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Texas Sportsman
Texas' Best Fishing For 2005
Here, in one compact package, are trips enough to keep an avid Lone Star angler on the go throughout a full year of fishing enjoyment.

Texas anglers are a lucky lot. We have more fishing hotspots spread across our state for more types of fish than any angler could possibly get to in a single year -- even if he fished every possible day.

But we also have a great choice of angling opportunities for those days we can get away from the job and home duties to enjoy a day on the water. Here are just a few of them.

Chain Pickerel: East Texas Lakes

Few of us think of Texas when we think of chain pickerel. However, chain pickerel are found in a number of popular lakes -- including Pat Mayse, Caddo, Lake O' the Pines and Dangerfield -- in northeast Texas. This miniature version of the pike is just as strong and voracious as its bigger cousins, the northern pike and muskie. During the Texas winter, when very few warmwater species are in shallow water, the chain pickerel can be found cruising the quiet backwaters for feeding opportunities.

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Anglers using conventional rod-and-reel combinations will do well working smaller versions of favorite jerkbaits and in-line spinners. The ideal tackle for chain pickerel is a light-action spinning or baitcasting outfit with 8- to 12-pound-test line.

According to Rob Woodruff, a fly-fishing guide on 80-acre Lake Dangerfield, the aggressive feeding nature and fighting ability of this pint-sized pike makes it ideal for the flyfisherman.

"Fly-anglers targeting shallow, cover-filled banks with surface patterns or streamers stand a good shot at locating these fish," offered Woodruff. "The fish are found in water 2 to 3 feet deep and around cover."

Largemouth Bass: Choke Canyon

Choke Canyon bass anglers have experienced their fair share of disappointing years. Nearly a decade of drought left the reservoir chronically dry, resulting in tough fishing conditions. However, excessive rainfall in the Frio River drainage in 2002 filled the southwest Texas reservoir, resulting in newly flooded areas, brush and timber. According to Jim Symcox, a renowned guide on Choke Canyon, the new habitat has allowed for excellent spawns and better fishing.

"The bass fishing has been real good as of late," said Symcox. "In fact, I would say this is one of the hottest lakes in the state for bass fishing."

Choke Canyon bass begin the earliest stages of the spawn migration in late December. Peak spawn activity occurs in January and February. While locating spawning fish is fairly easy, catching them can be something of a challenge.

"If it's possible to get back into the shallow water where the spawning takes place," suggested Symcox, "that's where you would want to go. But in many cases, the only way to do that is to use a push-pole, because you aren't going to get in there with the outboard or a trolling motor. Local strategy is to move as close to the shallow spawning areas as possible and cast a spinnerbait across the grassbeds into open areas between the bank and the inside edge of the grass."

Walleyes: Lake Meredith

Lake Meredith's walleye fishery isn't a put-and-take deal like most of the trout fisheries throughout our state. No, this northern species actually reproduces and thrives in the cold, deep waters of Lake Meredith. In fact, the lake record -- an 11.88-pounder caught by guide Hank McWilliams -- is considered a true trophy. Five-fish limits of 4- to 6-pounders are possible, and 6- to 8-pound fish are caught in March.

March is a big month for walleye anglers fishing Lake Meredith. As the impoundment's shallower water begins to warm and to reach 50 degrees consistently, large walleyes move in to rocky embankments to spawn. A lot of this spawning activity occurs between mid-March and April on the riprap found along the dam.

Anglers can work 3-inch grubs fished on jigheads, fly-and-rinds or suspending models of popular diving jerkbaits over the riprap. The most effective colors are going to be those that imitate baitfish. Similarly, a slow, erratic presentation that mimics a shad is going to produce well.

Sunfish: Purtis Creek State Park

In most father-son relationships, the month of April is reserved for two things -- baseball and sunfish. This is the time when the biggest panfish move shallow to spawn, and so are vulnerable to most anything thrown their way. Certainly, one of the better bream fisheries in the state is Purtis Creek Lake near Gun Barrel City.

Admittedly, Purtis Creek is better known for its bass. However, at this time of year, anglers are as likely to catch a trophy-sized sunfish as they are a lunker bass. The 355-acre impoundment may be small in size, but it's big in habitat. The aquatic vegetation -- hydrilla, reeds and lily pads -- and standing timber provide sunfish with plenty of food and cover. In addition to the excellent habitat, the reservoir's healthy bass population does a fine job culling the numbers of bream, which in turn allows for a healthier sunfish population.

Light spinning tackle spooled with 8- to 10-pound-test or a 5- to 6-weight fly outfit will make for a challenging day of bream fishing. Conventional anglers might try small Beetle Spins, in-line spinners and miniature crankbaits with some chartreuse in them. Fly-fishers will do best casting small poppers, and weedless versions of Clousers and wooly buggers. The biggest sunfish will typically be found nesting in water 2 to 3 feet deep and near cover.

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