Texas Parks & Wildlife Magazine   



Reel Easy

Go with the Flow

A dam’s strong current brings big stripers — and those who seek them — to the tailrace.

Below the dams of many Texas reservoirs, you’ll find some unique opportunities to fish for striped bass in a swift-moving channel called a tailrace.

Right now, Lake Texoma provides one of the best locations to target tailrace stripers (and some other big fish). Both Texas and Oklahoma sides offer access to the tailrace; be sure to have a valid fishing license for the state in which you’re fishing.

This tailrace is rocking during reservoir releases or when hydroelectric power is generated. The additional flows attract striped bass upstream into the tailrace area to feed on shad and prey fish passing through the dam from the reservoir. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Tulsa District office) provides real-time data detailing tailrace conditions online, and Southwestern Power Administration posts daily schedules about when to expect generation.

Find boat or kayak access along a short stretch of sandy bank on the Oklahoma side of the river (Oklahoma license required).

Remember that stripers face into the current, so cast up-current and retrieve down-current. Look for current breaks, seams or eddies where fish congregate to increase your catch rate. Fish use those areas to ambush their prey.

Be aware of dam releases, with conditions too dangerous for wade fishing.

Fly fishing 

Fly-fish for stripers with 6-weight (or heavier) rods.

Conventional tackle 

Use medium-heavy to heavy rods and reels with good drags. Spinning or casting rods work but need heavier line because these big tailrace stripers pull hard. A good starting point for many anglers is a 7-foot (to 7.5-foot) casting rod with 20-pound fluorocarbon line. On spinning gear, use 30-pound braid to a 20-pound fluorocarbon leader.

Terminal tackle  

At the end of your line, use large streamers for fly casting, and soft swimbaits, flukes and topwater lures for conventional gear. Shad-colored lures predominate, but adding a rainbow trout-colored swimbait or a touch of pink in your streamer may increase your bait’s appeal in certain areas. Another option is cut or whole shad.

Morris Sheppard Dam, Possum Kingdom reservoir (pictured above)

For easy access to a tailrace, head to the Brazos River Authority's public-use park (one of 10 around the lake) on the river below the large Morris Sheppard Dam, which forms Possum Kingdom Reservoir, a 16,000-acre lake west of Fort Worth. The park — located off Red Bluff Road, accessed from Texas Highway 16 — offers parking, restrooms, picnic tables and camping. Striped bass (stripers) congregate year-round in the cooler waters discharged from the dam, where ample food is available. Stripers are stocked in the upstream reservoir; some move downstream into the tailrace. The fish can be very large here, with many weighing 10 pounds or more. The state record for striped bass was set here in 1999 with a 53-pounder.

Canyon Dam, Canyon Lake 

Located halfway between Austin and San Antonio, the Canyon Lake tailrace has a low-density striped bass population that offers anglers an opportunity to catch some very large beauties. Find free public access below the dam at the Corps of Engineers Guadalupe Park and along the south bank for three-quarters of a mile. Wade fishing is safe up to about 500 cubic feet per second of streamflow, but this upper section is probably best fished from kayak or canoe. While there are fee-required private camps along the river, TPWD also offers free access at Camp Huaco Springs through a lease agreement every winter (ends March 5 this year).

 Dustin Doskocil

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