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Texas Sportsman
Texas’ 2008 Fishing Calendar
It’s a good thing we have 12 months in a year. With this much great fishing, we’d never be able to squeeze it into any fewer months. (February 2008).

Russell Tinsley.

Anglers, start your outboards! The Lone Star State’s 2008 fishing season is upon us again.

And what an angling year it promises to be, thanks to the return of life-giving rainfall that fell in buckets last spring and summer on Texas’ previously parched landscape.

In fact, so plentiful was the rainfall that very few areas of the state escaped problems with flooding. That same surging run-off filled most water bodies across the state ranging from isolated small farm ponds to expansive reservoirs like the 89,000-acre Lake Texoma, which breached its spillway for only the third time since being impounded back in the 1940s.

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All that water means good fishing ahead for Texas anglers, both in 2008 and for several years to come.

“It (the rain) came back in and flooded a lot of terrestrial vegetation last year,” said Phil Durocher, the director of Inland Fisheries for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in Austin. “When that happened, it created a lot of new habitat as the waters flooded up over that vegetation. That means that most lakes are going to have an influx of new nutrients -- almost like a new lake situation -- and we know that fish do very well in new lakes.

“Texas anglers can expect really, really good recruitment over the next several years because of this. In fact, a good year like this can carry fishing for five or six years -- it will be good this year and better in the years to come because of all of the new fish that will be coming into our inland fisheries.”

Blue Catfish While the first month of the year most often means football and huddling around the fireplace across much of Texas, at least one species of fish makes an early “splash” on the annual calendar: big blue catfish, on the prowl this month at Lake Texoma. World-record accolades could await those willing to give these huge whiskerfish a try.

That’s what happened to Howe’s Cody Mullenix in January 2004, when he pulled the late, great former world-record “Splash,” a 121.5-pound blue cat, from the waters of Texoma. Splash is gone now -- she died in December 2005 while on display in an aquarium at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens -- but the big blue’s offspring live on at Texoma.

Want to catch a blue cat as big as or bigger than Splash?

Well, there’s no better lake than Texoma and there’s no better time than January, provided that you show up with some serious gear. That includes lengthy surf rods that can both lob 3-inch dead shad on an 8/0 circle hook out into the water, not to mention a rod-and-reel with enough backbone to land a big blue leviathan.

Chain Pickerel

Last year, on a mild February day that came on the heels of a stretch of cold, wet, and at times icy weather across North Texas, I spent a day on the beautiful waters of Lake Daingerfield in East Texas with fly-fishing guides Rob Woodruff and Steve Hollensed.

Woodruff, an Orvis-endorsed fly-fishing guide who specializes in the lunker largemouths swimming the depths of world-renowned Lake Fork (, 903-967-2665) had set up this outing.

Hollensed, a striped-bass fly guide who plies Lake Texoma 903-546-6237), was joining Woodruff for a guide’s day off as the pair traded fleece for sunscreen and their bass rigs for an oar-powered rubber drift boat.

The small lake’s spawning chain pickerel were the perfect quarry to target as 8-weights were traded for Orvis Zero Gravity 5-weight fly rods with the water temperature slowly crawling into the mid-40s.

Interested in giving these toothy critters a try?

For conventional tackle, use lightweight spinning gear, small Beetle Spins, spinnerbaits, and small crankbaits. For fly-fishing, 5-weight rods throwing black crystal flash Wooly Buggers with orange coneheads or small, flashy streamers with gold, pearl, or chartreuse colorations are a good bet.

Speckled Trout

There’s no question that March is a great time to visit just about any of the Lone Star State’s bass-rich lakes ranging from Lake Alan Henry near Lubbock to Lake Amistad near Del Rio to Lake Fork near Quitman to Sam Rayburn Reservoir near Jasper.

After all, March Madness isn’t all about basketball in Texas; it’s also about the crazy rush to catch a lunker largemouth tipping the scales into the double-digits.

But for the month’s enticing lure for bass anglers, there is an equally powerful lure for saltwater anglers seeking a big gator-sized speckled trout at the end of their line in the salty haunt known as Baffin Bay.

Please understand that these aren’t your daddy’s specks, either. At least not the ones that my dad targeted as I was growing up, eager to help fillet the moderate-sized trout that came home in the cooler.

Instead of the cooler-sized fish, what we’re talking about here are the double-digit, 30-inch-or-better, roe-laden females that like to roam the worm-rock infested Baffin Bay south of Corpus Christi.

And there are few better times to target such trophies than the weeks of March when the sows are prepping to spawn and complete the circle of life in the hyper-saline environment of Baffin Bay and the Laguna Madre.

The best advice I can give is to hire a guide unless you really know what you’re doing. Baffin Bay isn’t a place for novice boaters to take expensive rigs -- not unless you’re best buddy runs a boat and motor repair shop that can fix dings, dents, holes, and sheared props.

Aside from that, bring plenty of topwater plugs, some soft-plastic baits and leadheads, and stout baitcasting gear -- you’ll need it for this version of March Madness!

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