Lone Star Catfish Outlook
NORTHEAST TEXAS Wright Patman Reservoir (formerly known as Lake Texarkana) is on the Sulphur River in Bowie and Cass counties, 10 miles southwest of Texarkana. Covering 20,300 acres and featuring 170 miles of shoreline, it has a large watershed that contributes to water-level fluctuations. This reservoir has one of the best catfish fisheries in Texas. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has two campgrounds on the lake; there are public, commercial, and state boat ramps. Atlanta State Park on the south side of the lake has camping sites, as well as day-use facilities. There are boat ramps, picnic tables, a swimming area, hiking trails, and restrooms with showers.
Structural habitat consists of inundated timber, brush, creek channels, and riprap. Submerged aquatic vegetation coverage is low; however, high densities of emergent and floating plants are present. All three of the freshwater catfishes abound in excellent numbers in W/P. The blues and channels prefer stink bait, shrimp and liver that's worked slowly around creek entrances and over natural humps. Big yellows, fished for primarily with juglines baited with live perch, are regularly pulled from the lake at this time of the year.
Lake Texoma, sitting on the Texas-Oklahoma border, is a magnificent impoundment for all types of angling - and the action for really big whiskerfish is superb. Many of the world and state records for catfish are held by Lake Texoma anglers. Home of enormous blue cats (116 pounds!), it's also home to channel and flathead cat populations that will make the Texoma angler very happy indeed. The big blues in the lake prefer large live baits, so if you're jugging for them around the dam, be sure to use the largest perch or shad you can catch; use live perch and shad for the yellow cats, too. Throw almost anything you want at the channels: shrimp, punch bait, liver, chicken parts - whatever you can find that smells the worst!
EAST TEXAS One of the better choices for catfish anglers in East Texas is 44,000-acre Richland-Chambers, which has developed into a fine fishing lake since its impoundment in 1987. The records for the lake are indicative of what a magnificent catfish fishery it has become. Those records include a 16.69-pound channel, 66-pound blue, and an 80-pound flathead. The locals say that all three species are likely to consume any bait - from shrimp to punch bait to stink bait to liver to cut shad to perch - thrown their way.
The catfish in Lake Richland-Chambers may be easy to please, but over in Cedar Creek they're a bit more particular. In this 34,000-acre lake, you'll find submerged vegetation in the backs of coves in the lower end of the reservoir. Some vegetation is present in the upper end of the lake, but the water there is very shallow. When the cats come into the shallows at night, this is a good place to be rigged up with cut shad and perch. You should also look for submerged islands located across the lake from the confluence of Clear and Caney creeks. Work them with the same bait or try a gob of night crawlers to see if you can generate some interest.
SOUTH TEXAS Down in the lower latitudes of the Lone Star State, there are several lakes worth investigating if you're a hardcore whiskercatter. Braunig Lake, located just 17 miles south of San Antonio, is tiny compared to some good catfish lakes, but don't let its 1,500-acre size scare you off. It is an excellent channel cat fishery. One of the favorite places to find the cats is in the areas where the cormorants roost. You'll be able to identify these areas quite easily, as the trees will be covered with the birds' "whitewash" droppings. Shrimp, liver and blood bait are top producers for channels, while the blues prefer stink bait. And if the roosts aren't working, try the rocky riprap along the dam and peninsulas.
Nearby Calaveras Lake, only 20 miles south of San Antonio, is an even better fishery for Mr. Whiskers than Braunig is. It's a small impoundment, just 3,500 acres, and similar in structure and habitat to Braunig. But the channel cat fishing in Calaveras is considerably better than it is in Braunig. The baits of choice are stink bait, chicken liver, shad and tilapia. Work the riprap and cormorant roosts in this lake too, and if you don't have any luck, fish along the edges of the lake wherever you can locate submerged structure in 10 to 15 feet of water.
* * * These fishing locations are but a tiny sample of what's available to you in the Lone Star State. Just about any body of water that's larger than a puddle and that stays wet all year long will probably support at least a modest catfish population. If you're a native Texan, you shouldn't have to drive too far to find excellent fishing near you!
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