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NICE CATCH

Spring Spawn Success

Warming weather means big fish in shallower waters.

By Randy Brudnicki with Art Morris and Dan Bennett


Once the winter cold breaks, big fish begin to stir all over Texas. Warming water and lengthening daylight trigger their basic urge to spawn. When the spawn in southern waters peaks or starts to slow down, the northern waters are just firing up. It can be difficult to choose where to go.

LAKE FORK TROPHY BASS

Trophy bass fishermen flock to Lake Fork this time of year — the lake has produced more Toyota ShareLunkers than any other water body in Texas. Although big fish are caught in late winter, the first sign of warming water brings many of the lunkers into shallow water. Follow the creek channels from the main lake toward the back, going farther back later in the season. Try secondary points and bays in early spring. Once a big female spawns, she’ll reverse course and head for deep water, but that can take weeks.

Use electronics and good mapping software (map chips) to follow Fork’s contour lines. The varied habitats of trees, brush and aquatic vegetation have helped Fork maintain a healthy trophy bass population. That submerged timber can be hazardous for boating; learn to follow boat lanes.

Be prepared to fish a variety of methods. If you are after the once-in-a-lifetime catch, be sure to use strong, quality fishing line and maintain your gear. You wouldn’t want to have your heart broken when your line breaks on that trophy bass.

Early in the year, you can try lipless crankbaits and switch to plastics (worms and lizards) as the water warms, but live-rubber jig/craw or creature bait combos are mainstays on Fork. Giant bass can be anywhere, from extremely shallow water (1 to 2 feet) to mid-depth water (12 to 15 feet) now.

Remember, Lake Fork has special slot regulations — largemouth bass between 16 and 24 inches must be released. RB

Photo © Lefty Ray Chapa

LOWER LAGUNA MADRE TROPHY SEATROUT

The remote Lower Laguna Madre is home to the state-record spotted seatrout, sure to satisfy any angler’s fantasy of catching a “wall hanger.” While any bay system on the coast could give up that wall hanger on any given day, no other system can boast the sheer number of big trout available in early spring.

Warming water temperatures signal time for the annual spring spawn; trout waking up from the long, lean winter will feed without restraint to pack on energy reserves so they can withstand the rigors of spawning over the next few months.

It’s now that anglers, often wade anglers, can sight-cast to “logs” lying in ambush in sandy potholes or shorelines, or cruising by in the shallow, gin-clear waters of the Laguna Madre. The fish are not picky about what they will hit. While swim baits (soft plastic baits with paddle tails) are popular, top-waters and floater diver lures historically have worked well, too.

Big trout eat big fish, so large, fish-like lures will help weed out overzealous juvenile trout and concentrate the action on the bigger fish. Even here, where warmer winters allow for longer growing seasons and abundant resources help grow colossal trout, the big ones are far outnumbered by future versions of themselves, so be patient.

While the peak of spring spawning activity begins in March, the next few months will see tremendous trophy trout action in the Laguna Madre. AM

ALSO BITING

LAKE WHITNEY STRIPERS

Fishing for striped bass on Lake Whitney is good year-round, but in March you have many options: Fish the main reservoir from a boat or bank-fish up the Brazos and Nolan rivers. Much as white bass move upstream to spawn, stripers have the same instinct, but stripers don’t reproduce in most freshwater reservoirs.

On the lake, look for diving or feeding birds and use shad for bait. If you aren’t seeing bird activity, you’ll have to graph for schools of shad and stripers. You can drop jigs to the stripers, but live shad are more effective.

One trick to try: Make a lot of surface commotion to attract the stripers’ attention. Fan-casting noisy top-water baits around the boat sometimes calls the fish shallower or even to the surface. You may catch some on the top-water baits, too.

Bank fishing upriver is a bonus — with the right timing, you could find white bass along with the stripers. Look for natural breaks (gravel bars and sand bars) that may impede fish movement and fish below those. Artificial lures (like white hair jigs) can work well when the stripers are stacked up there. RB

Photo © Lefty Ray Chapa

TRINITY RIVER (ELM FORK) WHITE BASS

Spring is white bass time in northeast Texas as these feisty fish move up rivers to spawn, making them accessible to bank anglers. But that’s not the only way to enjoy catching white bass.

The Elm Fork of the Trinity River, upstream of Ray Roberts Reservoir, boasts an impressive spring white bass spawning run in March; excellent fishing can last into April. Those good fishing areas can be tough to reach without a power boat. When you get there, bounce a white grub along the river bottom on a ¾-ounce to 1-ounce jighead. This simple method will fill the cooler with keeper-size white bass. DB



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