a coma, the diver confirmed what his partner had already described after his narrow escape, that a catfish the size of a bulldozer had nearly devoured him whole. Pledging on the remainder of his frazzled life, the diver vowed never to set foot in the lake again. This story has as many variations as it does locations where it supposedly happened, all of which are entirely false. No one knows where or when this urban (lake?) myth began but in these days of instant messaging and web blogs, the story continues to gain in strength and in the number of people who believe it. While some species of catfish, such as the Mekong giant catfish of Southeast Asia, can weigh upwards of 650 pounds and obtain lengths of 9 feet, nothing even remotely that large has ever been found in Texas waters. The heaviest catfish ever taken in the Lone Star State topped the scales at 121.5 pounds¬¬––a large fish by anyone’s standards but not large enough to consume a diver working on a dam. The only truth in the much repeated monster catfish story is that Texans like telling and hearing tall tales.
Black Bullhead Ameiurus melas Yellow Bullhead Ameiurusnatalis The black bullhead is black to greenish-black in color with a gray to white underbelly. The chin barbells are black and the tail is squared off with no indention. The anal fin is short, containing between 17 to 24 rays. Yellow bullheads are light yellow to olive- green in color with white chin barbells and a whitish underbelly. Its tail is also squared off. The anal fin is slightly longer having between 23 to 27 rays. Unlike with other species of catfish, neither species of bullhead has spines within their dorsal fin. Both yellow and black bullheads are small in size with adults averaging between 6 to 8 ounces in
weight. Although some bullheads weighing in excess of 5 pounds have been landed, anything more than 1 pound should be considered an outstanding catch. Both species are also referred to as polliwogs, chuckleheads or greaser cats. Bullheads spawn in late spring or early summer. Nests are constructed in mud bottoms or in tight areas with some sort of cover. Females deposit between 2,000 to 12,000 yellowish colored eggs which are then fertilized by a male. Both sexes will guard newborns until they are about 1 inch in length. Fry eat insect larvae and small crustaceans before moving onto pretty much anything plant or animal, dead or alive, along the bottom. Although almost any bait will attract a bullhead, more are caught on worms than just about anything else. While neither species of bullhead is generally considered an important game fish, the species does have a small following of anglers in the Panhandle and in East Texas where they are most abundantly found. Crappie There are two major species of crappie in Texas.
Black Crappie Pomoxis nigromaculatus Also known as white perch, calico bass or speckled perch, black crappie are silver-green in color with irregular black splotches marking the sides. These dark markings are the origin of the fish’s Latin name, Pomoxis, which means “black spotted.” These markings make it sometimes difficult to discern black crappie from white crappie. This is easily done, however, by closely studying the pattern of these “spots.” On the black crappie, the spots are scattered, while the spots on the white crappie form distinct and definite vertical lines. Another discerning factor can be found along the back. Black crappie have seven to eight spines within the dorsal fin while white crappie have a maximum of six. Also black crappie tend to have a deeper and more robust body than does the white. Despite this larger size, black crappie are still a relatively small fish with most adults averaging just three-quarters of a pound. While any specimen over 1 ½ pound is considered a trophy, 4-pound individuals have been caught. Black crappie are both native and introduced in Texas with their natural range being the central portion of the state minus the Hill Country. They have been introduced in rivers and reservoirs
elsewhere in the state with great success. As they do best in clear, acidic water, they are most actively pursued in the eastern portion of the state where they are found in relative abundance. Spawning takes place in the spring when water temperatures reach between 65 to 70 degrees. Nests are constructed on gravel or sand bottoms in between 2 to 6 feet of water. Females lay upwards of 150,000 eggs. Fry hatch in about five days but remain attached to the nest substrate for a few days more. Young feed on microscopic life before moving into deeper water and to a diet of fish and insects. Because of this, black crappie respond to live minnows and tiny jigs the best. Crappies, both black and white, are the third most popular game fish in Texas, falling just behind bass and catfish respectively. They are an excellent eating fish, with some diners going so far as to say they’re the best tasting of all freshwater fish in the state. SIDEBAR: Watching Fish with a Nuclear Physicist The Web site made it look easy. The customer testimonials said that anybody could put it together. The parts came labeled and were accompanied by step-by-step instructions. It was one of the most frustrating experiences of my life. Trying to save some money, I bought the plans for an underwater camera online. What looked like an easy project turned into a nightmare costing three times the estimated amount. During the course of my project, I fried six LED lights, blew two switches, got solder burns on six fingers, and because I had to bore out the inside of a PVC pipe to accommodate a miniature camera, inhaled enough plastic shavings and fumes to give a small community cancer twice over. The stress alone probably took more days off my life than would smoking two packs of cigarettes a day. In the end, I reluctantly had to ask my nuclear physicist neighbor for help. Despite testing his homemade Geiger counter at the time, Paul Jennings was good enough to draw me a diagram consisting of ancient hieroglyphics and plus signs. Watching my eyes cross in bewilderment, Paul completed the project out of pity. Moral of the story? Study nuclear physics if you want to make a do-it-yourself underwater camera. Portions of this piece first appeared in Outdoor Life.
White Crappie Pomoxis annularis
Like the black crappie, white crappie are also referred to as white perch or speckled perch. It is a small fish with adults generally averaging just under a pound. However, individuals as large as 4 pounds have been caught in Texas. White crappie are silver to silver-white in color with the upper back silver-green to dark green. Several dark colored vertical lines run along the sides. These bands are the origin of the Latin annularis which means “having rings.” The dorsal fin has a maximum of six spines. Spawning habits are nearly identical to that of the black crappie with nest building beginning when water temperatures reach 65 degrees. Females lay upwards of 150,000 eggs with fry hatching about five days later. Young subsist on microscopic life before moving into deeper waters and turning to a diet of fish and insects. Again, like the black crappie, white crappie are excellent table fare.
Sunfish There are six major species of sunfish in Texas. Bluegill Sunfish Lepomis macrochirus Of the three subspecies of bluegill sunfish residing in Texas, only two are native to the state; Lepomis macrochirus, originally from the northeastern half of the state, and Lepomis macrochirus speciosus from the central, southern and western portions of the state. Lepomis macrochirus purpurescens, a native of the Eastern seaboard states, has been widely introduced throughout the state as a sport and forage fish. All are commonly referred to as bream, brim, sunfish and sunfish perch. Bluegills are small in size and stature with adults averaging 4 to 6 inches in length and weighing just under a pound. Individuals weighing as much as 3 pounds have been caught in Texas but are extremely rare. Bluegills have dark olive green backs and sides with these colors bleeding into lavender, cooper or orange on the sides before changing to red-orange to yellow on the belly. These colors increase in males during the spawning period. Dark vertical lines run along the upper half of the body. The dorsal fin is spiny, containing between nine to 11 spines. The anal fin has three spines. The spawning season is fairly long, generally starting when the water temperature reaches 70 degrees. The season peaks around May or June and winds down in early fall. This long
spawning season and the prolific nature of the species can easily lead to an overpopulation if there is a lack of prey fish or low fishing pressure. During spawning season, bluegills build nests next to other nests in 1 to 2 feet of water forming “colonies” or “beds.” Females lay between 12,000 to 65,000 eggs. Fry are guarded by the male. Young feed on plankton before moving on to insects and insect larvae. Despite the fact that bluegills are not a particular favorite among anglers, they do put up a good fight once hooked. For this reason they are an excellent fish for children or beginners to try. Bluegills are considered good table fare and are often fried whole.
Green Sunfish Lepomis cyanellus An introduced species found in streams and reservoirs throughout the state, green sunfish are green to greenish-blue in color with orange or yellowish tipped dorsal, anal and tail fins. The sides have faint vertical bars while some turquoise-tipped scales give the appearance of horizontal stripes. The body is heavy in build, although not in weight, and shaped like a black bass. The mouth and eyes appear large for the body. For this reason, it is often referred to as goggle-eye or goggle-eye bass. Other nicknames include rock bass, branch perch and bluespotted sunfish. Adults are typically between 6 to 8 inches in length and average between 4 to 6 ounces in weight. Individuals weighing as much as 2 pounds have been caught but are extremely rare. An individual weighing more than one-half pound is an excellent trophy. Green sunfish spawn in late spring and well into the summer when water temperatures reach 70 degrees. They nest in shallow water colonies with individual nests ranging in size from 6 inches to 2 feet in diameter. Females lay between 12,000 to 65,000 eggs which are fiercely guarded by the male until about 6 to 8 days after hatching. Young fish feed on zooplankton before moving on to a diet of insects, crayfish and other fish. For this reason, small natural baits work best. Although not a popular game fish, green sunfish are fun to catch on light or ultra light tackle. Green sunfish are edible but very bony. SIDEBAR: Bringing Home the Shell Trying to free an angry turtle from a fishing hook can ruin any angler’s day. Removing a heavy, angry reptile with the power to sever fingers can be dangerous and time consuming. But for a great many Texans, catching turtles is the only reason to hit the closest body of water. These connoisseurs of hard-shelled-meat employ a multitude of capture methods including traditional angling and fly gear, trotlines, hand nets, floating traps and bare hands. As the prime ingredient in many soups, chowders and gumbos, snapping turtles are by far the most coveted catch by turtle hunters. Snapping turtle meat is said to taste like a combination of
pork, beef, veal, and fish. In addition to their excellent meat, snappers provide the extra benefit of having attractive shells that can be polished and glazed. Other hard- shelled turtles, such as sliders and coots, although edible, are hardly worth the trouble of cleaning due to the small amount of meat they provide. Softshell turtles are not as widely known as a “food turtle,” but they are considered to be much better eating than snappers by many chefs. The meat is similar in taste to turkey. These turtles, which can reach more than 20 inches in length, get their name from their soft, leathery shell. Like snappers, they are aggressive and fully capable of inflecting severe pain when cornered. Probably the most popular method of bringing home the shell is through the utilization of trotlines. For best results, turtle trotlines should be set close to shore, preferably near a steep drop- off. As certain types of turtles “den” under banks, this puts the line close to the turtle’s home. Regular sized trotline hooks are adequate enough, but bait should be harder and firmer than baits generally used for fish. Pork fatback, baitfish heads, leftover stew meat or chops, or any other number of meats work well. Another popular method is by employing the use of traps. Floating traps that allow turtles to climb in but not climb out are used with great success as are floating hoop traps and live traps set on shore but half submerged in water. Floating sun traps (which turtles climb upon to sun themselves but are unable to climb out of) don’t necessarily require bait, but baiting them with smelly meat, fish or fish offal is not a bad idea. Traditional anglers either catch turtles by placing lines near turtle dens (much like with trotlines) or by casting near or behind a floating turtle and dragging the bait before them with the hope that a bite will occur. Fly anglers also utilize this casting method. One of the more difficult methods of turtle hunting involves a steady pair of hands and a deep breath. Hunters dive after swimming turtles or turn over rocks and search dens for their species of choice. As frequent turtle diver Todd Hoke of Conroe explains, “This method ain’t for everybody, but it sure is fun.” Snapping turtles may be legally taken; alligator snapping turtles are not legal, because they are listed as endangered. NOTE: Check state laws before collecting turtles.
Longear Sunfish Lepomis megalotis A popular fish with fly fishermen due to its habit of feeding on the surface, the longear sunfish is an extremely colorful and beautiful fish. It is bright orange to scarlet in color with wavy turquoise markings on the cheek, head and fins. Males are brighter in color than are females. As
the name implies, the earflap is rather long and tipped in white. It is a small fish averaging 4 inches in length and weighing less than a pound. Despite this size it is a good fighter and a favorite for young anglers. Longears are found in streams and reservoirs throughout the state with the exception of parts of the Rio Grande Valley and the headwaters of the Canadian and Brazos Rivers. Spawning occurs in shallow waters in the spring and summer when the water temperature reaches 70 degrees. After building a nest, males actively attract females by swimming around them and showing off their bright colors. Interested females follow the male back to the nest and deposit eggs. The male will then chase away the female and guard the nest until about 10 days after they hatch. Young fish feed on zooplankton before moving on to a diet of aquatic and flying insects. Much as with green sunfish, longears are edible but extremely bony.
Redbreast Sunfish Lepomis auritus Also known as yellowbelly sunfish, redbreasted bream and sunperch, the redbreasted sunfish is one of the larger sunfishes in the state with adults averaging one-half pound in weight and ranging between 6 to 12 inches in length. Individuals weighing in excess of a pound have been caught although they are extremely rare. It is an introduced species and found in streams and reservoirs throughout Texas with the exception of the western third of the state. Its upper back is olive in color shading to bluish-bronze on the sides. As the name implies, the front breast is bright orange to red-orange in color. Males tend to be brighter than females and are even more so during spawning season. Light blue to turquoise blue streaks are found radiating from the mouth. The ear or opercle flap is very long and narrow and is actually longer than it is on the misnamed longear sunfish. As with other sunfish species, spawning occurs in spring and summer with males constructing nests in colonies in 1 to 3 feet of water. Males guard the nest until shortly after the eggs hatch. Young fish feed on zooplankton before moving on to a diet of insects, worms, crustaceans and other fish. The redbreast is considered excellent table fare and unlike other species of sunfish is actually large enough to fillet.
Redear Sunfish Lepomis microlophus Originally only native to the eastern two-thirds of Texas, the redear sunfish has been widely introduced to the point that it can be found in streams and reservoirs throughout the state. It is dark olive in color along the top shading to yellowish-green on the sides to white or off-white along the belly. As the name implies, the ear, or opercle flap, is bright red on males. Females sport an orange colored ear. The spinous dorsal fin, which lies just forward of the soft dorsal (albeit connected) fin contains between nine to 11 spines. The anal fin has three spines. Adults average between 6 to 8 ounces although individuals weighing as much as 4 pounds have been caught outside of Texas. Unlike with other species of sunfish, redears are mostly a bottom dwelling fish and rarely approach the surface to feed or take bait. They prefer warm water with little to no current and plenty of vegetation cover. Their diet includes worms, aquatic insects and their larvae, small crustaceans and mollusks. The readear’s fondness for the later explains why one of its more common names is shellcracker. Other names include Georgia bream, sun perch, cherry gill and sunny. Spawning takes place in spring and summer when the water reaches 70 degrees. As with other sunfish species, nests are built in colonies or beds. Females deposit thousands of eggs that the male will guard until well after they hatch. Incubation is usually between five to 10 days. Because of their diet, readears are most often caught on natural bait such as grubs, tiny crawfish, worms and gray crickets. Redears are edible although fairly bony.
Warmouth Lepomis gulosus Warmouth have the distinction of having more colorful colloquial names than any other fish in Texas. In certain parts of the state, they are referred to as red-eyed beam, goggle-eye, mud bass, strawberry perch, redeye, stump knocker, mo-mouth, mudgapper, weed bass, open mouth, molly and morgan. Regardless of what it’s called, the warmouth is a black bass shaped sunfish that averages between 4 to 6 inches in length and weighs about one-half pound. It is dark to mottled
brown in color along the back with golden belly and sides. Males have a bright orange spot at the rear of the dorsal fin. Between three and five red-brown to purpleish streaks spread from the eye and operculum (gill cover) area. The gill flap is often red. The dorsal fin contains 10 spines while the anal fin contains three. Warmouth are found throughout Texas but are most abundant in the eastern portion of the state. They are very secretive and prefer areas with cover in which they can hide such as around stumps, weeds and other large, submerged objects. Below rock overhangs is another favorite hiding place. Warmouth use these areas to wait in ambush for food prey. As they are sight feeders, they do best in fairly clear water. Their diet consists of small fish, crayfish, insects, mollusks and snails. Warmouth respond well to live bait as well as artificial lures such as small spinnerbait, small crankbaits and spoons. Spawning occurs in the spring when the water temperature rises to around 70 degrees. Males construct nests in 1 to 4 feet of water near plenty of cover. Females release between 4,000 to 63,000 eggs which the male will guard until well after the three- day incubation period. Fry begin life with a diet of insects. Warmouths are popular with anglers because they are hard- hitting and put up a good fight. They are edible but often have a “muddy” taste if taken from muddy water. Fish taken from clearer water make for much better table fare. SIDEBAR: Texas’ Turtle Trade with Asia One of the best-selling items in the fresh food section of China’s 184 Wal-Mart stores might have been sunning itself on a log in Texas only weeks earlier. China’s insatiable appetite for turtles has made that country the largest consumer of fresh water turtles in the world. Turtles are used in traditional medicines, to tell fortunes and most often as food. While it’s not known exactly how many turtles China consumes every year, the numbers that are known hint at an annual amount that’s astronomical. In 1996, Hong Kong alone imported 7,716,000 pounds of live turtles. It’s a good guess that a large number of those came from Texas as the state exports about 100,000 turtles a year. Trappers who hold a Non-game Dealer’s Permit (obtained from Texas Parks and Wildlife) are allowed to capture and sell red-eared sliders, common snapping turtles and softshell turtles from private waters throughout the state. Collection and sale of other species is prohibited by law. Some of these turtles stay in Texas where they are sold to Asian markets in large cities but most are exported to China or other Asian countries. The Texas, turtle trade is only a small fraction of the United States’ booming reptile trade. Between 1998 and 2002, the United States exported more than 26 million wild-caught reptiles, most of which were believed to be Chelonian species (turtles). Organizations such as the Tortoise Trust and the Wildlife Conservation Society denounce the capture and sale of wild-caught turtles, saying that collecting has already led to a serious decline in the population. Texas Parks and Wildlife is also concerned about the heath of turtle species in Texas and is constantly collecting data from breeders and other sources to see if action to further limit or ban collection altogether is necessary. Carp and Buffalo There are two major species of carp and three species of sucker in Texas.
Common Carp Cyprinus carpio The carp is perhaps the most widely distributed and prolific species in Texas and in many bodies of water it is also the most dominant species. It was first introduced to the U.S. in 1877 by the federal government as a cheap food source for the country’s fast growing population. It arrived in Texas in 1881, for the same reason. At one time, carp were seen as such an important species that the state’s first fish hatchery dealt almost exclusively with carp production. This interest soon waned and in time the carp began to be seen as more as an invasive pest than food source or game fish. Today, although in some circles it carries the aura and reputation of a “trash fish,” carp fishing is expanding in Texas and tournaments with monetary prizes as high $250,000 have been held with great success. Carp are yellow to golden brown in color with a yellowish-white belly. Silver or brassy-green colored individuals are also fairly common. These discrepancies in color are attributed to the clarity of the water in which they live. Carp are a heavy bodied fish with the average adult weighing between 8 to 20 pounds. Individuals weighing upwards of 80 pounds are rare although not unheard of. Any fish of more than 20 pounds is considered a good trophy. The dorsal and anal fins are both heavily spined with the dorsal fin containing between 17 to 21 rays. The mouth is small in comparison to the body, and there is a pair of barbels on the upper jaw. Carp are adaptable to all types of water and can withstand temperature fluctuations from between 34 to 106 degrees with little or no effects. Water clarity is not a concern as they find food by smell and taste. They are omnivorous and will eat almost anything that their routing along on the bottom will bring up. Anglers take advantage of this with a wide array of smelly, sweet baits including sweet corn, cattle feed cubes, rotten potatoes, dough balls soaked in Big Red soda and worms. Anglers also have great success with pre-baiting areas they intend to fish for carp. Spawning occurs in fairly shallow water usually between March and September when the water temperature is between 48 to 90 degrees. Depending on the size of the individual, females may lay upwards of 2 million eggs. These hatch without any parental care and are completely unguarded in about one week. Fry grow quickly and within a year’s period can easily weigh more than one pound. In Texas, there are several genetic variations of the common carp, all with the same scientific name. The most common of these are the mirror carp, leather carp, koi carp and Israeli carp. Carp are edible but very boney. Carp weighing less than 10 pounds are considered the best table fare.
Grass Carp Ctenopharyngodon idella The grass carp is one of the largest members of the minnow family with individuals weighing upwards of 400 pounds having been reported from other countries. In Texas, however , grass carp average 60 to 80 pounds in comparison. Grass carp have oblong bodies and actually resemble giant minnows. They are silver to olive in color with fairly large scales covering most of the body minus the head. Unlike other species of carp, they have no barbels. Grass carp were originally brought to the United States from Asia as biological control for aquatic vegetation. In Texas, triploid (sterile) grass carp have been stocked in both private and public waters for the same reason since 1992. In public waters where Triploid Grass Carp Permits are in effect (information can be found on Texas Parks and Wildlife’s Web page), caught grass carp must be released back into the water unharmed. Unfortunately, Texas also has a fairly large population of diploid (non-sterile) grass carp as well. These have come about as a result of illegal stocking and escapees from legal experiments in Lake Conroe. There is a known population of diploid grass carp in the Trinity River-Galveston Bay area. If caught, diploid grass carp must be immediately killed and gutted. The reason behind this extreme measure deals with the fact that grass carp are capable of devouring between 40 to 300 percent of their body weight in plant material per day. Unchecked grass carp could potentially wipe out an area’s vegetation, leaving behind little cover or food for some species of fish. Given their 100 percent herbivorous diet, grass carp are extremely difficult to catch. Still many anglers have taken them utilizing dough balls, worms or catfish pellets. Due to their size, grass carp put up a thrilling fight and can be very difficult to land. Grass carp are edible and considered to be much better table fare than other species of carp.
Ictiobus cyprinellus Also known as gourdhead, common buffalo, redmouth buffalo or just buffalo, bigmouth buffalo are limited to the northeastern portion of the state, with the Red River below Lake Texoma and the Sulphur River acting as boundaries. In body structure, it resembles a compressed carp with a high, arching back. It is olive-green to brown in color with a lighter colored belly. Its mouth faces forward rather than downward and is free from barbels. It is a large fish with adults weighing upwards of 80 pounds. Diet consists of plankton, invertebrates and crustaceans. Although bigmouth buffalo are generally considered a “rough fish” or “trash fish.” many anglers appreciate the difficult fight in landing a large one. Bigmouths are edible but are rather boney.
Black Buffalo Ictiobus niger Looking almost exactly like a bigmouth buffalo, the black buffalo is a heavy fish with mature adults weighing upwards of 50 pounds. As the name implies, it is black to black-blue in color. It is commonly referred to as mongrel buffalo and current buffalo, the later dealing with it generally being found in strong river currents. It is scattered throughout Texas with populations reported in the Brazos, Colorado, Rio Grande, Sabine and Red River basins. Black buffalo are not frequently targeted or caught by anglers in Texas, which is a shame given their large size and fighting prowess. Black buffalo respond well to dough baits, sweet corn and worms. Given their size, heavy tackle is recommended.
Smallmouth Buffalo Ictiobus bubalus Resembling a carp perhaps more than any other species of buffalo, given its downward pointing, sucker-type mouth, the smallmouth buffalo is found in rivers and reservoirs throughout the state with the exception of the Panhandle. It is light brown to dark brown in color with a greenish to copperish tint. The belly is lighter in color, usually pale yellow to white. It is an extremely large fish with mature adults sometimes tipping the scales in excess of 100 pounds. This size is incredible considering its bottom-feeding diet consists of insect larvae, algae, plankton, vegetation and detritus.
Because of their size, smallmouth buffalo are aggressive fighters and quite difficult to land. They are considered good table fare despite their many bones. Smallmouth buffalo are the No.1 species in terms of sales by freshwater commercial fishermen. SIDEBAR: Progress and Caviar With fossil records indicating that it has existed on Earth for more than 300 million years, the paddlefish is the oldest surviving animal species in North America. So how did a fish that survived dinosaurs, the Ice Age and Western expansion get so low in numbers that the State of Texas had to list it as a “threatened” species in 1977 in order to keep it from becoming extinct? Two words: “progress” and “caviar.” The progress aspect to the paddlefish’s downward spiral has to do with the fact that the species needs large amounts of flowing water to successfully reproduce. Before 1913, Texas had plenty of flowing water but beginning with the Median River in that same year, Texas began damming major rivers for hydroelectric power, irrigation, municipal water supplies and recreation. These dams dramatically decreased water flow in some areas resulting in interrupted spawning. Lacking access to areas that meet their very specific spawning criteria, the species began to decline sharply. Adding to the trouble of reduced habitat is the fact that paddlefish eggs are coveted by the caviar trade. Known in some markets as gray pearl caviar or simply paddlefish caviar, the eggs are said to have a smooth buttery flavor. Outside of Texas, where paddlefish are numerous enough to allow it, caviar is collected legally. It is also collected by aquaculture farms such as Osage Fisheries in Missouri that grow the fish in huge impoundments. In Texas, it is illegal to catch, kill or harm paddlefish due the species’ “threatened” status. Unfortunately, that hasn’t stopped the poaching of paddlefish when traditional caviar prices soar. In an effort to bring the species back to Texas in abundant numbers, Texas Parks and Wildlife began stocking the Sabine and other rivers in 1991 with thousands of paddlefish fingerlings. Through continued yearly restocking and public awareness, it is hoped that the oldest living Texans will once again rule the rivers. Gar There are four major species of gar in Texas.
Atractosteus spatula With some individuals obtaining 8 feet in length and weighing more than 300 pounds, alligator gar are by far the largest freshwater fish in Texas. Like all gar species, it has a long cylindrical body, diamond shaped interlocking scales and a long snout. The tail is rounded and both the dorsal and anal fin are far back on the body. Alligator gar are brown to dark olive in color with a pale underbelly. Unlike other species of gar, the alligator gar or gator gar has two rows of needle-like teeth in the upper jaw. It is probably this feature, along with the gator gar’s much exaggerated tenacity and aggressiveness that inspired the earliest European settlers in Texas to label them “river sharks.” Other, more modern, colloquialisms include Cajun barracuda and Arkansas tuna. Alligator gar are usually found in sluggish waters or in reservoirs. Because they can also tolerate higher salinities than other gar species they can also be found in river mouths along the coast as well as some bays. They can even survive in stagnant water due to a highly vascularized swim bladder connected to their pharynx that enables them to gulp air. Alligator gar prefer warm to hot weather and are most active during the spring, summer and early fall. Gator gar are ambush predators and eat a wide variety of prey such as fish, waterfowl, small mammals and small reptiles such as turtles and baby alligators. They will also eat carrion. Individuals in saltwater tend to prefer crabs and hardhead catfish. Not much is known of the alligator gar’s spawning habits other than the fact that they spawn in the spring and that females may drop upwards of 138,000 eggs. The eggs drop to the bottom after being fertilized by the male where they will remain with no parental interaction until they hatch. Eggs are bright red and poisonous if eaten. Although they are most popular with bow fishers and spear fishers, alligator gar can provide an incredible thrill if taken with rod and reel. Anglers brave enough to go after big gar often do so with heavy saltwater bait casting rods, at least 50-pound test line and a 5/0 treble hook topped with a fist-sized chunk of fish as bait. Gator gar are edible although bony. Meat is usually cut into steaks or ground into patties.
Longnose Gar Lepisosteus osseus The longnose gar is the most common species of gar in Texas. It is extremely widespread and can be found in rivers, streams and reservoirs throughout the state. It is olivaceous brown to silver-green in color with a pale underbelly. Individuals in murky water tend to be darker in color than those found in clearer water. Dark spots are scattered on its caudal and dorsal fins as well as along the latter part of the body. The snout is twice the length of the head and filled with extremely sharp teeth. Longnose gar are the second largest species of gar in the state with adults sometimes obtaining lengths of 6 feet and weights of upwards of 80 pounds. Longnose gar are also known as needlenose gar, billfish or Billy gar. Spawning occurs in spring to summer with both sexes congregating in shallow water to mate. After mating, females drop adhesive eggs over submerged objects, gravel or weeds. Eggs hatch between three to nine days later. Like all gar eggs, they are poisonous to humans. Young feed on insect larvae and small crustaceans before moving on to a diet of fish.
Like other species of gar, longnose gar are ambush predators. They feed both day and night but tend to do more so at night. They attack prey from the side by impaling it on their needle-sharp teeth. Prey is then maneuvered until it can be swallowed head first. Anglers who target longnose, as well as spotted and shortnose gar, do so by utilizing a lure made from frayed nylon rope. No hook is required as the gar’s teeth become entangled in the rope’s frays. Longnose gar are also popular with spearfishers and bowfishers. SIDEBAR: Mount that Fish “I tell ya’ it’s like playing with wet toilet paper. It’s just that dern fragile and messing with it is a pain in the butt.” Taxidermist Neal Coldwell’s description of the difficulties in mounting a catfish using the fish’s real skin would most likely turn anyone off a career in Taxidermy. Luckily though for those bound and determined to join the taxidermy world there’s an alternative method. “A replica is really the only way to go,” Coldwell explains, referring to the foam and fiberglass forms most commonly utilized by taxidermists today. “The replicas out now are just head and shoulders above anything they had out even a few years ago. You can recreate the fish down to the smallest detail; nipped fins, small cuts, color differences, all that stuff.” Other advantages to using a replica include longer durability, less upkeep and the fact that it’s catch-and-release friendly. To insure that the taxidermist recreates the fish true to life though, Coldwell and his partner Jerry Hammack recommend the following: Take as many pictures of the fish as possible with special notice of the scales, fins, belly, back, any scars or cuts (assuming you want these in the mount), stripes and unique color patterns. As Coldwell explains, “With a digital camera there’s no excuse not to get a ton of photos. A little time here will pay off in spades at the taxidermists.” Measure the length, the circumference at several locations and the girth around the belly. Obtain the weight if possible. If the fish is dead, wrap it in a wet, white towel (colored towels bleed) and place in an ice chest for the trip to a taxidermist. Do not gut or cut fish in anyway.
Shortnose Gar Lepisosteus platostomus Shortnose gar are one of the smaller species of gar with adults averaging between 4 to 10 pounds in weight and measuring under 36 inches in length. They are olive to brown in color with a pale underbelly. Black spots are found on the rear fins. The short snout that gives them their name carries over to their nicknames of short-billed gar and stub-nose gar as well. This short snout along with its absence of spots or double row of teeth make identifying the shortnose gar relatively easy. In Texas, shortnose are found throughout the Red River basin below Lake Texoma. Spawning takes place in shallow water between May and June. After mating, females drop yellow colored adhesive eggs among vegetation and submerged structures. Eggs generally hatch within eight days. Young feed primarily on insect larvae and small crustaceans before adding fish to their diet. Shortnose gar are opportunistic hunters and attack prey from the side. Prey is then maneuvered until it can be swallowed head first. Anglers who target shortnose gar do so utilizing the same techniques as with longnose gar.
Spotted Gar Lepisosteus oculatus Spotted gar are brown to olive in color with silver-white sides and belly. Olive brown to black spots are found scattered along the head, body and fins. These spots act as camouflage and benefit the spotted greatly when it waits among underwater vegetation to ambush prey. Spotted gar are fairly small with adults averaging 3 feet in length and weighing upwards of 8 pounds. Spawning takes place in shallow water with heavy vegetation from between April to May. Females drop upwards of 20,000 green colored adhesive eggs over vegetation and other submerged forms. Eggs, which are poisonous to humans, hatch in 10 to 14 days. Fry feed on insect larvae and small crustaceans before adding fish to their diet. Spotted gar are not actively pursued by anglers but are fairly popular with bowfishers as well as spearfishers. Other Fish
Bowfin Amia calva Perhaps looking more prehistoric in appearance than the alligator gar and as of late often mistaken for the dreaded snakehead fish, the bowfin is truly an odd looking fish. It is mottled green in color with a paler green underbelly. The fins are light green in color with the exception of the dorsal fin which is very dark. The dorsal fin is extremely long, running more than half the length of the body and contains upwards of 45 rays. The backbone is also rather long and actually extends into part of the rounded tail. The head is scale less and holds a large mouth equipped with strong, sharp, conical teeth. Both nostrils are covered by a barbel-like flap. Adult bowfin can reach upwards of 30 inches in length and weigh more than 20 pounds although most average between 4 to 10 pounds. Bowfin are found throughout most of the eastern portion of the state, primarily in the Red, San Jacinto and Sabine River systems. They are also abundant in the lower Colorado and Brazos River systems. Spawning occurs in late spring in shallow waters, lake coves, and sloughs when temperatures are between 61 to 66 degrees. Males construct nests in weedy, well-protected areas. Females drop adhesive eggs which the male guards until roughly seven to 11 days after they hatch. Young bowfin eat small invertebrates before moving on to a fish and crayfish diet. They prefer deep water during the day but migrate to shallower depths at night to feed. While bowfins are primarily targeted by bowfishers and spearfishers, there is little doubt that the species puts up a tremendous fight when hooked by anglers. Bowfin are not generally considered food. SIDEBAR: Exotic Fish Just as with terrestrial animals such as Barbary sheep, axis deer and nutria, Texas waters are full of exotic species not native to the state. Some have been intentionally introduced for sport
fishing (smallmouth bass, redbreast sunfish and blue tilapia) or to control a species (grass carp). Others, such as the armored catfish, are abandoned pets. Fish aren’t the only invaders. A host of aquatic plants (hydrilla, giant salvinia and salt cedar) as well as snails (the channeled applesnail and the rams-horn snail) have also established strongholds in Texas rivers, lakes and coastal waters. Invasive species can destroy habitat, compete with native flora and fauna, and cause the loss of millions––if not billions––of dollars in recreation, tourism and agricultural revenue. In order to ward off further invasive species, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has made it illegal to import, possess, sell or place certain species in the state. The most feared species are known as the “dirty dozen.” Snakeheads, Family Channidae All species Freshwater Eels, Family Anguilliidae All species except Anguilla rostrata Oysters, Family Ostreidae All species except Crassostrea virginica and Ostrea equestris Seatrouts and Corvinas, Family Sciaenidae All species of genus Cynoscion except Cynoscion nebulosus, C. nothus, and C.arenarius Swamp Eels, Rice Eels or One-Gilled Eel, Family Synbranchidae All species Mittencrabs, Family Grapsidae All species of genus Eriocheir Tilapia, Family Cichlidae All species of genera Tilapia, Oreochromis and Saratherodon Penaeid Shrimp, Family Penaeidae All species of genera Penaeus, Litopenaeus, Farfantepenaeus, Fenneropenaeus, Marsupenaeus, and Melicertus (all previously considered Penaeus) except L.setiferus, Far. aztecus and Far. duorarum Applesnails and Giant Ram's-horn Snails All genera and species of the Family Ampullariidae (previously called Pilidae) including Pomacea and Marisa, except spiketop applesnail (Pomacea bridgesii) Water Spinach, Family Convolvulaceae Ipomoea aquatica (also called ong choy, rau mong and kangkong) Carps and Minnows, Family Cyprinidae Piranhas and Pirambebas, Family Serrasalmideae, Subfamily Serrasalminae All species except pacus of the genus Piaractus Chain Pickerel Esox niger Found in the northeastern portion of the state in the Cypress River drainage and its major reservoirs (Lone Star Lake, Caddo Lake, Lake O’ the Pines), the chain pickerel has an elongated, narrow body very similar to that of a pike or muskellunge. It is olive green or yellowish-brown in color along the back and sides with a paler, shaded underbelly. Dark interlocking bands resembling a chain-link fence pattern are found along the sides. The lower jaw extends farther than the upper and the entire mouth structure somewhat resembles a duck’s bill. Unlike a duck, however, the pickerel’s mouth is filled with many long,
sharp teeth. Pickerel average about 2 feet in length and 2 to 4 pounds in weight. Pickerel are also known in Texas as pike and jackfish. Although they are occasionally caught at other times of the year, chain pickerel are generally targeted in the winter beginning with the first real cold front and continuing until March or April. Despite their small size, they are a hard-fighting fish and have even been known to jump when hooked. They are an excellent fish for fly anglers and respond well to various colored streamers and poppers. Conventional rod and reel anglers have great success with jerkbaits and spinners on 8 to 12-pound test. Live bait such as minnows and small sunfish are also good choices. Unlike most species of fish in Texas, chain pickerel spawn in the winter, usually between December and February when water temperatures are between 47 to 50 degrees. Females lay upwards of 30,000 adhesive eggs over weeds or other aquatic vegetation. Eggs hatch in about a week to 10 days. Young eat insect larvae, plankton and other fish, including their own siblings, before becoming almost completely piscivorous. Chain pickerel are edible but extremely bony.
Freshwater Drum Aplodinotus grunniens Found throughout Texas with the exception of the Panhandle, the freshwater drum is a deepbodied fish with a rounded head and overhung snout. It is silver to silver-gray in color with a white underbelly. The dorsal fin is long and divided into two sections. The tail is rounded. The average adult weight is between 1 to 3 pounds but individuals weighing upwards of 55 pounds are not unheard of. Freshwater drum are also referred to as drum fish, sheepshead, gaspergoo, freshwater croakers and gou. Not much is known about freshwater drum’s spawning habits other than that they do so in April or May in open water and that their eggs float until they hatch. Adult freshwater drum are bottom feeders and find food by rooting. Their diet includes fish, crayfish, insects, freshwater clams and mussels. Because of the later, freshwater drums are equipped with extremely powerful jaws. Because freshwater drum are considered a “trash” or “rough” fish by many Texans, they are not generally considered good eating, but some people say the taste is good. Freshwater drum are frequently taken with trotlines as many anglers prefer to use the fish as bait. Those that handle the fish are often surprised by its “croaking” or “grunting” sounds. These sounds are possible because of the fish’s powerful air bladder and lower throat bones covered with coarse, blunt teeth. Freshwater Red Drum Sciaenops ocellatus
Red drum is a saltwater species that has been introduced into freshwater reservoirs throughout the state that act as cooling lakes for electrical power plants. These waters stay warm throughout the year (thanks to the power plants) and have fairly high concentrations of calcium, magnesium, potassium and sodium, all necessary for red drum to survive in freshwater. Because they cannot reproduce in freshwater each year, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department stocks between 1.5 to 2 million fingerlings into lakes fitting these criteria. The most productive of these are Calaveras, Braunig, Tradinghouse Creek and Fairfield. As the name implies, freshwater red drum are copper-red in color with a silver to silver-white underbelly. There is a large dark spot on both sides of the body just forward of the tail. Adults average between 5 to 10 pounds in weight although individuals weighing upwards of 35 pounds have been landed. They are mostly piscivorous and are generally the top predator in the lakes in which they are stocked. They are most often found at depths between 15 to 20 feet but often venture into shallower waters to feed on baitfish. Red drum are also known as redfish, rat red, bull red or reds. Freshwater red drum are extremely popular with anglers because of their fight and excellent taste. They are often caught with deep-running plugs, downriggers baited with spoons or grubs, live bait, cut bait and even chicken livers. Fly anglers have success with plugs and baitfish streamers. Prime fishing times are from mid-spring to the beginning of fall. Although red drum have been caught in the winter, the fishing then is generally very slow.
Rainbow Trout Oncorhynchus mykiss Rainbow trout are stocked in more than 100 locations throughout the state between December and February when water temperatures are at their lowest. Since trout can’t survive in water above 70 degrees, the majority do not live through the following spring when waters begin to warm up. These warm waters are the reason trout generally do not reproduce in Texas. New populations of trout are stocked every year. The only self-sustaining trout population in the state exists in McKittrick Canyon in Guadalupe National Park where fishing is not allowed. By spring, these are the only trout remaining in Texas waters, the only exception being the few “holdover” fish that are occasionally caught in tailrace areas below dams where the water remains cold enough to insure their survival. Rainbow trout are best described as having a salmon-like shape. They are dark olive in color with a pink to red stripe running lengthwise along the sides. The belly is silver to white and the sides, tail and fins are heavily speckled with dark spots. The average size of adults stocked in
Texas is between 8 to 10 inches in length. Successfully introduced adults can reach upwards of 8 pounds in weight and lengths of more than 23 inches. Rainbow trout in Texas feed on a variety of species including mollusks, fish, fish eggs, crustaceans, plankton and insects. Rainbow trout are extremely popular with fly anglers who will sometimes line the shore during fish stockings with the hopes of being the first to land a rainbow. In Texas, rainbow trout respond best to nymphs, wooly buggers, mayfly nymphs and small trico and midge flies. Traditional anglers have great success using kernel corn, cheese, salmon eggs, spinners, spoons and feather jigs. Rainbow trout are excellent table fare. NOTE: •Brown trout and brook trout are also occasionally stocked in the Guadalupe River by private clubs. •There is a daily limit of one trout on a section of the Guadalupe River. Fish must be at least 18 inches in length and caught on artificial lures only. SIDEBAR: Gig ‘Em (Frogs not Aggies) “Most people make the mistake of just eating the legs,” explains bullfrog gastronome Roger Esterling of Orange Grove, Texas. “You gotta eat the whole frog. There’s more meat in the body than in the legs. And if you don’t eat it all, you’re just throwing away good meat.” Regardless of the portion of the amphibian eaten, many Texans enjoy the delicacy of the common bullfrog. Spring and summer nights find frog hunters wading the shallows, searching for frogs. The most successful hunters generally use the tried-and true-method of gigging. Frog gigs consist of everything from bamboo poles with nails duct-taped to the end to store-bought fiberglass handles topped with galvanized, multi-prong spear heads. Other methods of frog hunting include archery, blow guns and air rifles. Some frog hunters have even taken to utilizing fly angling equipment. The most successful time for frog hunting is at night. Hunters either wade or take to a boat and begin searching the water with a powerful light for a pair of glowing frog eyes. Once spotted, hunters have only a few seconds to dispatch the frog before it wises up to the fact that it’s not daytime. Hunters frog hunting from a boat tend to do better than those who wade. This is probably because waders tend to make more noise than a drifting boat and most bullfrog predators, such as raccoons, come from shore rather than deeper water. Hunters should be careful of partially submerged snakes that can easily resemble partially submerged frogs (snakes, especially water moccasins, don’t like being gigged).
Rio Grande Cichlid
Cichlasoma cyanoguttatum Also known as Texas cichlid or Rio Grande perch, the Rio Grande cichlid is a warm water fish and extremely sensitive to cold. It cannot survive in water below 49 degrees. For this reason, it is generally found in spring-fed waters with a fairly constant temperature. It also does well in heated waters. Its original range was probably limited to the lower reaches of the Rio Grande River but today can be found in springs and rivers throughout Central Texas, most notably the Colorado, Guadalupe, San Marcos and San Antonio. The San Gabriel River near Georgetown marks its northernmost boundary. Young Rio Grande cichlid are blue-black to gray-blue in color while adults tend to be black. Both exhibit cream and turquoise colored spots. Lighter colored individuals exhibit five vertical stripes. There is a black blotch or spot on the caudal or fleshy part of the tail. Males have a distinct “hump” on the top of the head. The dorsal fin contains between 15 to 18 spines and between 10 to 12 dorsal rays. The anal fin has between five to six spines and between nine to 10 rays. Adults average around 6 inches in length and a half pound in weight. However, individuals weighing as much as 2 pounds have been caught. Spawning takes place several times each year with females dropping upwards of 5,000 eggs. Both sexes aggressively protect the young until they reach about one-half inch in length. Diet consists of fish eggs, insects, crustaceans and small fish. Despite their small size, Rio Grande cichlid’s are excellent fighters and considered to be fairly easy to catch. They are considered good table fare. Tilapia Blue Tilapia Oreochromis aureus Mozambique Tilapia Oreochromis mossambicus Redbelly Tilapia Tilapia zillii Three species of tilapia are found in Texas: the blue (Oreochromis aureus), Mozambique, (Oreochromis mossambicus) and redbelly (Tilapia zillii). All are native to Africa and have been introduced to Texas. They are a warm water fish and do not generally survive when water temperatures dip below 50 degrees for extended periods of time. The Mozambique variety is gray to yellow-white in color with three to four dark spots on the sides. During the spawning season, males turn black to black-blue in color. The pectoral fins turn solid red while the dorsal fin becomes red tipped. They are primarily found in the Guadalupe, San Antonio and San Marcos rivers and the reservoirs they feed. The blue tilapia, as the name implies, is blue to blue-gray in color with a pale underbelly. Each scale has a tiny spot that makes it appear that the fish is striped. This series of dots is not visible on darker individuals. Mature males have a metallic blue-colored head with a pale, blue-colored body. Blue tilapia are a little more wide spread than are the Mozambique variety with established populations found in the Colorado, Guadalupe, Rio Grande and San Antonio River drainage. The redbelly is dark olive in color along the back with this color fading along the sides until it melds into a yellowish to white belly. There are six to seven poorly defined vertical stripes on the sides and a yellow outlined “eye spot” on the soft ray portion of the dorsal fin. During spawning season the vertical stripes become considerably more distinct while the throat and
belly flush with red and black color. The redbelly is the most isolated of the tilapia species in Texas being found only in the headwaters of the San Antonio River. All tilapia make excellent table fare. The species is one of the most farmed fishes in the world. They are good fighters on light tackle and are extremely popular with spearfishers and bowfishers alike who target them when cooler lake temperatures send them into the headwaters searching for warmer water.
Walleye Sander vitreum Walleye are greenish-brown to yellowish-brown in color with a cream or white colored underbelly. The sides are peppered with a pattern of small dark blotches. The lower lobe of its forked tail is white tipped. Despite its long, slender, pike-like appearance, it is actually a member of the perch family. As with all perch, walleye have two dorsal fins. The anterior fin contains between 12 to 14 spines while the posterior fin has between 19 to 22 soft rays. The anal fin has two spines and between 12 to 14 rays. Walleye have very large eyes and a large mouth filled with sharp teeth in the jaws and in the roof of the mouth. Average weight is between 1 to 5 pounds although individuals weighing upwards of 11 pounds have been caught in Texas. Fish weighing more than 20 pounds have been caught outside the state. Walleyes are native to the northern portion of North America. They have been introduced to numerous reservoirs throughout the state but do best in those in the Panhandle where the water tends to be colder. Lake Meredith, north of Amarillo, has perhaps the best population of walleyes in the state and each spring the water is teeming with anglers hoping to break into the 10-pound catch club. Spawning takes place in early spring when water temperatures are between 45 to 50 degrees. Females scatter adhesive eggs in rocky streambeds or riprap areas near dams. The eggs, which are often fertilized by more than one male, hatch in five to seven days. Neither eggs nor fry receive any parental protection. Fry feed on insects, insect larvae, worms and crustaceans before moving onto to an almost totally piscivorous diet. Prime feeding times are at dusk and during the evening. Walleye are excellent fighters and are quite coveted by anglers in Texas. Their flakey white meat is considered to be excellent table fare. They are most often caught on jigs, spoons, plastic worms, grubs and jerkbaits.
Chapter 4 Saltwater There are eight major bays in Texas. Moving from the eastern border to the southwest they are: Sabine Lake It was a good clean beach without timber––José Antonio de Evia, 1785 Formed by the confluence of the Neches, Sabine and Angelina rivers, Sabine Lake sits at the southern most end of the Texas-Louisiana Border. It is roughly 14 miles long and 7 miles wide and drains more than 50,000 square miles of the two states into the Gulf. The area around the lake is believed to have been occupied for more than 1,500 years with the first major inhabitants being the Atakapas Indians. This group had strong ties to the sea and believed that man himself had been brought to fruition via an oyster shell from the sea. The area was first mapped in 1777 by an English party led by Captain George Gauld. The lake and its surroundings were later explored and chartered in 1785 by a Spanish party led by Antonio Gil Ibarvo and José Antonio de Evia. The two correctly determined that the brackish lake was too shallow, preventing large vessels from entering. Despite this fallback, the lake was still used for commercial trade, although by smaller boats. In 1810, Jean Laffite used the lake to smuggle slaves into Louisiana. The lake was used to smuggle slaves and other contraband well into the 1830s. Shortly before the Civil War, the lake was used to ship cotton and timber, a practice that continued until well after the war. The shipment of goods improved greatly in the years to come with the channeling of the Sabine-Neches Waterway and Sabine Pass Ship Channel. Today, in addition to trade, the lake is well-known for its redfish, speckled trout, flounder cobia and striped bass fishing. Area Guides Capt. Jerry Norris 3262 Bell Street Port Arthur, Texas 77640 409-718-8782 www.sabinelakefishing.com Capt. Randy’s Guide Service 409-985-7619 www.fishsabine.com Coastal Outfitters Capt. Steve Davis 409-729-5316 www.coastaloutfittersguideservice.com Colburn's Sabine Connection 409- 883-0723 www.sabineconnection.com Have Boat Will Travel Guide Service Capt. Bill Watkins PO Box 1770 Vidor, Texas 77670 409-786-2018 www.fishsabinelake.com
Sidebar: Gray Moby At 63 feet long and weighing more than 60 tons, the old bull was truly a leviathan from the depths. His ghost-gray hide was worn from age and scared from decades of fights with deep roaming squid and battles with rival males competing for breeding rights. It was perhaps the latter that pushed the bull from his pod and forced him to hunt in the Gulf of Mexico alone. He was pursuing a large school of squid when he suddenly found himself grounded in a mas of seaweed and mud in 12 feet of water. Unable to push forward, the bull thrashed violently and repeatedly slapped the brownish water with his 18-foot wide tail in an attempt to free himself. The reports of the day claimed Capt. Cott Plummer, standing atop his steamboat, the Florida, heard the commotion from a distance of four miles and decided to investigate. What he discovered in Oil Pond, three miles west of the Sabine Estuary jetties on March 10, 1910, would come to spark the interest of a nation, be witnessed by thousands of spectators and earn him a great deal of money. Arriving at the scene, Plummer saw a monstrous, struggling animal, sending geysers of mud and water skyward. Standing in awe of the gargantuan, Plummer immediately concocted a whale of an idea. If he could pull the whale to the nearby town of Sabine Pass, he could make a fortune charging people to see his catch. Determined to make his plan a reality, Plummer grabbed a 5inch hawser and quickly ran the cable to a sailboat on the opposite side of the whale. Once connected, the two vessels moved toward the rear of the animal while dragging the cable through the soft mud beneath it. When the hawser reached the narrow part of the tail just above the fluke, Plummer cinched it tight and barreled the 350-horse-powered Florida forward. The hawser snapped in two. Undeterred, Plummer tried again, this time using an 8-inch hawser. The massive cable held and with his engines pushed almost to the brink, he pulled the whale free of the mire. Once free of the weight of his body pushing down on him, the whale came to life and thrashed toward deeper water dragging the Florida behind it. Plummer increased the thrust and momentarily gained the upper hand. This tug of war between whale and machine lasted the remainder of the day and
turned the 5-mile trip to Sabine Pass into an 8-hour ordeal that the whale ultimately lost. Plummer ended the day by victoriously tying his boat and the whale to the Southern Pacific Railroad docking slip. News of the captured whale spread like wildfire. Telegraph operators reported to newspapers around the country that Sabine Pass’s “Moby Dick” was 90 feet long and 300 tons of ferocious sea monster. The next day more than 400 people paid 50 cents each to gaze upon the leashed whale as it fought to free itself. Seeing what a cash cow the whale could be, the neighboring city of Port Arthur negotiated a deal with Plummer to permanently exhibit the whale. The deal was made and almost immediately 100 carpenters descended on Port Arthur’s docks to build a corral and viewing platform. On the afternoon of March 10, Plummer began towing his whale 8 miles to its new home. At first, the old bull repeated his tug of war actions from two days earlier but eventually succumbed to exhaustion and died. Having already invested so much money and effort on the display, the city of Port Arthur came up with a second idea. On March 11, several hundred workmen began digging a ramp that would allow the dead whale to be towed on shore and onto a waiting stage for display. That afternoon, with the stage nearly completed, a series of steam winches pulled the dead whale ashore where a team of 20 butchers waited. The men feverishly worked to remove the animal’s internal organs so the cavity could be packed with ice. To further delay deterioration, barrels of embalming fluid, potassium permanganate and other preservatives were pumped into the carcass. As the army of men worked on the carcass, Dr. Newman, a state zoologist, took the opportunity to take some measurements. “Gray Moby” was 63 ½ feet in length with an 11-foot lower jaw, and the circumference of the head was 37 feet. Dr. Newman also made note that the lungs and stomach were filled with seaweed and mud and were probably a contributing factor to the animal’s death. Despite the whale being dead, thousands of people flocked to see its massive body. By the end of the weekend more than 20,000 people had seen it. So many people came through the display that by Sunday afternoon Port Arthur had run out of food. Emergency supplies had to be shipped in from Houston and Galveston to keep the population fed. Daily crowds swelled to more than 20,000 per day until Wednesday, March 16 when the whale began to leak “oil” and emited a nauseating stench. The smell was so bad that the sight was declared a public health hazard, and the exhibitors were forced to move the whale onto a barge in the ship channel where the display continued through the following Sunday. During its short display, Port Arthur officials estimated that the city had received more than $1 million in additional revenue from whale spectators. Plummer, as the whale’s owner, received $1,000 up front plus a cut of ticket sales. Unwilling to give up such a lucrative endeavor, Plummer refused to let a little thing like a whale-sized smell and rot ruin him. Instead, he decided to take the whale on a tour. After processing 326 barrels of oil from its body, Plummer had the whale skinned and shipped to a taxidermist in Harrisburg, Texas. There, 50 men worked for 7 ½ months to a tune of $5,000 to mount the animal for display. After forming the Mammoth Whale Company with his brother Fred, Plummer set out with his whale on the powerboat Olga for a tour of every major port in the United States. The tour was a financial disaster. People refused to believe that the whale was genuine. Patrons accused Plummer of having the whale’s skin stretched to make it appear far bigger than it actually was. On the brink of economic ruin, the Mammoth Whale Company gladly sold the mount to an amusement park owner from Memphis, Tennessee.
The park moved the whale to a tent by the Mississippi River for permanent display. But the display was short-lived as the tent and the mount burned to the ground in a terrible fire only a few nights after being completed. NOTE: Today, dragging a whale by the tail, tying it to a dock, gutting it, processing it for oil and having it mounted by a taxidermist is illegal. Galveston Bay At more than 540 square miles in size, Galveston Bay is the largest estuary in Texas and the seventh largest in the United States. It has a mud bottom and averages between 7 to 9 feet in depth. The bay is fed by both the Trinity and San Jacinto Rivers and tidal waters from the Gulf of Mexico that channel between Galveston Island and Bolivar Peninsula. The bay has been the stage for several historical events including the 1817 to 1819 pirating, privateering and smuggling actions of Jean Laffite and his brothers as well as the Battle of Galveston during the Civil War. These events and the many that followed came about because of the bay’s importance as a trade route and a port of entry. By the 1980s, the bay had cemented its importance as a major port by becoming the third largest in terms of tonnage. During this time, more than 4,700 ships traveled through the bay, shipping and delivering goods. Despite this heavy industrialization, the bay has remained extremely important for Texas’s fish population. It is estimated that more than 30 percent of the state’s total fishing product uses the bay for spawning and nursery grounds. This statistic is more than evident given the number of redfish, flounder and trout taken from the bay each year by recreational anglers. Area Guides Capt. Mike Williams 713-723-1911 www.galvestonfishingguides.com Galveston Bay Charters 281-300-5806 http://www.galvestonbaycharters.com/ Capt. David Harris’ Galveston Bay Fishing 281-923-1440 www.galvestonbayfishing.com Sidebar: Ghost Aquarium Sea-Arama MarineWorld…La La La La La La La La Laaaa; Bring your family down for fun, in the semi-tropic sun, and you will never, never want to go home!––Commercial jingle for SeaArama MarineWorld Opened in Galveston in 1965, Sea-Arama MarineWorld was one of the first ocean theme parks in the United States. The 25-acre complex sat on the far west end of the seawall in Galveston Bay and featured a number of shows and exhibits. Visitors were treated to shows involving fish, otters, dolphins, sea lions and water skiers. One of the more popular shows involved beautiful girls swimming with and feeding sharks in a 50-foot long, 200,000- gallon aquarium. Despite the fact that the tank held numerous bull sharks, a notoriously aggressive and well-known maneater, there was never an incident between fish and girl. Curator Tom Whitman explained at the time that this was due to the high levels of copper sulfate that were pumped into the tank. In addition to controlling algae, the chemical supposedly also controlled the sharks’ appetite and aggressiveness. Many marine biologists at the time doubted
that copper sulfate had that effect on sharks and instead insisted that the girls were just incredibly lucky. In 1968, the park commissioned the capture of a killer whale for live display. Obtained from Yukon Bay off Washington, Mamuk performed until his death of unknown causes five and a half years later in 1974. In 1970, Mamuk was joined by another killer whale by the name of Lil Nooka who died of unknown causes only seven months after his arrival. By 1988, Sea-Arama had become the No. 1 tourist attraction in Galveston. Despite its popularity, the park was steadily falling into disrepair and starting to lose money. In 1990, facing fierce competition from the newly opened Sea World in San Antonio, Sea-Arama succumbed to the same fate as Mamuk and Lil Nooka––-it went belly up. Today the property sits abandoned in a heavy state of deterioration and is covered with graffiti (none of it about marine life oddly enough). It has changed owners several times but has failed to be torn down. It remains a ghost aquarium. Matagorda Bay Well protected from the ravages of the Gulf of Mexico by Matagorda Peninsula, Matagorda Bay, at 422 square miles, is almost equally divided between Calhoun and Matagorda counties. It is fed primarily by the Colorado River and by tidal waters entering the bay via the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, the Matagorda Ship Channel and Cavallo Pass at the southern end of Matagorda Peninsula. The first European mention of the bay was probably when Alonzo Álvarez de Pineda referred to it as Bay Espíritu Santo on a map he made in 1518. The next map of the area came about 163 years later when Ángel de Villafañe and Jorge Serón drew the area in 1681. The bay was explored in 1685 when René Robert Cavalier, Sieur de La Salle entered the bay after missing the entrance to the Mississippi River. Matagorda Bay is a major shipping port today with more than 4 million tons of goods shipped through Port Lavaca in 2006 alone. The bay is also a major destination for tourism and recreational fishers wanting to try their hand at inshore fishing for redfish and trout as well as flounder-gigging at night. Area Guides Capt. Jay's Matagorda Bay Fishing Guide Service 979-240-3597 www.matagordabayfishing.com Talasek's Guide Service 286 Wildwood Drive Van Vleck, Texas 77482 www.talasekguideservice.com Capt. Bobby Gardner's South-Paw Guide Service 979-553-4057 www.matagordawadefishing.com SIDEBAR: From Here to There Fishing poles are long, not designed to stand up or lay down, and fragile to a point. Storing them safely and out of the way is difficult. Traveling with them can be even more of a hassle. An easy way to move rods, along with other equipment, is with a specially designed cart. The Fish-N’-Mate cart by Fish-N’-Mate can easily accommodate up to eight rods in its specially designed rod holders, an ice chest, lawn chairs and just about anything else that can be piled on
it. Its 30-inch wide tires make pulling or pushing it through gravel or over sand (or even through a parking lot) as easy as pushing a shopping cart, even with up to 200 pounds in cargo. For getting rods from the house to the water, Fish-N’-Mate also makes a line of rod racks designed to bolt to the front of any vehicle. This keeps rods safe and out of the interior where a sudden stop can shoot them through the air like a missile. San Antonio Bay Located in southwestern Calhoun County, San Antonio Bay is almost 204 square miles in size. It is shielded from the Gulf of Mexico by Matagorda Island. The bay receives fresh water from the San Antonio and Guadalupe rivers as well as the Green Lake-Victoria Ship Channel. Salt water enters the bay via Pass Cavallo to the north and Cedar Bayou to the south. A shipping channel runs from Seadrift to the Gulf Intercostals Waterway. San Antonio Bay is a popular destination for tourism and recreation. Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, located on the southwestern shoreline of the bay, is popular with birders, hunters and anglers. The latter have varied possibilities as the bay abounds with striped bass, redfish, sheepshead, flounder and jacks. Area Guides Gary Gray’s Bay Rat Guide Service Captains Gary and Shellie Gray P.O. Box 626 Seadrift, Texas 77983 361-785-6708 http://bayrat.com Bay Flats Lodge 888-677-4868 www.bayflatslodge.com First Cast Guide Service Capt. John Ashley 361-772-5465 www.firstcastguideservice.com Fishing Tales Guide Service Capt. Mike Bohac 281-313-FISH (3474) www.fishintalesguideservice.com Sidebar: Texas Seals At one time Texas did have seals. Until its extinction in the mid-1950s, the Caribbean monk seal made some Texas beaches home. Monachus tropicalis was a relatively small seal averaging between 6 to 9 feet in length and weighing more than 400 pounds. It was the only seal native to the Gulf of Mexico and had few predators other than killer whales and sharks. Its biggest predator was man who, until its demise, used it for oil. The last Caribbean monk seal sighted in Texas was in 1932. Aransas Bay Aransas Bay is sandwiched between San Antonio Bay and Corpus Christi Bay and is protected from the Gulf of Mexico by St. Joseph Island. Access to the bay from the Gulf is through either the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway or through Aransas between Mustang and St. Joseph islands. The bay is 208 square miles in size and averages around 6 feet in depth. Remarkably, this shallow
bay produced the current record bull shark in May 2007 when Corpus Christi resident Randall Rickerson landed a 9-foot, 513-pound specimen. It took Rickerson more than two hours to reel in the record and another two and a half hours to tow his catch back to the dock. In addition to bull shark, the bay also produces blacktip shark, drum, snapper, snook and trout. Area Guides Aransas Bay Charters Capt. Robert Hamilton 2106 Crescent Drive Rockport, Texas 78382 361-729-1142 www.aransasbayfishing.com Shoreline Guide Service Capt. Danny Freeze 361-758-5916 www.portaransasbayfishing.com Crystal Blue Charters Capt. Clark A. Miles P.O. Box 1875 Port Aransas, Texas 78373 361-815-7747 www.crystalbluecharters.com Corpus Christi Bay The first European to see Corpus Christi Bay was probably Alonso Álvarez de Pineda who claimed the territory for the King of Spain on Corpus Christi Day in 1519. Some 227 years later, in 1746, Capt. Joaquín de Orobio y Basterra explored the region under orders from Gov. José de Escandón to explore the Gulf Coast from Tampico to the San Antonio River. Capt. Orobio y Basterra named the bay St. Michael Bay after the Archangel. The first time the bay was referred to as Corpus Christi bay was in 1776 in a report by Col. Diego Ortiz Parrilla. Corpus Christi Bay sits at the mouth of the Nueces River and entirely within Nueces County. Its 191 square miles are protected from the Gulf of Mexico by Mustang Island. Access to the bay from the Gulf is made via the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway or through Aransas between Mustang and St. Joseph Island. The bay is an important commercial port and the sight of several oil refineries, smelting plants and chemical works. It also serves as a strategic deployment seaport for United States military forces. In spite of all this industry, Corpus Christi Bay is a major tourism center and extremely popular with anglers targeting trout, tripletail, sheepshead, kingfish, drum and catfish. Area Guides Capt. Jon Fails 15413 Gun Cay #103 Corpus Christi, Texas 78418 361-949-0133 www.landcut.com Angel Fishing Guide Service Capt. Michael Angell 4622 Gayle Drive Corpus Christi, Texas 78413
361-814-8540 www.texasfishingguides.org/angell John's Guide Service Capt. John Barbree 4308 County Road 3667 Taft, Texas 78390 361-643-2853 www.texasfishingguides.org/barbree Behnke Guide Service Capt. Ron Behnke 7062 Lakeview Corpus Christi, Texas 78412 361-991-1248 www.texasfishingguides.org/behnke Sidebar: Forgotten Leviathans Both the smalltooth sawfish (Pristis pectinata) and the largetooth sawfish (Pristis pristis) once swam in fairly high numbers in the Gulf of Mexico and along the Texas coast. Whether they still do is a matter of speculation and an ongoing scientific inquiry. Sawfish have been on Earth for more than 56 million years yet the past century saw their steady decline and ultimately their listing as an endangered species worldwide. Perhaps the biggest cause of this downward spiral is the fish’s namesake. The sawfish’s saw is actually a long rostrum lined with heavy, modified scales. The rostrum is used to “saw” or sweep along the seabed to both sense and stun prey. This saw, however, is also very adapted at catching in fishing nets. This, combined with the species’ slow reproduction rate, has left sawfish estimates in the Gulf at 1 percent of what it used to be. Another factor in their decline was the unrestricted fishing of the past. Due to its size (smallmouth sawfish can reach 25 feet in length and weigh more than 2,000 pounds), sawfish were long sought as a big game fish. The largest ever taken in Texas weighed 739 pounds and was caught off Galveston Island on January 1, 1939, by Gus Pangarakis. Unfortunately, because of the species’ endangered status, this record is likely to stand forever. Anyone seeing or catching a sawfish is asked to contact: George Burgess Florida Museum of Natural History Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Phone: 352-392-2360 Laguna Madre Translating to “Mother Lagoon” in English, the Laguna Madre is a 130-mile long backwater bay some 1,412 square miles in size. It ranges between 4 to 6 miles in width and is extremely shallow, in some places averaging between 8 to 14 inches in depth. The 125 foot wide, 12 foot deep Gulf Intracoastal Waterway dissects the length of the bay. The bay fronts southern Nueces County, all of Kleberg, Kenedy and Willacy counties, and more than half of Cameron County. The bay is protected from the Gulf of Mexico by Padre Island, the longest barrier island in the world. Because the bay is nearly landlocked, it is considered to be a hypersaline lagoon, meaning it is much saltier than the ocean. It is one of only six hypersaline lagoons in the world. Salinity in the bay varies from 0.2 percent (2 parts per thousand) after rain to upwards of 12 percent (120 ppt).
The Laguna Madre is extremely remote and very isolated and holds the distinction of being the least-developed bay in the United States. This distinction will most likely stand the test of time as almost 70 percent of the bay is protected by the federal government in the form of nature preserves, private conservation groups and vast ranch holdings. Despite its remoteness, the Laguna Madre is world renown for redfish, trout, tripletail, drum and sheepshead. Area Guides Kingfisher Inn Capt. Randall Cawlfield 36911 Marshall Hutts Road Arroyo City/Rio Hondo, Texas 78583 956-371-8801 www.lagunamadre.net Frontier Charters Inc. Capt. Mark H. Atkinson 956-648-0772 www.texasfishingguides.org/atkinson Angler's Choice Guide Service Capt. Gary Farmer P.O. Box 13060 Port Isabel, Texas. 78578 956-459-0594 www.texasfishingguides.org/farmer Salt Grass Charters Capt. Shane Jones 956-873-0453 www.texasfishingguides.org/jones Baffin Bay Also known as Lago de la Santísima Trinidad and Salt Lagoon, Baffin Bay is the smallest of Texas’s major bays, measuring only 84 square miles in size. The bay projects inland from about the Laguna Madre and forms the eastern boundary between Kenedy and Kleberg counties. The west side of the bay connects with Los Olmos Creek. Despite its small size, Baffin Bay offers excellent fishing for redfish and trout. Area Guides Baffin Bay Adventures Capt. Danny Gonzales 512-557-7229 www.baffinbayadventures.com Cast n’ Stay Capt. Mickey Riley 361-297-5636 www.baffinbaytx.com/ Capt. Carl Wentrcek 261 Porpoise Court Corpus Christi, Texas 78418 361-937-0868
www.captaincarl.com Gulf of Mexico Measuring more than 500,000 square miles in size, the Gulf of Mexico is an oval shaped body of water almost completely surrounded by land. Only two narrow passages on either side of Cuba connect the Gulf to the Atlantic Ocean: the 100-mile wide Straits of Florida and the 125-mile wide Yucatan Channel. Water from the Atlantic enters the Gulf through the Yucatan Channel and flows in a counter clockwise motion known as the Loop Current before exiting through the Florida Straits to form the Gulf Stream. Below the surface, the Gulf resembles a large sink or pit with a wide shallow rim. About 38 percent of the Gulf and the majority of Texas’s waters sit upon this relatively shallow area that fluctuates to a maximum depth of about 65 feet. The deepest part of the Gulf lies about 200 miles off Brownsville in a 300-mile long trough-like canyon known as Sigsbee Deep. This “Grand Canyon under the sea” plunges to 14,383 feet deep, a depth at which water pressure measures an astounding 6,422 pounds per square inch. Cold water from such depths encourages plankton growth, which in turn provides nourishment for small fish, squid and shrimp. These in turn attract larger and larger predators and help to make the Gulf one of the most productive fisheries in the world. In terms of commercial catches, the Gulf accounts for about 25 percent of the United States’ domestic commercial fishing revenue. In addition, the Gulf is also extremely important to navigation as well as the oil and gas economy. For recreational fishers, the Gulf of Mexico offers a wealth of opportunities. More than 300 species of fish are found along the Texas shore. Most of these reside in shallow waters on and around structures such as rock pilings, jetties, sunken ships, oil platforms (sunken and standing) and reefs. Of the later, Texas has plenty both natural and manmade, including the world famous Flower Garden Banks. These two banks sit just 110 miles southwest of Galveston and comprise the northern most coral reefs on the North American continental shelf. At less than 50 feet below the surface, they are easily accessible to divers, but as of 1992 when they were designated a marine sanctuary, they are off limits to fishing. Although many explorers and cartographers believed it to exist, the first European to set eyes on the Gulf of Mexico was Spanish explorer Sebastián de Ocampo who successfully circumnavigated Cuba in 1508-1509. Once news of this vast expanse of water reached Santo Domingo, the Gulf became the primary approach to North America. The coast of Texas wouldn’t be discovered until 1519 when Alonso Álvarez de Pineda explored the North American shoreline in search of a route to the Pacific. While he never discovered one, he did map the Texas shoreline on what has come to be known as the “Pineda map.” The map was less than flattering to Texas in that it showed it to have a “low-lying coast subject to flooding and lack of secure anchorage.” Sometimes, the truth hurts. Exploration of Texas and the Gulf, mainly by the Spanish and French, continued for the next several hundred years. Perhaps the most thorough, and personal, exploration of the coastline came about through severe catastrophe. In 1568, three Englishmen, David Ingram, Richard Twide and Richard Browne, were stranded near Tampico (Mexico) by Capt. John Hawkins after battling the Spanish near Veracruz. Captured by Indians and striped of their clothes, the three eventually escaped and walked the shoreline all the way to New England where they were rescued by English fishermen. Back in England, Ingram published an account of his journey that included an accurate description of the Texas coastline. His mentioning that he encountered elephants and
hippopotami outside of what would become Texas led some people to doubt parts of his story. Others felt that Ingram’s strenuous ordeal left him confused and that he was obviously writing about his experiences in Africa from many years earlier. Most historians accept his account, and his description of the Texas coastline, albeit unflattering, was extremely accurate. Over the next five centuries, the Gulf coast of Texas was explored, dredged, commercially harvested and tapped for oil and gas. It has seen the public’s opinion of it change from that of an endless resource to be exploited to that of a fragile ecosystem that requires our utmost protection. And while it is far from the virgin territory first encountered by European explorers, it still provides anglers with an abundance of great times. Deep Sea Guides Action Charters P.O. Box 638 Clute, Texas 77531 979-233-2999 www.actioncharterfishing.com Captain Kelly's Deep Sea Headquarters PO Box 388 Port Aransas, Texas 78373 361-749-5597 www.deepseaheadquarters.com Capt. Leaf Potter 258 Plum Circle Lake Jackson, Texas 77566 832-428-3340 www.texassaltwaterfishingguide.com Capt. Scott McCune The Saltwater Comboy PO Box 2772 Port Aransas, Texas 78373 361-563-TUNA (8862) www.fishntexas.com Easy Going Charters Capt. Ron Garrison P.O. Box 881 Freeport, Texas 77542 www.easygulffishing.com Gulf Coast Offshore Adventures Capt. Charlie Stetzel 1802 Matthews Houston, Texas 77019 713-805-4262 www.gcoafishing.com Private Deep Sea Charters P. O. Box 2582 Port Aransas, Texas 78373 361-749-7311 www.texasfishn.com
Tarpon Express Capt. Mike Williams 713-723-1911 www.galvestonsharkfishing.com Triple Double Deep Sea Fishing Charters Three Riverway, Suite 700 Houston, Texas 77056 713-724-1473 www.tripledoublefishing.com Workingman Charters 713-649-0757 www.workingmancharters.com
Chapter 5 Saltwater Species Coastal Species The following species are generally found in bays and close to shore. However, some do stray into deeper waters in the Gulf to spawn.
Atlantic Cutlassfish Trichiurus lepturus Named after the long-pointed sword its shape somewhat resembles, the Atlantic cutlassfish averages between 18 to 20 inches in length and weighs between 1 to 2 pounds. Specimens of more than 5 feet in length are not uncommon. It is silver in color and has smooth scaleless skin. The mouth is large and filled with many arrow-shaped teeth. These are used to capture and hold small shrimp and fish, which are also often times used as fishing bait for which it is notorious for stealing. Still, what’s one man’s bait stealer is another man’s dinner. Cutlassfish are eaten in many countries worldwide. It is not usually consumed in Texas. In fact, it is not even called a cutlassfish in Texas. Most Texans know it only as a ribbonfish. In Texas, as in much of the Gulf Coastal states, cutlassfish are generally obtained only to use as bait for other species such as mackerel. It is found both in the Gulf and in bays in warmer weather.
Atlantic Spadefish Chaetodipterus faber Also known as angelfish, the Atlantic spadefish is fairly round in shape and covered in vertical black and white stripes similar to a zebra. Specimens that are almost all white or all black are not uncommon but the striped variety is by far the most ordinary. Its body is thin and relatively flat. In Texas, it generally averages between 1 to 5 pounds but can obtain a weight upwards of 15 pounds and a length of nearly 3 feet.
Because of its small mouth, its diet consists mainly of crustaceans, jellyfish, comb jellies and small fish. It is often caught on peeled or cut shrimp on a small hook. It is not a great fighting fish but often uses its wide build as leverage when hooked, making reeling it in sometimes quite difficult. They are an inshore species and often caught around jetties, piers and reefs. They are an excellent eating fish. SIDEBAR: Fish Stink Handling and cleaning fish makes your hands stink as well. The stink is so bad that nothing short of sandblasting the skin off your hands (do not try—it hurts) would immediately remove the smell. Soap doesn’t work. Rubbing alcohol doesn’t work. Neither does rubbing your hands in lemon juice. Luckily, science has come to the rescue. Developed by 5K Enterprises, the WonderBar removes all remnants of odor in just 30 seconds without removing any epidermis. The metal bar is smooth to the touch, pollution free, lasts forever, floats and best of all, actually works.
Atlantic Stingray Dasyatis Sabina Both the smallest and most common stingray found in Texas waters, the Atlantic stingray averages 2 feet in length and between 6 to 8 inches in width. Specimens measuring 24 inches in width and weighting upwards of 5 pounds, although rare, have been recorded. The Atlantic stingray is roundish in shape with a pointy snout. The eyes sit atop the head. Its flat body is brownish to tan in color on top with a cream to white underbelly. This coloration acts as camouflage and allows it to swim on or near the bottom where it lives and feeds fairly unnoticed. Most of its time on the bottom, however, is actually spent just slightly beneath it. Here, the stingray buries itself to lie in ambush for food such as worms, crabs, mollusks and small fish. When buried, only the eyes and spiracles are visible. This hiding in plain sight is the cause for many painful encounters by anglers who inadvertently step on it, leaving it pinned to the bottom. Acting in self-defense the stingray whips the poisonous barb found about a third of the way down its tail into the person’s foot, ankle or lower leg. This “sting” is excruciatingly painful and requires immediate medical attention. The Atlantic stingray is not generally targeted by Texas anglers which is a shame considering that the meat on its wings tastes similar to sea scallops. A stingray can also put up quite a battle when hooked due to its flat body and strong “wings.” Anglers who target stingrays have the best results using dead bait on the bottom. The Atlantic stingray is found in bays during the summer and spring and in the Gulf during the winter months. Anglers fishing in the bay during warmer months are advised to wear protective boots and shuffle their feet when walking to avoid being stung. Sidebar: Wallets from the Sea In addition to putting up one heck of a fight when hooked and tasting great right off the grill, stingray also make great wallets. And purses, belts and bags. Shark does too.
Stingrays and sharks make exquisite leather which in turn can be crafted into any number of items. Both species have been commercially harvested for leather for years, but recreational fishers have only recently begun turning the fruits of their favorite pastime into physical memories. Stingray is incredibly durable and was even used to fashion shields in ancient Egypt. In the 18th century, Louis XV of France had snuffboxes and wig cases made from stingray. Today it, as well as shark, is used by a number of designers and leather artisans who value its look, feel and resilience. You don’t need a designer to turn your catch into a wallet. All you need is a taxidermist to tan the hide and a company such as Walden & Bork to craft it. Walden & Bork came about when founder Richard Sanders was discussing what to do with all his game hides with some friends over a campfire in Africa. The initial idea led to more than five years of planning, auditioning artisans, developing samples and marketing. The results are beyond compare in terms of beauty, craftsmanship and design. So after you eat that stingray, turn the leftovers into a wallet.
Bermuda Chub Kyphosus sectatrix Bermuda chub are relatively rare in Texas waters. Those that do stray into state waters are usually found offshore swimming in large schools around floating drifts or inshore near jetties, pilings and rocks. They are brownish to blue-gray in color with softer colored round spots on the sides or long, horizontal dark lines. As a species it has been known to attain lengths of more than 30 inches and weights of 20 pounds or more although most individuals caught in Texas waters average just 1 pound. Diet consists of worms, decaying matter, vegetation, small fish and shrimp. They are considered to be poor table fare and are not highly sought by Texas anglers. When present, Bermuda chub are notorious bait stealers and because of their small mouth and size are very successful at stripping hooks without being noticed. Bonefish Albula vulpes Often confused by Texas anglers for mullet, bonefish is somewhat of a rarity in Texas waters. When it is found, individuals tend to be much smaller than those found in true tropical climates. While weights of upwards of 19 pounds have been recorded, those caught in Texas waters tend to weigh between 1 to 3 pounds. They are torpedo shaped, silver-green in color, and have a hard, boney head that gives them their namesake. They swim in compact schools over shallow grass flats where they hunt for grass shrimp and minnows.
Bonefish are very fast and can be extremely exciting to fish for. Once hooked, they can speed across the shallow waters with reel-screeching speed. They are considered inedible. Bluefish Pomatomus saltatrix The bluefish is dark, greenish-blue along the back shading to bluish-silver along the sides before finally fading to white on the belly. It has a rather long, lean body, a mouth full of canine-like teeth and a deeply forked tail. While it can reach weights of upward of 30 pounds, most specimens caught in Texas average between 1 to 2 pounds. They are a migratory species and are usually found in Texas only between April and August. Bluefish are very aggressive and often school in feeding frenzies in which they devour fish, squid, shrimp and even each other. This aggressiveness even carries over to humans as attacks by bluefish have been recorded. Bluefish respond well to live shrimp, finger mullet, plugs and spoons. They are considered edible but are not generally regarded as good table fare. Catfish There are two major species of saltwater catfish found in Texas.
Gafftopsail Catfish Bagre marinus Known almost exclusively as gafftop in Texas, the gafftopsail catfish acquired its true moniker from the extended rays on its dorsal fin which often puncture or gaff anglers who are trying to unhook them. Adding to the pain is the fact that the spines are covered with a toxic slime that further irritates the wound. The extended rays do, however, help in differentiating it from its look-alike cousin, the hardhead catfish, because its spines do not extend above the fin. Both species also have toxic slime covered pectoral fins as well. Gafftopsail catfish are dark bluish-gray in color along the back with these colors fading to light gray before fading completely to white along the sides and belly. It averages between 2 to 5 pounds in weight although individuals weighing as much as 8 pounds and measuring more than 2 feet long have been recorded. They are found in Texas waters year-round but are most often caught between April to June. Similar to freshwater catfish, gafftopsail catfish feed close to the bottom. They are most often caught on small crabs, pinfish or shrimp. Despite its array of slimy spines, gafftopsails are edible albeit difficult to handle and clean.
Hardhead Catfish Arius felis Just as with the gafftopsail catfish, the hardhead or sea catfish is armed with toxic, slime-covered spines within the dorsal and pectoral fins. While the spines on the hardhead catfish are not nearly as long as those on the gafftopsail, they are just as dangerous and can be extremely painful if they puncture the skin. And as its spines are barbed, they can be extremely difficult to remove. It is silver to white in color with dark to black fins, tail and back. Hardheads are very abundant in Texas waters. They can be found in bays, channels, passes, open water close to shore and in brackish river water. While they can be caught year-round they are most active during warmer months. Hardheads eat a variety of foods and young will even go so far as to nibble on the sides of living fish to feed on scales, mucus and ectoparasites. Because they will eat almost anything, hardheads are notorious bait stealers. Their passion for always striking a hook is a saving grace for some anglers, especially young ones, just wanting a quick fight but most consider it a nuisance as they only have to be removed from the hook. Hardhead are said to be edible although they are not generally eaten in Texas. Catfish Notes: The best way to remove gafftopsail or hardhead catfish from a hook is to grab the fish in the lower jaw with a pair of pliers. This immobilizes the fish until the hook can be worked free. As both species have barbed spines that can easily pierce most deck shoes, stepping on them to pin them down isn’t a good idea.
Cownose Ray Rhinoptera bonasus The cownose ray is tan to brown in color on the top portion of its body with a cream to white colored underbelly. Its skin is smooth and without scales. Eyes are located on the side of the head and the forehead projects over a deeply notched, almost bilobed snout similar to a cow’s. The tail contains one or more sharp spins located near the base of the tail. In Texas waters, it
averages 3 feet across at the wingspan although individuals measuring 7 foot across and weighing more than 100 pounds have been recorded. The cownose ray is most often found in shallow water where it feeds on snails, crabs and oysters. Although not considered to be edible, a large cownose can put up a tremendous fight making them very popular with anglers. Cownose are also popular with shark fishers who utilize the fish as bait. SIDEBAR:Burn Baby, Burn Despite being the home of a nine-month tanning season, Texas ranked only 38 in the United states in percentage of reported sunburns in a 2004 Center for Disease Control study. In this study, (the latest of its kind) 33.6 percent of Caucasians reported having been sunburned at least once the previous year. While this number is fairly low for such a sunny state, it hints at just how unaware roughly one-third of the people in the state are about preventing a serious sunburn. Sunburns are caused by over exposure to ultraviolet-beta (UVB) rays in sunlight. These rays, which are just as present on cloudy days, cause sunburn, ageing, skin wrinkles and skin cancer. Individuals fishing are at double risk as they aren’t only exposed to the rays from above, but also from below as rays are reflected off the water’s surface. The symptoms of a sunburn usually appear about four hours after exposure. Mild sunburns leave skin red, tender and warm to the touch. More serious burns can leave skin swollen and blistered. Even mild sunburns can lead to headache, fever, nausea and fatigue. The best way to avoid sunburn: •Limit exposure between 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. •Wear protective clothing (shirts such as the Omni-Dry Tamiami line from Columbia offer an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) rating of 40 for even more protection from the sun) •Use sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) rating of 15 or higher, being sure to reapply it at least every two hours and after being in the water or sweating. There is no such thing as a waterproof sunscreen. Sunscreen performance is affected by proper application, perspiration, wind and humidity. •Take note of the UV or ultraviolet index (usually found in newscasts, online and in newspapers). A rating of 1 is low; 11 or higher is extremely high. The best treatments for sunburn: •Drink plenty of water. •Cool baths or compresses. •Apply moisturizing creams, aloe or creams containing hydrocortisone. •Seek medical attention if suffering from dehydration or 101 degree temperature for more than 48 hours. Interesting facts: •According to a 2004 CDC report, 53 percent of Asian/Pacific Islanders, 50 percent of blacks, 44 percent of American Indians and 35 percent of Caucasians reported having a sunburn the previous year. •Ultraviolet light helps make vitamin D in humans, which aids the body in calcium absorption. •Drugs such as ibuprofen, tetracycline, sulfa antibiotics, and thiazides increase sensitivity to sunlight and the risk of getting sunburned. •We’d all be dead without the sun. Croakers Two species of croaker are found in Texas. Atlantic Croaker
Micropogon undulates Also known as the golden croaker, the Atlantic croaker is brownish-bronze in color with irregular brownish stripes that are actually a series of spots on individual scales along the upper sides of the body. It has a blunt head and a row of small barbels on each side of the lower jaw. Average size is around 1 pound in weight although individuals weighing more than 5 pounds and reaching more than 28 inches in length have been recorded. An interesting feature of this species is its ability to make a “croak” sound similar to that of a bullfrog. This is unique in the fish world as the majority of fish species cannot make any sound. Atlantic croakers can be found and caught in Texas bays year-round, but October and November are generally the best months due to its spawning period. Diet includes worms, shellfish and small crustaceans. Atlantic croakers are delicious and are highly sought by anglers. Small shrimp is generally the best bait. Spot Croaker Leiostomus xanthurus The spot croaker, or spot as it is more commonly referred to, is also found in Texas waters. It is silver to white in color with dark vertical stripes located on the upper half of the body. A dark spot that gives the fish its namesake lies just above and behind the gill slit. Spots (the fish, not the actual spot) average around 1 pound in weight and 12 inches in length. Individuals measuring 13 inches in length have been recorded but are rare. Like the Atlantic croaker, the spot has a sloping, blunt head. Spots are very common in bays and shallow water where they feed on small fish, shrimp, marine worms, shellfish and bottom-dwelling organisms. Small shrimp bait positioned on the bottom seems to be most effective. While the fish is edible, it is not commonly sought or consumed in Texas because of its small size and bony body. SIDEBAR: The Eyes Have It Polarized sunglasses cut glare and reflections off the water and make spotting fish beneath the surface much easier. In addition, due to the fact that most polarized lenses are made from polycarbonate plastic, they provide protection from flying lures and hooks, fighting fish, branches and fishing rods. Although polarized sunglasses have only been popular with outdoor enthusiasts for the past 20 or so years, they were first introduced in 1936 by Ray-Ban and were worn by United States Air Corps aviators. Today, Ray-Ban still makes polarized sunglasses as do Costa Del Mar, Gander Mountain., Cabela’s, Bolle and a host of other companies. Drum There are two major species of drum found in Texas.
Black Drum Pogonias cromis Having more of a humped back and stocky build than the red drum, the black drum ranges in color from silver-gray to silver-black to bronze. Younger fish exhibit four to five dark, broad vertical stripes on the sides. These stripes fade as the fish matures. The snout is fairly blunt. The lower jaw contains many barbels that the fish uses to locate food such as clams and crabs by feel and smell. In Texas, black drum average between 6 to 25 pounds although individuals weighing more than 100 pounds have been recorded. They are found in state waters year-round but are most active between February to April when they head into deeper water to spawn. Black drum tend to roam in large schools and are most often found in bays near rock piles, jetties, piers and docks. As a specimen, it is extremely adaptable, being able to tolerate fresh water, salinity levels twice as high as that found in the Gulf and depths of more than 100 feet. Smaller drum are considered good table fare. Older individuals are not only considered too rough to eat but are often infested with spaghetti worms, which although nauseating in appearance are harmless if eaten.
Red Drum Sciaenops ocellatus Known in Texas as redfish or simply as red, the red drum is by far one of the most popular saltwater fishes in the state. It ranges in color from silver to a deep black-copper color. The most common color, and the one that gives the fish its moniker, is reddish-brown. Regardless of color, all display a large, black, round-to-oval spot on the posterior portion of the tail. Some
individuals exhibit more than one spot, though this is quite rare. The front dorsal fin contains 10 rays while the rear dorsal fin contains about 25 rays. The tail has between seven to eight rays. Red fish are a fast-growing fish and are capable of reaching weights of more than 50 pounds and a length of nearly 5 feet. The larger fish are often referred to as red bulls and are generally found in the Gulf where they remain once they reach maturity. Fish found in bays and in shallow waters are generally under 4 years old. These average between 3 to 8 pounds in weight. During the first three to four years of life, redfish live in shallow waters, usually on flats, but sometimes near piers and jetties. Diet consists of marine worms, crabs, shrimp and small fish. Spotting a school of feeding reds in shallow water is quite a sight since the fish eat in the vertical position, leaving their spotted tails to flay above the surface. Finding a feeding school of redfish is an angler or flyfisher’s dream because this is when they are most successfully fished. Both lures and natural bait work well, but great care should be taken not to spook the school as they can disappear in a flash. Fishing grass beds and shallow reefs in warm months and tributaries and deeper holes during cool weather tends to produce the best results. Red fish are excellent table fare.
Florida Pompano Trachinotus carolinus Florida pompano is considered by many to be the best tasting saltwater fish in Texas. Because of this, they are actively sought during the summer and fall months when they are most often found in the surf, in passes and around inside breaks. Florida pompano are silver to silverfish-white on the sides with a yellow underbelly. Above and in front of the eyes is blue. The back is grayish to gray-blue. It has a deep body and averages between 2 to 4 pounds in weight. Fish weighing more than 8 pounds have been recorded but are rare. The diet consists of small fish, crustaceans and mollusks. It responds well to both natural and artificial bait. Small shrimp, crustaceans and sand fleas work very well as do white or beige colored jigs. Jacks Texas is home to three major species of Jack.
Blue Runner Caranax crysos Also known as hardtail, hardtailed Jack and yellow Jack, the blue runner is actually more green in color than blue (the “runner” part seems to be correctly named as the species does run hard when hooked). Names aside, the blue runner is greenish along the back and upper sides with yellow-silver sides and belly. The fins are almost colorless. Hard, bony scutes cover the back and sides. Average size is between 2 to 5 pounds although individuals weighing as much as 8 pounds have been recorded. They can be found both near shore and in the Gulf. Blue runners feed on fish, crab and shrimp. They respond well to both natural and artificial bait. Although considered edible, they are generally not consumed in Texas.
Crevalle Jack Caranx hippos Correctly identified as Crevalle Jack, but most often referred to as jackfish, jack, common jack or Jack Crevalle, this fish is a very strong fighter. It has silver-white sides and a blue-gray color along the top. The belly area is sometimes yellow to yellow-white. A dark spot is found on the gill cover near the forehead. It averages between 3 to 6 pounds in weight although individuals weighing 25 pounds or more are not uncommon. Specimens weighing more than 55 pounds have been recorded but are rare. The tail has boney scutes (common among all the Jacks) and is deeply forked. The head is sharply rounded. Crevalles are common to Texas waters and are found in the surf as well as in bays around pilings and reefs. Larger, older fish are generally found offshore but enter the bay in September and October. Crevalles are most active between May and August. They eat crabs, mullet and
smaller fish. Despite this seemingly limited diet they are caught on almost anything thrown in the water. Crevalles are not commonly sought by Texas anglers which is a shame given how hard they fight once hooked. They are very fast and often dive down toward the bottom so hard that they often straighten hooks. While edible, they are not often utilized for food. They are, however, often caught to be utilized for shark bait.
Horse-Eye Jack Caranx latus Much like the crevalle, the horse-eye jack is a tough, spirited fighter when hooked but not commonly sought by anglers. Again, this is a shame given the enjoyable runs this relatively small powerhouse can provide. Horse-eye jacks, also known as goggle-eye jacks because of their oversized eyes, can reach upwards of 2 feet in length and 20 pounds-plus in weight. Individuals caught in Texas waters usually average much smaller, somewhere between 2 to 10 pounds. It has a deep body, large mouth and two complete back fins. It is black-gray in color on the back with silveri sides and a yellow to yellow-silver underside. The fins, with the exception of the pectoral fins, are yellow to dusty yellow in color. Horse-eye jacks are found in both bays and in the Gulf with larger individuals usually found in the latter. Their primary diet consists of shrimp and small fish. They respond well to both natural and artificial bait. Many are caught on plugs and spoons. Horse-eye jacks are considered edible, but they are not often utilized as food in Texas.
Ladyfish Elops saurus Also known as skipjack, ten pounder and horse mackerel, ladyfish are closely related to tarpon. While similar in shape, coloring and fighting style when hooked, ladyfish rarely exceed 3 pounds in weight. Tarpon can exceed 300 pounds. Despite the small size, ladyfish are excellent fighters. The name ten pounder comes from the incredible pull it can put on an angler. Skipjack comes from its skipping above the water when hooked. Ladyfish are long and slender and almost cylindrical in shape. They are greenish to green-gray in color along the back changing to silver along the sides and abdomen. Their diet consists of squid, shrimp and small fish. Ladyfish hit both natural and artificial bait. They are found in passes and bays as well as in surf. It is edible but not normally consumed in Texas.
Lesser Electric Ray Narcine brasiliensis The lesser electric ray is capable of producing up to 37 volts of electric shock. This is more than enough to knock a full-grown man down if he is unfortunate enough to step on a ray. Luckily, the ray rarely produces that much and encounters with man are very rare. The ray’s ability to produce voltage comes from specialized organs located in each disc-shaped wing. Also known as crampfish, torpedo or simply electric ray, the lesser electric ray is brown in color with a pattern of dark, irregular blotches. Average length is about 15 inches. They are found in Texas waters year-round, often times buried in sand on the bottom where they are fairly invisible. Their diet consists primarily of marine worms. Lesser electric rays aren’t generally sought by anglers although it is considered edible.
Pigfish Orthopristis chrysoptera Most often referred to in Texas as piggy perch, grunt or piggy, the pigfish is among the few species of fish capable of making vocal sounds. After capture, they will often grunt, sounding similar to a pig. Pigfish have a pointy snout and deep body. It is bluish along the back with this color changing to silver or white below. Multicolored scales give it a somewhat molted look. Pigfish are capable of reaching upwards of 15 inches in length but most caught in Texas average 6 inches or less and weigh less than a pound. They are found in bays and channels where they feed on mollusks and small crustaceans. Peeled or frozen shrimp is one of the more popular baits. Pigfish are a great fish for youngsters as they can easily be caught off piers and because they put up a big fight for such a little fish. While pigfish are edible, they are most often used as live bait for other species.
Pinfish Lagodon rhomboids Pinfish, also known as pin perch, are so named for the sharp, pin-like spines found in the dorsal and anal fins. It is greenish in color with blue and yellow tinges. The belly is white, and there is a dark spot near the shoulder. Average size is between 3 to 5 inches in length although individuals reaching 8 inches in length and weighing more than 2 pounds in weight have been recorded. Pinfish are common in bays and in the Gulf. They can also be found near jetties and piers. Diet consists of vegetation, crustaceans, mollusks and fish. They respond well to squid, cut shrimp and cut fish but are notorious bait stealers. Pinfish are edible but are most often caught to be used as live or cut bait for larger species. Sea Trout Texas is home to three major species of sea trout.
Sand Seatrout Cynoscion arenarius The sand sea trout is fairly common in Texas waters and can be found in channels, deeper bays and in the Gulf. It has a pinkish sheen, and unlike its similarly colored cousin the spotted sea trout, is spot free. Sand sea trout can reach upwards of 20 inches in length and weigh more than 6 pounds although individuals in Texas tend to be smaller. The upper jaw contains two large canine teeth that are no doubt useful in cracking and eating crustaceans, a staple of their diet. Fish are also consumed. While not as popular as other seat routs, sand sea trout are still widely sought by anglers. Their flesh is considered to be good albeit rather bony. The species is popular with the night owl angling crowd who utilize bright lights or gas flares to attract them from the darkness. Sand sea trout respond well to cut fish or cut shrimp bait when positioned on or near the bottom. Jigs are also effective. Silver Sea Trout Cynoscion nothus Also known as Gulf sand trout, silver weakfish and Gulf trout, the silver sea trout is found in both bays and in the Gulf where it tends to stay between 3 to 20 fathoms. It is also found near oil
platforms. The silver sea trout is pale to silver in color and capable of reaching upwards of 6 pounds in weight. Most individuals caught in Texas, however, tend to average between 1 to 2 pounds. Their diet includes shrimp, small crustaceans and fish. Silver sea trout are excellent fighters, often hitting bait as if they were swimming at top speed. They are considered excellent table fare, but anglers are cautioned to ice down their catch immediately after removing it from the water as the meat losses freshness very quickly. Fishing is best between July and September when spawning is at its height. Silver sea trout respond well to cut fish and cut shrimp bait on or near the bottom.
Spotted Sea Trout Cynoscion nebulosus The spotted or speckled sea trout, as it is sometimes called, has a metallic blue sheen with a dark gray back and black spots along the back and tail. The large mouth contains one to two canine teeth along the tip of the upper jaw. Weights of up to 13 pounds and lengths of 34 inches have been recorded but most individuals caught in Texas waters average between 1 to 2 pounds. Spotted sea trout are found in a wide array of habitats, from shallow water with plenty of vegetation to marshes, shell reefs and oyster reefs. They can also be found around piers, jetties and near shore. Juveniles feed on small fish and shrimp before moving onto larger fish such as mullet and croaker. The latter is generally a good bait choice as are lures resembling baitfish. Spotted sea trout are caught year-round. As a rule, they are usually found in shallow water during the summer and deeper water in the fall. Spotted sea trout are considered to be excellent table fare. But just as with silver sea trout, anglers are cautioned to ice down their catch immediately after removing it from the water as the meat losses freshness very quickly.
Southern Flounder Paralichthys lethostigma Known in Texas simply as a flounder, the Southern flounder is a left-handed flatfish, meaning both its eyes and coloration are on the left side of its body. This isn’t always the case. The Southern flounder is born with one eye on each side of its head. Metamorphosis occurs when the larvae reaches close to one inch in length. During this period of change, the right eye moves as does the mouth. A rearrangement of the gills and internal organs also occurs.
Southern flounder average between 1 to 3 pounds in weight although individuals weighing more than 12 pounds and reaching more than 3 feet in length have been recorded. The topside color ranges from a black-brown to light gray. It is capable of changing its color pattern to blend in with its surroundings. It utilizes this chameleon-like ability to lay undetected on the bottom where it ambushes prey such as minnows and other small fish. Flounder are caught on natural and artificial baits positioned on or near the bottom. Cut mullet or shrimp work well as do jigs. Flounder are also taken with flounder gigs. This practice involves individuals utilizing a one or three-pronged spear to pierce flounder found on the bottom. As nighttime is the best time to see flounder sitting on the bottom, giggers either walk the shallows with a lantern, a powerful handheld light or hunt with specially modified flatbottom boats with lights along the bow. The best time to try either method is during a flounder run, usually during October to November, when fish migrate toward the Gulf to spawn. Flounder are considered to be excellent table fare.
Sheepshead Archosargus probatocephalus Sometimes referred to as a convict fish because of its wide, vertical, alternating black and white stripes that are reminiscent of a traditional prison jumpsuit, the sheepshead is a slim fish with a deep body. It can reach weights of more than 13 pounds and a length of more than 25 inches, but individuals in Texas waters usually average between 1 to 3 pounds. They are well protected by sharp spines within the dorsal, pectoral, pelvic and anal fins. Because of this, anglers should use great caution when removing them from a line. Sheepshead are found near rock piles, reefs, piers, bulkheads and other underwater structures where its main food sources of barnacles and small crabs are plentiful. Large incisor-like teeth allow the sheepshead to tear through this well-protected prey with relative ease. These teeth, along with an extremely strong jaw, are also capable of bending hooks completely out of shape. Sheepshead are popular with anglers and despite the difficulty involved in cleaning them, they make excellent table fare. The best baits are generally small shrimp, fiddler crab and hermit crab. Sheepshead are caught year-round but the best fishing tends to be between December and March. NOTE: Convicts in the Texas Penal System usually wear orange jumpsuits––not black and white, striped jumpsuits.
Snook Centropomus undecimalis Snook, also known as saltwater pike or robalo, are a neotropical species and require warm water year-round in order to survive. In Texas, they are fairly restricted to the lower reaches of the Laguna Madre. They are a euryhaline species, meaning that they spend their time moving back and forth between salt and fresh waters. Diet consists of fish, shrimp and crab. Snook are capable of reaching upwards of 57 pounds in weight and a length of more than 36 inches. Most individuals caught in Texas, however, average between 5 to 8 pounds in weight. Snook are silver in color with a white belly and dark brown back. A distinct lateral line separates the darker back and silver-colored sides. The snout is long and concave and the lower jaw juts forward of the upper. The gill cover edges are razor sharp and can easily cut human skin. Anglers should utilize extreme caution when handling their catch. Snook are considered excellent fighters and often jump out of the water repeatedly when hooked. They are caught year-round but fall tends to offer the best results. Snook hit both natural and artificial baits. Snook is considered to be superb table fare.
Striped Bass Morone saxatilis The striped bass is a saltwater fish that has been introduced into a number of freshwater lakes and reservoirs. It was found in Texas bays around the turn of the 20th century but disappeared for reasons unknown. Striped bass are stocked in bays across the state by Texas Parks and Wildlife. Striped bass are silverish in color with olive-green shading along the back. Seven or eight dark, horizontal stripes run along the side of the body. The belly is white. Two sharp points come off the rear of both gill covers. They are piscivorous, in that they only eat other fish. They also generally swim in schools to catch their prey. Striped bass are most often caught on live bait, cut bait or lures, such as silver spoons, that imitate small fish. Hardplugs and jigs also work well.
Tarpon Megalops atlanticus Tarpon are one of the most popular big game fish species in the world thanks in part to its extraordinary strength and size (some individuals reach upwards of 8 feet in length and weigh more than 300 pounds), and its tendency to jump nearly two body lengths out of the water once hooked. They are a tropical species and require warm water in order to survive. In Texas, they are fairly restricted to the waters around and south of South Padre Island. They prefer shallow water and are found close to shore and river mouths. Individuals are occasionally landed north of this range when waters are warm enough. Prior to the 1950s, tarpon were quite numerous in Texas. Since then their numbers have decreased rapidly due in part to pollution, pesticide runoff, the damming of rivers and overfishing. While numbers are nowhere near where they were 60 years ago, the tarpon population is gradually improving. Still, most tarpon caught are quickly released. Tarpon are silver in color with overtly large and heavy scales. The mouth is large and tilted upward. The bottom jaw contains a bony plate that makes hooking it very difficult. An elongated ray streams from the rear of the dorsal fin. Although capable of large weight, most individuals caught in Texas average between 35 to 50 pounds. Their diet includes fish, shrimp and crab. Tarpon respond well to live bait and artificial bait that resembles such. Whiting Texas is home to two species of kingfish or whiting. Gulf Kingfish Menticirrhus littoralis Southern Kingfish Menticirrhus americanus In Texas, the Gulf kingfish and the Southern kingfish are known as whiting. Separately, they are sometimes referred to as Gulf king whiting and Southern king whiting, but to most Lone Star anglers they are just “whiting.” Both are common in Texas waters, although the Gulf variety is the more abundant of the two and are usually found in the surf. They can be caught at any time of the year but prime fishing is usually between July to September. The Gulf king is bright silver in color along the sides with a silver-gray back. It is the smaller of the two whiting species found in Texas with most individuals averaging only 10 inches in length and weighing less than 1 pound.
The Southern king is silver-gray to brown in color with faint bars on the sides. It can reach upwards of 3 pounds in weight but most individuals caught in Texas weigh under 1 pound and measure less than 12 inches in length. Both species are bottom feeders and spend their time there searching for worms and small crustaceans. They respond well to small shrimp, tiny spoons and tiny jigs. Both species are good to eat albeit small. Open Water Species These species are generally found in the deeper waters of the Gulf. Some, such as sharks, often come close to shore in search of food. Texas waters end nine nautical miles from shore.
Barracuda Sphyraena barracuda Correctly identified as great barracuda, the barracuda has a long, lean build with a massive jaw filled with a terrifying array of teeth. It is pale green to black along the back with silver sides and a silver to white belly. A series of irregular black spots run the length of the body. In Texas, it averages between 10 to 15 pounds in weight although individuals weighing upwards of 85 pounds and lengths of 57 inches have been recorded. Barracuda are found near reefs, around underwater wrecks and debris and around oil platforms. It is a serious predator and eats almost any fish it can catch. Barracuda are usually caught in Texas between May to October with July and August being the prime months. Barracudas are strong fighters and are great fun to fish for. They respond best to live and cut bait as well as jigs and trolling lures. Barracudas are edible but are not usually consumed in Texas. Bonito Texas is home to two major species of bonito. Atlantic Bonito Sarda sarda Also known as bonito and bone Jack, the Atlantic bonito is the most abundant species of bonito found in Texas waters. It is dark blue along the back and upper sides with silver sides and belly. Dark stripes run obliquely from the middle sides of the body to the upper back. Average weight is between 10 to 12 pounds. Heavier specimens, some weighing upwards of 18 pounds, have been recorded but are rare. Diet includes small fish and squid. Atlantic bonito usually visit Texas waters in the warmest months, with June being the prime fishing month. They are excellent fighters and respond well to live and cut bait as well as trolling feather lures and cast flies resembling baitfish. Atlantic bonito are not considered edible.
Little Tunny Euthynnus alletteratus Little tunny are not tuna but rather bonito. Despite this fact, they are often referred to as false abalone and little tuna. They are also known as spotted bonito. These names come from the little tunny’s tuna-like build and partially spotted body. Little tunny are dark blue or dark green along the back and upper sides with silver to silverish sides. Irregular spots or blotches are scattered along the lower sides just behind the lower pectoral fins. Wavy stripes run laterally or obliquely above the lateral line along the rear portion of the fish. Average size is between 8 to 10 pounds although individuals weighing upwards of 30 pounds have been recorded. Like its cousin the Atlantic bonito, little tunny prefer deep water where they feed on other fish. Little tunny are hard-hitting fighters and often run fast and deep when hooked. They respond well to live and cut bait as well as feathered jigs. Because of their oily taste and tough skin, little tunny are not considered edible. They are, however, an excellent baitfish. SIDEBAR: Texas Whales and Dolphins More than 20 species of dolphins and whales live in the Gulf of Mexico off the Texas coast. Some of these are fairly rare while others are quite numerous. In addition to these, there are several other species that visit the Gulf only occasionally or as an “accident.” The most numerous of the cetaceans are the dolphins or delphinids. According to the National Marine Fisheries Service, the most numerous are: The pantropical spotted dolphin (Stenella attenuata) with an estimated 92,000 in number residing in the Gulf. The Clymene dolphin (Stenella clymene) with 17,000. The striped dolphin (Stenella coeruleoalba) with 6,500. The Fraser’s or rough-toothed dolphins with 3,500. The melon-headed “whale” (Peponocephala electra) with 3,500. The common bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) with 3,000. The Risso’s dolphin or grampus (Grampus griseus) with 2,000 The short-finned pilot whales (Globicephal macrorhynchus) with 2,000. The killer whale or orcas (Orcinus orca) with 150. Because they reside in deeper water, whales aren’t as easily counted. The most numerous, however, are probably the sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus) and the Bryde’s (Balaenoptera edeni).
Cobia Rachycentron canadum Better known as ling or lingfish in Texas, cobia are chocolate brown in color with darker coloration along the back. Some specimens, and most juveniles, carry a dark lateral band that runs from the snout to tail. Cobia have a long shark-like body with scales that are so small the fish often appears scaleless at a distance. The head is relatively flat and the first dorsal fin has between eight to nine spike-like spines. Cobia average between 20 to 25 pounds in weight although individuals weighing upwards of 100 pounds and lengths of 70 or more inches are not uncommon in Texas waters. Cobia are a warm water fish and can usually be found in the Gulf in late spring and summer. They are notoriously shy of direct sunlight and often seek shade under buoys, floating debris, oil platforms and boats when near the surface. Diet consists of squid, fish, crab and shrimp. Because of the later, cobia are often found chasing shrimp boats for a free meal. Cobia are one of the most popular game fish with Texas anglers because of their firm, white meat and their propensity to fight hard once hooked. Cobia respond well to squid, shrimp and live bait as well as larger plugs, spoons and jigs. Because of the cobia’s size, strength and propensity to school near barnacle-covered structures, a heavy line and wire leaders are recommended.
Dolphin Coryphaena hippurus The name dolphin applies to both a species of fish (family Coryphaenidae ) and mammal (family Delphinidae). Of the two, only the fish regularly appears on restaurant menus and in fish markets in the United States. Because so many people have a problem differentiating the two (in print anyway), the fish underwent a massive public relations campaign. Today the fish is more commonly referred to as dorado or mahi-mahi (Hawaiian for “strong fish”). In the scientific community though, the fish is still referred to as dolphin. Names aside, the dolphin is one of the most popular game fishes in the world. It is dramatically colored with a golden-hue shading along the sides, with metallic blue and green blotches dotting the back and sides, and a white and yellow colored belly. These colors are especially dramatic in the water but quickly fade to unified silver once removed from the water. The body is elongated and relatively flat. The female has a well-rounded head while the male, or
bull, has a blunt forehead. The dorsal fin runs almost the length of the body. Average size is between 5 to 40 pounds although individuals weighing more than 80 pounds and reaching lengths of nearly 6 feet have been recorded. Because of their preference for water warmer than 70 degrees, dolphin are generally only found in Texas waters between April to September. Their diet consists of fish and squid. Dolphin are spectacular fighters. They hit hard and often thrust into the air, or tailwalk, when hooked. They respond well to both natural and artificial trolled baits. Feathered jigs are a popular choice. Dolphin make excellent table fare although the meat is very bloody. For this reason, it is best to ice down any catch as soon after capture as possible. Grouper There are six major species of grouper in Texas waters.
Gag Grouper Mycteroperca microlepis The gag grouper is a deep water, bottom-dwelling fish usually found on or around snapper banks. Gags are most often caught by anglers after snapper. Gags are found in Texas waters year-round but aren’t very abundant. They are light brown in color with dark brown chain-shaped markings covering the sides. The dorsal fin is dark brown or green while the tail is blue to white. Average weight is between 1 to 2 pounds with 20 pounds being the maximum weight for individuals caught in Texas. Their diet consists of crustaceans, crabs and fish. Gags generally put up a good fight in deep water but quickly succumb to pressure changes once pulled toward the surface. Gags are not usually targeted by anglers in Texas. Gags are edible.
Jewfish Epinephelus itajara The jewfish is one of the largest fish found in Texas waters. Because of its size (and because the name is offensive to some), it is increasingly known as the goliath grouper. It is also known as spotted jewfish and giant sea bass.
Jewfish range in color from dark to chocolate brown. Some individuals carry faint, pale blotches or spots along the sides. The fins are generally darker in color than the body. The diet includes crabs and fish. It is an ambush hunter and will probably eat just about anything it can catch. An indiscriminant diet might account for its tremendous size. In Texas, individuals weighing between 200 to 300 pounds are not uncommon although most average between 40 to 120 pounds. Individuals weighing more than 650 pounds have been recorded. Preferred habitat is around jetties, underwater structures such as oil platforms and shipwrecks or anywhere it can find a secluded hiding spot. The jewfish’s size and its tendency to retreat under shelter once hooked make it extremely difficult to land. This challenge makes the species very popular with anglers and spearfishers alike. Jewfish respond well to large baitfish and cut bait such as stingray. Jewfish are good table fare but are sometimes coarse. Nassau Grouper Epinephelus striatus The Nassau grouper is pale olive-gray in color with a lighter colored underbelly. Some individuals exhibit irregular dark bars on the body. Most have a saddle-shaped splotch just forward of the tail. The Nassau has the noteworthy ability to change color from the later to solid grayish-white. It has a bass-like body and averages between 5 to 10 pounds in weight. Its diet consists of fish. It is rare in Texas waters, but when it is found it is usually around oil platforms, rough structures and deep water reefs. Because of its rarity, it is not often targeted by anglers.
Rock Hind Epinephelus adscensionis Also known as the calico grouper or measles grouper, the rock hind is a small grouper averaging less than one pound and measuring 15 inches or less. Color varies but most individuals are olive with pale to white splotches covering the body. These are intermingled with red to reddishbrown spots that cover not only the body but the fins as well. The forward dorsal fin has 11 spines; the latter 16 soft rays. Rock hinds live in deep water in and around reefs and other rough structures. Their diet includes crabs and fish. Rock hinds are not generally targeted by Texas anglers because of their small size and their wariness to take bait. Rock hinds are considered edible.
Scamp Mycteroperca phenax Scamp are grayish-brown to tan in color with darker shading along the back and upper sides. Some individuals exhibit darker colored spots along the sides, tail and dorsal fins. It averages between 5 to 10 pounds in weight and between 24 to 30 inches in length. Individuals weighing upwards of 28 pounds have been recorded. It is a deep water fish and, although not very plentiful, can be found in Texas waters year-round. Habitat is on and around snapper banks and underwater structures such as oil platforms and sunken debris. Its diet consists of fish and crustaceans. Scamp fight hard once hooked but quickly succumb to pressure changes when brought toward the surface. They are considered excellent table fare.
Warsaw Grouper Epinephelus nigritus The Warsaw grouper is brown to blue-black in color with some individuals exhibiting light spots along the sides. Because of its dark color, Warsaw are also referred to as black grouper or black jewfish. It is an extremely large fish with some individuals tipping the scales at more than 400 pounds in weight. Of course such heavy specimens are rare and most individuals average between 20 to 60 pounds. Its diet consists of crab and squid. Warsaw live in deep water, usually on or around snapper banks. During the warmer summer months, Warsaw probably move farther out into the Gulf in search of cooler water. Warsaw are most often caught from December to February. They respond well to live and dead bait. Because of their size, they can be extremely difficult to land. In fact, some anglers forgo rod and reel and turn instead to thick nylon cord with a chain leader. Warsaw are considered excellent eating although larger specimens are said to be tough. SIDEBAR:Only a Phone Call Away
The Gulf of Mexico is a huge expanse of water and void of cellular phone service. And while ocean going vessels are required to have radio communications, using it to call home to tell a loved one about the catch of the day is unlikely. In the past, this may have been an inconvenience at most but with today’s satellite phones calling is easy and surprisingly affordable. Satellite phones can be purchased outright or leased for a special trip. Airtime can be purchased in bulk beforehand or billed as used. They can be rented to an individual or the cost can be shared with fishing buddies. With today’s technology, there’s no reason not to keep in touch. Try: Explorer Satellite Communications, Inc. 1975 E. Sunrise Blvd. Suite 414 Ft. Lauderdale, Florida 33304 954-763-8650 www.explorersatellite.com Mackerel There are three major species of mackerel in Texas.
Cero Mackerel Scomberomorus regalis The cero mackerel is iridescent blue-green in color with a silver to silver-white underbelly. A bronze colored stripe runs mid-lateral from the pectoral fin to the base of the caudal fin. Above this line are several rows of yellow-orange streaks. Rows of yellow spots are found both above and below the lateral line. The body is long and streamlined. Average weight is between 3 to 5 pounds although individuals weighing upwards of 17 pounds and measuring more than 70 inches in length have been recorded. Its diet is primarily fish. Cero often school with king mackerel and, in fact, are often caught by anglers targeting kings. Ceros, like kings, migrate through Texas waters from June to October. They respond well to natural and artificial baits. Cero are considered edible but are often oily.
King Mackerel Scomberomorus cavalla
Known as a kingfish in Texas, the king mackerel is the most popular offshore game fish in the state. It is silver with darker shading along the back and a silver to silver-white colored belly. Young fish have five to six irregular rows of bronze-colored spots. The body is long and lean. A series of finlets, or miniatures fins, are found along the rear portion of the body between the dorsal fin and tail. There are nine dorsal finlets and eight to nine anal finlets. The mouth is full of sharp, canine-like teeth. Average size is between 8 to 20 pounds although individuals weighing upwards of 90 pounds have been recorded. Its diet consists of fish. King mackerel are found in Texas waters from May to October with prime fishing taking place between June to September. Although primarily found in deep water congregating around oil platforms, reefs and following shrimp boats, king mackerel are sometimes found near jetties close to shore. Kings are generally fished by trolling or drift fishing with live bait such as mullet, cutlasfish, cigar minnows or artificial baits resembling such. Kings are known for hitting lures fast and hard and putting up a good fight. Their flesh is edible although very oily.
Spanish Mackerel Scomberomorus maculates The Spanish mackerel is iridescent blue-green along the back with silver colored sides and belly. Three rows of dark brown and brassy colored spots run horizontally along the sides. The body is long and streamlined. Like all mackerels, the mouth is full of sharp, canine-like teeth and anglers should use caution when removing fish from the hook. The Spanish mackerel is the smallest of the mackerel species with most individuals averaging less than 2 pounds in weight and measuring between 15 to 18 inches in length. Individuals weighing upwards of 18 pounds and 34 inches in length have been recorded but are rare. Diet consists of squid, shrimp and fish. Spanish mackerel are migratory and are usually found in Texas waters from May to September, with August considered prime fishing. They are found close to shore, often times congregating around the mouths of channels and passes, and around the end of jetties. Anglers targeting Spanish mackerel often locate the fish by watching for gulls and other birds that feed on baitfish pushed to the surface by schooling mackerel. Once located, trolling and drift fishing with live bait, plugs, jigs and spoons are often used with great results. Unlike with other mackerel, the Spanish variety makes excellent table fare. SIDEBAR: Green in the Gills 1.Tie a piece of pork fat to a string. 2.Swallow pork fat. 3.Pull pork fat up by string. 4.Repeat if necessary. ––A preventative measure for sea sickness popular with Nantucket whalers in the 19th Century.
According to the Center for Disease and Control, “The signs and symptoms of motion [sea] sickness occur when sensory information about the body’s position in, or movement through, space is contradictory or contrary to prior experience.” In other words, it’s when what you see and what you feel don’t match up. And when it happens it can turn a great day on the Gulf into the day you wished you were dead. The symptoms of motion sickness include nausea, vomiting, dizziness and cold sweats. Deending on the individual, it can leave a person mildly nauseated or completely incapacitated. Sea sickness can be caused by any number of motions, but is almost 100 percent guaranteed when fishing in the deep Gulf if certain precautions aren’t taken. The most common form of prevention is an over-the-counter medication such as Dramamine. There are also a host of other medications, including some in patch form that can be prescribed by a physician to those who suffer more intense symptoms. And there’s always the “Nantucket pork pull.” Marlin Two major species of marlin are found in Texas waters.
Blue Marlin Makaira nigricans The blue marlin is arguably the premiere big game fish in Texas, if not the world, and for good reason. It can be very large, difficult to entice into taking a lure and often fights for hours and hours on end once hooked. Blue marlin are the largest of the billfish species with some individuals weighing upwards of 1,400 pounds and measuring more than 10 feet in length. Texas specimens are generally smaller, with most individuals averaging between 200 to 300 pounds. Specimens weighing more than 500 pounds are not unheard of and are considered by Texas anglers to be a real trophy. Individuals of this size are almost always female as males of more than 300 pounds are rare. As the name implies, blue marlin are cobalt blue in color with silver to silver-white lower sides and belly. Some individuals have narrow, dark vertical lines on the sides. The body is cylindrical and built for speed. The long bill, or sword, is actually the upper jaw. The first dorsal fin is very high and slopes steeply toward the posterior. The second dorsal is small. Blue marlin move into Texas waters during the warm summer months with the best fishing taking place from June through September. They are found hunting the 100-fathom curve (an area where the continental shelf drops into the depths) for squid, tuna, bonito and other fish. This curve comes closest to the Texas mainland near Port Isabel where a distance of only 40 miles separates the two. From there it curves outward until it is about 95 miles from land near Galveston. Fishing this curve for marlin takes a large boat and specialized equipment. For those new to marlin fishing (or any fishing for that matter), hiring a guide is highly recommended. Marlin charters often use long poles called outriggers to skip bait across the surface of the water with the hopes of attracting a fish while trolling. Artificial baits are most commonly used although natural baits are used as well.
Blue marlin are edible and highly sought for sushi, but due to the species dwindling numbers, catch and release is recommended.
White Marlin Tetrapturus albidus The white marlin is dark blue along the top and upper sides and silver-white on the middle, lower sides and belly. Small brown dots are scattered along the silver-white section. Some individuals have rows of blurred, white lines running the length of the body. The first dorsal fin is dark blue with black or purple spots on the membrane between the rays. These spots fade toward the back of the fin. The second dorsal fin is blue and generally lacks spots. The pectoral and caudal fins are blackish-brown. White marlins are the smallest of the marlin species with trophy-sized specimens weighing upwards of 150 pounds and measuring close to 10 feet in length. Most individuals caught in Texas waters average between 50 to 100 pounds. Like the blue marlin, the white marlin is a summer resident found in Texas from June to September. It hunts along the 100-fathom curve for anything it can eat. Because of this indiscriminant diet, white marlin are much easier to catch than are the blue. Whites are sought utilizing the same techniques that are used on the blue. Despite their small stature, white marlin fight hard, often times leaping out of the water several times once hooked. White marlin are edible but most are caught for sport.
Rainbow Runner Elagatis bipinnulata Also known as a Spanish jack or yellowtail, the rainbow runner is rare to Texas waters. When caught it is often by billfishers trolling the deep 100-fathom curve. The rainbow runner is a member of the jack family. It is bluish along the top and upper sides. Below this the colors change quickly starting with green, then reddish, then blue. The belly is yellowish or silver. Its fins are yellow. Unlike other members of the jack family, the rainbow runner’s body is lean and elongated. Average weight is between 5 to 10 pounds although individuals weighing upwards of 37 pounds and measuring 4 feet in length have been recorded. Its diet consists of fish and crustaceans.
Rainbow runners are strong fish and put up a great fight once hooked. They are considered good table fare.
Sailfish Istiophorus platypterus Easily identified by its high-standing, sail-like dorsal fin, the sailfish is dark blue to purple-black on the upper half of the body and white with small brown spots along the lower half. The pectoral, anal and tail fins are dark blue. The body is torpedo shaped and the tail is forked. The namesake sail or dorsal fin is dark blue with black dots on the membrane between the spines. The sail is sometimes folded into a narrow depression where it can’t be seen. Sailfish are migratory and make their way into Texas waters in early summer, generally from May to September, with May to July offering the best fishing. Like the blue and white marlin, the sailfish also hunts the 100-fathom curve for squid and fish. Sailfish are sometimes found closer to shore although rarely. Fishing for sailfish is similar to fishing for marlin. Large boats fitted with outriggers trail bait. Although smaller than marlin, sailfish are considered by most anglers to be significantly better fighters. Sailfish will often jump repeatedly once hooked. Sailfish are edible but most often caught for sport. Shark Eight major species of shark are typically found in Texas waters.
Antlantic Sharpnose Shark Rhizoprionodon terraenovae Also referred to as sand shark, the Atlantic sharpnose shark is one of the smallest of the shark species with most averaging just 36 inches in length. It is also one of the more common species of shark found in Texas waters. Its body is slender and tapers toward a narrow pointed snout. Coloration varies from gray to olive-gray, blue-gray and brownish-gray. Most adults carry white spots or splotches on the sides. Diet includes fish, shrimp, mollusks and anything else it can scavenge. The Atlantic sharpnose shark is not considered a threat to humans although extreme caution should be taken when removing them from a hook. They are excellent table fare.
Blacktip Shark Carcharhinus limbatus The blacktip shark varies in color from dark gray to bluish to dusty-bronze on the body with a white to yellow-white belly. As its name implies, the fins are tipped in black. The body is stout and strong. The pectoral fins are long and pointed as is the dorsal fin. Average length is between 4 to 6 feet although individuals measuring upwards of 8 feet in length and weighing 270 pounds have been recorded. Its diet is mostly fish although squid and crustaceans are also taken. Blacktips attack prey with incredible speed and will often launch themselves out of the water after hitting prey in a vertical attack. Blacktips are one of the most prevalent shark species in Texas. They can be found in deep water as well as bays and in the mouth of rivers. Because of their high-speed attack style and propensity to fight hard once hooked (even jumping out of the water) blacktips are a favorite with anglers. Blacktips are excellent table fare.
Bonnethead Shark Sphyrna tiburo Also known as bonnetnose, shovelnose and shovelhead, the bonnethead shark is the smallest member of the hammerhead family with most averaging 3 to 4 feet in length and weighing between 10 to 20 pounds. Individuals measuring upwards of 6 feet in length have been recorded but are extremely rare. As the names imply, the head is bonnet-shaped or shovel-shaped with rounded ends. Eyes are located at the ends of the lobes. The body is stout and compact. It ranges in color from gray to grayish-brown to gray with a greenish tint. The bottom sides are light to pale gray and the belly is white. Diet includes fish, shrimp, crustaceans, crabs, squid and pretty much anything else it can catch. It is often found trailing shrimp boats looking for scraps of free food. Devouring such a wide assortment of prey is made possible by strong digestive chemicals in the intestines. Bonnetheads are one of the most common species of shark found in Texas waters. They can be found offshore, in the surf and in bays and channels. Because of its small size and sluggish nature when hooked it is not often sought by anglers. It is considered edible.
Bull Shark Carcharhinus leucas Having a heavy, robust body, wide head and blunt snout, the bullshark fits its name to a T. It is a powerful bull of a fish that preys on other sharks, fish, stingrays, sea birds and dolphins. It has even been known to take down swimming dogs. The bullshark is pale to dark gray in color with a light gray to white colored belly. On juveniles, the fins may be tipped in black, but this color pattern diminishes with age. Adults have no such markings. Bullsharks are known to reach lengths of more than 10 feet and weights of more than 500 pounds although specimens caught in Texas waters average considerably smaller. Bullsharks are common in Texas waters and can be found both offshore and inshore as well as in bays and channels. It can even be found in some rivers as it is one of the few shark species that can tolerate fresh and saltwater. Bullsharks are one of the more common species of shark targeted by anglers in Texas. Because of their stout build they often put up an arduous fight once hooked. Bullsharks make excellent table fare. SIDEBAR: Shark Attack According to the National Safety Council and the Center for Diseas Control, your odds of dying from: Heart disease is 1 in 5 Hospital infection is 1 in 38 Sun/heat exposure is 1 in 13,729 Lightning is 1 in 79,746 Fireworks is 1 in 340,733 Shark attack is 1 in 3,748,067 As the above information illustrates, shark attacks on humans are extremely rare. Between 1911 and 2006 (the latest statistics available), 33 individuals were attacked by a shark off the coast of Texas. Of these, three died. This number of attacks breaks down to roughly 1 every 3 years. Despite the astronomical odds against being attacked, wading fly fishers and anglers should always be cautious and adhere to the following precautions: Do not enter the water if you are bleeding. Remove struggling fish from the water as soon as possible. Avoid wearing bright and contrasting colors. Avoid wearing shiny jewelry. Avoid fishing in the water during darkness or during dawn and dusk. Do not enter water if sharks are present. Leave water if sharks are present. Do not harass or feed sharks.
Great Hammerhead Shark Sphyrna mokarran The largest of the hammerhead family, the great hammerhead shark is capable of reaching upwards of 20 feet in length and weights of more than 1,200 pounds. As the name suggests, it has a hammer-shaped head. Large specimens can measure 3 feet across. The front margin of the head is straight with a shallow notch down the center. Eyes and nostrils are on the end of the lobes. It ranges in color from dark olive to dark brown to light color with a light gray or white belly. Its diet includes shrimp, crabs, crustaceans, fish, other sharks and octopus. A favorite food is stingray which is consumed with the tail spine. Great hammerheads feed primarily at dusk and can be found offshore and inshore. It is a powerful fighter when hooked and depending on its size can be extremely hard, if not impossible, to land. It is considered edible although not widely consumed.
Lemon Shark Negaprion brevirostris The lemon shark is easily identifiable because it is the only shark in Texas waters with the combination of having both dorsal fins almost equal in length (the front is generally slightly longer), straight symmetrical teeth and a short, rounded snout. It is yellow-brown to olive-gray in color with a light, yellowish belly. Its “lemon” coloration is another easy identifier of the species. While average weights and measurements are generally smaller, lemon sharks are capable of reaching 11 feet in length and weights of upwards of 470 pounds. This potential makes it one of the larger species of sharks. Its diet includes fish, crustaceans, rays, sea birds and other sharks. It is found both offshore and inshore. The best fishing for lemon sharks is during the summer months and most often at night. Large chunk bait is a popular bait and very productive. Because of their size, lemon sharks can put up a tremendous fight and can often be difficult to land. Lemon sharks are considered edible although larger individuals may be somewhat tough.
Shortfin Mako Shark Isurus oxyrinchus The shortfin mako shark is metallic blue in color with a white underside. The intensity of the color is related to size and age as larger individuals tend to be darker blue. It is torpedo-shaped with a sharply pointed snout. This aerodynamic shape helps it to achieve speeds of more than 40 mph, easily making it the fastest species of shark. The jaws, which are capable of opening to a 90- degree angle, are filled with extremely sharp, dagger-like teeth. Shortfin makos average between 300 to 500 pounds in weight and close to 10 feet in length although individuals weighing more than 1,100 pounds and measuring upwards of 12 feet have been recorded. Individuals that reach sizes such as these are undoubtedly females as males are usually considerably smaller than females. Shortfin makos feed on fast moving fish such as swordfish, tuna, and other sharks as well as squid. Apparently targeting swordfish can be dangerous as many captured shortfins bare scars from encounters with the species. One shortfin mako that was recovered from a net was impaled through the eye with a swordfish bill. Shortfin makos are considered to be one of the greatest big game fishes in the world thanks in part to their power, speed and propensity to leap upwards of 15 feet in the air when hooked. Shortfins are considered edible but are not generally utilized as such. Tiger Shark Galeocerdo cuvieri Ranking only behind the great white in the number of recorded attacks on man, the tiger shark is the largest game fish species of shark in Texas waters. It can measure upwards of 18 feet in length and reaches weights of more than 1,700 pounds. It is gray to dark gray in color with paler colors on the lower sides and belly. Giving the species its namesake are a series of vertical brown stripes, similar to a tiger’s, on its sides and tail. These stripes are more pronounced on younger specimens and tend to fade considerably with age. Tiger sharks will eat anything they can ingest. Although fish are the bulk of their diet, they have been known to eat carrion, other tiger sharks, cans, horseshoes, rocks and plastic bags. They also eat dolphins, turtles and birds. Tiger sharks have stout and powerful bodies. The tail is hooked shaped with the upper lobe of the tail being pointed and much longer than the lower. Below the blunt head and rounded snout is a massive set of jaws full of razor sharp, inward-pointed teeth. The tiger shark’s size and strength make it a great game fish, but its habit of attacking boats once provoked make it an exceptionally frightening one as well. The tiger shark is edible although it’s mostly sought for sport. Snapper Seven major species of snapper are found in Texas waters.
Dog Snapper Lutjanus jocu Named for its large, inch-long canine teeth, the dog snapper is copper-red in color with paler colored vertical bars or stripes on the sides. Some individuals have a blue bar or blue spot beneath the eyes. The tail and fins have a yellowish tint. Average weight is between 25 to 50 pounds although individuals weighing more than 120 pounds have been recorded. Its diet consists primarily of fish. Dog snappers are found on and around the outer reefs in the summer months. They are not terribly abundant and are most often caught by anglers targeting red snapper. Dog snapper is edible but not usually utilized for food.
Gray Snapper Lutjanus griseus Also known as mangrove snapper, lawyer fish and pargo, the gray snapper is a relatively small fish averaging between 1 to 2 pounds in weight. Individuals weighing upwards of 17 pounds have been recorded but are rare. Its color varies depending on habitat. The most common color schemes are brownish-red and grayish-white. Its diet includes shrimp, squid, fish and crabs. Gray snappers are one of the more abundant species found in Texas waters. They are found on and around reefs and oil platforms, generally during the warmer summer months. Although they primarily feed at night, they will take bait during the day. They respond best to live bait and small jigs. Gray snappers are considered excellent table fare.
Lane Snapper Lutjanus synagris The lane snapper is one of the smaller members of the snapper clan with most averaging 1 pound in weight or less. While individuals weighing as much as 7 pounds and measuring 18 inches in length have been recorded, anything more than 4 pounds is very rare. Color ranges from pinkish to red with seven to eight horizontal yellow stripes along the sides. The fins are red and yellow. A large black spot beneath the dorsal fin gives it the nickname of spot snapper. Diet includes fish, crustaceans and shrimp. Lane snappers are found on and around the outer banks. They are most active in the summer and are most often caught by anglers targeting red snapper. Lane snappers are edible.
Mutton Snapper Lutjanus analis Also known as mutton fish and pargo, the mutton snapper is an extremely colorful fish having an olive to olive-green back and upper sides with red to reddish colored lower sides and belly. There are blue stripes on the cheek below the eye and a black spot on the upper back. The fins are red as is the iris of the eye. While individuals weighing upwards of 25 pounds in weight and measuring 27 inches in length have been recorded, most caught in Texas waters are much smaller, averaging between 3 to 5 pounds. Its diet includes fish, snails, crabs and shrimp. Mutton snapper live on and around the outer snapper banks, usually in water about 200 feet deep. They are most often caught by anglers targeting red snapper. Mutton snapper are strong fish that fight well once hooked. They are considered to be good table fare.
Red Snapper Lutjanus campechanus Hailed by many as the best tasting fish in Texas, the red snapper is targeted by anglers and commercial fisheries alike. It is pinkish to red in color with a white underbelly. There is a darker colored fringe surrounding the dorsal and caudal fins. Average size is between 1 to 5 pounds although fish weighing as much as 50 pounds and measuring 38 inches in length have been recorded. Its diet consists of fish, crabs, shellfish, squid, octopus and mollusks. Adult red snapper are found in deep water ranging between 20 to 100 fathoms in depth. They swim in schools around oil platforms, reefs, ship wrecks and the outer banks. They can be caught year-round, but the best fishing is usually during the summer months. They respond well to squid, fish, spoons and weighted jigs. Red snappers fight well and make excellent table fare.
Vermilion Snapper Rhomboplites aurorubens Named for its deep scarlet color, the vermilion snapper is vermilion or reddish-pink with a paler belly. Faint yellow lines run along the sides. The dorsal and anal fins are edged in yelloworange. The iris of the eyes is vermilion. It is a small fish, averaging just under a pound. Its diet includes crustaceans and small fish. Vermilion snappers are a deep water fish and can usually be found on and around reefs and oil platforms. It is found in Texas waters year-round but is most active during the warmer summer months. Vermilion snappers are edible but not generally targeted by anglers.
Yellowtail Snapper Ocyurus chrysurus Though rare to Texas waters, yellowtail snappers are typically found in deep water on and around the outer reefs and snapper banks. Yellowtails are easily identifiable given their yellowtail and a broad, yellow stripe that runs along the mid-body the length of the fish. Unlike other snappers, the yellowtail has a long, slim body that gently tapers to its elongated tail. Average weight is about 5 pounds although individuals weighing as much as 8 pounds have been recorded. Its diet includes fish, shrimp and crab. Due to its rarity and small size, yellowtails are rarely targeted by anglers. Rather they are often caught by anglers after red snapper. Yellowtail snappers are considered to be great table fare.
Swordfish Xiphias gladius Although similar in appearance to marlin and sailfish, the swordfish is not related to either. Rather, it is the only member of the family Xiphiidae. One of the major differences between these fish has to do with the shape of the bill or sword: the swordfish’s bill resembles a flattened oval in cross section. The swordfish’s bill is also longer than are the marlin’s and sailfish’s. Swordfish are blackish-brown to purple-black in color above fading to a lighter shade below with a white to whitish belly. It is an enormous fish with individuals weighing more than 1,000 pounds and measuring more than 15 feet having been recorded. Its diet consists of fish, squid and cephalopods. Swordfish are rare in Texas waters, and they are very hard to catch when located. In addition to having a soft mouth that often fails to hold a hook due to tearing, its bill, or sword, often cuts through line or leader. Once hooked though, swordfish can take hours to land due to the incredible depths at which they reside (up to 2,100 feet) and because of their strength and fighting ability. While edible, swordfish are most often pursued for sport.
Tripletail Lobotes surinamensis So named because of its far, rear-set dorsal and anal fins that give the fish the appearance of having three tails, the tripletail has a deep, compressed body with a triangular-shaped head. The eyes are small, and the mouth is fairly large in comparison to the body. The color varies from black to blackish-brown to yellow-brown to red-brown to mottled. Juveniles tend to be mottled with yellow, brown and black. Its average weight is 5 to 10 pounds although individuals weighing as much as 40 pounds have been recorded. Its diet consists of crabs, shrimp and small fish. Tripletails are found throughout Texas waters near reefs, oil rigs, jetties and buoys as well as in bays and in the mouths of rivers. Sometimes the fish goes unnoticed due to its habit of floating on its side near the surface so it resembles floating debris. They respond well to shrimp, shiners, jigs and various flies. Tripletails are good to eat albeit bony. Tuna There are three major species of tuna found in Texas waters.
Blackfin Tuna Thunnus atlanticus Also known as albacore and deep-bodied tunny, the blacktail tuna is one of the smaller members of the tuna family with most averaging between 10 to 20 pounds in weight. Individuals weighing upwards of 40 pounds have been recorded but are rare. Blacktail tuna is blue-black in color on the upper sides with gray to silver sides and a white belly. A yellow-gold colored lateral band runs along the side. This band fades almost completely immediately after death. Some individuals exhibit vertical rows of pale dots along the lower abdomen. The finlets, numbering between seven to nine on top and seven to eight on the bottom, are dark in color.
Blackfin tuna are the most common tuna in Texas waters. They travel in large schools in the open Gulf feeding on squid, shrimp, crabs and fish. Blackfin tuna are generally caught by trolling or casting. They respond well to fish, jigs, spoons and plugs. Blackfin are great fighters and make excellent table fare.
Bluefin Tuna Thunnus thynnus The bluefin tuna is one of the larger members of the tuna family with most specimens averaging between 300 to 400 pounds in weight. Individuals weighing more than 1,400 pounds have been recorded but are rare. Despite this giant size, bluefin are extremely fast and capable of reaching speeds of upwards of 45 mph. Bluefin tuna are deep metallic blue in color on the dorsal and upper sides while the lower sides and belly are silver-white to white. The first dorsal fin is yellow or blue while the second is red or brown. The finlets, numbering between nine to 10 on top and eight to nine on the bottom, are yellow with black edges. Because of its huge size and hard fighting style, bluefins are one of the most sought after of the big game sport fishes in the world. In Texas, they are found in the deep blue waters of the 100fathom curve and beyond feeding on squid, fish and kelp. They are generally caught by trolling live bait or vividly colored artificial baits. Bluefin tuna are excellent table fare and extremely valuable as such. In the past, large individuals have fetched more than $45,000 in the Japanese sushi markets. Still, there is a growing concern that larger specimens may contain unsafe levels of mercury.
Yellowfin Tuna Thunnus albacores
Also known as Allison tuna, longfin and longfin tuna, the yellowfin tuna is one of the more colorful members of the tuna family. It is also one of the largest with weights of upwards of 400 pounds having been recorded. The yellowfin tuna is dark metallic blue or greenish-blue in color along the back and upper sides with silver to silver-white sides and a white belly. These lighter colored areas are marked by vertical, interrupted lines. A yellow to gold colored stripe runs along the side of the body. The dorsal and anal fins as well as the finlets are bright yellow with black edges. Yellowfins school in deep water far offshore during the warmer summer months. Occasionally, younger individuals will stray closer to shore. Its diet consists of fish, squid, octopus, crab, crustaceans and other tuna. Yellowfin are a hard-hitting, tough- fighting game fish. They are usually caught by trolling, chumming or drifting. They respond well to natural and artificial baits. Yellowfin tuna are excellent table fare.
Wahoo Acanthocybium solanderi The wahoo is a slender, streamlined fish with an elongated, almost beak-like snout full of serrated, triangular shaped teeth. The front dorsal fin is long and fairly tall while the second is relatively short in both length and height. These are followed by eight to nine finlets. The anal fin sits almost directly below the rear dorsal fin and is followed by nine finlets. Average weight is around 50 pounds although individuals weighing up to 114 pounds have been recorded. The wahoo is green to dark blue along the dorsal and upper sides with the lower sides and belly silver to silver-white. Twenty-four or more cobalt blue vertical tiger stripes run the length of the body. Its diet includes squid and fish. Wahoo are migratory and usually venture into Texas waters during the warmer summer months. The best fishing is usually during July and August. Wahoo cruise the deep blue far from shore, usually alone or in pairs. It is a tough fighter and makes fast runs once hooked. It responds well to both natural and artificial baits. Wahoo are excellent table fare.
Chapter 6 Clothing & Equipment Fishing in Texas is an adventure. It takes place on ponds, rivers, lakes, bays and oceans, from the shore or on a boat. Be it the dog days of summer or the cold death of winter, during the day or in the black of night, angling experiences are just waiting to happen. And just as there is no one rod and reel that is suited to every fish, there is certainly no list of equipment that could cover every situation. With that in mind, the following is a broad listing of clothing and equipment that can easily be adapted to any place and any time by an angler. Clothing Just as with any other outdoor activity, clothing for fishing needs to be comfortable, functional and offer protection from the elements. It must be season and temperature appropriate and not so cumbersome as to restrict mobility. For some people this means wearing their everyday clothing. For others. specialized clothing is the only way to go. In warmer months, loose fitting clothing made of light fabrics that allow the body to breathe and perspiration to escape work best. Light colors are also a good idea as they reflect sunlight better than dark colors. While long sleeves and long pants offer the best protection, many people opt for shorts and short sleeves (just be sure to wear plenty of sunscreen). The ability to repel water and dry quickly once wet is another consideration as most anglers usually face at least some sort of spray or flinging water. Some of the best clothing in this area is manufactured by Columbia Sportswear. Their line of Performance Fishing attire offers clothing designed specifically for anglers that feature OmniShade UPF Sun Protection Fabric, which has an Ultraviolet Protection Factor rating of up to 40 for more, In addition, it offers strategically placed venting in shirts that allow air to circulate over the body and pants and shorts that have stretch fabric which allow more maneuverability. A host of other manufacturers also offer clothing for fishing in warmer months. Some of the more popular brands include Gander Mountain., Orvis, Bass Pro Shops, L.L. Bean and Cabela’s. Even in warm weather, many fly fishers opt to wear a vest to keep their gear close at hand. Again, companies such as Gander Mountain., Orvis, Bass Pro Shops, L.L. Bean, and Cabela’s all manufacturer quality clothing that have proven themselves in the field for decades. These same companies also carry a wide selection of light windbreakers and jackets to help carry anglers into fall and winter. During the winter, fishing is limited to certain species and even then it’s usually not that cold (Texas has never offered ice fishing). Anglers along the coast, especially from Corpus Christi Bay southward, are still wearing warm weather clothing while fishing. Those in the northern portions of the state that do take to the water in the bitter cold generally dress in layers or opt to wear the same clothing they wear hunting. Still, for anglers who choose specialized clothing, there are a number of manufacturers to choose from. All of the companies listed above carry cold weather fishing clothing as do a host of other companies. Wychwood, a British clothing company (www.wychwood-tackle.co.uk), manufacturers a number of thermal suits, jackets and pants to keep even the nastiest weather (like found in Britain) at bay. Waders are a necessity in late fall and winter for anglers and fly fishers taking to Lone Star waters or for those who simply don’t want to get wet. Waders come in a number of lengths and styles. Materials used vary as does the amount of protection they offer. Some have built-in boots, others allow for fishers to choose their own footwear. It is important to get the right fit as well as match the insulating factor to the area being fished. Extremely thick waders rated to Alaska weather will do nothing for the wearer that fishes the Laguna Madre other than make him
or her sweat to death. Gander Mountain., Orvis, Bass Pro Shops, L.L. Bean and Cabela’s all carry waders suited for the state’s varying fishing locals. Regardless of the time of year, a hat is always a good idea for fishers or any person spending time outdoors. In the summer, a good hat helps shield the summer’s blistering sun and in the winter it keeps the head warm. Of course, one hat won’t serve both seasons. Raingear is another important item to always have on hand no matter the season. Whether it be a simple poncho that folds into a baseball-sized pouch or a complete rain suit, protection from a sudden downpour can make the difference between a poor day fishing and a miserable day fishing. For heavy-duty protection, the New Englander Rain jacket and pants from Charles River Apparel or the Classic Pro Action rain suit from Frogg Toggs are hard to beat. Both can take a pounding and still keep the wearer nice and dry. Columbia, Gander Mountain., Orvis, Bass Pro Shops, L.L. Bean and Cabela’s also manufacture excellent rain and outerwear. Footwear As with clothing, footwear for fishing depends on the season, the type of fishing to be done and personal preference. And even with literally thousands of styles, brands and models specifically designed for anglers, many individuals opt to wear athletic shoes or bare feet. For those not wanting to risk getting their best Nikes wet or having a hook pierce the tender arch of their bare foot, the following are recommended. Boat shoes or topsiders have been around for nearly a century and have more than proven their durability on boat decks around the world. Sperry, probably the most recognized name in this category of shoe, first came out with their now classic model in 1935. Characteristics of this style of footwear include a rubber non-slip sole that holds tight to wet decks and docks, a snug fit and low profile. In addition to possessing these qualities, Russell Moccasin’s Regatta Boat Shoe has a double vamp lining that insures quick drying once wet. This helps eliminate stinky feet and that “slimy wet feet” feeling associated with wet shoes. Other manufacturers of this style of footwear include Gander Mountain., Orvis, Bass Pro Shops, L.L. Bean, Columbia and Cabela’s. Sandals (not flip flops) work well on shore, on boats and in the water. The best models are made of synthetic materials that dry quickly, don’t stretch and carry a sturdy sole capable of gripping tight to both flat and uneven surfaces. Toe protection is a welcome feature for those prone to stubbing or wanting a little more coverage and protection. Teva’s Karnali Wraptor and Toachi are excellent choices for all types of warm weather Texas fishing. Other manufacturers of quality sandals include Keen, Gander Mountain., Orvis, Bass Pro Shops, L.L. Bean, Columbia and Cabela’s. Anglers taking to streams and rivers should consider specially designed wading shoes. These offer the comfort of ankle boots, can be worn with or without waders and feature either wool felt or knobbed soles. Felt soles keep anglers from sliding on even the slickest rocks and rock bottoms. Russell Moccasin’s Wading Shoes are custom made to fit and have a neoprene rubber insole and mid-sole that offers cushioning and support. For anglers heading into the surf or bay, wading shoes of a different sort are needed. Heavy bottom soles protect feet and offer serious traction on sand and in grass and other vegetation. Keen’s Payette and Hood River boots are popular with Texas wading fishermen and kayak fishers alike. Other wading shoe manufacturers include Gander Mountain., Orvis, Bass Pro Shops, L.L. Bean, Columbia and Cabela’s. Equipment Scales and Measures
A fish scale lets anglers know how heavy their catch really is. Digital models such as XTOOL’s Grip n’ Weigh Pro accurately weigh fish up to 25 pounds as well as store the weights of the five heaviest fish caught during the trip. Another great feature is that it floats, just in case it somehow makes it into the water. A ruler or measuring tape not only provides the specific length but also is a good idea for obtaining measurements for the taxidermist. A ruler is a necessity for anglers after species that have a minimum length requirement. Nets and Gaffs Utilizing a landing net keeps struggling fish relatively secure and cradled. This is a must when removing a hook or any fouled line. Gaffs help anglers safely land larger fresh and saltwater fish. A sharp gaff is especially helpful when landing fish with a mouth full of sharp teeth such as sharks or gar. Pliers and De-hookers Pliers can be used to bend or remove hooks, cut line or crimp lures and sinkers. A de-hooker or de-gouger lets anglers remove a hook without having to lay a hand on it. Try XTOOL’s pliers and de-hookers. They float and won’t rust. Knives Knives are used to cut line, rope, bait, free brush and vegetation from propellers and filet fish. For the later, a good choice is Knives of Alaska’s Steelheader series or for those wanting a little more help, the Mister Twister Saltwater Piranha Electric Fillet Knife or Rapala Rechargeable Fillet Knife. Also, a small pocketknife that can fit in a shirt or vest pocket is a good idea for anglers and fly fishers alike. It can be used to quickly cut a line or trim a lure. A larger knife such as SOG’s Fusion Jungle Primitive or a small machete such as Gerber’s Brush Thinner Machete is a helpful item to have stowed in a boat. Blades such as these can easily free a boat from brush and errant trotlines as well as cut through rope if the need arises. It can also help in dispatching larger fish such as gar. Other knife manufacturers include Gander Mountain., XTOOLS, Orvis, Bass Pro Shops, L.L. Bean and Cabela’s. Waterproof Cases & Dry Bags A good quality waterproof case keeps water, moisture, sand and other objectionable materials from damaging cameras, cell phones and other electronic devices as well as anything else worth keeping dry. Cases come in a variety of sizes and shapes and are well worth the investment. Both Fuerte Cases and TZ Case make great cases in a variety of sizes. For other items, such as towels, extra clothes and food, a dry bag is a good idea. Like waterproof cases, they come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Fuerte Cases, Gander Mountain, Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s all make or sell dry bags. Binoculars Although not generally associated with fishing, a good set of binoculars can be an extremely helpful item to have when out for a day of angling. Binoculars can be used to watch for fisheating birds, surface activity, to look for buoys or approaching craft or to study the shoreline or weather. Meopta’s Meostar 8 x 32 are small enough to fit in a tackle box, offer superior light transmission (great for early and late in the day), and are fog proof and waterproof. In addition, its rugged, rubber exterior offers impact protection and ensures a firm grip by even the wettest of hands. On the ocean, stabilizing binoculars are necessary because of the shake and roll that the sea often creates. Nikon Stablieyes 14 x 40 are a good choice as they can switch from stabilized to
standard binocular usage with the flick of a switch. This not only conserves battery life but makes them a great investment for both fishing and hunting seasons. Angler’s List Again no list can cover every fishing situation but the following can easily be adapted to almost any trip. Keep in mind that this list doesn’t include rod, reels, line, hooks, lures or bait because these items are generally specialized to the species being sought. Fishing license and all necessary stamps Pliers De-hooker Net Gaff Fillet knife Scale Tape measure Seasickness medication Camera Binoculars Flashlight Sunscreen Polarized sunglasses Towel Ice chest Plastic bags Rope Stringer
Chapter 7 Private Lakes and Resorts The following offer either fishing on private, well managed lakes or on public waters at a resortlike setting. Both offer expert advice, service and a great time. They also offer a great way to introduce children and first-time fishers into the adventure of fishing in Texas. Castaway Lodge 109 W. Austin Seadrift, Texas 77983 888-618-4868 www.coastalwaterfowl.com/lodging.asp Champion Ranch P.O. Box 8 Wolforth, Texas 79382 806.787.9950 www.huntchampionranch.com FBG Outfitters 5848 Ranch Road Fredericksburg, Texas 78624 830-997-7967 http://flyfishingintexas.com/ Greystone Castle P.O. Box 158 Migus, Texas 76463 800-399-3006 www.greystonecastle.com
Chapter 8 Organizations The following groups help promote and secure fishing and fishing rights through a variety of methods including conservation and fishing projects, public relations, legal defense and lobbying. Contact individual organizations to obtain more information. Coastal Conservation Association 6919 Portwest, Suite 100 Houston, Texas 77024 800-626-4222 http://www.ccatexas.org/CCATexas International Game Fish Association 300 Gulf Stream Way Dania Beach, Florida 33004 U.S.A. 954-927-2628 http://www.igfa.org Marine Fish Conservation Network 3018 W. Kennedy Blvd. Suite B Tampa, Florida 33609 813-490-0271 http://www.conservefish.org Recreational Fishing Alliance Texas State Chapter P.O. Box 58 Fulton, Texas 78358 361-463-1558 http://www.rfatexas.org/ Saltwater Conservation Association of Texas PO Box 1844 League City, Texas 77574-1844 http://www.scatexas.org/ Texas B.A.S.S Federation Nation President Charles Harkless 281-350-4996 http://texas-bass.com Texas Black Bass Unlimited P.O. Box 11729 Houston, Texas 77293-1729 http://www.tbbu.com/ Texas Bowfishing Organization PO Box 1273 Georgetown, Texas 78627 http://www.prismnet.com/~timmckee/ Texas Chapter of the American Fisheries Society Craig Bonds 11810 FM 848
Tyler, Texas 75707 903-566-1615 http://www.sdafs.org/tcafs/meetings/08meet/08meethome.htm Trout Unlimited 1300 N. 17th Stret. Suite 500 Arlington, Virginia 22209-2404 1-800-834-2419 http://www.tu.org
Chapter 9 Manufacturers Listing The following manufacturers produce what I believe to be the best fishing and outdoor equipment. Products from these companies have made my hunting and fishing (and writing) much easier, safer and comfortable. 5K Enterprises 999 Route 910 Allison Park, Pennsylvania 15101-9803 724-443-1377 email@example.com Fish-N’-Mate P.O. Box 3368 Henderson, North Carolina 27536 888-763-7225 www.fishnmate.com Frogg Toggs Outerwear 131 Sundown Drive NW Arab, Alabama 35016 800-349-1835 http://www.froggtoggs.com/ Fuerte Cases Waterproof bags and cases. 3691 Via Mercado - Suite 10 La Mesa, California 91941 866-426-7766 www.fuertecases.com Gander Mountain Retailer that offers just about anything and everything a hunter could ever need. 180 East Fifth Street Suite 1300 St. Paul, Minnesota 55101 651-325-4300 www.gandermountain.com Garmin International Inc. Cutting edge GPS units. 1200 East 151st Street Olathe, Kansas 66062-3426 913-397-8200 www.garmin.com Gerber Gear Knives and machetes. P.O. Box 23088 Portland, Oregon 97281 800-950-6161 www.gerbergear.com J. L. Powell
Superior clothing for the sporting lifestyle. 205 Generation Drive Three Oaks, Michigan 49128 269-756-9765 http://www.jlpowellusa.com KEEN Footwear 926 NW 13th Avenue, Suite 210 Portland, Oregon 97209 800-509-KEEN (5336) www.keenfootwear.com Knives of Alaska Supieror knives. Southern Office 3100 Airport Drive Denison, Texas 75020 800-572-0980 www.knivesofalaska.com Meopta Sports Optics USA By far the best sporting optics I have ever used. 50 Davids Drive Hauppauge, New York 11788 866-789-0555 www.meopta.com Mister Twister Excellent electric knives. P.O. Drawer 1152 Minden, Louisiana 71058-1152 318/377-8818 http://www.mistertwister.com/ SeaLife Cameras Waterproof, shockproof cameras Pioneer Research 97 Foster Road, Suite 5 Moorestown, New Jersey 08057 856-866-9191 http://www.sealife-cameras.com/index.html/////// Rapala Premium fishing tools. Normark Corporation 10395 Yellow Circle Drive Minnetonka, Minnesota 55343 952 933 7060 www.rapala.com Russell Moccasin Co. Custom boots and shoes that can handle even the toughest terrain Texas can dish out. 285 S.W. Franklin
P.O. Box 309 Berlin, Wisconsin 54923-0309 920-361-2252 www.russellmoccasin.com SOG Quality knives and cutlery. 6521-212th Street SW Lynnwood, Washington 98036 425-771-6230 www.sogknives.com Surefire The innovator in LED flashlights. 18300 Mt. Baldy Circle Fountain Valley, California 92708-6122 714-545-9444 www.surefire.com Teva The best sandals on the market. 800-367-8382 www.teva.com Walden & Bork Masters of leather tooling and turning fish into works of art. N7453 City Road. QQ Prescott, Wisconsin 54021 1-715-425-7779 www.waldenbork.com Xtools, LLC Great fishing tools that float. 3801 Westmore Drive Columbia, South Carolina 29223 800-334-9105 www.xtools.us
About the Author Gayne C. Young is a columnist for and feature contributor to Outdoor Life and Sporting Classics magazines. He is a Field Editor for Game Trails, the magazine of the Dallas Safari Club, and the author of the Texas Safari book series. His work has appeared in magazines such as Petersen’s Hunting, Texas Sporting Journal, Sports Afield, Gray’s Sporting Journal, Under Wild Skies, Hunter’s Horn, Spearfishing, and many others. In January 2011, Gayne C. Young became the first American outdoor writer to interview Russian Prime Minister, and former Russian President, Vladimir Putin. The Gayne C. Young designed Russell Moccasin Jungle Hunter PH boot will premiere in January 2012. Visit Gayne at www.gaynecyoung.com
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