" / > " / > Holiday Fishing Bonanza|December 2019| TPW magazine
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Photo © Aaron Bates Photography


Holiday Fishing Bonanza

Rainbows, blue cats and hybrids are biting this month.

By Randy Brudnicki and Dan Bennett


Texas boasts a world-class rainbow trout fishery in the Guadalupe River tail waters below Canyon Lake dam. The river is cool enough to sustain trout habitat for about 12 miles downstream; in some years, trout can survive even farther downstream.

Water temperatures for trout are best November through March, averaging 55 to 65 degrees. Additionally, natural springs and seeps may provide good water conditions for trout before or after these ideal months. Both rainbow and brown trout are stocked by TPWD and fishing clubs; brown trout typically can survive in warmer water than rainbows.

The fishery is a great place to learn about fly fishing for trout without traveling out of state. Fly fishing here is better with wet flies, nymphs and streamers. Mayfly or caddis dry flies sometimes play a role in the feeding habits of the trout. Midges make up the dominant diet but are very small, so be prepared to use small flies.

Selecting fly fishing gear can be daunting to newcomers. Some local tackle shops offer hands-on experiences to help find the best setup for you.

First, you’ll have to decide if you’re going to focus on trout or fly-fish some other Texas streams for bass, as that determines your rod and line choices.

In fly fishing, line is a key component. You don’t use the lure to carry the line out of the reel as in most fishing methods; instead, the line carries the lure (fly).

In-line spinners are effective for rainbow trout if you’re not into fly fishing. Some favorites include small Mepps and Panther Martins. You can keep the selection simple: with silver, brass or painted blades. (My personal favorite is a No. 1 red/white/silver Mepps Aglia.)

An ultralight rod/reel combination works great with the spinners.

Trout feed facing the current, so make casts upstream and let the water carry your presentation to the waiting fish. Flies should be presented in the most natural drift you can get, while spinners may need to be retrieved just fast enough to keep the blade spinning.

Rainbows are acrobatic jumpers when hooked, both with flies and lures, and they are good eating.

Sections of the river have special regulations on rainbow and brown trout fishing methods; trout must be caught on artificial lures or flies. Bag and size limits are in effect also in some sections; one such area has a protected length limit of a 12- to 18-inch slot, and in another section, the minimum length is 18 inches and the daily bag limit is one fish.

Be sure to consult the Outdoor Annual for more details.

Rainbow trout are procured from out of state and delivered to TPWD hatcheries for stocking in various Texas waters seasonally. It’s primarily classified as a put-and-take fishery, meaning they are meant to be harvested after stocking. Follow the stocking schedules by going to the TPWD website: tpwd.texas.gov/stocking.

Most riverbanks below Canyon Lake are private property, but some commercial camps offer paid access. TPWD leases some properties for free public access. River access can be found at bit.ly/riverleases.

Cold weather and trout fishing go hand in hand. When warm water species are less inclined to bite, trout are active. It’s peak trout fishing time. RB


Photo by Larry D. Hodge / TPWD


Lake Texoma secured a place on trophy catfish anglers’ radar in early 2004, when a 121.5-pound monster blue catfish, Splash, was caught from the shoreline by local angler/guide Cody Mullenix. The giant fish was certified as a world record and is still the Texas state record blue catfish.

Splash garnered worldwide attention for Lake Texoma as a trophy blue cat destination. A larger fish has not been caught at Texoma since that time, but the lake regularly produces blue catfish weighing more than 75 pounds (and occasionally up to 80 or 90 pounds). Late winter is one of the best times to catch these giants.

Some popular techniques for catching blue catfish involve using juglines and trotlines near tributaries of the reservoir, by rod and reel from the shoreline or drift/still fishing shad from a boat. Fresh or live bait work best for blue catfish, although cut bait on a jugline can be fruitful.

The key to finding blue catfish in late winter is to first find the bait fish. Shad will often move up onto shallow points or flats during the day when the water begins to warm, and the catfish will not be far behind. DB

Photo by Larry D. Hodge / TPWD


Lake Bridgeport is often overshadowed by Possum Kingdom and other DFW-area lakes when it comes to hybrid striped bass, but it can be a great place to get away from crowds and find fish. Late fall’s a great time to pursue hybrids because they are heavily feeding and remain active for the better part of the day. Bridgeport has a lot of deep structure near the spillway, great for sassy shads, slabs or crankbaits. DB



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