Texas' 2003 Fishing Calendar
Here's 12 months worth of the finest fishing action the
Lone Star State has to offer.
By Lee Leschper
There are many blessings to living and playing in the Lone Star State: Jalapeños, Shiner beer and real barbecue to name a few. And more great fishing than you can shake a rod at - or fit into just the 12 months of a normal calendar.
Each year more than three million Texans hit our lakes and bays for rest, relaxation, fodder for the next fish fry and maybe even a shot at the record books. It's an impossible task to try to pick the 12 best fishing trips, just one per month, for a story like this. There's always one or 10 other great options. But here are our choices for 2003.
JANUARY This huge East Texas lake made its reputation on largemouth bass. But it's also one of the best crappie lakes anywhere, especially as the slabs gather in deep channels as they prepare for the spawn. There are thousands of brushpiles that other anglers have stacked along the deep creek channels, and that's the best place to start looking.
Look for deep structure, including brushpiles, along deep lake channels. Fish tiny jigs near cover and keep moving until you find a "hot" brushpile. Work each brushpile from all sides and then work it again.
Beware of cold weather risks from hypothermia. Take cold-weather gear along with you, even if you think you won't need it. And watch the weather.
Bass fishing is a 12-month-a-year sport in the Lone Star State. With so many great fishing destinations, its hard to pick just one, but Lake Fork makes everyone's list of must-fish hotspots. Photo by Lee Leschper
FEBRUARY It's still impossible to be blasé about the best bass lake in Texas, if not the country. Lake Fork still out-produces every other lake in Texas in terms of really big bass. Early spring, when the huge sows that are laden with eggs prepare to spawn, is the very best time to catch the biggest bass of a lifetime. The mistake that many first-time Lake Fork fishermen make is assuming that big and easy are the same thing. They're not.
You might as well plan to work for your wallhanger largemouth, because you'll have to. The biggest bass are caught in early spring in deeper water near spawn beds. But remember that the biggest bass may spawn 10 feet or deeper.
Start fishing grass and brush 8 to 12 feet deep with craw worms, jigs, spinnerbaits and waterdogs. Move deeper until you find the fish. Don't stick to one pattern. Keep changing tactics until you find the pattern that's working that day. This is the biggest time of year on Fork, so expect lots of company. If possible, fish during midweek.
MARCH Texas Parks and Wildlife Department biologists say this little 800-acre lake near Baylor has the highest density of big largemouth bass per acre of any lake in Texas. It's also small and easily pressured, so local anglers fish it early in the year, in cold weather. They also use one-man Styrofoam Water Wagons to silently paddle into thick brush.
Want proof of just how good Baylor can be? A couple of years ago, an Amarillo angler won the local Mini Bass Boat tournament on Baylor with a three-fish stringer that weighed more than 33 pounds! That's two 10-pounders and a huge 12-pound sow!
The locals concentrate on small pockets of cover, using jigs to canvas each side. You'll need to pack stout gear and at least a 20-pound-test line to handle this short-range, hand-to-hand combat.
APRIL Baffin Bay is to speckled trout what Lake Fork is to largemouth bass. It's the place where records are set and broken - and where every trip is a memory in the making. Last spring Corpus Christi guide Don Hand (361-993-2024), my son and I went fishing on Baffin just half a day and were back at the dock by lunch with limits of trout to 28 inches, plus limits of 26- to 28-inch redfish! In this case we were fishing live croakers off Kleberg Point and didn't move 100 yards to catch all those fish.
Some anglers were scared from Baffin by the brown tide that clouded the water a few years back. The brown tide is gone, and the trout action is back, and better than ever.
Baffin produced the last two state-record speckled trout, both 13-pounders, for wade-fishermen working their big plugs slowly. That's still the ticket for the biggest trout, as well as lots of solid "upper-20s" specks.
Stock up on Corkys, Top Dogs and the old-faithful broken-backs. Big soft-plastics like Salty Assassins also need to be part of your kit. Kleberg Point, Gauge Bar and Starvation Point all offer excellent wade-fishing. Use big mullet-imitation plugs or soft baits. Live croakers are also deadly if you can find them.
MAY Remember when we called O.H. Ivie Reservoir "the next Fork?" Well there's a new West Texas lake contending for that title. Alan Henry, the long, snaking 2,800-acre lake southeast of Lubbock, has quickly jumped to the "must-fish" list for Texas lunker hunters. Alan Henry has produced several over-13-pound ShareLunker bass.
Lake Alan Henry
Because Alan Henry is relatively small, it gets crowded with both anglers and recreational boaters rather quickly. Fish early and late, and go during the week if possible. Fish topwaters or lizards in shallows first, you should still find spawning bass here in May. As the day warms, move out to brushy creek channels for post-spawn fish.
Jig-and-pigs or worms are ideal for fishing the brush, most of which was left standing in Alan Henry. Red and black are good colors. Rig with at least 20-pound-test monofilament or heavier, to keep those lunkers out of all that brush.
JUNE Livingston, an hour north of Houston, remains the best trophy white bass lake in the state. Summer is the very best time to catch these scrappy little panfish, which you can do until you're worn to a frazzle. And they're not small. The lake record is a hulking 4-pound white caught by Matthew Smith in July 1998.
Watch for schools of whites busting the surface from dawn until late morning. They'll be hitting anything that looks like a shad. Double jig "speck rigs" can get you two at a time, although they'll be smaller than those hitting topwaters or a Rat-L-Trap. Approach the schooling fish quickly but quietly from upwind. Shut down your motor and drift to within casting range.
If the whites go down, or if you miss the topwater action, use your depthfinder to identify deep structure near the river channel, then bounce slab spoons on the bottom to load your cooler. Keep an eye peeled for other schools busting the top, which can happen at any time. Have a rod rigged and ready with a small topwater and make the most of it.