Texas' 2004 Fishing Calendar
JULY This big, usually muddy Texas lake is not particularly famous for anything - but it's my personal favorite for crappie.
Follow the windy creek arms out to the main channel and use your depthfinder to find creek channels dropping from the woody flats into deeper water. Tie off to a tree stump so that you can drop live shiners or small jigs at a variety of depths both in the channel and along the upper flat.
Limestone has a nice mix of other species, including hybrid stripers, good largemouth and white bass and tons of catfish. So there's no telling what might inhale your shiner or jig.
During July, the lake is equally productive day and night, but you might consider an evening trip to beat the heat and the summer skiers. Pick your fishing spot at dusk, hang out a lantern and get ready to harvest the wealth of fish that'll come calling after dark.
AUGUST It's been a hard summer of fishing - so why not spoil yourself with a little fly-fishing for redfish on the flats of Redfish Bay?
Shoal Grass Lodge - (361) 758-5307, www.shoalgrasslodge.com - is 10,000 square feet of fishing luxury overlooking the rich waters of Redfish Bay. Owner Terry Koehler concentrates on teaching anglers the finesse of saltwater fly-fishing, often from seagoing kayaks. And August - when winds fall, heat rises and the reds stay on the sand flats all day - is ideal for chasing them with a fly rod. Koehler offers all-inclusive packages with everything from luxury lodging and meals to guides and tackle and fly-casting instruction.
"It's addictive," Koehler said. "You won't believe what all you see in water shallower than you've ever fished. And it's so visual: You see fish tailing at 50 yards - stalk them - move in quietly for the cast."
SEPTEMBER Anglers willing to "run the beach" to follow schools of baitfish in September can catch giant tarpon and jack crevalle right from the beach.
Tarpon And Jacks
Padre Island Surf
"There are 10 days of the year, Sept. 20 to 30, that are most appropriate for tarpon," said Capt. Billy Sandifer - (361) 937-8446, www. billysandifer.com. "The dusky anchovy or redbone minnow, a baitfish about 1 1/2 inches, comes in to spawn, and the tarpon come with them and stay with them. And at the same time, a quarter-million fish-eating birds are here for the same reason: They're fixing to migrate to South America."
Jack crevalle also are likely to crash the party. "They're meaner than a junkyard dog, they average 22 pounds and they're 10 yards in front of you!" Sandifer stated. "It starts in late September and until December, during the traditional run of finger mullet out of the bay systems. They know the finger mullet are there, and the pelagic predators come out there to feed on the finger mullet."
Fish right at the waterline, too, because many big tarpon and jacks run in the first gut.
To fish North Padre Island, head south out of Corpus Christi and follow the signs. Lower tire pressure to 25 pounds, stay in the wheel ruts and pack food and water, just in case you get stranded. On much of the beach you'll have to park and walk, so pack light. Keep moving until you see fish activity.
Little Shell is four and a fifth miles south, while Big Shell is 18 miles south. A well-rounded surf arsenal will include a couple of long-distance rods, a couple of 7-foot popping or spinning rods and maybe a light spinning rod for catching panfish.
OCTOBER The Brazos River below Lake Whitney Dam is one of the most beautiful and most productive fishing spots in Texas.
"This fishery is just phenomenal," said guide Chris Shafer who has operated Little Rocky Lodge and Guide Service - (254) 622-3010 - on Lake Whitney since 1989. "What makes it extremely unique is there's nobody else down there."
This is public water, but with limited access. The drift can be broken with shallow and rocky riffles. There are almost 22 miles of river lined with majestic limestone bluffs to drift through.
Largemouth, spotted and smallmouth bass are eager to hit anything from topwater plugs to flies. It's the smallmouths that deserve particular attention. Shafer holds the river record with a 7-pounder; his clients regularly catch bass from 1 to 3 pounds.
Drift the river from a high-floating flatbottom boat and bring light or ultralight tackle - either fly or spinning rods. The river fishes great from spring through fall, but in October it's usually deserted, leaving you alone to savor the fall colors, the crystal water and the incredible fishing.
"This is the only place I know where you catch fish every time you go!" Shafer said.
NOVEMBER Among several great South Texas catfish lakes, Choke Canyon is the best. Choke has good populations of channel cats, blue cats and flatheads, but three-quarters of the population is made up of blues.
Temperatures remain mild, even when the rest of the state is freezing, and the fish stay active, usually holding in brush in less than 10 feet of water. Flooded brush, especially willows, holds most of the cats.
The best tactic is tying your boat in brush at about that depth and chumming around the boat with soured grain. Use stout casting tackle to drop blood bait or liver into pockets in the brush, and to muscle the catfish back out. The south end of the lake is especially productive.
Big live sunfish or cut shad can be productive baits for the largest blues - fish pushing the limit set by the lake-record 70-pounder.
DECEMBER While most Texas bays - and their speckled trout and redfish - get winter-chilled in December, the water remains warm, and the fishing hot, at the tip of the Texas Coast.
Redfish & Speckled Trout
Your opportunities are limited only by the distance you'll travel up the Laguna across hundreds of thousands of acres of sandy clear flats. While it's not essential, hiring a guide on your first day can help you quickly identify patterns and likely areas to fish. Fly-fishing the gin-clear waters of the Laguna is becoming especially popular. The Kingfisher Inn on the nearby Arroyo Colorado - (956) 748-4350 - is one local establishment that caters specifically to beginning flyfishermen.
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With all the great fishing out there, I'm sure you can't wait to get started in on making plans for your next trip. Good luck!