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Here Come The Stripers!
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Texas Sportsman
Plenty Of Stripers
You'll find just that -- and maybe some hybrids, too -- when you fish these great Central Texas waters. Yes, even in August!

Photo by Ron Sinfelt

"Wahoo! They're chasing the bait! I see 'em working to the top!"

Those are the words you want to hear when you're sitting in the boat with your guide and looking for striper action. The lake may be any of a half-dozen, and the guide could be any of maybe 20 to 30 who work professionally on the Highland Lakes chain.

But those words also alert everybody on the lake who has a CB. Those stripers are turning on and rising to the bait. Boy, oh, boy -- when the action starts with hungry stripers, it's fast and furious!

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And it's no less furious when you're watching the surface boil with hungry hybrids intent on killing all the baitfish in the lake. The birds are wheeling overhead and diving into the middle of the massacre, fishing boats are kicking up roostertails behind them on their way to the action, and those hybrids are striking everything in the water.

Whew! If only it were like that all the time.

Well, it isn't -- not even when you're willing to pay for a guided fishing trip -- but it happens often enough that the Highland Lakes in Central Texas are full of eager fishermen just about every day of the year. And there's a reason that folks choose to fish the Highland Lakes. Remember that old saying, "Teach a man to fish and he'll eat for a lifetime?" Nowadays it's more like, "Teach a man how to use the Internet to research stocking histories of the Central Texas lakes, and he'll know where to fish for a lifetime."

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department puts all the stocking history information you'll ever need on the agency's Web site. It was a real eyeopener for me, mainly because I assumed that stripers had been stocked in all the Highland Lakes. Not so. The TPWD folks figured out that Mother Nature could do their work for them, so they stock a lot of stripers in Lake Buchanan and let downstream flow do the rest. Opening the floodgates on Buchanan, which happens every time that rainfall's heavy upstream, does the job for them.

The TPWD began stocking in Buchanan back in 1977, and the department continues it on a very regular basis, so there are striped bass in all the Highland Lakes. The TPWD stocks a huge number of stripers in Canyon Lake, too, so if that's your lake of preference, you'll have no trouble finding them there.

Just knowing what lakes the fish are in isn't enough, of course. A grasp of some basic species data and techniques will make connecting with the linesided fighters easier. Let's start with a few facts about these fish.

It helps to know that stripers do well in very large reservoirs for several reasons -- one being that if they were able to breed in a lake, they'd need upwards of 50 miles of unbroken water flow in order to give the eggs time to develop. The fish do breed successfully in Lake Texoma, which has that kind of length, but nowhere else in Texas. Another bit of info: They like cool-to-cold water and so need it to be deep, at least in the summer. A third fact: Having originally been saltwater fish, and still instinctively hunting as if they were in the trackless ocean, stripers like open water. (Hybrids, on the other hand, are much more tolerant of warm water, and do quite well in power-plant lakes, which tend to be smaller bodies of water.)

The stripers' preference for cooler water makes them predictable in the hot Texas summer. As the water heats up, the fish move from the shallow upper ends of the lakes down into the deeper and, therefore, cooler basins near the dams, which are generally wider and more open, and are found in deeper portions of the lakes -- and that's why folks pay big bucks for electronic depthfinders.

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